31 December 2012

Gayer than ...?

Keeping donning we now our gay apparel, cos it's nearly next year and Melbourne's first festival for the year is the glorious glitter explosion of Midsumma.

Midsumma has been celebrating queer art, culture and fabulousness for 25 years and this year's festival runs from 13 January to 3 February.

The full program is at midsumma.org.au.

And to get us into the spirit (or cheap house wine), here's a Midsumma interview with Stephen Nicolazzo and Ash Flanders about Psycho Beach Party at Theatre Works 11–19 January. If you don't book, you may miss out and that's too sad a prospect to consider. It's an achievable NYE resolution and if  you book HERE, right now, you won't have to make any more resolutions today.

Meanwhile, in another social media world, Stephen, Ash and me are trying to decide if they are indeed gayer than Hugh Jackman in Les Mis.

More Midsumma webisodes here.

Film review: Les Misérables

Why it left me a bit miserable 

There are plenty of reviews of the film Les Misérables – I suggest starting with this one by Daniel Lammin on the site Switch – so this isn't really a review and assumes that you've seen it. But it's spoiler free if you haven't.

Facey comments weren't enough to describe why I didn't like it, so here are some words about why I was disappointed.

Expectations too high?

I don't think it's misguided to have had high expectations for this film. It's based on the world's longest running musical: 28 years in London.  It had a budget that created an opening scene with 100s of extras pulling a broken battle ship into port in a storm, and a city-wide barricade with its own Paris to be barricaded. The cast is a smart mix of Hollywood A-listers, music theatre favourites and stars of  Les Mis-past. And it's produced by Cameron Mackintosh: the bloke who refused to make the film until it was right and has assured that 60 million-odd people have seen the stage musical.

60 million. When it was first produced in Australia in 1987 (I saw it in '88 and '90), we had a population of 16 million. Even accounting for the multiple viewings, a lot of people have seen, and adore, Les Mis.

This is how much people love this musical. 

 So why is the film so dull?

I went with a bag full of tissues. I sat in the emptier front part of theatre so I could quietly sing along and expected that I'd have seen it again by now. I love Les Mis. I loved the trailers for the film. I love that they sang live on set and was so ready to trash all those cold-hearted nay-sayer critics who just don't get musicals and criticised a film that was made with such brilliant ingredients that it couldn't possibly go wrong.

But I didn't cry (I cried when I saw an amateur production in Canberra and in 10th and 25th anniversary concert films) and had no desire to sing along. I found the whole experience a bit of a snore and came home and "liked" a couple of those nasty reviews.

There's a lot of gorgeous and things to love to bits about the film, but director Hooper doesn't seem to understand how music works in story telling.

What I did like about it 

It looks wonderful – money can create amazing design – and it's clearly made with the same love for this musical that has made it so adored.

Some of the deaths look especially marvellous.

There are some astonishing performances and the live singing on set is genius.

The cast sang live on set with an earpiece attached to a pianist. The result is emotionally raw and real and makes for an intimacy rarely seen in film musicals, where the singing is mostly pre-recorded and mimed on set, or on stage where performers are singing to large rooms and hundreds of people.

But the best reason to see it Anne Hathaway as Fantine. I'd see it again just for her. She's that good and "I dreamed a dream" is the highlight of the movie. If it were all directed like this, it wouldn't be getting the dud reviews.

Colm Wilkinson (who played the first English language Jean Valjean) is a tad theatrical but his appearance as the pivitol Bishop, who gives JV back to God, is lovely and gives a wonderful link to the first productions.

Our Hugh Jackman as Valjean is also lovely, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are delightfully dark Thénardiers, Samantha Barks is perfect as Eponine, as is Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

(I'll get to Rusty in a bit.)

I'm talking to myself and not to him

But the fact that these exquisite performances are bringing attention to themselves means that they are not being supported with equal goodness.

I saw an interview with director Tom Hooper where he says that in musicals the primary form of communication is singing. Really? Tom, I'd like to sit down with you and watch some musicals because in a lot of musicals – and by a lot, I generally mean the the successful ones – the singing is not how characters communicate.

In musicals, characters sing what they feel and what they think. Like a soliloquy (Hamlet isn't saying "to be or not to be" to anyone but himself), the song is what's happening in their head; it's what they can't or won't say out loud.

This is the secret of musicals that can make them (and songs) such an irrationally emotional experience. The best dialogue on film or stage ensures that characters don't say what they really mean, so (just like real life) we understand the emotional truth through the unwritten subtext. In musicals, the songs and music give us the emotional truth, so there's no need to show the rest. The best decision Hooper made was to reject the idea of any dialogue in the film.

In Les Mis, the exceptions are some of the recititive moments ("Yes there's a child and the child is my daughter" is direct communication), but the songs are mostly in their heads and hearts. The Thénardiers aren't telling their customers that they are stealing and the students aren't having a sing-song at the barricade. Eponine even tells every director/performer who doesn't get it with, "I know it's only in my mind. That I'm talking to myself and not to him."

By filming it as a piece of pseudo realism where singing is treated like talking, this film never really manages to capture its heart and makes the songs sound like naff dialogue.

Which brings me to Rusty Crowe as Javert.  He can't sing, so he "acts" Javert and presents the lyrics like dialogue, which makes them sound soppy and melodramatic. The emotion's in the music, not the words. And I have to go back to HE CAN'T SING. He sounds like Les Mis karaoke.

Here's Phillip Quast as Javert in the 10th Anniversary concert. 
Quast played Javert in the first Australian production.
He can sing.

The emotion is in the music

Music makes us feel in ways that words never can. I don't know how it works, but music creates a gut-felt emotion before our heads catch up. Lyrics and words don't make us cry, it's the music. There's music in the singing voices, but without the full orchestra, it doesn't create the unexplainable visceral emotion.

This film could be saved by re-mixing the sound. The mix is atrocious.

Filmed musicals always suffer from the distance between singer and orchestra and can never capture the effect of being in a theatre, but a film is not a live theatre, so it's best that they create something different.

A full orchestra is mixed in, but at times it can barely be heard, leaving the singers with no emotional/musical support. At other times it sounds like the orchestra was recorded without even hearing the voices, which makes them sound out of time. And when people sing together it sounds like they are singing apart and the joy and power of interacting voices is lost.

The only time I nearly cried in the film was in "One day more". On stage this is the Act One finale. Dramatically, emotionally and musically it is the first and only time all the main characters sing together and, despite all their different stories and motives, it unites them by finding the one thing they have in common: that "tomorrow we'll discover what our god in heaven has in store". I teared up because the film didn't unite them and was on par with a blah 80s-style montage.

On screen, every one is shown their real world, so they never come together and even though the live singing creates incredible individual performances, singers need to hear each other to sing together.

You can see it here. (It doesn't want to be embedded.)

 25th birthday version (with all its odd casting).  
But NBC have blocked EVERY version. Really NBC! 
Ever thought that You Tube clips make people want to buy your stuff?

Will I see it again?

Yea. There's enough great about it for a second viewing, but it will never be one that I buy and watch when I feel miserable (Cabaret, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Sweeny Todd and  Once More With Feeling).

22 December 2012

What I loved 2012: the best of Melbourne theatre

Now that 33 of Melbourne's creators have shared their favourite moments, shows and artists of 2012, it's time for the annual What I Loved awards.

It was a tough choice this year, especially in writing and performance. The short lists were far too long to publish and many wonderful moments didn't make the finals.  But it comes down to my strict criteria: How much did I love it?

With a few exceptions, most of the Loves have already been raved about by the 32 other creators. I smiled a lot every time one was mentioned. It's pretty great to know that these artists really are reaching the hearts of their audiences and sharing something memorable.

The Loves still don't have a statuette or show bag for the nominees, but maybe one day... (In the meantime, if anyone wants to design a certificate, I'm sure the winners would print it and put it on their fridge until it disappears under takeaway menus.)

You can also see these on AussieTheatre.com with a different discussion.

Outstanding Artists 2012


Louris Van De Geer: TuesdayMKA
Robert Reid: On the production of monstersMelbourne Theatre Company
Zoey Dawson: The unspoken word is "Joe"MKA, La Mama

The unspoken word is 'Joe'. Photo by Sarah Walker.


Eugyeene Teh: Tuesday, MKA; sex.violence.blood.gore, MKA; Triangle, MKA; 
The unspoken word is "Joe", MKA
Anna Tregloan and Paul Jackson: Wild SurmiseMalthouse Theatre

sex.violence.blood.gore Photo by Sarah Walker


Dana Miltins: OrlandoThe Rabble, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival
(and Golden Dragon, MTC)

Special mention
Nilaja Sun: No ChildTheatre Works, Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Festival
Brigid Gallacher: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of  Romeo and Juliet

Dana Miltins in Orlando. Photo by Sarah Walker


Suzanne Chaundy: Beyond the Neck: A Quartet on Loss and Violence, Red Stitch
Stephen Nicolazzo: sex.violence.blood.gore, MKA

Beyond the Neck: A Quartet on Loss and Violence


Daniel Clarke
The Creative Producer of Theatre Works (to be shared with everyone at Theatre Works) for making Theatre Works a venue that we want to go to, for creating a community of artistic experimentation and discussion, and for increasing audiences by an amazing 71%. I missed too many shows at Theatre Works this year, but that'll change in 2013.

Produced/Co-Produced by Theatre Works
No Child
Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert
This is a door
Hello, my name is
The Year of Magical Wanking
Negative Energy

Dan also directed Golden Dragon, Melbourne Theatre Company


Declan Greene
Summertime in the Garden of Eden, Sisters Grimm
The unspoken word is "Joe", MKA, La Mama
Pompeii L.A.,Malthouse Theatre

Pompeii L.A. Photo by Pia Johnson

Outstanding Productions 2012


Candy B, Australian Booty: The Fatty-Boom-Boom Remix

Candy B


Summer of the Seventeenth DollMTC presents the Belvoir production


Margaret Fulton: Queen of the DessertPresent Tense,Theatre Works

Special mention
Contact!, Arts Centre Melbourne


ZombatlandArts House, The Suitcase Royale

Special mention
The Goodbye GuyJustin Hamilton

Bang on a Can All-Stars, Melbourne Recital Centre

Bang on a Can All-stars


Weather, Lucy Guerin Inc, Melbourne Festival


From the ground up, Circus Oz


The Wild DuckMalthouse presents a Belvoir production

Summertime in the Garden of EdenSisters Grimm

Summertime in the Garden of Eden

LipsynchArts Centre Melbourne, Ex Machnia, Théâtre Sans Frontières

Choir GirlSarah Collins, Celeste Cody and the choir


100% MelbourneRimini Protokoll & The City of Melbourne

My favourite moments are here, which are different from my favourite shows and artists.

21 December 2012

What Melbourne Loved in 2012, part 11

As if I wasn't going to turn a 10 up to 11.

The stragglers are Kerith Manderson-Galvin, Sayraphim Lothian and me

The What I Loved awards are on their way. I'm thrilled that so many of them have already been suitably raved about – Melbourne creators have great taste – but no one has talked about my favourite show of the year.

Kerith Manderson-Galvin
writer, actor

KERITH: When I saw Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanta Stridenti, the first Dewey Dell piece in Next Wave, I thought I was going to have to leave the theatre I was so terrified. I experienced all the emotions in all the world from this piece. The first being fear. It was a true experience and so wonderful that so much went in to each facet of the performance. It was extreme and powerful and it made me feel sick and inspired and wish I hadn't quit ballet when I finished school.

sex.violence.blood.gore  had me at EVERYTHING WAS PINK. It was a wonderland. Before it started I kept leaning over to people saying, "It's so beautiful, isn't it? Isn't it beaauuuutiiiffuuulll. Oh it's really beautiful isn't it? Beautiful!" And then it happened. And then the conversations happened. We got to talk about gender and sex and race and our cultural histories and our neighbouring countries' histories and it was relevant and it was what we SHOULD be talking  about. Also, it showed an alarming lack of understanding of trans identities by some critics (who I can't even remember), which made plays like s.v.b.g even more relevant and important.

Also, Hello my name is otherwise known as The Gun Show. Nicola Gunn is amazing. It was amazing. I want more.

Brigid Gallacher's death scene The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of  Romeo and Juliet). Traumatising and truthful and other adjectives and I'm actually tearing up a bit thinking about it.

Comedian/performer Lisa-Skye pissing with perfect aim in to a doggie bowl only to have my partner/performer/BDSM educator Hunter Bruin aka TransBear knock it all over himself and the stage, and without taking a beat to take in what had happened, he just licked it all up. Art.

Greatest theatre moment of my life: 'An afternoon with Stephen Sondheim'. I had to spend the first ten minutes talking myself down from over excitement and reminding myself to breathekerithbreathe but it was STEPHEN SONDHEIM!!! I pretty well saw Shakespeare.

SM: Kerith wrote a play called Jack for this year's Short and Sweet Theatre. Of the 43 plays, it was the only one that I wanted to award Best Writing to; the other judges agreed – but I was prepared to fight for it, if they didn't.  Here was a young female voice talking about sex without any of the enforced perceptions/boundaries/dullness surrounding young woman having sex, who was really telling a heartbreaking story about the relationship with her mother.  Filled with subtext and vivid details that took us into a little girl's bedroom with a roof of stars, Jack told a story that only that character could tell and has ensured that I'll see everything Kerith writes.

public artist, designer

I loved the 5pounds of repertory theatre work; such an incredible amount of effort, 5 plays in 5 weeks. I especially loved Falling Petals, it was great to see such an amazing Australian play again, too often these works get a single showing and then never see the light of day again. I also love the venue, The Owl and Pussycat has the enthusiasm and supportive nature that The Store Room did last decade. It's awesome to see such a venue alive and well.

I also loved four lark's The Temptation of St Anthony, a beautiful show with great music and an amazing set.  Made my heart sing to see it all. These guys are making really interesting work, work that no one else is creating. I'm also looking forward to being able to own the music once they release it.

But I think my favorite moment in the whole of 2012 was No Show's participatory work Shotgun Wedding. Getting to attend a wedding of two strangers who had only just met and with a community of people; we created the whole reception, from an empty hall to tables set, walls decorated, bar organised and cake decorated all in half an hour. It was an amazing work to be a part of, examining community and the rituals we all know how to perform and I was thrilled to be a part of it. (Plus, it may or may not have influenced my own upcoming nuptials.) 

SM: Guerrilla kindness cupcakes and the craft table. There was a craft table at This is a door. A craft table! I loved that craft table. There were ribbons, lace, glitter, pipe cleaners, stick-on eyes, little pom poms and tiny coloured ice-cream sticks. Then a few weeks later, my sparklie hoola princess arrived in my letter box! 

Anne-Marie Peard

ANNE-MARIE:  The revelation of my favourite show of the year isn't far away, but what was my favourite moment?

There was falling (and the hand letting me go) onto blue inflated plastic in Hold, where I ripped a nail, pulled my shoulder, bruised my leg and realised that no one was coming to save me. Before I fell,  I was scared, and for a second I was genuinely fucking terrified. I've never felt such a pure emotion in a performance.

(It was scarier than Nicola Gunn making me draw in public.)

Then there was the relief of getting through the claustrophobic entrance of Impasse without using my panic button and the joy of finding a soft foamy world to climb, crawl and rest on; it must be like what cats feel like when they play on a bed.

Maybe it was crying when a woman held the crying baby taken from her dead mother in the opening scene of Lipsynch.

Or seeing how happy Margret Fulton and her family were at the opening of Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert.

Or talking to the backyard chooks at Summertime in the Garden of Eden.

Or Matt Jesus Kelly's birth in the Last Tuesday Society's Xmas ballet.

My favourite moment was at the Melbourne Recital Centre for the Bang on a Can All-stars performance of Brian Eno's Music For Airports. I've had a groupie-like crush on this group since I saw them in 1996 and have always found it hard to describe why I love them so much. It's not just that they are virtuoso musicians; I've seen many virtuoso musicians who bored me. It's not just that they play music I dig; that's easy to find. It's not even that live music is incomparable to recorded music; I'm happy with iPod headphones. I'd already seen them perform Field Recordings, so I'd had my Bang fix. But guitarist, the super-adorable Mark Stewart, introduced the night and talked about the Bang on a Can community of musicians in New York and how the "travelling circus" All-stars bring their audiences into that community by playing for us. And he talked about their joy in spending two days rehearsing with the Melbourne Conservatorium students who played and sang with them for Airports.

The music was perfect, the venue made it sound even better, but it was knowing that every musician on the stage LOVED what they were doing and would have been just as happy if they were playing to an empty hall. Everyone in that audience is now a member of the Bang on a Can community.

Do what you love and love – really love – what you do (even if no one who enjoys it knows that you're there) and you will have an audience who can't get enough of you.

SM: AM stops me from publishing angry first drafts, goes back and fixes my typos, and doesn't let me call people wankers.

19 December 2012

What Melbourne loved in 2012, part 10

Glyn Roberts, Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Yvonne Virsik are the last three to the post. (Maybe.)

Thirty of  Melbourne's writers, actors, directors, creators have shared their favourite moments, shows and memories for 2012 and it's been a hoot.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. This series has been the most-read of all posts this year, so let's do it again next year.

It's clear that our commercial and subsidised theatres aren't creating the art that our theatre community remembers. MTC got votes with The Golden Dragon and On the production of monsters and Malthouse with Pompeii L.A., but these shows were mostly created by artists who have been working in our independent theatres for years. Perhaps it's time to see more of these artists on our subsidised stages?

Pompeii L.A., Summertime in the garden of Eden, The unspoken word is 'Joe' were often mentioned favourite shows and all have one thing in common: Declan Greene (writer, writer/director/lighting designer/stage manager, director). So Declan wins – another – brand new award as the Most favourite of Melbourne's favourites for 2012. (I'm also in the process of writing something about our Dec.)

Now all that's left is for me to write up my favourites (which I decided on before this started) and have a couple of weeks off.

Glyn Roberts
MKA creative director

Photo by Sarah Walker

GLYN: I really liked the Dewey Dell show at Arts House. It was a form of dance/performance art/theatre that I want to see more of in town. I think The Golden Dragon at the MTC had a loneliness and sadness to that is rarely seen here, particularly in ensemble pieces. I loved it.

Over with us (MKA), the best moments were usually audience based.

Jamming 100-plus people into the restaurant/kiln at the Malthouse at 11 pm for our National Play Festival readings.

Sneaking into a hot and heaving and pink theatre to watch the final acts of sex.violence.blood.gore, then doing it all again in Sydney.

Hearing the gasps when Janine tore up the floor in Triangle and again as she disappeared into the distance.

When the earthquake happened during Tuesday and the entire audience (60 people) just collectively assumed that it was Toby and me shaking the set/entire room as a prank.

Also The Unspoken Word is 'Joe' was pretty cool in general.

SM: MKA have collectively shaken up Melbourne's theatre scene and reminded a lot of us why we keep going to theatre, so pretty much every moment with them is memorable, but my favourite moment with Glyn was at a show at the warehouse. I bought a drink from him and realised that I hadn't bothered to bring money with me. He gave me the drink.

Tobias Manderson-Galvin
MKA creative director

Another photo by Sarah Walker

TOBIAS: According to a document I've been keeping, I've seen about 300 live performances this year. That said, I count going to the Rugby League and seeing live music in there but it's about 200 for capital P performance and capital T theatre combined.

With that in mind, what I loved was:

Tom Green Live: ostensibly comedy but anyway he's more than that and I loved seeing him.

Justin Shoulder, The River Eats Itself was spectacular. (Next Wave)

The Lana Del Rey live concert. A stage covered in ferns, a string quarter, a grand piano, but it was the ritual of it all and Del Rey's impeccable character work that made this one of the theatre moments of 2012 that I loved. And that she performed without any percussion contributed to this being one of the most intimate experiences I had this year.

Nicola Gunn's Hello my name is was the only of its kind that Melbourne had to offer this year. And it was a pleasure.

When Amaya Vecellio and I apparently got too boisterous at Impasse (a fantastic interactive memory foam maze/world) at Arts House, one of the artists accosted me afterwards. Despite the bullying, it was the playground within that I loved.

When Hayley Bracken and I turned up one minute late for Schaubuhne's Enemy of the People, we had to sit in the 'viewing room' for 16.5 minutes, so we started reading the subtitles out loud. The show was great but that's was what I'll remember. Someone should put this in a show on purpose.

Stephen Sondheim in conversation. Rare opportunity to see a master. Insightful.

SM: 300 live performances. Three-fucking-hundred! Even if only 200 are theatre, that's still a number that few get near. (I see about 100 theatre shows each year.)

Tobias writes, directs and creates exceptional theatre;  he's the co-founder of MKA, the company with the reviews where writers try to out wordgasm each other; and he freaked out Brynne by wearing a hat.

See the correlation? When new playwrights ask me for feedback, the best thing I can say is, "See more theatre". If you want to make great theatre, you have to see a lot of theatre. It's like if you want to write, you have to read – a lot.

If you've never created theatre but want to, I promise that if you see 200 shows next year, you'll be making better theatre by 2014 than a lot of people who have been around for ages but see 20 shows a year.

Favourite moment with Tobias? Every MKA show and Judging Short and Sweet when he didn't get why he didn't hate a play with very dull content. (It was because its structure was textbook and it hit every story mark.)

Yvonne Virsik
director, MUST artistic director

In the middle of 2012, I was lucky enough to spend three months overseas. I saw some extraordinary theatre while I was away and clearly missed some back here.

Two verbatim pieces had a strong effect on me and made me determined to investigate the ‘genre’ in my own work.  At Edinburgh Festival, Fringe, I saw Look Left Look Right’s Nola, which dealt with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill – subject matter I didn’t think I’d be interested in – but it was well-executed and complex, leaving loads to ponder.

Hate Radio in the Berlin Theatertreffen festival was a punch in the gut – maybe more of a pummel. It portrayed the vicious anti-Tutsi propaganda proliferated by the popular Rwandan radio station RTLM, which fuelled the violence during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Can you even imagine a radio show call-in topic: ‘Tell us where the Tutsis and their sympathisers are hiding so we can broadcast it and the Hutus can get them’? The fact that it was theatre that brought me this part of the Rwanda story reignited my belief in what it can do.

There were a few very memorable moments in Berlin with audiences. On one occasion, in a theatre rather like The Playhouse, several audience members yelled "speak up" and "louder" to the actors onstage and we often saw people walking obviously along the edge of stages to go to the bathroom and then back again!

Caroline Horton's Mess (Edinburgh) again dealt with a seemingly theatrically unfriendly subject – anorexia – but was written and staged with incredible charm, humour and inventiveness.  I’ve become a huge fan.

SM: Yvonne, have I really not seen anything you've directed this year? Oh yeah, you spent three months in Europe. No wait, Girls Do Gertrude. Pyjamas, mystery and a cast who loved every moment and ensured that the audience had as much fun as they did. Sometimes Stein wrote for the sake of showing off, but you found the absolute fun, the delicacy and the story in Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters.

part 1
part 2

The Ballad of Roger and Grace

Back in 2008, my favourite show of the year was The Ballad of Roger and Grace by Daniel Kitson and Gavin Osborn.  I don't remember detail, but I know I loved it.

But look what I just found on Bandcamp: Daniel's site and the Ballad is there. Buy it here. I just did.

18 December 2012

Review: The Temptation of St Antony

The Temptation of St Antony
Four Larks
13 December 2012
secret location in Brunswick
to 16 December
photo by Sarah Walker
When the instructions to the secret Brunswick venue say,"if you pass the brothel or the bus depot, you've gone too far", it already has to be a good night – so to be immersed in moments of exquisite theatrical bliss is a bonus.

French writer Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880) spent 30 years writing and re-writing The Temptation of St Antony, his novel in the form of a play script that wasn't meant to be performed but proves irresistible to artists. It's about St Anthony, a monk who shuts himself away in an Egyptian desert to be closer to God but doubt and exhaustion call temptations.  It was last seen in Melbourne as a production by Robert Wilson at the 2007 Melbourne Festival.

Next to take on its depths are Four Larks (Mat Sweeney, Sebastian Peter-Lazaro and Jesse Rasmussen), a Melbourne collaboration formed in San Francisco.  With a unique theatrical voice, they make junkyard opera that's unexpectedly beautiful and so much more than its name suggests.

With fourteen people on the stage (cast and orchestra), the secret warehouse/garage is filled by Peter-Lazaro and Ellen Strasser's design made from the found and re-claimed. Starting with a typewriter that could be 100 years old, it's a world of books and pages that's coloured by the sepia creams and browns of old pages and the fading colours of lost stories.  The hermit's temptations are so connected to his words that his reality is always in doubt as his faith tumbles and flies among the gods and sins.

With work this dense, it's difficult for an audience to be as involved as the creators. Whereby they've had weeks or months to live with a text, we have one go and it's frustrating to know that there's so much happening on the stage that's out of reach without a thorough understanding of the text.

Maybe working with a writer or dramaturge would help to find ways to bring an audience closer, but I suspect that the unease of feeling slightly lost is a vital part of the experience. Searching for personal meaning in its complexities, instead of understanding the creators' intent, may be why it's so hard to pin down why this work resonates so deeply.

The Temptation of St Anthony finishes on Sunday. It's been selling out, but there are a handful of tickets left. See if for the experience of the secret venue, see it because it's just so beautiful and see it because it's theatre like no one else is making.

If you want to read the text, here it is.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

17 December 2012

Chat: Bridgette Burton, PlaySix

Williamstown Little Theatre
13–15 December 2012

Bridgette Burton has been writing for theatre since the early 1990s and formed Baggage Productions with Christina Costigan in 1999, a company dedicated to original work for women. She won the R E Ross Trust Playwrights Script Development Award in 2005 (Killing Jeremy) and again in 2009 (Rhonda is in Therapy) and in was awarded a grant by The Malcolm Robertson Trust in 2012 to develop her new work Fury.  Bridgette has been involved with PlaySix every year and is very happy to be back again in 2012.

The PlaySix annual short play festival was founded in 2006 to provide exposure to the work of emerging and established playwrights and to act as a networking forum for Melbourne actors and directors. Directed by Shannon Woollard, the seventh festival takes place 13–15 December at the Williamstown Little Theatre.

What six words best describe your PlaySix play?
Satirical, political, absurd, humourous, topical and short.

What six words best describe the play you’re directing?
All of the above (I’m directing my own play) .

What makes a good short play?
A good idea, well told in the time permitted. Basically the same things that make a long play good, but shorter.

What’s something else that’s good when it’s short?
A trip to the dentist.

What’s something that should never be short?
A basketball player.

Apart from the PlaySix, what other short-play festivals have you been involved in?
Short and Sweet, Melbourne Writers Theatre: Melborn, Boxashorts, Bite-Size, Crashtest Drama.

Quickly, convince northsiders/southsiders to head west to Wiliamstown?
Come for the theatre, stay for the ocean side views.

What else should people do while they’re in Williamstown?
Steal a pelican.

Write a Tweet for me to share about PlaySix.
Playsix – six short plays about clever short things.

If you could invite anyone to see this show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
Julia Gillard, she’d get a kick out of seeing herself on stage, I’m sure

What is the best directing advice you’ve received?
Cast your play well, and the rest will follow.

As a director, what advice do you give to actors?
Do everything. Write, direct, act and produce – what we need in Australia is people that can do it all and that are motivated.

What’s a great book you’ve read recently?
A Kind of Fairy Tale, Joyce.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

What Melbourne loved in 2012, part 9

Today it's Jackie Smith, Anniene Stockton and Jason Cavanagh.

co-artistic director of Finucane & Smith, playwright

JACKIE: My favourite theatre experience this year has to be Yumi Umiumare and Theatre Gumbo's DasSHOKU Shake at fortfivedownstairs.

It was wild and funny, sometimes deeply chilling, scary, touching, and completely bonkers. It was one of those fantastic theatre shows that happen with the confluence of hard work, passion and dedication, and will never happen in that same way again. Not to say the show won’t go on and have a life, but it will never be that season again. It had an impossibly large cast, and an explosive set, and a galaxy of hand made and found props to rival a Snuff Puppet Garage sale. And it had Yumi Umiumare. Her performance and genius left me stunned. Always does. And we are very lucky to have her in Melbourne.

SM: It's no secret that I adore everything Jackie has a hand in creating, but 2012 was the year that I missed most her stuff. I was crook for this year's The Burlesque Hour and was so incompetent at reading a phone map that I missed most of the return season of her play The Flood. Acts 2 and 3 were still bloody good (but not the same as the cramped intimacy of the La Mama season), but the best bit was the post-show conversations with Jackie, Moira and co.

22/12. Opps. I DID see The Burlesque Hour. Just found my notes.  I went on the last night. I loved it, but I was sick and my brain had forgotten. It's come flooding back now. 

Anniene Stockton
producer, performer, arts addict

ANNIENE: Last week I went to the HotHouse Theatre season launch in Wodonga. I took my cousin, Tennile, as  she lives in the area and is fabulous company.

When we arrived, Tennile said that she had never been inside the HotHouse before and couldn't explain more than, "Just hadn't gotten around to it".

As we enjoyed the food and drinks before the official proceedings, she was asking loads of questions about the company and what happens there, so by the time we hit the "official" bit she was keen to hear what the Artistic Director had to say.

He started with the good news that Arts NSW had returned its funding and that Hothouse could continue its work. This was greeted with cheers and woops. He went on to share the dire stats around the steep decline of regional companies presenting Australian work. They are an endangered species.

Next came the season info and my cousin sat silently.  I wasn't sure if she was listening or bored out of her gord.  Had I done the right thing dragging her along? She might never wast to hang out with me again...

I gave a gleeful yelp when I saw that the season includes a work by the overly talented wordsmith Van Badham. Tennile smiled, leaned over and asked “do you know him?” I whispered back. “Her. Know her. Van is short for Vanessa and yes. Dear friend, exceedingly talented. Makes me the best cups of tea.”

At least she was listening. But, once the last work is announced, she turned to be and said, “Well I'm going to buy a subscription.”

It's very nice to introduce someone else to your passion and be there at that very moment when they become passionate too.

SM: I was also crook for Anniene's only performance this year (it hasn't been my best year), but Club Tristen will be back in 2013 and I will be there. As for a favourite moment with Anniene, well that's  too difficult, so I'm setting for every time she laughs louder than anyone else in the theatre.

Jason Cavanagh
actor, The Owl, co-founder of 5Pound Theatre

JASON: It was week two of the 5pounds of Repertory season.  I was walking out of the theatre, after having choreographed one of the musical numbers for Sally: A Musical, which I had only learnt to sing that morning. Leaving the theatre, I had to step over the little army of set makers, sourced from the Celeste’s first year Monash students, cutting and creating our cardboard sets and props.

Up the stairs I went to cook something quick, easy and healthy so we had time to get ready for the performance of Pygmalion that night. Whilst I cooked, I had the sheet music on the bench and was going over my melodies. As Dave (music director) passed, packing his gear away in the dressing room, he joined in for a second and then stopped in to help me with a specific bit I was having trouble with. He then left the room saying I shouldn’t do too much on it until he has sent me the mp3 of him singing it, so I don’t get into any bad habits.

So I continued to sing the bits I was slightly more confident in. I used the song to jokingly serenade Celeste as she passed the kitchen and she started singing it to herself, changing the lyrics slightly.

Then Sebastian bounded up the stairs asking if he could use my computer to email the script to someone or other for a reason that is still unclear to me. I said ‘fine’ and pointed him towards my room.

A short while later, as I had gone through the song a little more and the soup was on the boil, I went to my room to find Seb on my computer and Susannah sitting on my bed singing to herself. I flopped onto the mattress next to her and lay for a second.  I could vaguely hear Freya and Tom singing in the theatre downstairs.

In this moment those last five minutes came flooding through my mind – of course, what I haven’t been able to capture is the details, the multitudes of little things that was adding to the chaos of that five-minute period, the ambient noises, the other people in the building and beyond – and I thought, "If it could only always be like this".

SM: Finally getting to The Owl and the Pussycat space (founded and managed by Jason) was a highlight in itself. Once a single-front cottage in once working-class Richmond, it's now an intimate theatre with a super-gorgeous bar that's established itself as an independent theatre venue that assures something worth seeing. And it's so easy to get to. Get a train to Richmond, walk out of the Swan St exit and cross the road.

As this is a day of missing shows, I missed two of the five 5Pounds of Repertory shows, but three was  enough to see the impact this process had on the creators involved and I so hope Jason and 5Pounds do it again.