Tag: Maurial Spearim

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.

BlaaQ Catt.jpg

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

REVIEW: MTC and Elbow Room Present WE GET IT

Looking for the women in theatre

By Myron My

In We Get It, sexism is no more. Everyone rejoice! We are now truly living in the age of equality. Hoorah! To celebrate, five women are competing for an opportunity to perform with a ‘real’ theatre company in a classic female literary role. They appear on stage gyrating to a medley of “sexy” songs and when the musical number is over, return to the stage brandishing self-identifying beauty pageant sashes. We have the “Token”, the “Ethnic Extra”, the “Funny Bitch”, the “Muslim Doctor” and the “Bogan/Migrant”.

We Get It

These five women (Amy Ingram, Tamiah Bantum, Kasia Kaczmarek, Maurial Spearim and Sonya Suares) explore the ideas of theatre showing diversity through casting and roles and also the question of treating women as equals. Perhaps it’s because I have chosen to associate myself with strong women in my life, and have been conscious of where my white male privilege has taken me and the freedoms it has provided that I felt frustrated watching We Get It. I am aware of what my role is in supporting gender equality and I also believe that message needs to be constantly repeated and spread to as many people as possible, however I struggled to connect in this instance: not because of what was being said, but how it was being said.

I found myself being talked at for much of the show rather than being informed or educated. Furthermore, there were a number of scenes that seemed to go on for that bit too long and could have benefited from an edit. The beginning of the show also seemed clunky and flat, which is a shame as the intention behind it had the potential to make a strong impact and set the tone for the rest of the production.

What I thought was a great inclusion was the use of The Diary Room, which the contestants treated as a type of public private confessional. This device gave the best insight into these women’s lives, where truth and honesty were present in what is expected of them when auditioning for roles and rehearsals.

Considering the five “contestants” collaborated with Marcel Dorney and Rachel Perks in writing this piece and to an extent, based on their personal experiences, it is no surprise just how impressive they all are in their roles, with Bantum’s strong stage presence making her particularly captivating to watch. Directors Dorney and Emily Tomlins have worked very closely and developed a trust with these women to create the opportunity for them to explore the issues they face as actors and women.

Set design by Matt Adey was well-thought out and considering everything that happened on stage, the use of the space and props never had you feeling overwhelmed with what was happening. However, there were a few technical issues the night I attended, particularly with mic and sound levels.

Whilst I completely and utterly agree with the messages being conveyed here, I believe there have been stronger shows put on recently that still have a strong feminist approach but present their ideas in a more accessible way. That said, We Get It, presented as part of the 2015 NEON Festival of Independent Theatre, still created a conversation with the people I attended on the night about the changes that we, as males, can make to support gender equality and that is probably the most important thing for such a production to have achieved.

Venue: Melbourne Theatre Company, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank

Season: Until 19 July | Tues-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 4:00pm
Tickets: $25 all tickets
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company


A bold satirical effort leaves little breathing space

By Myron My

In the revitalised Weimar-style political kabaret News Flashers, the audience are treated to a whirlwind of varied Australian issues and the way the media reports these through the use of ‘televised’ news reports, song and with the aid of sock puppets.

A lot of thought has gone into the production of News Flashers, and it is certainly a delight on the eyes. Old newspapers form the basis of the costumes, including trousers, shirts, hats, bow ties and a few other surprises along the way.

The various ways in which the “televisions” are used throughout the show is quite creative and allows for radically different set-ups to take over on stage. The cast makes excellent use of the performance area and really takes ownership of every available space.

The performers (Caitlin Brown, Ezekiel Ox, Fletcher Dyson, Maurial Spearim and Sophie Kinston) worked very well together and there was some strong rapport and high energy levels but as the title suggests, the show was a bit frenetic. Unfortunately it was so fast that I found myself constantly trying to catch up with what was happening.

Many topical issues are covered throughout the show including boat people, Gina Rinehart and the stolen generation but the surface is only ever skimmed with any of them. I was left feeling confused with a few of the recurring references and felt they were some sort of in-joke I was not privy to.

The songs by creator Ella Filar were composed well and the instruments used were chosen carefully and specifically. The voices of the performers highlighted each individual’s vocal strengths and it was great to see them excel here. However, the songs may have been a little short, for just as I understood what they were singing about, they were finished and we immediately moved on.

News Flashers describes itself as ‘political, vulgar, artistic, grotesque, sexy and sublime’, and successfully achieves its claims, but perhaps if the content had been narrowed down and the performance not been so exceptionally fast-paced, it might have been a little more enjoyable.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne

Season: Until 11 November | 8:00pm, Wed, Sun 9:00pm

Tickets: $23 Full | $20 Concession

Bookings: http://thebutterflyclub.com/shows