Thursday 27 July 2017

Bowie & Mercury Rising - Musical Review

What: Bowie & Mercury Rising
When: 26 - 30 July 2017
Where: Chapel Off Chapel
Written and directed by: Warren Wills
Performed by: Jess Mortlock, Thando Sikwila, and Warren Wills
Lighting by: Jason Bovaird

Thando Sikwila

Such amazing potential and timing to create a work of impact and significance has been missed completely by musical theatre artist Warren Wills. It has been a year since David Bowie and Freddie Mercury died and the nascent show Bowie & Mercury Rising, playing at Chapel Off Chapel this week was the perfect opportunity to celebrate their music, their lives, and continue a trajectory their music brings to their fans beyond number. This is what the audience wanted, needed, and was hoping for but instead we were in for a night of disjointed individualism, lack of insight, and almost unrecognisable musical self-indulgence on the part of Wills.

I should begin by saying that getting the rights to perform any of Bowie's music (and most likely Mercury's as well) is incredibly difficult and carries many caveats and this makes it very difficult in an homage context. Bowie & Mercury Rising, however, was promoted as a musical tracking the journey of a London actress searching for her own hope through their music. A clever concept except that Wills forgot to include the actress and the journey. He also possibly forgot to tell the rest of the team.

Instead what we got was a highly self-indulgent piano recital of overly arranged music which was almost beyond recognition. There is no doubt Wills is a brilliant pianist but his variations are like Mariah Carey's vocal trills - there are too many, they are too long, they all start to sound the same, and they interupt the flow of the music and story telling. The ultimate evidence of this is when Wills performed 'Radio Gaga' to a lazer light show. After much confusion people around me were saying 'Oh, it's a light show!' Eventually even Bouvaird ran out of ideas and we were left with endless variations which left the audience bored and looking around at each other asking when it was going to end.

Don't get me wrong. The four artists involved are individually absolute masters of their craft. Thando Sikwila has a magnificent R&B voice full of power and grace, Jess Mortlock brings what little life and artistic interpretation there is in the show to her lyrical ballet vignettes, and Bovaird has realised his full potential as a master lighting designer who makes the technology a full and complete player in the story-telling. I have already said I consider Wills to be a master pianist.

Wills is not a writer though, and if this is any example, he is not a story teller either. The four artists in Bowie & Mercury Rising all appeared on stage doing what they do best but they were four individuals who did what they do rather than working together to take the audience on a journey. At the end I didn't care about any of them and I almost stopped caring about Bowie and Mercury too!

The show doesn't even work as a concert because as amazing as Sikwila's voice is, she is not a charismatic stage performer and lacks the presence to hold the audience in the palm of her hand. Even if she could, she is competing with Wills for musical attention and she is always the second fiddle (pun intended).

Bowie & Mercury Rising is not a show for David Bowie or Freddy Mercury fans. It is not a show for fans of musicals over. Go and see Bowie & Mercury Rising if you want to hear a piano recital of their music or want to listen to trite and irrelevant observations about their lives which lack insight or significance of any kind. Otherwise, take a walk down the street and check out Provocare instead.

1.5 Stars

Saturday 22 July 2017

The Little Death Club - Cabaret Review

What: The Little Death Club
When: 20 - 30 July
Where: Main Tent, Grattan Gardens
Performed by: Miss Bettie Bombshell, Bernadette Byrne, Jarred P Dewey, Jess Love, and Karen From Finance
Stage Managed by: Maple Rose

Art Simone
The Little Death Club is one of the myriad of star acts which form part of the new and very exciting Provocare Festival in the Chapel Street precinct this July. Hosted by Bernadette Byrne (with ringmaster Art Simone to warm up and wrangle the crowds) The Little Death Club fills the main tent at Grattan Gardens with a host of circus and cabaret artists second to none.

Byrne is a cheeky, sexy libertine who brings her Weimar punk cabaret to Melbourne to tear down the house with laughter, irreverence and a whole lot of sexual titillation. Why is it Weimar? Because it is relaxed and luxurient and Byrne uses a terrible fake German accent. Why is it punk? Because it is cheeky and irreverant and subversive? Why is it cabaret? Because it is full of a parade of unusual and unexpected and unsurpasses talent which crosses all genres.

Everyone on stage was amazing. Byrne played with the audience like we were her puppets on a string but who cares when it means strangers start caressing your thigh? We certainly got to know each other in unexpected ways!

Jess Love brought the house down. First with a skipping, tap dancing, acrobatic routine as good and unique as anything I have ever seen. I bet you didn't event get close to what she can do with your skipping rope at home. I certainly couldn't. Later in the show she came back as a hoop artist with a serious attitude - as seriously BAD attitude. Turning all the circus tropes upside down she had us laughing and cheering as she yawned and pouted her way through the routine.

Miss Bettie Bombshell was there as was Karen From Finance. Karen had a really exciting interpretation of her makeup with a slight flavouring of a Kabuki Ghoul which added some haunting mystique to her job woes.

Jarred P Dewey wowed us on the aerial trapeze with his trans aerial acrobatic routine. This man already has the longest legs in the world and once you add 6 inch heels he turns into a giant. Watching his swing and spin and contort on the trapeze was like watching a human ribbon playing in the wind.

Smattered between all of this was the magnificent Byrne. Starting the show with the best bit of advice I have ever heard - "if you like what you see on stage let your face know" - and continuing by serenading and seducing the audience she had us swept into a fantasy of fun and excitement from beginning to end.

There is so much amazing stuff at Provocare you will have the time of your life no matter what time you go down there but do look for the sessions of The Little Death Club. Grab a drink before and after from the local bars and then continue on down Chapel Street to keep the party going.

5 Stars

Friday 21 July 2017

I Am Katherine - Theatre Review

What: I Am Katherine
When 19 - 29 July 2017
Where: Hare Hole
Directed by: Renee Palmer
Performed by: Trudi Boatright, Sorcha Breen, Beth Liston and Adrienne Sloan
Costumes by: Adrienne Sloan
Technical design by: Darren Lever

Beth Liston, Sorcha Breen, Adrienne Sloan, and Trudi Boatwright
Billed as 'a feisty response to Shakespeare' I Am Katherine is certainly that and a whole lot more. Filled with more than a smattering of real life experiences, this show takes the experience of the famous shrew and puts them in the satirical light always intended rather than the misogynistic love story the patriarchy has always maintained it to be. I Am Katherine is playing at the Hare Hole until the end of July and I highly recommend you go although it will not be a comfortable and jolly time. You will laugh your socks off though!

I Am Katherine was first performed at The Owl and Cat Theatre in 2015 and now it is back just in time. There has been a lot of discussion about women and feminism over the last couple of years both nationally and now internationally. Women are finally speaking up, telling the truth rather than exhibiting a fantasy and demanding the space to be real and complete people. Joining the ranks of Finucane and Smith, Caroline Lee, and myself these women are crying out in pain loudly and fighting for the survival of the human race.

This show is a devised piece and has the episodic, picaresque structure usually found in work created this way. What makes it stand out from the crowd is the quirky 5 act parodic structure and masterful dramatic arc created by script editor Sorcha Breen and director Renee Palmer. Don't be afraid though. At only an hour, I am Katherine is not the epic tale of abuse Shakespeare created.

I believe Shakespeare was a feminist and this is evident by the female characters he has created across his body of work. Perhaps most obvious in the tragedies, in plays like The Taming Of The Shrew Shakespeare attempts satire but the English have never really managed to get their head around this form of edification and so it the play is usually presented as a comic love story so as not to offend the male establishment from whom all gifts of patronage are bestowed.

I Am Katherine peels away the need for societal approval and looks at the actual words written by Shakespeare illuminating the horror of social norms and the explicit call for the abuse and subjugation of women for the pleasure and ease of men. Palmer's voice rings out with quotes such as "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign..." but instead of framing them as comedy Breen, Adrienne Sloan, Beth Liston, and Trudi Boatwright hear them and experience them in earnest just as Katherine would have.

What is surprisingly effective in I Am Katherine is the fact that there are some absolutely outrageous moments of hilarity which leave you with the dilemma as to whether to laugh or cry. The great skill of the actors is in making it clear to the audience that both are fair and welcome.

Lady Winifred Charlotte Bothom (Liston) starts our journey by introducing us to her 16th century school of female etiquette. In a hooped skirt and tightly bound corset she attempts to get the help of her modern students in explaining the 3 main rules for women.  Her students are not perfect examples. The tales get more and more real although there is a slight detour via the mean girl Barbies which is a brilliant moment of direction by Palmer.

Palmer's direction is masterful in I Am Katherine. She has a strong affinity with physicality and uses the women's bodies to frame the work beautifully. This is helped by an ensemble of equal skill and talent giving I Am Katherine a true sense of ensemble and completeness. The ability to balance the polemic with the absurd is also mesmerising.

Perhaps the one thing which lets the show down is the costuming. I assume this show was made on a shoestring but a bit more focus on detail would have been good. Sloan  has some clever ideas but the sewing is poor and costume detail is already coming off and the show is only in it's second night. A quick sewing bee by the cast will solve some of these problems though.

I really do recommend I Am Katherine. It is a valuable contribution to the dialogue going on between the sexes on how to maintain a balance for the good of all and it a surprising bunch of fun. The night also allows us to really see and hear some of the points Shakespeare was making rather than clouding it in a fear of didactics and expository.

4 Stars

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Diving Into The Unknown - Theatre Review

What: 'Alias Grace'/Catherine: The Body Politic
When: 15 & 15th July/16 July
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Written by: Margaret Atwood/Caroline Lee
Directed by: Laurence Strangio/Alice Darling
Performed by: Caroline Lee
Designed by: Anna Tregloan/Rachel Burke
Lighting by: Bronwyn Pringle/Rachel Burke

Caroline Lee in 'Alias Grace'
Caroline Lee is a stalwart of Melbourne theatre. Amongst her many adventures across the stages of the world Lee experienced a range of milestones at the renowned La Mama Theatre so it is no surprise she was offered a place in the La Mama 50th Mini Fest.

This also worked well into where Lee was sitting as an artist. In 2014 Lee undertook a residency at Victoria University and used her time to look back upon her career and investigate her journey as an artist. Interestingly I also did my residency at the same time although we never ran into each other (thus is the nature of the residency). Where I was a nascent babe in my chosen art form, Lee was looking at her body of work in order to move forward in her established practice. When La Mama approached her about this 50th anniversary celebration Lee was already to engage in the themes.

Eighteen years ago Lee performed her first solo show at La Mama in the timeless hit adaptation 'Alias Grace'. The show has been reprised 6 times since its premier, each time receiving accolades. Whilst I somehow managed to miss it every time previoius I can now join the chorus of how truly wonderful this show is.

Starting with material better than most, in 1999 Laurence Strangio and Lee set out to adapt the story Alias Grace created by Margaret Atwood into a solo performance and - as the saying goes - they have never looked back! That is not entirely true of course. Strangio and Lee have looked back 6 times now and, as is their process, every time they remount they begin from the beginning.

Every iteration has begun by going back and reworking their text and performance analysis. Heavily influenced by Peter Brook's The Empty Stage, Lee constantly asks herself the question "Why are we making and showing this piece of theatre now, right now?" As an example, in 2005 the Schapelle Corby saga was in play and gave the play a unique context. Today the show sits in an unstable world in which far right politics is dominating and the freedoms we women were promised in the 20th century have failed to yet be realised.

Lee's performance is complex, delicate, and textured to perfection. She demonstrates every skill in storytelling and brings sweetness and fear, passion and poignancy, confusion and control to a life story so unbelievable it has to be true. According to the progam this version of 'Alias Grace' focused 'on ideas of truth...what do we really know and how do we really know it?' These themes were perfectly articulated and I learnt some important lessons about story telling.

To compliment this early work Lee presented a performance of her 2016 solo performance Catherine:The Body Politic. It was truly fascinating to see her first solo performance piece in conversation with her most recent.

'Alias Grace' is text bound although the performance of it showed Lee's mastery of the physical in providing clarity of events and person's without actually seeming to be imitative. This performance also showed her explorations in physicality including some subtle Suzuki influences. Catherine on the other hand, almost completely eschews any kind of narrative and relies on physicality to help impart the psychology of the work rather than demanding we make meaning from the text.

Both works are about the state of being female in the world and - perhaps not evident to the naked eye - both search backward to look forward. The key for this new work lies in the name Catherine.

The concept of the 'body politic' emerged in European thinking around the same time as St Catherine of Siena emerged in Italy - the first great Catherine. The body politic is the idea of considering an entity such as a nation as if it were a human being. In the case of Lee's show, she is considering the state of being woman and, in particular, Australian woman as a single human being through the psychological worlds of 6 women.

The Catherines Lee portrays are Australian women, but the historical greats are clearly referenced. St Catherine eschewed the state of marriage to join the Church and then eschewed the nunneries to live in the world. She was instrumental in the return of the papacy to Rome. Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII but never bore him a son. She denied his appeal to the Pope to allow an annulment and forced him to create his own church - The Church of England - to deal with this problem. Catherine The Great was responsible for overthrowing her husband and ruling Russia. During her time as Empress education and art were brought to the common people of Russia and instituted the idea that all people were equal.

What these women have in common was a battle with forces seemingly too big and entrenched for their life choices. In Catherine: The Body Politic the women create by Lee are in the midst of their own great turmoils. They are still in the edges of the storm but there is a sense that it is dying down although we never find out how it ends for them.

Two stories stand out to me in this work. The first is the art lecturer who discusses the Russell Drysdale painting 'The Drover's Wife'. She talks about the woman depicted as being on the edge of moving on. This painting is fascinating because Henry Lawson's story of the same name is all about the woman who stays still. The other woman who stays in my mind is the farmer who brings a yoyo cookie and some water as an offering to the storm gods hoping to ease their ire.

Catherine: The Body Politic needs more work. At only around 45 minutes there is space for Lee to help the audience into the characters, ideas and themes. It is not affective enough to be expressionist. This means the audience need to engage logic to attempt to make meaning and each vignette disappears to fast to assign context or relevance. The show has good bones but the text needs extending and Alice Darling's direction just adds to the obscurity.

As a pair these two works really do provide insight into Lee as a performer and performance maker. Together they show the depth and breadth of her skill in the art of performance and we definitely see her areas of passion and interest.

5 Stars/2 Stars

Friday 14 July 2017

Paris: A Rock Odyssey - Musical Review

What: Paris - A Rock Odyssey
When: 13 - 15 July 2017
Where: Melbourne Recital Centre
Written by: Jon English and David MacKay
Directed by: Neil Gooding
Musical Direction by: Isaac Hayward
Performed by: Annie Aitken, Shirley Bowen, Daniel Cosgrove, Mark Dickerson, Madeleine Featherby, Tim Freedman, Kerrie Anne Greenland, Scott Johnson, Cameron MacDonald, Jordon Mahar, Matthew Manahan, Brian Mannix, Ben Mingay, John O'May, Jack O'Riley, Caitlin Quinn, Todd Strike, John Waters, The Ensemble, and The Band
Set by: Darren O'Shea and Mark Raynes
Costumes by: Jannette Raynes and Mark Raynes
Lighting by: Jason Bovaird
Sound by: Marcello Lo Ricco
Visuals by: Andrew Sampford and Stuart Smith

Kerrie Anne Greenland, Isaac Hayward (conducting), and The Band
Paris: A Rock Odyssey is a rock opera written by the late and adored Jon English in conjunction with David MacKay. Existing as a cast recording and having been performed in the amatuer realm, English was in the process of realising it as a professional production when he died unexpectedly. Honouring his memory and in homage to the scope and quality of this musical, Music Theatre Melbourne have gone ahead and, with the help of an amazing creative team, are performing a staged concert version for three nights at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

The story that of The Illiad of Homer. It follows the downfall of Troy at the hand of the Greeks. Remember that saying 'beware greeks bearing gifts'? This is where it stems from.

Beginning with the deputisation of younger son Paris (Manahan) to act as trade envoy, King Priam of Troy (O'May)  sends him off to the court of King Menelaus of Greece (Dickinson) to open negotiations. In the course of only 4 days Paris manages to almost die in a storm at sea, get saved by Queen Helen (Featherby), fall in love with her, be thrown in prison, convince Helen to help him escape and run away with him and start a war which would last for ten years and  destroy his family and his city forever. Good times.

The structure of Paris is temporally linear and is very reminiscent of Macbeth. The story travels from event to event which means it is fast paced like Macbeth, but also has the same weakness of not really allowing for a whole lot of character or relationship development. This means that the show has to contain significant amounts of recitative which gives it that slightly operatic feel. A Greek chorus was used to excellent effect at the start and end as a...Greek chorus. I think they could have been integrated more effectively in the middle but all of their contributions to the mode and message of the story were absolutely on point and effective.

Paris is undeniably derivative and at times I found myself thinking Jesus Christ Superstar, Xanadu, Les Miserables, and even Grease 2! Rather unexpectedly I found myself not minding that so much as there are things to like about all of those shows (yes, even Grease 2 had Michelle Pfeiffer and the song 'Cool Rider' going for it although it was more that Manahan's performance reminded me of Maxwell Caulfield's performance.).

The songs are great in that way we remember English's classic hits of being. Ear worms! The stand out hits for me were 'Business', the refrain 'Hell or High Water', 'What Price a Friend?', and the piss your self laughing song 'Inside Outside'. This last one was completely out of sync and yet perfectly performed by Mannix (Sinon). This 'Master of The House' in Les Miserables and you will get the idea. This song nearly got its own standing ovation.

Mannix was up there with the best on stage although he really was just doing what he always does. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Freedman (Agamemnon) was also deliciously calculating, Johnson (Hector) and Strike (Patroclus) had wonderful voices and presence, and Featherby and Greenland (Cassandra) take off into a completely superior stratosphere of performance all their own.

One of the fascinating aspects of Paris is English and MacKay have written two amazing female roles musically when they are actually two of the most completely disempowered women in all of mythology. The feminist in me had a lot of struggling to do as I watched Paris. In many ways it is a men's fight club tale and completely demeaning to women.

Upon thinking about it later I came to the realisation that Homer was the ultimate feminist. He shows us a bunch of big powerful men who treat Helen like a whore. A young man comes into their circle untried and untested and then steals their only jewel. They form a gang and attack his family and home and kill everyone. They don't get their 'belonging' back despite it all, and the only people speaking any sense are the women who are being ignored. In other words - men are so far beyond stupid they are irredeemable. The only one who gets what she wants in the end is Helen who gets her freedom.

Gooding has done a good job of staging this concert, with strong tableaux and iconic symbols to move the story along. Bovaird's lighting is sublime and really makes this concert stand out from the crowd. It is stunning, eyecatching, and moves the tone and tenor of the story forward, never letting the audience fall into complacency and keeping the magic alive.

The one great disappointment was Waters (Ulysses) who really just seemed to be phoning in his performance. I forgave this at the end when the ensemble did an homage to English with his song 'Love Is Power'. Paris could very well sit in the rock opera company of Jesus Christ Superstar - although not too close as they could be mistaken as twins.

4 Stars

Thursday 13 July 2017

Adulting - Cabaret Review

What: Adulting
When: 11 - 16 July
Where: The Butterfly Club
Written by: Tash York
Performed by: Jamie Burgess and Tash York

Jamie Burgess and Tash York
Adulting is the new cabaret by Tash York playing at The Butterfly Club and follows on her wildly successful show These Things Take Wine. The journey of her life time, York stumbles through the milestones of growing up marked by the pop megahits through those ages.

Do you remember sitting at the back of the science lab in high school making up rude alternative lyrics to the songs on the radio? In fact, do you remember radio? (York makes it clear if you don't know what a CD is there is nothing in this cabaret for you!).

I digress. Do you remember those days in high school? This is what the Adulting experience feels like. Except that York (and Jamie Burgess) know what they are doing and can actually tell a story as well as be outrageous...

Beginning her the show as a life size blow up baby doll (I am not joking), York starts  with the hint of a rap before muddling into Britney Spears and Destiny's Child. Yes, you will notice a distinctly feminine musical tendency.

We hear about her tribulations as the only girl in school who, at the grand old age of 14 is the only one who has not begun to menstruate despite practice insertions of tampons in the hope that she would spring a leak. We hear about her first boyfriend. Gratefully we do not get to hear about losing her virginity. This is when we know the show is not going to be mired in predictability and the ho hum.

Traversing through music by Aqua and Gewn Stefani we eventually make it through to that horrible end game - adulthood. Adulting is no homage to the joys of being a grown up. It is a wry, desperate laugh at the utter poverty, disfunctional relationships and tough life choices that come with reaching the age of 18 and beyond.

York makes some incisive points about the expectation on women to want to get married and breed but Adulting is not polemically feminist. It is a gentle and funny reminder of that old adage 'be careful what you wish for because you just might get it'. We spend all of our childhood desperate to become a grown up but when we get here the only way to survive is to cling to your inner child.

York has an amazing voice so even if some of the songs are predictable you don't get tired of hearing her sing them and I often found myself trying to sing along. When she sings 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' for her mother everybody in the room was breathless and mesmerised. You could have heard a pin drop but that would have been annoying because all you want to hear is York's glorious voice soar.

Burgess does not just tinkle the ivories for her either. He is her grounding with reality, her straight man and he is not afraid to come out from behind the piano to keep her on track.

Adulting is a little bit of fun which will give you a good laugh, remind you of your own growing years, and help you know you are not alone as you spend the rest of your life paying off parking fines from a misspent youth. Grab a mulled wine to warm you up and then settle in for a barrel full of chuckles.

3 Stars

Wednesday 5 July 2017

The After Hours Cabaret Club - Cabaret Review

What: The After Hours Cabaret Club
When: 2 July 2017
Where: Melba Spiegeltent
Performed by: Bettie Bombshell, Simon Coronel, Ring Me Dot Dot Dot, Jacqueline Furey, Odd Mantis, Maple Rose, David Splatt, Glitta Supernova, Tash York, and The After Hours Cabaret Club Band

David Splatt
It's the middle of winter, a time we don't often go out for late night adventures - especially not on Sunday nights - but I have found something worth going out for. The After Hours Cabaret Club at the Melba Spiegeltent takes place on the first Sunday of every month and it is a whole barrel of adult good times just waiting for you to come and join in.

The After Hours Cabaret Club has cabaret star Tash York as their songstress emcee and they are Australia's only variety show with an in-house 5 piece band. Believe me, these musicians are good! With their own special variety of swing jazz they warm up the room and back up York's sensational vocals with energy and sass which keeps the audience enthralled and enthused.

The show is produced by international burlesque artists Maple Rose and Miss Bettie Bombshell. Bombshell joined in the fun last night with two very sexy routines worthy of her status as Burlesque Hall of Fame competitor. Maple Rose, on the other hand, took a slightly less in your face approach and introduced us to something no one has ever seen before. I won't tell you too much about Burlesque Rex, but suffice to say his debut on stage brought the house down with laughter and cat calls and more hilarity than I have seen in a room in a very long time.

Bringing out our lusty animal instincts, Jacqueline Furey led the way with two very sexy and exciting routines. The second of her routines was a magic act, but not quite the same kind of sleight of hand produced by the hilarious and skillful Simon Coronel (who is also appearing in the Melbourne Magic Festival at Northcote Town Hall).

In the true definition of variety show, we were entertained by an amazing array of juggling, acrobalancing and David Splatt did a hilarious and heart-rending puppet mime routine. Oh, and he plays the hand saw exceptionally well too.

Amongst all of these hijinks and frivolity, York belts out musical classics and shows off her skills as a children's entertainer with a balloon act of great mirthful proportions. The evening wrapped up with the funny feminist antics of the iconic Glitta Supernova.

The line up changes every month depending on who is in town because this show not only the features local artists, but also brings national and international guests to join the after-hours fun. The After Hours Cabaret Club is a wild and raunchy night of adult entertainment but these people know it is the last moment of madness before Monday morning, so they let us explore the kid inside us all with a bunch of silliness to round out an evening of extraordinary skill and artistry. Book one of the cabaret tables and share a bottle of bubbles with your friends. The perfect way to end an old week and prepare for a new one.

5 Stars

Monday 3 July 2017

The Rapture - Theatre Review

What: The Rapture
When: 29 June - 16 July 2017
Where: fortyfivedownstairs
Written by: Moira Finucane
Directed by: Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith
Performed by: Mama Alto, Shirley Cattunar, Miss Chief, Moira Finucane, and Clare St Clare
Composed by: Darrin Verhagen and Ben Keene
Visual Art by: William Eicholtz and Catherine Lane and Arts Project Australia
Couture by: Gun Shy, Anastasia Le Fey, and Keon Couture
Lighting by: Simon Hardy

Mama Alto, Moira Finucane, and Clare St Clare
The nights are cold, candles are burning, and we all stay closer to home as the day turns to night so much quicker this midwinter and the sun is so reluctant to rise again the next day. In these witching hours as our world seems so much smaller and uninviting our thoughts roam at large trying to work past the darkness and into the light. Witnessing Finucane and Smith's latest show The Rapture at fortyfivedownstairs, we are guided into this nether region of life and light to look at what we have wrought and ponder our existence.

The Rapture, for those who don't know, is the term Christians use to talk about a secret visitation by Jesus to gather up his saved souls before a period of tribulation and then the official second coming where he brings his army to defeat the antichrist. Finucane has self-deified in this show. This begs the questions: Is she the true Messiah or one of the fake prophets spoken about in the bible; and, are we the saved or are we the easily misled?

Announced by her heavenly choir (Alto, Cattunar, and St Clare) Finucane floats onto the stage in a massive bear coat, feather head dress, and talons almost as long at her arms. Writhing in ecstasy in both pain and pleasure she tells us the story which brought her to her divinity and then spends the next hour and half lifting our souls to join her in exquisite beauty and pain.

The Rapture is the first stage of the end of the world and Finucane sits in the judgement chair. Instead of us having to tell our stories and be judged however, it is Finucane who tells us our stories. Two Great Auks stand on pedestals at the end of the catwalk stage  - a constant reminder of the realities of extinction.

The Auks are integral to the piece and not just augmentation. Finucane tells us of our callous treatment of this regal species - ripping off their best feathers live and then leaving them to die in the cold oceans and throwing them onto the fire live to eat. The Auks became extinct late in the 19th century but they are significant also because they were the instigation for some of the earliest environment protection laws in our society. The ineffectiveness of those laws ring down through time questioning whether we are doing enough. At the end we are reminded of the plight of the Auks when she talks about snails. Will they be gone soon too?

The Rapture is a polemic. Do not expect to go gently into this good night when you see the show. Finucane is there to challenge each of us about our assumptions. She brings a voice to subjecs that are not meant to be spoken about. She talks of things taboo. She talks of things unseen. She talks of things right in front of our face. She gives voice to the muted. Finucane is not a good girl doing what she is told. She is a strong woman speaking out about the things killing our world and our society.

The discussion about extinction does not rest with animals or the environment. Finucane is also speaking to social decay and destruction which comes from blindness and neglect of those who are not, well, straight males to be blunt.

The tale of systemic oppression could not be more illuminating if somewhat literal. Sitting beside that is the visual and sonic portrait of a woman in a bikini by the beach. First we see the photoshopped fairytale but then Finucane looks deeper and we see the truth behind the picture. It is small and dark and painful and it is reality - a reality we don't want to see and one we definitely don't ever want to speak out loud.

Words are dangerous and words which come from women are so much more dangerous. I heard a quote on TV the other day from Once Upon A Time. A character says "There is nothing more dangerous than an untold story". The story of women is the longest untold story in the history of 'man' kind.

Beware The Rapture. Ecstasy is a double edged sword and The Rapture is sitting on the knife edge. It is sublime. It is divine. It is dangerous. Do you dare to hear what this prophet has to say? Can you risk not hearing her? I think not!

4.5 Stars

KOAL: Theatre Review

WHAT: KOAL WHERE: Theatre Works (Explosives Factory) WHEN: 22 May - 1 June 2024 CREATED BY: Jacinta Yelland and Trey Lyford DIRECTED BY: Tre...