REVIEW: Live on Air (Anywhere Fest)

Live on Air is the only Anywhere Fest show this year to truly go anywhere. Comedy-poet Telia Nevile’s pirate radio show streams from her lounge room into yours, wherever you are. 

Logging into Live on Air feels like checking in to Skype with a friend. Nevile turns on her webcam and broadcasts live from a homely couch in a Melbourne living room. Black-and-white posters of writer-rockstars plaster the rear wall; Oscar Wilde features, along with his epigram: “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Nevile wears a homemade shirt that says, “Rimbaud Built My Hotrod”. From the get-go, we know this is erudite comedy. Bring it on.

Relia Nevile

Live on Air takes the format of a radio variety show, interspersed with power ballads, pop and even a bit of grammar grindcore (“Apostrophe Apocalypse”). Nevile’s poems form the heart of the show. Each follows an extended metaphor (e.g. “‘Eros’ is Just ‘Sore’ Spelled Backwards”) via one-liner witticisms. To the tune of Satie on piano, Nevile explains that she’s “deep (in thought)” but you’re deepest “when you’re six foot under.” As well as poems, there’s fiction — both flash and slash (West Wing fan fiction, to be precise).

Nevile is a strong performer and the setting (from her couch to yours) makes for an intimate performance. Rather than feeling tucked away in the privacy of home, I keep forgetting that the video is only one-way. It feels rude not to respond with, at the very least, applause. Perhaps we need a talkback line.

Comedy is an incredibly subjective beast. Nevile’s poetic brand of funny doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone, but I do appreciate her commitment to satirising form. The “poetry cabaret” variety show, delivered here via webcam in the manner of radio plays, is a fantastic format. Live on Air also proves that performance can be just as intimate online as on stage.

LIVE ON AIR ran from 8 to 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Review: Mixtape (Anywhere Fest)

Review by Nerissa Rowan

“I’ve made you a mixtape.”

Sure, it’s an old-school concept — but you may remember a time when there was nothing more romantic than getting a mixtape of music chosen especially for you. Each one had a special meaning, hidden or overt. It was an intimate journey for a couple.

Scott Sneddon and Angela Willock allow us to eavesdrop on their mixtape conversation, as they get to know each other through the medium of music. It’s a show punctuated with recorded music as they play each other the soundtracks of their lives. There are some touching stories and embarrassing confessions — there are always songs we loved that will come back to haunt us.

In short, it’s a series of poetic love letters to the good and not-so-good music of our youth. Each track has a story behind it, a rationale for being included be it a happy memory, a moment of discovery or an admiration for musicians who change our lives.

But it also examines the beginnings of a relationship, the fears, hopes and taboos that come with starting something new. There were a few moments of awkwardness which could have been excellent acting, or genuine nervousness. In this kind of performance it’s difficult to tell.

With a show like this there is plenty to relate to. It sparks memories of falling in love — be it with a girl, a boy or a song. It might make you think back on your own teenage years, consider the songs that shaped you and what your own biographical mixtape might contain. It celebrates awkward dancing and knowing all the words to the most embarrassing songs.

This is an enjoyable and well-constructed show that kept me captivated to the end. Mixtape will leave you with a smile on your face. Do yourself a favour…

Mixtape runs at the Rabbithole Cafe from 16 to 17 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Nerissa Rowan is a poet, performer, Arts Hub reviewer, and former OffStreet PressGang member.

Review: Skin & Wake Up (Anywhere Fest)

Anywhere Festival double bill: “Skin” and “Wake Up”
Reviewed by Nerissa Rowan


There’s a lot to be said for knowing your limitations as a viewer. As much as I love watching performers push the boundaries of theatre and the performing arts, I’m not a big fan of the abstract. I like only a fraction of abstract art, as I prefer something with a clear narrative.

And a unifying story is the one thing Skin doesn’t deliver for me. The Anywhere website says Skin explores real and fictional stories of body modification and tattoo culture through physical theatre. It’s an accurate description but the show was still not what I expected. The stories are in the form of brief snippets of song, monologue or movement that leave me feeling unfulfilled.

I’m certainly open to the idea that I missed the story, and that I’m a lazy viewer. But I find there are too many gaps to fill in: the progression from opening song (which is hauntingly beautiful) to the close seems a little unnatural. It just didn’t come together as a cohesive whole.

However, the show did have clear themes running through it. Themes of body image, conformity, the beauty myth, sensuality and control.

It was also great to see an Anywhere show bringing out extra chairs for a very healthy crowd. Taking place outdoors at The Box in West End, a sheet hung across the back corner to create a backstage space. The sounds of the Brisbane Boxing training space drifted through a nearby window, creating a fitting soundscape for a piece about physical self-expression.

The four performers, armed only with balloons, marking pens and mobile phones, create a tableau that I’m sure many people could relate to, although for the most part I didn’t feel emotionally engaged.

If you want to get the most out of a festival like Anywhere, know your limitations as a viewer and choose your performances accordingly. You will enjoy this piece if you are fascinated by dance, movement and the cult of body image.

SKIN runs at The Box, 29 Vulture Street, West End, from 15 to 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.


Wake Up

Alastair is an ambitious professional whose work comes first — except on his day off. His day off is a time for him. Not his girlfriend Ange, who he claims to love but actively ignores. Not his mother, who still loves him despite the fact he constantly tells her to go away. Not his friend in need of a helping hand.

Situated outside at The Box in West End, the set for Wake Up is minimal. A white sheet hung from the wall provides a canvas on which Alastair’s colourful and disjointed dreams are projected. He sleeps on a makeshift bed, with only a mobile phone for company. A phone that rings constantly with unwanted calls.

This one-man show is more monologue than multimedia, but talented actor Benjamin Jackson keeps it moving at a good pace. He has created a character who seems concerningly familiar and not entirely likeable, as he uses half-truths as excuses to disconnect from his fellow human beings.

If I hadn’t seen The China Incident earlier this year, which took the concept of introducing characters by telephone to new heights, I would likely have been blown away by this show. Unfortunately, I found myself drawing comparisons to the Queensland Theatre Company production.

While this production is more low-budget and low-key, it has many of the elements that made The China Incident successful. The actor is focussed and believable, the timing is spot on and the monologue provides just enough detail to allow us to imagine the other side of the conversation. There’s a balance of laugh-out-loud situations and reflective moments, with the additional aspect of slickly produced dream sequences.

Writer, director and stage manager Mikhala Hawken has created a play she can be proud of, with a clear message to Wake Up to ourselves.

WAKE UP runs at The Box, 29 Vulture Street, West End, from 15 to 17 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Nerissa Rowan is a poet, performer, Arts Hub reviewer, and former OffStreet PressGang member.

Anywhere Fest: Ma Ma Ma Mad

Merlynn Tong (Zen Zen Zo) has microphone in hand for her one-woman spectacular, MA MA MA MAD. Her other hand is outstretched to you, her audience. Enter Cyber City.

Q. Describe your show/s in under 25 words.
A. A one-woman dark-comedy offering set in a Karaoke bar that dives into the landscape of my mother’s heart as she enters the realm of suicide.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
A. My venue (2002 Cyber City) is perfectly insane. As you enter the space, an Asian lady surrounded by DVDs and VCDs stares at you. Then the aromas of Chinese food awaken your nostrils. As ginger and garlic make their greeting to your senses, the melodious Chinese language and repetitive sounds of the arcade machines tempt your ears, beckoning you closer. Right at the end of the venue, in a tiny Karaoke room fit for only 20, we begin our journey. Gosh, I love this space! So central in the Valley, when I first stepped in 2002 Cyber City, it was like discovering a playground in my own backyard.

Merlynn Tong

Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
A. I have never watched My Little Pony before (tsk tsk Singapore!). [It’s a show, now? I must be stuck in the 90s. — Ed.] But I reckon this should have been on my TV screen when I was a kid.

Q. What’s your favourite karaoke standby?
A. Absolutely have to sing “Silent All This Years” by Tori Amos! I just have to add that my mother’s standby is “Yesterday Once More” — I’ve heard her sing this a million times when I was growing up. Her character in my show seduces the whole audience to sing this song with her!
MA MA MA MAD plays at 2002 Cyber City, Fortitude Valley, From 16 to 18 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Anywhere Fest: Mixtape

Anywhere Fest is still all systems go this week. First up, poets Angela Willock and Scott Sneddon join voices for a musical romance. I asked Angela a few quick questions about Mixtape.

Q. Describe your show/s in under 25 words.
A. It’s an off-key and somewhat awkward exploration into two people getting to know each other through music.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
It’s the quirky little courtyard of someone’s business in the Valley. You could be forgiven for thinking you were hanging out in a stranger’s backyard.


Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
A. It would wear cowboy boots and hip hop bling and too much eyeliner. It’s superpower would be to explode your head with its off-key singing to bad pop songs.

Q. What was the most embarrassing mixtape you ever sent/received (in hindsight)?
A. I would have to say I’m usually the bearer of bad mixtapes. I went through a phase where I themed them, like, “Oh, you’re sad — here’s 20 songs about depression to make you feel better…”

Mixtape runs at the Rabbithole Cafe from 16 to 17 May, 2013.

REVIEW: The Nightingale and the Rose (Anywhere Fest)

Directorial team Jennifer Bismire (live production, puppetry and design), Belinda McCulloch (film) and Richard Grantham (music) transform Oscar Wilde’s tale of “love perfected through death” into a multimedia performance piece. Published in 1888, Wilde’s short story tells of nightingale’s sacrifice for a young student in need of a red rose to give his beloved. The parable unfolds through puppetry, text, film and music across seven screens in the Powerhouse Labyrinth and Ruins.

Let’s get any biases out of the way: I know key members of the team, and very much respect their work. (After a while, it’s hard not to know at least someone in any given Brisbane show.) Still, I trust them to trust me to review honestly.

There’s something mystical about shadow puppets. These articulated silhouettes are deftly handled by a large cast of puppeteers (Caitlin Marie Adie, Emily Bruce, Perie Essex, Eloise Maree, Lauren Neilson, Helen Stephens and Sami Van Barneveld).

The garden, across three screens, takes centre stage. At the far left, subtitles tell the Nightingale’s tragic story. On the other side, a live-action film plays out philosophical conversations between the Student and his professors. It’s a very different way to view a show; The Nightingale and the Rose is part-theatre, part-cinema and part-art installation, with the mood of a silent film. You don’t want to miss a thing — but there’s a lot to follow, and missing some (at least from the front row) is inevitable.

The Nightingale and the Rose

The filmed portion introduces new characters to Wilde’s story: two professors who consider the Nightingale’s plight as a thought experiment and guide their lovelorn Student. Wilde’s narration is split between these three figures. With regard to adapting a seven-page story for an hour-long show, it’s a clever idea; however, John Grey, Michael Croome and Tim Gollan’s performances feel unprepared and their dialogue lacks the conviction to transcend its role as a collection of leftover witticisms.

For the show, Grantham has arranged compositions based on works by Lili Boulanger and Olivier Messianen. His evocative performance transfixes, transporting us from the Powerhouse Ruins into the Nightingale’s garden. Still, the presence of the outside world is part of what makes Anywhere Festival different — you can’t stop passers-by chattering, nearby meditators chanting or car headlights flashing, so you may as well embrace the ambient soundtrack. I admired the cast, in particular, as they pressed on during an outburst from a gentleman who verbally abused an usher. (Yes, it’s a ticketed event in a public space — deal with it.)

It’s brave to stage this quiet, thoughtful piece outside of a traditional theatre space. Interestingly, some audience members behave more like cinemagoers: some chat while others even come and go. In last week’s interview, Bismire raised a pertinent question: “How many forms do we have to saturate a contemporary audience with to get across the same story?” Bismire, McCulloch and Grantham’s production is beautiful, but in the attempt to appeal to all types of viewers the story’s simplicity is sacrificed — along with the Nightingale.

The Nightingale and the Rose runs in the Powerhouse Labyrinth and Ruins from 9 to 18 May, 2013. Anywhere Fest.

REVIEW: My Struggle (Anywhere Fest)

My Struggle: The Life and Times of an Individ
(In a World Full of Hipsters)

Reviewed by Nerissa Rowan, May 8.
Presented as part of the 2013 Anywhere Theatre Festival.

You may think hipsters are a little crazy, rather intimidating or totes groovy. Whatever your perspective, this sub-cultural satire is unlikely to change it, but it will make you laugh.

Melding film, dance, music and impressive bad facial hair, My Struggle: The Life and Times of an Individ (In a World Full of Hipsters) takes three bored soldiers into a parallel universe where their best friend has become an art school hipster. In the hope of being able to get home, they help him on his quest to snag the girl of his dreams.

So it’s a love story, right? Not so much. It’s mainly a satire, looking at the price of cool, the dangers of expectations and the pitfalls of conforming to non-conformity. Or maybe that’s not what it was about and I wasn’t cool enough to work it out. Whatevs.

There are a few intense moments which may take you by surprise to add depth to what would otherwise be a light and enjoyable comedy. It’s not difficult to see the parallels being drawn here, yet I let my guard down while giggling at the stereotypes, and the menace caught me almost unawares.

The talented cast make full use of the space. Most of the action takes place on the bare stage, with the curved white wall of this photography studio creating the perfect canvas for projecting the filmed action and backdrops. But the actors move through the audience, up the stairs and into the bar on the upper level.  By the end of the piece all of us, from those perched on the bar stools to those on our low slung chairs closer to the main action, become part of proceedings.

It’s worth noting — as many people were caught out by it — that the 75 minute running time listed on the website does not include an interval. Starting just after 8, the show ended at 9:50pm. This is particularly important if you’re catching public transport.

So squeeze into your tight jeans, slip on your ironic shirt and lace up your vintage sneakers for a fun and thought provoking night. Although you might want to see this one before it becomes cool, you’re too late.

I give it a big green tick.

My Struggle: The Life and Times of an Individual (In a World Full of Hipsters) runs at SYC Studios, 37 Manilla St, East Brisbane from 8 to 11 May, 2013.

Nerissa Rowan is a poet, performer, Arts Hub reviewer, and former OffStreet PressGang member. 

Anywhere Fest: Overexposed!

Rosie Peaches, a multitalented belle of Brisbane Arts, runs popular cabaret-burlesque evenings at The Hideaway. For Anywhere Fest, she brings her one-woman cabaret to the Bell Brothers Building in Fortitude Valley.

Q. Describe your show/s in under 25 words.
A. A one-woman cabaret and international collaboration revealing the ridiculous in love and relationships. Or “The Failed Love Life of a 20-Something Brisbane Girl”.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
A. Our venue is a foyer in a 1920s heritage-listed building, which really sets the scene of a romantic, vintage cabaret. We’re really using the space as it is, projecting video onto the walls, hanging lights from the balconettes and using the chandelier and wood panelling as part of our set design. Oh, and it’s opposite an adult store, so you can pick up something after the show … maybe?


Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
It would be wearing a cardigan and drinking a glass of gin and tonic. Its superpower would be similar to Cupid’s: makin’ love and breakin’ hearts all with a nonchalant flick of the wrist [or hoof! — ed.].

Q. Tell us the story of your most awkward date, first or otherwise.
My most awkward date was … there’ve been so many! The one who moved to Australia after a summer fling in Europe, the ex who apologised at the end of the date for breaking up with me three years prior, the one where an ex arrived to crash our date, the boy who told me he’d take me on an adventure only to regale me with stories of his pet chickens…

Overexposed! runs in the foyer of the Bell Bros. Building from 10 to 19 May, 2013.

Anywhere Fest: The Nightingale and the Rose

For Anywhere Fest, directorial team Jennifer Bismire, Belinda McCulloch (film) and Richard Grantham (music) will stage Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose in the Powerhouse Labyrinth. I asked Ms Bismire a few questions about their Wilde adaptation.

Q. Describe your show in under 25 words.
A. Three artists across film, music and shadow-puppetry investigate Oscar Wilde’s parable of love versus knowledge amongst the historic ruins of The Brisbane Powerhouse.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
A. The old Powerhouse ruins have been a perfect venue for us. A big part of this show is the idea that the new can support, develop and bring life to the old, rather than simply replacing it. The Brisbane Powerhouse as a whole works alongside this ethos very closely, but the outdoor space has this incredible sense of the old, the new and the natural colliding — as well as an extremely intimate feeling for such an open space. We would love audiences to feel surrounded by nature, art, new technology and history whilst still feeling as thought they’re sitting cross-legged, watching a show on their living room floor.

The Nightingale and the Rose

Q. If you could stage your show anywhere in time and space (after the Powerhouse, of course), where/when would you choose?
A. Against the wall of a crumbling cottage in a grumpy elderly forest — the sort of place that time forgets. Either there or in my living room when I was six.

Q. This show has everything, from shadow puppetry to a live soundtrack from Richard Grantham. What do you think Oscar would have thought of the atmosphere you create for his parable?
A. When Oscar wrote this story, the full power and meaning of the Nightingale’s sacrifice, the discussion of love versus power, art versus intellect, was heard through his words alone. 125 years later,  audiences’ attention spans and response to storytelling have altered and developed (though you could argue for the worst).
As a group we’ve been fascinated by how many forms we have to saturate a contemporary audience with to get across the same story of a little bird and her love, which Oscar managed so powerfully with his words alone.
He once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” I’d hope he might see that sense of humanity — and his original intentions — in our piece … though depending who he’s sitting next to he might get distracted by the freedoms of our modern society … or think we’re all twats.

The Nightingale and the Rose runs in the Brisbane Powerhouse Labyrinth and Ruins from 9 to 18 May, 2013.

Anywhere Fest: Live on Air

Melbourne’s own Telia Nevile hits the airwaves for Anywhere Fest. As her comedic character Poet Laureate Telia Nevile, our host broadcasts Live on Air from her lounge room to yours.

Q. Describe your show in under 25 words.
A. An ode to the outsider full of tongue-in-cheek poems set to backing tracks that range from rap to blues, death metal to bubblegum pop.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue (or in this case, airwaves) unique?
A. There’s something about bringing theatre into your own home, where you can experience it in amongst your own reality and entirely on your own terms, that makes the idea of live-streaming really intriguing. With a show over the internet, which you can watch while you’re in your pajamas curled up on your couch, there’s a lot of possibility for intimacy and honest reaction without any big emotional demands on the audience. I’m both excited and terrified because it’s such a different experience as a performer, but I hope that it will open up new places within the character and that it will expand the audience experience.


Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
A. Is there a dark, furtive and socially awkward one that reads Proust in public and Mills & Boon in private?

Q. Live on Air sounds like it’s billed as part BBC radio play, part character comedy and part poetry. How do you meld these forms in your show?
A. The poetry is an inherent part of the character — it’s her chosen form of expression and it acts as a pressure valve that releases all her greatest hopes and frustrations. The radio part was inspired by a 90s film called Pump Up the Volume. In this, as in that movie, it allows the protagonist to be entirely, unflinchingly honest because when you’re alone in your room there’s nothing to lose — you can’t see any shock or disappointment or disapproval on anyone’s face because you never really know if anyone’s listening or not. In that aspect, radio is incredibly freeing.

Live on Air runs online from 8 to 16 May, 2013.