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.

Interview: BRISBANE (A DOING WORD)

Writer David Burton and director Claire Christian team up for Vena Cava’s latest production, BRISBANE (A DOING WORD). I caught up with David and Claire to find out more.

 

ZENOBIA FROST: People like to denigrate Brisbane as a place to live or make art, but it sounds like this play identifies the ways in which Brisbane has much to offer. Is that correct? Tell me about the play’s relationship to Brisbane.

DAVID BURTON: The play’s relationship to Brisbane is complex. Every artist I know has a complex relationship with this city. I’m a big Brisbane fan too, and a large part of this play is showing that Brisbane has a lot to offer but that it also has a lot to overcome. Brisbane’s main challenge is the relationship it holds with its artists, many of whom are looking to book a flight to Melbourne or Sydney! I was interested in why that it is — not on a political level, because that’s discussed enough — but on a personal, emotional, creative level. That’s what the play explores.

CLAIRE CHRISTIAN: I like to think that the play metaphorically high-fives Brisbane in a way too. And that by the very making of the work, Brisbane artists are doing their thing in Brisbane and loving on Brisbane.

 

ZF: Tell me about the play’s protagonist, Matty. What sets his story apart from your average coming-of-age?

DB: We’ve all met Matty. He’s the hopelessly ambitious, idealistic artist who believes theatre can change the world. He’s loved, funny, and imaginative, but he’s sadly lacking some sensitivity. I think he’s an interesting protagonist because he’s recognisable, and not necessarily likeable. Not likeable, but loveable. I’ve been Matty, I’ve been friends with a lot of Mattys, and I’ve watched many grow up, and many stagnate in a Matty-state. It’s funny and interesting to me.

CC: I think those of us in the arts all have an inner Matty at some point of our career: the people in our lives loving us, us hating ourselves, being a wanker about our art — perhaps that’s part of the process.

 BRISBANE (a doing word)


ZF: Matty explores comedy, slam, theatre, therapy and Jesus. Which part of his adventure is most memorable/resonant for you as writer and director, respectively?

CC: Matty’s overall journey, but the people around him are also on a journey because of him and his impact on their lives. He’s a pretty blissfully unaware of the ripple effect he causes. I hope audiences just wanna give him a hug — and tell him he’s okay. I think all artists need that. Scrap that, I think everyone needs that.

 

ZF: JWC is a distinctly Brisbane venue (and definitely a doing-wordy place). How does “Brisbane (a doing word)” use the space?

CC: We’re in the shopfront space, which has its challenges and limitations, but is also forcing us to be creative. I’ve done a show in this space before — I love the intimacy it forces, the proximity of the actors to the audience. Plus, I think it’s fantastic that Vena Cava are getting away from their home turf and spreading their wings. I think it makes a great comment about how they see themselves within the Brisbane landscape and about the work they want to make.

 

ZF: Vena Cava is a student theatre company; have the play’s themes resonated with the cast? In what ways?

C: I think so, yeah. I think it is spinning a few of them into an existential art related crisis. It’s a little confronting in that Matty’s essentially on their path, in their classes, possibly them — even though I think they all hope not. It’s probably inspired a whole lot of reflection about why they do what they do, and how they talk about what they do. I think it’s nice to be reminded not to be a dickhead. I think they get that now.

 

ZF: Does the play reveal anything unexpected about Brisbane?

DB: I don’t know what people’s expectations are of our city! I think we all have different perspectives on our town, and the play looks at that. None of the characters have the same relationship with this place.

CC: I don’t know, I’d like to think the play speaks more about being a young, confused twenty something — which could be applicable in any town. I think what makes the play speak of Brisbane is the ‘plight’ of artists here and their questions about where to place themselves for success. Maybe it speaks about the perception of success as an artist and how place and space contribute to that.

 

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