I love the Brisbane Powerhouse, it is a great venue, not least for the variety of material they have on stage. In two evenings I saw two plays…
The return season of ‘5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche’ has kicked off at the Brisbane Powerhouse; I knew very little about this show before attending. There is an American production of the play running right now stateside, and this Australian production produced by Imprint Theatricals.
The show depends on a combination of things; interactivity with the audience that smashes the fourth wall as soon as you wander into the venue, very defined characters who are ‘larger than life’ yet fully rounded and although easy to identify, these women are no gaggle of obvious cliches or stereotypes. It also depends on the audience accepting their role.
Somewhere between ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘Dimboola’ you can find this style of loving satire. What you don’t always find with satire is the ‘love’ of the subject being lampooned, but here in the script by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood there is a lot of love. Director Nathanael Cooper and designer Sean Bryan have created a simple but effective set with some unexpected special effects and sharply stylish details.
The cast are clearly having a ball on stage with rapid scenes that sprint through various necessary insights to give us an opportunity to fit in with proceedings and be up to speed.
The overall ensemble work is so polished it is hard to tell what is improvised and what is not; off the cuff remarks and double-takes hit the mark often. Greeted at the door by the somewhat flighty Wren Robin (Lauren O’Rourke) I started smiling immediately. This is a ‘ditzy blonde American’ captured in a moment of time and drawn out with sustained hoots and sighs all through the show, but we’re not even seated in the auditorium yet, before we get to sit down we meet the other seemingly charming, fragile creatures, Vern Schultz (Lauren Jackson), Dale Prist (Bianca Zouppas) and Ginny Cadbury (Ashlee Lollback).
Time and place become clear, these are the days of “Duck and cover” the A Bomb is set to go off any day with little or no warning, unless you happen to have set up a fail safe shelter where you can weather any storm that may pass.
The last character we meet is Lulie Stanwyck (Catherine Alcorn); her name speaks volumes to the satarist in us immediately. Lulie seems like a complete Gorgon to start with, but she’s not at all, it’s just the way she rocks and rolls. After all she has just come from a very taxing task. Where this script works best is in the discovery of the unknown moments.
We here in 2015 are a savvy bunch. We have some appreciation of the American values of the 1950’s including the social expectations placed upon women; we know that women were held back after the second world war, expected to fit into a role they had long evolved beyond. When the story plays out in front of us we know this is a buffet of sorts; that these characters represent a complex world that doesn’t exist any more… but for some.
It is possible to simply sit and laugh at all the amusement; you don’t have to think about it, but if you do start to join the dots and think about the deeper meanings at play in this wonderful production you will find yourself rethinking many things.
The important thing is – 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche is really entertaining and is the only piece of theatre where 99% of the audience come out as being a lesbian (me included) with relish. Why not?
The return season in Brisbane runs until June 21. Every performance has something to savour. The ensemble work beautifully. The physical comedy knows no bounds, but hey, no spoilers here. I suggest you get along and see this quiche be consumed, you’ve never seen anything quite like it before in your life… or maybe you have?
Brisbane Powerhouse season ends 21 June 2015
Tiptoe by Sven Svenson
Sven is a playwright I knew little of until I started to chat to people around the Powerhouse. Incredible that he has been awarded the Premiere’s Literature Prize for drama in Queensland, yet I don’t know of him. His work is essentially centered on Queensland’s history. I only saw the first portion of Tiptoe, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
Simultaneously two different stories play out on opposite sides of the stage. The writing is split and stilted at times between the two scenes so you find words echoing and resonances emerging that point to further development. The first scene however, that I was closest to, concerned a couple of fellows planning a buck’s night for a sixteen year old lad about to marry his sixteen year old fiancee.
Unfortunately for me, a survivor of child sexual assault (being held down by men and raped) my internal alarms started going off pretty quickly. The chaps were clearly planning to get their mate drunk and rape him.
I understand very well how this type of behaviour has been an unspoken part of our history in Australia, and I think it is probably one of the more effectively written pieces of work about the circumstance of planned male on male rape. I myself could not continue watching the show as I was taken by surprise by the content.
I actually think I’d like to see the complete play out of the stories that Svenson has created, but I need to know that is what I’m about to see.
I know the general public are not too concerned with how a male abuse survivor copes after the abuse (even 40 years after the abuse) and I don’t intend on using this review to start banging on about that. The work was well written and compelling. Svenson has evidently created a group of plays that all intertwine and reflect on eachother. This is most like a novel series or a rambling television series played out on stage. Fascinating approach I think.
The audience have a complete experience in one evening, yet they can come to another show in a few months and discover the same characters or related characters are shifting in and out of the journey. On an academic level I find this fascinating. I suppose Shakespeare did it with the War of the Roses, different though that is.
What I liked about the production was that Ayckbourne quality. What I didn’t like was the singular playing level for the performers. The actors were extremely effective, cast in roles that are out of their actual age range they still managed to bring all the elements you would expect. The set design includes some projections and mysterious happening off in the darkest part of the stage, all good. What I found a touch distracting was the singular level everyone was working on physically. With action happening simultaneously it can feel a little like being at a tennis match and having to split focus constantly. There were moments where I think this would have worked better had the stage been multilevel; I can’t draw an overall assessment of the production before I left because I had a flashback (one of those sexual abuse survivor things that happens) and needed to leave before I started yelling at the actors; warning the victim and calling the police. Seriously.
However I’m impressed with what I saw, and I think it would be something I want to see more of, as long as I know what I’m getting myself in to.
I guess it would be odd for companies to start placing a warning sign outside a venue informing people the production contained sexual violence and rape? It would have helped me a great deal to steel my nerves, because I think I was thinking about A Manual Of Trench Warfare when I walked into the venue; first world war, homoerotic, sad play.
Tiptoe is well worth seeing I’m sure. I’m sad I missed the whole thing because I think I would have enjoyed knowing exactly what happened with the various characters and their stories.