02 July 2015

Review: More Female Parts

More Female Parts
30 June 2015
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 4 July

Evelyn Krape

Lois Ellis first directed Evelyn Krape in Female Parts in 1982. Written by Franca Rame and her theatre collaborator, co-activist and husband Dario Fo (who dedicated his Nobel Prize to her), its monologues addressed issues facing women in their 30s. Originally performed by Rama, and called All House, Bed and Church in the original Italian, it was a loud and strong voice for women in the 1980s.

Writer Sara Hardy wrote the follow-up for the women creators and the characters, now in their 60s.


The full review is on AussieTheatre.com and will be published here in a few days.

01 July 2015

Sometimes Hobart: Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo
12–18 June
to 22 June

Solid Lights Works

Hobart’s, and David Walsh’s, third Dark Mofo festival promised to be darker and weirder. It was! But its weirdness was welcoming and there was fire, warmth and mind-blowing light waiting around every dark corner.

I asked some of the Melbourners who were Dark Mofoing, as artists and/or visitors, what they thought.

Angus Cerini was performing in The Rabble’s Orlando.

One of the reasons I went to Hobart was to see Orlando again, and to see Cerini in it because he wasn’t in the original. I was dumbstruck at its opening night in 2012 at the Melbourne Festival, and to see this work again in the pastel wedding-cake-layered Theatre Royal theatre that was built in 1837 (by convict labour) was such a different experience – and possibly more wonderful. It’s darkness and hope and pool of freezing water – that actor Dana Miltins survived! – was perfect for this festival. (Can we see Story of O next year, please. Maybe performed at Mona.)

The Fire Organ

Cerini said, “Hobart is an incredible place. Dark Mofo seemed to be just about everywhere. I saw just about fuck all of actual events but it’s evidence was everywhere. Constantly. With red lights being the signature and one the entire city (of only 200,000) seem to embrace. It was quite incredible to feel like one was actually inside Dark Mofo purely by being in Hobart. In terms of arts festivals, it was like Adelaide festival time but in a way way way cooler place, with fuckloads less fuckwits (none), with absolutely staggeringly finessed artistry and curation in a place that has so much natural beauty and staggering history with weather consisting of freezing cold but crystal clear sunshine. I would not hesitate in going next year – for the fabulous environment, for the friendliness, for the seafood, for the sheer warmth of the place and its embracing of the art. Mona, although I only went at night and didn’t go into the gallery, is kinda mind blowing. And to think this entire festival and the sheer weight of its impact both cultural and economic on a city and a state comes from one dude with asbergers is just fucking brilliant. I feel really fucking privileged that I got to be part of it. But in truth all of Hobart is part of it. 10 motherfucking stars.”

I saw more of the festival and can only add another heap of mofoing stars.

Dark Mofo is small, but it’s all over the city. I was staying in North Hobart and the local pubs had a Dark Beers for Mofos. I talked about Tasmanian stout with a bar dude who knew his beer. And it was great beer. I tried another one at another pub in Battery Point.

Dark Park and the opening night

Anastasia Ryan, Melbourne arts administrator, was at opening night on Friday 12 June. “The one night I experienced the festival, there was an amazing buzz. No-one seemed 100% sure what was going on, and people were just joining queues and following strangers, stumbling around in the dark looking for these pockets of red light. We drank hot gin cocktails (and then even better hot gin cocktails), got smoke in our clothes, and watched a giant confection of metal and pipes shoot flames into the darkness. Dark Mofo, I will be back for you.”

Oh, that hot gin cocktail! A mug of hot spicy and sweet gin poured over fresh fruit; on a cold dark night, it was soul warming.

The gin bar is in Dark Park at Macquarie Point. There were cabaret performances, but the thrill was walking around in the dark and finding the hidden light exhibitions.

My highlight was UK-born, New York-living Anthony McCall’s Solid Light Works. Walk into a dark door, in a warehouse at the end of the street, along a dark corridor and come into a huge space filled with haze and conical shafts of light. As a work, it was beautiful, but what made it come alive was being allowed to play in the light and discover how light and dark work together.

And so many of the people playing were children. So much of Dark Mofo is the experience of being part of community that embraces and loves this festival. Families came to Dark Park. Kids played in the McCall and the white fog-filled room that was all about scent  (it was run by Aesop, so the smells were good), ate from food vans while watching the Fire Organ, and put their fears in the mouth of The Purging fish, which was made my Tasmanian students and Indonesian artists and will be burnt in public on Sunday night.

Tennessee Mylott-Rudland and Jess McLaughlin Cafferty, interns at Monash University Student Theatre, were also at the opening weekend.

Mylott-Rudland sent me a photo of her at Solid Light Works.

Photo by Jess McLaughlin Cafferty 

McLaughlin Cafferty said, “I loved that almost everything was interactive, which was especially spectacular after a hot gin and a taco from a truck. I also really loved how most of the events were free and within walking distance of each other and allowed for a really beautiful and art-filled weekend.”

She also loved The Shadows Calling.

“I think my favourite part of Dark Mofo was the Patricia Piccinini (and Peter Hennessey) exhibition near the heartbeat over Hobart. She created a really beautiful and fascinating world and all the pieces in conjunction with the soundscape and the spoken word in the offices were absolutely gorgeous.”

The “heartbeat” is Pulse Column by USA-based Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. I thought it was wonderful when it was just a light shining into the sky from dusk to dawn that always let me know where the centre of the Hobart was, but it’s so much more. The light is attached to a person and it pulses with their pulse. Seeing it each night and knowing that every pulse was that of the person made it as close to literally being the heart of Hobart as possible. I really wish that I’d done it.

And this was just the opening night of Dark Mofo!

Pulse Column
from The Shadows Calling

Marina Abramović, Private Archaeology

Saturday was the opening the astonishing Marina Abramović Private Archaeology exhibition at Mona.

Again, the experience of being at the opening was as important as seeing the art.

On the ferry to Mona in the dark, it was near-freezing outside, but there was a cow sculpture to lean on and sheep sculptures to sit on. And plenty of warm and wine inside.

Sheep seats
Next was the 99 steps from the ferry and the realisation that there’s a line to get into the building. Which was also fine because there were fires outside, live music underneath the James Turrell Amarna pavilion, food, drink and friends.

Amarna at Mona

Inside, there were rumours of the famous performance artist being spotted in the restaurant and the line wait to get into her exhibition was about half an hour.

For once, waiting didn’t matter because there was all of Mona to explore, lots of people to talk to and the exhibition runs until 5 October.

When I saw Private Archaeology on the opening night, I loved it because it was pure performance-art wank. But the deeper I got, the more I really loved it and saw beyond what I thought was self indulgence. After being at Abramović’s conversation with Walsh, at The Odean Theatre, I went back to Mona and saw it through the eyes and heart that created it; the heart that believes in “everything”.

A lot of her early work, especially the 1970s video work, is self indulgent, but this exhibition is about seeing the development of her art. Seeing the change from filming her and her then parter, Ulay, screaming at each other to her finding the exact spot in Oslo where Edvard Munch’s painted The Scream and inviting 270 people to scream at the camera.

Made in 2013, The Scream video runs for over two hours. I watched maybe 100 people scream for about 50 minutes – it’s the noise that was finally too much. Some screamed with joy, but most found the pain they’d held deep in their bodies and let it free. I want to go back and watch the rest of it. Like so much of Abramović’s work, it’s easy to rush past and dismiss it but the truth and remarkable beauty of it comes when you spend time with it.

Jess exchanging energy

And all of this is before the rice and lentil counting.

Noise cancelling headphones, white coats, no cameras, a long bench with seats for 60, and white rice and black lentils to count. If the gallery didn’t have to shut, I would have stayed for hours.

This is only a hint of Dark Mofo. Still to come was the food bliss of the Winter Feast, where the Dark Mofo community gather in their thousands at Princes Wharf to sit at massive communal tables and feast on Tasmania’s most scrumptious and indulgent treats.

Dark Mofo was energising and welcoming and during a month when federal arts funding had been slashed and artists been devalued, it was wonderful to be a part of community that knew just how wrong that decision was. I hope I can go back next year.

Dark Park
The Purging

Inside the fog room

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

All photos by A-M Peard unless credited.

30 June 2015

Review: Shit

Dee & Cornelius
26 June 2015
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
to 5 July

Shit is the shit. The fourth show of the 2015 MTC Neon Festival of Independent Theatre screams louder and stronger than the women it's about and inspires us to make our support for independent theatre as louder than possible.

Writer Patricia Cornelius says, "Really good independent theatre is radical. It is actually going to shock you. It is actually going to make you think differently." Shit is astonishing independent theatre. 

I don't understand why every theatre company in the country (and beyond) isn't competing to get the next Patricia Cornelius and Susie Dee play. From their days with the Melbourne Workers Theatre to their 2103 award-winning and independently-produced Savages, their consistent accolades somehow don't translate to commercial demand.


The full review is on AussieTheatre.com and will published here in a few days. 

26 June 2015

Sometimes Hobart: Orlando interview

Dark Mofo
The Rabble

12 June 2015

It was cold in Hobart last night. The sun’s out today but tonight promises to be colder, darker and weirder as the third Dark Mofo festival opens and this gorgeous city celebrates art that’s made for icy dark nights. A highlight of the theatre program is The Rabble’s Orlando, which opens tonight at the Theatre Royal and finishes on Sunday. I flew down to Hobart for the festival and spoke to members of The Rabble as they rehearsed in Melbourne.

Orlando. Mary Helen Sassman & Dana Miltins. Photo by Sarah Walker

This is the third production of Orlando. The first was at the 2012 Melbourne International Festival and it was part of the Brisbane Festival’s independent theatre program in 2014.

Emma Valente, co-founder, with Kate Davis, and director of The Rabble, says that festivals “provide such an important context for our work. During a festival audiences are more adventurous, they are more likely to see something that they may never chose otherwise and they are excited to see something different. They are also an important meeting place for artists, a place where you can talk with and see work from artists from all around the country and the world.”

With renowned performance artist Marina Abramović as part of Dark Mofo, The Rabble are ideally placed to welcome audiences who are eager to embrace original creative voices.

No one makes theatre like The Rabble. They leave some critics – like me – and audiences raving with love; while others have stormed out in fury.

The first time I saw them was Special at La Mama in Melbourne in 2011. I took a friend who said she’d see anything as long as it wasn’t contemporary dance. At the end of this show, she looked at me and said, “I wish it had been contemporary dance”.

The stage was mouldy green with a toilet-paper back curtain, a mound of earth and an exercise bike. Actor Mary Helen Sassman was eight months pregnant and wore a native American headdress and a pink stretchy dress, when she wasn’t naked. With 60+ actor Liz Jones, the work explored the sometimes hilarious and mostly painful and warped relationship of parental resentment. It was like watching a dream that you thought (and maybe wished) you’d forgotten.

No one makes theatre like The Rabble dare to make.

Orlando is based on a deep and layered understanding of Virgina Woolf’s 1928 novel about a young man who doesn’t grow old but becomes a woman and lives for three centuries. Woolf’s story is on the stage, but there’s very little of her text.

I think that the truth of any work is in its subtext: the words that are never spoken or written, the scenes that are never seen. Meaning is found in the white spaces between words on pages and the silence and empty space on a stage. It’s why we can read the same books and see the same shows and argue for hours over the truth about what creator was sharing.

A Rabble work is formed in that empty space. Their work lets us get lost in the white void where words disappear and meaning becomes clear.

It’s difficult to describe the experience of seeing their work, so I asked Dana Miltins, who plays Orlando, to explain it.

“Oh my gosh I find this question really hard as well… I can’t fully answer it.

“To me, The Rabble have a unique way of distilling a novel that captures its spirit without telling the story as it reads, blow by blow. If you’ve read Orlando then I don’t believe you’ll feel ripped off by our version – the themes and ideas that exist within and behind the narrative are all there; but, the play exists on its own as well and is very much The Rabble’s Orlando.”

Orlando. Dana Miltins. Photo by Sarah Walker

The process of how it becomes The Rabble’s Orlando is as fascinating as the result.

Actor Sassman (who plays Orlando’s lovers, along with Angus Cerini) describes a Rabble rehearsal.

“A typical rehearsal starts with a 30-minute high intensity workout – usually circuit training but not always. I’m confused as to whether this is done as a bonding/unifying tool or to encourage competitiveness amongst the cast – either way we often find ourselves comparing abs and keeping a lunges tally. Once we’ve all broken a cool sweat we start to work. It’s always physical, very little discussion. Just on the floor and getting on with it. Emma and Kate work us hard. We love it.”

The work involves hours of improvisation and exploration of character and text, most of which never make it to the stage. The finished product is a distilled and clarified version of the results of this process.

Sassman talks about how they met through La Mama about nine years ago, although Valente and Davis met at Swinburn University earlier.

“Thank goodness! For Emma, Kate, Dana and I, our four-way working relationship was forged in blood, sweat, baby’s tears and breast milk (Mary Helen and Dana have performed while pregnant and Kate’s baby is due in July) as we made and toured shows on shoestring budgets – us with huge ideas and small CVs.

“I think we surprise each other, inspire each other and above all we truly trust each other to approach the making of the work with full integrity. Now with this Orlando we have Angus on board – fearless, eerily gifted and generous, he fits in just fine!”

The company are never afraid to share their admiration and trust for each other. At the end of the first Orlando season, I asked Miltins how she worked with director Valente to create her emotionally fearless and physically demanding performance. She simply said, “Emma’s a genius”.

Dana goes on to describe Kate as a genius. Davis and Valente work together to create each new work but while Emma directs (and lights), Kate designs. What’s most striking about her design is it’s use of colour and texture.

Orlando begins in a world that’s milk and semen white. With pebbles, fur, tulle, cotton and water, it’s a world that begs to be touched, felt and rolled naked around in.

Miltins says that Davis creates sets “we have to exist in, as opposed to on. There’s generally quite a lot to negotiate on her sets and I see them sometimes like an additional character. You have to interact with them and respond to them; they affect you and your performance. I love working in these environments and I think Kate’s a genius.

“I love most the element of danger that comes with it. To me, that element is what puts the sizzle in live theatre. Just the idea that anything could happen.

“The slipperiness, the way you have to lift you feet to clear the water when you walk, the way it changes your balance, and of course the cold. Her sets make you exist in the present because they demand attention and focus just to physically negotiate the terrain. And really that’s all any actor wants, to be truthful and present in the moment.”

There’s a pool of water on the Orlando stage. Dana is “praying, seriously praying” that the plans to heat it for this season come off.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

And please read Josephine Giles's interview with soprano Allison Bell.

06 June 2015

Review: North by Northwest

North by Northwest
Melbourne Theatre Company
4 June 2015
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 20 June

MTC North by Northwest. Photo by Jeff Busby

The MTC's much-anticipated North by Northwest will be a sold-out hit. This re-telling of Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 much-loved film is slick and fun and doesn't detract from its source material. While it skims the surface of what makes Hitchock's films so watchable, it's pretty cool to watch it skip, make ripples and get safely to the other side.

The film, about advertising man Roger O Thornhill being mistaken for a cold-war super-spy, was made for a 70 mm film telling with huge settings – from New York to Mount Rushmore – that declare it a work that belongs on a huge screen. Director Simon Phillips is the co-designer with Nick Schlieper and they have created a telling that belongs on a stage.

Along with the cast of 12, who seem like hundreds, and the rights to the film's music, the design has moments of theatrical mastery as many of the iconic big-screen scenes – including the crop duster and the climb over the stone faces – are made with the help of their own big screen. What makes them a joy is that there's no secret as to how the effects are created. With a wink to the early days of screen miniatures and models, the cinema effects are made live by the cast, but the live action of the characters is always kept as the focus.

The cast reach to the film portrayals, but bring enough of themselves to make them more than an impersonation. Matt Day's Cary-Grant-cum-Thornhill, Amber McMahon's Eva-Marie Saint-cum-femme-fatale-Eve and Deidre Rubenstein's Jesse-Royce-Landis-cum-Thornhill's-mother are especially wonderful.

What the stage hasn't re-created is Hitchcock's pace and suspense. His changing point of view techniques create too-scared-to-blink tension, when the audience are just ahead of the characters (know what's about to happen), and jump-in-your-seat fright, when they are with the character (find out what happens as the character does). His close ups and fast cuts trap his characters and give them no choice. The stage gives characters literal and figurative space to make choices, which gives the audience space to question the MacGuffin.

Hitchcock popularised the term MacGuffin as character motive that's never really explained or given its place in the narrative logic. This technique excels when the audience don't have time to think; when all that matters is "what happens next?".

A lot of this show's "what happens next?" comes from assumed familiarity with the film and wanting to know how they are going to make each scene, rather than from the tension of the plot.

As there are so many surprises on stage, this is its own tension and its own story – as long as MacGuffin's friend doesn't tap you on the shoulder and ask "Why are we telling this story?" or "Is this excellence, Mr Brandis?".

As such, it's easy to compare it to the Olivier Award–winning re-telling of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (2008 MTC) and to Kneehigh Theatre's production of the 1945 film Brief Encounter (2013 MIAF), which both reflected the mannered UK societies when they were made. Steps was spoof and Encounter was homage, but North by Northwest tries to be both, which leaves it tonally confusing and, at times, a bit lost when in-jokes overcome the pace of the story.

None of which is going to make it any less popular. It's a show that's found the road between the crushing-cliff wall of safety and the sharp-edged plummet of originality.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

05 June 2015

Review: Ned

Groaning Dam Productions and Capital Venues & Events
22 May 2015
Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
to 31 May

Ned. Photo by Marty Williams

Ned (A New Australian Musical) opened on Friday night at the new Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo. The choice of opening show was inspired: a musical about a story that infuses Australian identity and culture. The choice to open with an untried new work was a risk. It hasn’t paid off. Ned tries so hard to be a “hit musical” that it’s never allowed to find its voice or tell its own authentic story.

However, being in the new theatre is worth the easy trip to Bendigo (about two hours from Melbourne).

It’s a re-development of the Sandhurst Gaol that opened in the 1860s and was only closed in 2006. Ulumbarra’s a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “meeting place” and the theatre reclaims the grim building and the surrounding space with light and warmth. The entry hall is lined with the unchanged cells. The thick concrete doors are open, but it’s not easy to step inside one; it feels too like being buried alive. It’s nicer to stay in the plush and new with its easy-to-see exits. It’s creepy but so welcoming and positive that there must be lots of confused ghosts wandering around with us.

Away from the cells, the 1000-seat theatre and has donor plaques on seats and a “new theatre” smell that evokes anticipation. With a huge stage, comfortable seats, great sight lines and good leg room, this is a regional space that will be hosting the world’s best companies and shows.

A new telling of Australia’s world famous bushranger and prisoner is perfect to open this new space.

Kelly’s story is one that continues to shape contemporary Australian culture. It’s a big white story about a young man who unwittingly claimed his space as a hero, even if the facts don’t hold firm. His armour (that’s also currently in Bendigo) is an iconic image, his dictated Jerilderie Letter means we know what he thought and how he spoke, and his plaster death mask haunts like no photo can. This story has been explored and re-told countless times; his was the first story told in Australian film, Sidney Nolan’s series of Kelly paintings are recognised by people who don’t see visual art. The material is endless and the opportunity to explore this legend from today’s point of view is unmissable.

Which all leave this new work empty and insipid.

Photo by Marty Williams

When Ned opens with Kelly about to be hanged and a projected image of his death mask, there was hope that it was going to be a story that stripped away the myth and looked at the man whose plaster face closed his eyes on the world. The hope begins to drain as the ensemble sing “How did you die?”.

The cast and ensemble are the highlight of the show. Many of the young cast are recent VCA Music Theatre graduates and there are exceptional voices and heartfelt performances that never let the material overwhelm them.

But Ned doesn’t work as a musical, a story, or an exploration of Kelly or the society that created and continues to re-tell the Kelly story.

It sounds like a “musical”, especially as the Les Miserables references abound. The songs are singable, but are missing thematic connection to character and connection of music structure to story structure. And, apart from the nod to Irish music, there’s little musical reflection of 1800s Australia. As it was being presented in its 1880s context – with an historical accuracy that’s as clean as the men’s moleskins that still have the leather labels on their bums – I was listening for hints of bush music or the memories of the first European Australian songs, which were ballads about bushrangers.

None of this might matter if the songs did what songs in musicals do. At the most basic level, songs move action forward or tell something unknown. At their best, songs reveal the soul and heart of the characters. This is what makes music theatre so astonishing. The ridiculous notion that people burst into song makes sense because they are singing what they can’t say, sharing their secrets like a soliloquy. The songs in Ned say what we know, stop the action and the rhyming-dictionary lyrics have no sense of the rhythm and poetry that make lyrics soar.

Again, I keep thinking of Australian bush ballads. It’s a template begging to be used.

And the songs may be better than the book. Facts aren’t story. Making goodies and badies isn’t story. Story is watching someone fight for, and sometimes fail, on the way to reach the goal that will change their life. It’s understanding why people make the wrong choices. It’s dilemma and tension that only breaks when impossible choices are made. Story is taking what we know and telling it in a way that makes us re-think our knowledge and opinions.

It was Ned’s shooting of the police officer that killed the story for me. This is the end of Act One turning point – the moment that should propel the story to its inevitable conclusion and make the audience clamour to get back to their seats. It just happened. I have no idea why he was shot. A writer makes story out of plot. That copper could have been about to kill Ned’s brother. Ned could have tried everything to stop him and been forced to shoot. On stage, Ned holds the man he shot and puts him out of his pain, but this heroic moment means nothing if his choice to shoot wasn’t an impossible one. It’s a story-changing scene that should be filled with the type of tension that has the audience hoping against hope that the copper will walk away this time and that Ned won’t end up choking and swinging in Melbourne Gaol.

Writing aside, the first appearance of the Kelly gang in their armour was the moment everyone was waiting for. It should have silenced the room. We’re allowed to see the creation of one of Australia’s most recognisable images. It’s a time to slow down the action and let the audience see it through eyes that have never seen anything like this before. Instead, it’s quick and dull and the armours need some WD40.

Not far from the the theatre is the Bendigo Gallery and the Imaging Ned exhibition. The first thing in the exhibition is Ned Kelly’s armour.

THE armour. The icon. It’s disconcertingly moving to see it with its rust and bullet holes, and I wasn’t the only person who touched its glass case because the urge to touch it is so strong. Maybe comparing that feeling to “WD40 the costume” isn’t fair, but the appearance of that armour on stage should have felt something like that, but big enough to fill a 1000-seat theatre.

The first room at the exhibition is about popular culture with films, books, playing cards, post cards, sheet music and chocolate boxes that told their version of the story. Each reflected the values of the time and the people that re-told it how they wanted to hear it. Ned made me feel like we are still a society that believes a story told on chocolate box lids.

Next is a room with some of the Nolan, and Tucker, series. I heard the Ned designer was influenced by the Nolan paintings. How could you not be! I don’t know what he saw, but it wasn’t the colours, shapes, space or composition of Nolan. I looked at the wallpaper design that Nolan used for the Kelly home, the connection to horses (without Ned‘s “mounting from behind” joke), the exaggerated black of the armour, the occasional glimpse of a human inside the armour, the connection of human to natural space, the colours of gum tree bark, the creation of myth with the square of black; they are astonishing – and if any of it is referenced on the brown and balanced Ned set, I couldn’t see it.

There are also Kelly images by Chinese, queer, female and Indigenous artists; those voices that are so missing from the great white Kelly narrative.

Everything in this exhibition questions the Kelly narrative and how it’s changed by the communities and people that re-tell it it. It made me feel and made me want to know more and question what I thought I knew. It made me read the Jerilderie Letter on the train home. It did what Ned didn’t.

We forget what we see in shows, we forget details and story and design – but we don’t forget how they made us feel.

Ned is a by-the-discarded-book show that fails to question or place this story anywhere in today’s Australia and it left me feeling nothing.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

25 May 2015


Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith and everyone who works and has worked with them are bloody marvellous people and remarkable artists.

As the last week has been a kick in to guts to the independent artists and companies that make us want to see, make and be art, F&S want to give something back to the community.

I want George Brandis to be my date for the Glory Box La Revolucion.

I want him to sit in room full of people who know how to think, who know how important it is to always question and confront what we know is wrong, and who know how to celebrate difference.

I want to see his face when Moira blows smoke into it.

I want him to tell me why it isn't the most "excellent" night of his life.


Moira posted this on Facebook today:


Because of a profound lack of support and good visionary leadership. Because of a consistent denial of human rights. Because of a lack of generosity and humanity. We here at Finucane & Smith are going to do some positive role modelling. ALL ARTISTS are invited to our coming season of Glory Box la Revolucion FOR FREE. And if you have been an independant artist for more than 10 years, we'll give you a little charm ( god knows you need one). There are limited tickets per night, and after they are gone, we'll make $25 tickets available for everyone who's missed out. If you are paid for your art, then pay us. If you have friends that earn money bring them. This season isn't funded. But let's share a generous joyful moment. ‪#‎FREEFORARISTS‬. Because we think artists are ace. And necessary. So PM us, comment below, email us at info@moirafinucane.com. Grab a ticket share the joy.

We'll also be raising money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre during the season for the exact same reason.

Share the joy. Spread the word.

Glory Box La Revolucion
20 August to 13 September 2015
The Melba Spiegeltent
email info@moirafinucane.com for artust tix tickets or buy some here.

24 May 2015

Mini review: Lifeboat

The Amanda & Jess Fan Club
17 May 2015
Facebook event

Amanda Good & Jess Leadbeatter

Amanda Goode and Jess Leadbeatter know that there must have been far more fascinating stories happening on board Titanic than Rose and Jack, so are saving audiences from that dreariness with their new cabaret Lifeboat.

Combining cabaret, sketch, character and double act, Lifeboat is what else was happening on that movie version of the ship, as five character duos, who were never at the Captain's table, come across that necklace.

Created and written by Goode and Leadbeatter, with Luke Hutton (composer and band) and Emily Goode (director), they made the perfect choice to try it out to a small supportive audience over a couple of weeks. This lets them see and feel what really works in the show and gives them time to experiment without risk. If more independent shows started like this instead of diving straight into a full season, there'd be fewer drownings.

Lifeboat needs some development, outside eye advice and financial support, but its original take, genuine and fresh performances, and delightfully outrageous characters have put it well on the way to being seen and loved at future Fringe, Cabaret and/or Comedy festivals.

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.

16 May 2015

Review: One suitcase: four stories

One suitcase: four stories
Barking Spider
14 May 2015
Northcote Town Hall
to 17 May

Linda Catalano. Photo by Sarah Walker

Linda Catalano's family live in and around Northcote and share family meals that are still based on the recipes many of them brought in their hearts from Italy. They brought them at a time when only way to come to the other side of the world was on a three-month sea journey and at time when Australia encouraged and welcomed the arrival of boats of people who wanted to start a new life.

In One suitcase: four stories, Linda welcomes everyone at the back door of the Northcote Town Hall in her red apron and tells stories of her beloved Nonno and Nonna, who were were only apart when her grandfather came to Australia to earn enough money to bring his wife and baby (Linda's mother) to Melbourne, and the stories of her aunts, her zias, who at different times arrived at Port Melbourne with a small suitcase and the hope of love.

Their stories are grand and romantic, full of hand-written letters, disappointment, unexpected happiness and the secret of a perfect sugo, or sauce. Linda's still working on perfecting her own sugo and romantic story.

Linda's audience are now family and friends who sit around shared tables, where the antipasto is waiting and the stories begin.

As part of the Darebin Homemade Food and Wine Festival, our first lesson is that passata is not the sauce, it's just the tomatoes that are locally grown, minced by hand and boiled in bottles in backyards.

Barking Spider let us find the stories and the love in the mundane and familiar, and the family kitchen is like home, even if you didn't grow up in an Italian family in Melbourne's north. It's full of black and white framed wedding photos and treasures and standards that have been in Linda's families' kitchens from the the 1950s to now. And her family are such a part of her kitchen that they become the likes of a block of mozarella, a wilting cucumber, a pastry crimper and an espresso maker.

Naturally, each table helps to make fresh pasta – by hand; no pasta makers or Thermomixes – like Nonna used in every lasagne she made, with no bechamel sauce, the pasta layered so there are no gaps and an egg drizzled in a zig-zag pattern.

And, naturally, it could never be as good as the real thing, so trays of lasagne have already been made for us. There was even made a vegetarian version that I'm going to try myself; just don't tell the zias that I used passata from the shop and dried lasagne sheets.

As the night finishes with ricotta cannoli – they are from the south of Italy where the northern custard variation is never seen – we celebrate a suburb, a city and a country that still welcomes and shares custard, ricotta and every filling, and remember that the stories that really matter are the ones that are so close to us that we sometimes forget that they made us who we are.

09 May 2015

Oedipus Shmoedipus diary

Oedipus Shmoedipus
9 May 2015
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
to 10 May
Saturday's ensemble. Photo by James Brown.

Friday night

On Saturday afternoon, five of Melbourne's favourite arts writers and critics are volunteer perfomers in post's Oedipus Shmoedipus at Arts House Melbourne. Each show needs 25 volunteers. All we know is that we'll be doing something about death. It was performed at Belvoir last year, so some people know what they are in for. I haven't read anything about it and am going in blind. But I trust post and if I can't put up my hand to be a part of an independent feminist theatre show, then what good am I as an arts writer!

Joining me will be Richard Watts from Arts Hub and RRR, Cameron Woodhead from The Age, Rohan Shearn from Australian Arts Review and Tim Byrne from Time Out.


12.35 am. I wish I were already asleep. Not looking forward to morning alarm but looking forward to whatever we're going to be doing. As long as I don't have to dance, I think I'll be fine. I haven't read any reviews and really don't know what to expect.

8.25. Shit, time to leave but I am awake! 

9.13 We're here. And our special guest surprise from Adelaide is Jane Howard from The Guardian.

 (clockwise) Tim, Myron, Cameron, Rohan, Jane, Me, Richard

4.04 pm You know that nightmare where you're backstage about to go on and you have no idea what you have to do? That's pretty much what performing in Oedipus Schmoedipus was like.

Except it was brilliant and I know that I'm not the only one who would love to do it again tonight.

Each performance uses 26 new volunteers as the chorus to an opus about great white plays about death. We're backstage and can only guess what it's all really about. But I get to see it tonight and understand it as more than nervous fear about my shoe breaking or my skirt being tucked into my knickers.

Our volunteers were a mix of performers and non-performers, but experience didn't seem to make the process any less nerve twitching. After a warm up, everyone was given a number and told to look at a screen above the stage that, we're promised, will tell us what to say and what to do. 

We ran though our parts in the show once, but that's it. 

During lunch, we all knew that few of us could remember much.

The first part of the show is post's Zoe Coombs Marr and Mish Grigor killing each other, many times. Sitting in numbered chairs backstage, all we could hear was the reactions of the audience as we watched the backstage crew getting buckets and mops ready to clean up what must have been litres of blood. 

The first time on stage was as a group, which made it safe and relatively easy, but I really am looking forward to seeing it tonight because two hours later and I'm not sure what we actually did.

Minutes later I had my first solo entrance and this was so like that dream. I really had NO IDEA what I had to do. 

I was fine. The screen told me what to say and then told me to leave. 

I wish I had a screen in real life.

From then on, it was so much fun. The very lovely stage managers told when we had to be ready and the screen told us what to do. It was a bit like karaoke, but more Shakespearean and with dance moves.

Oh yes, there was dancing, including a huge group number where we followed a video of Mish in a pink body suit. 

There was also a surprise for us all – something we weren't expecting – and that moment may have been the most genuine and gloriously wonderful one of the night. As there are still two shows to go, I don't want to give it away.

The last two shows are sold out, but I never believe that sold out means sold out. It's an amazing process and if watching Oedipus Schmoedipus is anywhere near as wonderful as being in it, then it's worth turning up and hoping for no-shows.

Zoe Coombs Marr & Mish Grigor. Photo by Ellis Parrinder

9.57 pm

Wow. WOW! It's impossible to know how powerful this show is from being on the stage.

So much of the volunteer performer process was developed to ensure that the vollies have a positive and fun time; which we did. What we're unaware of is just how these group performances are being made into something bigger and cohesive. The glorious clump of ghosts near the end is a reference to a discussion in the beginning, the lines we read are making a script that can't be see when you're in the middle of it.

And the results of the process are remarkable.

While it's a bit scary on that stage, from the audience side everyone looks like they know exactly what they are doing and that they know their part in the big picture. I heard people in the foyer after the show discussing how well rehearsed the group was; I know they wouldn't have believed me if I'd told them the truth.

Then there's Mish and Zoe's opening: it's confronting and shocking and very very bloody, but funny and somehow welcoming. They die and die and die and it's astonishing.

3.32 pm

For volunteers who still want to dance at home. (And perhaps cry a bit.)

Oedipus Schmoedipus is an opus on the great white writers and their words about death (not grief or loss, just the "there rust and let me die" moments), but it's really about the voices that are missing from that opus.

Watching last night, the scene that was a total hoot to perform but pinched a nerve while watching was the costumed dance. The performers are dressed in costumes – named backstage as "tiny pants", "big pants", "Hedda", "skeleton", "cow" etc – from productions of classics. On stage, as everyone dances and spasms, the laughs make it clear that we can't see ourselves anywhere on that stage – it's just people in costumes, which don't especially fit, reflect or suit them, doing what they are being told to do.

For all the delightful, good looking and extremely talented volunteers, this is a work told by young women – women who once might have hoped to play Juliet's nurse, in their 30s – who know they're not the women in these writings (even though they are works that they still love). So they slashed and bled the great white pages to show the silence and demand a voice for those who still struggle to be heard. And they welcome strangers – most of whom don't look or act like actors – onto their stage to let the sounds of those missing voices reach as far as they can.