Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pedalling Back


Written and performed by Jeff Michel
Blue Cow Theatre Inc.
Directed by Frank Newman and Melissa King
Touring through Tasmania Performs


Intelligent, fun, absorbing and elegantly simple. These are a few ways to describe Jeff Michel’s biographical theatre piece without giving too much away, because to go into detail would be tantamount to a spoiler. To detail Michel’s artfulness in conveying time and context would take away the delight of just working it out throughout the play. So too would be describing Michel's neat set, and clever sound and lighting by Matthew Fargher and Ghost McDonald respectively.

What can be said without giving too much away is that Michel’s nostalgic devices will grab anyone in the audience that grew up through the 80s and 90s. With the challenges of being a teenager not exclusive to any one decade, this is a play that anyone over thirteen can relate to. 

Michel’s play has evolved through a series of great theatre development schemes, including the Tasmania Performs Artist Residency, Blue Cow Theatre’s Cowshed program, the Theatre Royal, Ten Days on the Island, Tasmania Performs Rawspace and the Tasmanian International Arts Festival. It is described as a first, both for Michel as a playwright and Melissa King as co-director, working alongside Frank Newman. Both should be thrilled with the outcome of their first steps out into their new arenas.

Pedalling Back will tour Tasmanian regionally from 30 March to 9 April via Tasmania Performs. This is a golden opportunity to see thoughtful, good quality theatre outside of the city centres and deserves to be supported. Come on all you regional audiences, get yourself a couple of tickets! Check out tour dates and venues at Tasmania Performs.

by Stephenie Cahalan

Declaration: I attended the performance as a guest of a company member and with no suggestion of writing a review. However, I was so delighted with the show and so pleased that audiences across Tasmania will have the chance to see it, that I felt compelled to write it up.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Darryl Rogers reviewed in Brisbane Show

Article written by Sophie Rose (first published on jugglers.org.au)
On entering numinous- i, one is invited into a space of sanctified quietness. A series of large, busy, Primitive-esque paintings by David Howard encircle a suspended black box, containing Darryl Roger’s hologram piece, Sehnsucht; and so, pagan visions surround the tabernacle. A sense of ritual undoubtedly informs both sets of work, yet is manifested quite differently in each. Howard gives a wild, uncontained spilling-forward of figures: as if spirits have seeped from the canvas into the gallery space. The shapes seem to balloon before one’s eyes: the image is full of gaseous intensity. Rogers provides a far more internal experience. One must enter his space; the art becomes a kind of confession-box and, as such, the surrounding area of the gallery begins to concave in on the box. The coupling of these two artists is something like the coming together of the voodoo and the sacramental, to create a meta-spiritualism.

Upcoming Exhibition by Marisa Molin

Essay by Gillian Marsden
Fragments of King sees artist Marisa Molin again traipsing the periphery. This time, the shores of the other leader of islands laid out in the Bass Strait like a game of solitaire: King.

Years prior to Marisa’s visit, the debris of a biological phenomena (interestingly, more commonly associated with Flinders Island of the last Fragment series), had swung wide and swept up on the shores of King Island, mirroring the many ships that had gone crooked and drowned against the island throughout the nautical-dependent years of the 19th and early 20th century. This echo of doomed passage continues through nomenclature and mythology for in fact, in both intact and shattered form, the biological phenomena was that of another kind of ship; the discarded shells of the Paper Nautilus or Argonaut nodosa*.
Nautilus Ring
There is something wonderfully paradoxical about the Paper Nautilus. We are predominantly acquainted with their exterior remnants and by the time such remnants drift ashore (somewhat mysteriously every few years and in their thousands), their soft interiors are long rotted out. In our minds, we hold the name, ‘paper nautilus’, and in our hands, exquisite pressed-tin shells of la mer: no wonder we imagine ethereal creatures that glide through the water like elegant ships and yet, the Internet outs the Paper Nautilus as actually, a jaunty, dinghy kind of vessel and the animal itself, as having a vertically flattened face and a feature that can only be described as a proboscis or snout. I think this is a paradox that is emblematic of the dualism of imprinted surfaces: where one side is raised, the other is depressed. Where one side is intended for appearances, the other is utilitarian and circumspect.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Red Racing Hood

Red Racing Hood
Terrapin Puppet Theatre
Backspace Theatre, Hobart .
September 16th 2015.
Reviewed by Gai Anderson

There was a palpable excitement in the Backspace on Saturday afternoon as I took my seat amongst the groups of primary school aged children and their parents for the latest show from Terrapin Puppet Theatre - Red Racing Hood. Some it seemed were back for a second time! It was great listening to the thrill in their voices as they discussed how the complex action we were apparently about to see, could possibly have been animated by just 3 puppeteers on the curious retro-looking domestic set waiting in front of us.

Written by Sean Monro and directed By Sam Routledge, Red racing Hood is a simple story writ-large, about a girl called Red and her Gran. Quite cartoon like in feel, with miniature racetrack and a heightened performance style, it uses the archetype of the dangerous wolf in the woods as a foreboding threat hanging over their small country town of Grinalong. The twist is that Gran and the young Red are racing car enthusiasts, and their lives are soon turned upside down by the arrival of a new mayor with big ideas for the restaging of the Grinalong Classic car race.

Reliant on design as much as story and character, the quirky, cleverly designed set allows the 3 talented performer/puppeteers to inhabit and animate this action-packed show as it jumps between scales and atmospheres, between racing action and domestic drama. And so, the domestic scene of Red and Nans home cleverly transforms to become a miniaturized 3 D model of the town, complete with racing track and dangerous woods. And their breadbox becomes the garage for Nans tiny model retro racing car and the toaster becomes the town hall. A tracking video camera and large screen allow the audience to jump between scales, for close ups of the racing action as Red transforms to become the driver of Grans tiny racing car.

The performances of Maeve Mhairi McGregor as the vivacious young Red and Thomas Pidd as the vaudevillian-like Mayor (and dorky policemen) drive the fun and action- filled parts of the show, with their heightened energy and clownish verve in synch with the shows cartoonish style. The more realistic style of Grans character in contrast seemed lack lustre at times and I wondered about this choice. The potential of the central human drama is also less developed than the action which left the story a bit thin for me.
But it is hard sometimes as an adult to appreciate a child’s-eye view of theatre such as this. So as I sat there wanting the beautifully animated wolf to be bigger and to actually scare me, the screams of fear and delight from the front row of the children as it got closer to them, quickly changed my opinion on that.
Overall this is a great children’s show, perhaps perfectly pitched for a primary school audience, and the audience I sat amongst certainly loved it.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sex with Strangers reviewed by Danielle Wood

Imagine the person you lost your virginity with ended up being not the one you married, but the one with whom you have an ongoing, if intermittent, affair – sometimes exhilarating, sometimes disappointing. Well, that’s how it is for me and the theatre.
I’m talking about real theatre, live theatre, the sort that I fell in love with as a teenager, back in that phase of life when too much was never enough. Although we’ve drifted apart, the theatre and me, still there are moments when we reconnect. We sometimes see each other here in Hobart, but not as often as I’d like. Mostly it’s when I’m off the leash and travelling that I make the effort to get in touch. Sometimes, I worry that we’ve permanently lost the magic, but then I’ll see a play good enough to set off a bunch of well-rehearsed chemical reactions in the brain and there it is: love all over again.
I’m guessing no-one at the Tasmanian Theatre Company knew that when they asked me along to their show Sex With Strangers, and to write something about it, the invitation was, for me, a little like getting a phone call from an old flame.
So, Sex with Strangers. The title alone is a come-on, and it’s worked for Ethan (Samuel Johnson), who’s made the New York Times bestseller list with a blog-turned-book that chronicles the outcome of his boast that for a whole year he could, each week, pick up a girl in a bar and get her to have sex with him. Ethan’s now rich and successful, with a powerful internet reach. But his dirty secret is that even he holds the vehicle of his success in contempt, and would rather be a literary novelist, like Olivia (Tottie Goldsmith).

Friday, September 18, 2015

SDS1 reviewed by Stephenie Cahalan

-->

Creator and performer: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Presented by Mobile States and Salamanca Arts Centre
at Moonah Arts Centre, September 17-19, 2015 

Watching soccer will never be the same. Until now I have viewed the game as a fast and spontaneous series of reactions to a ball, with opponents to dodge and goals to score.


But after seeing Ahilan Ratnamohan in SDS1, I will always wonder how much is attack and defence, and how much is choreographed play.  

Ratnamohan is a dancer with a background in professional soccer that he has crafted into his dance performance. The 55-minute piece was part-movement, part display of prowess that left the audience agape at the extreme physicality of the performance; showing just how small the gap between sport and dance is.

The exertion, skill and precision required by the player/performer to execute the perfect move, and most of all the stamina, is almost identical. And, done well, both players and performers enjoy the same roar of approval from the crowd.


The SDS1 soundtrack matched the pace and energy of the movement, articulating the mounting heartbeat and Ratnamohan’s gasping breathing which also became part of the soundscape of the piece. ‘Quarter time’, where Ratnamohan sucked back air and water, invited the audience to the sidelines of the game and to the intimate space of the player as he regrouped, taped up pains and strains and swiped away the litres of sweat pouring off his body. It was all there and it was really great insight into the very private physical world of a person who employs their body at an elite level and expects it to perform to the extreme.


A defining part of the success of this show was the engagement of Ratnamohan with the crowd. Unlike so much contemporary dance that is necessarily removed from the audience, bordering on introspection, this player/performer connected with every audience member – at times psyching us out like a challenging opponent, sometimes greeting the crowd like the victorious goal kicker soaking up adulation. 


The new Moonah Arts Centre is a great venue for this kind of performance piece; intimate but generous, with plenty of space for ‘the game’ to play out. The crowd was an assembly of curious adults and young soccer players, all incredibly impressed by the endurance and ball skills Ratnamohan showed off. My son and his mates counted the number of headers and juggles, breathing ‘64’ or ‘58’ in awe each time.


This show is original, utterly engaging and a really neat introduction to contemporary dance for a young audience who might otherwise find it a bit obscure and remote. I hope it comes back to Hobart and the word goes out on every junior soccer mailing list in the state so that  all those players and onlookers could get a look at look at soccer from a different angle.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Your Book Reviews...

Do you have a favourite book? 

Well now is your chance to tell everyone about it. Give us a book review in less than 500 words; include title, author, basic story line & why you love it. 


To coincide with the Tasmanian Writers & Readers Festival at Hadley's Orient Hotel Sept 11-13th, the best book reviews will receive $25 vouchers from a Tasmanian book shop. 

Send your Book Reviews to...

kylieeastley@gmail.com

(One of) My favourite books...

It is tough to say exactly what is my favourite book. But definitely The Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle is teetering on the top.

This is a funny, ridiculous but believable story about a writer who buries his second version of a book in a forest, after a house fire destroys the first original manuscript. As he drives into town to celebrate, a hungry bear sniffs out the suitcase full of pages and upon determining its potential value wanders off towards the city to buy a suit.

This is a story about the superficial world of publishing and the wisdom of a simple but hungry bear.

William Kotzwinkle is a relatively unknown author, even though he was responsible for writing ET and a range of other well known book. I also liked Fata Morgana and Dr Rat; although Dr Rat is pretty confronting in it's depiction of animal testing.
In recent years he has written for children with the infamous...Walter the Farting Dog. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grounded by George Brant

Blue Cow Theatre Inc
Directed by Annette Downs, starring Jane Longhurst

Review by Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

Technology may have changed the methods of war yet perhaps not, Brant suggests, the human experience of it.
 
Image from Blue Cow Theatre Inc Website
‘Grounded’ after briefly favouring love and family over her military career, the Pilot (Jane Longhurst) returns to work where instead of guiding her craft in the great ‘blue’ of which she still dreams, she finds herself dropping her daughter at daycare and reluctantly driving across the desert to the strange daily mundanity that is war at a distance. Now a drone pilot, she fights and kills remotely, but she suffers and struggles here and now. Her actions might be distant but the trauma of them is very present.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sawtooth Ari Writing Prize...

A number of writers submitted reviews, poetry and prose as part of Sawtooth's inaugural writing prize.
It was fantastic to be one of the three judges. Read all about it at the Sawtooth Ari site.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ode to Tom

Thomas Connelly was a passionate writer, poet and contributor to the Tasmanian community and the arts. As part of a new ABC Open initiative I was invited to write a little about Tom, who died unexpectedly in October 2014. Tom had many writing projects on the go and we will miss his wit, his poetry and his passion.

Thomas Connelly


This is a photo of Thomas Connelly. To me he was just Tom, a big gentle beardy man who loved Greek mythology. We had just been to an exhibition opening and it was a cool Hobart evening as we sat outside, drinking coffee and talking of art and life.

Thomas Connelly was a beautiful writer, philosopher and friend who came into my life only a few years ago but whom I thought would be around until we were both older and more wrinkled. As a fellow writer we shared are stories and thoughts. And now as I sit at my keyboard to write, I automatically think of him as my editor and mentor. I edited his complex, tangled words as he reviewed Tasmanian exhibitions and shows and we discussed the challenges of being an artist; living a creative life.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


by Stephenie Cahalan

Tasmanian Theatre Company
Director, Sue Benner and Assistant director Ivano Del Pio
Featuring Rowan Harris, Karissa Lane, Jane Longhurst, Jeff Michel

With cars left behind in the safety of a Sandy Bay car park, we boarded a minibus and rode through the streets of Hobart’s well-appointed middle class into another era. The bus exited the kerbed bitumen and climbed a winding dirt track to reach an architectural icon. 

Fort Nelson House is a rounded, glass eyrie that describes its owner and designer Esmond Dorney as craving both openness and seclusion.  The dwelling, which evolved over several iterations between 1966 and 1978, is surrounded by 78 acres of native bush overlooking the Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island and the Meehan Range. The house and property, now owned and managed by the Hobart City Council, is rarely open to the public.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Capturing the Self - Josie Birchall

Family Portrait
Review by Kylie Eastley

Josie Birchall is a Tasmanian artist who is standing out from the usual suspects. She began as a graphic designer, before attending TAFE to develop her skills in painting and drawing and then went onto the School of Art. Her layering of life experience and commitment to her craft has enabled this artist to fully realise her narratives.

It is what Birchall leaves out of her painting, and chooses to include that is so alluring. In Family Portrait (Pictured), the inclusion of the iconic Bambi, Donald Duck, the plastic pink flamingo and the cu pi doll, all represent various eras that each of us can relate to. Birchall cleverly paints herself as two figures; split with the use of random brushstrokes as reference to her pulled-apart self. She includes simple child-like doodling that clash with the beautifully executed and realistic painted figures. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dole / Dolour: An Allegory for the Fifth Corner of the World

by Thomas Connelly

σκότος ἐγένετο ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν
In the evening
after work,
shadows fall
across the world.
And the city quiets
And calms itself.
And now the city is ours
The weak and broken ones
Come out to play
Take over the city.

Went to the Top Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre, a small room torn brick, convict sandstone, rough wood. A room that echoes the cries of those worked to death in the old days. Drunk and trapped. The scrap heap. Dolour -- endless unhappiness. This seemed an more than suitable place for these particular art works.

Monday, September 22, 2014

RACT Insurance Tasmanian Portraiture Prize

by Thomas Connelly

I went to the RACT Insurance Tasmanian Portraiture Prize award night. This competition is the result of a highly successful partnership between RACT Insurance, Clemenger Tasmania and Tasmanian Regional Arts. Looking at the variety of works on display, one can safely say that the future of portraiture is safe in Tasmania. This exhibit is more vibrant and daring than similar prizes.

This award takes a different path than most portraiture award. A few things stand out to make this award unique. Quoting the Conditions of Entry, “The submitted work must be a titled portrait of a living Tasmanian.” This has the effect of making the prize a local prize. This can be both good and bad. Good in that it supports local artists, who due to the nature of the world tend to get swamped by the sheer size of the north island. Bad in that it feeds on an isolating tendency. What you wish to give weight to is, of course, up to you; but for me I would support the idea of a prize that seeks to support and nurture local artists. As we live in a world based on the idea that big eats little, sometimes little needs a helping hand. How else can little mature and start devouring.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tell Tales

by Thomas Connelly

So on a beautiful full moon night, one of those nights when the stars hide away and the moon swollen and full makes the world glow silver; I drove into town to see Tell Tails, a new performance piece by Bridget Bridget Nicklason-King.

The sort of night that is the power of the woman.

Tell Tails was a show inspired by Bridget’s granny. One can imagine the performer as a child listening intently as her grandmother told wild stories of adventure, danger and love. All completely true…and then some.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lola's New Cousin

by Thomas Connelly

Some people find breast feeding confronting, but what happens when the baby gets hungry? She drinks her mum's milk of course.

I went to the Aboriginal Centre in Risdon Cove on National Aboriginal and Islander Children's day, as part of World Breastfeeding Week, to the launch of the children's book, Lola's New Cousin, written by Luana Towney.

This book is more than a simple children's book. Sometimes, a teacher once told me, you will hit a wall, the only way around this wall will be a book. Lola's New Cousin is such a book, adding to our communal toolkit. In her work with aboriginal mums Luana noticed that the decision to breast feed or not depended on the support, and ideas of those around the expectant mother.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bullshot Crummond

by Thomas Connelly

On Friday August 1, I went to the Sorell Memorial Hall to see, Bullshot Crummond, performed by Sorell On Stage. Sorell On Stage is an amateur, regional theatre group.

Who is Bullshot Crummond? Originally a series of best-selling novels by H. C. McNeile, under the pseudonym of Sapper, about a World War One veteran, Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, "a demobilised officer who found peace dull." From 1920 until his death in 1937 McNeile wrote ten novels about Bulldog, as well as several adaptations for stage and screen. Over twenty Bulldog Drummond movies were produced, making the transition from silent to talkies.

Monday, July 21, 2014

MAN-MADE


We are, The Philosopher said, animals whose nature it is to be artificial.

Sitting and and at the same time hurtling 100 kilometers per hour down the highway, through showers of heavy rain, listening to Radio National, I made my way to the Schoolhouse Gallery, Rosny Farm to see the exhibit Man-Made. An exhibit of recent paintings by two local artists Peter Tankey & Aaron Wasil. Even the the Schoolhouse Gallery itself comments on the dichotomy of the natural and the artificial. The building was built as a bicentennial project and is modeled on a schoolhouse that was built at Osterly about 1890.

Monday, July 7, 2014

BIG BABY


Terrapin Puppet Theatre
Playing at the Theatre Royal Hobart

By Gai Anderson

Big Baby the latest show from Terrapin Puppet Theatre, is an evocative multilayered piece of puppetry and visual theatre created for children and families. Directed by Sam Routledge and written by Van Badham, the show explores notions of vulnerability and power through the journey of the Big Baby and his father.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Arnold Zable and The Cry of the Excluded

by Thomas Connelly

This is slightly different; not the review of a performance, but rather of a public lecture. I am not reviewing something entertaining, rather documenting an education.

On Saturday night, June 7, I went to the Founders Room in the Salamanca Arts Centre for Hobart's inaugural PEN lecture. The theme was The Cry of The Excluded. On the stage there was everything required for a public talk. An empty chair sat on stage. A chair that represents the silence, the isolation, the locking away of the persecuted writer. This is a PEN tradition. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

JUST ADD IMAGINATION

Art from Trash! Wow! One of the most eagerly awaited art events in Hobart these days is organised by the Resource Work Cooperative, best known for running the Tip Shop.

For non-Australians, a word of explanation. A "tip" is a refuse dump, garbage tip, waste disposal facility. In other words, where the detritus of civilisation is sent to die. Since 1993 the Resource Work Cooperative has been collecting and selling discarded items from a shed at McRobie's Gully, South Hobart, and you can pick up some wonderful things for a minuscule amount of money.

In 1995 they organised the inaugural Art From Trash exhibition, open to all comers, with the only proviso being that the source of materials used in artwork construction be the Tip Shop. It's proved a huge success, with participants ranging from kindergarten classes to professional artists and it's amazing what they create.

There are always variations on some standard pieces: dresses made from furnishing fabric, tablecloths, packaging materials, drink can ring-pulls or disposable cups; guns, robots and humorous animals from plastic bottles or scrap metal; old windows as picture frames; furniture rejuvenated with mosaic, decoupage or painted images; serious assemblages with meaningful environmental messages hand-written across them. Each year there is something clever, some idea so simple and obvious you wonder why you haven't seen it done before, something beautifully crafted from unlikely materials, or something that's just plain silly and great fun.

These are some of my favourite pieces from this year's exhibition.

Some fanciful constructions by children from the Jordan River Learning Federation – I especially liked the suspended globe with a 33 rpm record as "rings".

The Margate Primary School kindergarten class took the theme of Faces, children using a variety of scrap plastics, papers and fabric to make faces which were then assembled as a great, big smile.

It was difficult to capture the magnificently ridiculous sculpture, Egghead by Melanie Zaugger; and I really liked the use of a tow-chain and hook as a very silly bird called Stickynose by Alan Culph 
It's been done before, and it will be done again, but I always enjoy a well done assemblage of plastic toys. These are two pieces by Catharine Brunt – Production Madness and Plastic Warfare.

So this is where Cinderella's slippers went! To my chagrin, it took me a couple of minutes to appreciate the title of this one – Tip Toes by Patsy Primozich.

This works so well on so many levels – Tripe Trophy is a beautifully knitted/crocheted sheep's head mounted on a serving tray with an affixed Onkaparinga blanket label. Karen Lyttle's succinct Artist Statement says: Our throw away culture is tripe, our lack of regard for domestic animals, tripe also.



As usual, this exhibition was not short on guns and robots, and very beautifully crafted they were, too. In fact, that was their downfall because the artists seemed so focused on perfecting the object they failed to convey any particular message. Not so The Final Battle by Hein Poortenaar.

Yes, the craftsmanship and finish are there, but there is a deliberate battered uncertainty to these "weapons". Vaguely anthropomorphic, they totter on crooked legs threatening to collapse at any moment. Cobbled together from whatever happened to be available, they make an exhausted last stand that I found very poignant

My favourite, however, had to be Trash Snack by Saarasa Madden and Rayma Kennedy. Here is one of those crazy, obvious ideas that has you cracking up with laughter at its audacity. What to do with all those plastic bags?  I think the picture says it all, really.





This year's Art From Trash exhibition - 24 May to 4 June, 2014 at the Long Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre. Get along and see it. It's anything but trashy art.
More information: http://artfromtrash.org/



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ausländer

by Thomas Connelly

Being an atheist I am not moved by spirituality, indeed I am mistrustful of words such as god or the soul. Art then, in it's manifold forms, is what passes as prayer for me. Feeling this way about art, it follows, that there few experiences better than coming across an artist whom you know nothing about, but whose work immediately knocks you out.

Seeing -- quite by accident -- the exhibition, Ausländer, by Nina Keri, was one such experience. Ausländer is a German word meaning foreigner or alien. This word is often used as a pejorative. Keeping this in mind, one is struck by the power of the paintings.

Simple designs painted on mostly found bits of board, plexiglass, or whatever was handy and appropriate. With these simple designs, found surfaces, and her restricted palette Nina was able to impart a great, dark, the-world-is-closing-in sort of emotional experience.

All sorts of images assailed me, and sent my thoughts chasing off in varied directions. Seeking a grounding for these works I recalled half forgotten romanticised images of Old World fairy tales; the running about oak and pine coverts of my difficult boyhood. Or my later disillusioned young adult years of mindless work crowding images of Werther and of Woyzeck and always the strong scent memories of my Polish grandmother's potato and cabbage cooking.

When viewing a, for me, new artist, I want to see the work itself. In this case I knew nothing of Nina Keri and could only look at the work through my own personal prism. There are many times where I learn more about an artist or an art work, and then like it less. It was only later after I had left the gallery that a friend told me that the work was based on the experiences of the grandmother of the artist during World War Two. A Ukrainian living under German rule. This knowledge and context only deepened my appreciation of the work.

Being as poor as I am irreligious it is not often that I see an exhibit where I say, “I wish I could have bought one of the works.” Ausländer is one of the few. In all a powerful body of work from an artist I had no knowledge of, but an artist I am keen to watch and learn from and about. This is one of those rare must see exhibits, and I recommend everyone goes to see it.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Heart is a Hall

Stompin
Emma Porteus: Concept, direction and choreography
Finegan Kruckemeyer: Concept and writer
 
By Wendy Newton 

I make my way towards the Mole Creek Memorial Hall under a full autumn moon for the second site-specific performance of Stompin’s My Heart is a Hall.

The Art Deco building is spotlighted like a Hollywood starlet at her premiere and people spill around and into it from the cold.  I’m handed my ‘admit one’ ticket and enter the wood-panelled hall, self-consciously solo.  But in the true spirit of community, I don’t have to vie for a seat for too long.  Strangers sense my predicament and slide along the wooden bench seat that skirts the walls, and I am invited to sit and join them. 

Dancers wait at the foot of the stage, motionless and barefooted, half-circled by hundreds of shuttlecocks that glow with blue and purple led lights.  We wait, like wallflowers at a community dance.  The hall waits, too, for another story to be etched into a living history where people meet, fall in love, play, compete, survive the elements and grow old, but mostly celebrate and share the rituals that create a sense of belonging and kinship.

A lo-fi ambient score sets the dancers in motion as a young man narrates the fantastical tale of an unending rainstorm that dislodges a town hall from its foundations.  Dancers spill with the tide, languid movements that mimic the water as it rises and peaks.  Memories swirl with the waves, bodies are objects that rock and collide and are contained in the hall.  It becomes impossible to separate one from the other: they are the hall, the church spire that pokes out from the flood, the rowers that row the hall across the ocean until they can build a new town around the old hall. 

Solo dancer Megan Denne's sublime performance as the spirit of the hall captivates as she uses movement and voice to translate the hall's connection to place.  Through her, we hear the histories, glimpse the lives before, we feel the elements, the dust that holds her foundations, as birds call and the wind rises.  She is the moment, the passage of time, and it is an intimately executed vision of character and perfect grace.

My Heart is a Hall is a triumphant collaboration between two master storytellers: locally loved and internationally awarded playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and Stompin, who continually prove how diverse, creative and exciting they are as a contemporary youth dance ensemble.

Emma Porteus’ creative and artistic vision and direction are at their strongest yet, and the triumph is in the dancers’ charming performances as they contribute to the strength of the narrative and natural coherence of the contemporary piece. The hall is set and prop, the character at the heart of each story.  Shuttlecocks rearrange as the hall is built, moved, filled and emptied.  Lighting is minimal: four sets of floor spotlights that colour the hall in a sequence of pink, blue, green, yellow.  Music ranges from thumping, driving drumbeats, a moody Thom Yorke piece, the 1960's classic, Then he kissed me, and finally to an up-tempo foot-tapping reel.  The elements are layered, lush, idiosyncratic, and it all makes sense. It all makes for heart.

Kruckemeyer’s voice as a writer is quintessentially Australian, sublimely poetic, and universally heartfelt.  It crosses generations, time, experience.  It is a story that runs through us, because it is the story of place.  Our place.  We recognise it immediately. Myth, storytelling, theatre and poetry weave together like a dream that imprints and stays with us. 

An older woman recounts a youthful and heart-rending memory of waiting to be asked to dance at a local ball.  Braver dancers spin to the nostalgic tune, together, alone, in harmony with the moment they find themselves in.  A clock ticks louder and louder while she waits, intolerably, and she feels time flattening out her curls.  When she's finally asked to dance by someone who likes her hair, we are as elated as she is and moved close to tears. It is a lyrical moment, rich with feeling.  Kruckemeyer has taken us on a journey that has mesmerised and meandered its gentle way deep into our hearts.

Stompin’s strength as a contemporary dance troupe is in creating transformative experiences for dancers and audiences alike, and My Heart is a Hall is no exception.  At the finale, shy dancers invite us to dance, to leave our own imprint on the floorboards, the hall, and the performance experience.  The inspired element is in the way Stompin continues to create unforgettable performances in extraordinary sites without becoming formulaic.  Every performance is unique, surprising and uplifting, full of emotion that you can’t help but feel.  And we all leave a little changed because of it.

The drive home is one that might be an echo of many before, across time and purpose. A clear night, a joyful encounter, a chat with strangers over a cup of tea with homemade cake (compliments of the CWA) to give breadth to the encounter…and I have the comforting sense of sharing something with people that I may never see again, but that has surprisingly bonded me in a new way to a place full of heart.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Noirhouse


By Tom Connelly

Cynical, morally ambiguous, conveying a feeling of helplessness, of alienation; these are some of the attributes of the film-noir genre; or perhaps more accurately, the file-noir style. Classic film-noir movies have a certain visual style, combining low-key lighting, chiaroscuro and skewed compositions. This style, used by directors as diverse as Billy Wilder and Orson Welles, creates a certain tension as the stark shadows obscure and accent the moral dimensions of the characters. 

As befits a cinematic style based on light, shadow, and ambiguity it is hard to pin down exactly what defines the film-noir style. Some critics define the style based not on visual style, but on character. Some stock noir characters include the femme fatale, the private detective, the washed up boxer. Often struggling just to keep poverty at bay in the alienating modern city, these archetypal outsiders have only their wits, their looks, or a hidden stiletto to protect them. 

Noirhouse, a new film-noir comedy series cheekily subverts and at the same time pays homage to the classic film-noir world of Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck. This short series - only three episodes - captures with an obvious affection the style of film-noir. The alienating, expressionistic lighting, and skewed camera angles form a strong reference point for the series. Due to the time constraints of this web series there is little time for detailed exposition, the story moves along, but as Noirhouse is a comedy these broad strokes are acceptable. 

The main question would have to be: does Noirhouse work as comedy? I will leave that for the reader or viewer to decide. The series, however, is a success as a parody of film-noir. All the actors are strong and convincing. Melanie Irons portrays Nadia, the femme fatale. She won the Best Female Performance at the recent Australian Webstream Awards. Nathan Spencer plays the Detective. He is, along with Shaun Wilson and Fiona McConaghy, part of the production team. Mick Davies, plays the Russian; Sarah Wadsley plays Alice and Matt Burton is the hapless salesman. 

Actors are the obvious face of any production, but actors are often only as good as the story and production allows them to be. In this regard Noirhouse shines, the award winning script by Tim Logan is handled with a light touch, the dialogue is sharp, and the story hustles the viewer along. The camera work and the lighting are a loving embrace of noir sensibilities. The production team Sky Machine won the Australian Webstream Award for Best Visual Effects. Liz Goulding wonderfully captured the feel of the noir style and deservedly won awards for her makeup, hair and costume design. 

With Screen Australia funding six more episodes, I urge everyone to point their browser to http://noirhouse.com and see this series; before it becomes a thing. 

As Tasmania was ground zero for the NBN, it is good to see people able to grasp the opportunities that the networked future offers. 

Thomas Connelly is a regular contributor to WriteResponse. More of his writing can be viewed at http://bogong-moth.blogspot.com/