Tag: Patrick Weir

Australian Premiere: LORD OF THE FLIES

Ingenious and engrossing

By Tania Herbert

The audience enters the theatre to a construction-like muddle of a set and a cacophony of shouts, breaking glass and general mayhem, with the only light on stage being an ominous metal doorway, from which the shouts and smoke emanate.

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The Australian premier of Matthew Bourne and Scott Ambler’s adaptation of Lord of the Flies starts with a literal bang – and we see the ‘troop’ of twenty-three children come in, military-tattoo style for the opening number, with only the slightest hint of the soon-to-emerge animal inside. Lord of the Flies takes a daring twist on the William Golding’s classic 1954 novel of a group of British schoolboys lost on a tropical island during a wartime who quickly give way to primal natures. Here however, it is suggested that the children are trapped in the theatre itself.

The apocalyptic background hidden behind the narrative book is much more apparent in this production, with the audience continually aware that while salvation is only behind the door, it may be no less fear-inspiring than what is happening on the inside.

I must admit, I missed the prose, and there are limitations by the lack of verbal character description (capturing Simon’s probable psychosis, or Piggy’s keen intellect, for example), but by the conversion of words to dance the emotions of each character were beautifully captured, and the talent of these young dancers keenly showed the turmoil both without and within for each characterisation.

Despite being aged between 10 and 25, there was incredible maturity to the cast. Whilst the dancing was wonderful, the cast also managed to hold the feeling that you were really watching children with all of their emotions and individualities, rather than a precision dance troupe. This was particularly aided by the play of the choreography, shifting the youngsters between states of complete chaos and strict organisation, and showing off the incredible range across the performers.

One differing element in this adaption is that the intensity is apparent from even before the show begins, whereupon the original ‘innocence’ which is so soon to be lost is not truly captured. With such an intense beginning, it was difficult to see where the production could go with building this – and indeed it did not reach anticipated peak with the inevitable ending (let me be obtuse on the off-chance our readers never reached the end of the book). What was awe-inspiring though, was that a group of such young people were absolutely able to hold that intensity for every moment of the production. Indeed, rather than action scenes, it was the solo moments which were most moving to the audience- Simon’s (Patrick Weir) battle with his demons, the littleuns’ fear of ‘the beast’, and Piggy’s (Luke Murphy) anguish at losing his sight.

Overall, the symbolism of the theatre as the island transferred extremely well, though the infamous beheading of the pig sat awkwardly in the metaphor. However, this production was a truly unique rethink of a classic utopia-turned-dystopia tale, and a spine-tingling dance performance. A passing comment by another patron on my way out perhaps seized how effectively Lord of the Flies captured the contemporary horrors of children and warfare: “It could have been in Syria.”

Lord of the Flies is showing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, April 5-9. Bookings: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2016/dance/lord-of-the-flies?m=performances

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Victorian Opera Presents ‘TIS PITY: AN OPERATIC FANTASIA OF SELLING THE SKIN AND TEETH

In praise of a cabaret goddess

By Bradley Storer

A sinister puppeteer dangles a dark-haired poppet on strings, twisting her to his amusement and satisfaction, as he sings of the evening ahead with hints of the debauchery and debasement to come. The star of the evening, the international cabaret star and dishevelled diva Meow Meow, misses her entrance to the Melbourne Recital Centre (of course) and is forced to drag around props and costumes before she ascends a staircase to become a glorious goddess of the ancient world. We are promised bite-sized pieces depicting the goddess’ many daughters throughout the ages, from Ancient Greece to the modern day.

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Meow Meow is, as always, a combination of high-diva glamour and self-deprecating humour, always ready with an off-the-cuff remark that never fails to make the audience laugh. Her magnificent voice is on full show here, from a gutsy alto to a light classical soprano all utilized to maximum effect throughout the night. Her leading man Kanen Breen takes on many roles in the performance, from lover to pimp to bishop, with a ghoulish visage, an elastic physicality and a thrilling tenor voice that rings to every corner of the Recital Centre.

The text of the performance, from composer and librettist Richard Mills, is quite dense and delivered at a rapid pace – the performers are miked but not amplified loud enough, so often the words blended into a flurry of sound, and climatic lines to songs were drowned out by the orchestra. The vignette structure of the performance also seems extremely rushed, with one or two sections going by so quickly and without remark that I found it hard to decipher what they were.

The show also never seems to decide quite clearly what their subject matter is. At the start of the show the proclaimed intent seems to be examining the evolving perception of prostitution throughout history, but what emerges seems to be more a comment on attitudes towards women and femininity in general rather than prostitution. While this is certainly not a problem in itself, not making the focus of the work clear only serves to add to the audience’s confusion. The inclusion of three dancers (Alexander Bryce, Patrick Weir and Thomas Johansson) as bit players to Meow Meow and Breen’s escapades, while wonderful in their dancing and delivering good performances, never seem adequately utilized enough to justify having them in the show.

The only few moments that work and connect with the audience are those where Meow Meow is left alone onstage to simply sing – in these moments, she is tender, heart-breaking and most importantly real. In the finale where Meow Meow sings about the troubles of modern times, a line about ‘building a wall’ around her heart becomes an uncomfortably contemporary parallel to the path of current politics.

Tis Pity feels like it needs re-structuring and reconsideration of its overall message before it can truly work as a theatrical piece, but having a star such as Meow Meow back on our stage is a delight worth savouring.

Venue: Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, 31 Sturt St, Southbank

Dates: 4 – 8 February

Times: 7:30pm

Tickets: $118 – $30

Bookings: melbournerecital.com.au, (03) 9699 3333

Image by Karl Giant