1.'Kids'. I went through a phase where I would seek out any arthouse film I could find, and so began my penchant for Larry Clark films. Eleven year-old me didn't quite understand the ramifications of underage non-consensual AIDS sex but he was greatly influenced by real people versus actors cast in the film, and the improvisation versus scripted work.

2.'The Little Mermaid'. It foreshadowed the 'theatrical flair' I would have in later life. I wanted to be Ursula.

3.'Aliens'. Something about strong women with guns resonated from a young age. I think I also confused Sinead O'Connor and Sigourney Weaver.

4.'Enter the Dragon'. I didn't really like martial arts films, but if I watched them with my father I could bargain for later bedtimes.

5.'Moonwalker'. I wanted (and still dream of) a singing-dancing-music video reality. I wanted to be in a gang — but only if they had dance battles with guns.

Close runners up: 'Robinhood Prince of Thieves', 'Spaceballs', 'Terminator 2', 'The Labyrinth', 'Grease',  'Friday  the 13th' and 'A Chorus Line'.

Steven Mitchell Wright is directing Brisbane Festival and La Boite’s co-production 'The Wizard of Oz' until Saturday September 28.

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 15:49

The Glass Menagerie: Theatre In Preview

When stepping into a major role in an iconic play such as 'The Glass Menagerie', it is fair to say that there will be audience expectations and a whole lot of pressure to perform. Jason Klarwein, as Tom, the narrator in Tennessee Williams' most loved play, is less intimidated and more thankful to be playing the role in this reclothed classic.

Describe the show in 5 words.
A tragi-comic look at a family in a state of collapse. I know that's more than five but I never liked rules.

What is your role and how did it come about?
I play Tom, the amusingly depressed son trying to get out of the rut he is in. I'm also the narrator of the play and Tennessee Williams based the character on himself. The 'Menagerie' is his most autobiographical work. David Berthold and I have been trying to work together on something and I finally had some time to say yes to this play.
This is a famous play, do you feel extra pressure to play it a certain way or have it received a certain way?
I think people have memories, like the play 'The Glass Menagerie', that are heightened and not quite real. This is my experience when talking to people about Tennessee Williams. People confuse a whole lot of celluloid experience with the theatrical experience and in Tennessee's case, the scripts are radically different.
Have you played this role or been involved in another version of 'The Glass Menagerie?'
No. This is a gift of a role. I have been in two productions of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' so I'm very familiar with his motifs.

What is your fav. line in the play and why?
I have many. In a fight with his mother Tom gives her this gift of truth — “Every time you come in yelling that God damn 'Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!', I say to myself, 'How lucky dead  people are!'” Tom also says this of the cinema: “People go to the movies instead of moving. Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them.” 

What do you want the audience to say as they leave?
"Well that was a ride! Let's drink!"

Has there been any special preparation for this role?
A lot of accent work and textual preparation. Also finding 101 things to do with a zippo lighter has been fun.

Some words to describe your castmates? What is the team like and what is the mix like?
The play is very fast and furious in places so it requires a lot of listening and complicity to make this come off the page. We are very lucky to have a dextrous cast that play well together but are hard working.

If someone famous had to play the narrator of your life - who would it be and why?
Ian McKellen or Morgan Freeman. They would make my life sound sexy yet intelligently pre-destined

Anything else readers should know?
This is no old-school boring play. The reason it's a classic is that it thrills with laughter and then rips you apart. Oh yeah and the structure and placement of the writing is beautiful.

'The Glass Menagerie' runs until August 31 at La Boite's Roundhouse Theatre.

Published in Theatre
Tuesday, 16 April 2013 09:39

Food: Theatre In Preview

Kate Box credits a role as writer and co-director Steve Rodgers' girlfriend in ABC's 'My Place' for landing the role in Force Majeure and Belvoir's production of 'Food'.

“That's how you get the good roles,” she jokes. “I remember him talking to me about this project. It was a few years before anything came of it, and then several years later I got the phone call saying 'we're ready, it's time'. And I read it and I just completely fell in love with it.”

Food tells the story of sisters Elma (Box) and Nancy (Emma Jackson), who run a small truck-stop takeaway joint on a remote Australian highway. “There's a lot of dark subject matter in there,” says Box. “The sisters haven't had easy lives, and they hold on to a lot of resentment for how they let each other down. I think there's a lot of past trouble to be brought to the surface and whether or not these women can forgive each other and move on is a big part of the play.”

The arrival of a Turkish traveller adds a touch of spice to the mix, and brings issues of family, relationships, sex and change to the fore. It also kickstarts the evolution of their greasy takeaway stop into a popular restaurant. “They try and turn their life around,” Box explains. “The changing of the food and the changing of the menu, and the thought that they could do something more with it, rather than just fry up some Chiko Rolls and hand out some fries to the truck-stop fellas, is a feeling of new beginning.”

Hungry audiences will get to experience this new menu firsthand, as the sisters serve up meals and local wines. “Once they open up their new restaurant, it opens up to the whole audience and there's a sharing of food and wine. I was so excited about it, because I think the sharing of food is such a special and intimate thing, and it was just such a great barrier to overcome between the audience and the sisters on stage.”
Box loves the play for its exploration of often-unrepresented characters.

“You get to see these characters on the stage. These women that you see are not women that you often see represented on the Australian stage. And so they're just such stoic and hard-working women — and particularly Elma, my character, who always chooses practicality over emotion — and they're characters that rarely get a look in on the Australian stage. And so it's really exciting to able to bring them to life, and for people to be able to have a little look in at their world.”

The co-direction of dance-theatre guru Kate Champion was, says Box, challenging but exciting. “I've been a big fan of Kate Champion's work, so the thought of putting movement into this script I thought was so exciting. We wanted to involve movement in the script to express moments where words fail the characters. I thought it was really interesting because they're such stoic, no-bullshit women, so I was intrigued as to how this movement world was going to weave into their personalities. But it's a really beautiful thing, because often these women just can't say what's on their mind and so the movement has worked really subtly in being able to express little moments of inner turmoil or crisis or joy.”

Box says these elements of family life resonate strongly with audiences. “I know a lot of people who've seen the show who have a sister, or a similar relationship with their sibling, and they've had a lot of 'aha' moments.

“For anyone who has family, which all of us do, I think it often reminds us of many uncomfortable, dark and awkward moments with our families. We're thrown together with these people and we somehow have to make them fit in our lives, and we can hate them and run away from them, but ultimately it's about them coming back together.”

But, Box assures theatre-goers, “it's also really joyful as well. That's been my ultimate experience of it. It's a challenging but ultimately joyous evening in the theatre.”

Following a sell-out season in Sydney and a tour of regional Victoria, Box hints that the end of Brisbane's season will not mean the end of the show. “There's rumours for 2014. This definitely won't be the final stop in our carny travels.”

Kate Box Performs In 'food' At La Boite's Roundhouse Theatre From April 17.

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:42

Holding The Man: Theatre In Review

Timothy Conigrave’s memoir, ‘Holding The Man’, is a bonfire in Australian contemporary literature, urgently dredging remembrance for a lost love; not just of Timothy and his partner John Caleo, but for all lovers who have been affected by the tragedy of HIV.

La Boite Theatre has been generous enough to bring the theatrical adaption of the love story between Timothy and John back to Brisbane, intimately exploring the vulnerability, happiness and tenderness found in any relationship.
Jai Higgs, a recent WAPA graduate (2012), is currently in rehearsal for the upcoming production where he is balancing more than ten different roles.

“The hardest part is the costume changes, to be honest,” Jai says of his, quite frankly, superhuman feat of bringing so many different characters to life. “Occasionally I have two line breaks to change into a new character.”
Some characters are no more than a flash in the pan during the production; brief, bold and created to press stereotypes, bridge gaps or pose questions.

“Playing the Door Bitch is ridiculous, because it’s so outrageous. I like that I can be stereotypical because sometimes stereotypes are okay and sometimes they are required. But creating over ten characters with unique voices, personalities and not playing on stereotypes can be difficult to give them all depth.”

Thankfully Jai has all of the help he can get in director David Berthold, who “really encourages us to be bold and to play. I have never felt like the new kid on the block, I felt encouraged throughout the entire process.”

Being a fresh graduate from drama school  brings a fresh enthusiasm for Jai. This being his first interview, he proves himself adorable and incredibly well spoken. He moved back to Brisbane for the play, auditioning for the opportunity due to a love of the production’s content, message, and the La Boite Theatre Company as a whole.

“This play is so important to anyone who has had a lover, to the entire gay community, to anyone who has ever had to accept something hard without it being sugar-coated. I love that it is such a touching voice for the community.”

Currently rehearsing the end of Act II before previews in early February, and ultimately opening night on February 16, Jai feels confident that the cast will deliver a polished, touching and venerable tribute to the late Timothy Conigrave and his lover John.  
As the interview with Jai concludes, his excitement never wanes: for the production, the interview, the script or the process of rehearsing the contemporary Australian classic.

“My family never get to see me perform, I have been in Western Australia for so long. I feel like this is my unveiling of sorts, and I am so happy that it’s for this production. I can promise anyone that comes to see the play that they will be moved. It’s impossible not to be, it’s a piece of theatre that will stick with you for the rest of your life.”

As Jai hangs up the phone, it’s incredibly clear just how poignant Timothy’s work is, and how all of his messages still resonate with audiences today. Perhaps after seeing this production, you will appreciate every opportunity to hold your man, or woman, and never let go while you still have the chance. Which is probably the greatest message Timothy’s memoir can deliver — that of love and gratitude while the great world gives you permission.

‘Holding the Man’ opens February 16 for a limited season at La Boite.

PHOTO: DYLAN EVANS

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 15:06

The Harbinger: Theatre in Preview

La Boite Theatre is giving you the chance to bring out your inner child and imagination again with their latest puppet production, 'The Harbinger' by Dead Puppet Society.

Although let's be clear, there is nothing childlike about this puppet show,

“it’s definitely not recommended for children … it’s dark and mysterious. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on which is what I love because it is different. It’s not mainstream or what you would expect to go see in a theatre in Brisbane.

"It has a dark Tim Burtonesque quality and quirkiness”, explains Niki-J Price, one of the leading actors and puppeteers of the show who plays a male character named Young Albert.

“You have this old fella, the Harbinger, and a girl comes into his world and he is jolted to have flashbacks and memories of his past. It’s a love story but you see it falling apart in some places.”

'The Harbinger' puppet show is a live performance with elements of animation and stage trickery helping to tell the story. The puppeteers steer the show and Niki-J laughs and adds

“but we’re not trying to be ninjas and completely hidden. We are definitely there and we have a kind of persona, but not to pull focus at all away from the puppets.”

It's a dying artform and never really something that took off in Australia in the first place, this is Niki-J’s first experience with puppets, which she describes as “intense, we’ve never done this before and it’s learning a whole new skillset.”

Her biggest enjoyment being that she loves a challenge. “Not only do I have to be a character and the psychology emoting all that; I have to condense all that into this external object. The challenge for me is to keep absolutely still and channel all the emotion and energy so it comes through the puppet and not me.

"It’s a very different challenge as far as being an actual performer or actor, to condense everything to absolute stillness when you want to express yourself with your own hand but you have to channel that energy to your puppet. There isn’t a lot of puppetry in Australia, which is why I think this show has a lot of interest.”

The darkness of the show sets the mood for the audience and Niki-J says to “pack some tissues, you can expect a rollercoaster of emotions. You have moments where you want to cry, moments you want to vomit and moments that will make you laugh out loud.”

It's easy to get lost in the moment and forget the discussion is about theatre when Niki-J paints an enlightened view of what puppetry and the show has taught her about the human condition.

“If you see it as a blank canvas and then build from the text, the puppets’ journey highlights to me that everyone in this world is a blank canvas to begin with and our experiences just make us who we are.”

Enlightening as it may be for Niki-J, this show is sure to expand your imagination at the very least. She advises to “come in with no expectations and walk away having had an emotional journey.”'

The Harbinger' plays at La Boite Theatre from August 11 - September 1.
Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 11:39

Brisbane Festival 2012 Unveiled

The Brisbane Festival (September 8-29) has unveiled its 2012 music and entertainment line-up with Julia Stone, Lanie Lane, Nada Surf, Horrorshow, Jonathan Wilson and Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks fronting the The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent.

Other highlights include: Circa will premiere its new production S; laser light show Santos GLNG City of Lights and pyrotechnic extravaganza as Sunsuper Riverfire; the experimental and cross-genre artistic works with Brisbane Festival’s Under the Radar program; La Boite Theatre Company’s brand new production Tender Napalm and Paul Capsis’ moving one-man play Angela’s Kitchen; plus much, much more.

Click here for a full rundown of events.
Published in Events Music
Hilarious, whimsical, melancholy, heartbreaking, crude, original, soul-brightening. Is that even a word?

Perhaps not but I feel like it is the most appropriate way to describe the latest production from La Boite (and artistic director David Berthold). Coming all the way from Scotland, this show has toured the world and has left audiences everywhere gobsmacked and giggly, unexpectedly aroused, cringing in embarrassment and swooning with sheer joy.

The show is based around the romantic tangled story of two people, who are both living life through a haze of boredom and cynicism, but who end up having the craziest night of their lives together. And it’s not even corny.

Just see it and know that you will, without question, want to own both a ukulele and a Scottish accent.

Midsummer (a play with songs) plays at La Boite Theatre until April 28. Book now at laboite.com.au.
Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 12:04

La Boite 2012

Young At Heart

To the outsider, La Boite Theatre Company can best be described as this: a progressive and whimsical free-spirit that whirls around Brisbane, martini in hand, shocking and thrilling all who cross their path. Perhaps like a tasteful Lady Gaga, or a young Dame Edna. And while doing all of this, La Boite casts a vibrant spotlight over the Brisbane theatre scene.

The unveiling of La Boite’s 2012 season shows how conspicuously aware and adventurous the company is. Along with the release of the 2012 program, the Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold attached a vivacious open letter stating: “we've rhymed some Shakespearean joy with summery Scottish charm, layered a mischievous hoax with a mesmerising puppet, and crowned it with melting verses of tender napalm”.

David is refreshingly passionate about theatre; theatre that takes chances, loves, hates, questions and can ignite at an audience’s feet. “I love what this theatre can do. Live theatre produces the most intimate and sensual experiences between actors and audiences that I can imagine.”

Throughout its life, La Boite has fostered an incredible reputation among Brisbane theatre attendees. The company has been active since 1925, making it one of the oldest theatre companies in Australia. The 2011 season was met with luminous reviews with productions ranging from ‘The Gruffalo’ to the most recent, ‘Ruben Guthrie’. But one of the outstanding and inexplicitly complicated talents of La Boite is the ability to convert the attendees to the theatre.

This ability is one of David’s most appreciated facets of working for the company. He recalls that after a performance he: “spoke to a man who had never attended theatre and he was overjoyed. He was saying how incredible it was, like, ‘I could see them spit!’ For me, that change in people, and the direct experience theatre can provide, that is something I feel so privileged to be involved in.”

The 2012 line-up of ten productions includes five mainstage productions and five La Boite indie productions. The season opens with Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, Helen Howard and Thomas Larkin leading the talented and experienced cast. Shakespeare is the cornerstone of theatrical endeavors and any chance to see an interpretation of his work should be taken. “It’s a privilege, Shakespeare’s work provides such a fantastic prism for theatre. He asks questions about politics, family and love. Always love! I love being able to grapple those questions and ‘As You Like It’ asks so many questions about love and people,” David says of the modern interpretation, which is armed to open the season in February.

April at La Boite will joyfully present the Traverse Theatre's ‘Midsummer (A Play With Songs)’, direct from Edinburgh, Scotland. The Guardian’s review of the production says it best: ‘You float out laughing as if you’ve just swallowed sunshine on a spoon.’ The show is about the great lost weekend we all dream about, while using the intricate architecture of the venue to play with the drama. “La Boite’s space and the roundstage that we have to work with will be a joy for this production.  At La Boite the actors have to act with their backs, they are always being watched from every angle.”

Although La Boite has the opportunity to showcase international acts, such as ‘Midsummer’, David is “always watching out for local works”. Later on in the year will see the company exploring the Australian performing arts, as they team up with Sydney's Griffin Theatre Company for the world premiere of ‘A Hoax’, directed by Lee Lewis. Following in August is another Australian production, the Dead Puppet Society's ‘The Harbinger’; an amalgamation of the theatrically surreal, mixed media and elaborate puppetry. “I saw the show and I thought, ‘this show has legs. I want to support this.’ So we worked on it, and it is going to be incredible; it will only get bigger and better,” David says. 

During the Brisbane Festival next September, La Boite will bring the vibrant and whimsical ‘Tender Napalm’ to the stage. “Philip [Ridley] is undoubtedly one of the world's most sensational playwrights. I've directed two of his plays and see in this, his latest, the most beautiful and acute distillation of his incredible art.” The play is about young love growing in an “exciting, buoyant and energised way”.

In addition to the main productions, ‘The Truth About Kookaburras’, ‘I Only Came To Use The Phone’, ‘Home’, ‘A Tribute Of Sorts’ and ‘Children Of War’ will feature as part of La Boite Indie. The La Boite Indie venture is an opportunity to showcase the rising talent in the Brisbane performing arts community. The productions are prime examples of the culture that’s blooming within the city. “Brisbane is a young city and that’s our audience; 15 to 25 year olds. What happens in our productions comes organically, but we encourage the vivacity, energy and playfulness that I see in Brisbane.”

This sense of playfulness is something that truly sets La Boite apart and is something that leaves the audiences returning again, and again. One of my first experiences with La Boite was during the run of ‘The Attack Of the Attacking Attackers’, a production that left me ecstatic and my theatre-virgin companion, a convert. That’s how La Boite gets you; the productions grab you by the hands and swing you around the room. You have to watch. You have to come back. This is what theatre is meant to do!
“Playing is what it’s all about, we want to do new things, we want our audience to feel energised and invigorated. It’s not what you expect in theatre. I mean, we let our audiences drink; we’re one of the only places that still lets you do that!”

To that, La Boite, I say “Cheers” and “Congratulations” on what is sure to be 2012’s example of the cultural extravaganza that is La Boite Theatre Company.

Ticket packages for La Boite 2012 are currently available — the new ‘Flexi-Pass’ even allows you to choose plays and dates later; not a hint, but they make great Christmas gifts! laboite.com.au

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 15:36

Statespeare

Theatre In Preview

Let's begin with a question - what is cool these days? It's quite possible the answer that popped into your head wasn't Shakespeare or anything Bard-related. But La Boite and Shake & Stir Theatre Company would like to persuade you otherwise. In fact, so convincing are they, post-show we could all be getting inked with pictures of Julius Caesar and speaking in verse.

Judy Hainsworth is part of this movement and has so far converted countless fans to the power of the giant S. Ok truthfully there is no actual record of how many people have jumped aboard the Shakespeare ship because of Hainsworth but what can be proven is how excited she is to be part of this production. “I think Shakespeare is cool! His work is still relevant today and endures because of its universal themes, beautiful poetry, iconic characters and unforgettable stories. BUT it has to be done the right way. Shakespeare is not cool when it is read sitting down in a classroom. It is not cool when it is recited like a sermon. It is not cool when treated like a historical artifact (although it does offer fascinating insights into the past).”

An eloquent woman of many long words, she was however quite succinct when describing the show - "fast, funny, clever, random, touching", obviously wanting to keep it real for the people. She was also nursing an injury from rehearsals (note - Shakespeare is not for the weak), which may have influenced her disyllabic choices. Apparently she wasn't in as much pain as her castmates upon seeing her in costume for the first time. She painted a picture of the most awkward moment in rehearsals so far. "In our most tragic Shakespeare scene, the rest of the cast broke into hysterics upon seeing me in my costume for the first time. Think body condom." We're thinking hilarious but understandably for Judy, she would prefer to make the audience laugh with her comic timing rather than the unfortunate (for her) stage attire. But she laughs off any talk of psychological scarring, instead using words like "inspired, chuffed, pumped" to describe being part of the show.

The premise of the show is quite simple and when Judy describes it, sounds like it should be snapped up by a network ASAP. “The show is like Shakespeare meets Chris Lilley meets Glee. Bite-sized Bard!” Basically there are four drama students – two nerds, two slackers – who must complete an assignment proving Shakespeare is still relevant today. By exploring different scenes, they make important discoveries about the plays, life, and each other.

As she puts it, “If this were a movie, it would be called Shakespeare High. And my character would be played by Lea Michelle.” As with any production, the show is only as strong as the cast. Ross Balbuziente, Nelle Lee, Nick Skubij and our Judy are all accomplished actors learning about each other in rehearsals. “Rehearsals are fun, inspiring, energetic and physical (I’m covered with bruises and scrapes!). Shake & Stir encourage a collaborative environment and I feel like I really get to contribute with shaping the show.

“I studied acting at USQ with Nelle and she is one of my best friends. We have wanted to do a show together ever since uni so we are stoked to finally get the chance. Nelle is the funniest person I know. Unfortunately, she also has a gift for improv and making me corpse onstage. I have to imagine really horrible things to stop myself laughing…like grandparents having sex, or watching ‘Good News Week’.”

Taking a moment to recover from those uncomfortable thoughts, Judy goes on to gush about her castmates, “I am blown away by all three of them. Not only are they performing in ‘Statespeare’, but they are producing it, directing it, marketing it and of course, Nelle wrote it. They work their butts off and are so passionate about what they do and Shake & Stir’s growing success is a testament to that.”

This lady is no stranger to Shakespeare, performing roles including Lady Macbeth, Viola, Desdemona and Juliet, as well as studying sonnets giving her a solid grounding in his plays and speaking verse. Her best line in this production? ‘Great, now we have to run around the theatre three times, then twice backwards then drink a thimble full of lamb’s blood before going to bed tonight, and I’m a vegetarian!’. It’s time to get your Bard on.

‘Statespeare’ presented by La Boite and Shake & Stir Theatre Company is staged from April 28 – May 6.

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 23 February 2011 14:08

Julius Caesar

Theatre in Review

La Boite's production of ‘Julius Caesar’ is certainly a very messy night at the theatre; rivalling a horror film for body count and blood splatters. But love and politics are messy affairs, and overall, this new production handles the two very well.

The presentation of Shakespeare for a modern audience can lose much of its meaning without thoughtful delivery, and although there were certainly moments on Thursday evening when this happened, for the most part this version was passionate, honest and insightful.

Thomas Larkin as Mark Anthony is particularly worth a mention; his 'Friends, Romans, countrymen' speech really hit the mark. Hands down though, the highlight of the evening were the fight scenes.

Choreographed by Fight Director Nigel Poulton, these moments were vicious, bloody and realistic; there was not a plastic dagger to be seen as the cast waved about some very long, very sharp-looking knives. And even though you know it's coming, the sight of five blades closing in on Caesar is more than enough to make your pulse quicken.

Julius Caesar plays at La Boite until March 20.

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