Pictured: Australian Modern at the Anywhere Festival 2016. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.
18 days, 420 performances, 84%+ sold, 63 locations. The May 2016 Anywhere Festival transformed Brisbane—opening up many of the more unusual places across the local area, and giving our ‘creatives’ a chance to shine. Audience members had the opportunity to nominate the shows they wanted to recognise—with eight shows singled out in the inaugural Anywhere Festival awards. As I only got to see ten events, here are my top ten Anywhere Festival memories. In the tradition of the Anywhere Festival awards, this is not a countdown….
- Fantastic costumes, hair and make-up: Kylie Stephenson (as Marilyn Hanold playing Princess Marcuzan) had the best costume-using-tinfoil of the festival, designed by Kristine Von Hilderbrandt). However (ahh…those aprons!) I loved the attention to detail in the costumes, props, hair and make-up in The Train Tea Society. Congratulations to Jaymee Richards and Kristine Von Hilderbrandt).
- Circus skills: The Circus Claire Show was a joyous 45-minute performance by a versatile and skilled circus artist. Claire Ogden illustrated a journey of self-discovery with hula hoops, juggling, partner acrobatics, aerial tissue, physical comedy, and dance—leaving her audience ‘Walking on Sunshine.’ This was a difficult choice, as the Vulcana Women’s Circus deserve an honourable mention for their guest performance at the Muses Trio launch.
- Risks taken: One of the many great things about the Anywhere Festival is the opportunity to test new ideas. The team behind Straight On Till Morning perhaps took the biggest risks when inverting the more traditional theatrical experience, complete with an abrupt ending in a bar.
- Dance: Candy Shop Show quartet (led by the impressive Jenny Usher) combined close harmonies, and great costumes with some impressive dance moves. Sugar, Sugar! was a slightly cheeky and entertaining way to re-visit times the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
- Memorable ensemble: This was a difficult choice, but the characters created in The Train Tea Society were quite fantastic. From the irrepressible twins Nora & Nellie Cummings (Aimee Duroux and Samantha Bull)’s tapping for the troops through to Julia Johnson’s compelling performance as Mrs J.A. Eliza Cameron.
- Inspired CD launch: The Muses Trio describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol—celebrating music by female composers with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women’s Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison.
- Entertainment: Gin and Sin Jazz Salon was a standout, thanks to the fabulous performances by Miss Laine (Laine Loxlea-Danann), Alicia Cush, and Dave Spicer (with special guest Zoe Georgakis-Ray). For a little over 90 minutes the audience were enthralled, amused, moved and greatly entertained by a well-chosen mix of jazz, “mashups” performed by talented musicians who are clearly at the top of their game. And there was a lot of laughter.
- Sound and light at a whole new level: The Cult fun B-Movies Live! Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster was the first time I’ve seen a production where the lighting (Ghoul Shadows) and Music/Audio (Chris Richards) techs also play such important supporting roles. Shadows created the lighting and a number of different ‘off-stage’ voices, while Richards augmented a fantastic soundtrack of original music and audio with a great narration.
- Production & writing: Honourable mentions to Hannah Belanszky for The Wives of Wolfgang (Work in Progress), as well as to Sarah Clarke and Mark Salvestro (Private Moments – A Double Bill (‘Semi Charmed’ and ‘Buried At Sea’). Belanszky has set the bar high for the future with her first play, while Clarke and Salvestro’s compelling performances created believable characters in an intimate setting. However, I was driven to superlatives by The Train Tea Society—with cups of celebratory tea all round to Emily Vascotto (Writer & Producer) and Gabriella Flowers (Director & Producer).
- Perfect venues: OK, I give up… to chose just one venue which perfectly suited the particular production is an impossible task. If I had to choose just one then the perfect festival venue was Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Australian Modern home (mixing talented musicians, gin, and a tiny twist of sin). But I am qualifying that with five honourable mentions: The Muses Trio (The Spirit and the Maiden at Boggo Road Gaol); Heidi Manché (launching a marvellous new performance space with Dario Fo’s One Was Nude and One Wore Tails); The Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley (for hosting The Wives of Wolfgang); The Retro Bar (a modern mixing of minimalist 60’s and psychedelic 70’s styling made this a perfect venue for Sugar, Sugar!); and Flowers Theatre Company, for bringing an important local story to life at the picture-perfect Swanbank Rail Station (complete with a working steam train).
So… thanks to all of the volunteers, artists, cast, creatives, venue-owners and Anywhere Festival Producers (particularly Paul Osuch and Ally McTavish) for the risks taken, circus skills, dance, fantastic costumes, hair and make-up, CD launches, sound and light extravaganzas, wonderful production, amazing new writing, memorable ensemble work, great entertainment and perfect venues… … the winners are…. Brisbane… and the audience.
Which means that yes… I can’t wait until May 2017 !
Catherine Lawrence is a Post-completion Fellow in The University of Queensland’s School of Communication & Arts.