The Major Bruce Sessions

Maverick theatre makers The Present Tense Ensemble have jammed, improvised and delved deep into the queen of pop herself, Madonna, to re-imagine the album Like A Prayer like never before seen or heard.

Artistic directors Bryce Ives and Nathan Gilkes, as well as voice director Anna Boulic (who also plays the harp majestically throughout the concert) have utterly transformed this iconic album.

Collaborating with the Twoks (Xani Kolac on vocals and violin, and Mark Leahy on percussion) and associate ensemble members Aaron Holland, David McNamara, Morgan Phillips and Jack Swann, the performance comes together as a spectacle of musical genius unfolding before your eyes and tantalising your ears.

To begin, I must admit I was concerned that the music would remain on one level: a level in which you can appreciate the talent but are not quire sure whether it is actually what you yourself enjoy listening to.

I was very quickly brought back to my senses as the atmosphere transformed and the audience were engaged as part of the show, being allowed to choose the order in which the tracks on the album were played out.

Each song was done in truly unique fashion, with moments of happiness, sadness, despair and true celebration.

Highlights included the haunting and moving versions of Oh Father and Spanish Eyes, an adorable rendition of Cherish by the Barbershop Quarter, and the title song itself Like a Prayer played not only on just the fiddle and sang beautifully by Xani Kolac, but also re-imagined once again to close the show in a manner that would have had Madonna herself out of her seat and joining the chorus.

Well done to the entire ensemble on a fantastically entertaining evening of song (and dance) and for thinking outside the box and having the foresight to imagine what could be and for paying homage to one of the world’s most loved pop stars in a truly contemporary and inventive manner.
— Review by Stephen Leedin in the Melbourne Observer.

Major Bruce is sitting behind the piano. Major Bruce collects the ticket stubs and rations out the booze. Neither man nor woman, concept or reality; Major Bruce sings the blues. 

In 2014, Maverick music theatre-makers the Present Tense Ensemble re-imagined classic and legendary albums, at The Toff in Town and Ruby's Music Room. The Major Bruce Sessions are a collaboration between Present Tense and the fabulous The Twoks, an entertaining and theatrical music event experience, in which we bring together exceptional artists to re-imagine classic and legendary popular musicians and albums, in surprising ways. 

The event always features special guests and curated surprises in programming and content. 

Major Bruce is part live variety show, part rocking music gig, part spontaneous dance party led by The Twoks.  

Curated and arranged by Nathan Gilkes and Bryce Ives, the performances featured the hallmarks of their Present Tense ensemble: glorious vocal arrangements and impulsive live performances. 

Past Sessions:

Eternal Nightcap by The Whitlams, Wednesday 19 February
Featuring Zoy Frangos, Nate Gilkes, Bryce Ives, Amy Jones, Jess Keefe, Zoe McDonald and Yesse Spence
Listen to some of the night here

Like a Prayer by Madonna, Wednesday 19 March
Featuring Anna Boulic, Nate Gilkes, Aaron Holland, Bryce Ives, David McNamara, Morgan Phillips, Jack Swan with Xani Kolac and Mark Leahy of The Twoks and a flash mob of gospel singers. 

Listen to some of the night here

Many Thanks to the beautiful Brig Bee Photography for the photos you see here and for documenting the event. 



FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out by Zoe McDonald & Present Tense 

Zoe McDonald’s one-woman show is a masterpiece of characterisation, and a very successful piece of comedy. 4 Stars
— Broadway Baby

Ten different characters spring straight from Zoe McDonald’s persona, it’s the FOMO (aka the Fear of Missing Out) that ultimately unites her alter egos together. 

With just her body and an empty space, rising Australian sketch comedy star Zoe McDonald creates her own absurd live radio program. The talkback topic: the 21st century malaise and latest psychological fad FOMO. 

FOMO stormed the Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Melbourne Comedy and Melbourne Fringe festivals.

“The energy and panache with which McDonald embodies and snaps between each character simply must be seen to be believed. This is a journey into the unexpected; a one-woman sketch comedy experience like no other that nails the greatest fear of the current generation: The FOMO,” says director Bryce Ives.

“Both love letter and critique of our modern age, FOMO is peppered with the type of stuff that clogs up my Facebook adverts: body and soul improvements, Zumba classless and Brazilian waxing,” says Zoe McDonald.

FOMO was named Best Comedy of the Adelaide Fringe by the Adelaide Advertiser and won an Adelaide Fringe Festival Tour Ready Award. The Huffington Post named McDonald as one of the Four Female Comedy Stars to Watch at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014.

This irreverent and skilled comic performance borrows something of the lustre of the golden age of Australian sketch comedy
— The Age Newspaper
‘There is such polish in the craft and flow of the show, and such charisma in the delivery of the material, that FOMO goes down like fine champagne, dry and intoxicating.
— The Australian

Arts Academy, Federation University. 2013