Monday, November 28, 2011

The Economist - MKA - Opinion

So Channel 10 News went all cultural last week. It went to the theatre under the headline "stage shocker" to deliver the goods on MKA's The Economist, a play the "critics have savaged" before it has even opened.  Tobias Manderson-Galvin was interviewed for the feature but the sound bits used gave little defence to what Channel 10 were clearly branding as the distastefully-ugly-and-shameful-practice-of-using-a-mass-murderer-as-subject-matter.

Here is the news bite:


When the news is like this, who needs horrifically righteous shows like A Current Affair or Today Tonight? This is not to say that using source material such as this should never be questioned or debated - but the forum should be appropriate and allow for commentary from both perspectives. Apart from anything else the 'psychologist' opinion is flashy, emotive and manipulative. He can clearly condone himself talking about the atrocity on a national television in feature that broadcasts images of the murderer, victims and scene of the crime but woe to creative types attempting to understand  the context is "damaging".

Theatre exists entertain and make us smile but it also exists to confront us with things that we might not be comfortable. Indeed although I haven't yet read the play and won't get the chance to see it [don't worry I'll be up to my eyeballs in fabulous panto in London] even from the information on the website it is hard to argue that the play will ask us to be sympathetic to the protagonist. It is a work that will force us to recognise and confront the reality of this man. The Economist is a play not about pitying a murderer but of dissecting and understanding the society that produced such a terrorist. Here is the page with info and the trailer for the play.

On a side-conspiracy-theory-like-note The Economist seizes connections to Australia and front and squarely highlights Andrew Bolt and John Howard as contextual political motivators behind Anders Behring Breivik's murders. This is politically interesting and dangerous and this is ultimately where the roots and unease and opposition to this play are coming from. It might be dressed up as 'innappropriate' and 'shocking' news that has making 'international' news but seriously? Andrew Bolt has just started working for Channel 10! Coincidence? Ha.

MKA is a company that privileges new writing in independent theatre. Their open season at the start of this year in the pop up theatre above the Pahran City Mission was eclectic, dynamic and exciting. This season is shaping up to be just as interesting and potentially more thought provoking. "Any publicity is good publicity" is a phrase that Jeffrey Archer has instilled into our culture, maybe all this will result in more people going along, watching the show and then forming their own opinions. Forming your own opinion, go see it and give your own review.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

the 100 poem Challenge

So over on the 100 poem challenge the talented and inspiring Jen is writing 100 poems this weekend to raise money for a worthy cause. She is a great writer and her poems are little portraits of life. For this project she has been using tag-words from her numerous twitter followers as inspiration. This has lead to some really interesting and original takes on themes and some truly lovely ones too - Bookshop for one!

This is interesting process-wise as it is using the net for interactive creativity but also the blog is fascinating reading wise as every time I have hit refresh in my browser there are more pocket gems that I want to carry around with me.

Go on, go check it out and donate and buy one if you can afford to.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Writer's Block Review

Writer’s Block
By Tom Moran

Douglas Briggs sits alone with a typewriter. He is trying to write, it isn’t working and then he hears a cough. He isn’t alone. From this initial set up Tom Moran leads the audience and Douglas on a journey into the mind of a lost writer who cannot face reality. Within this world we meet an assortment of characters that form different elements of Douglas’ psyche, the most prominent his Imagination. As we travel through his mind and his memory we learn things about Douglas and start to piece together how a man such as he has ended up in such a confusion.

The characters that surround Douglas are caricatured and wonderfully exaggerated to the point where it is Douglas himself that does not make sense in this world – he needs to work his way through it, destroy his writer’s block and escape. However he as a writer should know that no narrative is ever that simple and no matter how confronting and insane this inner reality nothing can compare to his actual one. This we discover is even more heart-breaking in light of the zany hilarity that permeates so much of this play. Only a writer would create such a story-world to escape what he fears most.

This play was written with an assured hand, it is bursting at the seams with comedy, the laughs coming in many layers of the writing and performance. I don’t think that I have laughed for such an extended period for a long time. I think the success of it lies in the variety of the amusement – there was physical comedy; puns; jokes; costume fun; slap-stick; metatheatrical asides; situational comedy; clever retorts; gross eating; silly toast; wit – there was a barrage of humour really! And yet it was very artfully constructed and was ultimately useful in the context of the narrative.

A play as manic as this one needs strong casting and this was a cast more than up to the challenge. My personal favourite characters were the Sense of Loyalty and Adventure but equally everyone in this play was delightful in different ways with the excellent use of double casting. Orestes Kouzof was frequently hilarious and insanely spontaneous as one should be playing Imagination; Sam Holland pulled off the uniquely fabulous feat of two characters at the opposite ends of what is socially acceptable; Tom O’Sullivan played silly and straight and American with aplomb; Ali Dunk managed to both contort his face and his body into the weird and wonderful; Nadia Newstead shined with a (quite incredibly) rigid focus across all her many characters; Michael Clarke played both the old, innocent and prurient with clear relish; and amongst all of this chaos Naomi Richardson brought love and reason with Emily to Jo Wright who as Douglas existed in a suitably bewildered state of one who is in his situation.   

There was directorial vision to this work; the best of these actors were brought out not only with the writing and performance but the staging by Ant Cule and Tom Moran and the obvious work of the rest of the production team. There was neat set design, great costuming and the production values of sound and light were used to great effect. It is a brave decision to turn out the all the lights in a theatre but it worked and is a scene that typified the slightly insane but very well executed feel of the entire play.

Writer’s Block is a play that draws parallels in theme to The Wonderful World of Dissocia but it leaves the choice to leave the fantasy to the character. In light of the whimsy, hilarity and memories that we have seen it is possible even with our own Sense of Reason that we might want to stay with the comfort of Douglas’ Imagination.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maskerade Review

Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade adapted for the stage by Steve Briggs
Laughing Monkey
Norwich Puppet Theatre

Maskerade is a Discworld story set firmly within the Witch Cycle. It centres around Agnes Nitt (who wants to be Perdita X), a girl who has it in her to become a witch but intends to leave it all behind to be on the stage. Of course with her no-nonsense core and her fundamental common sense she fits in really well into the exaggerated hysteria of the Opera House. Fortunately for Agnes she can sing, then again unfortunately for Agnes her new friend Christine has the body that would sell a thousand tickets. With an increasingly murderous Opera Ghost at large and unwelcome faces far from home with the arrival of Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax Agnes soon finds herself wound up in a somewhat predicable tangle.   

Laughing Monkey produced a show that fitted in very well with the gorgeous space that is the Norwich puppet theatre. They used the trapdoor, the flies, the stairs through the audience and the depth of the stage really well. Also as befits Discworld there was clearly a decision early in production to not focus on obsessively on production values and instead bring forth the spirit of fun that infiltrates even the darkest moments of the Discworld books. As such there was a delightful theatrical awareness to the piece which worked especially well considering the subject matter.

There was as well great commitment by the actors in this production, to both the text and their characters. There was hilarious physical comedy; amusing accents; impossibly straight faces and generally a tight focus and belief in who they were portraying. Those who have dabbled in this blog before might know that I love Terry Prachett in the way one can when it was a refuge (read escape) from a certain thesis last year. Discworld is very important to me and I have a strong sense of what it is. You might be relieved to hear that Maskerade was fabulous without (obviously) corresponding to this. Casing point was Nanny Ogg who played by Paul Allum was straight out of the pantomime tradition. It’s safe to say that this Nanny was not my Nanny and yet she worked all the same and in true Ogg style delivered some of the best laughs of the play.

So congratulations to the cast and crew, especially those who crossed over in both performing and production roles. Paul Allum, Liam Pudwell and Carol Rowell you are clearly a great team. I am looking forward to revisiting the Discworld in the capable hands of Laughing Monkey soon because apart from anything else you’ve got to love a production that has an acknowledgment in the credits for the person who looks after the pointy hats!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Signing.

Existential crisis of the signature kind.

WAH! I don't think I can hack having so much tacked on at the end of an email. I think when faced with that many options one doesn't click on anything at all... Maybe two then? Or back to just the one. hmmmm.

Book Sculpture Fun!

Squee! Cutest things I think I have ever seen.

(yes this is coming from the person who never bends spines, or corners and will give you her bookmark if she sees you bending yours)

Enjoy!

Mysterious Paper Sculptures

and

Book Cut Sculptures

and almost best of all... the lovely political statement that goes with it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sophocles’ Antigone Review

Sophocles’ Antigone – directed by Cordelia Spence
UEA Drama Studio

Antigone is a play that haunts the ages, her echoes ring throughout history and have been used to highlight many struggles in many cultures across the world. The single minded defiance of a ruler for the sake of what is true and proper is as incredibly poignant today as at any other point in history it has been adapted and performed. As director Cordelia Spence writes in her notes in light of the recent uprisings in Northern Africa the public spectacle of Antigone defying Creon rings as much through our twenty-first century current affairs as the City of Thebes.

The production was tightly directed and really well performed Рthere was no extraneous noise, much like the set it was sleek and surely handled. At all times it felt (as it should) that we were being guided along to the inevitable tragic ending of the play. Reception Studies of classical writing asks new performances to bring something of the current age to the work and this production does in some ways without removing it from a classical context. Creon is sharply assured with his silver hair and a silver suit and his guards parade in camouflage and heavy boots. As a character he is as much a modern politician with his glib phrases and clich̩ infused proclamations and it becomes his modern ideals that are fighting against the traditional way of the world.

The chorus can be a problematic presence in these works, but Cordelia Spence did not shy away from them as either a construct or a stage presence. Indeed they were used to great effect as dancers and gave a beautiful lyric quality to both the staging and the language of the play. Splitting the lines into two with the Reporter as a different character from the others worked to varying degrees throughout the piece but it did assist with scattering the action throughout time.

This edit of Antigone drastically reduced the pivotal scene of confrontation between Antigone and Creon. It effectively established that neither would budge in their position and then it moved on. This decision gave room for the well choreographed dance sequences and space for the dramatic confrontation between Creon and Haemon to not be rushed through towards the end but it did give less stage time for the real battle at the heart of the play. There was surprisingly little of Antigone and Creon confronting each other’s positions and then effectively negotiating the terms of her death.

Stagecraft wise Antigone was very impressive and although whoever did the set and costume weren’t acknowledged in the program those who did contribute do deserve recognition. The space was great and complemented the director’s vision. Make up artist Sarah Francis evoked magic and mystery as well as age and wounds and her skills shone under assured lighting. And if the production team is to be congratulated, so are the cast, all of which all produced great energy infused performances.

Antigone was an appropriate choice for our times and it will of course continue to be.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Girl Who Looked Like Me Review

The Girl Who Looked Like Me
By Katrrina Raine
UEA Drama Studio


The Girl Who Looked Like Me is a play written and directed by Katriina Raine for the UEA Masters in Theatre Direction program. It is a work that deals with issues involving the sex-trafficking industry and it deposits these not only onto the stage in front of an audience but into our awareness. For working alongside the violence and the dirt of this trade is a mildly disturbing thread of normality that brings us up short on any attempt to rationalise and distance ourselves from the reality of the situation. This is not a play that gives us any permission to escape from what occurs, we are asked as we exist in a society that sanctions such brutality are we ultimately a part of it?

According to the program notes The Girl Who Looked Like Me is about Aurelia but it tells the story of many women. We hear stories from the med student who is kidnapped; the young friends who travel abroad; the boyfriend who betrays his love; the ‘aunt’ who takes her ‘niece.’ These girls’ separate narratives clash for a time in a camp where they are brutally reminded of their new status as chattels, owned body and mind by men. From here they are once again moved along, sold into slavery where there is no hope of escape. The extended scene where we hear their disparate stories is important as it demonstrates the scope of the sex-trade but the effect does leave the narrative a little scattered through all these voices. Aurelia is merely one of many, many lost souls in this piece; it seems it is not her story but theirs. Perhaps it would have focussed the flow of the play to tighten in more on Aurelia as a character and her story with the others as echoes to her tale. But then again who is anyone to impose a hierarchy on suffering by taking that decision? Ultimately it is about that little girl who now wakes and faces a mirror and to no longer see herself but “a girl that looked liked me.” Her name might be Aurelia but it might be Sofiya; Natalia; Dana; Guila; Gabriela. It might be Julia. It might be you.

It is difficult in a work such as this to portray the enemy. To stage the corrupt and the disgusting too often can become distorted into caricature. The decision to have very normal looking men in this play points again to the sense of normality that sugar-coats the ugly side of the sex-industry. The “banality of evil” is a concept by Hannah Arendt that sits comparably with this play. There was a horrific dramatic irony to watching a club manager defend his practice of ‘employing’ foreign girls as a way of protecting your sisters, daughters and mothers. Ha. Equally chilling were the boys on laptops organising casual sex with working girls across Europe as if ordering something from e-bay. There is of course nothing wrong with a sex-industry if the conditions are safe, the money is fair and there is a consensual exchange. It’s just that much of the time it is not and in awkwardly laughing at this message board Katriina Raine is asking us, are we complicit with this?

It was a strong ensemble cast of UEA drama students who worked with this difficult subject matter. In the notes on rehearsal process the Rain writes she tried to play out “difficult subject on stage without using much literal imagery or action.” As such the staging this production was quite simple and unadorned but it didn’t need to be and it was a suitable platform for the stories. There are however interesting questions in the future development of this work, does there need to be men in it at all? What would be the effect of focussing in on one or maybe two stories? There are many ways this material could be shaped further. It is such an important issue that it deserves to be a continuing project – and as is reinforced the director’s notes Katriina Raine is determined not to let us forget that it’s not about the sex, it is the about the people.

One thing I would say is it would have been an idea if the program had information on where to seek help if you are the victim of sexual assault or if you mightn’t be aware of support if you are working in the sex-industry. I can’t really supply much information as I have luckily not needed to and am not familiar with support services in the UK but do ask google, there are people to help.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Moving.

When one has lived in the same place for ever such a long time it is terribly easy to become complacent. This. Was. Me.

Totally.

So now that as of tomorrow it will be a month since I moved, it is about time things like blogging, reviewing, writing etc. get going again.

Thanks for your patience and I will be seeing theatre again as of Friday night so THERE WILL BE REVIEWS on the way and I will use the same impetus for those to bang out the last of the Mudfest stuff.

Did I say moving is terrible. Yes? Moving to a new country on the other side of the world is even worse!!

x

Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are - Upcoming Fringe Show



Theatre is a medium that is there for manipulating and for experimentation. In recent times the very “liveness” of theatre is being challenged in both form and content. One such project is to be concurrently performed in October in Ireland and Melbourne as part of two Fringe Festivals. Jenny W has created a spliced work in a show that is not only multi-media/interdisciplinary in form but is multicultural/intercontinental in content.

In this quote from her blog Jenny describes what she is trying to achieve with the performance: “The show will be performed in Australia and Ireland in October of this year. One half of the show in each country will be live and the other half will be filmed. There is an Australian actress living in Ireland (myself) who will be performing live in Ireland and by film in Australia and an Irish actress living in Australia (Cathy) who will be performing live in Australia and by film in Ireland.

The performance will then of course have two audiences and two very different incarnations and potentially quite different responses.

In spite of this dialectic to a certain degree this show is not based on highlighting difference and separating experience, it is in fact a unique way of connecting. Jenny writes on her blog of this intention: – “The idea is that we 'meet' and share our stories of travel and migration through the theatre piece” – and also practically the realisations along the way of how she and Cathy worked together across the world

So of course what is equally interesting and exciting about this show is not just the dual presentation but the cohesiveness and the connections that are drawn between the two halves of this performance – the meeting and sharing of the stories.

The theatre company that is working on this production can be found on this website: http://rsvpireland.webs.com/ and Jenny has been keeping a great blog about her experiences in filming her section for the Australian performance and the writing process http://nomatterwhereyougothereyouare.blogspot.com/. This show certainly has an intriguing format with the potential to be applied to other stories and theatre works. If you are in Melbourne or Wexford do books tickets to see the performance and stay tuned for perhaps further exciting incarnations from this promising theatre maker.

Please support the production, "No Matter Where You Go, There You Are", at the 2012 Melbourne Fringe and Wexford Fringe Festivals. You can donate at http://www.fundit.ie/project/no-matter-where-you-go-there-you-are for Irish donations or http://www.pozible.co.uk/index.php/archive/index/1482/description/0/0 for Australian donations.

Note: I would totally love to see this show and as I sit in my room listening to mad freshers outside singing in that slightly mad tone of first night sloshing I really wish I could be watching this tonight instead of just writing about it. So see it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mudfest Shows

Shameless plugs for shows that I am currently and madly involved in. COME! x




**** Waiting for Eurovision ****


Come bring your glitter soled shoes and your sparkling bowler hats and experience one or both of these unique performances that are part of Mudfest 2011.

Performance One: 19th August @ Mudclub (location unveiled 18th Aug) 9.30pm, Union House, University of Melbourne

Performance Two (with added Disco Ball): 27th Aug @ The Guild Theatre (1st floor of Union House), Union House, University of Melbourne
Tickets for second show: http://www.trybooking.com/​Booking/BookingEventSummar​y.aspx?eid=12561 - first show is unticketed!

"A play were EVERYTHING happens TWICE whilst conforming to the stipulated song lenth of under 3 mins!"

Words: Tilly Lunken
Music and additional lyrics and arrangments: Matthew Lacorcia
Performed by - no starring!: Cal Samson and Corey Reynolds
Set and Costume Design: Amy Dyke
Set Construction: Amy Dyke and David Haidon

With Eurovision there is always fullfillment! Come and feel your heart beat!


FB: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=241346659233240



****Is This Too Framed? - A Directed Reading****


Written: Tilly Lunken
Directed: Sharon Flynn
Set/Projections: David Haidon
Read by many talented actors and accompianed by some stunning concept art.

5pm 23rd August Union Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne

"Enter the frames of an exhibition; a performance; a dance; a song through an open bar. For how else can one curate art that is dead?"


Please come and witness the very first staging of this brand new (and a tiny bit recycled) play.

Tickets are a STEAL at ONLY: $8!! and are available to book now at:

http://www.trybooking.com/​Booking/BookingEventSummar​y.aspx?eid=12561 click on through the links.

After we would love to chat, hang and drink with you in the MudClub and recieve as much feedback, critque, ideas and everything else that is wonderful from you in response to the reading.

http://mudfest.org.au/prog​ram/is-this-too-framed

Dali, Escher and Picasso walk into a bar...

FB: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=130143737076350

***Curtain Call*** as part of TASTINGS program

Written: Tilly Lunken
Directed: Dione Joseph
Set/Lighting Design: Tristan Lawrence

25th and 26th August 7pm Guild Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne

A flavoursome selection of original short plays by students workshopped in a four week intensive with industry professionals including, Peta Murray, Daniel Clarke (TheatreWorks), Declan Greene (SistersGrimm), Suzie Bradmore and Tobias Manderson-Galvin (MKA). Curated by Mudfest Co-Director Justin Nott.

Tickets $10/$12/$15

Prepare to get your tastebuds tingling, this is an event not to be missed!
For more info and ticket bookings go to http://mudfest.org.au/prog​ram/tastings

FB: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=184354041631056

Hope to see you at one or all of these delectable treats!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Nine Review



The Four-Letter-Word-Theatre presentation of Nine is a musical production that heralds it as not only a company that tackles the grit in life, but also the glitz. With twenty-nine talented cast members, a twenty-odd piece orchestra and a very impressive curtain, the scale of this production is certainly large. Lead character film director Guido Contini asks us “what’s a good thing for if not for taking it to excess?” and this is clearly advice that the production team took to heart in the creation of this show!

Nine is a musical about movies but is firmly grounded in the theatre. Director Sara Tabitha Catchpole does an excellent in balancing the two worlds to bring the audience into a rich and often stunningly visual world. Centre to this world is Guido Contini – a man that is stretched to breaking point in his personal and creative life. He exists as a man torn between his love and lusts for the women in his life, despite learning to love from Sarrahgina, a local courtesan when he was nine years old. Now in middle age his memories of her do not serve to comfort him as he faces Claudia his muse; Carla his whore and Luisa his wife. Having been taught by his Mama and teachers that there are only two types of women Guido now knows that there are three, all who seem to be fighting for control his sanity.

Impassioned accents drip through the music in this production of Nine. The entire cast is clearly enjoying themselves and the leads are particularly impressive. Josiah Lulham as Guido charismatic lead in an impressive cast. His ladies circling him are all talented with Annable Marshall-Roth and Charlotte Fox playing formidable competition for his affections. Alongside these shining women, Emma Caldwell delivers a remarkable performance as Luisa. Amongst the glitter and flourish it was fitting that it is ultimately Guido’s wife who is the source of all the underlying truth, emotion and love. Also worth mentioning is the scene stealing performance by Stephanie John reliving Lillian La Fleur’s past and Grant Burse’s turn as various incarnations of ‘the men.’

Cutting a section out of the front of the state was impressive design – as was the realisation of a giant circular curtain suspended above a tiered platform. The set designers and construction team deserve commendations for the realisation of their ambitious design. If there was any critique of the final presentation it might be that the Union House Theatre stage is rather wide so the elements are quite disparate in the space rather than forming a cohesive picture. However the width of the stage did give space for the more elaborate dance numbers so it is an effective functional place.

The choreography in this show is at times fun, at times daring and always entertaining. Cassie Pennicuik demonstrates considerable talent and variety in her choreography and her vision fits well into the action around the dance. This is a clear indication of an excellent working relationship with the director as well as her own creative clarity of vision. Especially inspired was the waltz for ‘Only With You’ – a wonderfully deceptively simple concept and very effective at reinforcing the nature of the relationship between Guido and his women.

So step right into a seductive world of Nine, let Guido be your guide as he freefalls creatively and personally into a world of women that is of his own making.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

J.A.T.O. R.E.V.I.E.W.



Humour is fascinating, there are many shades and J.A.T.O is a play that explores the grey. Written by Vedrana Klepica it is set in Zagreb. A city which like the characters has a broken past, when a story is told about pigeons setting upon sparrows it is told with the bitter amusement of a people who know that massacres did and do happen and we would do well to remember it on some level. We as an audience are here to be reminded of this, we would do well to understand this humour, because this is what it is to be human.

We are presented with two narratives set for collision. A band of off cuts, endless travellers without music or cause and the security guards set to guard the arrival of an important dignitary.All the characters in this play have little if any control over what is to come. J.A.T.O, Bjorn and Helenna have a set to play but they are really a part of a more sinister game; Grey Eagle and Fatso are pawns in a system beyond thier control and Julia? Well Julia would like to think that with her wine she is in control of the game but she if anything demonstrates how out of our control our lives are. Incidently portraying these characters would be a challenge for any group of actos but playing them so comprehensively with accents is testement to the abilities of this ensemble. Tanya Dickson directed her vision of these characters very well and brought depth beyond the words in stylised movement.

Once again the MKA pop-up theatre in Prahan pays host to a fine piece of new writing in an completely transformed space. This time we are treated to a shifting floor that complements a text that dares you to pin it down. Designed by resident set designer David Samuel it was certainly a transformative canvas and worked well. It was a space of great potential and when it was integrated into the action there was a great additional dynamic to the work. Strong production values have typified Samuel's residency and he definately has a bright future in the industry. Complementing the sand was a stark lighting design by Megan Fitzgerald and deceptively grey costume design by Chloe Greaves.

Speaking of grey, back to the humour (!)

There is a harsh rasping texture to the humour of this play. J.A.T.Oscreams at times with violence and at others is deadened with the inevitable and yet through these incarnations it reamains acutely observed and tailoured to the situation. Whilst difficult to describe it as funny it is a play about humour as a refuge for the desperation of humanity and ultimately serves reminds us that it is most often the broken people that end up breaking through.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shelved.


It's black, it's white.... yeah, yeah, yeah!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

From the MKA Website!

From: http://www.mka.org.au/


How exciting! Also exciting is MKA's new show opening this Thurs J.A.T.O.

Friday, July 1, 2011

King of Bangor by Lee Gambin Review


[Centre is Peter Berzanskis as Stephen King with Mim Mim behind him. Photo credit: Tim Chmielewski]

King of Bangor by Lee Gambin.
Bella Union

Haunted by his life’s work Stephen King sits alone drinking at his typewriter. But is he ever really alone? For the ghosts of his fiction rise out of his subconscious, characters questioning his writing, his motivations and his direction as an author. King of Bangor by Lee Gambin is a dramatic one-act play that unravels the work and the man that is Stephen King.

Throughout we are treated to characters from his novels including Carrie, Misery, Salem’s Lot, Cujo, Christine and The Running Man. Their appearances are sometimes loud, sometimes creeping, perhaps ‘real’ for a moment before slipping into a fictional reality. Some are angry at Stephen King for his work, others upset, others mocking. It is testament however to the strength of the writing and the structural integrity of the work that not knowing all these references does not necessarily spoil the performance. It is an intriguing tapestry of characters and all are performed with considerable panache by the excellent ensemble cast.

Anchoring the play is Peter Berzanskis who as Stephen King is left helpless and a little reeling as his fiction unleashes its fury. As the focal point of the work he is a strong presence and manages to pull of inciting a mix of pathos and contempt for his character from the audience. Around him circle an excellent ensemble Tamara Donnellan is by turns cloying and bubbly; Mim injects powerful malice with a mallet; Nicholas Brien is affable but disconerted and Reville Smith enters the stage each time with a bang. Each actor brings unique elements to their characters and this distinction is aided by clever costume design by Gowri Paary.

Director Dione Joseph showed great talent in the staging of this play, particularly inspired was the decision to have violinist/composer Christine Munro onstage to accompany the action. The music is integrated with great precision and the live-ness it added gave a great vitality to the show. The work is also precisely choreographed to the space and the physicality that defines Joseph’s work is apparent and on display to great effect. There is a resulting dangerous energy to the entire play.

One-act plays need to strike an interesting balance of content, narrative and length. At just over one hour perhaps King of Bangor could have been fleshed out a little longer with the addition of a narrative for the character of Stephen King himself. As well as the interaction with his work there might have been the potential for King to move through his manic nightmare as it is we are left with him as stuck and powerless as he started. Perhaps this is the intention though – to make the point that during King’s drug and drinking days there was no escape and no movement forward. Structured as is, it certainly achieves that.

Although marketed to horror fans this play does have broader appeal. It is insightful, surprisingly funny at points and delightfully inter-textual. It is not a comfortable place to be sitting as Stephen King at his typewriter, but it sure is an absolute pleasure to sit in the audience and watch as both the play and his sanity unfold.

King of Bangor has a three week season at Bella Union. Get onto it and go and see it!

Article in Melbourne City Newspaper

Horror Face Review - MKA Season 1 2011

The Horror Face
By Glyn Roberts

The pop-up theatre at MKA is tucked into office space above the Prahan but entering the set designed by David Samuel the audience is completely transported into a clinical world where emotions are a commodity as much as humanity. This is a reality where enclosed within plastic sheeting we accept humans are synthesised into being and are at the mercy and under the control of their creators. It is an extension sideways from our own reality to reflect back growing concerns about eugenics.

The structure of this work was appealing and deceptively simple. It was nominally divided into parts A, B and C but the themes and atmosphere were consistent and anchored by the repeated motif of the self-help seminar. Playwright Glyn Roberts’ intricate weaving demonstrates considerable skill and subtlety in his writing. Linking lions into the content was inspired and it gave a lovely absurdity to the play.

Working also to connect the stories were the actors who were double cast throughout The Horror Face. The ensemble was very strong and they were able to demonstrate their talents with a variety of characterisations in the work. Matt Young played Ivan with endearing simplicity; Annie Last unleashed her inner animal to great effect in contrast to her otherwise restrained performance; Brendan McCallum was both in control and broken by turns and Soren Jensen demonstrated incredible voice dexterity across his roles. It was also quite nice to have him playing characters murdered by the lion in part A and B and then in part C finally having the opportunity to became a lion himself. Andrew of course deserves a special mention as part of Jensens’s performance. Inspired and excellently executed performance.

Felix Ching Ching Ho as director demonstrated a deft hand at confronting the surreal. She delivered a wonderful staging of a play that one can imagine would be a challenge to perform. Despite the structure, the action did not feel disjointed and it flowed smoothly between the scenes. There was also great integration with other production elements of lighting and sound demonstrating a holistic approach to the direction.

The Horror Face was surprisingly amusing at points; poignant at others and ultimately a very political play. The sense of foreboding that haunted the work did not explode into a terrifying climax; but that is the very insidiousness of eugenics – it creeps into society and before you know it we are living in a whole new world of horror.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Other Woman.



The Mother, the Mistress

The Mistress, the Mother

At a memorial service

For those lost to time

Two women mourn

The Man



There is grave ceremony

An absence of men

In ironed uniforms

Except in the photo

Each is clutching tightly

In gloved black hands

As if there is no other

Ever



It begins to drizzle

She opens the only umbrella

Closer they huddle

Over his last rest

Their tears mingle

Into rain



And in that instant

It’s of no importance


                              That he never brought her home

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Theatre is NOT boring.

This is a response to Don't be So Boring, you can access Anthony Neilson's article for The Guardian here for a reference. Anthony Neilson is a playwright who wrote the Wonderful World of Dissocia and having written such a marvelous work is perhaps hasty in making broad-sweeping statements about what he terms to be "serious" theatre.

First up I want to get something straight: theatre is not boring. Theatre is an incredibly adaptive, dynamic form and it has an immense power in live performance to effect an audience. As a friend was informing me over coffee this morning even 'bad' theatre initiates a response - people leaving during a show are affected and they respond accordingly. Passivity is not an option and option when at great theatre. It asks you to invest all of your senses in the experience of the characters and because of it's very live-ness it involves you.

Theatre is a also a collaborative art form and it is part of the role of the playwright to respond to this reality. Plays exist to be engaged with by writers, actors, directors, producers, designers, crew and audiences. Theatre can be read, it can be performed, it can be studied and the fact that it exists in different states is definitely not boring. Story might be a god but there are many others in the Parthenon.

Ironically its because of its adaptability and its openess to interpretation that theatre is a medium that comes under such pressure from both inside and outside the industry. We are constantly being told that it is an out-dated medium that is irrelevant and unworthy of our attention. Anthony Neilson argues that it is "serious" theatre than is alienating audiences and that spectacle needs to be injected onto the stage. Well, not all theatre needs to be the same. The fact that the form is so diverse is actually a positive thing.

Here in Melbourne in one week you can see the new musical Doctor Zhivago at Her Majesty's Theatre; Manacle at La Mama and She Turned Out the Light at the La Mama Courthouse; Lally Katz's explosive new work Golem Story at the Malthouse; then Rock of Ages at the Comedy Theatre and The Horror Face down at MKA's pop up theatre. This is all before even investigating all the gorgeous little independent and student theatre venues across the city and is testament to the just how not boring theatre is. All this is much more fun than sitting down in front of the telly all week - as addictive as Masterchef can be.

Now, I adore musicals, they are fantastic theatrical experiences, but the fact that they are awesome does not mean that The Seagull needs a jaunty tune. Then again separating "serious" theatre from musicals is just silly, it's all theatre. Let's embrace the 'depth and breadth' of theatre for what it can be rather than trying to re-define what it is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Melbourne City News Article

So....

http://www.mc-news.com.au/

Check out page 16 and also of course check out the play that will be coming up really soon. Review will be posted up on here in the next week.

Friday, June 17, 2011

22 Short Plays Review

22 Short Plays

MKA
by David Finnigan

MKA is a Theatre of New Writing and is making a splash on the local theatre scene, with pop-up theatre appearing in unusual spaces and dynamic work being written and performed they are to be commended for both their vision and tenacity. 22 Short Plays by David Finnigan is the second in the current season of works being performed. Running just over an hour it was a tightly packed selection of sometimes surreal humour, drama and music.


In such an eclectic piece the performances are integral to maintaining the energy of all the separate little works. It is testament to the abilities of Conor Gallacher; Paul Blenheim and Ellen Grimshaw that they were so easily able to not only capture their characters but transform between them. The direction of Tobias Manderson-Galvin no doubt contributed to this with lovely transitions between the scenes and a smooth flow through the works without a horribly disjointed effect. The choreography too of the movement throughout the work was great, especially in Sitcom x 3 and Beowulf Video Game.


The structure of 22 Short Plays allowed a diverse demonstration of David Finnigan’s talent: from the cheeky pastiche of Dune to the hilariously identifiable situation of Westpac ATM and the dramatic horror of Ile and Moondirt. There was considerable variety in tone and subject matter and it was all accomplished with considerable panache. Having said that it was a pleasure to let a little narrative to enter the picture in Friction and Finnigan should not underestimate that audience sometimes enjoying the development of a character on the stage.


The naming of a show is always crucial to creating expectations, in the case of 22 Short Plays at times it seemed a trifle misleading. 22 Snippets ; Snapshots ; Scenes? Maybe. Plays? Well that is open to debate and interpretation! Undermining expectations of what theatre is – and what a play is – is commendable. But as wonderful as this showcase was it didn’t necessarily satisfy my dramatic needs. The short play has become an art-form in itself and much like a short-story there are conventions that are there to be challenged. With 22 Short Plays Finnigan certainly did that, but it would be interesting how many of the shorter scenes will wind up be sustained and developed into works, even a few minutes longer than they were. Then again maybe these pieces work and exist enough as they are; maybe we should all reassess what constitutes a play and get over our expectations?


I loved this show, it was frequently hilarious, the actors were outstanding, and the design was intriguing and yet…? It defiantly leaves you wanting more.
So, I have three projects in MUDfest this year and would lovelovelove for you to be involved. They are all quite different.


Waiting. For. Eurovision.


A short and affectionate pastiche.


Wait, so this is a play where nothing happens twice, all under the required limit of a 3min song?



- 3 actors.

- Director?

- 10 min play.

- 2 songs.

- Much love.

- In MudClub.

- One Show



Is This Too Framed?


A Directed Play Reading/workshop



Enter the frames of an exhibition; a performance; a dance; a song through an open bar. How else can one curate art that is dead?



- Many, many actors required

- Production involvement.

- Full length play

- It's a reading so you'll have scripts on the night

- Minimal rehearsal, maximum awesome-ness

- Includes debrief and chance to workshop play post-reading

- Guild?

- One Show



Curtain Call.

As part of Tastings.


It’s washing day and the play is written by Gracie, as she remembers to forget.



- 4 actors

- Director.

- Designer.

- 20 min play

- As part of the TASTINGS program so opportunity for proffessional mentoring

- Two Shows as part of the showcase.
 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Judgement.

As mentioned previously on this blog, I have a little obsession with book-jacket design and just how awful they can be. Do I judge? Certainly! The designer. Sometimes however they are great, fabulous and wonderful and in news just to hand rewarded for fabulous design. Jasper Jones (small format) has just received a design award for it's great cover. YES! YES! YES! There needs to be more celebration and acknowledgement of good design in the world. This, and only this might ensure that we are not forced to endure headless figures in period costume for any historical fiction novel that has a female protagonist.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The internet has not impacted on my reading habits in the slightest.

The internet has not impacted on my reading habits in the slightest.

One of the contributing factors to surviving a thesis is to discover a distraction that will remove you so completely from what you are writing that you can recover both your sanity and your critical distance. Terry Pratchett might not receive a thank you in your acknowledgment section but deep down within yourself you know that you would never have survived without Discworld.

There was always that one book The Colour of Magic on your family shelves. You did not like the aggressive caricature on the cover nor Rincewind when you opened it. There was another splash that time when you hired out The Wyrd Sisters animation from the ACMI library and subsequently read the book. Better, but there were too many to face jumping in and starting from all the way back at Rincewind did not
appeal. It would take many more years and a completely different approach before you dived into and properly appreciate the slightly interesting flavoured waters.

It was at work. Kate had mentioned Terry Pratchett and she was buying the latest for her brother. He doesn’t read anything but he loves these, she said. Kate’s upfront, she tells you right out that she likes only some of Pratchett’s work. But this latest is about the wizards at Unseen University and should be worth the price of a hardback. The wizards, you ask. Yes, she replies. There are patterns throughout the novels that you can follow. Lead characters and so on. Like all the ones with Death. It’s best to read those ones all together. The wizards are fun. So are the witches. The gods not so much. Then there are the guards. The guards? You are intrigued. It works like this. She opens both the internet windows and your eyes.

Wikipedia has accompanied you through your undergraduate degree. You do not trust it and feel you never will. But here, plain for all to see the Discworld books are there in a table with a list of main characters and also the ‘theme’ or ‘strand’ that they are a part of. I don’t like Rincewind much. You admit this to Kate. Really? She is surprised. Well, read those last. Start anywhere as long as it is in the start of that group.
Going Postal. The pages flick through smoothly and it smells comforting. The cover is not by Josh Kirby and the man on the front grins reassuringly as conmen are want to do. The Rowden White library holds a dizzying array of his books and it overflows into a mild panic. But you remember the wikipedia and you take this one and two with Granny Weatherwax on the cover. The Witches strand. If this doesn’t work it doesn’t matter, you tell yourself. You should be writing your thesis; researching your thesis; working on your thesis; reading your thesis. Thesis, thesis, thesis! The word crowds your conscious for attention. You ignore it and you read.

And you read. And read. Everything. After Going Postal and the witches there are the guards, who turn out to be favourites and then Death stories interspersed with the gods and also the wizards. Lastly you read of Rincewind and you love the world so much that he wins you over. It’s the winter break and you go on holiday through the pages. You’ve never read anything like this before. The immersion in this world is just what you needed and it took the internet to show you how to access it. There is no way you would have approached a series like this and yet now you know there is no other way. Kate is amused at your effusive thanks.

But you know that these characters live with on with you, in you, as does Discworld. Even Death has a resonance beyond the pages. You know also that Terry Prachett is right about the comfort of the anthropomorphic. [I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.] But you do. You really do. Away from the thesis you reclaim a sense of you. You return to the world of JSTOR articles, of analysing and of academia. The thesis goes well. It is comforting to know that whenever you need to escape from this world there is another floating alongside, through space on the back of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant turtle. So, now you would like to thank Terry Pratchett and perhaps Wikipedia is owed an acknowledgment too. For in this instance, the internet did not just impact on your reading habits, it impacted directly on you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Rapture Review

The Rapture

@ Bella Union, Trades Hall

Much like its subject matter The Rapture was a show little conflicted in itself. Frequently hilarious it was essentially a series of sketches about the Church enacted in the context of the end of the world. It’s Melbourne but not as we know it anymore: fortunately Jesus is coming and if we join the Filius Dei Nullius brotherhood there is the potential of salvation; unfortunately with all this business of organised religion our path to existential freedom might be hindered.

Christian Bagin and John Forman bring us a varied cast of clergy and transform very convincingly into character. Tellingly each of them tended to be a little corrupt, a little open to sin and terribly human. These men might have become servants of God but they weren’t about wanking in the wings; exploiting the abandoned or attacking each other with a sacred golden cross.

There was a lot of pantomime to this performance. Audience interaction was compulsory and fortunately on our night we seemed willing to cooperate with the shenanigans. It was quite a clever ploy to incorporate us all into the action. At worst the boys disrupted a first date (with a wedding!) at best they reminded us all of how annoying it is to stand and sit down continuously at certain points during a service. The staging and the space was good and the clever direction by James Pratt was clearly with the space in mind.

Particular favourite sketches included the one where one priest was conversing with a whispering Jesus – who was of course the other priest. Also the little section involving the bread of Christ and the consumption of many crackers was hilarious. Frequently I was breathless with laughter, as was the chap sitting beside me.

Now as someone who loves a bit of comedy and loves panto in all its wondrous glory I thoroughly enjoyed this show: it was a great piece of entertainment! However, in its current form as series of sketches it feels that still evolving and still in development. This is not necessarily a bad thing, one needs performance and audience reaction when working on ideas. I think there are two ways The Rapture could go from this point. The sketches could be incorporated into a mixed-sketch show with other characters or situations. This would be a lot of fun. Or else they could become the basis of a more in depth and fleshed out theatre piece. If this direction is taken there needs to be context, there needs to be narrative and there needs to wider social politics that complement the sharp religious satire. Armageddon is a great opportunity for theatre and times is currently being underutilised in this show.

Pitched in either of these ways The Rapture does have a future. Unlike all the audiences who will be doomed to hell for all eternity, although luckily in this case you will probably not notice as you will be laughing too much!

The Rapture is on this week - tix through Bella Union.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why Thankyou.

4,017 hits!! Aw, shucks you guys!!

No, seriously! Thanks! It it quite exciting to be getting even just blogger stats back.... now comes the harder sell - if you click on the title of any recent post it takes you to the 'post-page' and there YOU CAN COMMENT. Yes, I know. Interaction is the next big. Totes!

Also following is nice, I have four very lovely followers and I don't bite or over update or anything, so please do. But to celebrate what happens already here is some love and a little chick that was supposed to get uploaded sometime way back nearer easter.

Isn't he the cutest?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Being Sick.

I am a terrible person at being sick. I can't stand it and instead of retiring to bed I tend to take awkward angled naps on the sofa. I also tend to freak out a little about work commitments and everything else, when it is CLEARLY MORE IMPORTANT TO JUST GET BETTER. I also inject heaps of miscellaneous and nasty smelling things that are reputedly good for being sick, all at once into my mouth. [Note: not a good idea] So. Tonight I am not going to watch the delightful Castle on the telly. I am going to bed. Early.

Hamlet Review



Hamlet
MUSC and HE!ST PRODUCTONS
Union House Theatre

In the word of the University of Melbourne Student Theatre, there are institutions – the Melbourne University Shakespeare Company (MUSC) has become one of these companies. They regularly turn out quality performances twice a year, bringing William Shakespeare to student audiences. This semester MUSC teamed up with HE!ST Productions to co-produce a play that is an instition itself: Hamlet. The HE!ST team have an impressive history of shows such as Crook’d and Mysterious Mysteries that highlight both a delicious subversion of genre coupled with strong performances and writing. Hamlet is no exception, displaced into the unbalanced world of the Great Denmark Hospital it is clear from the very outset that we are not going to be witnessing an ordinary Shakespeare.

The audience is lead through the depths of Union House Theatre to the stage, where a small and intimate audience of fifty have a truly complete experience, immersed right into the twisted world of the play. As our senses were overwhelmed with dry-ice; sirens wailing and music pounding it was clear from the outset was that there was no escape: for us and the characters, this was it.

Melding schlock-horror with glam-rock in a grotesque hospital setting might seem like a difficult aesthetic to pull off, but kudos to the design team – it was fabulous. Everything was linked together with a ghastly-green vibe that distinctly unsettling. Amy Dyke’s initiation in costume design was a triumph and worked wonderfully with Robert Smith’s stark and adaptable set. The lighting of Matt Jones and Tom Fifield and the sound of Zoe Meagher also contributed to closely interconnected production design. Even the electric live music from the band was integrated into the action, with the lead singer insinuating himself as the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the musicians both contributing riffs and sound-effects. A strong and cohesive staging always contributes to a great show, and with slick accompanying performances Hamlet was a definite success.

At times an incredibly stylish Rock Opera and at others broad farce Hamlet contained some deceptively simple elements in the script. Jack Richardson’s additions to Shakespeare’s text worked especially well in the comedic scenes and Amy Hack and David Harris clearly delight in playing his Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Actually the cast in general seemed to be having terrific fun, and this drew the audience into the work even further.

With this production clearly about being in the face of the audience it feels a little unfair, under the circumstances to thus complain that some of the characterisation lacked subtlety. But like it or not Hamlet is quite a complicated character, this didn’t come through at all. Jan Mihal played a very realistic and creepy mad-man (insane eyes!) but the time and space weren’t provided for a more rounded character to develop into this crazy psychopath. Literally injecting his madness, it seemed that this Hamlet was perhaps was waiting for the opportunity to unleash horror in this hospital; the death of his father an excuse to rampage rather than the reason. There was thus very little opportunity for the audience to feel any sympathy for him at all and at times it felt that Claudius of all people was the misunderstood character of the play!

This production of Hamlet was a highly charged performance and a worthy addition to the performance history of both HE!ST and MUSC. It was packed full of grizzly murder scenes; big hair; fluro blood exploding under black-lights; fantastic songs and the kind of energy that reenergises a source text that is hundreds of years old into an entirely new institution.

Monday, May 23, 2011

No Place Like Review

No Place Like.
Presented by Union House Theatre
Written by Chris Summers
Directed by Tom Guttereidge
Showing this week: ticket info


Dorothy in her sparkly red shoes would be slightly bewildered if she ended up in the Oz of Chris Summers’ imagination. No Place Like imagines a world where our very homes are the breeding ground for the dangers that our politicians insist haunt our ‘unsafe’ streets. From this “toxic scenario of the present” there is a post-apocalyptic extension to a Melbourne nineteen years from now where the entire state is now ruled by the man who initiated the horror of the first act. There is confronting and open violence in this work, but also insidious and creeping terror of inevitability: of how the today effects the tomorrow. Union House Theatre is to be commended for this commission and for producing a strident, strong and daring piece of theatre.

The Guild Theatre was completely transformed for this production with the type of set that draws the audience right into the action. It was immense in size, remarkably adaptable and when the insides were ripped out of the world it responded in kind. Quite simply the set designed by Tanja Beer deserves congratulations. It demonstrated creative vision, determination (to squeeze the design into the space) and worked tightly with the script to envelope the audience in the play. Who needs 3D cinema when you can be so involved with live theatre?

Script-wise No Place Like is dynamic. It moves through the action and scenarios with a confidence and brashness that reflects the harshness of the content. At times though it pulls back and is gentle, an example of this is the frequent drifting into song throughout the play. This gives a reflective flavour at times. As Melbourne emerges from chaos and into an accompanying schlock/horror aesthetic on the stage it is testament to the writing that this ‘New World’ still remains a plausible future of the “now. yes right now.” Structurally the play is impressive. It is always a pleasure to observe the links and connections within a work and the structure offered a satisfying narrative. On balance Act 1 was perhaps a little longer than it needed to be but perhaps that was just a response to wanting to inhabit the fantastical future Melbourne for longer. The coda Act 3 was a great metatheatrical conclusion to the work.

This play is packed with well performed and complex characters. They are inherently human and it is the extension of the best/worst elements of humanity that remain in the second act. The power hungry and ruthlessly ambitious PA is reduced to a hideous caricature, worshipping her new master as a Prophet. The entire ensemble was fabulous and they showed great depth in moving their characters through time. All elements of the production team of this work also need to be acknowledged for producing such a professional show.

The politics of No Place Like are societal and personal but they are also devastatingly interconnected. The parents in this story are unwittingly careless of their future. The mother who because she cannot face the past, cannot face a future; and the politician with a mandate for safety who presides over a home that festers with danger as his eye is elsewhere. Lives are destroyed and only those who can escape from home and create their own home survive. Integrity is an interesting concept when people are constantly lying to themselves and others. In a world where spin is how to win, it comes as little surprise that Finn who does not speak; who can not speak, retains her integrity amongst the chaos.

Powerful theatre has an important place in contemporary culture, even more so when the subject matter involves an extension into a future reality. No Place Like might not be our future but it should hopefully make us sit up, take notice and ultimately take action to ensure that it is not and will never be our home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Closure.

Closure is such a peculiar term and has decidedly shady connotations with victims etc in the criminal justice system but sometimes these words are just appropriate. Totally appropriate. A while back I submitted a novel extract into a competition. Initially worn out and desperate to escape after submitting it, I stopped writing it and since then have not continued. The wait to hear the response - any response - was interminable and typical of the publishing industry. Now that finally I have a letter thanking me for my time and effort and go away and play now, I feel like I can write again. That it exists no longer in the hands of other people, but back in mine means that I can continue, I can edit it, change it it and I can write.

Unfortunately I am also finishing of a full length play before the end of May!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Curtains Review


Curtains (The Musical) presented by UMMTA

Union House Theatre

Curtains is a show that keeps you guessing. At times the audience is as unsure as the characters at what is going on. Concurrent with the opening/closing night of Robin Hood (set in Kansas – go figure) a murder occurs on the stage. As Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Josiah Lulham) enters to solve the murder, he also enters to solve the various problems facing the show. The producers Carmen and Sidney Burnstein despair but even without their leading lady their director Christopher Belling might just find a way. With the crew and cast all confined to the theatre there is little they can do because of course “the show must go on.”

This musical was well cast with a great and energetic chorus that reflects the depth of talent in the world of Musical Theatre. Everyone who sang produced a great voice and together the cast raised the roof of Union House Theatre. In a large cast it is always difficult to select out specific mentions but the characterisation of David Miles was once again superb; the fabulous dancing of Shannen Chin-Quan belied her young age; the heels of Anna Charalambous will go down in history; Josiah Lulham proved that he is at home in the lead’s role in any form of theatre and the rest of the principles was all excellent too. There are some great one-liners throughout the play and the character-roles are strong enough to hold their own against the nominal leads.

The production team at UMMTA is impressive. Bradley Dylan’s direction of this show was strong follow up to last years The Wedding Singer. This time he was ably assisted by Giancarlo Salamanca as assistant director and Lauri Uldrikis whose choreography showed both a talent and a tongue-in-cheek love of musical theatre dance. Anthony Cardamone and his orchestra were great too, it’s always nice to listen to it live rather than done with a computer. Incidentally it was lovely to see the orchestra for a moment after the interval – it might have been nice to see them a bit more, the liveness of the performance is always amplified when you can see where the music is coming from. It might have been fun too to incorporate them into production more.

Set-wise, Curtains is a difficult show to design as it is set in a theatre. For the most part the space was used very well and Caitlyn Staples’ scene set up in the flies was ingenious. The sets for the show-within-the-show Robin Hood were fun and appropriate however perhaps the Union House Theatre itself could have been more of a presence and the actual space more theatricalised for the scenes set just in the theatre. Considering however that along with Scott Marsh as Costume Designer this is a first time design both did very well.

And yet, all of this deconstructing of the different elements of the show does little to communicate how fun this production is. What was especially lovely to me was the progression of the song In the Same Boat. It gave the audience a sense of rehearsal within the show in such a neat way and it was a real pleasure to see a representation on the stage of how these things develop. It is also important to point out that despite being a little confused with the opening (yes, an honours thesis in metatheatre did little to help, honest!) and having to have it explain properly at interval this show was still engaging and my own logic created an alternative premise that fitted in anyway.

As a side note, according to the program Curtains was the last collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret). It seems fitting under the circumstances that it contains a moving (and totally cutely performed) story-line involving the composers, with the song I Miss the Music especially resonant. UMMTA made a bold decision to stage the Melbourne Premier of Curtains and it paid off. Any other local company choosing to stage will indeed have “Tough Act to Follow.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bookshelf Love.

Bookshelves tell the story of a life. When you have genetic tendencies towards hoarding this fact is even more apparent. There is that enormous black bookcase that had to be sawn in half to fit through the door to your room. It now houses the categories Plays; Classics; Poetry; Short Stories; and Art. But also there are all those Tamora Pierce books that informed your early teens, a generous sprinkling of Bryce Courteny and the Harry Potter series. These elevated titles look smugly over to other teenage fiction relegated to the other side of the room. Here lurks three volumes from the Twilight series, accumulated from the discarded pile at work, amongst the better written and better loved. Their little case is balanced on another that houses much used University Readers that you continually use and reference as primary sources. The children’s fiction and picture books you still love are on the second biggest bookcase. There too, is non-fiction and reference but you don’t have much time for the real. The adult contemporary fiction sits in the spot that you first see when you walk into the room. It is overflowing above and below and is stacked in weird ways to accommodate. People walk into this room and know you are a reader. You walk into this room and know who you are.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Procrastinate.

Poetry? Really? And acrostic no less, has it

Really come to this point?

Oh you might disagree but the fact remains

Clearly this is not a good use of ones time

Real people don’t sit around writing

As if they were getting paid to when,

Seriously, you don’t (yet)

Tell them it’s practice, tell them it’s fun

I know better.

Nothing at all is really going on

At the moment, you are waiting and

This is just another pointless exercise in the

Endless excuses for not having a proper job!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Who is Patti Smith?

Patti Smith is an artist, a wordsmith and the one half of a most splendiforous memoir I have just finished. A longer review will follow but during the meanwhile just know that Just Kids is fantastic and that if you want to write you should read it. Who is Patti Smith? You must find out!

Closer by Patrick Marber Review

Closer.
By Patrick Marber
Guild Theatre
May 4-7, 2011
Four-Letter-Word-Theatre

Closer is an intimate play. It is a work that dissects and deconstructs the relationship between four characters. Whilst nominally about sex, it is far more about the “true things” and honesty that comes from within relationships. Can anything be true?

Dan rescues Alice, he is the knight and she is the damsel – a girl vulnerable enough to love him on the basis of his crust-less tuna sandwiches. She says hello stranger and he in return takes her life, steals her past and writes a book that he has always been dreaming of writing. She loves him and she is his muse: but it’s not enough. It never is with Dan. In a publicity shot for the book Dan meets Anna. A woman to Alice’s girl, he professes his interest and she discourages it ostensibly because she knows Alice’s story from reading the book. Obsessed with Anna to the degree of impersonating her on the internet Dan has cyber-sex with Larry who just so happens to have been the doctor who tended to Alice when Dan first rescued her. Having set up Larry with ‘Anna’, Larry actually meets Anna and they become a couple. Things come to a head at the exhibition of Anna’s photographs. Dan finally persuades Anna to embark on an affair and from there both relationships fracture; disintegrate and dissipate into the angry drama of extended break-ups.

The space designed by Robert Smith for this production was certainly a bold vision, large screens, one of plastic received projections from six projectors. At times this transforming space was a revelation. At others it felt too expansive for the close-quartered and intimate encounters with the couples. The strongest scenes dramatically were tightly focused by Kei Murakami’s lights and drew in the audience to the closeness of the action. Particularly strong was the ‘stripping scene’ where Larry discovers Alice performing in a spotlight that merges her alleged past and present. It was a tightly wound dramatic scene and testament to the emerging talents of first-time director Max Paterson and his assistant Corey Reynolds. The final encounter between Dan and Alice in a hotel room was another exceptionally strong scene. The tight focus in these instances (and some others) certainly did not leave the small cast floundering in an endless expanse of space as occasionally some of the others scenes seemed to.

The structure of Closer is fragmentary. It follows the characters over years, this did not come across too well in the first half but by the second half the rhythms of the production seemed have caught up with the script and it all tied together nicely. It is a quite hilarious script at points and at times the audience was laughing out loud even during scenes where the wit was clearly a counterpoint to poignancy. This is strong writing and served to carry the action through the somewhat selfish actions of the characters.

The female cast of Felicia King as Alice and Georgia Kelly as Anna did well to contrast their characters and still make them both believably attractive to both of the men. The chic lines of Anna’s costumes contrasted with Alice who was all legs and Doc Martins really assisted in this – so kudos to designer Claire Gawne. Dan played by Danny Ball was simultaneously infuriating and adorable with his love and his lack of understanding and Larry played by Angus Cameron was surprisingly and devastatingly vengeful. All the actors successfully played their characters in the beginnings of love and the fallout after love.

The duplicity of these characters at points was almost unbearable – Dan becomes incensed that Anna sleeps with Larry to close off their relationship forever and yet he has been ‘sharing’ her for over a year during their affair. The righteousness of all the characters is at times infuriating, but this goes to reinforce how lying in the first half is not ideal and neither is the truth in the second half. In both instances the other party is hurt. Only Alice recognises this and finds herself unable to tell the truth and unable to lie and as such she has to leave. And yet as the audience discovers what other characters have realised throughout the play, not even Alice is who she seems. Closer challenges its audience to see if anything is true.

However close we do get, there is always another kernel of truth, another level to our partners that we do not comprehend, that we feel the need to realise whatever the consequences, this opportunity to get Closer. Be warned, it didn’t turn out so well for Alice, Anna or Dan. And Larry? Well, Larry is a f****ing caveman.

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