No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Tutti

Interview: Zoe Barry and Howling Like A Wolf

The abandoned warehouse space which is Queens Theatre seems to have hit a new stride and has, all of a sudden, become my favourite place to see theatre. In a city which seriously struggles in performance spaces I’m really excited to see the Queens claimed in earnest by interesting artists both during and outside of fringe time. We desperately need these flexible performance spaces, and because of the particular challenges of the Queens we are really getting an opportunity to see artists stretch their creative muscles.

Next in the venue we’ll be seeing Restless Dance Theatre with their new work Howling Like A Wolf. Director Zoe Barry and I meet one chilly Sunday morning to discuss the show she has been working on for two and a half years with performers from four disability performing arts companies in Adelaide: Restless, No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability, the Tutti Ensemble, and Company@.

The show began when Barry was invited by Kate Sulan, the artistic director of Melbourne’s Rawcus, to work with the companies on a weekend residency. The two companies worked together on The Heart of Another is a Dark Forest at the Melbourne Fringe, and this was an opportunity for members of Restless’ company to see how Rawcus develops work.

As they were trying to come up with a theme for the weekend, Barry says she had just read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

The book, she says, was:

looking at how we take in information in the blink of an eye, how we read situations and all the levels of information that we read, and what goes into our reading a situation. What is assumed, what prejudices do we hold, what implicit associations do we have, and then also how does our brain compute.

He’s fascinated with psychology so he went into a lot of psychological investigation about that. And there was a lot of stuff about reading people, and he looked at lying and micro-expressions, and I thought that would be really interesting for the performers, because they’d all have really different experiences of reading others, and also being read, as well, by others.

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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.