What's On: Deathfest 2.0: A Duel with Death

Cthonica co-presented with Kristian Santic. Image by Matthew Doueal.

Where: Various locations across Brisbane
When:  October 15 – November 4

Following its successful inaugural festival in 2016, Australia’s first arts and culture festival on death, dying and the best way to live returns with another curated program responding to this essential but avoided part of western culture. 

MetroArts’ bi-annual multi-arts festival explores death literacy, grieving, and whole-hearted living through visual art, performance art, talks and discussions, theatre and everything in between.

“Unlike other cultures around the world where death is commemorated through joyous celebrations, here in Australia, we have largely taken grief and mourning behind closed doors,” said Metro Arts Creative Director and CEO Jo Thomas. “Deathfest gives us the opportunity to explore and embrace grief through shared heartbreak or soul-releasing stories. “Works on offer this year are a melting pot of ideas that unite people through shared experiences and stories challenging them to shift their perception and be open to new experiences.”

Deathfest 2.0 returns to Brisbane in 2018 featuring 13 profound works, including five world premieres and six national premieres, plus signature events from across the globe, including:

What's On: Don Giovanni (Opera Queensland)

Where: Playhouse Theatre, QPAC
When: October 19 – November 3

Opera Queensland are opening the gates of hell later this month, unleashing a reimagined production of Don Giovanni on the QPAC stage and Brisbane audiences.

A reimagining of Mozart’s masterpiece, Opera Queensland’s production will be conducted by Johannes Fritzsch, with rising international star Duncan Rock making his Australian principal debut in the title role. Directed by Lindy Hume, this production is a sobering new take on the iconic opera, set against the backdrop of working class Victorian London – the stomping grounds of Jack the Ripper and aristocracy looking for a taste of the seedy side of life. Despite its setting, Hume adds that she hopes the production will resonate with contemporary audiences.

“You cannot stage Don Giovanni today without the context of #metoo,” Hume said. “Don Giovanni isn’t your standard womaniser, he is a rapist and a murderer, and at the same time he is charismatic, funny and charming.”

Opera Queensland has also enlisted 200 women from Southeast Queensland as avenging furies for the thrilling finale sequence, in which Don Giovanni is dragged to his end by the hundreds of victims he has preyed upon. With design by Anna Cordingley and lighting design by Ben Hughes, it is sure to be a visually spectacular production. 

Tickets range from $59-$159. For ticketing and further information, visit Opera Queensland’s website.

REVIEW: Chicago (Savoyards Musical Comedy Society Inc)

All That Jazz! Joanna Nash as Velma Kelly, photographed by Christopher Thomas Photography

Savoyards are razzle dazzling audiences with their new production of Chicago. Directed by Sherryl-Lee Secomb and with musical direction by Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, the production features a cast of over 40 incredibly talented local performers as well as a live orchestra, playing onstage as the action unfolds.

Nowadays - Joanna Nash as Velma Kelly and Heidi Enchelmaier as Roxie Hart, photographed by Christopher Thomas Photography.

In the roaring twenties, Chicago, Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband, Amos, to take the rap... until he finds out the truth and turns on Roxie. Convicted and sent to death row, Roxie and another "Merry Murderess" Velma Kelly, vie for the spotlight and the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of the "American Dream": fame, fortune, and acquittal.

What's On: Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)

Richard Causer and Brian Lucas, photographed by Dylan Evans.

In collaboration with the Australian Voices, Expressions Dance Company will premiere Everyday Requiem at QPAC on October 12; a “touching, poignant work, full of humour, romance and heartbreaking moments, as we follow The Old Man (played by acclaimed Brisbane performer Brian Lucas) through his memories - a life touched by war, love, tragedy, conflict and joy.” 

This production is also Natalie Weir’s final signature work for Expressions Dance Company, as she prepares to step down from her role as the contemporary dance company’s Artistic Director after a successful decade. Ms Weir took on the role from the company’s founders, Maggie Seitsma and Abel Vallis, and said that she believes that “now is the right time for me to hand over the reins to someone new, who can build on the company’s successes and lead it into the future. It has been a joy to guide EDC and I have worked with many beautiful artists who have touched my heart with their commitment and grace.”

The touching moments of daily life are interpreted with EDC’s signature breathtaking physicality, and the Australian Voices join the dancers onstage to perform the original score by Gordon Hamilton acapella. Also joining the cast are special guests, senior dancers from WaW dance, in an inspiring celebration of the tragedies and triumphs we all share, every day.

For more information about the production and to purchase tickets, visit EDC’s website.

Available for older dancers, from beginners to advanced, is the Everyday Requiem Open Dance Masterclass: Ages 50+ with EDC’s Richard Causer and WaW director Wendy Wallace, to be hosted at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts on October 13, 2018. Participants can expect to learn, explore, and manipulate choreography inspired by Everyday Requiem in a fun, energetic, and encouraging approach to movement. Tickets are $30 plus booking fee, and those who have purchased tickets to Everyday Requiem can receive a $10 discount by using the codeword and their QTIX booking reference.

For more information on the Masterclass and to purchase tickets, click here.

The Bard and Beyond (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Conductor Carlos Kalmar and soloist Arabella Steinbacher. Imagery provided by Kath Rose & Associates.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlos Kalmar and with acclaimed guest violinist Arabella Steinbacher, presented an evening of works Shakespearean in their depth and scope with The Bard and Beyond, part of their Maestro series of concerts.

The pre-concert talk with Lachlan Snow was very informative, and so useful to orchestral newbies like myself to understand the music and the stories and emotions behind it. As Lachlan himself put it, the pre-concert talk helps me to “find a path through the music”.

I Am My Own Wife (Oriel Group)

I Am My Own Wife QUT Gardens Theatre
I didn't intend to write a review of this work, but my Instagram post was getting out of hand...! So, I've transplanted my thoughts into a blog post. 

Last night we saw I Am My Own Wife at QUT Gardens Theatre. The play, written by Doug Wright, has won every major drama award, including the Pultizer, and it not difficult to see why - it is not only a compelling portrait of an extraordinary life under two of the Western world's most oppressive regimes, but also an ethical question of what we do when our heroes turn out to be made of glass.

The play is essentially a verbal history of the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who killed her father when she was a young child and survived the Nazi and Communist regimes in East Berlin as a transgender woman, an antiquarian and the curator of the Gründerzeit museum. Ben Gerrard brings 37 characters to the stage in this one-person play, including Charlotte and the character of the playwright Doug Wright, who spent hundreds of hours interviewing Charlotte. Gerrard tackles a slew of accents with impressive consistency, switching cleanly between voices and characters from moment to moment.

As the play reaches its second Act, the audience begins to see Charlotte as an unreliable narrator, and Doug's desperate desire for her to be the martyr he has imagined becomes pertinent as her story gains traction in the media and begins to be picked apart. Was Charlotte a benign museum curator, or an enthusiastic Stasi informant? A liar? Mentally ill? A survivor and a victim? A traitor and a killer? The work leans distinctly towards Charlotte as a victim of circumstance even as it is confirmed that she gave information leading to the arrest of fellow antiques collector Alfred Kirchner.

Apparently there has only been one major production of this work starring a transgender artist, which is disappointing, but Gerrard takes on the role of Charlotte with clear care, emotional intensity, and attention to detail. The performance had minimal staging and clever lighting design, and was utterly captivating from beginning to end. I'd be interested to now read Charlotte's autobiographical book of the same title, and to measure this work against her own words.

GIVEAWAY: Tradies and Artists, Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Imagery supplied by Kath Rose & Associates
Hosted by Guy Noble, Tradies and Artists will explore the idea that great tradespeople – like classical musicians – can tell you the story of how, where, and when they learned their craft. Many also use tools or instruments passed down through generations. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dane Lam, will perform music inspired by master craftsmen, including works by Rossini, Britten, Strauss, Mozart, Wagner, Weber, Copland, Lortzing and Mussorgsky, and I have two double passes to give away!

Queensland Ballet launch Season 2019 - Move Boldly

Queensland Ballet have launched their 2019 Season with the tagline ‘Move Boldly’, unveiling a program that Artistic Director Li Cunxin says promises more breadth than ever before. The season is laid out in full below:

Dangerous Liaisons
22 March – 6 April
A new ballet and world premiere ‘for mature audiences’ based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th century novel, choreographed by Queensland Ballet Artistic Associate and acclaimed choreographer Liam Scarlett. A sultry tale set amongst the aristocratic elite of late 18th century France.
Dangerous Liaisons will also tour regionally to Gold Coast, Cairns, Toowoomba, and Mackay.

The Masters Series
17 – 25 May
A triple bill featuring George Balanchine’s iconic Serenade, Jiří Kylián’s masterful Soldier’s Mass exploring the horrors of war through the eyes of young soldiers, and a new world premiere work by Trey McIntyre, who delighted QB audiences with Peter Pan.