Saturday, October 10, 2015

Limbo, Melbourne Festival 2015, Review


Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Photo by Tony Virgo

In the promo brlurb for Limbo is the cheeky line, 'The show so hot, Madonna came twice.' To whoever came up with that line, chapeau.

Limbo is indeed an exciting show, a mashup of circus, cabaret and live music with a little bit of magic thrown into the mix. That it all takes place inside an art deco Spiegeltent – on this occasion on a perfect Melbourne Spring night – makes for a memorable night out.

The overall vibe feels kind of French gypsy, but the troupe is actually a motley collection of insanely talented performers from around the world. There are stunning solo demonstrations of contortion, tap dance, hand balancing, acrobatics, aerial grace and sword swallowing, but they also work together in duets or with the whole cast as one team. The melding of such diverse talents and the morphing from one skill to another are as impressive as the feats of strength and balance themselves. The trust the performers have in each other is also something to be admired.

Highlights include the German contortionist Tigris, whose flexibility edges by degrees towards downright freaky whilst retaining a weird kind of grace; Australian dancer Hilton Dennis who taps solo before being joined by American sword swallower Heather Holliday (she tap dances here, sword swallows later) and French Canadian aerialist Evelyne Allard who adds to the dancing dynamics some unexpected and exciting percussion; and the hand balancing Russian-born (Australian?) Danik Abishev. The pole dancing, the fire breathing, the aerial work, all highlights. However the one act guaranteed to be everyone's absolute highlight of the night is the threesome on the tall bendy poles. This act is the essence of circus. It is thrilling, it is both physically demanding and physically elegant, and it is fun. Big fun for the performers and for us.

The live band is used as a filler between acts, but it is not mere filler; its very much part of the show. And as if the stage performers weren't multi talented enough, many appeared to also play music, sing and beatbox, with the band headed up by the dynamic ringmaster figure Elyas Khan.

Given the athletic nature of the show, there is plenty of eye candy. The dance scenes – often a combination of acrobatics and dance – are bawdy, flirty and playful, with the night perhaps a little top-heavy with shirtless guys with their perfectly sculpted bodies and sheen of sweat... seriously – who has bodies that perfect? But the girls have their moments with the tattooed Heather Holliday looking particularly exotic in that bygone era, sideshow kind of way. Yum.

I raved about the Fringe's Barbaroi a couple of weeks ago, and while not wanting to put that show down (I really enjoyed it), put simply, Limbo is next level.

At The Melbourne Festival Spiegeltent until November 1st.

Jeremiah's Tuesday, Butterfly Club, Review

Jeremiah's Tuesday

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

One hour. One actor. A whole lot of words and ideas. That's mono-drama, baby, and it has to be hard work making it look this easy.

Stefan Mrowinski provides the text and direction, actor Steven Kennedy brings the story to life, on this occasion in the downstairs theatre at the wonderfully quirky Butterfly Club. Set and sound design are minimal, so the focus really is on this one performer and his arsenal of words. He'd better be damned good if this is going to be any good.

It's raining. Lots of rain. Biblical rain, as the biblically named Jeremiah tells his story. The situation is not completely clear in the beginning. Who is Jeremiah? What is it with Tuesdays and rain and what is he looking for with those gold binoculars? Where is he? Is he hiding? Who from?

It's intriguing from the start as this strange, Catweazle-like character (but better looking and with a more impressive beard) tells us a story, his story, stories within stories. But Jeremiah ain't no Catweazle. He is something far darker, more of this world even though there is something more of-another-world feel to Jeremiah and his current situation.

Jeremiah's Tuesday is an observation of politics, humanity and power, and how dangerous and ultimately - perhaps inevitably - fragile the mix is. Apparently first written 25 years ago, it would appear to have been updated somewhat to include some current world affairs, whilst at the core of the thing... lets just say some things never change. There is plenty to recognise here from history old and recent.

The play is well paced and well structured with the text often poetic and playful, as well as slightly surreal. In fact there was a faintly surreal feel about the whole thing. Maybe not surreal, just otherworldly. Think Catweazle as a dethroned despot in hiding, finally accepting the fact that you and I and he together brought about his downfall.

I have it on good authority that the narrative during this performance might have been occasionally confusing due to opening night jitters and forgotten lines. I simply thought any minor plot obscurity was due to the nature of the thing, the kind of story that demands you pay attention. Overall the narrative came together and I certainly saw no sign From Mr Kennedy that he had fluffed anything. It was a seamless and thoroughly engaging performance.

So was it any good? Yeah, it was pretty damn good.

Black Stamp Productions has been invited to take Jeremiah's Tuesday to the United Solo Festival on Broadway, no less. It was a brief run here (last chance to see it tomorrow) but hopefully it will do well in New York and see another run here.

At The Butterfly Club, Carson Lane, Melbourne

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Life & Love

And all too quickly it is over.
The loves,
The likes
The misunderstandings
And the disagreements,
Suddenly it's all over.

But She was there through it all.
With her love and acceptance
And her understanding,
And her disagreement
And the essence of her.

You realise,
As your world implodes
And you die and disappear,
That you wouldn't have had it
Any other way.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I'm posting this because it's a lovely photo and it's hilarious. In the background is my very special friend and surrogate kid sister Kat. In the foreground is a guy who thinks he is having his photo taken. The photographer is a professional. He's also Kat's partner and future husband. Hilarious, no?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Girls Night Out

This is how silly I am. This photo was taken recently at The Spiegeltent on Johnston Street in Collingwood. We had just seen Finucane & Smith's burlesque show, Glory Box.

I was there with The Dreaded One, we bumped into some friends. Someone asked The Dreaded One to take a photo. She took the photo.

I stupidly had no real idea that our friends were having a girls night out until this photo surfaced the next day. I probably should have taken the photo.

Barbaroi At Gasworks, 2015, Review


Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Barbaroi is, apparently, an old Roman word meaning barbarian. Someone who is coarse, unrefined, uncivilsed. Certainly this circus is devoid traditional circus frills... no men in tights here. It's also devoid of other circus paraphernalia such us safety harnesses and safety nets, which was cause for the audience to move forward in its seat and clench its buttocks on more than one occasion.

A quick search has revealed little about who these particular Barbaroi are (no dialogue was spoken so we can't even hazard a guess at their nationalities – perhaps a mix of local and overseas performers?), so I'll just tell you a little about what they do. It's basically just showing off, but in the best possible ways.

There was a guy who did ridiculous things on a single piece of rope dangling from the ceiling, as well as another guy doing equally ridiculous things with two straps dangling from the ceiling. As someone who has been known to tie his shoelaces in knots late at night, I have no idea how someone can wrap straps around their forearms and manage to somersault themselves up to the ceiling. Once up there, most sensible people would be screaming for someone to get them down from there. But this guy –
this guy hung about for a bit before kind of unsomersaulting gracefully back down.

There were a couple of strapping guys who threw an incredibly flexible and trusting performer between them and swung her sometimes like a human skipping rope. At times she seemed frozen for a moment in mid air - above that unforgiving hard floor - only to be caught and flung again with astonishing precision. The team work was insanely good.

As was the... erm... lets call her an Upside Down Foot Juggler. She sashayed onto the stage with a knowing air about her, oozing the kind of confidence must of us have when it comes to brushing our teeth. Only this woman –
this woman – lay upside down on a purpose built bench, warmed up by juggling balls with her feet, then did a whole lot more showing off by doing seemingly impossible things with a wooden table. She flipped it, spun it and twirled it, her feet working with a furious dexterity, like little creatures with minds of their own. Later she performed a similar routine with a stack of suitcases. As someone who has brutally kicked the life out of a broken suitcase on the streets of Paris, I was quietly stunned with the clever and delicate things she was doing with her feet and some luggage. I don't doubt those toes would be capable of manipulating the combination locks. Amazing.

As was the guy who looked like one of the leads from television series Vikings. What this guy did with a huge blue hoop... lets just say you're probably never going to see such a mesmerisingly beautiful routine performed by a Viking and his big blue hoop. It was graceful and lovely and I didn't want him to stop.

I did want the juggler to stop. He was having a bad night, but to be fair, he was doing some crazy-clever juggling. That he also moved with the grace of a trained dancer and did a great job later on a single pole more than made up for a couple of dropped balls. Multi-talented show off.

I recently saw a still photo of a dancer walking along a row of upright glass bottles. Apparently it was a famous routine in some bygone era. The cynic in me, which is basically me, assumed the shot was somehow staged because how in the hell can anyone walk across a row of standing bottles? It just not humanly possible... and there before my eyes there was someone actually doing it. Co-performers slid bottles across the floor to form a path of stepping stone bottles – and she actually stepped from one to the next to another. I could regale you with many stories about bottles and balance and falling over; this is not one of them. And I certainly won't be attempting this at home.

There was a couple who danced and balanced on a tube and a board, with the female performer finishing of by balancing atop an impossibly high and wobbly tower of tubes criss-crossed on top of each other. My palms sweat at the mere memory.

What felt like the show's climax was not actually the last act. It was a springboard piece complete with high jumps into the air, tumbles and twirls and more of that uncanny teamwork and precision. Majestic, thrilling and fun.

The physical performances were complemented perfectly by a varied soundtrack which included some gutsy electro grunge, some Matt Corby indie-alt-folk-rock-pop (or whatever the music boffins call it), as well as a melange of ethnic styles served richly and crisply. It all sounded so good. The recurring theme of flirting/courtship throughout the show was also a fun touch.

I may not know who these Barbaroi were, but I really enjoyed seeing them strut their stuff in this intimate space at The Gasworks. Great night out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Just You

Came a time when they were all gone. They just weren't there any more. The ones with the bright eyes and the warm hugs and the best of intentions and the wise thoughts you wanted to listen to forever. Came a time when they just weren't there any more. There was just you. Alone, stupid, inconsiderate you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New Hawaiian Bar Opening Soon

Andrew McConnell, one of the country's leading restaurateurs, often comes into the cafe for a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. I recently asked him about the renovations he is having done to the space next to Cutler & Co. This is a conversation I've imagined having with him next time he comes in.

"Hello, Andrew. How's the Hawaiian Bar coming along?"

Long blank stare. "I beg your pardon?"

"What's it going to be like anyway? You going to have all the waiters dress in floral shirts like Magnum? Are the waitresses going to wear grass skirts and those coconut shells on their boobies? That would be awesome."

Even longer blank stare. "I said wine bar, not Hawaiian bar."

"Oh. I see. No coconut shells on boobies then. Erm... your toasty is ready."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Frances Ha

Just watched this. Hadn't heard of it before. Liked it a lot.

Last Order Of The Day

Late in a long, busy day in the cafe, the last of the customers have finally left and I'm in pack-down-clean-up-and-get-out mode. The door opens and a guys wants to know if we are still open. I tell him we are closed but I can still make him a takeaway coffee if he wants. I leave cleaning the coffee machine until the very end of the day for this very reason. The guy tells me a takeaway coffee would be great.

He then launches into a garbled story about his mother being in hospital and he doesn't have any money but here - I have this bag full of things so I can leave it here and come back with the money.

Awesome, I think - this is just a great way to end the day. He's a street person, clearly wired up wrong. I should have just said that we were closed and I know he would have left. Irritated, I find myself hurriedly making a coffee that I will never see payment for. I want to make it fast to get him out and so that I can get on with closing up.

He continues talking almost to himself, but he clearly thinks he is having a conversation, perhaps with me.

I feel guilty for being irritated, and I slow down. I decide to make him the best coffee I can, as though he is one of our paying customers, because in the big scheme of things, it's just a cup of coffee. And how good must a good, hot latte with two sugars taste when you're living rough?

He takes his coffee and his bag full of things and his muttered conversation, and he leaves the cafe, perhaps thinking he has pulled a swifty on me. I really don't care, I just hope he enjoys his coffee.