Review: Lady Eats Apple (Back To Back Theatre)

Venue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Mar 16 – 18, 2017
Director: Bruce Gladwin
Cast/Devisors: Mark Deans, Simon Laherty, Romany Latham, Brian Lipson, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price

Theatre review
God told Adam that “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die,” and so it seems, when Eve decided to take a bite of the forbidden fruit, it came to pass that humans would not be immortal beings. In Lady Eats Apple, the theme of death provides impetus for a three act show, featuring on one end of the scale, the most mundane of everyday interchanges, and on the other, some very extravagant explorations into esotericism.

In life, we see death, and through death, we see the heavens. It is existentialist theatre, with Director Bruce Gladwin offering us a close look at the simplest activities of our daily life, but with the rumbles of thereafter underscoring every action. What seems inconsequential begins to take on great meaning, when we come to an appreciation of the vastness in which we operate. The work is not preachy as its title might suggest, but it requires of the viewer to think of the afterlife, and to connect that conception with the here and now.

The staging is both minimal and staggeringly beautiful, both clumsy and incredibly exquisite. Mark Cuthbertson’s powerful set design does to the viewer what places of worship aim to do; it overwhelms us, creating a sensation of awe with each of its stunning transformations. Fascinating video projections by Rhian Hinkley are a riddle that challenges us at first, but goes on to deliver disarming images of glory and transcendence.

Lady Eats Apple features a very strong cast of actors, each one confident in their parts and persuasive with their stage presences. Scott Price is particularly impressive when setting the stage in Act One, playing a godlike figure, resolute and commanding with the vision he wishes to achieve. Also memorable is Sarah Mainwaring, who moves us with a very sensitive portrayal of empathy when attempting to rescue a man struggling to gain consciousness. Mark Deans and Simon Laherty entertain us, with their charming vibrancy, and with a healthy sense of humour that they bring to their respective characters.

Death can be frightening, if our imagination leads us astray. The play reiterates the line “we will take care of you,” offering us comfort and reassurance. We can only die alone, but our time on earth should be occupied with love and laughter. The community and companionship witnessed on this stage inspires us to remember, that whatever happens later, now is the time to make the most of things.

www.backtobacktheatre.com

Review: Lake Disappointment (Carriageworks)

carriageworksVenue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Apr 20 – 23, 2016
Playwrights: Luke Mullins, Lachlan Philpott
Director: Janice Muller
Cast: Luke Mullins
Image by James Brown

Theatre review
Many of us hold menial jobs. Things need to get done by people (even in this age of high technology) that require little more than a person’s presence and some physical exertion. Lake Disappointment is a unique story about a man who spends his life being the body double of a film star. His mental capacities are barely involved in the daily operations of his full-time and isolating occupation, so his mind’s energy goes into constant dialogue with himself. With little opportunity for social interaction, he is in a state of perpetual reflection, but with little stimulation or nourishment, his intellect is stunted and his life stagnates. Written by Luke Mullins and Lachlan Philpott, the script is a wonderful look into a weird existence. Through the portrayal of an unusual creature, it offers insightful contemplations about the human condition, and all its egotistical propensities for ambition, jealousy and delusion.

It is a funny piece of writing, with nuanced but easily identifiable humour. We laugh at the character’s vanity and his aspirations, because we recognise those qualities. The desires and emotions in the play are deeply familiar in spite of their obscure context. Direction by Janice Muller establishes a gentle approach to the jokes, but atmosphere is imbued with an intensity from the very start. An unmistakeable swelling of tension progresses slowly through the show, but its scenes are not always dynamic. Mullins plays the role with an abundance of charisma, but the very controlled tone of delivery he chooses for his character eventually becomes repetitive. It is a disciplined performance with a lot of palpable gravitas that needs a healthy dose of oppositional lightness to deliver an even more engaging experience.

Designers for the staging do a marvellous job of creating a work of theatre that is sleek, sensual and surprising. Lights by Matt Cox, along with Michael Hankin’s set design make fabulous use of space, not only to guide our emotional responses, but also to manufacture visual symbols that help develop the story to a richer depth. Sound is managed by James Brown who accesses our impulses through an acute sensitivity, providing revelations beyond the dimension of words and matter.

Life is demanding. We have to be strong and courageous to weather its storms, but no matter how good we become at dealing with life, our individual insignificance in the scheme of things is ultimately undeniable. People want so much, and we try so hard for things that may eventually mean little. The body double in Lake Disappointment talks about himself incessantly but does not question his desires. He works hard at life but does not reflect on any of his actions or thoughts. It is a life unexamined, where the subject conspires with his circumstances to keep himself entrapped, like a hamster on its wheel, running without rhyme or reason, unable to stop, unable to reach any destination.

www.carriageworks.com.au

Review: Ochres (Bangarra Dance Theatre)

bangarraVenue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Nov 27 – Dec 5, 2015
Choreographers: Russell Page, Stephen Page, Bernadette Walong-Sene (with traditional choreography by Djakapurra Munyarryun)
Cast: Elma Kris, Yolande Brown, Deborah Brown, Waangenga Blanco, Tara Gower, Leonard Mickelo, Daniel Riley, Jasmin Sheppard, Tara Robertson, Kaine Sultan-Babij, Luke Currie-Richardson, Nicola Sabatino, Beau Dean Riley Smit, Rikki Mason, Yolanda Lowatta, Rika Hamaguchi
Image by Zan Wimberley

Theatre review
Traditional Aboriginal practices often involve ochre, a material of great cultural significance most notably used as a colouring substance in art and ceremony. In Bangarra Dance Theatre’s four-act production Ochres, the substance is applied on bodies to represent a connection with ancestry and culture; the same bodies communicate with impressive presence and energy, powerful meanings about the land on which we live. As a non-narrative theatrical form, dance is often inseparable from spirituality. It is concerned with establishing meaning through a language that often circumvents the cerebral, to reach a universal faculty of purity, regardless of experience and creed.

Ochres was first performed 21 years ago. Its choreography (by Djakapurra Munyarryun, Russell Page, Stephen Page and Bernadette Walong-Sene) is informed by traditional Aboriginal dance and by contemporary, balletic Western styles, reflecting the dual nature of modern Aboriginal Australia. At the centre of the work is a meditation on time, with its evocation of the past blended into a portrayal of the present, and positioned alongside an inquiry into the future.

It is a confident and proud work that imposes on the stage, an identity characterised by qualities of fortitude, strength and intelligence, performed sensitively by a captivating ensemble, cohesive in technique and sensibility. A harmony in the group provides the work with its quiet but resolute poignancy, beautifully supported by a highly-accomplished design team. Jennifer Irwin’s costumes, Jacob Nash’s set and Joseph Mercurio’s lights, all contribute to the visual excellence of Ochres. Music by David Page brims with soulful creativity, magnificently showcased by superior technical facilities of the Carriageworks auditorium.

In the years between Ochres‘ première and its revival today, Bangarra Dance Theatre has gradually moved into the mainstream, bringing its unique voice to audiences far and wide, entertaining and enlightening us no matter who we are, or where we have come from. Its message of peace is inherent in its artistic ideology, and the part it plays in continuing efforts of reconciliation is not to be underestimated. Our response to a seminal work like Ochres must be correspondingly celebratory, and with all the support and respect that it rightfully deserves.

www.bangarra.com.au

Review: Artwork (Carriageworks)

carriageworksVenue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Aug 5 – 8, 2015
Artists: Branch Nebula

Theatre review
In Branch Nebula’s Artwork, eight members of the general public respond to a job advertisement and are put on stage at short notice. They follow prompts and instructions provided in a variety of ways, and become the performers of a theatrical piece before our eyes. The results are stunning. Our senses are skilfully engaged by a talented team that includes Mirabelle Wouters (set and lighting design) and Phil Downing (sound design), who create a highly sophisticated atmosphere wherein the cast carries out tasks that become the content of the show unfolding.

The range of activities is plotted shrewdly. Even though stories and narratives are never manufactured in a conventional sense, the audience is forced to establish meaning from personal perspectives based on the collection of symbols that arise from the work’s very articulate abstractions. In addition to machinations of the actual artwork occurring on stage, our attention is drawn to further themes about work and of art in general, which it explores at varying levels of subtlety. In the realm of work, ideas about the economy and capitalism relating to individual volition and the objectification of the disadvantaged, make for the show’s most pointed moments. Concepts about artistic intention also resonate with power, as we witness the “workers” carrying out mindless undertakings, as we formulate for ourselves, streams of meanings and consequences independent of their subjective processes and experiences.

Artwork is a gentle exploration into democracy and social equity. It looks at the state of our societies as they exist, and implicates its audiences and participants into the ways our world is allowed to function. The piece places us in the position of privilege, in order that we may achieve greater awareness about the failures of social and political systems, of which our involvement cannot be refused. In the stillness of Artwork, we are confronted with the fractures of our humanity, but we also discover its inherent and invulnerable strength, and a precarious hopefulness that we cannot help but embrace.

www.branchnebula.com | www.carriageworks.com.au

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

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2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP

End

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Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: Your Skin My Skin (NAISDA Dance College)

naisdaVenue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Dec 10 – 13, 2014
Director: Frances Rings
Image from Twitter @theNCIE

Theatre review
Identity is a subject that features in any art education, but for students at NAISDA Dance College, Aboriginality is a central tenet that guides their learning experience in dance and performance. Also known as the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Association (40 years old this year), NAISDA’s end of year showcase for 2014 is entitled Your Skin My Skin. The program represents a gamut of dance styles, but the topic of race is never far behind. A series of sensitively curated items are linked by cultural dance and music under the leadership of tutors Heather Mitijangba and Tony Mudalyun, and musicians Shane Dhawa and Timothy Djirrmurmur. Regardless of how individual dance pieces come about, we are reminded that heritage is part of their creation, and the land that our feet rest upon is crucial to the expressions on stage.

The event commences with Rika’s Story, choreographed by the nine performers of the piece with Shaun Parker at the helm. The piece provides the perfect introduction to the college and the evening, with graduating student Rika Hamaguchi’s confident verbal narration giving insight into the group’s thoughts about study experiences and her feelings at this significant time as she embarks on a new chapter in life. Through Hamaguchi’s words, we gain an understanding of the meaning and origins of the movements being displayed, as well as the psychology behind them. Also graduating are Hans Ahwang, Czack Ses Bero, Casey Natty, Kyle Shilling and Philip Walford, who have all completed NAISDA’s four-year Diploma of Professional Dance Performance.

Shilling presents the only solo piece of the schedule. Justice? is a meditation on Aboriginal deaths in custody, with impressive choreography and music created by the student. His work is intensely emotional and energetic, and he demonstrates surprising maturity and gravity. Also memorable is Natty, who shows excellent focus and a solid presence in his various appearances. The athletic dancer executes choreography with precision and flair, and like all of the graduating class, rich with potential and promise. The young men’s performance in Grinding Stone by Frances Rings (an excerpt from Bangarra Dance Theatre’s artefact) is a highlight, bringing poignancy and depth to their mysterious dance.

Aside from the passionate achievements of NAISDA’s students, Your Skin My Skin is successful also for its excellent aesthetic values and accomplished technical capacities. The show runs smoothly with beautiful transitions, and atmosphere is always gauged just right. Music and sound might be second fiddle, but they are as delightful as the dance imagery occupying centre stage. NAISDA’s night of nights is a celebration of the year’s work by its fabulous staff and students, and an annual performance with heart and soul that dance enthusiasts will certainly enjoy.

www.naisda.com.au

5 Questions with Rika Hamaguchi‏

image002What is your favourite swear word?
Shit. I don’t like to swear much but that one would definitely be the most frequently used.

What are you wearing?
My rehearsal gear which consist of 3/4 pants and a tank top.

What is love?
Love is unclothed, pure and shameless.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
iOU Dance 3 at Carriageworks and I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It will be my last so I hope to make it my best. You can be the judge of that though!

 

Rika Hamaguchi‏ is one of many dancers at Your Skin My Skin, NAISDA Dance College’s end of year performance.
Show dates: 10 – 13 Dec, 2014
Show venue: Carriageworks