Promenade Theatre

Just-Us

Just Us – Polytropic Productions

Just Us – Melbourne Fringe REVIEW

Friday September 19, 2014

Promenade. The word suggests a kind of passing by, pleasurable viewing. Like a stroll along the beachfront, or watching pretty girls in pure dresses twirling. On Friday September 19 I viewed Polytropic Production’s promenade theatre performance, Just Us. Directed by Mitch Jones, Just Us played at The Substation as a part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Attending this performance I gained an improved respect and awe for promenade and immersive performance and its capabilities. However, it also prompted me to question the limitations of a spectator’s experience, and the boundaries of my own site-specific and immersive theatre work.

 

At The Substation, the arrival process was similar to airport security. Bags checked, metal detected, take this form (pictured below), follow instructions, see the ‘friendly’ (read intimidating) uniformed staff if you have any hesitations. Do not hesitate.

 

The audience milled in the foyer, where it was difficult to distinguish where audience ended and spectacle began. Performers entered and loitered, subject to the same security and control processes as us plebs. Their main distinction was the raise in their voice and seriousness of their stare: the spectators were the only ones smiling – because of uncertainty as much as humour. “Do you understand what promenade theatre is?” demanded a security guard of me while I was looking about for clues. I was smiling to manage that awkwardness you feel when exposed and confronted by the authorities, even though certain of your innocence.

“It’s, like a roving performance, right?”

“Well, yes…You have to walk around. Curiosity is the key.” And with that cryptic resolution I was ushered off with the rest by a very likeable secretary character, who lead us into the space, and reminded us all that curiosity is the key.

 

Our adequate curiosity was met with a dreamscape office environment. Memories of Centrelink hit home hard. Smoke clouds and a maze of white walls, people with purpose passed us as we explored the cubicles: documentation, prosecutor and attorney offices, certification. We spread out, trying to fill out our ‘forms’, watching scenes unfold as we stumbled across them. We found acrobats hanging over desks – their foot, a foot in front of our faces – and impressive caricatures juggling documentation amid spinning balls, toppling mountains of paperwork and balancing stationary. The metaphor of the justice system as a circus was strong and left a remarkable impact on the audience who were required to not only view, but also participate, in the chaos.

 

A bell rang and we were marched single file into the courtroom where we watched the proceedings of cases we had been introduced to in our promenade experience. The judge threw misogynistic quips at the female prosecutor amid clowning interludes from circus performers. Meanwhile, A mother and her son fought for a fair go; An academic attempted to undermine the authorities; A young humanitarian urged for justice, for democracy, for equality, for freedom of speech, and, mirroring her words, a young female acrobat twisted in the ropes that would eventually hang the humanitarian.

 

A powerful presentation of a relevant and important premise, Just Us reflected the true and ugly qualities of our justice system, and evoked a streamline thought process of critical engagement from the audience. However, I cannot help but wonder if the powers of promenade theatre are limited by targeting a particular spectator type. This kind of immersive, participatory theatre requires not only curiosity, but courage, confrontation, and a generally extraverted or outgoing individual. Those with more confidence would gain an undoubtedly improved and different experience to those who kept to the shadows, who wondered but did not engage with the world they were given. In this environment the narrative was progressed by role-play, confrontation, and engagement with others. Through performer/audience relations we met and understood characters and their stories. Spectators with less confidence may have missed out on the experience others more boisterous and playful were privy to.

 

In Mitch Jones’ Just Us, I was engaged and entertained, and his imagined world that we were invited to explore was flawless and so incredibly appropriate to the enigma and heart of his production. However, as I am not naturally as outwardly bubbly and open as some of my friends, I did have to work for my engaged experience – and this isn’t always something I want from theatre. Always, I want to be intellectually stimulated, entertained and changed. Sometimes, I want that to happen effortlessly.

 

This makes me reflect on my own work and has encouraged me to play the spectator more in considering the artistic choices I make when attempting to generate ground-breaking immersive theatre experiences. How do I make something that is applicable and enjoyable to people of all walks of life, and more so, to non-traditional theatre goers? How do I entertain in a way that I trick people into venturing outside of their comfort zone, and experiencing a different and otherwise inaccessible perspective? I hope that it is through an immersive and engaged theatre experience, and until now, I was certain it was. Is holding up the mirror enough? Or is allowing the audience to step into the reflection better?

 

Just Us - Polytropic Productions - Form

Just Us – Polytropic Productions – Form

Reviewed by Nina Barry-Macaulay – September 2014

Introducing: ORBIT

Orbit

Yesterday I had a very exciting meeting with The McClelland sculpture park in Langwarrin (Frankston).

It’s with great pleasure and thrill that I announce my next show: Orbit.

Orbit will be performed at The McLelland Sculpture Park August 29, 30, 31 and September 5, 6 and 7, 2014. Each performance begins at 5:30pm and runs for approximately 60minutes. Tickets can be purchased through the Anywhere Theatre Festival Frankston site.

The show is a development of the concept used for Meet Me at the Museum. Audience don headphones and are lead through the park by their narrator. Orbit, differs from The Queensland Museum piece in scale and script.

Being a site specific piece, the story is informed by the park and it’s outstanding collection of sculptures. The performance will occur outdoors from 5:30pm-6:30pm. The audience will be lead on a journey through this remarkable parkland where the sculptures provide the perfect theatrical backdrop to a sci-fi story. Performers, planted amongst the sculptures, take on characters to assist the narrators tale unfold.

To read more about the project, click here.

Nude – The Melbourne Cabaret Festival

 

 

Nude1

REVIEW – Nude

Chapel Off Chapel, presented by Citizen Theatre in The Melbourne Cabaret Festival

June 29, 2014

My sister and I used to get a bag of Fantails when we’d go to the Wilson’s Promontory outdoor cinema. We’d keep the wrappers and play ‘Who am I?’ by torchlight in our tent afterwards, struggling to keep our eyes open. Most chocolate eaters are familiar with this childhood activity. Citizen theatre’s Nude, directed by Jayde Kirchert and performed by Carina Waye, brings maturity and mystery to the game, by using it as a device to explore the identity of Hollywood icon Marilyn Munroe.

Who was Marilyn Munroe? Was she Norma Jean Mortenson or Norma Jean Baker? Was she someone special, a slut, a mother, daughter, or a girl just like Carina Waye? Nude confronts us with all of these possibilities in a well-structured hour filled with laughter, anecdotes, champagne, tears, smiles, and best of all Waye’s beautiful voice.

Not that I’m really one to judge. The remarkable women behind this cabaret are two of my closest friends. I studied Musical Theatre with Kirchert and Waye back in 2007. I imagine a large part of my engagement with the performance comes from this personal connection. It was incredibly moving for me to watch and consider that we (my friends and I) are all growing up, and that we are actually living our creative dreams – each in our own appropriate way.

Kirchert was always a performer with maturity and insight beyond her years and her natural affinity to direction is not surprising. Nor is Waye’s sensational ability to win the friendship and trust of every single audience member.

This cabaret is brilliant and extraordinary, it separates itself from others in the tribute genre by embracing the identity behind the performer as well as the icon. Rather than using a performer to imitate and represent an iconic figure (who conveniently has an exceptional song collection to showcase the ups and downs of their life), Nude presents a two-way give and take where Munroe is used equally by Waye as a figure to represent her own story, anguish, excitement and anxieties. Carina Waye, in an incredibly courageous performance, truly lays bare (literally) an identity crisis and a heartfelt desire to be whoever we want her to be. Waye demonstrates life’s challenges in the face of of beauty and wanting, no, needing to be wanted. She perfectly shows what it is to be terrified of being alone while striving to maintain a sense of integrity and self-respect.

As a first outing, there is undoubtedly room for development. Some transitions between Waye and Munroe were too quick or unnecessary, and elements of the scripting could be tweaked. Nude showcased one of the most tasteful and appropriate uses of nudity on stage I’ve seen, and it does feel like nudity is a bit in vogue in Melbourne at the moment. This Chapel of Chapel season was a flawless beginning and I do hope Nude gets out again. If you like citizen theatre on Facebook, you’ll no doubt hear about it and all the other remarkable things they’re making.

Congratulations girls

Your biggest fan,

Nina BM xx

Nude played at Chapel off Chapel, as a part of the Melbourne Cabaret festival form June 28th to 29th, 2014.

https://www.facebook.com/CitizenTheatreAU

 

May and Alia do Pirates (of Penzance)

May and Alia do Pirates

REVIEW – May and Alia do Pirates (of Penzance)

La Mama Courthouse, Carlton

June 25, 2014.

This is an adaption gone right in so many ways. First of all, May and Alia cut down Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance from a 2.5 hour comedic opera to a 55 minute straight through musical romp. The original 11 character cast is also cut down to only two performers, Alia and May – and of course, the broomstick.

On finding that the rest of the cast haven’t shown up, May and Alia attempt to perform Pirates Of Penzance as a duo. This is a fringe style play-cum-musical. The performers/creators/producers (Alia Vryens and May Jasper) choose to embrace their lousy budget. The rickety old suitcase full of dress-up box props compliments the shithouse cassette player that plays their equally average backing track for the first song. We are (I was) relieved when shortly a live band, a bass/piano duo, is invited onto the stage. To combat the absent crew, the pirate-performers use an array of hats and domestic items to make up for missing characters. In some moments this climaxes to an excited and confusing trio, no duo, between four to five characters, performed by the two, which looks as exhausting and it sounds. In other moments the stage is given over to darkness, with a simple torchlight and the superb tones of Alia Vryens, who’s voice as ‘The Pirate King’ is anything but pirate like (it’s beautiful).

The decision to both pare back and strip naked the original leaves this adaptation with an autonomy and integrity of its own. Alia and May use the original as a narrative and comedic device, and to play, frolic and showcase their talent. Their objective though goes beyond merely showing off how clever they are, a trap that adaptations can so easily fall into. May and Alia are ultimately here to entertain and enchant, and their genuine attempt at this leaves us wanting more.

In saying that, I don’t feel the performance could support another 40 minute act. The timing of this piece as a well-crafted and succinct 55minutes is perfect. But I’d love to go back another night, and see them take on a Rogers and Hammerstein, or a Wicked.

As a play that seeks to entertain, it had us (in particular me, my 35 year old brother in law, and the old dude in the front row) giggling like schoolgirls. But at one moment when ‘the police’ are beating up ‘the pirates’ while the pirates shout “I submit, I’m not resisting”, I got excited about the potential for the humour to go deeper than a laugh. Alas, this was the only fleeting moment. Perhaps the only element lacking was a little critical edge which says ‘This is why we’re doing this’, ‘This is why we’ve made this adaptation’, because maybe today Pirates still has something to say.

This performance is on at La Mama in Carlton until this Sunday and, really, if you’re looking for some good hearted fun, then get on down and support these very clever girls. I promise you will leave feeling lighter and brighter than you arrived.

Tickets and bookings at the LaMama website.

The Bureau of Worldly Advice – June 17, 2014 – Melbourne Town Hall

 

The Bureau of Worldly Advice

The Bureau of Worldly Advice – Melbourne Town Hall – July 2014

On Tuesday afternoon (June 17, 2014) I visited The Bureau of Worldly Advice. In the heart of the city, amongst the post work hustle an bustle, I sidestepped into the quiet and still annex of The Melbourne Town hall. A young girl greeted me. She wore a sari and smile. “Are you here for The Bureau?” she asked, matter of factly, while handing me a flyer. “Yes” I replied, and she ushered inside with a poised hand gesture, indicating an information desk.

Next to the desk was a menu (pictured above) listing items of advice expertise. Behind the menu were eight numbered desks, with eight diverse community members/advice consultants, all of whom arrived in Australia as refugees.

I scrolled through the menu, searching for…I’m not quite sure…something relatable, something to hold on to and save me from the uncertainty of the situation and the inorganic process. I decided to avoid hardship and homesickness and opted for language and translation, topics I covered in my honours thesis of 2013: Translation, Adaptation and Dramaturgy.

The usher accompanied me to table number 6, a small desk scattered with a mess of small papers escaping an overcrowded shoebox, and a single antique style desk lamp. Behind the desk sat Obaid.

I had arrived with no purpose, no idea or ambition. I hadn’t a clue what advice I could ask for, or offer. I wasn’t even entirely certain what ‘The Bureau’ was beyond being an event of refugee week. Ultimately, I was here to support the initiative. Despite the contrived environment and concocted beginning, my exchange with Obaid was organic, raw and entirely human; inclusive of an awkward hand-shake to start and free-flowing effortless conversation in-between both prepared and impulsive questions. Without planning to, I found myself discussing my personal connections refugees and, at that moment, I realised that actually I was feeling a little lost. I thought, and we talked, about Ali.

In Italy I met and spent a lot of time with friends who were refugees from Afghanistan. One of these guys ended up as more than a friend. Ali’s family had together fled their homeland Afghanistan and relocated in Iran. Ali managed to escape to Italy where he, and the majority of the Afghan-rufugee community, worked towards a plan of helping his family to follow safely after him. Ali was annoying, immature, brave, generous, and mostly a wonderful friend. Obaid asked me what my first impression of the Afghani’s was, before revealing that he was Afghan. I was embarrassed, and glad that I gave them a positive wrap.

And then, again without forethought, I started telling him about the theatre I make, and how my political conscious and persuasions effect the performances I make. I told him about Water Baby and other, new projects – ideas that until that moment had existed only in my head. And, he cared and got excited, which was elating.

What worldly advice did I receive or give? I’m still unsure. But this experience certainly reinstated the importance of conversation and exchange. Regardless of whether its initiation is synthetic or spontaneous; regardless of whether it occurs in the real world, or online, across borders or across tables. Engagement, discussion, contact…is never wasted.

Object Theatre Workshop – April 13, 2014

The Creative Generator

Object Theatre Workshop – April 13, 2014 – The Mechanics Institute, Melbourne

Exploring the Object.

Presented by Nina Barry-Macaulay for Platform Youth Theatre

April 13, 2014 at the Mechanics Institute, Brunswick (Melbourne)

The term Object Theatre is commonly used to describe a style of puppetry which animates everyday or ‘found’ objects, rather than traditional theatre puppets. However, this workshop explored another, related meaning of the term as ‘a theatre of objectification’. In this meaning, the value of the subject (performer) is overridden by the value and emphasis placed on the object or prop. This workshop used objects as impetus in a similar way that a site or place might be used to stimulate site-specific theatre.

The participants were blindfolded and each given a different object which they were asked to explore. They began their discovery through the tips of their fingers, and eventually were invited to use their whole body. They engaged with the touch, weight and sound of the object and recognised the impulse, reaction and effect generated by their object. They were then asked to create movement and performance driven by the object, at this time they could choose to remove their blindfold.

Through assigning a character, emotion, metaphor or power to the object, the subject (performer) is confronted with a dynamic shift, where the observer’s attention is divided between them and object. A triangular relationship if formed between the observer, subject and object. In this relationship, the object participates in the act of communication and the performance. The aim of this workshop was to engage this group in the quality and power of objects as tools for communication and stimulation, and to encourage them to recognise the significance objects carry in performance settings, and the possibilities of using objects in extra ordinary ways.

FILM – 1 minute investigation of the Object.