Archive for the Theatre Category

Havergal Brian: The Wrap Up of the Gothic

Posted in Review, The Life & Times Of Me, Theatre, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by darthtanion

I have no witty entry to this blog.  My brain is fried.  I’m tired.  I’m… lost for words… completely.  That is of course excepting the ones I have thus far used to articulate the fact that my perspicacity has expired.  Why?  You may ask.  Because my poor tiny brain is yet to recover from the mammoth task of participating in the first production of Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1 in 30 years.  So, with that in mind, I cautiously begin…

The Gothic Symphony: The Wrap Up

The Gothic Symphony

OK, first things first.  What the hell is a Gothic Symphony?  Well, long, long ago a man named Havergal Brian decided he loved the Gothic era architecture but at the same time hated musicians & singers.  What to do, what to do?  Then, genius (& perhaps sadism) struck.  He would write the world’s most hardest-est piece of music that ever there was & hope when you listened to it you thought of gargoyles & big pillars.  The following 8 years gave rise to his first symphony, The Gothic Symphony, & is widely regarded as the world’s hardest piece of music to perform.  I have to admit that when you perform this piece you really don’t think of gargoyles all that much.  You more think of the devil himself sitting at a desk covered in manuscript saying to himself “ooooooh Luke is so going to regret not giving $2 to that armless, legless, homeless, hatless orphan last Christmas.”

Now that you know what we’re talking about, let’s talk about it.  When I first heard that we were doing a production of the hardest piece of music in existence I wasn’t particularly surprised.  I’ve known the chorusmaster for some time now (I’ll get to her later) & nothing she does is particularly surprising anymore.  I swear, if she had rocked up to rehearsal wearing a Woody the Cowboy costume with a squid for a hat I would have just assumed she couldn’t find her lederhosen.  That is to say, she isn’t one to back away from something just because nobody else seems to want to do it.  In all honesty I can’t say I know why I signed up to be in the chorus.  Perhaps it was because I was looking for a new project, perhaps it was just because it seemed like the thing to do.  All I know is that I never imagined myself not being part of it.  I love music & I love insanity so doing an insane piece of music was kind of a no brainer.

No brainer or not, I have to admit that when I was asked to be the tenor soloist I came out with the complete rainbow of colourful language.  I was terrified but how can you turn an opportunity like that down?  Thankfully, my fear was completely unwarranted.  The more I worked on the project the more I discovered that no individual part was really that difficult.  Yes every part was a challenge but not insurmountably so.  The only people who really had ridiculously impossible tasks were the chorusmaster (Alison Rogers), her assistant (Dane Leeson), the maestro (John Curro) & the répétiteur (David Mibus).  The thing about each of these jobs was the fact that they had to worry about everybody, not just themselves.  How they managed to keep going through it all I will never know but there is a quote I love:

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends It gives a lovely light! – Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think this is a statement that will always ring true of those four people, perhaps with the exception of the “it will not last the night” part.  Those guys partied much longer into the night than I after the show.  Perhaps we should amend it to “it will not last past 4am on a school night.”

A few days after the symphony I was thinking about how well it all went & where it would go from here.  It hasn’t been done for 30 years.  Would it be that long until it is done again?  To be honest, I don’t think so.  One of the biggest things we fought throughout the whole ordeal was ourselves & our attitude towards what we were doing.  Yes, we were all committed but almost everybody, myself included, started out with a defeated outlook & had to prove themselves wrong before they truly got onboard & I think that’s why it has been so long since anybody has attempted it.  (If that makes any sense.)  Now, however, it hasbeen done.  It’s no longer this impossible undertaking attempted only by the foolish & the damned.  I think the real curse of the Gothic is The Curse of The Gothic.  It has become a self fulfilling prophecy because the first thing everybody hears when someone mentions it is that this is the hardest piece of music in the world, it’s impossible & it’s cursed.  Hopefully, when people bring up The Gothic Symphony now, they will hear that it was done by a tiny group of committed music lovers just for the hell of it.

I guess that’s it.  Nothing more to say except that I hope everybody had a great Christmas & I’m sorry for not blogging for so long.  (I’ve been a little pre-occupied.)  Farewell for now & always remember, if at first you don’t succeed, kill everybody who knew you were involved & deny, deny, deny.

Unless there is a next time,
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Half-Baked Ideas Merchant
(Half-microwaved ideas available for those on the go.)

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Miss Saigon vs The Ninja Chicken

Posted in Review, Theatre on October 14, 2010 by darthtanion

Howdy doody folks.  If you laughed because I said doody then you need help.  (You need help with doody… hehe.  High five!)  Anywho, I have just returned from an evening at the theatre & have decided to load up the slingshot that is my ego & use it to launch my overrated opinion at you.  That’s right folks.  Please put on your goggles & attach something to protect your junk because here it comes, hard & fast…

Miss Saigon: The Review


Executive Summary: While not always perfect, this is a great production of an amazing show.

Review: As with pretty much all of my reviews I have to preface this by saying that many of the people in this show are personal friends of mine.  This means that my opinion is completely un-objective & you can’t believe a word I am saying.  Of course, this is a blog, so if you were really planning on investing stock in the opinions expressed here I really think you need to re-evaluate what the internet is about.  It’s about lies & pornography & I’m not so sure all of the pornography is the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth either but I digress.

I have to admit, when I heard Ignatians was doing the first amateur production of Miss Saigon seen in Brisbane I was skeptical.  No particularly surprised, however, Ignatians has a tendency to put on big shows & after the success of Les Miserables last year it was obvious they were looking for something that would really make people sit up & take notice.  I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised tonight by the standard of the production they put on but first, let me say what I didn’t like so we can get that out of the way.

The set.  Apologies to everyone I just offended, there was obviously so much work put into the revolving flats which were flipped & rotated to make up almost every scene & I know set design does come down to personal preference a lot of the time but I just didn’t get it.  The colour pallet didn’t seem to have any real continuity & I always felt as though I was missing some symbolism somewhere.  Perhaps I was.  I also disagreed with some of Kat Henry’s choices in direction.  Again, personal preference but this is my blog so who’s preference were you expecting to hear about?

Right, now that that’s over, let’s get on to what I did like & there is plenty to like about this performance.  The casting in this show is great.  Everyone fits their roles so well.  I was actually a little shocked that they managed to find people who could not only sing the roles but sing them so effortlessly.  Brad McCaw & John Peek were great as Chris & John & both had some amazing moments which really stuck with me.  Wade Colbran-Thomas gave an outstanding performance as Thuy & really commanded the stage every time he entered it.  I do have to say however that I think the women slightly outdid the men.  I’m not just talking about the ladies in skimpy underwear.  Yes they were absolutely stunning, I’m still not sure what the hell The Engineer was talking about while they were in Bangkok & I don’t care.  I can’t recall every seeing a ‘sexy’ scene in a musical done so… well… sexily.  Especially with community theatre.  Normally they just seem awkward & apologetic.  You know what I mean.  “Sorry folks, we know it’s rude but it’s in the script & we’re trying to be artists.  It will be over soon I promise & then we’ll get back to some singing.”  The brothel scenes were sexy & most of all fun.  A special hat tip to the lady-boys on stage.  I kind of wanted to burn my eyes out watching those skirts ride up to reveal what I can only describe as a devilishly clever plan to smuggle walnuts on stage but it was very funny all the same.  However, the girls who really stole the show for me were the ones who had the hardest job.  That job being living up to the inevitable comparison I was going to make between them & my two favorite Broadway stars, Lea Salonga & Ruthie Henshall.  Natasha York (Ellen) did a stunning job of owning her role.  She had impressive vocals during her solos & blended beautifully during the duets & the quartet.  However, while I’m not going to play favourites, Kimie Tsukakoshi (Kim) was my favourite.  She was just fantastic.  Strong, confident vocals backed by a passionate, heartfelt portrayal of a young girl trapped hopelessly in love with a man & a life she can only dream of.  Every bit as believable as all of the Vietnamese girls I ever got pregnant & left for dead in real life.

In short, if you can score tickets to one of the last to performances of this fantastic production you won’t be disappointed.  It’s community theatre at it’s finest which will leave you heartbroken & begging for more.

Unless there is a next time,
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Portugese Rice Waxer

Jesus Christ Superstar: Belated Reviewing

Posted in Review, Theatre with tags , , on August 29, 2010 by darthtanion

Hi folks,
OK I’m going to write this really quickly because chances are that by the time you read it the show has already closed so who really cares what I say anyway.  On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to score myself tickets to Harvest Rain’s JC Superman.  Having done that I decided I would use them & then tell you all what I thought about it.  As I write this I’m very aware of the fact that the show closes tonight so it kind of feels like I’m writing Jesus Christ Superstar: The Why Bother but in keeping with convention I would now like to present to you…

Jesus Christ Superstar: The Review

JC Supersonic

Executive Summary: I loved it.  Not as good as their amazing production of Songs For A New World but still pretty damn sharp. *wink*

Review: OK so just to get this out of the way, first I’m going to start this review the same way I start all of my reviews about Harvest Rain’s productions.  I know these guys.  They are friends of mine.  If I didn’t like the show I would not be objective about it.  I would still tell you I loved it & just go to hell for lying before I ever gave them a bad review.  Better yet, I just wouldn’t write a review!  In short, you can’t trust my opinion but it’s so late in the season it’s not like you really would have anyway.

Let’s start out with the things I didn’t like about this show.  There was only really one thing I didn’t like but in some people’s opinions it is a fairly big thing.  I didn’t like the musical… at all…  I just don’t like JC Super Ted.  I think it is massively overrated & as a story, stinks.  I know that sounds horribly blasphemous of me but let’s look at it critically.  I’m not trying to say the actual bible story of Jesus is poor.  It’s lasted 2000 years so far & people are still writing songs & making movies about it so it has to have at least a few engaging elements.  I’m saying the story put forward in JC Supermarket is average.  I’m saying if you didn’t know about the story of Jesus then it would make no sense at all.  I’m saying if the bible had never existed & this was just a musical story written by some guy rather than a musical story ripped off by some guy it would be completely pointless but most of all, I’m saying Tim O’Conner is the musical theatre equivalent of  Sir David Attenborough.  He can make the most pointless, boring, cow pat of a subject absolutely enthralling & that’s what he’s done here.  The simple fact of the matter is that everybody does, at least loosely, know the story of Jesus so trying to make this plot stand on it’s own two feet is not a challenge you have to overcome.  It’s overcome for you.  The real challenge is making the music entertaining & this has been done by way of the amazingly talented Maitlohn Drew.  The arrangements & presentation of the songs in this production are fresh & imaginative.  The obvious standout was Mary’s solo I Don’t Know How To Love Him.  A song that has been done to death by everyone under the sun was given a completely new lease on life thanks, in no small part, to Naomi Truloff, who’s characterisations are always amazing to watch.

The lighting, sound, epic set (I mean seriously epic) & ensemble cast were fantastic.  I remember thinking how meticulously the show had been choreographed however, speaking with Tim after the show he said it wasn’t choreography but the cast had just really owned their roles & taken it upon themselves to put 110% into every scene & it really makes a difference.  Nobody appeared to be slacking or tiring.  No matter how hard I looked (because I was trying to find something to fault these guys on) everybody was completely devoted to the character they were playing.  It was brilliant!  The show started out with the breath-taking vocals of Tod Strike who had, by far, the hardest role in the show; Judas.  Yes, Jesus is a very challenging role too but Judas starts up & stays up & when he is backed by the awesome ensemble cast it made for some magical theatre.

Well, that’s it… that’s my whole review… what?  Oh fine.  I guess I have to say something about the guy that played Jesus but I’m not happy about it.  Having performed with Luke Kennedy I’ve seen how much good press this guy gets & the thing that really gets up my nose is that he deserves it!  In every way!  I hate to add fuel to the fire but he can sing, he can act & he is a nice guy.  In short, I hate his talented, friendly, better-looking-than-me guts.  Hey Kennedy!  If you’re reading this I’ve got an idea for you.  I want you to go out, rent a copy of Who Framed Roger Rabbit & take it to a public toilet.  I don’t mind which one but the dirtier the better.  Start it playing (you make need to do this on a laptop or something.  You’re a smart cookie, you’ll figure it out.)  & when it gets up to the part where Christopher Lloyd starts laughing with those “burnin’ red eyes & that high squeaky voice” just dunk you’re head in a bowl, flail your arms around & pretend it’s me howling in the background with delight.  Rinse & repeat.  Seriously though, I’m just jealous.  Luke Kennedy is flawless in his portrayal of Jesus.  I know praise of this guy is so common these days it almost feels like a band wagon I have to jump on but there is a reason for that.  He’s fantastic.  His rendition of Gethsemane is the greatest I have ever heard.  I don’t mean the greatest I have heard live or in Brisbane, I mean ever, anywhere, in any medium & I’ve even heard LUKE KENNEDY sing it before!  The final knife in my side was at the end of the evening when my partner looked towards Luke’s lovely wife & say “Aww… she gets to go home with Luke KENNEDY.”  I’m not even kidding.  He was that good.

Anyway, it’s now 3PM & the final show goes on stage at 6:30PM so if you haven’t already got tickets then you had better hurry.  The season all but sold out anyway & so it should have.  This show is everything Brisbane theatre needs & deserves the great success it has enjoyed.  I just have one final thing to complain about.  The lady sitting in front of me.

Dear Madam,
Did you enjoy the show?  Me too.  Did you know they now have an invention called a hair straighteners?  You should use one or some bobby pins or a large bucket of water or anything that would keep your massive, Fran Fine-esq hair do from blocking the view of half of the theatre.  I thought I’d gotten turned around when heading to the show & ended up in a Flock Of Seagulls reunion.  Seriously, you made Effie look like Angry Anderson.  Any time someone moved to the middle of the stage it looked like they were walking on a cloud of your hair.  At what point of the night’s preparations did you turn to the mirror & say “I know what look I’ll go for.  Recently electrocuted!”?  Next time you’re coming to the theatre please give me a call & we’ll organise to go together.  That way you can sit next to or behind me.
Sincerely,
Luke J. Venables ESQ.

Did you see the show?  If so I’d love to hear your impressions.  If not… suffer in your jocks.

Unless there is a next time,
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Future King of Your Backyard

Shoshana In Excelsis

Posted in Review, Theatre with tags , , on June 24, 2010 by darthtanion

Guten Tag!
It’s 5:30am but I just really wanted to write something on my blog.  Fortunately I have something to write about.  OK, so a few years back I was flicking around Broadway.com & I hear about how this new Elphaba had taken to the stage in Wicked & she had the coolest name: Shoshana.  Without ever hearing her I decided then & there that I must love her simply so I could talk to people about her & say her name repeatedly.  A few YouTube videos later I realised that this woman is regarded as one of the best Elphabas to ever grace the role, so imagine my excitement when Harvest Rain Theatre Company announced that they were bringing her out to have a bit of a sing!  Well last night was the night.  After a couple of months of waiting I was finally able to actually see her live &, in my usual way, I’m going to bundle up my opinions about the experience in blog form & launch them at your head through the Interwebs.  This is…

Shoshana Bean: The Review


Executive Summary: HOLY FREAKING UNICORN DROPPINGS!!!

Review: I have to admit, as a singer I find the idea of me reviewing someone of Shoshana Bean’s level of talent & fame completely ridiculous.  I find all of my reviews ridiculous but this one especially so.  This is a woman who needed a little help when auditioning for Elphaba so what did she do?  She called Stephanie J. Block, the original Elphaba, (yes she is the original, look it up) & got her to sing to her down the phone!  When you have people like that willing to help you I don’t think you’re siting there waiting to hear what The Ninja Chicken has to say of you but never the less I’m going to say what I think anyway & damn the torpedos.  (You aren’t really going to shoot me with torpedos are you?)

As you may have guessed by my intro, I’m a bit of a Bean fan.  That should probably be a good indicator that there isn’t going to be a lot of negative stuff to say in this review.  Be that as it may, every reviewer knows that you won’t be treated as a legitimate reviewer unless you can always find fault with the subject of your review, even if that fault isn’t really there.  With that in mind, here are the things I didn’t like about the show:

  1. I wore too much cologne
  2. My suit coat felt a little scratchy
  3. Shoshana didn’t have a six-foot Maltese guy with a blog about martially trained poultry standing next to her staring at her dreamily/creepily while she sang to just him for the entire concert.  (I really feel this would have made the whole night awesome.)

Sorry to complain so much but I had to say it otherwise I’ll never be taken seriously as a reviewer.  Now, on to the good stuff.

SHE WAS SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!

I don’t mean the “Hey, I won $250 on a scratchy. Freaking awesome!” level of freaking awesome.  I mean the “Chuck Norris & Christopher Walken walked into my living room & started playing Stairway to Heaven just as Wolverine finished baking me sugar cookies.” kind of awesome.  She seriously blew my mind.  The Powerhouse was the perfect venue for the evening’s entertainment.  If you’ve been there then you know it’s distinct, graffiti look & feel.  Combine that with some very simple, dusty lighting & it was almost like sitting in a jazz bar somewhere in down town New York which suited her style perfectly.  The great thing about the Powerhouse is that it only seats about 500 so every seat is a great seat.  I was somewhere around the middle of the audience but I think the only way my seat could have been any better was if they had placed a La-Z-Boy on stage at the feet of her amazing accompanist James Sampliner & let me watch her from there.  I do think this is a concert that needs to be seen up close & personal at least once however.  Don’t get me wrong, Shoshana Bean is a true performer.  If she was performing to a packed 15 000 seat theatre I have no doubt every person in the back row would have gotten a great show but being as close as I was meant I could see all of the little things she did as well.  Especially for the quieter numbers.  It just added an extra layer of enjoyment & if Shrek taught us anything, it’s that layers are important.

In all honesty I do not know how she does the things she does with her voice.  She can go from absolutely belting her hair off to the most beautiful, gentle rendition of My Funny Valentine in a heart beat seemingly without any effort at all.

Finally, perhaps my favourite part of the night & something that I thought really showed off what an awesome woman she truly is, Shoshana Bean stuck around to sign autographs.

I am possibly the only straight man to own one of these.

I know a lot of you might be thinking “she only did that so people would buy her CDs to get them signed” but you would be wrong.  While speaking with Harvest Rain‘s CEO, Tim O’Conner (i.e. the guy who brought Shoshana Bean to Australia) I learned that Shoshana didn’t think she would have anything like the following she does here so she only brought 50 CDs with her for her whole tour.  They were sold in about half a second.  (I managed to get one but only because I was willing to punch out an old lady & ride off on my horse.)  She must have signed at least 300 autographs on little Shoshana Bean cards she handed out for free.  Plus she posed for a photo with me so if you say anything nasty about her I’ll punch you.

Just hanging out with Shoshana.  As you do.

Yes, she did say she liked my shirt.

In conclusion, this was a fantastic night.  The best thing about seeing stars like Shoshana Bean is that she brings out the real music theatre buffs so you know everybody was just as excited to be there as I was.  She now moves on to Adelaide & Sydney so if you happen to be in the area don’t miss this show.  Details can be found on www.eventful.com so check them out.

Did you see the concert?  Let everyone what you think in the comments section below.

Unless there is a next time,
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Left Handed Alien Salesman

The Divas: Looking Back On The Dummy Spit Of The Century

Posted in Review, Theatre with tags , , , on April 25, 2010 by darthtanion

Dear people who read this blog,
How have you been?  Apologies for not writing for so long but I’ve had  <insert lame excuse here> so I hope you understand.   With a tremendous amount of thanks to the good folks at Harvest Rain Theatre Company, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to go to see a group of women who have advertised themselves as five of “the greatest singers in the universe.”  This is a pretty hefty statement to live up to.  Especially while Lea Salonga & Ruthie Henshall remain in this plane of existence.  Did they bring the goods?  The only way to find out is to read…

The Divas – One Night Only: The Review

Divas A La Shed Door

Executive Summary: LOL!

Review: First thing first.  I’m going to be honest & up front & say that, for those of you who don’t know, Harvest Rain, the theatre company which put this group of girls together, has recently cast me in their next production.  While they have in NO way endorsed my opinions (I don’t even know if anyone from there has ever actually read my blog) this obviously presents certain issues.  If I say anything bad about the show I run the risk of getting beaten to the ground & spat on during rehearsals but if I say all good stuff nobody will believe me due to my conflict of interest.  To remedy this I have devised a devilishly clever solution.  I’m going to write my honest opinion &, to quote the immortal words of Genghis Khan, “Y’all can bite me!”

It occurs to me that many of you may not know exactly what The Divas are.  I think the only way I can put it is to say they are the brain child of someone who was beaten around the head by an elephant.  The idea is insane.  Five girls playing massively over the top divas who think they are God’s gift to… well, everything & everyone.  Including God.  How can anyone make this work?  Five characters, which are essentially the same, constantly fighting & bickering & trying to outdo one another?  Surely the show would eventually descend into chaos, disorder & long stretches of pointless, poorly ad libbed dialogue.  Having said that, maybe my executive summary didn’t really give a truly accurate description of my feelings towards the evening’s entertainment.  To put it another way, LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!  Seriously, I laughed so hard I think I sprained a lung.  It was funnier than that video of the kid getting kicked in the head with the soccer ball.  You know the one.  If I’m truly being honest I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the show as much as I did. (Sorry guys.)  I had seen some of the YouTube videos & while they made me chuckle, it really didn’t seem like a concept that could fill a two-hour show.  I knew I would love the singing because I have heard all of these women sing before but I was pretty certain I would want to stab out my ears whenever they made jokes.  I was so wrong & I’m not just saying that because they had a picture of me in the foyer.

I can't decide who's cuter, me or... me.

Yes, there were lots of jokes where they singers were declaring how lucky the audience was to be seeing them or stealing the lime light from one another but it never once got too much.  They managed to balance it perfectly with some very touching moments.  I really was absolutely stunned because it couldn’t have been easy.  The singing was every bit as brilliant as expected.  These girls blend so well & while the comedy in the show was quite slapstick they all obviously take their music very seriously.  A lot of work had gone into the songs which were beautifully arranged by the amazing Maitlohn Drew.  I guess it would be fair to say that a lot of work has gone into all aspects of the show.  The way it sounded, the way it felt & of course the way it looked.  My better half spent the entire evening complaining about how she wanted every dress that was paraded onto the QPAC Concert Hall stage & I have to say that these ladies are definitely as easy on the eyes as they are on the ears.  At one point, one of the girls (not saying which one) entered from the wings & was greeted with a very prompt & not so subtle “PHWOAR!” from yours truly.  My expression was greeted with a very stern look from my date.

Lastly, I have to mention the wonderful charity with which this group has aligned themselves.  The Divas have formed a partnership with She Rescue Home (<- Click here to show them love) in Cambodia.  This a group that fights for one of the worthiest causes I have ever heard of.  An estimated 45% of young girls in Cambodia are forced into prostitution or human trafficking.  That’s a statistic that made me fall out of my chair & those chairs at QPAC are quite secure so falling out is no easy task.  She Rescue Home is fighting to change this (the statistic, not the chairs) & The Divas donate proceeds from their concerts to the cause.  I really hope they made a packet tonight because I don’t think anyone can imagine the horror to which these young children are subjected & in today’s world such cruelty cannot be tolerated.

So in summary this was the best night of theatre I’ve had for some time.  Good singing, good laughs, good lookers & all for a good cause.  The Divas have another concert coming up soon which will also benefit She Rescue Home so I encourage everyone to jump online & head over to www.thedivas.com.au & await further instruction.  I strongly suggest you see these girls before you (or they) die.  You’ll be glad you did.

In case you missed them here are all of those links again:
www.harvestrain.com.au
www.thedivas.com.au
www.sherescuehome.org

Did you see the show?  Did you wish you saw the show?  Have you been robbed by one of the members of The Divas?  We’d love to hear about it.  Leave a comment in the comment section.

Unless there is a next time,
Goodbye Forever.

Luke Venables
Lord Of The Flies’ Dance Partner

Blackbird: An Awkward Evening Of Theatre Or An Evening Of Awkward Theatre?

Posted in Review, Theatre with tags , , , on April 11, 2010 by darthtanion

Hello, hello, hell no, hello Ladies & Gentle People.  I hope you’ve had a wonderful life so far.  I have once again been fortunate enough to win tickets from Review Brisbane. (<- Click here to show them love.)  This time to La Boite‘s production of David Harrower’s Blackbird.  The timeless tale of a woman who confronts the man with whom she once had an intimate relationship when he was 40 & she was 12.  That’s right folks.  To paraphrase Grant Morrison: Stay close to the sick bag.  This is:

Blackbird: The Review

Blackbird

Executive Summary: A very enjoyable, if slightly icky, evening of theatre.

Review: I’m not really sure how to start this review.  I do want to say good things about Blackbird because it was really good but no matter how hard you try you just can’t get away from the sliminess of the subject matter.  The opening scene, while brilliantly done, just makes you squirm.  I’m really not complaining.  I knew what the play was about when I went in so I wasn’t expecting anything different but that didn’t make it any less awkward.  I’m not talking about “I’m sorry, I forgot your name” kind of awkward.  I mean “Oh dear Lord I’ve just barged into your house & discovered you sitting on the floor of the living room in your underpants crying into a half eaten tin of dog food while watching reruns of Baywatch in slow motion on mute with the soundtrack to Titanic crooning melodiously in the background” kind of awkward.  There’s a difference.  I was constantly sitting there thinking “Wow I’m really enjoying this… does that make me a sick person?” but despite this I still managed to have a good time which means La Boite accomplished their goal.  I really don’t think Harrower or director Mark Conaghan wanted the audience to feel all warm & fuzzy by the end of this 90 minute production.

When I first walked into the theatre I was struck by the size.  Only seating 95 patrons, it’s very small & incredibly intimate.  This really works to the shows advantage.  I think in a large theatre it would be too easy to “look away” or disconnect from the onstage action when you started to feel a little squeamish.  In this theatre, however, if you look away you feel like everybody knows it which makes every disgusting accusation, every heartfelt tear & every tortured scream that much more in your face.  This play was intended to be confrontational & this theatre certainly helps it achieve that.  This was also helped along by some simple but effecting set & lighting design choices.  While to some they may have seemed so simple they were almost incidental I thought they were exactly what they needed to be.

Of course the real driving forces behind this show were the actors themselves.  Kathryn Fray & Daniel Murphy bring a tremendous amount of passion & agony to the stage.  I think it would be very easy to let a show like this start to drag as there are very few changes in setting (basically, two people walk on, two people walk off, in between they have a bit of a chat) but Fray & Murphy really manage to keep you engaged throughout.  I do have to say, on the odd occasion, I just didn’t quite believe what they were saying or doing.  A lot of the physical stuff (throwing, kicking, punching) felt a little uncomfortable & Murphy seemed to start the show completely, 115%, out of his mind distraught & almost never varied.  That might be realistic but when you go to the theatre you don’t want realistic, you want the perception of realism.  Fray managed to give the audience a much wider range of emotions without making me feel like she was just changing for the sake of it.  If I’m being honest, the dialogue from both actors seemed a touch forced when it started to get graphic.  Almost as though they decided they had to add in some rude bits otherwise it wasn’t a serious play.  I know these sound like big complaints but in the grand scheme of things they weren’t.  There were times when I had to swallow a little heavier than usual & times when I even felt a swell of pity for the man who had committed such an unspeakable act.  Rest assured this is not an easy play to pull off but these two do a good job of it.

Blackbird is playing at The Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove from April 07 – April 25.  If you have an evening to spare, get along & support a little bit of independent theatre.  You might have to shower 15 times afterwards but you will have a good time.

Who Should See It:
-Anyone who likes confrontation in their theatrical outings
-Anyone who enjoys seeing something well done no matter how awkward it makes them feel
-Anyone who likes supporting independent theatre

Who Shouldn’t See It:
-Kids
-Anyone out for a laugh with friends
-Oversized harlequins with lisps

So have you seen Blackbird?  Do you want to see Blackbird?  Do you want to get a copy of the script & burn it in front of the author?  Why not leave a comment & let us know the details?  It’s easy, just click the link below.

Unless there is ever a next time,
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Psychic Felafel Reader