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Wednesday, 07 March 2012 14:00

The Boys Next Door: Theatre In Preview

Did you know that the Brisbane Arts Theatre has been entertaining crowds since 1936?

This makes 76 years of dynamic, thought-provoking, hilarious live theatre where anyone and everyone is welcome. Notably among the luminaries that have graced their stage are Barry Otto, Carol Burns and Michael Caton. The fun facts keep coming. The park opposite the theatre is named after Vic Hardgrave — one of the two founding members (the other was his wife Jean Trundle). Let’s not forget that they also have absolutely no government funding even though they are the oldest surviving community theatre in Brisbane.

The most important fact however is this; they are about to stage a new show ‘The Boys Next Door’ and Kym Brown the theatre manager described it as “… an emotional rollercoaster with a side of doughnuts!” Surely your interest is now piqued (albeit possibly confused by the description) and you must know what it’s all about. Well, the story is based around “four mentally handicapped men who live in a communal residence under the supervision of Jack, an earnest, but increasingly ‘burned-out’ young social worker,” explains Kym. She adds, “The play is mingled with scenes from the daily lives of Norman, Lucian, Arnold and Barry, where ‘little things’ sometimes become momentous (and often very funny). This creates moments of great poignancy when we are reminded that the handicapped, like the rest of us, want only to love and laugh and find some meaning and purpose.”

Artistic Director John Boyce jumps in and points out, “Frankly, it’s just a good play!” Boyce was keen to include it in the 2012 programme for various reasons as he explains, “It is funny, touching, takes audiences on an emotional journey, and is highly engaging.  We are aiming to showcase some slightly unknown plays, offering audiences something different to the mainstream theatre available in Brisbane.” He laughs and mentions, “We like to do things a little left of centre, and off the beaten track.”

A point that is emphatically supported by director Shaun King as he explains an interesting rehearsal the cast had recently. “One of the cast was unavailable for a rehearsal (a male), and Cindy Nelson (who plays some supporting roles) read in for this actor. Her portrayal of this disabled man was so hilarious and convincing, I seriously considered recasting the play! It just goes to show the calibre of the actors involved in this show.” Remembering that all involved are doing this for the sheer love of theatre (with no pay) so at times it can get difficult juggling all the metaphorical balls. King puts it simply, “You just learn to live with no sleep! But the end is well worth the price. The rewards are working with a high calibre of people (both on and off the stage), who aren’t doing ‘amateur’ theatre because they can’t ‘make it’ professionally — most of them just do it for the love, and are just as talented and dedicated as the professionals.”

The show deals with some heavy issues and awkward, uncomfortable truths but the beauty of this play is the way in which these are handled and expressed. Assistant Director Carrie Buttar agrees wholeheartedly and adds, “You will be on a rollercoaster of emotions!” She laughs then continues seriously, “You have been warned. This show will touch audiences deeply — there will be both laughs and tears.”

‘The Boys Next Door’ plays from March 10 until April 7 at the Brisbane Arts Theatre.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012 13:20

Theatre In Preview: As You Like It

“Even the sheep are having a romance.” In typical La Boite fashion, Trevor Stuart sums up the essence of ‘As You Like It’ from a decidedly offbeat angle.
The internationally acclaimed actor is part of the 18-person troupe performing ‘As You Like It’, the latest production from forward-thinking, fast-moving, eye-opening theatre company La Boite. So enamoured with the Shakespearian play and his fellow performers, Stuart paused after one rapid-fire monologue, asking “I’m not going on too much am I?” before leaping back into the conversation.

Assured that he’s not, he proceeds to wax lyrical about the prose, has moments of palpable rapture at the sexy complexity of the work, even declaring at one point that “… every fifth line is a perfect moment of English language.”  From the ways Stuart speaks about ‘As You Like It’, it is apparent the man is a big big fan but he does admit, “it’s a very difficult play.”

Stopping to correct himself, he adds, “actually it’s an extraordinary play which I didn’t even realise was such an extraordinary play. I had seen it before and thought that it was ok. But now I’m really prepared to put it into the top echelon, the top cannon of the man’s works.

“It is so complex, so brilliant and of course we have the privilege of being able to chop it up and break it down into little bits and analyse every second. So the play which begins looking as though it is going to be a tragedy is set in a typical urban state, one that’s in deep deep division. And then following that, quite quickly on, everyone is thrown out into the Forest of Arden and there it becomes a pastoral comedy where everyone ends up happily ever after and it’s a total delight.”

The plot sounds slightly wacky, the characters flimsy and the set surely will be difficult to create but from Stuart, there is no argument merely a supremely confident air of invincibility.

He justifies this with explanations about the cast (“Ten professional, eight students - the pick of the crop - and all are hilarious), the director (“David Berthold has such a good rein on things, plus he has a sharp eye and a very good ear”), the set (“Renee Mulder has designed a fantastic set and it is going to be one of the big La Boite moments”) and the lead actors (“Helen Howard has nailed the biggest female part Shakepeare has ever written and Thomas Larkin is a bit of rising star really”).

And within this, the real focus is the script as it moves from urban to pastoral, and from tragedy to comedy with “the most beautiful philosophical tracts being thrown in and some of the greatest lines that have ever existed.” When asked if this production will appeal to everyone, Staurt stops to gather his thoughts and his considered answer sums it all up very nicely. “In that La Boite way, we have made it rather rapid, very accessible and remember it’s about love. Really it’s better than any magazine or modern romance as it’s love across the board. No one is left out - even the sheep are having a romance.”

‘As You Like It’ opens on the La Boite stage February 18.
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 12:17

Rude Mechs: World Theatre Festival 2012

“Friends, lovers, street-fighting men, canterous jackanapes,” is how Kirk (loudly) describes the theatre company Rude Mechs. He should know; he is one of the members in the group. But what the hell are ‘jackanapes’?

Part of this year’s World Theatre Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse, Rude Mechs are presenting their show ‘The Method Gun’ which almost defies description. The members of the group don’t fare much better when attempting to explain what the show is about. Kirk panics and shouts, “OH GOD. DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE GOOD. You know how a new album will come out and everybody will say how great it is so that by the time you hear it, its okay-ness or even its goodness is wasted on you because you were told to expect the second coming? We’re performing a theatre piece. It’s good. We stand by it. But it’s not gonna pay your rent.”

Lana ponders then says, “Mmmm, so the play is about a company of actors that lost their guru, Stella Burden, and essentially how they handled that loss.” It sounds like heavy material, should we expect a night of intense soul-searching and is it B.Y.O tissues? Lana laughs at this and adds, “Audiences should expect us to toy with the fourth wall a bit, to laugh a bit. We don't take ourselves very seriously, but we are serious about making sure audiences feel taken care of and that we are taking them with us on the ride.”

Confused about what we’re actually talking about? The show’s blurb goes like this, “Experience physical theatre at its most fun. This show explores the extreme teachings of Stella Burden, actor-training guru of the 60s and 70s, whose method ‘The Approach’ aims to add sex, death and violence into every moment on stage. That is, until she mysteriously disappears into the South American jungle leaving her fervent followers distraught.” So who exactly is this mysterious Stella that this show is all about? Thomas, another member of the troupe pipes up confidently and clarifies nothing, “It’s hard to say.” Lana is even more baffling with her response of “exactly”.

But uncertainty, confusion and exploring the unknown are often what theatre is about and Rude Mechs have become experts are turning audiences expectations upside down and inside out. To do this takes effort, dedication and planning. Lana points out that, “everyone performs, directs, acts, makes costumes, designs and operates light and sound. It's very flat and we like that. We wanted to avoid top-down hierarchy as much as possible and decided to have a minimum of five Co-Producing Artistic Directors at all times, to create our plays collaboratively, and to operate artistically and administratively by consensus decision-making. We are a very process(minded) company. We talk through everything and we do our best to make sure everyone feels heard.”

Kirk explains it from a slightly different angle, “Everyone wants to make the best work. We don’t compromise. We don’t vote. We talk it out. And yet I think if you could drag race decision-making policies, we can come to a strong consensus more efficiently. We stick together because we like each other and we don’t let little things, like hating each other, get in our way of our friendships.” He pauses here and then adds quite seriously, “Also, there is a feeling that we haven’t made our best work yet.”

‘The Method Gun’ by Rude Mechs is part of this year’s World Theatre Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse with shows Feb 22 - 26.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:32

Super

Gold Coast Film Festival

Crimson Bolt - a superhero with only three rules (and even fewer super powers) - you are not supposed to molest children, cut lines or key cars. If you do, prepare to face the wrath of the Crimson Bolt.

Combining a handmade suit, a wrench and a crazed sidekick, ‘Super’ is a film that will rock your world. It’s the anti-superhero superhero film, written and directed by James Gunn, is being exclusively screened for the first time in Queensland at the Gold Coast Film Festival 2011. With a stellar cast of comedic talents, the film brings together Kevin Bacon, Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler and of course the irrepressible Ms Page. The film itself has been described by IFC Films as “combining absurd humour with balls-out violence to create something that is both unashamed and inimitable. But this time, there is a new ingredient, one that is dark, dramatic and subversive to the core.”

The synopsis of the film goes something like this: Frank (Wilson) thought he was happy, appears he is instead a sad-sack loser as his ex-addict of a wife leaves him for a seductive, psychopathic drug dealer (Bacon). Please note that this alone was enough to thoroughly pique my interest for over the years, my ‘Bacon’ obsession has slowly but steadily grown. Enter trusty (yet maniacal) sidekick (Page) and Frank has now completely morphed into Crimson Bolt. Without the necessary finances available for bribery, interviews with Page fell through but luckily, James Gunn was available to answer pressing questions.

As both the writer and director of the film, Gunn was passionate and knowledgable, providing some hilarious anecdotes and insightful information. With the recent glut of superhero and comic book-based films that has flooded the industry, there was pressure of Gunn to create something different that would appeal to both a mainstream audience and geeks alike.

Sounds like a daunting prospect but Gunn was motivated to do it as he explained, “before I directed ‘Slither’, I wanted to show people I could direct, and thought a short film might be the way to do it.  So I started writing ‘Super’ as a short film, but, as I did, it took on a life of its own. There were no initial fireworks and there was no big, grand idea, but as I wrote it the characters took hold of me, and the short film became a feature, and the story became about something far more than what I originally thought it was.” Not everyone agreed and it wasn’t picked up straight away which, for Gunn, was disappointing but he remained undeterred. “When the script didn’t immediately get made, I tried to forget it, to put it down but never quite could. I felt beholden to the story, if that makes any sense. It was a story, for whatever reason, that I needed to tell.”

His inspiration for the film? He ponders then lists, “definitely the comics of Alan Moore, along with the films of Scorsese, Tarantino, and Lukas Moodysson, the comedic and tonal shifts of Asian cinema, and to a smaller degree old ‘60s pop art films like ‘Send Me No Flowers’. I was also greatly influenced by William James’ 1902 book, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’.

You could say ‘Super’ is an adaptation of that book, only it’s fictional, comedic, and wearing a superhero costume.”
Being so intrinsically involved in the entire process from conception to creation, Gunn is well placed to talk about the essence of the film and what its characters are about. Talking rapidly, he points out that “for me, the film is about one man’s relationship with God, and his journey to fulfill his side of that relationship, no matter how insane or morally ambiguous that journey may seem to others.”

The inherent appeal of a superhero lies in the ability to do things that mere mortals cannot. When asked what ‘power’ Gunn would want, his answer is surprising (and hilarious). “I think we’re all given superpowers, it’s just whether we choose to use them or not.  For instance, there are a lot of people who have been given the superpower of ‘plumbing’ but who are running around here in L.A. trying to use the superpower of ‘acting’ which they very clearly don’t have. I could be easily satisfied with superpowers for instance, I’d love to have ‘can’t-get-AIDS’ superpower, or ‘not-make-a-baby-at-will’ superpower, or ‘an-extra-fifty-years-of-life’ superpower. Those all sound pretty good to me. If I could have one of the big ones – invisibility, flying, invincibility etc. – I’d be having an orgasm for the rest of my life. Please note I would not want to have the ability to shoot beams out of my eyes. It’s not worth having a superpower if you have to wear sunglasses inside and look like a douche bag for the rest of your life.”

Watch ‘Super’ on the big screen before anyone else at the Gold Coast Film Festival, November 26 at 8.15pm. To book tickets, head to gcfilmfestival.com/event

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 16:44

Australian Poetry Slam 2010

Poetry In Preview

The best poets are gathering together on Friday October 22 at the State Library of Queensland, not to share tips on how to rhyme but to battle it out for the honour of taking home the state slam title. Sixteen finalists will soon become one winner, taking home cash, prizes and the chance to compete for the national title in Sydney. The competitors get two minutes on the mic to impress judges (who are actually randomly selected from the audience) and two of the local contenders taking this challenge are Darkwing Dubs and Tenda McFly.

Tenda McFly
What made you enter this competition?
Up until last year's competition I had never really attempted to perform my poetry in front of an audience. I stumbled on to it randomly on google, and I realised that there was actually a scene for it in Brisbane. I entered last year's competition, I surprised myself because I actually did quite well and the crowd responded.

Idols and inspirations?
I want to captivate you like Saul Williams, have the poise of Maya Angelou and make you question things whilst making you laugh like Rives does. Well... ideally.

What do you do directly before going on stage and taking the mic?
I start pacing back and forth but when I get on stage I'm usually in my element. It's just that moment in between my name being mentioned and being up on stage that I usually dread. 

Advice to others who want to do what you're doing?
There is this rewarding feeling that you get from knowing that someone else out there felt what you were saying, and more often than not, people will tell you. The worst thing you could do is not share your material with the world. Frankly, that's quite selfish.

Darkwing Dubs

What made you enter this competition?
Originally it was just something to get me out of my hip hop comfort zone. This year it's because performance poetry has become ingrained in my artistic practice. Plus nothing brings out the beast like a bit of competition and a roaring crowd.

Idols and inspirations?
2pac's fire, B.I.G.'s lyrical prowess, Saul Williams' cosmic rays, Ursula K. Le Guins mastery of language, Andre 3000's colouring outside the lines, Roald Dahl's giants and chocolate factories and peaches, South Park, the Brisbane poetry community, Guillermo Del Toro, West End markets and Blackstar coffee and dumb politicians and sitting in the sun and complaining about life and writing poetry about it because you're a middle class white boy who doesn't realise how goddam privileged you are.

What do you do directly before going on stage and taking the mic?
Get nervous I guess, then remember how much fun it is going to be.

Finish this sentence… If I won the Australian Poetry Slam 2010 competition, I would wander the globe getting in adventures and then ask Frank Miller to make a comic of my adventures before finally contacting The RZA to make the soundtrack for the movie version of my adventures.

Australian Poetry Slam State Final is on October 22 at the State Library of Queensland.

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 16:12

Latin Fantasy: Sakura

Dance in Preview 

The merging of Latin dancing, Japan and the University of Queensland sounds like a complicated and bizarre plot for a dance production.

Instead, it is actually the true story of Mio Takagi - a young girl from Hiroshima who decides to study abroad, pursuing her dreams and ends up finding happiness in a completely unexpected way. Mio herself resembles the strength of her home city - strong, peaceful and resilient who is determined to overcome whatever obstacles stand in her way. Simone Smith, who is the writer and director of this production, is not only excited about the show but also of the decision to donate the profits to the Queensland Flood Appeal.

What is like being involved in such an emotional show and one based on someone's life?
Being close to Mio and knowing her struggle, it is hard to understand exactly what she would be going through every day as none of us are in the same situation. However, being involved on such a significant level to be able to tell her story via a powerful stage production is rewarding. To have it touch different people and help them see that no matter what happens, dreams can come true, is exciting. 

What can audiences expect when they see the show?
A touching story with spectacular dancing, wonderful music, impressive Latin routines including acrobatics (lifts and tricks). They will be taken on a journey from the beginning through the difficulties, to the ending and Mio's dream coming true. Thus giving each audience member something they can relate to no matter their situation or background. "Sakura - a story that will touch the hearts of many, as it tells the strength of one."

Highlights?
The vast array of dance styles incorporated to tell the story. This includes Latin dancing (Salsa, Zouk, Brazilian Samba and Bachata), acrobatics, contempory, ballet (en pointe) and combines all of these with the scripted story of Mio's timeline from 1999 to 2009.

What makes this different from other dance productions?
A production like this uses the elements of theatre combined with dance to tell the story. It's been referred to as a “dance-ical” - like a musical but where there would be songs to depict the story, there are dance routines. Also, this production was written, developed, created and rehearsed here in Brisbane (Vida Latina studio in Milton), then premiered overseas on tour. It is an international production and therefore totally unique in every way.

‘Latin Fantasy: Sakura’ is staged for one night only Saturday February 5 at the Schonell Theatre UQ. All proceeds will be donated to the Queensland Flood Appeal.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 15:03

Paco Pena

Interview

Revealing musical links between Latin, Africa and Spain via the various mediums, Paco Pena’s new production ‘Flamenco Sin Fronteras’ is a vibrant exploration of music and dance.

Featuring three Flamenco dancers and eight virtuoso musicians and singers, Pena has painted a beautiful picture of the emergence of new styles and how they impacted on Flamenco as we know it today. There is intensity, depth and a raw energy that audiences have come to expect with Paco’s work but at its heart, it is a piece to be enjoyed by your eyes and ears.

Q: Describe your show in 5 words? Reaching for core essential emotions.

Q: This show is about flamenco - how does that dance make you feel? Flamenco is a musical culture based on very strong and very special traditions; all its disciplines are wonderfully expressive - the dance, the music and the flamenco song - and I love them all. The fact is Flamenco companies have nearly always been led by dancers, so being a guitarist and the leader of such a group is not common and it may confuse some. However, I love the dance as much as every aspect of this unique expression.

Q: How would you teach this dance to someone who had never danced before? There are many 'steps' to follow (funny pun) and they require discipline, time to 'rub' against the whole flamenco world and, above all, love and dedication. But it is sensual, intricate and liberating, so I encourage all to join in.

Q: If you weren't doing this, what else could you imagine doing? Flamenco chose me as much as I can say I chose it, so I can't possibly leave it or think of doing anything else instead.

Q: How is dance different in Australia as opposed to your home in Spain? I cannot pretend to know enough about Australian habits or disposition for getting up and dance. But I would like to think that the spirit of flamenco can inspire all people including Australians to get up and let go.

Q: So you are a guitarist, composer, dramatist, producer and artistic mentor - that is many skills. Do you have a favourite? I am simply a guitarist, a flamenco musician; and when I get on the stage I use any and all means at my disposal to try to move people, to stir them and make them engage with my musical world in a way that makes them feel that they discover something new and meaningful.

 

See Paco Pena and his show ‘Flamenco Sin Fronteras’ for one night only Saturday July 23 at the Playhouse QPAC.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 12:33

Arj Barker Interview

Comedy In Preview

The conversation begins with an observation about a guy walking down the street in the Valley, massive energy drink in hand, hair like Jesus and wearing meggings (the male legging).

“And people say that Brisbane isn't a happening place.” Arj Barker, comedian with the connections (who doesn't want to be on ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ these days?), ladies man and fitness guru is about to hit the stage in Brisbane for a record number of sold out shows.

Currently making his way down the East coast of Queensland, Barker is en route to Bundaberg. The conversation turns to the infamous local beverage but Barker is noncommittal. “Yeah I've tried the rum but it's not really my drink you know.” What is he drinking then? “Not much lately, just a lot of water. I'm on a real health kick, been jogging every day. I pick my battles and go out once in a while but whenever I'm on tour, I don't so much because I want to stay fit for the shows.”

A surprising answer from someone who has been called 'the Dave Grohl of the comedic world', which implies a similar rock'n'roll lifestyle - instead Barker is all about stamina.

“I need stamina because I like to talk. I like to have a large vocal range and my shows are over an hour long so I need to be fit for it. In the early days I used to have a few drinks before I went on but that just does not work. You don't put on your best show if you've been drinking; you got to have your all your facilities at 100%. You don't need to give yourself a handicap you know.” Not that he gets heckled anymore: “You don't get heckled if you're funny.”

Barker wants to know what kind of magazine he's about to appear in and seems kind of chuffed when he finds out he is headlining the arts section, “Good, well that's an honour. I must be moving up in the world. Now all I need to get myself is an enormous energy drink and some meggings.”

The man has played numerous shows here before; we have seen him on television, at comedy festivals all over the world, he has guested/ moonlighted/ cameo-ed on numerous shows and of course he is a regular on ‘Flight Of The Conchords’. So what is left to joke about? What can his fans possibly not have seen before? Barker tells fans what to expect or rather he tells me to tell them: “You can just tell them that it's flat out the best show I've done so far. It's about an hour and ten but feels like less than 20 minutes because it's so full of fun and laughs. You could win a free car if you come. I mean you probably won't but it's possible. I'm not giving away a car but someone else could be so you should definitely come along. There's also some music in it this time, I'm getting more musical as time goes by (influenced by Brett and Jemaine perhaps?). So I play one song in the show on my guitar. I might also look at wearing meggings to fit in with the Brisbane crowd - having spoken to you about this, it could be an option to consider. Plus my arse is going to be looking real good 'cause I'm jogging a lot so you tell people that there will be some sweet ass. And basically what else would you need to tell someone to get them to come to a show?”

This time around, he is playing an exceptionally long season for a comedian. Barker has at least 14 shows lined up and when asked if he feels any nervousness about not selling seats, you can almost feel the shrug through the phone line. “Nah, not really. Even if one person shows up, I go on. But here's the thing. I've done shows here before and it's always been really full and I haven't become less popular. You know what I'm saying? The demand is there so that's why I'm doing the shows. Someone even made me a t-shirt saying 'Barjie does Brissie' with the XXXX in reference to a joke I did about the Brewery. I mistook it for a giant sex club.”

And this is why we love him.

Arj Barker is playing at the Powerhouse from Tuesday December 1 - Sunday December 13.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 15:41

Charlotte Smith

Author Interview

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and someone had bequeathed you a priceless collection of couture?

Wednesday, 06 July 2011 14:07

Rabbit

Theatre in Preview  

Hold the Berocca, this play is like a blurry boozy night out on the town but without the killer hangover. ‘Rabbit’, directed by Daniel Evans, written by Nina Raine and starring Amy Ingram as Bella, can be described as a one-night stand without the threat of a sexually transmitted disease, a trashy photograph that won’t be tagged on Facebook and an epiphany without the need for hallucinogenics or a trip to India. Basically, this play could reveal the meaning of your life, in the space of two hours, without any nasty side effects.

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