Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dead Funny (Late) Review

Dead funny is a show that finds the humour, whether it is in cereal or death, it is there to be found and shared with the audience. We are greeted by a lonely lodger attempting to eat breakfast as he negotiates the tv remote and the telephone. A delightful comic scene draws to a close when he kills himself shaving with a kitchen knife and well, dies. Supposedly. You see Death is late and in a scenario rapidly developing into Terry Pratchett-esque absurdity he is forced into coercing said lodger to accepting his mortal ending.

This is Theatre injects the fun into death and written by Michael Fee for City Pigeons Theatre Dead Funny announces the arrival of a newly fledged (!) theatre company that incorporates a lot of comedy styling in its feathers (!).

Clever and fun, this production is full of physical comedy, mad characters and some lines that will stick with you long after you have left the theatre. Having debuted at Mudfest before moving to the Fringe Festival and then up north to FAST Dead Funny is a show that fits all sorts of audiences in all sorts of venues. I saw it in the Mudclub, and it worked very well in a tight squishy space that typified the limits of life and death that were imposed on the characters. But equally a larger space would allow for the slapstick to play out on a larger scale. One gets the feeling that much like its content Dead Funny is a play that everyone gets (eventually).

Apologies again for the obscenely late writing and publishing of this review, I really loved it and if you get the chance to see it in any of its incarnations now or into the future DO!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Everything Speaks!

It was the perfect day to be out and about; a blue and gold day, the temperature a lovely 20 degrees, the birds were singing, the bushes were exclaiming about the wonders of being green...

This was “Everything Speaks”, the creative brain-child of street performer Hannah Roe of Scratch & Sniff Theatre. She had successfully pulled together a diverse crowd of twenty-five students who were to take on the task of being inanimate objects on Concrete Lawn. As the reviewer, I wasn't sure if this was to be a social experiment or street-performance. It turned out to be both. I sat down between the moaning tree (it had beckoned me to use its branches as protection from the sun, so I politely obliged) and the babbling rubbish bins, observing the bemused expressions of the passers by. Some looked liked they had fallen into a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest, and walked as fast as they could into the safety of Union House. Others only nodded and smiled, yes, this was what student life was supposed to be about. Only during this short lunch break was it acceptable to dance around with a balloon, channel the sound of tent plastic, or examine what it felt like to be a satchel bag.

It has been said that there is a fine line between art and insanity. The participants of "Everything Speaks" successfully walked that line. This is student theatre. This is losing oneself in being something else. Walking amongst the cacophony of sounds and watching students quickly lose themselves in their characters (a bike, the pavement, a pole), I got a feeling for what it might for what it might be like to be an actor. My only regret is not joining in.

Gouti: The God of Them All

Never before have I been so confused and entranced watching a musical. This farcical new musical by Joe Coghlan is so full of whimsical eccentricity; I barely know where to begin. I can say that it involved fake moustaches, cross-dressing and good Spanish accents, which was more than enough to hook me in. Drawing inspiration from Pokemon and the Princess Bride, the musical culminates in a duel between Little One the Spanish God of Nursery Rhymes, and Gouti, the Spanish God of Lesbianism. For Little One, his Pokemon is the spider from his acclaimed nursery rhyme “itsy bitsy spider”. For Gouti, it’s the Triple Breasted Whore. Naturally, Gouti's mammary-gifted friend triumphs over the spider, and thus Gouti becomes God of them all.

Confused? So was I, but bare with me. The intimate Open Stage Theatre was perfect for the small cast and tight ensemble, which consisted of flute, piano accordian, guitar, piano, triangle, saxophone. The musical score was excellent, and the voice of Little One was particularly superb. An all-round hilarious musical which left this reviewer both dazed, amused but definitely entertained.

24 Hour Musical

Director Melty Tantiwanich and Producer Claire Millar looked thrilled but exhausted after the final applause for 24 Hour Musical. Beginning at 7:30pm the previous night, the writers are given some sparse stimulus, and the frantic writing, composing and casting begins. The cast were given the material at 7am, leaving them just 12 hours to learn their music, lines, moves, and get fitted for costumes. Asked how the team of collaborators got through the immense creative ordeal, the response was red bull, jager, and No-Doz. The overload of caffeine definitely paid off, as what emerged was a delightfully entertaining musical.

It begins in 1963, at St Peter’s Catholic Christian College for Girls. We are introduced to a group of young women, students who are approaching their final exams. The hilarious narrator, Kaleidoscope (played by Alexandra Smith), details the events in a voice that is simultaneously addled by drugs and incredibly perceptive. Her three best friends are the driven and intelligent Rubix (played by Christine Edmond) who is determined to be a doctor, Muddy (played by Cat Leonard), a sweet, closeted lesbian secretly dating her singing teacher, and Helmet (played by Laura Raiti), the hopeful romantic, who later finds out she is pregnant. The issues that each girl faces reflect the social issues of their generation in the 1960s, struggling to break free of expectations placed upon them. Muddy's heartfelt song, "Wouldn't it be Grand", reflects the difficulties in same-sex love in a society that is both crushingly conservative and dizzy with the possibilities of new freedoms. The witty dialogue simultaneously explores Helmet's difficult decision to get an abortion, and Muddy's frustration at not being able to express her love for her girlfriend in public. The plot takes a dark turn as Helmet struggles with the aftermath of her abortion, and as the other girls study furiously for their final exams, Helmet retreats dangerously into herself. The musical culminates with a tango between Helmet and a hooded figure Kaleidoscope identifies as Death, a dance that represents Helmet taking her own life. In the aftermath, Sr Mary Catherine announces that Helmet astonishingly received the highest mark, but having taken her own life, Helmet would now “have to receive the news from Lucifer in Hell”. A discussion between the remaining girls, reveals Rubix’s surprising decision to swap her final exam with Helmet’s to save her friends memory, and the possibility of love between Muddy and Kaleidoscope.

The dark, yet complex and satisfying plot and the fact that the main actors were engaging, raw and musically talented made for a highly successful musical. While the issues explored are real and heart breaking, the humorous use of props and Kaleidoscope's random hallucinations provide comic relief. The musical score was fresh, and the simple settings allowed the rich story and beautiful music to shine. Any forgotten lyrics were quickly forgiven by the audience, as it was clear the actors were enjoying themselves. A thoroughly engaging experience, made even more impressive by the knowledge that it took them a mere 24 hours to pull together. It’s not at all surprising that 24 Hour Musical won Best Mudfest Event.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hardly Framed Enough!

“Is This Too Framed?”

This brilliant play was read by a selection of skilled mudfest performers and written by our very own Tilly Lunken (a round of applause please). Set in a gallery preparing for the exhibition of the century a crisis of confidence among artists (amongst them MC Escher, Picasso, and Salvador Dali… not to mention their wives) can be devastating. Exploring many themes surrounding the art world, this touching and often sidesplittingly funny piece skipped from one memorable character to the next, be it a begrudging stair monitor, an unappreciated moustache (sorry, THE unappreciated moustache), or Salvador Dali himself. The play was perfectly balanced in action and plot; with simple and effective costume and prop elements that could not help but put a smile on your face and a chuckle in your throat. There were some very memorable performances and on whole the cast embodied a sense of comic timing that suited the writing perfectly.

For a play that was probably rehearsed a whole lot less than it looked, “Is This Too Framed?” was an exceptionally professional undertaking, both in construction and delivery, and I cannot wait to see it brought to life in a fully-fledged production one day!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tastings A Review (2)

Tastings Review

1. The first play was a dive into the whimsy of the child. It contained both beautiful language and structure that made the piece gradually unfurl as a very well crafted work. Having seen this both nights the effect of it was more immediate the first but the second one became more captivated by the method. It was quite delicate, a good choice as the opening number.

2. This play involved an evening encounter of a couple who have clearly grown out of love. We watch as the somewhat painful and inevitable tension snaps. The depth of the writing came through a little more on the second night with some exchanges fleshed out a little more during the exchange. There was a very realistic sense of moving towards an inevitable break-up.

3. This monologue was a lovely snapshot of a relationship between a boy and his mum and his nan. It was considered and again an example of highly crafted writing and structure. Key to this piece was its focus on quite a limited subject matter which gave it a deceptive simplicity ideally suited to the short form.

4. Dinner can be a trial at the best of times. When one of your children decides they are vampire then things become bigger, brighter and more extreme. Bring on the wine, bring on the hysterics, bring on the caped vampire who will never clean his lair. Very amusing and borderline farcical at points, this play was such fun to watch both times. It was delivered with much energy!

5. Love is always complicated but does one play it out on stage within a play? It does present the luxury of casting ones lovers and dressing a very pretty set! This work was delightfully metatheatrical and gorgeously floral suffused in a warm yellow light. One feels that with this optimism about love that eventually everything will turn out alright. 

6. This play was written by the reviewer but from a totally biased perspective everyone involved was amazing and an absolute privilege to work with. x

7. The closing play was a revelation. The character took you on a ride with her language and her voice. At times you were close to tears, at others dissolving in laughter, always struck by the truth of what was being said. A special point to make was the very good use of the second person voice throughout and a seamless transition between the ‘you’ and the ‘I’. Excellent performance as well as writing, this play was the well deserved winner of the Mudfest Fringe Award and Best Mudfest Show.  

As a whole the Tastings presentation was excellent and a truly variable menu. All of these works were impressive in consistency in structure and writing so points to all the artists and performers.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wait Review

Wait begins quietly and ends quietly – it seems only fitting.

Essentially a poetic and obtuse conversation between two women waiting for their inevitable deaths Katie Founds Wait transfixes its audience in a strange captivating anticipation. To begin, Ruby Mathers faultless set design deserves high praise. Her transformation of what is usually a rehearsal space into a realistic hospital ward demonstrates an impressive understanding of space making it all look a lot easier and simpler than I am sure it was. Two curtained cubicles separate Madeline Ryan and Angelique Murray who with a silent nurse (Sweeney Young) guiding them along the way – traverse the words of Katie Found towards death.

Katie Found’s script presents no easy feat to any actor but Madeline and Angelique do not hold back. They attack the text with a ruthless intensity that brings life and levels to words that, due to their stylised and poetic nature risk falling flat if not presented from the right performer. For me, the most notable achievement of Madeline and Angelique was their ability to find comedy within the sombre text and mood of Wait – bringing a real human feel to the stylised script. Sweeney Young, the silent nurse offers a somewhat chilling cheerfulness to the whole image of death by remaining so visually impartial to the whole process – for me he came to symbolise the naturalness and uneventfulness of death.

Scene changes and technical elements of the performance also appeared to further emphases this idea of death as mundane, standing in direct contrast to the intensity of Katie’s words and Madeline and Angelique’s performances. The lights came on and off agonisingly slowly between scenes; the nurses went about tidying the ward leisurely, Sweeney munches on his M&M’s and no one pays much attention the patients at all.

Perhaps a minor flaw to the work is that the reinforcement of the mundane through repetition and long black outs nearing the end dragging on a little but this is only a minor point.
All in all Wait is a outstanding and brave piece of theatre making it clear that Katie Found, Ruby Mathers, Madeline Ryan & Angelique Murray faces to watch out for.

This review was contributed by Micheal Fee from the team at City Pigeons Theatre. Both Wait and Dead Funny will be touring up to the Festival of Australian Student Theatre (FAST) in Brisbane later this year.