Tag: GasWorks Arts Park

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.

Luminous

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

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: Point & Flex Circus Presents 3 STEPS AHEAD

Out in front of the rest

By Myron My

Circus has been around for a long time – in fact, since the late 1700s in its ‘modern’ form –  and with the same acts being performed world wide, it runs the risk of becoming repetitive. However, the show 3 Steps Ahead, created by Point & Flex Circus’ Taylor Dawson and Marina Gellmann, , has enough point of difference to ensure we remain entertained.

3 Steps Ahead
Using circus, sideshow, physical theatre and humour, Dawson and Gellmann compete against each other in a series of challenges, some of which require the audience to choose whether or not to help one of them win it. In between these, we are also entertained with more traditional forms of circus acts such as hoops, contortionism, juggling and even some nose drawing!

There is always a risk of things not going to plan when it comes to circus shows. A hula hoop might not go where it’s supposed to, a foot might not land where it should or a ball is thrown a little too high to get the right timing. There were a number of these mishaps in 3 Steps Ahead but Dawson and Gellmann retained their composure and the recoveries were always swift.

What sets 3 Steps Ahead apart from other circus performances is that the audience has a say the action and in what the order of those acts will be. So even though we will see all the same ones each show, the performers are never sure which act they will be doing next and the comfort of routine is thrown out the window.

Music was used successfully throughout, building on the suspense of “will they/won’t they” (make it) and the lighting work was incredibly sharp and precise. Just like the performers’ routine, these two aspects depended on what order the acts were decided upon and there was no noticeable moments where it felt like an error had been made.

Despite both being 18 years old, between them Dawson and Gellmann have almost 30 years experience in circus so it’s no surprise that Point & Flex’s show won Best Emerging Circus Performer at the Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards over the weekend.

3 Steps Ahead was performed at Gasworks Arts Park as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

REVIEW: Lumiere Acrobatics’ THE LOUNGE – A CIRCUS CABARET

Dazzling moments

By Myron My

Every Melbourne Fringe Festival, I try see as many circus acts as I can, due to the unique variety that appear. Presented by Lumiere Acrobatics, The Lounge – A Circus Cabaret is one of those circus shows with a difference in its infusion of – as its name would suggest – circus and cabaret.

Floating through the 1950-60s era, creative director Glenn Birchall entertains us with a group of highly talented individuals. As far as openings go, The Lounge is highly memorable with the ensemble involved, coming on and off stage with various short acts that whet our appetite for what’s to come. The acts are accompanied by a great blend of jazz music which further sets the ambience for the show.

The Lounge

Two “club hosts” egg each other on as they attempt to out-perform each other and win over the audience. Each act adds a progressive layer of awe and culminates in something unique and amazing: for example, the majestic ‘AeroSphere’, a glittering two-metre diameter mirror ball that opens in four petals like a flower. With Birchall having spent 70 hours gluing every piece of mirror onto the mechanism, it really is a sight to behold as the acrobatic act takes place on it.

The other highlights of the evening included the silks routine and the contortionism, both of which appeared to be done seamlessly and with much ease. I was completely enthralled by the same silks performer who also impressed with the ‘AeroSphere’ acrobatics.

As a circus and cabaret performance, there is a great blend of acts to amaze us as well as acts to purely entertain us. I do feel that there were just a few too many lengthy interludes and dance numbers but overall, The Lounge – A Circus Cabaret is a highly enjoyably circus experience.

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

Season: Until 4 October | 6:30pm, Saturday 12.00pm

Tickets: $45 /$30 Conc

Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au

REVIEW: …we should quit for MELBOURNE FRINGE

Office slog needs a lift

By Myron My

In …we should quit two workers stuck in their monotonous daily grind find their routine broken and suddenly find themselves in a sea of chaos.

We Should Quit

The opening moments are promising with the environment being well set up and clearly placing Thomas McDonald as the straight man to Morgan Wilson’s wackiness but I feel like this show never took off.

Describing itself as physical comedy, it was disappointing to find the show lacking in both. It took close to twenty minutes for the first circus trick to happen and this was followed by long gaps between. There are moments when the comedy and clowning works really well, such as the yawning competition but most of it unfortunately misses the mark.

A circus show doesn’t require a strong focus on story but …we should quit really needs to find some sort of structure or end-point as I ended up feeling like I was watching a sketch comedy show on loop. I understand they are showing the repetition that these workers endure but seeing the same act three times, like the button-pushing, can be trying on the audience.

Having seen these artists perform with aplomb earlier this year in NICA’s circus showcase, I was expecting more with this show. McDonald and Wilson are both skillful circus performers yet I don’t feel that they allowed their strengths to shine through. There didn’t seem to be any build-up to any of the acts and the times when things looked promising but ultimately fizzled or didn’t lead anywhere, such as the blackboard scene.

Morgan and Tom have the potential for good comic timing and they play extremely well off each other. They are endearing to the audience and have strong charm and charisma but a one-hour show not much seems to happen apart from seeing two mates goofing about and is a bit much to sit through.

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

Season: Until 05 October | 9:15pm and Saturday 3:30pm

Tickets: $20 /$16 Conc

Bookings: www.gasworks.org.au, 9699 3253 or http://www.melbournefringe.com.au, 9660 9666

REVIEW: Blue Cow Theatre Presents ART

We know what we like

By Myron My

How many times do we see a movie with a friend and we love it and they hate it? Or we go to a museum and are taken in by a piece of art but our friend thinks it’s rubbish. Generally we put it down to a simple difference of opinion, but not in Art.

Art

Produced by Blue Cow Theatre, Art is a French language play by Yasmina Reza and translated here by Christopher Hampton, and aesthetic conflict is at the heart of this comic yet dramatic play.

Serge (Jeff Michel) has bought a painting: a very expensive painting. A painting that is completely white. He loves it but one of his best friends Marc (Robert Jarman) thinks it is awful– to put it mildly – and can’t move on from this. Yvan (John Xintavelonis) is stuck in the middle of this argument trying to pacify the two, but eventually gets embroiled in their fight.

Michel, Jarman and Xintavelonis are perfectly cast in their roles. Their rapport and the strength with which they take on their respective characters was imperative for the success of a play such as this, as it relies so heavily on an emotional response from the audience.

I was particularly impressed with Xintavelonis’ nuanced performance as Yvan, especially in the excellent scene when he’s explaining why he is late for dinner.

The play uses a mixture of monologues, duologues and then ultimately a group scene to tell the story. As an audience member, your state of mind is constantly fluctuating between feeling like an uninvited voyeur to being made the privileged listener in a confessional.

This unease keeps you intensely engaged and wondering what is going to be revealed next and how the characters’ personal thoughts will compare and contrast to their conversations with each other .

Art looks at the fragility of friendship and how vulnerable we can become by letting people in. With a lovely blend of comedy and drama, this play explores the value of friendship, through the issues of art, personal opinion and aesthetic appeal and the importance we place on them.

This production was performed at GasWorks Arts Park on August 1st to 3rd 2013.

REVIEW: Alex Ellis is DROWNING IN VERONICA LAKE

Secret life of a silver screen star

By Myron My

On the 40th anniversary of her death, Drowning in Veronica Lake is a moving look into the life of 1940s Hollywood film star Veronica Lake.

We enter the theatre and see a buxom blonde with red lipstick, dressed in a white gown that literally covers the whole stage. She is frozen in place, and perhaps in time too.  With the trademark peek-a-boo golden locks covering one eye, Alex Ellis is the mirror-image of the dazzling and tragic celebrity that was Veronica Lake.

Drowning in Veronica Lake

It’s a flawless performance by Ellis as she encapsulates all the dreams and insecurities of Lake, from the beginning of her story of fame with her bright eyes and aspirations of being a big Hollywood starlet to her first loves. Slowly though, the anxieties slip in as Lake’s glamorous life descends into a series of box-office flops, failed marriages, tax fraud, alcoholism and her ultimate death at 50 from renal failure.

Throughout the play, Ellis also impersonates a few of the people who had an influence in Lake’s life, including her mother and a myriad of ex-lovers but the mobility issue of the dress she is wearing hinders these people from being truly individual. However, this limitation does then suggest that these people have “helped” make Lake what she is now so they are in fact a part of her.

From a technical point of view, Drowning in Veronica Lake is also impressive. With its unwavering spotlight on Ellis, the lighting design is very effective in conveying the idea that this was Lake’s life: constantly in media focus and without a moment of privacy. The music is quite poignant and provides a strong nostalgic backdrop in recreating the era.

Phil Ormsby’s confronting script doesn’t simply paint Lake as a victim of society or ‘the system’ nor yet as a mere perpetrator of her own destructive choices but allows the audience to question this conflict long after they’ve left the theatre. Drowning in Veronica Lake is a powerful one-woman show that needs to be seen – let us hope for a return season soon.

This production was performed at GasWorks Arts Park on June 28 and 29th 2013.