Tag: GasWorks Arts Park


A valiant effort to portray a remarkable man

By Myron My

Cretan writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis is perhaps most well-known for his two novels Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, and his epic poem The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. However, Kazantzakis also led a life of adventure, passion and exploration and in Howard F. Dossor’s NK: A Kazantzakian Montage, important and life-changing moments from his personal story are presented and examined.

NK A Kazantzakian Montage.jpg

The story is told with the aid of a Greek Chorus that gives life to Kazantzakis’ stories, and allows the impressive nine performers (Elyssia Koulouris, Erin Marshall, Kostas Illias, Nicole Coombs, Paul Pellegrino, Sebastian Gunner, Tabitha Veness, Tania Knight, Will Atkinson) to easily switch in and out of the Chorus to become a person from Kazantzakis’ life. Alex Tsitsopoulos as Kazantzakis displays an sound understanding of who this writer was, and delivers a thoughtful performance. However, the production falls into the trap of having Kazantzakis explaining how certain experiences made him feel and what they meant to him, rather than showing us why these moments were important. This resulted in long monologues with less impact, particularly evident in the final scene with the Chorus that had the potential to be a climatic moment and bring this unique life’s story full circle.

While it is an ambitious task to condense seventy-four years into a two-hour show, it felt overall that the work was trying to depict too much, and therefore momentous events Kazantzakis’ life were merely skimmed. His first marriage, which lasted for 15 years, was over within minutes in the show, and his exploration of the monasteries of Mount Athos with his friend and poet, Angelos Sikelianos, while creating some great visuals and certainly marked as an important experience for him, was not given the time that it seemed to warrant.

The live music by Pantelis Krestas and his bouzouki and the sound design by Justin Gardham work well together in creating an authentic Greek ambience – along with some enthusiastic clapping from the audience – and also in bringing out the emotional layers of the story. John Collopy‘s lighting design creates the ambience for each scene and highlights the intensity of Kazantzakis’ emotions. Suzanne Heywood‘s direction utilises the space creatively and through minimal use of props and positioning of the performers is able to set up some visually arresting moments, including the earlier mentioned scene at Mount Athos.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage is a look at the political, philosophical and intimate nature of a man who never stopped asking questions about life. While it’s great to see Q44 Theatre stepping outside of their familiar repertoire with this form of story and storytelling, the reliance on lengthy exposition and the structure of this narrative unfortunately never allows the audience to profoundly understand and become familiar with Nikos Kazantzakis.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage was performed at Gasworks Arts Park between 14 – 17 November 2017.

Image by John Collopy


CHANGES: A Theatrical Tribute to the Music of David Bowie

It’s all about the music

By Sally McKenzie

David Bowie was a theatrical performer, so it makes sense for Kendall-Jane Rundell and her team at Bare Naked Theatre to deliver the music of Bowie in a theatrical format. They promised  ‘a personal, raw account of storytelling through contemporary and physical theatre’, but unfortunately I felt that the ‘storytelling’ aspect fell short in many aspects. The music, however, particularly the magnificent accompaniment by Robot Child, was pure Bowie indulgence in every way.


Musically, this show was quite an ambitious project, as it included roughly 35 Bowie songs, no dialogue. I was in music heaven. Songs included Bowie’s better-known hits such as the title song ‘Changes’, ‘ Space Oddity’, ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘China Girl’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Starman’,  ‘Under Pressure’ , ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Golden Years’.  Some of his more rare gems such as ‘Oh You Pretty Things’, ‘Where Are They Now’ and ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ also played an important part in this musical tribute. With the absence of a conductor, the band executed every song with confidence and flair. The transitions between songs was mostly smooth with only the occasional brief pause while musicians changed instruments or to allow for dramatic pauses on stage.

Robot Child with guest musician Matt Arter (guitar, sax, harmonica) has one of the finest line-ups of musicians I have seen. The arrangements were very close to the original Bowie tunes. The sounds produced on the keyboards of Owen James and David Hartney were great replicas of those included on Bowie’s albums, and the piano solos played by James in ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ were a highlight. Waleed Aly is indeed a virtuoso on the electric guitar. His solos were a feature of the night as they soared through the venue.

Together Dan Slater (drumkit) and Daniel Lijnders (bass guitar) provided a rock solid foundation for the band, executing every riff and rhythm with absolute accuracy and a great understanding of the vast collection of Bowie’s ‘substyles’ of alternative rock. I also particularly enjoyed the backing vocals provided by Hartney and Arter. Those added harmonies and the conviction and passion by these musicians were a huge asset to the show.

The main vocalists of the night were Jeff Wortman (who was also the music director and the regular lead vocalist of Robot Child) and Rundell (director). Wortman’s vocals were impressive. I was amazed by his vocal stamina as he sang in almost every song – and with 7 or 8 shows remaining, has a huge job ahead of him. Rundell was the other lead vocalist, and although her voice suited the range and androgyny of some of the Bowie songs,  she unfortunately did not have the vocal flexibility or security required. Her intonation wasn’t always accurate and I felt her voice lacked the power and impact required to match the energy and professionalism of the band.

With no program, director’s or musical director’s notes and no biographies of cast for the show, I wondered initially: what was the original concept for Changes? What was the purpose?  I waited for the actors on stage to tell me a story but struggled to connect to any of the themes. The six other performers in the cast portrayed the ‘fans’, ‘party-goers’, ‘drug-takers’ etc. in Bowie’s life, and attempted to provide a more abstract account of Bowie’s songs and lyrics with physical movement – some choreographed, some not.  Costumes by Jessica Allie were simple and neutral, and make up was ‘Bowie-esque’, but the performers seemed to lack an overall sense of purpose and commitment. Jacqui Essing was the stand-out in this hard-working but under-utilised ensemble. She looked completely comfortable on stage and was the most confident with her movement.

Lighting and sound was fabulous. A wall of light rigged behind the band shone into the audience as if to represent the ‘outer space’ theme in the relevant parts of the show. Large hanging spot lights were scattered and clearly visible over the largely open stage, giving the sense of Hollywood or TV studio. Handling such a big sound in a high-ceiling venue is a huge challenge, and LSS Studios triumphed again. The band was mixed perfectly and the overall sound was at ‘Rock Concert’ level, which was much needed. At times though, it was difficult to hear the words of the vocalists. Bowie’s lyrics are often abstract and difficult to understand, however, so this wasn’t a major deterrent.

Admittedly, this is not the cohesive, meaningful or enlightened dramatic performance the publicity suggested, but I was truly impressed by the hundreds of hours put in to rehearsing and performing such an epic collection of songs, and if you are a Bowie fan, you will revel in the sound of this show.

Changes: A Theatrical Tribute is at Gasworks Arts Park until the 6th August. Book at http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/changes/ or barenakedtheatre@gmail.com

Dislocate Presents IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK…?

First there’s good circus, then great circus – and then this

By Myron My

When you move into a house, you can’t help but be filled with the excitement of new beginnings as you begin to unpack boxes and find new places for your belongings, but what about the people who lived there before us? Not only the ones that have just left, but the ones that lived there ten years ago and twenty years ago? What memories have they left behind? Presented by Dislocate, If These Walls Could Talk…? shows the stories of these past inhabitants over six decades, through circus, performance and imagination.

If These Walls Could Talk

The four performers – Geoff Dunstan, Kate Fryer, DJ Garner and Luke Taylor – have the difficult task of not only performing circus acts that will entertain the audience but also convincingly remaining in character and showing their emotional journey in short periods of time. The first story, set in the 60s, show a loving elderly couple (Fryer and Dunstan) who decide together to take their own lives. As they reminisce over their younger years together, the acrobatics they perform are seen as visual representation of the emotions they are feeling. The closing moment is beautifully executed as the stage fades to black on the couple for one last time. And so the stories continue, showing the various inhabitants’ dealings with life, death and moving on.

The last story evokes a powerful mixture of emotions as we see a man (Dunstan) attempting various methods of suicide only to have them thwarted by some otherworldly force. When he attempts to jump out the window, the window slams shut on his face. When he attempts to hang himself by the door, the door gives way and releases the rope. Despite the clear theme of suicide, there is a delicate and thoughtful blend of humour throughout this piece, and the show as a whole. The finale is wonderfully wrought with the past residents spinning around the man on a trapeze as photographs fall from the ceiling of all the people who have lived there before.

The set changeover between the decades is comically done and highly creative, as the ensemble put their clowning skills to excellent use. The set, composition and costumes by Michael Baxter, Chris Lewis and Harriet Oxley respectively are perfectly themed to the eras. I particularly loved the 70s disco tunes of a gay relationship and the 80s pink jumpsuit donned by Fryer. Eduard Ingles’ lighting design is also utilised effectively, most memorably in the 80s domestic violence afterlife sequence.

Good circus is obvious when the tricks are good, the audience is interested and there are a few gasps, but great circus is when there is a story we can follow and we become emotionally invested in the characters we see. If These Walls Could Talk…? goes beyond even that, and creates a poignant reminder that while we should embrace life and all there is to it, we should not forget the ones that have come before us.

If These Walls Could Talk…? was performed at Gasworks Arts Park on 20-21 June 2016.

REVIEW: Nice Productions Presents THE BOYS

Strong attempts to tackle a difficult play

By Myron My

Survivors of domestic violence and violence against women come from all walks of life. The crime does not discriminate, but what do you do when your son or your boyfriend commits a heinous violent act against another person? Do you call the police, or do you turn a blind eye?  In Gordon Graham‘s highly acclaimed play, The Boys, these themes are explored through the eyes of the female figures in the perpetrators’ lives.

The Boys.jpg

Linda Cookson does a magnificent job in her portrayal of Sandra, the matriarch of the family. All she wants is to have her three sons together and everything she does is done out of a mother’s love for her children. There are moments where Sandra is in scenes where she is in the background as conversations happen around her, yet you can always feel what she is thinking and trying to push the troubling thoughts away with how her facial expressions and body language is conveyed.

However, many of the difficulties I had in otherwise ascribing to the play’s dialogue came down to the rest of the casting and as a result, I felt the tension and suspense of the script was not able to be fully appreciated. Rebecca Fortuna and Heidi Lupprian (Michelle and Jackie) work powerfully in their scenes together and with Sandra, yet there was a strong lack of chemistry between each of their characters and their respective partners, Brett and Glenn. Michael Shanahan and Ben Taylor (Brett and Glenn) both showed promise but I feel that they needed to get further inside their characters to show them as complex and fully fleshed-out people rather than just a familiar stereotype. Unfortunately Malachi Grimsley and Lucy Orr as Stevie and Nola seemed to be somewhat miscast, as I found neither actor was able to convincingly portray their respective characters.

The stage design has a good level of authenticity and is quite befitting of the Sprague family. The backyard is set towards the front of stage and decorated with milk crates, an esky of beer and the ground scattered with rubbish and stray grass. A door leading towards the back of the stage takes you into the lounge room decorated with two sofas, magazines, clothing and a number of family photos and other items.

Luci Kendo‘s direction ensures that all the space available is utilised to permit the characters to explore the space and express themselves further. However, there were a few moments where conversation took place with one character “outside” and another one as they were walking from “inside” the back of the house into the “outside”, which seemed a little clumsy.

The Boys is a confronting piece of theatre on domestic violence and violence against women. While this is loosely based on true events from the 1986 murder of Anita Cobby, the play reminds us that domestic violence can affect anyone, even the central women within the Sprague family. They may be aware of their loved ones’ guilt, but these women have been – to an extent – broken down into defending the men they fell in love with, with seemingly no other option. With suitable casting and a deeper examination of the characters, I feel certain this could have proven to be a highly affecting production.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206
Season: Until 20 February | Wed – Sat 8pm
Tickets: $33 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: Gasworks Arts Park

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.


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.

REVIEW: The Broadwalk Republic Presents BARBAROI

Dark, dangerous and death-dealing circus

By Myron My

Traditionally, circus is about bright colours and laughter. However in the 2015 Melbourne Fringe circus show Barbaroi, circus is transformed into a dark, gritty and dirty art form. Coming out of the darkness are shady characters and misfits of society… It’s an enthralling hour of entertainment from the seedy underbelly of the arts.


The strong opening sequence sets the mood for the show with The Barbaroi (Avan Whaite, Stan Ricketson, Will Meager, Phoebe Carlson, Caz Walsh and Hazel Bock) entering and exiting the stage, completing various flips and tricks as they do. The lighting work during this is highly effective with six square spotlights on stage shaping the darkness, subsequently allowing the performers to be coming in and out of the shadows. The fast movements of the performers combined with the erratic but perfectly timed lighting choreography is a captivating sight.

There is barely a lull in Barbaroi with the audience kept on the edge of their seats for its entirety. Bock steals the show with her two sets of foot-juggling, that are just gobsmacking in their skill. She also plays the femme fatale-esque persona with the right amount of sass and attitude, which results in her having a particularly strong presence on stage.

Strong men Meager and Ricketson are amazing to watch during the teeterboard act – and not just due to their physique, as they achieve some phenomenal flips and twists. You would think The Barbaroi couldn’t make their acts any more difficult than they already do but then they turn the dial up even more and still breathtakingly succeed. Even Carlson’s bottle-walking act completely changes our expectations and its difficulty with just a simple action.

Barbaroi is the type of show that requires an immense amount of trust and support from each of the performers. Throughout the show, those not directly involved in the act remain on stage and watch, reinforcing the idea that The Barbaroi are one team and depend on each other to succeed. The set-up between acts  is well executed and along with the music played, emphasises the roughness and the “danger” of where we are and what we are witnessing.

The clapping and cheering from the audience at the conclusion of Barbaroi’s opening night for Fringe was more than well deserved. There is a high calibre of talented circus performers on display that deserve to be seen by many people during this two-week run. It is high-octane circus that will have your eyes transfixed on the stage and your heart beating at rapid speeds, until those spotlights finally go out.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206

Season: Until 3 October24-26 September, 9.20pm | 29 Sept – 3 Oct, 8pm

Tickets: $27 Full | $24 Conc | $20 Cheap Tuesday

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Jessica Watson Miller’s LUMINOUS

Visually glorious but missed some marks

By Myron My

Created by champion body painter Jessica Watson MillerLuminous is circus with a twist. The show is performed under black lights with the performers covered head to toe in various glow-in-the-dark coloured body paints and costumes that create a truly singular viewing experience.


The performers appear on stage, reminding me of wild animals in the jungle as they slowly slither, slide and stalk into the space. At various points throughout the night, the body painters (themselves dressed head to toe in black so they are almost invisible) rub the paints on one of the performers, thus gradually bringing him to life. It’s a visual feat that is exciting and intriguing to watch.

There is always a risk with any live performance, and especially with circus, that things will not always go according to plan. Unfortunately, many of the tricks did not go to plan on the night I attended, and perhaps we can put this down to opening night nerves. Juggling items were dropped, hoops not caught and there were some wobbly moments during the adagio routine. To the performers’ credit, they always persevered and continued with the routines but I did feel the show was not as smooth and polished as it should have been. Furthermore, there were technical issues that occurred on the night with noises coming from backstage and, at times, issues with the sound and lights.

However, moments like the juggling of the orange UV balls did manage hit the right mark. The juggler incorporated bouncing the five balls on the floor and back into the cycle and the speeds which he reached and the variety to the act was very impressive. The partnered aerial silk routine (often a favourite of mine) was also one of the stronger showings in Luminous. Meanwhile, the soundtrack throughout the show was used well and helped enhance the primal environment we were witnessing.

While the idea of a circus show performed in glow-in-the-dark paint is unique, overall Luminous did not leave me with a yearning for more. Yes, the aesthetics were absolutely captivating and engrossing but the acts themselves need some more work to really create something memorable.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206

Season: Until 3 October | 22, 24-26 Sept, 10.30pm | 19, 29 Sept – 3 Oct, 9.20pm

Tickets: Melbourne Fringe Festival 2015