High Brow at the Lobrow @ Lobrow Gallery & Bar, Saturday January 28

Column: In Review   |   Date Published: Friday, 17 February 17   |   Author: Sam Ingham   |   1 month ago

This event is the first of an ongoing variety night presented by Canberran superstar Jazida. Featuring fifteen performances with four headlining performers, the show sold out and the 95-strong audience happily packed into Lobrow. Squishy but comfortable, the no reserved seating meant the majority of the crowd happily sat with their friends. First-time emcee John Lombard opened with a quick chat about rules and etiquette, then Jazida’s Fabulous Fanveil Dancers started the show with a silk fan group routine. Gorgeous smiles radiating, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the thunderous applause. Two more group routines were performed with feather fans and light up umbrellas. Catch them at the upcoming Multicultural Festival.

Mandy Bandersnatch performed three times – a tribal Amazonian routine in traditional Horror Hammer theatre style, a Captain America cabaret showgirl striptease number, and a baton twirling shimmy striptease tribute. Camilla Cream was the interstate guest from Melbourne. Her jazz cabaret style of performing is different to the classical style Canberra so frequently sees. With a great singing voice, she was funny, energetic, made a better emcee and held the crowd’s attention easily. She tap-danced, sung, stripped and fan danced throughout the evening. Créme De La Crop performed twice, her first routine a classy classic striptease from a trench coat to lingerie. Her facial expressions joyous and her peek-a-boob section very flirty. She later on performed her well-known circus clown routine.

Jazida performed in two solo routines as well as all of the group routines. The first solo featured LED light up silk fans – she morphed into a trance style of body popping whilst wrapped in a shawl of black feathers. It looked amazing in the dark. Her second routine was her well known classic striptease in her green and white gown, described in my Creatures of the Night review. Roxie Ravish performed a very nerdy, lusty lap dance to a mannequin with the face of Donald Trump. Hilarious, political and full of taboo moments, the crowd thoroughly loved it. A big thank you goes to Jazida and John for acknowledging the troupes that all performers started with.

Criticisms: With only one or two staff working the bar, it took 25 minutes to get service. A side stage mechanics spotlight was the only lighting, so it cast terrible shadows on performers, creating ugly expressions. Lack of shoes worn by performers, including the plainly dressed stage kitten meant that we watched really dirty black feet all night. And again I am disappointed by the performers who ended their gorgeous routines with a five second flash and then dash off stage. I do look forward to seeing what the next event brings to the stage.


Shadow House Party @ Courtyard Studio, Tues–Sat January 17–21:

Shadow House Party comprised of three distinct theatre shows linked by each show’s common emphasis on the physical and visual elements of theatre, and each show’s use of theatre as a platform to voice political and social commentary. The first show, A KREWD Incarnate, featured six animal-like creatures performing to a high energy sound track, each encaged in a spotlight. After collecting my complementary drink, I sat near an ostrich-like bird that would randomly give me one of its feathers and say, “I am God, I am divine.” Created by Bambi Valentine, this show explored the idea that beneath our well-crafted political and social hierarchies we are all just animals; and that by denying this, we are trying to re-cast ourselves as gods or divine beings. I particularly enjoyed Benjamin Russell’s performance as a dog and Bambi Valentine as a gorilla. The show finished with a loud burlesque inspired piece that was engaging and entertaining.

The second show was Trinculo’s Bathtub 2: Annihilation, created and performed by Joe Woodward. This show was a little more obscure than the first with references to French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, who was murdered in his bathtub; Donald Trump; and I’m sure others. A central idea seemed to be that the less you know about something the easier it is for you to have a “revelation” about that thing. To demonstrate this Trinculo jumped into a bathtub and invited the audience to ask him philosophical questions. I found this to be the most engaging part of the show and I would have liked more of it – Woodward’s pseudo-intellectual sparring was funny and engaging.

The final show was Lucy Matthews’s Ophelia’s Shadow. For this show, Matthews rearranged Shakespeare’s Hamlet to make Ophelia the central character, and wrote a punk-rock score to accompany the story. I understood Matthews’s interpretation of Ophelia’s story to be about a woman who, because of societal constraints on how she should behave, is not able to fully express and act on her feelings, and is then held responsible by others for the contradiction that ensues. This issue of course is still relevant. However, one of the problems with using Shakespeare’s text as the basis of this play is that that the character of Ophelia is not well-developed within Hamlet. This meant that rather than the text driving the narrative it was the strong performance of Miriam Slater as Ophelia, and the chemistry between Ophelia and Luke Middlebrook’s Hamlet that really demonstrated Matthews’s interpretation of the text. The music and the performances of Frances McNair and Bambi Valentine also gave this show a great energy. Straight after Ophelia’s Shadow, the theatre turned into a dance floor, with the cast encouraging the audience to get up and dance. A great idea, but I probably needed a longer moment between watching Ophelia’s death and jumping up on the dance floor!


Creatures of The Night @ National Portrait Gallery, Friday January 20:

The National Portrait Gallery has a series of free-entry late night events happening on Friday evenings in January and February from 5pm to 8pm. This event was hosted by Canberra’s own drag queen extraordinaire Tammy Paks and featured roaming models from Miss Kitkas House of Burlesque, fire twirling by Tobias Price, burlesque performances by Jazida and Seker Pare and performances by jazz band Josh Knoop Trio.

150 people attended the two-and-a-half-hour event, settling into the couches, stools, foldup seats and on the floor, with wine and beer in hand; enjoying the view of the stage that was set up in front of the massive windows. Tammy floated throughout, welcoming all in a beautiful jewelled embellished dress, opening the event with a beautiful love song. Jazida performed in a stunning lilac dress with purple fan veils; she made wonderful work of the ample space, flitting skilfully through the crowd like a beautiful bird. Tobias wowed everyone with a spectacular fire twirling display in the outside courtyard as the crowd watched through the glass wall. His skill is making poi twirling look so easy.

Tammy and Jazida sung a duet, while Jazida played keyboard; their voices together were lovely and complimentary. Jazida came back out and stripteased to a jazzy cabaret number, wearing black fringing; the routine was high impact and her high kicks and backbends while dancing and were amazing. Seker Pare performed a gothic sultry striptease, looking phenomenal in a horned headdress and covered in black feathers ending with a back-bending floor arch tassel twirl; it was absolutely spectacular. The John Knoop Trio sung and performed lounge style jazz, the crowd eagerly refilled their wine glasses and mingled and chatted with the models from Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque.

Jazida’s final performance was her award-winning classic striptease routine. Starting in a stunning green and white jewelled gown, she glamorously strutted across the space and stripteased down to a traditional panel skirt and bra, taking sections off the panel to fan dance with and ending in a spectacular back-bending tassel twirl. Another fire twirling routine was given by Tobias; with a long staff expertly spun around all over the place, he made easy work of his space and interacted with the crowd through the glass. A final song by Tammy Paks was well received, the final performance by Seker Pare had her come out in classic lingerie with a large purple feather boa, dancing, bumping and grinding in a classically beautiful style. Ending the event was another set by the John Knoop Trio; the cast then came back out for a final bow to a very long applause, mingling with the crowd afterwards and posing for photos. The entire event was glamourous with high quality entertainment. I really hope Tammy presents another show like this again soon.


Paradise Lost @ Belconnen Arts Centre, Thursday January 26 :

Bare Witness Theatre Company’s Paradise Lost, is an intense and intriguing mix. Including excerpts from John Milton’s 350-year-old, 80,000-word prose poem on the primal saga of western civilisation and philosophy; an almost naked, Irish Shakespearian actor in passive-aggressive, full-body, white Japanese Butoh makeup; and a prop-less, sound-less stage; opening to an Australian audience. Performer Christopher Samuel Carroll’s professionalism, born of long contemplation of Milton’s poem and his discipline in western and oriental theatre arts, takes this curious recipe and conjures with it a strenuous, single-handed, physical theatre – thick with words and rich in evocative mime.

Carroll frames his narrative around edited selections from Paradise Lost’s voluminous text, which intentionally highlight the parts of Satan, Eve and Adam in Milton’s epic. His performance projects galactic scale war between Heaven and Hell and epitomises Satan’s evil, self-justifying victimhood, as he writhes with the twists and turns of tumultuous treachery and wrathful vengeance. Carroll inhabits the slickest serpent salesman, urging Eve to the apples of knowledge. He then personifies the couple’s perplexed awakening to the serpent’s malignant duplicity and the wrenching, ‘inexplicable justice’ of expulsion.

Using his whole body Carroll skilfully contorts through these physical, spiritual and emotional clashes with counted vertebrae and writhing muscles beneath the Butoh white. Evoking in his portrayal of Satan Giger’s implacable, sci-fi Alien then sinuously sidling as Eve’s serpent seducer. Whilst most know the story of Satan’s fall and the Garden of Eden in outline, dealing with the scale and archaic phrasing of Milton’s epic – the intense pressure of language and Carroll’s stylised movement – required the audience to make a considerable effort to stay with him.

In one-handed performances, tiny glitches in flow may be expected but Carroll seemed to control the few evident in Paradise Lost, holding the pace and vigour of his performance throughout. Post performance, Carroll spoke of this work as “developing” and acknowledged the important contribution of Belconnen Arts Centre in enabling it to reach performance level.

Attempting an interpretation of Paradise Lost in any form is daunting. Considering its length, scope and complexity, Carroll’s targeted editing and unusual dramatic approach was successful. Combining his prowess as a Shakespearian actor with his skills in the Japanese Butoh form, which emerged post World War II as a rebellion against rigid tradition, makes Paradise Lost an accessible piece. With Carroll’s commitment to further refinement, Paradise Lost can only improve as the artist continues to build his relationship with the work.

The great tales of heroes and anti-heroes, vengeance and redemption, good versus monstrous evil, of being “seduced to the dark side”, are as old as campfires and as new as next week’s cinema releases. In its 350th year, Bare Witness Theatre Company’s unique perspective on Paradise Lost will revive audience curiosity about Milton’s work and its place among the panoply of ancient and modern epics.


Move up to the Views @ PhotoAccess (Huw Davies Gallery), Until Sunday February 26:

“The reality is not so alluring,” says photo artist David Flanagan of the subject matter for his new exhibition Move up to the Views, which is open at PhotoAccess, Manuka Arts Centre. David’s work is however extremely engaging with his large format photographs drawing you in to the dynamic, physical landscapes of suburban development work in Northern Canberra.

David’s work reminds us that the graphic art of photography, so easily dismissed in our selfie, snapagram world, has real power and requires creative and technical skill. He shows us this by capturing the nativity of a new community with a series of challenging, high quality images up to two metres wide – featuring stark earthworks, brooding machines, moody fogs and storm clouds rolling across the torn land, ploughed and furrowed to be seeded with possibility.

With the calm of an attendant midwife, David’s images somehow soothe this wrenching, spasm of suburbia’s birth. His ochre moonscapes – echoing ancient bones wilfully ripped and exposed, out-posted with site-huts – are softened by nature. Panoramic golden sunlight, rolling storms, veiling fogs and dappled puddles on infant roads, reassure us that this transitory gouging pain that creates living space and generates opportunity will pass, leaving the land washed and ready.

David’s work brings together the fleeting nature of the weather and the passing parade of earthworks to create “never to be repeated” images, that have their own short exposure time. His precise photographic decisions, technical control and simple, crisp framing, establish the viewer as a presence in the landscape making this exhibition a rewarding experience.




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