No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Space Theatre

Festival Review: Itoseng

This review was originally published on ArtsHub.com

In the South African township of Itoseng, a young man, Mawilla, sits on his trunk. Where he sits was once the shopping mall. Now, empty space. Scattered rubbish. A trail of fine sand. Nothingness.

For the people of Itoseng, the end of apartheid was heralded with great hope. But instead, the town found itself stagnant. With the shopping mall burnt down in a fit of youthful collective foolishness – brash noise with no real impetus – and nothing to replace it with, the empty space it left in the town was more than just physical. Gone was the entertainment, gone were the jobs.

Itoseng, written and performed by Omphile Molusi, is Mawilla’s story of his town and the woman he loves. Or perhaps, of the town he knew and the woman he loved: the thing most crucially lost is hope.

On the wide Space Theatre stage, a lane of fine sand extends corner-to-corner, footprints extending across the rest of the black stage surface. Through the production Molusi kicks up the dust, tracks of footprints building up a picture of the work’s blocking. Scattered through the space is rubbish: drink bottles, sheets of newspapers, plastic bags and old shoes. At times Molusi appropriates these for props and sound effects, but for the most part they are just part of the desolation that Itoseng now faces.

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Review: Involuntary

In the ongoing spirit of “embeddedness“, I interviewed Lazaroff while she was in rehearsals for this work. You can read my interview with her here at RealTime.

Dancer Veronica Shum is a picture of intense concentration, a devotion to the exacting choreography. These movements aren’t involuntary: they are highly choreographed, highly controlled, highly trained, highly rehearsed.

And yet, as Shum raises her leg to the height of her extension, there is a soft, involuntary shudder which ripples through her strong leg muscles.

As she stretches her foot, her arch is raised, her toes point to their full extent and there is a shiver we can see move through the ligaments as they curl around her bones.

Here, at the peak of a highly rehearsed movement, there is the smallest hint of Shum’s involuntary reactions.

These small moments are just that: small. But in some ways, they are the strongest in Katrina Lazaroff’s Involuntary. Lazaroff’s work, part commentary, more humourous observations, draws parallels between physical reactions which we have no control over and a society which is increasingly regulated to the point where we have no choice but to scroll five pages down and click “I Agree.”

And it is interesting to speak about those things in a work which, as necessitated by its form, are highly structured and measured. While we may feel the pressure of the clocks ticking on our lives as we notice the weeks are getting shorter and the things to be done in them are getting bigger, these dancers have one hour of dance to do in one hour. The lighting will change when it needs to, the projection will shift on the right beat, the dancers will move across the stage the way they have for weeks in rehearsals. And so in a work about the involuntary, the peeks at something small, yet involuntary (even if occurring as an exacting result of an exact choreography) become something amplified well above their usual worth.

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Review: Me and My Shadow

The Space Theatre is filled with the din of excited children. The Saturday morning outside is showing Adelaide’s first strains of winter: dreary, making the world in great need of a blanket and a cup of tea. But inside, children yell, bang their seats, pose for a photograph on their mother’s iphone, try and dissect what they can see on the stage: look, I can see a shadow! They hold none of the trepidation of the blustery Saturday morning.

In front of me, a mother shows her children how you would make your hands into a shadow for a dog: the thumb an upright ear, the index finger hooked to make an eye, the middle and ring fingers the snout, the little finger moving up and down for the mouth: yap yap yap.

The house-lights dim and turn off. There are a few startled cries from the very young; a few excited yelps from the older kids who know what’s happening: it’s about to begin.

The Girl (Emma Beech) sits in a pool of light, concentrating absolutely on her scissors and butcher’s paper. Snip here, cut there, off goes the off-cuts into a paper bag. Open up the sheet and reveal the line of paper girls.

It’s bedtime, but she and her paper dolls are not quite ready for bed. How could you ever be ready for bed when there is a world of things to discover, create, and play with? Out comes the torch, shining a spot light around the space; then it is a car, and then a rocket ship.

The pool of light moves so it’s shining on the Girl, and she starts to make shadows with her hands. She makes a dog, and the children in front of me turn to their mother excitedly – they just learnt how to do that!

The Girl’s body is then encased in light, behind her a shadow: a new play thing. With paper bags and a shadow for a friend, what more could a girl need?

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Festival Review: School Dance; and investing in joyous artistic visions.

Sydney-based actor and playwright Matthew Whittet has enjoyed a perhaps disproportionate amount of his success as a writer Adelaide.  Twelve, his first play was workshoped at the National Playwrights Conference in Perth in 2006, and his first produced play was Silver, a monologue which Whittet also performed, at Downstairs Belvoir in 2009.  His latest work, Old Man, will again be playing in Belvoir’s downstairs theatre this June, but between these Sydney outings, three of his works have had main-stage productions in Adelaide.

Two of these plays were presented in very quick succession in 2010, with Windmill Theatre producing Fugitive in August, and Brink Productions producing Harbinger in September.  While the shows weren’t without their issues (particularly in the final scenes of Harbinger), Whittet did in many ways cement himself to Adelaide’s audience as someone with a unique mind, twisting slightly off centre into bizarre universes filled with awkwardness, and with love.

School Dance, again produced by Windmill, premiered in the Adelaide Festival this year.  While this work still sits very early in Whittet’s career as a playwright, it was embodied with a wonderful of air of trust on behalf of Rose Myers and Teena Munn, the Artistic Director and General Manager / Executive Producer of Windmill, respectively.

Like Fugitive, School Dance has been directed by Myers, and above all else feels like Whittet was given the absolute freedom to make a work to his vision. The resulting play is one that, as soon as you start to detail it on the page, sounds so peculiar, so unconventional, and so illogical that it wouldn’t work; and yet through this trust is borne something that works absolutely.

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