Thursday, November 22, 2012

I, Animal at Melbourne Zoo: Don't bring the kids!

Don’t bring the children to this adults-only experience at Melbourne Zoo. Seriously, don’t. I, Animal is an irresistible piece of interactive performance art, utilising patrons and zoo creatures as cast, and the environs of Melbourne Zoo as stage and set. 

Following the success of I Am Not An Animal (Ruby Award for Innovation 2012), Adelaide company, ‘The Border Project’, were commissioned by Zoos Victoria to create what is a unique interactive experience.

Here’s how it works. On arrival patrons are armed with a personal device, the ‘Zoe’ designed by Arts Processors, the team behind the ‘O’ device at the MONA Gallery in Hobart. After a series of introductory questions outside the main entrance, you are divided into four groups are led on a separate themed experiences.

I was allocated to the group exploring notions of life, death, survival and extinction. Its confrontation is surprising, warm and sensitive, and I was told later that it is the most affecting of the groups, particularly for those who’ve recently experienced the death of a loved one. Even so, there are laughs. 
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Philanthropic Dairy Farmer Builds Gallery and Theatre (and then gives it away)

If you were to travel 11km beyond Colac, in a north-westerly direction you would happen upon a most unlikely establishment. Surrounded by pretty undulating pastureland, Red Rock Regional Theatre and Gallery is the first building to welcome the traveller to the little town ship of Cororooke.

Since opening in December 2011, Red Rock Regional Theatre and Gallery is proving to be a great success, and a community hub for a variety of arts groups, performances, exhibitions and activities.

Philanthropist dairy farmer Andrew Beale, was the driving force and financial benefactor for Red Rock Arts, and has named the Carolyn Theatre after his baby daughter who died in a car accident. The entire extension and renovation was completed in just six months. Continue reading

Friday, October 26, 2012

Geoffrey Rush Reveals Unsung Sondheim Lyrics for Melbourne: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Geoffrey Rush (Pseudolus)
According to Geoffrey Rush, Melbourne audiences will be treated to Sondheim’s ‘as yet unperformed lyrics’ when the show opens at Her Majesty’s Theatre this Saturday.

Speaking to Stage Whispers this afternoon, the 61 year-old actor revealed the song in question is ‘one of the major numbers, which has always traditionally been done as a choreographed dance number for all the courtesans in the brothel. [Sondheim had] originally written verses for them to sing. So Simon [Phillips] said, We’re going to reinstate that.’

Mitchell Butel, Shane Bourne, Gerry Connolly and Geoffrey Rush

After a forty-year acting career, it’s surprising to learn it is possible to astonish the Triple Crown actor (with Academy, Tony and Emmy awards to his name), and yet last Friday night’s preview was something of a revelation.

Magda Szubanski
‘As we discovered at our first preview, when you have 1800 people [in this theatre] they bark. They bite back at us with an energy that I don’t think I’ve ever experience at quite that level,’ Rush mused. ‘The show’s got some ingredient that’s above and beyond what’s on the page. It kind of ignites in the house and it gets a bit out of control. It felt like a rock n roll stadium the other night. People were clapping along in the first number. I’ve never experienced that.‘

Rush is top billing in a comedic cast that oozes hilarity, hijinks and mayhem. Speaking to Stage Whispers today, was another of the show’s drawcards, the inspirational Magda Szubanski (Domina). Wearing an extraordinary red wig, Szubanski said she was ‘loving playing such a haughty bitch’.

‘I haven’t managed to get through one show yet without laughing,’ she smiled. ‘This is a funny, funny bunch of people. It’s rare in the theatre that you really belly laugh, but this show has got really big laughs. That’s kind of an indication of the kind of night you’re in for. But really if you put this bunch of people together its either gonna fall apart and degenerate, or its going to work. And its going gang-busters.’ Continue reading

Watch preview and interviews

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Sondheim Gets a Ticket to Melbourne Season

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hamer Hall Reopens: Is it $136 Million Well Spent?

Riverside entrance with access from water transport
The $136 million refurbishment of Hamer Hall (formally the Melbourne Concert Hall) has been delivered on time and within budget, and is now open to the public after two years labour. But what will patrons, performers, production and technical teams get for the money?

The Hamer Hall renovation has seemingly touched every aspect of the venue, with improvements made backstage, front of house, in green rooms, to technology and even in the delivery dock. Arts Centre Melbourne says an expected annual increase of 600,000 new visitors to the precinct justifies the cost.

Schuler Shook was the theatre-planning consultant engaged for the project. Their work represents the greatest cost portion at $128.5 million, and the most extensive. Company partner Robert Shook said the company’s contribution included planning the auditorium and stage, front-of-house and back-of-house areas, and designing and specifying the special theatre equipment systems such as audience seating, stage rigging, stage lifts, and stage lighting. 

“Our planning work includes studying audience sight lines and ensuring that all audience members have the best possible view of the stage,” he told Stage Whispers. 

When Hamer Hall opened 30 years ago, some regarded the structure to be dull and austere. Recent changes to access and aesthetics should make the arrival experience gentler and more user-friendly.

City view from riverside entrance
Conceptually the building has been ‘turned around’ 90 degrees. Patrons are drawn to the vast glass walls and walkways on the north side, offering a pleasing view of the Melbourne skyline, riverside access, and boulevard walk along the river to Southgate. A new ramp from the river-boulevard to street level improves access.

While the St Kilda Road entrance remains, an additional entrance from the river enables access to and from Southbank restaurants. If you have a boat, presumably you can now paddle to concerts via the Yarra, alighting at the new riverside entrance. It’s all so Venetian, darling!  Continue reading

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Hamer Hall Reopens in Glittering Style