Tag: La Mama Courthouse

Melbourne Fringe 2016: BLAAQ CATT

Profound, powerful, significant theatre

By Myron My

Returning for an encore season during the Melbourne Fringe Festival, BlaaQ Catt is a show that you simply cannot afford to miss. Produced, written and performed by Maurial Spearim, it is a powerful performance and story about how far modern Australia has got to go to make right the wrongs it has committed against the original inhabitants of this land.

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Spearim plays Ruby, a First Nations woman, who takes us through the history of her people, predominantly around the white invasion of their land up until the present day. Referring to events such as the Waterloo Creek Massacre conflict between mounted police and indigenous Australians in January 1838 as well as other significant Indigenous historic moments including their recognition in having the right to vote and the Mabo case, Spearim paints a picture that many refuse to acknowledge or accept.

While there is much factual information and confronting scenes, Spearim balances the tone and mood of the play by incorporating moments of light humour, such as when Ruby is asked by a classmate how to say TV in “aboriginal”. Spearim also performs a number of traditional songs, dances and storytelling through the Gamilaraay language, reminding us of her ancestors – past and present – and allows us to attempt to understand what she has lost.

Spearim has a strong presence on stage and no matter what she is doing, we cannot take our eyes off her. The complexity and range of emotions she displays throughout, switching from one to another, are a testament to the performance skills she possesses.

An evocative symbolic set design by Leon Salom includes a cut-down tree lying on the ground, a representation of Ruby’s culture cut down and dying. Next to it, rising from the ground is a white, large imposing skyscraper indicating the white settlers’ decimation and continual domination of the land. The sound design by Mark Coles Smith and Andre Vanderwert‘s projections work well together to support the set design and further strengthen the affecting ambience of the performance.

BlaaQ Catt demands that we not only acknowledge Australia’s violent history and ongoing racism, but that we do something about it. We are shamed, we are culpable and we are responsible for what has happened and continues to happen. This is an engaging and powerful piece of work that speaks volumes on the state of this country and our treatment of its people.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: until 2 October | Thur, Sat 8.30pm, Wed, Fri 6.30pm, Sun 4pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc 

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

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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: 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: Barking Spider Visual Theatre’s PSYCHOPOMP & SEETHING

Down into dream worlds

By Myron My

Barking Spider Visual Theatre has consistently created shows and performances that have a lingering effect on their audiences. Collaborating with MUST (Monash Uni Student Theatre), their newest production Psychopomp & Seething delivers on this reputation yet again. In two short pieces, they transport the audience to two very different dream-like worlds that are paradoxically calming yet unsettling.

Psychopomp & Seething

The audience seating area has been specifically designed for this show and only seats twenty people in its very intimate structure. As we take our seats, the doors close in on the stage, boxing us in, and we begin to move. Yes, the seating bank moves. With nothing but a blue spotlight sporadically shining above us, I get images of the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the hurricane from The Wizard of Oz, which is fitting as this is the type of intriguing experience I’ve come to expect from Barking Spider.

Once we “arrive” at our “destination”, the doors open to Seething. The stage is bare except for a woman (Vanessa O’Neil) standing in a lit up sound booth. She begins reading a poem revolving around sex, the body and image. As she begins, a person (Kate Brennan) appears from the darkness and brings her words to life through dance and movements. Brennan is like a marionette to O’Neil’s words and there is a strong sense that the two need to co-exist in order to be here. The words spoken have a lingering effect on my mind and I find myself lost and overcome by the visual and aural beauty on stage.

Upon its conclusion, the doors are shut and we are transported to Psychopomp, which has a very different feel to Seething. This is a two-by-two square box stage, with each square occupied by a performer (James Cerche, Nicola Grear, Aislinn Murray and Lindsay Templeton). In a whimsical setting reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, the four individuals recount their own experiences with death where, as in the previous piece, they are bound together yet separated from each other.

The stunning set designs, detailed costuming and makeup, and strong performances in particular by Murray and Templeton, make Psychopomp highly memorable. However, I feel more clarity was needed with the narrative. It took quite some time to understand who these characters were and what their story was. After the audience being so visually overwhelmed, with a 30-minute show there is a need to be more direct and clear with the story.

While walking home after the show, and even as I write this review, there is still much of Psychopomp & Seething that remains in my thoughts. The fact that this is not the type of theatre that leaves you the next day makes it a must-see experience. Barking Spider constantly aim to produce original and unique theatre for its audiences, with no performance experience the same. It is risky but so far, they are hitting all the right spots.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton

Season: Until 1 March | Wed-Sat 6.30pm & 8pm, Sun 4pm & 5.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings:http://lamama.com.au
 or 9347 6948

Image by Sarah Walker

REVIEW: The Good Person of Szechuan by BERTOLT BRECHT

Brecht play is for goodness’ sake

By Myron My

The Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Laurence Strangio is a theatrical parable by Bertolt Brecht being performed at La Mama. The play has the typical conventions of Brecht: the audience interaction, the direct speaking to the viewers, symbolic props and the opportunity for the unique use of the stage – and if you have been to La Mama before you will be amazed to see how it has been transformed.

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The play, as with many of Brecht’s works, has a profound social statement to make, this time about what is good, how do we become good and more importantly who decides who is good. Furthermore, it looks at various addictions such as tobacco, heroin and selfishness. Despite the frenetic nature of the play and at times, its absurdist humour and fantastical nature, the themes explored are done so with care and honesty.

The cast (Marc Lawrence, James Deeth, Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Zoe Ellerton-Ashley, Terry Yeboah and HaiHa Le) portray a total of 25 characters which adds to the intensity of Brecht’s work. Most likely due to my attending on a preview night, there were some characters that feel more authentic and fleshed-out than others but the passion from the actors is constant so I was only too willing to overlook this. I was impressed with Di Guglielmo’s portrayals of both God 2 and Mrs Shin, and with Yeboah’s characterisation of Yang Sun especially.

HaiHa Le has the difficult task of depicting Shen Te the prostitute and Shui Ta the cousin, and does particularly well in portraying the innocence and goodness of the former.

There are so many thought-provoking scenes in this play and with a running time of almost two and a half hours, an intermission would have been a nice break. This was apparent especially towards the end where the pace slows down a bit and the exhaustion of what has transpired begins to make itself felt on the audience.

The preview night performance of The Good Person of Szechuan was thoroughly enjoyable and provoked much discussion with the issues it covered and its solid ensemble casting.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 26 May | Wed 6:30pm, Thu-Sat 8:30pm, Sun 6:30pm, Wed 1:00pm (except May 8) and Thurs 11am.

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6948

Review: THIS TRICK (The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice)

To hell and back for love

By Myron My

Using the Greek myth but set in a contemporary world, This Trick invites us to be voyeurs to a very private moment for Orpheus and Eurydice, who are so in love with each other that the rest of the world is seen as a danger they do not wish to be engaged with.

I particularly enjoyed the contrast of passionate declarations of love intermingled with trivial domestic arguments such as leaving the milk out, thus allowing those simple moments to be more intense. Much of the emotional impact is to the credit of the two leads Penny Harpham and Matt Hickey, and their hypnotic performances.

This Trick

Both were very strong and capable in taking on these roles, and the scripted words flowed as naturally as any spontaneous conversation. The on-stage chemistry and level of intimacy between them was palpable, and comfortably portrayed their characters’ jealousies, insecurities and fears in giving themselves over completely to the person they love.

There is a fitting sense of visual minimalism in this production: the set  is mainly a white mattress and white curtains and some bottles of alcohol. The ethereal environment established by designer Hanna Sandgren is further alluded to with the leads also beginning in white clothing.

In contrast, the dynamic lighting design by Julia Knibbs helped emphasise the passion and enveloping darkness for the two lovers: casting many shadows on their faces and using firey red to show the fierce passion between the two reminded me very much of the related myth of Dionysus and the dangers of excess. The stagecraft and music throughout This Trick is also well-executed and you can feel a lot of work has been done on this by all involved including sound designer Jennifer Kingwell.

Writer and director Kat Henry of Stella Electrika has produced a piece of work that is sharp, witty and real – even though there are times the dialogue does reach extremes, it is perfectly fitting in This Trick. A very powerful production all round, and one that makes you question just how much love is too much love.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 3 March | Tue, Wed 6.30pm | Thu, Fri, Sat 7.30pm | Sun 4.30pm & 6.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au

Review: NOT A VERY GOOD STORY by May Jasper

A confession, a sacrifice and an unexpected love story

By Myron My

Let’s get to the point: Not A Very Good Story is not a very ‘good’ story. Not A Very Good Story does not have a strong, confident protagonist. Not A Very Good Story is not told well. But it is for all of these reasons that Not A Very Good Story is in fact, a very good production.

Not a Very Good Story

Our protagonist, Stephanie (May Jasper), works in a call centre and she has a story to tell us. It’s not a nice story either. It’s about cancer. And what happens when a group of people all in the one call centre suddenly get it.

Jasper – who also wrote Not A Very Good Story – is a joy to watch as she plays the awkward and nervous Stephanie who umms and aahs her way through her retelling. This disposition ultimately makes her even more real, authentic and vulnerable to us. Jasper herself is very comfortable on stage and is clearly in her element, talking intimately to the audience for just over an hour without having the safety net of any cues for dialogue.

Even though this is a one-woman play, there are roughly twelve characters that Jasper portrays. Some of these we meet briefly, whilst others are fleshed out more, such as Jen the romantic interest. Jasper takes on some good mannerisms and inflections to differentiate her characters, including changing her voice and posture which helps the audience keep track of who said what when. I did feel however, that a bit more distinction was needed between some of Stephanie’s six co-workers, as there were some slight moments of confusion.

I have seen quite a few one-person performances recently and this one would have to be one of my highlights. Despite the tough subject, this is also a play about a woman sacrificing the woman she loves to save the woman she loves, which makes Not A Very Good Story a great story to experience.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 10 February | Wed, Fri, Sun 6:30pm. Thu, Sat 8:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au