Tag: Arts Centre Melbourne

Review: The Choir of Man

A musical escape with a few new mates

By Narelle Wood

To be honest when The Choir of Man started the show with a high-octane rendition of Welcome to the Jungle I was little concerned that the next 80 minutes would be a series of tropes reinforcing the lad-at-the-pub stereotype. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While there is something definitely familiar about these nine guys, what follows is a musical journey that explores the importance of community spaces, and the joy and support these spaces bring. Each of choir member brings a different character to the stage that adds a unique dimension to the unfolding story. Not to mention that these guys can really sing. As a result it feels as though you are sitting in a small pub, any where in the world having a drink with your mates, while listening to some brilliant tunes.

The songs themselves range from perhaps the more expected repertoire for a men’s choir of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Queen and Eagle Eye Cherry to some unexpected numbers from Adele, Katy Perry, Sia, and even a good Aussie rock ballad; it’s these songs that provide some of the most joyous and most poignant moments of the show. While most songs elicited laughter, clapping and sing-alongs, you could hear a pin drop during the rendition of Chandelier. The audience participation, something that can be awkward to watch, was so much fun and these guys seem to be experts in picking willing participants and making them feel at ease on the stage.

I haven’t commented much about the singing, because I’m not sure there are words to describe it. The musical arrangements and harmonies are nuanced and the ensemble so tight that the performance is flawless. Add to this the choreography the perfectly captures the pub environment and the mood of each of the songs, and you have a show that is not to be missed.

The Choir of Man are in Australia for the next four months and Melbourne until next week. This is their first run in Melbourne and hopefully not their last, but just in case it is, you want to make sure you get along and spend some time with these guys who can hold the audience’s attention just as well as they can hold a tune.

The Choir of Man are performing until 12th January. Tickets at www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2020/contemporary-music/the-choir-of-man

Review: Humans by Circa

An incredible display of strength, vulnerability,  flexibility and a celebration of the human spirit.

By Sebastian Purcell

 

Humans offers 10 acrobats pushing themselves to the extreme as they explore the physical and emotional limits of their bodies. The breathtaking strength, masterful, and at times down right freakish choreography is set to a Spanish inspired soundtrack. This, combined with the inspiring performers (Caroline Baillon, Marty Evans, Piri Goodman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Bridie Hooper, Cecilia Martin, Hamish McCourty, Daniel O’Brien, Kimberley O’Brien, Jarrod Takle) leads us beautifully to reflect on our lives, loved ones, and the burdens we all must overcome to survive and thrive.  The show invites you to consider how much can we take as humans? How much weight can we carry? And, who can we trust to support us?

Yaron Lifschitz brings this extraordinary performance to life with a stripped bare stage and a lighting design that takes you from night to day, to sunset and dawn. The ensemble pushes the boundaries of comfort before the show even begins undressing in front of the entering audience, stripping away insecurities.

Humans focuses on the triumph over adversity and disability, in a moving display the loss of one’s legs is transformed into the strength of the upper body. This prompts the audience to reflect on our ability as humans to support and raise our fellow brothers and sisters up, or to go out of our way to make life difficult.

The performance insightfully demonstrated the power of teamwork. The most brilliant moments were the human chains, stacking three women on top of each other’s shoulders, a nod to female empowerment, and that only with the help of another are you able to have your elbow licked. This routine offered a light-hearted comedic moment but also offered a powerful representation of going it alone, and conforming to everyone else.

Humans is about perseverance. It shows that every muscle can be trained, that our weakest parts can be our strongest, and that failure is the bedrock of success. The body and mind are only as vulnerable as we allow it to be, a crash landing may not be the thing to fear but rather an opportunity in the strength and resilience it builds.

This is one outstanding piece of acrobatics that is a testament to endurance and dedication, but also a thought-provoking theatrical experience that will have you questioning your limits, your comfort zone, and hopefully leave you with the desire to stretch your own limits.

Humans presented by Circa plays at the Arts Centre Melbourne Wednesday 27 Nov – Sat 30 Nov 2019.

Visit https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/circus-and-magic/humans-by-circa

Photography by Sarah Walker

Review: George Michael: Listen to Your Heart 

Enjoyable night of unforgettable music

By Samuel Barson

Careless Whisper. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Last Christmas. All synonymous with your Mum’s record collection, all synonymous with one man… George Michael.

Like many artists of his time, Michael’s music, fashion and unique approach and outlook on life has allowed for him to remain a stronghold in the hearts and minds of music lovers of all ages. The tributes are naturally endless and on October 17th, Melbourne held a very special tribute of their own.
George Michael: Listen to Your Heart was a 2 hour long tribute to not only the music behind the man, but also the man behind the music. Household names Rob Mills and Hugh Sheridan joined a cast of former Voice contestants and music theatre personalities to take audiences through Michael’s extensive discography, making some spoken word tributes to what the man meant to them as artists. The cast were joined by a tight and impressive full orchestra, all under the helm of maestro John Foreman OAM.
Whilst many of these tribute shows run the risk of being self indulgent on behalf of the cast (the people on stage making it more about themselves than the artist they are honouring), this show’s biggest strength was that it did the exact opposite. It was only ever about Michael, and the connections the cast made between themselves and Michael never felt too facetious or fabricated. There was a genuine and palpable love for Michael being shared by the cast and the audience.
Production values of lighting and choreography never took too much focus away from the main focus; the entire night was undoubtedly Michael himself.
The cast did a solid job, and it was enjoyable seeing such a diverse musical cast representing different parts of Michael’s musical talent and skill – I think you would be hard pressed to find one artist who could encapsulate Michael in his entirety these days. Special mention must be made to Sheridan for perfectly showcasing Michael’s smooth and sexy jazz side.
A great night for all ages, it was fantastic seeing such a diverse demographic in the audience, all attending to enjoy a night of unforgettable music in recognition of such an important musical icon.
George Michael: Listen to Your Heart played at the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall for one night only.

Review: High Tea Live – Steaming Jazz with Stevenson’s Rockets 

Toe-tapping jazz that’s good for the soul

By Narelle Wood

There is perhaps no better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne than sitting in The Pavilion at the Arts Centre, overlooking the city, eating scrumptious food and listening to “Steaming Jazz” with Stevenson’s Rockets.

The Stevenson’s Rockets are as smooth as they come, entertaining with numbers such as Scott Joplin’s Solace and the more laid back Riverside Blues, mixing it up with jazz styles from songs with upbeat Latin-American rhythms, to the Dixieland stylings of Ice cream. The quartet, consisting of Jo Stevenson (reeds), Steve Grant (piano), Chris Ludowyk (bass, trombone) and Ian Smith (drums, trumpet and vocals), effortlessly moved between styles, instruments, and solos, each song just as entertaining as the last.

This is perhaps to be expected given that Stevenson’s Rockets have been around for some time. But what added to this already stellar performance was that the Stevenson, Grant, Ludowyk and Smith also seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, the music, and each other’s company, as well as the performance itself.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were treated to a rocketing-rendition of Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz, compete with Smith on the washboard. It was certainly a crowd pleaser that left me wondering where exactly one might find a washboard.

If the toe-tapping Jazz performances are not quite enough to tempt you into purchasing as ticket, then the addition of high tea should certainly seal the deal. There are bubbles on arrival, with non-alcoholic options also available, and continuous tea and coffee refills. There are both sweet and savoury options, of sandwiches, pastries and cakes. And of course, any high tea wouldn’t be complete without scones, jam and cream.

So if you’re looking to spend a couple of hours soothing the soul, decadently eating and listening to, not just good, but great music, I highly recommend high tea on a Sunday afternoon at The Arts Centre.

Venue: The Pavilion, The Arts Centre, Melbourne

Tickets: from $79

To book tickets for the November or December High Tea Live go to www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Review: Tetris

The solitary pursuit of shapes to human forms

By Rebecca Waese

I never would have thought there would be so much humanity in a dance show based around Tetris. Until today. Years ago, I used to play Tetris when I wanted to step back from the chaos of the world and find comfort in falling shapes and finding solutions in patterns. Arch 8’s production of Tetris, choreographed by Erik Kaiel of the Netherlands, at the Melbourne Arts Centre, brings the solitary pursuit of shapes to human forms in a dance piece designed for young people but inspiring for all ages. It celebrates human connection and the balance between playing together and taking time out to be quiet and calm.

With a gentle start, set to piano music, the four performers create geometric shapes with their bodies, cuddling and balancing and filling in the spaces and voids between them. The movements are comforting and creative, nesting and curling and stacking on laps and backs. Watching the performers’ connection with each other and with the audience, I remember how it used to feel rolling down a great big grassy hill with your best friend or brother. The foursome made a triple-decker wheelbarrow centipede with their bodies and took it for a walk. They showed how sometimes you withdraw and sometimes you are left out. They showed how sometimes you are perfectly in balance and sometimes you collapse and need to be inventive to be included.

Moving from Tetris to Rubik’s cubes, the pace picked up and the performers discovered that they could control one another’s movements by spinning the cubes. To the audience’s delight, the performers gave children in the audience a turn to shake and twist the cubes as the performers responded to their every whim. Soon, the performers were all over the theatre, leaping on the seats, engaging with audience members, sitting on laps and even lifting and spinning children who were game.

This began the most amazing interaction where the audience members became co-creators in the show. Kids and adults alike were invited to mirror and shadow one another, give horsey rides, build bridges and climb through spaces onstage. At one point I’m sure there were more people onstage than in the seats. When it was over, we all took a bow and clapped for the performers and each other. It wasn’t forced or stagey; it was an amazing moment of human connection. Far more satisfying than playing Tetris on your own, this performance lifted the game to an experience of joy and humanity. I agree with my eleven-year-old son who rated it an 11/10. Give Tetris a go.

Tetris is playing at the Arts Centre until September 28th. Tickets at http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/kids-and-families/tetris

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English.

Photography by Didier Philispart

Review: I’m a Phoenix Bitch

An intense and vital story of motherhood, madness and hope.

By Irene Bell

Don’t go see this show with your mum … or do, I don’t know.

Bryony Kimmings’s latest, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, is not a gentle and loving portrayal of motherhood. The descent into madness in this autobiographical performance piece is not in any way sexy or mysterious. While the sets are cartoonish, the asides comical, this play is unashamedly real and brave. What an absolute privilege to see this show.

Kimmings is a fantastic writer; her monologue never gets stale and the rapport she builds between her and the audience is almost instant. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is her story of becoming a mother, a series of traumatic events and how she ultimately finds herself again – or meets and comes to understand her new self, at least. Early on in the show Kimmings says the we are safe with her – this is true, but it doesn’t mean only an hour later you won’t be crying ugly, therapeutic tears.

The staging is wonderfully simple and clever. Four set pieces covered in white sheets wait for the show to begin. Each represents a part or a place in Kimmings’s story. As she uncovers each one, inviting us into her past and revisiting it herself, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the trauma. The separate scenes are delivered with humour and wit, mostly shown through a camera whose filming of Kimmings’s performance is projected onto a screen. The scenes are played as pastiches of various classic cinema depicting women, mothers and female mental illness. It’s tongue in cheek until it becomes too real, until the scene spits Kimmings back out into the monologue, no hiding behind a camera.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is the beauty of theatre: at its heart it is a room full of strangers flexing their empathy muscles as we listen to a woman’s story and truly, from the bottom of our hearts, wish her all the best. You wish for a happy ending that doesn’t come, not because the ending is sad, but rather because life goes on. Go see I’m a Phoenix Bitch ready to open your heart to a stranger on stage and her son.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is playing at the Arts Centre until 15 September. Tickets can be bought here online (www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/theatre/im-a-phoenix-bitch) or by calling the box office on 03 9281 8000.

 

Review: Since Ali Died

Theatre making and storytelling at its simple best

By Owen James

Using nothing but words, an empty stage and some very simple lighting, wordsmith Omar Musa has concocted a beautiful and chaotic cacophony of language that inspires, amuses, and shocks with Since Ali Died. Musa is a master conductor of words, and this symphony reflects his passion for these art-forms – poetry and rap.

Using “the death of his hero Muhammad Ali as a lyrical springboard”, Musa launches into story after story, tackling love, loss, and divinity – and we are enthralled for the entire duration. There were many moments throughout the hour-long performance you could hear a pin drop. Musa is scathingly honest as he presents reflections on his life as a “brown man growing up on black land”, enduring episodes at primary school where he was told his “skin is the colour of shit”, and recounting encounters with racist politicians (inspiring the rap piece ‘Un-Australia’), tumultuous past loves, and perhaps his worst enemy, personal demons. There are insightful personal descriptions as he defines (and defies) wrestling with identity, and the expectations that stem from heritage and masculinity.

As this compelling performer rhymes and riffs, any notions of poetry being a boring and antiquated requirement confined to the high school classroom are demolished – every word is riveting and current, the atmosphere in the audience alive with anticipation. But it’s more than his gritty eloquence as a poet that makes the work so engaging; Musa is a storyteller who is charming and relaxed no matter the topic, always comfortable presenting his work mostly alone onstage, with the exception of guest performer Sarah Corry alongside for two pieces.

Fully deserving of the standing ovation he received at the end of the performance, Since Ali Died is a cutting and contemporary lyrical refraction of Musa’s powerful perspective on Australia and humanity. It’s a reminder of how powerful language can be, and a wake-up call to habitual Australian ignorance.

Don’t miss this intimate and intelligent work, playing a very short season at Arts Centre Melbourne until August 17th, as part of the third year of their ‘Big World, Up Close’ series. Tickets: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2019/festivals-and-series/big-world-up-close/since-ali-died

Photography by Robert Catto