Blame it on Frederick

It’s the end of the world in this brand new venue – Norm – in Brunswick, and two time travelling detectives arrive on a desolate planet to track down Frederick, the last man on earth.  And apparently he’s to blame for this apocalypse, a fact that, after a bit of poking and prodding, Frederick is only too happy to share. Told mostly in monologue and reenactments, Frederick recounts how his habit of seducing women at bus stops (especially the ‘crazy’ ones) and not speaking to them in the morning, brought about a mass revenge from womankind in the form of stealing all of the books from men’s bookshelves that were put there as a seduction technique to seem deep and sensitive to women in the first place, before hiring said books back to said men at hideously inflated prices.  Chaos ensues spurred by a galled patriarchy.

This show will not be the hit of the festival, but nor was it a show that fulfilled my worried expectations when I saw the space.  It is sometimes offputting for the front of house staff to be a vague presence, and for a free show to start fifteen minutes late, but despite a rickety start the theatremakers show promise, with some rather lovely passages, and a thoughtful concept driving the piece.

I would suggest that the actors should have been given more in developing their characters early on, as it sometimes seemed like they were being treated more as mouthpieces for the script rather than interesting characters in their own right. The projections, which seemed a cornerstone for this show were thoughtful pauses that gave the limits of the venue an extra dimension.  It is that distance between performance art, where actors as moving props is sometimes permissible, and theatre, where actors are integral to a complete performance, that needs to be worked on for new shows such as these.

The general execution of the show was indeed shambolic, but not unforgiveable, especially in the context of Fringe, when artists are supposed to be trying new things out. This was not groundbreaking theatre, but showed some interesting ideas that should be developed further.

See the original post on Beat here

Life and Times (Marathon)

Nature Theater of Oklahoma, I could kiss your ten hour long verbatim musical disco soviet barbecue locked room alien abduction arses, every last one.  Life and Times, so far in four parts and on Saturday strung together into a ten hour marathon session covering the first 18 years of a subject’s life, kicked so many goals that it’s hard to know where to start.

The script for Life of Times was taken verbatim from a series of telephone conversations with a woman, asking her to tell the story of her life.  Every ‘um’ and ‘ah’ is there, and for the first two parts of Life and Times, the exact details of this woman’s life is turned into a musical.  But these are musicals stripped down to their barest forms.  Part one had the singers in soviet-style gymnastics uniforms, dancing and singing in no relation to what is actually being said.  The audience eased into the hilarious, confused stories that come when trying to recall first memories.

Part two and all the actors are dressed in colour-coded Adidas tracksuits, dancing still in a non-sequitor but slightly more interpretive way to the story of the same character in elementary school, moving on to junior high.  Some of the stories take on a darker tone as she starts to take part in the world, confusion and depression sneaks in.

Part three and four are mainly spoken, and the setting is changed to the recreation of a locked room murder mystery.  The actors recreated the dramatic tropes and characters of a classic mystery, while still speaking the script of the telephone conversation, the storyteller now recounting her final years of high school, her first boyfriend, drugs and alcohol.

It was by this point that everyone was slightly hysterical.  We had been living and breathing this show for a little over eight hours, with even the actors present for the barbecue dinner, serving us hamburgers.  Being submitted to so many hours of one woman’s speech patterns, her inflections, doubling back and recounting of key friends and relatives, made you think you were being brainwashed.  This, along with the wincing recollections of your own growing pains that the script inspired you to think of, and you were really starting to space out.  The ending was coming up, and it was impossible to think of how they were going to finish this. The reward the audience received for sticking by a now hypnotic storyline was a truly bizarre twist they pulled off completely ﹣ but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you how.

The Life and Times marathon was a once in a lifetime experience, beautiful and convoluted and simple at the same time.  There are plans to turn this into a 24 hour play, and when that happens I will be there.

See the original post on Beat here

Brahms 4 & Isserlis

With a world of ear splitting amplification and all night dance parties you often forget that the origin of all rock and roll behaviour was in the classical music halls of Europe.  And the Australia Chamber Orchestra, led by Richard Tognetti, with Steven Isserlis performing as soloist for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, played in the same program as Brahms’ 4th Symphony, is no exception.  The ACO is well known for its vibrant and eye-popping performances, and this was definitely the kind of concert that you most certainly do not experience with your eyes closed.

Renowned British cellist Steven Isserlis is attracted to orchestras that use period instruments, using gut strings on his cello himself, and the instrument nerdery was in full swing with on this evening, with much of the orchestra, especially the wind section, using pieces from Brahms’ time.  The acoustics of Hamer Hall complemented these instruments, with the sound warm and lifting.

The Dvořák was what most of the audience was there for, and Isserlis’ performance seemed to be done with such passion and ease – the piece was written to, in parts, reflect a certain level of improvisation, without actual improvisation taking place.  This made parts of the piece seem more free-flowing, with ample room given for the virtuoso to show his stuff.  Isserlis worked great in tandem (and seemingly with great affection) for Richard Tognetti, who is known himself for his rock star approach to classical chamber music, building the ACO to be known as one of the world’s best chamber orchestras.

Brahms’ 4th Symphony acted as part of the Melbourne Festival’s theme concentrating on the ‘War of the Romantics’, when manifestos and cat calls went back in forth in Germany between the more conservative Brahms and Clara Schumann, and the uppity, more progressive Liszt and Wagner.  Enough time has passed for the politics of composition from that time to be put aside for a greater appreciation of Brahms’ technical brilliance.  Also Brahms’ 4th was lush and summery, coloured by melancholy, and again had the audience transfixed by the ACO’s masterful and seductive playing style.

See the original review on Beat here