16 November 2017

Contribute: What Melbourne Loved 2017

It's been a year when we've been reminded how art can change us.

Hannah Gadsby

There have been artists, shows and experiences that dug deep and left their audiences raw – and angry and broken, and loved and accepted. I've felt devastated and elated and I've felt like I am part of a community that is determined to say "fuck you" to the boring and ignorant.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Melbourne loved a lot this year. So it's time to write your "What Melbourne Loved in 2017".

The regulars know what to do – and if you are a regular, there are so many people who want to read your take on this year. If you haven't contributed before, 2017 is the perfect year to get involved – everyone is welcome.

I promise that your opinion and your experiences are interesting to other people; Melbourne's arts community loves hearing about Melbourne's arts community. I think I can safely predict that we're going read a bit about Taylor Mac and Hannah Gadsby, but it's wonderful to hear about the shows and memories that less people saw.

Let's talk about those memories that changed us, the ones that made us feel in ways we didn't expect to feel, the ones we can't forget.

It's easy to get involved. Email your answers to these two questions:

What was your favourite moment in Melbourne theatre in 2017?
It doesn't have to be something you saw on a stage.

What are you looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2018?
Again, it doesn't have to be something on a stage.

Some people like to write a lot, but some of the best and most-read responses have been succinct.

Also send me your favourite photo of you and credit the photographer if you can.

2016
2014
2013
2012

Give: Glitterfist Libertine

Glitterfist:Libertine have a Pozible campaign for their Midsumma show. If we want to see exciting queer and glittery work like this, we've gotta support it. Here's the link.

15 November 2017

Give: Andi's Lyme Light

Andi Snelling is a Melbourne actor. She's great. She's also dealing with chronic illness and needs some help.

If every SM reader gave $1 (or $10), it would help get her closer to her goal. Here's the link to her MyCause page.





03 November 2017

Links to the Taylor Mac reviews

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
Forum Theatre
www.festival.melbourne

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

It's been two weeks and we're still talking about Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

A friend said it was like the week after Christmas when you're a child: a week where you're drifting and not sure what to do because the best day is over.

Taylor Mac in Melbourne. Photo by Sarah Walker

More reviews have been published and, if reviewers talking to each other on Facebook is anything to go by, we're still in the post-show haze of tears, glitter and determination to make that world we lived in for 24 hours, the world that we live in.

Machine Dazzle & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

I keep remembering bits I'd forgotten – the Alphabet song with a determined "zed", singing "Love will tear us apart", an audience member talking about the club Connections in Perth – and wondering how 24 hours of work could be so consistently astonishing.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Our go-to critic adjectives feel inadequate; they can't describe the complexity and what it's like to have your heart and brain squeezed in the ways you've dreamed of.

It was like falling in love – that warm swirl of adrenalin, hope and confidence that lets you know that you're flippin' awesome – without any of the fear and doubt.

Photo by Sarah Walker

And those smiles. Hundreds of people smiling the smile that's usually reserved for "I've been fucked so well that you couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I were run over by a bus right now."

Photo by Sarah Walker

Smiles from people who have all felt like the freak in the room. Smiles from people who have hidden who they are because it's easier or safer.

I was slow dancing with a stranger at The Wrap closing party and had to stop (only for a moment) and say "look around this room".

Tigger & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Here are the media reactions. If I've missed some, message me and I'll link them in. (And any excuse for some more of Sarah Walker's photos and Machine Dazzle's costumes.)

Rose Johnson in Time Out.

Maxim Boon in The Music.

Cameron Woodhead in The Age.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
Steph Harmon in Guardian.

Chris Boyd in The Australian.

Richard Watts in Arts Hub.

Bradley Storer in Theatre Press. 

Sarah Walker (who took the amazing photos) on her blog.

Me, here. I, II, III, IV.

Machine Dazzle & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Chapters and The Inauguration

Melbourne Critique


Chapter 1: Opera Chaser (and Herald Sun)

Chapter III: Herald Sun

Australian Stage

Limelight

The Conversation

Matt Ray & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

And I have a new batch of #QueerGrannySquares ready for anyone who wants one.

24 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter IV & Manifesting Pussy

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter IV: 1957–present

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre
www.festival.melbourne

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Is it really time to wash off the Taylor Mac glitter and go back to real life?

Every so often a work changes how we see and make theatre. We are now post–A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and we're going to see its influence on our stages for a very long time.

Every so often a work changes how we see our world and we're going to see its influence in our lives for a very long time.

Taylor Mac, Steffanie Christi'an Mosley. Photo by Sarah Walker

Taylor describes the 24-hour experience as a "radical faerie realness ritual sacrifice" and adds that the audience is the sacrifice. Back in Chapter I, we had no idea of how much of ourselves we were going to willingly sacrifice or how much we had to let go of.

James Tigger! Ferguson. Photo by Sarah Walker

I'm still struggling to find the words that come close to describing the joy and absolute fucking happiness that this work has created. And the uncontrollable tears – that start again as soon as I try to explain and understand why I'm still crying.

When the Forum fire curtain lifted, we were heading to the 1960s – the decade many of us were born. Taylor descended from the gods reprising his rock "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (Matt Ray's musical arrangements deserve their own multi-page review). Looking Jacqui Kennedy–esque with polka dots, soup cans and a USA-flag dress (Machine Dazzle's costume designs also deserve pages), judy was harnessed to matching polka-dot pop-art angel wings, which Machine had made the day before. With finger guns and "BANG", they were a tribute to the Art Deco angel on the fire curtain and a response to gun control – something the political right got right in Australia.


Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

And it was time for us white people to flee back to the suburbs at the sides of the room and embarrassingly express our white guilt to the point that we finally dump it and start understanding and sharing our fucking power.

I knew Chapter IV was going to be something else, but I had no idea.

Chanon Judson, James Welsby. Photo by Sarah Walker

I started crying at Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". I think this was before Nina Simone's "Mississippi  Goddam", when I knew I needed to get to the bar and fill up my water bottle and marvel at the waterproof blue mascara I bought in Tokyo and never thought I'd wear.


Taylor Mac, Viva DeConcini. Photo by Sarah Walker

As I wasn't on a media ticket, I didn't take notes, I turned off my devices and drank gin – leaving Chapter IV a magnificent blur of tears, rock, glitter and joy. (But please read Cameron in The Age and Steph in the Guardian.)

There was Daniel and I squealing at "show tops".

There was the Cold War giant inflatable USA and USSR cocks floating around the audience.

Photo by Sarah Walker

There was slow dancing with Katie at the queer prom to destroy the credibility of a homophobic singer.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

There was hugging Richard during "Purple Rain" – and only now remembering that it was a section about back room sex parties. But it was the late1980s: a time when friends were dying from AIDS. Taylor was wearing a head piece of skulls screaming in clouds and a coat made of cassette tapes, we'd already sung "Oh Superman", and I didn't know if I wasn't coping or if it was the most powerful hour of my life.

And I  couldn't imagine how my heart was going to melt as we made our way to the present with a manifestation of pussy.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Bitch and Animal's "Pussy Manifesto" (look it up; I want it in search engines rather than an easy click) – "Let Pussy manifest and let freedom sing!".

The Womb. Photo by Sarah Walker

Lesbians moved only onto the stage, with beers and a barbeque. Lesbians were front and centre. Without jokes, without question. Women were celebrated. Pussy (I'm even saying "pussy" and I was such a "cunt" reclaimer) was celebrated. For a couple of hours, pussy was central to our world.

Stop reading and try to replace every reference to cock and male power in your world with pussy. Now take away every bit of language that uses women, pussy and cunt as an insult and a reference to weakness. For the last hours of this show, that world existed.

 Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

(I nearly didn't wear my #pussyhat when we were making things in Chapter 1, but the company manager said "Yes" when I suggested it. I'll also be saying "Yes!" a lot more from now on.)

 Machine Dazzle, Taylor Mac, Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker

For 24 hours, we'd been part of seeing how communities are built from marginalised, ignored and shamed people being torn apart. We'd been sacrificed, we sacrificed others and everyone who was there became a community where otherness didn't exist.

At the company's In Conversation on Saturday, Taylor said, "Manifest the world that we want by creating the world we want."

We were so involved and so safe that I want to see it all again tomorrow, even if just to see the contributions of the 32 people who came with the company and every other artist who is a part of this experience (their names are in the program). But I suspect I'd be just as involved.

Photo by Sarah Walker

For the last hour Taylor wore a dress made from a giant vulva and sang his own work. The band were gone – one left every hour for the last 24 hours. We sang along and I have never cried so much in a thearte.

I washed most of the glitter off – the glitter I put on in the Forum bathrooms with other women who also hadn't worn glitter since we were in our 20s – and am back in day-to-day life, with a pile of work waiting for me.

Photo by Sarah Walker

What's left to say when I experienced the theatre experience I've been waiting my life for?

But perhaps life is going to be different. I'm still going to roll my eyes at dull theatre, but I'm going to:
  • Spend less time alone. Maybe with the new friends I made at this show.
  • Talk more with people I don't know.
  • Dance in public.
  • Wear all the high heels I have in my cupboard.
  • Wear more blue mascara.
  • Sing "Purple Rain". 
 Machine Dazzle, Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker


PS. Can we have a 24-hour long recording, please?

23 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol
Cambodia Living Arts, Asia TOPA
14 October 2017
Hamer Hall
www.festival.melbourne/2017

Photo by Tey Tak Keng

A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol is for the two million who died or were killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

At the end of this performance, the audience are given a small orange envelope. It holds a photo. Mine is a black and white image of a young woman and man at the steps of a traditional Cambodian house on stilts. Their combination of Western and Cambodian clothes and their semi-formal pose says 1970s.

I don't know anything more except that they didn't survive the 1970s.

I visited Cambodia in 2010. I fell in love with the country and the people I met and it took me a few days to realise what was so obvious that it was hard to see it: there weren't many people older than I was.

Photo by Tey Tak Keng

Bangsokol is created by two artists who survived the regime: artist and film maker Rithy Pahn and composer Him Sophy. Sopy says: "My generation in Cambodia experienced war – I lost my family, I saw people killed. I don't want this again, for anyone."

With a western chamber orchestra and chorus with Khmer music, this astonishingly beautiful work  combines a requiem for the dead and lost with the Buddhist bangsokol funeral ritual for spirits to find peace.

It creates humanity and hope out of horror that is possibly unimaginable to anyone who hasn't experienced it, and it passes hope and tradition onto the next generation.

I've put my photo of the people I don't know in a frame.

The Khmer Rouge took thousands of photos of  people imprisoned and tortured and killed at the S 21 prison in Phnom Pehn, which is now the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. Some of these photos were used in Bangsokol. For thousands, the only photographic record of their existence is of them in hell.

To be given photos of Cambodians from those generations when they were happy is a treasured gift.



22 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter III

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter III: 1896–1956

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre
www.festival.melbourne

Last chance to be a part of thus magnificent experience is TONIGHT at The Wrap.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

As I'm still grinning inanely or crying uncontrollably from chapters III and IV, here are some more of Sarah Walker's incredible photos.

Taylor Mac & the exhibitionists. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & men who would've been conscripted. Photo by Sarah Walker.
Taylor Mac & the youngest and oldest person at the show. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac w Declan Greene & Matt Lutton. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
The burlesque dancers. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
Mama Alto. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & Does someone know this amazing woman's name? Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker
Neil Morris & Brent Watkin. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & the straight men. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
Jack Beeby giving birth. Photo by Sarah Walker
Viva DeConcini (#QueerGrannySquare). Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
The flee to the suburbs. Photo by Sarah Walker

21 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre
Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek
19 October 2017
Beckett Theatre
to 22 October
www.festival.melbourne/2017

Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzane. Photo by Sarah Walker

Laurence Lipson and Zenek Obarzanek never met but their sons, actor Brian Lipson and dancer/choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, have worked together making theatre in Melbourne. Last year the fathers met for the first time waiting in the Arts House foyer to see a show their sons had made about the fictional meeting of their fathers. This Melbourne Festival, they are meeting again for the first time on the too-high foyer chairs at the Coopers Malthouse.

Brian's now in his 60s and Gideon's in his 50s. As middle age is the time when you're horrified or thrilled to see more of a parent in yourself than you ever imagined, what better time to become their fathers on stage.

With conversations that are partly improvised, it's a satire about the theatre they have made together, an examination of Australian Jewish identity and a reflection on the father-son relationship.

Children mostly know their parents in a way that no one else can, and this knowledge is mostly formed from interactions and behaviours that no one else sees. The adult children create loving characters in their fathers – even when they are angry and stubborn – but it's their sharing of the moments they never forgot as children that shows the heart of the work.