Tag: Matt Cox

Melbourne Fringe 2017: PRECIPICE

Edge-of-seat spectacle

By Joana Simmons

Diving into a world of chaos, National Institute of Circus Arts’ second-year ensemble show Precipice defies danger in an effort to celebrate life. The cast of 19 young athletes, under the direction of Zebastian Hunter and guidance of their world-class teachers, perform exhilarating tumbles, turns, shifts and falls using a range of apparatus in solo and ensemble pieces. This is the most professional student work I have seen at NICA, and is an absolutely astounding production in regards to skill, concept and music.

Precipice.jpg

The high performance space at NICA in Prahran is clad in stark scaffolding and plastic in a set designed by Stephanie Howe. Two performers are suspended from the ceiling, as if they are falling from the sky reaching for each other. The first act is filled with struggle, with performers leaning and reaching, about to jump off the edge, only to be pushed or struck down by another performer flying or flipping into them. The music- played live in violin, cello and piano and directed by David Wiskin provides fantastic tension and adds to the frantic nature of the movement. Standout individual performances included Adam Malone’s hula hoop and head-balancing trapeze act: I was on the edge of my seat as he effortlessly balanced on his head whilst swinging and spinning through the air, above his cast mates lying in a puddle of laughter below. The adagio waltz featuring Poppy Fairbairn and Zion Martyn was also wonderfully refreshing, as they played a couple having a fight at a party and standing on each other’s heads to spite their face. Their characterization and flow through their stunts was strong, and it was supported well by the cast.

Act two found the performers displaying bland urban costume, torn and dusty, with contemporary dance-inspired rolling and twisting, and moving up out of the ground. My jaw once again remained dropped for Ciara Thorburn and Liam Dummer’s chair balancing. The themes began to evolve more through some spoken word, reminding us we are creatures of love and after chaos we emerge, but we need to feel the fear and leap into the void that is change. The mood lightened with the chin-up contest: it is incredible that after suspending themselves in all sorts of directions the performers can bang out 20 chin ups, with the female cast members winning in the end. Overall congratulations go to Lyndon Johnson for his strong performance on the Roue Cyr (big ring) and commitment in the acrobatics and ensemble numbers, while my favourite of the whole show was Emily Chilvers, an absolute gun on the rope, handstands, and acrobatics.

The creative team have done a stellar job of showcasing these young professionals in the best way possible. Directed by Hunter and devised with Meredith Kitchen, not only is this show an athletic spectacle, it also interrogates the impermanence of time, physical and psychological senses. The monochromatic lighting by Matt Cox works well with the industrial set. Some of the ensemble choreography was somewhat predictable, and repetitive, though as it was executed with full commitment it was still highly effective.

Australia’s circus scene is becoming of a higher and higher caliber and it is incredibly exciting to see students be pushed to deliver such a strong and slick production. There’s is a handful of circus shows on this year’s Fringe program: Precipice is a thrilling, eye-opening, edge-of-seat spectacle.

PRECIPICE was performed from Wed 20 – Sat 23 September 2017 at the NICA National Circus Centre. For information about upcoming productions, visit www.nica.com.au

REVIEW: Bell Shakespeare Presents HAMLET

Exceptional

By Narelle Wood

Hamlet would have to be one of my favourite Shakespearean tragedies so I was intrigued to see how Bell Shakespeare reinvented the story of Denmark’s demise in this new production.

Hamlet

If you are not familiar with Hamlet’s story, it’s a classic tale of treason, incest, revenge and eventual madness. Throw in a few sightings of a royal ghost, the famous soliloquy ‘to be or not to be’, a sword fight and an extremely high body count, and you have the tragic but highly entertaining tale. The more contemporary setting of the play allowed for some clever use of technology for parts of the plot, but the costuming at times might have been well suited to the 1960’s. This means Bell Shakespeare once again accomplished what it is so good at: highlighting the timeless nature of Shakespeare. This could well have been set in any era and still the themes of betrayal, love, grief and regret are still relevant.

Under Damien Ryan’s direction, the cast found the humour and lewdness often missed in many performances of Shakespeare’s tragedies. As a result the performance was dynamic and captivating from start to finish. The casting was impressive, with many members playing more than one character, a lofty task given the very heavy dialogue in parts. Ophelia (Matilda Ridgway) was appropriately tormented, with Ridgway striking a nice balance between grief and insanity. Josh McConville’s portrayal of an angry, vengeful and grief-stricken Hamlet was extremely impressive. In fact McConville’s Hamlet was so complex that it is difficult to classify in any definitive way what type of Hamlet he played, except for one of his own making.

There was not one element in this production that did not work. The sets (designer Alicia Clements) were exquisite but simple. The lighting (Matt Cox) seemed to be a character all of its own, and the scarce use of soundtrack (Steve Francis) was only noticeable in that it added to the often eerie atmosphere.

If you are new to Shakespeare, or not sure whether you’re a fan, Bell Shakespeare’s Hamlet would be a good choice to start with. It was enthralling from first word until the last silence.

Venue: The Arts Centre Melbourne
Season: Until July 25th
Tickets: Prices range from $49 – $79
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/hamlet