Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

Tusiata Avia’s Wild Dogs Under My Skirt has made its way across the ditch from New Zealand to the Illawarra. Adapted from Avia’s poetry collection of the same name, it invites the audience to take a peek into the life of Samoan women.

The five characters, played by the outstanding ensemble of Anapela Polata’ivao, Ilaisaane Green, Stacey Leilua, Joanna Mika-Toloa and Petmal Petelo, were raw and beautiful, exuding class and intensity.

As a poet myself, I was floored by the storytelling and the mix between the character’s native tongues and English. Seeing poetry come to life in such a creative and immersive way is incredibly special. These women have allowed the audience a glimpse into their culture, sharing their beautiful voices in both spoken word and song. Their harmonies were heavenly and incredibly moving, much like an Opera Aria that an audience understands purely by the crescendo of the orchestra and the emotion on the performer’s face. It was unnecessary to be fluent in their dialects, as their portrayal of emotions and accompanying moves were vivid and told a story in themselves.

Leki Jackson-Burke should be acknowledged and commended for his beautiful contribution to the performance. Watching someone make an impact with very few scene opportunities is always a treat. He may not have been a character or part of the story, but his musical contributions added an insurmountable degree of feeling. The drum beats and use of beautiful instruments maintained or raised the intensity of a scene, drawing the audience in and forcing them to listen.

Whilst Wild Dogs Under My Skirt can be classified as a comedy, much darker themes lie between the poetry. Split-second changes between young girls giggling and laughing about the story of the Virgin Mary to discussing horrific acts of sexual violence were staggering. The flow of the stories and the chosen sequence proved very powerful and took the audience on an emotional journey. The portrayal of the rollercoaster, which is life for Samoan and Pasifika women, was both lovely and uncomfortable. Years of dark colonial history, the sexualisation of Pasifika women, and the dastardly patriarchy in all its glory are all laid out on the stage.

This show was absolutely remarkable, and it’s not difficult to see why it has won its awards. It is such a privilege to have a production that has been performed in New York and provides a window into different countries and cultures right here in our backyard.

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt is performing at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong, from 10-13 April and Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from 18-20 April.

Make sure to grab a ticket for yourself; you don’t want to miss this!!

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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RBG: Of Many, One

RBG: Of Many, One

‘RBG; Of Many, One’, a play by Suzie Miller, has made its way to Wollongong. Originally a Sydney Theatre Company production, ‘RBG’ saw a sold-out opening night at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. This incredible one-woman show stars the phenomenal Heather Mitchell, who has reprised her role and is a brilliant display of talent.

Ms Mitchell embodied the United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg through the decades, leading a decades-long tale of life, love, loss and societal change. Mitchell not only became Justice Ginsberg but constantly shifted between young and old, as well as each president and critical character that propelled Ruth to greatness. With her exactness of accent, speech patterns, and a variety of accents from across the States, Heather Mitchell captivated the audience from the moment the lights came on stage.

It’s easy to be sceptical when coming into a one-person show, particularly one with no intermission to break up the performance; however, Heather Mitchell’s immersive experience made it difficult to look away from it. She was funny and charming, making the storytelling completely disarming and inviting. It felt as though you were sitting in a room with Justice Ginsberg as if she were an old friend or a friend of your grandparents, recounting her glory days and telling us to continue the fight she dedicated her life to. Jokes and pointed comments about future hypotheses had the audience laughing with the beauty of hindsight.

The simplicity of the set and costuming forced the acting to maintain the show’s focal point. A single armchair repurposed over and over, a side table or a satchel bag are very simple props that, when paired with certain lighting or sound effects, transport the audience to each high and low of RBG’s life.

A seamless use of production elements invited the audience into Ruth’s recount of her most influential and moulding moments. Beautiful arias from her favourite operas, sound effects of the all-important telephone call, and real-life audio taken from critical events like Presidential debates and basketball games all assisted in the impressive immersive experience.

A screen above the stage helped keep track of the year or case being discussed. Small asides and lapses into memories weaved their way through the primary time or story being discussed. It felt like a stream-of-consciousness style of discussion rather than an hour and 40-minute monologue being spoken at you.

The play began in 1993 and ended with Ruth’s death in 2020, but recounted moments from her childhood and teenage years, as well as her time at Cornell University, Harvard Law, and Columbia Law School.

Playwright Suzie Miller, director Priscilla Jackman, and the entire creative team are to be commended for their dedication to history and ability to produce a version of the so-called “Notorious RBG” that felt simultaneously undiscovered and new while being the real recount of one of the most highly regarded influential legal figures of our time.

‘RBG; Of Many, One’ runs until the 6th of April with Merrigong Theatre Company at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. Tickets can be purchased via the Merrigong Theatre Company website.

The show is recommended for ages 15+ as it does contain some adult themes, herbal cigarettes and a complete theatrical blackout.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Send For Nellie

Send For Nellie

The opening night of ‘Send For Nellie’ is a bright and deeply captivating performance celebrating and commemorating the life of Sydney’s own cross-dressing cabaret queen, Nellie Small.

Rich with history, soul and laughter, Alana Valentine’s research into Nellie and her stage presence was well executed by performers Elenoa Rokobaro and Eleanor Stankiewicz, the incredibly talented musicians Maria Alfonsine, Camilla Bellstedt and Wollongong local Jodie Michael, and director Liesel Badorrek.

Elenoa Rokobaro brought Nellie Small to life with grace and power. Her vocals boasted of control and an enjoyment of the craft. Rokobaro captivated the audience, whether jazzy or mournful, throughout each song, and it was difficult to look away.

Her scene partner, Eleanor Stankiewicz, should be commended for her commitment to each character she transformed into. With hats and jackets as the sole means of a character change, Stankiewicz put everything into the physicality and vocal performances of the people in Nellie’s life. Right down to the way a certain character would sit or walk or even hold their hands when listening to Nellie perform, there was never any confusion as to who was on stage with Nellie at the time.

The hilarity of movement and costume choices contrasted with the authentic conversations and laws of the 1930s and 40s in Australia. Using clown noses and vaudeville choreography made those scenes and the following songs more powerful.

Clearly, each person on stage was having a good time, which encouraged the audience to be consumed by the story. The set up of cabaret tables directly in front of the stage and the performers moving through the crowd at different times allowed for an immersive experience. From the get-go of the theatre doors opening and jazz music playing softly from the speakers, it was like stepping back in time to a smoky jazz club and waiting to hear the shouts of “Send for Nellie!” in order to salvage a performance.

This performance, however, needed no salvaging. ‘Send For Nellie’ is a moving story of a cross-dressing, gender non-conforming, black Australian woman pursuing her passion in show business and is backed by more multi-talented women. ‘Send For Nellie’ is a good time from start to finish. The entire creative team should be very proud of themselves.

Tickets are available to see ‘Send for Nellie’ at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre via the link below.
Performance Times: Thu 15 Feb, 6:30pm; Fri 16 Feb, 7:30pm; Sat 17 Feb, 1:30pm &7:30pm
Where: Bruce Gordon Theatre–Illawarra Performing

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Merrigong Theatre Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ opening night in the Wollongong Botanic Gardens was a huge success.

This Shakespearean classic was adapted by Danielle King and directed by Merrigong Theatre Company’s Artistic Development Manager, Leland Keane. The careful blend of traditional Shakespearian language mixed with modern-day coarse language, with the ingenious idea of using the names of the Illawarra suburbs, amplified the humour and the audience’s engagement with the dialogue.

The players were engaging with the audience from before the get-go, embracing their roles not only on the stage but also whilst onlookers were still filing in to find their space.

The ‘Intern’, played by Charlotte Dickinson, paraded around asking audience members what the difference was between an internship and work experience. Bradley Ward, doubling as the H&S Manager responsible for overseeing ‘Safety and traffic’, demanded to know if we were following the rules. John Michael Narres, playing Bottom, started a ‘Woo-off’ with the different sides of the audience, using his selfie stick to record both before and during the performance.

Then, the real action began, and the backdrop for the play was absolutely stunning. We were blessed with a beautiful, clear night and a gorgeous sunset as a backdrop for the first act. Be sure to pack a jacket or a blanket, as it does get a little chilly once the sun has gone.

Given the outdoor setting, the actors did an incredible job at projecting and ensuring they were engaged with and speaking to all the different sections of the audience at different times. No one side or group in the audience was left perpetually straining to hear which can sometimes be the case in an outdoor setting.

The musical interludes and summaries by composer Kay Proudlove were both comedic and insightful, particularly if you were unsure about specific plot points that had just occurred. There were a few very rare moments where the music and the amplification of her voice overpowered the actors, depending on where you were sitting and where they were speaking from.

A commendation must be given to the costume designer Katja Handt for the incredible outfits of the fairies, Queen Titania, Oberon, and, in particular, Puck. The colour scheme of the white outfits of the mortals compared to the bright, earthy colours of the fairies was a great visual representation of the characters, particularly with the cast who played multiple mortal and fairy characters.

The technical element of Bottom’s transition between man and Donkey is always a thorny one to portray, particularly when the stage is an outdoor setting, but I am pleased to say that this was accomplished incredibly well. The scaffolding of the donkey head, along with the dual-purpose tail and whip, was a brilliant interpretation and complemented the lighting design beautifully.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream features an all-star cast and runs from Thursday to Sunday until November 26th at the Turpentine Lawn in the Wollongong Botanical Gardens. This was a wonderful experience and an adaption that will surely delight locals and visitors alike.

Shakespeare in the Garden – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When: 9 to 26 November 2023
Times: Thu – Sun 7 pm
Where: Turpentine Lawn – Wollongong Botanic Garden
Performance Warnings: Ages 10+

Tickets: Fri & Sat – Adult: $59, Under 30s: $49, Pensioner/Student/Groups 8+: $54, Family of 4: $196, Sun-Thu – Adult: $49, Under 30s: $39, Pensioner/Student/Groups 8+: $44, Family of 4: $156, School Groups 8+: $23

Bookings: https://merrigong.com.au/shows/shakespeare-in-the-garden-a-midsummer-nights-dream/

Accessibility: Shakespeare in the Garden – A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an accessible event for all to enjoy. Please refere to the Box Office on 4224 5999 for details.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews to see what else is on in your town.