Thursday, December 30, 2010

YOUR FACE! Facebook

Currently facebook is down, well neither of the computers we have are loading it - the entire internet seems to be ok EXCEPT FOR FACEBOOK.

I think I am getting an anxiety attack... because without facebook what would be do? How can we organise? Is it even possible? Planning for New Years Eve funtimes could be so easy, a click here, a copy and paste there and yet here I am desperately in need of a nap (and now a stiff drink) trying to load the thrice blasted page.

I am angry with facebook.
I am angry with the internet.
But more than anything I am angry at myself for being almost totally hamstrung without the darn thing.

POOHEY.

Friday, December 24, 2010

T'was the Night before...

and yet here is the mouse.

ANFSCD: Festive Cheer

What do monkey's sing at Christmas?

Jungle Bells, jungle bells...

!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

ANFSCD: Something Sciency?


http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/20/pid/6459.htm

Since acing year 9 science to an awful teacher who obviously scared me away from science for life, I have little patience for interests of all those science-y and lovely people I know. However if you are one of these such types or know someone who is one of this very interesting breed then check out this book. I do not normally plug things to this degree, but having known Stephen for a few years and talked to him about just about EVERYTHING BUT science stuff, it just goes to show that you never know.

It is a handsome volume published by CSIRO (I do know who they are! They publish diet books too!) and is worth taking an interest in.

So have a click on the link and take a squiz and you never know the layers of protection against chemistry calculations and the way DNA is constructed and velocity measurements and you might learn something.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Re-designing the re-design!

Again, it has changed, this time it is under construction officially as you might notice that the background does not extend all the way down the page. But anyway, at least it is moving a long a little bit.

There will v. soon be more interesting things up here soon! Things like reviews, recipes, poems, alternate carols, Stephen Fry musings and all sorts of wonderful delights to get you into the rhythm of regular reading.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Re-design

And a reminder, that it is not always the best idea to rush back and try and recreate something...

sigh. the Way of the Blog.

The Way of the Blog

Well, as you may have noticed I do like a bit of the colour grey, however having had pale grey for a year, I decided that this blog needed to really change the way it looked, and so I have been playing a bit around with the design. I am hoping as a result that it is both easier to read and more pleasant to look at. :) It certainly feels a little fresher than it has in a while.

There is a little part of me (the part that hoards things and wishes for the time to scrapbook) that misses the old design already. It is as if I wanted to have a record of what has been before but sadly I did not think to even 'print screen' to get an image and it had vanished before I knew what I had lost.

This is the way of the blog.

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is how I chose to spend my time post-handing in assesment. Yes you did read that correctly, totally the best way to recover from writing long assesment tasks in a short period of time post-thesis is to write a novel.

Sorry. Start a novel.

Well the good news is that I completed the required

50,000 words !!

and submitted them 3 mins before midnight, the slightly frustrating news is if this baby is going to get finished it probably needs many, many more words than that.

Anyway, if you are interested, here is the link to the NaNoWriMo website: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

As a reward for reaching the target word count we got given little badges with which to adorn our blogs, they are saved on my laptop rather than this computer but post them I shall. One feels entitled to gloat a little!

Nursery Rhyme for the times

I hear thunder
I hear thunder
Hark don't you
Hark don't you
Pitter patter raindrops
Pitter patter raindrops
I'm soaked through
So are you

Our driveway has flooded, as has the back/side garden. The thunder has started again, the low rumble of more rain and immediately into my head popped this little rhyme. I remember chanting it a lot when I was little but not for a while. It is good we have rain again!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Random but Totally Cute


Adorable huh? I can't remember where these are from but they were the best of a shiny design magazine in a waiting room. So expressive. Naw.

Rush of Reviews

For a couple of years I reviewed a lot of student theatre at Melbourne University for Union House Theatre, these have been available on UHT's website and on Facebook but I thought it was appropriate to bring them together onto this platform now. So, have a read, you might not be able to see the show, but there is still some thoughts, interest and worth in things a little retro.

Also, this blog has essentially been inactive for a while so I thought a rush of content would be a great injection, it is also due for a makeover, but we shall see.

Hmmmm... And did I mention, I am also starting a novel.

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome! - Cabaret review! (2009)

Queen’s College Music and Drama Society presented Cabaret as their second semester show for 2009. A talented production team and crew were behind its successful run and it was delivered by a dedicated cast with well rehearsed self-assurance. There is an imposing pair of heels to wear when taking on Cabaret and this production managed to dance in them very well!

Cabaret is a film and musical that occupies a niche in 20th Century History as a bridge between politics and art. It shows us the world and then mirrors back a distorting reflection on the stage. We are witness the rising of the National Social Party and its leader Hitler both inside and outside the Kit Kat Klub. It is ironic that the true social commentary and satire comes from within the seedy, underground world rather than the surface where people are either too scared or have been swept into Nationalist fervour. Indeed the Kit Kat Klub has developed a mythology of its own; it feels separate and safe from the outside world. But this Klub realised onstage in this production with an impressive art-deco set is as just susceptible to history.

As a musical Cabaret was surprisingly (for someone familiar only with the film) very much an ensemble production. Indeed the whirlwind romance between Sally and Clifford was almost incidental as we laughed at Fraulein Kost and her sailers; reflected on Ernst Ludwig’s political allegiances and followed the Emcee as he led us through the show. It was somewhat a surprise then to find the characters that the audience really connected with were the older couple, coming late to love. In a lovely contrast to the highly energetic pace of the life at the Klub these two, romanced slowly with pineapples. Liz Crompton and Marty Macleish as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz were adorable to watch on stage and they carried their ‘aging bodies’ with a light caricature that connected well with the audience.

The costuming was a highlight of this production. There were the obligatory sparkles, satin, fishnets and lacy frills adorning the Kit Kat Girls as they preened and pranced. Great attention also went into the male chorus, ensuring they presented well as the dapper, fashionable clientele of the Kit Kat Club. However, I would like to question both the necessity and the reasoning behind the Front of House staff wearing swastikas during interval. When dealing with the sensitive issues around the Holocaust and the appropriateness of representing Nazis in contemporary society it is often wise to be subtle. On stage the reveal of Ernst Ludwig’s swastika was a powerful and foreboding moment. It was undermined by having similarly attired staff cheerfully pointing you to towards the bar.

It is the music of Cabaret that stays with you long after you leave the theatre. It is through song that the love, politics and impending doom of the early 1930s is best communicated. It was wonderful to have the orchestra pit open and watch the familiar notes come to life and the fill the auditorium. An onstage orchestra assists in redressing the lack intimacy that the Union House Theatre stage can sometimes bring to a production. Anna van Veldhuisen’s energetic conducting and camaraderie with her musicians was a delight to watch: although only the first few rows had the opportunity to witness this. More onstage interaction with the orchestra throughout the show could have amplified this experience for the rest of the audience.

Adam Russell’s interpretation of Cabaret was overall more sugar than spice but still managed to drive home all the appropriate political and emotional themes. It may have sweetened the blow but after all: “life is a Cabaret old chum, and I love a Cabaret!”

Last review for Union House Theatre, 2009.

Why I became a Melbourne Model (the Musical) Whore (2008)

My enrolment in this University was a protest. I deferred my Gap Year to the end of my degree to escape the impending implementation of the Melbourne Model. So suck on that Glynn Davis. I’ve got the degree I wanted, under my terms and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Except cut subjects, sack my tutors and ignore a very polite invitation to attend the production written and performed as a companion piece to your education revolution: Melbourne Model: the Musical.

For the last indiscretion at least, you have an opportunity to redeem yourself for Melbourne Model: the Musical is returning to the Union House Theatre for a Very Special 2009 Comedy Festival Season! Under the new direction of Ben Landau the satirical and farcical look at the controversial introduction of the Melbourne Model and its consquences for tertiary education is back urging everyone to Dream Larger.

Fregmonto Stokes’ hilarious script follows a Young Liberal, Wally Higgins-Beaumont as he charts the murky waters between the seductive Vice-Chancellor Glynn Davis with his promises of shared dreams and the opposing radical Student Unionists lead by Queen Bathsheba. There are changes afoot in the University of Melbourne.

Throughout 2007 there was considerable apprehension brewing about the restructuring of the Undergraduate program at the University of Melbourne. There were forums, protests and petitions involving staff and students to little avail. There were limited concessions approved by the University but it became clear that the Melbourne Model was here to Broaden our Horizons whether we wanted it to, or not.

That year the School of Creative Arts received its final intake of first years and it was taken for granted that it would fade away into academic obscurity. The Award Winning CRUNCH! 08 season of Melbourne Model: the Musical proved that the University had overlooked a very important point - when petitions, protests and forums fail, there is only one way out… satire. A musical satire. A musical of infinite capabilities!

Now, even when no Creative Arts Admins are staffing the Arts Centre, somewhere on the fourth floor in the Black Hole, a rehearsal is just getting started and Ben Kiley and Angus Leslie’s original music is returning to life. That this is occurring during the second year of the Melbourne Model is testament to student continuing defiance and creativity.

Opposition to the Melbourne Model continues and the concerns raised when it was first proposed have not been addressed. They are worth revisiting to contextualise the issues that permeate the show.

The dilution of academic diversity remains a significant drawback. Through drastic subject cuts specialised study areas including Gender Studies have been pushed away from mainstream study in favour of shallow and superficial core subjects. The reduction of ninety-six undergraduate degrees to a mere six does not offer both breadth and depth in a general degree. It offers insipid, standard and restrictive options for students.

The changes also require students to remain longer at University to complete a specialised education, undermining the validity of undergraduate coursework and of the degree you receive at the end of three years. The Melbourne Model follows the system widely employed across the USA where students complete general courses before furthering their education in Graduate Studies. This devalues the Undergraduate Degree and pressures students to further their education thus prolonging their already exorbitantly high college fees. There is no doubting that Postgraduate Study is an important option but it should not be a forced addition to give credibility to a degree and more money to the University. The number of full-fee paying students are also increased at a level above Commonwealth Supported Places (332 vs 287 extra in 2005 over 2004 offers) reinforcing the financial focus.

Further framing Melbourne Model: the Musical is the University of Melbourne’s enormous publicity machine. Accessing the latest articles linked to the University of Melbourne homepage, you are informed that ‘The world warms to University of Melbourne's model’ according to The Australian and Glynn Davis and Peter McPhee are being hailed as ‘the Wizards of Oz’ by The Times. This seemingly good spin is being given an extra whirl by the University publicity department, yet a reading of both articles reveals little praise for the actual Melbourne Model gives an appreciation of the marketing jugganout that accompianied the restructuring.

Bryan MacGregor from the University of Aberdeen (which is currently going through a review in course structure) commented that: "[Melbourne] had … generated a lot of publicity for themselves.” (1) When Glynn Davis is quoted with "We have had considerable interest from other Australian universities and from universities around the world" there is little surprise as to why. Michael Arthur, University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the World Universities Network says that what has “set Melbourne apart was its publicity drive.” (2) and not the actual Melbourne Model.

If something is that good it shouldn’t need slick advertisments in Cinemas across the country and on billboards across campus to gather public support. Awareness raising is one thing. “Strategic Brand Presence” is an entirely different matter and smacks of shifty spin. That the Melbourne Model is bold and beautifully advertised is indisputable. Whether underneath the gloss there is any substance remains to be seen.

Melbourne Model: the Musical strips back the sheen and hilariously reveals the glaring contradictions in University policy to give you the most exciting and relevant show for any student in the 2009 Comedy Festival Guide!

We’re developing… a musical…with issues that will stay stuck in your head as well as the songs. Come along Glynn. You never know, you might deepen and broaden your Education. Education? That is such a clunky, un-proactive word… What we must do is dreamlarge.

And that is exactly what I shall be doing, after I have finished my personally tailored Heritage-listed Batchelor of Arts (double major in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies) and headed overseas for the long-awaited reward for my three year protest.

http://www.melbournemodelthemusical.com/


(1) http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=404898
(2) http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24909191-12149,00.html

Two things: firstly I need to learn how to jump posts eh? Also this again was a rejected piece for a University paper and was also the catalyst for a little bit of fallout. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always get on with the show. Also please bear in mind that this was written at 2am for a deadline - that in the end didn't matter one little bit - but anyway!

Retro Review: Port Fairy Folk Festival (2008)

Audience participation is my guilty pleasure. And the one place in the entire world that I consistently do not feel alone in my predicament is at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. For Labour weekend little old Port Fairy is transformed into an over-priced-cornering-the-market-buy-it-now-bitch-or-walk-to-Warrnambool-in-the-nicest-possible-way Folkie Heaven. Tens of thousands people flock in to the five main stages of the Festival Arena and absorb a wide variety of music. 2006 celebrated the thirtieth year, and 2008 continued the next thirty years with a flourish.

Going down to the Folkie has been a staple of my life since year seven, when the festival committee opened up the ticket balloting system. Each year we get a prospective program, peruse the offerings delightedly, and invariably end up knowing half of the acts by the time we arrive. This time I didn’t care. Three and a half hours on the floor of a train crammed with 317 people due to V-Line’s appalling lack of insight outweighed any enthusiasm. Temporarily. Wrist bands secured and a program to study reignited the spark. What an exceptional selection!

Trying to see as many artists as possible in two and a half days is impossible in 35˚C (plus) heat and eating ice-cream everyday is small consolation for boiling with thousands of others inside a tent. So this weekend required careful planning and selection. Out of the possible 130 artists/groups, I 20 made it to, just.

Top features this year included, Skipping Girl Vinegar who are a band to watch. They also write personal letters to fans, so join their mailing-list when they come to North Court. Flamenco outfit, Arte Kanela were absolutely stunning. Visually and musically, the dancing and the energy surpassed any performance of the weekend and received a well earned standing ovation. International act Louden Wainwright III proved a shrewd and talented songwriter and charismatic performer, his political satire had the audience right under his left thumb. His daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche is also extremely talented. The hilarious Topp Twins from New Zealand and the British Chipolatas more than made up for Tripod pulling out (congrats to Scod, his wife and their new baby). All of these acts were popular, established and packed out tents.

Although somewhat tempered by the temperature, chair rage lurked in every tent. So it was still necessary to keep a tight grip on that little-low-lying-‘Port- Fairy-chair’ and leg room as if it was the last vestige of civilisation. With such importance placed upon preserving comfort, the absolute WORST thing that you can do is lose – like I did - the back of your chair. Sitting forward isn’t relaxing; it is very distracting and is bloody uncomfortable. Also when reporting it to lost property, it is wise to remember that the majority of the staff at the Folkie are volunteers. Most of them are fantastic.

But the real atmosphere was typified first at the enormous Saturday Jug Band Convention, hidden amongst the washboards and kazoos and at then at the Sunday night gig launching Indigenous performer Dave Arden’s first CD. Each involved friends joining together to perform for an appreciative audience, who is more than happy to learn a chorus and sing along.

We used to go quite a bit, loved it. Still do :) This review was submitted and rejected by a certain University paper that shall remain nameless, needless to say they published a suitibly funky festival review instead. WHY IS FOLK MUSIC SO UNPOPULAR?

Retro Review (2008): Away by Michael Gow

Away by Australian playwright Michael Gow has been a critical and commercial success since its first production in 1986. The decision for Trinity College Drama Club to tackle this play was admirable and certainly the result was an interesting interpretation with many positive attributes.

The script deals with the fallout of three families during their summer holidays of 1968. They are from three disconnected social classes and backgrounds but are collectively connected through school and the end of year production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Whilst nominally headed to separate holidays they all end up represented on an idyllic beach where their differences are resolved through shared tragedy. Inter-textual references Shakespearean references run through the structure and content of the play to give a further layer to the writing.

In the program notes the Director Phoebe Taylor discusses the possibility of “many potential” readings of this written text and reveals that the production “played with a few interpretations” of the script. From entering the theatre it was instantly apparent that interesting dramaturgical choices were to mould the production. A key reworking was displacing the piece from the 1960’s and the context of Vietnam War into a timeless non-naturalistic space where Glenn Miller music greeted the audience and characters dressed in current fashions. This decision was perhaps intended to generalise the experience of the families across time, and was an interesting concept – working to mixed degrees.

The set design and construction of Ian McLay, Simon Kennedy and James Ramsay supported this central construct and provided an exceptional adaptable space that allowed a seamless transformation between scenes as well as capturing the timeless non-naturalism. The multi-layered platforms literally became the school play stage; a Gold Coast Resort; a caravan park, and the beautiful beach where the families come together.

Another ‘play with interpretation’ involved a rather unsympathetic representation of Tom’s character. Whilst he was suffering from a terminal cancer of the blood and would normally elicit pathos, the character was emotionally detached and it was left to the mothers of the play to evoke an emotion reaction from the audience. Possibly this could have been in reference to Tom’s role as Puck in the school play or to general teenage disaffection, however whilst appreciating this it did not sit comfortably.

The entire cast put in an enormous amount of work into this production, and it shined through in their delivery of lines and obvious comfort within their performance space. Stella Charls and Grace Davenport especially delivered incredibly moving performances, even as the male characters delivered some of the most personally affecting dialogue. The inexperience of most of the cast compounded the achievement of the production – in that the believability of the characters was sincere, including the only-too-believable unsympathetic ones!

The idea performance within a performance was retained and was used to great effect, highlighting that sticking to traditional interpretations can still illicit strong elements within a production. The idea that a ‘holiday’ can solve everything is still believed and so the play has a contemporary relevance even without deliberately manipulating the dramaturgical constructions.

Where this Trinity production was so successful, was that it made me want to rush out and read Away myself so I could formulate my own reading to compare - and that I think is ultimately what the production intended to provoke.

First review EVER for Union House Theatre > Semester One 2008

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Retro Review: The Imaginary Invalid by Molière (2008)

Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid was originally performed as a ‘comedy-ballet’ for the court of King Louis XIV in 1673. In accordance with its comedic tradition the play is ironically most famous as being the playwright’s final comedy – with Molière collapsing on stage whilst playing the title role and dying shortly after! Queen’s College Music and Drama Society presented a highly entertaining interpretation of the traditional farce. Ambitiously directed by Ben Landau it was an often darkly satirical reinvention that successfully updated the play for a contemporary audience.

The scene is set for comedy by Argan, a hypochondriac who is - unfortunately - not ill enough to prevent himself from meddling in the lives of those around him. He is surrounded by traditional archetype family characters: the evil-step-mother; the concerned brother; the fussing maid who knows too much; and the loving daughter. From outside the family come the dashing lover and the boring suitor (and his father) to vie for the daughter’s affections and a collection of eerie professionals.

In this production we were introduced to these many characters in the wonderfully choreographed sequence that opened the show. A character procession was a beautiful way of setting the scene without explicitly stating to the audience all existing relationships. It also gave each actor the opportunity to capture effective characterization without dialogue which was both a credit to their expressive skills and a teaser for the audience of what was to come.

With farce it is often difficult to maintain a consistently high level of comedic energy and to the credit of the cast; they kept it at a maximum for most of the performance. Highlights included the contrasting of short Monsieur Diaforus with his very tall son Thomas. The physical comedy of this pair was hilarious, as were their university pretensions!

The production team delivered a beautifully realised aesthetic. Katie Skillington’s set design contrasted large geometric construction with intricate details; and Laura Ulph’s slightly surreal costumes literally became part of the characters. The dominating palette of black, white and sepia also gave an ideal canvas for Tom Fifield’s imaginative lighting design. Check out the photos: www.queeens.unimelb.edu.au/ii

The original score composed by Musical Director Anna Van Veldhuisen both complemented and enhanced the action on the stage with the live gypsy band adding yet another layer to the performance. Further music was enjoyed outside the theatre during interval when we were treated to an Eastern European inspired series of performance artworks that performers seemed to enjoy as much as the actual play.

It’s interesting to perhaps interpret this play in terms of our contemporary reliance on large pharmaceutical companies to provide us with medicine. The sinister lurking presence of the Three Doctors gives a menacing quality to those who value the business of medicine over the practice. Perhaps like Argan we should all become doctors and treat ourselves. I would prescribe this play to myself, as enjoying the Imaginary Invalid made me forget my lingering cold – and after all laughter is the best medicine!

Review for Union House Theatre Semester 2 > 2008

Retro Review: The Killing Game by Eugene Ionesco (2008)

The Bitter End followed a recent trend of reviving Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist work for a contemporary audience. The Killing Game was written in 1970 but this production resonates just as strongly today as we face issues and crisis. In director Katherine Payne’s words: “Absurdist Theatre begins with very human characteristics… it shows us ourselves…[and] how we respond to disaster.”

Plague has long been a theme that has lurked in the collective conscious of humanity. It remained metaphorically relevant throughout the twentieth century through the philosophy of the Existentialists. The Killing Game follows a similar narrative arc to Albert Camus’ The Plague but addresses the enclosed city and its epidemic not through the eyes of a few, but the words of many…

… and the deaths of many!

The production team of Katherine Payne and Elizabeth Payne created a truly magnificent production. The black and white aesthetic was stark, yet beautiful and the set design incorporated the inspired use of six white boxes with split stable-doors allowing for free-flowing transitions between scenes. The direction and design team worked closely on this production as was most evident in the prison scene where the combination of all dramaturgical elements was exceptional.

Backing up the creative team was an ensemble cast of this production who were incredibly adept at transforming into their multi-persona roles – and then dying! It is unusual to assemble such a balanced group and the emotion and humour of every indiscriminate death was performed with strong belief by every actor. The scene where loved ones returned to the plague city was a personal highlight.

The choice to focus on the underlying issues rather than wholly on the comedy did not detract from this production and perhaps even reinforced the bitter taste to the laughter. There is a certain edge to a laugh from 30 000 bodies burnt in a day and this production emphasised that right to the Bitter End (!).

Really retro, all the way back from 2008! Union House Theatre Review.

Retro Review: In To The Woods by Sondheim and Lapine (2009)

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a convoluted interweaving of classic Brothers Grimm fairytales into a musical. This is of course Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods, which remains widely performed and celebrated.

The gist of this fantastical tale is that, “Happily Ever After”’ ends only the first act. It seems that every one is “so happy”. Cinderella and Rapunzel get princes; the witch her beauty; Jack money and his cow back; Little Red Riding Hood a wolf skin cloak; Granny a renewal of life and the new characters of baker and his wife resolve the curse that has left them childless and are now expecting. Yet beyond that lasting happiness there is the continuing reality of each character’s everyday lives. The most destructive extension is that of the Giant’s wife who is seeking revenge for the murder of her husband. As the others scramble to evade her footsteps, in true moralistic fairytale tradition we are taught that all actions have consequences. Fortunately this message is received through a most enjoyable show!

Indeed the program synopsis ends with the warning “[be] careful of the legacy we leave, the tales we teach, and an awareness that no matter what battles we fight or whose side we’re on, all actions have consequences.” This is certainly true; however the writer and composer of Into the Woods are far too clever to browbeat the audience, the number of laughs outweighing the rueful nods.

Director, Scott Dunsdon’s production of Into the Woods demonstrated both the creative diversity and artistic vision of The University of Melbourne Musical Theatre Association (UMMTA). Starting with the wonderful show itself he has presided over a magical piece of theatre.

Set designer Robert Smith (MUSC Macbeth 2008) provided instant visual impact with his inspired set design. His aesthetic not only grounded the piece in a minimalist fairytale world but coupled with Zach Oates evocative lighting, gave an eerie, yet familiar feel to the woods. The layered panels of painted canvas that formed the woods were silhouetted not only with trees and branches but also a typewriter script that alluded to the literary origins of the characters. Being able to make out the live orchestra through the panels was also a very refreshing concept that complemented both the sound and style of the piece.

Performing within the stylised space was an exceptionally talented cast. This was apparent not only in the voices of the ensemble but also in the dedication demonstrated in the portrayal of their characters. In such a performance, singling out particular cast members (apart from Milky White the cow!) is very difficult. In a musical, such contributions from all the cast are ideal and it reinforced the high production values of this show.

Once upon a Wednesday evening a girl in a grey coat wandered into the theatre. She spent a couple of hours discovering the wonders of the woods, departed with music wafting through her head and a new appreciation of the importance of fairytale and the mirror it can hold up against our contemporary culture. “I Wish.”


Semester One 2009, review for Union House Theatre

Retro Review: In To The Woods (2009)

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a convoluted interweaving of classic Brothers Grimm fairytales into a musical. This is of course Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods, which remains widely performed and celebrated.

The gist of this fantastical tale is that, “Happily Ever After”’ ends only the first act. It seems that every one is “so happy”. Cinderella and Rapunzel get princes; the witch her beauty; Jack money and his cow back; Little Red Riding Hood a wolf skin cloak; Granny a renewal of life and the new characters of baker and his wife resolve the curse that has left them childless and are now expecting. Yet beyond that lasting happiness there is the continuing reality of each character’s everyday lives. The most destructive extension is that of the Giant’s wife who is seeking revenge for the murder of her husband. As the others scramble to evade her footsteps, in true moralistic fairytale tradition we are taught that all actions have consequences. Fortunately this message is received through a most enjoyable show!

Indeed the program synopsis ends with the warning “[be] careful of the legacy we leave, the tales we teach, and an awareness that no matter what battles we fight or whose side we’re on, all actions have consequences.” This is certainly true; however the writer and composer of Into the Woods are far too clever to browbeat the audience, the number of laughs outweighing the rueful nods.

Director, Scott Dunsdon’s production of Into the Woods demonstrated both the creative diversity and artistic vision of The University of Melbourne Musical Theatre Association (UMMTA). Starting with the wonderful show itself he has presided over a magical piece of theatre.

Set designer Robert Smith (MUSC Macbeth 2008) provided instant visual impact with his inspired set design. His aesthetic not only grounded the piece in a minimalist fairytale world but coupled with Zach Oates evocative lighting, gave an eerie, yet familiar feel to the woods. The layered panels of painted canvas that formed the woods were silhouetted not only with trees and branches but also a typewriter script that alluded to the literary origins of the characters. Being able to make out the live orchestra through the panels was also a very refreshing concept that complemented both the sound and style of the piece.

Performing within the stylised space was an exceptionally talented cast. This was apparent not only in the voices of the ensemble but also in the dedication demonstrated in the portrayal of their characters. In such a performance, singling out particular cast members (apart from Milky White the cow!) is very difficult. In a musical, such contributions from all the cast are ideal and it reinforced the high production values of this show.

Once upon a Wednesday evening a girl in a grey coat wandered into the theatre. She spent a couple of hours discovering the wonders of the woods, departed with music wafting through her head and a new appreciation of the importance of fairytale and the mirror it can hold up against our contemporary culture. “I Wish.”

Semester One 2009, review for Union House Theatre

Retro Review: THUNDERSTORM by Cao Yu (2009)

CTG’s 2009 Mandarin production was a performance of Thunderstorm, a play that occupies an important part of Twentieth Century Chinese Theatre tradition both in terms of its success and its confronting subject matter. Thunderstorm operates on a staged premise of dramatic intrigue – where two generations of relationships between an upper class family and their servants become intertwined into tragedy.

These incestuous relationships were apparently considered scandalous in 1934, but to a certain extent the horror has diminished in impact for the modern audience. In an age where we are somewhat desensitized to suffering and abhorrence there was perhaps a little less drama in the situation. From such a classical premise the audience can clearly saw the ‘reveal’ and how it would destroy the characters. In fact these faulted but empathetic characters ploughed on through the action, it was as if they were victims to the plot as well as fate.

Cao Yu’s script may be long, far fetched and frustrating but his strength was to write multi-layered characters that are never exactly as they first seem. This left the audience in unique positions including sympathising with the promiscuous Ping who was not only managing a long-term affair with his step-mother but was about to elope with his step-sister.

The highlight of the show was undoubtedly the quality of the cast, who all managed to create commendable performances despite the difficult subject matter. With a show of only ten cast members there is no space for mediocrity and nowhere to hide and everyone delivered convincing, well directed performances. Those who played the older generations were assisted with realistic makeup but their physical representation completed the effect remarkably. The focus of the actors was also impressive considering the inattentiveness of much of the audience on the night I attended.

I realise when dealing with a play that comes attached with success and traditions there is a reluctance to tamper with the original text and perform it as it would have been eighty years ago. However it is often worth taking off the gloves, grabbing the play with your bare hands and moulding a new adaptation that as fresh piece of theatre will better resonate with your intended audience. Thunderstorm would have been much more accessible to a contemporary audience had it been adapted with that specific demographic in mind.

For those not fluent in Mandarin, finer details too, may have been lost with the translation – the subtitles whilst good were not quite as comprehensive as previous CTG shows and unfortunately there were a few technical hiccups in the process. Of course, this will tighten as the season progresses and it was still possible to understand the majority of the action. That CTG goes to the trouble of providing subtitles is fantastic as it lends a welcome inclusiveness to their performances for any audience member not fluent in the language.

Using realism in tackling such a cumbersome text is commendable and worthwhile, yet there remained a connection missing between this show and the audience. Engaging the audience is an integral part of the theatre experience and needs to be considered when performing long-established works to a generation that filters societal, family and political thunderstorms everyday through the media.

Semester 2 2009 > again review for Union House Theatre.

Retro Review: The Puppets (2009)

The Puppets is essentially an ambitious social critique of modern society and the capitalist mentality that drives it. The story revolves around a Master Puppet maker who creates a puppet without strings, creating the puppet’s soul with a magical music box. Ben – the puppet – is a unique personality but is perceived as a unique product by most of the people who encounter her and eventually even her creator wants to destroy her in favour of soulless puppets that can be mass-marketed. The societal commentary comes through with the symbolic significance of the puppet applying to each of the characters who are trapped, not in control of their destiny and ultimately controlled by another higher force.

As an original musical the script was complemented with an interesting blend of song. The orchestra sounded wonderful and it was a special treat to see them in the under-utilised orchestra pit. Working with the music was a strong vocal cast – with most characters getting a chance to shine on stage. Although channelling the “musical genre” into new territory is always commendable, perhaps the continual breaking into song could be seen to disrupt the social commentary of the script. It would be interesting to see an edited version of this production with less song and more focus on the interaction between the characters. Some of the most engaging parts of the performance were the interactions between Nanny and Miss. Jin; Mr and Mrs. Dhou; and the two girls reading a story.

Most of the performers had a good stage presence and seemed to be enjoying the show. I especially enjoyed the onstage chemistry between the Wonton King (Sail Zhang) and the Cobbler (Vincent Yim) who provided some well-timed comic relief as well as strong performances. Sara Hung also played Ben with a delightful innocence that was captivating. As a non-Mandarin speaking audience member, the sur-titles were easy to read and it is testament to the production values that The Puppets was accessible and enjoyable for the entire audience.

All the action occurred in a beautifully stylised setting. Jason Mooi’s set designs provided a streamlined backdrop for the action. The Factory scenery was particularly impressive, yet such complex scenery comes at a cost with the transitions leaving a lot of dead time in the performance. Working out a way to cover this for the majority of this time would help to keep the momentum of the show at a higher level – although of course through the run the scene changes will naturally quicken.

Director Jia Hsien Liao appears to have had many ideas for the show, but some of them could have been developed further theatrically. For example, when the audience first encounters Mr. Jin he is seen only in shadow as a looming corporate presence swivelling menacingly in his chair. This was a very powerful image – yet the excellent symbolic representation of power was undercut when he actually appeared on the stage in the next scene and was a merely a man in a suit. The power/control dynamic of the work may have been strengthened if he remained in shadow – pulling at the puppet strings.

The Puppets is a worthy part of the Mudfest11 program as it deals with the idea that in some situations there are no hidden spaces to hide away from the fact that you are not in control and we all are puppets.

Review written for Union House Theatre Semester 2 2009 - as I said, this is retro!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ah. Football.


Loosing the Grand Final.

When you’re sunburned
And the light tears up your eyes
Fear the magpies a-swooping
Down from the skies.

It’s the first weekend in October
And the magpies are frisking
So keep up your defense, boys
It’s not worth risking.

For they come with the war-cry
Of many, many times lost
And draws, well draws are draws
They come with a cost.

Take it from me, right now.
Boys, you need to fight back
Against these magpies
Caroling on white and black

If you let them fly free
They just knock you flat
So be prepared, for next season
Arm yourself with a bat.

Work in Progress - Alice

Voice One:
It’s cold
A bit chilly on the bones
With only your scrap of blanket
Between the tiles and your overcoat

Already walking, but
The damp penetrates his sleep
She wraps him tightly in all they have
No night yet spent untunneled

Mattresses and sheets
Are for the brave.
My love for you scares me
Underground

This is part of a radio play/ "play for voices" that I am working on. There is quite a lot of rythm and poetry -which I think you need when doing things that focus on voices in the dark. It is set Underground in the tube stations to escape the Blitz in London during WWII. There are many characters and people who contribute. This is Alice - who's child was born at the start of the Blitz and has never spent a night above ground since then - many people remained underground for nearly the duration of the war. It was seen as a place of safety - although there were significant casualities. Anyway. I rather like, it. Her boy - Little Spencer is complaining about the cold. A CONTEXT! What more could you desire?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

ANFSCD: Political Hijacking Round II.

Round II - Courtesy of Gruen Nation > wonderful show. The Greens can't get the ad on the telly but it can be shared as much as possible online. So play it and pass it on.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ANFSCD: A Political Hijacking!



Whilst strictly not a political blog - at this time it is so important which direction this country is heading. Whoever you vote for, do take a look. It is a very clean and awesomely quiet way of political advertising.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Giraffe Friend


I have decided to try and pretty this blog up a little bit. Hence a new Giraffe friend on the side bar. We'll see how this goes but for now, here he is again, in bigger form. Appreciate the size of the giraffe.


Whilst I hesitate in writing this, he is one of the cutest, most favouritist things I have drawn in a long while. Completely silly legs! Originally appeared in Greenzine Vol 2 Issue 2, 2010.

Creative Blockage.

Well, it seems to have finally opened out. The sucker has lifted and water is once again free to run through the pipes. It seems my little thesis is back on the bike. We may be right near the start of Le Tour de France but we are up and riding... and BOY DOES IT FEEL GOOD!

Writing blocks are the stuff of legend, well not really but people always talk about them. Discuss them. Dismiss them. (Bastards). But the reality is that you may not completely stop writing but you start treading water. For days, weeks and even months. You might write 16 pages of script with only two you consider worth keeping. Things are ticking over and stewing but never moving forward. Around a bit, true. Or perhaps to the side but never significantly forward.

So what lightening bolt strikes away the blockage? It isn't lightening bolt. It is a little chisel that whittles it away! A wonderful chisel of lightening.

You see, watching almost the complete box set of the Vicar of Dibley helped. So did receiving a shock new deadline. So did reading through all the old notes from last semester. As did reading those new books from the ERC. And realising that there are words, and script, and writing, and theatre, and literature in a play. And hard questions and facing them and answering them are also very important. That mind map is worth using, yes for methodology, but what does it all mean? Why is one writing it at all? And this is the final bit to ensure renewed flow. There is after all a point to this awfully slow and painful procrastination. There is a point to what I am writing. There is a point to this thesis.

And that point is what I want to share. And will share, at the end of the race. (Wearing yellow of course)!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

There you go then!

"Words - What we read, express, peform and write."

OR

Words - What we read, express, perform and write.

Excuse the minor (if integral) spelling mistake that has for a while graced my blog. You look at something for a while and WHAM! it hits you. All correct now.

This Little Meerkat

Isn't he little...

Squeal! I LOVE meerkats.

Ever since The Lion King and Timon they have been a adorable presence in my world. Totally cute and sweet and teeny-tiny. This little meerkat was in the Greenzine issue 2 volume 2 2010. I think I drew him from a picture/photo found online or in a book somewhere. Anyway it was surprisingly hard to draw from memory and I had to seek a stimulus. I guess we don't see them everyday! Shame. The world might be a better place if we had more little meerkats in our lives!

Another Beach Photo


Again, this one is courtesy of the father half of the parent department. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. Shot! I do feel a little bad, for stealing (with permission of course) these images to decorate my blog: but you know, they deserve to be shared, as they are so prettyful! The light again in this one is incredible. Glowing clouds are awesome! Plus all the levels in the image are great, fore, mid and back ground layers all work together really well for an integrated scene. Impressive - oh yes! Sometimes give a camera to someone and they'll surprise you.

Beach Views

My dad took this photo recently, down on the Bay. We currently have it as the desktop background so I thought you might like to share in the sparkle and light that shines out of our screen at the moment. It is a wonderful snap - the best of a series. If you look closely you can see a cormorant opening it's wings on the rocky outcrop. Sometiems even a little bit of Nature can be so special. Which is why we need to work with it, not against it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vampires? No thanks!

Well,

I have read the Twilight Saga and didn't completely vomit, or collapse or hang myself. I wouldn't describe it as quality writing or literature but it was mildly diverting. Would I be recommending millions of people should be reading it. NO. But there we are these trends just happen, regardless of common sense. (Which appears to not be that common).

Unfortunatley the rampant-success of such crappy writing (entertaining on occaision but essentially un-crafted and minimal plot) is that it spawns undead offspring.

I work in a bookshop that has been TAKEN OVER BY VAMPIRE NOVELS. It is totally the worst thing. Such drivel. Such appalling covers - for a start. The blurbs are ALL THE SAME and the content is completely devoid of anything close to originality.

Anyways, the catalyst for this somewhat-bitchy diatribe is the fact that somebody and a publisher have teamed up to publish the mother-of-all-shitty-exploiting-of-trends-in-popular-culture books. Cashing in on vampire-mania plus the extremely successful series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. We are now blessed with DIARY OF A WIMPY VAMPIRE. Okay. What is with this?! There is no connection to the author Jeff Kinney who wrote the Wimpy Kid series but it essentially copies the format, style and content of his series, except with ... wait for it... a vampire as the main character. This is outrageous!
I inherited the Vlad the Drac series from my brother. It was fun, vegetarian, and not a sparkle in sight. Vlad was a dear little thing who ate tomato sauce and floor-polish. It may not have been sophisticated but there is nothing else I have ever come across like it. Written for kids, and loved by kids. Vampires before they got hijacked by anyone and everyone. It is not some commercial mash-up that samples the market place. Children deserve more than that. There is amazing children's literature and then there rubbish that is being force-fed down the throats of booksellers and customers.


It may sell. But ultimately, it is unworthy of anyone who has any discenment at all.

Yours,
Team Jacob

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Robin Hood (2010 Film)

Robin Hood is an amazing story. It has romance, adventure and fantastic politics - which is why it is reincarnated so pften. The latest incarnation was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Russell Crowe. It is supposed to tell the story of how the legend was born. In fact the plot was really, really bad especially as EVEN if it was a shit premise overall, it didn't EVEN make sense within itself so the writing/script/principle of the film was completley rubbish.

However, it looked very nice and you know what I have realised: the Russell Crowe is hot! Ok, bear with me here. Humprey Bogart to look at isn't all that gorgeous, but in character and on screen his charisma oozes into the cinema. This is the same with Mr. Crowe. As I was internally bitching about the film, he as Robin was completely mesmerising and wonderful and ensured I actually enjoyed the film. This guy is a fantastic actor! If he had been given a proper script and story to tell the film would have been absolutely awesome and would go down in history as a classic. As it is. People will remember it as well acted but insubstantial. I mean, the merry men adventuring in the forest is the best bit and it was non-existent. To compound the injustice of this there were other fine performances from Cate Blanchett, Matthew MacFadyen, Friar Tuck actor-man and the evil bald guy. With the right vehicle, this could have been a wonderful movie. Instead it was mildly enjoyable to watch the performances.

And so the moral of the story wasn't 'equality for all' and 'stealing from the rich to give to the poor', it was DON'T MESS WITH A STORY THAT EXISTS AND IS ALREADY GOOD! YOU JUST END UP SCREWING OVER BOTH YOUR ACTORS AND YOUR AUDIENCE. And on that note, I suggest you wait for the dvd.

Retro Review: Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Windsor

Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, in Windsor (Dec 2009)

This was the second pantomime I have had the pleasure of seeing, and the first traditional incarnation. (The first was Beauty and the Beast at the Lyric, Hammersmith and was fabulous but v. modern). So there were sparkly costumes and songs randomly selected from various popular culture sources and there was choreography that was pretty good and smoke effects and an Aladdin who was truly atrocious.

Sorry, I realise that it is convention to have a lass playing the male lead and I have no problem with cross-dressing (go for it, if it is your thing). BUT... even if it is a tongue in cheek casting for the audience to know that the male-youth is female it should still be well enough performed that the chemistry and workings of the play itself should make sense. Having a sexed-up girl in tights and heels (!) of all things does NOT work. The actress was clearly too busy trying to be herself playing a boy, rather than playing a boy. It showed considerable lack of respect for the character, audience and the panto itself. In contrast the actor who played the dame role was fabulous, he clearly knew how to tow the lines between gender roles on the stage.

There is also the trend for 'celebrities' to be in pantos. This I think is what ultimately informed the lead to be so unconvincing. She was busy upholding her status as runner-up-in-a-random-television-talent-show rather than playing a part. People who were 'theatre people' were much better. For instance, the actor playing Aladdin's brother was very impressive.

The whole thing was a motely concoction of random elements, story? what story? If it wasn't so much fun it could have been seriously bad! The best bit was a comedic take on 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' which was side-splittingly hilarious! The props were getting thrown, the singing was all over the place and the actors and the characters and the audience were having tremendous fun. The wierdest bit was when it finished with a song from High School Musical (We're all in this Together) and cheerleaders and pom-poms were prancing around the stage.

So great experience, over all. Any show that facilitates the audience boo-ing is alright in my book! (Even if sometimes you wish you had license to boo the hero)!

Theatre Listings

So I am going to start with a list of every piece of theatre that I have seen since I started this blog... the order might be a bit random.

Note: these first few were in England!
1) Aladdin Theatre Royal, Windsor
2) The Habit of Art, National Theatre, London
3) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Novello Theatre, London
4) Ordeal by Innocence, Theatre Royal, Windsor
5) Legally Blonde - the Musical!, Savoy Theatre, London

Back to Melbourne now! (these next ones are student shows)
6) The Blue Room, Guild Theatre
7) Rotate 270, Union Theatre
8) Much Ado About Nothing, Guild Theatre
9) The Wedding Singer, Union Theatre
10) 2010 A Space Oddity, Union Theatre
11) The Pitchfork Disney, Guild Theatre
12) 12 Angry Men, Guild Theatre
13) Trans-Mute, Guild Theatre
14) 24 Hour Play Project 2010, Guild Theatre

Now for wider so-called-professional shows (in Melbourne, again)
15) Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu [Wrong Skin], Malthouse Theatre
16) Elizabeth - Almost By Chance a Woman, Malthouse Theatre
17) The Three Penny Opera, Malthouse Theatre
18) The Warsaw Ghetto, La Mama
19) Mamma Mia!, Her Majesty's Theatre
20) 1989, St. Martin's Youth Theatre
21) Between Us, Cromwell Road Theatre
22) Waiting for Godot, Comedy Theatre
23) The Ugly One, MTC

So, at this stage, there is a list... I think that is everything... so far, it may change - it certainly feels like I have seen more than 22 shows, but you never know! Maybe I just become too involved in each one and thus more drained? Anyways. There will hopefully be more retrospective reviews - even short ones coming along soon!

Theatre Reviews

When I first set up this blog, I had the best of intentions to write a full review of every show that I see. Ha. Very funny! Writing reviews is actually rather time consuming, and whilst I have managed perhaps 4 this year, that doesn't reallyr reflect just how much theatre I have been seeing. So.... I am going to do some Micro Reviewing (which is a term nicked from a certain student paper - back when it was more awesome) and summarize just what I have had the dis/pleasure of enjoying on the stage! The format might change a bit as we go but it will all be there!

(Deep Breath)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crowded House

I am not what one might call a 'music buff' or someone 'into music' per seh. I love it certainly but don't tend to broadcast my wonderful taste over the world/ my outfits/ the internet. Except when it comes to Crowded House. I will shout and yell and sing for them because they are ultimately the most wonderful band ever.

Boy I love these Boys.

All the previous albums (including bestofs) and a new one shny and waiting and I AM EXCITED! My EARS are excited. It almost makes me want to done a whimsical outfit with fat headphones and sway on the spot with my eyes closed whilst standing on public transport. Almost.

So treat yourself and listen to them because they are intelligent, amazing, deep and meaningful, funny, musically gifted, sound fabulous, are cute and artistic all at the same time. They are in fact the soundtrack of my life.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

ANFSCD: Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow is an institution. It is also a show that I covet and love to pieces. In fact I am ending my rapture now, to go and catch the last 15mins of it on the telly.

Such A-Find!
Such Interest!
Such Intrigue!
Such Greed!
Such History!
Such Eyes-sparkling-in-anticipation!
Such Sentimental-Value!

"Well yes, my grandfather twice removed did in fact find this object in a skip about 300 years ago whereupon he tried to sell it for 5pence and was turned away by a peddlar who then realised 2 years later it was genuine artifact and so tried to buy it through my grandmother's lady-in-waiting who upheld the family honour in refusing to co-operate and told her master who got it revalued at about 5pounds. From there it has stayed in the family of a reminder of what is important to life..."

"Well yes, of course, you cannot buy that sort of family history. Do you know anything more about it?"

"No. Not really. Just what my Aunt says. She thought that perhaps it had sentimental value for our family."

"Well, it seems that your Aunt may have underestimated it's historical value because this, my dear fellow is A GENUINE PART OF A TARDIS found in the late 17th century!"

etc. wonderful stuff.

Why I Love Terry Pratchett (1)

Well, I don't really know why, exactly. Like the world that he creates he is a bit elusive to define and pin down. A postructuralist at heart => clearly!!* His writing is infectious and wonderful and full of the sort of energy that grabs you and takes you for a rollicking ride all the way through the book. Following the advice of a friend I have read them according to character stories, rather than the published order of the Discworld Series. This advice proved invaluable as I was never all convinced that Rincewind was worth a book on his own (even with the Luggage) - let alone the first three in the series.

Anyways having plowed through all of the Witches Ones; The Guard Ones (favourites!!); The Gods Ones; Most of the Death Ones; I am resorting to the Rincewind Ones. And they are Good! You see the world is so fabulous and amazing and wonderfully realised that you forget that you might once upon a time disliked the main character. Seriously. So the moral of this story is. Read Terry Pratchett. It will change your life. That you can feel poignancy as well as laughing is very hard to achieve but I can honestly say that until his writing I had never appreciated nor enjoyed such satire of our world.

My Advice: Start with 'Going Postal' and then work your way through the Guards books. (It is such a shame Commander Samual Vimes is married! He's fantastic - and yes, fictional, I do realise!) Then play around. It's such fun. By this stage you will want more and more and won't get confusion burnout by reading from the first book onwards.

So anyways, having wandered around the reasons, and musings I do know one reason why I love Terry Pratchett: because he creates a world so crazy-wonderful that works just fine and it makes ours here feel that it can work just fine too! Stay tuned for more reasons- I have a stack of them beside my bed.

* You know it is getting bad when your essays start creeping into normal writing and conversation... this happens ALL THE TIME with postructuralism. It is everywhere (and nowhere, of course!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Photos in the Sculpture Park

In an attempt to redress the male/female imbalance of tasteful-classical-sculptural nudity on this blog so far I give to you another wonder that is:

By the same Artist no less! He was on an island in the middle of an ornamental lake in such a fantastic pose I think - there is such energy to the pain - which you can't really see from the front as his hands obscure the arching of his back and his face.


The side view is better though. You get the throw back of despair and the kinetic feeling that he is about to fall to his knees. In the first of the profile shots he could be smoking the branch and having a relaxing and reflective drag, however I love sillouettes. Isn't it wonderful to have Art exhibited in such an environment. It's magical.

With the second profile perspective, you get more of the Scultpure Park, which I think contextualises it all too much away from mythology- nevertheless I like it.

In regards to the subject, apparently he was a phrophet of som description so perhaps I have misread his posture of agony. Perhaps it is rapture?!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Photos in the Sculpture Park

These hotos were taken by me at a Sculpture Park down on the Peninsula (name to be added when looked up!). Anyways, the point is, Marble Sculpture is simply glorious - the pose is so evocotive in its real-ness. You can just imagine she is picking at a calous on her foot! But... if you walk around the rough marble is all that you see. It's marvelous what your brain fills in when you see just a torso. Classical/neo-classical sculpture I think always captures the imagination - it's why we still love David. They are just incredibly beautifully realised
.
This was way back in early 2009 sometime. Can't remember when, I do remember thinking how awesome it was that a Sculpture in such an environment was the stimulus for further Art - ie. photography. I might well, dig into finding more from that day. It was very rewarding
.
Top photo: straight on.
Middle photo: info plaque - go check out the artist
Bottom photo: because of the poisiton of this piece - in a quite small courtyard next to the main building, there was an incredible reflection and light thing happening. Anyways, I think this may be my favourite photo of the day. Dappled sun and all. Oh, and not sure if you can tell from photos as much, but it was an impressive size and took 5 years to complete. That is what I call Art for Arts sake!

ANFSCD: Eurovision

I just want to announce the fact that I love Eurovision. I think it is awesome, fantastic and amazing!! I greatly enjoy watching it on the telly, and even not being able to vote matters little. I get so worked up and involved in it that the refrains of

"GIVE THE 12 POINTS TO BELARUS!"
"WHAT ABOUT BELARUS?!"
"AGAIN NO POINTS FOR BELARUS?!"
"BELARUS ARE STILL ON 3 POINTS!"

echo around my lounge room. And you know the best part, it worked. After sitting on a measly 3 points for ages they finished on 18 points ahead of the wooden-spooners UK on 10. Everybody made double figures and this was a good thing! Spread the Love Europe. Share the Moment.
(To clarify, I actually didn't think Belarus 3+2 with Butterfly were very good but, come on! 3 points!)

My favourites were:
  • Greece (Opa! Energy and really awful hair)
  • Serbia (The most amazing hair you have ever seen in your life - and as for the cheekbones!)
  • Albania (good song, not-so-good shoulderpads, but they can be excused because of the disco balls!)
  • Belgium (although more bling, nice song, but not very Eurovision!)
  • Germany (ok, I admit, it's grown on me, the beginning is v. Beyonce but I think it works. Good on her!)
  • Lithuania (completely robbed in not making the final, sparkley shorts and all!)

Trends of the show included:

  • The Colour Blue (fiddles, shoes, lights, dresses etc)
  • Scarfs (see Russia!)
  • Wings (see Malta and the seagul and Butterflies for Belarus)

Weirdest things:

  • Fake instuments - Lithuania (forgiven, it was FABULOUS)
  • The Hair - Serbia (Forgiven, it was HILARIOUS)
  • Adam and Eve, apples etc - Poland (Unforgivable - yes, far to complicated for 3 mins and didn't work at all!)
  • Duelling Pianos - Armena (ok.)
  • Seagulls - Malta (Hmmmm, lovely dancing but really, it didn't fit in and was strange!!)

Things I am over generally:

  • Back up singers being, boring and sort of tacked on as an addition. Use the space!
  • Power Ballads - I WANT TO DANCE! It is Eurovision, after all.

I think that is all. I am sharing the moment with you in presenting Lithuania - Eastern European Funk by InCulto



Friday, May 21, 2010

ANFSCD - Swimming in UK Politics

I don't normally fill this blog with Youtube-ness but this segment of Mock the Week is great. This one especially is a favourite. The chappy in the orange shirt has become my hero - see 2.30. It send me into complete hysterics. Enjoy!



As it seems to be a bit off-centre, feel free to follow the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xiqsz5Ubjsk

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Little Monkey!

A while back I was asked to provide animal illustrations for a friend's magazine. This little monkey did not make that publication as the article was cut. Next chapter involved the second edition of Greenzine (zine put out by Melbourne University Greens on Campus Club) where all the other animals got used, except Mr. Monkey. Then, again, third time lucky there was no room in the next ed. of Greenzine so he remained languishing in a folder on my desktop. Which is pity as he is such a cute little thing. There should be more space for little monkeys in publishing. Power to the little monkeys.

All the way and all of that!

The pose was adapted from a pair of shoes owned by my mother - which the little monkeys are all over!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Movies - First Quarter 2010

Movies that I have seen so far this year:
  • Avatar - at the National Media Museum in Bradford (UK) on IMAX in 3D - won me over!
  • The Princess and the Frog - go Disney!
  • Micmacs - directed by Amelie's Director = wonderful
  • The Girl With a Dragon Tatoo - pretty good, although a lot was left out
  • The Habit of Art (NT Live series at cinema Nova) - fabulous. But what do you expect? when you mix theatre and film it is bound to be good!

I really love going to the cinema, it is incredibly exciting and incredibly involving. I try and see as much as possible. Don't think that I have left anything off this list... we'll see!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reading as of Now: The Stone Diaries

I am glad I had to read this for Uni, there are times when persevering with a book has its rewards! The Stone Diaries was remarkable and Carole Shields deserves a higher posthumous-critical-acclaim for her body of work. I am looking forward to reading more of her writing!

Daisy (the main character) is a 'ordinary woman' who as her life is revealed is actually very special and unique - I think this story/ biography of a twentieth century woman and her family was incredibly moving, incredibly written and deserved the Pulitzer Prize that it received. I especially enjoyed the 'Work' chapter where Carole Shields demonstrates how using letters as a writing tool can be effective and wonderfully written - not clunky and formulaic as it so often can be.

So keep on reading - it's more than worth it!

The Blue Room

The Blue Room (David Hare)
Guild Theater
April 2010

Coming out of The Blue Room, I had the most embarrassing moment of the evening: when making small talk to a Theatre Academic I incoherently muddled something about it not being as political as I expected. Cue the obligatory “Not Political?!” question that sat much more awkwardly in space than any of the play. This review is as much an attempt to puzzle out my own reaction as to praise the quality of the performance. Because of course, The Blue Room is inherently political – it’s just the politics at times did not speak to me as they perhaps should.

The Blue Room was adapted by David Hare from some Arthur Schnitzler dialogues written at the turn of the twentieth century dealing with the sexual relationships between various couples. Hare wrote a two-person show that explored sexual encounters between men and women in contemporary society. For this production the director took the unusual step of ten actors fulfilling the ten roles.

The large cast of this production was incredibly talented. Ensemble casts are difficult to manage, but this one was excellent and using them to form the structure of the play gave a beautiful symmetry to the performance. Each realisation reflected a great deal of character work and was realised on stage with flair. It was a pleasure to become absorbed into their encounters. But perhaps we could have become too captivated in their humanity for a broader political critique?

In her director notes Sara-Tabitha Catchpole writes of her interest in approaching the work from a “feminist methodology.” It was certainly a commentary on the politics of the body between the sexes. Yet, at times it was as if the particular character traits and circumstance could explain away the encounter. We became too involved in each of the crafted characters and their distilled situation to the extent that seeing the entire play as a feminist commentary was could be undermined.

In seeing each character as a separate identity, it allowed us to become perhaps too endearing towards the Student, too sympathetic for the Au Pair, too dismissive of the Model, because the fact that they are one and the same was not visually there a constant reminder. Double casting characters is a theatrical convention that de-familiarises what is on stage to highlight a political agenda. I feel that in the strength of character acting there was an ‘Everywoman and Everyman’ dynamic that was missing. Casting the same actress as a The Girl, The Au Pair, The Married Woman, The Model, and The Actress really would have slammed home with a sting the roles that the women are positioned into by the men. Then again the audience would then have missed out on such a variety of impressive performances! Beware the annoying reviewer with a theatre studies degree who is arguing with herself because however you produce this work the body-politic informs the performance and that dynamic did come across strongly.

Now, to return to the quality of this show and how impressed I was: not only with the actors but with the experience as a Theatrical Event. (Yes, it deserves the capitalisation). It was a constantly, surprising the audience into laughter or poignant reflection. At one point as The Playwright sings a song to impress The Model the entire cast joined in for the chorus and it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in the theatre. Absolutely wonderful singing and it served as the one point to me where these characters were all connected. I had goose bumps and shivers and it was completely unexpected.

Back to politics, I just want to quickly touch on what I think was the root of my embarrassing moment. This production claimed a political aesthetic with its impressive sets and tricolour vigour. As somebody whose parents survived Thatcherism; still holds British citizenship; is attuned to British politics and was raised on the Alternative Comedy that bit into Conservatism with such sharp teeth in the 80s: I really wanted this piece to say something about Modern England. I am not convinced that it did that. London 1998? Wherever this play was set it would be political, and it most certainly was, but an aesthetic is not just a backdrop to the action of the play. It should inform the action of the play. I wanted Thatcher, I wanted Major, I wanted Blair and I wanted Brown. I think that this is what I reacted against this with my justifiably poorly-received remarks after the show!

“There are two types of woman” the politician states to his wife, and as a feminist I stand alongside Sara-Tabitha Catchpole’s production when I say – bullshit. There are no “types of woman” – only the categories and labels and that men construct to justify their sexual relationships. This is fully apparent in The Blue Room. So to the ‘crazy angry socialist alternative girl’ I say “up yours” and to the director of this remarkable show I say “Looking forward to reading your thesis!”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reading as of Now: Atonement

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really, really, really, really dislike this book. I threw it down, I swore at it fiercly, I skimmed chunks but I read it for the cause that is set reading for University. Briony is a unbelievable character and also an unbelievable little bitch. Atonement is annoying and as far as I can see so is the author. Mr. McKewen, right about somebody who is a decent human being and don't get 'all literary' with despicable ones. ick! I didn't like anyone in this book except for Robbie and he got treated like crap. So take your toungue-in-cheek-ode-to-tragic-English-Literature and stuff it. You'll find me reading Jane Austen.

Kerry Greenwood is a Fantastic Author

Not sure if I have mentioned on here how much I LOVE Kerry Greenwood's writing. It is sharp, snappy, full of cocktails and food and wonderful little stories where you care about everyone involved. Anyway, my mum has been reading (at my insistance) the Corrina Chapman series - which has in turn lead to me re-reading them all - out of order! This may seem strange, but it is so rewarding to dip in and out of these characters' lives. Please read it. It is worth it and you will enjoy yourself at the same time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Chooky Dancers!

This is the original uploading to Youtube of the Chooky Dancers (I think). There are slicker recordings but I love this one. At the moment I'd recommend not reading the comments it seems to have been hijacked by racist and expletive ridden arguments. Enjoy!


Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu [Wrong Skin]

Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu [Wrong Skin]
Malthouse Theatre
March 18-28 2010

Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu [Wrong Skin] is the wonderful result of what happens when an established and mainstream theatrical company works collaboratively with an Indigenous Australian community to produce theatre. Wonderfully dynamic and affecting exploration of what is it to be a young Indigenous Australian exposed to global influences and how embracing this contemporary music and aesthetic can not diminish the importance and relevance of their own traditional culture.

The story of this work is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet onto Elcho Island where “the complex laws of ‘skin’ and clan define all relationships” and to love someone outside these is forbidden. This story falls neatly into a political and social critique of living conditions in the community, American Cultural influences, the Northern Territory Intervention, family, music and growing up. At no point are being lectured: the story, politics and the performance are melded seamlessly. A key visual realisation of this blend is seen in the continual use of multimedia images and sound on both a large projection screen and on seven smaller television sets around the stage. It is always a risk to rely on audio-visual but in this case it was integrated and worked very well throughout the piece. Particularly impressive was the aeroplane sequence; the use of the space behind the projection screen as an interior and of bring the television sets into the narrative itself.

Story and multimedia aside the real focus of this show was the dancing. The Chooky Dancers are international Youtube stars and have had success around the country performing at Galleries, the 2009 Comedy Festival Gala, music festivals, and most recently in the film Bran Nue Dae. (Great film, worth a look!) It is testament to both the quality of their dancing and the integrity of their performance that they have not been reduced to a temporary internet sensation but continue to share their unique fusion of traditional and contemporary dance styles for new audiences. They received rapturous reception to their Zorba the Greek interpretation and also demonstrated their skill wonderfully in delving into Bollywood, Broadway and hip-hop dance styles informed by their traditional dance backgrounds.

The detailed program notes for this production are especially important to understanding the level that Nigel Jamieson worked with the community on Elcho Island to create this work. It clearly was a collaborative piece and the result should be rewarding for all those involved. It certainly was rewarding to watch! It seems that this is the first season of the show and it is due to tour around the country. Personally I think that it is an incredibly important work and should be seen by as many people as possible. In times where Indigenous Australians are consistently been portrayed in the media as a desperate and desolate people it is even more important to have a message of hope. It is not that this production glosses over pain and suffering, indeed it confronts it, but it does not blindside the good work that does happen and it paves the way for new interpretations of issues from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives.

This show foregrounds Indigenous Australian culture as what it is: a continuing, present and adapting part of our society. It is not something left in the past, for the past is always with us. Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu [Wrong Skin] teaches us that culture is not static and both informs and is informed by the times we live in. Good theatre makes you think and even better theatre teaches you something about yourself and about your society. It wakes you up to the fact that Indigenous Australian culture has contemporary relevance for all of us and is most definitely worth celebrating as an integral part of our ‘national identity.’

Elizabeth - Almost By Chance a Woman

Elizabeth - Almost By Chance a Woman
(Quasu Per Caso Una Donna: Elisabetta)
Malthouse Theatre
by Dario Fo but "freely adapted."

There is a risk in theatre of setting yourself up for failure. Of proclaiming standards too high for what you are actually performing. Elizabeth is a classic case-study of the hype that can lead up to a show and the somewhat confusing fall-out of watching the actual performance. For example: if you are going to proclaim your show a Farce, it has to be funny. Very funny. If you do not take the presumptive step of grandstanding how Farcical it is: your audience does not face the awkward position of not laughing much at all in terms of a "funny play" but laughing quite a lot if it had been branded in terms of being a "normal-witty-somewhat-historical-and-satirical-play." It is true that Preview shows can sometimes lack the energy and slick timing of a Season show, but Farce is in the writing and situation, not just in the delivery.

Another example (before I move onto the actual performance) deals with the costumes. Malthouse shows always look fantastic, but proclaiming in Newspapers about the wonderful intricacy, expense and difficulty of the costumes and even using the impressive designs throughout the program as illustrations gave unrealistic expectations compared to what was realized on stage. A Malthouse audience takes for granted how great a show will look and it looked like any other Malthouse show. Nothing more, nothing less certainly and Anna Cordingley is to be commended for her efforts. But if the audience believes the extent of the PR in the lead up to a show opening then you leave yourself open to criticism.

To the Show!

Well, there is a phrase often bandied about – “it was a play of two-halves” – which is the sort of wanky claptrap I try to avoid using in reviews as it annoys me when I read it. Somewhat unfortunately it applies to Elizabeth. The first half opens promisingly enough but rapidly degenerates into a confusing rabble that takes place on a very claustrophobic and restrictive front part of the stage. Halving the stage space with pretty curtains works for short periods, not for an entire half: especially if they have to be moved aside every time someone needs a prop. If you have a wonderful big revolving stage – use it! The second half opened up the space in raising the curtains and with it the entire play opened up visually; in delivery and in interpretation. There may be an argument that without the curtains of the first half the second would not have been as impacting. Rubbish! Use lighting. (Deep breath).
Having said that the staging with ‘the heads’ was inspired and was a turning point in the show and demonstrated how when used sparingly curtains can be very effective.

I have no issue with course language or “ferociously foul-mouthed” characters. But to use a lot of expletives on stage requires creativity and it has to come from within the character, not an external force imposing it on the script. Swearing for swearing sake is not funny or amusing. It is clunky and unnecessary. Occasionally it worked very well, the line “oh, put my fucking face on!” was fantastic, but this was often lost in the steady stream of unfunny cussing. Considering the presence of Shakespeare on stage and in the script there was inherent potential in using various hilarious Shakespearian insults in combination with contemporary vocabulary. “Where the bees fuck, there fuck I” was in my opinion the best line of the play. It was funny, almost farcical, worked in context and had a beautiful theatrical awareness to it. I think in general there was a playfulness lacking in the language of the script.

The Dramaturge for the Malthouse, Maryanne Lynch asserts in her program notes that “every character [in the play] is as much an idea as a person.” Well, the tropes used I fear were underutilized. The right-hand-man-turned-villain and the Queen were fully realized. But I felt that the Fool and the Handmaiden and even Shakespeare himself were lacking somewhat. I wanted more from these characters and I think that if there had been more it would not have taken away from the focus on the Queen but instead formed a stronger basis for her Madness to flourish. Written during at the start ‘reign’ of Margaret Thatcher and the rise of New Liberalism in England the play has an acute political awareness to it that did not come through particularly strongly. Perhaps a way of combating this would have been to play up the idea of the trope characters and use their timelessness to inform the wider context of the text.

The actors were all good, especially Julie Forsyth who is an incredible actress and worthy of playing a Queen! We did miss the humour in some of Lady Donna Grozetta’s lines when Billie Brown became more concerned with ‘Dame-ing it up’ rather than articulating for the audience, but it was a minor blip and will resolve itself in the previews.

It seems this review has been awfully critical of what was a brave piece of theatre to stage. Once in Season this show might kick into a higher gear, certainly Director Michael Kantor gave a little speech explaining it was still being worked on. So a positive to finish: The singing was fabulous as was the Irish dancing.

Elizabeth: it is worth seeing, and you may well laugh and enjoy it – but don’t believe the publicity hype.

Monday, March 29, 2010

ANFSCD: Assembledge

This image was used to advertise a Creative Workshop last year for Recycled Jewellery. It is an 'assembledge' of items both relevant and not that tie together in colour and overall significance. Anyway the workshop was a success = although we did not use motherboards we did use the soy-sauce fishy bottles. It just goes to show that one person's rubbish can be a greenie's treasure and a nice little fundraiser too.

As for Mr. Edward Cullen. I think the less said: the better!

The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley

The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley
The Guild Theatre
Presented and peformed by: ThInc

Theatre at its best makes you think. It makes your mind reassess the world that you are a part of both inside and outside the theatre. The Pitchfork Disney is one such play. There is a wonderful absurdist craft to the writing but with this production it was the performances and the direction that really lifted the show and dumped it down the audience's throat.

Integral to the success and the experience of this piece of theatre was the set. (At the preview show there was no program organised so I am not sure who designed the space - but whoever did, congratulations!) It was intimate and forced the audience to become trapped as part of the twisted environment created by Presley and Hayley.

A strength in the direction of this production was to highlight the constant ambiguity of the script. Justin Nott and Danielle Asciak made a very clever decision not to judge the twins and ground them in a particular reality but left their reality constantly open to interpretation. Are they mad, certainly. But are they mad within a contemporary/ Dystopic future/Post-apocolyptic/ Nightmare world? Previous productions (according to online reviews) have positioned the characters in the very real London Eastside in a crummy flat. This may well be suggested in the script but it is much more theatrically interesting to not take this option, especially as the only snippets of the outside world we experience are filtered through the characters on stage.

This ambiguity increased the tension as the play progressed. It added another layer to the words of the script. For it seemed that it was not a conincidence that Cosmo Disney and Pitchfork Cavalier invade the home of a boy who dreams of the murdering Pitchfork Disney. It seems that it might be destiny, a realisation of the nightmare and that Presely might be living out aspects of the dream. Or maybe the entire thing was is part of a bigger nightmare, of chocolate, dreams, cockroaches, sleeping pills, biscuits, memory and 'medicine.'

At this point, I feel that the actors need all be congratualted. In a small cast, there is no room for anyone to be carried, and indeed no one was. I want to especially mention Chris de Pasquale as Presley completely nailing his dream monologue. It was incredible and to held on to our morbidly-fascinated attention for the entire length. WOW.

I see an awful lot of theatre and this is the most phenomenolgical experience I have ever had in a show. I experienced real horror when Hayley was violated but was at the same time forced into the curious position of not being able to look away. The aftermath of that event really was heart-thumping, even as I am writing this - my heart-rate has increased. There is a power to live theatre that cannot be underestimated. The writing and language in this work is beautiful and haunting but sometimes the humanity of the performers can be equally important.

We watch as Hayley relives the horrors of outside; we watch as Cosmo crunches cockroaches; we watch as Pitchfork stumbles as he stands on the chair; we watch Presely as he realises that he could not protect his sister and can not protect himself; and we experience The Pitchfork Disney.