The Brisbane Powerhouse has launched their season for the World Theatre Festival (WTF) 2014. Kris Stewart, the Powerhouse’s Artistic Director, made time in his extremely busy week to chat with Aussie Theatre about next year’s fesitval.
Stewart and his team have assembled a program as eclectic as it is exciting. The program includes an incredible diversity of performances from around the world.
From Ireland, a vibrant interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall.
From Indonesia, Wedhus Gembel, a colossal retelling of a classic fable through puppetry (suitable for children).
From Korea, and back after a sell out season at last year’s Anywhere Theatre Festival, Underground invites audiences to enter a Korean speakeasy and experience a night of music, love and magic.
From the USA, Mario: Queen of the Circus Presents His Crown Jewels. His show combines irreverent wit with circus-style physical comedy.
The Great Spavaldos is an immersive, cross-medium circus experience which allows you to become a virtual trapeze artist.
Another circus related piece, commissioned by WTF, is She Would Walk the Sky. A collaboration between Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and circus performer and director Chelsea McGuffin, the performance will be a world premiere. “I love the scale and imagination of Finegan’s work”, says Kris, “and Chelsea has proven herself physically brilliant.”
At the launch we were treated to a sneak peak of this show’s aerial gravitas. Performer Moses took to a trapeze above Brisbane Powerhouse’s lofty Turbine Platform, the space for which the show was specifically created. His performance was beautiful, light and solemn.
Abandon, a collaboration between Dancenorth and Opera Q Studio, presents Handel’s music as it has never been experienced before.
Programming a festival like WTF must be a sheer joy. You can hear it in Kris’s voice, his passion and excitement at sharing the many different experiences that are in store for audiences. He explains that there was no set selection process, no specific hurdles for artists to jump, or theme that had to be incorporated into any show. For Kris, when it comes to programing, it’s a matter of keeping your ear to the ground. Kris read about Colman Domingo’s A Boy and His Soul when it first played off-Broadway and when he eventually saw it he was captivated by this very personal story about growing up in West Philadelphia and the multiple perspectives that this multi-character solo performance portrayed.
Maybe that is a common theme of this program – multiple perspectives – or perhaps stories about people who are ‘outsiders’ who have struggled to find a community they fit in to. Soldapeine Is My Boyfriend explores the struggles some members of the younger Irish generation face, whilst Black Faggot offers a very funny perspective on being gay in a Pacific Islander community.
Theatre can be a fantastic vehicle for the promotion of social change, and given the current climate in Australia, discussion turns to the potential politics of the festival. Kris insists that this festival has not been programmed with politics in mind. What is most important to to him is that a show engages its audience, “that it speaks of this place and this time”. He wants the festival to offer people, “an opportunity to sample things they wouldn’t otherwise experience. [to be] … a showcase of contemporary performance which will give people the chance to learn how exciting it can be.”
After that whirlwind tour of the festival program, the last show to mention is Gudirr Guddir, a personal and political exploration of identity through a mix of narrative and dance. Gudirr Gudirr is the Yawuru word for a wader bird whose call warns of an impending change of tide. If that isn’t theatre that speaks directly of this place at this time, I don’t know what is.
The World Theatre Festival will be presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse from 13-23 February 2014. For more details, see the Brisbane Powerhouse website: brisbanepowerhouse.org/festivals/wtf-2014/