Tag: State Theatre

Australian Premiere: LORD OF THE FLIES

Ingenious and engrossing

By Tania Herbert

The audience enters the theatre to a construction-like muddle of a set and a cacophony of shouts, breaking glass and general mayhem, with the only light on stage being an ominous metal doorway, from which the shouts and smoke emanate.

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The Australian premier of Matthew Bourne and Scott Ambler’s adaptation of Lord of the Flies starts with a literal bang – and we see the ‘troop’ of twenty-three children come in, military-tattoo style for the opening number, with only the slightest hint of the soon-to-emerge animal inside. Lord of the Flies takes a daring twist on the William Golding’s classic 1954 novel of a group of British schoolboys lost on a tropical island during a wartime who quickly give way to primal natures. Here however, it is suggested that the children are trapped in the theatre itself.

The apocalyptic background hidden behind the narrative book is much more apparent in this production, with the audience continually aware that while salvation is only behind the door, it may be no less fear-inspiring than what is happening on the inside.

I must admit, I missed the prose, and there are limitations by the lack of verbal character description (capturing Simon’s probable psychosis, or Piggy’s keen intellect, for example), but by the conversion of words to dance the emotions of each character were beautifully captured, and the talent of these young dancers keenly showed the turmoil both without and within for each characterisation.

Despite being aged between 10 and 25, there was incredible maturity to the cast. Whilst the dancing was wonderful, the cast also managed to hold the feeling that you were really watching children with all of their emotions and individualities, rather than a precision dance troupe. This was particularly aided by the play of the choreography, shifting the youngsters between states of complete chaos and strict organisation, and showing off the incredible range across the performers.

One differing element in this adaption is that the intensity is apparent from even before the show begins, whereupon the original ‘innocence’ which is so soon to be lost is not truly captured. With such an intense beginning, it was difficult to see where the production could go with building this – and indeed it did not reach anticipated peak with the inevitable ending (let me be obtuse on the off-chance our readers never reached the end of the book). What was awe-inspiring though, was that a group of such young people were absolutely able to hold that intensity for every moment of the production. Indeed, rather than action scenes, it was the solo moments which were most moving to the audience- Simon’s (Patrick Weir) battle with his demons, the littleuns’ fear of ‘the beast’, and Piggy’s (Luke Murphy) anguish at losing his sight.

Overall, the symbolism of the theatre as the island transferred extremely well, though the infamous beheading of the pig sat awkwardly in the metaphor. However, this production was a truly unique rethink of a classic utopia-turned-dystopia tale, and a spine-tingling dance performance. A passing comment by another patron on my way out perhaps seized how effectively Lord of the Flies captured the contemporary horrors of children and warfare: “It could have been in Syria.”

Lord of the Flies is showing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, April 5-9. Bookings: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2016/dance/lord-of-the-flies?m=performances


Confronting and experimental

By Leeor Adar

As part of AsiaTopa, renowned Thai choreographer Pichet Klunchun presents Australian audiences with what he calls a dance representing a state of “limbo”.

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Based on the teachings of nineteenth-century Buddhist monk Luang Pu Dulaya, “Dun” Atulo, the meaning of “limbo”, is unpacked as all creatures sharing the same “citta”, a form of consciousness. Klunchun and his performers create a collective, and often arduous dance that signifies unpredictable shifts in power, whether within the individual or in wider society.

We really don’t get what we bargain for as an audience. Admittedly, a great number of those attending the performance are unfamiliar with Klunchun’s work, the creation of a revered and formidable dancer who contemporises traditional Thai dance. At first masked and colourful dancers parade about the stage and we think: of course, traditional. Moments later, a lone figure emerges in white, movements so precise and slow that they utterly contradict the colour and wildness of the more traditional movements. The lone figure moves in a manner that recalls Japan’s own Butoh, but Klunchun is about to take us on an entirely different journey as we soon discover.

Filed onto the performance space of the State Theatre, a stage is created upon a stage. A curved and sloping giant circle, which recalls a skateboard-rink lit in a brilliant yellow is our focus. The lone figure soon climbs onto this rink, only to be followed by others, also in white, also sharing in the lone figure’s limbo. The collective movements of the dancers is hauntingly soothing at first, and the monotony of the action hypnotises. Sound designer Hiroshi Iguchi masterfully creates a soundtrack that matches the dancers in their energy – a blend of modern, ardent and repetitive sound blasts through the audience.

As the pace quickens, we, like the dancers are simply exhausted. There are noticeable shifts in the dynamic of the dancers, representing desire for closeness, conflict and desperation. Our original lone figure continues to wander in the abyss, and the other dancers leap from the limbo rink into a celebration of contemporary dance with new additions. This is a joyous moment, but the lone figure continues to wander, and Klunchun’s world eclipses on this figure.

As an audience we did not know when to clap, or what to do. Klunchun succeeded in presenting an entirely new mode of dance theatre for this audience, but it was ultimately draining and unsettling. Unfortunately the result of this is alienation; perhaps that is what Klunchun intended in the hopes of showing our own tendency to “shun the unknown and change”, falling into a “vicious cycle” of lost opportunities in relating.

Dancing With Death was performed from the 2-4 March at the Arts Centre, Melbourne. You can learn more about Klunchun’s work here: http://pkdancecompany.com/

Dance Partner Productions Presents BURN THE FLOOR


By Leeor Adar

Burn the Floor is so hot you are mesmerised by the sweat and power of the dancers until the very last number.

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Producer Harley Medcalf with ballroom veterans Peta Roby and Jason Gilkison, as director and choreographers respectively, have revitalised ballroom dance in a spectacular splash of contemporary style, colour and energy. I’ve had the privilege of viewing a number of dance companies, but this one really hit the ground in a way that brought audiences to their feet for multiple standing ovations. Decades into the Burn the Floor concept, this production continues to overwhelm and excite audiences worldwide.

You can expect high-calibre dancers from every corner of the globe bringing excellent technique in unique, sexy and high-energy scenarios.

We start in an eighteenth-century ballroom that is ferociously interrupted by one of the most high-energy Goth-glam numbers I could ever envisage. Costume designers Bret Hooper and Sharon Brown turned this PVC masterpiece into a significant shift in tone for the show. Nancy Xu wowed as she shifted her body fluidly in a structured skirt that could easily be mistaken for a hindrance.

Right from the get-go this production is breaking away from the chains of the past and using the very same chains to reconstruct and astonish its audience. It’s daring and racy, and as I watch with surprise my middle-aged mother grin with delight, I know we’re all in for a good night.

The musical numbers in Act One are an ode to the classics in music and feel. We visit the Latin Quarter and later take a trip to the world of swing. These swing numbers featuring iconic music such as ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, and Elvis-era inspired dance moves, are where the male dancers really shine – and they clearly love every minute. Italy’s Gustavo Viglio captivated in the swing numbers, but the male dancers overall were really outstanding here.

Act Two rocketed us into the world of Carmen. The classic story of forbidden desire played out in a darkly erotic setting – a ballroom variation of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ played by the band made up of percussionist Alysa Portelli, and guitarists Andrew Marunowski and Jose Madrid led the dancers. The loud and excitable move to “Schools Out” saw the troupe don school uniform, and the acrobatic style and energy of our performers really shone. A standout, Jemma Armstrong, furiously played the cat-and-mouse games of the classroom. Overall, the dancers really delivered such volumes of energy I was breathless merely by watching. This breathlessness continued up until the final numbers, including crowd pleaser, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, at which point the audience was clapping and cheering.

Throughout Act Two were performances by pairings. Whilst some of these were fluid and breathtaking – namely the performance of ‘Angels’, where England’s Lauren Oakley’s physicality was nothing short of exquisite – I felt many of the performances as segments lacked flow.

The Acts were also interspersed with live musical performances by the Italian Mikee Introna and Australian Sharnielle Hartley. Introna brought excellent comic relief at the beginning and close of the show, and his voice overall was impressive. Hartley’s performance was enthusiastic, but the ballads performed without the dance detracted from the intensity and sophistication of the dancers’ work.

Burn the Floor is nonetheless a dynamic crowd-pleaser, and you can catch this relentlessly exciting production until Sunday 15 January at the State Theatre: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2017/dance/burn-the-floor

REVIEW: Daniele Finzi Pasca’s LA VERITA

Circus spectacle celebrates surrealism

By Jessica Cornish

La Verità – directed, choreographed and written by internationally renowned creator Daniele Finzi Pasca, and inspired by Salvador Dali’s surrealist depiction of the fraught love story between Tristan and Isolde – was a visually stunning production, with breath-taking acts executed by well-seasoned performers.

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Travelling with an incredibly strong cast of 13 acrobats, musicians, clowns and dancers, La Verità morphed the State Theatre into a beautiful melancholic circus, with sumptuously rich scenery often silhouetted by the beaming golden cyc cloth hanging upstage. The performance work also incorporated trance-like shadow theatre, stark imagery, contrasting bold lighting states, shapes and the morphing of colours powerfully and continuously throughout the two acts.

La Verità’s aerial acts were particularly stunning, featuring double-helix ladders spiralling through the air, ultraviolet-lit hula hoops dancing across the stage, and the incredible acrobats illustrating human form at its peak of perfection. The performance also included one of the best choreographed and most intricate and quirky juggling scenes I have ever seen, and a wonderfully cringe-worthy contortionist, to name only a few memorable moments. My only criticism of the performances was that Act One heavily relied on comedic relief to transition between items: I didn’t really find the shiny silvery characters very funny, and felt the slapstick humour a little lame and unnecessary at times; however, my companion clearly enjoyed the glittery clowns, so maybe I just need to adopt a better sense of humour!

Meanwhile, the comedic narrators provided some background information on Salvador Dali through a mix of English, French and Spanish ramblings, retelling remarkable snippets of his life such as the time he tried to present a lecture in a diving suit and nearly suffocated in the process. To further accentuate Dali’s work and influence, some of his other famous iconic images were also smattered throughout the items, such as the melting away of time and the recurring rhinoceros, (he believed the latter’s patterned horn possessed the same logarithm as both cauliflowers and sunflowers…!)

A captivating and stunning night of entertainment, overall – if you are a lover of all things circus and beautiful, go see this show!

State Theatre
Friday 22 January, 7:30pm
Saturday 23 January, 2pm
Saturday 23 January, 7:30pm
Premium: $85
A Reserve: $65
B Reserve: $45
Under 30: $30 (strictly limited)
Concession and family tickets available
Phone: 1300 182 183


REVIEW: Twisted Broadway 2015

“Broadway in a Brand-New Key”

By Bradley Storer

Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS brought together a stunning ensemble of Australian music-theatre talents last night for Twisted Broadway, a gender-bending re-interpretation of musical theatre’s greatest hits, to raise money for research and developmental programs for people living with HIV/AIDS. The sense of community and giving was palpable, all the performers and creative team donating their time and energy – even the set for the show was donated by The Production Company‘s current show Nice Work if You Can Get It.

2015 Twisted Broadway Hosts_Photo by Kayzar Bhathawalla

Kate Ceberano, one of the evening’s hosts, began the show as a literal MC – the classic character from Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, spiritedly singing ‘Wilkommen’ and showing some impressive high kicks as she introduced us to the ‘twisted’ male and female ensembles and the Twisted Broadway orchestra, under the direction of James Simpson. She was followed by the glorious tenors of Blake Bowden and Josh Piterman, both bringing lead man charisma to the Jekyll and Hyde duet ‘In His Eyes’, before fellow host Eddie Perfect joined Ceberano onstage to introduce the evening officially.

The first half of the show was dedicated mainly to ensemble numbers, highlights including a cheeky ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ by the female ensemble of West Side Story, a campy male version of ‘Make Him Mine’ by Ed Grey, Alex Given and Drew Weston, a bevy of showgirls accompanying Melissa Langton as she charmingly crooned ‘All I Care About is Love’, a trio of male Lion King ensemblists bringing Motown realness in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ all the way to Nathan Pinnell leading the ensemble of Anything Goes in a joyous ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’. A few choice solo performances were dotted throughout, Akina Edmonds‘ soulful take on the Schwartz classic ‘Lost in the Wilderness’ standing out in particular.

After a fantastic ensemble opening of ‘On Broadway’ choreographed by Michael Ralph, the second act brought spectacular solos from a variety of performers. Rob Mills hilariously sent himself up in a re-vamped version of the audition sequence ‘Climbing Uphill’ from The Last Five Years, Tom Sharah stole the show with his ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’, and Queenie van de Zandt brought the audience to their feet in a roof-raising ‘What Kind of a Fool Am I?’. Perfect debuted a charming song from his unseen musical version of the classic Australian film Muriel’s Wedding with help from Casey Bennetto, and the male ensemble delivered a testosterone-charged ‘Be Italian’ led by Mike Snell before Josie Lane closed the evening with a thunderous ‘Goodbye’.

Producers Michael Benge and Kate MacDonald informed the audience at the end of the show that over $50,000 had been raised for Oz Show Business Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making a perfect end to this marvellous night of music theatre all done in the name of a good cause.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda, Melbourne.
Date: 17th August, 2015
Time: 8pm


Image by Kayzar Bhathawalla