25 May 2015

#FreeForArtists

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.

#BeMyTheatreDateGeorge.


Moira posted this on Facebook today:


ARTISTS. GLORY BOX IS ‪#‎FREEFORARTISTS‬.

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

Lifeboat
The Amanda & Jess Fan Club
17 May 2015
ClubVoltaire
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
northcotetownhall.com.au

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
post
9 May 2015
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
to 10 May
melbourne.vic.gov.au
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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday
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.

24 April 2015

Anzac Day and Black Diggers



NGV, St Kilda Road


There are two performances of Black Diggers on Anzac Day. I hope that there isn't an empty seat in the house because these are stories that should be told on Anzac Day and need to become part of the greater Anzac story.

I saw it on Wednesday night. Walking back to cars, a friend and I stopped to look at the Anzac Day projections on the walls of the NGV. The size alone demands attention but it was pictures of graves and lists of names that made us watch. We talked about how neither of us have a (known) family connection to the First World War, or an ANZAC, and we talked about stories and who can or should tell them.

Then I remembered by great aunt. I can tell something of her story.

As a child in the 1970s and 80s, I didn't think twice about the old aunt who talked about "her boys", marched in the Anzac Day march and gave me a velvet uniform button that I kept because I thought it was pretty and have passed from jewellery box to jewellery box ever since. I remember we'd turn on the tv to watch her in the march because we might see her on telly, not because of why she was marching. I don't think anyone from our family went with her.

She never married or had children and was the definition of a grumpy and opinionated spinster aunt. She had an opinion about everything and everyone and was happy to share it loudly. She died slowly in her 90s and dementia stole her memories. I wish I'd listened more when I had the chance. I know there would have been many opinions in her memories that I didn't like, but I still wish I knew more.

She was a nurse, a lieutenant, in the Second World War. She was nearly 30 when she enlisted in 1941 and served in Egypt and Papua New Guinea. She would have seen things that she'd never have had the opportunity to see and things that no one should ever have to see. She would've had respect and freedom for the first time in her life and I suspect that there was sex and drinking and everything that was frowned upon and shocking when she returned to the straight jacket of life in conservative Adelaide.

No wonder she was always a bit angry.



Black Diggers
Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Festival
22 April 2015
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 26 April


Black Diggers. Photo by Jamie Williams

The National Gallery of Victoria is next to Arts Centre Melbourne. At night, the gallery's long grey brick walls share an Anzac story in a series of projections. It's beautiful and huge and well worth spending some time watching. Until Sunday, there's another Anzac story being shared in the Arts Centre. Black Diggers is beautiful, human and affecting theatre that tells some of the Anzac stories that must never be lost in the grey.

The projections include paintings of the First World War, photos of the war, mass graves and stone and poppy memorials to the lost – memorials that are a short walk from the NGV. One of most powerful is a photo of Anzac Cove: a small bay with a nice beach that's flanked by cliffs that'd leave you prepared to swim out rather than climb. It tells an all encompassing story that's so important in Australia that it has a public holiday to remember it (and a brilliant biscuit).

NGV, St Kilda Road


Black Diggers tells some of the stories that are lost in the encompassing hugeness of the Anzac story.
Developed by the Queensland Theatre Company and supported by the Sydney Festival, it's on a too-short tour around the country.


In 1914, Australia's population was less than five million (not much more than Melbourne's 100 years later). During the war, 416, 809 men enlisted; 1300 of those men (400 from Melbourne) were Indigenous. Many had family who could remember a time before the European invasion, they weren't citizens and it was difficult to enlist when you weren't at least "substantially European". But they were also young men who couldn't resist the adventure of a lifetime and the promise of being paid.

Told by nine men, young and Elders, this story starts in the early 1900s and moves through enlistment  the war, their return and their legacy. The stories are based on real people and experiences but have been fictionalised to tell the bigger story and connect to a truth that's greater than the personal.

The bunker design (Stephen Curtis) has with an eternal flame or campfire burning in a tin barrel and black walls covered with unreadable white graffiti. As those who have gone before tried to make their mark and tell their story, the men in Black Diggers use white ash to paint names, dates and places.


Directed by Wesley Enoch and written by Tom Wright, the stories don't judge or preach; they just tell. They tell us the heartbreaking and shameful and the uplifting and hopeful. And by sharing them with us, these stories become more than the stories of those black Diggers, they become our stories.

There are two performances of Black Diggers on Anzac Day, this Saturday. I hope that there isn't an empty seat.


This was on  AussieTheatre.com .

21 April 2015

32nd Annual Green Room Awards

Last night the Green Room Association announced Melbourne's 2014 winners.

The worst thing about reading these lists is seeing all the shows I'd wish I'd seen, like Eugene Onegin and Patyegarang, but it's wonderful to see so many shows (I saw more than I reviewed) and artists that I love getting the trophies.

The Green Rooms are decided by volunteer panels who see as many shows as they can during the year, meet regularly and passionately fight it out just as regularly.

I've been on the GRIT (Green Room Independent Theatre) panel for the last two years and have seen  the obsessive knowledge and absolute love of theatre that all panel members have.


Ash Flanders, Special Victim

Cabaret

Production
Eurosmash: Die Roten Punkte

Artiste
Geraldine Quinn: All Out Of Pride and MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt

Writing
Ash Flanders: Special Victim

Musical Direction
Jane Patterson: Ginger & Tonic’s Desperate & Dateless

Original Songs
Andrew Strano and Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer: Nailed It!

Outstanding Contribution to Cabaret
Ali McGregor: Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night

Contemporary and Experimental Performance

Outstanding Work by an Emerging Artist
Fluvial: Matthias Schack-Arnott, Next Wave, Speak Percussion

Outstanding Contemporary Circus
A Simple Space: Gravity and Other Myths, Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy

Curatorial Contribution to Contemporary Performance
Going Nowhere: Arts House

Outstanding Contemporary and Experimental Performance
Reach Out Touch Faith: Sarah Rodigari in collaboration with Joshua Sofaer,
Going Nowhere, Arts House

Geoffrey Milne Memorial Award
Margaret Cameron

Complexity of Belonging. Photo by Jeff Busby

Dance

Shirley McKechnie Award for Choreography
Shaun Parker: Am I (Shaun Parker & Company)

Concept and Realisation
Lilian Steiner: Noise Quartet Meditation (Lilian Steiner)
and
James Batchelor: Island (James Batchelor)

Ensemble
Cast of Patyegarang: Bangarra Dance Theatre

Female Dancer
Lauren Langlois: Complexity of Belonging (Melbourne Theatre Company, Chunky Move)

Male Dancer
Waangenga Blanco: Patyegarang (Bangarra Dance Theatre)

Music, Sound Design and Performance
Alisdair Macindoe: Princess (Benjamin Hancock, Chunky Move)

Visual Design
Jack Hancock (Costume) and Bosco Shaw (Lighting): Princess (Benjamin Benjamin Hancock, Chunky Move Move)

My Lovers' Bones. Photo by Deryk McAlpin

Independent Theatre

Production
The Trouble With Harry: MKA, Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy, Melbourne Festival

Costume Design
Chloe Greaves: Body of work

Director
Alyson Campbell: The Trouble With Harry (MKA, Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy, Melbourne Festival)

Ensemble
Cast of I Heart John McEnroe: Clare Watson, Uninvited Guests, Theatre Works

Female Performer
Maria Mercedes: Master Class (Left Bauer Productions, fortyfivedownstairs)

Male Performer
Angus Cerini: Resplendence (Angus Cerini/Doubltap, Neon Festival of Independent Theatre)

Lighting Design
Lisa Mibus: My Lovers’ Bones (Brown Cab Productions, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Melbourne Festival)

Sound Design and Composition
Jesse Cox, Luke Mynott and Joff Bush: Wael Zuaiter: Unknown (Theatre Works, Next Wave)

Writing
Marcel Dorney: Prehistoric (Elbow Room, Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy, Melbourne Fringe)

The King & I. Photo by Oliver Toth

Music Theatre

Actor In A Leading Role
Hayden Tee: Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh)
and
Tom Parsons: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Actress In A Leading Role
Madeleine Jones: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Actor In A Supporting Role
Adrian Li Donni: Pacific Overtures (Watch This, Auspicious Projects, Theatre Works)

Actress In A Supporting Role
Yong Ying Woo: The King And I (John Frost, Opera Australia)

Ensemble
The cast of Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Direction
John Tiffany: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Betty Pounder Award for Choreography
Jerome Robbins and Susan Kikuchi: The King And I  (John Frost, Opera Australia)

Musical Direction
Martin Lowe and Kellie Dickerson: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company

Sound Design
Clive Goodwin: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Costume and Set Design
Roger Kirk (Costume) and Brian Thomson (Set): The King And I  (John Frost, Opera Australia)

Lighting Design
Natasha Katz: Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

Production
Once (Barbara Broccoli, John N Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G Wilson, Orin Wolf, John Frost, New York Theatre Workshop, Melbourne Theatre Company)

The Riders. Photo by Jeff Busby
Opera

Direction
Kasper Holten: Eugene Onegin (Opera Australia)

Production
Eugene Onegin: Opera Australia

Conductor
Guillaume Tourniaire: Eugene Onegin (Opera Australia)

Female Lead
Nicole Car: Tatyana in Eugene Onegin (Opera Australia)

Female In A Supporting Role
Dominica Matthews: Madame Larina in Eugene Onegin (Opera Australia)

Male Lead
Barry Ryan: Scully in The Riders ((Victorian Opera, Malthouse Theatre)

Male In A Supporting Role
Daniel Sumegi: Sparafucile in Rigoletto (Opera Australia)

Design
Mia Stensgaard (Set), Katrina Lindsay (Costume), Wolfgang Goebbel (Lighting): Eugene Onegin (Opera Australia)

New Australian Opera
The Riders (Victorian Opera, Malthouse Theatre)

Night on Bald Mountain. Photo by Pia Johnson

Theatre Companies

Writing/Adaptation for the Australian Stage
Roslyn Oades and Collaborators: Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday (Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival)

Female Actor
Melita Jurisic: Miriam Sword in Night On Bald Mountain (Malthouse Theatre)

Male Actor
Andre de Vanny: Ray in Glory Dazed (Red Stitch Actors Theatre)

Ensemble
The Cast of Henry V (Bell Shakespeare)

Lighting Design
Paul Jackson: Body of work

Audio Visual Design and Animation
Matthew Gingold (Audio Visual Design) and Matt Greenwood (Animation):
Calpurnia Descending (Sisters Grimm, Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company)

Set and Costume Design
Dale Ferguson: Night On Bald Mountain  (Malthouse Theatre)

Sound Design and Composition
Pete Goodwin (The Sweats): Yellow Moon (Melbourne Theatre Company)

Direction
Kirsten Von Bibra: Grounded (Red Stitch Actors Theatre)

Production
Henry V: (Bell Shakespeare)

Special Awards

Outstanding Contribution to Choreographic Development
Next Move: Chunky Move

Technical Achievement Award
Maruska Blyszczak

Lifetime Achievement Award
Nance Grant

20 April 2015

Green Room Awards announced tonight


The 32nd Annual Green Room Association announces the 2014 award winners at a ceremony at the Comedy Theatre tonight.



Recognising outstanding achievements in Melbourne theatre, 60 awards decided by panels of peers will be awarded for Cabaret, Contemporary and Experimental Performance, Dance, Independent Theatre, Music Theatre, Opera and Theatre Companies.

The award winners will be published on AussieTheatre at 10.31 pm (Melbourne time) tonight.

Tickets are still available for the 7.00 pm ceremony and can be bought at the door (but make sure you're early.)

16 April 2015

MICF 2015 Award Nominations

I know how many brilliant shows I've seen this festival and only one of them is up for an award. Knowing how flipping amazing that one is, I hate myself for missing the rest.
I also have Festival Flu and am too full of green to leave the house; so, please see an extra show for me and Tweet about it. There are four nights left. Go hard.
2015 Melbourne Comedy Festival Barry Award Nominations
Luisa Omielan: What Would Beyonce Do?!
This is the only nominated show I've seen. It's hilarious and harrowing and has been selling out.


Best Newcomer Award Nominations 
Heidi O'Loughlin
Golden Gibbo Nominees (best indie production)
Laura Davis: Ghost Machine
I saw her at the Melbourne Fringe last year and absolutely loved her. Really regretting missing her new show.

Review: Meme Girls

Meme Girls
Malthouse Theatre
9 April 2015
Beckett Theatre
to 2 May
malthousetheatre.com.au

Meme Girls. Art Simone & Ash Flanders. Photo by Pia Johnson

YouTube is only ten years old. Like Facebook and Twitter, it's already hard to imagine life without it. And enough people have now grown up thinking that opening your life and your secrets to the world isn't strange. Meme Girls at Malthouse Theatre is about searching for identity by confiding to strangers on the internet.

Created by Stephen Nicolazzo, Ash Flanders and Marion Potts, the idea came from Flanders's 2011–12 solo show that was directed by Nicolazzo, Negative Energy Inc. For all it's self-questioning and stories about his mum, Heather, and boyfriend, Daniel, the piece was unexpectedly defined by his performance of the Horse Woman from the tv show Judge Judy.

It was astonishing. Flanders captured the heartbreak of the woman and found the pin-head spot of balance where poignancy and parody meet to create something that transcends both.

This was a drag verbatim performance of a nobody talking to a camera that doesn't care about the death of her horses!

Meme Girls is more of this and then far more.

While it's not easy to distract from Flanders when he's on a stage, the design by Eugyeene Teh (set and costume) and Katie Sfetkidis (lighting) is equally as captivating and beautiful. Part–rabbit hole, part Bond-film opening sequence, part–da Vinci Vitruvian Man, it's pure theatre and nothing like a tiny YouTube screen.

And Teh continues his exquisite use of monochrome design: this year, it's aqua. Except Flanders who wears a white pair of tails, and his assistant, drag queen stage kitty Art Simon, in nose-bleed heels and a black corset that shows off an enviable chest.  

All with a re-mixed pop soundtrack by THE SWEATS where Flanders uses those years of fronting an 80s cover band to great use; his "Confide in Me" puts Kylie to utter shame.

But in this world, Flanders isn't Kylie, he's women from You Tube.

Meme Girls.  Ash Flanders & Art Simone. Photo by Pia Johnson 

He's women who have used this anonymous-not-anonymous platform to confide in the comfort of strangers and open themselves to endless abuse. From an atrocious singer who didn't make it though the American Idol auditions to a 68-year-old woman who's about to become homeless, their confessions and their genuine pain are fascinating. And even if we don't actively troll them, we've shared their videos and laughed at them. 

And this is where Meme Girls is unique. Whereby in Negative Energy, Flanders used the Horse Woman to talk about himself, in Meme Girls it's more like the woman are using him. Even though it's a showcase work, it's not about Ash. And even while it's far more about Nicolazzo and his vision, aesthetic and obsessions, the woman still control the mood and heart of the piece.

It's easy to laugh at the Meme Girls and it's easy to bask in the glorious camp-cum-high-art vision on the stage (and Ash), but it's impossible to forget the world where it comes from and to be left wondering if we're the mean girls.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

15 April 2015

MICF: Joel Creasy

The Hurricane
Joel Creasey
5 April 2015
ACMI
to 19 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Joel Creseay

Each year I try and see one of the big-venue, they're-on-the-telly shows. I liked Joel Creasey on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (go ahead, judge me – I loved it) and was curious to see how he’d turn his burst of popular fame and the fiction of reality television into a festival show.

Hurricane is just a name to justify the festival-standard snore about having to name his show before he wrote it. And the room laughed at the joke and at the snarky twink character telling it.

Telly fame lets you play to 300-seat rooms when you're 24; rooms filled with people who wet themselves at the mention of Mad Maureen McCormick. Yes, he talks about being in the jungle and I don’t think there was anyone there who hadn’t seen I’m a Celebrity.

And they went nuts for the a bit about middle-aged ugly male comedians who perform in suburban pubs and make non-PC jokes. Jokes about gay sex (you can get poo on your dick), about gay clubs (Poof Doof, what a funny name) and fatties (no one likes ugly people), with bonus casual misogyny of lesbian jokes (they build the podium the gay boys dance on).

But these are Joel’s jokes.

Sure, comedy is subjective, but – laugh or not – it comes down to "who are we laughing at?" and "what's the common or shared expereince". This audience were laughing at the performer, they weren't laughing with him. The laughs may sound the same, but when you’re sitting among them, they feel horrible and nothing like the supportive of tribal recognition. And the shared experience between him and his audience? Laughing at gays, lesbians, nutters and fatties.

This was also discussed on AussieTheatre.com.