The Voyage, revisited

In 2009, SweetWater Press published my first chapbook, The Voyage. Bettina Marson (who designed the cover of Salt and Bone, too) illustrated the booklet, and we launched it at Metro Arts on my 20th birthday. The Voyage is out of print now, so I thought it might be fun to have a digital copy — or, at least, highlights — online. I’ll roll 10 poems out on tumblr, with a table of contents here.

Sky Fishing by Bettina Marson

Poems reprinted with gratitude to Ross Clark and SweetWater Press. By way of a writing exercise to get me into the new year, I’ve given these ones a gentle edit. (I’ve excluded poems that found their way into Salt and Bone or were too, er, of-their-time.) I hope you enjoy The Voyage as a digital chapbook.

The Voyage

From the Ferry, Looking Out
Stalking the Moon/Skyfishing
Fiji Five
Glass to Sea Junk: A Sacrifice
How Do You Do, Tuatara?
Cicada Duet
Onwiththings
Evolution
18 Warrengate Road
Without You

REVIEW: Aurelian

Words: Tahnee Robinson

The stage at Metro Arts feels like a house in storage: draped with muslin and shadows, the shapes suggest but don’t confirm. It’s a fitting scene for what is to come — Aurelian explores the nature of memory and grief, and the way we construct our lives around loss.

Aurelian is the work of Genevieve Trace and a small creative team. Trace describes herself as a multidisciplinary performer, and Aurelian certainly samples from a variety of creative forms. The performance uses film, audio samples, physical theatre, live recording and a collection of narratives to form a pastiche of recollection and identity. Opening with a monologue that verges on prose-poetry, we are awakened to the anxiety of grief; performer Erica Fields repeats, with increasing desperation, a mantra of sorts: “But I have to work these things in order.” This is the panic of the bereaved, sorting through memories distorted with obsessive recollection.

The performance takes us through a series of stories, interview-style. Fields, shadowed by co-performer Trace, nods and smiles and pauses, responding to a series of prompts and questions that are unspoken. She has captured the glossy, overwrought joy of the bereaved perfectly. We are sometimes not sure who she is — widow, grandchild, neighbour — but all of these characters speak with the earnest ardor of people trying to do their lost loved ones justice in the retelling. And these stories are real, sourced from people in Trace’s hometown of Ayr in northern Queensland. Amongst them seems to be Trace herself, or her character, trying to understand her own grief.

Aurelian

Around the halfway mark, the narratives speed up and begin to fragment. Mike Willmett’s sound design follows the theme: the soundscape squeaks and glitches with the failing of the characters’ recollections. The climax, an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, is a wall of noise and flashing lights. Whitney Eglington’s lighting design makes clever use of the abstract set. Images are projected onto unlikely surfaces and lights appear behind screens to cast unexpected shadows and figures. The set is mostly made up of a series of trapezoidal constructions in various sizes. These function as seats, benches, projector screens and, at one point, a washing basket. They’re unobtrusive, and Trace and Field can move them about the stage with minimal interference.

All of this combined is Aurelian’s weak point. In evoking the overwhelming incomprehensibility of grief the show has overreached a little. There’s just too much here, for 60 minutes worth of performance. I can help but wonder if the whole thing would have felt more effective if a couple of the elements had been removed. The concept of the supernatural, hinted at during the opening, is explored more directly here. This is perhaps a natural inclusion in a discussion of death and loss, but it feels out of place amongst so much musing on identity and memory. The concept, executed with lights and a semi-transparent backdrop, and clever use of the two performers, is visually effective. But feels like a bridge too far — one thing too many to think about in a performance that is already quite intense.

Aurelian doesn’t really conclude — there isn’t even a curtain call. And that’s thematically consistent. There’s no answer to grief, no cure or method for dealing with it and no way to manage the wrinkling and slippage of our memories.

AURELIAN played at Metro Arts from 7 to 15 September as part of Brisbane Festival.

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.

Hurrah!

I’m fairly sure yesterday was the best birthday ever.

I had a wonderful time with Nerissa (as Madrigal Maladies) at SpeedPoets earlier in the day. Big thanks to Graham & Jules and the lovely crowd at The Alibi Room.

Cupcakes!

The launch at !Metro Arts in the evening was an absolute dream event. Somewhere between 80 and 100 friends and family came along (we lost count!), the book supply nearly sold out and the punctuative cupcakes were gone in a snap.

Thank you to:

  • Kim and the team at !Metro Arts
  • Ross and Jeff at SweetWater Press
  • Bettina Walsh, artist extraordinaire
  • The writing circle that shall remain unnamed
  • Tiara, our fabulous Merch Girl
  • Rob Morris, grooviest poet in Brisbane and a gent with excellent taste in shoes (thank you, thank you, thank you; they fit perfectly)
  • James Sherlock, jazz-guitar maestro
  • The (other) Frosts for supplying a dozen excellent bottles of wine
  • Caitie for a fine day of baking fun
  • Everyone else involved with catering: Mum, Tina & Jerome, and the family members who helped out
  • Dad, whom I know would have loved to have been there; your messages from afar were much appreciated (and don’t worry, there’s a video!)
  • All the gorgeous people who came along or sent messages of support, especially those old friends who came out of the woodwork to say hullo
  • The crazy ladies and gents who came along to The Pancake Manor (etc.) after the launch, and the waitress who put extra blueberries on our pancakes
  • Those who took photos or video (I look forward to seeing them!)

launch

I had a great time, I couldn’t be happier with the book, and I hope you all enjoy The Voyage (and are amused by my inscriptions, if you had your copy signed).

I’m pleasantly tired today, and intend to spend the rest of the afternoon in my pyjamas, probably watching The Hunger.

With love,
Zenobia

The Voyage, featuring James Sherlock

As close to a media release as we’ll get:

The Voyage, the debut collection from local poet, Zenobia Frost, will be launched by SweetWater Press on the 3rd of May. Zenobia has won prizes for the poems written during her school years, and more recently has had work published in Going Down Swinging, Small Packages, Stylus, Mascara and Voiceworks. This first collection somehow combines undertones of both The Ancient Mariner and The Hunting of the Snark, while remaining determinedly in her own voice.

The volume is illuminated by Bettina Walsh’s lively drawings.

Zenobia has been described by fans as “a poetic adventurer, hat fetishist and protector of apostrophes who works with the Queensland Poetry Festival and coordinates The Ruby Fizz Society, a light-hearted opportunity to indulge in fine food, fine arts and high-class frivolity”.

Guitarist James Sherlock will be providing jazz grooves, cupcakes will be sprouting up everywhere, and libations will be quaffed during the evening, beginning at 7.00pm, in the !Metro Arts Basement, 109 Edward Street, Brisbane.

Media + other details:

Ross Clark 0418 195350       rclarkbard@yahoo.com.au