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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: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre

You may have heard the phrase absurdist and thought it to describe any number of plays or movies you’ve seen that were just a bit weird. Like the writer had perhaps taken a spot of acid and knocked off a couple of pages whilst on a really bad trip. (Say Bob, I like all that whole boy meets girl and fall in love thing, but what’s with pink elephant on page 39?) Well in theatre we tend to get a bit carried away. (That’s right, Bob my friend, take big swig of that absynthe you and him are going to be friends for a while.)

As to be absurd is, by its very nature, not to make any sense. Absurdist theatre then presents non-sense and attempts to make sense of it. Something, well, quite difficult to do.

What’s so weird about these plays then? Well it depends, sometimes the structure of the work is off, sometimes the language, sometimes the characters, sometimes more –

All of this is true for Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs.

The Chairs does follow a story of sort though. An old happily married couple, A Man and A Woman, are going to have guests around. Why are they coming around? Well, to listen to the Orator, naturally. And what does this Orator have to say? Well, the great meaning of life as realised by the Man, who, despite a beautifully comic turn of phrase, feels inadequate to the task of relating it himself.

The guests arrive, only there are no guests merely the chairs brought forth by The Woman upon which they sit. Introductions are made, half conversations are heard – clearly in the minds of the married couple, they are entertaining!

The play picks up as each new guest arrives, the numbers pick up, guests and more guests, the whole room is packed tight – chairs everywhere – and indeed the arrival of the orator is anticipated with great interest.

Where’s the absurdism? Well in the performance. In that gnawing gash in your mind that screams – but there’s no-one there!

The Chairs then is at times is quite brilliant, with the language exuding through the space, filling the emptiness. This pleasant mixture of anecdote, rhyme, derision, repetition, romanticism and non-sequiturs at times leave you in splits of laugher and at others puzzling over what you’ve missed while another audience member erupts on the other side of the room.

It’s not an easy play on an audience then, partly because our dear playwright is as times taking aim right at us, and partly because of the intensity with which it attempts to get its message across.

Indeed, as absurdist theatre goes, it accomplishes its goal; to draw us in and push us out, to make us laugh, and make us think. That it doesn’t fit our preconceived notions about that way theatre and stories are supposed to be told is kind of the point.

Recommended for those who like their comedies to gnaw, for those with a poetic heart, and all students of theatre.

Show watched Thurs 10th June.

Playing until 4th of July 2010 at the Roundhouse theatre, Kelvin Grove.

Presented by La Boite Theatre

Review: Fat Pig – QTC

This tricky piece – tricky because you don’t want to be too heavy handed with the subject material – is a somewhat refreshing attempt to bring some levity to an otherwise taboo topic – being overweight. With Australia no so long since being named the fattest nation in the world (ref The Age) it clearly seemed a timely opportunity to reflect back to us a bit of ourselves at our worse.

In this vein, a successful handsome young man meets and starts dating an over-weight young woman. How do we know she’s overweight? Well she makes several very tasteful jokes about it, that each draw laughs and girlish sighs in equal measure. Slowly they start to fall in love. The young woman is warm and charming and sexy, and yet, well, a fat pig – or at least we are led to believe she is from the young man’s mate, and ex, who each can’t stand the notion of him dating a fat girl. And indeed go to great lengths to mock and ridicule their friend. Some of the funnest and funniest moments can be found during these scenes.

But here-in lies its weakness. For an issues play it just doesn’t quite ring true. For although it did sit uncomfortably with me, it wasn’t because it challenged any notions of body shape, but instead because it didn’t quite accurately reflect the sorts of things men might think and say about an overweight woman. From the way other men in the audience were reacting, I feel I wasn’t alone in this view.

That said, women in the audience had a great time, and many said as much after the play was finished. The play seemed to be able to speak to them in ways that I just missed. Maybe my reservations are old man cynicism or perhaps more simply the play just isn’t aimed at me.

Despite these comments, I still had a good time, and certainly I applaud QTC’s choice. Indeed I would encourage girls looking for a show to go with their mates to pop along and see it.

Show watched. Preview. 31st May 2010.

Playing at the Billie Brown Studio until 26th June.