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.

Brisbanalia

 

Abandoned renos, Paddington and Bardon, 2017

Oddities and Esoterica

This month’s QUT Literary Salon theme is very much in line with my brand: Oddities and Esoterica. I’ll be reading from my fave niche genre, eco-fury – come along if you’d like to hear just how mad moths can get.

The guest reader for the September Salon is Mirandi Riwoe, with student readers Sarah Crawford, Annabelle de Paola, Zenobia Frost, Jack Jarden and Chloe Mills.

Here’s the gang at Queensland Poetry Festival – I feel so grateful to have met these poets this year. They’re wonderful humans and, as Sarah Holland-Batt (supervisor to most of us/superhero poet/photographer that day) pointed out, we look like a boy band. High praise.

QPF2017_QUT Salon

Big congrats to Anna Jacobson, Emily O’Grady, Mindy Kaur Gill, Ella Jeffreys and Rebecca Jessen for their current QUT domination of a variety of literary prize shortlists. ✨

WUNDERKAMMER: Less than one week to go

Less than one week to go until WUNDERKAMMER: the co-launch of Curio and Salt and Bone. Kristin and I are doubly excited! And so relieved that Avid is taking care of everything.

If you’d like to come, please RSVP via Avid Reader (for free!). This ensures we have enough free wine and nibbles for everyone to get sufficiently jolly.

If you can’t make the Brisbane launch but would still like a copy of either book (or both!), here’s how:

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INTERVIEW: Fetish Fridays

Fetish Fridays celebrate their second successful year of bringing kinky shenanigans to the Brisbane stage. This Friday, Brisbane Leather Pride’s vice president, Lucero, clues me in on next Friday’s big playdate.

ZENOBIA FROST: Last year’s Fetish Fridays series were a great success, blending performance and play. What has changed as the event’s concept has developed through 2014?
LUCERO: The success of last year’s Fetish Fridays meant that we didn’t want to change much about the events themselves. What we’ve done is have the events at three different venues including holding one on the Gold Coast to make them more accessible to those living outside of Brisbane.

ZF: FFs are developed in collaboration with Brisbane Leather Pride. How important has it been to create a wholly inclusive space?
L: Incredibly important. Part of the Brisbane Leather Pride mandate is to be inclusive of all genders, orientations, lifestyles, etc. We aim for these events to be entertaining, educational and sometimes challenging but we endeavour most of all in making them accessible to everyone.

ZF: What will make even newbies feel at home?
L: The Fetish Fridays events are a great introduction due to the performance nature of the events. Many kink related events are promoted solely as ‘play’ parties, which implies that you must be an active participant to attend. While I know from experience that this is not the case, it certainly can make people nervous about attending. What you will get with Fetish Fridays #3 is a night of entertainment that will show a newcomer to the scene some of the things possible in the kink world — a showcase if you will. The BLP committee members in attendance will also be available to answer any questions people may have.

BLPZF: Tell me about the performances planned for FF #3. What will be your highlights?
L: Redbear and his beautiful partner Namaiki are seasoned performers who will no doubt put on a very moving rope performance. Dolly de Ville is spectacular on pole and fresh from competing in Miss Pole Australia. Reigning ‘Miss Burleque Brisbane’ Magnolia Knife will add some sass, while you can expect something dark from self-proclaimed Old Guard Goths Rex and Ruby.
I will be doing a suspension piece with the amazing Nix, but the highlight — for me at least — will be Master Pierre, who has something very special indeed planned with his pup Jolt. I do not want to give the game away before the night, but Master Pierre’s show will be both entertaining and challenging.

ZF: Your speciality is rope — though it’s not your only area of expertise. How do you make rope-play performative?
L: Honestly? By having an amazing rope bottom, Nix, who does all the hard work and makes me look good. Match this with some theatre, great music and costuming, and I find it is possible to transform a fairly simple rope suspension into something that will take the audience on a journey. Like most performance-based art I truly believe it is about telling a story and having the audience engage.

ZF: Tell me about FF’s newest space. How will it transform from performance to play space?
L: For the final Fetish Friday of 2014 we have chosen a secret location in the heart of Milton. Due to the successful nature of the shows last year, the chosen venue was practically at capacity, so this year we picked a bigger venue with plenty of space.
As the performances come to a close the lighting will dim and the music will start to change the atmosphere of the venue into something of a more underground club feel. As with all kink events, it is the people that make the most prevalent changes and I would expect to see the kinky regulars to start playing almost straight away. Non-active participants are encouraged to stay, watch and ask questions or if they feel comfortable get involved in a safe environment under the watchful eyes of staff and dungeon monitors.

ZF: The event also has a charitable side. Tell me about FF’s support of the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC).
L: Proceeds from the event will go to support Brisbane Leather Pride this year, as we have just applied to become incorporated after our Inaugural General Meeting in May. While BLP is a not-for-profit venture and all non-performers donate their time voluntarily, there are of course some costs involved. That said, we have a long running association with QuAC and so we donate all monies raised from the excellent raffles held at each Fetish Friday to them. So far, over the first two events, we have raised over $500 for QuAC.

ZF: What’s the number-one thing that makes Fetish Fridays a highlight of Brisbane’s kinky calendar?
L: The kink scene is by its very nature is a somewhat underground place and still taboo in many people’s minds. This is one of the few times that the kink-curious can meet with the experienced and ask real people real questions in a safe and well-managed space.

FETISH FRIDAYS #3 runs from 7pm – 2am on 5 September 2014 in Milton, with the show itself starting at 8pm. (The exact location is sent with your ticket confirmation, but it’s close to Milton train station.) Tickets $30.

Ruckus! (and a poem)

Ruckus! Slam, having left its beloved Hideaway, has found rad new digs at the New Globe Theatre. The Whitny Kapa Band and I feature — and there are 16 coveted open mic spots. See you there at 7pm, 25 June.

In the meantime, I’ve chucked a new recording up on soundcloud for your listening amusement: “Cimetière Des Innocents, 1786” (previously published in Ricochet Magazine). No, I have no idea if I’m pronouncing the French bit right. But the gory details therein are a true story. Human-fat soap. Good times.

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: Medea: The River Runs Backwards

Words: Tahnee Robinson

The Old Museum is a beautiful venue for an interpretation of the myth of Medea. The supports that run floor-to-ceiling transform readily into a Grecian ruin, and the chorus leads us through the doors and past the relics to be seated. Christine Urquhart’s set is simultaneously complex and minimal — there is a lot of space, and the production will use all of it, but with the pillars and a chorus occupying the stage there is surprisingly little room for props. A swathe of white fabric flowing from the ceiling, slashed into three sections, functions as a wall, a window and a veil; at one point a distraught Medea (Lauren Jackson) stands before it while the beautiful Glauce (Mollie Yang) taunts her between the gaps.

Julian Napier’s costumes are lovely and the chorus, in their flowing, glossy gowns, feel almost like a natural extension of the set.  Medea’s gown is well-suited to the choreography of the part: she is beautiful but uncontrolled.

Lauren Jackson in "Medea"

Zen Zen Zo are renowned for their physical theatre, but this production relies heavily on the acting chops of the cast. Eric Berryman is utterly magnetic as Jason; his presence steals the show. Lauren Jackson, who plays the rapidly deteriorating Medea, is a dancer by profession, and she shines during the more choreographed sections of the show: her dance with Eros (Brennan Campbell) is beautifully executed and both performers are clearly in their element.

The whole performance feels carried by the dedication of the chorus; the seven members function alternatively as Medea’s handmaids and the more traditional collective voice of the story. Their singing, dancing and narration walk us through the tale. The commitment of the individual members is evident — without it there would be something flimsy about the whole play, but they provide a certain sincerity that glues the production together.

Medea’s children are central to the story, but there are no children in the company. Their presence is signified only by their cries. It’s a difficult effect to achieve and it doesn’t quite work, from a sound-design perspective, though the choral arrangements and other effects are successful. The soundtrack also utilises some contemporary classic music — Etta James and Nick Cave both make an appearance.

Medea the character is already pretty crazy at the start of the story – this version skips over her initial love affair with Jason and starts after his betrayal — and she swiftly gets crazier. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on this arc, to see the intensity of Medea’s love transformed into the kind of madness that might drive someone to murder her own children.

MEDEA runs at The Old Museum from 19 Aug to 7 Sep, 2013.

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

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.

FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: Russian Resurrection 2013

Words by Denis Semchenko

This year’s Russian Resurrection not only marks a decade of acquainting Australian moviegoers with prime cinematic art from the land of Mikhalkov and Sokurov, but also delivers a clear message: the Russian movie industry, while consistently rich on thought-provoking product since USSR’s heyday, presently has the capacity to “go Hollywood” with class. Here, we briefly examine our top five picks from the 2013 selection.

The festival’s opener The Geographer is everything one could wish for in a good movie: funny and sad, hopeful and tragic. Perhaps the most-recognised Russian actor nowadays, Konstantin Khabensky (of the Night Watch trilogy) stars as the alcoholic high school teacher whose heart of gold and dodgy best friend eventually win over his family troubles and motley, nihilistic class.

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The Geographer

On top of a strong cast and remarkable character studies (Khabensky’s sad dad/unorthodox teacher is a revelation), the film delights in contrasting Perm’s bleak post-Soviet landscapes and the region’s majestic white water wilderness — and, in a series of scenes, drips with classic Russian heartache. One to own.

One of the year’s biggest Russian box office hits, Rezo Gigienishvili’s Love With An Accent doesn’t hide its intention to sell Russia’s temporary political foe Georgia to potential holidaymakers — or, for that matter, tickle Western moviegoers’ buds. Imagine a lengthy, if very well-produced Tourism Georgia ad with patches of romantic comedy and you’re pretty much there.

"Love With An Accent"

Love With An Accent

Shot in glossy hypercolour, the movie tracks a number of (occasionally idiosyncratic) modern love stories: a young couple, on the run from the girl’s irate father, helped out by a kindly streetwise local; a lonely, frumpy Lithuanian TV worker who follows her dream of a Georgian child to Tbilisi and an overenthusiastic busboy; a jaded, mid-divorce Moscow actor who ends up in a remote mountain village following a textbook comedy-of-errors development; a genial conman at large pursuing a classical music fan’s affection. It’s all bright, optimistic and often visually fascinating, yet a little short on depth.

Getting its official international launch in Australia, Legend No. 17 brings one of Soviet sport’s greatest tales to the wide screen. Like many “sports sagas”, it dispenses with a few historical accuracies in its depiction of Valeriy Kharlamov’s rise to a forward position in the USSR ice hockey team — and with it, international fame following his almost single-handed demolition of the previously invincible Canadians in the 1972 Super Series’ opening game (recreated with near-deadset accuracy as the movie’s key sequence).

Legend #17

Legend #17

Rising star Danila Kozlovsky (Soulless) portrays the diminutive half-Spanish prodigy with the right amount of fire and skill, while veteran actor Oleg Menshikov (The Siberian Barber) is superb as mercurial coach Anatoly Tarasov. Putting the spotlight on oft-astonishing game choreography, the adrenalin-charged film hits you with the force of a well-aimed puck.

Perhaps the program’s most strongly “Russian Hollywood” offering, Metro is certainly as close as Russian filmmakers have ever got to an all-out Western disaster movie. Heavy on CGI and screeching metal noise, it’s as intense as you would expect from a scenario where the Moscow River breaks through the railings at one of the city subway’s busiest sections, flooding the tunnel and wrecking a rush-hour train.

"Metro"

Metro

Trapped underground and trying their hardest to get out are a colourful bunch of survivors from all walks of life including an estranged father, his little daughter and (as it transpires later) a successful, cynical love rival, a pair of students thrown together by the incident, a tough-nut former handball player and … a tiny dog. Top-drawer actress Svetlana Khodchenkova (who remains surface-level throughout) adds to the requisite emotional tension; naturally, there are well-placed nail-biters aplenty. Big, loud and merciless — as befits a fictional catastrophic event in a 15-million city.

Titled after a song from 1976’s iconic Soviet film Fortune’s Irony, Viktor Shamirov’s This Is What’s Happening To Me is a remarkable study in modern-day big city isolation — albeit with a pronounced Russian spin. Set in Moscow, it’s centred on the unlikely reconnection of two brothers thrown together by their father’s cancer diagnosis and aided by a slew of chaotic circumstances and unforgiving metropolitan traffic.

This is What's Happening to Me_13

This Is What’s Happening To Me

Wonderfully portrayed, the siblings are distinctly different people: one (Shamirov), a meek, neurotic yet highly moralistic family man, is trying to make his plane back to Volgograd, while the other (Gosha Kutsenko), a high-flying, detached corporate cog, obsesses over his scheduled singing performance at his company’s New Year’s ball. Along the way, they encounter a teenage girl who tries to make it across town to her estranged father. All of the above adds up to a thoughtful New Year’s Eve story with a little bit of a Lost In Translation vibe.

RUSSIAN RESURRECTION 2013 runs at Palace Centro from 26 July to 4 Aug.