Review: THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS Finds Honour in the Classics

Fables are often forgotten in today’s adult modern world.  But the lessons they offer in their storytelling are invaluable to everyday life.  Writer, Christine Croyden has embraced the classic form of fable and musical theatre in her latest brilliant production THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable gently reminding its audience how relevant classics remain in our daily lives. 

So as not to give away the cathartic message this particular fable tells, I would rather tell you more about the highlights you can expect from this delightful performance.  Under the direction of Elizabeth Walley a small ensemble of four actors delight the La Mama Courthouse stage playing multiple stock characters in the form of bird species.  Each bird portrays stereotypes like young and naive, old and wise, cunning and territorial or ignorant and cruel.  The audience can relate to these characters either because we see ourselves in them or have encountered such traits throughout our journey.

Playing the “Queen of the Birds,” Margot Knight eloquently captures the paralleling traits of a delicate bird and the delicate inner life of an older woman.  She dances with such emotional delicacy throughout the story finding balance between protecting her own vulnerabilities and standing up defending her personal value.

As a musical, while vocal abilities from cast members vary, it is smart to feature the supporting talent of Charlotte Fox who plays the young princess bird.  Her voice radiates and envelops the courthouse space.  Original music writer, Ella Filar has cleverly given Fox the ability to crescendo into an operatic tonality heightening the plays climax.

What’s truly appealing about this production is Croyden’s writing.  It has a sophisticated ability to honour classic fable storytelling full of poetic imagery that concludes with a cathartic lesson with that of contemporary events.  It is equally delightful to hear the multiple play-of-words throughout the production to birds: ‘birds of a feather,’ ‘bird brain,’ ‘fluff my feathers.’ 

Also appealing is the accompaniment from the 3-piece live band.  The music glues the production together as it plays music that refers to the fluttering lifestyle of birds.  The baseline reminds me of baroque style classical music, which I believe sheds light on the classical and sophisticated style found in Croyden’s writing.

THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable is playing now at La Mama Courthouse Theatre until November 6th.  To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE

Twelve Shows in the First Week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Not Bad!

My first week of Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival was everything I was hoping it would be: busy, funny and anticipating more. I’ve seen some really great performances of all kinds of formats in various venues throughout the city amongst hundreds of audience members. In an attempt to get right to the point AND provide you with quality reviews of each comic, here is a look at my week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in roughly 160 characters or less:

Wednesday, 23rd March:

Claire Healy A LITTLE TOO MUCH INFORMATION

In this quaint cabaret performance, Healy demonstrates how much she enjoys being a triple threat: a superb singer, songwriter and piano player. Filled with quirky songs, lyrics and facial expressions, A Little Too Much Information is Healy’s way of allowing her audience to quickly get to know her and vice versa. Be prepared to share! Because it’s fun!

Eileen Williams IRRELEVANT

A theatrical performance that reminds us how not too long ago the value of women was not relevant to a man’s society. Producing laughter from an uncomfortable state of being, IRRELEVANT reminds us how far we’ve come in te fight for equal influence but how much further there still is to come.

Gillian Cosgriff TO THE MOON AND BACK

Cosgriff combines pop-cabaret and comedy with space exploration and thoughts of marriage for a hilariously adorable comedic performance. Bonus: her on-stage costume change is brilliantly smooth and magical! Can’t wait to see more!

Thursday, March 24th

Victoria Healy THE VICK VAN DYKE SHOW

Hard not to like Healy – natural stage presence, down-to-earth comic. Comes with lanky limbs and great facial expressions. Personal fave, and a must see to know who next gen of Aussie comics are.

Mae Martin US

Nothing out of the ordinary from Mae Martin’s set, except her struggles to cope with an untimely bout of sickness. Truly professional, Martin delivers a smoothly structured performance that has broad appeal to many and contains a slightly political message. Filled with stories and anecdotes about her friends’ and family’s reaction to life situations Martin gains laughs by impersonating the people she loves.

Friday, March 25th

Igor Meerson HOU I LERNT INGLISH

Expecting secrets to Putin’s political agendas or insight into daily Russian life will leave you disappointed. Instead, Meerson stretches himself by performing his very first English set and has graciously brought it to Melbourne. This underdog wins with a humble performance and crackling observations about language barriers.!

Nish Kumar LONG WORD…LONG WORD…BLAH BLAH BLAH…I’M SO CLEVER

A hilarious critically acclaimed self-deprecating comedian who is cleverer than actual audience numbers give him credit! His clever point-of-view on life’s most trivial issues, like boasting strong opinions regarding the next Bond actor/songwriter, is a riot! Quality comedy at its best!

Saturday, March 26th

LESSONS WITH LUIS

Commitment to such comic character development leaves you wondering, Is this guy for real? If so, two words sum up this performance: utter genius! Lessons with Luis combines educational entertainment with simple and funny special effects. Brought me back to my childhood watching the American hit kids show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Kate Dehnert SHABAMALAM

Dehnert gives her audience LOTS of energy. A set that is morphs from traditional stand up to a schizophrenic dialogue between two characters trapped inside Dehnert’s head, I later found out her performance is an homage to British TV show The Mighty Boosh. Good to keep in mind.

Laura Davis MARCO. POLO.

Returning as a winner of MICF’s 2015 Golden Gibbo Award, Davis makes sure not to let celebrity-ism get the best of her. Using a quirky set and costume choice where she covers her eyes and raises herself on a ladder, Davis moves around the stage without guidance in order to demonstrate her independence. Topically different from last year, but similarly clever in design. One to continually watch in the future!

Sunday, March 27th

Alice Fraser THE RESISTANCE

Endearing, wholesome and catchy original songs makes Fraser’s comedic set so likeable. Taught by people who surrounded her while growing up, she gives back by bringing the joy of laughter to many in her comedy.

Sam Simmons NOT A PEOPLE PERSON

Prop comic genius! A no-holds-barred comic master commands his stage, his audience and more in this raw, side-splitting comedic performance. Multi-award winning comic for a reason, but he doesn’t let the awards stifle his creativity.

Reviews: Highlights From My Weekend Spent at Adelaide Fringe Festival

Last weekend, I traveled to Adelaide to experience both my first encounters and closing performances of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. I walked away with an even deeper passion and appreciation for the arts then ever before, and I can’t wait to tell you about what I saw. In my attempt to not make this a never-ending-story or rant, I will keep my reviews of the 11 performances I attended to a bare minimum (2-3 sentences at max for each show) to give my readers an insight into some of Adelaide Fringe’s highlighted performances:

Friday, 11th March – A day at Holden Theatre, which is a space that is as equally stunning as the performances inside it!

ECHOES

“The word is perfect but the ears of men are not.”

Poignant political insight into the parallel controversies of searching for religious purposes in modern and old-fashioned times. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of Modern Muslim beliefs from someone outside a terrorist extreme. Beautiful performances and a well-written script caused the audience to sigh out “Hmmm” many times in agreement with captured moments of truth and revelation.

LABELS

“I want to know why it is better to let people drown than to let people in.”

Questioning society’s norms in the ways we stereotype one another based on the multiple roles we play on a daily basis (father, mother, blue-collar worker, intelligent, ignorant, cheap, bitchy, etc.), Joe Sellman-Leava is an absolutely gifted performer where his home is the stage. A simple set, a complex concept and captivating audience interactions it is hard to define Sellman-Leava as either a one-man show phenomenon or a standup trendsetter. It is no wonder this performer won 5-star reviews from local publications.

A GAMBLER’S GUIDE TO DYING

An endearing personal tribute to a family hero, Gary McNair pays homage to his storyteller granddad who taught him that everyone has a purpose in life to be remembered. McNair justifies that he continues the family gift as storyteller in this remarkable performance that charmed, touched and inspired the audience to enjoy the truth and lies of your loved ones, for in the end it doesn’t matter which end is up.

Saturday, 12th March

GREMLINS

A true representation of gypsy touring theatre, GREMLINS is a zany, family-friendly, laugh-out-loud show that leaves you either questioning your overall sanity or you’re saying: “I dunno what the hell just happened, but I liked it!” Performed under an outdoor tent at the Garden of Unearthly Delight, four actors covered in green makeup and dressed in battered, mis-matched take their audience on one of their latest 28% reliable budget airline flights. The catch? The plane is totally inoperable. Remarkable commitment to each character and the relationships to each other. GREMLINS received the opportunity to add an additional performance during their run and it was well deserved!

Outside of the Gremlins' tent!

Outside of the Gremlins' tent!

ELEANOR’S STORY: AN AMERICAN GIRL IN HITLER’S GERMANY

Another tribute performance to an elderly relative, ELEANOR’S STORY is based on the true events of the performer grandmother who grew up as an American citizen in Germany during World War II. She relives the experience of witnessing a shift in the community’s attitude and physical adjustments made as Nazi flags took over the skyline. In general, a solid performance but would have suggested a bit more tweaking in the direction as the actor was lost on stage outside of lighted areas, and important moments were missed due to obstruction from other audience members seated in front. Regardless, ELEANOR’S STORY received a standing ovation at this last performance, a humbling experience for the actor who admitted to performing at Adelaide Fringe last year to two people per performance. I hope she continues to come back with more wonderful work in the future.

BILL CLINTON HERCULES

Imagine the opportunity to witness former US President, Bill Clinton give an encouraging speech that reflects the important life lessons he learned during his governmental career. Actor Bob Paisley performed just that! Imagined as a TedTalk, Paisley portrays former US president Bill Clinton as a humble man passionate to support his wife in her current presidential pursuits and recalls his missteps along his political career path. Paisley is so convincing as Clinton that at times my eyes and ears led me to believe that I was actually listening to the former president in a rare speaking engagement opportunity. I was elated to hear the news of this show continuing a tour after Adelaide, where a future performance will actually occur in Clinton’s hometown of Little Rock, AR!

Sunday, 13th March

MOVIN’ MELVIN BROWN

A decent gospel performance sprinkled with mediocre tap dancing, this one was a hit with an older generation. Set inside Flinder’s Street Baptist Church, Brown charmed his way into the hearts of his audience members by singing his favourite and original gospel tunes, praising the positive love from Jesus Christ for all. His backup band might have felt otherwise as I observed members sending body language signs of laughter and eye-rolling behind Brown’s back – there was strong evidence to believe that these musicians were not Brown’s original band mates, minus the overpowering backup singer (probably his wife). Adorable to witness smiles of joy spread on the older generation audience members – at least this performance was someone’s cup of tea.

BEOWULF: THE BLOCKBUSTER

A grandfather genuinely tries to pass on a valuable lesson to his grandson about bravery and perseverance through his heroic take of the classic story, Beowulf. An incredible ability to colour the stage with multiple characters Irish actor, Bryan Burroughs best showcases his raw talent in physical theatre and movement throughout this performance.

UNDERNEATH BY PAT KINEVANE

I walked away from this performance saying to my partner, “I cannot describe what I just saw but I LOVED every moment of that performance.”

A corpse emerges from the shadows on stage and holds conversation with the audience reliving its living experience. We find out that this corpse was actually a young girl found burnt to a crisp when her body was found and laid to rest. Filled with voice-over dialogue, sound effects, lighting transitions that ensured shadow changes and audience interaction to subtly remind us we are all connected to one another, living or dead, Pat Kinevane supplied a true artistic Fringe performance. I DO want to see more of his works!

FUEGO CARNAL

My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

A circus act that pumped it up through and through, Fuego Carnal gave its audience heat, passion and an appreciation for the focus and physical sacrifices needed to put on a true circus show. Screams of appreciation frequently rang throughout the circus ring after each physical stunt was done by the performers. Time flies when you are having fun, for what seemed like only 20 minutes, the show lasted for its entire 50-minute guarantee. Audience members of all ages were able to enjoy a traditional circus performance set literally under a big-top (an outdoor tent space) within the Gluttony Gardens!

In conclusion, if you haven’t ventured your way to an Adelaide Fringe Festival weekend, or even a day, please do yourself a favour and GO! Or better yet, I hope these shows make their way to the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival! Regardless, I had such a great time during my experience of Adelaide Fringe that I plan on making it an annual trip in my calendar. I can’t wait to met more artists, witness amazing talent and be mesmerised by the growing size of this Australian festival.

Review: Black Hole Theatre Demonstrates the Intelligent Use of Puppetry in Contemporary Theatre Through BLIND

As part of the Festival of Light and Art, the brilliant collaboration between Black Hole Theatre, Duda Paiva Company and Theatre Works properly illuminates the heart and soul of its audience in the astounding performance of BLIND.

BLIND uses dance, puppetry and music to tell the tale of a boy struggling to cure his disabling eyesight and body ailments. We enter the story at the moment right before Paiva visits his latest doctor, a spirit healer. As the audience enters the theatre space, Paiva, in character, sits amongst the crowd and holds natural conversations with those seated around him.   As the lighting cue signals to the performer to begin, Paiva raises his voice to make light of the fact that he is conversing with those around him. He asks questions like what are their ailments, have they seen this doctor before and opens up about his previous experiences with other doctors. His neighbours, and the rest of the audience, begin to feel a deep empathy – this is someone who has clearly suffered so much from doctors poking and prodding and misleading to unsuccessful remedies. And then the tone shifts as Paiva steps deeper on stage and into the story – he sets up a playful tone by deepening his audience interaction, which opens us up to the playfulness of his storytelling.

The stage reveals a simple design of multiple pulley-system ropes suspended from the ceiling to the floor. Three white bodice skirts are sprawled on the stage and placed to look like lampshades. Paiva majestically moves around the stage exploring, picking at the ropes and before we notice, the ropes move with the performer to change the perspective of the stage. Music cues and lighting shifts add to these magical set changes, solidifying a clever transition from moment to moment.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

And like most puppet shows, magic fills the air as the audience is introduced to each puppet character. Their reveal occurs within a blink of the eye – the spirit healer appears from one of the lampshades; three mythical puppet creatures appear from growths released from within the performer. Each puppet has its own spirit, exposed through its movement, facial expressions and vocal intonations. All of these traits are operated by the masterful puppeteer and performer.

It was a like savouring the icing on a cake when, after his final bow, Paiva invites his audience to explore the puppets on stage. Without hesitation, the eager audience accepts the invitation and the stage is flooded with bewildered and curious individuals. I quickly discovered the unique material used to create the puppets: padding foam. When asked by an audience member how he makes the puppets, Paiva laughs and says, “A blob of foam, scissors and a lot of patience.”

What any audience member can appreciate about BLIND is the fact that one does not have to understand the abstract storyline behind the performance in order to enjoy the show. BLIND is a show that gives its audience the gift of experiencing puppetry at its most intelligent form. And staying true to the company’s commitment, Black Hole Theatre once again proves that puppetry is powerful force used in contemporary theatre.

BLIND performs 8th – 19th March as part of the Festival of Light and Art at Theatre Works in St. Kilda.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.blackholetheatre.com.au.

Review: POINT 8 SIX is on Point

Satirical. Metaphorical. Poignant. These characteristics blatantly sum up the main themes presented in POINT 8 SIX, playing at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. Most thrilling about this production is the opportunity to allow yourself to simply be entertained and delight in the brilliant performances on stage.

POINT 8 SIX is an absurdist farce set inside an experimental laboratory in the year 2142, where a passionate scientist conducts his latest research and development in human space and time travel. He operates his experiments by the use of robots… or maybe these characters were once humans who have been micro-chipped or re-programmed into computers… as each specimen travels back and forth in time and space to reveal how they connect to one another…or don’t connect to one another. To be quite honest, the character connections are revealed so quickly and through such complex plotting that I can only remember generalised details about each character: one characters serves as the rebellious instigator, another is the precious one whom is to be protected by everyone else, a German character is thrown into the mix, and an innocent buffoon unsuccessfully tries to keep it all together.

Sounds complex, right? Well, it is! Purposefully. Breaking the fourth wall, one of the characters asks the audience if they are confused. Answering yes would mean they are in sync with the story because even the characters are confused as to what is actually going on. Regardless, I believe the point of this production is to stick with the show and give into the world of imagination. Once I let go of trying to piece the plot together I was able to thoroughly enjoy the performance.

Two reasons to go see this delightful production is to 1.) fall in love with the characters; and 2.) lose yourself to a chaotic imaginative story. There are plenty of opportunities to laugh, love and think about the possible “what ifs” throughout this production; it’s a show suitable for everyone’s liking (minus children because of course language and complex issues). Under the direction of Kirsten von Bibra, the cast of six VCA graduates (Amy Jones, Brianagh Curran, Matt Furlani, Wim Wotherspoon, Adam Cass and Yvette de Ravin Turner) this creative team puts on a most entertaining show. I am most eager to follow the career paths of these talented actors, writers and director.

POINT 8 SIX closes this weekend, running until 21st February at La Mama Theatre in Carlton with performances on at 6:30PM Wednesday, 7:30Pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 4PM on Sunday. Do yourself a favour and RUN to see this show!

For tickets and more information about POINT 8 SIX, please visit http://www.lamamatheatre.com.au.

Have We Ever Assessed Our Opinions?

Ever thought about the opinions, advise or demands you’ve heard, read or have been raised to believe? Have you ever just wanted to have your moment to express those opinions to others? Inspired by Tim Etchells’ Sight is the Sense, Emma Hall has created a one-woman show that allows her to express 621 traditional and often times trivial opinions in 45 minute, testing the idea of what it is to speak one’s mind.

Standing in front of a simple stage setting and accompanied with scattered, subtle soundscape music, Hall’s stream-of-consciousness addresses an array of topics: from simple facts like the grass always seems greener on the other side, to the “should”, “need”, and “it is important” opinions that feel more like demands. Nonetheless, show in general appears to be a conversation with the audience, yet treated as if it were between two best friends, contemplating which words of advice are more important than the other. As Hall’s show concludes, we may just have to choose.

It is difficult to assess if Hall’s words are actually opinions, or are they demands, words of advice or social beliefs dictated to maintain a civilised society. This self-contemplation is what makes the piece interesting and unique and able to cater to all audiences – it allows one person to have a single expressive moment without interruption.  It also allows the audience to laugh at the silliness of common opinions, and reconsider their own thoughts.

After the show, I had the honour of sitting down with Hall to gain some insight into the development of this project. We May Have To Choose has appeared in Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh generating critical success, and now comes to Melbourne for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. When asked why Hall decided to put this show into Melbourne Fringe, she simply answered with a smile across her face, “This is home. The audience in Melbourne seem to really like [the show]. Knowing that my support system is here I am more relaxed into the show now. Melbourne is not only my home town but it’s also where my heart is.” We May Have to Choose certainly brings forth a lot of heart. Do yourself a favour by showing your support to this wonderful independent artist and this terrific piece.

We May Have to Choose can be seen at the Fringe Hub/North Melbourne Townhall through 4th October. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Pairing Comedy and Wine Tasting Is a Match Made in Laughter

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Grab yourself a glass of red, or white if you prefer, and enjoy a entertaining night and some quirky insight into the ideals of wine tasting by The Wine Bluffs. After touring around various wine festivals, including Barossa Vintage and Yarra Valley Grape Grazing, comedy duo Damian Callanan and Paul Calleja give a charmingly laugh-out-loud presentation that will make any inexperienced bloke feel like the expert wine connoisseur they’ve always wanted to be. Travel through Callinan and Calleja’s cellar doors to seamless silly antics and complimentary pop culture punch lines that demonstrate the many talents of these veteran comedians.

Our introduction to these wine bluffs’ knowledge in wine tasting involved audience participation: to identify the biggest “wine wanker” in the room. Audience members are eliminated in the competition by sitting back down when answering YES to a series of questions by Callinan and Calleja. Last man or woman standing wins the honourable badge of “Wine Wanker.” Next, Callinan and Calleja describe their history in wines, which have evolved over the years from occasional wine sippers to now holding psychic abilities that identify wine types in the audience and the ability to pair wines with food based on grape varieties. To say that “green grapes,” a variety shouted out last night from an audience member, goes well with McDonald’s French fries tells you just how expert these comics really are.

But it’s these special interactions with the audience and abilities to improvise without hesitation that make Callinan and Calleja stand out as truly talented comedians. I was surprised to discover other talents from the comics including Callinan’s well-choreographed dance moves to “Footloose,” “Gangnam Style” and “Single Ladies.” He briefly, but hilariously, busts out to these numbers in order to demonstrate a new technique in releasing more oxygen in the wine before tasting. And Paul’s decision to snort a line of red wine for taste, something he claims he’s never done before, proves just how far these comics will go to earn your laughs.

I’m delighted to hear that this show continues running throughout the Melbourne Fringe Festival (every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) because it would be a shame for people to miss this hilarious spin on wine tasting.

THE WINE BLUFFS performs at the Fringe Hub – Underground, Arts House, North Melbourne Townhall through 3rd October. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Highlights of a Weekend Spent at Melbourne Fringe

Taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather this past weekend, I enjoyed several events within the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

On Saturday, I first enjoyed a city walk called TELL ME HOW TO WALK. The walk can be complete at your own pace and at your own free will; just simply download a free app that holds instructions for the walk. The walk begins at Princes bridge by Federation Square and continues through into Birrarung Marr. Along the way, the app’s instructs you to search then stop at landmarks – mostly art statues that reside along the river walk. The instructions also allow looking at the environment around you – smell the air; gaze at the city; run along the path; etc. Then there are reflective questions to answer, which have no right or wrong answers but certainly lead you to the next instruction.

By the end of the walk, I felt humbled by the opportunity to spend a moment basking in the wonderful city of Melbourne. The walk truly reflects the simplicity and power of art – reminding us to take a moment to enjoy and be grateful for our surroundings.

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

Next, I discovered Scratch Warehouse, a community minded mixed art space, with a gallery, theatre, private art studios and library located in North Melbourne. Having only opened 8 months ago, Scratch Warehouse opens its doors as a Melbourne Fringe Festival venue showcasing several art installation projects and live performances including ENDLESS GAIN. ENDLESS GAIN simply showcases a single wall of 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats), courting eternal good fortune. The simple presentation put a smile on my face and let out a delighted chuckle.

Though not part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, but presented inside the Scratch Warehouse, was KRUMP. KRUMP is a photographic exhibition celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Krump community by photographer Rachel Main. Photographs introduce members of the community as well as the best in creative dance moments over the 10 years.

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon matinee at La Mama Theatre. For an intensely dark drama that examines what it means to let go of expectations and the past, go see BOCK KILLS HER FATHER.

Performed to a sold out audience, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER is a story set within a single evening of coincidences in which five women together reveal and confront the man they previously looked up to as a father, a teacher and a role model but whom has done them wrong. Through bouts of verbal confrontation four women: Bock, Taylor, D’Agostino and Chambers; reveal their most vulnerable nightmares: Bock’s father, and teacher to Taylor, Chambers and D’Agostino, have raped, neglected and gave broken promises. Continuing his habits, the story reveals a fifth woman, Sarah, who is the man’s current girlfriend and newest victim. The most difficult piece of reality to swallow is the fact that Bock’s father chooses to be a coward by remaining within the safety of his own home and watching the five women verbally and physically attack Sarah.

Performed in true ensemble format, the actors complimented one another’s performance. Each character was clearly defined and individualized through speech patterns, behavioral gestures and costume choices. Complimentary to the performances was the smartly planned direction done by Penny Harpham. Harpham cleverly utilizees the intimate space of the La Mama Theatre by using and defining clear entrances and exits that also provided intriguing lighting effects that created more shadows and added depth to the already dark and eerie setting.

Another outstanding element was the poetic writing by Adam J. A. Cass. If you believe to have seen his name before, you would be correct: Cass is an award-winning playwright, and has two written pieces in this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER and FRACTURED. In BOCK KILLS HER FATHER Cass presents his signature writing style with use of poetic imagery to heighten the important dramatic moments throughout the plot.

The creative team of BOCK KILLS HER FATHER should be proud of their exceptional hard work.

ENDLESS GAIN can be seen at Scratch Warehouse until 4th October.

BOCK KILLS HER FATHER plays at La Mama Theatre until 27th September.

For more information on both events, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: A Charming Debut Reveals WHO IS DANI CABS?

WHO IS DANI CABS? lives up to its title – a comedic standup performance that tells the funny and endearing significant moments throughout the comedian’s life.

At the Tuxedo Cat, Dani Cabs’ debut standup charms its way into the hearts of his audience. He reveals what his childhood was like being born in Australian as the third child to parents from Uruguay, and befriending an array of multi-cultural schoolmates. Cabs also reveals his many talents including speaking in multiple languages, his history as an aerobics instructor, his love for futbol and his eye for fashion (or lack thereof).

Yet behind the ridiculous antics, Cabs reveals his most vulnerable hopes and dreams: to find a role model. He hopes his older brother could be a role model, in the absence of his father, but realizes how much his brother sacrifices in life to support his family by sticking to societal norms. As a filmmaker and performer, Cabs hopes to find a role model in the likes of Hugh Jackman, but realizes he will never be as fit as Jackman nor does he have a partnership with a lady for 20+ years. By the end, Cabs accepts what he has in front of him, which is a great audience and the opportunity to keep growing.
Charmingly funny with the ability to produce a clever and subtly sweet message, Cabs is a comedian I am looking forward to seeing again and again in the future.

WHO IS DAN CABS? is at The Tuxedo Cat until 22nd September. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Let’s Not Become Too DETACHED From RePAC Productions

For those looking to enjoy a simply funny and entertaining night of theatre, DETACHED offers a solid introduction to the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Produced by RePAC Productions, a trio of acting mates – Allen Laverty, Preston Forsyth and Catherine Gavicic – who reunite after 15 years, DETACHED tells the comedic story of three housemates who discover just how much their obsessions with smartphones, video games and the internet has caused them to be detached from one another. But just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Established by a well-written script, the production is also accompanied by great performances and a set that is literally encased with metaphors to heighten the message behind the story. First, electrical wiring borders the front of the stage indicating the endless routes to electric outlets to keep multiple devices plugged in at all times. Whether an accident or not, during certain moments on stage the actors found themselves tripping over the wiring adding to the comedic overtones. Secondly, once given instructions, a voice similar to Siri begins a video montage, projected on a white screen behind the acting area, and accompanied by the fast-paced music of The Naked and the Famous, shows snapshots of ordinary people found on modern-day apps like Tinder (swipe right, swipe left) and Facebook (Like). At the end of the video, we return to lounge room where three characters: Jack, Nicki and Derek are glued to their individual devices. They even converse through their devices – asking for advice on how to read into the meaning behind text messages from potential dates – instead of face to face. Lastly, elements of sound – the commonly recognized chimes heard when signing into Skype, or starting up a MAC computer – also draw the audience into the buzzing world of distraction. We even hear an argument between the upstairs neighbours when one discovers the other is on the Tinder app.

RePAC Productions produces a tightly constructed piece of theatre concluding in full circle – the actors somehow end the story in the same exact positioning as they did in the beginning, and once again Siri is instructed to “begin” the show, a.k.a start the video montage. With a strong debut piece of theatre like this, I’m left wondering with anticipation as to what more this trio will come up with next.

DETACHED continues its run during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 16th-30th September at 7:30PM at Shebeen. For tickets and more information, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: MTC’s ‘Betrayal’ Stages A Metaphorical Look to a Dark Secret

Everyone has their deep, dark secrets. What’s yours? And how well do you think your secret is truly hidden from the significant people it can negatively impact? Melbourne Theatre Company examines the complications of our wildest hidden secrets – especially those wrapped around love affairs – in their latest production, BETRAYAL by Harold Pinter.

Harold Pinter, a British contemporary playwright, has been a long-time favourite of mine. BETRAYAL, one of his most famous works, is a play that seems to come back to me over and over again: I’ve read the play hundreds of times, and have seen many actors attempt to give justice to Pinter’s characters during scene-study classes. However, those experiences have no comparison to what director Geordie Brookman, his spectacular cast comprising of Nathan O’Keefe as Jerry, Alison Bell as Emma, Mark Saturno as Robert and John Maurice as the Waiter and the production team of Geoff Cobham (Lighting & Set Design), Alisa Paterson (Associate Set & Costume Design) and Jason Sweeney (Composer) create on MTC’s stage – a seamless portrayal full of metaphorical imagery around the truth behind lying, adulterous relationships.

A brief synopsis of the play: Emma and Jerry are secret lovers for the past seven years. We first find them reconnecting in a pub where it is obvious they haven’t seen each other in quite sometime and the two find themselves in awkward moments, trying to maintain a cordial meeting. Both members are married to other individuals with kids to round out their families. Emma’s husband, Robert, is Jerry’s best mate from university. As the story travels back in time, the events reveal not only how Emma and Jerry’s affair began but also who is really playing who in the game of betrayal. The audience witnesses moments when Robert suspects something is shaping between Emma and Jerry, and the moment when Emma confesses about the affair to her husband without consulting Jerry. It’s a twisted game of passive-aggressive conversation between all affected party members.

I fell instantly in love with the set design: simple yet full of metaphorical references to keeping dirty secrets. A large rotating clothes rack bordered the stage in a semi-circular shape – which, at first impression, begged the question, what would this be used for? The rack was used quite well – between scenes, the rack rotated around the stage blocking the setup of props, cstume changes and stage furniture for the next scene. The direction in which the rack rotated was also cleverly planned – during the first half of the story, the rack rotated towards stage left; but following the climax, the rotation changed to stage right. This scheme was subtle yet very effective to emphasizing a point of no return in the storyline. Practically speaking, and most importantly, the clothes rack served as a storage unit for stage props and costumes assisting the smooth transitions between each scene.

Another highlight about the production was the pre-theatre lobby entertainment. I always enjoy the special care and consideration a company makes to create an entire experience for its audience – one that begins from the moment entertaining into lobby until exiting the lobby post-performance. This production was cleverly preamble by a simple pin board tacked onto the wall to the left of the box office. In front of the wall was a small table with heart-shaped post-it notes and pens; the instructions invited audience members to consider letting go of their deepest secrets by writing it down and tacking it on their wall. Most secrets gave a chuckle – “Santa Claus isn’t real”; “I’m madly in love with so-and-so”; “I still suck my thumb.” I took the opportunity to proudly proclaim my not-so-secret secret.

A well-constructed production of a piece of contemporary theatrical literature by Melbourne Theatre Company – one I would recommend to adult audiences everywhere.

For more information about Melbourne Theatre Company, and tickets to BETRAYAL, which runs until 26th September, please visit www.mtc.com.au.

Review: Complete Works Theatre Company’s MEDEA presents classical Greek theatre staging to an intrigued Australian audience

Complete Works Theatre Company is rounding out its two-week tour throughout Victoria by bringing it’s delightful production of Euripides’s MEDEA to Melbourne University’s Union House Theatre.

Do not be turned-off by stereotypes normally associated with classical Greek theatre according to its title.  MEDEA is a story that demonstrates a woman’s determination to fight for justice against a man who betrays her without cause.  Complete Works presents an adaptation that drives exceptional performances from its actors appealing to all audience members.   At moments, the audience, consisting of university students, young professionals and even mid-aged adults, delighted in the comedic characteristics found in Jason established in the writing and precisely gestured by the actor, Philip Cameron-Smith. Other standout performances were Jennifer Vuletic who played Lady Maid & Chorus Member with such an ease of concern like any mother or friend would demonstrate, and Naomi Rukavina who portrays Medea with such tragic elegance and power-hungry grace. Other highlighting elements include a surprising element at the end of the play creating a mystical appeal to the character involved. I would tell you more about that surprise, but it’s worth witnessing to know what I’m talking about.

Though direction from Artistic Director, Andrew Blackman, used classical Greek theatre structure to a contemporary audience, the 90-minute performance swiftly passed by as each event moved with suspense, intrigue and delight across the stage. The lighting, designed by Julia Knibbs, accompanied the tradition Greek Theatre staging as it illuminated actor’s faces from the front creating shadows not only on faces but also on the wall to appeal to the character’s larger-than-life struggles of man vs. fate. Sound design, composed by Finn Cooney, complimented the Mediterranean setting.

MEDEA continues its run at Melbourne University’s Union House on Thursday and Friday, 30 & 31 July at 10:30AM (SOLD OUT) and 1PM, and will complete its tour on 4th August at East bank Centre in Shepparton. For tickets and more information, visit www.completeworks.com.au.

Review: Elbow Room Questions Identity and Leaves Its Audience Empowered

What is the expectation of experiencing live theatre? Well, I believe the majority can agree to three expectations: 1.) to be entertained; 2.) to leave our own lives for a moment and peak into a world of strangers who are dealing with similar sets of issues; and 3.) to be challenged to address social and political issues that are too scary to handle alone. Elbow Room’s production of WE GET IT satisfies all of these expectations and more at Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2015 NEON Festival. WE GET IT is a dark comedy satirising the political and social norms affecting gender identity, particularly within the confines of the entertainment industry. And it is theme presented from the moment one walks into the theatre lobby until the curtain falls ending the play. WE GET IT transports its audience into the world of creating a reality television competition show. It is the taping to the final episode of a new talent competition dedicated in discovering the next great female actress. The last diverse five actresses remaining are challenged to perform a classic monologue from a piece of theatrical literature: Nora from A DOLL’S HOUSE (Ibsen), Antigone from ANTIGONE (Sophocles), Blanche Du Bois from STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (Williams), Lady Macbeth from THE SCOTTISH PLAY (Shakespeare) and Medea from MEDEA (Euripedes). Rules of the competition and the voting process are simply explained by the competition’s gracious host, Emily, who, expressionlessly, reveals the latest voting system as Bums On Seats System, or #BOSS.

As the actors move about the stage preparing to present their individual monologues, they also move to an area behind a white curtain where confessional videos are produced to generate “good television.” These moments reveal personal experiences the actresses encountered during their professional careers that reveal gender limitations to roles pursued. It is revealed through these confessionals that limitations have been set onto these women because of their skin tone and body image; however, these confessionals are solely created to generate popular votes and boost overall scoring by being the most relatable to the audience. Instead, these confessionals created moments of uncomfortable displeasure leaving the audience to wonder “Is that story true?”

Complete with witty and profound banter that define character relationships, such as THE MAN directing one of the competing actresses, “Don’t be mad at me. I’m your ally,” the writing struck chords with the audience as it moved them to reflect on their own experiences of broken promises from manipulating allies. The overall presentation of WE GET IT revealed the funny, broken and naturally uncomfortable expectations of self-identity society often inflicts on us – either by stereotyping our gender, our race through the colour of our skin or by body image. In the end, Elbow Room and its stunning ensemble (featuring Tamiah Bantum, Amy Ingram, Kasia Kaczmarek, Maurial Spearim, Sonya Saures and Emily Timlins with special guest appearance by Marcel Dorney) illustrate the harsh affects of sexism and racism that leave the audience, at moments, uncomfortable, yet ultimately empowered to learn from identifying with these harsh realities.  And with all mistakes, we are reminded that there is hope.  Hope to inspire change for the future. Hope to educate future generations so that they may disregard these enforced human stereotypes and instead embrace each other as we are.

This is independent theatre certainly not to be missed.

Performances continue this week at the Neon Festival presented by Melbourne Theatre Company until 19th July running Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30PM and Sunday at 4PM. For tickets and more information, please visit www.mtc.com.au.