DEMOLITION + mid-2021 round-up

Last November, we were finally back in(!) a(!) theatre(!) for a sold-out season of Apocalipstick! at Metro Arts. It seems like both a million years and one minute since that time, but Polytoxic have not rested on their lockdown laurels. They’re back with a brand new show for Brisbane Festival: DEMOLITION. Here’s my (brief) two cents on Polytoxic’s not-to-be-missed new show:

DEMOLITION has all the good stuff you want — feats of strength, mid-air hula-hooping, synchronised intersectionality, a very ascendable set and a microphone in an Ice Break bottle — but is at its best when its high-octane acts turn in on themselves and embrace the uncanny.

This is a very different show from APOCALIPSTICK! (Metro Arts 2020); DEMOLITION is focused on ‘getting shit done — by the tonne’. The Polytoxic crew is unafraid to let its audience sit with — even help lift — its heavier moments. While there’s cheekiness and fun in DEMOLITION, its strongest scenes let the audience do the work, blurring the juxtaposition of feminist send-up with the actual injustice underneath.

Lisa Fa’alafi wears hi-vis gear and holds a nail gun in front of a demolition site.

You’ll find yourself laughing and whooping and then, suddenly, examining what made you laugh and — just as quickly — weeping or raging. The performers make a lot of noise in this show — after all, it’s circus! — but I’ve never heard the scream, the cry, the yawp deployed with such power and nuance.

Co-directors Lisa Fa’alafi (pictured; photo by Joel Devereux) and Leah Shelton kick arse, and Ghenoa Gela, Lilikoi Kaos and Mayu Muto were stand-outs. All DEMOLITION lacks is a little more levity at its denouement; after the thoughtful, affecting rollercoaster of its various feats, the audience needs to be lifted back up just a little more — called to affirmative action, maybe — before we toddle back out into the foyer. (However, once there, you can and will buy 👊-themed stubbie coolers, pins and tees.)

DEMOLITION runs from 4–11 September at Brisbane Powerhouse. 💥💥💥


And, as for the link round-up, here’s what happened while I avoided Zoom during the first half of this year:


Coming up:

  • I’m running a Qld Poetry workshop on the possibilities of choose-your-own-adventure poems in Twine. It’s called WE CONTAIN MULTITUDES and will include re-drafting exercises and a tiny bit of coding. It runs online on 12 and again on 23 September and will be low-key, fun and breakout-room free.
  • In November, Bec and I will be dusting off our evening wear to perform BACHELORETTE: A SONG CYCLE at RuckusFest (just in time to debrief on Brooke’s upcoming queer season of The Bachelorette!).

CABARET REVIEW: Apocalipstick

The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived—and it is one or more coats of Apocalipstick.

It was such a privilege to be back in a theatre for the second-last showing of Polytoxic’s latest that I had to write at least a brief review.

Apocalipstick technically sold out twice: once with restricted audience numbers, and again once those restrictions lifted. The energy—the sheer relief—in the room is electric: it’s a long time since we’ve all hooted and hollered like this. No one hesitates when the cast opens the show by leading us in a middle-fingers-up cry of ‘Fuck you, 2020!’

Leah Shelton and Lisa Fa’alafi (by FenLan Photography)

Polytoxic’s Lisa Fa’alafi and Leah Shelton have handpicked the line-up and rotating special guests. On our night it’s Abbey Church, Busty Busty Beatz, Hope One, Mayu Muto, Lana Tukaroa, Nerida Matthaei, Neridah Waters, An(drea) Lam, Chinta Woo-Allcock, and the Brides of Frank. It’s a silver lining of lockdowns that we have all this talent here in Brisbane at one time.

Apocalipstick proves that feminist theatre is in no danger of being diluted by so-called political correctness. Shelton’s drag-burlesque strip from full PVC-and-furs to nothing at all sets the tone for the evening: no holds are barred. This is a knockout night of cabaret that always punches up.

Polytoxic blend in the greatest hits with the brand new: it’s as much a joy to revisit Fa’alafi’s killer ‘Weave’ routine as it is to be introduced to Andrea Lam’s Bollywood-meets-Youtube-comments ‘Item Number’.

But the real stars of the show are the Hot Brown Homies, the lesser-known brothers of the Hot Brown Honeys—i.e. Busty Beatz and Hope One as our salivating emcees, Big M.I.C. and Young Harrison, promoting their new hit single ‘Ballistic Misogynistic’. The Hot Brown Homies’ reunion tour with 90s boy band Wrong Direction may just have garnered the best laughs of 2020 (shy of the Four Seasons debacle).

The big magic of Apocalipstick is in its queer joy, its (literally) balls-out feminist comedy that speaks directly to its audience. There is no male gaze here, my friends: in fact, toxic masculinity is cleaned up with a spray of ‘Antibac Off’. And, with a well-deployed leaf blower, Young Harrison will have you adding the phrase ‘stroking the Ryobi’ to your lexicon.

Hope One and Busty Beatz (photographed by FenLan)

Apocalipstick is also the first show I’ve seen in the New Benner Theatre at Metro’s new West Willage digs*. The last theatre I saw was at Metro Arts, with Love farewell-to-the-Old-Broad festival in February. I spent the months in between living and breathing the Metro archives—photos, faxes, letters, blueprints, playbills—and interviewing dozens of artists and arts workers (including Fa’alafi and Shelton). (The result—Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts—is a pretty neat snapshot of Brisbane arts.)

With its risk-taking, glitter, contained chaos, nudity and BDE, Apocalipstick also proves that the bold energy of Metro Arts wasn’t constrained to the Old Broad. It’s alive and well over the river (with a working lift!!).

Apocalipstick ran from 6 to 28 November 2020 in the New Benner Theatre at Metro Arts.


*Also accessible on the night were Rebecca Ross’s uncanny-domestic Dark Entries video installation and Joanne Choueiri’s Archive of Loss—an installation of obituaries to Brisbane buildings demolished under Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. I recently had the pleasure of interacting with (and exploring inside) a large-scale installation of Ross’s on Chevron Island, Light House, which projected video out through the windows of an abandoned house; I love the way Ross uses spaces like these to make a kaleidoscope of our sense of time. And Archive of Loss is a pretty perfect installation for me: it blends architecture, archive and cemetery to make us reflect on the character of our city (and loss thereof). The work shows how much bureaucratic ‘progress’ often amounts to: many of Choueiri’s obituaries read, ‘[The building] was survived for 12 years by a hole.’

Dark Entries shows in Gallery One and Archive of Loss in Gallery Two until 5 December.

Adelaide Fringe: The Institute of Invisible Things and Glittery Clittery

The Institute of Invisible Things

We genuinely stumbled across this one, in Adelaide Central Markets. We happened to arrive 15 minutes before the Institute opened, so we grabbed piroshkis and waited with Karen, the installation’s gatekeeper.

The Institute of Invisible Things is a free, pop-up experience open only three hours a day during Fringe Festival. It’s also my favourite encounter this week. The show is a 10–15 minute miniature – the haiku of theatre, perhaps – which you enter alone, leaving your bags (and baggage) at the door.

Presented in three “chapters”, The Institute of Invisible Things asks you to contemplate nothingness, light, and connection. Creators Sarah John and Emma Beech guide you through this experience, set in a tiny gallery in a quiet corner of the Adelaide Market, the bustle of vendors just outside.

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The Institute makes powerful, tender use of very little: strong, concise writing; resonant imagery; and gentle participation. Sensory touches – a warm bowl of tea placed in my hands – are grounding and genuinely meditative.

The show’s epilogue asks you to contemplate sonder – both the loneliness and unity of realising that everyone who passes by is living their own complex life, with its own. For this moment, you’re the solo audience member at the Institute’s front window, looking into the theatre of the living market.

The Institute of Invisible Things runs until 3 March at Adelaide Fringe 2018.

 

 

Glittery Clittery: A Consensual Party

The Fringe Wives Club seem to be an institution at Adelaide Fringe – several friends and colleagues recommended their cabaret show at the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Glittery Clittery is part musical, part stand-up, part game show and all feminist comedy. They call it performance activism – “for the greater, glittery good.”

Playing at 10pm, this is a party worth staying up for. Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson and Victoria Falconer sparkle – both literally and figuratively – as they sing about the sexism of pockets (and their absence) in women’s clothing, mactivist men, and how feminism is so hot right now. In all the fun, the Fringe Wives also acknowledge the show’s limitations – but there’s enough patriarchy-fucking in the show to get the audience very fired up indeed.

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For the game show Lagoon of Mystery, named for Carrie Fischer’s euphemism for the vag, Hutson appears dressed a huge, plush vulva. Three audience members compete to answer anatomical trivia. (My inner Hermione kicks in as I regret not volunteering and stick my arm up anyway to answer how many nerve endings a clit has (8000, cheers).) It’s edutainment at its finest, but also a gloomy reminder of how bad our sex ed. is. (Folks, it’s not too late to learn!)

Glittery Clittery is such a joy that I nearly bought a glittery bum-bag. I’d definitely buy a soundtrack. Tessa Waters and Victoria Falconer each has a solo shows running at Fringe, too – check them out if you can. Fellow critic Jane Howard has been tweeting about the disproportionate representation of male comedians at Fringe. Help address the imbalance while also learning more about the lagoon of mystery or, as I prefer, breakfast of champions.

Glittery Clittery: A Consenusal Party has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Ensemble. It runs until 18 March 2018 at Le Cascadeur at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Adelaide Fringe: Fallot (FÄ-‘LŌ)

Fallot is a circus-infused physical theatre work about the eponymous heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, as experienced by circus artist Marianna Joslin. Company 2 directors Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry produce Fallot, performed by Joslin, Phoebe ArmstrongOlivia PorterCasey Douglas and Jake Silvestro.

The show had a developmental run at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland Festival 2017; I missed Fallot then, so I was glad to catch up on my Bris-circus during Adelaide Fringe. In the intimate Empire Theatre tent, I love that you can see more of the physical work of circus by sheer proximity. There’s a lot of muscle and control in Fallot, perhaps fitting for a show that explores the heart muscle’s control over the function of body and mind.

In this particular run of Fallot, Joslin’s role in the show is limited by a recent injury, so she becomes the narrator and shadow of her own story. Joslin has experienced the physical and emotional trauma of several open-heart surgeries, and Fallot is at its strongest when its performers use their physical strength to show the vulnerability that comes with being at the mercy of doctors, anaesthetists and nurses.

The show has a fantastic, uncanny look: screens turn theatre into operating theatre, with freaky robed surgeons contrasting with beige lace and medical corsetry. White hospital sheets are a recurring motif, used as tissu to climb, rope, or costuming. The female performers each embody aspects of Joslin’s experiences, centred around a black operating table on wheels. A standout scene has Douglas and Silvestro, as doctors, shifting their co-performers on, off and around that table, using subtle versions of Company 2’s signature toss-the-girl manoeuvres to rob them of their agency. Another sees nurses weave hospital sheets around Armstong’s legs before hoisting her to the ceiling to float in the limbo of anaesthesia.

Fallot does struggle to settle on a tone. It plays up moments of classic cabaret between pathos-driven scenes, but there isn’t a clear sense of physical narrative between these – it doesn’t quite flow yet. This is most evident in the final scene, a lip-syncing number complete with heart puppets – its weirdness, though not unwelcome, comes from left field. It’s madcap, but inconsistent. Part of the challenge here is that Fallot’s narrative is held together by actual narration by Joslin – some live, some recorded – often overlong and leaning hard on clichés that wind up more tiresome than heart-warming.

Company 2 works with first-rate physical performers, but Fallot doesn’t trust those artists to show (rather than tell) the story. Fortunately, David Carberry’s musical score is a compelling pulse that resonates with the performers and with the beat of our own hearts.

Fallot runs at the Royal Croquet Club at Adelaide Fringe until 25 February.

YOOF ARTS NEWS

I nearly called this YOOF ARTZ NYOOZ and I’m sorry. Maybe it should have been “They Have It Coming”. Anyway. It’s been a fortnight of arts-work by the young and the restless. This is definitely more of a discussion than a series of reviews. I especially welcome input from others who’ve seen or are involved in these shows.

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD)

Brisbane (a doing word)

Vena Cava has outgrown QUT’s Woodward Theatre; the student theatre company launches its new season in the Judith Wright Centre’s intimate Shopfront space. Here, we meet Matty (Patrick Hayes) and his share-housing frenemies, negotiating their place and purpose as 20-somethings in Brisbane. This coming-of-age story unfolds in pieces, benefiting from writer David Burton’s structural experimentation.

Burton’s characters are painfully relatable but never sterotypes. Claire Christian directs a strong cast; we’ve all lived or studied with these eager, energetic, argumentative people. We’ve probably been them. Overall, a little more polish and restraint will allow Brisbane (a doing word) to deftly handle the sensitive topics it tackles without losing its sense of absurd humour.

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD) ran at the Judith Wright Centre from 20 to 22 March 2014.

PERSPECTIVE/WOOLF PACK

Khalid Warsame at Brisbane's VOICEWORKS Launch

Express Media (or its Queensland representative … me) launched Voiceworks #96, the Perspective issue, at Avid Reader. Voiceworks Mag publishes and offers professional development of the work of Australian writers under 25. This was such a great night with superb readers (pictured: Khalid Warsame). Avid put on the ritz for us — what a wonderful venue. Wine all round! We also launched Woolf Pack, a new feminist zine edited by super-cool Brisbane ladies. Good times.

VOICEWORKS and WOOLF PACK launched at Avid Reader on 28 March 2014.

HOMOS IN KIMONOS

Homos in Kimonos

James Halloran and Will Hannagan’s double-bill cabaret (Melbourne Festival Comedy) has come under fire this week regarding its title, which some feel appropriates Japanese culture in a way that is racist. I’m hesitant to weigh in personally — as a white person I realise my privilege means I have blind spots — but I felt the creative team gave a measured, respectful public response in which they apologised and clarified their intentions. It was disappointing to see uncritical responses on both sides of the fence (personal attacks on the young performers and, on the flipside, tiresome attacks on “the PC brigade”).

I rarely feel qualified to comment, but I think there’s space right now in Australia for lots of context-based, critical discussion on cultural intersection in art. I hope that the show’s run stimulates more thoughtful, respectful discussion and fewer facebook shitstorms.

HOMOS IN KIMONOS runs at Melbourne Comedy Festival until 13 April 2014.

BOY&GIRL

Boy&Girl by Oscar Theatre Company

Oscar Theatre Company presents “a steamy cabaret of musical theatre, contemporary and pop where gender is bent and rules are broken” at Brisbane Powerhouse, after a season at Lightspace. Boy&Girl features 25 talented and diverse cast members with a Broadway/contemporary jazz vibe. Jason Glenwright’s moody lighting sets the right tone for a trip down the Weimar rabbit hole.

Now, I can’t call these thoughts a review, as I did not stay for the full show. For me, the highlight of the first half was a 40s wartime swing rendition of “Call Me Maybe” by three charismatic male performers, followed by an emotive solo covering Rizzo’s “That’s the Worst Thing I Could Do” from Grease. Overall, though, Boy&Girl only flirted with the idea of gender-bending: pronouns were swapped, sure, and the boys (but, curiously, not really the girls) dabbled in drag. The jokes were about as cheap as the lingerie. All up, a pretty conservative affair, with the cast unable to nail the sense of sexy-grotesque integral, in my opinion, to queered cabaret.

But none of this would be a fair reason to walk out. Generally, I think it’s pretty poor form to leave a show’s opening night midway. However, just before the interval, 10 men (plus the male host and four men in the onstage band) performed Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango”. This is a song that deliberately subverts language used against female victims of intimate and sexual violence; its power, humour and sense of the uncanny succeeds because, in the context of the song, women have what is normally masculine power. In Boy&Girl, “Cell Block Tango” becomes a deeply unsettling song about domestic violence. In Australia, where one woman a week is murdered by an intimate partner, loosely “gender-bending” the song puts the power back in the hands of those who already have it. I left because I couldn’t sit with an audience that found that funny.

BOY&GIRL runs at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until 19 April 2014.

REVIEW: The Dark Party

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 28 Nov. 2013
Words by Zenobia Frost

We settle in for The Dark Party up the back, led by the (unfounded, it turns out) sensation that the front row might be a dangerous place. After all, I’d watched journalist Dan Nancarrow have an apple chainsawed off his face for Brisbane Times — and would prefer not to follow in his footsteps. The Dirty Brothers (Shep Huntly, The Great Gordo Gamsby and Pat Bath), three “hobo clowns”, are already shuffling into the audience, distributing ping-pong balls. No explanation is given; in fact, The Dirty Brothers will remain silent, except for their occasional stifled cries. For the next hour, we will squirm, squeal and laugh as they injure themselves in the name of circus.

If I ask you to imagine three men dancing over dozens of mousetraps, you might picture chaos. But the Brothers’ triumph is in their deftly controlled performance — perfectly dishevelled, these three are masters of clowning. Their distinct characters, in monochrome clown makeup, simultaneously capture melancholy, mischief and horror. There’s choreographed elegance in their drunken shambling, lit by sepia spotlights. I couldn’t help but imagine Martin Martini’s Bone Palace Orchestra providing a live soundtrack.

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It’s hard to describe The Dark Party without spoiling all the surprises. The Brothers play with staples, bear traps, electricity and fire with a jaded sense of self-destruction. These acts are for their amusement, yes, but they’re reproachful as well; we feel sympathy for the one being hurt, whether by himself, his brothers or the world at large. They draw the uncanny out of everyday activities — one’s morning ablutions and the act of putting on a coat are made strange, perhaps because they are so irrelevant to the world these ruined clowns occupy. My +1 observes, as well, several well-placed tips of the hat to Waiting for Godot (which I’ve not seen to confirm) — “as if,” she says after the show, “Vladimir and Estragon had finally given up on waiting and instead had resigned themselves to setting each other on fire for entertainment.”

I’m endlessly glad that the Judith Wright Centre, with its adaptable performance spaces, continues to support concise or unusual acts that might otherwise be relegated to sideshows and fringe festivals. Cunning segues ensure that The Dark Party — only an hour long — is more than the sum of its parts; it deserves time to be a headliner in its own right.

The ping-pong balls return in a wonderful gag that relies on the audience to participate in the Brothers’ denigration. Their violence is effective not because they make it look easy, but the opposite: their reluctance, their silence and their pain are intrinsic to the act.

INTERVIEW: Fetish Fridays

Much more fun than Casual Fridays, Frankie Vandellous (curator of Alchemy) has collaborated with HazyinSeptember (from Brisbane Leather Pride) to run a trio of evenings celebrating Brisbane’s kink communities: Fetish Fridays. Over three consecutive weeks, Number 29 Club has been home to all sorts of playtimes for public consumption. The final show is coming up — this Friday, 6 September. I spoke with Ms Vandellous herself (on the night of the second show) to find out a little more.

Words: Zenobia Frost
Photos: Stuart Hirth

ZF: Take me on a tour of the venue on Fetish Fridays; walk me through that front door and describe the atmosphere you wanted to create.
FV: Fetish Fridays is being held on the lower level of the Number 29 Club, a male-only club — so already, we are staging a revolution! An open-air courtyard leads to a dark room with a small stage at the other end. It feels like a “back room” performance: alternative, underground, where anything could happen (and does)!

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: It sounds like FF#1 was an electrifying success with audiences. Tell me about your goal: to create a safe space to blend fetish with theatre.
FV: With established Doms, burlesque dancers, and drag performers in our program, we turned kink into performance. My aim was to provide an opportunity for the “kinky and the curious” to celebrate Brisbane’s vibrant kink community, showcase its diversity, and to show how technique can be elevated into artistry. I hoped to provide a launching pad for discussion and a desire to engage further in the community.

ZF: Do you think FF#1 was successful in those goals — did it educate and titillate?
FV: I walked away from FF Part I feeling that this event was one of the best I have worked on in a long while. There was not a single heteronormative performance on the first night, and the energy of the room was one of celebration and community. I know that some audience members walked away feeling a renewed interest or hunger. I hope that they find satisfaction.

ZF: Tell me about the crowd — I bet they were a well-dressed bunch.
FV: There was such diversity! There were corsets and fetish-wear, suits and sweatpants — even leather harnesses and jock straps! We also had a diversity of ages and experiences with kink. We had attendees who had never even attended a burlesque show sharing the room with established members of the kink community. This was a truly inclusive event.

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: How has the BDSM community in Brisbane taken to these gigs? What kind of feedback have you received?
FV: Both the performers and the audience have given me great feedback; there is a lot of excitement about this project, and I have heard that it has been spoken about extensively in the BDSM community over the weeks leading up to it. As our first attempt, we are improving each week, and certainly looking to enhance the viewers’ experience in the future. The team involved in this project are already planning our next step… Stay tuned…

ZF: FF#2 focused on gender-bending, drag and burlesque. What were the highlights?
FV: There were so many performers that I was excited to watch last night. I love Vivienne VSassy’s burlesque performances and appreciate RedBear’s passion for rope. I knew that Miss Gen had been working extensively on her rope routine and she is a true rope artist, and I was excited to see Tara Raboom Deay perform her drag strip routine. I was also very excited to see Labrys perform — the last show of the night. She blew me away with her aesthetic vision, safety precautions, attention to detail, and performance. I will just say that it involved a hospital bed, needle play, a violet wand, a camera projecting live onto a television screen, a Whitney Houston song, and an actual female orgasm.

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: Each FF has raffled prizes in support of QAHC — a damn good cause. Do you feel it’s perhaps time for Brisbane’s queer and kinky folks to rally together against potential consequences of the coming election?
FV: It is always the time to rally together. That is the short answer. Certainly, events such as Leather Pride are perfect expressions of the interplay between the kink and queer communities. However there are a number of aspects to this issue that Brisbanites will need to negotiate in order for there to be consolidation allowing for political action. It is my hope that FF can create a place for intersection and good-will.
My reasoning in creating a raffle for QAHC was the concept of what constitutes a “healthy community”. I truly believe that a healthy city has both a vibrant creative culture and sexual culture, where participants can express themselves in dymanic and healthy ways. QAHC has a history of supporting the kink community. For example, they have allowed Peer Rope to utilise the QAHC space for monthly workshops.

ZF: The final event samples kinky delights. What kind of advice would you give a curious beginner.
FV: Have an open mind. We are offering an event in the spirit of community building, fundraising, and hospitality. Everyone is welcome. Certainly, elements of the evening may be shocking for some viewers. It is vital to understand that those involved in the show are rehearsed, and experienced individuals versed in Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), they know exactly what they are engaging in, and have the ability to stop at any time. Not all performances will be on that side of the spectrum, however; we have moments of comedy, dance, and lots of fun as well.

The final FETISH FRIDAY, Part III, takes place on 6 September, 2013. Tickets are $15 on the door.

REVIEW: Confessions of a Control Freak

Words by Tahnee Robinson

Confessions of a Control Freak finds Belinda Raisin — actor, singer and former ballerina — exploring the pitfalls and foibles of her alter-ego Frances, a self-confessed control freak. But is she, really? Frances herself seems unsure. Certainly she likes a good list — Raisin makes a good start early on with an aria to her lists: lists that appear on post-its and clipboards, laminated on the toilet wall and unravelling for metres out of a filing cabinet. It sets the scene well, and the gangly faux-sexy dance as she twines the enormous list around herself and between her legs is a good indicator of what’s to come — Raisin plays the sexy dork well, and she makes Frances simultaneously a harried neurotic and a bit of an everywoman. And that’s what Confessions is really all about: can women (or this woman, at least) really have it all? It’s an old theme, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one, and Raisin tackles it endearingly, expanding on habits and tics that have the audience chuckling in recognition.

Confessions of a Control Freak opens with Jamie Teh at the piano. Teh, blind since birth, shares the stage with Raisin for the duration of the show, providing musical accompaniment and sound effects with unobtrusive dignity — even whilst holding up a sign that says, “She has I.B.S.”. He and Jennifer Teh are responsible for the musical compositions, and the soundscape ranges from 70s electro-pop to Disney. The music comes as a surprise, and audiences might have expected more original work, but the use of iconic hits works to the show’s advantage. Raisin’s voice is quite good — it’s arguably the weakest element of the show, but that doesn’t really matter. The point of sampling Adele’s “Someone Like You” with regard to one of Frances’s (many, many) deceased pets is not to showcase Raisin’s pipes, and it doesn’t need to be.  Mary Poppins’s “A Spoonful of Sugar” (confession: Frances LOVES cleaning) is, in this instance, a very large glass of wine. And that vodka taking up door space in the fridge.

ConfessionsOfAControlFreak3_3FatesMedia

The Poppins-themed cleaning montage sees Raisin, having unearthed a trove of useless treasures, zooming around the Judith Wright Centre in rollerblades, handing out glasses of wine to audience members. It’s one of the better “feed the audience” inclusions I’ve come across, and watching a woman fly around a cluttered space on wheels, brandishing brimming glasses of alcohol, evokes precisely the amused-horror you might feel watching a friend having a manic moment. Needless to say, the job does not get done.

It’s a short performance, clocking in at around 60 minutes, but sometimes the material feels a little thin. Perhaps that’s because it’s a cabaret about the everyday — there’s no velvet here, nor feathers — but the pacing feels occasionally sluggish at moments.  Frances turns serious toward the end — an abrupt segue from the dead pets montage, which has the audience highly entertained — meditating on children, and whether having babies is something she really wants, or whether it’s just the next item on the list. This is a question that’s probably been considered by every couple of child-rearing age for the last few decades; it’s no doubt relevant. But something about it feels a little disappointing, like there’s nothing revelatory to be had here. I was happier when Frances’s “bundle of joy” was set to be a puppy (pity about what happened to that bunny, though).

As a whole the show is very warm, and Raisin’s slightly gawky physical humour goes down well with the crowd. The Judy is an excellent venue choice for the show, fostering the intimacy it replies on and allowing the audience to become part of the antics. It’s worth a visit for the slightly-scattered list-maker in all of us. After all, we’re all just trying to keep a job, find love, stay fit, see our friends and develop some hobbies, right?

CONFESSIONS OF A CONTROL FREAK is on at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts until 17 August. Tickets $19–24.

TAHNEE ROBINSON is a Brisbane-based writer. She was OffStreet Press’s visual arts, film and fashion editor.

REVIEW: The Lady of the House of Love

A restaging of a 2008 Brisbane hit, Metro Arts hosts The Lady of the House of Love. Daniel Evans adapts this tragic tale of a lonely, reluctant vampire — bound more by habit and ritual than by her curse — from Angela Carter’s 1979 short story of the same name. (Read my recent interview to find out more about the play’s history.)

Above all, as a one-man production, The Lady of the House of Love reminds us of the power and pleasure of a good storyteller. Sandro Colarelli’s shape-shifting performance is central. Reaching through the rose-laden lattice of an isolated chateau, he seduces us into Carter’s rich text. Choreographed by Neridah Waters, Colarelli is at once narrator, strong man and strange woman, whose beauty “is a symptom of her disorder.”

Sandro Colarelli (photo by Nat Lynn)

Jake Diefenbach’s compositions ensure that The Lady of the House of Love transcends from a good play into an astounding chamber production. (It’s well-worth picking up the soundtrack, coproduced by James Lees and Bryce Moorhead, on the night.) It’s uncanny to hear Diefenbach’s distinctive lyrics and musical signatures sung in Colarelli’s hypnotic voice. At the piano, John Rodgers faces away from the audience, but his presence is front and centre, alongside Colarelli.

David Fenton directs a production that is unashamedly gothic — though not without wit; this feels entirely right, considering the text’s deference to Victorian melodrama. In the music as well as the costuming, there’s a little ’80s goth too. Josh McIntosh’s design and Andrew Meadows’ lighting work together to suggest candle-lit boudoirs, dense with incense and dust, deep in the stone heart of a mountain chateau.

There are a couple of moments wherein the melodrama could be reined in just a touch, but in the Countess’s “cave full of echoes” there is little room for subtlety. And who could deny her a little excess when her worn tarot cards, laid out and laid out again, finally reveal a change of fate — from La Papesse, La Mort, La Tour Abolie . . .

THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE runs at METRO ARTS from 26 Jul to 3 Aug. The production’s soundtrack will be available for purchase at Sue Benner Theatre.

THEATRE: The Lady of the House of Love

SANDRO COLARELLI stars in THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE, a one-man show adapted by DAN EVANS from Angela Carter’s short story of the same name. Under DAVID FENTON‘s direction, The Lady is a slick, dark restaging of a show that was a Brisbane Festival Under the Radar hit back in 2008. On the day-of-opening-night (26 July), I spoke with the very eloquent Colarelli — a mainstay of Brisbane stage and cabaret — to find out more.

In its early days, [cabaret] always had an element of danger and surprise.

ZF: The Lady of the House of Love arises from cabaret’s “darkest roots”. Tell me, where do those roots lie, for you?
SC: Cabaret in its early years in Europe, was underground, edgy, provocative and subversive, using art and performance in a way that was both entertaining, free and experimental. Almost anything could be said and done and the audience entered the space knowing this underworld of performance was not going to be a night at the opera or ballet. It always had an element of danger and surprise, not least because there was a very real danger in those days that both performers and audience could be arrested by the law and locked up if what was being presented was deemed as morally inappropriate. I’ve tried to use some of those elements to preface the performance of The Lady of the House of Love to signal that I am about to take the audience into a world where anything could happen. It’s an invitation to come on a journey, and this case it happens to be a rather strange one.

ZF: Tell me more about why Angela Carter’s short story so resonated with you. 
SC: I discovered the collection of short stories that “The Lady of the House of Love” came from in a book sale when I was 15. I was intrigued by the title, The Bloody Chamber, and soon became enamoured of all the stories in the collection, but particularly of “The Lady of the House of Love”, because of my teenage fascination with vampires. The central character is basically a freak, she knows it, and she has no control over it, but she longs to be something other than what she is. She’s brave enough to even want death than to linger in the world of ‘eternal life’ she is stuck in. Carter’s quite matter-of-fact approach towards the romantic notion of vampirism and those who never die was both intriguing and humorous to me at the same time.

ZF: Angela Carter’s short story translates to the stage in such a way that, you’ve said, it provides an “irresistible theatrical playground to examine the human condition.” In a one-man show, how is the stage set for such an exploration?
SC: The first thing that struck me about the story, and Angela Carter’s writing in general, are the fantastic, mythical worlds she sets her stories in, masterfully balanced with a mundane reality that acts as a touchstone to our world and daily lives. Mixing fantasy with the domestic. The wonderfully descriptive, rich and poetic prose that she uses is irresistible; she conjures up these worlds of her imagination with a wry and dry humour. This balance really hit the spot with me. The setting of the story, which is fairly contained and features two characters, was perfect fodder for a theatrical adaption into a one-man show. The vampire bride’s power of singing her victims to her gave licence for an intrinsic musical element to be woven into the story with relative ease. The theatrical and musical elements are both equal parts of what I specialise in as a performer.

Sandro Colarelli (photo by Nat Lynn)

ZF: This production ran to rave reviews back in 2008. Last year you featured in another much-loved play to return to Brisbane after some years: Vikram and the Vampire. How does it feel to revisit works such as these?
SC: I love revisiting works. It provides an opportunity to further explore and develop the work in a more rich and satisfying manner. Your enter the rehearsal room knowing what the work is, and therefore can immediately experiment and take more risks. I am an obsessive perfectionist and am always grateful for an opportunity to perfect and try out different ways of approaching nuances in delivering lines, attitudes in character work, and playing with the music.

ZF: Nat Lynn’s gorgeous image (above) seems to have you coiled, ready to spring from your throne. Is there an element of potential energy coiled in the show as well?
SC: Absolutely — the vampire bride at the centre of the piece gives the illusion of a frail and vulnerable aristocratic girl trapped in her no-man’s land between life and death, sleep and wake. Her terrible hunger for blood manifests itself as a deadly predator ready to jump and kill her prey in a second. The image represents this potent and potential energy.

ZF: I recently re-stumbled across Theatre People‘s review of Zen Zen Zo’s Cabaret. Brent Downes wasn’t the only reviewer to describe you (as the Emcee) as the glue of that show — the performer with the most experience across both physical theatre and musicianship. What are the distinct challenges and delights of collaborating on ensemble work and performing a one-man show?
SC: I love collaborating with other people and being able to work relationships and chemistry with other performers. There is a wonderful camaraderie between colleagues when a performing dynamic is working. Its very satisfying. However, I also love doing a one-man show, because I can let my imagination fully embrace the world as I see it and lose myself completely in the story and characters. Particularly when you are doing a story like The Lady of the House of Love, which is close to your heart. Of course, there really is no such thing as a one-man show because the director, writer, composer, musician, designer, choreographer are all there contributing as well.

ZF: You’re right. And there’s is a seriously cool team involved with Lady of the House of Love: Jake Diefenbach, Neridah Waters, Dan Evans, Josh McIntosh and David Fenton. How have you enjoyed working with these talented folks?
SC: I was very lucky to be able too wrangle this group of monstrous talent together for this project. It’s a dream team and I am very grateful that all of them had the time and will to come and play with me, exploring this story I have loved for so many years.

ZF: How are you feeling about opening night?
SC: Nervous, excited, full of anticipation…

THE LADY OF THE HOUSE OF LOVE runs at METRO ARTS from 26 Jul to 3 Aug. The production’s soundtrack will be available for purchase at Sue Benner Theatre.