Friday, 20 January 2017

Tom Ballard: Boundless Plains to Share, Belvoir

This is, to a certain extent, left wing comfort food. It's a political standup show about immigration, to an audience that, presumably, largely sympathises with it. And it's no offence against Ballard (who's a fine comedian, easily at the level of, say, Samantha Bee or John Oliver) that I'm slightly weary of the echo chamber of things we all know to be true but which never seem to actually turn into positive change.

Anyway. That was the political bit of the review done. For the rest - Ballard presents very well a topic that could be dry or glib. He's not afraid to let the serious bits be serious, but also quite willing to allow humanity and life into the show. There's some clever dynamics with how the show is constructed that keeps it lively and keeps it from being utterly One Man Rants At The Audience About Injustice For An Hour (which I can't talk about much further because, well, that's spoilers). It refuses to be too glib about things either, The jokes are funny, the content is wise, the presenter is charming and clever ... it's just one of those things where it makes me wish the world was better and fear that it isn't.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Prize fighter, Belvoir

Belvoir launches the season with a relentlessly physical production, transferred from Brisbane’s LaBoite theatre. This is the story of Isa, a Congolese refugee currently living in Brisbane, escaped from the war and starting again as a boxer. The story’s told largely through two boxing matches as Isa gets the chance to challenge for a title fight, and how in the ring he recalls the previous experiences that have led him to this point.

Direction is almost split evenly between director Todd McDonald and fight choreographer Nigel Poulton, so heavily is the boxing featured. There are sharp, dramatic transitions as the performers swap between ringside participants and figures in Isa’s past – from opponent in the ring to warlord, from supportive friend to an instruction in murder. The performers and lighting design turn on a dime between now-and-then. Lighting and simple staging effects ensure this flows fast and furious and keeps the audience gripped pretty tightly.

This is a tight play, barely over an hour, but there’s not a moment that’s undercooked here - I suppose one could slightly argue that there isn't necessarily a lot of character depth in Future D. Fidel's script, but that's not what this is aiming for - this is pure, full contact theatre that’s going straight for the heart and mind.