17 December 2012

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.

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