Tag: 2016 Midsumma Festival

REVIEW: Gasworks Presents UNCOVERED

Sleek and sensual circus for Midsumma

By Myron My

After Dark Theatre’s Uncovered would have to be one of the sexiest circus shows I have ever seen, and with its overt intent to explore homosexuality, love and sex, this isn’t surprising. Director and performer Dave Coombs has brought together recent graduates or current students of the National Institute of Circus Arts, and through a number of circus acts, explores the idea of “the first”, including the first encounter with a man and the first kiss.

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The performers – Emily Gare, Alex Jeans, Mark Graham, Nelson Smyles and Coombs – are all committed and enthusiastic and for where they currently stand in their experience, deliver some impressive feats. Jeans’ silks routine and his subsequent double aerial hoop act with Graham are strong highlights of the evening. The latter in particular successfully displayed their talents with their seamlessly moving bodies, and paired with the music, permitted the audience to recall their own sensual experiences while appreciating what was occurring on stage. Smyles’ short but sweet clown act, with his attempts to be the object of someone’s desire, is also a firm favourite. It is very simple routine but it relies heavily on Smyles’ ability to convey vulnerability and hopefulness through nothing but facial expressions and body language.

The music selection is well chosen, with a variety of songs from different genres often reimagined into new forms, giving a fresh feel to many of the acts performed. The direction of the performers is also an accomplished effort, ensuring that the whole space is used effectively and, just like the theme of the show itself, exploring every dark corner and space.

While Uncovered works on exploring these “first times” as individual stories, in order to elicit a deeper and emotional response from the audience, I felt stronger focus on character and an overall story is required. In the beginning, Smyles enters the bar and upon being questioned about his sexuality, states he is straight. One lap dance later, he has now realised he is gay and although this revelation could have been a wealth of inspiration, it is never really visited again.

Uncovered has a lot it wants to share with the audience about being a gay male. While this is a good start, I still felt it needs to build a stronger connection with the characters and what it is being explored. It’s got the talent and it’s got the vision: with a little bit more work, it can find its heart.

Uncovered was performed 27 – 30 January at Gasworks Arts Park as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival.

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REVIEW: Ben Noble in MEMBER

Powerful and lingering

By Myron My

Presented as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival by Fairly Lucid Productions and directed by Casey Gould, Ben Noble‘s play Member was incited by the death of gay man Scott Johnson in 1988 when his body was found at the bottom of a cliff at Manly. Deemed a suicide, there has always been speculation that he was a victim of a gay hate-crime. However, this narrative focuses on Corey, your typical Aussie living in Manly with his wife and child. We follow Corey through various moments in his life that have led to where he is now: in a hospital room with his son lying unconscious, seemingly fighting for his life.

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Ben Noble is exemplary in his performance as Corey (and all the other characters he plays). From the very beginning, our eyes are glued on him and even as he begins to unravel and the truth becomes clearer, we still cannot look away. Corey is a complex character but Noble is able to bring some insight into his actions and thoughts while still holding him accountable for them.

There are some very difficult moments to watch in the show: not because of what’s happening on stage, but because of what’s happening in our head. Noble is so convincing with his delivery of the dialogue and the characters he creates that it is impossible to not begin visualising what is being described. You see the fear in the eyes of the victims with every insult slurred, you hear the moment when foot connects with rib, and you can almost feel the blood splatter from every strike to the face.

The lighting design by Lisa Mibus hones in on the intensity of the events and despite the empty space bar for a single chair, builds well on creating a claustrophobic environment. Jacob Battista‘s stage design that covering the entire floor in one sheet of silver gloss works perfectly in bringing more depth to the work. The watery mirrored surface not only captures Noble reflecting on his own behaviour and past, but also ensures the audience reflect on the community we live in and acknowledge that these things have happened and continue to happen.

Despite its set time period, Member could easily be describing topical events from current times with homophobic attacks on people of the GLBTIQ community still occurring when you consider that only last week a gay man was bashed in St Kilda Royal Botanical Gardens, and stickers were placed along Chapel St stating “Cure AIDS, Kick a Poofter to Death”.

Member is an important story that needs to be told. It’s important because it reminds us that no matter how far we have come as a community and as a society, we still have so much further to go before people such as Scott Johnson can feel safe in their community and in their homes. With a completely sold-out run, here’s hoping this show gets a second season some time soon.

Member was performed between 19 – 30 January at La Mama Theatre

Image by Derek McAlpin

REVIEW: Christopher Bryant’s INTOXICATION

Theatre at internet speed

By Myron My

I still remember the excitement in my house when we signed up for dial-up Internet. It brought a new world into my living room with just a tap of the keyboard and a click of the mouse. Seventeen years later, the technological advances we have made have brought this virtual world closer to us, but has it pushed us further away from the real world? Presented as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival, Christopher Bryant’s Intoxication raises questions about how our reliance on social media, dating apps and smart phones are hindering us from building honest and meaningful relationships with actual people.

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The three performers – Ryan Forbes, Amy Hack and Bryant – each sit on an individual cube and, as if they are in a confessional, share their anxieties with us. Even though there is barely, if any, interaction between the three during these moments, the thoughts and emotions shared are very similar, building on Bryant’s idea that despite all having these tangible insecurities and feelings of loneliness, we seem to drive ourselves further away from reality and into the digital world, where we are free to project the life we wish we had and want the world (wide web) to see.

Forbes, Hack and Bryant are engaging on stage and the interactions they do share have a nice authenticity to them. Despite having similar concerns and worries about being alone and falling in love, they each bring individuality to their characters and stay committed to them the whole time.

Bryant is a talented and thoughtful writer and I would love to be able to read the script to Intoxication so I could fully comprehend everything that he has to say. Every line uttered has importance and carries much weight, however the delivery is so fast and non-stop that when you take a second to contemplate what is being said, you’ve already missed the next two lines of dialogue and find yourself trying to keep up with the performers. There are a few musical interludes to help even out the pace but they feel slightly out of place in their current execution.

Intoxication has many home truths it puts forth to the audience, and I found myself agreeing countless times and seeing myself in the thoughts and emotions expressed by characters. However, allowing the audience to reflect on these thoughts during the show, as well as after, would create stronger emotional connections between the viewers and these characters, and thus produce an even stronger impact from the production overall.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton
Season: until 7 February | Wed – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

REVIEW: Paul Malek’s BOYZ

Intense and absorbing new dance work

By Myron My

Your 20s are a time in your life where you finally step out into the wider world and attempt to make sense of it all. For most, it includes moving out of the family home, graduating from studies, and finding your place in life. Easier said than done though. Presented as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Paul Malek‘s new contemporary dance piece BOYZ explores what it means being a gay man in your 20s.

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Whilst there is a feeling of frustration and boredom, things begin serenely enough with five males – Jayden Hicks, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Charles Ball, Lachlan Hall and Kurt Dwyer-William – living under one roof. However, the gradual exploration of their sexuality, individuality and how they fit into a society such as ours, has them experiencing new and foreign moments. Malek incorporates some engaging storytelling through his choreography, and the characters the dancers take on maintain a sophisticated depth to them that I rarely witness in contemporary dance.

This is a physically demanding piece that expects much from its performers who are more than able to rise to the challenge, with the menage-a-trios between Ball, Hicks and Hall highlighting this better than any other sequence in BOYZ. Precision timing is required from all three, as their bodies become one but remain in constant movement. The choreography is so intricate that if one arm or one leg is misplaced even for a second, it would visibly disrupt the flow they have created.

There is a strong Dionysian influence throughout BOYZ, for just like the excesses of the Greek God of wine and ecstasy, the moments shared by the characters on stage are highly intense and passionate, whether it be through drugs, dancing, or with each other. Look deeper and you can see that while these events and the transition into manhood can potentially cause harm and tragedy, they can also be viewed as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

The choreography is perfectly timed to music by Danish electronic musician, Trentemøller, which at various times sounds like a rapidly beating heart that’s about to explode. The basic and simple set design by Chris Curran, consisting of a white sofa, table and chairs, is the perfect contrast to the frenetic nature of the characters’ experiences, and together with Curran and Hicks’ costuming and Craig Boyes‘ lighting design, create some evocative aesthetic moments.

While the ending is fitting in itself, with the dancers collapsing into slumberous exhaustion from all they have gone through, it is at a much slower pace than the rest of the show, and as such the overall impact of BOYZ lessens. Cutting the length of the finale would still allow for Malek’s desired effect but would also have us remain completely engaged with the piece.

BOYZ is an hypnotic and honest performance piece that, regardless of sex and sexuality, audiences can strongly relate to in appreciating the events and emotions these five dancers go through. From Malek’s perspective, the world can be a big scary place when you’re set free in it, but it’s the experiences we have, both good and bad, that will ultimately decide who we are and how we can find what we are looking for in life.

Venue: Transit Dance, 2/10 Elizabeth St, Kensington
Season: Until 30 January | Wed – Sat 8.30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

REVIEW: Wayne Tunks’ THE GIRLIE SHOW

Funny, engaging and satisfying new theatre

By Ross Larkin

While writer and producer Wayne Tunks’ latest venture, The Girlie Show, is in some respects an homage to pop’s most famous diva Madonna, the play is more accurately a universal story about relationships, pain and self-discovery.

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Directed by Josh Karlik, The Girlie Show revolves around a vibrant group of teenagers in the 90s, who, while queuing to purchase tickets for a Madonna concert, become close friends, bound initially by music and idolisation but ultimately by love and passion.
As the teens navigate their own personal challenges including infidelity, sexuality and the smothering of strict religious parents, the group’s bond widens against a backdrop of song, dance and humorous pop culture references.

Charlotte Fox plays songstress Natalie, who must choose between career and self-worth, while Sam (played by Adam Haylock) deals with a broken family and an addiction to risky habits. Oliver Bailey and Adam Noviello play Jason and Derek respectively, both faced with the conundrum of their feelings for each other versus Jason’s struggle to come out of the closet. Meanwhile, shy and meek Mary (Caitlin Spears) is forced to confront her controlling parents as she rebels against a life of repression.

Fox is particularly excellent (her solo ballad is a highlight), while most of the comical moments are provided by the supporting cast including Tunks himself, who plays Sam’s jovial dad, Tony. Geoff Wallis is hilarious as Vic, a toupee-wearing, sleazy record company executive and also as Jason’s densely naive father, along with his wife, played by Perri Cummings (among other support roles) whose performance and stage presence is strong and engaging.

One of the show’s best moments is a dance number (choreographed brilliantly by Kristen Adriaan-Benton) featuring the whole cast in a slew of outrageous, Madonna-inspired costumes as a centrepiece to the show.

The Girlie Show is a satisfying, coming-of-age mixture of comedy, drama, music and dance whose themes are universal and is, as such, most certainly not just for Madonna lovers!

The Girlie Show is playing now as part of the Midsumma Festival until January 31st, 2016 at La Mama Courthouse Theatre, 349 Drummond street, Carlton.

Tickets via lamama.com.au or (03) 9347 6142.

REVIEW: UNTITLED, OR THE SEAT OF NARCISSA

Faultlessly funny

By Ross Larkin

From the outset, a certain curiosity swells at the prospect of a play with no title, while simultaneously bearing a highly distinct and decided one. This is not coincidental, but rather a sneaky peak into the contrary madness that awaits in writer/director Sofia Chapman’s hilarious new production.

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Initially a love triangle between three quirky, tenacious women, Untitled, or The Seat of Narcissa quickly evolves to include multiple love-crazed subjects in a chaotic swarm of hysteria while infidelity and passion abound along with music, dancing and poetry.
Penny Larkins is the egocentric and deceitful Viscountess Narcissa, who chews up her lovers and spits them out, all the while demanding the utmost respect and attention.
Falling under her spell are Erica Chestnut as the sassy Duchess of Dullcote and Kate Hosking as feisty go-getter, Baroness of Inverness, while Narcissa’s seemingly dazed and confused servant, Marcello, played by Madeline Hudson, intersects the melodrama with great intrigue.

The humour and wit of Chapman’s writing is immediate and doesn’t stall for a single moment, aided by a strong and energetic cast whose comic timing and delivery had the audience cackling from beginning to end.

Chapman is also responsible for the hilariously witty poetry which merges with the play beautifully, as well as the very fitting and engaging music and comical lyrics. Hudson’s song on the accordion with Hosking on the cello about knowing a Jewish person is a particularly priceless moment.

Add to the mix some wacky and amusing dancing, gorgeous costumes and a slew of double entendres and clever one-liners and the result is a barrel of non-stop laughs, comparable to the likes of Monty Python, Black Adder and Absolutely Fabulous. This is one Midsumma show for the top of your list!

Untitled, or The Seat of Narcissa is playing now at La Mama, 205 Faraday street, Carlton until January 31st.

Tickets available at http://lamama.com.au/ or on (03) 9347 6948.
Image by Annabel Warmington

REVIEW: Midsumma Presents THE LATE NIGHT SEXY SHOW

Sex and all that jazz

By Myron My

Even though it plays at the not-so-late night sexy time of 8.30pm, you may want to fasten your seatbelts with The Late Night Sexy Show, as you’re going to be in for a bumpy night! Performed as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival, musician, singer and comedian, Grant Busé humorously explores the wonderful world of sex, sexiness and everything else in between.

The Late Night Sexy Show.jpgBusé enters the stage in a suit, gradually losing one piece of clothing with every sexy song he performs. Between songs, we are treated to some erotic reading material that will have everyone getting a little hot under the collar and spend some “quality time” with Busé in which he calls out questions to the audience and in return, we direct questions to him regarding sex, desire and anything else we can think of.

Talking about the topic of sex can be an incredible awkward thing to do, as is creating a safe and welcoming environment for all audience members regardless of sex, gender and sexuality. Whether it be singing about the perils of car sex or having that connection with someone, Busé’s cheeky sense of humour allows him to build a strong rapport with everyone and therefore welcomes us to relate to his experiences and observations.

Busé has a strong  appealing singing voice which he puts to full use. The variety of original songs he sings and music he plays nicely showcase the range in which he can perform. Much like the show itself, Busé allows sex to be imaginative, emotional and invigorating but also for it to be fun, respectful and not dirty (except in the good way). Even when he takes on a more serious tone with regards to sexual consent and equal marriage rights – in one of the best numbers of the evening, “Hypocrite” – it is executed in a suitably serious yet light-hearted manner, where the laughs are permitted to keep on coming.

At one point during the show, Busé referred to The Late Night Sexy Show as being a “silly, stupid, sexy show”. I would like to add ‘highly entertaining, cleverly constructed, sharply written and full of laughs’ to that description. There’s a reason this show has received sell-out seasons throughout the country and overseas, and with its short run during the Midsumma Festival, I would act quickly on seeing this one. Busé has a burgeoning talent and charm that is very close to exploding onto the Melbourne comedy scene.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 24 January | Wed – Sun 8.30pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival