The season of Vertical Shadows’ “On the Rocks” was super an amazing experience to be a part of an so wonderfully received. Every night had a fantastic audience at the Chapel off Chapel venue and we got some fantastic reviews. For those of you that missed this season of VS amazing dance work, make sure you jump on the bandwagon as I can assure you, this is a company you want to keep your eyes on! Here are some pics from the beautiful show showing the rehearsals and some of the dynamic dancers and an AWESOME review given by Heather Bloom from Australian Stage.
“A teasing hand beckons, a flirtatious wave of a diamond clad finger and you’re hooked. Behind the heavy black curtain a woman in red waits patiently and the heady sounds of 1950’s jazz fills the stage. For the next 51 minutes there is nothing in this world except the bodies that sway, flick and move with exceptional precision through the vintage inspired score. The free spinning jazz soundtrack is a perfect example of what choreographer and director Stephen Agisilaouhas created with his latest production with company Vertical Shadows. On The Rocks is as perfectly danced and professionally turned out as anyone could expect, yet it retains it’s freedom of movement. Nothing is forced, it is as if each plie has come intrinsically from the dancers themselves.
Elements of old school Bob Fosse take to the stage with flicks and kicks worthy of the great man himself and blend flawlessly with latin hips and classic contemporary. The mixed bag of inspiration Agisilaou has embraced only enhances the performance – strong beats, loud trumpets and semi-erotic vibe to the whole performance is as breathtaking as it is desirable. Performed by the exquisite Jessica Mortlock, she embraces her role as femme fatale with glee, relishing in her seductive prowess and seemingly insatiable appetite for young male flesh. Her greatest moment is her final wave goodbye and is a move that makes you either want her, or want to be her. Joined onstage by the Vertical Shadows boys, Jayden Hicks (who also served as creative associate) was once again the standout performer that drew the audiences attention and retained it for the entire performance. Hicks is difficult to look away from, his stage presence is one of the most commanding and his movement some of the most exceptional. Watching Hicks is like watching water, cool, fluid and effortlessly natural.
Agisilaou’schoreography has a distinctive feminine look, yet put into the hands and bodies of his male dancers they make it entirely their own and perform a staunchly masculine interpretation. Perhaps the highlight of the evening is Sean Marcs, whose “bottle dance” is one of the most seductive pieces of choreography ever presented. If Coopers Brewery are ever at a loss on how to attract the female market, Marcs could show them a thing or two as he writhes with the bottle sexualizing the very concept of beer.
The inspirational and effortlessly unique creative minds and bodies behind Stephen Agisilaou’s contemporary dance company Vertical Shadows have once again raised the barre in Australian contemporary dance. On The Rocks, is a powerful and moving performance exploring the very essence of human nature. This is more than simply “on the rocks”, it is shaken, stirred and ultimately set on fire. These dancers burn with a creative intensity so bright it is impossible to tear yourself from their stunning portrayal of human emotion”
Here is Tales’ firest ever review by Lothalis from Ancient Scrolls Geek Culture Blog. I was impressed by how honest it was and focus equally on the good and not so good part of the series. To go to the original source, here’s the link :)
A while back I was watching my weekly instalment of videos on The Escapist when in the new video section I saw a new series called Tales from the Table. This series was put together by Aardvarks Anonymous and was the 2010 Escapist Film Festival winner; the series was based on a group of role-players showcasing an adventure through their eyes as we also observed the players. With the series now at it’s conclusion I would like to take a moment to take a retrospective look at the characters and the series as a whole.
The DM – Played by Drew Belsten
Clockwise from top left: Out of Game, Goblin Warrior, Lord Cryson and The Minstrel
In the beginning you cannot help but feel sorry for this guy. From Falcore’s desire to change class right before the game to Thordin’s absurd “I want to be an octopus!” this pulled a cord that every single DM has had to put up with at one time or another. Having to put up with players complaining about the monsters to the entire group turning down a great role-player and friendly guy in Phillip (played by Nick Zull) you can see his frustrations.
It was in episode five that I saw an interesting flaw in the DM. The episode is just the DM giving the back story of the villain Cryson, however as he is telling the story you can see the DM growing up and living his life in a form similar to the history of Cryson. This will not bode well for the adventurers as the DM is playing out his frustrations with his home and family life using the game as a conduit in an attempt to become who he wanted to be in his own fantasy realm.
He never figured out that by making such a close connection with the main villain the players will need to defeat or may eventually kill him, thus he would see himself fail again, this time in his own fantasy escape. This of course when you control the whole story will not happen and in the final episode you see the consequences of this oversight.
Falcore – Played by Steve Varley
The power gaming, greedy munchkin playing a high elf ranger like a thief. We all know a player like this who plays their character completely differently than the text advises them to do. Falcore’s desire to be the best character often leads to others (often Rufus) being hurt and eventually causing him to completely self-destruct. The DM being sick and tired of his whining made the decision to teach him a lesson.
The cost was dear in the end and the player actually was punished in a way that was more than appropriate. He not only gave away his companion’s item but eventually his birthright to obtain the potion Hero Win for a temporary boost.
The fallout from the Hero Win, he was judged by the Elven council and given a trial witch he failed. As punishment Falcore is not allowed to the next session and has a sort of real life personal quest. He ends up trying to amuse himself to no avail and ends up taking a jog where he is invited to a game of Australian Football. While playing he realises that it is better to be part of a good team rather than the best player in it.
Eventually regaining his powers via self sacrifice he becomes a team player and his character has a much clearer role in the party as the idea of playing the game as a team seems to take root and stay there.
Thordin – Played by Blake Willoughby
This Druid has some interesting qualities that separate him from the others. First he seems to be the only one who has a stable job, working in a bar. He seems to be good friends with Rufus often confiding in him and helping him when he requires it and generally just seems like a good guy. The major problem he has is with the woman in his life, for example in episode three they are showcasing how Thordin cannot grasp the fact that his girlfriend has no interest in the game he enjoys but wants her to be there.
It is interesting later that he cannot make up his mind between his old girlfriend (Played by Claire Frost), who broke up with him that treated him like dirt and his new girlfriend (played by Gemma Duncan) who seems to be a really nice receptive person. It would seem that he lets himself get wrapped up more in what he cannot have than what he does. This might have manifested itself by him not being able to shapeshift, a key trait in the Druid’s repertoire. By his own admission he never bothered to learn it from the druid school, or more than likely his player never learned how to do it because he never thought to use it.
By the end he realizes his potential and becomes a key member of the party by using his artefact the way it was meant to be used. Combined with him using his magic he became a very powerful hero in his own right.
Rufus – Played by Timothy O’Leary
Rufus tries to be the stereotypical Herculean warrior as an escape from his everyday boring life. He chooses a Barbarian as a class, his answer to every problem is to attack and he is constantly trying to come off as a ladies man. Ironically enough his insecurities about himself manifest in his character being unable to properly succeed in combat; a place where he should excel.
In the beginning he would constantly flirt with Ceredwyn (despite not really acknowledging she is indeed a girl in episode 2) and try to understand how Thordin was able to get a girl. In fact he focused more on that issue than the game itself. After a long conversation over lunch with him Rufus learned that Thordin was just as insecure with himself as he was and much of those insecurities in the game washed away.
From all appearances once Rufus was able to be there for Thordin, not only in real life but also in game, his attention turned towards the game in a new way, of playing the character as a defender of his friends not a lone wolf looking for the ladies. This makes the ending of episode 17 so much more upsetting, as it seemed to undo all the progress he had made as a person by causing a rift.
Ceredwyn – Played by Michelle Mammana
Starting out as a timid girl gamer not looking comfortable at all, this character had by far the most development, she was often ignored, picked on and often the object of Rufus’s advances before taking more control in episode 4. Later she is seen living a double life, one consisting of the game as Ceredwyn the other as the popular girl. She is quite intimidated by the DM’s sister (played by Kate Wilkinson) who reveals she isn’t as evil as her brother makes her out to be.
Ceredwyn’s insecurities in the beginning of the adventure disappear after learning that the double life between “nerd” and “popular girl” can actually be one in the same as her friends also play the game, allowing her to become the teams much needed leader when she becomes more secure with who she is. Despite the fact that each of her companions had their special items and lost to the evil monk, she pulled herself up and defeated him.
She proved her worth to her friends after obtaining the sword from the monk and led them all to Cryson for the final encounter defeating not only his diabolical robot (that he condemned Thordin for suggesting in episode 1) but also holding her own in a battle with Cryson’s army. By this time all forms of timidness, both in game and outside are gone and she confronts Cryson head on. The aftermath of that battle showed the strength Ceredwyn’s player had gained, not only by the way she was the only player to rightly blame the DM for what happened but also in the manner in which it was done.
Over all I really liked the series, it showcased not only the silliness that does happen during game sessions but also gave interesting character development throughout the series. It is too bad that Aardvark’s didn’t start with the story right from episode one or even three, but that is just me nitpicking and by the time the storyline in episode four is indeed discovered the characteristics of each player are well established so massive back story is not required. It is thoughtful, well made and I fully recommend it to old and new players of the genre.