Friday, November 23, 2012

World Theatre Festival 2013 Launch

World Theatre Festival Launch at Brisbane Powerhouse (Source: Facebook).
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the 2013 World Theatre Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse. In February next year, eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Iran, Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, UK and the USA) will be represented in the line-up of over 30 items over 11 days.

I've no knowledge of any of the theatre companies represented in the main program, and with not much to go off I'm not exactly feeling any urgency to see any of the productions. A lot of people murmured in approval when Gob Squad's Kitchen was announced, which will be a bizarre adaptation of Andy Warhol's film of the same name. A Doll House by Ireland's Pan Pan Collective is potentially a good choice, but given what a certain other company did with an Ibsen text this year, it's probably wise to approach this work with extreme caution. The festival staples such as the controversial stuff to make the audience feel challenged (The Economist by MKA) and the theatre of the oppressed (White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour) are also here. The one that really piqued my interest is The Last Supper by Reckless Sleepers. The collective, comprised of artists from the UK and Belgium, will present an intermedial dinner party where the audience join figures experiencing their last dinner. The final moments and sentiments of figures ranging from condemned prisoners to Beethoven will be represented.

What I'm most looking forward to is the Scratch program. Scratch gives creatives a chance to trial their work, simultaneously allowing them to develop their work, receive constructive feedback for the final product, and also make a much needed profit. While last year the program unfortunately included one of the worst things to appear at Brisbane Powerhouse ever (Disappearing Acts by Kelly Ryall & Martyn Coutts), it also featured some incredible gems including A Spectacular of Sorts and Murder. Those pieces that gleamed with potential and delivered so well - this time the lineup includes Horrendo's Curse by Imaginary Theatre will feature the wonderful Lucas Stibbard and Neridah Waters as their leading actors - I don't care if it's created for kids, I'll be there. Robert Davidson and Topology (the best thing about The Lady from the Sea), return with a new work that fuses together melodies with recorded voices of the worlds leading thinkers in a piece titled Nature/Nurture. Oedipus Schmoedipus by Post also looks like it could be a good one considering the company's history. The best thing about Scratch is that all the tickets are $10, so that's what I'll be attending most of the time in the festival.

There are also a couple in-conversations, workshops and music events to attend, many of which are free. The one that I'm dreaming most about is the in-conversation and four day masterclass with Richard Schechner, a renown theorist and practitoner who actually wrote a good number of text books that I've studied with. Unfortuantely the cost is extortionate for a student, and his talk has already filled up on reservations. I imagine it would certainly be a worthwhile and invaluable experience to do - if you can afford it!

It's a few months before the festival, but it was a great evening to preview what would be featured at Brisbane Powerhouse next February. I'm looking forward to attending many Scratch works and a few of the mainstage shows - onward and upward!

Brisbane Powerhouse's World Theatre Festival 2013 will be running from 13-24 February 2013. The complete program can be viewed online at the World Theatre Festival Official Website.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Worthwhile Dumb Play

(Source: Facebook).
Last night I saw the #1,472,505th outcome of Some Dumb Play, which under the direction and creation of Nathan Sibthorpe, is currently showing at Metro Arts until this Saturday. The ambition and premise of the piece is absolutely phenomenal - the audience interact through a specially developed website that allows them to pick three options, with the most popular choice being taken and performed by the cast. There are over 1.5 million possible outcomes, and every night you see it you're practically guaranteed a different performance. I love audience interaction and think it's the most effective way of getting an audience engaged with your performance, so giving the audience a say in what goes on onstage is a fantastic initiative. 

All the actors are very good, extremely proficient at improvising with such ecstatic energy. They're prepared for everything and anything, each exercising an expertise . The acting is pretty good for what little characters they have, in particular the two driving actors are Toby Martin playing a ridiculously devoted actor catering to the whims of the audience, and Cameron Clark's snarky behaviour attempting to boycott and ruin the entire endeavour.

The quality and substance of the scenes varies. The opening gives the audience a choice between cheating spouses, police cop drama and something else that no-one even considered. With the style established, the following choices allow the audience to pick the method of which the story is communicated. There's the choice of singing, dancing, kung-fu, nudity, and racist jokes - some scenes seemed to be just added in as gimmicks, such as a political 'satire' which took up a lot of time with sexual innuendo to simply tell the characters to go through a portal. While some scenes drag along and seem under prepared, a number of others are simply fantastic. There are high speed car chases, bizarre medical phenomenons and song and dance numbers. The most entertaining turn was an interpretative medi-drama dance to t.A.T.u's 'All The Things She Said' - it's a melodramatic moment which is hilariously good fun, and everyone applauded after. If the piece had been entirely filled with work like that, it would have been considerably more rewarding. 

The problem I have with the show is its ambiguous story, and its seemingly pointless progression. During the transitions there are mumbles of how frustrating and irritating the scenes are to stage - gradually the show descends into chaos, although I didn't really understand why. I think I was looking down and voting at the turning point where you were supposed to pay attention, because the next thing I heard was an announcement that Law had been injured (but he looked fine) and was being replaced. The characters then stage walk-outs, swap roles and sabotage the performance. I just never understood why, and furthermore, who are these characters? I don't care if they're unhappy and want to stage a coup d'état because I don't even know why they're making this show. Someone told me the whole thing is an allusion to the degeneration of human interaction through the force of technology - that didn't come through at all?

Lighting was very minimal which was appropriate and effective, since it's difficult to cater for so many potential scenes and outcomes. The sound design is excruciating. The voting takes place over 90 second periods and each interval there is horribly loud white noise transmitted constantly - this is always immediately followed with a slightly less unpleasant crackling fire (no idea why). It actually hurts, someone needs to change that. The rest of the sound effects and music cues are miscellaneous stuff to quickly move the audience into the next scene.

This play would be pretty wretched if you didn't have a smart-phone. An elderly woman sat behind us, and approaching the end of the play sniggered various comments about the audience's choice. I couldn't control myself so near the end I gingerly said "Ah old people . . . not long now". But the fact she was so annoyed could probably be attributed to the fact she didn't have a smart phone, and was unable to have a say in what was going on - it sort of defeats the purpose of seeing the show. 

I wanted to enjoy the piece a lot more than I did, but in the end it's a very bold endeavour and it's a stupid oversight to not be impressed by the sheer scale of the production. It was also very cheap and supporting emerging young artists is essential for our industry to survive, and the plethora of possible outcomes and scenes is absolutely worth experiencing once. However, I wouldn't recommend it if you didn't own a smart phone, since without a device you have no input and I imagine you'd be feel pretty left out. The weak writing of the actual story lets the piece down, but it's held together by great actors who can improvise exceptionally well, interesting concepts for scenes and the novelty of being able to impact on what's being performed. There's such a huge amount of dedication, energy and potential crammed into this piece, and it's worthwhile to be seen and experienced.

Tickets for Nathan Sibthorpe's Some Dumb Play are $12-$20, and is showing at Metro Arts Sue Brenner Theatre until November 17th. Duration of approximately 50 minutes. Book by visiting Metro Arts website.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Love Letter to Music of 2011/2012

Well, music is obviously a big part of my life and sharing it is a pretty important thing for me. I wanted to share some thoughts of all the songs that have meant a lot to me over this last year, with one for each month from October 2011 to September 2012.


'The Broom/Scarlett Flying' by Cirque du Soleil from Iris.

Danny Elfman started composing the music for Iris in 2009, for the shows premiere in 2011. On average, composers for film take around 3 -4 months to complete a score, and Elfman had 2 years. One of my favourite pieces of all time, ‘Scarlett Flying’ is included on Iris.

This piece is important to me because the first time I heard it was at a time in my life where everything was going right. I remember the day I first heard the song (Tuesday 11th of October – I was on my way into university to work on my Performance Innovation assignment), and TaylorJeffs on CT announced that the entire Iris album was available for streaming online. I jumped on the bus and eagerly loaded it up, and actually started crying upon hearing the first few notes because I was so glad Cirque du Soleil could still produce magic in their music.

From my Iris review last year:
"The most coruscating moment on the album is the exquisite and flawless 'The Broom/Flying Scarlett' arrangement. Beginning with a reprise of the opening tune shared delicately between woodwinds and a solo violin while strings flourish softly behind, the piece evolves into something utterly stunning. It provokes this incredible but practically indescribable emotion that resembles something like yearning. It's an ephemeral and achingly beautiful piano waltz paired with this forlorn, angelic voice which fragments and harmonies itself, and slowly layers with chimes and glockenspiels which leads into the striking, driving and powerful orchestra accompaniment. The arrangement is sweeping . . . I'm listening to this right now and I am covered in goosebumps -  it's just so good. "

 The piece is also now included on Le Best of Cirque du Soleil 2, which I'm very happy about. 


'Downside Up' by Peter Gabriel from New Blood.

I’m not a Peter Gabriel fan in general, but ‘Downside Up’ is a song I really fondly remember. Originally it was released on the album Ovo in 2000 (not the shitty Cirque du Soleil one with ‘dodecaphonic melodies’, the soundtrack to the show from the show at the Millennium Stadium). The rendition there is nice, but really heavily synthesised and with mixing that’s a bit boring. While it’s an okay listen it’s not compelling or uplifting. The new version is subtle and mellow to begin with, but the chorus introduces an entire symphony that evokes a visceral and celebratory atmosphere, with a melange of fluttering strings and woodwinds which sound regal and wood-nymphesque.

This version was released in November 2011 on his album New Blood, and is a re-imagined rendition that is performed entirely on orchestra, with new vocals featuring Peter Gabriel and his daughter Melanie Gabriel. At this time, we were just about to open for our Production One performance, The After Dinner Joke. In between rehearsals I busted out this song almost all the time, and I still find listening to the chorus to be an elating way to spend my time . . !


'Musique Pour Gabrielle' by Jorane from 16mm.

I’d known about Jorane since 2007, when I saw her first perform on a Cirque du Soleil DVD (Soleil de Minuit), and was really taken by the piece she performed. Like most performances Cirque do, they’re not particularly good at crediting who does what and what the songs are actually called, so she fell of my radar pretty much entirely until last year. Her new EP, Une Sorcière Commes les Autres, was released last year, and it came recommended to me after I bought another Cirque CD (hurr).

‘Musique Pour Gabrielle’, which was originally released on her album 16mm, is no exception. It’s a quirky, feel good piece that has an eclectic mix of instruments and moods. It starts off very brightly and later moves into a closing phrase that features some of the most gorgeous and earnest cello music that I’ve ever heard. It evokes feelings of wanderlust and homesickness simultaneously, and I love the filmclip because it just shows ordinary people smiling, doing the jobs, dancing at home . . . it makes me feel very nostalgic.

After the La Boite 2012 Season Launch, I walked around the city about 3am. I had a lot to think about and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, so I just walked and listened to this album. The following morning, I went to the GOMA, and this song played while I sat in the atrium, looking out a huge glass window onto the river – I realised I’d come a very long way since the start of the year. While the launch was in October, I started planning ahead for Of Little Matter in December, and that’s’ where the piece (and a lot of Jorane’s music) came to be a huge influence in my style of composing. I hope one day I’m able to write music that moves other people in a similar way.


'En Plein Face' by Harmonium from Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison.

I got introduced to Harmonium through Jorane – after enjoyed The You and the Now so much, I went ahead and picked up Une Sorcière Commes les Autres and discovered that all the songs were covers of French Candaian songs. I particularly enjoyed the cover of ‘En Pleine Face’, which I found was originally buy a folk group called Harmonium (in English the title literally manes “In Your Face”).

The piece, included on one of the bands only EPs Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison, is very gentle because evolving into a somewhat hypnotic and inspiring ballad, and then transforming to something that seems to represent some pleading disappointment – very difficult to describe, and it’s hard to grasp, especially as the song is in French. The band, especially in the closing moments of the song, sound very much like the Beatles.

I alternated between listening to the original and Jorane’s cover. I ended up including this one as I thought it’d be boring to list the same artist twice, though I do like both versions, and both have their advantages over the other. I just like the song because it’s so easy to sing and it’s so memorable – I remember singing it a lot during a dinner with gravity, and one evening I ran into Liesel Zink who laughed and complimented my singing skills in French. Winner.


'Sunday' by Stephen Sondheim from Sunday in the Park With George.

Sondheim’s ‘Sunday’ is far from anything like “an ordinary Sunday”. For some reason I had avoided Sunday in the Park with George for a long time because it just hadn’t appealed to me, but during one rehearsal of Sweeney Todd, Sarah recommended I give it a listen and showed me ‘Sunday’. Even then, it took me a few weeks to get into it, but once I did I was so glad I’d found it. I ordered the CD and when I received it I really enjoyed a few songs (‘Sunday’ the most), although the score is really difficult to engage with initially.

In the musical, the song is performed at the end of Act One, and is then reprise at the end of Act Two to close the show. It is probably Sondheim’s strongest ensemble piece, holding a hauntingly beautiful melody that utilizes the entire ensemble of the show – the version below is from the 2010 Proms. The delivery is stunning, with a huge orchestra and choir which conveys the grandeur and rich texture of the score.

Thematically the song’s lyrics discuss the observations of idyllic surroundings, suggesting the simplicity of life can supply even the most beautiful and inspiring art in the eye of the beholder. As someone who wants to create art, I find that message very special and important.


'Losing My Mind' by Laura Michelle Kelly from The Storm Inside.

Oh, to be young and incredibly good-looking. A very cute and vastly different adaptation to Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Losing My Mind’. Originally it’s a heartbreaking ballad about the uncertainty about the perception of love, but here it’s just something you can bop your head to. I can easily see it in some kind of romantic comedy movie, starring Zooey Deschanel doing various sad-single women things – like doing her hair, diving under covers, eating ice-cream all while simultaneously wailing irrationally.

I’m a director.

Just something to relate a little crush too. :0)


'The Vegemite Song (The Black Death)' by Amanda Palmer from Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under.

Fond conversations with Steven Mitchell Wright drew me back to this one. How could this not be on anyone’s list? Perfectly surmises my thoughts on the subject and I usually redirect people to it when asked for my opinion.


'Libertango' by The Swingle Singers from Too Cubed.

We had been working with Ben Schostakowski in a university unit called Production 2, where we devised a work of theatre under supervision and guidance of an industry professional. We used Ben’s starting point, eisteddfods, to create a work that was a satire on the preparation and process of children competing at eisteddfods.

We were fairly up in the air about what we wanted to focus on, and Ben suggested that we bring some music into the room to add some inspiration. We found this track by the Swingle Singers that unintentionally embodies the entire vibe that we wanted for the production – a melodramatic and over the top creation that regardless of how intense characters were, the ending result is something ridiculous.

I’ve been a fan of Piazola’s music since I heard an interpretation of ‘Libertango’ on bond’s album Shine. The piece is somehow quite romantic, sort of hypnotic with its repetitive descending passages and carries a sense of allure. The vocals of The Swingle Singers, who provide everything and use nothing beyond their voices, adds a complexity and grandeur to the work, and added in the Glee vibe that we were trying to create . Tom and I still bust this one out every now and then.


'Rainbow High' by Andrew Lloyd Webber from Evita Broadway Revival Cast Recording. 

I had actually bought a copy of Evita in 2010, entirely based on the fact that Philip Quast played Juan Peron in the 2006 version. I didn’t think much of it, and I found the music to be pretty unpleasant and the instrumentation to be pretty week. I left it alone for about 2 years until I somehow got very enthused about it in May this year. As it turned out, Evita was currently being revived on Broadway and a new recording came out in June.

The new recording got me enthused about the entire score (probably due to fact that it’s a complete recording) - I'm crazy about Elena Roger, who is perfect in the title role of the trashy and calculated actress who clawed her way to the top and seduced a nation. Her voice has an earthly quality, slightly rough and raw, but powerful and engaging. She is captivating, and while she has attracted a lot of criticism for being too nasal, she is ferocious on the brutal highs and lows of the score, and manages to balances explosive exuberant with a quietly modest and candid.

Roger’s performance in 'Rainbow High' is simply bitching, and she absolutely smashes the ending with these incredibly crazy notes that I imagine would bring the house down. It’s a high paced, hypnotic and a bit of a bizarre song. I regularly scream out passages from this – it’s an insanely catchy piece and a lot of fun to belt out. I sang this a lot all through a dinner with gravity, and frequently ever since.


'You Woke Me Up!' by Andrew Bird from Noble Beast.

Through July I was working with Dave Sleswick on the show Iphigenia 2.0 for Vena Cava Productions. We were one day away from our preview and Dave and I decided that one scene (‘The Bridesmaids’) in particular needed music. We weren’t sure what the mood should be, so Dave tried ‘You Woke Me Up!’ as the temporary soundtrack.

I instantly fell in love with the track and Andrew Bird’s work. The final we ended up using I wrote and recorded the day that we opened for a preview, and although it’s in a different key with a different melody and different instrumentation, I drew a huge amount of inspiration from this track. I love its simplicity and nonchalant mellow mood. It’s sweet and calming, but also warm and playful. I listened to it everyday through the process after and ordered the album from Amazon as soon as I could.


'And I Will Kiss' by Underworld (feat. Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Pandemonium Drummers) form Isle of Wonder.

Written by Underworld for a section in the opening of the 2012 Olympics, this 17-minute mega-mix accompanied a breathtaking and stunning theatrical segment called ‘The Pandemonium’. Around 90 drummers swarmed around the crowd while hundreds of actors pulled up the entire lawn of Olympic stadium, while towers and buildings emerged from the ground.

The piece is led through a thunderous percussion section dominated by Dame Evelyn Glennie, a deaf artist who drums in time based on the vibrations she feels with her bare feet. The piece is an inspirational and explosive anthem. It builds through the use of layers, gradually adding melodies in electronic synthesizers, percussive loops, and chanting, ritualistic vocals. To me it really embodies the atmosphere of the Olympics – an uplifting and indescribable event that really celebrates the world coming together for a few days to celebrate human spirit and athletic talent.

I remember watching the opening (a few days after, since we were in bump-in during the time) and not thinking much of it, but once this came on I thought I had to look up this song. Its like a massive journey across 17 minutes, which can be used to entertain yourself on the train (four listens from Dakabin to uni!), to block out boring people who don’t understand criteria sheets, and just to motivate me whenever I have to do lots of research. Listening to it at full volumes makes my ears ache, but it’s beyond words to describe how much I love it.


'Loving You' by Stephen Sondheim from Passion.

The third Sondheim composition to reach the list, Loving You is the most hummable piece included in the 1993 musical Passion. The piece is brief, a candid and subtle moment which represents a short explanation and resembles a breath - it is the major turning point of the show, where Fosca communicates that her relentless pursuit of Giorgio is not a conscious choice she has made, it is simply who she is.

Fosca is one of the most complex fictional characters I have ever heard of – she is repulsive and impossibly ugly, in the original stage directions and Tarchetti’s original novel she is described as“an ugly, sickly woman: incredibly thin and sallow, her face all bones and nose, her hair pulled tightly back. Just as there is a beauty that surpasses all possible description, so is there an ugliness that escapes every manifestation”. Her character is fragile, occasionally erupting into uncontrollable hysterical outbursts upon accounting thoughts and emotions that she cannot endure. She pursues Giorgio in a fervour that is terrifying, although this piece explains why she does the things she does.

It’s hard to express the deep connection and appreciation I feel towards the story, music and lyrics of Passion. This piece, along with the Passion original recording, played on repeat through September and the start of October as I was writing a professional plan and proposal for a staging of the show for Directing Theatre subject at university. The piece is firmly engraved inside my brain, and I find it simultaneously beautiful and harrowing to be able to acknowledge within Fosca the possible emotions that people are too afraid to express.

So there’re mine. 

What are yours?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A lot to love in Jorane's 'L'instant aimé'

Album artwork for Jorane's L'instant aimé (Source:
I fell in love with Jorane's music around October last year. She performs in an invented language in a way that makes her work universally accessible, unrestricted by lyrics since the voice is de-emphasised as the primary way of communicating the message of the song. Instead, she allows her compositions – melody, mood and instrumentation – to allow people to come to their own interpratations of the music. While in recent years she has focused on performing in French (Vers à soi and Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres), her music is still enjoyable for her hybrid music style of french chanteuse and unusual instrumentation. L'instant aimé is the sixth full-length album from Jorane. While it features pieces in her invented language, the album performed mostly in French lyrics. While the album itself occasionally borders on wearisome with a group of mellow and low-key songs, there is also a lot to love with several amazing standout songs.

The issue I have with the album is the same issue I had with Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres; many of the songs are so similar in structure and instrumentation that they seem to merge into each other and it's difficult to distinguish them apart after repeated listenings - they focus on mood and lyrics rather than interesting technique and memorable melodies. While pieces like 'J'ai demande a la lune', 'Allegeance', 'L'instant aime', and 'Bouteille a la mer' are all pleasant and mellow pieces, as someone who doesn't understand French it feels like there isn't enough variation between them isn't enough to distinguish them.

Many songs on the album showcase Jorane's
flawless vocals and eclectic
musical style (Source: Spectra News)
With that out of the way, of course there are the fantastic moments - the adorable and bright 'Bouquet au coeur' opens the album with great élan, and the jaunty Irish rifts of 'Farfadet' and the disarmingly charming randomness of 'Ma chambre' showcase Jorane's flawless vocals and eclectic music style. As expected, the highlight of the album is the latest instalment of the Film series, 'Film V'. Across her extensive career Jorane has composed four movements including the title 'Film', and L'Instant Aime includes the fifth. 'Film V' is the longest of the five movements, showing the fantastic sparkle that distinguishes Jorane as she showcases her talent at creating art which is evocatic in being simultaneously stirring, powerful but also wistful.

I guess what I'm irrationally disappointed at is the arrangement of the songs on this album in comparison to how they are performed live. In June, Jorane performed at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2012 accompanied by the I Musici orchestra. This highlights video shows her screaming like a maniac, exuding electric energy with some of the most gorgeous arrangements of her pieces I have ever heard. While I do like this album, in comparison to live executions these renditions seem very restrained and sort of dulled - I hope that eventually there is a collaboration between the two again which is recorded.

I do enjoy L'instant aimé, however not as much as I was hoping due to the similarities shared between many of the tracks halting immersion into the material. Although it's not going to win Jorane any new fans or attention, this is a solid album with a lot to love - 'Bouquet au coeur' and 'Film V' have been on non-stop repeat since I got the album, and many of the tracks are a delight to listen to. I hope Jorane makes many, many more albums, and I hope she eventually tours Australia - I'll be there to watch that talent no matter what she plays!

Jorane's 'L'instant aimé' is available worldwide November 12th, available digitally online and from Available on physical CD and digital download. Preview the album for free on Jorane's official website

*This review is of the Canadian physical release of L'instant aiméDigital versions include two bonus tracks, 'Pendant que les champs brûlent' from Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres, and an accoustic rendition of 'Monsieur Piment' featuring the Montréal Guitar Trio.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amaluna Soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil - Chaotic Mess [*]

Album artwork of Amaluna (Source:
I can't remember how many times I've said "The new Cirque du Soleil CD has been released", but given the frequency of the phrase in comparison to how much I say it for every other artist I follow, I don't think it's a good thing. Claiming to "surprise by means of the unexpected" (an egregious oxymoron if there ever was one), Amaluna is a bizarre offering from the company. Under the marketing gimmick of having the whole album performed by women, it contains music from the show from composers Bob & Bill (Guy Dubec and Marc Lessard) with new and inane lyrics, pedestrian mixing, and about a dozen compositions which are not particularly strong.

The album prides itself that it is influenced from heavy rock and that the score is played by a "vivacious all-girl band". Newsflash to everyone working in the marketing team - just because the band is comprised entirely of females doesn't mean that by the music is by default innovative or high quality. The vocalists on the CD featured on the CD are also women, and quite talented - Julie Andrea McInnes's sultry alto tone is a strong contrast to Marie-Michelle Faber's airy and lithe timbre, and they breeze through the little material they receive with great skill. The most prominent vocalist on the album is Jennifer Aubury who has a colourful and clear-cut voice - while it's nothing unique, her vocal performance is strong and she delivers her material perfectly adequately. In terms of the band, their performances are fine but there's not much room for improvisation or any specific showcasing of talent.

Despite any issues with the arrangement. 'All Come Together' ('Magic Ceremony 1' from Le Best of 2) is the flagship of the album, a dreamy piece which enforces the same melody over and over again for about 5 minutes (which concludes with a spectacularly superfluous up-tempo verse tacked on the end which no-one really needed to hear or cares about). 'Hope' is a melancholic and ethereal piece which descends into a strong, pulsating rock segment, although it feels like it finishes far too soon just when it's gaining momentum. The best track on the album is 'O Ma Ley'. It's a delight, being a playful and bright number focusing on percussive and electronic beats which is really catchy, actually having a bridge that doesn't depart from the style of the song, and has a complex time meter that I can't pick out. I also love the little piano ditty 'secret track' which plays at the end of 'Run'.

The trend of Cirque CDs lately have been to have a few good songs while the rest just die of their own irrelevance, so of course the usual filter rubbish is here. 'Fly Around' and 'Tempest' are a mélange of noisy drums, cello and twangy guitar, and 'Burn Me Up' is a generic angsty pop song, but then spits out this hilariously inappropriate jazz woodwind section. 'Mutations' features some skittering rhythms, every panning gimmick you can think of, and some schitzophrenic breathing (at one point someone actually moans "OUCH!" - I screamed in the middle of the computer labs). Other tracks really suffer because they don't seem to be confined to a specific genre, like 'Running on the Edge', 'Ena Fee Alyne' and 'Enchanted Runion' which amble around with a chaotic array of instruments, tempo and style, although despite this the entire score doesn't seem to have enough variation and distinction of sound.

The production quality of this album is pretty lousy. It's not mixed particularly well - while it's an electronic album the techniques such panning, reverb, and distortion are naturally in use, but are so frequently utilised it borders on the excessive. Despite claiming otherwise, the mixing doesn't resemble a heavy rock album because it's so dull. The drums are not prominent enough and the quality of the album is too polished, which removes the raw and powerful details that make other artists so invigorating. The compositions themselves are quite mediocre in that they seem to focus entirely on one melody and keep layering it without moving to a bridge, and for what is there the arrangement of the pieces sometimes leave a lot to be desired.

There are some amateur conclusions to pieces, a lot of focusing on build ups which lead to nothing while other verses feeling as though they need extending to develop movement. There are so many bizarre moments, like McInnes muttering "SI!" at the beginning of verses in 'Run'. There's also a few weird production screw ups (like someone left their mic on at the end of O Mi Lay and you can hear the drummer fixing their sticks). To me, the weirdest element of this album is the lyrics. In the production, the lyrics are all performed in the imaginary Cirquish language. On this album, they're performed with (very clichéd and contrived) English lyrics - if this was what the composers originally wanted, why not perform the show's songs in English and then create the album in English, or vis-versa? The lyrics themselves are mundane and seem tacky since the rhymes are too convenient (one example, "I'm not a liar - I want the fire" or something like that).

The album is better that some of Cirque's recent offerings, but it is the weakest score that Bob & Bill have composed for Cirque du Soleil, and that's disappointing since Totem was a promising beginning and Les Chemins Invisbles had some excellent pieces. Despite its few strong moments, Amaluna is a short fall from the "guitar-oriented electronic anthem" style it claimed to create. It's a chaotic mess, a pedestrian production of a very mediocre score.

Cirque du Soleil 'Amaluna' is available November 19th from their online boutqiue and on Available on physical CD and digital download. Preview the entire album for free on Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna official website.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Love Letter to 'A Tribute of Sorts'

"Ivan and Juniper have a peculiar task. Over the course of one night, they must reenact a list of alphabetically ordered, but altogether unfortunate events. With lo-fi charm and eisteddfod zest, each incident is luridly reimagined, becoming more outrageous and elaborate as the night progresses."
Edward Gorey noted that "Ideally, if anything was any good, it would be indescribable". That quote is perfect when applied to Monsters Appear's current production at La Boite Indie. I remember that when I saw and reviewed the prelude to A Tribute of Sorts at World Theatre Festival earlier this year (titled A Spectacular of Sorts), I laughed so much at what was happening on stage that I started laughing at how much I was laughing, and in turn the entire audience started laughing along. I marked it as one of the highlights of the festival, and I recommended that everyone make the effort to see the show in its next incarnation at La Boite Indie. I didn't think that a few months later I would be involved in working on the same show as a stage hand.

After working with him on another show for university, Ben (the writer and director), invited Jordan, Tom and me to coffee to invite us to work on the show. It was prefaced that this wasn't going to be a paid job and it was going to be a lot of work, but we were immediately absolutely committed to the project since we knew it would be a great and valuable learning experience, and that it would be a lot of fun.

Turns out it was exactly what we though it would be. The narrative revolves around cousins Ivan and Juniper Plank, who take it upon themselves to coordinate a grim but hilariously inappropriate homage to children who find death "a little too quickly". Ben's vision, which was devised collaboratively with the stunningly talented and attractive actors Dash Kruck and Emily Curtin, is utterly charming, with an achingly funny script, superb acting skills and an irresistibly odd concept.

It has been an exhausting few weeks for all involved - for Jordan, Tom and I it's been insane. As ASMs we have to move sets in and out as quickly and quietly as possible, ensuring that the audience don't notice anything going on backstage. There are dozens of props, several of which don't make it out every night since I usually screw up something, numerous costume changes and countless curtain pulls. It's been stressful (we didn't even manage to have a full dress run before our preview), but it's now clicked and we're totally capable and able to manage the show. We're overseeen by Tenneale, a total daemon bitch who is just awesome - she coordinates the entire show, making sure we know what we're doing and keeping us quiet while simultaneously feeding us with candy and love. She resonates power. The rest of the creative team - including Jason, Whitney, Ashleigh, Lucas, and Jeff - were awesome and so slick at what they do. Everything just seemed to work so smoothly.

The show is insanely funny, and it has been overwhelming to hear how much people have enjoyed it. There have been so many great reviews, the show has been pretty much consistently sold-out, and people have said that they have adored it. I'm really proud to have had some involvement in the show, and I'm so glad for Ben, Dash and Emily that their creation has been so popular and so enthusiastically received. They're such generous and gorgeous people, and I really hope I get to work with them all again to some extent one day. Their talent and creativity is makes me want to cower into a ball and panic that I'll never be able to create something that has so much heart and soul while being simultaneously entertaining!

I've loved the process and feel lucky I've been a part of it. Thank you to everyone who attended, to everyone who bought a ticket, and to everyone who helped to bring this piece to life. The final two performances are sold out, although at the rate people have enjoyed it, I'm sure it'll be back at some stage.

Tickets for Monster Appear's A Tribute of Sorts are $18-$28, and is showing at La Boite Theatre Company from October 25th until November 10th. Duration of approximately 70 minutes.