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When masculinity is cast adrift

See article in its original context here by Stephen A. Russell for The Age.

Drawing on the death of Dianne Brimble on a P&O cruise ship more than 10 years ago, and the slew of sex scandals swirling around Australia’s football codes, award-winning playwright and novelist Patricia Cornelius explores the dark heart of man in her latest work, Savages.

Making its debut at fortyfivedownstairs next month, the play focuses on four mates, Rabbit, Runt, Craze and George, who embark on a holiday cruise of a lifetime that instead turns to tragedy. A cautionary tale, Savages explores what happens when men who cannot articulate personal disappointment behave appallingly, and the willingness of society to overlook or even condone this behaviour.

Cornelius says she wasn’t interested in lampooning these men, or engendering anti-male sentiment. ”I knew I had to seduce the audience with these bad fellows, otherwise why would you stay to the end?” she says. ”They’re not inherently evil. They’re sort of pathetic, and humorous. There’s a sweetness at times, not much, but you recognise these traits that we excuse in male behaviour, that larrikinism. The victim often becomes more victimised.”

Picking at the scab of exaggerated masculinity and entrenched misogyny, the play is delivered in a darkly poetic rhythm that electrifies, while positing the question: what happens when four men with pent-up frustrations are let loose on a ship, with too much booze and something to prove?

Cornelius extensively researched the Brimble case, in which the 42-year-old Brisbane mother of three died following an overdose of the date rape drug ”fantasy”. Her body was discovered on the floor of a cabin shared by four men, with a further four implicated, though none of the subsequent prosecutions ended in a jail term.

Taking cues from Rowan Woods’ 1998 film The Boys, Cornelius looks at just how easily mateship can lead to a pack mentality in the wrong circumstances.

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The Glory Box (review)

See article in its original context here by Rohan Shearn for Australian Arts Review.               Queen Provocateur Moira Finucane and her boudoir of seductive chanteuses have returned to the underbelly of Melbourne’s forty-five downstairs presenting the…

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See article in its original context here by Benjamin Starr for Visual News. Stephen Nova’s paintings look like the work of an architect gone wild. Classic cottages sit perched atop unnervingly tall scaffolding and impossible (and often treacherous) landscapes. This…

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BWW Reviews: Naked Truths at Finucane & Smith's GLORY BOX: PARADISE

See article in its original context here by Jacqueline Bublitz on Broadway World.

I will admit that I am not a fan of modern burlesque. The renaissance of this art form in recent years, and its subsequent rise in popularity with global audiences has somewhat confounded me. Beautiful and talented though burlesque performers may be, it still seems to me a rather limited expression of the female experience. As women we are so often sold the concept that bodies are an art form in and of themselves, yet we remain the only naked ones in the room. Burlesque as I’ve seen it tends to play into this theme. No, the women don’t technically get naked, but they perform and tease as if this is the ultimate goal – and coy or commanding, they are always playing to the fully clothed.

Enter Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith, the creators and directors of GLORY BOX: PARADISE, who take this art form and turn it on its head. And then set it gloriously, deliriously spinning. For Finucane and Smith, nakedness is not a device or a promise; it is not an offering to an expectant audience. Rather each performer owns their nakedness on stage, a nakedness that is itself presented as an essential fact. Women have bodies. And yes, they can be beautiful to behold. But not just in the constrictive, passive way beauty is so often presented to us. This is not beauty designed soley for the gaze.

Deep? You betcha. I’ve seen an earlier incarnation from the GLORY BOX team, and had some time to consider their art and effect – and I’m still thinking about it now. At the beginning of this performance Finucane, the sinewy master of these ceremonies, quips that three elements are required for art and its audience – passion, liquor and unrealistic expectation. There is no doubt my expectations are high after the revelation that was their 2012 Melbourne show. But it is dry(ish) July for this reviewer, so I’m approaching this new show with said expectation and passion, only.

To my sober(ish) delight, Finucane and her troupe of women don’t disappoint. The same wit and humour is present, as are the impressive tricks with hula hoops (the dynamite Jess Love) and handkerchiefs (um, how does Ursula Martinez do that last part?!). Holly Durant, Lily Paskas and Yumi Umiumare are all terrific, engaging dancers, and there are winks and nods to traditional burlesque through-out (feathers and glitter and tassels all make appearance). But each is a leaping off point to something deeper, something far more interesting. Sometimes the leap is into a darker humour, sometimes it is into the unknown. When Finucane shivers and jolts through “A Sunny Afternoon” the audience is given the unique opportunity to follow the performance through to their own conclusion. Vulnerable, defiant, desperate? The decision remains ours to make.

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Glory Box: Paradise

See article in its original context here by Liza Dezfouli for artsHub.

The latest extravaganza from the much-awarded Finucane and Smith is every bit as subversive, erotically charged and hilarious as its predecessors. A loyal congregation in Melbourne attend The Burlesque Hour and Glory Box ‘church’ at fortyfivedownstairs each winter to be surprised, outraged, affirmed and delighted by the ideas and challenges thrown at them by a range of unique performers and guest artists.

Glory Box is perfectly at home here, the singular theatre environment adding to the Alice Through the Looking Glass experience of the night. Much red lushness provides the backdrop of Glory Box: Paradise, a gothic ‘burlesque macabre’ of a show which is many things, pure entertainment being one of them.

A special treat in this year’s line-up is Yana Alana (aka Sarah Ward, one of Melbourne’s much-revered cabaret performers) with her deliciously outrageous ‘Pussy’ song. ‘Candy’ sees Finucane shirtless, in rock anthem mode, duetting with the glamorous Alana – Finucane lean, demanding, unfettered and frenetic against Ward’s luscious, silky diva. An intriguing contrast: which woman do you watch?

Yumi Umiumare’s commandingly physical performances take you elsewhere altogether as she deconstructs images of the Oriental and the mystical with some unforgettable visuals. Ursula Martinez’s infamous ‘Hanky Panky’ act is astonishing. The drag king elements are hugely amusing, Quick Change Sex Change being one of the rudest things you’ll see on stage this year. Her Majesty the Dairy Queen is a staple of The Burlesque Hour and still outrageous, while Jess Love’s jaded hula hoop dancer is a turn-up for the books.

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Glory Box Paradise

See article in its original context here by Dione Joseph for Australian Stage.

On a miserable Melbourne winter night when public transport fails, puddles lurk for the unsuspecting pedestrian and the skies are determined to weep; there seems little choice but to find solace amidst scarlet lanterns. Luckily, Finucane & Smith’s fan-furling stiletto strutting magic concocting troupe do more than just provide solace – they create a mesmerizing world of cabaret at its best.

The atmosphere at fortyfivedownstairs was the perfect combination of glamour, music and pulsating sex appeal; and considering the show is titled Glory Box…Paradise, this seems reasonably appropriate.

A night of cabaret by experienced performers and provocateurs replete with circus tricks, dramatic monologues, fantastical costumes and some excellent choreography, made the collective whole orchestrated byFinucane & Smith a very entertaining night.

Moira Finucane is to be lauded for the charismatic dynamo that she is. Unwavering in her commitment to expose and exude raw femininity she has remarkable stage presence, a valuable skill especially as on the night sound problems meant much of the words were garbled. Sultry and sexy her variety of work reveals an expansive repertoire with some iconic classic performances including the grand milk smattering finale.

Tokyo Terawatt Yumi Umiumare only performs two solo pieces but they are exceptionally crafted with detail to attention and pace that creates riveting performance. While the show is jam-packed with unforgettable moments there are clearly some acts that are better than other’s. Ursula Martinez’s superficial red handkerchief show is formulaic and unfortunately while Jess Love’s circus tricks are deft and skilful, they seem to be shyly clichéd in comparison with the grotesque and macabre extravaganza set out by the creators.

The music and visuals are a feast for the senses. There seems to be a little of everything from underground Japanese techno beats to disco and rock-n-roll to music hall; and while each performer’s strengths vary, it is a perfectly arranged collection of work to stimulate, titillate (let’s be honest) but also to engage. Sarah Ward is an absolute knock-out and her incredible rendition of Hot Stuff is the perfect party-pumping anthem to end the night.


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Glory Box: Paradise

See article in its original context here by Kate Herbert for Herald Sun.

Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box: Paradise is so sexy and contemporary it’ll set your bouffant hair on fire.

In a vaudeville-like programme of 19 acts, you will consume a feast of burlesque: incendiary magic, sensual dance, bizarre free-form poetry, confronting Japanese Butoh, cheeky circus, a spectacular diva and erotic costumes with exotic plumes.
Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith create ‘provocative variety’ that tests the audience’s boundaries and its willingness to accept spicy content and tasteful nudity.
Of course, everyone will have their favourite acts and mine is sassy, big-voiced singer, Sarah Ward, and her audacious, cabaret alter ego, Yana Alana, the diva with the fever.
In gowns of silver, red or blue lamè, this voluptuous chanteuse grabs the crowd by the throat in her duet with Finucane then comically outrages us with her lascivious, suggestive Song About Cats.
But her tour de force is the finale when the boisterous Yana Alana belts out Don’t Leave Me This Way while the cast dance with the crowd.
Clad in a slinky, sheer, cobweb of a gown, Finucane twists our brains with her commanding, Germanic spoken-word routine, Total Work Of Art, then reprises her notorious Dairy Queen, during which the front rows cower under plastic sheets for protection from jets of milk.
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On Writing: Patricia Cornelius

See article in its original context here by Anne-Marie Peard for Aussie Theatre.

Patricia Cornelius is a playwright, novelist, film writer, writing teacher and dramaturge, a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre, and a mentor to many emerging playwrights.

Her many awards include the 2012 Patrick White Fellowship, the 2011 Victorian and NSW Premier’s literary awards, the 2003 Wal Cherry Award and 10 Awgies (from the Australian Writers Guild).

Her next play is Savages, which runs at fortyfivedownstairs from 16 August to 8 September. It’s also produced by fortyfivedownstairs.

Patricia is working with her long-time collabor, director Susie Dee, on Savages, which is about a group of men and masculinity, misogyny and the dark side of mateship. She talks with Anne-Marie Peard about the inequity of male and female characters, writing for actors and reminds writers to see lots of theatre and read lots of plays.

What made you want to write this play?
I have written a number of plays that take on the issue of gender. Most of them have concentrated on young women but there have been so many dire incidents with groups of men in teams and on tours and on trips in the news that I wanted to take them on. I wanted to make sense of these men individually and in a pack. Many of the real incidents in the news have made an indelible bruise on our national psyche. They were powerful and called out to be explored.

How long did it take you to write it?
I’ve lost sight of how long. It takes such a long time now to get a work on that the process of workshopping and rewrites and tinkering go on for it seems an age.

Savages is a story about men written and directed by woman; do you expect anyone to comment on this?
I do expect some reaction but I can’t be bothered with it really. Men’s business is solely the domain of male artists? Why should it be? I think that male and female artists should look at both genders in their work. Part of the problem with too many plays is that female characters are poorly represented and all playwrights need to address this inequity.

You’ve worked a lot with director Susie Dee? Tell us something about working with her? Who wins if you disagree?
Susie Dee is a fine director and she’s also a friend. The friendship means we’ve had the luxury of talking about theatre for decades. We argue of course but we agree about the essential elements that make great theatre. We both love actors and she is great at enabling them to take the material into terrific and powerful and funny territory. She likes text and can make it sing. She’s unafraid of going deep and will try everything to make a scene work. Neither of us is sentimental which means we like to cut to the chase.

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Compelling homage to a class act

See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.

Musical theatre whiz Dean Bryant has created a string of successful cabaret shows based on the lives of famous pop stars.

In Sweet Dreams, it’s Annie Lennox who gets the treatment. Unlike Bryant’s previous subjects Britney Spears and Madonna, Lennox has obvious soul and the songs – from her time as half of the synthpop duo the Eurythmics to her solo work from the early ’90s – are of equally evident genius.

That frees collaborator Michael Griffiths to channel the Scottish songstress in a relaxed and charismatic act of manifestation, and Bryant to weld the music to biographical material without striving for satire.

It’s an affectionate homage that embodies Lennox’s androgyny and reserve, her modesty and the direct expression of emotion through her music without resorting to cliche.

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Lisa Sewards: White Parachute

See article in its original context here by Mandi J on her blog:  That Book You Like.

It’s been a little while since I last attended an art exhibition, and even longer since I’ve been to one of my favourite Melbourne venues, Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time I visited 45 Flinders Lane, it was to see one of my heros, Samual Johnson in a three-person play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell. It was a fantastic evening, and I’ve been looking forward to a chance to visit the venue again.


This week I had that chance, and this time it was to share in an experience; a raw, beautiful and moving experience. Tuesday night was the opening of Lisa Sewards’ first solo exhibition, White Parachute. This stunning show, featuring works on paper, paintings, objects and installations explores the memories of the artist’s mother who, after having spent five years of her young life in a displaced persons camp in northern Germany shares her experiences of uncertainty, loss and hope.

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Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox

See article in its original context here by Jane Canaway for Australian Stage.
Smartly dressed in blue skinny-legs, business shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a tie, Michael Griffiths takes his place at the grand piano and tells the musical journey of Annie Lennox. In the first person.

It jars at first to hear “I”, “me” and “my” from his lips – not only for documented facts, but also for personal feelings and thoughts – when describing such a well-known star, who is not only female but also very much alive to tell her own tale. But this discomfort soon fades as the songs and storyline take the main focus.

A remarkable performer himself, Griffiths not only has a fullsome voice and total mastery of the keyboard, but he plays with heart-rending passion that breathes new life into the songs that have entranced millions of fans for more than three decades.

And if you think you know all the Lennox songs and don’t want to her a wannabe pretender, think again; some of the subtle and sensitive arrangements that Griffiths plays highlight aspects of even her better-known works that are missed in more complex electronic forms.

How about Love is a Stranger in a ragtime beat? While Who’s That Girl was sung with such jealous rage that the floorboards quaked. Plus Griffiths includes a number of lesser-known solo songs, such as Little Bird and Walking on Broken Glass.

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Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox

See article in its original context here by Simon Pariss for Theatre People.

UK music legend Annie Lennox always presented a particularly androgynous image so there seems to be a certain natural logic in her music and life story being channeled through a handsome, and supremely talented, young man. With no more theatricality than a candle and a blue curtain, Michael Griffiths holds the audience in rapt wonder as he accompanies himself on the grand piano and reimagines the synth pop wonder of the Eurythmics catalogue as gentle lounge music.

Gen X audiences will need no introduction to the songs, the soundtrack of our youth, and will find all the hits they loved, and more, on show here. Stripped of the wild production values of the recording studio, the lyrics hold up beautifully. Interspersed into snippets of Lennox’s life they are, in fact, a fascinating revelation beyond what is absorbed when heard as three-minute pop songs.

At a time when the manufactured artifice of producers such as Stock, Aitken and Waterman was just taking hold, The Eurythmics were the real deal, singer/songwriters with genuine talent, flair and style. For all her fame, Lennox has remained a rather private person, happy to live her life behind the music making without every move being in the public eye.

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In our guest post series, we invite alumni, staff and current students to reflect on their time with the VCA. A Mexican born Costume and Set Designer, Yunuen Pérez arrived in Australia in 2007 to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Production at the VCA. She was happy to find the college resembled a friendly artists´ community, where creativity was just as important as hard work.

There were only two students in the year I enrolled, so the attention of the teachers was closely focused on our personal and professional development. Their theoretical and practical projects were meticulously researched, and as a result were always rewarding and prepared me for the professional environment. The personalised training was of a high standard, allowing me to develop into a more disciplined and committed professional, and I was encouraged to always present pre-eminent outcomes.

'A Faraway Shore', Sissy M. Reyes Photographer, Yunuen Perez Production Designer
‘A Faraway Shore’, Sissy M. Reyes Photographer, Yunuen Perez Production Designer

I had the opportunity to collaborate with students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, providing me with a multidisciplinary approach to any performing art practice. After graduation, I worked with many classmates on their own projects allowing me to feel part of the wider artistic community of the VCA and Melbourne. This confidence and training enabled me to start my career as a freelance Costume and Set Designer.

In 2011, I began working with cinematographer Sissy M Reyes, the result of the collaboration beingMex-tli, Mexican Goddesses, an exhibition at fortyfivedownstairs that reflects our own artistic practices, together with an emphasis on cross-cultural aesthetics and the power of the image.

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A fugue for voices — Terence O’Connell directs The Graduates in Cruising Paradis

See article in its original context here on by Brendan McCallum for Aussie Theatre.

In the lead up to the opening of Cruising Paradise — tales by Sam Shepardon 25 April, Aussie Theatre’s Brendan McCallum managed to catch up with director Terence O’Connell for a chat.

Cruising Paradise

For a man who has had so much on his plate over the last few months, accomplished director Terence O’Connell (two hundred plus shows under his belt and counting) sounds remarkably relaxed.

In addition to Empire, a circus theatre show playing on the roof of Crown Casino, and a production of Neil Simon’s musicalThey’re Playing Our Song currently touring the country, Terence has somehow found the time to adapt for the stage the short fiction of one of modern theatre’s heavyweights, Sam Shepard.

Best known here in Australia as the author of plays such as True West and A Lie of the Mind, Shepard is in fact an engine of cross-discipline creativity, much admired by O’Connell.

“Sam’s a short story writer, and a musician and a cowboy – Sam’s got it all… he’s one of my great heroes,” says Terence during a break in rehearsals for Cruising Paradise — tales by Sam Shepardopening at fortyfivedownstairs on April 25th – a venue which, given its subterranean locale and battered, austere bones, should prove a fitting venue for the vaguely gothic underworld of Shepard’s writing.

“It’s a fantastic venue. The show is set in a sort of bar or beer barn out in the middle of nowhere and it’s performed in front of a massive backdrop of a tattered poster of the Western Bad Day at Blackrock… so it looks surreal. It’s going to be great at fortyfivedownstairs.”

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Two Independent Mexican women

See article in its original context here by Sophia Sourris for Spanish Australia.

Yunuen Pérez and Sissy M. Reyes have joined creative forces to produce their first exhibition together, titled ‘Mex-tli, Mexican Goddesses’, a series of superbly crafted photographs drawing on historical Indigenous practices and aesthetics celebrating resilient women rarely acknowledged in both local and global societies.
Multi-talented Yunuen Pérez, a costume and production designer living in Melbourne and Sydney based cinematographer, Sissy M. Reyes, not only conceptualise, produce and fund their visual art exhibition, but they also feature as the central characters in their photographs. The portrayals are so convincing that they could be mistaken as a series of film stills presenting scenes from a detailed narrative. Due to their artistic backgrounds, it is no surprise that their images have a cinematic and theatrical quality. As passionate and compelling as the women depicted in the photographs, Reyes and Pérez both work on a variety of creative projects in their chosen fields. Although they have been working separately in Australia for six years, this is the first time they have had the opportunity to collaborate together to showcase their skills and unique aesthetic heralded from their Mexican upbringing.

Originally meeting at university in Puebla, Mexico in 2002, it was only when Pérez and Reyes both realised they were going to Australia did they begin to recognise the connection between their creative practices, influences and common visual language. Concerned with the way Mexican culture was being portrayed in Australia and driven by their own struggles trying to live in this country, they began to develop the idea of imagery embracing Indigenous dress cleverly constructing portraits of Mexican women in the Australian landscape. Combined with their fascination for the Aztec period of Mexican history, the pair immersed themselves in a year’s worth of research before producing photographs inspired by Toltec and Mexica ceremonies.

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REVIEW: Assassins | fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

See article in its original context here by Byron Bache for Crikey.

The new Melbourne production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins has its problems, but with a stellar cast and faultless material it’s still worth a look.

To most Australians, Taft is a hairspray and not a president. All but the broadest strokes of American political history are a blank for most of us, so a show about the strange assortment of people who’ve attempted to assassinate American presidents is a vastly different animal here than it is on its native turf. Assassins, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s misfit musical opened last night at fortyfivedownstairs, and like the assassins it condemns and celebrates, it hurtles towards its goals with varying degrees of success.

Assassins doesn’t really have a narrative — its events happen over a span of 166 years. We go from John Wilkes Booth, the disgruntled actor who shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865, all the way through to John Hinckley, Jr, who shot Ronald Reagan to impress a teenage Jodie Foster.

Weidman’s book sparkles like it was written yesterday, but the showpiece here really is Sondheim’s score. Twenty-three years after its off-Broadway debut, it still packs a mean punch. Arguably his only pop song, the killer love duet “Unworthy of Your Love” — sung by John Hinkley, Jr and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme not to each other but to the objects of their affection: Jodie Foster and Charles Manson — is twice as heartbreaking and three times as fascinating as anything Stephen Schwartz has turned out. Nick Simpson-Deeks as The Balladeer — who has possibly the prettiest voice in musical theatre — gets the best material in the show, sharing The Ballad of Booth and The Ballad of Guiteau with the respective assassins, and busts out his masterful acting chops in his eleven-o-clock transformation into Lee Harvey Oswald.

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Review: Assassins, fortyfivedownstairs

See article in its original context here by Kate Herbert for Herald Sun.

The killers of American Presidents may seem unlikely and macabre characters for a musical, but Stephen Sondheim, noted for his unusual themes, depicts this motley collection of nutters in his revue-style musical Assassins.

Assassins, with Sondheim’s eclectic music and lyrics and a witty book by John Weidman, is an old-style, musical revue set in a fairground where the proprietor of a shooting gallery provides the would-be assassins with guns.

This production, by new company Watch This, captures the bizarre nature of the characters and the wry humour, political satire and moral commentary of the script, but the quality of the singing and acting is uneven.

In a compelling, abstract world, killers from different time periods collide, sing about their obsessions, explain their motives through monologues, scenes and songs, including the poignant November 22, 1963, in which people recall where they were when Kennedy was shot.

Sondheim’s idiosyncratic songs straddle a range of styles and periods, but all bear his signature style and ironic tones.

Nick Simpson-Deeks, with his bright, clear, expressive vocal tones, provides the strongest all-round performance, playing the Balladeer who narrates the story, giving a sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of the repressed Lee Harvey Oswald.

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Assassins I The Age

See article in its original context here by Rebecca Harkins-Cross for The Age. Reviewer rating: Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Stephen Sondheim fortyfivedownstairs Until April 21 Staging an independent musical is not an easy affair, when you're up against budgets…

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Assassins I artsHub

See article in its original context here by Reuben Liversidge.

Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins is rarely performed in this country. Australian audiences’ only chance previously to see a production of this clever, unsettling and brilliant musical theatre work was almost 20 years ago, when the Melbourne Theatre Company included the show as part of its 1995 season.

Assassins uses a revue-like structure to explore the lives and times of nine disturbed individuals through a kaleidoscopic melding of song, historical event and meta-theatrical hypothesis. Each character in the show attempted to kill a US president and about half succeeded. Assassins neither condemns nor condones the actions of these people. The authors explore the notion of a perceived right these criminals feel they have or an abstract ‘American dream’ that they feel they have been deprived of fulfilling. But, is this a uniquely American experience? All societies have had political change and oftentimes this change occurs swiftly and violently. Assassins doesn’t ask how these catastrophic events occurred, but why.

Director Tyran Parke’s production almost succeeds in living up to the magnificence of the material. He has assembled a truly stellar cast and nearly all of the performances in Assassins are superb. They are sad, hilarious, brooding, brave and horrifying. Mark Dickinson leads the cast with his commanding physicality and phenomenal vocals; an absolutely stunning turn as John Wilkes Booth, the killer of Abraham Lincoln. An early sequence detailing Booth’s final hours in a burning barn, including the hauntingly beautiful soliloquy ‘The Ballad of Booth’ is particularly moving.

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Assassins hits the bullseye

See article in its original context here by Anne-Marie Peard for Aussie Theatre.

Sondheim fans don’t need anyone to convince them to see a production of Assassins, and they are selling out fortyfivedownstairs every night to see a new company, Watch This, take aim and fire.

Matt Holly, Nadine Garner, Sonya Suares and Mark Dickinson in Assassins

Matt Holly, Nadine Garner, Sonya Suares and Mark Dickinson in Assassins

Assassins was first produced Off-Broadway in 1990 and at London’s Donmar Warhouse in 1992, the MTC showed it to Melbourne in 1995 and the Broadway revival was set to open in 2001, but was postponed in the light of the September 11 attacks and the nature of its material. It’s a show about people who assassinated or tried to assassinate US presidents.

With a book by Tony Award nominee John Weidman, it’s a bitter and darkly funny look at American culture and how the American dream can go so wrong that some need to blame and punish. By presenting characters before the moment that assassination/attempt marked them as insane and unAmerican, it presents people who are not asking for sympathy or even empathy, but are simply seen as more than just the act of violence they are remembered for.

Watch This is Sonya Suares’s (who was General Manager of Red Stitch) new company and this debut has assured that Melbourne’s music thearte lovers are already looking forward to their next production.

With a rehearsal time that was counted in days, not weeks, their Assasins is assured and complex and deserving of its full houses. While there’s an inconsistency among performances and voices, this doesn’t take away from the production and leaves us imagining how amazing they will be with the support and funding to rehearse for a reasonable amount of time.

Musically, well it’s Saint Stephen Sondheim so it captures the inner turmoil and emotions of its characters in ways that are felt more than heard, then hangs in your head until you buy the CD, know the work backwards and find yourself singing it at inappropriate moments. The small orchestra can’t grasp the intricacies of his composition, but again all this does is wish them the support to have a bigger orchestra.

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Dance Tabs: Flesh and Bone

See article in its original context here. On DanceTabs by Jordan Beth Vincent.

Gender politics is a hot topic in Australia. A video of Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly scolding opposition leader Tony Abbott for misogyny and sexism across the polished timber table in Parliament recently went viral. Hardly a week goes by without an op-ed on gender discrimination in the country’s papers, as both men and women struggle to come to terms with a society that (whether true or not) appears to value ‘mateship’ and masculine pursuit above everything else.

Apart from responding directly to the wider cultural context of the contemporary gender wars, KAGE’s Flesh and Bone premiered on International Women’s Day. Flesh and Bone, created by Kate Denborough and Gerard Van Dyck, explores the complex, and highly relevant, notion of gender identity and personal connectedness – and particularly how we stereotype the strengths and weaknesses of each gender. To do this, KAGE seems to have bought out a prosthetics shop, with rubbery, disembodied breasts and penises passed back and forth.

The work begins with a man and woman reclining on the floor. In dim light they are barely recognisable- a woman with broad shoulders and a man with long legs. As they begin to undress, we realize that they have swapped genders; Van Dyck and Denborough, sporting matching hairstyles, are heavily padded to change their physiques. He is Denborough, she is Van Dyck; there is a fluidity to both their gender and their individual identities. As the plastic suits finally come off, the dancers are back to ‘normal’ – Denborough wearing the same polka dot dress Van Dyck has removed, and now busy stuffing the fleshy, discarded skins into an oversized black handbag. Any sense of relief at now embodying her ‘proper’ female body is muted as Denborough takes Van Dyck’s proffered hand and follows him offstage.

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See article in its original context here. Published on Contouring by Bree Turner.

Is gender becoming fluid? Or is it a sign that we are approaching equality? The changeability of gender now sits at the forefront of attraction, we don’t pine for ‘traditional’ men and women anymore. Give me someone with a secret or an imperfection and watch both eyebrows rise and cheeks flush. Men who rock eyeliner and ponytails have people swooning in the street, women who dominate, dictate and bring home the bacon make people weak at the knees. These are the days when one of the world’s leading female fashion models, is actually a man. We may not have straight lines and columns when it comes to gender roles, but we do have human connection, relationships and life, which is what KAGE explores in their latest work, Flesh and Bone.

Gerard Van Dyck and Kate Denborough of KAGE, boast an uncanny shared resemblance, both sport blonde crops, are similar in build and matching in strength. Aside from biological wiring and some female delicacy  that Denborough can’t escape, they are almost identical. And when performing, their ‘play’, transition and interchange is fluid and flawless.

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Seanna van Helten reviews mothersmilk for

See the review in its original context here.

The Other One Productions marks its debut with mothersmilk, a confronting new Australian work combining a script by Joanne Trentini, live music performed by Earthwire, and moments of multimedia to explore one woman’s inner conflict.

Playwright Trentini also stars in the show as Kitty. From the moment we meet Kitty, it’s clear that she is in some kind of trouble. It is the morning of her ex-husband’s second wedding and Kitty is ignoring his repeated demands to have their two young boys ready in time for the ceremony. He also reminds her, via an answering machine message, that she has only days remaining to move out of their once happy marital home.

Surrounded by moving boxes (a key feature of the production design by Kathryn Hooper) and steeling herself for the difficult day ahead, Kitty is joined by three figures – two young men (Gerard Lane and Stefan Bramble) with whom she seems friendly enough, and a woman, Bonnie, who is both familiar and unfamiliar, an uncanny presence who urges Kitty to “do what she has to do” to protect herself and her sons.

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Megan Hanson reviews DasSHOKU SHAKE! for (4 stars)

A cross-cultural mash-up of Japanese and Australian Butoh cabaret, DasSHOKU Shake! is a reflection on the devastation of Northern Japan following the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. Award-winning theatre maker Yumi Umiumare has met high expectations in her fourth production in the DasSHOKU series.

A handful of Japanese and Australian performers, alongside Osaka’s Theatre Gumbo, present an extravaganza that explores the concept of shaking: in both the literal shaking of Japan and the emotional displacement that followed.

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Dione Joseph reviews MICHAEL JAMES MANAIA for

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Michael James Manaia by John Broughton is one of the highlights of this year’s Melbourne Festival.

Brought to Australian audiences by the team at fortydownstairs, this is an electric production guaranteed to offer you a quintessential glimpse into Kiwi culture. More than just an autobiographical story of a young lad with Maori and Pakeha roots Broughton’s superb writing offers a platform for intense theatricality within the cultural context of being Maori in New Zealand.

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Andrew Fuhrmann reviews MICHAEL JAMES MANAIA for TimeOut Melbourne (**** Stars)

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A powerful one-man show offering an emotional glimpse into the heart of alienation

Dunedin-based playwright John Broughton spent 17 years in the New Zealand Territorial Army, and has written a number of works for theatre that deal with the psychological effects of war on returned soldiers. His close familiarity with the material about which he writes is evident throughout this one-man play. There is a roughness in the writing that sounds like intimacy, and a passion and directness in the argument that manifests as a real sense of distress for his central character.

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Kate Herbert reviews MICHAEL JAMES MANAIA (**** stars)

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NEW ZEALAND ACTOR, TE KOHE TUHAKA, with his formidable muscularity, blazing, dark eyes and sensitive portrayal of a man on the edge of violence and despair, is a powerful presence as Michael James Manaia in John Broughton’s 1991 play.

With bold and unsentimental self-narration, Tuhaka imbues the story with an ominous undercurrent of mania and rage as he leads us through Michael’s early life with his war veteran, Maori father and English mother and extended Maori family.
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