Tag: Lara Week

Melbourne Fringe 2017: MADAME NIGHTSHADE’S POISON GARDEN

Raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well

By Joana Simmons

Imagine a world where there are no rules, and your wildest silliest and most creative urges could be realised. In Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden, Melbourne-based clown, theatre-maker, workshop facilitator and circus performer Anna Thomson creates this world, having an absolute ball herself in the process. It’s raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well.  The detail and creativity in the props, set and physicality paves the way for boundless fits of laughter as the outrageousness builds.

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Before the show even starts, the Friday night full house at La Mama are all in the mood for mischief. The intimacy of the theatre means we are instantly all friends ready for a unique experience. Anna Thompson requested at the end of the show for us not to tell anyone about it…. it’s fair to say that there are copious surprises that I could spoil, each one as incredible as the next. The set and creative art designed by Lara Week is of a garden, featuring vegetables, nightshade, a table and a compost bin. There’s intricacy to the props like a magic show and in the way that Thompson integrates them to the physicality of Beatrice (a devilish shape-shifter) and her alter-ego, Madame Nightshade. Through the show we are faced with several ideas – our effect on the planet, where we sit into societal stereotypes (and how we break those) and that ‘there’s shit in the beauty, and there’s beauty in the shit.’

This dark, visceral physical comedy incorporates clowning, buffoonery and queer spectacle. It’s a type of work that defies labels or boxes, and stands alone in its own little genre of twisted brilliance. Thomson’s characterisation and commitment throughout is impressive. Each facial expression of simple utterance says so much, holding us in the right amount of tension to relieve it or break the frame, leaving us the audience laughing and on our toes for what is next. My favourite moments, to give you a taster of what makes this show wonderful, was the spring-onion sword-fight to Prodigy’s “Smack my B***h Up,” King-Kong crunch (complete with every audience member participating) and anytime Thompson squeezed herself into something small and unexpected. The soundtrack, produced by Jacky T, combining everything from Alice Cooper to Disney, adds great drama and comedy. Sarah Ward (creator of famous cabaret character Yana Alana) was director, and should be applauded for creating not only an aesthetically engrossing show, but also a glamorously grotesque one. Thompson’s slick timing, facial expression and physicality says more than the sporadic snippets of storyline, and is hilarious.

A weirdly wild wonderful world is the best way to describe Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden. It’s high class and full of laughs and an opportunity to go to unique crazy places. Appreciate the absurdity and get twisted up in the nightshade – book today.

Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is playing at La Mama, 21 September- 1 October  7:30 PM, Wed 6:30 PM, Sun 4:00 PM.

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/madame-nightshades-poison-garden/

Western Edge Presents CALIBAN

Dynamic and captivating

By Leeor Adar

The culturally diverse Western Edge Youth Arts’ Edge Ensemble under the directorship of Dave Kelman and Tariro Mavondo delivers a spirited, vibrant and painfully accurate adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Caliban.

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Who is Caliban in this tale?

We are not dealing with a deformed witch’s son, but a native of an island, which carries the spirit of his mother – all mothers – in the sand, air and water. The Edge Ensemble’s Caliban (Oti Willoughby) is every pure thing, every angry living thing that despises the poisons inflicted by civilisation on the natural world.

In this tale Prospero is Prospera (Natalie Lucic), and Ariel (Piper Huynh) is a machine, not spirit, that can think up realities to save the planet from global warming and other ills that contribute to the inevitable downfall of our world. But Prospera needs capital. Propera needs wealth. Prospera’s adopted daughter, Miranda (Achai Deng), is shipped off with billionaire Afghani, Ferdinand (Abraham Herasan) for a better life, a life of opulence, but little freedom and incredible isolation. It is ironically a lonely and uncertain life at the top of the world, but all is not lost.

Caliban tackles big ideas with humour and poignancy. This is a remarkable and highly physical performance delivered by an ensemble with differing physicality. The performers are excellent, emotive, funny and totally humane. So much of the story told is delivered by this troupe through their bodies, and they each deliver something unique. Credit must be given to movement director, Amy MacPherson, who has successfully conjured the best of the cast. The set design by Lara Week, who previously worked with Mavondo in Greg Ulfan’s 3 Sisters, provides yet another bright and adaptable space that works well for the performers. Turquoise cylinders serve as podiums, seats, towers, and the ever-present reminder of man-made waste.

There is at the heart of this story a great longing for a home that is being stolen by land erosion and war. On one hand our lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda, each long for their homes, Afghanistan and the Sudanese Abyei Area, each torn, each broken by the worst of human nature. On the other, Phano (Rexson Pelman) longs for a Samoa with an uncertain future, and Caliban for his island home – two examples of the fate rendered by the hands of global warming, another ongoing man-made calamity.

The tragedy of our characters is that they each seek to do well, but fail fundamentally on their quest. It is deeply Shakespearean, but simply a timeless tale of humanity. Prospera is blinded by her mind, Ferdinand by his desire for respect, and Caliban by his anger. Their undoing is deeply psychological and a result of the previous ills of man-made affliction. And so is the cycle of human nature…

Caliban will be showing for its final night tonight, November 26 at 7pm at the Coopers Malthouse Theatre. Bookings: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/caliban

Image by Nicola Dracoulis