Bring It On
By Emily Richardson
Bring it on
Directed by Rod Herbert and Musical Direction by Anne-Maree McDonald
Presented by Supply Evolution
215 ANZAC Parade, Kensington
Season 27 June – 9 July
Supply Evolution’s Bring It On presents all the archetypal features of a high school cheerleading movie and packs it onto the stage, with live song and dance thrown into the mix. It’s brimming with energetic stunts, lifts and amusing one-liners. If you’re the cheerleading-musical type, you will love this stage version of Bring It On, and even if it’s not usually your thing, I think you could still have a great time.
Alex Lewtas took the lead in the show as the protagonist, Campbell, a once-cheerleading captain, dethroned when she ia moved to a different high school that tragically doesn’t have a cheer squad.
Although Campbell makes some careless decisions, which occasionally renders her an unlikeable protagonist, this is because of the plot and not to Lewtas’ performance. Her singing voice is exquisite and she shows versatility in her acting and dance performance.
Overall throughout the cast, the writing only allowed for a superficial level and breadth of acting, however this was largely compensated for by the well-received laugh-out-loud humour throughout the performance. Furthermore, this approach is characteristic of this genre, and perhaps complex performances are not the target audience’s desire in seeing this type of show.
The success in comic work should be notably attributed to Sophy Carol as Bridget. In spite of having to carry the stereotypical role of the nerdy and fat girl, Carol lit up the stage. A refreshing casting decision was in the transgender character ‘La Cienaga’ in the ‘cool kid posse’, played vivaciously by Timothy Langon, to great audience appreciation. Some clever one-liners brought a new depth to the standard teenage angst about not fitting in, so commonly seen in this genre. The audience embraced La Cienaga with open arms, hankering for the evasion from the narrow demographic so often presented in mainstream media.
Many of the performers in this show come from a dance background, with the cheer routines being particularly impressive throughout the show. With the cheer choreographed by Melissa Mckenzie and general dance choreography by Tracey Rasmussen, audible gasps in awe resounded in the audience, as everyone was dazzled by the lifts and jumps.
This spectacle was especially appreciated considering the removal of a safety net provided in similar onscreen performances with camera tricks and stunt doubles. Awareness of the immense skill required in these feats was heightened by the suggestion of a wobble in a pyramid formation. This seemed only to augment audience wonder at the endlessly energetic performances before them.
If you’re after some light-hearted musical entertainment, Bring It On has got the goods. It doesn’t make for rigorous watching requiring deep thought; it simply takes you along for the ride with high kicks and pom poms to add to the cheer.
By Emily Richardson
Written by Angela Blake, Charles Upton, Duncan Maurice, Moreblessing Maturure, Sharon ZeemanDirected by Duncan Maurice
Presented by Mongrel Mouth
43-45 George Street, The Rocks
Season 18 June – 11 July 8 pm
Mongrel Mouth’s production, Like Me, will transport you to another world - one with stark differences from the world we live in, yet which abstractly and analytically hones in on some pointed features of contemporary society.
The cultural movement to define one’s identity on social media is examined, as a hostile competition based on superficial criteria unfolds, and the public downfall of an individual once held on a pedestal is relished.
The original Merchant’s House is utilised to juxtapose the known with the unknown – the performance space being an original 19th century house, and yet its insides, at first glance, seem to be totally unfamiliar.
Costume and make-up by Alex P. F. Jackson and set design by Gemma O’Nions is championed in this work, serving to create and immerse the audience in an alternate world.
A cacophony of colours descends on the audience at the entrance to the house, complemented by the vast entanglement of wires and dismembered computer parts.
I can see this as a metaphor for the deconstruction of a technologically centred society, culminating in total loss of functionality. Every room in the house is occupied by a character and enhanced by a design work that the audience is encouraged to explore.
An inherent fascination with outsiders comes to the fore in this work, set in a derelict treatment centre where the main characters are patients admitted to the centre for extensive physical reconstruction and supposed mental rehabilitation.
Like Me depicts a refracted portrayal of contemporary society, taking pertinent issues and themes and regurgitating them to an audience as a metamorphosed version of the familiar world. An estrangement from the characters that reflect our personal behaviour permits for a space of self-reflection.
It is an achievement to present a theatrical experience that initially seems so enigmatic, when in fact it reveals great insight into our everyday lives. The work is a true immersive experience whereby audience interaction with the characters is integral to the performance in helping to progress the plotline.
It is curious to watch the audience evolve in their engagement with the performers and belief in the concept, as well as in their sense of community as their role is not to be a mere spectator, but an active participant.
Each character possessed a distinct personality, with varying motivations and tendencies to attract audience attention. This served to reach a relative equilibrium between the characters, as some worked to counter the more extreme personalities to reduce the intensity of the overall experience.
This was a welcome approach, as it can be quite tiring to be such an active participant in a full-length show. This issue emphasises the phenomenal energy the performers generate night after night to recreate the experience, holding absolute focus and maintaining their persona in the midst of unpredictable improvisation required. A clear workshopping process of each character took place, developing specificity of their background, which shapes their mannerisms and interaction with humans. This process equipped the performers to respond to unpredictable audience input with great integrity and precision. This general process also allows for an evolving understanding of the character, as audience contributions trigger a fresh circumstance that insists upon a change in the character to authentically respond.
Like Me is a theatrical wonderland that reflects more about our day to day lives than people might think at first.
In embracing the unorthodox experience, the audience could fully appreciate the carefully constructed and bizarre idiosyncrasies of this world that in turn serve to deconstruct societal norms that are pretty nonsensical in themselves.
Using the weird to unveil the weirder, Mongrel Mouth presents the audience with a unique opportunity to be a direct part of this process in the theatrical marvel that is Like Me.
Cleansed in Blood
By Emily RichArdson
Cleansed in Blood
Written and performed by Thom Jordan
Presented by Not Suitable for Drinking
The Old Fitzroy Theatre
129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo
Season 23-27 June 9:30 pm
What would compel you to believe in God? To be convinced of his existence, and thus his almighty power…to surrender all of your life to this higher being and encourage others to do so as well?
I imagine that if the audience took a discussion break that night in the Old Fitzroy Theatre, we would hear some rather diverse responses. In fact, it is exactly this dialogue that Thom Jordan is wishing to instigate through his play Cleansed in Blood. Jordan’s work confronts the audience with the crucial questions of the divine and the eternal, highlighting the power that religious institutions or individuals can wield, when blind faith and lack of scepticism prevail.
Some say that acting is essentially storytelling, and Cleansed in Blood embraces this concept, driven by the telling one man’s life story. Jordan’s self-devised performance as Paul initially drew on personal experiences from his upbringing as a Minister’s son.
Through this background, the work possesses deep authenticity and allows the character of Paul to express his passion in serving God as well as natural criticisms, dubious of certain religious behaviours prevalent in a Christian culture.
Throughout the piece, a particular perspective is not privileged, rendering the audience more receptive to the various views conveyed. Jordan’s spiritual beliefs never seem obvious, as the audience is met by his conflicted nature growing up in a highly religious environment and apparent fervour for an evangelical mission for God, eventually opposed by his nagging scepticism and doubts. Jordan takes advantage of this uncertainty and subverts natural narrative progressions and audience expectation to keep you constantly on the edge.
The final product is electric, with Jordan’s boundless energy reverberating throughout the theatre from start to finish. Jordan keeps music in his command through clever use of a laptop, incorporating this sound design to build tension to an astounding level with only one person on stage. Jordan’s characterisation of Paul was enamouring in its naturalism and believability and this extended to his portrayal of numerous other characters, aided occasionally by a simple costume change.
Jordan performed Cleansed in Blood at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and was consequently nominated as ‘Best Emerging Artist’. Having just completed his tour in Perth and currently shaking things up on stage at the Old Fitz in Sydney, Jordan’s next challenge is to take on international audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This is your chance to catch him in his final performances for Australia before he shares the show with the world!
As we all consider our faith, or lack thereof, and grapple with our justification of these beliefs, this play will strike a chord with everyone. Profound insight complemented by sharp humour, Jordan has crafted a scintillating work. Is humanity faced with an all-powerful God with sinful followers who endlessly screw up, or are some humans simply deluded in a hope for something greater than us on earth?
Do people need physical miracles coaxing them towards God? These are certainly big questions for a night at the theatre, but infused with comedy and Jordan’s irrepressible energy on stage, you’ll have a ball.
By Emily Richardson
Directed and Performed by Cloé Fournier
PACT Centre for Emerging Artists
107 Railway Parade, Erskineville
Season 24-27 June 7 pm Bookings:
The dining table is a traditionally integral component of family life. It constitutes the heart of a family home drawing people together as a unit to enjoy a meal in each other’s company.
This is especially true in France, where the culture emphasises the significance of food and the passing of hours sating appetites at mealtime. Thus, the dining table is an effective centrepiece for Cloé Fournier’s work Dining [Uns]-table, observing the quirks and nuances of family life.
However this central emblem of serene family relationships may also be present in the deterioration of said relationships, demarcating turmoil and underlying hostilities amongst the people we should love the most. Dining [Uns]-table begins as a whimsical step into an abstruse world, and ultimately exposes the darkness that can corrupt familial relationships. Prepare to be brought into this fascinating interpretation of an aspect of life familiar to us all.
Fournier transforms the theatrical experience through interaction with the audience, with multiple roles to be filled. I was lucky enough to be given the role of Papy (an affectionate French name for Grandfather – I’ll take it as a compliment). She welcomed us into the home, ordered us around, and bestowed a personality upon us, through the role.
The audience had a part to play in creating the spectacle, with Fournier’s watchful eye and carefully timed actions minding that the events unfurl as she sees fit. Each member responded with glee to her directions, delighted by the comedic situation they had been drawn into, and of which they were allowed to contribute.
In simple actions of being seated and setting the table, Fournier managed to draw out the humour in the situation, breaking the process down into the simplest of actions. Barking orders to go faster, to put things in the right place, to pick things up, to move seats, the work verged on absurdism as simple tasks spiralled into a near state of chaos. Fournier worked to create widespread disarray across the performance space in a highly theatrical manner, only to enlist her audience counterparts on stage to clean it up. This fruitless process moves into the realm of the absurd with this artistic decision speaking to the cycle of hostility many experience with their family.
Fournier is a French-Australian artist and incorporated her own cultural perception of family into this work. She frequently creates an atmosphere of playful and childlike French jabber that resounds with the audience as a noise we are somewhat acquainted with, in spite of the disconnect experienced due to the language barrier. This is a cunning technique, shaping the piece to be incredibly personal to Fournier, as well as ensuring that the audience is always slightly unnerved by the proceedings taking place, shifting them from their comfort zone into a space where they are totally at the mercy of the work’s mood and workings.
Fournier labelled her work a dance-theatre piece, in the sense that strong physicality affected her movements, as she incorporated movement to evoke emotion and represent familial life.
Fournier createt this physical performance contorting her body, often with connection to commonplace domestic objects. This seemed to represent to me her strained and uncomfortable relationship with this aspect of her life, and in a broader sense, how many people may feel growing up. She displayed vast talent as a dancer, not only in the way she could move her body, but also in the story she could tell and emotions she could evoke in her movements.
Dining [Uns]-table is a truly fascinating work. It is interactive and it can be bizarre, but don’t let this prevent you from seeing the show. Fournier is a delight to watch and interact with, and sets forth to give you a highly enjoyable experience injected with ample humour.
Sometimes it is the unconventional experiences that can teach and grow you the most, initiating extensive reflection on how this unorthodox interpretation changed your perception of a known experience. I think it’s time to destabilise that dining table of yours.
The Great Speckled Bird
By Emily Richardson
The Great Speckled Bird
Directed by Ryan McGoldrick
Re:Group Performance Collective
PACT Centre for Emerging Artists
107 Railway Parade, Erskineville
Season: 17-20 June
The Great Speckled Bird presents a quirky alternative ‘creation myth’ in response to dissatisfaction with the Big Bang theory. Featuring a dancing giant, and of course, a great speckled bird, the universe is brought into being. An ensemble of three interacts with digital media projected on the screens behind them and a cross-breed of classical, jazz and soul music is incorporated to tell the story with sound and movement.
The process of fabricating an alternative creation story is a peculiar one, which sparks innumerable questions. In consideration of what the ensemble was embarking on, one must question the process in which we accept or reject the stories and explanations about how we have come about.
Could each theory be as valid as the next in its didacticism and moral worth? Are we incapable of discerning the true explanation of our beginnings, and thus any attempt at explanation must be considered a myth? Creation ‘myths’ are prevalent in almost every historical culture, highlighting a human desire to understand our roots. At what point does this desire become futile and fruitless? In posing a potential answer, The Great Speckled Bird seems to act as a catalyst for even more persistent questions.
Helping tell the story was the digital media illustrations, projected on the back screens. Director and performer, Ryan McGoldrick, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong researching the dramaturgies of motion-tracking and digital projection technologies, designed the digital media utilised in the work.
His designs added humour and intrigue to the performance, and served to push the dialogue onwards, which at points could be a little slow. The music of Claire Stjepanovic and Steve Wilson-Alexander was upbeat and the consequent movement brought a nuanced groove to the piece.
Stjepanovic displayed diversity with her exquisite voice skills, resulting from extensive classical experience. Wilson-Alexander paired his funky bass guitar with physical movement and interaction with props to enhance the overall theatricality. The entire ensemble showed off some pretty impressive dance moves.
The Great Speckled Bird presented its audience presented its audience with plenty to ponder, in an unconventional manner. Evading any mundane parameters of theatre, the theatrical work engages numerous facets of performance to compel you to question what you know - or what you think you know. Immersed in an imaginatively viable alternative, the audience surrenders themselves to endless possibility. Oh, the wonders of theatre.