30 September 2014

FRINGE part 7

This is not a love song
28 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Meeting Room
to 4 October 2014

There's something very endearing and sweet about This is not a love song.* 

Greg Fleet is a middle-aged man re-living the memories of his first significant love. His younger self is Shane Adamczak and his love is Tegan Mulvany (who also directed the show). The memories are so close that he can reach out and make them better by having a live 1980s-favourites soundtrack from Michael de Grussa (who was in All Out Of Pride) that all four sing along to.

It needs some help with structure and story-telling technique (conflict isn't people having a tiff), but this doesn't distract from the nostalgic and emotional heart that makes this story so lovely.

*Yep, I called Fleety endearing and sweet.

Angry Sexx
28 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Upstairs at Errols
to 4 October 2014

Angry Sexx, by Rachel Perks and directed by Bridget Balodis, is created by young women who are rightly angry about the barrage of sexism and objectification they face every day. As someone old enough to relate to the songs in Greg Fleet's show, I left sad and angry that young women still have deal with this crap, but thrilled that they are angry and making people see it from their side of the unbalanced picture.

With texts, chats and IRL conversations, two friends fail to see the hell that the other is going through and unknowingly encapsulate everything that contributes to the other's suffering. One doesn't want sex with her boyfriend and starts running; her friend says she needs a good fuck. The other is fucking strangers; her friend thinks she's a slut who's asking for it.

Anger comes from hurt. We don't get angry until the hurt becomes too much to bear. And when the anger's too much to bear, we act without being able see the consequences. This space between anger and consequences makes for great theatre.

And there are futuristic monkeys in holagram plastic tunics. They're funny and enjoyable monkeys who are looking at relics of women from now, but I don't know how the stories work together.

Attic Erratic
28 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club, The Ballroom
to 4 October 2014

Tripped is Attic Erratic's second show for the Fringe. It became impossible to get a ticket to their The City They Burned

Nick Musgrove's new play was inspired by Alex Buzo's 1968 play Norm and Ahmed, where a middle-aged white guy attacks a "fucking boong" from Pakistan. It looks with shame at socially accepted attitudes of the 1960s when racial hate wasn't seen with the knowledge and horror that we see it with now.

And how I wish that were true. Every time I read a newspaper or watch the news, I am more ashamed at how Australia is hurtling backwards politically and socially and becoming a place that isn't safe and welcoming. It's heartbreaking to know just how relevant Tripped has become in the last week.

This play takes us into a Middle East war zone – who knew Australia would be back in one so soon! – where Norm's an Australian soldier (Angus Brown) and Ahmed's a "rag head" civilian (Ezel Doruk) who studied in Australia and can joke about Cronulla. But the jokes aren't easy when they are in a mine field and both have a foot on a mine. 

Director Celeste Cody seems to be going for a very dark humour, but the tone is inconsistent and at times easy laughs make it easy to ignore the reflection of ourselves and put the story onto bogan soldier boys and mad priests. This isn't helped by uneven performances; there's a chasm between playing for a laugh and letting a script be funny. 

The conflict and the characters are sometimes a bit obvious, but there's enough bubbling below the surface to make us pay attention and this is going to be a show that's talked about.

Some of these are on AussieThearte.com.

28 September 2014

FRINGE part 6

Bucket's List
20 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Rehearsal Room
to 4 October

With wedding song two-steps, a surly possum, dried apricots & words that sound like bucket, don't even think about missing this. Bucket's List is Sarah Collins fourth major work and the first one that she hasn't written for herself.

She wrote it for comedian Justin Kennedy, who is a writer for The Project, co-wrote and performed the very successful Donna and Damo with her, and proposed to Collins on stage during the 2010 Melbourne Comedy Festival season of D & D.

Bucket loved his work at the bucket factory for 19 years and 364 days and was happy to stay for the next 20 years, but bucket peak has been reached. He finds a new job as a wedding DJ, realises  that he's never had his own wedding dance and, with the help of his neighbours and a sexed-up and cynical possum, he goes looking for love.

It's a sweet and loving story that has its dark and weird moments but doesn't descend into the same unexpected bleakness that Choir Girl did, and, while she lets hero Bucket be the hero he needs to be, the foreshadowed ending isn't a surprise.

Kennedy's adorable performance makes it easy to love Bucket and maybe want him as a sweet and odd friend, but he barely utters a word. The performance is all physical (like Mr Bean, but nothing like the Mr Bean character) while recorded narrator, Felix Nobis, tells the story, with Rhys Auteri providing a live guitar score and doubling as the possum who finds noisy love before Bucket finds his own hope of a girlfriend.

Director by Yvonne Virsik (who directed Collins's first work Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever)) ensures that there's guts and humanity in the more twee moments, and Jason Lehane (who directed D & D) created a bucket puppet who may be remembered as the woman who made too many people cry this Fringe.

Collins writing continues to stand out as work that could only be hers. Hers is writing that shows that if you trust your voice and don't try to sound like anyone else, you'll find the people who love your work.

PS.  It started as when Sarah met a wedding DJ who used to be a bucket salesperson.

Richard 11
25 September 2014
Northcote Town Hall, Studio 2
to 28 September

Mark Wilson and MKA made their unforgettable mark in last year's Fringe with UnSex Me, Wilson's penetrative riff on the Scottish play. This year, Wilson is joined by Olivia Monticciolo and they drag Richard 11 into the now to give the politics we seem to be accepting a good double dicking.

With Wilson as Richard and Monticciolo as his cousin Henry, they start as children playing and become adults playing at being Kings of Australia. With slabs of Shakespeare's text and plenty of their own, the story is re-cast as the Rudd and Gillard leadership debacle with numbers meaning everything and a de-crowned King who isn't afraid to do everything he can to undermine the woman who disposed him.

Here's theatre that's about now and us and isn't afraid to question and scream about gender and power and how we accept too much that shouldn't be accepted.

It's political, funny, cruel, honest & what-the-fuck-have-we-done brilliant. And Mark wears gold tights.

It's also sold out.

Bonus: Terrific conversation with random audience members on School for Birds.

Who Are You Supposed to Be?
26 September 2014
The Owl and the Pussycat
to 5 October

One of the loveliest parts of Who Are You Supposed to Be? was being in an audience who were squeeing with joy as they recognised themselves, their world and every geeky sci-fi reference. And there are many geeky sci-fi references.

I know that because I got most of them. And maybe squee'ed at 5 and 10 and the mourning of the passing of Firefly.

Keith Gow is a Doctor Who fan and wrote a play set at a convention where a con-famous podcaster (Rob Lloyd) meets someone he only knows from Twitter (Jennifer Lusk, who also played this part in the UK) and attacks her for daring to dress as the fifth Doctor.

With enough Doctor Who references to thrill even the most obsessed, it looks beyond the obvious nerd jokes to explore gender issues, sexism and the place of non-cannonical breasts in geek culture.

It is a work for Doctor Who fans and sci-fi obsessives. There's enough for non-fans to enjoy, but it's safe to assume that the people who go to a play about Doctor Who fans are going to get the Blink jokes.

Some of these are on AussieTheatre.com.

25 September 2014

FRINGE part 5

Nick: An Accidental Hero
24 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Meeting Room
to 26 September

Renee Lyons is another wonderful creator from New Zealand. She tells the story of Nick Chisholm who survived a serious head injury but has locked-in syndrome, where his brain is active but the only thing he can control are his eyes.

Playing all the characters – two unsuspecting-hero mates, Nick's mum, a Korean orderly who got to know Nick in the hospital, and a woman he met online – Lyons shares a bunch of not-perfect people who never give up on Nick and unexpectedly catch you by the heart.

The unseen character is Nick, but she shows twisted and clenched hands and a body that can't move, which contradicts and questions the Nick we've come to know through the eyes of the people who love him.

This is strong, intelligent and beautiful story telling that leads with hope and leaves you knowing these people like you know your own family and friends.

All Out Of Pride
24 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Meeting Room
to 26 September

Kill me.

I sang along to Barry Manilow's "Mandy". I sang along because I knew the words. I can barely remember the name of the shows I saw yesterday, but "Mandy, you came and you gave without taking" lodged itself in my brain in the 1980s and refuses to leave.

All Out Of Pride is about shame songs. The songs we are ashamed to sing. Songs that come out at late-night karaoke bars and even the hideously drunk know that there's something deeply wrong about them.

Geraldine Quinn and Michael de Grussa dress in Bee-Gees-video white with visible chest hair. Well Michael has the chest hair, but Geraldine wears culottes. Oh yes, she has a pair of off-white, mid-shin, linen culottes with gold buttons.

I have some pride in not knowing the words to some of the 90s horrors, but then there was an Air Supply and  – fuck you, Quinn and De Grussa – "I'm all out love, I'm so lost without you..."

The shame.

Rod Quantock: Invitation to a Revolution
24 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club, Main Theatre
to 4 October

I went to see Rod Quantock last night because I wanted to be in a room with people who also needed to share rage and tears about how our government is doing everything it can to undermine us, punish anyone who isn't in their gang, and create communities that are led by fear and hate.

I wasn't alone, and it was nice to see the entire Fringe demographic of 40-to-60-somethings in one room. We're ready to join Rod's revoltion. We have our orders and don't be surprised if we follow through, but we need some young blood. I know you're as angry as we are, so get off Twitter and get to Rod's show. 

He still greets everyone at the door (and checks in case there is anyone middle eastern looking and we need to dob on them for attending political theatre) and with his trademark blackboard, he talks about the IPA, Tony A... blugh (he can't say the name) and other lucky pricks. It's very like his comedy festival show from earlier in the year, but this time it's different.

This time it's harder to laugh. Not because Rod's not one of the funniest and smartest human beings ever, but because all those things we joked about earlier in the year have become reality. And it's worse than we imagined.

I still can't get it into my head that Victorian police shot a teenager this week. And I got home to read that Australia is signing an agreement to send refugees to Cambodia. I've been to Cambodia. I love Cambodia, but it's poor as hell, the government are openly corrupt and not dealing with issues like child sex tourism and the spread of AIDS, and it's country that's only just beginning to come to terms with its own living hell of the 1970s and 80s. Australia is rich, safe and huge, but we're going to send refugees – people who have lived a hell that Australians rarely have to face – to a place that can't offer them safety.

It's just not funny anymore.

#HeyASIO,  here's our plan for revolution
Some of these are on AussieTheatre.com.

24 September 2014

FRINGE part 4

La Mama
21 September 2014
La Mama Courthouse
to 28 September

This director–writer team is one of my favourites and I'm sure that they are going to continue to be so in the future.

This one didn't work for me. If you're going to tell another Oedipus story, it has to come from a perspective that lets us see something new because we know the story. And if you call a play Motherfucker, there's so much expectation and assumption associated with the title that it really has to be about a real motherfucker rather than a sweet guy who has loving sex with his mum.

Dead Set
La Mama
21 September 2014
La Mama 
to 28 September

Sue Giles and Ian Pidd first performed Dead Set 20 years ago, and their rom-com-cabaret about being stuck in boring teaching jobs but wanting to make the great Aussie musical has returned to La Mama.

It's a wonderful and hilarious look back at indie theatre in the 1990s and it made me feel like I was 20ish again and discovering alternative theatre. There are some dated references, but nothing could take away from the joy, fun and gorgeous songs. I'd so see Humping My Swag.

The Moon in Me
22 September 2014
The Tuxedo Cat
to 28 September

Analysing astrology by reading the daily Herald Sun sun signs is like grabbing a pack of home brand paracetamol from the supermarket and analysing medicine.

There are some sweet and clever moments in this show and a couple of nice jokes, but it's over-written, under-researched and lacks focus; the links between the personal story and the reflection at how society loves a Sun sign column aren't strong.

I really want this performer to see Jono Wants a Wife.

22 September 2014

FRINGE part 3

Some solo shows

Jono Wants a Wife
19  September 2014
Fringe Hub, Rehearsal Room
to 4 October

I might have found Jono Wants a Wife so funny because I've dated him. Not him, but I recognised his 20 and 30-something hims and may have laughed away a couple of demons.

Jono's 35 and he'll have a list of potential wives by the end of the Fringe. It's a bit like an indie theatre version of The Bachelor and future girlfriends have to know that they'll be in his next show.

He's finally hit that stage of life that he knows what he wants in the relationship realm, so shares the painfully honest truth about how he got to be 35 and living alone in a mouldy dark flat.

That painful and honest truth involves masturbation stories – do you ever recover from being caught by your nanna? – and relationships with women who treated him far better than he treated them. Sure, it's funny now – funny enough to make a show about – but his story works so well because sometimes the only way to get through that kind of hurt is to laugh about it or be laughed at.

This is charming and well-crafted story telling that reminds that gut-aching funny comes from gut-wrenching honesty.

A Four-Eyed Guide to the Galaxy
20 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Rehearsal Room
to 4 October 

Being weightless with a broken heart and a sausage dog can be wonderful.

Space rocks! Having recently heard astronaut Chris Hadfield (the guy who sang Bowie on the International Space Station) at the Melbourne Writers Festival and having read his book, my space knowledge is the best its been. And Rowena Hutson's into space far more than I am.

Her solo show, A Four-Eyed Guide to the Galaxy, is set in a future that might not be very far away. Here Buzz – who's parents were astronauts – is stuck on earth with only her sausage dog best friend but wants to blast off to the stars to escape the pain that she doesn't want to acknowledge.

It's super-sweet storytelling that's made gorgeous with really bad props and a hope that lights the dark void of space.

The Bookbinder
20 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Son of Loft
to 4 October

The Bookbinder won Best of the New Zealand Fringe and it's going to sell out in Melbourne. Being in the intimate Son of Loft room, there's no room for extra seats, so there's no time to wait.

Trick of the Light Theatre are from New Zealand and were founded by Hannah Smith (director) and Ralph McCubbin Howell (performer and writer). 

From a time when books were valuable and stories were precious, it starts when a bookbinder needs an apprentice. Told with puppetry and paper art, it's a deliciously dark story about books, getting lost and how fixing a story can change a life.

From every moment of the performance to the writing and the design full of secrets and wonders, this is exquisite storytelling and the only reason I'm not going again is because I don't want to deprive anyone else the feels of seeing it.

Some of these are on AussieTheatre.com.

21 September 2014

FRINGE part 2

A couple of shows from Melbourne's uni students.

You Walk Away, And Never Once Turn Your Head
19  September 2014
Fringe Hub, Raglan Street Gallery
to 4 October

Paper Crown Theatre are from MUST (Monash University Student Theatre) and are carrying on the tradition of excellent theatre produced through the university union.

You Walk Away, And Never Once Turn Your Head is written and directed by Joseph Brown. Like most new works, it could start later and there's some self indulgence, especially with discussions about being a writer, but it doesn't distract from the guts and heart of the story.

It's about  20-somethings Felicity (Niamh Hassett, who isn't in the Fringe guide pic) and Jack (Edan Goodall) who live in the same block of flats and are both so lonely that they can't see their own friendship. Hassett and Goodall's honest performances grew stronger and more confident throughout the night and both brought a personal understanding to their characters.

They also deserve a prize and a hug for dealing with and overcoming the worst sound bleed ever. It's not easy to perform a quiet two-person drama with what sounds like a barnyard dance and biker-gang cabaret going on upstairs. It was distracting, but they made it work for them. It became like a punk soundtrack to the show with inappropriate music and unexplained thumping.

The Transfer Station
20 September 2014
Chapel off Chapel, Loft 2
to 21 September

The Transfer Station team are from Deakin University and are continuing the tradition of strong and original theatre voices to come from Deakin.

Seeing Monash, Deakin (and VCA) students performing at Fringe underlines how we have to fight to keep creative and performing arts – and all tertiary study – accessible. And fight to remind the powers-that-be and all the dull people who don't get "arts" just how important this type of study is.

The Transfer Station is inspired by a line in an Elizabeth Bishop poem: "The Art of Losing isn't hard to master, some things seem so filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster."

In a thick dark that's lit by portable LED lights, we meet Captain Sadie Croak (Laura Soding) and Fish (Steph Franke), who are travelling through an endless void in a ship made from the discarded junk they find on their journey to the promise of the transfer station. When they get separated and attempt to go on alone, they find more than maps and hope in Cous (Erin Hegarty) and Mole (Hayley Elliott-Ryan).

It's gentle, adorable and intelligent storytelling that's led by characters finding their way and discovering happiness, beauty and purpose in a world that looks like it was rejected.

Their design is created only from found objects that have been thrown away, and its keys, bolts, cans and treasures create the storytelling style, which is supported by a live soundtrack from Tom Bensley on guitar.

And there's kazoo, mouth organ and bottle music! How can anyone not love that.

19 September 2014

FRINGE part 1


Head to Twitter, follow @SometimesMelb and search for #mFringe to get involved in the discussions, get the word on the unmissable shows, tell reviewers how wrong they are, and decide who you want to meet at the Fringe Club. 

But I'm still old-school at heart, so will post some mini reviews (that might be my tweets and a bit).

The City They Burned
Attic Erratic
6 September 2014
Cavern Table Performance Space
to 23 September – but check the Fringe site because this might change

The YouTube Comment Orchestra
The Last Tuesday Society
18 September 2014
Tower Theatre, Coopers Malthouse
to 27 September

Big LOLs. Just like the internet only smarter and with more butter.

The Last Tuesday mob on a Thursday was enough to blow my mind. And they get to do it all again. So you can see them twice or freak them out by going every night and sitting in the front row.

Bron Batten and Richard Higgins are the founders of the society. They choose a theme and give it to some of the best alternative cabaret/comedy/performance artists around. I still haven't quite recovered from the "Don's Party" night and I never want another December without a Last Tuesday Xmas party.

Everything at The YouTube Comment Orchestra is based on YouTube comments. It's bloody wonderful and justifies the many hours that we spend on YouTube.

Being a part of Helium, I wondered if we'd see something wildly different but I can't complain because I laughed myself a bit sick.

Media Release
19 September 2014
Fringe Hub, Court House Hotel 2
to 26 September

It's hard not to enjoy a show that's made with love and passion. This one has some terrific jokes (I will always laugh at latte foam art) and it's a great idea for a story, but the writing isn't working as a story and it's is more a showcase for the performers. 

I had to miss the last scene because it was running overtime and late. If the guide say 50 mins, don't be upset if people have to leave to get to their next show. 

You Took The Stars
19 September 2014
Fringe Hub, start outside North Melbourne Town Hall
to 26 September

This one also ran a bit late, but I was so happy to be in the space and sharing the story. 

The dank and miserable lane way next to the North Melbourne Town Hall is transformed as designer, Yvette Turnbull, and director, Alice Darling, create a welcoming and gorgeous space that makes the world for this play feel so perfect that it's hard to imagine it being anywhere else. 

Cat Commander's writing is equally as gorgeous. With a pegasus called Mona, pink dolphins and the stars inside apples, she lets us fall in love with her Maisie and Paul – and a guitar-playing monkey – as they fall in love and try to find out what that means.

And it all comes together with totally engaging and beautiful performances by John Shearman and Kasia Kaczmarek – and Matt Furlani's guitar-playing monkey.

This only has a short run and there aren't many seats, so it's one to book.

And here's an interview with writer Cat Commander from the super-wonderful School for Birds blog. It's great. Read it for the discussion about re-drafting and re-drafting, about how the actors made it real for themselves, and about why we keep performing American plays.

PS.  You Took the Stars owes You Turn Away, And Never Once Turn Your Head a drink for waiting for me.

Some of these are on AussieTheatre.com.

18 September 2014

Melbourne Fringe

Melbourne Fringe Festival
17 September to 5 October 2014

Let's tweet.

I'm not reviewing much this festival, but I am seeing lots of shows and am going to experiment with Twitter. Let's get #mFringe trending. And follow me @SometimesMelb.

The 32nd Melbourne Fringe 2014 is off and running with over 400 shows by over 5000 performers in over 150 venues.

Running from 17 September to 5 October, it’s a small festival compared to the Adelaide or Edinburgh juggernauts, but this makes it an event that you can  really sink your teeth into as a theatre goer and an event where the audiences are so much more than anonymous punters.

The Melbourne Fringe differs from other fringe festivals because it focuses on independent artists and on new and experimental work. There are shows that are returning or touring, but mostly this is the event where artists introduce new work out or try something different from anything they’ve done before.

Fringe festivals are not curated by an artistic director; anyone can register to be in the program. And remember that companies and artists who register are taking a financial, as well as an artistic, risk to be in the festival. The only money they get is from ticket sales, and that’s after they’ve paid for the venue hire, marketing and everything else.

This results in a range of quality and experience that isn’t seen in events that have an artistic guide.

The City They Burned. Photo by Sarah Walker

Not every show will be a winner. One might blow your mind, while another could leave you running to the bar to obliterate the experience from your memory. That’s what risk is about.

As arts audiences who love and support independent art and artists, the Melbourne Fringe is also a time for us to be as brave and experimental as the artists who are participating.

As audiences, this is the festival where we can take risks.

Tickets are about the cost of a movie and there are preview prices, cheap Tuesdays and all sorts of offers that pop up. Or, there are FREE events that will let you see artists and performances that you may never see anywhere else. You could have an exhausting and exhilarating Fringe by just going to the free Fringe Club at the North Melbourne Town Hall.

Take risks.

See genres you don’t know much about. If you don’t get contemporary dance, there are 20 affordable dance shows to choose from. Don’t know much about Visual Art, spend a day exploring the 22 exhibitions.

If you love a genre, what about trying to see every show in one category? If you see all 30 cabaret shows, you’ll be an expert on Melbourne’s emerging and independent cabaret artists.

Or pick a venue. Maybe North Melbourne Town Hall, Northcote Town Hall, Tuxedo Cat, Theatre Works or Gasworks. Or pick a suburb and find every hidden and pop-up venue.

Richard II. Photo by Sarah Walker

Don’t wait for reviews (reviewers, this is also a time for you to take risks as writers) and don’t believe all the quotes and star ratings you see on posters; those Five Stars could be from an artist’s nanna.

Taking a show to one of the huge festivals can be heartbreaking if it doesn’t take off, but being in the Melbourne Fringe lets artists share and show work to enthusiastic audiences so that they can see what audiences respond to and what needs to change. I’ve seen so many shows and artists at Fringe festivals that have gone on to long and magnificent runs and careers. Others learn more about performing and being in a festival than they could ever learn anywhere else.

Audiences are as much a part of the Fringe as the artists in the program. There’s no point in creating art if there’s no one to share it with.

So get involved by seeing shows and hanging out at the Fringe Club and in the foyers and bars.

If you love a show, tell the artists who made it and buy them a drink. Really. Hang around after the show and say “Hi”. Talk about what you’ve seen and what it means to you. Tweet, Instagram and Facebook to #mFringe. Be a part of the conversation and you’re a part of the Melbourne Fringe.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

15 September 2014

Review: A lie of the mind

A lie of the mind
5 September 2014
The Grange pop up theatre
to 13 September

With an ambitious and successful Pozible fundraising campaign, an empty amazing space in the CBD and the determination to move a class exercise to a professional production, A lie of the mind opens The Grange, a pop-up theatre and bar.

Firstly, who knew that there was a huge empty warehouse in the city of Melbourne! Hidden near Victoria and La Trobe streets, it shows its age but holds a bar and theatre that love the space and welcome its signs of disintegration.

The bar is warm with heaters, spicy hot drinks and welcoming staff. There are covered hay bales to sit on, tables for lengthy conversations and buttery popcorn for snacks. It's great.

The performance space in the opposite corner of the huge room is, which is sadly cold (but rugs provided) and has bum-numbing chairs. I'd love to see the spaces become one. It felt odd to have a traditional(ish) theatre space tucked in the corner of a room that was begging to be used and explored. (And multiple performance space would have solved some awkward scene changes.)

American Sam Shepard's play A lie of the mind was first seen off-Broadway in 1985 with a cast that included Harvey Keitel and Aidan Quinn. Set in the USA mid-west in the early 1980s, it's the story of two very broken families connected through a marriage that ends at the play's beginning when the husband bashes his wife to the point that he thinks she's dead. With a realism voice that slips into violent poetry and brushes the edges of magic realism, it's a powerful look at Shepherd's world and the American culture that will protect its own flag and the idea of America before looking at itself.

It's a wonderful play, but I don't know what this production is saying about us and now and how the world on the stage is reflecting on the people who come to share in it. There's a disconnect between production and space and between performers and audience, making it a story about "them" rather than a story about "us".

While some of the cast grasp the tone of the script better than others, every performance (Alex Duncan, Zack Anthony Curran, Lauren-Anne Kempster, Shayne Francis, Alice Cavanagh, Ashley McKenzie, Peter Hardy and Kaarin Fairfax) is heartfelt and excellent. Still there's a showcase feeling of actors trying so hard to give their best performance that the overall story also feels disconnected from the people telling it and there are some empty relationship spaces between the characters. All are actors who don't have to try to be astonishing and are never let down by their their characters.

Quibbles aside, these are creators and artists who want to make theatre and perform great plays, so they raised the money to create a wonderful space and perform a great play – and I'll be first in line for their for their next show.

A lie of the mind is on all next week and to make theatre accessible, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are "pay what you can" nights (hey, every other theatre and company in town, please give this a try) and if you look at their Facebook page, there might be some more rush ticket offers.

PS. If you want to go in spoiler-free, don't read the synopsis on the website.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

14 September 2014

Reveiw: The City They Burned

The City They Burned
Attic Erratic
6 September 2014
Cavern Table Performance Space
to 23 September

Photo by Sarah Walker

Attic Erratic's The City They Burned is a re-telling of the Genesis story of Lot and his family. I remember learning about godly Lot at my Anglican school: Lot is told by God and his angels to get out of town, Lot's selfish wife looks back at their town of Sodom and God turns her into a pillar of salt for questioning his will and valuing her materialistic life.

Like slabs of the Old Testament, the understanding of what makes a good person is subjective and bits of the stories are often missed in the telling. When I drew Bible story pictures at primary school, they didn't include gang rape, incest, incest-rape and God generally being a dick by destroying everyone, except Lot, with a rain of fire. And we didn't discuss how Sodom gave us the word sodomy.

This tale is from books – the story of Lot is also in the Quran and the Torah – that continue to control so many people's lives, morality and decisions. As long as these stories keep being told, we need to keep looking at them to try to understand and continue to question why they are still at the core of so much in our society.

Writer Fleur Kilpatrick says that she wants to question the concept of bad or evil. What did the people of the city of Sodom do to deserve being wiped off the face of God's good earth?

What would happen if God were removed from the story?

Is a godless world compassionless and devoid of hope? Is it any different from a God-loved world?

Photo by Sarah Walker

Welcome to Sodom, where Lot (Scott Gooding) and his wife Ado (Jessica Tanner) are our hosts at a party. Lot is the manager of the factory where the good men of Sodom (Brendan McCallum, Dave Lamb and Soren Jensen) work. No one has heard from anyone in nearby Gomorrah in the last hours and they are getting worried as the party is in the honour of two inspectors (Dushan Philips and Kane Felsinger) who have just left Gomorrah. These men are outsiders; they dress strangely and don't look like Sodomites; they don't drink and they have a power that no one really understands.

The theatre is a converted warehouse in Collingwood. The audience go into a large living room that's  op shop chic with touches of "I want that" and "the eyes are following me" (designed by Rob Sowinski). We're offered food on sticks and drinks – bring $5; you'll want a drink – and it takes a while to realise that the performance has started and that we're the guests at a party where there's no line between audience and stage.

Conversations take place concurrently or in corners that only some people can see. Some of the most telling action happens in reactions; don't feel bad for turning your back on an actor. The actors treat the audience like known friends or workmates and some people don't like their conversations being overheard.

At one point, I was the only person watching Thamma (Shoshannah Oks) and Pheine (Brianagh Curran), Lot and Ada's daughter's, and one gave me a look that made me look away. Not long after, Ada stood near me as the worst thing she could imagine was happening metres away and I wondered if I should comfort her.

Director Danny Delahunty ensures that the overall story is clear and keeps moving. The details are bonus secret moments that might only be shared between one person and an actor and may not happen at all in another performance.

As the mood of the party goes from fun to awkward to dangerous – the inspectors aren't there to do good –  the audience is made to feel more and more uncomfortable, and it takes faith to trust that we are safe and only watching a game of make believe.

Photo by Sarah Walker

The second half of the night takes place in an old attic that's been transformed into a more traditional theatre space. Here, the audience are allowed back into the safe role of unseen watchers, but the room is small and close and dark.

Lot and his family escaped to a cave that isn't dark enough to not see what happens in the blackness. There are worse things than being turned into a salty metaphor, and it asks: what would you do if you thought you were the only humans left on earth.

While the first half makes the audience feel complicit in the decisions made at the party (none of us objected), the second half makes the audience watch the unfolding consequences of those decisions.

It's not easy theatre to watch.

But it's theatre that questions how form and writing can work so closely that it's impossible to see where one ends and the other begins. Kilpatrick's writing is so beautiful and strong that it disappears and doesn't sound like writing because we're so immersed in the immediate experience of being in Sodom.

Meanwhile Delahunty's unseen control makes sure that the moments and connections that need to be seen aren't missed. In the cave, I kept remembering seeing Thamma hug her dad at every opportunity at the party.

And the cast are exceptional. There's no safely zone of a stage for them to hide in either.

The City They Burned declares Attic Erratic as the next independent company to make a mark so unforgettable that a hole would exist in Melbourne's theatre scene without them. In the last three years, they've developed from theatre graduates doing their thing (I called them vanilla) to theatre makers who are getting bolder and more unforgettable with each production.

The audience capacity for this show is very limited and is already selling out. Book now and don't wait until their Fringe season.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

11 September 2014

The Sublime discussion & links

The Sublime

Photo by Jeff Busby

The response to my commentary about the MTC's The Sublime has been positive and nearly overwhelming with so many social media and real life conversations resulting.

I wrote about the aspects of this play that disturbed me the most (and I wanted to keep it less than a thesis). But there IS much more to say about it, including how honestly the men are portrayed.

Many of the conversations have been about the intent of the playwright, the director, the company and everyone who has had an input into the production – that's a lot of people.

It seems like the creators couldn't see what they were saying about young women and power because all they could see is what they were saying about men caught in football world.

Theatre is something that we all see through different eyes. You will never have the same experience that the person sitting next to you has. Please read all the reviews and rants or decide to see or not see it without reading the commentary. And #mtcSublime is worth a visit on Twitter.

But be thrilled that we have a critical arts community that wants to discuss our theatre and writing. Here are some links. I'll add more as they happen.

Alison Croggon saw it last night (10/9/14). She published this on alisoncroggon.tumblr.com (11/9/14).

Eloise Brook on The Conversation (12/9/14). However, I can't tell if she's seen the play.

I also have to add that so many of the conversations about this play are happening in private and away from public glare.

The others (from 5–6/9)

Me on AussieTheatre (3/9/14). I'll publish it in full here next week.

Richard Watts on RRR's Smart Arts (4/9/14). About 1hr 45 min in.

Peta Mayer on ArtsHub (5/9/14), with an excellent discussion about how the female character doesn't sit comfortably in a work that's wanting to be an honest depiction of society.

Byron Bache on his blog (5/9/14). Byron was the first on Twitter to call any negative response and I too stress his point that NO ONE has accused the MTC or this play of condoning rape. Read what we say, don't cherry pick trigger words.

MTC management on Crikey's Daily Review (2/9/14) while the reviews were positive. And why is anonymous "management" commenting? Surely it should be AD Brett Sheehy?

Chris Boyd in The Australian (1/9/14). And a text version if the pay wall stops you.

Andrew Furhmann on Crikey's Daily Review (29/8/14).

Cameron Woodhead in The Age/SMH (29/8/14).

Kate Herbert in Herald Sun (29/8/14).

Reuben Liversidge on ArtsHub (30/8/14).

Peter Craven in The Saturday paper (6/9/14).

Brendan Cowell in The Age (6/9/14, but the interview was during rehearsals).

Brendan Cowell in The Age (18/8/14).

And here's playwright Brendan Cowell talking about it the 2014 MTC season launch.

10 September 2014

Review preview: The City They Burned

The City They Burned
Attic Erratic
6 September 2014
Cavern Table Performance Space
to 23 September
Photo by Sarah Walker

Attic Erratic's The City They Burned is a re-telling of the Genesis story of Lot and his family. I remember learning about godly Lot at my Anglican school: Lot is told by God and his angels to get out of town, Lot's selfish wife looks back at their town of Sodom and God turns her into a pillar of salt for questioning his will and valuing her materialistic life.

Like slabs of the Old Testament, the understanding of what makes a good person is subjective and bits of the stories are often missed in the telling. When I drew Bible story pictures at primary school, they didn't include gang rape, incest, incest-rape and God generally being a dick by destroying everyone, except Lot, with a rain of fire. And we didn't discuss how Sodom gave us the word sodomy.  

This tale is from books – the story of Lot is also in the Quran and the Torah – that continue to control so many people's lives, morality and decisions. As long as these stories keep being told, we need to keep looking at them to try to understand and continue to question why they are still at the core of so much in our society.

Writer Fleur Kilpatrick says that she wants to question the concept of bad or evil. What did the people of the city of Sodom do to deserve being wiped off the face of God's good earth?

What would happen if God were removed from the story?

Is a godless world compassionless and devoid of hope? Is it any different from a God-loved world?


The full review is on AussieTheatre.com and will be published here in a few days.