Tag: 2015 Midsumma Festival

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s FROM WHORE TO ETERNITY

But the tigers come at night

By Myron My

Sex worker. Call girl. Prostitute. Hooker. Lady of the night. In From Whore to Eternity, tribute is paid to these women and the cultural effect they’ve had, through various films, songs and stories.

 From Whore to Eternity

Ruth Katerelos and Heidi Weatherald play two sex workers who inform us and sing about “historical” women such as (Sweet) Charity, Mary Magdalene and Fantine, and how sex played a role in their lives.

The inherent problem with From Whore To Eternity is the writing. It would seem Cerise de Gelder is unable to find a balance between informing the audience and entertaining the audience. As such, we were bombarded with a number of scenes that were disjointed and clunky and struggled to retain our interest.

There were a good variety of songs chosen, ranging from rock to ballads and musical theatre classics. Unfortunately, it was the delivery of these songs that failed to hit the right notes. Neither performer had the vocal skill to do justice to many of these songs, especially when it comes to classics like “I Dreamed A Dream” that should therefore not have been touched. Their lack of vocal range and strength was apparent throughout and there was a strong need to project their voices.

The beacon of light in this show though was Weatherald’s performance of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”. She managed to find some emotional connection with this song and found a good rhythm to carry the tune.

Special guest star for the evening Dolly Diamond, while entertaining, seemed out of place during the ‘break’ in From Whore To Eternity. She began chatting to audience members and cracking jokes, which left me wondering what exactly this had to do with the tribute to “the ladies of the night”. It’s almost as if de Gelder ran out of ideas and included a special guest to fill in the hour block.

There are so many great things From Whore to Eternity could have been, but sadly the only thing it will be in its current state is minimally entertaining, with many improvements needed on writing, direction and performance.

From Whore to Eternity was performed at The Butterfly Club as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival.

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REVIEW: Midsumma Festival Presents BAD ADAM and PONY

Religion and evolution collide

By Myron My

On the surface, the double bill of Bad Adam and Pony during this year’s Midsumma Festival appears to be constrasting highly different pieces of work with distinct moods and tones. However both these shows leave us questioning what it means to be a gay man and how gay male sexuality is perceived both by society – but more importantly – by us.

Bad Adam_Pony

In Bad Adam, the title character (creator and performer Dosh Luckwell) spends his time in “Club Eden”, a sex on-premises venue, where we follow his various experiences and are privy to his thoughts during these moments. The overt religious imagery and themes throughout Bad Adam, such as the apples, the lit-up cross on the floor and our protagonist’s name for example, worked well in subtly exploring the idea of sexual repression and suppression and the conflict the two forms of pressure often present with each other.

Given Luckwell is the creator of the live art project Sex Poetry Booth, it is not surprising he has a way with words and the language used and the way it is presented in Bad Adam is indeed quite poetic and intriguing at times. Yet while we see a vulnerable, lonely and conflicted side to Adam, a number of scenes were too similar in execution. This lessened the impact of the overall work and impeded us in retaining an interest in Adam which, in a one-man show, is pivotal to its success.

The second part of this double bill, Jay Robinson’s Pony, looks at similar ideas of sex and sexuality but with fewer dark overtones than Bad Adam. Here, we see the evolution of man and then more specifically the evolution of a person exploring and experimenting and with his own sexuality.

Robinson has a strong presence on stage and this helps with his demanding physical performance. He uses his body to its full extent and fully commits to the moment, however there are a number highly obscure scenes that left me confused as to their purpose and significance, such as the moment when Robinson transforms into a dog.

The final moments of Pony though are quite positive and playful and the idea that once you are at ease with yourself and can be what you want to be, then there’s no reason to not feel complete and free.

Both Bad Adam and Pony offer some interesting thoughts and ideas on gay male sexuality but I felt they need to focus more on how they share these thoughts and ideas. With further development, these two pieces have the potential to be a profound commentary on the society and an important voice for the community in which gay men live.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 7 February | Fri 9pm, Sat 3pm and 7pm
Tickets: $23 Full | $18 Concession
Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au, http://www.theatreworks.org.au, or 9534 3388

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE SPARROW MEN

Impro duo take fantastic flight

By Narelle Wood

Marcus Willis and Andy Balloch are The Sparrow Men whom each night promise to take their audience on a completely unique, completely improvised adventure. Combining the audience suggestions of ‘tennis’ and ‘hostage situation’, we were treated to what can only be described as a bizarre, funny and at times surprisingly poignant hour of improvised entertainment.

The Sparrow Men

Taking us on this journey was a sociopathic wannabe-tennis player, his besotted hostage (apparently Stockholm syndrome can work out) and a restaurant with 3 kilos of Parmesan cheese. But it was the honest account of how cookbooks are actually a way for ‘The Man’ to control our lives that provided the rare, and hopefully fictional, glimpse into the inner workings of Jamie Oliver’s brain. This, coupled with a scene where a TV was literally killing a man, was what turned this performance into a social commentary on the pitfalls of consumerism.

I’m fascinated by improvised theatre and the spontaneous development of scene and story. Marcus and Andy are very talented, playing skilfully off each other’s suggestions and mostly keeping a straight face; there were moments of unusual and whacky suggestion that were clearly unexpected and made it all the more entertaining.

The only thing lacking for me was a tying-up of all the vignettes at the end of the show – perhaps it wasn’t necessary but there were some characters that I was really interested to find out how they fitted into the bigger picture and what became of them. Did Corey and Jessica get the woof whistles from the construction workers that their hearts truly desired?

Whatever your expectations of improvised theatre, The Sparrow Men presented by The Butterfly Club and The Improv Conspiracy provide a joyous frolic down whatever path the audience provides and it’s certainly a show that you could see over and over again.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Wed 28th January and Sunday 1st February 8pm, Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st January 9pm
Tickets: Full $28 | Conc $24
Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com/show/the-sparrow-men

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE BIG GAY CRUISE

All aboard this maritime musical

By Myron My

What could be more fun than a gay cruise? Nothing, according to engaged couple Alex and Ben and their best men, Stephen and Anthony, as they board a gay cruise ship for one final hoorah before their nuptials. Being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, it’s fun, sexy and camp laughs in David Peake‘s original musical The Big Gay Cruise, directed by Leigh Barker and presented by Adam J. Lowe.

The Big Gay Cruise

With Alex and Ben (Brenton Cosier and Will Atkinson) soon to be married and their wedding day approaching, insecurities and fear are heightened for the characters. I would have loved to see more focus on this storyline in Peake’s script and an exploration of the secret that is revealed in the second act rather than splitting off to various sideline stories for the support cast. These characters may have had some genuinely funny moments, but I was not as emotionally invested in their story as I was about Alex and Ben’s. I felt more focus on the central couple would have kept the narrative more entertaining, with a stronger pay-off at the end.

The impact of the music raises a similar issue, with many songs not progressing the story, and creating the impression they are mostly filler, such as “The Locker Room” and “My Suite”. Despite being saddled with these unnecessary numbers, most of the cast are strong singers and do exceptionally well with their solo songs. Cosier in particular does an exemplary job when singing, and seems to be in his element during these moments.

The funniest part of The Big Gay Cruise would belong to Ben Paine as the sexually adventurous Anthony, and his song “Strength Inside of Me”, which Paine performs with great comedic expression and timing. However, it is Samuel Kitchen as Stephen who steals the show with “That Happy,” his emotional song of love lost and missed opportunities. This is where Peake’s songwriting skills excel, alongside other striking numbers about life and love such as “There’s A Boy” and “Just A Little Bit”.

Overall, there is little clarity on whose story this is, and thus the relationship between the audience and the inferred “hero” of this musical, Alex, needs to be strengthened. The Big Gay Cruise definitely has enough laughs and a committed cast to prevent this ship from sinking but the script and score do require more fine-tuning.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 1 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 3pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $39 Full | $35 Concession
Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au, http://www.theatreworks.org.au, or 9534 3388

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s SHOW STOPPER

Rock goddesses reimagined

By Myron My

I don’t feel my 2015 Midsumma experience would have been the same without a touch of Agent Cleave. The sexy drag cabaret performer’s production Show Stopper was brought back to life for only a three-night run during this year’s Midsumma, where we were taken on a journey through 90s’ rock anthems and explorations of sexuality.

Show Stopper

With his long, flowing hair, red lipstick and perfectly kept beard, Agent Cleave was a show-stopper himself and demanded our attention while on stage. Beginning with the aptly-named “Queer” by Garbage, Agent Cleave used a number of female-led rock anthems to reveal experiences of sexuality through five different female characters; a stripper, a mermaid, a lounge singer, a pirate and a virgin. The costumes for each of these personas had a level of simplicity to them yet at the same time, were completely genius in their design and concept.

Agent Cleave possesses an incredibly unique voice, which resulted some amazing moments of vocal talent throughout the course of the evening. Even with rock music not being my preferred musical taste, when accompanied by Melbourne musicians Pete Barry, Jonny Badlove and Kieran John Brooks, Agent Cleave ensured that everyone was glued to the stage as the artists performed classic songs by Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Peaches and Karen O.

Unfortunately, on the night I attended the sound levels did require some fine-tuning during the spoken parts of the show, as they were constantly drowned out by the music. Being only able to hear every third or fourth word, I ended up missing much of the spoken context and ideas that were being presented.

Despite this, Show Stopper was an impressive and entertaining show with great visual and musical moments that left you questioning, and blurred the line on what gender and feminine sexuality can actually mean.

Show Stopper was performed at Howler January 21-23.

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s SILVERTOP ASH

Raising the profound issues

By Myron My

Upon walking out of the theatre after having seen Wayne Tunk’s Silvertop Ash, I was left feeling quite conflicted as to my thoughts on this production. I want to like it and say it is powerful and important theatre because of its focus on gay youth suicide, which absolutely needs more coverage and attention but at the same time, there were some intrinsic problems with the show that stop me from feeling so.

Silvertop Ash

Most of my issues with Silvertop Ash arose from the script. The dialogue with the characters often felt forced, and it seemed that everyone was nothing but a mere cog in the machine to tell the story that Tunks wants to tell rather than the characters being allowed to tell their own story. The play was written in 2007 and perhaps now, eight years later, audiences have progressed in terms of what we expect from these types of narratives.

The shocks and twists that were included could unfortunately be anticipated well before they occurred, and the stock character are familiar from a multitude of film, TV shows and stage productions to the point where they stop being real and vital: the macho father who is disgusted his son would rather read Austen than watch a car race for example, and the homophobic bully who harbors a secret of his own.

However, there are some good performances in the play, especially by James Coley as our protagonist Hamish, and Perri Cummings as Penny, Hamish’s mother. The scenes they share are poignant, heartfelt and often imbued with subtle humour. Despite not being overly convinced by Geoff Wallis’s portrayal as Hamish’s father, in the final few scenes he is in he came through with the goods and took my breath away with how powerful his performance then was.

Designer Hannah Gott has done a great job of using and filling the large space the show was performed in and yet was able to maintain the intimate setting required for the characters to function together. The backdrop projection of the town was a brilliant touch that built on the environment and remained there as a constant reminder of where we were.

Silvertop Ash is an all-too-tragic story of bullying and suicide amongst gay youths. Discussion needs to be maintained and promoted in order to have any effect in overcoming the rising statistics of youth suicide – and the show must be congratulated for doing that. However, as a piece of theatre, I ultimately wanted more from the writing and more from the performances.

Silvertop Ash is being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park
Season: Until 31 January | Tues – Sat 8:00pm
Tickets: $25 /$21 Conc
Bookings: midsumma.org.au

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE FASTEST CLOCK IN THE UNIVERSE

An intriguing time piece

By Caitlin McGrane

An intriguing presentation as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, the drama is uneasy and disquieting in The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Phillip Ridley. The play opens as Cougar Glass (Robert Ricks) lounges luxuriously in only his briefs under a sun lamp; his friend/man-servant/lover (?)/lackey Captain Tock (Ian Rose) appears as the portentous messenger to remind Cougar about his birthday party. The unsettling narrative continues apace as Cougar has invited only one person to his birthday, a boy of 15 named Foxtrot Darling (William Freeman). The obvious comparison is to The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the first act is certainly reminiscent of the young man who cannot bear to accept responsibility, while remaining perpetually 19. When Cougar’s age is alluded to it is only Cheetah Bee (Brenda Palmer), the landlady who lives downstairs, who can soothe him. Inside the tiny apartment, as the wind screams outside, Foxtrot arrives with an uninvited guest.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe

Each individual performance was excellent, but Scout Boxall really stole the show as the hilarious yet bonkers Sherbert Gravel in the second act. Ricks’ increasingly deranged Cougar almost became part of the furniture while she dominated the stage with her handbag, and Foxtrot, in tow. Rose’s Captain ratcheted up the tension; his glee mirroring Cougar’s insanity. It was clear the play was set in London, so I found Palmer’s Australian accent slightly out-of-place.

While the first act was dynamic, interesting and dark, the second act failed to live up to expectations. It is difficult to pin down exactly what didn’t work, but it felt like scenes ran on for too long, and after a particularly affective split-stage scene, the mood of the play shifted into absurdity as Foxtrot and Sherbert remained in a desperately uncomfortable situation. Was that the intention? One cannot be sure, but by the time Cheetah Bee delivered her final monologue, it was clear that something had gone awry. A moment that should have been poignant became somewhat clichéd.

However, overall this production is gripping and edgy; Director Robert Chuter has managed to create something both wildly funny and thrillingly tense. Robert Smith (Set Designer, Graphic Designer and Producer) has done wonders with the small space; the set is imbued with a sense of unwilling decay. There is similarly excellent work from Tom Backhaus (Sound Designer) whose soundtrack is almost reminiscent of Blade Runner. It may need some creases ironed out, but The Fastest Clock in the Universe certainly gives audiences pause.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe is showing until 31 January 2015 in The Loft at Chapel off Chapel. Tickets are $38 Full, $32 Concession, $30 Group 5+ (+ transaction fee) and available from http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/melbourne-comedy-theatre-art/melbourne-events/midsumma-festival/the-fastest-clock-in-the-universe-21-31-jan/.
Be advised: The Fastest Clock in the Universe does contain some nudity and scenes of violence against women.