Review: Disney’s ALADDIN

No Disney magic is spared in the touring adaption of Broadway musical hit, Aladdin, based on 1992’s blockbuster animation.

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The first stars of the show are set designer Bob Crowley and costume designer Gregg Barnes. There’s enough glitz in Aladdin to completely re-sand the South Bank beach with glitter and crystals. No detail goes un-bedazzled, and the result is a spectacle that overwhelms like, well, the proverbial Aladdin’s cave. The pyrotechnics are quite literally dazzling, and even my cold, miserly heart lights up for Jim Steinmeyer’s illusion design.

It’s no surprise; Aladdin is delivered by the studios with perhaps the world’s tightest hold on their brand. Yet Disney leaves wiggle-room for some local touches – delivered with wit by our fourth-wall-defying Genie – that warm the audience right up. (“Where do you think I’m from?” he asks Aladdin. “Ipswich?”)

Aladdin successfully translates rather than replicates the film. In fact, the theatrical production gives the show a New York rags-to-riches feel, blending big band and tap into the mix. Instead of Aladdin’s monkey pal, we have three loyal buddies: Kassim (Adam-Jon Fioentino), Babkak (Troy Sussman) and Omar (Robert Tripolino). These guys have great chemistry – their numbers together are a blast (particularly “High Adventure”). It’s a shame most of Babkak’s characterisation comes back to fat jokes.

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Hiba Elchikhe and understudy Graeme Isaako are perfectly plucky as Jasmine and Aladdin, and they fill the big shoes of their filmic predecessors in sweet duets like “A Whole New World”. George Henare is an endearing Sultan, and understudy Dean Vince demonstrates that English accents always sound more evil, but it’s Aljin Abella as Iago who really steals the show with his comedic timing – and wicked laugh. Genie is such a charismatic character, and we can forgive understudy Anthony Murphy when his shrill-camp dialogue and singing is often hard to understand. Murphy sure looks the part, and Genie is certainly the character whose freedom we’re rooting for with the most vim, and who earns the biggest applause.

The ensemble deserves kudos, too, as a tireless, dynamic bunch under the supervision of director/choreographer Casey Nicolaw and a team of associates.

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Danny Troob’s orchestration is a highlight, led by music director Geoffrey Castles. There’s plenty of nostalgic earworms from Disney past, with the most striking new songs coming from the original team (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin).

It will likely not shock you to know that Disney still has a gender problem (not to mention, famously, an exoticism problem). Where Aladdin’s monkey is replaced with three men with distinct personalities, names and songs, Jasmine’s tiger companion is replaced by nameless women from the ensemble, who march off to leave her alone in her room with an unwelcome intruder. I was disappointed, given the number of thrilled kiddos in the audience, to see Aladdin tap his cheek to request a kiss and tell Jasmine, “Don’t you owe me something for showing you around?” Why not take the opportunity, when you wield such epic influence, to normalise language that supports a culture of consent and nurturance? Shout out, by the way, to Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (make-up design) and Natasha Katz (lighting design) – the only two women listed in a creative team of 22 people.

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It all works out okay: Aladdin gets a new tragic backstory and in the end Jasmine’s dad tells her she’ll be equal ruler once she’s married. These aren’t new criticisms. I might not know how Aladdin’s magic carpet works (no, really, it’s going to keep me up at night!), but the structure of a Disney production is a tale as old as time. So it goes. Ol’ Walt sure puts on a hell of a show, and it was fun watching parents trying to unravel their children from reams of gold streamers.

Aladdin runs until 3 June at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC. You can also enter a lottery, Broadway-style, for cheap tickets throughout the season.

Photos by Jeff Busby.

 

 

 

THEATRE REVIEW: 1984

Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
17 July 2014

Photos by Dylan Evans

In the intimate (even stuffy) Cremorne, we are blinded by roaming searchlights. A huge screen looks down upon us from the bleak stage. Shake & Stir immerse their audience in George Orwell’s 1984 — a draconian future where “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” Here, the past is malleable and even private thought is public property.

Bryan Probets is compelling as Winston Smith, the quietly sharp, nervous dissident who works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting records of the past. The telescreen — a two-way television that both broadcasts and monitors — dominates his home and life. Winston’s internal struggle against Big Brother is broadcast to us even while, in person, he hides from prying cameras. His monologues induce doublethink in the audience: we know this is private; we know we are watching.

Set designer Josh McIntosh has stashed the past in crevices and under floorboards. The unfolding of a secret, museum-like room is a special delight. But it’s Optikal Bloc’s visuals that are at the heart of this production. (Ironically, they edited 2013’s season of Big Brother for Nine Network.) Matched with Guy Webster’s suitably overwhelming sound design and Jason Glenright’s always-clever lighting, Optikal Blok evokes a claustrophobic sense of constant surveillance.

1984 — photo by Dylan Evans

Unfortunately, the cast can’t quite maintain this sense of dread. Ross Balbuziente, Nelle Lee Julia and Nick Skubij — company co-artistic directors — each seem miscast as cartoonist iterations of their characters: keen patriot Parsons, secret rebel Julia and elderly antiques-peddler Charrington respectively. David Whitney as O’Brien brings a gravity essential to the double-agent role; he is the production’s much-needed metronome, keeping the pace even.

There’s a particular bleak resonance in Orwell’s vision: in 2014, we enact doublethink every day; we willingly cling to the devices that monitor and data-mine us. Michael Futcher makes note of these phenomena in his director’s notes. Yet scenes in 1984 that ought to remind the audience of its role in its own panopticon are often played lightly enough for laughs. Winston’s prison experience is at one point reduced to toilet humour. And, significantly, there’s a bitter-sweetness lacking from his frantic connection with Julia. Even the live rats meant to signify terror are, well, really cute.

Shake & Stir’s production faithfully follows the plot and text of Orwell’s 1948 novel (I did my homework and read it last week), yet something is missing. No amount of audio-visual saturation can stand in for genuinely felt fear. Opening night, if I understand correctly, was the 101st showing of this particular adaptation; after 124 days on the road, perhaps 1984 is going through the motions. Still, Orwell’s inventive language alone reminds of our tenuous grasp on memory; our disconnection from inconvenient histories; and how easily we might be complicit in our own enslavement.

“If you want a picture of the future,” says O’Brien, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.” Shake & Stir has long since found its feet; during 1984’s QPAC run, I hope it’ll find its steel-capped boots.

1984 plays until 2 August 2014 at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC.

THEATRE REVIEW: The Mountaintop

Photos by Rob McColl

It’s after midnight on Martin Luther King’s last night on earth. There’s still work to be done — but the good doctor has run out of cigarettes.

Dr King (Pacharo Mzembe) has just given his famous and final address at Mason Temple in Tennessee — in April of 1968. We find him kicking off his shoes in his Memphis motel room, calling room service in the hope of a late-night cup of coffee.

Delivering caffeine and cigarettes to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was not what Camae (Candy Bowers) expected of her first day on the job as a motel maid. Lonely and, after all, only human, King insists Camae stay for a cigarette. He gets far more than he bargained for.

Candy Bowers as Camae and Pacharo Mzembe as Dr Martin Luther King in QTC's The Mountaintop  shot by Rob Mccoll

In his director’s notes, Todd MacDonald quotes writer Katori Hall: “This isn’t the ‘I Have a Dream’ King. This is King, the man, not the myth. I want people to see that this extraordinary man — who is actually quite ordinary — achieved something so great that he actually created a fundamental shift in how we, as a people, interact with each other.” Mzembe, with his sonorous voice, perfects Hall’s vision of King-the-man. His ego, wit and flaws make King’s terror, in facing death, all the more moving.

The Mountaintop’s strength hangs on its dynamic leads’ playful intimacy. Bowers’ brass and sharpness keep the play on the right side of sweet as Camae’s true identity is revealed. The more fun Bowers has with her character — giving her own Dr-King-esque speech, for instance — the more she settles into her Tennessee twang.

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Kieran Swann’s design and Ben Hughes’ lighting combine to create a singular effect: Room 306, with its mildewed pink curtains, seems to exist between worlds. Swann subtly evokes both the wonder and terror of what lies beyond. Tony Brumpton’s sound design has us enter the theatre to the swell of King’s various addresses; in a sense, this will prepare us for the powerful sensory overload of the finale (composed by Busty Beatz).

Queensland Theatre Company is off on the right foot with its 2014 season. Ultimately, The Mountaintop celebrates King’s reverberations on Earth, but challenges us not to forget that we share his human ability to change the world.

Candy Bowers as Camae and Pacharo Mzembe as Dr Martin Luther King in QTC's The Mountaintop  shot by Rob Mccoll

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now,” says King, in his final address on 3 April 1968. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.”

The Mountaintop (Queensland Theatre Company) runs at the Playhouse, QPAC, until 16 March 2014. Tickets $33–80.

DANCE REVIEW: When Time Stops

Words: Tahnee Robinson

We awake in the underworld, on the banks of the river Acheron. The Ferryman (Thomas Gundry Greenfield) is rowing away from us. He will row for most of the performance, quiet and inexorable, as we linger by the river. He is a towering figure, but he is not unkind: he will wait patiently for his charge until she is ready. When Time Stops takes us through the last moments of a life, picked up in a rush of memories before making the final crossing.

Bill Haycock and Iceworks Design’s underworld is a beautiful creation, haunting but without malice, and deceptively simple. Comprised of mirrored surfaces and windows, backlit panes and a hidden door, the set is beautifully atmospheric and very flexible — a must for this performance, which places its entire musical ensemble on stage for parts of the piece. The lighting, designed by David Walters, is ingenious and integral, maintaining the subdued sorrow of the underworld but showing us glimpses of life — elation, love, terror — with a scattering of stars or a beam of sunlight falling across a face.

There are more musicians than dancers; Iain Grandage’s composition is performed by Camerata of St John’s, a chamber orchestra of string players sans conductor. There are 12 of them, and they move around and amongst the dancers as they play. This is no mean feat: creeping a bass, two cellos, two violas and seven violins around a stage occupied by a company of contemporary dancers in mid-flight is an extraordinary work of choreography and focus. The musicians are part of the performance — as they should be; the compositions are integral to the mood of the piece and to understanding what is being depicted.  The strings are perfect for this, their richness and many tones provide a degree of emotional nuance that is essential to our understanding of each section.

When TIme Stops (EDC)There are parts of When Time Stops that are particularly affecting. Broken into a series of moments of profound importance to the dying woman, it is largely up to the audience to imbue these impressions with meaning.  Amongst these segments is ‘First Kiss’, which stirs a sense of sweet nostalgia and innocence, reminding the audience of first-love elation without overstepping into melodrama. Later, there is ‘Scan’, which makes clever use of the set and lighting to imply a medical emergency of some kind — intimations of mortality revisited at the time of death. ‘Time’ is represented by a little silver orb, around which Daryl Brandwood dances with extraordinary feline skill and control; the orb is captured and released with joy and desperation.

The dancing is extraordinary, and each of the seven company members brings an intense commitment and control to the performance. They are uniformly graceful and astonishing, contorting themselves into impossible positions with complete fluidity and a superb awareness of each other. Natalie Weir’s choreography is inventive and intimate; The Woman (Riannon McLean) reviews her life with fear and longing, often reaching out to the visions she sees, embracing her memory of herself or her lover. It’s romantic, and often sexual, without being tawdry or overt; these intimacies are the highlight of the performance, as the dancers lift and hold each other, entwining and separating.

WHEN TIME STOPS by Expressions Dance Company is on at the Playhouse, QPAC, until September 14, as part of Brisbane Festival. Tickets $48–58.

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

REVIEW: Tequila Mockingbird

Words: Tahnee Robinson
Photos: Dylan Evans

In Tequila Mockingbird, shake & stir theatre company reinterpret Harper Lee’s classic in a distinctly Australian context — an idea very much in keeping with their mission statement: to “motivate, educate and relate to youth.” Thus, Tequila Mockingbird takes us to the township of Stanton, barely a dot on the map — where it hasn’t rained for a long, long time.  The town, like much of the play, functions as a symbol of country Australia: there’s a Food Store that closes at five, a newsagent, a pub and a cast of salt-of-the-earth folks just trying to get by.

All of these places are created on a single set that is simple, but clever. Back-lit walls change colour to indicate different locations, and to differentiate between outside and inside. Three metal cages are moved around to form fences, couches and the bar at the pub as required.

Photo credit: Dylan Evans

Charlie (Nick Skubij) has been dragged to this particular end of the Earth from Sydney after his parents’ separation, and he’s not impressed. He’s not the only newcomer to Stanton; there’s also an Indian doctor named Sameer, played by Shannon Haegler. References both to the source text and some of Australia’s present cultural issues are made clear; the play evokes the Cronulla riots, violence against Indian students, the phrase “fuck off, we’re full” and various other blights that have nixed attempts to declare Australia a post-racial society. Sameer himself references these indirectly, repeating throughout the play that his father had not wanted him to come to Australia. He even cracks a Jayant Patel joke. The scene is played for laughs, but it also serves an important function: to remind us that as a minority you are always in danger of your actions becoming representative of an entire ethnic or social group.

There is a lot of humour in Tequila Mockingbird, and it’s well received by the audience.  As a child of rural Australia these scenes made me smile in weary recognition more often than laugh out loud. Barbara Lowing shines in this department, switching between Sue the publican, Trish the alcoholic and Karen the concerned neighbor. A cast of six plays 11 characters and the whole team is adept at the rapid transitions; there’s no danger of confusion. Lowing in particular seems to function as a sort of country matriarch composite. Always loud and a little bit nosey, all three characters are stereotypes, but they’re supposed to be: I’ve been cackled at by the shrill alcoholic in the liquor store, and cornered by the concerned neighbour. The audience giggles and gasps in horror as Trish tells Sameer that all rice tastes the same with curry on it, and I wonder at the difficulty of tackling racism without accidentally falling prey to classism. shake & stir have taken on a big task with this production; they’re trying to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short time frame.

Photo credit: Dylan Evans

There’s a lot of time dedicated to build, and the key event — the assault on a young woman, Rachel (Nelle Lee) — takes place past the halfway point. From here, the pace speeds up. In addition to racism, the play also deals with the social symptoms of small-town death, and the cycles of hardship that feed them (alcoholism, unemployment and youth boredom come to mind). One of these is domestic violence. To defend Sameer, Richard (Bryan Probets) has to put Rachel on the stand to testify in court.  The scene is uncomfortable, and in the defense of the innocent the actual victim of the crime is cast as a villain. This isn’t acknowledged in the play, and after this point Rachel has no voice at all. The audience isn’t reminded that Rachel is lying under threat of further violence, and there is no sense of resolution to her situation.

One of the criticisms levelled at Lee’s original novel is that it’s a white-saviour story. It would have been nice to see this issue addressed more thoroughly in the interpretation. We hear from Sameer, but it feels a little shallow; his unfailingly polite acceptance and determination seem like an idealised version of a person.

Tequila Mockingbird deliberately avoids resolution in another area, too. In the original tale the stalwart Atticus Finch finds his faith shaken. Likewise, Richard is badly rattled by the course of events; angry and shocked he tells Charlie that “you can’t teach people like them.”  It’s a much more thought-provoking conclusion than a tight, comfortable resolution, and it better serves the play’s purpose: to leave the audience thinking.

TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD is on at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC until September 7. Tickets $30 – $52.

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

REVIEW: Blak

Bangarra Dance Theatre: BLAK

Words by Tahnee Robinson

It’s not often that each element of a performance — choreography, lighting, set design, smell — is beautifully executed in its own right. But Bangarra’s latest offering, BLAK, goes beyond that to create a performance both stunning in its attention to detail and deeply confronting as a whole.

Blak is slick and sharp, tightly controlled dance theatre that, despite telling its story through movement and metaphor, completely eschews artifice. There is nothing self-conscious here — and absolutely no apologies as the dancers use their bodies to tell stories of crime, violence, assault and grief.  The stage is often dark, but when the dancers look out they’re bold: they’ll look you in the eyes.

The performance is divided into three sections. Choreographed by Daniel Riley McKinley and the male dancers themselves, “Scar introduces us to gang of young men dressed in street gear.  Clad in dark, hooded clothing, their movements evoke a sense of sublimated violence, stalking the stage with fear and aggression as they navigate the difficulties of being young, male and indigenous in urban Australia. The men fall in and pull back from fighting and self-harm in a series of movements that fall somewhere between breakdancing and ballet. These sequences incorporate traditional elements that eloquently convey the opposing forces of modernity and tradition, and the difficult spaces available for young Aboriginal men to occupy and grow into.  Different pools of spotlight flicker between dark scenes of conflict. At one point the grinding, synthy soundtrack whoops into the unmistakable cry of police sirens and the group cease fighting, unified instead to flee.

Bangarra: Blak

Part two, “Yearning”, is choreographed in collaboration with the female dancers. It’s a change of pace — the movements are less violent, more sinuous — but the atmosphere is no less fraught, largely due to the music. David Page and Paul Mac have outdone themselves; they create a dark, electronic soundscape that incorporates traditional singing, vocal samples and instruments, with elements of trip hop and trap music.  A woman answers a call, illuminated by the sodium-lamp glow of a telephone box in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night. The music throbs and jitters; tension escalates in an eerie way that is reminiscent of some of Cliff Martinez’s recent film scores.

Jacob Nash’s set design is poignant in its minimalism. Single props are perfectly chosen to evoke a sense of place: a row of blue plastic chairs, a swinging spot lamp and a corrugated iron roof, glowing green in the dark. Beneath the eerie glow women sit atop milk crates and learn of a granddaughter’s suicide; a smoking tin can on stage wreathes their grief with incense. Their loss smells sweet and spicy and mournful; it lingers.

This beautiful simplicity continues as a small television — the old kind, a CRT with rabbit-ears — appears on stage.  Three women writhe on the ground. From the dark, a figure appears carrying a green spotlight; he’s filming them. As they dance in distress, they appear on the TV. We’re watching the film and reality in real-time, but we cannot focus on the domineering figure behind his lamp. The result is simultaneously deeply affecting and extraordinarily hard to articulate — a powerful, confusing motif.

The performance culminates in part three, “Keepers”, which features the full ensemble. The set is breathtaking: blackness lightens to reveal the gloss of wet rocks and light refracts off a stream of fog to create a waterfall. The dancers come together, with nature, to embrace both tradition and the future. This beautiful piece of work gives the performers room to show us the full range of movement, emotion and eroticism in their repertoire. It’s a tribute to love and community that ends a confronting performance on a note of optimism and possibility.

BLAK runs at the QPAC Playhouse until 27 July, 2013.

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

Legally Blonde: The Musical

You won’t hear me say this often — but Oh. My. God, you guys! Legally Blonde, the stage musical adaptation of the film of the same name, is as bouncy, bright and shiny as Elle’s blonde locks. In case you missed the 2001 film, Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods — a ditzy, rich Malibu girl in search of a husband — along her journey to discover her own intelligence, drive, and inner beauty.

It may be that we’re coming to expect musical extravagance from anything John Frost (no relation, as far as I know) has a hand in producing. But Legally Blonde goes above and beyond. Its staging, choreography (Jerry Mitchell) and design (David Rockwell) are pretty close to flawless, from Elle’s towering Barbie-pink Delta Nu sorority house onwards. This is as glossy as musical theatre gets.

Mitchell’s choreography, in particular, has a way of drawing the eye towards detail — in costume, body language, or lyric — without losing sight of the bigger picture. Musically, Legally Blonde’s score (Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin) is no classic. The opening number, “Omigod You Guys”, is an instant earworm and “Chip on My Shoulder” is a resonant study-anthem, but beyond that the songs only really serve to carry us along through the plot. That’s not to say there aren’t lots of laughs — there are. The dialogue (Heather Hach) is sharp and sassy, if not terribly self-aware.

Lucy Durack (WICKED’s Glinda the Good Witch) is an exceptionally strong singer. She plays an endearing Elle more reminiscent of Clueless’s Cher (Alicia Silverstone) than Reese Witherspoon. Along with her shrill-voiced “Greek Chorus” of Deltu Nu sorority girls, her energy and optimism is infectious. When Elle arrives dressed as a Playboy bunny to a stuffy academic do, her confidence in the face of humiliation deserves the cheer it gets.

Rob Mills rose to fame on Australian Idol, and he’s in his element as the smooth, douchey Warner. David Harris channels dorky-but-charming Joss Whedon leads for his Emmett, the TA who encourages Elle to prove Harvard — and Warner — wrong. Helen Dallimore is a real standout as Paulette, a down-on-her-luck manicurist. But let’s not forget little Bruiser — Elle’s Chihuahua pup — who incites choruses of “aww!” from the audience (and never misses a cue or poops on anything!).

Legally Blonde: The Musical

Despite all this, Legally Blonde: The Musical is sparkly, shiny, feminist fool’s gold. (Oh come on, you knew this was coming from me.) Run the Bechdel Test past the play and you come up with one scene in which two women talk about something other than men — despite the major theme of Women Discovering Their Worth Through Study.

[SPOILER WARNING: highlight to read the next paragraph]

From here, it’s easy to follow the progression: Elle enrols at Harvard to pursue Warner; she gets into Harvard not because she passes her LSAT (she does) but because Admissions likes her headshot; she threatens to give up because Warner and friends belittle her; she gets back on the horse after a pep ballad from Emmett; Elle helps Paulette face down her ex — but Emmett supervises; and she gives up again because her professor sexually harasses her. Then, at last, we have the Bechdel-passing scene — followed by Emmett-supervised success and an engagement. (Elle’s endgame proposal feels something like a concession — as if that’s the fight for equality done with.)

[END SPOILER WARNING]

Some might accuse me of nit-picking. Sure, any of those instances in isolation are fine, and there’s nothing wrong with a male mentor. But, viewed overall, Legally Blonde’s final message isn’t “girls can do anything!” It’s really: “girls can do anything — with guidance from a man!”

There are other problematic elements. The scene that gets the biggest laugh is when Elle’s lesbian classmate responds enthusiastically to the “bend and snap”, Elle’s signature attention-grabbing move. It’s a joke that relies on the idea that lesbian desire is inherently funny. I could go on.

We should also mention, while we’re on serious matters, the totally unfortunate-looking shiny potato sack of a suit Elle pours Emmett into as she makes him over. Elle, I thought you had a Bachelor in Fashion Design!

In short: Legally Blonde is exceptionally well staged, wonderfully performed, and fabulous fun. Mad props! Go see it — and enjoy it. But take your critical eyes with you. Elle Woods wouldn’t expect anything less.

Legally Blonde runs at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC, until 21 April 2013.

P.S. Apologies for the late review! I saw Legally Blonde on opening night, 15 March, and then lost my review notebook. But here we are!

Can’t Be Artsed: Mini-Reviews #1

Welcome to the first edition of my Can’t Be Artsed mini-reviews of All the Things. Here’s this week’s motley offering: The Dresden Dolls, James and the Giant Peach, and Sherlock Holmes — A Game of Shadows.

Music: The Dresden Dolls (The Tivoli, Jan 5)

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Amanda Palmer live three times in Brisbane, but though I’ve listened to their albums for years I’d never before seen The Dresden Dolls (Palmer with drummer Brian Viglione) do their thing together. Holy fuck, it was an intense and glorious evening.

Tom Dickens’ (The Jane Austen Argument) lovely vocals opened the show. A brief Briefs interlude was delightful, as expected — Davey Gravy shticks his shtick so well, and Captain Kidd’s sparkly cocktopus is a joy to behold (and he’s an incredible hoopist). I was thrilled to see The Bedroom Philosopher again — though he gigs in Brisbane semi-regularly, fate often thwarts my attendance. Acronymphomaniac, with the lyrics, “I eat SNAGs for breakfast,” is especially rad.

Palmer and Viglione’s dynamic is so natural you feel they might wordlessly improvise, like two dancers — both leading, never stepping on toes. It’s enthralling. So is Brian, both as a highly talented percussionist and a man with no shirt on.

With a half-hour encore, I was pretty sore by the end of the gig — and fairly deaf, but I now grok what Dresden Dolls fans have been extolling for years: this duo is a powerhouse.

Let’s start the year positively; five semicolons for The Dresden Dolls. ; ; ; ; ;

Theatre: James and the Giant Peach

Aimed at the 4–8 set, I figured I was still of a reasonable height to see this Harvest Rain adaptation of the Roald Dahl adventure that begins with the protagonist’s parents being gobbled up by a rhinoceros in London and ends in a giant peach in New York. I also took my dad — and we wound up having a fun time, even joining in on the pantomime-style audience interaction.

Josh McIntosh’s costumes are gorgeous (especially Aunt Sponge and Spiker’s frocks) and the homely peach itself is pretty cool. Tim O’Connor (Jesus Christ Superstar) directs this production, and it touched even us oldies. Still, the music was a letdown: tinned orchestration and cheery but forgettable tunes. Variable microphone efficacy didn’t help.

When I spoke to Jack Kelly (playing an earnest young James) for Rave Magazine, he said poor old Earthworm (Belinda Heit) was his favourite character. I have to agree: the blind, legless sadsack has an Eeyore charm. I also liked Dash Kruck’s cockney centipede who goes on to work in a sock factory.

It was quite novel to see a one-hour play at QPAC. I was swept away until the end — and would’ve liked some more, but — alas — it was bedtime for James.

I give it three and a half semicolons.

; ; ; :

James circumnavigates the world in his peach until Jan 21. Call 136 246 or book at http://www.qpac.com.au

Film: Sherlock Holmes II—A Game of Shadows

This pseudo-Sherlock adventure launches guns-a-blazin’ and doesn’t let up until curtains, just over two hours later.

Robert Downey Jr is amusing as a slightly psychic ninja Bernard Black. He doesn’t deduce things so much as know them — we learn this through lots of flashing from Significant Foreshadowing Thing to the next. He demonstrates how clever he is by quoting Schubert. We know Moriaty (Jared Harris) is just as clever because he can quote Schubert back and then make witty comments about trout. More importantly, they can both narrate their own actions whilst boxing. Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes is great because Stephen Fry is great; for part of the film he is naked. Good. Jude Law sports a Village People moustache..

There are some gypsies in the movie. You can tell because they’re dirty and they steal things from their friends and they eat hedgehog. Are the Romani the last bastion of acceptable racism in cinema? Noomi Rapace, very far from her role as Lisbeth in that-film-with-a-lot-of-sexual-assault-in-it, plays a dim gypsy in a cute hat looking for her brother or something.

But it is fun (spot the amusing anachronisms), and there is air conditioning. (Today was hot enough to kill — seriously, my panda cories fried in their tank.)

Two semicolons. ; ;

Please let me know what you think of Can’t Be Artsed or suggest Things (any things at all!) I might like to review. I hope you enjoyed this photo of Robert Downey Jr as a half-naked, half-in-drag Sherlock smoking on the floor in a train during a gunfight.