Review: “How I Met My Dead Husband” performed by Lansy Feng

  I was delighted to be invited by Wit Incorporated to visit the lovely Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray for their production of “How I Met My Dead Husband” performed by Lansy Feng.  Before you ask – yes, it is possible to attend a production billed as a ‘cabaret funeral’ and have a great time (even some laughs) while still respecting other cultures and death / funerals. “How I Met My Dead Husband”manages to do all that and more which is testament to all the talent and efforts that have combined to make the show so worthwhile.

LF1Photo Credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

Lansy Feng plays Chuen-Jiau, who is the focal point of the story alongside her dearly departed husband Yueh (who is regularly referred to and described but never physically seen). Chuen-Jiau is on a journey to find Yueh (who is hidden in space and time) and ultimately to find love. The entire show is performed in front of a funeral alter and Yueh’s coffin, however this does not distract from the performance. Chuen-Jiau’s story is one that spans multiple lives (via reincarnation), cultures and languages which makes this show all the more compelling. Much of the emotion in this story is conveyed via short songs, and I thoroughly enjoyed Lansy Feng’s beautiful singing. When the song words weren’t in Engligh, they were in Mandarin or French, however there was always such emotion in the melody and Lansy’s eyes that we could always tell what Lansy was singing about. I could see the joy and sparkle in Lansy’s eyes every time she sang above love. At other times, Lansy’s eyes were wistful and misty as she sang about loss and the sacrifices of love. Lansy looks demure however she sings emphatically as Chuen-Jiau!

lf4Photo Credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

Clever theatrical methods helped to build the story over time – after all, lots of timespans and reincarnations could become confusing. Luckily, “How I Met My Dead Husband” ensures that the audience follows Chuen-Jiau closely on her journey (and her search for love and Yueh). The entire story is weaved together via vignettes of song (no lengthy boring ballads here), modern dialogue and some fun props / scenarios. I liked the poignant reminders of life (and the life beyond) in addition to the greater message regarding self love and the different ways love can be expressed. These greater messages were uplifting and made the show heartwarming. My heart felt so full at the conclusion of the show.

Another heartwarming aspect of this production is Wit Incorporated itself. Regularly referring to the crowd as ‘friends’ I’ve never felt so welcomed by / at an independent theatre (and one that is unfunded – quite a feat in itself in a world where costs are rising all the time). There were lots of friendly faces everywhere I turned so I truly can’t recommend Wit Incorporated and “How I Met My Dead Husband” enough.

VERDICT: A love story that transcends time and lives, woven via song and witty dialogue. “How I Met My Dead Husband” is a beautiful story despite its dark title. Look beyond the title, bring your imagination and be swept away by Chuen-Jiau’s captivating story. Her messages within will stay with you.

*Disclaimer: I attended this production as a guest of Wit Incorporated

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Review: “Boeing, Boeing” performed by The Basin Theatre

 Living in Melbourne’s West, I relish the chance to get ‘around town’ and visit local theatre productions which are outside my local area. Recently, my partner and I visited The Basin Theatre – which is a sweet theatre set off a very tree lined road. The Basin Theatre itself is thoroughly charming, with warm welcomes and plenty of sofa seating in the foyer to enjoy pre show and at interval. Better yet, tickets include pre and post show (and interval) refreshments which was a nice touch. There’s also the opportunity to meet cast members in the foyer post show so if you visit, do ensure you stick around for that!

The production for the current season is French playright Marco Camoletti’s comical farce “Boeing Boeing”, which is set in the 1960’s. Best of all, this is a ‘door play’ (one of my favourite kinds of theatrical setups), with all kinds of characters making appearances (and reappearances) via the doors throughout the show. The superb cast of characters is comprised of Bernard (played by Gordon Boyd) – who is a bachelor and the central character in the story, Bernard’s enthusiastic French friend Robert (played by Bruce Hardie), Bernard’s sassy housekeeper Bertha (played by Cate Dowling-Trask) and of course, Bernard’s three love interests – the air hostesses. Gretchen (played by Charlie Jean) is a ‘no nonsense’ dominant German, Gabriella (played by Nataleigh Maree) is a ‘classic’ Italian -complete with many hand gestures – and Gloria (played by Peta Owen) is an affable American. The synopsis of the show is fairly simple, in that Bernard juggles all his love interests via their flight schedules, ensuring that none overlap when they each land in Paris to spend time with their special Bernard. None are aware of each other’s existence, until Bernard’s plan slowly starts to unravel with storms, flight cancellations and the introduction of faster jumbo jets.

This show is very entertaining via its dialogue and comedic timing – everyone seems to have witty one liners that are on point (and there are even a few sneaky double entendres that made me laugh even harder!) Ripples of audience laughter were a constant throughout the show. Keep an eye out for Gretchen (played by Charlie Jean) in particular who is very enthusiastic and comical in her role, and helps to keep the laughs soaring in the show with her movements and facial expressions. Gretchen has a dazzling smile and just radiates love and happiness throughout her scenes and to the audience. She was a joy to watch and simply shone! Another personal highlight was Frenchman Robert (played by Bruce Hardie) who had an accent that never wavered and was often literally caught between characters in some hilarious scenarios. It was very entertaining to see Bernard (played by Gordon Boyd) sweat when he realised there were flaws in his plan and he had to work even harder to keep his plan ‘in the air’ (so to speak) – especially when his air hostess lovers each had their own opinions and weren’t afraid to voice them. I felt like it was a trip to another time as the same plan / concept just wouldn’t work in 2019 with the nature of the airline industry and aviation technology. The set dressing and music playing before the show all helped to transport the audience back to the 1960’s (in addition to the cast outfits!)

This production runs for approx 2 hours (plus interval) however time does indeed fly when you’re having fun and we just wanted to stay longer as the show was a fun, lighthearted night out. Thoroughly enjoyable.

 VERDICT: Fasten your seatbelts and stow away your troubles for an entertaining journey with engaging characters, featuring plenty of comedic highs. They say “If it ain’t Boeing I’m not going” so make “Boeing, Boeing” your next destination for comedy!

Interview with Lansy Feng, star of Wit Incorporated’s production of “How I Met My Dead Husband”

Wit Incorporated is an award-winning, artist-led theatre company based in Melbourne’s West. Having attended (and thoroughly enjoyed!) a previous production – ‘Ophelia Thinks Harder’ – I’m excited to attend opening night of their next hotly anticipated show “How I Met My Dead Husband” starring Lansy Feng.

LF3Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

I’m even more excited to share with you all an interview with Lansy Feng, which will hopefully pique your interest about this new show and provide a glimpse into some of the thoughts and preparation behind it all. Thank you to Lansy Feng and the Wit Incorporated team for taking the time to answer my questions.

LF111fy7jegPhoto credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

1. Describe “How I Met My Dead Husband” in 3 words

heartfelt, magical, surprising

 
2. What has influenced your performance in this production (ie any cultural and personal elements you wish to share with readers)?

I grew up in a conservative small town in Taiwan with strict parents. I’ve learnt obedience, living in the way that the society wants you to, and behaving like a good girl from school from my parents and from judgmental people. I fought battles and battles with my parents years for what I wanted and who I wanted to be. Won some, lost some. But in every battle, I learnt something and they did too. It took time for them to accept all the new stuff but they listened. They are the best parents ever. The third year of my uni as an exchange student studying in the USA has broaden my horizons a lot. I was even more sure I should follow my heart and my dreams.

Having this background helped me to relate to Chuen-Jiau’s story. Even though her time in Taiwan is more than 200 years before now, cultural background is still quite similar.  She is like me, hard-headed, strong, and fought for her dreams.

Also, Belinda the director has given me a great support throughout all the rehearsals helped me to discover more in this character. She is amazing!

3. “How I Met My Dead Husband” raises some serious topics (death, funerals etc) – how do you ensure things don’t get too confronting for your audiences?

The story is a woman on her dead husband’s funeral using a humorous, modern way to tell the people her tragic lives. She has been through A LOT! And she survived and still living with hope and laughter. It’s encouraging and loving. We also treat the funeral altar in a respectful way to ensure the humor doesn’t come from silliness.

4. How has this production changed you?

I’ve learnt so much from this production, I’ve learnt more about my own culture. I’ve learnt to work with a whole team taking on people’s great ideas. I’ve learnt that I’m extremely lucky to work with a beautiful team of people who helped to make this production come to live. I’ve also learnt that when there’s a deadline for your dream to come true, you are capable to write a new song in one afternoon to replace the one you are not allowed to use.

5. Without giving too much away, what can audiences expect from “How I Met My Dead Husband”?

Have you seen Aladdin and Jasmine on the magic carpet exploring their world singing a whole new world? Yeah, it’s not that.

It’s more like, Chuen-Jiau will take you on her magical carpet to a surprising, emotional, dramatic and cultural adventure with a pair of funny goggles.
…And she will sing 8 other songs and sometimes shows off her bad French!

LF2Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

“How I Met My Dead Husband” runs from at
concluding at at:
Bluestone Church Arts Space 8A Hyde Street Footscray, VIC, 3011

Review: “A Midnight Visit”

On an appropriately gloomy and rain swept Winter’s night, I made my way to a warehouse building in North Melbourne to partake in “A Midnight Visit” staged by Broad Encounters. Billed as a ‘5 star immersive theatre experience’, “A Midnight Visit” is a maze of different rooms containing different experiences and themes, largely based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Despite not being familiar with all of Poe’s work, I do like the macabre / fantasy / horror genre, so I was very excited (and a bit nervous) to enter what I took to be like a ‘spook house / haunted house’ experience for adults.

There was so much I enjoyed about this experience! It pains me not to write too much as I don’t want to give too much away (despite ‘the experience’ changing regularly). I feel like in my hour and a half I was able to discover and visit many different rooms with different ‘feels’. Some rooms were spooky and macabre; others made me giggle and take in all the textures and surroundings. There was even a room with a ball pit , which I took particular delight in! There are rooms that you wish to linger in (the ball pit!) and other rooms where you almost feel like you shouldn’t be there, lest you see too much beyond the mortal veil. I’m sure some rooms are designed to push the ‘comfort level’ limits of visitors. Once you’re past the ‘receiving room’, the entire experience is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. There’s no set path to follow, just lots of curious spaces to discover and even more curious characters to meet – and what performances we were treated to! Seems everyone in the building is a great storyteller and the characters engage the audience so well. A quote from Poe is very apt here: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” and this experience is quite dreamlike. Mentally I forgot I was in Melbourne entirely. Once I understood the flow of the evening, my nerves melted away and each new room I explored was done out of excitement more than hesitation, peeling back the curtain and peeking into different realms and seemingly worlds encased solely in rooms.

The entire experience itself is well staffed, managed and organised. From the moment you step through the threshold from the outside world into this otherworldly experience, you are in safe hands and there is guidance should you need it. This isn’t the kind of experience / ‘spook house’ where there are jump scares and characters are literally out to harshly grab / swipe at you. It’s a more thoughtful experience where you can choose how interactive you wish to be. All elements of the experience are combined beautifully and I wish I could have stayed longer – I was reluctant to leave when our timeslot ended, I wanted to remain the dreamlike world for an extended period of time.

It was a completely fascinating and entertaining evening and an exciting voyage into another world. Given that I visited almost a week ago and it has been on my mind regularly since then is testament to my enjoyment of the experience. In my opinion, the ticket price is well worth it for such a well run, enjoyable experience. “A Midnight Visit” travels and will be leaving Melbourne soon, so best to get tickets promptly for this one. Oh, and for those curious – no, the visit to this experience did not actually occur at midnight!

VERDICT: Best suited to adults (18+) due to themes and content, a fantastic escape from the ordinary and ‘day to day’ world. Mysterious, curious and exciting I was hesitant to leave and just wanted to keep exploring. Well worth a visit if you’re a Poe / literary fan or not.

Tickets / more information: https://amidnightvisit.com/