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Best in Theatre - Sydney Fringe 2019
NIDA Director of the Year - Sydney Fringe 2019
Festival Directors Award - Sydney Fringe 2019
Best Circus/Physical Theatre - Adelaide Fringe
Canberra Critics Circle Award
Herald Angel Award
Scotland on Sunday Best Director
Melbourne Fringe Best Dance
Melbourne Fringe Gasworks
***** The Scotsman ***** The Guardian UK ***** The Herald UK ***** The List
Little Dove Theatre Art
***** "Life affirming" - The Scotsman (Six Women)
***** "Startling,harrowing,humbling" - The Herald UK (Six Women)
"Little Dove Theatre Art confirms its place as one of the foremost exponents of Butoh in the country" - Sydney Morning Herald (Evangeline)
"The most powerful and compelling theatre I have ever experienced" -The Barefoot Review (Evangeline)
"A writer and director of true theatrical instincts and of genuine originality" -The Canberra Times (Cordelia)
"Ambitious, extremely moving" -City News (Tristan)
Little Dove Theatre Art was founded in 2006 by Director, Chenoeh Miller. Based in Canberra, Australia, the company aims to create contemporary, engaging theatrical experiences that inspire and transform its audiences. Made up of a unique ensemble of skilled and diverse artists from across Australia, Little Dove uses its geographical breadth to reach a wide range of audiences. Little Dove’s aesthetic is based on a fusion of influences with a major focus on Butoh Dance, Live Art and Contemporary Performance. It is through the mixing genres and experimentation of form that the company has developed an ever-changing and categorically diverse array of artistic products including festivals and events. The company’s inception was founded on the creation of Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall when it premiered at the La Boite Theatre in Brisbane in 2006. Other productions include Six Billion Love, Battlefield, Cordelia, From This, Evangeline, Rohallah and Tristan: A Song for the Superior Man.
Director // Chenoeh Miller e: firstname.lastname@example.org Producer // Dave Sleswick & Motherboard Productions e: email@example.com
Rohallah (Or, Never, Never, Never, Will I Ever Laugh Without You)
Developed by Little Dove Theatre Art director Chenoeh Miller and Choreographed by Fresh Funk artistic director Caroline Wall, Rohallah is a dance theatre piece that tells the story of a young man seeking refuge in Australia.
Love after Love
by Derek Walcott
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
by Denise Levertov
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
I who don’t know the
the line. They
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
most of all.
Images of Little Dove Theatre Art shows and events
ReviewsEvangeline (Or, The Grief That Does Not Speak Whispers The O’erfrought Heart And Bids It Break)By: Kate Prendergast Date: 25 Sep 2019
I have yet to experience grief.
The closest I have come is in a dream, where I found myself attending the funeral of someone who meant a lot to me; who I wish I could have kept in my life, but chose not to. When I awoke, my mouth was gaping open like a wound, my whole body collapsing inwards. And that was just a dream.
The way that opening night responded to Evangeline, a ground-breaking movement and sound-based performance informed by loss, suggested their encounters were far more real.
Confronting, cathartic and with sublime production by Gregor Murray, Chenoeh Miller’s work left the audience sitting stunned in their seats. Old couples held hands as they slowly made their exit. A few had faces swimming with tears.
I may not know grief, but I have witnessed it in my parents, and it is not a seemly emotion when expressed. In its raw form, it cannot be civilised. What is normal does not compute. It breaks convention with a complete obliviousness to the everyday workings of the world.
The performers on stage, their eyelashes aflame and hair wild, were at times monstrous to behold.
At first there were just two: one whose ritualised movements were equally as distressing as the other’s, whose sluggish signs of animation grew and grew, as something terrible stirred, then took hold.
Then, in a gripping entrance, more bodies emerged: erupting amongst us like zombies or souls possessed, their bodies jerked and shuddered in an incomprehensible rictus of unknowable pain. A grim ensemble of women, they together faced the high winds of their personal apocalypse and howled.
Hartley Kemp’s lighting, here and throughout, is indispensable.
The structure of the performance was in movements, and the second I found most affecting.
Immersed in a soundscape gently engineered by Dane Alexander, we became acquainted with the way that suffering resists language.
Distorted fragments of speech stumble and overlap, stabbing blindly towards truth with repetition. You hear faraway sounds of either a playground or screams, as on-stage, the women numbly enact the mundane rituals of the living.
Speaking to us before the performance, the director had prepared us for the final movement.
When it came around, she stood up again and directed our attention to a sign: PLEASE TOUCH. For a full 15 or so minutes, audience members were encouraged to leave their seats and offer what solace they could to the distraught performers, arrayed like swaying statues, the extremity of their pain evident in every crumpled posture, every corded tendon on their neck.
And the audience, bless them, did. They offered what small, tactile comfort they could: with held hands, hugs and tenderness.
These gestures were sometimes responded to; sometimes not. Sometimes a hug was returned, or a kindness awakened pure joy. Sometimes it was as though the comforter was not even there, and the silent wailing went on.
But each small act seemed to go some small way in recuperating the grieving individual from their profound separation; drawing them away from that lonely shoreline where their loss stranded them, back into the fold of the living.
“It is intolerable to have one’s sufferings twinned with anybody else’s,” wrote Susan Sontag, writing on the singularity of individual pain. But it is also intolerable to suffer alone. Evangeline speaks to how solace can be both genuine and performative; and even if it doesn’t always reach the other, it is an accomplice – with time – in the process of healing.
Full Review Adelaide Fringe, The Clothesline by Clayton Werner 20194.5 stars
Your expectations for this show, labelled as Circus and Physical Theatre/Dance Theatre – are probably wrong! I’m going to try not to go into too many of the details, because this is an experience, description will not measure up.
Evangeline a fascinating presentation of insight into grief, presented as a kind of dance and interactive performance, but one unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced. If you are working with healing, health or well-being, or have experience, first, second or third hand of grief – then this show is likely to resonate strongly with you.
There are five Evangelines and they are all telling the same story, but from their own perspective, with their own characters shining through the process. This show suits the small, intimate venue of The Breakout to a tee. The costumes of our Evangelines are all the same, in red and their make-up etc. is all similar, but not quite identical.
The show has three main sections; the first is a kind of dance expression of overwhelming grief, the second is a transition toward the third, which includes audience interaction, as part of the healing process – and we’ve all been asked/instructed to participate and interact. It’s one of those shows that will continue to resonate in your mind for a long time to come, coming out of the blue, conforming to no genres or previous patterns, but demanding your attention, your empathy and your care.
Evangeline is a whole group experience, for the audience and for the performers, but also has incredibly strong individual experiences, in the differences of the effects of grief on the performers and on the audience and their interactions with the performers. You really do owe it to yourself to have this experience.
Sound and Fury - Live Art PartyFull Review NZ Fringe Art Murmurs by Laura Ferguson 2018
Is there a better party in the city right now than Sound and Fury? Imagine, if you will, entering a ‘pasta spaghetti’ tinsel curtain into the depths of Club 121. Walking down the steps, the throbbing music growing louder, opening into a LED-heavy club scene where sequinned bodies gyrate to amazing mash-ups from Dead DJ Joke, audience members dancing with and around the performers. Imagine ordering a wine from the bar and it arriving in a safe plastic receptable, a metaphor for how messy this evening will get.
Dead DJ Joke’s bangers convince even the most sober audience member (like your very profesh reviewer) to seat-groove;. the bizarre juxtaposition and musical mash-ups that has hips swivelling and heads bobbbing. Turn Down For What by DJ Snake and Lil Jon intertwines with Toto’s Africa; Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off teases itself around Tom Jones’ iconic It’s Not Unusual. But it is unusual, these song mixes. I love it. I fucking head over ass love it. Audience can come and go during the three-hour long show, which is made up of about 70 gazillion smaller acts, like a hurricane of glitter bombs. But I recommend you carve out the time; it’s all so worth it. There are lip-syncs, dance numbers, spoken word, classical music and folk songs performed by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Contemporary dancers comment on the corporate manipulation of McDonalds, mouths grabbing hungrily at invisible burgers. A potato and gravy shower rains over a beautiful, sobbing body, and I scream-sing Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful with the rest of the audience; I was smeared with butter and was hit with a fairy bread sandwich. Feminist punk band Glitoris, black cat-suits and tutus all a-raging, demolish my resolve to remain a fly on the wall. I get up, flinging my hair around, throwing my left ring finger up in the air in protest over Genesis Energy requiring me to declare being a Mrs, Miss, or Ms last week. This band throws my nerdy self into the volatility of our modern age, the change that will hopefully come. I felt like a badass, it was such a rare, freeing feeling, I revelled in it wholeheartedly, eliciting ‘Woooo’s’ whenever the fun I was having bubbled within me to the point I just had to release it vocally. I left with confetti stuck to my cheeks and tinsel wrapped in my hair. I bounced home, elated on a cloud of adrenaline and endorphins. Tonight I was alone and sober, I can only the imagine the fun I will have when I arrange to go with a couple of friends later this week. I can’t wait to find out. Sound and Fury: Live Art Party is unlike any show I have been to. Did I mention I head over ass love it?
Tristan: A Song for the Superior Man. Full Review: Canberra TimesBy Alanna Maclean 30 November 2017 Tristan: A Song for the Superior Man is a gentle and surreal piece that looks at the thoughts and fears and perceptions of men while at the same time playing around with aspects of broader gender identity.
Four male performers and one female take on a male uniform of blue suits and ties. There are relationships. There is violence. There is music. There is a striking passage of drag from Oliver Levi-Malouf. There are little monologues and snippets of life stories while the whole begins and ends with a nightmare of death and rebirth powerfully done by Raoul Craemer.
The Ralph Wilson Theatre space is sensibly kept spare, with some quirky use of the upstage doors by various characters who look in to share their fragmentary stories. The studied control and techniques of butoh are evident and the piece is far from naturalistic but it has a certain cumulative force and enables the playing around with ideas.
There's an attempt to get inside the male experience of the world in a way that mirrors the courtliness suggested by the use of the name "Tristan" in the title but which is confounded at times by a descent into violence. A long story on domestic violence told by a male uncomfortably shows a marriage with violence from both male and female.
There's a sense of struggle with what it means to be a man as boy children play at fighting and the man in the marriage can only finish by striking out. A lone woman lies prone on the stage while a voiceover tries to puzzle it all out. But none of the characters who drift through are really into too much self examination.
All of this is not going to be to everyone's taste. The characters in this show describe and discuss but are a long way from any deep self awareness that might illuminate the nature of gender and of masculinity in particular. Which might strike one as a bit frustrating at a time when gendered behaviour is undergoing such public debate, but which at least necessarily stirs the pot.
And the images are striking, from the stripping down of the drag artist to his version of a male to the wild hair of Erica Fields' jaunty portrayal of both male and female. There's quirkiness and humour from Chris Endrey and Nick Delatovic and a lovely co-ordination between all of the performers as they become those men-in-the-making, the little boys wrestling in the playground.
City News by John Lombard
FEW artists sign their work like Chenoeh Miller. Her creative preoccupations are all on display at various points in “Tristan: A song for the superior man”, with repetitive actions, slow movements that almost become invisible, and strenuous activity that pushes the performers to a physical limit.
What distinguishes Tristan from Miller’s prior work is a new confidence with words.
Early on Raoul Craemer delivers a poetic monologue that paints a vivid visual picture, and it is striking in a Little Dove production to see words take centre stage like this.
In Tristan, Miller is interested in telling men’s stories. A cheeky Nick Delatovic informs the audience that the stories have been shared by the cast and then collaboratively transformed into fantasy. He cautions the audience to be wary of what we believe by adding that there is in fact nobody called Tristan in the show.
The engaged physicality of the performers developed through an intensive workshop also came across in the delivery of the monologues, which had clarity, confidence and alacrity. Chris Endrey in particular captivated the audience with an intense monologue that could have been a raw confession or half-fantasy.
The choice of music was excellent, with Oliver Levi-Malouf’s drag routine to the song “Holding Out For A Hero” perking up the audience, and influences as diverse as classical music and Beyoncé adroitly deployed.
Erica Field is a vital inclusion whether genderless or a contrasting female presence. However the performance gets bogged down in the uncertainty of the director, and the performer, in how as women they can create a show about men – or whether men can be understood at all.
In some sequences Erica even becomes the point of view character, struggling to comprehend men stripped of individuality by mechanical actions, matching suits and dumb grins. The contrast with both Erica and Oliver’s drag seems to suggest that masculinity strips men of life and identity.
However the performance finds the essence and joy of manliness in a sequence that adapts a schoolyard game, achieving the show’s goal of dispelling pervasive negative generalisations about men.
Tristan is ambitious, extremely moving, and takes Little Dove confidently into new creative territory.
Evangeline. Devised and directed by Chenoeh Miller. Little Dove Theatre Art.(Full reviews) The Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre. December 3-5 2015.Lighting Design – Hartley KempSound Design/ Composer – Dane AlexanderProduction Manager – Gregor MurrayCast – Ruby Rowat, Peta Ward, Erica Field, Alicia Melonie JonesThe Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald – Peter Wilkins
Shafts of blue and red light beam through the gently rising haze before a curtain of silver foil. Seated on wooden crates or standing by tables with glasses in hand, the audience intently watch the two dancers that move in contrasting rhythm to the loud music that fills the Courtyard Studio of the Canberra Theatre Centre. One, with her back to the audience sways before the curtain of silver. The other convulses with an incessant pulsating rhythm. Such is the mesmerising power of Butoh, the Japanese dance of darkness, releasing the force that exists between flesh and bone, at times gentle and trance-like, at others violent and spasmodic, contorted by the lightning bolt of sheer anguish, seeking release, craving meaning and longing for identity.
In its latest performance, Evangeline, Little Dove Theatre confirms its place as one of the foremost exponents of Butoh in the country.Evangeline explores the devastating impact of grief and the desperate search for comfort and release from the pain. Under director Chenoeh Miller’s passionate and tightly focused direction the work is powerful, riveting, and ultimately cathartic for performers and audience alike. Two more dancers enter through the audience, trapped, a mind and body possessed, an empty shell, haltingly moving into the light.
In a climactic explosion of sound, dancers and stage are plunged into darkness. Time passes. They rise into the white light, released from the torment of broken hearts and shattered dreams, and yet unfulfilled. The stillness echoes with the silent sound of longing. An audience is transfixed. Miller’s carefully and deliberately charted emotional trajectory weaves its spell. It is now that the audience is invited to interact. Please Do Touch is projected upon the wall, inviting audiences to share the connection. The dancers invite, reaching out, grimacing still with the private pain, longing for connection. And it comes, without persuasion or expectation. Some audience members spontaneously move into the space, driven by the desire to comfort, to heal and to share. Time passes. The grief remains, but the pain passes and the dancers slowly, with measured movement, leave the stage and slide into the darkness.
Applause is spontaneous, rapturous in response to an experience that has touched and moved some, intrigued others and for 40 minutes lured an audience into Little Dove’s intense and deeply personal investigation of private grief and the restorative power of time. For a deeper understanding of the healing power of Butoh and the intense commitment and control of dancers Peta Ward, Alicia Jones, Erica Field and Ruby Rowat, don’t miss this very short season of Evangeline.
City News – John LombardCHENOEH Miller’s company Little Dove is known for its “Theatre of Love” that explores the vital and sustaining connections between people, often inviting the audience to embrace these bonds by physically interacting with its performers.
Its new piece, “Evangeline” explores the dark side of connection: what happens when these powerful bonds are severed and the individual is left alone to deal with heartbreak.
The night begins with a lengthy pre-show drink and chat, with the Courtyard Studio converted into a nightclub complete with good music, cocktail bar and nibbles. By design, we inevitably either find people we know and start to catch up with them or introduce ourselves to some strangers.
The stage resembles a dance floor, but it blocked by two forbidding performers. Erica Field stands facing the audience with her abdomen writhing as though she is trying to vomit up a poisonous snake, while at the rear of the stage with her back to us Ruby Rowat conjures seductively with her arms.
actions to make them fresh and intense, in the same way that a familiar word re-read can become strange and unfamiliar. Field and Rowat perform these simple actions for more than an hour, becoming part of the set but establishing the movement motifs the piece will explore.
Only after this lengthy preamble does the show start, with Chenoeh explaining the origin of the piece and cautioning us on what we can expect (as well as reminding us there is an exit if it becomes too confronting). Field and Rowat do not stop moving while their director is talking, but instead continue their silent snake dance.
Then the performance begins. Erica Field raises her head and her jaw starts to spasm as though is fighting to cough up that viper in her belly. The excellent, intense sound design by Dane Alexander conveys torment, with Ruby Rowat and Peta Ward clambering onto the stage to add their own pain to the silent chorus.
The four women are made-up with pale faces and frizzy hair, resembling female monsters like Medusa or the Bride of Frankenstein. Their faces are distorted by pain as though they have been paralysed by a stroke mid-wail. Their pain is ugly and horrifying: while the audience was invited to move around and explore the piece from the multiple angles, most were transfixed in place by the Gorgon gaze of these women.
Finally, as we expect from Little Dove, the audience was invited to interact with the performers. This followed the formula established in Chenoeh’s piece “From This”, with acts of kindness from the audience (I choose to take one woman’s hand and smooth their hair) providing relief that vanished when the action was withdrawn. This led to many tender moments, although the temporary relief that was always granted suggested that relieving grief is impossible.
“Evangeline” is a new and interesting twist on Little Dove’s themes, but is elements are very familiar to people who have been following Chenoeh Miller’s work. This feels like a companion piece to “Six Women Standing In Front Of A White Wall”, a bookend to a particular creative era. It will be interesting to see what comes after grief.
Canberra Critics Circle – Bill Stephens
Described as “a live art work” Chenoeh Miller’s creation, “Evangeline”, as presented at the first preview last night, defies easy categorisation.
Drawing on elements of Japanese butoh combined with psychological and philosophical references, Miller has created an extraordinary performance exploring reactions to grief, which offers an aural, visual, and if you’re game, even a tactile dimension to an extraordinary theatrical experience.
The experience commences on arrival at the Courtyard Studio when audience members are ushered into a disco-like environment complete with pumping music, jabbing coloured lights and smoke haze, where in a small defined stage area, two women, both in bright red costumes, one with her back to the audience, the other facing the audience with head downcast, perform endless repetitive gyrations or spasms to the music.
There are wooden tables, with boxes spread around for the audience to sit on. Cocktails and hors oeuvres are on offer, and the audience is encouraged to move around and observe the performers from different angles.
Eventually two more red-clad women enter through the audience. As they reach the stage area, all the performers face the audience and in addition to repeating the movement already established, all begin contorting their faces into grotesque expressions of grief, bewilderment or horror.
From time to time the music changes, but the gyrations and spasms are repeated relentlessly, until finally the four women simultaneously fall to the ground and lay motionless.
Eventually they rise and stand in a bewildered, trancelike state, until members of the audience feel the compulsion to comfort one or other of them.
Then, simultaneously, they raise their arms above their heads and slowly leave the stage, leaving their audience in awe of their bravery and endurance, perhaps moved, bewildered or puzzled, but certainly not ambivalent.
The Barefoot Review – Deborah Hawke
Entering the dim, surreal theatre space housingEvangeline is like walking into a bar in Twin Peaks. While white-faced, wild-haired women in red dresses repetitively gyrate and convulse to offbeat tunes, I half expect a little man to hobble over and whisper something abstract in my ear. Welcome to the world of butoh.
While I have seen butoh utilised before in other productions, it has always been as a passive observer. Evangeline is a wholly interactive take on the art form that gently invites you to immerse yourself into both the performance and the performers’ experience.
With an overall theme that tackles the experience of grief, Evangeline is a pretty intense ride in the beginning. The grotesque faces, violent emotions and adrenalin-provoking soundtrack flood your senses, stunning you like a deer in the headlights.
It is at the moment of greatest overwhelm that the audience is encouraged to literally reach out and touch the performers (Erica Field, Alicia Jones, Ruby Rowat and Peta Ward), who then respond organically in turn. These two world’s meeting is what makes Evangeline so fascinating to watch.
As some of the brave souls (including me) in attendance first approach the performers, they are hesitant. As in real life, it can be scary to reach out to people during times of turmoil and the experience during Evangeline is no different. But as their confidence grows they merge into some beautifully tender, even playful, scenarios and inspire others to give it a go too.
Essentially the performers serve as an emotional conductor, with the audience permitted to act out the innermost feelings and instinctive responses stirred up by the upheaval – and it is the most powerful and compelling theatre I’ve ever experienced.
It’s actually quite risky making audience participation a feature of a show, given the unpredictable nature of this kind of experiment. For many people, the thought of the audience becoming part of the show is enough to make them want to run away screaming – or at the very least paralysed in their seat. In the somewhat reserved capital of Australia, doubly so.
Fortunately the risk pays off – in large part due to the evening’s careful facilitation by creator, Chenoeh Miller – but also because of the intimacy of the setting that makes it feel safe for people to be emotionally present and vulnerable.
Equally though, one could not pull off such a feat without the talents of the performers. It’s hats off to Field, Jones, Rowat and Ward, whose borderline paranormal level of focus, as well as their own bravery and vulnerability madeEvangeline such as privilege to experience.
As with Miller’s previous work, the distinct ambience she and her production team create is a strong feature. Although Evangeline has quite an avant-garde flavour, it lacks the accompanying alienation that it sometimes evokes in a wider audience. Quite the contrary, this work is highly accessible and engaging. The carefully crafted soundscape by Dane Alexander is especially memorable and plays a key role in the production reaching its full potential.
Evangeline is a show that Canberra would get to see once in a blue moon, and I really hope the public is ready for it. It’s a rare chance for people to get outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves in a controlled but exhilarating environment. This is an experience too profound to miss.
BMA Magazine – Zoe Pleasants
More and more, it seems contemporary theatre makers are involving the audience in their shows. I’ve seen this involvement range from asking the audience to do something simple like join in a song or wear a mask, to something far riskier like asking the audience to perform the entire show. When done well, audience involvement changes theatre from passive consumption to something much richer. Theatre maker Chenoeh Miller is interested in the interaction between audience and performer and how this interaction shapes the experience of a show for both. So I wasn’t surprised when Miller invited the audience of her latest show –Evangeline – to get up and walk around during the show and to follow any instructions that would be projected onto a screen.
Evangeline was staged in the small Courtyard Studio; upon entering the space, Miller’s aesthetic was immediately apparent. Two performers were already in the stage area, dressed in striking red costumes with wild, teased hair and long, red eye lashes. They were moving in an intensely physical yet constrained way and they kept this up for an hour before the show started – an impressive effort.
Evangeline is about grief. It started with loud, pounding music and the performers (Erica Field, Alicia Jones, Ruby Rowat and Peta Ward) portraying the pain of loss. Their faces were contorted in disbelief and denial and their movements were reaching and desperate. The music – composed for the show by Dane Alexander – was extraordinary, and I loved the way the performers used its cues to inform their movements.
Following the intensity of this initial phase of grief, one by one, each performer tentatively reacquainted themselves with the small, mundane movements of everyday life. It was at this point that the instruction “please do touch” appeared on a screen. On stage, the performers were vulnerable and fragile and we were asked to reach out and touch them. For many of us, this is an uncomfortable thing to do, even when we can see it is what somebody needs.
Some people in the audience threw themselves into the task, giving full body hugs and spending much time gazing into a performer’s eyes. Others were more tentative – not sure how to initiate the interaction, gently taking a performer’s hand in theirs. And, of course, others watched on. The performers responded to being touched, it eased their pain and they were even able to smile again. When they were left without touch, their pain built again until someone else reached out to them.
Evangeline is about grief and our response to the grief of others. I loved the way Miller approached this subject matter. It takes incredible insight and vision to be able to communicate an idea so effectively. Miller didn’t tell us what she wanted us to know, she helped us to experience it. Evangeline is evocative, simple, powerful and revealing, and above all, it was beautifully performed.
Blog – Sarah St Vincent Welch
A smoky room, gulping a dacquiri, tongue wrenched with lemon, I waited and relaxed and chatted and listened to the music in the Canberra Theatre Centre Studio Courtyard, (train – oh oh oh train – I remember, I remember, take me b –ack, take me– back) knowing I was in Chenoeh Miller’s Theatre of Love, a place I didn’t entirely know I was entering until I was there, it was so familiar. I will just leave the images I took and my poem at the beginning of this post, to evoke the experience. And to also say, never miss Miller’s work, try to get there. I also wanted to honour the artists Peta Ward, Alicia Jones, Erica Field and Ruby Rowat, whose extraordinary performances of intense physicality joined with the audience in ways I have only experienced in Little Dove Theatre.
After Evangeline I realised my own grief has stirred, surprised, I carry it in me calling it something else, as it pops out like a small disturbed snarly animal, but it is calming down, healing a little, getting used to its new name. Time. Love and kindness. Being with. And expressions and experiences like Evangeline, help.
Evangeline was on for three nights. In my opinion, so far, reviews have reflected what I experienced and I am linking them here so you if you missed out you can feel a little connected, and watch out for Miller’s next production. I never want to miss a Little Dove Theatre Art performance since I saw ‘From this.‘
CordeliaCity News, NOVEMBER 4, 2011 BY HELEN MUSA
LET’S get this straight – “Cordelia” is not a reworking of “King Lear”. It is rather, as Polish director Jerzy Grotowski used to say, a case of using a classic as the “springboard” for the imagination.
Yes, there is a king, though we never see him. Yes, there are three daughters and we know their names. Goneril, (Erica Field) is consumed with hatred and ambition. Regan (Peta Ward), whose name her father can hardly remember, is gentler, yet riven with guilt. And Cordelia (Noa Rotem), father’s pet, is ripped from her dying mother’s womb, but is stronger than the other two.
It’s a dysfunctional family in which there is more than a hint of parental abuse, but this is not a soap opera. Instead, Chenoeh Miller delivers a haunting production that runs just over one hour.
How does Miller harness the cacophony of her non-sequential plot? By calling in the big guns – a cast expert in vocal and physical theatre, including a brilliant singer in Janine Watson and a fine clown/fool in Rowan Davie.
Designer Imogen Keen creates intriguing neo-Baroque costumes and lighting designer Hartley TA Kemp, adds macabre insinuation, while allowing everyone their place in the spotlight.
Miller’s fertile imagination produces a script that interleaves childish nursery rhymes with a witty narrative from the King of France, played with rhetorical flair by Adam Hadley, whose beautifully resonant voice adds an Elizabethan flourish.
You won’t always understand what’s going on. Jealousy and longing are not shown in conventional acting, but rather through energetic jumping and dancing to 1980s music, which conveys the same idea.
As the play nears its climax, you can sense the audience quietening. This is going to be the Shakespearean bit. But it’s not. Instead of answering her father’s puerile question: “Tell me how you love me” with the simple word “nothing”, Cordelia disrobes the characters so that they are divested of their outward trappings.
At this moment it becomes pure Shakespeare because, as Cordelia accuses her sisters in “King Lear”: “I know you, what you are.”
Canberra Times Saturday, November 5, 2011by Glenn Burns
The overall impression is one of a writer and director of true theatrical instincts and of genuine originality. Her dialogue is impressive in its storytelling, in its wit
and in its feel for the rhythms of verse and spoken speech. In fact, much of the pleasure of CORDELIA comes from Miller’s alertness to and willingness to play around with rhythm: the rhythm of speech, of music, and of physical movement.
A lot is asked of the cast and they respond magnificently. As the three sisters Noa Rotem (Cordelia), Peta Ward (Regan) and Erica Field (Goneril) are as Shakespearean or contemporary, sympathetic or distant, poetic or gymnastic as their writer requires.
The Barefoot Reviewby Deborah Hawke5 stars
It was a good thing I was hankering for some theatre to rock my world when I went to see CORDELIA, because this is exactly what was dished up.
This production was a long-time in the making, and the emotional and artistic investment each performer has put in to CORDELIA is clearly apparent. Noa Rotem exquisitely embodies the strength and serenity of Cordelia, with her final scene so powerfully transcendent I almost lost my sh*t.
What really made this outstanding production so moving, however, was the choice of music and how the performers engaged with it through the choreography. The surreal take on classic eighties tunes mixed with ambient modern numbers facilitated an absolute explosion of creative energy from the characters, and ensured you were along for the ride. CORDELIA provides rich fodder for the senses. It’s highly original theatre that highjacks your imagination and offers you the rare opportunity to lose yourself in the moment.
BMA MagazineNovember 9th, 2011
Haunting cries of grieving women huddled together on the stage. These were the sounds the audience encountered as they entered The Street Theatre to view creator and director Chenoeh Miller’s Cordelia.
As the title suggests, Cordelia is not about Lear. In fact, he isn’t even in the play. Through this absence, his authority over the lives of his daughters; Goneril (Erica Field), Regan (Peta Ward) and Cordelia (Noa Rotem), is powerfully conveyed. The play, like King Lear, centres on the daughters professing their love for their father, with the hope of being selected to assume the crown. In Cordelia, Miller makes no attempt to follow Shakespeare’s original. Instead, she crafts a kind of prequel that explores the troubled family dynamic of Lear’s three daughters from a new perspective. This allows for greater understanding of their characters.
It is refreshing to see a piece of contemporary theatre that bravely combines tradition and innovation. Judging by the critical success of the production, Cordelia and its creator are set for a bright future.
Six Women Standing in Front of a White WallTHE SCOTSMAN (Full Review)
Fri 10 Aug 20075 stars
THERE are some things in life which unite us all - and the need for touch is one of them. A warm hug, the gentle clasp of a hand or stroke of the hair - gestures which take seconds to perform but can stay with us forever. Touch, and our psychological need for it, lies at the centre of this life-affirming show. Already a hit in their native Australia, Little Dove Theatre Art blend Japanese Butoh with performance art. The show's title, while factually correct, is only half the story. Six women do indeed stand in front of a white wall, tucked away in a disused basement in C soco. In these humble surroundings, the performers line up behind a sign saying "Please Do Touch".
Dressed in pretty pink frocks, with wild hair and make-up, they are the epitome of vulnerability and longing. The more time that passes, the more angst-ridden the women become. Until finally, somebody in the audience plucks up the courage to comply with the signage.
At the merest stroke of her hand the first woman lights up, and her posture transforms as if a lifeforce has passed through her. Slowly, other members of the audience venture forth, until all six women are in receipt of hugs, strokes and caresses. Such a display of contact between strangers is incredibly moving, and more than one member of the audience (myself included) leaves the theatre wiping away tears.
Makers of performance art often forget when to stop, dragging out their work until you've lost the will to live. At 30 minutes, Six Women Standing In Front Of A White Wall is the perfect length. We are given just enough time to engage with the characters, before the lights go down, maximising the effect. The underlying message of the show is that in the age of texting and e-mail, human touch is often neglected. This beautiful show reminds us that we must not let that happen.
The Herald – Herald Angel AwardAugust 15 2007By Mary Brennan5 stars
The ensuing half-hour - and believe me, that is an astutely judged and ideal length for this performance - sends dramatic conventions into freefall: not because it invites audience participation but because that participation touches, quite literally, on a need we all have . . . the need for physical contact, be it an all-embracing hug or a fleeting touch on arm or cheek. At
first, as the soundtrack booms and pulses, the women's fretful jitterings and silent, anguished faces suggest an unnerving vulnerability that intensifies until a member of the audience, accepting the need to do something, approaches one of the women and touches her hand. The effect is startling. Harrowing. Humbling. Just one touch, and the woman visibly blossoms, lights up, beaming and dimpling . . . and craving more.
Within seconds, the audience is queuing up to stroke, hold - even nuzzle - all six women: the need to give comfort is as intense as the need to be claimed, wanted, touched. The usual taboos of "invading personal space" don't exist here. Even so, it's fascinating to see the differing "how and where" degrees of intimacy ventured by the individuals who touch and the shifting responses of those who are touched. The music ends, the lights dim. The waifs slowly slope off - no, we can't adopt them, take them home, smother them with guilt-edged goodies - and we're left to ponder on the plight of those who dwell beyond the reach of a friendly, reassuring touch.
GUARDIAN UNLIMITEDAugust 15, 2007 By Lyn Gardner
It is fascinating to watch - and the audience is part of the interest. You'd think that natural British reticence would make this show a no-hoper, but in fact watching is as intriguing as actually taking part. At one point, seeing a young woman withdraw her arm from one of the red figures and hold it just out of reach - simply standing there as the red figure suffered - was so unbearable to watch that I found myself obliged to intervene in what seemed like an act of terrible cruelty.
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY – Best Director AwardSun 19 Aug 20074 stars
Six Women Standing In Front Of A White Wall, in a tiny basement at C Soco, could be the most astonishing show on the Fringe. It's the hardest-hitting physical theatre I've seen in a long time. It is described by this fledgling Australian company as a performance installation, involving six women who, erm, stand in front of a white wall. Over 30 minutes, the audience are invited to touch these women, move around the space and speak to one another. The women, wearing identical dresses, contort their bodies and facial expressions, and only through our interaction does their behaviour change.
They veer from ecstatic to aggressive to raw primal movement. It is sometimes disturbing to watch. Slowly, audience members attempt to soothe these strangers by going up and touching them, with a self-conscious stroke or a long, heartfelt hug. Some people cry, others look like they've just been handed the moon. It is a moving exposition on the nature of touch and the fact that we interact like this so rarely.
"From this to…"
(Full review of From This at CMAG)
by Duncan Driver
Have you ever been called upon to leave your seat in a darkened theatre, walk blinking into the stage light and take part in a performance you had only planned on witnessing? It can be very confronting. To be singled out by a stand-up comedian, to feel five hundred eyes craning around to look at you is about as unnerving an experience as you could have: you want to seem a good sport and laugh at yourself even as you writhe with embarrassment.
One of my earliest memories is of being at a children’s pantomime. I can’t have been more than five years old. One of actors had turned to face the cross-legged children on the floor and asked if there was any boy or girl who might like to come up on stage and be “in the play”. I remember the strained hands that were raised and the voices calling desperately to be chosen; I also remember those who shrunk and hid themselves, dropping their furtive gaze to the carpet lest they be called upon to make a spectacle of themselves. The memory is a strong one, and I think this is because it was my first experience of real ambivalence. I wanted to be chosen and not to be chosen simultaneously. An embarrassingly large part of me loves attention, applause and preferential treatment. Anyone who performs will tell you, though, that the experience makes you vulnerable. The collective will of strangers seems always to be coldly appraising you, deeply unimpressed with what it sees. Who would choose to put themselves through such an ordeal if it weren’t to fill some desperate psychological need?
I had not thought about this formative childhood memory for some time, but sitting in the Canberra Museum and Gallery last Friday afternoon, watching Little Dove’s theatre-art piece “From This”, the experience of being deeply conflicted by children’s theatre arrived sudden and unbidden in my mind, as vivid as though it had only occurred last week, rather in the way a sniff of sunscreen might recall long-forgotten summers at the beach. A Proustian moment, if you know your French literature.
It took a little while for this to happen. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of “From This”, whatever “This” was: a woman in a red dress stood with her back to us, repeating a series of jerky movements that were clearly taxing her physically. She stood adjacent to a man in rolled shirtsleeves and trousers who was squatting at different speeds. Separated from them by one of those rope barriers that divides the viewer from an art exhibit, a young woman on a high stool sat impassively. Her arms and hands appeared undeveloped, as though she may have been a Thalidomide baby. Rhythmic and vaguely tribal drums underscored the movement (or lack of it) on a nearby audio system. Something about this seemed menacing, at least to me. As the music swelled, the woman in red moved slowly around to face the man and began speaking to him in tones too low to be intelligible. Now facing the audience, she began her series of jerky movements again, emotional strain as visible on her face as the trickles of sweat that were running down it. Was this it? “From this” to … where exactly?
It was not until the director of the piece displayed a sign on which was written “show me how you see me” that the depth and subtlety of the piece began to reveal itself. Realising that the sign was an invitation to step into the performance space and “interact” with its components, one or two people began to make tentative little sorties into the performance space. I won’t describe everything that occurred over the twenty subsequent minutes, but some of the more salient and revealing moments included the female performer being hugged, mopped dry by a tissue and offered a glass of water. At first these attempts to alleviate her apparent suffering seemed to work: she smiled, stopped moving, hugged back, welcomed the touch of the audience and drank gratefully. Once each of these moments was over, however, she began to repeat her movements, slowly at first, but building back towards the crescendo that had prompted the first audience intervention. I could see as much frustration on the faces of the audience as I could mark strain on the performer’s. “What do I need to do to calm her down, to get her to stop?” seemed to be the unspoken question that each interaction was attempting to answer. It was as though the performance were a puzzle for the audience to solve: if we hit upon the “right” action or phrase, the frenzy might stop. Perhaps the point of the piece was to force its audience to consider the ways in which they dealt with suffering or the need for help. Whether we tried kindness, charity or (in my case) nothing at all, did that reveal something about who we were or how we chose to cope? This certainly seemed true in the case of one woman who was moved to grasp the performer by the shoulders and yell out “Stop! Get off the treadmill!”
At first, I felt guilty for not choosing to involve myself in the piece directly. It seemed a little craven, as though I were afraid of what the performers, the director or the audience would think of my participation; perhaps I was anxious that my actions would reveal something essential about myself in an uncomfortably public way. My eyes kept flitting between the performer in question and the sign that read “show me how you see me”. What was the best way to do this? Perhaps simply by sitting here, watching the performance, “seeing” it, and letting myself be seen seeing, I was fulfilling the instruction. At the very moment I was thinking this this, though, I happened to lock eyes with the performer. We stared at each other for a full minute, until my disquiet led me to look away. Had I now failed to show her how I saw her? Perhaps in breaking eye contact, I was also conveying the way in which I truly saw: less assuredly, less confidently than I would like, with a desire to see but with a self-consciousness about being seen seeing.
Then it occurred to me that the sign could just as easily be asked by me of the performance: what did the woman think of the various ways in which the audience chose to interact with her? What did she think of those of us who did nothing but watch? What did the audience think of each person who stepped into the performance and became part of it? What did those people think of the rest of us who didn’t? Were we, each in our own ways, showing each other how we saw, or at least how we wanted to be seen or not seen? The sign now seemed to be directed to and from all of us.
It was at this point that my early childhood memory flooded my brain and I realized that the hot, clammy menace I had felt when taking my seat had something to do with the way I had felt all those years ago at such a tender age. I realized that a dilemma about wanting to be seen and not seen, to see and not to see, were at the core of my experience of live performance. As much as the desire to be part of a spectacle is also the desire for acceptance, communion and connection, so is the need to bear witness intimately bound up with the compulsion to empathise. They are all means of revelation and they all make you vulnerable. It is in the nature of “Little Dove” to devise performance pieces that continually have this cathartic effect, and “From this” was no exception. It worked beautifully and gradually, stirring an emotional response that built at the pace of its performers, ending in a musical coda and release that did not leave me depleted, but renewed.