"Playing the girl that is a little bit more sexually adventurous and is curious about pushing boundaries and not always playing by the rules – it’s a lot of fun."
When Bram Stoker’s blood-curdling gothic masterpiece DRACULAwas published in 1897, it didn’t have too heavy an impact. It wasn’t until a list of filmmakers adapted it in the 20th century that the haunting, castle bound Count Dracula was solidified in popular culture and folklore. Defining almost all of the characteristics we now associate with undead bloodsuckers, Bram Stoker’s novel wasn’t the first to introduce vampires, but even today it is the primary text on the subject.
It’s also the source material for Shake & Stir Theatre Company’s latest adaptation. Reinspired by artistic directors Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij, this theatre production promises to be a torturing, faithful retelling of the original with a few modern twists. To unravel more, BMA caught up with actor Adele Querol, who has been cast in the production as Dracula’s underling, Lucy Westenra.
“[Lee and Skubij] really wanted to do something that was honest to the story, because they discovered that no one really knew what the story was in the first place,” Querol tells me. “Everyone knows that Dracula is a vampire, right? But no one really knows the story of Dracula.” It almost creates a new shroud of mystery around Dracula, that his story can exist for over one hundred years and yet people today know little more than his name.
“My first contact with the full Dracula story was through reading [Lee and Skubij’s] adaptation of the script,” Querol says. “To be able to condense an entire novel into a 90-minute adventure extravaganza … to be able to do all of that, and keep incredible production values to take on a big national tour, I knew straight away that it was something I wanted to be involved in.”
Dracula begins with Jonathan Harker, a lawyer sent to conduct business for Count Dracula at his castle in Transylvania. Realising he’s trapped in Dracula’s castle, Jonathan soon uncovers the truth about the ancient vampire before Dracula escapes to London on a maniacal quest for love and blood.
Staging a grand retelling of Dracula brings into question why storytellers in 2017 continue to return to Stoker’s classic text. I ask Querol, what is it about this novel that has long captivated us? “It hits all of the essential pressure points … it’s got sex, lust, bloodlust, love, revenge, passion – all of that delightful, meaty stuff that we don’t live in our regular day-to-day lives.” She elaborates, “that Victorian, gothic era fiction was about expressing the repressed undercurrents of sexuality or anger – all of these things that weren’t socially acceptable for people to express at all in polite society … and it is this underside of human personality that is still not widely, publicly spoken about. So, we like to be able to go to a space where we can experience things that we wouldn’t normally let ourselves experience.”
Discussing her career, Querol remarks that she tends to be typecast as the ‘good girl’. But as Lucy Westenra, the Whitby resident and Dracula’s first victim in the story, Querol finds a breath of fresh air in a more antagonistic role. “It felt like I had an opportunity to change a perspective of me,” she reflects. “Playing the girl that is a little bit more sexually adventurous and is curious about pushing boundaries and not always playing by the rules – it’s a lot of fun.”
Creating the illusion of a vampire on stage is no easy feat. For Querol, throwing herself into this supernatural role meant focusing on her movement. “I did research in terms of watching a variety of different kinds of horror film pieces, where there was possession … anything that showed the physical side of things. I think when you’re going to do vampires and transitioning from human into vampire, that is first and foremost a physical story to tell,” she explains. “It was something that I really wanted to be able to physicalise so that it would reach the back row of the theatre … it’s not like you have got the benefit of having a camera there to capture the torment behind the eyes.”
My interest is piqued by a press shot of the character Dracula wearing a leather jacket (the shot you see on this magazine’s cover). For an ‘honest’ adaptation, I have to ask about this. “The story of Dracula is that he starts off decrepitly old,” Querol begins. “And then, once he starts drinking some more blood and makes it to London, he becomes a much younger figure. What we wanted to get across was the change for Dracula as someone that can transcend time and become ‘the new modern’. Obviously the leather jacket is jumping a huge five or six generations, but we really wanted to highlight the difference between the Dracula that was at Transylvania and the one that appears in London,” she explains. “That kind of leather jacket has classic connotations of that James Dean, bad boy, rebel image. That’s something that we wanted to associate with Dracula as well … him being the kind of occult version of the bad boy. That’s sexy, and we wanted to give Dracula the opportunity to bring that out.”
Finally, Querol tells me about the response the production has received so far. “We had our first standing ovation in Dubbo, which was just so tremendous … It makes it feel like all of our hard work and dedication is paid off. Hearing the gasps and the moments of laughter, or fear, or shock – it’s really, really rewarding to know that you’re reaching people like that.”
Dracula is showing at Canberra Theatre Centre from Wed–Sat April 26–29. Tickets are $35 to $55 + bf via canberratheatrecentre.com.au.
There are a lot of foreign film festivals across Australia, which is a testament to the country’s cultural diversity – as well as more generally, a love of cinema. The SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL is one of the bigger foreign film festivals, and is back this year with more ambition, more films and more special guests than ever before.
Paulette Arvizu has worked at the Spanish Film Festival for several years, and this year is the Managing Director for the first time. She’s justifiably proud of the festival, and how it brings Spanish films to Australia. “A lot of these films don’t get a general release,” she says. “So many Spanish people who hear about these films from their friends and family – they can then watch the films they’ve heard about.”
The audience is also quite diverse. “There’s a little bit of everything really,” Arvizu says. “There are a lot of people in Australia who like the culture or learn the language, or they have a Spanish background.”
While the film festival has previously shown a diversity of films from across Latin America and Spain, this year’s festival is relatively focused on Spain – although there are a few co-productions, including a Spain-Argentina co-production.
The Canberra leg of the Spanish Film Festival kicks off with Kiki, Love to Love, which Arvizu describes as “outrageous and over the top”, as well as funny and kinky. “It explores fetishes in a contemporary society – it’s really funny, very nice. We hope the audience enjoys and embraces it. It’s definitely one that people will be talking about.”
When I ask what Arvizu is excited about, she has a long list, but particularly of interest: TheQueen of Spain, which features Penelope Cruz as a Hollywood star returning to Madrid to film a period drama on Queen Isabella, and also features Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes and Antonio Resines; Summer 1993, a Catalan film about a young girl who moves suddenly to the country and finds herself in a place she doesn’t feel like she belongs; and of course, the Canberra opener, Kiki, Love to Love.
Also of note are the festival guests and special events. While neither Goya Award-winning actor Natalia de Molina nor celebrity chef and festival ambassador Miguel Maestre will be making the trip to Canberra this time round, Palace Electric will be welcoming a Q&A with Ian Lumsden, From Rosendo to Rosendo cinematographer, presented by the Embassy of Spain.
Looking to the future, it’s business as usual for Arvizu and the crew at the Spanish Film Festival. “The plan is just to keep on bringing more Spanish films and more events to Australia,” she says. “And just getting people back into the cinema.”
The Spanish Film Festival comes to Palace Electric from Wed Apr 19–Sun May 7. For show times, tickets and more information, visit spanishfilmfestival.com/sessions/canberra.
When’s the last time you listened to an orchestra? For me, the answer is probably the last time I was on hold. That’s not to say I don’t like orchestral music – it’s just not at the top of my to-listen list.
Leonard Weiss wants to change that. The 2016 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year for Youth Arts and Multimedia has an impressive resume. His work includes being the musical director of National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Youth Orchestra, as well as conducting and performing in the US and Europe.
He also enjoys video games, which makes him the perfect artistic director for GAME ON!, a Canberra Youth Orchestra show at the CANBERRA INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, in collaboration with ANU School of Music, Music for Canberra, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment and CBR Innovation Network.
“It was right around the time Pokémon GO hit the app store and took off instantly. And I got a message from the artistic director of the festival (Roland Peelman), saying, ‘I’d love to meet’, and he asked me about Pokémon GO.” Peelman raised the idea of an orchestra playing video game music; “I said, hands down, every young musician will want to be a part of this.”
The show took off from there. “I pretty much put together a list of all the games I liked the music in, which was quite long,” Weiss says, “And then we saw what we could get arrangements for. So I picked out what I thought would be most effective in terms of contrast in music style, and contrast in vintage. There’s no point in having a Nintendo show, the diversity was really important. To highlight the breadth of music in games.”
So what’s Weiss’ favourite game? “Super Mario Brothers,” he laughs. “Mario is one of the most iconic game franchises and features some of the most iconic game music. But also, it’s really cool to see how the theme is changed from its original 8-bit 1985 theme to now having a full orchestra play it.”
Game On! features music from Kingdom Hearts, BioShock and Halo alongside music composed by ANU students. That’s an initative of Ken Lampl, the relatively new director of ANU Music. Lampl has written extensively for film and video games, including the first two Pokémon movies, and has made connections with video game creators – students have the opportunity to compose for games and gain real industry experience and credits.
BioShock is an especially exciting addition: Garry Schyman, the composer of the BioShock original soundtrack, will be on a panel to chat with the audience before the show. “It’s kind of surreal,” Weiss admits. He has had the opportunity to discuss different video games with Schyman and various other composers about their music. “It’s surreal, but I’m loving it.”
Game On! takes place as part of the Canberra International Music Festival at Llewellyn Hall on Saturday May 6 at 1pm. Doors open at 11am for pre-concert gaming. Tickets are $25 + bf at cimf.org.au.
Local artist TOMMY BALOGH has never shied away from playing with colour and light in his works. His previous endeavours have involved explosive palettes under UV lights, creating vibrant fields of colour.
He’s also a very busy man. Tommy is currently working on a massive art installation at the City West Carpark, bringing some much needed colour to the often drab Canberra cityscape. He’s also one of the premier artists contributing pieces to the IGNITE WALK for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance this April.
His craft has taken him throughout the world. Having been invited to Germany for an artist residency by the founders of Vivid International, his tenure in Europe was punctuated by an evolution in his style. Through collaborations with other artists, he was able to use the light projection technology available to Vivid to transfer his art into a new medium for the first time, projecting his chaotic and colourful work onto the roof and walls of a cathedral.
Tommy took the momentum gained from his venture to Europe and has come back to Canberra with a lust to change the face of the city. His work at the City West Carpark has grown substantially since it began with the installation now covering five floors. He believes the opportunities given to him prove that there is a lot of space for amazing art in Canberra.
“People that are given a chance … can actually nurture this sort of growth and development. I think it’s an important message in Canberra about commercial spaces. It can really activate them,” Tommy says.
The themes of the upcoming Ignite Walk – vibrant, neon coloured clothing under UV lights –– align with Tommy’s artistic style almost too perfectly and he’s excited to be contributing his work to the event.
“I love the idea of the Cerebal Palsy Alliance’s Ignite Walk because it highlights a community spirit. It’s a special thing to know that people care and want to brighten up people’s lives.”
He also has his own personal connection to the affliction, having previously worked with (and admired greatly) a Canberra-based artist with cerebral palsy.
Though currently still in the conceptualisation stage for his installations at the Ignite Walk, Tommy said that one of his pieces that recently featured at the Art, Not Apart festival will be adapted and folded in to the installations for the Ignite Walk, while still being something brand new and exciting for attendees to appreciate.
Tommy’s explosive, kinetic style has made its mark on Canberra already and he’s only gaining momentum. With his incredible portfolio only growing, we can expect big things from Tommy Balogh in the coming years.
View Tommy Balogh’s work at tommybalogh.com. The Ignite Walk is a charity event benefitting the Cerebral Palsy Alliance on Friday April 28. Details at ignitewalk.com.au.
In 1973, aged just 19, Mike Oldfield recorded his first LP: the mainly instrumental Tubular Bells, using overdubs of over 20 instruments, played one by one in a studio and captured on multitrack recording equipment. He sold 30 million copies as the first ever album released by Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records Label, with an outcome that must have succeeded beyond Branson’s wildest dreams. The appeal of the album has withstood the test of time, and now multi-instrumentalists Aidan Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth from the Blue Mountains are coming to play this classic album live in their show TUBULAR BELLS FOR TWO.
The idea for the show came around by accident, as Daniel Holdsworth explains, “We were both big fans of music from that particular time, and big record collectors. This happened to be a record we put on one night,” he says. “It’s such a fascinating piece of music; a huge hit and yet completely different from what you’d expect to take off like that, essentially a one hour instrumental.”
Holdsworth loved the album’s variation in style and emotion, and the arc cutting through the music that makes it so compelling to listen to. After deconstructing it and experimenting with guitar versions, the pair graduated to playing it all in a loungeroom full of instruments. The idea of announcing the instruments in the style of the album, running around and playing them all, took off from there and accolades at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival followed swiftly. “It became more than just playing a piece of music. It was a theatrical event. It’s a high-stakes performance that really could fall apart at any moment.” Despite the tension, the band has to keep it together. “We have to keep ourselves calm enough to give this beautiful music the performance it deserves.”
Over 20 instruments are involved and set-up time, after arrival at the venue, is about five hours. It is no ordinary sound check, due to the complex patching required. The band does not use overdubs, but employs loop pedals to achieve the album sound of many instruments playing simultaneously. Oldfield used tricks like running the recording tape at different speeds for the double speed guitar. “We can’t do that live, but have pitch shifters to emulate a similar sound. We work really hard to make it sound like the original 1973 recording.” They have to get the sound right first go, because once it is looped, they are stuck with it.
In a show like this, there is plenty of scope for problems, as Holdsworth says, “How many things can you possibly do at once without an absolute disaster happening?” Past emergencies have included power failure, things getting unplugged and instruments falling over. “And if stuff goes wrong we still have to get to the end, no matter what.”
Tubular Bells For Two plays at The Street Theatre on Friday May 5 at 8pm, on Saturday May 6 at 8pm, and on Sunday May 7 at 4pm. Tickets are $45 or $40 concession + $4 bf. Full details and times at thestreet.org.au.
Speaking with Adelaide actor SARA WEST is an experience not unlike those chats you have with a good friend: the conversation is in equal parts very relaxed and exceptionally engaging. As a young playwright, actor, screenwriter and filmmaker, West has an infectious enthusiasm for every facet of the creative process and a passion for developing and advancing nuanced roles for women. With a desire to be pushed creatively and intellectually, it comes as no surprise that her real-life persona could not be further from her character in Australian writer-director Fin Edquist’s debut feature and psychological thriller, BAD GIRL.
West plays Amy Anderson, a rebellious, emotionally remote teenager who returns home to her adoptive parents after her most recent stint in juvenile detention. Amy’s initial means of communication with her parents consists mainly of surly retorts and “whatevers”, despite their attempts to be accommodating. Perceiving her parents’ stylish “display home” as another prison, Amy consistently and spitefully sabotages their ability to sell their prized architectural creation. Desperate for a positive role model for Amy, Amy’s parents encourage a friendship with their new neighbour and part-time cleaner, the angelic Chloe (played with obvious gusto and calculated charisma by Samara Weaving). The two gradually form an unlikely, but genuine and intimate bond.
What starts out as a deceptively simple tale of belonging, quickly devolves into a frenzied game of cat and mouse, with deeply unsettling consequences.
Despite its dark content, and its bloody and chaotic final act (reminiscent of Adam Wingard’s 2014 film The Guest), West gushes, “we had a great time making this film.” The thriller-genre aspects of Bad Girl presented different challenges for West, who tends to gravitate to more dramatic roles. (“I think people just want to see me cry and die!” she jokes.) Working with Canberra’s own Samara Weaving was a greatly rewarding experience for West, and the two have since become good friends. West notes that achieving the film’s many ‘holy shit!’ moments was “really a tribute to Samara, because she plays her character so sincerely … And then slowly it all starts to unravel. I think it’s an incredible journey that [Weaving] has crafted over the course of the film. All I had to do was listen to her and react – my performance came from her, really.” West also praises the unsettling score by Warren Ellis in helping to create Bad Girl’s heavy and foreboding atmosphere: “his score for the film is incredible. I think it lifts the film to a level that it wouldn’t have even come close to without him on board.”
At its heart, Bad Girl is very much about belonging – and belonging at any cost. West acknowledges that she is particularly drawn to the stories that explore the experiences of the young adult – especially stories “that don’t shy away from how ugly adolescence can be for girls. When I find a film like that, I latch onto it and watch it like, 25 times!” For West, Bad Girl explores in a stylised sense “how brutal young girls can be to each other at that age”, and she considers this to be fertile thematic territory. “That age, to me, and a lot of my friends, was really brutal and kind of horrific. It gets glazed over and people kind of [shrug it off or normalise this behaviour]. The mind games! I think there are much bigger issues causing all that.”
The character of Amy presented a complex, young female role that, in West’s experience, are very “few and far between”. “Yes, I play a girl who is being hunted down, but I didn’t feel like [Amy was] a victim. She was very much in control of her destiny – and that was refreshing,” West reflects. “[In terms of characters,] I’m drawn to strong women, weak women, vulnerable women, women who are evil and awful. I’m interested in any character that will push me in a new kind of way.” West feels so strongly about this point that she’s even in the process of co-writing a screenplay that aims to capture nuanced female characters and the particularities of female communication.
West’s next feature – the upcoming Australian film, Don’t Tell, which also stars Jack Thompson and Rachel Griffiths – is set to tackle some confronting and topical social issues. The film is based on the true story of a Toowoomba school sex abuse scandal that led to significant changes to Australian child protection laws. West considers that the subject matter alone should make this film mandatory viewing. “People [tend to] turn away from [this subject matter] because it’s an ugly issue and it gets ignored and victims feel like they’re to blame and they carry this guilt with them,” she says. “I think through film we have a real opportunity to shed light on those issues.” West will head to LA for the premiere of the film in late April.
Consistent with West’s desire for layered roles and films, Bad Girl subverts the binary representation of a person’s perceived ‘good’ or ‘bad’ nature: the film is vivid, bizarre and chaotic – everything a good thriller should be. Make sure you check it out.
Bad Girl will be released in cinemas on Thursday April 27. Bad Girl Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Warren Ellis will be available on iTunes on Friday April 21.
Imagine knowing that your 21st birthday speech from your Dad was workshopped by him and hundreds of strangers. That’s the fate of the son of comedian MARK SWIVEL, whose new comedy show starts as a way to write a speech for his sons important birthday celebration, and evolves and changes into a discussion of life and parenthood. The show is called Dad. Joke., and Swivel is already deepinto a 24-show run that’s travelling all around Australia, including to Canberra at the Street Theatre.
Swivel is using this as an opportunity to figure out what he wants to say to his son, what’s important and to have a bit of a laugh at the same time. He’s been performing as a comedian for years, with his last show How Deep is Your Love a smash hit.
“I was worried about writing this speech for my son’s 21st birthday so I made it into a show, and then it became a launching pad to talk about everything else parenting,” Swivel says. “There’s a lot of nostalgic comedy; there was one performance where I was talking about watching Countdown and I started singing a song and then everyone in the audience joined in. So I stopped singing and let the audience sing the song themselves, it was a great moment. That being said, even though I encourage audience participation it isn’t mandatory, but it is great to see. I even try and sneak in some politics between jokes and it’s great to see when people get the sneaky jokes.”
Mark discussed how people reacted to the show, and what the audience seemed to connect to. “This kind of comedy seems to resonate with people; I mean what does turning 21 even mean anymore? It’s so arbitrary. Parenthood is not an evidence based experience and we’re the first generation of parents to try and make it that way.”
“My dad didn’t try and form a connection with me, he’d be horrified at the concept – it just wasn’t done, and yet here we are.”
This isn’t Mark’s first time performing in Canberra; he had three shows at The Street Theatre last year. In fact, Mark has performed all over Australia, but two of his favourite shows have been at the Bondi Pavilion, “which was a crazy hot night but so much fun,” and a place in Gympie in Queensland, “that used to be a nudist colony.”
“If I could perform anywhere in the world, I would love to go to Her Majesties in London or The Assembly in Melbourne. I think I could have a lot of fun performing in either of those venues.”
His son’s reaction to the whole experience has apparently been rather nonplussed, as he treats the situation and his father, “with a complex cocktail of indifference and contempt, he’s not embarrassed at all.”
Check out Mark Swivel’s new show Dad. Joke. at The Street Theatre from Fri–Sun April 21–23. Tickets and info are available at thestreet.org.au.