Once again, the Brisbane Powerhouse has proved its value to the arts community by hosting the 2High Festival. Now in its 21st year, the all-ages festival provides an opportunity for up-and-coming artists to showcase their creative works. And in 2013, this meant filling every crevice of the venue, with 130 artists, 20 bands and 16 shows… all free. Here are some of my highlights:
“Pierced Ears and Other Disasters” (The Light Ensemble)
“Pierced Ears and Other Disasters” has performers sharing their tales of woe when things have gone wrong to the point where all you can do is laugh. The premise is simple; the impact comes from the fact that the performers are all young people with disabilities. This results in a touching theatrical experience, joyous to the point of tears. The performers are personable and charming, particularly David Waldie, whose perfect comic timing had the audience sharing in raucous laughter. Indeed, productions such as this prove how the exchange with the audience, more that the production itself is the art.
“Holepunch” (Violet and Veruca)
Even before the show begins, “Holepunch” has its audience’s attention; a paper covered office setting features overflowing in-trays. It is a design that proves to be wonderfully versatile for the chaos that soon follows on stage. And it is anarchy, as in this generic office, characters find themselves exploring the world beyond their cubicles. From juggling to trapeze, accordion serenade to twerking, “Holepunch” is anything but predictable. There is even burlesque (because the show is described in the program as being a cabaret.) Daria Wain’s physical comedy (especially her swivel chair moves) is a highlight and I will never be able to look at a bottle of Clag glue the same way. Although not what I expected, “Holepunch” is loads of fun.
“Play Dead” (Thomas Hutchins and Michael Whittred)
“Play Dead” is a development showing of a new play that questions death and brotherly love. And it is a dense, intensely absorbing experience. It’s funeral time and Brother Number One (B1) is attempting to present the final version of the eulogy he has written for his younger brother, Brother Number Two (B2) who insists on contributing, causing mutual reflection of their relationship. Throughout the show the two performers are joined by a length of rope noosed around their necks. But this is not the most confronting aspect of the experience; its enthralling, haunting ending is poignant to the point of stunned silence within the audience. Though in its current guise, this is very much a festival show, including an almost obligatory dig at arts funding in Queensland, it is a work with much potential for future development.
Festivals like 2High are a dynamic display of the vibrancy of Brisbane’s arts and culture, showing how theatre inspires, creates, imagines, transforms, tell stories, communicates and makes community. I’m looking forward already to what will be playing for the people at next year’s festival.