Science, Williamson style

Nearer the Gods (Queensland Theatre)

Queensland Theatre, Bille Brown Theatre

October 6 – November 3

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David Williamson’s “Nearer the Gods” intriguingly promotes itself as a show about the politics of 17th Century science. This appears affirmed by its pre-show Purcell Chamber Music sounds and when Isaac Newton (Rhys Muldoon) appears seated at a table centre stage, he is wearing a periwig and dressed extravagantly according to the play’s Restoration era setting.

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As he greets the audience, however, he informs us that the show won’t be performed in period costume after all. This emerges to be a wise directorial decision as it does not distract from the story and its essentially human conflicts, both internally and interpersonally.

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Under Sam Strong’ direction, what follows is fascinating, as feats of human endeavour often are to those distanced from their time. It begins in 1684, at the dawn of the Enlightenment, with Robert Hooke (Colin Smith) and Christopher Wren (Hugh Parker), two of London’s Royal Society’s most prominent scientists and architectural collaborators/co-designers of several important works in post-fire London (including the Monument to the city’s Great Fire), being called to meet with King Charles II (William McIinnes) about investigations into the forces of planetary motion.

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Also at the meeting is astronomer, Edmund Halley (Matthew Backer) who then travels to Cambridge to meet with reclusive professor Isaac Newton, who it is rumoured, might have something interesting to tell him about celestial mechanics. And so the story proper becomes about physicist Isaac Newton, known in his day as a natural philosopher. More particularly, it is about the personality behind the Physics, especially of this complex and quite difficult but brilliant man, estimated to have an IQ level of 190.

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The rivalry between Newton and Hooke (presented here as a vengeful and vain antagonist, despite Newton’s own uncompromising approach and inability to accept criticism) is evidenced in some bitter clashes as thy two great scientific minds, compete to be reputed as the greatest thinker of the age.

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Act Two then follows Halley’s push to have Newton’s 1687 Principia book (now regarded as the most important work in the history of physics) published, despite opposition from within King Charles’ Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge, the oldest national scientific institution in the world.

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Halley is a young and eager offsider to the cantankerous Newton, inspired by the genius’ enumeration of his three laws of motion as explanation of universal gravitation and excited in the discovery of new truths, even if they might be at the expense of his religion and in opposition to his wife’s (Kimia Tsukakoshi) essential beliefs system. Indeed, the compatibility or otherwise of faith and reason serves as an ongoing and enduring theme that enhances the play’s resonance not just as a historical artefact account but from a modern philosophical perspective.

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There are no weak links in this stellar cast. Becker’s Halley is sprightly, generous and secure. He is not only a likeable and relatable protagonist, but absolutely nails the funniest line of the show in light of his own legacy in his namesake periodic comet. And Muldoon is brilliant as the deeply troubled Newton, obsessed by and obsessive about his work, and his conflict with Hooke. Also of note is McInnes who makes for an imposing King Charles II, cocksure in his strut about the place, but also serving as a patron of knowledge, eager to embrace reason as the way forward to increase human knowledge.

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Certainly, “Nearer the Gods” is a play of big ideas. It is, accordingly a dialogue-heavy work. Still, though there is a lot of movement in interaction with its simple stage design, afforded by the all-new Bille Brown theatre, which is at-once new and shiny, but also with surprise nooks and crannies. And the spectacle of an otherwise-dark sparkling starlit theatre is a breathtaking Act Two highlight.

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“Nearer the Gods” is a fascinating work from Australia’s most commercially successful playwright. Beyond calculus and scientific formulas, it serves mostly as a celebration of human achievement. And there is a shared excitement in witness, albeit only dramatically, of ambitions being realised that will form the foundation of countless human advancements. And if nothing else, it will leave you wondering why exactly it is that we want to know why.

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Everyday Expressions

Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

October 12 -20

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I’m not necessarily a dance person and I’m not particularly emotional, so to be moved to tears by Expression Dance Company’s “Everyday Requiem” was a surprisingly profound experience. It is not because of its beauty, although it does include a number of exquisite moments, but rather due to the relationships and emotions evoked by its dancers.

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The World Premiere and very special lyrical contemporary work from the critically acclaimed Queensland company serves as Artistic Director Natalie Weir’s swan song after a decade at the helm. And what a show with which to exit…. unanimously appreciated by an enduring standing ovation form an emotional opening night crowd in acknowledgement of its original choreography, integral all-vocal score and all-round beautiful story performed by stunning dancers and singers.

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Its breathtaking experience begins with a group mournfully gathered around tables in the centre of a fairy-lit Cremorne theatre. The space is obviously more intimate that the expansive Playhouse stage of the company’s most recent 4Seasons and, as it unfolds, this turns out to be entirely appropriate for a show telling such a personal, but also universal, human story.

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The touching tale is of a man’s life revisited by his aged self, guest artist, veteran Brisbane performer Brian Lucas, an early-days EDC dancer and, for seven years, the Company’s Assistant Artistic Director. Against the backdrop of Australian History from the 1950s until today, the man is played by four men, each responsible for a particular generation of his life; the Old Man guides his younger self back to revisit memories and moments, sometimes forcing emotional connections of his younger self in order to heal unresolved disharmony. Thus, the show takes the audience through The Man’s infancy, childhood and adolescence towards maturity.

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The accompanying relationships are told in sequence, beginning with the wondered play of carefree childhood, school days and sibling tussles (Jag Popham as The Man’s Infancy and Childhood). After The Man’s (Jake McClaron as The Adolescent and Young Man) infatuation with Young Love (Isabella Hood), including a love triangle also involving his brother (Scott Ewen), he meets The Wife (Lizzie Vilmanis) and heads to the conflict in Vietnam, where as The Mature Man (Richard Causer), he can only read in a letter of his child’s birth.

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Immersed in the performance, The Australian Voices choir provide textured and expressive acapella accompaniment in delivery of Artistic Director Gordon Hamilton’s sublime original music, as we witness the boy become a man who lives a life. The soundtrack is physicalised by powerful, skilled dancers who clearly convey the narrative and also the emotional sensibilities of its experience, whether it be the slow burn sensuality of a new couple’s lives entwining, the more masculine competing physicality of in-conflict brothers or the tumble of male dancers in representation of their turbulent time at war. And the four male dancers are excellent in each credibly inhabiting what the others have and will create as the same character.

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Guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis is particularly memorable, especially as the wife left-behind. Her accomplished range is evident in way she takes the audience along from the painful yearn of these fluid movements to playful interaction with The Daughter (Alana Sargent) in juxtaposition to the child’s resentment and rejection of her returning father. Another particular highlight is the impressive partner work, especially when, post-war, the couple expressively rejoice in the glory of over a decade of their love for each other, connecting together fluidly in vulnerable but united movement. Then he is alone, conflicted in witness of his daughter’s grief. It’s an incredibly powerful scene full of the contradiction of fragmented frenzy and at the same time, profound emotion, thanks to Weir’s choreography of the entire body. (Even a short mid-show evacuation opening night interruption could not impact upon its resonance).

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So many transformative moments occur during the 75-minute work, just as they do in a life. And its celebrations, conflicts, reconciliations and tragedies of everyday experience certainly offer reflective fodder for audience members who may be wondering how its life summation might be applied to their experience.

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The simplicity of its beauty emerges from its relatable everydayness which also comes courtesy of lyric lists of school supplies, groceries and alike. At one stage the Australian Voices members (Sophie Banister, Samuel Boyd, Isabella Gerometta, Rebecca Hocking, Jamie Moffatt and Daid Upcher) even sing while gargling and bushing their teeth, all-the-time never being of anything but outstanding voice as they accompany and also sometimes cleverly interact with the action on stage, like a Greek chorus. Holistically, it’s a large vision that works well to bring big-scale reward.

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There is a deliberateness to every aspect of the experience’s examination of life’s relationships. David Walters’ lighting design adds to the aesthetic representation of each juncture in the journey from infancy to mature man. Similarly, small details in costumes and lyrics provide contextual clues, symbolise transitions and work with repeated movements to signpost ongoing motifs. All of this combines to make the narrative at-once easy-to-follow and engaging, especially as special guest dancers from WaW Dance join on-stage towards the work’s satisfying conclusion.

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My choreographic illiteracy means that usually watching dance leads to a wandering mind, but this is far from the case this time, such is audience investment and anticipation of how we will get to the story’s end. Indeed, “Everyday Requiem” is a very clever, layered work that will resonate both in the moment and long after in cathartic release of the range of emotions evoked in its experience. Even if you only have a passing interest in dance, this is a show you must see, as testament not only to the talents of two Brisbane-based companies, but the power of an art form to speak to our collective human experience of the ups and downs of family and life and realisation of the things that are truly important.

Photos c/o – David Kelly

Razzle dazzle drag

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical (Michael Cassel Group and Nullabor Productions in Association with MGM on Stage)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

September 26 – November 4

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Finally, after playing 135 cities in 29 different countries around the world, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical” has sashayed itself to Brisvegas for the show’s Queensland premiere season. Based on the now-iconic 1994 Oscar-winning Australian film, the musical is the story of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus in Sydney bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. As audience, we join them for the journey in the broken down old bus they christen as Priscilla, as they ‘Go West’ to the back of woop woop and beyond, with along-the-way social interactions, mechanical setbacks and some surprisingly amusing roadkill.

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The reason for the journey is for Sydney-based drag queen Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose (David Harris) to visit his estranged wife, Marion (Adele Parkinson), the mother of his young son, Benji, by bringing his act to her casino, which will give Benji the opportunity to finally meet his father. Tick invites former Les Girls showgirl, transgender woman Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), whose husband has just died and also asks fellow performer Felicia (Euan Doidge) along for the ride, much to Bernadette’s chagrin. The unlikely friends may have been thrown together by circumstance, but it soon becomes apparent that their similarities are more than just skin-deep as all are desperate to escape the Harbour city’s club scene in some way.

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Like its big-screen source material, the show is filled with anthemic disco-era classic songs like ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘I Love the Nightlife’ and ‘Finally’, but also, comparatively a lot of narratively-unnecessary musical filler, starting with Miss Understanding’s (Blake Appelqvist) over-the-top drag take of ‘What’s Love Got To Do with I’. Even ‘A Fine Romance’ now seems like an unnecessary interruption to give dialogue-mentioned backstory as to Broken Hill based mechanic Bob’s (everyone’s favourite flamin’ galah, Ray Meagher of “Home and Away” infamy) nostalgia towards a years-ago Les Girls visit.

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Other additions, like a poignant ‘True Colours’ and rousing ‘We Belong’ realisation of the importance of family in all of its forms, are more effective, especially in ebbing and flowing audience emotions and cementing the tale as a first-and-foremost story about mateship, self-discovery and acceptance. Angelique Cassimatis, Samm Hagen and Clé Morgan add much to the show’s songbook as the three divas who descend from on-high to lead chorus numbers with their powerful vocals, to which the drag performers lip-sync.

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All the music, however, is secondary to the spectacle of costumes on show. Indeed, this is a musical of much colour and movement, featuring an array of more than 500 costumes and 200 headdresses, often (as with dialogue) in nod to its on-screen origin and Australiana-with-a-twist theme.

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The costumes are across-the-board exceptional in their avante guarde over-the-top detail and little surprises and although, at times, it seems like Act One has a ‘going through the motions’ type feel, the way that a final tour stop show sometimes does, its ‘I Will Survive’ pre-interval number is a real highlight courtesy of its visual spectacle.

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Tony Sheldon returns to reprise the role of sassy and acid-tongued, but still classy desert queen Bernadette, one which has earned him both Tony and Olivier nominations amongst his 1800 times playing the role. Along with David Harris as Tick, he anchors the show with a poise that serves as effective contrast to Euan Doidge’s exuberant and energetic Kylie-come-lately Felicia. And together they banter believably like the family that they become.

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Along with the scathing wit of its dialogue, which is very funny, humour comes from the colourful characters encountered along the way en route to Alice Springs as light-hearted contrast to the attitudes and actions of homophobic locals. In particular, notable scenes come courtesy of Emma Powell as butch bogan Black Stump barmaid Shirley and Lena Cruz as Bob’s out-of-place wife Cynthia, complete with a popping ping pong number that even those already familiar with the film will find hugely entertaining.

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At times, it is easy to recognise this as a 10th anniversary celebration tour. Although the show is visually dynamic and full of fun, its colour and movement cannot compensate for the passing of time that has made its content more homogenised. While it may not be as spectacularly camp as when it first appeared on stage in southern states (and where I first experienced it at Sydney’s Star City Casino), this “Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical” is still a spectacle and a trip that many will want to jump on-board for, because what is not to love about a show that celebrates dancers dressed as pink paintbrushes and candled cupcakes amongst other razzle-dazzle displays.

All that razzle dazzle jazz

Chicago (Savoyards)

Iona Performing Arts Centre

September 29 – October 13

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Everyone knows six time Tony Award winning musical “Chicago”, if only from its 2002 movie. And it is little wonder; the Kander and Ebb classic has a score full of iconic, toe-tapping tunes in homage to the music of the 1920s. Its popularity is evident in Savoyard’s virtually sold-out season of the show prior even to its start. And after opening night, it is easy to appreciate why.

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Firstly, the company allows the show, first and foremost, to be about its music. The marvellous elevated orchestra (Musical Director Benjamin Tubb-Hearne) not only takes centre stage visually but is wonderfully showcased in both the overture and finale of the spirited show. And from the moment they lead us from overture to ‘All That Jazz’, as vaudevillian Velma Kelly (Joanna Nash) welcomes us to mid-1920s Chicago with tell of how she murdered her husband and her sister when she found them in bed together, we are well and truly in the mood, even if it is a somewhat sedate take of the seductive opener.

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It is not just the musical’s iconic status that is grand. And despite the production’s over 40 cast members, things never feel claustrophobic on stage. In fact, the ensemble numbers really shine in their razzle dazzle. And Act One’s ‘Cell Block Tango’ in which inmates describe the circumstances that led to their imprisonment, showcases Desney Toia-Sinapati’s creative choreography that allows its monologues’ punchlines to shine amongst expressive vocals without losing its Bob Fossey feel. And it is not only a choreographic style that is evident; costumes are era-evocative in their detail with art deco-esque touches to the dance attire of the Tango’s merry murderesses for example. Staging is similarly visually imaginative, especially in Act Two’s courtroom circus scenes.

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While the story is primarily of publicity-hungry murderesses, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart (Heidi Enchelmaier), in Cook County Jail competition to outwit each other and obtain more media fame, it is enhanced by its cast of supporting characters. In this instance, Danika Saal may not be all Mamma Morton sass, but she does do vocal justice to the saucy, show-stopping outline of the Matron’s mutual-aid corruption, ‘When You’re Good to Mama’. Joshua Moore makes for a youthful Billy Flynn (the very reason Hugh Jackman passed on the movie role). The masterful (but costly) lawyer seems more slick than suave in his shiny suit, but again, his vocals are excellent in unfeeling rather than charismatic croon about how all he cares about is his love of money (‘All I Care About’). Another less exuberant number comes from Roxie’s discarded, downtrodden husband Amos who laments his chronic invisibility in ‘Mr. Cellophane’. Rod Jones not only makes the solo wistful in sentiment, but manages the balance of pathos and humour required of the role.

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Ultimately, however, this is a show about celebrity criminals, Velma and Roxie. Heidi Encheimaier is excellent in conveying Roxie’s transformation from a nobody chorus girl ‘dumb mechanic’s wife’ to brassy, brazen celebrity after she murders her nightclub regular lover Fred.

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Encheimaier’s performance is not so much as a vulnerable little-girl-lost but a woman of single-minded ambition, and the result is compelling despite her character’s dislikeable self-absorption and her goofy animation as dummy atop Billy’s knee as her press conference turns into a ventriloquist act with Billy dictating her version of the truth while she mouths the words in ‘We Both Reached for the Gun’, is one of the show’s highlights. And she is superb in songs of her own voice too, especially in share of her narcissistic satisfaction with being the name on everybody’s lips in realisation of her fame fantasy, ‘Roxie’.

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While Roxie is trying to get to vaudeville, vampy Velma Kelly has already been a star there. And Joanna Nash is dynamic in her vibrant stage presence as the slinky vixen, both vocally and physically. Her singing voice is era-appropriately smoky but strong, and she moves about the stage with an infectious, lithe energy. This is especially evident in her desperate musical attempt to entice Roxie to refashion the sister act, ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’, in which she acrobatically recreates both parts of the dance duet, along with improvised musical accompaniment of saxophones and alike.

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“Chicago” is a solid-hit Broadway musical of the old-school sort, not just in its 1920s setting, but its sensibility of razzle dazzle jazz hands song and dance, even if its purpose is to satirise American values, corruption and cult of the celebrity criminal. While opening night of Savoyards “Chicago” suffers from some sound issues, these are minor and don’t spoil what is an entertaining evening for all, especially given its additional humour, such as is courtroom re-enactments of Roxie’s crime. Indeed, in its tribute to its music and libretto, under Sherryl-Lee Secomb’s direction, this “Chicago” is an over-the-top and whole-lot-of-fun night out in affection of the art of murder.

Photos – c/o Chris Thomas

Youth truths

I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You (The Good Room)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

September 26 – 29

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What do you get when you combine over 3000 responses, 18 young performers and a whole lot of confetti? It sounds like the start of a riddle, but the answer, “I’ve Meaning to Ask You’ is far from a punchline or non-committal response. The latest innovative work from experimental theatre collective The Good Room ensembles an eclectic group of young performers to pit their wonders against the explanations of the older generation. As such, it is a unique intergenerational show for adults that is full of questions asked by young people and answered by adults.

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Questions are more than just the perennial “but why?” of early infantry, rather ranging from the frivolous to the provocative. We start with ask as to favourite songs and drinks and then there are embarrassing moments and pop-up illustrations of go-to dance moves. From these emerge adult’s own reflections of youth with questions about at-school bullying and the real-world value of maths and then more global concerns about gender, power the environment and the future, which do not always come with easy answers.

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Age interacts though omnipresent experience in the revealing one-hour tell-all, as the group of eager early-teens are given agency to speak their truths. And they are more than up for the task, bringing big personalities that enliven and entertain in their energy. Indeed, all the young actors are impressive in the timing and perfect tone of their performances.

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It starts with them in line across the stage behind microphone stands. They aren’t still for long though as this is far from a static show; it is wonderfully dynamic, full of fun, colour, movement and pure joy. Its soundtrack is lively too, packed with sing and clap along moments to lots of fabulous retro songs of the Roxette, Bon Jovi and B52s sort.

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And still the surprises keep coming, starting with shift in tone courtesy of some lyrical choreography, Jason Glenwright’s intricate lighting and unexpectantly at-once striking and moving video design from optikal bloc’s Craig Wilkinson, which adds an entirely new dimension to the already extraordinary work, as audiences are guided towards some genuine compelling and poignant adult confessionals of insecurity and regret.

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The combination of notable performer stage presence and a stellar creative team led by Director Daniel Evans, means that the youth truths are dropped in the most wonderful of ways, including with entertaining little inset re-enactments and even additional audience involvement beyond just the initial contributions. And the result is perhaps the best The Good Room project realisation yet.

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In keeping with the popular formula that has served them so well with past productions, “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You” has been created using audience and anonymous stories and the consequence is genuine audience engagement in ponder not only of its targeted central questions about, for example, what day you would like to go back and change, but the value of communication between generations that typically don’t interact with such honesty and consideration, and the benefit of wisdom and advice in our world. Indeed, after experience the night prior of the similarly world premiere production of Dog Spoon’s “A Coupla Dogs”, it seems that at this year’s Brisfest the Theatre Republic is the place for to be for Week Three think pieces.

Top dog theatre

A Coupla Dogs (Dog Spoon)

Theatre Republic, The Block

September 25 – 29

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‘Two dogs, one kennel, five days”… the tagline of Dog Spoon’s Brisbane Festival show “A Coupla Dogs” perhaps conveys expectations of a playful night out, especially attractive in its palatable 60 minutes running time for those may be suffering from Week Three festival fatigue. The world premiere work by co-writers Director Andrew Cory and Sue Rider, is, however, so much more than just this promise as it takes its audience to some political and also poetic places all within its distinctive dog kennel setting.

It is, as it promises by its tagline, a tale two dogs, Old Dog (Ron Kelly) and Young Dog (Tom Oliver). We don’t know their names, but their personalities pretty quickly become clear. Old Dog is fighter who profanely tells it as it, in straight talk that sits alongside clever dialogue abundant with canine idioms. Immediately, he asserts his dominance over the newly-arrived ‘Christmas dog’, bursting with puppy, eagerness and naïve joy.

We meet them in simple but effective staging at ‘Beryl’s Kennels (Barb Lowing in voice over), a substandard private animal refuge where they await a fate. As they do, they discuss dog philosophy and life in general. And there-in lies the bite to its bark as all sorts of social issues are considered and alluded to, from media impartiality to treatment of our underdogs.

Despite Old Dog’s aggression and essentially pessimistic outlook, it begins quite light-heartedly as legs are humped and the dogs move from playing dead to venturing into the audience in search of tummy-rub-type affection. Then the tone shifts, aided by Jason Glenwright’s lighting design, and things become serious in analogy of the people problems being mirrored to the audience in contemplation of the way we all live and interact on this planet and how we treat our most vulnerable.

While the aesthetics signpost the show’s shift quite dramatically, Kelly and Oliver complement this also in their nuanced guidance towards the ultimately affecting ending. Kelly is memorable in his show of his softer side in contrast to early bravado, in talk of his relationship with his previous owner. And Oliver similarly shows an extensive range in his transition from bumbling puppy to determined enlightenment that every dog will have its day. Indeed, it is difficult to take your eyes off the duo, not just in impress of their obvious stamina and energy to act in entirety as dogs, but due to the engagement created by their physical performances, down to smallest touch such as holding hands as paws for the show’s duration.

There’s no bones about it; this new work is certainly unique, but it is so both in its concept and execution, which makes it interesting as well as entertaining. By using comedy to consider some of the planet’s problems, “A Coupla Dogs” not only leaves us laughing, but provokes its audience to after-show contemplation and conversation, which is exactly as it should be for a festival work.

Journeying with gin

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin (Milke)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

September 18 – 22

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“Drink up; we are very entertaining when you are drunk”, Maeve Marsden tells audience members at “Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin” after an opening number of Dinah Washington’s jazzy ‘Me and My Gin’. It is a truth probably of all late night cabaret especially and if you join in on the show’s “1 2 3, drink” pre-chorus encouragement of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’, you will surely find yourself especially having the time of your life in shared celebration of the mother’s milk that is gin.

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The hour long work of performers Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood, is certainly entertaining, but informative too as the duo, along with Jeremy Brennan on piano, guide the audience through the associated history of the spirit, back to the English gin craze of 1729, complete with government attempts at control of the epidemic of drunkenness and its associated debauchery, through to 1965 Brisbane when Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the public bar of the Regatta Hotel in protest of the law against women drinking in Queensland hotel bars. The explicitly feminist perspective should not come as a surprise though, Marsden and Wood are core members of the feminist cabaret team Lady Sings it Better, known for their reinterpretation and subversion of songs made famous by men. It’s quite interesting actually to those atoned to the tipple as we learn all about our gin who art in heaven, complete with clever song accompaniment.

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It’s a fast and furious journey from its juniper berry origins with 11th Century monks to meeting its best-known-partner, tonic, in 17th Century Peru to become the imperial cocktail. And admittedly it takes audiences to some surprising, somewhat disturbing places, especially in Wood’s reinvention of Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’ to describe in explicit detail the effects of malaria from mosquito bite to all sorts of emerging, unspeakable symptoms.

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One of joys of cabaret is often hearing long-forgotten favourite songs revitalised. The Pretenders’ haunting, melodic ballad ‘Hymn to Her’ is a lovely inclusion in this regard, sung a cappella, in elegy for women who have suffered, gloriously enhanced by the team’s vocal talents and beautifully melded harmonies. And Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good’ is another early highlight.

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While Brennan provides honky-tonk piano accompaniment to many numbers, it is Billy Joel’s signature ‘Piano Man’ singalong that encourages the most organic of enjoyment. There is other audience interaction too, but it’s all part of the fun of a cheeky show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite leading audiences on a ‘wild ride’ through topics such as government control and sexist propaganda.

This feel-good appeal comes courtesy of the performers’ ease with the audience and each other, and also through its attention to the smallest facet of cocktail shaker maracas and the detailed set of an arrangement of assorted gin bottles.  Such aspects see it serve not just as a salute to gin, but to cabaret too as an art form in all its anti-homogeneous glory. Indeed, “Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin” proves that just like the perfect G and T, a great cabaret just needs the right ingredients – a distinctive concept, obvious talent and engaging stage presence to give people an enjoyable festival experience, even if the show includes its own special brand of ‘malarial burlesque’.

Photos of earlier seasons c/o – Anna Kucera and Jamie James