Tag: Mikey J White

Midsumma Festival 2016: ANIMAL

Unleashing the beasts

By Myron My

Performed as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Animal explores what it means to be ‘human’ in relation to sexuality, relationships and society through the duality of man and beast. Created and performed by Mikey J. White, this is a multidisciplinary piece that incorporates theatre, music, burlesque, multimedia and spoken word, and has us questioning how superior we actually are to animals.

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White personifies a variety of animals throughout the show and there is an almost ritualistic process in becoming each animal through the wearing of a near-abstract, skeleton head-piece of the animal being portrayed. This results in a cleverly nuanced performance by White whereupon his physicality and mannerisms begin to be an extension of each animal. The hessian bag that is worn around his waist further highlights this duality that White is keen to explore. On the one hand, the bag is coarse and has a primal feeling to it and on the other, the makeshift trousers are a sign of respectability and civility.

While White’s intent is thus to unravel the complex connections of man and beast, the execution is not always fully successful. Where it does work best is with his more adult adaptation of children’s story book “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. The narrative is used to demonstrate how we have become so accustomed to the superficiality of life and only caring about ourselves. Similarly, his effective reading of Andrea Gibson’s poem “A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition” also highlights how we need to start caring for one another and stop criticising and hurting each other.

Animal is an attempt to bring into question whether man is as different to the beasts of the world and he likes to believe. The performance raises this concern successfully and evocatively with some of the acts, but on the whole, I felt there needs to be stronger ties between the animals used and the way in which the issues White wants us to consider are presented for this promising work to reach its potential.

Animal was performed at Hares & Hyenas between 19 – 21 January 2017.

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La Mama Presents MADAME NIGHTSHADE’S POISON GARDEN

Fancy a drink?

By Myron My

When Madame Nightshade appears in her garden and welcomes the audience in her own unique style, you quickly realise that all bets are off and anything can happen in this absurdist clowning show and that, no matter where you sit, you are not safe. Performed as part of La Mama’s Explorations season for work in various stages of development, Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is a show that will leave you stunned and flabbergasted with plenty of laughs.

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Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is like watching two shows. The first half has a twisted, macabre and imaginative whimsy to it. Vegetables are manipulated into hilarious firearms and grenades, and while there is a scene with liquids and test tubes that could cause some anxiety in audience members, there is a sadness and a disturbing sweetness to Madame Nightshade’s actions and behaviour. However, upon drinking her “poison” Madame Nightshade transforms into a creature that is difficult to describe, but one that closely resembles a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation.

Unfortunately, this is where the magic and charm of Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden begins to wane for me. The time and effort that was spent in creating the picturesque garden environment is no longer relevant as this new world is created, and the latter is less thoughtful and more crude and obvious. Now we are dealing with sight gags that so many American comedies seem to rely on, with stories that seems to come from nowhere with no real purpose, and literal toilet humour. While there are some entertaining parts in the second half, it is the first half I so desperately wanted to see more of.

The show is conceived, devised and performed by Anna Lehmann Thomson who clearly has a knack for clowning and finding humour in the small things. She thinks well on her feet throughout the show and even when props are not where they should be, her improvisation is fast and clever.

Independents artists are very fortunate to be given the opportunity to perform new ideas and shows to an audience with La Mama’s Explorations season. While there is definitely a place for Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden to exist in the theatre world, I feel Thomson needs to determine what kind of story and character Madame Nightshade is to be if it is to find an audience to stay with her for the whole adventure.

Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden was performed between 19 – 21 November at La Mama Theatre.

Image by Mikey J White