Review: Growing Pains (Anywhere Fest)

Review by Nerissa Rowan

When you think of poetry, do you think Shakespearean sonnets or bush ballads? In Growing Pains, four writers show us there’s a lot more to spoken word than rhythm and rhyme. This is “poetry”. It touches on themes of ethnicity, relationships, religion and the trials of growing up.

They’ve taken over the Bird Gallery, a cosy space permeated with the smell of coffee and packed with chairs, cushions and beanbags. On the wall is a work in progress — a collage of baby photos and memories. The audience and cafe patrons are encouraged to add their own memories to the wall. Prompters like “what did you want to be when you grow up” and “what smell do you remember” are designed to inspire us to share our stories too.

“Herein you will find instructions on being an adult.” Martin Ingle’s hilarious piece about the rules of adulthood sets the tone for the next hour. He is confident and funny, bringing a stand-up comedy feel to the show, particularly when he asks the question: is it love or food poisoning?

His work is interspersed with that of the three other performers. Vuong Pham is quiet and reflective, bringing haiku and faith into the mix. The soft spoken but powerful words of Jo Sri make it obvious why he was the Queensland winner of the National Poetry Slam in 2012. His words are heartfelt, personal, humorous and often political.

We have to wait a little while before Josh Donellan takes the stage, but he brings more great slam and storytelling filled with wordplay and emotion. He’s the only one who comes close to fitting the traditional stereotype of a writer, with his 1984 t-shirt and a hat that, at first glance, looks like a beret.

There’s some creative metaphor, amusing wordplay and jokes at the expense of poetry. The audience laps it up.

The finale is a well-constructed collaborative piece which wraps up the show nicely. It brings the performers, their styles and themes together into a cohesive whole. Words are my thing, and I enjoyed this show immensely.

Growing Pains ran at Bird Gallery on 16 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.