'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

26 November 2015

Heavenly Bodies & Beautiful Souls

Visy Theatre - Powerhouse
25th November 2015
'Heavenly Bodies & Beautiful Souls' is an interconnected doubly bill of plays written and directed by 'The Bard of Brisbane' Sven Swenson and presented by Pentimento Productions. 
The first of his plays I have seen but my attention was grabbed when I saw him collecting one award after another at the most recent Matilda Awards. He was also responsible for 'The Truth about Kookarburras' which had a smash run here that I had meant to see but lacked friends to go with. 
Well the first play 'Heavenly Bodies' set in Singapore in 1942 opens with what we thgought was an unfamiliar Noel Coward song "Put That Sailor Down" which turned out to be Sven singing a composition by multi talented Peter Crees whose piano playing you could hear throughout. Peter was also associate producer and I have seen him as actor, viloinist etc before. 
I really do not want to say what happens in this room in a brothel as bombs explode incessently outside, but what begins as a nervous meeting between a naive, sweet and just charming soldier from the bush Sam Ryan and a quite stunning Laidie, Regan Lynch, offering comfort to the soldiers, develops as they open up and expose their thoughts and feelings until nothing is left to hide including complete, comfortable and honest nudity. It becomes one of the most tender and beautiful pictures of people coming together as loneliness and fear overtake them in a foreign land.
Ofter interval we are thrust forward to a prison in Thailand where three young people, Zac Boulton, Peter Mickey Norton and Casey Woods, are facing that most horrible and barbaric of punishments. The connection with the first play will be revealed slowly and with tenderness although they do not have to be seen together. There is great love and some innocent humour, but terrifying fear is the overwhelming atmosphere as the noose hangs ominously above their heads. I can not praise too much the strength of acting throughout and actually wondered how they could maintain the physical expression of such anguish without passing out from the shaking and the hyperventilating. 
The designs by Raymond Milner are in stark contrast with each other and so evocative of the mood. People have called these works some of the greatest Australian theatre and I saw 'Beautiful Souls' has had seasons in both New York and Los Angeles'

16 November 2015

Spectacular Indigenous Theatre

Country Song
16th July 2015
Cremorne QPAC
 Oh what a night! Last night I went to the new original play 'Country Song' about the legendary Australian indigenous singer Jimmy Little. 

Conceived by and starring Michael Tuahine whose voice is so rich and resonant, that even when he speaks it cries musicality. After the show when cousin Michelle Boyd and I went to a bar in Grey St we ran into Michael and the enthusiastic and charming QTC Exectutive Director Sue Donnelly and had a drink and a really great chat. 
It was only a short time into the show that I realised that this work will live on, travel and become part of the Australian theatre cannon. Being just in its early performances I can see it will develop and grow and I hear that already there is a huge tour around the country booked for next year. It is an important part of our history that needs to be embedded into our collected culture. I was blessed to once again see David Page on stage. David is a local boy who apart from being an exceptional actor and brilliantly powerful and versatile singer is the musical genius behind the 'family business' of Bangarra Dance Theatre. Wait till you see some of his spectacular characters that just about brought the house down. 
Another star in the making is the young Tibian Christopha Wyles who has just graduated from the exceptional performance school ACPA. So many have come from there and are filling places and adding richness to companies all over the country. It is at least the third time I have seen Tibian already and it was such a pleasure to get to shake hands and chat to him after the show. What a talented and oh so charming young man. 
I was surprised and so pleased to see Elaine Crombie at the briefing a couple of weeks ago and last night I was left in awe by her brilliant acting and awesome voice. She could play with your emotions, lull you into a comfort zone and then belt out a song which left you quiet stunned. I really liked exchanging some thumbs up across the footlights as the audience stood, sang and clapped along with the last number which challenged us to stand and be counted. Elaine and I are good facebook mates now I am delighted to say. Everyone was wonderful. I also got to shake hands with and chat to the incredible lighting guy Jason Glenwright who has weaved his magic over so many events I have seen in the last year or so. I will drag out the programmes and try and count them up one day. He truly adds something special to everything he works on.

The foyer was also fun as I ran into the beautiful Leigh Alexander Buchanan. Leigh is also one of those Brisbane talents who spreads his incredible eye over so much of what happens here. He is working on the costumes for Candide which I go to see next Friday and also Happy Days which I see in three weeks as well as more to come like Dracula. I must see if he can spruce me up one day. As I said what a night!!
The original great and late Jimmy Little

The 7 Stages of Grieving
27th March 2015
Bille Brown Studio
Last night we went to 'The 7 Stages of Grieving' starring the wonderful Chenoa Deemal. Created twenty years ago by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman this work has been revived by several outstanding Australian indigenous actors including my dear and beautiful friend Ursula Yovich. Chenoa played the daughter od Ursula Yovich in the outstanding Mother Courage and Her Children back in 2013. 
With some gentle updates by Chenoa and director, the fabulous Jason Klarwein this remains a strong, important and so relevant piece even post 'Sorry', 'Reconciliation' and especially in the light of the foul evictions from home country being perpetrated by governments as we speak. This is the bloody 21st century for god's sake. The LNP learn nothing. The new design of the production was masterful and so beautiful. Light and sand are the essence of this country and the contrast provided by the projections of what is wrong led to an attempted standing ovation until Chenoa sat us back down for a great Q&A. Lots of tears and lots of cheering for all full houses.

11th August 2015
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Playhouse QPAC
Last night I saw 'Lore' the latest show presented by Bangarra Dance Theatre Consisting of two new works. the first was 'I.B.I.S.' inspired the islands of the Torres Strait and created by Deborah Brown and Waangegga Blanco and a work of celebratory joy which had me in tears by the end because of the sheer beauty and spirit of the work. Following interval was 'Sheoak' a more complex work created by Frances Ring and growing out of the contemporary experience of knowledge, nurturing, affliction of poisons. 
Central to both works was the remarkable Elma Kris. This is a dancer who has been in the company 16 years and although she has such experience she is remarkably young but holds centre stage with a towering but humble presence. When she is on stage all eyes look to her for a lead. Such magnificent dancing is what one expects but always the breath is taken away by the expressiveness, beauty and imagination of this major Australian company which is the only dedicated voice of the soul of this country. There are remarkable characters like Kaine Sultan-Babij, Luke Currie- Richardson and the amazing Yolanda Lowatta whom I knew well from Dance Noir and has skyrocketed to a starring role. She is just stunning to watch with movement that ripples through her body with joy and passion. For me it was a great thrill to see Leonard Mickelo on stage again. His work makes him one of the most perfect dancers in this country. His approach is immersed in commitment, beauty and that special something that makes every movement inspired. I was so happy that I did get to congratulate him again after the show as he has left Facebook behind.
One last comment is praise for the epic soundtrack for Sheoak by the uber great master musician/actor etc etc David Page. I just saw him here recently in Country Song which has now begun touring. The music was symphonic in scale and so powerful. As a bonus last night we had an hour long conversation on stage with Artistic Director and most important Australian Stephen Page and proud father of rising superstar Hunter Page-Lochard whom he spoke about with a lot of love and admiration. It was a full night. To add to the theme of so many recent posts I have made, Stephen mentioned that 70% of Bangarra are from Queensland. Such talent here is astounding.
Lore is also the most successful production they have presented in Brisbane. Do go and see Bangarra any time and be truly inspired and affected.

08 November 2015

String Quartet Something Old Something New

Australian String Quartet
Saturday 7th November 2015
Conservatorium Theatre
 Last night for their last concert in Brisbane for the year we hada great collection of works both old nad new. The evening began well when the lovely woman at the box office said I was a Symphony in Green (sort of matching clothes) and then my glass of house red was delicious. I make no pretence of knowing one red from another.
 The first gorgeous piece was by the 16 year old Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola who was a Spanish Basque composer. He was nicknamed "the Spanish Mozart" because he was also a child prodigy and shared the same birthday (50 years apart) and was an accomplished composer who died young at age 20 possibly from TB. Such talent and such beautiful music. I just thought of all those kids sitting on the street and what could be. 
Next was the premier of a new piece by Brisbane born and international conductor, violinist and composer Brett Dean for strings and soprano. ' And once I played Ophelia'. 
Guest singer Allison Bell has a laser focused high and powerful voice. There were echoes, outbursts and soaring vocal gymnastics while the stringplayers at one stage had to bow with such lightning speed I worried for their wrists and then folowed by another section that vibrated at almost subliminal quietness. It was a showpiece, but I personally felt the need to an apparent resolution. 
The evening finished with the grand Schubert 'Death and the Maiden' with its gut wrenching depth and agitation. Franz Schubert also died tragically young at 31 from Syphilis. that is a very young drawing of Schubert above. Great concert and already booked for next year. I did have the lovely opportunity for a very brief chat with the beautiful Stephen King the Viola player whom I have met on a few occasions. (cover above) It was good to welcome the new violinist Francesca Hiew from Brisbane who will be part of the new permanent lineup next year.

07 November 2015

The Odd Couple blazes across the stage

Playhouse QPAC
Thursday 5th November
'THE ODD COUPLE' I may not have been to New York and I may not have much in common with the characters in this 50 year old play, but it was hystercally funny. What made it so great was watching some of my favourite actors (boys and girls) absolutely firing lightning speed off each other in one of the tightest and funniest ensemble pieces I have had the pleasure to see. 
There are of course the leads Oscar and Felix played by the slobbed up Jason Klarwein and traumatised anally retentive Tama Matheson. The magic these two create on stage together is well known and last night it was genuine marriage of two actors bouncing off each other in tenderness, endless frustration and energetic fun until there is growth and resolution. They have a bunch of long term friends who are so individually unique, distinct and drawn with brilliant precision. 

Colin Smith as Murray whom I finally had the chance to meet after with an amazing NY cop (or taxi driver i thought) accent, Tim Dashwood who was the neurotic, nervous worrier Roy, Bryan Probets the cooperative and ever grateful friend Vinnie and Steven Rooke as the realistic tough Speed. Each were so strong and watching the timing of the interactions and the clarity of the accented diction was quite mesmerising. It really is good to go to a play where all is heard and even the snippents of Opera on Felix's records were so carefully chosen to comment on the action, like 'La Donna e Mobile' or 'The Woman is Fickle'. 
Photography by Rob Maccoll
I was told the addition of the two English sisters Amy Ingram (Cecily) and Lauren Jackson (Gwendolyn) was the master stroke that Neil Simon needed to make this a success and then a classic. Do I hear 'The Importance Of Being Ernest' anyone? Of course we all know that it was the last production directed by our dearest Wesley Enoch who flew back and attended the Meet the Artists night so it was a great Q&A that went far longer than the time allotted with a particular discussion on the word 'Creatives'. Speaking of off stage artists Daniel Anderson as assistant Lighting Designer was the only one I have met on previous occasions. Everyone wanted to just keep talking, laughing and arguing. I met the new Programming Manager as well last night and when I go to the Briefing for 'Ladies in Black' next Monday I hope to meet the new Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company Sam Strong. 

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