Crossroad Arts ‘Loose Ends’ A Review.

Crossroad Arts Inc collaboratively develops opportunities for people who experience a disability and those in aged care, to access and participate in the arts, and on Saturday night I got to see one of their shows for the first time at one of my favourite venues, Dirty Martinis. A show, I must point out, that was sold out before opening!

The performers in this production treated their audience to a show that was very much like a cabaret. Divided into two acts, the production featured a handful of solo and collaborative performances that were strung together with a mix of crowd participation activities hosted by their charming MC’s, the cheeky Georgia Knoll and the bubbly Alison Richardson and translated by the sign language interpreter Arna, who I have to say I am in complete awe of. I’ve been meaning to learn sign language for years but am still at the spell everything out with the sign alphabet stage, and watching her hands fly about so effortlessly has inspired me to delve back into all the books I bought on the subject a few years ago. 

I had a wonderful time and my expectations were not only met but superseded by the talent these incredible individuals had to offer and I learned more about what it was like to have a disability in one evening than I have in years due to being shown rather than told. The acts were incredibly varied so it never felt like too much of any one thing, and the affect that the performances had on me ranged from moving, to shocking, to hilarious to downright inspiring. And to make it even more worth the while, they used the evening’s production as a platform for change, and I’m thrilled that they’re spear-heading a campaign to get restaurants in Mackay to print up at least one copy of their menus in braille to make venturing out that little bit easier for people the people who can’t communicate with the ease that so many of us take for granted.

The featured group of the evening was the Sydney-based performing arts band Ruckus who have made a real name for themselves over the years as 5 piece performance group who all have Down’s Syndrome, but there were a few other groups as well, I very much enjoyed Brendan Borellini’s piece with Matt Tandy, Dear Olga, mostly because it brought to my attention that the way he writes is not that different to the way that I (and I’m sure most of us think) and his 3D art displays were so fabulous that I sort of blew my raffle-ticket budget trying to win one. In addition to that, there was a 4 person act called ‘Way up North’ which was incredibly detailed and moving performance that commanded the unbroken focus of the hushed crowd and was accompanied by rolling footage of the region for a personal touch. 

As for the solo acts, local artist Joel Bow entertained us with his rendition of Defying Gravity. and 16 year-old artist Jade Fiyen sang some beautiful songs while accompanying herself on her ukulele, including You Are The Only One and Boys Will Be Boys. Jade has one of those lilting, Indie voices that lulls people into a trance-like state, so she had the audience in the palm of her hand the whole time. Georgia Rose Cranko is a performer from Sydney who has Cerebral Palsy, and she filmed a riveting piece of her getting undressed and dressed again- showing that she has everyday struggles but that in the end we’re all people. Georgia Rose’s personal platform is NO PITY.

The star of the evening for me, however, was Miss Georgia Knoll who might just be one of the sassiest performers that I’ve ever seen on a Mackay stage. I don’t know how much of her emcee act was an actually an act and how much was improv, but she was cheeky and beguiling and had as much stage presence as anyone I’ve ever seen locally to date. Georgia interacted with the crowd the most, and I got a kick out of the karaoke game that she hosted at half-time, which started with her performing the opening to a song, and then like with freeze-tag, paused it- giving the eager members of the audience the chance to finish it and win a prize. This little adventure (followed by a lolly drop) was so much fun, not just for those that participated but for those of us that sat back and watched as the ones with special needs in the crowd were treated to a truly fantastic night out that had been created with them in mind as a priority, not as an afterthought. 

That being said however, the night was truly entertaining and accessible to all, and I hope that the next show sells out twice as fast as this one did because the performers have worked as hard as any other local performer has and what the stories that they have to tell need to be seen, heard and understood. Follow Crossroad Arts on facebook to hear about their next performance: The Unlikely Tour, set to be staged during The Mackay Festival Of Arts. 

A standing Ovation for the team at Crossroad Arts behind the scenes, as sponsors and onstage! Until next time 🙂

CAN YOU ESCAPE AIRLIE BEACH?

 

REVIEW: ESCAPECQ

1a/400 Shute Harbour Road
Airlie Beach
PHONE: 48293411

Ever been to an Escape room before? I hadn’t, and I hadn’t even heard of one until a few months ago when I found out one was being built in Airlie Beach and now that I’ve seen it, I can’t wait to go back a second time!

The premise is so cool; you are locked inside the first room of a place called Addington Manor, and are left to your own devices to find your way out while a clock ticks nearby, giving you an hour to beat the game in order to win, or fail. 

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the idea, I got a little anxious because I’m known to get claustrophobic when I’m locked in anywhere (regardless of the size of the space it’s a mental thing) and because I thought I’d spend the whole time freaking out about the pressure that I was under, but to my shock, I was one hundred percent comfortable the whole time and I had an absolute ball. 

Getting into the manor is easy- teams ranging from 2-6 players are given the safety instructions, the rules and some tips and then, your game master reads the scenario’s back story to you which in this case concerned a haunted old house with a bad reputation, firstly because the original owner, old man Addington went mad after his wife died and killed his daughter, and then because a curious group of kids went in there during the 80’s and couldn’t get out. That was until, the last one of them managed to cast a spell, which you must now recreate if you too want to get out alive. 

Then, once you’re ready to go, your sent into the room, the door locks behind you and then tick tock- you’re racing the clock!

I was absolutely gobsmacked by how detailed and atmospheric Addington Manor was on the inside giving how unassuming it is on the outside, but once that door locks behind you you’re in another world entirely. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the creator of Escapecq has a heavy theatrical background and it shows, all right, because he’s created a bit of a spooky time portal in the middle of one of the sunniest, happiest places in the world. Every detail was beautifully presented and well thought out but even though the space is small and dimly lit in order to keep the atmosphere of the scenario intact, our team of five grown adults found it easy to get around anyway without worrying about getting under one another’s feet or knocking things over.

It’s going to be difficult to explain why you should go to Escapecq or what exactly goes on in there without giving any of the game away, but I know a lot of people are curious about how it works so as my friend Dave said, it’s very much like being in one of those video games that have a heavy focus on exploring the area you’re in in order to get to the next. I thought you’d be given one clue to begin with and would then have to follow a specific formula but it’s not like that at all. Instead, you’re locked in the room and then are encouraged to ransack it, without having any idea about what you’re looking for or why, and even when you work one clue out, it might not necessarily work out for you or make any sense until you’ve figured out a different part of the puzzle, which is why it is such a great team activity because everyone can contribute to solving the problem simultaneously. 

32385554_10216995704231671_7606701734815072256_n

You’re not abandoned in there either. The attendant out front is able to monitor you the whole time, so if you get stumped or scared or you hit a wall, they are able to offer extra hints via the AV display in the room itself, which my group needed (I suspect) a lot in the beginning because we were too excited to focus. Atmospheric sound effects are played the whole time to keep that haunted house feel going, but if you are in dire straits, a wolf will howl, which is your cue to look to the monitor for an extra hint. Really, it’s exactly like being in a haunted house ride, only more authentic feeling than any I’ve ever been in before. 

The clues and puzzles are all tied in with the original storyline in a very clever way, and come in all sorts of forms too so everyone gets a chance to contribute to solving the problem regardless on what their strength is, whether they be someone that’s into riddles, or decoding or even if they just have a knack for problem solving or are just there to offer encouragement and enjoy the ride. For instance, you might need to get into a drawer that’s locked with one kind of lock, but in order to open that lock you have to decode an audio visual clue, or trigger one of the mechanisms in the room that leads you to the next step, and to my delight, that next step often involved advancing into another room that you wouldn’t have guessed was there until everything all clicks into place. It’s a lot of fun and a bit chaotic to begin with, but as you start to get a feel for how the game works, you have the chance to pace yourself and get some organization going. 

Is it complicated? Definitely so I’d suggest having a strong coffee before going in (At one point I heard myself hysterically exclaiming: ‘There’s no DIAMOND symbol in Morse Code!!!)  but it’s complicated in a way that’s fun and it doesn’t get tedious at all, and though that racing clock keeps the pressure on to complete the scenario in under an hour, the games have ranged between forty minutes and seventy-five, so even if you don’t make it in time, you do get the chance to make it through anyway. Also, the company keeps track of those who get through the fastest so if you’re the competitive type, the incentive to escape as quickly as possible greets you the second you enter the building and see the placard advertising the record to beat. 

There wasn’t anything about the experience that I didn’t enjoy, but the very best part for me, was the way everything was so automated. There were sensors and triggers lying in wait everywhere, setting off a response in something else, so it sort of reminded me of being in one of the fictional playing fields in The Hunger Games only instead of it all being controlled as you go, it’s all been set up so every lock, every candle flicker, every AV prompt is self-activated. Honestly I was in awe of how everything worked because of how fluid it was, and although the second Escape Room isn’t due to be completed until next week, the owner Victor Scott gave us a sneak peak at the new scenario and although it’s a similar concept, all of the puzzles are different again and relate back to the new storyline, and I know that if it had been ready to go today we would have all begged to have a crack at the other immediately after we’d finished the first.

We all know there’s a lot of stuff to do in Airlie, but if you’re up there any not in a mood to get wet or drunk sometimes, it can feel a bit limited which is exactly why the escape room is an awesome idea, especially now that the weather’s cooling down a bit. My group and I drove up there just to play the game and had to head back to Mackay immediately afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I won’t hesitate to do I again as soon as the next game is ready so I heartily encourage all locals to do as I do- get yourself up there as soon as you can because there’s no adventure quite like it anywhere near here. Not only is this a great way to amuse tourists that are looking for something a bit different to do, but it’s an entertaining way for locals to have fun too, in addition to being a great team-building idea for secondary students and work groups or an inventive way to celebrate a special occasion, like with a hen’s Night, birthday or anniversary etc. In fact, the company will actually help you theme the room to compliment your event if you give them enough notice. 

Escapecq’s office is open for bookings between Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, but the games themselves run every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Booking in advance is heavily recommended if your plans are time-sensitive, but they will take walk ins if the room is available. Right now the only room available is ‘Addington Manor’ but the new scenario, ‘The Stitch Up’ will be open as of this Thursday May 17th, and they’re taking bookings for it now for all people aged 14+. It’s recommended to have at least two people who speak English in the room with a party, but the attendant will try to help overcome any language barriers if such are present anyway.

Player’s rates vary according to the size of the party, starting at $44 for 2 people, and going as low as $30 each for 6, so like their page on Facebook or call: 48293411 to make a booking!

26805038_255712291632149_7779188087754268716_n