Tag: Victorian College of the Arts

REVIEW: Fr!sk Presents CONTRA

Some are more equal than others

By Myron My

“Welcome, Cousins!”

Contra

This is how we are greeted as we enter the world of Contra for the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival. But we are not really cousins – we are comrades in a futuristic dystopia where we are blindingly loyal to our great leader and under the ever-watchful eye of – well – just about everyone.

Presented by Fr!sk Festival at the Victorian College of the Arts, there is an immersive element in the first part of this show that felt like I was in a version of 1984 or The Hunger Games. We are all huddled outside and numbers are read out announcing the winners of a lottery to see who will be chosen to work in a career department, a most honoured position.

Surrounding us are posters with propaganda slogans such as “Report or Regret” and “Equal and Fair”. We are then marched single file through the building, getting fingerprint-scanned and collecting our food ration pill. Various precincts are mentioned and ever since ‘The Great Disaster’, we all serve under the watchful eye of The Conductor.

From here on, it’s a fairly straightforward performance exploring the impossibility of curbing natural instincts and speculating as to where the desire for power and ambition can lead. As the audience, we are oppressed civilians watching these character’s lives begin to crumble as the pressure to conform reaches breaking point. The five performers in the cast do a great job in their respective roles but Simone French and Cait Spiker particularly impressed me with the levels of commitment invested into their portrayals. Moreover, the choreography and soundtrack used in the ‘sexual misconduct’ scene was executed effectively in creating an opportunity for these characters – and for their audience – to experience a moment of real emotional connection.

The plot is a familiar one for this dystopian genre with no real twist or surprise, but the initial immersive experience is what won me over. There are ultimately some interesting messages that Contra offers about life, society and expectations, but I feel the play is summed up best with one character’s proclamation that ‘freedom should not be a privilege’.

Contra was presented by Fr!sk Festival at the Victorian College of the Arts as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

REVIEW: Fear & Love & Clowns at THE MALTHOUSE

You think you know clowning…?

By Myron My

Fear & Love & Clowns is the first production from Fear & Love, a group of five soon-to-be graduate actors from the Victorian College of the Arts. Using clowning at its most fundamental level, we follow the story of four clowns who find themselves embroiled in a villainous plot.

There is a nice blend of slapstick and pantomine in this show: the characters bumble and stumble and fall, and sometimes the humour does get a little crass. However, there is great heart to the story which is told mainly through mime. The five actors – Alistair Frearson, Chelsea Zeller, Emil Freund, Tristsan Barr and Michael Gosden – successfully develop the narrative through animated and dynamic movement, gestures and facial expressions.

fear-love-clowns

Furthermore, the performers display a high level of character physicality and give great individuality to their roles. Personally, I found Frearson to be quite exceptional in his clowning persona, as was Freund as the ‘straight’ clown. Frearson was also particularly strong as the villain of the piece, and really did create some genuinely tense moments with his evil doings.

Fear&Love&Clowns has solid direction, and a great production team behind it with Jackson Trickett on lighting and Bart Welch on sound with the latter’s vocal effects adding much to the show. On a performance level, whilst the energy generally remained high,  it did waver occasionally with a few flat moments here and there. The cast and crew have done their best to keep the action short and pumping, but perhaps these moments still need addressing.

Fear & Love have attempted to engage their audience not only as observers but as participants in openly reacting to what we seeing – which is not hard when we’re offered themes such as sex, revenge and murder. Yes, this is still just clowning at heart, but it is a very different type of clown show – especially with an ending that would make Stephen King’s IT proud…

Venue: Tower Theatre, The Malthouse, 113 Sturt St, Southbank.

Season: Until 18 May | 7:00pm

Tickets: $28

Bookings: http://www.malthousetheatre.com.au or 9685 5111

REVIEW: VCA Presents A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY

Impressive handling of a difficult play

By Myron My

A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner, directed by Tom Healey, begins in 1932 with a group of friends celebrating New Years’ Eve. Over the course of the next few years, we see how their lives and relationships with each other are affected with the slow rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

The first half of the performance was quite long and I felt like I was waiting a long time for something definitive to happen. It wasn’t until the second act where things really start moving; the relationships between the characters were explored on a deeper level and you saw the complexities of the choices these people were making and the effects they had on everyone else.

I was however puzzled by the plot’s inclusion of the scenes about a 1990s New Yorker living in Berlin. I felt this sideways storyline detracted from the strength of the 1930s and whilst I appreciated the tie-in towards the end, I did feel like it might have allowed for a tighter story with its exclusion.

The play had a strong cast including Aaron Walton and Edwina Samuels as the one-eyed Hungarian film electrician Husz and glamorous movie star Paulinka respectively. They played their scenes with strong conviction and authenticity and special mention would have to go to Walton for his Hungarian accent.

Another notable performance was Jean Goodwin as “Die Alte” (the Old Woman); the ghost who resides in the apartment. Her dynamic scenes amplified the fear and uncertainty that was rising in Berlin and allowed for a different form of energy to be created which, given the heavy nature of the subject being explored, was a welcomed change.

Set designer Jacob Battista has used the space incredibly well and created a single set– where the whole play takes place – as if it were a real apartment where real people lived, thus magnifying the effect of the supernatural elements. The scene with the devil’s arrival is the first time in a while that any set design has made me go ‘wow’. Similarly, the costumes used were indicative of the effort that costume designer Nicholas MacKinnon has gone to in creating a strong sense of individuality between the characters but to also represent the ideology of the time back then.

A Bright Room Called Day has given these graduating students from The Victorian College of the Arts an opportunity to delve into the psyche of some wonderful characters so it is a shame the play’s plot could not have been as strong as the performances.

Venue: Studio 45, with Box Office at 28 Dodds Street, Southbank.

Season: Until 2 November | 7:00pm, Sat 2:00pm Tickets: $22 Full | $16 Concession

Bookings: http://www.vca.unimelb.edu.au/events?id=448

Review: ROBERT TAYLOR is So Inappropriate

One very funny man and one very clever show

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Somewhere between The Flight of the Conchords’ spot-on parody and Tim Minchin’s witty word-play lies homegrown talent Robert Taylor’s new solo musical So Inappropriate, fresh from its debut season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Taylor’s abilities are multi-faceted – he wrote both the script and the music for this show, and manages to sing, tell stories, play some hot licks on the piano and be funny at the same time!

Thrown out of Hollywood, reduced to the indignity of composing music for adult films and playing cover music to drunken bogans, this loveably awkward songwriter is searching for new love while trying to avoid his ex-wives. Will he be able to summon up the courage to talk to the love of his life – the coffeeshop girl? Or at least be able to ask her name?

With clever lyrics, an excellent singing voice and accomplished keyboard chops, Taylor’s songs are highly entertaining. Having honed his musical skills at the Victorian College of the Arts, he has a range of styles and genres at his fingertips, moving effortlessly from funk to indie-folk and everything inbetween. Despite the name of the show, his humor was warm, witty and cheeky, without straying into the land of cringe. 

Even though his character is awkward, there were no signs of awkwardness in the performance, even with a very small audience (which can often make things feel awkward). Taylor’s stage presence is warm and personable, and his storytelling style engaging, with the carefully crafted ad-lib-esque monologue episodes of the work woven skillfully amongst the songs.

It was a pity that there were not more people at The Butterfly Club to see this talented and very entertaining performer in his short Melbourne season – hopefully we see him return to our stages soon. When he does, make sure to catch him!

The Butterfly Club

Weds 16th to Sat 19th Nov
9pm Thurs – Sat, Weds at 8pm
$22 / $19

Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com

More info: www.roberttaylor.biz