30 January 2013

Why are mummy bloggers special?

This morning, I had a fight with a dictionary on Twitter.

I love dictionaries and as an editor and writer, The Macquarie is my standard reference because it defines Australian language and incorporates new language quickly.

The annual Macquarie Word of Year survey is asking readers to vote for their favourite new words from 2012. Since 2006, this wonderful competition has made words like flashpacker, bromance and tweet acceptable in Scrabble.

"Mummy blogger" is on this year's list.


I thought we were over defining profession/job/hobby/interests by our gender or reproductive choices?

So, I asked @MacqDictionary what we call bloggers who aren't mummies.

The big dict answered: "Bloggers. Or if blogger is blogging about a specific subject then can incl the subject eg celeblogger, wine blogger, etc"

Firstly, how many grammar problems are in that tweet? If you tweet on behalf of our national dictionary, get someone to proofread everything you publish. (I'm a freelancer and will do it for a reasonable fee.)

But, back to the issue, Macquarie says that anyone who isn't a woman writing about her life with her children is a "blogger" and that adding an adjective is optional. So why are mummy bloggers so special?

I put mummy blogger with the likes of lady doctor, male nurse, chick lit, women's tennis and actress (yes, I need a whole post on this one); the gender definition acts to belittle.

Mummy blogger came into our vernacular over the last couple of years and is mostly used with quotation marks to be extra condescending and to ensure that "mummy bloggers" aren't confused with serious or real bloggers.

I dare anyone to argue that blogs about the experience of being a parent are not series or real. Or funny or terrific reads for non-mummmies.  And what do we call sites like mamamia.com.au, which started as a mere "mummy blog" and is now one of the most-read online magazines with writers and readers who aren't mummies?

@MacqDictionary also got back to me following a contributing tweet about reporting common usage with: "As a dictionary, we remain unbiased in reporting of language and its use. Common usage is king (or queen)!"

Because a discussion about gendered language is always made more funny by joking about gendered language. How about "Common usage rules"?

But if this were just a simple reporting of common usage, where's food blogger or travel blogger? I'd bet that there are more jokes made about food blogs than mummy blogs.

The common usage of "mummy blogger" is generally offensive and used to undermine the blogger.

According to Macquarie's Dictionary's Facebook page, the dictionary agrees by discussing how when women writers were invited "to have morning tea with Julia Gillard in 2012" it "emerged that not everyone is happy with the label 'mummy blogger' which to some seems to be a bit of a put-down."

So the unbiased dictionary appreciates and understands how even ladies having scones with our lady PM don't dig the term. And I'm pretty sure that a group of non-female writers would have been "invited to meet with the Prime Minister", even if they did have mini-muffins and tea in delicate cups.

I'm with those writers who don't appreciate the put-down. Mummy blogger is commonly used to undermine and separate "mummies" and women from other writers and I'm not happy seeing it in a new word survey by our national dictionary.

Sadly, voting for Word of Year 2012 closes on Friday 1 February, so there isn't really any time to fight to get it removed from the list, but I'm not voting at all this year and I hope that when the results are announced on 6 February that "mummy blogger" loses so badly that it becomes one of those terms that's forgotten as quickly as it developed.

28 January 2013

Chat: Margie Fischer, Theatre Works

The Dead Ones
Theatre Works
29 January – 3 February

Theatre Works final show for Midsumma is Margie Fischer’s most recent work, The Dead Ones, and it opens tonight.

Margie is a writer and performer who founded Feast, Adelaide’s Queer Festival, and  describes describes herself as a very funny Jewish lesbian. This show’s about what happened when everyone in her family died and she was left to clear out their house.

It was first produced by Adelaide’s wonderful Vitalstatistix, who have been creating and supporting feminist and gender aware theatre and art since 1984, when they formed as Australia’s only full-time women’s theatre company, and continue to produce new Australian performance and live art that’s provocative, distinctive and informed.

Describe you show in three words.
A must see.

Why shouldn’t anyone miss your show?
Because the subject matter and experiences explored in this show haven’t been seen before

Will anyone hate it?
Yes, anyone who thought they were coming to see naked burlesque, circus or stand up comedy. But then they won’t have read the publicity.

What other Midsumma show(s) will you NOT miss?
All the other shows at Theatre Works!
Bent Burlesque, Finucaine and Smith’s Caravan Burlesque, Between The Cracks, Gaybies, Monologues of a Deaf Woman.

Midsumma is 25 this year. What do you remember most about being 25?
Being under confident in all I did.

Midsumma is also about celebrating queer culture. What does your show celebrate?
It celebrates my family’s extraordinary stories though my Jewish lesbian heart and mind.

As The Dead Ones is about clearing your family house, what is something you’d like to leave behind?
My tendency to be anxious, I used to call it neurotic until my psychiatrist said it was anxiety.

What is something we should make sure that we never leave behind?
A sense of humour, the ability to embrace difference and fight against injustice.

Apart from the Midsumma, what festival would you love to be a part of?
Well, I have long been part of the Feast Festival so I already have loved being part of this brilliant queer Festival.

I would love my show to be part of the Sydney Festival.  I grew up in Sydney so being part of this big mainstream shebang would be excellent. The Opera House is my preferred venue.

What was the first festival you were a part of?
The Surry Hills Community Festival in Sydney in the 70s, the first one which I was part of initiating.

What else are you looking forward to doing on your trip to Melbourne?
Going to Acland Street, going to Hares and Hyenas, having a sea bath, meeting lots of Jews, lesbians and other queer people who come to my show, working with my fabulous director Catherine Fitzgerald, perfoming at Theatre Works.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
The entire Jewish population of Melbourne – that’s a lot of people!! The entire theatre going lesbian population of Melbourne, and everyone else who goes to theatre in Melbourne.

If you mean one person, then whoever would pick up my show for the Sydney Festival.

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
Keep going.

What’s the worst and/or best thing a reviewer has said about you or your show?
The best thing is the review I got for The Dead Ones in The Australian which said: “Fischer’s signature, right back to the early days of her theatre company Vitalstatistix, has always been sharp and zany – perceptive, full of feeling, but finding a lightness to express the darkness, stealing a wry smile from adversity.”

What’s your favourite gelati flavour?
Blood orange.

What was the last film you loved?
Oedipus Wrecks by Woody Allen. It is a short film I saw last night on DVD and it made me laugh a lot.

What’s the best thing to do when it’s over 40° and you don’t have air conditioning?
Find somewhere that has air conditioning

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
Yiddish comedy CDs. Why because I realised what I spoke at home was Yiddish, that it was funny, and I was funny in the way Yiddish comedy is funny.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
I am working on The Dead Ones with the director I always wanted to work with: Catherine Fitzgerald. I would also love to work again with Rosalba Clemente, who directed my show The Gay Divorcee.

What do love most about your show?
The beautiful projected images that go with the text throughout the show.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

27 January 2013

Chatting update

A popular read on AT is the A quick what with mini-interview.

But those bloody interwebs gremlins can make things disappear or hard to find, so here are some from the last couple of years. (If I've missed yours, let me know. It's not personal, it's brain slush.)

And yell out if want to do one.

The Suitcase Royale: Zombatland at Arts House
Jeremy Davies: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz
Bec Matthews: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz
Stevee Mills: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz
Luke Taylor: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz
Ania Reynolds: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz
Dale Woodbridge: From The Ground Up by Circus Oz

Fiona Macleod, Almost With You at La Mama
Xavier O’Shannessy, UnAustralia at La Mama
Ben GrantThe Shrink and Swell of Knots at La Mama
Shannon Woollard, Death of a Comedian at La Mama

Xavier Bouvier (Okidok), Slips Inside for Melbourne Festival
Young Jean LeeWe’re Gonna Die for Melbourne Festival
Daniel Crisp (Circa), Wunderacts for Melbourne Festival

Melissa Fergusson, PlaySix
Bridgette Burton, Play Six

Stephen House, Johannes Scherpenhuizen and Sarah Hamilton, 2011 Melbourne Fringe
Jonno Katz and Mel Dodge, 2011 Melbourne Fringe
Timothy Clark, Bron Battern, Ash Flanders and Kate McLennan, 2011 Melbourne Fringe
Miles O'Neil, Miranda Hill, Jennifer Williams and Robert Lloyd, 2011 Melbourne Fringe
Anna Lumb, Dan Kilby, Spencer Gignall and the Wau Wau Sisters, 2011 Melbourne Fringe

26 January 2013

Chat: Matthew Hyde, Theatre Works

Here Lies Henry
22–19 January
Theatre Works

The Theatre Works Midsumma program started with the sold out Psycho Beach Party and promises to continue being awesome with Sydney Fringe favourite Here Lies Henry.

Henry has an aversion to telling the truth, but actor Matthew Hyde doesn’t mind chatting with AMP.

Describe Here Lies Henry in three words?
Funny, profound, sexy.

Who shouldn’t miss the show?
Anyone who likes challenging, unconventional theatre that throws out the rule book. Anyone who just wants to play, be entertained, laugh, cry, think, feel, question and ultimately celebrate the sheer act of living in the here and now.

What other Midsumma show(s) will you NOT miss?
I’ve heard Here Lies Henry is simply not to be missed, other than that I would like to check out Gaybies, Bent Burlesque and The Prince’s Quest – An Adult Performance sounds a lot of fun.

Midsumma is 25 this year. What do you remember most about being 25?
Deciding to pack up my bags, kiss London and my native UK goodbye and move to the Emerald City.

Midsumma is also about celebrating queer culture. What does your show celebrate?
It celebrates us as human beings in all our wonderful complexity as well as love in all its beauty and pain.

As Henry is a liar, what’s something you’ve lied about?
My age.

What’s something you should never lie about?
Telling a casting director “of course I can do that accent!” in order to get an audition.

Apart from the Midsumma, what festival would you love to be a part of?
The Edinburgh Festival; it’s massive!

What was the first festival you were a part of?
A dance festival aged eight. I had a tap solo, a ballet solo and was in two group numbers.

What else are you looking forward to doing on your trip to Melbourne?
Hanging out with my mate Indi whose house I will be gate crashing, catching up with Melbourne friends, drinking coffee in the hidden alleyways, seeing theatre and visiting the rooftop bars.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
My family in the UK. It’s a bit too far for them to come, which is a shame as I’m so proud of the show.

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
“Grab it by the balls darling and act the shit out of it” and “Find the truth and play it from the heart.”

What’s the worst and/or best thing a reviewer has said about you or your show?
I haven’t had anything really bad said about me (yet), In his review o Henry, Jason Blake from the SMH said,“If there is a harder working actor in Sydney at the moment then I haven’t seen him’. I felt this was testament to the blood, sweat and tears of the rehearsal room.

What’s your favourite gelati flavour?

What was the last film you loved?
The Iranian film called A Seperation.

What’s the best thing to do when it’s over 40° and you don’t have air conditioning?
Absolutely head to the beach and soak it up.

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
Without doubt have to be this show Here Lies Henry. To stand in a spotlight with nothing but the text, your body and your imagination is a whole new skill set. It took me right out of my comfort zone in every possible sense, but I learnt to not be afraid and be excited by it.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
A Shakespeare play with Judi Dench as a cast member and Michael Grandage directing.

What do love most about your show?
Not knowing what’s going to happen each night, the audience is literally the other character and what they do very much dictates what Henry does. It’s scary as all hell but oh so exciting!

Photo by Shannon Ashlyn

Chat: Genevieve Giuffre, Theatre Works

Psycho Beach Party
11–19 January
Theatre Works

Melbourne’s Midsumma festival has been celebrating queer culture for 25 years and officially runs from 13 January to 3 February. Theatre Works started with Psycho Beach Party.

When people in the town are attacked in strange sado-masochistic ways, it is up to the surf-bums and a B-Grade Horror star to find the culprit and save a Gidget-esque nerd with a dream to surf from her potentially lethal sexual awakening.

Directed by sex.blood.violence.gore’s Stephen Nicolazzo, its recent Bondi season blew Sydney away and the short Melbourne season is selling so well that you shouldn’t wait. Anne-Marie Peard chats with Genevieve Giuffre (sex.blood.violence.gore, Summertime in the Garden of Eden) about awesome stuff like leopard print, taking risks and gelati.

Describe your show in three words?
Sex on drugs OR Oceanic leopard cult.

Who shouldn’t miss your show
Lovers of the words above.

Will anyone hate it?
Not even the jealous people will be able to hate on it.

What other Midsumma show(s) will you NOT miss?
Here lies Henry – they bump in after us, and what’s this I see…Vieux Carre Tennessee, yes I will!

Midsumma is 25 this year. What’s your toast?
Happy Birthday Midsumma, bless your heart! Year of the Dragon.

Midsumma is also about celebrating queer culture. What does your show celebrate?
Individualism in the form of leopard print and sexual expression. Jungle fever. Oh and insanity.

What films did you have to watch to prepare for Psycho Beach Party?
I watched a lot of Friday night lights proceeding this show, it definitely ignited my already blazing sense of team spirit. No really! I revisited some Gidget and took a sneak peak at Beach Blanket Bingo, I just couldn’t go past that title.

Would you swim at St Kilda beach?
Before and after every show I will swim in god’s pool.

Apart from the Midsumma, what festival would you love to be a part of?
CMA Nashville.

What was the first festival you were a part of?
Book week at school.

How would you convince a north-sider to cross the river to St Kilda?
I’d say it’s okay, you can bring your flask just hop on the 112 or 96 and come get sexy

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
Well my truest answer would be Dan Wylie, but he already came to opening night of the Sydney season! Dreams really do come true!

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
Take the big risks. It’s more fun.

What’s the worst and/or best thing a reviewer has said about you or your show?
A reviewer referred to my character, Berdine, as having a cleft palate. I don’t actually have one so that’s pretty cool I think. It’s subjective. It’s all subjective.

What’s your favourite gelati flavour?
Peppermint mixed with a scoop of rainbow.

What was the last film you loved?
The last film I loved was in fact the first film I loved, Cry Baby. ‘Hey Mr Jailer’, so much joy!

What’s the best thing to do when it’s over 40° and you don’t have air conditioning?
Get the gang together, dine in at McDonald’s Acland Street and book a group ticket for Psycho Beach Party at Theatre Works.

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
Star Wars exists. All things imagined are real in the theatre. Fantasy has its place.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
I would want to make country music with Ryan Adams, a film with David Lynch and take pictures with Terry Richardson.

What do love most about your show?
The cast. The PBP cult are the most fun people in Straya right now!

Originally on AussieTheatre.com

25 January 2013


"But will you quote me tomorrow?"

If you want to see how critics spend their Friday afternoons or want to stalk us, head to Twitter and search #criticsongs.

All-a-twitter over Midsumma's Henry

Here Lies Henry at Theatre Works is about a liar and #Midsumma is a all-a-twitter because reviewers don't agree and never lie.

The Midsumma festival celebrates that we all see the world differently and that it's ok to be exactly who you are, unless you're a theatre critic who doesn't explode a glitter bomb of quotables for every show.

I love reading a review that is so different from my own that I wonder if we saw the same show, and embrace such a diversity of opinion because if we all agreed, I can assure you that the only thing that show would be is BORING.

Matt Hyde in front of his poster. Pic nicked from @Theatre_Works 

On Arts Hub, Nicole Eckersly liked the Henry.

"... an epic monologue, veering like a Mad Mouse between endearing, witty, existential, awkward, hilarious, black, insightful, and, more often than not, several of the above simultaneously."

In The Age, Cameron Woodhead wasn't so keen.

"Much of the gay stuff feels grafted on, gratuitous. The stereotype isn't playfully explored. Mainstream gay male culture comes across as superficial and boring and the shallowness represented lacks complexity and affective range - and, therefore, anything in the way of effective critique."

That makes me want to read more and find out why he didn't like it. He tells us. A good review doesn't mean praise.

I was somewhere in between.

"You don't have to believe someone to enjoy their tales, but reviewers never lie, so don't be scared to get to Here Lies Henry before it ends on Sunday. It's intense and mad and will leave you wondering."

"You don't have to believe someone to enjoy their tales ..."

Reviewers are writers. Writers tell stories.

I read other reviews to see a show from eyes other than my own. I know what I think. I want to know what goes on inside other people's heads.

PS: "Cameron hated it" will get more people along to see Here Lies Henry than "A-M liked it".

Review: Here Lies Henry

Here Lies Henry
TurnAround Productions, Theatre Works
22 January 2013
Theatre Works
to 27 January

Actor Matthew Hyde said that some of the best acting advice he's had is: “Grab it by the balls darling and act the shit out of it” – and he sure does so in Here Lies Henry, the second show in the Theatre Works Midsumma season.

Here Lies Henry by Canadian writer Daniel MacIvor was first produced in 1995 and first seen in Australia at the 2012 Sydney Fringe, the same production that's here for Midsumma.

It's a solo work about a guy maybe called Henry. He wonders what happened to Nigel Kennedy, likes Lady Ga Ga and he lies, possibly because he fears that the truth will leave him naked or because he knows how great pathological liars are at parties.

He really wants to tell us something we don't know, but that's not easy, especially when he's caught up in his past and his own truth – and we know he tells porkies, so never know when to believe him.

This isn't a linear plot that's easy to follow. It's not hard to follow either and is best enjoyed by jumping on and going with the ride that twists and tumbles and leaves us not knowing which way is up.

And Matthew Hyde's a delight who leaves everyone understanding why pathological liars usually have an abundance of friends: they are fun to be around and you never know what they are going to do next, even if don't trust them to tell the time. There's room for more light and shade in his charismatic performance; his grab it by the balls approach gets attention but makes it easy to focus on the performer rather than the character and his story.

You don't have to believe someone to enjoy their tales, but reviewers never lie, so don't be scared to get to Here Lies Henry before it ends on Sunday. It's intense and mad and will leave you wondering.

A chat with Matthew on AT

This was on AussieTheatre.

Review: Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré 
ITCH Productions
20 January 2013
to 3 February

Vieux Carré is one of Tennesse Williams lesser-known plays. It opened on Broadway on 30 April 1977, closed on 15 May and didn't add to the playwright's collection of Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (two) or New York Drama Critic's Circle prizes for Best American Play (four).  ITCH's Midsumma production is already selling out houses and running longer than its premiere production, but it's showing why it wasn't a hit.

Set in the New Orleans French Quarter (Vieux Carré) in the late 30s, it's an autobiographical work about a young gay writer who moves into a not-so-classy boarding house filled with Williams's familiar broken characters who are mentally or physically ill, fragile, bullied or bullies, and desperately lonely.

The striking design, Alexandra Hiller (set) and John Dutton (lights), fills the spacious fortyfivedownstairs and readily evokes the steamy hot decay of the New Orleans from a Williams play. And, as director Alice Bishop recently went to the city in search of Tennesse's ghost, it is perhaps as close as we can get to the French Quarter. (But anyone stuck on the side seats should at least get a couple of free drinks because their view is so obstructed.)

The writer at the centre of the play acts as narrator and writes about his interactions with his boarding house neighbours and landlady.  By themselves, most of the multiple stories could stand by alone, but told together they don't create a greater a whole, and it feels more like an exploration of character rather than a complex story. Which is all great, especially as the each performer brings something unique and watchable, but for all its beauty, atmosphere and good performances, there's a mix of styles on the stage, which highlights the loose structure of the script by separating the stories and characters.

Vieux Carré isn't one of Tennesse Williams's well-known plays because it doesn't compare to his great ones. It takes a lot to overcome a not-there script. ITCH have a lot of terrific people, so I'd really like to see this company and cast tackle one of his great ones, because this one isn't showing how good they can be.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Justin Kane

23 January 2013

Woodhead on Wilson

There's a terrific interview with Robert Wilson in The Age today by Cameron Woodhead. Here.

Melbourne's been lucky to see Wilson's The Temptation of St Anthony (MIAF 07) and I La Galigo (MIAF 06), but the Perth Festival gets Threepenny Opera.

In the meantime, I'm trying to find a way to get to Perth to and have already done a happy dance knowing Einstein on the Beach is here in July.

Review: Ovo

Cirque Du Soleil
17 January 2013
The Grand Chapiteau at Docklands
to 24 March

The last time Cirque Du Soleil was in town,  Saltimbanco was performed in a so-wrong sports arena, so it's wonderful to have Ovo back in the relative intimacy of the purpose-built tent town of the Grand Chapiteau – even if it is in the weird concrete emptiness of Docklands.

In 2013, 15 million people will see one of the 20 different Cirque Du Soleil shows performing around the world. To date, over 100 million people have seen one of their shows. That's not bad for a company that started in Quebec in 1984 with a group of 20 street performers who wanted to create imaginative, emotion-provoking circus with live music and no animals that could travel the world.

Ovo shrinks us down to see a community of insects who want to protect, eat or cherish an egg, whatever it holds.  With incredible costumes (Liz Vandal) and make up (Julie Begin) that start with the intricate beauty of a bug, turn up the colour and pattern to human-size and make it even more gorgeous, it may convince non-bug lovers and even arachnophobes that critters with six or more legs are cool and not to be squished.

With a troupe of the bendiest, fittest, strongest, fearless performers from around the world, the tricks and routines are they-did-NOT-just-do-that jaw-dropping and, like the design, always taken to a level that's rarely surpassed.

My favourites were the dragonfly's hand balance (Volodymyr Hrynchenko), the firefly's amazing diablo (Tony Frebourg) and the spider on a slackwire (Ailato Julaiti). And each act ends with enough OMG moments to satisfy the most jaded. Act one ends with a team of 11 flying scarabs (Artem Burnukin, Alexander Grol, Nina Kartseva, Roman Khayrullin, Konstantin Kolbin, Maxim Komlev, Aleksandr Mischenko, Evgeny Mitin, Andrey Shapin, Valeri Tomanov, Sarfabek Zardakov) – which a good chunk of the audience get to watch from below the net – and act two with a tramp-o wall of 11 gravity-defying crickets (Michel Boillet, Lee Brearley, Kasper Falkesgaard, Shaun Gregory, Laura Houson, Yahia Icheboudene, Roman Karpovich, Sébastien Laifa, Karl L’ecuyer, Ludovic Martin, Gary Smith).

Any Cirque Du Soleil show is as spectacular and slick as a performance can be. But is there anything duller than perfection?

Its no-possibility-of-mistakes or hint of individuality leaves it feeling souless. The performers are magnificent, but it feels like they could do the show in their sleep. Cirque has become a brand that doesn't deviate and, like ordering at any Evil Ms around the world, you know exactly what you're going to get. I saw Saltimbanco the first time Cirque came to Australia in the 90s and was blown away by a show that oozed so much love, originality and wow. But it feels like the bigger they get, the harder it is to connect to those millions of people who want to experience something incredible.

Now, I have to rant about merchandise. I know that merchandise makes money and companies need money to pay staff and artists and bring shows to the other side of the world, but to have so much lovely stuff at small-person eye level has got to make anyone taking children bonkers. The tickets to see this show are by no means cheap, but throw in snacks, a $30 program and a $39 toy frog (which was so damn cute that if they were $20, I would have bought some for presents and kept one for myself), I have no idea how families can enjoy Ovo. If your choice is a month's rent/mortgage payment or take the family to the circus, it's no wonder that the answer is a DVD and popcorn made in the microwave. I'm not saying don't sell the stuff, but can it be slightly less tempting so that buying is a choice rather than something driven by guilt or nagging?

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photos by Benoit Fontaine

21 January 2013

Review: Oh Suivant

Oh Suivant
Arts Centre Melbourne, Explosive Media
15 January 2013
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 27 January

If you're looking for a terrific show for fussy audiences, Oh Suivant at the Arts Centre won hearts and kept everyone's attention – even the grown ups!

This two-person circus from Belgium melds trick, live music and theatre in a work that's created for little ones, but enchants everyone and refuses to treat children as anything but the most intelligent and discerning audience.

Juggler and balancer extraordinaire Dirk Van Boxelaere and musician Fien Van Herwegan delight with a gentle and gorgeous work that feels like it's from a 1940s circus tent from a world where entertainment was made by live people instead of electronics. There's room for more story in the character and trick, but the characters are so lovely and the tricks so slick that it wasn't a problem.

But it is a show to be enjoyed with children. There were as many small as big people in today's 11 am audience and everyone was having fun (and if only it were ok to ask "Why is the man on the table?" and other questions during non-kid shows). I was with a 7-month-old who bounced and giggled for an hour and a nearly-three-year-old who couldn't tell me what her favourite bit was because she loved it all.

Suivant is a perfect introduction to theatre and promises to create a love of theatre in little hearts and may even re-ignite that love in some of the older ones.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

19 January 2013

When cunt isn't cool at Midsumma

Why is cunt still the ultimate insult?

I saw two Midsumma plays at La Mama on Friday night: both used "cunt" as their ultimate insult word.

I say and write cunt. I've used it as an insult (about women) and a compliment. One of the best phrases I've heard was someone telling me they were in the middle of a "cunting grant application". I've said cunt in frustration, I've used it sexually (a pussy is a cat and Fanny is a woman called Frances). I've used it to shock and to fit in, but mostly because it's the best word to use at the time.

I don't think cunt's a taboo word because I don't think cunts are disgusting.

Cunts are cool.

I love mine.

What I try to never do is use cunt to insult a man (I call them cocks), but too often I hear cunt used to insult men because it's the worst thing they can possibly be. You may be a poof, but I can insult you more by calling you a cunt, a woman.

Fag Boy and the Married Man and Cock are both plays about intolerance and cunt is only used three times over both, but that was enough to make me raise my eyebrows and scowl.

I don't think either writer was even aware of their hypocrisy.  Fag Boy screams about the pain of word choice and one of the stronger moments in Cock is a man saying how anal sex doesn't make you a girl and that being a girl is not the worst thing you can be.  (Although it might be a winner to say "woman", especially as it follows a list of men compared to a list of boys.)

Despite all our reclaiming and See-you-next-Tuesday-ing, cunt is so ingrained as the worst word that it's used too often without realising what it means to call someone a cunt.

So what are some better words that are really vile?

Hangover spew, burst hemaroid, rotting roadkill, month old lumpy milk, Alan Jones, Tony Abbott, Kyle Sanderlands, the NRA, Westboro Baptists, the Australian Christian Lobby?

No, they're not bad enough. We need a word that there's no coming back from because of the hate and fear and grossness it represents.

So, the next time you go to use cunt as an insult, please substitute "myki".

(If you don't live in Melbourne,  Google myki and be prepared for some impressive complaints.)

PS. I tried to find a pic of the Girlesque show that has a back drop of C-U-N-T in giant gold letters, but  I couldn't find a search phrase that helped.

Midsumma quickies

Fag Boy and the Married Guy
La Mama, Tunks Productions
18 January 2013
La Mama
to 27 January

The oddest thing about Fag Boy and the Married Guy is that the plot is detailed in its program guide description (and the title does away with the need for the first few minutes of the show), so there are no surprises and no tension if you've read it. Maybe don't read the program guide if you want to see it.

La Mama, An Untitled Theatre Company
18 January 2013
La Mama
to 27 January

Meanwhile, also at La Mama, Cock isn't what its title suggests.

Written and devised with his cast (Hikaru Freeman, Daniel Kilby, Josh Dore, Richard Manzart, Grant Morrisey), Kevin McGreal's work is an experiment in form that uses the unique talents of his cast to look at questions about gay male culture from different perspectives. And, of course, it's not just about cock.

Using dance, song and monologue, some pieces work better than others and as a whole the work needs some shaping, but it's made from the hearts, frustrations and loves of its makers, which is why I haven't written any cock jokes. 

Turns out I do like sundried tomatoes
Geraldine Hickey
17 January – 9 February

I saw Geraldine's show in the comedy festival last year. It was terrific then and I expect it's even better now.

Here's my review.

18 January 2013

Review: Gaybies

There aren't many seats left for Gaybies and it finishes tomorrow/today (Saturday).

Everyone has loved it to pieces and all the reviewers are raving. Here's Cameron's review for a start.

Midsumma and Dale Splender
16 January 2013
Sumner Theatre, MTC
to 19 January

Gaybies is on its way to being an important piece of theatre that shakes up stale and dull opinions. Opening at Midsumma, it's singing show tunes with the choir, but there couldn't be a better and more fabulous audience to introduce this work to.

Created by music theatre director/creator Dean Bryant, Gaybies is the first work commissioned by the Midsumma festival, which has been celebrating queer culture for 25 years. With little time and resources, Bryant explored verbatim theatre – verbatim theatre recreates interviews (The Laramie Project is one of the more famous) – and interviewed people whose voices and stories aren't always heard in the talkback radio screaming, media hoo ha and politician point scoring over what makes a family: children with one or more gay or lesbian parents.

If you've ever even thought "But what about the children?", here's the answer.

There's the awkwardness of seeing your dad at a gay club, the unexplainable death of too many "uncles" in the 80s, surprising a teen boyfriend's mum by explaining that drag queens taught you how to wear pantyhose and heels, and the "who cares!" attitude of friends when you out your mum – but it's mostly stories about kids being kids and parents being parents. And I dare anyone to not relate to at least one story on the stage regardless of their gender, sexuality or attitude.

As the first time it's been seen and having only gone into the rehearsal room this week, it's presented as a semi-read work, but the scripts are noticeable for a few seconds and the books become part of the stage story. There's heart and guts in every story told, but it's Daniel Clarke's gorgeous direction that brings shape and structure to the stage and the script (that's still a bit rambly). With songs, a party table, craft, bubbles and compulsory glitter, he creates context and a reason for everyone to be and stay on the stage and to get up and share their story.

And bringing every bit of love they have to the stage, there's a cast of local favourites who are all so lovely that no one can be singled out: Trevor Ashley, Virginia Gay, Brent Hill,  Gareth Keegan, Kate Kendall, Todd McKenney, Emily Milledge, Ben Mingay, Christina O'Niell, Alex Rathgeber, Georgia Scott, Magda Szubanski, Rob Tripolino and Christie Whelan-Browne.

Gaybies is created to knock out intolerance , but it's more a celebration of everyone who has faced even a hint of that intolerance in their lives and been left wondering or hurt at its ridiculousness. See it because you want to celebrate or just because it's honest, beautiful and heartwarming. And it only runs until Saturday, so you really have to get organised now.

The Midsumma audiences are adoring this show, but to have the impact that it will have, it needs to get  produced, supported and seen widely. I believe that dullness and intolerance can change with truth, so what about starting with performance at a full sitting of our federal parliament?

This was on AussieTheatre.com

More of Ash and Stephen on Midsumma

SM: Now that you've had a sold out Midsumma show (Psycho Beach Party) that even the vanilla critics loved, what are you going to do for the rest of the festival?

Stephen Nicolazzo

 Photo by Sarah Walker

"I'm going to sell my body to the highest bidder and get a tattoo branding me a "Sell Out" on the unmentionable (my inner thigh). That and start work on my next queer project. Am already in music selection mode. Think The Eurythmics meets motown meets Bauhaus. I also really want to see Here Lies HenryThe Dead OnesGaybies and Vieux Carré."

Ash Flanders

 Photo by Sarah Walker

"I'm going to take ALL the reviews and ALL the ticket stubs to Centrelink and shout out "SEE! I TOLD YOU!!!!!" I shall then snap my fingers in a Z-formation before tap-dancing outta there singing AIN'T NOTHING GONNA BREAK MY STRIDE by Unique II.

I shall then return the following day to see if I'm owed any back-pay."

Bonus pic

The men who inspired a lot of Ash's Negative Energy Inc at the Midsumma carnival. 
Photo nicked from Facebook.

17 January 2013

Review : Psycho Beach Party

Psycho Beach Party
Little Ones Theatre and Theatre Works
11 January 2013
Theatre Works
to 19 January – but it's SOLD OUT

Hot diggity! If Psycho Beach Party isn't the most hip, groovy and neat-o hit of Midsumma, then I've got no idea what people like. Full of lust, longing and psychotic shaving, it proves that you don't have to be a queen to be camp or be gay to be queer.

There's songs by the B52s on a beach made of leopard print and shiny silvery-black steamers (Owen Phillips) that's filled with a super-hot cast of dream boats and gals dressed in leopard print and black (Eugyeene Teh). Do you need to know more?

Charles Busch has been playing women and looking damn fine in a frock since the 70s and been writing like plays the 80s off-Broadway hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. In 1987, he wrote (and starred in) Psycho Beach Party. It's like a 60s Annette/Gidget beach film with dreamboats and boyish girls who learn how to to surf and how to fill out a bikini, but with a Hitchcockish undertone (without the misogyny) and a bloody splash of a multiple personality psychodrama and drive-in slasher flick. It's a bit like if Sybil and Freddie stayed at the new Bates motel on Malibu beach, but gayer.

And there's no one better to re-imagine this American queer cultural-mash-up than director Stephen Nicolazzo and his company Little Ones Theatre. Its first season was at the Bondi Pavillion last year, but Melbourne has Theatre Works, even if St Kilda has never seen a surfer.

Nicolazzo models Psycho Beach Party as a parody that's not a spoof. It's non-stop hilarious, but it doesn't make fun of the absurd plot and outrageously stereotyped characters. Instead, it takes what we genuinely adore about about these genres and turns the volume up to magnificent, as it laughs at the dull squares who don't understand the fun – and reminds us how it's not about gender by letting drag heroine (Ash Flanders) perform without wig, padding or tuck. He does have a lovely hair clip though and a decolletage that lets him wear strapless gown without fear of side boob.

Mz Flanders is joined by a too-gorgeous selection from the new gen of local enfant terrifics: Genevieve Giuffre, Peter Paltos, Caitlin Adams, Kevin Kiernan Molloy, Zoe Boesen, Paul Blenheim, Tom Dent and Amanda McGregor and much of Psycho's magnificence comes from this cast who love every second the show, but never let that love get in the way of stiletto-sharp performances.

It finishes on Saturday 19; that's less than a week away and if you don't get a ticket ASAP, you'll be left like a wall flower who never took their sneakers off at the Sock Hop.

Photo by Sarah Walker

This was on AussieTheatre.com

16 January 2013

Little Birdy cheep tix

Tickets should cost money

If I didn't write about theatre, I wouldn't be able to see anywhere near as much theatre as I do.

I don't get paid to review*, but I get tickets, which I'm able to share with friends who mostly work in the arts so also can't afford the luxury of seeing a lot of theatre.

Theatre tickets aren't free because theatre is created by people who deserve to get paid in the same way that your doctor or postie expects to get paid for doing their job. And if you think theatre pays well, take your ticket price and divide it by the number of names on the program, then throw in the costs of front of house staff, venue hire, insurance, cleaning, publicity, rights, printing and the wine and sandwiches for reviewers and friends on opening night.

There's little appreciation of the hours it takes to create any performance by those who don't do it.

I used to work for in local government programming live entertainment for large festivals. I had to stop counting how many very well-paid staff members would ask me if the entertainers would do it for free or for a crap hourly rate because "they'll be seen by people" and  "that's what they want".

I once had a fight with a friend once because she'd figured out a way to sneak into a large Adelaide Fringe venue via a toilet with two doors; she didn't accept my argument that if they don't give you the ticket, it's stealing.

But knowing and supporting that creators deserve to be able to pay their rent doesn't solve the problem of how to support and enjoy theatre when you don't have a pile of ready cash – which is often because you're a creator and spend your free time doing things you don't get any money for.

Then there's the problem of how to get people to love and appreciate your work. Unsold works, posts with no hits and empty seats can hurt.

Little Birdy

Ronnie Fazekas also understands these frustrations.

So she formed Little Birdy Tix to give artists access to new audiences and folk like us access to tickets.

Ronnie says, "My background is in ticketing, managing the ticketing for quite a large number of festivals, venues and events both here and in the UK. I spent a lot of time with upset artists, producers etc who either couldn't afford publicity for their show or simply didn't understand how important new audience members are to the growth of their ticket sales.

"On the flip side, I dealt with thousands of general public members who were overwhelmed by choice and quite possibly were very unfamiliar with seeing live performance in general, often choosing to buy a ticket based on a sold out sticker (buying to another date) or walking away not buying anything.

"I wanted to help both groups!"

And she has.


For punters, it costs $55 to join Little Birdy. For this you can have two tickets for shows promoted on the site. This usually makes your membership pay for itself after one show. Ronnie says that in the eight months Little Birdy has been running, some members have used over $1000 worth of tickets. That's gotta be the best deal around.

However, if you can't make it to a show, you have to cancel within two hours of the start or risk losing your membership. Fair enough, I think.

If you join now, you could nab tickets to eleven shows including see Midsumma's Gaybies at the Sumner Theatre, AcidTongue and Dollface at the Owl and the Pussycat, Equus at Revolt and not a very good story at La Mama.

Gaybies (which may have already sold out)

AND if you want to head to SA for the Adelaide Fringe, you can already grab tickets for shows at The Garden of Unearthly Delights. There's enough free shows to fill a few days, which could leave you with enough money to get to Adels, buy beer and spend your change on seeing more Fringe shows.


If you have empty seats or want to bring a new audience to your shows, listing your show on Little Birdy is free. FREE!  (That's easier that asking an arts journo to write a story about you.)

Members hear about you through the Little Birdy website, the weekly newsletter, Twitter or Facebook. And members are asked to share the love and create the buzz by sharing on their accounts.

You're not getting ticket income, but if your show is great, the chances of audiences recommending you to their friends and paying to see your next work are pretty good. And they'll probably buy a wine and a program. Regardless, it's always better to have bums on seats and it's amazing what good word of mouth and a couple of full houses does for the rest of your season.

Please join

I think this is one of the best new ventures I've seen.

Little Birdy Tix are joining audiences to shows and artists, while encouraging and helping people to see a lot of theatre.  This can only help to build all audiences and support all companies and venues, and I suspect that it's going to be wonderful during festivals when the choice scares the best of us.

Become a Little Birdy member HERE.

* But if anyone wants to give me a job where I get paid to write about theatre, I'll say yes please and promise to submit on time. And there's a donation button on the right.

I want to see a sky dinosaur

How much would you give to see a dinosaur in the sky?

I'd like to see a Stegosaurus, but I'm happy with any giant herbivore.

Here's Louise telling us why Project Sky Dinosaur is going to be too awesome and why it won't be a Steggy.

Project Sky Dinosaur from John Richards on Vimeo.

So please forsake a latte or pear cider and donate at Pozible because I really want to see it.

15 January 2013

Ta-da: Oh Suivant

Oh Suivant
Arts Centre Melbourne, Explosive Media
15 January 2013
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 27 January

If you're looking for a terrific show for fussy audiences, Eliza (nearly 3) recommends Oh Suivant at the Arts Centre and demonstrates her performance-ready "ta-da" arms.

This two-person circus from Belgium melds trick, live music and theatre in a work that's created just for little ones, but enchants everyone and refuses to treat children as anything but the most intelligent and discerning audience around.

There was as many small as big people in today's 11 am audience and there wasn't anyone who wasn't having fun. 

Eliza's little brother (7 months) loved it as much as anyone and spent the hour bouncing so much that he was ready for a nap when it was photo time.

10 January 2013

Review: Songs For Nobodies

Songs For Nobodies
Duet, A Melbourne Theatre Company Production
4 January 2012
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 13 January, then touring

Somehow I'd missed Bernadette Robinson in Songs for Nobodies. If you also missed it, or know that you have to see it again, it's back in Melbourne at the Arts Centre and it is as great as everyone said it was.

I admit that I'm always dubious about a showcase work – and it's not like Melbourne has a shortage of  Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday or Maria Callas impersonators – so I went along mostly out of curiosity. Sure, curiosity sometimes kills, but it also uncovers choice treats and pillowy warm spots to rest and dream.

First seen in 2009, Songs for Nobodies was created to show off Robinson's astonishing singing. And rightly so; hers is a voice that grabs your heart at first note and doesn't let ago until there's silence. Director Simon Phillips saw this and, knowing that it had to be more than a cabaret, brought playwright Joanna Murray-Smith on board to find the story for this remarkable voice.

The soul of this new work comes from Murray-Smith's decision to not write about the divas whose songs Robinson sings, but to create stories about five nobodies whose lives were changed after encountering one of the great singers. From a 36-year-old ladies room attendant fixing Judy's hem after her concert at Carnegie Hall to a young journalist interviewing Billie and an English librarian telling how her father saw Edith perform in a prison camp, each story is complete and perfect and, for everyone who has seen this show, now inseparable from the well-known songs that accompany them.

Robinson's performance as ten different women is as magnificent as her singing and what makes this show so unforgettable is her seamless merge between characters without any hint of herself in between. For a work all about the performer, the performer is nowhere to be seen and she lets the five nobodies and five broken somebodies soak in the audience love.

This sadly leaves us with  no idea who Bernadette is or how she sounds when she's singing as herself. I'd have loved to see a sixth story or even an encore song, but I wonder if that revelation would take away from all that went before?

Songs For Nobodies is for Judy, Patsy, Edith, Billie and Maria fans and for anyone who hasn't heard them.  Robinson grasps what was unique and incredible about each singer and makes each song sound like it had never been sung before. It's on in Melbourne until Sunday 13 January, then it's off to Sydney and Adelaide.

This appeared on AussieTheatre.com

09 January 2013

Chat: Splendid Chaps live podcats

Splendid Chaps: A year of Doctor Who

Ben McKenzie and John Richards  like Doctor Who, so they've decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the telly show by being Splendid Chaps and hosting a year-long performance and podcast project.

Starting this Sunday, 13 January, they're recording a live podcast each month until November. Each month is dedicated to a specific doctor, has a new theme and is at a different venue. This month is about the First Doctor, William Hartnell, explores authority and is at Trades Hall (The Annex, Bella Union). You can book here.

Each visit, hosts Ben (Dungeon CrawlPop Up Playground) and John (Boxcutters podcast, Outland – really ABC, why hasn't this been repeated and where is Series 2?) and companion Petra Elliott will be joined by special guests. First up are Lee Zachariah (The Bazura Project, Hell Is For Hyphenates podcast), Nerida Haycock (3RRR), Alexandra Tynan (Sandra Reid) who designed the original Cybermen, and musical guest Geraldine Quinn with an updated version of her "Doctor Who's Assistant".

More info and episode zero of the podcast is at splendidchaps.com.

(Before anyone, including me, has a hissy: "We realise chaps is a gendered term, but with a podcast titled Splendid Chaps, we don’t imagine we’d get away with calling ourselves anything else." And the Brigadier said it.)

Meanwhile, Ben answers some questions.

Who’s your doctor?
If I had to pick a top three, it’d be Troughton, Davison and Smith. But I really do like them all.

What episode do you watch any time you get a chance?
Not an episode, but a story: The Caves of Androzani. Still my favourite, though some have come close in recent years. The first episode of The Talons of Weng-Chiang is pretty great too. A Christmas Carol is probably my favourite from new Who.

Can you remember the first episode you saw?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching Doctor Who, so no! Probably middle period Tom Baker, that seems to be what was on the ABC around the time I would have started. The first book was Terror of the Autons. Frightening cover! The first video I obsessed over was The Five Doctors. I know it off by heart.

How many Doctor Who toys do you own?
I have a few Dapol action figures and a TARDIS from back in the day, and a couple of sonic screwdrivers and pocket watches; not that many toys! It’s the books I collected. I have hundreds of them!

If the TARDIS landed in your living room, where/when would you ask to go?
Dinosaurs. And space. And aliens. The future, to learn how we answer the questions and solve the problems of today (spoilers!). Oh, just everywhere, I reckon. But mostly dinosaurs.

Photo by Robert Young

Kissing and crying in Doctor Who. Discuss.
I don’t think there should be a taboo against the Doctor doing either, but when you make him a romantic lead, you lose the unique position the show used to occupy in not having one. It made him much more anyone’s hero; a character any of us could be. Now he likes pretty young girls just like every TV hero. Hardly ground breaking stuff there! I thought it was sweet the way Paul McGann did it; Ecclestone’s made no sense to me; nearly everything since seems a bit gratuitous.

Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures?
The Sarah Jane Adventures. It's everything her appearance in new Who should have been and more. I loved it. Though special mention to Torchwood: Children of Earth for being quite brilliant, in sharp contrast to the other series of Torchwood.

What other TV shows are you obsessed by?
Doctor Who was my gateway into UK television, and I still love Press Gang, Monkey, Sapphire and Steel, The Prisoner, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, and Blackadder, of course. The Goodies   was hugely influential on me, it was far superior to Flying Circus in my book – I wish they’d release the whole series, not just bits and pieces. Hmmm…not much new on that list! I do love Lexx, but that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s delightfully weird. I am very keen on Game of Thrones, though I question it in some respects. The modern Sherlock is good, I’m a Holmes fan too from way back, so I’m also interested in Elementary. I was a huge Red Dwarf fan back in the day and I was incredibly (if pleasantly) surprised to find that the latest series is actually pretty good! The only show that has engendered anything like Doctor Who level devotion from me, though, is Community. Love every second.

Russell or Steven?
Steven, but only when he’s got his eye on the ball (and not working on twenty different things at once). I’m really interested to find out who’ll be next and what they’ll do, since we’ve seen several years of both these guys now.

Cyberman or Dalek?
I think they’re both equally interesting – when writers choose to make something of them. They’ve not been terribly exciting in recent history, with the notable exception of Rob Shearman’s Dalek.

Why should SM readers come to the live recording of Splendid Chaps?
Doctor Who is a show with a vibrant and wonderful fan community, and we’d love to share that with an audience. Plus, the live show will be around 90 minutes (with a break), but the podcast will be under an hour – so you’ll get bits you won’t hear on the podcast!