By Catherine Lawrence
Charlie was a three-part event. Arrive early and you could catch some creative dance moves by the dance troupe, as the performers warm up (this also helped those unfamiliar with the campus layout, as you could follow the music when you got to the Great Court). The 6pm Main Show had two key components: a creative, play-focused theatrical event, which concludes when the larger ‘dance crew’ join them onstage for some great singing and enthusiastic dance.*
I use the word ‘stage’ loosely, as the show takes place outside. The audience sits on the grassy knoll (some deckchairs and bean bags provided), while the main action takes place on the concrete surface, under a decorated and beautifully-lit pergola. It’s a well-chosen spot for Charlie—suitable for play, for connecting and for relaxation. It is cold at this time of year, but it’s a fantastic spot, set against the backdrop of some of UQ’s iconic sandstone walls.
The show is interactive, rather than immersive, beginning as the cast start to look for Charlie. Charlie is the main word spoken during performance, and there is a real sense of a child-like seeking for a friend and a wanting to connect and play. Tone and actions indicate whether the words is used as a question, an invitation, encouragement or admonishment. Willing audience members were invited onto stage to join in, and each performer created different playful moves, drawing on props which included a much-loved teddy, flowers, a notebook, pompoms, a scarf, and even walking sticks.
Screech Arts is certainly an organisation to follow. Their last show, The Box, was a highlight of the 2018 Anywhere Festival, and it was great to again have the opportunity to enjoy the work of this creative and enthusiastic group. Congratulations to Directors Martina Cross and Lisa Alsop, the support staff (Sarah McGill, Julie Stewart, Niala Lewis, Timothy Searle), and their technical and stagehand volunteers (Amily Chen, Wendy Kinyanjui, Lauren Archer and Rupa Pun) for their work in creating this show with the performers.
If I had to pick my three favourite moments from Charlie, I’d probably settle on: first, the arrival and speech of the self-styled “Boss Man” (Dale Gonelli—funny, with a wicked grin, great comic timing and wearing a fantastic tie); second, the story-telling, where the performers gathered to hear the words of ‘Mother’ (Danielle Stewart), where each line of the tale was beautifully illustrated by individual members of the cast; and, finally, the song and dance crew song performance of the Legally Blonde The Musical song Omigod You Guys (infectious enthusiasm from of the dance crew members: Mags Doherty, Eve May, Tom Hinds, Haley Rickards, David Rodriguez, Matty Fortunaso, Yuki Hashimoto, Tia Van’t Hof, Lisa Alsop, Lucy Foran, Carlos, and Justin Stewart).
But there was so much more I could have picked: the conga line (with very active participation by Julie Stewart); the centre-stage performance by the green bow tie-wearing Joseph Surawski; the grumpy-let-me-sleep humour of the blue-clad Sarah McGill; the pompoms interventions by Miranda Sherman; the enthusiastic crowd management by the orange-clad Wendy Chauncy and red-clad Niala Lewis; the flirtatious use of the bunch of flowers by Alex Procopis; the singing, the well-chosen costumes (I loved the sparkly green scarf and hat, worn with great pzazz and during some great dance moves by Michael Doust); and the great choreography. Perhaps the audio tracks could have been tightened a little (occasionally too repetitive), but that’s a minor piece of constructive criticism.
So. yes. Charlie was… to quote from the introductory audio… “artistic, sophisticated, […]. and with no pink dinosaurs” (I hope I got that verbatim?). Wacky, fun, joyful, inspiring… and free. Just wrap up warm.
The reviewer attended the Saturday 11 May 2019 performance (6:00pm), at the Campbell Place Grassy Knoll, Campbell Road, The University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, Brisbane.