24 February 2013

Apologies and White Night

I haven't fallen off a cliff, it just feels like it.

Grovelly apologies to the shows I've seen in the last week or so and not reviewed. They've all been wonderful and deserve oodles of praise that I haven't been able to turn into words.

There are stories of colonies of artists and friends who live in amazing old buildings around St Kilda where all the neighbours like each other and feed each other's cats. I've been lucky enough to have made my 10-year Melbourne home in one of these amazing places, but my whole block was evicted last week. Apparently long-term tenants (15, 10, 9 and 8 years) isn't as good as renovating.

The critical writing part of my brain has seeped out with the tears, but I'm hoping to find it soon, along with a two-bedroom (or one with study) flat near the beach and public transport.

In the meantime:

Constellations at the MTC is the best thing I've seen from the MTC. Can't rave enough.

4000 Miles at Red Stitch is lovely and really worth seeing.

Tubular Bells was only on at the Melbourne Recital Centre for one night and I loved it to retro pieces.

Love Me Tender at Theatre Work is beautiful. Tom Holloway's writing is like music.

And, if you haven't been into Melbourne the city yet tonight, head in now for White Night, the all night arts event that has surpassed all expectations.

I walked through at 9.30 and have never seen so many people in the city. It was amazing and if I didn't have a bloody 9 am start tomorrow, I'd be there until the 7am finish.

23 February 2013

Mini review: Hair

9 February 2013

It may be impossible to not get caught up in the cast's infectious enthusiasm for Hair. From the lollies and condoms that come with the program to the hippyesque love that greets everyone at the door, it's a love fest of joy.  But neither direction nor design give a contemporary view of this very political piece of theatre or place it firmly in the context of protesting the war in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s. Given it's created and performed by people the same age as those facing the draft in Hair, that it's about a war that had an incredible impact on Australian culture, and it's presented in a city that helped to stop the draft in Australia with the Monatorium protests, there's so much material that could shape a piece that speaks to and about 2013.  For all its love, Hair fails to celebrate or share an understanding of those who rejected the idea of killing for their country or tell the story from the point of view of that generation's grandchildren.

12 February 2013

Mini review: Not a very good story

not a very good story
La Mama
10 February 2013
La Mama
to 10 February

Not a very good story IS a very good story with a very good title for an exceptionally good show. I didn't see it until the last night, but there's talk of new seasons and tours.

Written and performed by May Jasper, awkward Stephanie isn't immediately likeable, but works though her self-consciousness to tell us what happened when she was working the late shift at a call centre and what she did to try to save the people who gave her a grasp at hope and happiness.

She doesn't lay blame or completely understand why things went so wrong, but Jasper's beautiful writing lets the audience see the bigger picture and feel the extra anger and pain that we hope Stephanie can't.  The gently-paced script reveals its secrets only when it has to and its poignant ending is placed so delicately that it feels like it might shatter at the final applause.

11 February 2013

Music review: Miles and Simone

Miles and Simone
Valentine's tour
9 Feb 2013
Spiegeltent, Arts Centre Melbourne
facebook page

I've had a bit of a crush on Miles and Simone since they released their first CD, Home in Your Heart, last year, but on Saturday I watched a full Spiegeltent fall completely in love with this too gorgeous Melbourne duo.

Simone Page Jones wears an extra frilly dress with a floral print, red tulle and black tassels. She bought it in Barcelona in the hope that one day she'd wear it in the Spiegeltent. The only thing stopping her from floating off the stage in happiness is the the grounding influence of Miles O'Neil, who (even with fluffy ginger thighs) continues to re-define hipster op-shop style with a cream jacket that makes the 60s Vegas Rat Pack look uncool.

And they sing.

A Black Velvet cocktail has a base of rich stout that's topped with a crisp and sweet fizz and served in a curvy flute.  I have no idea how anyone thought these drinks should mix and make something quite perfect, but they do and it's like how Miles's chocolaty deep voice sounds so unexpectedly perfect with Simone's clear and sparkling sound – which isn't a like posh and over-priced Champagne, but more like a far better local wine with the kind of light sparkle that makes you smile with every sip.

Photo by Leila Koren

They talk like best friends and share stories about their songs with their besotted audience and each other, and I hope that they never lose the ability to surprise each other on stage. There's a song about a holiday in Apollo Bay, one set in a Fitzroy pub, songs about loves lost or run from, and now that I know Simone's song "Birdy" is about the galah that sits chained to a stand in a Bourke Street tobacco shop, I don't think I can listen without making sure that I go and give that bird a scratch.

With just Miles's guitar, their music is a little bit country, but with a loving and gentle sound that feels like they wrote them on an inner-city patch of grass on a perfect warm day. They remind me of the early 90s duets by the UK's The Beautiful South and their reminiscing tone is almost like The Go-Betweens "Cattle and Cane".

I took a friend who after two songs turned to me and said, "Do they have a CD? They're sublime." What more can I say. Miles and Simone are sublime.

You can buy Home in Your Heart here and they are launching the album in Sydney on Tuesday night at 8.30 at 107 Projects in Redfern (tickets at the door) and in Brisbane on Wednesday at 9.30 at the Brisbane Powerhouse (free).

More photos by Leila Koren

10 February 2013

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Tim Lawson
2 February 2012
Her Majesty's Theatre
to 17 March

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the car, is terrific, and deserves her curtain call.  She's awesome and cost over a million dollars to make, but all that spit, polish and Turtle Wax can't make her script sparkle.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the show, is a shiny lemon that really shouldn't be compared to the other Sherman brothers musical Mary Poppins and neither should this production be compared to the recent Australian Poppins.

Most of its shine is from Antony Ward's delicious design that gloriously evokes memories of the film but is original and contemporary and filled with hidden detail and surprises.

The story is about an inventor Caractacus Potts, his two children and their potential new mum, called Truly Scrumptious, who all take a trip in their amazing flying car to a place called Vulgaria, which has a glittery Nazi-esque monarchy and a creepy dude called the Child Catcher. It's based on the 1968 film, written by Roald Dahl (!) and Ken Hughes, that's based on a children's story by Ian (007) Fleming. I haven't read the book, but watched the film as a child (and a bit now on You Tube) and I don't think it's fair to compare them either.

For all the delightfully mad characters, the clunky stage story is forced, lacks basic this-happened-because logic and structure, has an unearned and tensionless ending, and doesn't let its wonderful characters be particularly interesting or creative because the car solves their problems. It feels like scenes have been squished together in the hope that it'll create delicate layers, but it's more a trifley mess where the yummy bits get lost in too much globby custard made from powder, no-fat milk and forgettable songs (apart from the ear-worm title song) that don't move the story or reveal anything new.

If anyone dares huff and say that kids don't care about these things, I suggest that you spend more time with children, read some children's books and watch kids when they watch theatre or films, or pick the scrummy bits out of a globby trifle. Kids near me were snoozing by the end, but my favourite moment was a little boy's declaration of "that's not funny". I'm with you, kid. It wasn't funny and I think people were only laughing to be polite.

It's certainly not the performers fault that it's a dud script.

All the children are especially terrific. I used to love watching children perform when I was a child and my best recommendation to see this is to let kids you know be inspired by other kids. It's just a shame that they have to play such goody-goodies who get out of trouble because they have a magic car rather than by planning ingenious mischief.

The comic characters bring genuine comic relief and, even in scenes that slow the story (what's with the Samba?), are a hoot. George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard as Vulgarian spies are popular with the kids, and grown ups will always groan at King Alan Brough and Queen Jennifer Vuletic's sexy royal shenanigans.

Rachel Beck is truly lovely as Truly, Peter Carroll is a delight as Grandpa Potts and David Hobson can sure sing, but lacks the love and appeal that should make every kid want Caractacus Potts as their dad, inspire all dads and uncles to be like him, and make the audience understand why Truly fancies him.

When you have a script that isn't brilliant, it's up to the director (Roger Hodgman) and the cast to bring extra to the stage so that the faults are forgivable. It feels like it was directed scene by scene rather than as a whole and most of the cast could bring a bit more heart to make their characters and the world real. I have to compare it to the recent production of Annie. Now, Annie's script is far from a gem, but every person on the stage, from stars to swings, knew their place in that world and found the love in the most cringe-worthy scenes; in Chitty the cast know their cues and the ensemble know their chorey (except a pair in the Samba who were counting, or maybe chatting).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's not a perfect show to begin with, but there's enough creative talent involved to overcome its problems and make it something really scrumptious. And unless they do, there's nothing wrong with buying the DVD and reading your kids some Roald Dahl stories about wonderfully wicked children.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

09 February 2013

Review: Silent

Fishamble, Arts Projects Australia
8 February 2012
The Lawler
to 10 February

Silent is another very short-run show that might be gone before everyone hears that they should see it. It finishes on Sunday, along with the remarkable Rape of Lucrece in the theatre next door.

Ireland's Fishamble company are all about new plays and writers (I love them already). Silent is written and performed by Pat Kinevane. He says that it's a chance for him to be grateful for every blessing because it could be him "lying against a post restaurant door". It won awards at the Edinburgh Festival and has toured the UK, Europe and the US.

Tino was named after Rudolph Valentino and he slips into the absurdly beautiful silent film style of his namesake to tell the story we've stopped to hear on a cold Dublin street.  Perhaps we dropped a coin without looking at him, perhaps we're looking for somewhere where we won't freeze tonight. Either way, we listen.

His story of homelessness starts with a childhood that could have been better, the suicide attempts of his brother (whose smile would "trump the smile of Jesus") and a slide into addiction and mental illness that lost him all of his "splendid things".  But it's not driven by what-ifs or if-onlys, but by a desperate need to speak with other people and break the unrelenting loneliness of having so little that you know that only 1 in 600 people will even look at you as they go by.

Kinevane is a compelling performer who lets us know that Tino knows we're still made uncomfortable by the sight of him. And his script creates Tino's world with witnesses who will never know his story and plants its ending so gently that it doesn't make us ask the right question until it's too late. It's beautiful writing.

Having toured and been polished, it suffers slightly from not being in a small intimate venue because empty seats and a large stage the create the space for audience to escape into, but it takes nothing away from the work that's full of the kind of hope that hurts as much as it supports.

FREE tickets for this are still available if you join Little Birdy Tix.

08 February 2013

Fresh Air Festival: BEST FUN EVER!

Fresh Air Festival
Pop Up Players, Federation Square
8 February 2013
The Edge, Federation Square
to 10 February
Saturday and Sunday: 1.00–4.00 and 6.00–9.00
All weekend, the totally wonderful and gorgeous Pop Up Players (who created This is a Door) invite everyone to play at the Fresh Air Festival: the International Festival of street games and constructive play.

It started tonight (Friday) and runs through to Sunday. And it's all FREE.

I played Chuck a Barbie, well that's what I called the Hummingbird Rally game.


And there are lots of other games: some crafty, some physical, some about being clever, some about luck, some about being a superhero and all about having fun. They are inside Fed Square in The Edge and outside in the square. They are for every age and it's not possible to not have fun.

Twitter: the good and the trollish

I've been on Twitter for a while now and finally beginning to really understand how it works.

Facebook is my friend, but I hadn't bonded with Twitter.

Last Friday, I spent some extra time there and it made me so angry that I burst out of my nice theatre-lady guise and became a screaming femmo leftie troll.

It started with a link to a  Sydney Morning Herald  piece titled: "Female enemy number one – other women?".  I'm not linking it because the outburst it created made it the top story on all of the online Fairfax papers by Saturday.

The day ended with Bernard Gaynor telling mamamia.com.au's Mia Freedman about being a good parent. Here, but it's vile and ignorant. This discussion started with a tweet from Gaynor saying that he "wouldn't let a gay person teach my children".  He calls people evil. Evil. He uses the word "evil". He hides behind his faith and values to call people who are not like him evil. I'd like to say that it left me unable to speak. Nup, it made me tweet.

On Saturday, I decided that Twitter made me angry and wasted too much of my time*, which isn't worth the new followers.

The result was restricting my Tweeting to theatre, leaving me free to see things like this:

The reviews are tweets, some not even using the full 140 characters. (OK, so I blogged as well, but it was the tweeting and re-tweeting that got the attention.) And @katiemelb is not the only one.

My decision maker to see The Rape of Lucrece was @alisoncroggon's tweet.

There was a gorgeous glut of love and support for the show generated by these tweets and to see proof that it results in more ticket sales makes me smile.

Random "it was cool" tweets won't get bums into empty seats, but if the tweeps have earned the trust or respect of their followers – by using more than a handful of words in other mediums – Twitter's WOM (word of mouth) is fast.

Theatre companies and festivals still don't use Twitter very well, but as WOT becomes more important this will change very quickly and I'm going to stay in the twitterverse.

Whether I can keep my femmo leftie troll under control is still to be seen.

Who am I kidding? She rocks and will continue to follow, reply to and re-tweet the glorious likes of @HelenRazer and @vanbadham.

And theatre lovers, please start with @Jadedhackeroo, @MelbourneArts, @richardthewatts, @alisoncroggon and @johnbonbailey.

* Then I watched QANDA on Monday night, smart-arse phone in hand ...

06 February 2013

Gush: The Rape of Lucrece

The Rape of Lucrece
Royal Shakespeare Company, Arts Projects Australia
6 February 2013
Sumner Theatre
to 10 February

I saw The Rape of Lucrece tonight. I'm still shaking.

It's harrowing and exquisite and I am completely and utterly in love with Camille O'Sullivan and Feargal Murray.

And Melbourne only has four more chances to see it.

Taking the Shakespeare poem and creating a "play with songs", it was developed by the new Royal Shakespeare Company studio in 2011 and won awards at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe.

I haven't read the poem. But, umm, wow. A poem told from the perspective of the rapist and the woman he raped. What is says about guilt and eternity left me with a lump in my soul that might not fade.

It's performed by Camille O'Sullivan. Why has no one dragged me to see her when she's been in Melbourne? She may the most watchable creature to ever grace a stage. She had me from the moment she opened her mouth to speak; then she sang.

It felt like the whole audience breathed in together and didn't look away until the last of the extended curtain calls.

Forget what she sounds like (but it's like a hand-made chocolate filled with chilli ganache and sharp honey-nut praline crisps), her voice comes from her heart and she sings with an emotion that comes from somewhere so deep and personal that it feels like every word was written for her.

And she's accompanied by pianist and her musical partner Feargal Murray, who developed the piece with her and director Elizabeth Freestone. A brilliant accompanist almost disappears and become an extension of the singer. He is brilliant.

I wasn't on a review ticket, so that's enough and I'm free to gush.

But SHAME MELBOURNE SHAME that there were so many empty seats. A half-empty theatre! I'm embarrassed that this incredible city isn't lining up for this show. You will love it, Melbourne. I know what else is on in town; this is the choice to make.

Song from the show: reverbnation.com.

To make it easier lasttix.com.au/melbourne have half price tickets.

Here's Joanna Bowen's review on AT

Theatre Works program announced

Theatre Works have announced their program for the first half of 2013. Hooray.

You can read it all here.

There's a co-production with Red Stitch, new works by Playback Theatre and Stuck Pigs Squealing, and return seasons of No Child... (the sold out 2012 Melbourne Festival show) and the Sisters Grimm backyard delight (that people are still complaining that they missed) Summertime in the Garden of Eden.

Creative Producer Daniel Clarke won the coveted SM "Everything he does rocks" award for 2012 for converting St Kilda's Theatre Works into a space where creative conversations happen on and off the stage, where we can see some of the most original independent work from Australia and elsewhere, and where local artists are trusted to imagine and create. Audiences increased by a jaw-dropping 71% last year and if the recent Midsumma sold-out houses are anything to go by, you know you should book so you don't miss out.

Photo by Sarah Walker.

05 February 2013

Chat: Tim Ross, Red Stitch

4000 Miles
Red Stitch Theatre
6 February – 9 March 2013       

Red Stitch’s first show for 2013 is 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog. It explores the relationship between a grandson who can’t face his life and a grandmother who struggles to remember hers and starts Julia Blake and Red Stitch ensemble members Ngaire Dawn and Tim Ross.

Before moving to Melbourne, Tim Ross did stand-up comedy in his home town of Adelaide and performed in shows for the Adelaide Theatre Guild. Then he came to the Victorian College of the Arts to do Drama. Tim made his MTC in Hamlet; has been seen on tv in Neighbours, Rush, Underbelly and Mrs Biggs; and his Red Stitch shows include On Ego, Oh Well Never Mind Bye, Howie the Rookie and The Kitchen Sink. He chats  about his grandparents, Pav and what to do when an audience member vomits. 

What three words best describe your show?
Grandma, whadayacallit, freedom.

What do you love most about this show?
The relationship and dynamic between the characters, especially with Leo and his Grandma, Vera. I could sit in that world for days on end.

There’s something about the way Amy Herzog writes – it’s so real and close to home. She based some of the characters on those in her own life and they therefore have an incredible history and depth to them. Nothing is forced; it’s very natural and subtle, yet still manages to pack a huge amount of punch. It’s real and full of life.

What is one of your favourite shows you've seen at Red Stitch?
The Aliens by Annie Baker. Made me laugh, made me cry. I still think about that one from time to time.

What do you love about working with Red Stitch?
It’s intimate, raw; it’s in your face. I also love the fact that we can take on roles we wouldn’t necessarily be cast in. You can afford to take risks, which challenges you and allows you to grow as an actor.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced preparing for this show?
Diving in to the headspace of my character, Leo. It’s a dark and messy place and it’s hard to create what he’s been through. He is keeping his emotions bottled up inside and it can be quite discomforting when you feel it. It sounds like a load of wank but it can alter who you are as a person and that can sometimes be distressing. It’s important to wind down after a big day of rehearsals.

What was your reaction when you first read this play?
I’ve got to play this role. I’ve always been close to my grandparents. When I was younger I used to drive up on my own to stay with them. Now that is no longer an option, this was a chance to relive that experience in a different light.

Who would you love to see in the audience one night?
My grandparents.

Is there anyone you don't want to see in the audience?
My grandparents. That would be fucking scary.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I remember when I was very young my sister had a friend over who was really upset about something. I put on a Janis Joplin song and mimed the lyrics to her in a microphone. The feeling it gave me when her tears dissolved in to those of laughter was one I knew I wanted to explore. Since then I’ve always had a thing for moving people and activating their emotions. There’s an unexplainable satisfaction about bringing someone into the world you are creating and convincing them that it’s real.

Do you believe in any theatre superstitions? What are they?
Not at all. If Macbeth had a theme song I would whistle it in the theatre.

What's some great theatre advice you've used? Who was it from?
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to put your blinkers on and not worry about what anyone else thinks.” Kim Gyngell.

What’s something else red that you like?
Mars. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’ve been there.

What punishment is fit for audience members who don't turn their phones off during a performance?
A curse: Any phone they own will continue to ring 24/7. Full volume. Theme song from Mash.

What role/character do you really want to play one day?
I’d like to give King Lear a go when I’m 80.

You have one trip in the TARDIS; what performance do you see?
The Big Bang. Does that count? How do I claim my prize?

What director has taught you the most?
Simon Phillips taught me that nothing needs to be taken too seriously. Even if it’s Hamlet at the MTC.

What’s your favourite cake?
I’m not really a dessert/cake man but my arm is pretty easily twisted if there’s a decent looking Pavlova on the table. And I mean decent. I’d also try any cake that Charlize Theron was climbing out of.

In your wildest dreams, who would you love to work with on a show?
Sir Ian McKellen. I think he would have some advice worth listening to.

Do you read your reviews?
Only the 5 star ones. So, very rarely.

What’s something odd that you’ve seen an audience member do during a show?
Vomit over about six chairs. That was at Red Stitch, so needless to say we stopped that one. I generally prefer written reviews.

Convince a stubborn north-sider to head over the river to St Kilda.
The chairs have all been steam-cleaned and sprayed with “new car” scent.

Tell us about your fellow cast and director?
Director Mark Pritchard will be one to watch out for. He’s got a great eye and is incredibly sharp. He’s not bad at directing either.

Julia Blake is one of the most dedicated actors I’ve had the privilege of working with. An absolute inspiration’ full of beans and full of stories. We clicked instantly and she actually feels like my grandmother. It will be a sad day when this production ends.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

04 February 2013

Review: The Other Place

The Other Place
Melbourne Theatre Company
31 January 2013
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 2 March 2013

The Other Place opens the MTC's 2013 season and is sure to be a subscriber favourite. Twitter told me there were people in tears at last night's opening and I'm believing Twitter, even if there were hard-arse non-criers in my row.

As it's the MTC, it's about middle class, middle age professionals (this time, doctors instead of academics) and this Broadway hit, by US writer Sharr White, is so dependent on the mystery of its plot and characters that it's hard to write about it without spoilers. But it's about MCMA profs in crisis and includes children, illness and estrangement; you know what to expect.

Catherine McClements is 50ish Juliana, a medical researcher at the peak of her career. She's on stage all night and by holding back and letting Juliana be difficult to initially like while easy to trust, her heartfelt performance builds to create the empathy and shared pain that deserves the audience's tears. She's supported by Heidi Arena, David Roberts and David Whiteley who each rightly let Juliana decide how they support her.

In the opening scenes, the mystery sits like a slinky at the top of a staircase. It's irresistible not to push and interesting enough to watch and see what's revealed at each step, but once it's started to tumble, its trajectory is known from that first nudge and there's no hope of unexpected deviation or twist. It's not that the script doesn't hold onto its secrets, but the direction (Nadia Tass) and design (Shaun Gurton with David Parker's film) play the clues obviously and use sentiment to highlight what, I suspect, most people figured out far too early in the night. It's like they don't trust the audience enough to let them be surprised or shocked.

The Other Place is ideal for an MTC season, but is it $98 show? Even a concession ticket is $77 or under 30s can spend $33. If $100 is a lot of money for you (it sure is for me), I suggest you start this weekend's theatre at Theatre Works for The Dead Ones or the Northcote Town Hall for Caravan Burlesque and you'll still have enough change for dinner and/or another show, or even have a good blub at War Horse, but wait and see if The Other Place turns up on a discount ticket site. If it does, see it.

Photo by David Parker

This was on AussieTheatre.com

03 February 2013

Photos: Yana Alana Between the Cracks

Between the Cracks
Yana Alana and the Paranas

I KNOW I should have seen Yana Alana's Between the Cracks.

I've adored her for years and this show looks like it would have left me weeping. When I got this review from Joanna Bowen I wondered if I should skip the opening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Yep.

It was a two-night should-have-been-there Midsumma delight, and I'll be at the opening night of its next run.

In the meantime, Peter Leslie (peterleslie.com.au) took some wonderful photos.

The Facebook-friendly album is here.

The rest are here.

Chat: Josh Futcher, La Mama

Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Fame
La Mama Courthouse
30 January 30 – 10 February 2013

Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Fame opens at La Mama on 30 January. It’s about Warhol in the 1960s, his struggle for success and his attempted assassination by Valerie Solanas in 1968.

Actor Josh Futcher plays Warhol. Futcher has recently returned to Melbourne after spending some time in LA performing in a show called Porkie Pies, was most recently seen in the TV series Conspiracy 365 and is completing his post-graduate studies at Melbourne’s 16th Street Acting Studio.

What three words best describe your show? 
Provocative, dangerous, revealing.

Do you remember the first show you saw at La Mama? 
Friday Night In Town.

What La Mama show do you wish you'd seen? 
Would have loved to see Don’s Party, back in the Pram Factory days.

What do you love about working at La Mama?
Being part of Australian theatre history. Paying tribute to the amazing writers, actors and theatre makers that came before us.

What do you love most about this show? 
It is the only play written about Andy Warhol. He is so well known as “the weird looking guy who painted the Campbell’s Soup can”. He is judged by many, and hailed as the greatest artist of our time by many more. This play tells the story of the man behind the art. Also, behind the woman who tried to kill him, Valarie Solanis. We see their pain and their deepest desires, and it teaches us not to judge a book by its cover.

Where is the best coffee in Carlton? 
Seven Seeds.

Who would you love to see in your audience one night? 
Andy Warlol.

Is there anyone you don't want to see in the audience? 
Valerie Solanis.

What do you like to do after a performance? 
Unwind with a nice cold beer.

What was your first time on a stage? 
Played Bashful in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when I was five. My mum played Snow White. I remember feeling bashful; must’ve been method acting.

Do you have any pre-show rituals? 
I like to get to the theatre as early as I can and eat a bowl of soup. It’s a good light meal to settle the stomach before a performance.

What's some great theatre advice you've used? 
Don’t walk on stage unless you know who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.

What punishment do you think is fit for audience members who don't turn their phones off during performances?
We should force them all to go on a Vodafone plan.

What's your favourite gelati flavour? 
Half chocolate, half orange sorbet.

What role/character do you really want to play one day? 
Stanley, A Streetcar Named Desire.

Matinees: love or loathe? 
Love. Coming out of the theatre when it’s still light makes me feel like I have a day job.

Do you read reviews?  
Yes. With caution.

Do you know of any secret parking spots near the theatres (although it's such a short walk from the Melbourne uni tram stop on Swanston Street, so driving isn't necessary)? 
I’ll always do a lap past Brunetti – just in case.

What's the best book you've read recently? 
Andy Warhol: His colourful life and art. Great biography. Very detailed and insightful.

What question do you wish I'd asked? 
What’s the best thing about playing Andy Warhol?

How would you answer it? 
Finding what makes this strange man tick, and being able to share it with a new audience.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

02 February 2013

Review: The Dead Ones

There have been lines to get tickets, so best to book if you don't want to miss out. Two shows left.

The Dead Ones
Theatre Works, Vitalstatistix, Margie Fischer
29 January 2013
Theatre Works
to 3 February

Margie Fischer shares a brilliant response to cope with unwelcome charity phone calls: "They're all dead". But in her case, it's true. When her mother died, Margie was the last member of her immediate family and faced the responsibility of clearing her family home, of 50-plus years, of its memories and its stuff.

And her mum, Marianne, didn't throw things away.

It took Margie months to finish and she dealt with it by writing. Writing about her grandparents, parents and brother; about what their things had meant to them; about how she decided to keep or get rid of objects without losing their significance; about losing the haven of home (despite having her own family and house); and about the burden of being the holder of her family's stories.

This writing became her personal and deeply affecting theatre show, The Dead Ones, which premiered at Adelaide's Feast in 2011 (the queer culture festival co-founded by Margie) and is welcomed to Midsumma.

With slides and a lectern, Margie reads her story.  The telling is gently shaped by director Catherine Fitzgerald and given a simple and moving coda by designer Kathryn Sproul, but the heart-grabbing power of this show is that it's a true story told with love and honesty. And a story that so many of us have faced or will face.

I'm an eldest daughter. My mother attaches meaning to objects, likes being judged by her stuff, will buy anything if it's a bargain and recently got upset at me because I said it was time to throw out the microwave oven from 1978 because she didn't need it as a spare.

I also know I've inherited these tendencies. I have a box for the Salvos in my hallway; it's been there for over six months. Things that haven't made it to the box include cheap crap I bought when I had no money and it meant so much just to have something, gifts that I never liked and bargains that I couldn't resist. I still bring stuff home on hard rubbish days. I understand why Marianne Fischer hated even the idea of a clutter-free existence.

She was a Jew who got out of Austria with her new husband, Alois, in 1938 with a small suitcase. They spent ten years in Shanghai until war again forced them from their new home and they arrived in Sydney in 1949 as "reffos". Here they had two children and built a successful business and their dream suburban home. Their son died in 1978. Hoarders have a bad name, but there's security in stuff and we all have our crutches that others don’t understand.

Margie understood, but what do you do with sympathy cards from 1978 and your parents' love letters? How does it feel knowing that the books and records that meant so much to your father (and would have cost him so much) are now worth so little, if anything? Do you put something your dead brother made out with the hard rubbish?

Margie and her family have incredible and touching stories, but she tells them with a distance that leaves space for the audience to think of their own stories, and this is where the tears and laughs flow from. And there are plenty of both.

In an interview, I asked Margie who she wanted to see in the audience. She said the entire Jewish and theatre-going lesbian populations of Melbourne. If only it could run so long! And I encourage all the straight goys and anyone who has a family to come along.

The Dead Ones is immaculate story telling. There's room for an edit and some changing, but there's plenty of time for that when it hopefully becomes a book and when it travels to more festivals. But don't wait for that and get to Theatre Works before it finishes on the weekend.

I dread losing my mother and the thought of her house makes me shudder, but, as a friend said to me as we shared stories after the show, "You might die first".  I felt bad for hoping.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

01 February 2013

Should reviews discuss the price of tickets?

Should reviews discuss the price of tickets?

I'm regularly reminded that I'm lucky to get free tickets to shows. I KNOW! But I also know that (like most web writers), I spend hours of my time writing about these shows for free. I think it's a fair exchange and would do it even if I won lotto and didn't have to panic about next month's rent or try to save $3 by picking up a pizza treat instead of getting it delivered.

Like many arts workers, I know that spending $100, $50 or $10 on ticket is something that needs considering and is out of the reach of many people.

So, if I think a show is or isn't worth $98, I'm going to say so.

I've already discussed that tickets should cost money because artists (even writers) deserve to be paid, but am going to continue to support discount ticket organisations. Not because I want artists to starve, but because I want starving artists to see as much theatre as I do.

If you can afford a full price ticket, you'll support the artists and buy it, while others can support the artists by telling other people how great the show is and encouraging them to buy tickets.

How to get cheaper tickets?

Join Little Birdy right now and save $100s next week.

Drop by Half tix in Swanston Street

Check Lasttix.

Follow your favourite companies on Facebook and Twitter.

And please tweet (@SometimesMelb) me with deals and offers and I'll pass them on to eager audiences.