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: Chosen Family

Poets Eleanor Jackson and Betsy Turcot (The Belles of Hell) wowed Brisbane at last year’s Anywhere Fest with She Stole My Every Rock ‘n’ Roll. This year, they’ve got a new poetic dialogue in store: Chosen Family.

Q. Describe your show in under 25 words.
A. Two women trading poetry about the strange, painful-beautiful of family, piecing together a montage of grainy family photographs and giving them a glossy finish. Photoshop for the soul, so to speak.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
 The venue (the beautiful back deck of Justice Products) is the perfect place for a Queensland family Christmas, complete with tin roof and timber decking. Spiral Community Hub, which operates Justice Products, is not just a beautiful shop, it’s an amazing community space that runs training, community workshops and supports local people to develop more sustainable lives. Might be a little cold though at night though, so we’ll try to warm you up with some tea. BYO bunny rug if you get chilly!

Chosen Family

Betsy and I are particularly interested in the Anywhere Theatre Festival for the way that it partners performers and community spaces, with great support from venues. It’s why we held She Stole My Every Rock ‘n’ Roll at Jet Black Cat — to support a queer local business, and this time at Spiral/Justice, because it’s got a great local community connection.

Q. If you could have your show run absolutely anywhere in the universe and at any point of history, where would you run it (after West End, of course)?
 Well, There’s no time like the present, so Betsy and I would love to hit the Big Apple where her family could see us perform. Time to start fundraising!

Q. You and Betsy have brought the poetic dialogue to the fore in Brisbane — and perfected it. What does Chosen Family bring to the form?
A. (blush) In writing Chosen Family, we have thought about the simplest and clearest way to create space and connection between people — not by shouting each other down but making space for everyone to whisper. Because sometimes only when it’s quiet can you say true things.

CHOSEN FAMILY runs at Justice Earth Building, 192 Boundary St, West End from 16 to 18 May, 2013.