01 September 2012

August review previews

Doku Rai (You dead man, I don't believe you)
Arts House, Adelaide Festival, Darwin Festival, Stealth Agency and The Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm
29 August 2012
Arts House, Meat Market 
to 2 September

Melbourne's Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm went to a remote Timor Leste island, where they spent a few weeks in an abandoned colonial hotel (dodgy power and no running water) with a band called Galaxy and a performance company called Liurai Fo’er. The result is a roller-coaster rush of storytelling that clashes cultures, rocks 'til it bleeds, refuses to die and introduces a superstar rooster.

Doku Rai starts with the story of a brother placing a doku (death curse) on his older brother. But curses are mighty powerful things and years later, the brother returns and cannot die, despite being violently killed many times. Inspired by Timorese folklore and driven by the violence that's dominated too much of our nearest neighbour's history, it demands our attention and confronts with its pain, until the white hipster theatre director steps in.



It was already sold out early in the week, but it's worth chancing a ticket as this is theatre so authentic and original that it should be compulsory.


Arts Centre Melbourne, Ex Machnia and Théâtre Sans Frontières
4 August 2012
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 12 August

Critics criticise because theatre this exquisite exists.

Robert LePage's Lipsynch asks for nine hours of your time, but there's no need to be scared. Unlike watching a box set or spending a day at work, there are intervals with time to talk with friends and strangers and to share a comradery that only those who were there will understand.

As Gorecki's harrowing "Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs" echos from a soprano's lone performance, a young woman is found dead in her plane seat, still holding her crying baby. What follows explores nine lives whose stories are explicitly or implicitly affected by this heart-breaking cry. Told in multiple languages, over many years and countries, some links feel tenuous, especially as false clues are planted, but as the ninth hour approaches, they come together with a mix of surprise and inevitability that demands complicity in its heartbreak and heals with its beauty.

Contrasting an intimate naturalism that feels like film and an ingenious design that celebrates theatre, Canadian director LePage and his performers/co-writers began the creation of this epic meditation with the human voice and the confusion between voice, speech and language.



My just home reaction.

Hell House
Arts House and Back to Back Theatre
3 August 2012
Arts House, Meat Market
to 5 August

In Hell House, Melbourne's wonderful Back to Back Theatre ask what theatre can tell us about belief and if it can really offer guidance on morality. In the same week that I saw plays that screamed at me that it's ok to be gay and racism is bad, it was almost a relief to experience a genuine god-fearing attempt to convince me that I'm a sinner destined for a firey eternity.

Hell Houses are American conservative Christian ghost-trainish experiences that take participants on a devil of ride to hell and beyond with visits to the likes of an AIDS funeral, an abortion, a teen suicide and all sorts of ungodly sins before the feathery white hope of angels, astro turf and the saviour. And there's the joy of squeezing through a giant white vagina, and lamingtons and cordial at the end!

They are thought to have been created in the 1970s and Back to Back's house is a staged version of Pastor Robert's Hell House, which is a downloadable script and kit. Presented (at the too-perfect North Melbourne Meat Market) as a "religious artefact", 50 community volunteers re-create the fun fair as the good pastor decrees; it's almost like verbatim theatre and its context brings up far more issues than it's content.

Here's a show that's like a bit like a fun fair freak show, presented by actors who are perceived to have a disability and non-actors. It was written for teenage Christians, but tax-payer funded for the entertainment of middle class theatre-going heathens. Back to Back know how to create mind loops of irony that force us to question ourselves much more than we question what's on the stage.



La Mama
1 August  2012
La Mama Courthouse
to 19 August

When the publicity for a show beginning with "I'm not a racist, but...", I get ready to say "I'm not a critic, but...".

Unaustralia is set on Sydney's Cronulla beach and explores a fictional story leading up to the race riots of 2005. It's a bit like Channel 10s The Shire, but with less botox and much better.

The night begins with sight of Ken Roach's design. It's one of the best I've seen in the Courthouse, with floating surfboards, sand and a beach wall that instantly transport us to seaside Sydney and surprises with its projections.

Here blonde Aussie Simone, Lebanese Ali and Aboriginal Mannie love their daily surf where they trade stories about losing their virginity and things that matter. Meanwhile Ali's brother, cousin and sister come from Punchbowl on weekends and end up fighting with the bikini/Speedo clad Shire locals, and a politician, with a heart of slime, and a SBS journo, mostly interested in own breasts, take advantage of the racial tension.


Xavier O'Shannessy talks about performing in UnAustralia.

The Pride
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
29 July 2012
Red Stitch
to 18 August

As Red Stitch's The Pride opens with a Phillip Glass string quartet and two sharply-dressed men staring at each other across a spotless room, there's no hope that it's about a group a lions. And when a wife appears, it's all over red rover in terms of surprise.

Alternating between the UK in the 50s and the nows – although from the design it could be the 60s or 70s (were skirts that short in the 50s?) –  a threesome with the same names dovetail stories about how life as a gay men (with gorgeous hag, of course) has got better.

This positive and embracing premise supports characters who are full of doubt, fear and self-disgust and the productions passion for the "issue" is earnest and genuine, but The Pride doesn't move much further than the issue.



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