Friday, September 26, 2014

Theatre: Falling Through Clouds

The Last Great Hunt
Created and Performed by Tim Watts, Arielle Gray, Adriane Daff and Chris Isaacs
Music by Ash Gibson Greig
Set design by Anthony Watts
22 September – 11 October

Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs are great in the dark. Put them in a black room, turn out the lights, get Tim’s amazing dad to make things with paper and scissors, cardboard boxes, a few pin lights and a Texta or two – and the result is the highly original, engaging shows that have taken them around the world.
Falling Through Clouds is the third of these small sagas (following The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik and It’s Dark Outside), and for it Watts, Gray and Isaacs are joined by Adriane Daff, one of the other members of The Last Great Hunt Theatre Company
Daff is Mary, a geneticist in a future where birds are extinct. She has a one-year contract to recreate a bird, and have it fly. Or, at least, that’s what she dreams. Watts’s idea (he’s credited as the ‘initiating artist’ here) is to her impossible dream to life.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, September 22, 2014

Theatre: King Hit

By Geoffrey Narkle and David Milroy
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company
Directed Kyle J Morrison
Set and costume Designer India Mehta
Music and sound designer Clint Bracknell
Lighting designer Jenny Vila
Performed by Clarence Ryan, Karla Hart, Maitland Schnaars and Benj D’Addario
State Theatre Centre Courtyard
Until October 4

“Holda! Holda! Holda! There’s going to be a fight in this house!”
The call of the sideshow alley boxing tent barker rings through King Hit, the story of Geoffrey Narkle (Clarence Ryan) and the life of Noongar families through the ’50s and ’60s in WA.
Narkle wrote his story with the playwright, David Milroy, and the Yirra Yaakin theatre company premiered it in 1997. As a document of Aboriginal theatre, and the social history of Aboriginal people in this state, King Hit has an enduring value that more than merits this revival.
In its own right, as theatre for the here and now, it is an unqualified success.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Theatre: Letters Home and What Do They Call Me

Letters Home 
Written and performed by Joe Lui
Direction mentor Humphrey Bower
Until October 4

What Do They Call Me
By Eva Johnson
Directed by Eva Grace Mullaley
Performed by Ebony McGuire, Amy Smith and Alyssa Thompson
The Blue Room
Until September 27


The brave, skilled and endlessly industrious Joe Lui has been writer, composer, producer, director, sound and lighting designer and/or musician for very many of our most adventurous and confronting productions. He’s also something of an enigma.
Born Lui Shang Yu into a conservative Singaporean Chinese family, Lui is bitterly estranged from his parents and exiled from Singapore because he refused to do national service. In his one-man show, Letters Home, the story he tells is his own.
A voracious consumer of culture, from high art to American Football, Lui is, in many ways, an invention of himself—in one brilliant moment he speaks with the Singlish pronunciation of the young man who arrived in Perth to study years ago; the effect is as revealing as it is startling.
Lui has plenty to think about, and plenty to say. Letters Home is a torrent of words—part self-analysis, part confession, part didacticism—about Chinese culture, families, sex and death.
What emerges is a self-portrait of a man who holds very firm ideas but is still discovering how he came by them.
We learn about his heroes, his philosophy of art and sex, Chinese food and rituals. We also learn that he’s stubborn, pugnacious and believes in work rather than inspiration.
What he learns in Letters Home, though, is that you can reject things—family, country and way of life—without having to hate them.
Letters Home is visually rich (much credit to Cherish Marrington’s set design, Chris Donnelly’s lighting and Mia Holton’s video design) and much more tightly staged than it appears (Humphrey Bower collaborated with Lui on its direction).
I can’t imagine any of the hundreds of people who’ve been amazed and intrigued by Joe Lui over the years will want to miss it; for those who haven’t, you should take the opportunity to meet a quite remarkable person. 
What Do They Call Me, Eva Johnson’s seminal 1990 play about the lives of the three women of an Aboriginal family, was originally conceived as a one-woman show. This revival has a different actor for each of the characters; the brave, combative Connie (Amy Smith) and her daughters, the “assimilated” Regina (Alyssa Thompson) and activist Alison (Ebony McGuire).
Smith, Thompson and McGuire are all fine, and the director Eva Grace Munelly manages the narration and the transitions between her actors well, but inevitably each performance is one-dimensional, a quick sketch. The challenge for a single actor of moving between the characters would have made for more compelling theatre.
That aside, it’s important that we see revivals of work from the back catalogue of Aboriginal theatre. Plays like What Do They Call Me, by reminding us of where indigenous people have been, make us realise how far we all still have to go.

This review appeared in The West Australian 20.9.14

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Theatre: Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Peter Rowsthorn (pic: Gary Marsh)
Black Swan State Theatre Company
by Neil Simon
Directed by Kate Cherry
Designed by Lauren Ross
With Humphrey Bower, Stuart Halusz, Damon Lockwood, Jo Morris, Ben Mortley, Peter Rowsthorn, Igor Sas, Lara Schwerdt and James Sweeny

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until September 21

We live in a golden age of television comedy, but there was another. And Sid Caesar, as his name suggests, was its king. Caesar, who died early this year, was a masterful comedian with superb comic ideas who gathered around him a pack of talented, ambitious, mainly Jewish, writers to generate a weekly, 90-minute live show, Your Show of Show, that ran over 139 episodes from 1950 to 1954. It dominated the ratings and set many of the parameters for television comedy that still apply today.
You don’t have to spend long on the writer’s floor at NBC in Rockefeller Plaza to hear laughter from other rooms, echoing back down the decades from Seinfeld and 30 Rock.
Neil Simon was one of Caesar’s writers, and this is his love letter to his colleagues, and especially to the unpredictable genius who paid his bills and forged his talent.
For a writer with Simon’s prolific brilliance and life story, the play is a cinch. Put eight comedians in a room, sketch out the times—Joseph McCarthy is shaming the US Senate, Josef Stalin dying in the Kremlin—give them remembered or invented punch lines and let them rip.
You can legitimately accuse Simon of laziness: most of the external storylines peter out, there’s little personal consequence in the central action and there’s a downy sentimental mist over the characters and proceedings. But when everyone’s having this much fun, it’s hard to care very much about it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cabaret: Christa Hughes

Beer Drinking Woman
Cabaret Soiree
Downstairs at the Maj
11 – 13 September

If I keep banging on about the glorious Christa Hughes, it might encourage more of you to savour her delicious and generous talents. And while her recent shows here were both stonkers, Beer Drinking Woman is her stonkiest, not least because it features many of her own funny, desperate songs.
Starting with her Cheap Thrills, an untidy taste of what’s to come, and the title track, a Memphis Slim blues from 1940 enlivened considerably by Hughes’s deeply impressive beer sculling and gargling expertise, the show range over the peaks and troughs of life on the bottle.

It's her last night in town tonight, and there are some tables left, I'm told. It will be a shame if you aren’t in them.  

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Comedy: The Kransky Sisters

Annie Lee, Christine Johnston and Carolyn Jones
Subiaco Arts Centre

Many of our most memorable comic characters, like Edna Everage and Kath and Kim, come from forgettable suburbs. Aunty Jack, Norman Gunston, Roy and HG hail from unremarkable regional cities and towns. Places, you’d imagine, from which no one would, or could, emerge to make us laugh, let alone think.
No one at all seems to have emerged from Esk, an anonymous little dairy town of seventeen hundred souls 100km north-west of Brisbane. The Wikipedia entry for notable persons from Esk lists a butcher, a WWI pilot and a colonial bishop—and the Kransky Sisters.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Theatre: White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Perth Theatre Company
Written by Nassim Soleimanpour
Sound and lighting designer Joe Lui
With solo performers, including Sam Longley and Hayley McElhinney
STC Studio until September 13

On a black stage there are a wooden stepladder, a chair and a table, on which are placed two glasses of water, a teaspoon and an envelope.
A solo performer enters with a small vial of white powder and opens the envelope.
It contains the script of the Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. The performer hasn’t seen it before and, apart from a very basic briefing (“you will be asked to impersonate an ostrich”), doesn’t know what to expect.
There’s little the spoiler convention allows me to tell you about what happens thereafter, but I can at least explain something of why it does.