Tuesday 18 January 2005

Falling So Slowly by Steve Willis, Jan 18, 2005

 Falling So Slowly  by Steve Willis  
  Fly-on-the-Wall Theatre 
2005 Midsumma Festival

 Randall Theatre, St Martins Lane, South Yarra, Jan 18 to until February 5, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Award-winning American playwright, Steve Willis, began his play, Falling So Slowly, on a snowy, winter's day. Snow falling gently outside a New York apartment plays a role in his play.

Two young men meet in a bar and go home together for a night of what they expect to be just a wild, anonymous one-night stand. What surprises them is that it develops into a more intimate experience that might evolve into a relationship.

Grant (Brian Davison) is a well-dressed, 31-year-old African-American musician and college drop out, struggling with part-time jobs. He comes from a family of classical music lovers and enjoys Chopin.

Bobby (Christopher Pender) is almost Grant's opposite. He is nineteen, white, uneducated, from Alabama in the Deep South, victim of child sexual abuse and evicted from home by his mother.

The surprise is that Bobby, despite his small town background, seems affluent, living in a slick and expensive apartment in New York City. (designed by Stacy Gardoll) Clearly, there are secrets in Bobby's life and work.

We suspect immediately, as does Grant, that Bobby is a hustler, a boy prostitute but we discover he does gay pornography movies.

Although Grant tries to leave Bobby's apartment in the early hours after their sexual antics, he is compelled to stay and know the boy better. Obviously, these two want more form each other than just sex.

The pair spend most of the night talking, although there is another explicit sex scene before dawn.

Willis's characters are credible but the dialogue is sometimes repetitive and expository.

The falling snow seems a metaphor for their slow dance of intimacy but the metaphor is not fully integrated.

Pender is believable as the naïve and needy Bobby. Davison brings a lively energetic presence to the stage although his vocal quality is sometimes repetitive.

Director, Robert Chuter, keeps the pace rapid and scene changes unobtrusive.

The production might benefit form some silence and space between the dialogue to allow us to witness the impact of the meeting upon the pair and to see their inner worlds.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 12 January 2005

Heads Up! Alex Jones & Florette Cohen, Jan 12, 2005

 Heads Up! written by Alex Jones and Florette Cohen
by TAJ Productions 

 Deaflympics Cultural Festival
 BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square, Jan 12 to 15, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Heads Up! is a joyful show designed both to entertain and educate audiences about Deaf culture and Auslan, the Australian Sign Language.

The show is the Australian contribution to the Deaflympics Cultural Festival program. Alex Jones and Florette  Cohen perform a collage of stories, mime, song, dance and an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

Jones, who is also Artistic Director of the Festival, is a Deaf actor while Cohen is Hearing but fluent in Auslan.

The show uses English and Auslan as well as a theatrical visual and physical language to tell its stories and communicate with a mixed Deaf and Hearing audience. Many audience members used sign language from other countries.

The pair begins with a lively and fun version of a pop song, Life and then proceed to teach us several useful and simple signs in Auslan; Yes, No, Deaf, Hearing.

The eye-opener was the Auslan sign for Australia. It is a visual image depicting the English transporting convicts to Australia.

Some of the vignettes are cheeky mime stories. The first is a short comic physical and completely silent scene between two competitive painter-decorators. It is used to demonstrate how a story can be told without language- either English or Auslan - using only body language and facial expression.

Audience participates cheerfully in the learning of sign and several are called on stage to make moving machines. In this show, we had a physicalised, human version of a photocopier, a pencil sharpener and a crane made by volunteers.

Another story told verbally and in Auslan then in theatrical language, was an Aboriginal tale of how the birds got their colours. It was a charming dance piece.

The final piece was Romeo and Juliet, a universal love story re-jigged to tell the tale of a Deaf Romeo and a Hearing Juliet who met and fell in love despite their families being at war.

It was a crisp, funny and clever way to demonstrate difference and prejudice through a well-known story.

The finale was a group participation song with the audience learning to sign words to I am we are we are Australian.

Heads Up! brings new energy to the educational theatre arena and it seems to be a very effective learning tool for students and adults alike. I certainly know more Auslan than I did when I arrived.

LOOK FOR: Juliet's speech on the balcony

By Kate Herbert

Monday 10 January 2005

Toys by Toys Theater, Jan 10, 2005

Toys  by Toys Theater   
produced by xeAxe International
Deaflympics Cultural Festival
 BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square  Jan 10 to 14, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Toys Theater,  Russian theatre for the Deaf, is part of the Deaflympics Cultural Festival.

Toys is a children's performance with four charming physical performers, all of whom are Deaf.

The show is a series of vignettes with actors playing a mechanical toy, each uncannily accurate in its mechanical movements.

The Toy-Dwarf (Alexander Filimonov OK) is a quirky, clown character who controls the other toys with his remote control and teases the audience.

Filimonov has a mischievous glint in the eye and a dexterity of movement as this cheeky character. Toy-Dwarf is dressed as a brass band leader wearing gold epaulets and a wind up mechanism implanted in his back.

Loudmila Romanovskaya (OK) is the pretty, girlish dancing Doll, the childlike love interest for the male toys.

The chubby Toy-Cook (Vassily Solonitsky OK) is a charmingly petulant chef who stamps his feet and plays like a child. His cheeky seduction scene with female audience members is very cute.

Toy-Boy (Ilya Goltsov OK) is a romantic spiv who believes in his own charms and uses them on the Doll. Goltsov is an adroit mime artist who prances, dances and romances as Toy-Boy.

There are many highlights in the seven scenes. Toy Dwarf manipulating the other toys movements with his remote control is a demonstration of their great mimetic prowess in mechanical movement.

The road trip sees Toy-Boy and Doll driving their mime car on a comically dangerous trip.

But it is the mini tennis match between Toy-Boy and Toy-Cook that takes the prize. Toy-Boy, using his boater hat as a raquet, plays a challenging tennis match against Toy-Cook who bats the ball back with his frying pan. Doll controls the huge ball on the end of a stick in classic clown style. It is hilarious.

Apart from the skill and humour of the actors, the experience of being a Hearing person in a predominantly Deaf audience was extraordinary. I have never seen signed applause - a room full of silent people with raised hands and wiggling fingers.

Toys is accessible to all ages, Deaf or Hearing. It is cheerful and a reminder of all those favourite game and stories from childhood.

LOOK FOR:  Other Deaflympics shows: Heads Up (Australia) Jan 12 and 15; Mosaic (USA) Rainman (Canada)  and Contraposition, (India) all Jan 10-15

By Kate Herbert