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Category: Reviews

Reflections: Apollo 13 Mission Control @ Brisbane Powerhouse

Raise your hand if you like a bit of Tom Hanks in a tin can?

You know what I mean. The movie Apollo 13. It is just bloody good fun, in that whole will he or wont he kind of way. Spoiler. He does.

Question. Take this story based on the events of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission and then stick it on stage where the audience (or at least a good deal of them) is in mission control and what do you have?

Well, want you don’t have is the will he or wont he. Not because there isn’t a Tom Hanks in sight, and certainly not because the fundamental story isn’t gripping. It is, regardless of familiarity.

But perhaps primarily because of the way it is done. This is an experiment in immersive theatre where the audience is involved in the re-telling of the drama. This is it’s strength and it’s weakness.

Your average person of the street is not a trained actor and will have only a basic familiarity with the story. Ask them even on mass to help in a re-telling and you got to be on your game. And indeed Hackman (the creators) are on their game, amazingly so.

Review: I Love You, Bro – La Boite

Charming, delicate, and deliciously self-mocking this lovingly crafted one man show is an absolute winner.

Johnny is a fourteen year old logged onto a chat room as LBJ. There he meets Markymark. A football star a couple of years his senior. Markymark mistakes LBJ to be a girl. Oh the deliciousness of it all. What pranks could a fourteen year boy pull on the older lad? Well, not so much of a prank. No, in fact, Johnny falls in love with him.

For serious right? Well, yes, but also a lot of bloody fun.

You see, what is poor old Johnny (as LBJ) going to say to him when he wants to meet? That’s right, Markymark is a regular horny teenage boy who’s going to want to see this LBJ in the flesh (if you get my drift), I mean, really wants to see this LBJ. Clearly this isn’t going to work for Johnny. And so the real deception begins. LBJ gets a step-brother, then another step-brother (actually Johnny) then a dangerous ex-boyfriend out for revenge, parents, obviously – and well – the cast of fictitious characters begins to outweigh the actual. Indeed a veritable army of online handles come into existence all designed to help Johnny get his man. And does he? Well, you’ll have to see it.

Our hero is brilliantly writ and played. The language walks this beautiful balance of teenage innocence crossed with an adult sophistication able to comment on the shear absurdity of the increasingly complex story Johnny creates.

Sure the play captures unrequited love, but perhaps more interestingly, there is a real art to the way Johnny goes about playing his creations. Throwing himself deep into the lie, so even he begins to lose sight of the real.

I Love You, Bro is one of those rare theatrical treats where we get to be kids and adults, where we laugh, where we barrack for our hero, where we go on the roller-coaster too. Although it is based of an English story, it’s Australian theatre at its most fine.

Recommended for all. Take a date, take you’re mum, take your son. Either way you’ll get a good laugh and a fine night out.

Show watched Thursday 22nd July 2010.

Playing at La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse. Season extended until 15th Aug 2010.

Review: Tender – Metro Arts & …and moor theatre

Tender is an honest and hard working play on loss and love.

A young man and a woman are very much in love, the sort of love that creates lines in the mind, defines the personalities within that love, and everything else as being without. Joyous and serious.

Only, the man is gone, missing – traumatically so.

The woman? As if unable to live or redefine herself without him, has forgotten – unable to even make new memories. Past and present get muddled, identity gets consumed, and love gets tested.

The parents of the missing young man are split – torn between between their love for their son, their feelings towards their damaged daughter-in-law, and their need to keep their only grandchild in their life.

The mystery? Can this perfect love survive even this most tragic of circumstance. A difficult and worthwhile endeavour.

Strangely this production doesn’t quite succeed in wrenching us through that same knot of anguish so evident on stage, despite some fine performances and beautiful design. However where it does succeed is perhaps more important, for the production wraps you within an Australian aesthetic – a dramatic aesthetic as much as a design aesthetic – that quietly seeps into you giving both the performance and the audience that feeling of belonging – yes, it’s meant to be there on an Australian stage, and yes, we are right to be here, to prefer this flawed Australian struggle to an import.

This play then as much as anything is about claiming within us a space for Australian drama – how do an Australian husband and wife react at the loss of a son? how does a young Australian wife fight against her inner demons? And importantly, how does this make us Australians feel.

And so for me, perhaps even because of its flaws, it made me feel love and perhaps quietly proud.

Recommended of those seeking Australian fiction, for romantics, for those engaged in the Australian aesthetic.

Show watched 30th June 2010.

Playing at Metro Arts until the 17th of July.