Bow wow wow!

Let’s Be Friend Furever (The Good Room)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

September 16 – 25

For the uninitiated, The Good Room’s productions can be difficult to define. The celebrated independent company founded by Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram creates unique theatre experiences, often from community crowd-sourced content. Continuing on from its previous Brisbane Festival successes, “Let’s be Friends Furever” follows a familiar format to craft together a celebration and commemoration of all breeds of dogs, meaning that if you ever have or ever plan on owning a dog, this is the show for you.

The work, which has been developed in partnership with fellow Queensland independent theatre makers, The Little Red Company, features faces from social media and even video appearance from Australian writer and presenter Marieke Hardy. There are also everyday stores of everyday people and their extraordinary pets, as every pet dog is extraordinary to somebody… and it is celebration of this that is at the core of the show.

From the very first in the world premiere production’s parade of pooches, you will be hooked as it’s real recollections and stories are recounted on stage. After introduction to retired special ops attack dog Guge, retired Special Forces commando Steve shares story of how he built a bond worthy of gaining Guge’s respect. And as he tells us of this most important relationship of his life with his warrior brother, it is quite moving eliciting more than one audience ‘awwww’. As Afghan show dog Ava takes the stage with owner Jan who tells us all about the unique breed, and amazingly-still-a-puppy, Great Dane Rollo rocks in with his owners Siobhan and Pete, it is quite a transformational experience taking me from pre-show statement of not really being an animal person to mid-way declaration that “I love them all!”

The heartfelt homage to our four-legged friends is about transformation too as owners discuss how their lives have changed for the better through their dog ownership, even sometimes in retrospect, as later scenes respectfully take us into the raw emotion of having to farewell a furever friend after discussion from vet Matt about the multi-faceted nature of his job.

The show’s live sections are often innocently joyous, such as when 11-year-old Henry makes his theatrical debut to deliver a song about his ‘not that bright’ (and apparently eager-to-escape) best friend Cocker Spaniel Roscoe and when we meet the tenacious tongue-out fussy Austin Terrier social media sensation Mr Peanut and his owner Sam. And then there is the high-flying Frisbee hijinks of Blitz and Zoe. As light-hearted and fun as things initially are, however, it’s certainly not all PG-13 as naughty rescue dogs ‘f**king Brett’ and his brother Steven are the first to send things a little awry on opening night.

Punctuating the live guest segments are videos (video production by Optikal Bloc) about dogs and from the company’s hundreds of hours of interviews across Australia.) The segments of love, loyalty and laughter are from dog walkers, obedience trainers and alike, as well as dog owners in discussion of things like their dog parenting styles, the origins of their pets’ names and the fortunes they have spent on spoiling their greatest loves, as well as recall of their funniest experiences. And under the direction of Daniel Evans, everything is seamlessly curated together to maintain momentum and audience engagement. Mike Willmett’s dynamic sound design beds things and the mostly omnipresent ringmaster of sorts Hugh Parker keeps segments moving, with his comic commentary and questioning interaction with and response to what is happening on stage allowing for emphasis of some common themes of resilience in discussion of what people’s dogs have taught them about themselves and their purposes in life.

The Good Room’s “Let’s Be Friends Furever” is a real treat. Its ambitious examination of people’s relationships with their faithful companions and best friends is both fascinating and affirming, and it represents the perfect work with which to introduce someone to the world of what theatre can now be. They might even also end up squealing with wowed delight at the appearance of six-week-old old puppies in its conclusion.

Photos c/o –  Atmosphere Photography

Celebrating shes

That’s What She Said (The Good Room)

Metro Arts, Sue Benner Theatre

February 11 – 15


Metro Arts’ Sue Benner Theatre showcases a striking aesthetic upon audience entry to The Good Room’s “That’s What She Said”. The awash of pink hues brings with it the hint of an early Valentine’s day vibe, but, in fact, it is signpost of something far more urgent. And so the show begins with an assault of sound bites that would be shocking if we hadn’t unfortunately already heard their vitriolic misogyny as part of modern media norms. However, the rhetoric soon gives way to more inspiring examples of empowerment and reminder that there is no better place for this show than this theatre, a place that has always been one of storytelling.

Like previous The Good Room shows, this Metro Arts commissioned work is based on the general public’s responses to, in this case, 100 provocations about women, many of which appear as projections to thematically shape the show’s progress through passionate words of wisdom, ambition, regret and the complicated reality of life in all of its ages. There is a real craftedness to the show as a whole as ideas deliberately loop around in its progress and a touching musical motif is revisited. The deceptively simple space is used to utmost effect as props emerge from hidden away nooks and crannies only to also later make reappropriated appearance later in the production. Attention to detail is everywhere, including in a pop of pink bow here, a pink belt there and Margi Brown Ash’s fabulous pink tumble of tulle skirt, while Jason Glenwright’s lighting design both buoys us in celebrations and helps to take us along into the shadows of some sorrowful stories.


Even if only in snippets, the show’s stories are fascinating and it easy to become enthralled in them, given the engaging skill of the female storytellers (Margi Brown Ash, Stella Charrington, Andrea Moor, Keira Peirce, Ngoc Phan, Naioni Price, Leah Shelton and Emily Tomlins, with a rotation of guest performers each night). The primary performers each have significant monologues that are all powerfully delivered. Within the space of only a few minutes, for example, Emily Tomlins takes us from the frustration of the oxymoronic expectations of being a woman to reminder of our capacity for achievement. And her witty delivery of many of the dryly humourous one liners that pepper the show is a real treat. Margi Brown Ash also shares a memorable monologue, uplifting and inspiring in its statements about the potential for change. Like Naomi Price, she appears as a noticeably generous performer who is thoroughly engaged in what others on stage are sharing, particularly the show’s younger performers.


“That’s What She Said’ stands as testament to the mantra of truth being more entertaining than fiction. Its experience will illicit laughter and maybe even some tears but also engender a smile on your face, regardless of your gender. This is a dynamic show about broads, matriarchs and mentors, bosses, divas and dames, of all ages, from all sorts of places … women who disappoint, change lives and have a thing or two to say. But more than just this, it stands as a homage to being human. While it is at its core a celebration of the shes we love, it is ultimately a show for everyone, especially those interested in discovery of how sex is like swimming.

The Good Room always does good stuff and under Daniel Evans’ direction “That’s What She Said” is no exception. It is not just a show that the world needs now but one it will hopefully see in a return season subsequent to this Sue Benner Theatre send-off.

Photos – c/o Darren Thomas

and that’s a 2018 wrap


A quick pre-Christmas trip to Melbourne this week has not only give me my favourite theatre experience of the year in Calamity Jane, but provided a chance to reflect on a theatre year now done. Although still in the triple digits, I saw fewer shows in 2018 than in previous years, because…. Netflix. And, as usual, there have been many highlights, making it difficult to providing a definitive list of favourites. But reflective lists are what the end of a year is all about, so here is my eclectic top 10 of the memorable, the musical, the moving and the mirthful, and some honourable mentions.

  1. Calamity Jane – Encore Season (Arts Centre Melbourne in association with One Eyed Man Productions, Neglected Musicals and Hayes Theatre Co)
  2. Hamnet (Dead Centre) as part of Brisbane Festival
  3. Good Muslim Boy (Queensland Theatre and Malthouse Theatre)
  4. Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)
  5. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Michael Cassel in Association with Paul Blake & Song/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner)
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (The National Theatre)
  7. The Origin of Love – The Songs and Stories of Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell)
  8. Home (Geoff Sobelle/Beth Morrison Projects) as part of Brisbane Festival
  9. At Last: The Etta James Story (Brisbane Powerhouse)
  10. The Sound of a Finished Kiss (Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

And mention also to the following highlights:

Best performance:

  • Virgina Gay as the titular feisty frontierswoman in Calamity Jane
  • Paul Capsis as 1970s gay icon, English writer, raconteur and actor Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the 2018 Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.

Best AV – A Christmas Carol (optikal bloc for shake & stir theatre co)

Most thought provoking –- Home (Geoff Sobelle/Beth Morrison Projects)

Best new work – The Sound of a Finished Kiss (Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best musical

  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Michael Cassel in Association with Paul Blake & Song/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner)
  • Big Fish – The Musical (Phoenix Ensemble)
  • Bare (Understudy Productions)

Best cabaret:

Best music – The Origin of Love – The Songs and Stories of Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell)

Best dance – Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)

Funniest – Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)

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

Cleverest – North by Northwest (QPAC and Kay & McLean Productions)

Most moving – Hamnet (Dead Centre)

Youth truths

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

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

September 26 – 29


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.

question (1).jpg

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.

From forgiveness

I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room)

Theatre Republic, The Block

September 13 – 23

plane.jpgLike their earlier shows, “I Should Have Drunk More Champagne” and “I Want to Know What Love Is”, The Good Room’s “I Just Came to Say Goodbye” is derived from a deceptively simple premise; shared, anonymous submissions of fragments and memories, confessions and admissions, become the basis of the script. This time it is forgiveness and regret, with the true contributions of forgiveness yearned, earned and unfortunately absent, filing the spaces between tell of a bigger real-life story from recent history. And this is where the show’s strength lies… its basis in truth, even if it is initially diluted by a superfluously long dance sequence by an ensemble of stagehands. Although it is to establish that we are all on a flight together, it’s more dodgy than dynamic and a foil to the force of the story that follows, though that is probably the point.


When, in 2002, two planes collided over Germany due to human (air traffic controller) error, Vitaly Kaloyeu lost his wife and two children amongst the killed passengers. It is this tragic story upon which the work hangs, leading to an extreme aesthetic experience of full black out, terrifying crash sound blasts and brutal lighting courtesy of Composer/Sound Designer Dane Alexander and Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright.


Things are fast and furious with an apocalyptic sensibility, but also, at times, tender in heartfelt vulnerability and visually quite stunning as, through share of the anonymous contributions, the audience is sucker-punched with an array of emotions in scenes of anger, intimacy, humour and tragedy, from heavy-duty stories of assault and aids infection to more lighthearted tells of school dance disagreements and karaoke song theft.


The ensemble cast appropriates every opportunity for connection from the material. Amy Ingram’s forthright delivery of details of the DHL cargo plane and Russian passenger jet collision allows the audience to bring their own emotion to its story. In contrast, Caroline Dunphy is tender in her description of the before and after of the crash site, but powerful too in her share of people’s sometimes shocking contributions. Thomas Larkin and Michael Tuahine bring a dynamic energy to the ensemble’s physical scenes, especially a spectacular, complex fight experience (choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr).


In Director Daniel Evans’ hands, “I Just Came to Say Goodbye” avalanches the audience in sound, lighting and emotion, with a pumping soundtrack to boot. Some moments lag a little indulgently, but when it is at its ferocious best, it is a beast of a show that deserves experience more than just read of its description. As is often the case with the best theatrical events its craftedness is only really appreciated upon reflection of its heartening final, positive message about the power that can come from forgiveness and the importance of finding ways to move forward.



This thing called love

I Want To Know What Love Is (QTC and The Good Room)

The Greenhouse, Bille Brown Studio

September 4 – 13


 I wanna know what love is

I want you to show me

I wanna feel what love is

I know you can show me

When it comes to 80s ballads, they don’t get much bigger than Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and when it comes to its namesake show, there is still no real answer. Like a mix tape being forwarded through, the pre-show soundtrack highlights love’s many musical incantations, from the Bee Gees to Jimmy Buffett. And given that there have been hundreds of songs penned about the ups and downs of being in love, they were certainly spoiled for choice. The same is clearly the case with the show’s subject matter, which emerged from over 800 (predominantly anonymous) general public submissions to the website The result is an eclectic and entertaining example of verbatim theatre about this unanswerable, universal question.

“I Want To Know What Love Is”  begins buoyantly with a perfect musical burst and a mad pashing love in (literally taking the action in to and over the stalls) as reflections of delicate and drunken first kisses and awkward moments are shared in a flurry of falling rose petals. The lushness of the aesthetic not only invigorates the largely minimalist set, but becomes a feature in itself as, through the show, the piles of pink and red are manipulated, moved and shaped to create new spaces.


Before long, the mood shifts from celebratory to solemn as reflections become of love taken rather than lost. And it is a mood change whose deliberateness is not lost on the audience, judging by the many surrounding sobs. Things become sexy too, with some dirty talk from veteran performer Carol Burns and, in his QTC debut, 18 year old Tom Cossattini. And also a little scary, as a scorned Amy Ingram does what she does best, bringing laughs with her terse angst of heartache and pain in contrast to the trite platitudes of survival, healing and ‘choosing me’.

Whether you are a cheater or a carer, if you have ever fallen in or out of love you are sure to identify with some of the show’s contributory submissions about that crazy little thing. However, it is also relief to see sprinklings of non-romantic love within the stories, with mentions of dads, dogs and drumkits as part of its celebration of love’s bittersweet contribution to the fabric of life’s narrative.


If theatre is built on stories, you don’t get much better than the authoral ownership of QTC’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”. Like love, the best way to approach the show is not to focus on its parts, but to appreciate it as a whole glorious journey through the circus of emotions it explores, a journey that is made all the more joyous by its visual aesthetic, musical score and enthusiastic performances.