Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Theatre: [PORTO] (★★★★)

Joe Lui and Alicia Osyka
by Kate Benson
Directed by Lisa Louttit
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
Lighting designer Karen Cook
Sound designer Joe Lui
Performed by Joe Lui, Alicia Osyka, James Marzec, Taryn Ryan, Nick Pages-Oliver and Tristan McInnes
Blue Room Theatre
Until November 5

Porto (Alicia Osyka) spends this evening, as she does most others, in the local Brooklyn bar where she is routinely fed, watered, teased and propped up by the bartender, Doug (James Marzec) and the waiter Raphael (Nick Pages-Oliver). Another regular, Dry Sac (Taryn Ryan), “the hottest woman you’ve ever laid eyes on”, slinks in wearing a dress made of what seems to be paint. (There are very specific character descriptions and stage directions in the American playwright Kate Benson’s text – more on that shortly.)
There’s the usual banter between people who know – though perhaps not well, and are comfortable with, one another. There’s food talk, booze talk, the faintly conspiratorial tone of American bars since prohibition; if the cops burst in, blackjack tables and drinks would disappear and Dry Sac would flutter her eyelashes as though butter wouldn’t melt – although, in her case, at least, it would sizzle.  
Into this cosy mix comes Hennepin (Tristan McInnes), “some version of a Hot Guy”, with a copy of the extravagantly-mourned David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest under his arm.  He stirs the joint, and especially Porto, up a bit. Some things happen, but nothing much more than you’d expect over the course of a boozy few days in and around a bar. Certainly, there’s nothing justifies a plot summary, or a spoiler alert, from me.
This narrative inconsequentiality means Benson can throw everything she’s got at the characters and their milieu, which she does with great erudition and bravado. [PORTO] gallops along, casting theatrical daring and cultural references from its hooves like broken turf.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Theatre: The Beat Generation (★★★½)

Devised and directed by Andrew Lewis 
Devised and performed by WAAPA 3rd Year acting students
Fremantle Arts Centre
12 – 16 October, 2016

Rory O'Keefe and Guiseppe Rotondella come to grips
Theatre is always on the move, and WAAPA, our estimable academy of performing arts, moves with it. A mirrored and glittering spiegeltents now stands in the Mt Lawley campus to train future fringe stars. WAAPA students strike out to iconic locations around town for site-specific and promenade performances.
This is good for their training, and it’s very good for us. Unshackled by the limitations of cast and crew size and the counting of beans, and with boundless talent and energy at their disposal, their public shows, taken together, are the most adventurous, diverse and exciting offered by any of our theatre companies (if we can call WAAPA that).
No-one else here could even dream of mounting The Beat Generation, a rambling, multiform exploration of that tiny movement of hedonistic, hierarchical and highly talented poets, novelists and provocateurs in New York and San Francisco in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Theatre: Tank (★★★)

Chaos Ensemble
Written and directed by Daley King
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
Lighting designer Scott McArdle
Performed by Nick Maclaine, Izzy McDonald, Geordie Crawley and Tristan McInnes
Blue Room Theatre
Until October 29

I’m not exactly allergic to allegory, but it is uncomfortable being in the same room as it. Especially if that room is a theatre.
And when, as per Tank’s publicity, “Three fish swim peacefully in an aquarium. When a fourth fish is introduced into the tank, their status quo is confronted and life begins to take a turn for the worse”, I can feel a rash coming on.
It continues: “The temperature rises, food is scarce, and a fight for survival begins. Primitive instincts are brought to the fore as the world they know collapses around them”. Uh oh – allegory AND dystopia. Someone pass the adrenaline.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Awesome Festival 2016

Once again, the Awesome Festival lived up to its promise of  wonderful enlightenment for their Bright Young Things. These were just some of its highlights:

New Owner (★★★★)
The Last Great Hunt
Created and Performed by Tim Watts and Arielle Gray
Set construction and gadgets by Anthony Watt
Puppet design and construction Chloe Flockart
Music by Rachael Dease
PICA Performance Space
1 – 16 October, 2016

Tim Watts and Arielle Gray, the co-creators and performers of New Owner, are heartstring-tweakers of the first order. Their previous collaborations, The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer and It’s Dark Outside, play to rapt audiences around the world, and this will follow in their footsteps.
New Owner sits perfectly in the timeless tradition of storytelling for children, and the child in all of us.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Big Bad Wolf (★★★★)
By Matthew Whittet
Directed by Rosemary Myers
Designed by Jonathon Oxlade
Sound Design by Harry Covill
Lighting design by Chris Petridis
Preformed by Patrick Graham, Emma J Hawkins and Ellen Steele
Heath Ledger Theatre
Until 8 October

As you’d expect, times have changed around here since the famously gruesome episode involving Granny, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
These days there’s a Wolf Alarm System in place, operated by the village’s resident serial over-achiever – and Little Red Riding’s descendant – Heidi Hood (Emma J Hawkins), to keep the current Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Graham) at bay.
Only trouble is, Heidi gets few thanks, and makes no friends, for all her good works. The BBW also finds it hard to make any when everyone and everything assumes he’s eying them up for a one-way dinner date.

Read the complete review in The West Australian.

The Bookbinder (★★★★½)
Written and designed by Ralph McCubbin Howell and Hannah Smith
Trick of The Light
Directed by Hannah Smith
Music by Tane Upjohn Beatson
Performed by Ralph McCubbin Howell
State Library Theatrette

Inside a magic book, a boy goes on a journey to right a wrong, save himself and, perhaps, a world.
It’s a tale told, in all its variety, from the earliest fairy tales to today’s multiplex family magnets, but rarely with the charm, wit and inventiveness of this tiny gem from New Zealand’s Trick of the Light.

Read my review from the 2015 Fringe Festival in The West Australian 

A Mano (By Hand) (★★★½)
El Patio Teatro
Devised, constructed and performed by Julian Saenz-Lopez and Izaskun Fernandez
AGWA Theatrette
Until 8 October

We have no more supple, subtle and sensitive tool than our hands. With theirs, the Spanish artists and performers Julian Saenz-Lopez and Izaskun Fernandez make faces and bodies, tell stories and create emotions in front of our eyes, all from lumps of clay.
The story they tell in A Mano (By Hand) is shrewd, funny, touching but unsentimental, and sad.

Read the complete review in The West Australian.

Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon (★★★)

Arena Theatre Company
Written and performed by Clare Bartholomew and Dan Tobias
The West Australian Barn
Until 10 October

When we dumb adults go down in the woods of children’s theatre, we better not go alone. We need guides who really know their stuff.
For me, at the Awesome Festival, it’s Harper, who’s sharp as a tack and young enough to be my grand-daughter (she is).
Overgrown-ups’ main problem, of course, is that we don’t get that fart and poo jokes are the funniest things in the universe. But one of the other traps we can fall into is a consequence of the cultural literacy and sophistication of so much children’s theatre these days. We get to expect shows to deliver as if they were written and performed for us as well as them. But, as Harper shows me, they don’t HAVE to be.
This story – the Sun wants to stay up late and party all night with the Moon and Stars, but they hide whenever she appears, is cute enough, and Bartholomew and Tobias are both energetic and unselfconscious performers. But I’m starting to fidget.
But what would I know? Harper writes all her star ratings in my Awesome programme, and she’s a pretty hard marker (although she did break the rules and gave the fantabulous Madame Lark 5½ stars). Three stars, she wrote. Good fun, well done, she said.
And, in that case, so say all of us.  

Read the complete review in The West Australian.

And I can't let Awesome go without mentioning Christine Johnson, the fabulous Madame Lark. She held kids spellbound with her saw-playing, bird-calling, shape-warbling and head-vocalising, and left the gob-smacked adults in her audience hoping to find out where the after-party was. Incredible!