11 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2013, part 10

Today, it's a Choir Girl reunion with writer and performer Sarah Collins, director Celeste Cody and head choir girl Chrissie Robinson. This year, they went to Adelaide, added new shows at the comedy festival and were invited to the Darwin Arts Festival where Choir Girl was followed by Jack Charles Versus the CrownBest double feature I can imagine.

Celeste Cody

CELESTE: This year I headed to the top end to be part of the Darwin Arts Festival (Choir Girl). Beyond being an incredible experience in itself, we were also lucky enough to share the stage with the amazing Uncle Jack. His show Jack Charles Versus the Crown was one of my favourite ever theatre experiences. 

The show was slick, engaging, enlightening, hilarious and heart-wrenching. Jack, Rachel and the team have created a brilliant show and I am excited to hear how it goes in the UK.

I also had a ball at Psycho Beach Party and The Sovereign Wife. Both shows said a lot in devious ways.

I'm heading to Sydney  to catch Summertime in the Garden of Eden at Griffin. I'm sure that it will deserve a place on my list. I loved it in the shed, so I'm sure I'll love it on the Griffin stage.

SM: Celeste hasn't directed anything new this year, but seeing Choir Girl move from the Melbourne Fringe to the Adelaide Fringe to having to add shows at the comedy festival and be invited to an arts festival was exciting. As was seeing full houses at Short and Sweet Theatre, which Celeste directed.

Sarah Collins
writer, performer

SARAH: I was lucky enough to see Punch Drunk's Sleep No More in NYC. To even start to describe it would be doing it a severe dishonour, as when someone described it to me I was all. "Yeah yeah, ex-nightclub in Chelsea converted into a fake hotel for a site specific re-telling of Macbeth ... been done a million times before ... yawn."

Nearly a year later, I still can't really fathom what I saw and experienced or how it was pulled off.

Having said that I didn't really connect with it or find my world had been turned upside down by it, but I don't think that was the point.

When my husband and I found each other at the end of the night, it was like we'd been to two different plays. "Wasn't the ball in the banquet hall amazing?!" "There was a ball?" and "I loved when the phone started ringing at the hotel reception and that weird lady wouldn't let the doorman answer the phone" "What weird lady? Hang on, there was a hotel reception?!" It was then that I realised how epic and detailed the show was. If I could go back again ten times it still would not be enough – a completely different experience every time.

Locally, I was really impressed with the musical Flower Children: The Mamas and Papas Story (Magnormos). I went on about it to everyone I knew and I still find myself thinking about it, hoping it goes further.

As someone with family members who have written a musical (my relatives Albert Arlen and Nancy Brown wrote the 1960's Australian musical The Sentimental Bloke), part of my family's aural history is how hard it is to get one written – let alone up. I can only imagine the time, money and tears that went into making the show a reality. I thought Peter Fitzpatrick did such a terrific job.  It was inspiring to see someone complete a project of this scale after an already incredible lifetime in the industry.

I also saw the amazing Indonesian pop group White Shoes at the Couples Company at the Darwin Festival. I didn't know who they were at the time though! I was wandering around the gardens and there was this amazing music coming from the small stage near the food tents with a front woman who totally blew me away. It was like watching performers from another time – totally incredible!

The rest of the audience were eating dinner, chatting and sometimes looking at the band.  I couldn't form sentences, I was so mesmerised by their lead singer, she was doing so little but it was so powerful, she was amazing; a total masterclass in performance!

Her presence was more theatrical than some theatre I've seen. I assumed they were a local Darwin band and I thought, "Damn! I really hope the rest of Australia gets to see these guys sometime!". They finished their set and sat down on the grass beside me to eat dinner and I wanted to tell them they were amazing but got shy.

Right after I got back to Melbourne I saw them written up in a magazine and it turned out they were in Darwin because they are touring around the world. Total forehead smacking moment. Anyway, I think everyone should watch this clip to see their amazing lead singer Miss Sari perform! Oh the subtlety!

What Sarah's looking forward to in 2014 at issimomag.com.

SM: My favourite moment was Through Their Eyes, the show that Sarah developed with Barking Spider Visual Theatre for the newly-renovated Hawthorn Arts Centre (town hall). She interviewed long-term Boroondara residents and let them tell their stories in their own voices. Sometimes writing is listening. With Penelope Bartlau's delicately simple puppetry, it was moving and heartfelt and a work that would have meant so much to the people who told their stories.

And the pina colada cake. I will dream about that cake and it's non-organic glitter.

Chrissie Robinson
Photo by Oli Sansom

CHRISSIE: I had the fortune of sharing a very crowded dressing room with Tommy Bradson during 2012, and since then have become pretty enamoured of his work. During MICF this year, I attended Sweet Sixteen, or, The Birthday Party Massacre at Northcote Town Hall, and was, again, blown away by Bradson’s work.

In this vitally grotesque, riotous and still profoundly bittersweet parade of caricatures, Bradson’s part-poetry, part-drag, part-song and thorough hooley-dooley eclipsed any Sweet Sixteen I ever attended.

SM: I've loved Chrissie (and the whole choir) every time I saw Choir Girl, but my moment is this photo.

I discovered that what really makes me smile is a child holding a lizard. Chrissie tells me that the lizard is still alive; we are all waiting for the re-creation photo.

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