Photo credit above: Peter Hislop - Canberra International Music Festival 2021
BIO IN BRIEF:
Christine Johnston combines vocal performance and music with her visual arts background in creating stand out work. Known for her particular bent on humour, dramatic visual style, musical-saw and bird calls, she has created a diverse range of works nationally and internationally. Along with self devised performances, including MADAME LARK, she is also co-creator of the multi-award winning comedic trio THE KRANSKY SISTERS.
BIO, HISTORY and PROJECTS:
Christine Johnston is an Australian performing artist/writer/singer who came from a semi-rural, outer Brisbane suburban childhood at Geebung, with two sisters, a brother, portrait painter mother, a dentist mechanic father, chooks, ducks, horses, dogs, frilly lizards, camping and bird-listening. Christine has created and collaborated on a diverse range of performance and musical works for events, festivals, art galleries, theatre, comedy, short film and cabaret which have toured Australia, UK, Europe, Asia, USA and Canada.
Christine became known for her dramatic visual performances with her particular bent on humour, when she began to combine music, singing, surprisingly accurate bird-call mimicry, musical-saw playing and performance with her visual arts background in and around the Brisbane arts and live-music scenes from the late 1980s.
In the 80s and early 90s it was with groups such as THE HIBISCUS SISTERS and GEZABEL DINOSAUR that swung Christine into performance and music after her tertiary visual-arts studies at Brisbane College of Advanced Education (now Queensland University of Technology).
It was in 1994 and beyond that Brisbane's iconic WOMEN IN VOICE series saw some of Christine's cabaret characters emerge - ANGEL OF ACID OPERA, OHP WOMAN, FLOWER POWER, CARDBOARD WOMAN, INSECT WOMAN and most recently CAR WOMAN... and where Christine began to, and continues to, collaborate with costume designer Selene Cochrane. In 1998 Christine devised her first full-length show DECENT SPINSTER - Observations... Interpretations... and the Inner Hoon. It was through these outlets that Christine began to perform a type of Synesthesia that she and her younger sister Deborah had been sharing since childhood... giving visual objects a sound. Christine began to develop important creative relationships with musicians Trent Arkley-Smith and Peter Nelson; dancer/choreographer Lisa O'Neill and visual artist Kylie Burke. In 2000, almost as a culmination and an outlet for all her characters, MADAME LARK appeared... a big-haired, saw-playing vocalist with a fondness for bird-calling... Madame Lark most recently hosted the Clore Ballroom as part of London's Imagine Children's Festival (2013 and 2014) after performing for GOMA's Surrealism Exhibition with Gareth Skinner.
Some of Christine's other self-devised and collaborated performance works include DECENT SPINSTER (Matilda Commendation Award 2001); HAIRLINE; HAIRLINE EXTENSION; PEAK HOUR APPARITIONS (Brisbane Festival); ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES (Lisa O'Neill); FLUFF: A Story of Lost Toys (QPAC Out of the Box 2002 commission with Peter Nelson & Lisa O'Neill, continuing to tour globally including a recent tour across the USA); WARM & FUZZY (QPAC commission); PIANISSIMO (QPAC commission with Lisa O'Neill ); and RRAMP - the Collector, the Archivist & the Electrocrat, which is a RRAMP HOUSE collaboration with Lisa O'Neill and Peter Nelson, animated by Ahmarnya Price (Brisbane Powerhouse commission, receiving two Green Room Award nominations in 2013).
In 2000 Christine also began to collaborate with friend Annie Lee when they became co-creators of multi-award winning comedic trio THE KRANSKY SISTERS... Alongside musicians Michele Watt and since 2007 Carolyn Johns, The Kransky Sisters have been kept busy with regular television appearances (Spicks & Specks; In Siberia Tonight; The Sideshow) and continuous touring throughout Australia and internationally. Their awards include: 2013 Green Room Award nominations (3); 2008 Sydney Theatre Award; 2006 Herald Angel Award (Edinburgh); 2005 Australian Mo Award; and in 2004 The Age Critics Award, Best Newcomers Award and Green Room Award at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The Kransky Sisters have recently also enjoyed collaborations with music ensemble Topology.
The Kransky Sisters seem to be creating a tradition for many around Australia with their annual yuletide festive tour of A VERY KRANSKY CHRISTMAS.
In 2015 Christine received high praise for her interpretation of the 'Old Lady with one buttock' in CANDIDE as her first role with Opera Queensland. She received a Matilda Award nomination for her performance as Mad Margaret in Opera Q's 2017 production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore or The Witch's Curse which went on to tour regional QLD in 2018.
In 2017/2018 Christine collaborated with Scottish artist Shona Reppe and Windmill's Rosemary Myers on developing a brand new children's show BABA YAGA commissioned by Edinburgh International Children's Festival (Imaginate) and Windmill Theatre Company, premiering in Scotland in 2018.
In 2019 BABA YAGA had it's Australian premiere at the Adelaide Festival and then Ten Days On The Island Festival. Baba Yaga then went on to tour China, Norway (as part of Asitej), Ireland and the United Kingdom. Stay tuned for Baba Yaga's future touring which has been postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christine's bird calling character MADAME LARK continues to tour nationally at various festivals including Melbourne NGV's Kids Summer Festival 2018 and Melbourne Recital Centre's Music Play 2019. From 2017 to 2020 Madame Lark has performed at events at City Recital Hall Sydney, including Elena Kats-Chernin's 60s Birthday Bash and 'Music For The Country', a 2020 fundraising event for bushfire relief, broadcast on ABC Classic Radio. MADAME LARK narrated Peter & The Wolf with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at part of Ten Days On The Island 2019.
Christine has been collaborating with pianist Sonya Lifschitz and presentated ABOVE/BELOW as part of St. John's Feast of Music Festival in Adelaide, ANAM (Melbourne) and A Weekend In The Life Of A Piano as part of Ten Days on the Island, Tasmania. They will be touring it on the 5th December 2021 to UKARIA Cultural Centre, SA. They also premiered their collaboration of Crumb's Lyre (Love-Death Music) at Sydney City Recital Hall's 'Extended Play' Festival to a standing ovation and critical acclaim. Sonya and Christine performed Crumb's Lyre at the 2021 Canberra International Music Festival and will be performing it on the 2nd October 2021 at Melbourne Recital Centre.
Christine received high praise for her performance of HK Gruber's Frankenstein during 2021 Canberra International Music Festival.
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Christine Johnston performed, filmed and edited, with Annie Lee, Carolyn Johns, and their friends with phone cameras, a little home-baked Youtube 5 part mini-series called Isolation Bake as The Kransky Sisters.