Tag: Jethro Woodward

Malthouse Presents THE REAL AND IMAGINED HISTORY OF THE ELEPHANT MAN

Famous tale powerfully retold

By Jessica Cornish

In a modern world where interesting things continue to be collected and people that are different are still being shunned by society, the heart-breaking historical tale of Joseph Merrick is bought to life in the 2017 season of The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man, currently showing at the Malthouse Theatre.

ElephantMan photo credit Zan Wimberley.jpg

Joseph is born different into an cold and industrial society that spits him out on to the cruel streets of nineteenth-century London. People flit in and out of his life, and ultimately he finds himself trapped as a patient at a hospital, entertaining aristocrats and posing as an educational tool for doctors. It is at once his saving grace and downfall, whereupon eventually he decides to return to the streets to live a life of a different nature.

Under the adroit direction of Matthew Lutton, the script as written by Tom Wright is heavy and bleak, but remains scattered with moments of comic relief that break through the darkness. The strong cast of five performers (including Paula Arundell, Julie Forsyth, Emma J Hawkins and Sophie Moss) are well-rehearsed and confident and easily draw you into this atmospheric world.

Leading man Daniel Monks gave an incredible performance, showing great strength and vulnerability as Joseph Merrick. The actor himself also did an extraordinary job in convincingly morphing into the physicality of this character across the entire night, including contorting his face for the duration of the performance.

The stage was remarkably bare and stark, with the muted and minimal set design of Marg Horwell, whereupon feelings of isolation, hopelessness and entrapment laid heavy upon the world of Mr Merrick. This was mirrored in the severe lighting design by Paul Jackson that relied heavily on silhouettes and harsh flood lights.  However, this enduring sterility was then complemented by a beautiful delicate soundscape designed and composed by Jethro Woodward that bought an element of tenderness in to the performance.

This was an inspiring reimagining of the famous real-life story, that shows the best and worst of humanity. It asks its audience to connect themselves to his world and to do what his peers struggled to accomplish: recognise the man that is Joseph Merrick, and allow him to simply be.

The Elephant Man will be showing at the Malthouse Theatre from 4-27 August 2017.

Bookings: Malthousetheatre.com.au

Tickets: Standard / $69, Senior / $64, Concession / $49 , Under 30s & Students / $35

AUSLAN INTERPRETED PERFORMANCE: 7.30pm, Thursday 24 August

Image by Zan Wimberley

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REVIEW: Malthouse Theatre Presents TIMESHARE

Excellent performances in eccentric new play

By Ross Larkin

Australian playwright Lally Katz is known for her offbeat, droll creations, and her latest effort, Timeshare, will no doubt please die-hard fans, though it is, as expected, an acquired taste which will not appeal to all.

Timeshare

Iconic comedienne Marg Downey plays Sandy, who is holidaying on a fictitious island resort positioned on the international dateline. Her lonely daughter Kristy (played by Brigid Gallacher) is vacationing with her, and looking for love with the likes of resort worker Juan-Fernando (Fayssal Bazzi​). Meanwhile, resort manager Carl (Bert LaBonte), is trying to sell timeshare packages to Sandy, while she becomes convinced Carl is romantically interested.

Touted primarily as a comedy, Timeshare unfolds more like a drama with the laughs thin on the ground. Downey is disappointingly responsible for virtually none of the laughter in, what is, a very sombre and vacant part. Naturally, however, Downey still delivers, although one might argue hers is more a support role than a lead. The rest of the cast also deliver – all equally as engaging and impressive in their performances.

The first half of the script is somewhat meandering and slow, with seemingly little purpose. Fortunately, the pace and stakes later pick up when the action is shifted to ‘yesterday’s’ side of the date line and the confusion which ensues reveals the sad truth of the situation.

Timeshare unexpectedly features singing and dancing throughout, enough to consider it a musical hybrid, though Katz insists it’s a play with musical numbers, as opposed to a musical. The songs by Jethro Woodward are appealing and often beautifully sung (in particular by LaBonte and Gallacher), but there are times when they seem ill-fitting with the story and characters, and the dancing especially is so self-aware and corny that it detracts from the show’s credibility.

There are some lovely metaphors which emerge here, and New York director Oliver Butler does mostly a fine job with this offbeat, peculiar piece, save for some of the more over-the-top, caricature moments. LaBonte’s solo singing finale about pools and chlorine for example, which, although performed incredibly well, felt like an inappropriate ending that seemed to make a mockery of the journey we’d just been on.

Timeshare is playing now at The Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank until May 17. For bookings, visit http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/timeshare

REVIEW: Insite Arts Presents THE LONG PIGS

Hilariously dark and frighteningly funny…

By Myron My

Firstly, if you have a fear of clowns, then this show is probably not for you but it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t go see it. The clowns in The Long Pigs are not your traditional-looking clowns (for the most part).

These guys are dirty and dark with black noses, and are hell-bent on collecting the red noses of other clowns…

LONG PIGS

The uncanny ability that performers Clare Bartholomew, Nicci Wilks and Derek Ives (who along with director Susie Dee, also devised the show) have to use something as small as a facial expression or taking a step to make their audience get actual stitches from laughing is testament to their darkly funny skills as clowns.

Even with minimal dialogue and the unsettling atmosphere, the cast are able to both convey a strong story and evoke sympathy and empathy from us over their individual and group plights. In fact there are some very suspenseful moments interspersed throughout The Long Pigs which form a great contrast to the more ‘traditional’ clowning that occurs.

All the stage elements blend perfectly in the performance to help create this grim world that is thrust upon us – especially Jethro Woodward’s excellent sound design and composition, as the constant changes from cheery to eerie amplified all the action that was going on on stage.

Furthermore, Anna Tregloan’s nicely creepy set design reminded me of a haunted house-cum-butcher shop with variety of seemingly random objects just strewn about covered by bloody white sheets, and the atmospheric lighting design by Andy Turner was reminiscent of a carnival freak show tent with dim lights casting larger sinister shadows in the background.

So even if you do have that fear of clowns (or coulrophobia), The Long Pigs is a show that still needs to be seen. Even though it’s only March, I can confidently say that this is going to be one of my highlight shows of the year, because how often can you simultaneously be completely entertained and utterly creeped out by the one show?

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: Until 23 March | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events or 9662 9966

REVIEW: Kage’s FORKLIFT

Femmes ex machina

By Tania Herbert

What to do on a summer’s night when Melbourne is covered in a haze of bushfire smoke? Clearly some rather disquieting contemporary performance art outside at the base of the Arts Centre.

Forklift

The audience is ushered into a construction site set with a back drop of the Arts Centre spire, and tech crew are cleverly perched around the set in their construction worker fluros. A long lead-in of banter and set-exploration with some very light humour by the protagonist female forklift driver (Nicci Wilks) left a full house quizzically wondering what exactly they were in for.

When the forklift arrives complete with a pair of mannequin-esque women (Henna Kaikula and Amy Macpherson) sprawled across it, the show quickly shifts into gear. The obscure storyline appeared to be based around elements of the forklift driver’s simple worklife merging into a dream-like world the suggests a contemporary Alice-down-the-rabbit hole.

An intensely physical performance, the contortions, dance moves, circus stunts and incredible balancing were interwoven with the movements of the forklift in a mesmerising and terrifyingly dangerous spectacle of movement. The sound track, composed by Melbourne local Jethro Woodward, punctuated the ever-shifting world and gives an eerie, almost steam-punk feel.

As the performance continues, and people wandered past the outdoor stage, a ‘fishbowl’ effect added to the disquiet, with theatre-goers on their way home finding a perch on any place where they could catch glimpses of the performance.

The piece is all that is feminism, with strong, powerful, changeable women completely in control of their art. And yet, it is all that is not, as our rather stereotypically ‘butch’ female lead is gradually converted into a sexualized, scantily -lad lipstick-wearing version of her former self.

Unique, bizarre, and utterly enthralling, Forklift defies definition. It’s kind of circus, kind of contemporary theatre, kind of dance… and yet none of these things. Forklift is oh so very Melbourne, and for a very different kind of “pop up” art, KAGE is certainly a group to keep an eye on.

Forklift is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne at the Theatres Forecourt

Wed 12 – Sun 16 February – 6.30 and 9pm nightly

Bookings: www.kage.com.au/book-tickets

Review: SKELETON at Dance Massive

Getting down to the bare bones

By Myron My

Choreographed by Larissa McGowan and featuring in the Dance Massive festival this month, Skeleton has a set of characters discover the hidden stories of pop-culture icons including headphones, baseball bats and a BMX bike.

Skeleton

The performance definitely lives up to its name. The stage is skeletal: the bare essentials are the set of lights along the back wall and just a handful of props. The dancers wear white, grey or black clothing, so no complex colours are on display here. Meanwhile, there is the clever staging device of two black sliding panels that constantly move back and forth across the stage throughout the performance. As they do, they drop off or pick up performers and/or props with such precision timing that it really is a blink-and-you-miss-it exchange.

McGowan’s choreography is brilliant and all the dancers have put some extreme effort and dedication into executing it. Jethro Woodward’s score is as haunting as it is mesmerizing as the dancers move, contort and manipulate their bodies to some extreme choreographed sequences. The interesting inclusion of various film voice-overs and the incorporation of those dialogues into the performance were well-crafted.

Despite an impressive performance by all, including Tobia Booth-Remmers, Lisa Griffiths and Lewis Rankin, it was the intense presence and obvious skill of Marcus Louend and McGowan that really left an impression on my mind.

Yet as an audience member, whenever I see a performance of any sort, I want to walk away having felt something, and on the whole, I just didn’t experience this with this production. As mentioned earlier, I appreciated the strong technical performances but Skeleton lacked an emotional connection for me to drive it home. This might again have been a deliberate decision considering the piece’s title, but it may also have to do with its length, for even though the performance time falls just under an hour, it did start to become repetitious and the amazement over what we had earlier witnessed did start to wane.

Skeleton is an interesting piece of contemporary dance exploring pop icons from the past and how very easily they can be forgotten. It’s a very impressive performance but with only the unsatisfactory bare bones of a narrative on offer, perhaps more fleshing out of the ‘story’ behind it is actually needed.

Venue: The Malthouse, 113 Sturt St, Southbank

Season: Until 23 March | 8:00pm, Sat 5:00pm

Tickets: $49 Full | $41 Conc

Bookings: www.dancemassive.com.au