10 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2103, part 9

After a day off to talk about NEON, here's Keith Gow talking more about NEON. And Jason Cavanagh talks about how a moment of crisis got him acting again, and Kathryn Goldie talks about taking the plunge into unemployment.

Jason Cavanagh
artistic director, 5pound theatre

JASON: Half way through acting in 5pounds of Repertory Theatre last year, I had a bit of a crisis.  I remember sitting outside the theatre, literally with my head in my hands thinking, "I've lost it, I can't act anymore". But that program moves so fast you just don't have time for that sort of nonsense so I just had to get on with it. By the end of the five weeks, I'd resolved that I needed to focus more of my attention on my acting.  I couldn't let it go.

One thing lead to another and I ended up in a Mockingbird Theatre show, as the peodophilic rapist Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive.

It was such a juicy character and such a rewarding experience. I really had a great time playing that role (as bad as that sounds). It felt nice to be doing what I felt to be a good job, it was warmly received which makes me happier than I like to admit, it was amazing to be able to tread the boards without having to also produce the show and, just generally finding the spark again was… a great relief…. Cause what else would I do?

And I beating you by one show in the fringe-a-thon ;)

SM: He had more Fringe stamina than I did! To make great theatre, you have to see a lot of theatre. Jason sees a lot of theatre.

I loved his performance in How I Learned to Drive, but my moment with him was his performance in The Joy Of Text (Robert Reid's play at La Mama earlier in the year). I thought I'd written about it, but I didn't. It was around house move time; I'm impressed that I even remember seeing it.

There's more with Jason at issimomag.com.

Kathryn Goldie
writer, director

KATHRYN: 2013 saw me become unemployed and, although that was my own choice, it meant I wasn’t going to be buying a lot of theatre tickets. But I did volunteer at Fringe because although I didn’t have a whole lot of cash but had a whole lot of time—and a volunteer pass means free tickets to Fringe shows. While I don’t believe in scamming freebies and/or ripping off fellow artists, getting some free tickets was fantastic because it allowed me to see a range of performances I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, and it added another audience member to shows that weren’t sold out. (For the record, I did buy a few tickets as well.)

My excellent Fringe viewing consisted of Edge! (which deservedly won Best Comedy), Laika and Wills, Songs for Europe, Kids Killing Kids, A Chekhov Triptych, and some others I won’t mention. Festivals are always a mixed bag, which is part of the fun.

I’m a fan of well-written, well-acted narratives that make me feel something, and the plays I mentioned did just that, each in under an hour. Each had something to say and said it—no bells and whistles, no self-reflexive “Look at what I’m doing here! Get it? Aren’t I clever?” posturing. Some surprised me; all entertained me.

Of course, volunteering at Fringe is an experience in itself, by turns performative, meditative and simply random: explaining to visiting Perth teenagers that the questions on the survey are about Melbourne Fringe, not Perth Fringe; guessing which of the hungover Sunday morning Chapel Street crowd would fall over when playing the immersive virtual reality game; predicting which fellow volunteers would pronounce “homage” with a fake French accent or an ocker twang; reading about Lithuania’s history while waiting for latecomers; and finishing an admin shift early to find myself stacking cartons of beer for the vollies party.

In a year where I didn’t see much theatre, Melbourne Fringe was an accessible, entertaining and thought-provoking godsend.

A second highlight would be Baggage Production’s Madwomen Monologues, now in its third year. I’ve been lucky enough to have two of my monologues performed by these folk, and their shows are going from strength to strength, with a pool of terrific actors and directors.

SM: I haven't seen or read anything of Kathryn's this year. That's not good. But I was so impressed by her giving up her job to make the time to write. Sometimes you have to take that plunge if it's what you really want to do. You can't be a full-time writer if you have a full-time job.

Keith Gow
playwright, blogger

KEITH: After spending most of the first half of this year being disappointed or frustrated with the theatre I was seeing, both on the main stages and from independent companies, the turning point came almost exactly at the half-way point of the year - coinciding with my trip to Sydney to see Angels in America (Belvoir) and The Maids (STC).

In Melbourne, though, the turning point was an entire festival: MTC's Neon Festival. Five shows from Melbourne's most exciting indy companies on the Lawler stage, sold out for ten weeks, bringing in audiences – many of whom had never stepped foot in the Southbank Theatre complex before.

And it wasn't just the shows,  it was the supporting discussion panels, the Theatre Network Victoria meet-and-greet, the Writers' and Directors' workshops. It was the Neon Bar inside Script for a discounted drink and a natter with other theatre-goers, theatre-makers and the creatives whose shows we'd just seen.

Many of the great theatre experiences I had this year embraced the community aspect of going into the theatre together. Whether it be the epic marathons of Angels in America or The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma's Life and Times - or a show like The Rabble's Room of Regret, we were drawn together to have a collective experience while also having our own intimate reactions in that same space.

SM: I first met Keith on Twitter and finally in real life and we were part of the Life and Times crowd.  I was also nearly at his Dr Who play (Who are you supposed to be?) play reading earlier in the year, but the people I was with thought it started two hours before it did. They waited, I went home. But writing Dr Who plays is cool.

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