Thursday 20 October 2022

IN THE HOUSE OF THE SUN - Theatre Review

 WHAT: In The House Of The Sun

WHEN: 18 - 22 October 2022

WHERE: Queen Victoria Women's Centre


DIRECTED BY: Margaret Mills

CHOREOGRAPHED BY: Jessica MacCallum Cruz

Rebecca Perich

I thought I knew a lot about Greek mythology. I have read both the Illiad and the Odyssey. I have read or seen most of the major Ancient Greek plays still trotting around the globe. I studied Antigone and have written Athena. I know how choruses and masks work. I am an educated woman with a solid grounding in the literary classics. Or so I thought. Watching In The House Of The Sun last night I came to realise I know nothing. I know the words on all the pieces of paper but as is true of all Western history, I only know the stories as told by men.

Inspired by Jennifer Saint's Ariadne, Rebecca Perich has decided to present a dance theatre (tanztheatre) experience of what life would have been like for Ariadne and all that she witnessed and experienced. What she has created is a remarkably visceral retelling which gently steamrolls from sweetness, to saccharine, to shit.

We meet Ariadne at around 15 years old. By then her mother has become something remote and ineffective through the abuse of her father King Minos. This was revenge for her affair with the bull and the birth of her first child - the creature we all know as the Minotaur. Ariadne dances around the palace and tells bedtime stories to her little sister, Phaedra. In sweet, gentle tones Ariadne soothes her with horrifying tales of how her brother was locked away and trained to eat flesh and drink blood...

Music is an experience which elicits emotion directly to the brain/body. Dance is the expression of that emotion directly from the brain/body. Perich's gentle, lyrical voice is belied by the agonising paroxysms of her body in powerful dance interludes. Jessica MacCallum Cruz's choreography gets to the core of the subtext and shows us what is really going on for Ariadne. I only wish there had been more of it.

Ariadne blooms into her womanly awareness with the arrival of Theseus and thus her women's journey begins with all the excitement, wonder, lust, pain and betrayal we all must endure. Her maidenhead is taken, her wishes are ignored, and her hopes and dreams are dashed. We all know how the story ends. Ariadne is abandoned on the isle of Nexos and there her story ends.

What sets In the House Of The Sun out of the ordinary is Perich's superior grasp of form and content. The narrative is cleverly constructed. I don't know if Perich follows Homer's dactylic hexameter faithfully, but she definitely slips in and out of an epic poetic structure across the story telling which is as powerful as the dance interludes.

Margaret Mills (director) has crafted the use of the space and lighting masterfully. This could easily be a show with a small woman drowning in a large room with a few basic lights. Sometimes, though, you don't need more than a half dozen lights to have huge impact if you have timing and tempo right and you have a clear vision of what is happening in each moment of a show.

There are some problems with the production. There is some call and response moments in the show but the response comes from somebody (Mills?) behind the audience. Whoever it is, they are not 'acting' and it seemed like they were always late which really messed with the artistic intent of those moments in my opinion. I also thought there might have been a bit too much repetition and pauses as Ariadne paces in circles. I don't want anything in the show to be sped up per se, but I do feel it could be shortened by about ten minutes by just tightening up the looseness of the performance as a whole.

I also really have to give a shout out to best venue choice ever! In The House Of The Sun is being presented at the Queen Victoria Women's Centre and just walking through the doors into what was the first Melbourne Women's Hospital is so evocative. The art displays and signage, which are all about empowering women through our treacherous life journeys, seep into the soul before we even meet Ariadne.

Perich has me totally hooked on her work. In 2018 I saw her show Pinky Promise and was captured by her unique and insightful story telling. In The House Of The Sun is very different and yet the nuance and detail of Perich's story telling is in everything she does. I can't wait for her next show, The Old Man And The Mouse, at La Mama later this year!

4 Stars

Tuesday 18 October 2022

2 PROUD 2 PREJUDICED: An Austen-tatious Cabaret - Cabaret Review

 WHAT: 2 Proud 2 Prejudiced: An Austen-tatious Cabaret

WHEN: 10 - 23 October 2022

WHERE: The Butterfly Club (Upstairs)/Digital Fringe

CREATED BY: Picked Last For Sport

PERFORMED BY: Sarah Edgar, Freya Long, Ryan Smith, Sean Sully, and Melissa Viola (with a special guest appearance by Colin Firth).

Sean Sully, Freya Long, Ryan Smith, Sarah Edgar, and Melissa Viola - photo by Emma Thomas

I once got in trouble with my year 9 English teacher for comparing the novels of Jane Austen to the Mills & Boon book empire. I never found out whether she was upset that I considered Austen's writing to not be literature or if she thought I was calling Mills & Boon books literature. I truly loved Mills & Boon books at the time, so it was not meant to be an insult. I am older and wiser now, but I still stand by my comment.

I have read Austen's entire collection and I agree with the Universe. Pride and Prejudice is the best and yes, I identified with Lizzie just like I identified with Jo in Little Women. The reason I mention the Louisa May Alcott story is because the way Picked Last For Sport have presented this spirited and abridged retelling of Pride and Prejudice - 2 Proud 2 Prejudiced - could easily sit as Amy's dramatic contributions to long evenings at home in counterpoint to Jo's dastardly tales. Sisters, love, betrayal, coming of age - both are writ from a similar cloth.

I really love what Picked Last for Sport do. They have this amazing cabaret formula which looks like they just grabbed a bunch of props from the shed and are putting on an improvisation in front of you. This friendly, casual style is belied by the intense theatrecraft and musicianship of the team.

2 Proud 2 Prejudiced: An Austen-tatious Cabaret is a pretty foolproof subject for a Melbourne Fringe Festival cabaret but it is funny, witty, and pacey and what more can you ask in Fringe season? The show begins with Sarah Edgar coming forward demurely, in period costume to sing a gentle ode to the great novelist. Then the other four barge in and the frivolity of the night begins with a lively rendition of 'The Bennett Sisters' to introduce the characters. Each sister has a verse telling us a bit about her personality - all except Kitty (Ryan Smith), who has no personality. The men in drag stamp the pantomime tone over the rest of the proceedings.

2 Proud 2 Prejudiced is a hat show. The cast warn that everyone plays multiple characters, and it will be a challenge to keep up. It really does help if you already know the story, especially because the best gems of the night are the commentary which is what we all thought as we read the book. There is delicious fun in hearing it said out loud though. So many delicious characters to make fun of and so many social mores we would never dream of these days (like marrying your cousin).

All of the music and lyrics are original creations and delivered with an amused, naughty satire that keeps the audience laughing from beginning to end. It is an exhausting hour but in all of the good ways!

Everyone is great in the show, and embody their characters beautifully (even Colin Firth as Mr Darcy). I want to give a special shout out to Sean Sully's interpretation of the dour Mary, and Edgar's Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The song 'Status' is a true glory. I also really enjoyed Freya Long's base guitar as accompaniment to Sully on the piano it gave a humorous gravitas to moments of ridiculous tension in the story. 

I also applaud the flip chart. It deserves a nomination as the best prop in Fringe 2022.

Sadly, it is true the live season for 2 Proud 2 Prejudiced: An Austen-tatious Cabaret has ended. Great news though! It is still available to view through Digital Fringe. Snap up your tickets and sit back in comfort with your favourite beverage. Get comfortable for an hour of non-stop laughter and a wonderful version of your favourite romantic comedy!

4.5 Stars

Tuesday 11 October 2022

TATTLE TALES - Theatre Review

 WHAT: Tattle Tales

WHEN: 7 - 15 October 2022

WHERE: Bard's Apothecary


LIGHTING & SOUND BY: Sophie Parker

COSTUMES BY: Alloquois Callaway-Hoilman

STAGE MANAGED BY: Natalie Baghoumian

Davey Seagle - photo by Aaron Cornelius

The mysterious, the arcane, the magical - Melbournians love this stuff. We also love improvisation and games and storytelling in all it's different forms. This year's Melbourne Fringe Festival entry, Tattle Tales brings all of this and more as Davey Seagle draws us in to a den of secrets and sorcery at Bard's Apothecary.

Tattle Tales is an interactive event which celebrates the ancient tradition of people gathering and sharing stories. The venue, Bard's Apothecary, is perfect pre-performance framing and allows you to grab your mead of choice before you descend a narrow staircase into a cavern below, gently lit with fairy lights. Ambient music fills the room. Sitting quietly, directly ahead, is Seagle with archaic face markings, a necklace made of bones, and a table covered in mystical items and incense. Settle in and immerse yourself in the world about to be created.

Seagle is the guide for the evening's adventures, but the audience are the actors. Audience members are selected to pick cards from a Tarot deck and from here they are invited to fill out the details of who they are. All choices and guidance in Tattle Tales come from the Tarot and the participants gradually fill out details such as the composition, technology level, and items in the world they are about to create. From these decisions the story of the night emerges.

I am not going to talk much more about the show because it will be yours to develop. Suffice to say I ended the evening as a lichen covered tree with a bouquet of Frangipani growing painfully out of my neck. Karma! One thing I will say is that Sophie Parker's music completely sets the mood and changes the mood at a whim and keeps us enveloped in the world we are creating adding tension and beauty to every moment. 

Seagle's deep, sonorous vocal tone also draws us into the story and keeps us entranced. He acts as guide, master of ceremonies, and guardian of us and the story throughout the evening. This is a safe space regardless of the cliffs you may choose to jump off.

If you are the kind of person who likes games like 'Murder' you will love Tattle Tales. My only criticism is that the experience can slow down a bit too much if decisions are made too slowly. On the night I went we were grouped which meant we had to consult with each other about decisions which really interrupted the rhythm of the story telling. Quick, brave decisions would make this show a truly out of this world experience.

3.5 Stars


WHAT: The Roof Is Caving In WHERE: La Mama Courthouse WHEN: 8 - 19 May 2024 WRITTEN BY: Matilda Gibbs with Jack Burmeister and Belle Hansen ...