No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Daisy Brown

Review: One

Alistair Brasted measures his days in coffee. Three cups a day, but you feel like he could drink more. Trish Ferguson sees couples in the street and wonders why must they hold hands in public? She should be happy for them, she knows. Joel Hartgen wishes he had more company, as he tries to make fun for himself. Jane Hewitt isn’t quite sure who she is yet; she describes herself as quiet and as average. Jackie Sauders lives in a share house with a man who can hear a caterpillar fart. She must be careful not to make noise while moving in the night.

One is the first small-scale theatre work for Tutti Arts, a devised work where the five performers, all members of the company for many years, explore what it means to be alone, to live life largely as an individual.

While a weakness of the narrative itself, the most beautiful thing about a production about loneliness with a cast of five is the collaboration so intrinsic to the work. So while a show exploring themes of loneliness, it is perhaps more accurately of being independent, because through that exploration the cast have found and display as a supportive and cohesive collection. Of course, the elements of isolation are explored, but we see them accompanied.

In the hands of this collection and director Daisy Brown, the Queens Theatre is a place of play and enjoyment. In yellow lights (lighting design by Juha Vanhakartano) and brown boxes (design by Wendy Todd) under the high roof the cast plays in the set of enclosures and shadows to hide in, of open spaces and bright lights to shine in, under a captivating and dynamic score (music direction by Mario Spate) which alternatively plays over and under the action, emphasising the pathos in the stories, and the fun in the play.

The design and the stories are simple and almost made of the mundane – cardboard boxes and loneliness aren’t the most earth shattering of ideas – but in this mundane of the every day life is where the beauty comes from.

Of finding the use of boxes for stacking, for hiding, for storing.

Of finding joy and comfort in the little things, of a shoelace tide from the audience, of saying a monologue just right.

Of being one; of being one of five.

Tutti presents One, devised and performed by Alisatir Brasted, Jackie Saunders, Jane Hewitt, Joel Hartgen and Trish Ferguson. Directed by Daisy Brown, Music Direction by Mario Spate, Dramaturgy by Pat Rix, Design by Wendy Todd, and Lighting Design by Juha Vanhakartano. At the Queens Theatre, Adelaide, until 28 May. More information and tickets.

A Catch Up and Newsey Pieces

  • Having been almost completely obliterated by the Festival season, I was one of those lucky people who found work getting more intense post-Fringe than during it, hence the overall lack of posts bar some catching up re-posts from other sources.  Outside of work work, I spent five days working for the Come Out Festival as a delegate host, which was one of the most inspiring and satisfying art experiences I have had perhaps ever.  To spend five days surrounded by artists and programmers and administrators, seeing theatre for children with children, is incredibly gratifying.  I saw some truly incredible work (and, yes, a few terrible pieces), including two works which completely changed my outlook on everything: Hans Christian, You Must Be An Angel a theatre installation unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, by Teatret Gruppe 38 from Denmark which was filled with more magic and joy than can possibly be explained:And Thick Skinned Things by Dutch group Stella Den Haag, a curious monologue about a woman who “belongs to the legion of the uncomfortable.”  Nora lives alone, struggling with everything, even her garbage bags, until she finds comfort in the way the man next door lays down his garbage bags:

    Can you find comfort
    in the way a person puts his garbage outside
    I would wonder desperately
    Can this be?

    Until one day, he is gone, and all that Nora can do is run into the forest, and dig herself a labyrinth: “I am a mole. I speak softly.”  It was in this play by Hans van den Boom, about sadness and loneliness and isolation, under a masterful performance by Erna van den Berg that I actually found an incredible peace and calmness and started to repair myself from the extreme tiredness of the season.

  • ActNow Theatre has a new Artistic Director in the form of director/writer/actor/administrator/friend Sarah Dunn, and with the help of publicist Sophie Bruhn, they are starting to conquer social media.  I did my Arts Admin Traineeship with Sarah, and I am greatly looking forward to raking her over the critical hot coals seeing what she comes up with. They will be revealing their new logo and officially welcoming Sarah to the fold May 13.
  • Edwin Kemp Atrill, the former AD for ActNow, will be stepping over to the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild taking their inaugural Artistic Director Grant, which is a brilliant initiative for emerging directors in this city.  2011 has already been programmed for the company, so we will possibly have to wait until next year to see what stamp Edwin puts on the company.
  • In May, Adelaide’s independent theatre companies are starting to emerge from the post fringe drought.  This week, five.point.one opens The Eisteddfod by Lally Katz.  Katz is one of the most produced playwrights on Australia’s main-stages this year, with world premieres playing at Malthouse, Melbourne Theatre Company, and Belvoir Street, and if you are interested in Australian playwrights and/or female playwrights you should be making an effort to see this show. Coming up later in the month, Accidental Productions will be presenting a new work by Adelaide playwright Alex Vicory-Howe, Molly’s Shoes from the 20th, and also from May 20 Tutti are presenting One directed by Daisy Brown, who you may remember from my rave of Ruby Bruise.
  • And for something a little different from what I usually write about: to catch some Adelaide theatre actors on the big screen, and see why my job became more crazed post-Fringe, the Mercury Cinema will be screening the best South Australian films of the last year on May 6 – 8, with the South Australian Screen Awards announced May 13.

Almost a Review: A Comedy

On Saturday night I sat through four hours, three minutes and twenty-two seconds of theatre.  Not multiple fringe shows pushed together, because to include that would add another eighty-odd minutes.  No, that was four hours, three minutes and twenty-two seconds of one theatre performance, only briefly interrupted by one toilet break and two trips to the bar (don’t you love it when I share?).

Why did I do this to myself?  The initial answer is because I was asked to.  And after the first hour I did not think I would stay for four – everyone I knew leaving in that break didn’t help matters much.  But after the initial hurdle of adjusting myself to the bizarre and somewhat psychotic world I found myself in, I felt myself falling into and being inextricably attracted to Brown Council and A Comedy. It took me the first hour to get what was happening, the second hour to get in to it, the third hour to appreciate it, and by the fourth I was lost in uproariousness.

The four members of Brown Council – Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley & Diana Smith – have five acts to show us: Slapstick, Dancing Monkey, Cream Pie, Stand Up, and Magic Trick.    They all involve varying levels of embarrassment and pain, the anti being notched up every time an act is repeated through the hour.

When do we see each act?  That is up to us.  The audience sitting in their dunces hats are asked to yell out and vote on which act to see next.  A Comedy isn’t just a show which asks for audience participation: it needs it, it demands it.  So the differing dynamics of the hour-to-hour audience greatly changed the vibe in the room.  That became part of my fun in sitting through four hours: watching an audience dynamic change; watching the cast loosen into the night with a couple of beers; feeling the audience loosen into the night with their beers and repetition of the hours; experiencing myself surrendering to the Brown Council, to the insanity, to the laughter.

Every hour the host changes, and the remaining three women move cycle around who is going to perform the next act.  When not performing, they sit at a table covered bananas, peanuts, a keyboard, and a counting up clock.

Rather than being a source of antagonism, the ticking clock became a friend.  Knowing exactly how long we had to wait for a break on the hour, or until the four hours were up became comforting.  When you know there is thirty-seven minutes left, or two hours and fifteen minutes left, or three hours and eight minutes left it becomes easier to deal with.  Three hours and eight minutes is a long time, but it’s easier to know than to not know.

It is the known that I came to appreciate as the show went on which made it easier to watch, changing it from A Comedy to a comedy.  Some things never got easier to watch – Magic Trick became increasingly painful as the night went on, I started to worry a bit when I had run out of change for the Dancing Monkey (things I never thought I’d say at a bar include “Could I get my change in coins for the monkeys?”) – but in watching Brown Council repeating acts I became more aware and accepting of the ritual and repetition.

Accepting that Slapstick had been done dozens of times before made watching it okay: more akin to watching a game than watching a torture.  While our hosts always introduced the show by assuring us they were always in control, it was only through watching Brown Council going through the motions (always performed with energy and a healthy (?) dose of menace) that I could accept that.  And in accepting that, it became less painful to laugh.

Sometimes it was hard to convince myself they were in control.  They must know what is suggested when they don blindfolds and stand in the half-light on a stage lined with tomatoes.  It’s not like it’s the first time they’re doing the show.  They must be for throwing.  Right?  They expect that, right?  It’s okay, right?  I did it; I threw some tomatoes.  I’m not proud of it.  But I don’t regret it either.

Part of the fun in laughing at this show is knowing that perhaps it’s wrong to laugh, and it’s probably certainly wrong to throw tomatoes at people.  But some of the fun is also knowing that it’s really really funny to watch people make painful idiots of themselves.  Fun comes from knowing that maybe it’s wrong, but it is oh so right.

And, yes, increased alcohol consumption doesn’t hurt either.

Over the night emerged my favourite: Cream Pie.  I think perhaps through everything the cream pie remained relatively innocent, innocuous, painless.  Funny.  And it turns out I really do find people covered in cream hilarious.

I also, it was discovered, like throwing cream pies at fellow audience members rather than cast members (It was lovely to meet you Brett.  I’m not even sorry a little bit.), and oh is getting retaliated against fun.

A Comedy is certainly the show I am most glad I went to this Fringe so far.   I was loopy by the end of the four hours.  I have no idea how Brown Council make it though alive.  I am certainly glad I survived.   “Endurance” and “theatre” aren’t two words you hear together everyday.  This might be your only chance.

Vitalstatistix presents A Comedy, by Brown Council.  Devised and performed by Fran Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley, and Diana Smith.  Dramaturg Daisy Brown, outside eye Julie Anne Long, costume Alia Parker, sound Fred Rodrigues, graphic design Quills and Bamboo.   At the Queens Theatre, remaining performances March 9 and 11.  More information and tickets.

2010, You’ve Been Good To Me

A Thank You, and the obligatory Best Of Worst Of lists

To everyone who has supported me and my blog and my other writing this year: thank you.  This year has been truly magnificent, and getting so much respect for my writing has played no small part in that.  When I decided to not pursue my Honours degree I knew I was making the right choice; I could have never grasped just how right that choice was.  To everyone who has read, commented, subscribed, or talked to me about something I’ve written, you blow my mind.   To the companies and artists in particular who have taken me on as part of the community, in my strange hybrid of administrator / writer / reviewer / blogger / fan, I am eternally grateful.

Even those of you who have given me bad feedback, the overestimation of the impact of this blog warms my cockles.  Those of you who got here by searching for naked pictures of actors or Plain Janes, you creep me out a little and don’t get my thanks, sorry.

After much hemming and hawing over how (and if) to do a Best/Worst of The Year, I eventually decided to just go for the traditional top and bottom five.   Not necessarily the best and the worst, but in a completely subjective analysis my favourites and my biggest disappointments.  I loved 54 of the 88 productions I saw, and most of the rest leaned towards the love over the hate side, so it’s been a pretty fine year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ruby Bruise

There are times when I wish I still existed in the anonymity of the internet.  Where I could write something, and no-one could connect it to a name, or a face, or a person they actually know.  Where I could share the fullness of my brain, and the thoughts that are swimming, and the deepest nerve that a piece of art just hit, and still have it be a secret.

Writing my review of Ruby Bruise was one of those moments. I tried to capture what it was, but in no way did I capture the way it captured me.

This review originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

When Ruby Bruise was born, she developed at 10,000 times the normal rate, and this production, devised by director Daisy Brown and playwright Finnegan Kruckemeyer, invites us in on the journey of Ruby’sgrowing old.

The constructed set in the Waterside Workers Hall of billowing sheets, designed by Amy Milhinch and Wendy Todd, is reminiscent of your childhood cubby house: literally in the cubby of stolen sheets behind the lounge or under the porch chairs, and figuratively in the comfort, home, and wonder it brings. And along with that is the childlike wonder that Ruby Bruise pulls us into.

Starting almost as a children’s story, we are invited in to the wonder and escapism of childhood and Ruby’schildhood, as Ruby tells us the story of her growing up.Kruckemeyer’s emotive lyrical narrative, primarily spoken in the third person as Ruby’s life is narrated with an air of reflection, is sweeping and beautiful in its exploration of ageing: in finding yourself and your talents, and in periods and sex and sexuality.

Written with shades of dark and light, Kruckemeyer explores into a deeper darkness than your children’s stories aught, as in the dark the pains and heartaches of Ruby’s life are lain out before us. But in the light, if you look around at the faces of your fellow audience members, you look into the faces of pure unadulterated joy.

The part of Ruby is shared by four: Sarah BrokenshaElena CarapetisNathan O’Keefe, and Ellen Steele. It would be wrong to call them “the Rubies” because they are one Ruby, and together they make a whole person.Ruby Bruise reflects how, just as all of us are made up of different facets of our personality, different parts of our lives affect different parts of us in different ways.

To pretend we are all complete in oneself is silly: we are complete in ourselves, just as Ruby is complete in these four actors. While in shared lines the timing was occasionally off, the strong cast work together to create a wonderful and complete character.

Under Brown’s direction, Ruby doesn’t so much walk through life as dance and play on her advanced journey from childhood to adulthood. Crafting the overflowing facets of Ruby’s personality in the four actors, Brown has created a magic world in which we are privy to the deeply interesting life of Ruby Bruise. Integrating a variety of theatrical styles, including dance sequences, the sometimes heightened theatricality of the piece serves to highlight the extremities of Ruby’s intense personality.

Unfortunately, there were moments where progression of the character and narrative (and accents) were lost, as the play took long diversions into exploring these theatrical styles and the pace stalled. While an extended magic scene was funny and clever, I was itching to find out what happened to Ruby next.

Mark Pennington paints the white canvas of a set by Milhinch and Todd with brilliant lights: the white, sweeping, and cosy tent is coloured with enveloping radiance, of blues, of yellows. Pennington also plays with shadows, as our first and last meeting with Ruby is through silhouette, and as Ruby’s childhood toy grows into a life-sized beast we are again introduced through shadow.

Music by Mario Spate wraps around Kruckemeyer’s prose and Brown’s direction with fluidity which emphasise and highlights the important moments, without ever being overbearing or unwelcome. Sound and lights are operated off to the corner of the stage, and the tapping of the musician’s foot as he plays the piano is just another way in which this play echoes strains of a childhood freedom.

On opening night Spate’s sound design was accompanied by the heavy pounding of the Adelaide rain on the roof, and although it meant some lines were lost, it was the perfect accompaniment to the intimacy of the play. In our cubby house, we were safe, in the light and even in the heartache.

A play in many ways about loneliness and the ways we try to comfort ourselves (or harm ourselves) to stop feeling the pain, Ruby Bruise is ultimately hopeful in that one day you will find comfort and companion: in your self and in others. It is a sweeping story which is in fact a personal exploration of an individual, albeit one whose personality and thoughts are too big to be contained in the body of one.

As Ruby Bruise would say to herself, I say to her: I like you being here.

Vitalstatistix and The Misery Children present Ruby Bruise, devised by Finegan Kruckemeyer and Daisy Brown.  Written by Finegan Kruckemeyer, directed by Daisy Brown, design by Amy Milhinch and Wendy Todd, composition by Mario Spate, lighting by Mark Pennington.  With Sarah Brokensha, Elena Carapetis, Nathan O’Keefe, and Ellen Steele.