28 September 2012

Review: Hello my name is

Hello my name is
Theatre Works and Sans Hotel/Nicola Gunn
19 September 2012
Theatre Works
to 29 September

Hello, my name is Anne-Marie and Nicola Gunn made me confront one of my greatest public fears.

Like many theatre goers, I like the safe dark space that secures my anonymity from the performers in the lights.  Creator and performer Gunn likes to bring us into the same space. After all, what's the point of performing if there isn't an audience to share it with?

Audience participation! I can hear you running away. Come back. It's ok. Really. This show really is safe and easy and fun. Except what she made me do.

Hello my name is finds us in a white and welcoming community hall. The plastic chairs are in a non-contronting circle, there's free tea and coffee for a donation, and we're not sure if we're booked for a games night, scrap booking class, breath and yoga forgiveness workshop or an AA meeting.

As soon as Nicola says 'Hello, my name is Nicola' in multiple languages, there's no doubt that the night is going to be far more curious and interesting than any community learn to crochet class. Part personal confession, part astute social commentary and part absurdly gorgeous vision, she takes us beyond the passive aggressive bitterness of a community worker into the passion and frustration of an artist and exposes the beauty of conga lines, pink Care Bears, hand holding and falling glitter.

But what did I have to do in public?

There was a karaoke machine, so I sat in a mid-distance spot, hoping to project nonchalance rather than the truth that I'd rather flash than sing in public. I was safe. Then there was the dancing. I'm blessed with the inability to move with any semblance of grace or coordination, but everyone took part and even I could keep up. I hoped to be allowed to play Scrabble or to knit in public (so my theatre experience really would be like sitting on my couch), but I wasn't that lucky. 

When given paper and my choice of pens/pencils/charcoal, I was thrilled at the the thought of writing in public. But one doesn't write with charcoal. And as the realisation hit, I was ready to jitterbug to that karaoke machine and sing "Wake me up before you go go" before I was ready to DRAW in public. 

It wasn't pretty. And anyone sitting near me will confirm that it's best for everyone to keep drawing implements away from me. But I did it, and if art is about exposing and confronting fears, then Nicola Gunn re-defined cathartis for me.

Hello my name is leaves no space to hide in the dark, but don't be scared of the light because this hilarious, confronting, beautiful and weird show will leave you smiling and feeling so much better for the experience.

This appeared on AussieTheatre.com

26 September 2012

Fringe Lite

It's Fringe time.

This is usually a time of yay, interviews, mad writing and a three-shows-a-day-isn't-enough attitude.

By the number of emails and invites I'm getting, I could too easily fill the next weeks without even trying. And I'm flattered by the invites.

But I'm still crook and have to do Fringe Lite 2012.

I'm trying to answer as many emails as I can, but please forgive me if I don't get back to you personally.

17 September 2012

Review: Happy Ending

Happy Ending
Melbourne Theatre Company
7 September 2012
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
to 22 September

Even if she hasn't had much of late, 40-something Louise hasn't forgotten the thrill of wild and illicit sex, and the possibly-too-young Chinese masseur at the local mall is unintentionally finding her more-please spots and she's hoping for 'that' kind of happy ending.

In her new play Happy Ending, Melissa Reeves takes us away from hipster lanes and into a shopping mall where she understands and revels in the satisfaction of a bad latte and an instant McMassage. It's no barrista-made, freshly-roasted single-origin espresso with too-beautiful-to-stir foam art and time with an experienced therapist who wants to help you heal, but it's cheap and easy – and close enough can be damn good.

Nell Feeny (Louise) captures the frustration of a woman who's happy, but not satisfied. She has a good friend to talk to (Roz Hammond), a toddler who never cries and daily massages, but, of course, the musak and IKEA-screen facade of intimacy and exotic healing aren't enough.

Louise buys herself a new second-hand emerald ring, but she really wants the handsome young masseur, also called Lu, who's happy to take her money but awkward about seeing her tits. So, as her daily business isn't getting his attention, she creates her own fake massage business to find out how the Chinese do business.

With gloriously awkward scenes like taking Lu (Gareth Yuen) and his boss (hilarious Fanny Hanusin) to dinner in Little Bourke Street and subtitles that let us hear what her Chinese friends really think, Louise's quest is embarrassingly familiar – who hasn't made a fool of themselves in the quest for a great shag? – but embarrassment isn't as funny or as powerful as humiliation. Louise is always OK and there's room for more cringing and for danger, especially as it's hard to know what Louise stood to lose with her Lu obsession, which made it difficult to support or want to stop her quest for a happy.

With its comically blessed cast and director Susie Dee finding extra dark humour,  Happy Ending is as satisfying as a McMassage. It's enjoyable and it really hurts when it hits the personal spots, but it feels like it should be more intimate and personal.

Photo by Melissa Cowan

12 September 2012


I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth or found my TARDIS key, but the curse of unwell is keeping me on the couch instead of being where I'd much prefer to be. Yes, I mean theatres.

11 September 2012

Review: Doku Rai

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.


With a meta-twist of meta-absurdity, Doku Rai intertwines the tale of the stuff-white-people-like theatre dudes who go to Timor to make a play with a local company. But there's no time for earnest self-reflection,  as the companies show how they each found their theatre-making soul mates but saw that their life experiences that are so far apart that the common ground has to be explosive.

With Timorese rock that makes you want to leap off your seat, a drop-dead design that takes us into that abandoned hotel and the story's inner world, and film by Amiel Courtin-Wilson (who made Bastardy, the wonderful film about Uncle Jack Charles) that takes us into the island and its secrets, Doku Rai is angry and joyful, loud and intimate, confronting and welcoming – and all the more glorious for its contradictions.

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.