photographer: Morgan Roberts.
WORDS LA BOITE THEATRE COMPANY
"Uber-creatives The Danger Ensemble, along with award winning writer Maxine Mellor, are set to take you on a journey uncovering once and for all who has the courage, the heart and the brains. This incarnation of The Wizard of Oz is a fairytale for the modern times: of fame, fantasy and those fifteen minutes. What will be at the end of the rainbow?
In her tin caravan, walled by Wizard of Oz memorabilia, Judy G. waits. A cyclone is gathering speed over her flyspeck rural town, and she’s ready. She’s got a transistor radio; she’s got emergency supplies; the TV’s tuned to news; things are tied down and taped up. She’s ready, goddamnit.... And it better not pass over without taking her up in it.
Promising a fantasy equal to but disturbingly different from the Oz we know and love, The Danger Ensemble are set to face the challenge of finding a new contemporary relevance for L. Frank Baum's classic novel.
“The only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.” Scarecrow"
"This zany romp is gloriously intense with a spiky undertow. It's refreshing entertainment with a razor sharp edge." The Courier-Mail
"The performances are tremendous, brave, take-no-prisoners stuff, especially from Margi Brown Ash as the hard-drinking, chain-smoking 'Judy Goddammit'... But befitting the Danger Ensemble's connections with Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, top billing goes to Dane Alexander's magnificent sound design, the eclectic electronica musical score... makes this a production truly to be heard as well as seen." The Australian
"Bold, infuriating, outrageous and utterly energised. And in that, it's hard to imagine better Brisbane Festival fare." The Australian
"For 90 minutes I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next as this spectacle unfolded before me...it surely does surprise at every twist and turn. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★" Brisbane Times
"This is an extravaganza for the mind: bizarre, psychedelic, hallucinatory." Stage Whispers
"...a superbly directed piece of work that will likely haunt you for a very long time." QNews
"A commendably dazzling, layered, risky piece of work... Ash's work as Judy G is masterful." Australian Stage
"As madcap theatre it was fantastic, and set, costumes, music and lighting worked admirably to make a jolly romp." Crikey
The Wizard of Oz | The Danger Ensemble
Written by Matt O'Neill
Thursday, 12 September 2013 21:52
The Wizard of Oz
The Danger Ensemble’s last two major works (2012’s Children of War and 2013’s Sons of Sin) have fumbled. While showcasing an admirable ambition to continue exploring new approaches on the part of Artistic Director Steven Mitchell Wright, both works did more to demonstrate the ensemble’s blind spots than anything else.
The Wizard of Oz reverses that trend and sees Wright really start to successfully work with some of the ideas he’s been struggling with in his most recent work. Chiefly; a newfound interest in character, narrative and pathos. It ultimately feels like more of a first draft than a final production – but it’s still a commendably dazzling, layered, risky piece of work.
As many expected, it’s a far cry from both L. Frank Baum’s novel and its subsequent 1939 adaptation. Less expected, it’s still got a strong, identifiable (and surprisingly complex) narrative. Credit to Maxine Mellor. Charged with transforming the ensemble’s devised work into a cohesive script, she’s come up with a strong, interesting and inventive storyline.
Without ruining it; it’s a twisted meditation on the dangers of chasing rainbows. It shows the risk of Oz as a concept; as opposed to its perils as a reality. It’s interesting, full of nifty little tricks and sidesteps – and, shockingly, it ultimately all makes a twisted form of sense. That said, it’s helped significantly in that regard by some stellar performances.
Particularly, those of Margie Brown Ash (as spectacularly broken protagonist Judy G) and Caroline Dunphy (as a slippery Dorothy proxy). While helped along by a chorus of performers (of which Thomas Larkin’s scatter-brained scarecrow and Polly Sara’s glamorous wicked witch are most memorable), Dunphy and Ash drive Wizard of Oz.
Ash’s work as Judy G is masterful. It’s a hopeless, broken, spiteful deluded harridan of a character and, miraculously, Ash manages to not only conjure up a significant degree of sympathy for the character but to do so without diluting the inherent selfishness around which much of the narrative revolves.
Dunphy’s work is more subtle. Not given much of an opportunity to really show the complexities of her role, still she succeeds in weaving a performance that pays tribute to Dorothy Gale’s innocence while also foreshadowing her actual character’s complex involvement in the work’s twisted narrative. It’s quite a tricky performance.
As director, Steven Mitchell Wright shows his teeth. There are weird detours, ominous chants, trashy dance sequences and surprising musical numbers. As is to be expected, there’s more than a handful of unique visual tableaus. The creature sent in pursuit of Dorothy is classic Danger Ensemble in the best sense of the terminology.
To his credit, none of this overwhelms Mellor’s narrative or any of the cast’s performance. This is a largely cohesive work and Wright’s starting to really get a feel for his unique spin on traditional storytelling. A brief scene between Ash and Dunphy at the production’s outset is just a beautiful, funny, understated piece of realism...
My only hope is that work on the show continues after this season. In time, it could be a something very, very special.
A La Boite, The Danger Ensemble and Brisbane Festival co-production
The Wizard of Oz
by Maxine Mellor & the company
Director Steven Mitchell Wright
Venue: La Boite Roundhouse
Dates: 7 – 28 Sept 2013
Tickets: from $25
WORDS MARGI BROWN ASH
Whenever I am in a show I use the mornings to re-read the classics. Something I read this morning sat close so I thought I would share it here:
Today’s classic is Michael Chekov’s To the Actor:
“We must overcome our fear of the theatre theatrical when it comes to acting. A theatre is where we are. The theatre is the place where extraordinary things happen, where you see people behaving, not as they do on the street, but as they might do in your dreams. or your nightmares. when the shaman does his dance, nobody says could you do it a little less please.”
Checkov’s classic is a great text for all of us “Open yourself completely”…moving towards “freedom and increased life”, both on and off the stage…
Doug Leonard, a wonderful Australian (Brisbane) director who died recently, loved Michael Chekov’s work and because of him I make sure I return to Chekov on a regular basis.
I will finish with Chekov’s exercise of flying: “Imagine your whole body flying through space… A sensation of joyful lightness and easiness will permeate your entire body”…may all of the artists in Brisbane this week (for the Brisbane Festival) fly through your performances tonight!