15 September 2014

Review: A lie of the mind

A lie of the mind
5 September 2014
The Grange pop up theatre
to 13 September
lieofthemind.com


With an ambitious and successful Pozible fundraising campaign, an empty amazing space in the CBD and the determination to move a class exercise to a professional production, A lie of the mind opens The Grange, a pop-up theatre and bar.

Firstly, who knew that there was a huge empty warehouse in the city of Melbourne! Hidden near Victoria and La Trobe streets, it shows its age but holds a bar and theatre that love the space and welcome its signs of disintegration.

The bar is warm with heaters, spicy hot drinks and welcoming staff. There are covered hay bales to sit on, tables for lengthy conversations and buttery popcorn for snacks. It's great.

The performance space in the opposite corner of the huge room is, which is sadly cold (but rugs provided) and has bum-numbing chairs. I'd love to see the spaces become one. It felt odd to have a traditional(ish) theatre space tucked in the corner of a room that was begging to be used and explored. (And multiple performance space would have solved some awkward scene changes.)

American Sam Shepard's play A lie of the mind was first seen off-Broadway in 1985 with a cast that included Harvey Keitel and Aidan Quinn. Set in the USA mid-west in the early 1980s, it's the story of two very broken families connected through a marriage that ends at the play's beginning when the husband bashes his wife to the point that he thinks she's dead. With a realism voice that slips into violent poetry and brushes the edges of magic realism, it's a powerful look at Shepherd's world and the American culture that will protect its own flag and the idea of America before looking at itself.

It's a wonderful play, but I don't know what this production is saying about us and now and how the world on the stage is reflecting on the people who come to share in it. There's a disconnect between production and space and between performers and audience, making it a story about "them" rather than a story about "us".

While some of the cast grasp the tone of the script better than others, every performance (Alex Duncan, Zack Anthony Curran, Lauren-Anne Kempster, Shayne Francis, Alice Cavanagh, Ashley McKenzie, Peter Hardy and Kaarin Fairfax) is heartfelt and excellent. Still there's a showcase feeling of actors trying so hard to give their best performance that the overall story also feels disconnected from the people telling it and there are some empty relationship spaces between the characters. All are actors who don't have to try to be astonishing and are never let down by their their characters.

Quibbles aside, these are creators and artists who want to make theatre and perform great plays, so they raised the money to create a wonderful space and perform a great play – and I'll be first in line for their for their next show.

A lie of the mind is on all next week and to make theatre accessible, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are "pay what you can" nights (hey, every other theatre and company in town, please give this a try) and if you look at their Facebook page, there might be some more rush ticket offers.

PS. If you want to go in spoiler-free, don't read the synopsis on the website.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

14 September 2014

Reveiw: The City They Burned

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2014
The City They Burned
Attic Erratic
6 September 2014
Cavern Table Performance Space
to 23 September
atticerratic.com

Photo by Sarah Walker

Attic Erratic's The City They Burned is a re-telling of the Genesis story of Lot and his family. I remember learning about godly Lot at my Anglican school: Lot is told by God and his angels to get out of town, Lot's selfish wife looks back at their town of Sodom and God turns her into a pillar of salt for questioning his will and valuing her materialistic life.

Like slabs of the Old Testament, the understanding of what makes a good person is subjective and bits of the stories are often missed in the telling. When I drew Bible story pictures at primary school, they didn't include gang rape, incest, incest-rape and God generally being a dick by destroying everyone, except Lot, with a rain of fire. And we didn't discuss how Sodom gave us the word sodomy.

This tale is from books – the story of Lot is also in the Quran and the Torah – that continue to control so many people's lives, morality and decisions. As long as these stories keep being told, we need to keep looking at them to try to understand and continue to question why they are still at the core of so much in our society.

Writer Fleur Kilpatrick says that she wants to question the concept of bad or evil. What did the people of the city of Sodom do to deserve being wiped off the face of God's good earth?

What would happen if God were removed from the story?

Is a godless world compassionless and devoid of hope? Is it any different from a God-loved world?

Photo by Sarah Walker

Welcome to Sodom, where Lot (Scott Gooding) and his wife Ado (Jessica Tanner) are our hosts at a party. Lot is the manager of the factory where the good men of Sodom (Brendan McCallum, Dave Lamb and Soren Jensen) work. No one has heard from anyone in nearby Gomorrah in the last hours and they are getting worried as the party is in the honour of two inspectors (Dushan Philips and Kane Felsinger) who have just left Gomorrah. These men are outsiders; they dress strangely and don't look like Sodomites; they don't drink and they have a power that no one really understands.

The theatre is a converted warehouse in Collingwood. The audience go into a large living room that's  op shop chic with touches of "I want that" and "the eyes are following me" (designed by Rob Sowinski). We're offered food on sticks and drinks – bring $5; you'll want a drink – and it takes a while to realise that the performance has started and that we're the guests at a party where there's no line between audience and stage.

Conversations take place concurrently or in corners that only some people can see. Some of the most telling action happens in reactions; don't feel bad for turning your back on an actor. The actors treat the audience like known friends or workmates and some people don't like their conversations being overheard.

At one point, I was the only person watching Thamma (Shoshannah Oks) and Pheine (Brianagh Curran), Lot and Ada's daughter's, and one gave me a look that made me look away. Not long after, Ada stood near me as the worst thing she could imagine was happening metres away and I wondered if I should comfort her.

Director Danny Delahunty ensures that the overall story is clear and keeps moving. The details are bonus secret moments that might only be shared between one person and an actor and may not happen at all in another performance.

As the mood of the party goes from fun to awkward to dangerous – the inspectors aren't there to do good –  the audience is made to feel more and more uncomfortable, and it takes faith to trust that we are safe and only watching a game of make believe.

Photo by Sarah Walker

The second half of the night takes place in an old attic that's been transformed into a more traditional theatre space. Here, the audience are allowed back into the safe role of unseen watchers, but the room is small and close and dark.

Lot and his family escaped to a cave that isn't dark enough to not see what happens in the blackness. There are worse things than being turned into a salty metaphor, and it asks: what would you do if you thought you were the only humans left on earth.

While the first half makes the audience feel complicit in the decisions made at the party (none of us objected), the second half makes the audience watch the unfolding consequences of those decisions.

It's not easy theatre to watch.

But it's theatre that questions how form and writing can work so closely that it's impossible to see where one ends and the other begins. Kilpatrick's writing is so beautiful and strong that it disappears and doesn't sound like writing because we're so immersed in the immediate experience of being in Sodom.

Meanwhile Delahunty's unseen control makes sure that the moments and connections that need to be seen aren't missed. In the cave, I kept remembering seeing Thamma hug her dad at every opportunity at the party.

And the cast are exceptional. There's no safely zone of a stage for them to hide in either.

The City They Burned declares Attic Erratic as the next independent company to make a mark so unforgettable that a hole would exist in Melbourne's theatre scene without them. In the last three years, they've developed from theatre graduates doing their thing (I called them vanilla) to theatre makers who are getting bolder and more unforgettable with each production.

The audience capacity for this show is very limited and is already selling out. Book now and don't wait until their Fringe season.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.


11 September 2014

The Sublime discussion & links

The Sublime
MTC

Photo by Jeff Busby

The response to my commentary about the MTC's The Sublime has been positive and nearly overwhelming with so many social media and real life conversations resulting.

I wrote about the aspects of this play that disturbed me the most (and I wanted to keep it less than a thesis). But there IS much more to say about it, including how honestly the men are portrayed.

Many of the conversations have been about the intent of the playwright, the director, the company and everyone who has had an input into the production – that's a lot of people.

It seems like the creators couldn't see what they were saying about young women and power because all they could see is what they were saying about men caught in football world.

Theatre is something that we all see through different eyes. You will never have the same experience that the person sitting next to you has. Please read all the reviews and rants or decide to see or not see it without reading the commentary. And #mtcSublime is worth a visit on Twitter.

But be thrilled that we have a critical arts community that wants to discuss our theatre and writing. Here are some links. I'll add more as they happen.

**NEW**
Alison Croggon saw it last night (10/9/14). She published this on alisoncroggon.tumblr.com (11/9/14).

Eloise Brook on The Conversation (12/9/14). However, I can't tell if she's seen the play.

I also have to add that so many of the conversations about this play are happening in private and away from public glare.

The others (from 5–6/9)

Me on AussieTheatre (3/9/14). I'll publish it in full here next week.

Richard Watts on RRR's Smart Arts (4/9/14). About 1hr 45 min in.

Peta Mayer on ArtsHub (5/9/14), with an excellent discussion about how the female character doesn't sit comfortably in a work that's wanting to be an honest depiction of society.

Byron Bache on his blog (5/9/14). Byron was the first on Twitter to call any negative response and I too stress his point that NO ONE has accused the MTC or this play of condoning rape. Read what we say, don't cherry pick trigger words.

MTC management on Crikey's Daily Review (2/9/14) while the reviews were positive. And why is anonymous "management" commenting? Surely it should be AD Brett Sheehy?

Chris Boyd in The Australian (1/9/14). And a text version if the pay wall stops you.

Andrew Furhmann on Crikey's Daily Review (29/8/14).

Cameron Woodhead in The Age/SMH (29/8/14).

Kate Herbert in Herald Sun (29/8/14).

Reuben Liversidge on ArtsHub (30/8/14).

Peter Craven in The Saturday paper (6/9/14).

Brendan Cowell in The Age (6/9/14, but the interview was during rehearsals).

Brendan Cowell in The Age (18/8/14).

And here's playwright Brendan Cowell talking about it the 2014 MTC season launch.


10 September 2014

Review preview: The City They Burned

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2014
The City They Burned
Attic Erratic
6 September 2014
Cavern Table Performance Space
to 23 September
Photo by Sarah Walker

Attic Erratic's The City They Burned is a re-telling of the Genesis story of Lot and his family. I remember learning about godly Lot at my Anglican school: Lot is told by God and his angels to get out of town, Lot's selfish wife looks back at their town of Sodom and God turns her into a pillar of salt for questioning his will and valuing her materialistic life.

Like slabs of the Old Testament, the understanding of what makes a good person is subjective and bits of the stories are often missed in the telling. When I drew Bible story pictures at primary school, they didn't include gang rape, incest, incest-rape and God generally being a dick by destroying everyone, except Lot, with a rain of fire. And we didn't discuss how Sodom gave us the word sodomy.  

This tale is from books – the story of Lot is also in the Quran and the Torah – that continue to control so many people's lives, morality and decisions. As long as these stories keep being told, we need to keep looking at them to try to understand and continue to question why they are still at the core of so much in our society.

Writer Fleur Kilpatrick says that she wants to question the concept of bad or evil. What did the people of the city of Sodom do to deserve being wiped off the face of God's good earth?

What would happen if God were removed from the story?

Is a godless world compassionless and devoid of hope? Is it any different from a God-loved world?

...

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

09 September 2014

Review: Spike Heels

Spike Heels
Q44 and Crazy Chair
29 August 2014
Chapel off Chapel
to 14 September
q44.com.au


Q44 launched as a company earlier in the year and Theresa Rebeck's 1992 play Spike Heels is their third production, this time in conjunction with Crazy Chair Productions and at Chapel off Chapel instead of their cosy home in a Richmond warehouse.

As a company of actors, they produce the plays they want to perform – kind of like Red Stitch. And so far, they love late 20th century North American naturalism where there are lots of terrific works to choose from.

Spike Heels was Rebeck's first full-length play and she's gone on to write many more and establish a career as a successful television and film writer. Set in an upper east-cost US city in the late 1980s, the story starts with the friendship between 20/30-something uni professor Andrew (Anthony Scundi) and  his 20-something upstairs neighbour, Georgie (Nicole Melloy), who is as rough and loud as her Bronx accent. He gives her books to read, found her a job with a lawyer friend of his, Edward (Michael Robins), and wants her to meet his posh girlfriend, Lydia (Lelda Kapis). But Edward's intentions towards Georgie are less than pure, Lydia used to date Edward, and why would Andrew be learning-up the hot woman if he didn't fancy her.

Directed by company founder Gabriella Rose-Carter, it's tight and real and reflects on how too little  changes in sexual politics. The four actors bring honesty and technique to the stage, but I'd love to see them bring a bit more of themselves to the characters. All are memorable and exciting actors, but there's a shadow of distance between actors and characters – especially in the comedy – that reminds us that we're watching a game of make believe.

Q44 have already made confident ripples in Melbourne's independent theatre scene and are finding their unique niche and a loyal and happy audience, and showing us wonderful plays that we may never have otherwise seen.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

Review: The Sublime

The Sublime
MTC
28 August 2014
Fairfax Studio
to 4 October

Photo by Jeff Busby

The MTC's production of Brendan Cowell's The Sublime left me angry. So, I took some time to think, read and discuss. I'm still angry, and horrified at the arguments being offered that try and explain how this is powerful and brave theatre.

Cowell's play is about football, AFL and NRL. I love AFL. I love going to the G, indulging in the palpable passion and watching a story that I don't know the ending to.

In this play, a teenage girl watches a player rape her best friend. That's not what left me so angry.

In The Age, reviewer Cameron Woodhead said that someone is going to accuse this play of trivialising rape. I don't think it trivialises rape. Rape is trivialised with every "What did she expect?", "Rape is a very strong word", "She was so drunk", "But you weren't hurt", "You got in the car", "You've done worse", "Think about his future", "She should be grateful", "He's your husband", "We saw you kiss him",  "Are you sure?", "Vindictive slut" and so on.

And yes, for every "she" I wrote, there is an implied "he", but the first turning point of this play is the rape of a 17-year-old girl and it goes beyond trivialisation.

From the playing of Bon Jovi’s “Living on Prayer”, the first 15 or so minutes of The Sublime are as exciting to watch as a Grand Final. With three intertwining monologues, the pitch-perfect performances and writing capture our obsession with the male ball sports, the hero worship that accompanies being a young player, and the aspirations to be one of those admired men. As David Williamson’s 1978 play The Club remains a remarkable look at football world from the management office, this felt like a spot-on look at the world of the players and their fans.

Dean (Josh McConville) is 25 and an AFL role model living in Melbourne who on his way to a Brownlow medal. His younger 20-something brother Liam (Ben O’Toole) plays NRL and is doing everything he can to be selected for the NSW team. They tell us about their childhood, their ambitions and their love for the games. They’re nice young men who deserve to do well. Their story is paralleled with that of Amber, a teenage runner (Anna Samson), who is close to Olympic selection. One night after training, Dean joins Amber for a run along the Yarra and invites her to a match.

And then it – literally – loses the plot. Serious spoilers follow; the forced plot is so linked with the politics of this play, that it can’t be ignored. If you don’t want to read them, skip the next three paragraphs.

On their first brief meeting with Dean, Amber’s star-struck parents suggest their underage teenage daughter, and her friend Zoe, join Dean, Liam and Liam’s NRL team in Thailand for their end of year trip.

But put aside Hell freezing over because something needed to happen to get them to a resort and a Moon Party in Thailand. The party is a dream rage. Amber gives her first ever blow job to Dean because she knows that’s how to get a boyfriend (and the immediate BJ aftermath may be the sweetest and most honest scene in the play), but the fantasy holiday ends when Liam’s best mate encourages Liam to fuck shit-faced Zoe while he masturbates and Dean cowers in the corner. All of them ignore Amber, who’s filming it on her phone.

When they get back to Australia, it gets messy and the legal action is as believable as the parents giving their virgin daughter to the football team. And that’s before Amber is abandoned by her parents, releases the video to the media, pretends the teenager being fucked face down on the couch is her (and that she loved it), gives up running, and moves in with Liam. She moves in and develops a sexual relationship with the man who raped her friend in front of her.

This play acknowledges that non-consensual sex is rape but goes on to explain and exonerate the behaviour of the rapist and his mates, while throwing in a dose of questionable victim behaviour to ensure that the question it poses is “Should the lads be blamed for their behaviour?”.

To make it easier to watch, there are lots of laughs, which help it to hide under the safety net of satire.

Great satire makes us look at ourselves and cringe with shame when we recognise our own behaviour.

The behaviour this work is begging us to see is that we let teenage girls ruin men’s lives. We let girls get away with it.

Dramaturgically, it’s also made easier to watch because the described rape is diluted to be less confronting that it could be. The age differences aren’t much. It’s only one guy. It’s quick. There are no absent partners or children to be hurt. Unseen Zoe is the one raped, so the act is distanced from the character we know and care about. Zoe’s over 16 (age of consent), had been flirting all night, wasn’t a virgin, had said how much she wanted have sex with Liam, and was so drunk that she doesn’t realise she’s being fucked face down in a couch.

It’s written to be a "forgivable" or "understandable" rape.

Lawers get involved, but Amber doesn’t share the proof she has on her phone. It’s too hard for Zoe and she disappears interstate. She’s not part of the story anymore and the moral responsibility and consequences of that problem are removed.

The second half explores the brothers’ upbringing and personal hells or “why they act like they do” and looks at the consequences of being videoed.

It’s here where The Sublime sinks below the scum as it shifts the blame and the power to Amber.

Let’s never forget that Amber’s 17. She’s devoted her life to running and had never had sex or a boyfriend. She’s a child. A child who was given dangerous amounts of alcohol by a far-more-life-experienced 25-year-old and saw her friend get raped in front of her. This is a traumatised child. And I hope that as a society we seek to still protect traumatised children and never blame them for the behaviour of the adults who are with them.

It’s a story about how Amber’s eventual release of the video ruined the men’s lives. Where’s the reflection on how the behaviour – criminal behaviour – that was videoed ruined the men’s lives?

Cowell says that his Amber was written to be “on the edge of complicity and victimhood”. There’s not a moment when the 17-year-old is complicit and in control over the adult men. Not when she’s hero worshipping them. Not when she’s dancing drunk. Not even when she grabs Dean’s cock and puts it in her mouth, after he bought the teenager her first ever cocktail and continued to give her $6 buckets of gin and guava.

Meanwhile, to ensure that we know just how difficult it must be for the men to resist such a situation, there’s a young gorgeous actor on the stage with long hair and tiny shorts.

Amber is made complicit because she knows that men like looking at her.

In Crikey, the MTC have published a “holds up a mirror to our society” justification of this play. After all, they are just showing us how it is. But by showing “how it is”, they are supporting how it is.

Victim blaming. Slut Shaming. Boys will be boys. They couldn’t help themselves. Look at what she was wearing. What about their future.

There’s a phrase for this: Rape culture.

As long as women are blamed for being raped or abused, rape culture is preserved and encouraged.

The Sublime is not a powerful work that makes us question if we – the educated ones who go to the theatre and tut tut at tabloid headlines – are complicit in supporting rape culture and the abuse of women. It’s a cowardly work that hints that women, especially young women, should ask themselves if they “deserved it” or if they are to blame for being raped or abused. It’s a work that encourages them to shut up and think very hard before subjecting a “nice boy” to something that might ruin his life, even if his behaviour has already made her own life hell.

Or perhaps I misread the whole thing? So I’m giving the last word to writer Cowell who spoke about his play at the 2014 MTC season launch:

“It’s about how a teenage girl with an iPhone can destroy not only a man’s life but entire power structures and industries who are the victims in this play.”

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

03 September 2014

Review preview: The Sublime


The Sublime
MTC
28 August 2014
Fairfax Studio
to 4 October



The MTC's production of Brendan Cowell's The Sublime left me angry. So, I took some time to think, read and discuss. I'm still angry, and horrified at the arguments being offered that try and explain how this is powerful and brave theatre.

Cowell's play is about football, AFL and NRL. I love AFL. I love going to the G, indulging in the palpable passion and watching a story that I don't know the ending to.

In this play, a teenage girl watches a player rape her best friend. That's not what left me so angry.

In The Age, reviewer Cameron Woodhead said that someone is going to accuse this play of trivialising rape. I don't think it trivialises rape. Rape is trivialised with every "What did she expect?", "Rape is a very strong word", "She was so drunk", "But you weren't hurt", "You got in the car", "You've done worse", "Think about his future", "She should be grateful", "He's your husband", "We saw you kiss him",  "Are you sure?", "Vindictive slut" and so on.

And yes, for every "she" I wrote, there is an implied "he", but the first turning point of this play is the rape of a 17-year-old girl and it goes beyond trivialisation.

....

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

29 August 2014

Review: Master Class

Master Class 
Left Bauer Productions
23 August 2014
fortyfive downstairs
to 28 August
fortyfivedownstairs.com


Today's performance of Master Class at fortyfive downstairs has sold out but if you book now, you might be able to get in before it finishes on Thursday.

Terrance McNally's play Master Class opened on Broadway in 1995. It's based on the series of master classes presented by Maria Callas at the Julliard School in New York in 1971, which were recorded and readily available. The play is fictional, with Callas working with an imagined first soprano, tenor and second soprano. It dilutes and magnifies Callas as a teacher and icon – which is a master class in opera performance in itself – and leaves the class to go into the mind of a woman who was so sure of her reputation but so uncertain of her self.

Maria Mercedes is Callas. She is remarkable. From the second before she walked into the space, the audience were hers. It's easy to copy Callas's mannerisms and look, but this performance is so far beyond anything so basic. As Callas and McNally talk about how to approach and perform a character, our Maria shows how to do it – without revealing as much as a hint of technique or process. Hers is the kind of astonishing performance that leaves the actor and the script invisible, if not forgotten.

The students (Georgia Wilkinson, Robert Barbaro and Anna Louise Cole – and accompanist Cameron Thomas) are amazing young Melbourne singers who already have established careers and could not have been more perfect to represent the standard of singer who deserved a master class with Callas. Each have their moment to sing, but they bring truth and guts to the work with their portrayals of singers facing a woman who has achieved the impossible and who is as likely to tear them to pieces as give them the support to never give up. And they let their characters sing in ways that allows Callas to correct them. I dare any singer to walk away without learning something.

Director Daniel Lammin's last work was The Cutting Boys at La Mama. Written and directed by Lammin, it was about the murder of a young woman and continued his exploration of how young men commit unthinkable violence. And here he is directing a play about an ageing woman and grand opera. Always be prepared to be surprised. As a director, he focussed on letting the text tells its story and led his actors to tell the truth about their characters through their own knowledge and experience.

I was at a matinee yesterday. Not only was it sold out, but received a standing ovation. This doesn't happen every Saturday afternoon at fortyfive downstairs and it was such a wonderful experience to be in an audience who were as committed to the world of the play as the actors were. Mercedes performance is so engaging that there's never a moment when the audience aren't the Julliard students. Callas tells a singer to find the honesty in her performance; this production find the honesty that lets Master Class be so much more than a text-on-stage play.

NOTE: extra matinee this Saturday, but I think it's sold out too. Worth calling and checking.


This was on AussieTheatre.com.



Review: Intimacy

HELIUM
Intimacy
Torque Show
14 August 2014
Tower Theatre
to 23 August
malthousetheatre.com.au


Michelle Ryan danced professionally in Australia and overseas. Ten years ago, she was at the peak of her career and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She used to dance and had issues with intimacy. She still dances and has issues with intimacy.

Intimacy is dance theatre by Torque Show – a company including artists that Ryan used to dance with – and opens the 2014 Malthouse Helium season with a touching and honest exploration of how illness can change the meanings of intimacy.

With fellow dancer Vincent Crowley, singer Emma Bathgate and director Ingrid Weisfelt, Ryan shares  intimate moments of personal, sexual and romantic awkwardnesses, and those times when you have to ask strangers to give you their seat or help you get dressed.

Members of the audience are made to join in and there are the familiar looks of wanting to help but not knowing how and being terrified of offending in case help isn't wanted. This forced awkward intimacy is darkly funny and carries through to the more personal moments on stage, but it feels like it only scratches the surface. Dating is uncomfortable because dating makes us vulnerable, with or without illness.

A very good friend of mine had MS; I know that walk and the reach for balance. When she was diagnosed, about ten years ago, she said it was like her limbs (and at times her brain) were wrapped in wool, like an ugg boot but tighter. The closest moments for me were Ryan in a sleeping bag trying to get dressed and get around. Its fuzzy soft constriction seems comfortable but makes it so hard to move, physically feel and even hear, speak or see. It may not seem much, but it offers a relatable idea of what those symptoms can feel like. It's easy to relate to the emotional intimacy, but this helped to find how the restriction and frustration of the physical are part of the emotional.

And the strongest and most moving elements piece are the physical and the dance. From Ryan sitting and hiding the impact of MS on her body to her dancing with little balance and skinny limbs that don't want to listen to her thoughts, there's no denial that MS can suck. But her dance – and especially that with tall and muscualr Crowley – is about the irrelevance of the bits that suck and finding the parts of her that still fly.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.


28 August 2014

Last chance: The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit: A Cabaret Fairytale for Grown Ups
MUST
28 August 2014
MUST Theatre, Monash University
to 30 August
Facebook event



Even though The Velveteen Rabbit runs until Saturday, you probably can't see it because it sold out a couple days ago. There might be the odd ticket if you're lucky (or know who to ask), but if you have one for the weekend you can safely be excited. It's gorgeous and loving and you should take a tissue.

Margaret Williams's 1922 children's story The Velveteen Rabbit IS the most lovely story ever written. If you somehow haven't cried while reading this book to yourself or to children, hold off because the cast tell it – and the only thing better than reading a story is having it read to you.

The cabaret show isn't the story of the book, but its story of becoming real and being loved form the base of the work. Directed by first-timer Benny Dimas, the cast of 16 (plus their very close production and musical team) Monash uni students tell their stories of being loved and rejected and of finding their way to being their real and confident selves.

And if being a young adult at university isn't about finding out who you are and what you want to be, then what's the point of being there?

(Cough, Christopher Pyne how dare you think that anyone supports the idea of uni becoming an impossible goal. When he was enjoying his free undergrad degree, I was doing one of my own at the same university. One where I hung out in the Drama dept, did plays and didn't care that I nearly failed English because doing plays taught me so much more. I think I can safely say that one of us is more rich, but the other is more interesting.)

Moving throughout the MUST space, the ensemble in personal combinations of gold, white, red and glitter move between two stages and around the room to surround the audience with their stories and love. There's singing, original and known music, and personal stories that are impossible not to relate to.


It's a bit long and some of them won't become professional performers, but it doesn't matter because it's all about ensuring that everyone gets their chance to share their story and support their friends. Of course there are stories that come from a teenage and young adult perspective that mellows as we get older. But let's never forget what it was like to feel heartbreak, loss and love for the first time. I sometimes with I could re-capture that intensity, then I remember what it felt like.

And the look I caught on the face of a 50ish dad when the rabbit gets left outside in garden was unforgettable. You're never too hold to care about a fictional toy.

Monash University Student Theatre gives students a freedom to create what they want to create. Sure, they're not creating work for a large and commercial audience, but if we look at names who are making their mark in our independent and professional stages, a lot of them come from Monash and spent their undergraduate years involved in MUST – if I begin to list names, I won't be forgiven for missing some; you know who you are – where they were able to experiment and make mistakes and find the way to their unique theatrical voices.