31 October 2012

Melbourne Festival: Before Your Very Eyes

Melbourne Festival 2012
Before Your Very Eyes
CAMPO/Gob Squad
24 October 2012
Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse
to 27 October

Seven 10- to 15-year-olds perform and play in a box made of two-way mirrors with a camera in the corner. They do what a disembodied voice tells them to do. We watch; they can't see us.  It's not as creepy as it sounds and gives children something rare: a voice equal to adults.

CAMPO (formerly Victoria) are from Ghent in Belgium. Every time I see something from this city, I want to go there. Before Your Very Eyes is the third and final in a series of works for adults performed by children. The second was That Night Follows Day, which was directed by Forced Entertainment's Tim Etchells and seen at the 2008 Melbourne Festival.  This is a co-production with Gob Squad, a collection of UK and German artists.

The project started with a group of 7 to 12 year olds in 2009. Over the years the children were recorded improvising and interviewing themselves on camera, and the footage is incorporated into the the production, which was first seen in early 2011. A year is a long time as a child; what you loved at 10 can be shameful by 11. This show lets the older child talk to their younger self.

The children are asked to live their lives out for us, so they grow beyond their three recorded years. The transition to 19 feels like dress ups with cigarettes and the idea of what being an adult is, but the mood changes as the children are asked questions by their younger selves. How do you tell your 10-year-old self that you lost their favourite toy?

As they hit their 40s, their reflection of the I-could-have and the I'm-really-not-special ages lies between uncanny and disturbing. It's odd to recognise yourself being played by a teenager. Yep, that's how we begin to dress and I'm trying to remember a party without homemade sushi, a discussion about wine and someone dancing badly in the corner.  And they continue talking with their younger selves. Would 15-year-old you be proud of who you are today? Mine would like my hair and my friends, but that's about it. 

This beautiful and fascinating work takes the children through to their deaths. Their lives are not special, we don't know what they did, we just watched them live and die. 

As Etchells's piece confronted the view children have of adult power, Gob Squad let children show us what they think of growing up. As "kids" are bundled into a generic lump, so kids bundle 19, 40 and 80 year olds. Maybe we are always only acting our age.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Melbourne Festival: The House of Dreaming

Melbourne Festival 2012
The House of Dreaming
Arena Theatre Company
25 October 2012
MTC, Lawler Studio
to 27 October

I didn't want to leave The House of Dreaming. Neither did my artistic advisor, five-year-old Scout.

There's picture books (good ones) and origami in the waiting room and you get a costume and a magic talisman: I was loving it from the first moment.

Arena Theatre have created a living story book. The experience is how I remember first reading picture books. They were so real that I felt I was in the pages and living it.

Entering the life-size house in a group of three as a rabbit, wizard and king/queen, welcome to a world of magic mirrors and telephones, stories on a bed, a magician, secret doors, more secret doors, rooms full of things to touch, singing masks, flowers and a beautiful story about how wonderful it is to have a child. Each room is a new page with new story, more clues and more to explore.

Like the best picture books, it's not vital to follow the story because there is so much to see and it's so exciting to move/crawl/dance into each room. The story and marvelling at the technology are for the grown ups, but it was so much more fun to just play.

I asked Scout what her favourite bit was; she said "Everything". I couldn't agree more. Every room is so full of wow! that it's impossible to choose a favourite part.

She was a bit nervous at first, and rightly so; there are strangers and who wants to go in to a big dark room when you're not sure what's in there. This lasted until the first room.

Every child deserves stories, to always know the love of telling and sharing stories, and to experience the wonder of The House of Dreaming. 

If you have children in your life who are around 5 to 10, this is something they won't forget. Neither will you.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

29 October 2012

Bang on a Can All-Stars in Melbourne

The festival is over and for the first time in a few years, it felt like an arts festival again. Like the wonderful Artists Club of the 05-08 events, the Foxtel Festival Hub gave us space to mix and enjoy. Can we please never have another festival without this sort of space.

This week, it's time to sleep – apart from things like Bill Bryson's lecture on Wednesday and an MTC opening on Thursday – and next week is already filled.

I'm most excited about The Bang on a Can All-Stars first Melbourne concerts on Monday 5 and Wednesday 7 November at the Recital Centre. Details here.

WHAT! (just checking). It's true. The concert on Monday 5 November is FREE. Book here. Book now.

I first saw this group in 1996 when Barrie Kosky brought them to the Adelaide Festival. I went on a friend's spare ticket and am forever grateful. It was love at first dissonant note and I saw them three times. They changed how I saw contemporary music.

My favourite contemporary music experience to date remains their concert in the Adelaide Playhouse that ended with Philip Glass's Two Pages. Demanding, basic and hypnotic, its refusal to resolve drove many to leave (in awesome Adelaide huffy style), but left the rest of us weak. I've since played it a dinner parties – it doesn't work, but it's great car music.

Bang on a Can was formed in New York by David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe in 1987 with the first BOAC Marathon concert. Dedicated to making new music, the marathon concerts have run for 25 years.

The six-piece All-Stars were created in 1992. Freely crossing boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world and experimental music, they continue to shatter any category and definition of concert music.

Sydney gets John Cage concerts (jealous), but Melbourne gets two (two!) concerts that are impossible to choose between.

First is the Australian premiere of Field Recordings, with nine new works that asked the composers to re-discover authentic American folk music and bring back sounds to challenge their own music. Using film, found sounds and archival audio and video, Field Recordings "builds a bridge between the seen and the unseen, the present and the absent, between today and the past". This is the FREE one.

Concert two includes the Melbourne premiere of BOAC founder Julia Wolfe's Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, written after watching 9/11 attacks with her two young children, two blocks from the Twin Towers. (After listening to this, also find John Adams's remarkable piece about 9/11, On the Transmigration of Souls.)

And they're playing Brian Eno's Music for Airports. I could start to rave, but I may not stop if I do.

26 October 2012

Chat: Xavier Bouvier, Melbourne Festival

Slips Inside
Foxtel Festival Hub
26 October 2013

There’s one more chance to see Belgian clowning duo Okidok in Slips Inside at the glorious Foxtel Festival Hub on Friday 26 October. Aussie Theatre grabbed a quick chat with half of the duo, Xavier Bouvier.

Fresh from a run of acclaimed performances at Avignon Festival, Okidok present their latest piece of inspired madness where two cartoon-like characters compete to outdo each other in ridiculous feats of acrobatics and outlandishness, presenting a riotous evening of ludicrous physical comedy.

Describe you show?
Two characters think they are as beautiful as Brad Pitt and think they have the same muscles than JeanClaude Van Damme, they are really proud to come to perform to show how great they are.

What other Melbourne Festival show will you NOT miss seeing?
La Soiree.

What was the first festival you were a part of?
Festival international de cirque de Onnezies (Belgium) in 1987.

Apart from the Melbourne Festival, what festival would you love to be a part of?
Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

If you’re new to Melbourne, what else are you looking forward to doing while you’re here?
I love to discover a city just by walking through the streets and going to the museum.

What’s one of the great things about performing in a festival?
The combination of work and holidays.

What do you like to do when you have a day away from art?
I would like to drive down the Great Ocean Road.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
Any sympathetic people we meet.

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
Performing and performing, you learn theatre by experience on stage.

What’s the worst (or best) thing a review has said about you or your show?
For this show, a review said that it was wonderful how much people were laughing during the whole show with almost nothing on stage, no words, there is almost nothing on stage except our two bodies. The madness and stupidity of the characters hold all the show.

And the worst was: “ Great performers are looking for a director”. The journalist didn’t find a message in our show, he just saw entertainment and wasn’t happy with that. But I don’t agree with his point of view. The difference between an entertainer and a clown, is that the clown opens his heart to laugh at himself, he doesn’t wear the mask of the joker. To play a clown character is an attitude. It ‘s about making the choice to show an unperfect, singular character who tries to do the best with what’s life’s given to him. To accept even the disaster of your singularity, even the gift of your singularity, turns sometimes your common life into poetry, sometimes not. Taking this risk in an attitude. And that can be a message.

What was the last book you read?
Le merveilleux au moyen âge by Jacques Le Goff.

What was the last piece of theatre you saw that made you cry?
Obludarium by Matej et Petr Foreman.

What does art mean to you?
It makes life more beautiful.

Will anyone hate your show?
People who have problems with bodies in underwear, and nudity.

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
I saw voyage en bordure du bout du monde from “les trois points de suspension”. It’s clowns who are playing a Greek tragedy they wrote themselves. Before then we had written clown theatre by acts, because we are clowns and we worked for circus, cabaret and theatre, so we wrote maybe twenty different acts, and for our next show, we would like to tell a story, should be a quest, with clowns knights.

What is the first piece of theatre you remember seeing?
La soupe aux grenouilles when I was a child. I remember a huge plate, with green water inside and plants and there was a comedian (I guess it was a comedian) wearing a frog costume.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
I don’t know, I don’t want to die.

What do you love most about your show?
The freedom of the characters.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Last Melbourne Festival weekend: what to do?

There's only two more days to hang out at the Festival Hub and rush to see the exhibitions that you swore you'd make time for – and see shows that finish tomorrow!

I've been very lucky to have been a date for some shows, but will also do a review catch up as soon as I'm not sitting in or climbing through a show. (I so want to find time to go back to Hold.)  And really, sitting and talking with friends and strangers after a show is so much better for you than reading a review.

Or go to the Twitter #melbfest for a quicker read.

The House of Dreaming 
Arena Theatre Company
finishes Saturday 27 October

I didn't want to leave The House of Dreaming and neither did my artistic advisor, five-year-old Scout.

This giant doll house is as close to walking into a storybook as possible with dressing up, stories, magic and wow! in every room.

Every child deserves to go (designed for 5 and up).


We're Gonna Die
Young Jean Lee's Theater Company
finishes Saturday 27 October

There's been far too many empty seats at We're Gonna Die.

Come on Melbourne, you will LOVE this adorable show that's not at all theatrey, a little bit hipstery and likely to make you cry (for yourself, in a good way) and sing.  It's honest, full of heart and adorable.

Young Jean Lee is the artist I won't forget from this festival (and Nilaja Sun) and I now want to see everything else she's created.

Here's a chat with her.

Before Your Very Eyes
CAMPO/Gob Squad
finishes Saturday 27 October

If you saw and loved That Night Follows Day at the 2008 Melbourne Festival, Before Your Very Eyes is the third and final work in Belgium company CAMPO's series of works performed by children for adults. CAMPO changed their name from Victoria, which is why I didn't tweak until I was at the show. 

Developed over a number of years, seven children play/perform in a box made of two-way mirrors. They grow and die. It's not as creepy as it sounds; it's beautiful and fascinating – and to see a tween express everything about being 45 was unforgettable.

Slips Inside
finishes Friday 26 October

I haven't seen this, but it looks like it's so much fun – and it's on at the Festival Hub.

And here's a chat with clown Xavier Bouvier where he says that art "makes life more beautiful".

An Enemy of the People
Schaubühne Berlin
finishes Saturday 27 October

This is the show that theatrey types are raving about. I loved it, but I get why some people huffed out.

See it before your read reviews in fear of spoilers, but for after, here's Alison's and Cameron's.

The Rabble
finishes Saturday 27 October

Orlando has been sold out for days;  if have a ticket, don't you dare waste it.

La Soiree
finishes 18 November

It's La Clique in Melbourne's most gorgeous theatre. There's bath boy David O'Mer, glorious Ursula Martinez, scrumptious Le Gateau Chocolate, super delightful Jess Love, bendy beyond belief Captain Frodo, the wonderful Wau Wau Sisters and guests galore.

Impossible not to love!

And please try to do Hold and/or Impasse at the Meat Market and Arts House.

I've spoken to people who didn't end up as bruised as I did! And know that you'll know if it's not right for you – but just knowing that makes your experience as incredible as everyone's who got to the end.

25 October 2012

Brynne and MKA: proof

Remember when Brynne performed with MKA?

I was there (avoiding the cameras). It was a strange night. I'd never walked into Theatre Works/any theatre/any room and asked, "Is that Geoffrey Edelston stitting in the corner?".

 Now we can prove that it really happened.

 Here's last night's episode of Brynne: My Beedazzled Life  from Channel 7's catch up site.

Brynne, we didn't notice those line drops and you ran off without hanging around to chat! It must have been Tobias's hat.

23 October 2012

Melbourne Festival: Hold & Impasse

Melbourne Festival 2012
David Cross
Arts House
23 October 2012
Arts House, Meat Market
to 28 October

Denis Beaubois, William McClure & Jeff Stein
Arts House
23 October 2012
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
to 28 October

I don't want to say anything about Hold or Impasse because the experience is so personal and spoilers aren't fair. I promise that I say no more than is in the Festival guide.

Both are huge art installation, interactive immersive performance spaces designed for one person at a time.  You are the story. You're alone.

There's no one to hold your hand or help or comfort. (Except in Hold, but I'm not sure if loved or loathed that hand.)

There's no one to share it with, until you're out and it's impossible to share with someone who hasn't done it. I'm begging people to do it, just so I can debrief.

Hold is a blue inflatable; it's like a jumpy castle, but it's nothing like a bouncy castle as it stands alone in the dark and cavernous Meat Market surrounded by the brass sheep heads.

The warning – Performance requires high level of physical mobility and personal responsibility. Dangerous for those with serious existing medical conditions, including heart and respiratory problems – is true. Don't sign your personal waiver without reading it. I left with a broken nail, a bruised wrist, bruised shin and a sore shoulder from holding on too tight.

It's extreme and confronting.  It made me feel fat and middle-aged, but I am so going back to do it again.

Described as a phobic space, it confronts phobias. I didn't think I had any...   But I was scared, feel-it-in-my-guts scared and I gave in to the fear for a second and that was all it took.

Impasse is around the corner at the North Melbourne Town Hall. It's dense and white.  It's not as physically challenging as Hold, but they give you a panic button before you go in. I loved my panic button. I didn't use it, but I knew it was there.

I nearly gave up at the beginning and headed out. But I went back and it was brilliant.

Yes, I was scared. I knew both were totally safe spaces, but I was scared.

It was a bit like the safe fear thrill of horror films or carnival rides, except you really are living it and you can't simply shut your eyes or hang on. The nearest I've come to it was the first time I caught a Hunstman spider after being terrified of them for 30 or so years, or maybe first sex. The second time can never be as intimidating as the first.

Who should do it?
or, Who should I shag to get a ticket?

Both are officially sold out, but people don't turn up and if you're free on week days, the chances of getting in may be good. I expect that weekends will be impossible.

Have I mentioned that it's FREE? Free!

If you have a ticket and are having doubts. Physically, Hold is very challenging. It's really not for anyone injured or not mobile. If you have genuine phobias, maybe talk to someone who has done it. (I did tell one person what happens at the beginning to convince her that it was ok.)

However, you'll know at the start if it's not for you and there's nothing wrong with turning around and going out. If that's your story and your experience, it's as awesome as anyone else's.

Otherwise, just do it. Go with the fear, go with your gut and experience something so real that there really aren't words to describe it.

22 October 2012

Chat: Young Jean Lee, Melbourne Festival

We’re Gonna Die
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company (USA)
24–27 October

Young Jean Lee is one of America’s most acclaimed experimental playwrights whose intensely personal work is described as honest, darkly funny and touching.

We’re Gonna Die has four performances at the Melbourne Festival, starting on Wednesday 24 October. Part pop concert and part stand up cabaret, it’s an intimate story of her own personal tragedy, sung as quirky pop. We had a quick chat with her about her artistic influences and inspirations.

Describe you show in three words?
Death, humor, and music.

Who shouldn’t miss your show?
Anyone who’s ever felt alone in their pain.

What other Melbourne Festival show will you NOT miss seeing?
I’d like to see the Gob Squad show, Before your very eyes.

What was the first festival you were a part of?
The Vienna Festival.

Apart from the Melbourne Festival, what festival would you love to be a part of?
I’d love to go to Japan or Brazil.

If you’re new to Melbourne, what else are you looking forward to doing while you’re here?
When we went to the Sydney Opera House, I missed out on the Koala petting zoo, so I hope to hit one in Melbourne. (NOTE: can someone take her to the Healseville Sanctuary please.)

What’s one of the great things about performing in a festival?
The people who work for the festivals are so dedicated – those people work incredibly hard. (NOTE: Hell yes!)

What do you like to do when you have a day away from art?
Watch movies.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
I would invite Barack and Michelle Obama to see The Shipment.

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
Tim Etchells from Forced Entertainment told me that all I had to do to be a successful artist was just survive over the years, since most people quit.

What’s the worst (or best) thing a review has said about you or your show?
I try to block out the worst things. A critic for the New York Times didn’t like one of my shows and wrote a negative review, but in the review he gave me an amazing pull-quote about my being the most adventurous downtown playwright of my generation. I was pretty psyched about that.

What was the last book you read?
Paddington at Work. I read children’s books before I go to sleep because pretty much anything else gives me anxiety nightmares.

What was the last piece of theatre you saw that made you cry?
It was the last show I made, Untitled Femnist Show, and I cried after the premiere because I was so relieved it wasn’t a disaster. Otherwise, I don’t cry a lot in theatre shows.

What does art mean to you?
It’s something I love to experience and make, and it’s how I make my living.

Will anyone hate your show?
Some of my shows invoke a lot of audience ire, but this isn’t one of them. Some arty types get disappointed that it is so formally straightforward. Also, I remember hearing a woman in the restroom complaining about the show’s subject matter, which “wasn’t her idea of a good time”, which I thought was pretty funny.

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
I’ve been very influenced by the Wooster Group, Richard Foreman, Richard Maxwell, and Mac Wellman. I’ve been influenced by their approach to non-linear dramatic structure and also their working process.

What is the first piece of theatre you remember seeing?
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum performed by a community theatre called The Summer Palace in Pullman, WA where I grew up.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
I’ve been obsessed with working with the actor Austin Pendleton for years, and he’s going to be in my next show, Straight White Men!

What do love most about your show?
I love it when people who have experienced recent tragedies in their lives come up to me after the show and tell me how much the show helped them.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

A weekend at the Foxtel Festival Hub

Wunderacts (Circa), Life Art and Leigh BoweryThe Love of Books: A Sarajevo StoryThe Enemy of the PeopleMiles O'Neil and Simone Page Jones 

I've seen some terrific stuff this festival (Orlando and last night's An Enemy of the People are highlights), but the absolute jump-up-and-dance winner of this year's Melbourne Festival is the Festival Hub (ok, the Foxtel Festival Hub).

My favourite hour of this festival was spent sitting on a red velvet couch listening to Boy George, Paul Capsis, Le Gateau Chocolate and Richard Watts talk about identity, drag and the politics of being yourself. I had good coffee (really good coffee) and a cup cake with a purple flower, I was with people who remember the 80s and there was free Wi Fi to tweet from. Can't ask for anything more.

On Saturday afternoon, I saw Circa's Wunderacts. And yes it is.

And here's a chat with Daniel Crisp from Circa. 

Circa make intelligent, funny, sexy, mad and wonderful circus. From its fuck-me red stilletto shoes to the throwing of teddies, Wunderacts is an utter joy that had the audience on their grinning and cheering feet.

Circa take traditional tricks and add layers of skill and complexity that leave even the most jaded of us gasping. Throw in a world where strong women are bases, men dance gloriously in pink tulle and everyone is wonderful just as they are, it's the kind of show that simply left me feeling happy.

Their last performance is tonight (Monday).

After such a treat, there was no chance of going home to sit in the dark and write as there was sun, a roof top bar with cocktails, amazing views, great conversation and a very cute dog running from table to table for pats.

Sunday started with a documentary (yes, there's a film program in the festival). The Love of Books: A Sarajevo Story is a mix of first-person interviews, re-enactments and footage from the city during the siege. There were only two screenings, but it's well worth finding.

During the Bosnian war (1992–95), the city of Sarajevo was burnt and shelled, 250, 000 people were killed and two million refugees fled.  As snipers lined the streets and friends and families were killed and threatened, a group of  people risked their lives to move and hide 10,067 irreplaceable manuscripts. They put them in old banana boxes (books so old that they can't be exposed to light or held by human hands today) and ran. Then they did it again when the libraries in the city were burnt.

A man who was born in Africa and had made his home in Sarajevo said, "It would have been better to die with the books than to live without them."

I saw this film because I'd read Geraldine Brooks's fictional People of the Book, which was inspired by this story, and I wanted to see the exquisite ancient texts. They are so beautiful, but I was humbled and moved by a story that should be known far wider than the few who see this documentary.

Next it was back to the Hub for more coffee and was happily surprised to see that uber-gorgeous singers Miles O'Neil and Simone Page Jones had been asked back for their second Sunday. Even better, they performed with Nathan the dog. Every performance should have a dog.

And Schaubuühne Berlin's The Enemy of the People  supported my solid theory by having a German Shepherd. Every show should have a dog.

I was on a date ticket, so will leave the raving to others – who will be raving.

The pre-show whinge was "two and a half hours with no interval" – it's a big ask in the middle of festival – but have a wee before you go in and you'll be fine. And put up with the fuzzy surtitles (there were lots of complaints about how hard it was to read them).

I was near people who hated it and saw some wonderful huffy walkouts, but they should have stuck it out. The first stretch is contemporary uber-naturalism Ibsen with German hipsters and David Bowie songs. A young doctor had a new wife and baby and has uncovered that the local spa water is poisoned, but the local council convinces the local paper not to publish the findings. This leads to a very long speech about the "sodding liberal majority" that left me wishing that I wasn't one of the sodding, and then it gets so brilliant that I don't want to talk about it and ruin the impact. All I can say is that Melbourne audiences are wonderful.

And I'm hoping to get back to the Hub on Thursday for the forum about European Theatre with Schaubuühne's director Thomas Ostermeier.

All photos by me.

Art fatigue

It's mid-festival: a traditional time of art fatigue and what-haven't-I-written panic that's accompanied by an overwhelming need for a night on the couch with crap TV. Even finding words for a tweet is hard and writers wish that all they needed to do was offer a thumbs up or down at the end each show.

I've only napped during one show... It wasn't that it wasn't great, it's just that it was dark and comfortable and I thought I'd just listen for a while. (And think it may be unfair to write about it.)

Am I really complaining about this? No, and have given myself a suitable eye-roll as I make another coffee, knowing that I've had more sleep than the festival staff and been able to sit down and enjoy the Hub.

21 October 2012

Chat: Daniel Crisp, Melbourne Festival

Foxtel Festival Hub
19–22 October

There simply isn’t anywhere more glorious in Melbourne than the Foxtel Festival Hub on the south bank of the Yarra. Yesterday I spent a perfect afternoon with coffee, cake, friends, cocktails, views and the too wonderful Wunderacts from Circa.

Based in Brisbane, circus troupe Circa were formed in 2006 and have toured to 22 countries, where audiences have adored them and critics consistently raved. And rightly so. Wunderacts is new. It’s sexy and clever and funny and the laid back Saturday afternoon crowd couldn’t stop themselves from jumping to their feet at the end of the show.

We had a quick chat with Daniel Crisp from the company, who says that everyone should see the show. He’s right! But it’s only on until Monday 22 October.

Describe you show in three words?
Awesome, unearthly, merrymaking.

Who shouldn’t miss your show?
No one should miss it!

What other Melbourne Festival show will you NOT miss seeing?
We are coming in on the back end, but everything happening at the Foxtel festival hub looks awesome.

What was the first festival you were a part of?
Woodford folk festival.

Apart from the Melbourne Festival, what festival would you love to be a part of?
The Montreal Circus festival.

If you’re new to Melbourne, what else are you looking forward to doing while you’re here?
Kicking it with some of the other amazing artists that are performing and live in Melbourne.

If you’re a local, where in Melbourne do you always take visitors?
Chapel Street and St Kilda, always crowd pleasers. An AFL game is always a winner to provide it’s in season.

What’s one of the great things about performing in a festival?
The vibe and community energy between the different artists from different companies getting to hang out together and kick it.

What do you like to do when you have a day away from art?
Sunshine, surf and smile.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
Kevin Rudd.

What is the best theatre advice you’ve received?
Nothing risked, nothing gained.

What’s the worst (or best) thing a review has said about you or your show?
“It’s like watching superheroes have sex”.

What was the last book you read?
The Turning by Tim Winton.

What was the last piece of theatre you saw that made you cry?
The Lion King.

What does art mean to you?
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination mixed with danger and emotion. It allows an expression of self and development of beauty in all places.

Will anyone hate your show?
I’d much rather someone hates the show than be totally bored and feel nothing toward it. You can’t please everyone!

What work changed how you make theatre? Why?
Working with Yaron has most definitely changed my perspective and altered my perception of what art is and can become. So essentially it was when I first saw the show C!RCA in 2009 at the Opera House in Sydney. It gave me a clear direction of what I wanted to pursue with my career and what style I wanted to work toward, that has continued to be an ever-changing thing over the awesome period of two years I have been at Circa.

What is the first piece of theatre you remember seeing?
My best friend Mark Hill performing in Raw Metal in his early teenage years.

What director/actor/writer/creator would you just die to work with?
I am mighty happy right here at Circa and working with Yaron, Darcy and our directorial crew. No need to die.

What do love most about your show?
The honest nature of the work. There are no characters; just people doing things that humans do in strange and interesting (and hopefully funny) ways.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

18 October 2012

Melbourne Festival review: Orlando

Melbourne Festival 2012
The Rabble, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival
12 October 2012
Tower Theatre
to 27 October

Tell me a story. Tell me in a way that it's not been told before. This is the bliss of theatre. The Rabble's Orlando is so far from the experience of reading Virgina Woolf's book, but as close to knowing its essence (I want to say soul) as possible.

Woolf's 1928 novel Orlando was a love letter to Vita Sackville West about a young man who never grew old, became a woman and lived through the 16th to 19th centuries. This Orlando is a lusty and passionate response to Virgina Woolf (and to great women writers and to all writers and poets) that's as gentle and beautiful, as cruel and painful, as liberating and celebratory, and as embarrassing and shameful as love.

Artistic directors, Emma Valente and Kate Davis, have collaborated for six years with a group of artists (in Melbourne and Sydney) to examine familiar stories, and re-imagine and re-tell them in a new context with an unexpected aesthetic.  Their work is so dense and layered that it guarantees a different experience for everyone watching – and response ranges from "this is why I go to theatre" to "this is why I don't go to theatre". If you don't understand what's going on in one of their shows, don't worry. Find what you enjoy and know that no one else will see the show quite like you do.

Orlando's re-imagined world is milky/semeny white, with crunchy pebbles, billowy tulle, soft fox fur, crisp cotton, smooth pearls and a creamy pool that flows and stagnates though the centuries. It's a world that begs us to touch and feel and roll naked in it; it's almost cruel to make us just watch. And that's before we want to taste.

Dana Miltins performance as Orlando is exquisite, almost hypnotic. For most of the night Orlando says little. Great acting is rarely the words said, it's reacting to what's being said and done, and her reactions pull us into Orlando's heart to see and feel his/her world like she/he does. 

The only thing that rips our attention away from her are Orlando's loves, who are Syd Brisbane and Mary Helen Sassman. If Orlando is all heart and emotion, they are the baser parts.  Sassman's hilarious discussion of our lusty bits is unforgettable. And there's Brisbane in a sporran with a kabana, which may come back the next time you see a Shakespeare. 

Each are so watchable in themselves, but the balance and contrast of the three performers is the sweet, salt and spice that makes this work so finger-licking delicious. 

If you own a falling-apart copy of Woolf's book, this Orlando will be as precious as a first edition. If you haven't read it, don't worry.  I thought I'd read it, but according to the receipt/bookmark in my copy – bought at the Murphy Sister's feminist bookstore in Adelaide in 1993, must have been after seeing the 1992 film – I didn't get past p.49. The joy of The Rabble's work is that there's so much more to indulge in than a mere appreciation of the source.  And, like me, you may be inspired to pop the book on your must-read pile.

At the Festival Hub at a full panel discussion about identity, drag and self, Boy George (who I love more now than I did in the 80s) said, "Sometimes the most political thing you can do is just be yourself." How often are we simply ourselves? Orlando is that search for self through gender and time and relationships and it's more honest and gutsy than anything currently being screamed about gender, identity and feminism.

Photo by Sarah Walker

This appeared on AussieTheatre.com

17 October 2012

Smart Arts LIVE tomorrow

I assume that all SM readers are also avid listeners of Smart Arts on RRR on Thursday mornings.

Tomorrow morning (Thursday, 9.00–12.00), Smart Arts host Richard Watts is broadcasting live from the Melbourne Festival Hub – the gorgeous mass of colour on the banks of the south Yarra.

Richard's guests include  choreographers Akram Khan and Lucy Guerin, festival director Brett Sheehy, ACCA's Juliana Engberg, regular guest John Bailey and pop politician Billy Bragg.

The kitchen is open for breakfast from 7.00 (who knew there was one of them in the morning as well). The coffee is brilliant and there's plenty of scrummy snacks and meals.

And, as well as the sight of Richard making live radio sound effortless, there's live music from Kieran Ryan (Kid Sam) and Sxip Shirey.

If you can get down, stream or listen live at 102.7 FM or rrr.org.au.

Melbourne Festival review: After Life

MIAF 2012
After Life
Melbourne Festival, Michel va der Aa
11 October 2012
Regent Theatre
to 13 October

There's still an odd belief that capital A Arty Farty festivals should open with an opera. Opera is grand and epic and shatters crystal glasses with high Cs to prove its power. So why open the Melbourne Festival with a semi-staged version of an intimate opera in a cavernous theatre that ensures that most of the audience have no chance of experiencing the truth of this work?

After Life is by Michel van der Aa from the Netherlands. At your death, you have to choose one memory, one moment to spend your eternity with. Wow! I don't know if it's possible to watch this and not try and find that one memory for yourself. What memories will you lose? What if it's so painful that an eternity with it is unbearable? How do you choose? My memories of this show are already the post-show discussions about memories.

With live and filmed performers, After Life follows the struggle of some newly dead to choose their memory. In a way station between Heaven and Earth, they search through a pallet of their stuff and are helped by beige-suited staff to create their eternity, and one guide's eternity changes when his memories collide with those of a new soul. I think I might have really loved this, if I had a chance to see the opera that van der Aa envisioned.

It's really hard to discuss a work that you can hardly see. I was in the gods and didn't have the luxury of being able to see the detail of the pallets of memories, the chance to connect to the characters driving the story or enjoy the subtlety of the performances. Hell, I could barely figure out who was singing! I honestly believed that a bass and a soprano were the same person for a while.

I could enjoy the luxury of empty seats for my handbag and was free to wiggle because my head wasn't obliterating the view of the person behind me. I was also able to see the steady stream of runners and the light show of phone time checking.

(I don't care how fucking bored you are, TURN YOUR GODDAM PHONE OFF IN THE THEATRE. Let's start something. Next time you're in a theatre, before the show starts, have a chat to the people next to you. As theatre goers, they are probably someone you'd like to talk to, but after chatting about wine and seeing if you have better seats that B-list celebs in the audience, ask to see their smart phone, compare it to yours and have a competition to see whose turns OFF the fastest. If they don't play the game, grab their phone and sit on it until after the applause. If it vibrates, that's a bonus for you. If you HAVE to check the time; get a watch.)

Rant over. Next rant begins.

Today in festival office today, folk will be reading the Twitterati's comments like "atrocious" and tut-tutting about mindless bloggers and selfish critics who just don't "get it". But you weren't sitting where you could see people leave or listening to the sighs, which translated to "would anyone notice if I played Angry Birds" – and the people who talked to you at the after party were being polite. The things I heard said about this show at the after party! I had a dud experience, but I might be the best shot for a good review.

I love arty farty contemporary opera.  I love John Adams like I love Stephen Sondheim and David Bowie and The Go-Betweens. Favourite festival opera ever: Einstein on The Beach. Remember the response to Tomorrow, in a Year in 2010? The damnation was poetic. Melbourne hated this work and generally resented their time spent watching it. Last night, I heard comments that After Life was worse! But I adored Tomorrow, in a year. I bought the CD, it was my favourite piece of theatre for 2010. I really am the best chance for a good review.

But how can I fairly comment on something that was so distanced from its audience? It was like watching Star Wars on a portable black and white telly with a microwaved tv dinner compared to seeing at a full cinema on a giant screen in 1978 with a choc top.

The Regent is a magnificent theatre, but it's not the place for this piece. Only the first handful of middle rows have any chance of experiencing After Life as it's meant to be. Being very generous, that's less than a quarter of the audience. I chatted with a reviewer who was in row L downstairs and their experience wasn't much better than mine.

But back to the art. Musically, van der Aa's score loves the sound of voices and it was a treat to hear such exquisite voices, but the atonal sound and recitative was constant and didn't match the drama or tone on the stage. I can't remember any of it; not buying the CD. Again, the venue was so wrong for this music and in the right space, I have no doubt that its delicacies would be heard.

Then there was the film. As a semi-staged version, we didn't see what it was meant to look like. Opera and music are about singing what you can't say, so why not sing it all? A child singing about his lost dog would have been heartbreaking. A child talking about his lost dog on film is cute. The climax is a man destroying his pallet of memories and realising that his life was more than he'd ever known. Dramatically powerful, structurally perfect, emotionally painful and cathartic. This scene is on screen. Filmed on an empty stage. If this were live, it would be astonishing and I can't imagine how the choice to have it on film was made.

I've just had a look on the YouTube to see what After Life is meant to be like. Even a grab on a computer shows why this work was chosen. It's exquisite (if this becomes a pull quote, I'll go around with a Sharpie and insert a "not" on every poster). The film merges seamlessly with the live action; those singers can act (and that's what they look like); the design is delicate, funny and evocative; and the music seems as natural as breathing. Even that climax works.

Putting a half-arsed version of After Life in The Regent is unfair to its creators and performers, and an insult the audience who love and support this festival.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Mark Allan

13 October 2012

Melbourne Festival review: No Child

Melbourne Festival 2012
No Child
Theatre Works, Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Festival
9 October 2012
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 14 October

Nilaja Sun's from New York and let's hope Melbourne audiences can make up for the disgraceful welcome to Australia she experienced on QandA on Monday night. No Child is beautiful, celebratory and sobering and it finishes on Sunday. See it because it's awesome theatre or just to let her know that there are people in Australia who believe in respecting others.

Yes, we're still going on about it and will continue to go on about it as long as it keeps going on. She was invited to be on the panel to talk about education; she was ignored by most of the panel and witnessed the kind of bullying and disrespect (towards our Federal Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare) that Nilaja works to stop in high schools – and that's before the panel stopped any chance of having a public discussion about education.

Nalaja spent eight years teaching drama in some of New Yorks toughest schools. Schools with metal detectors at the door, where 18-year-olds in year 10 are doing well, pregnancy or jail is expected, drugs are common and graduating is unusual. It's a far cry from my high school days where we all wore our socks pulled ups and trauma was getting a B instead of an A.

Her classes made a difference to teenagers who had no chance and No child is theatre that can and must make a difference.

Playing all the characters from the school, including herself, her performance makes you forget that there's only one person on the stage and her storytelling reminds us that story teaches more than testing ever will.  It's the kind of theatre that proves why theatre is so important.

Maybe we can we pass around the hat to get her to spend a few weeks with our Federal parliament? And Victorians can donate extra for time with those who think it's a great idea to destroy our TAFE system.

I'm happy to give up arts festivals if we can get this kind of teaching in our schools. Even if our worst schools don't have metal detectors, it doesn't mean that the children who go to them deserve anything less than children at 'good' schools. I went to a very 'good' school and doubt I would have cared if I didn't have drama classes. Theatre gives lets us see the world from a different perspective; it gives us a moment to experience what our world could be like without being told 'no'.  With this type of teaching – not only for drama; let's make maths this fun – it wouldn't take long for young adults to start making art that questions and to start demanding festivals to share it and to see the best art from the rest of the world.

How much would it cost to get a drama teacher like this into EVERY school in Australia? What kind of difference would this make?

Sadly the likes of her fellow-QandA guests, Christopher Pyne, Lindsay Tanner and Piers Ackerman, won't see this show. (Can the festival please invite them and see if they even respond?) Nor will the people who make decisions about funding our primary, secondary or tertiary education systems.

This glorious piece of theatre will be seen by people who are generally lucky enough to have had a good education, a tertiary education and are able to buy tickets to an arts festival (or at least exchange then for some words). We'll talk about it and slam down our sparkling chardonnays in anger, but what will we do?

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

And here's a bonus for Mr P.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

12 October 2012


We know that I'm not good at the Twitter, but #turnyourfuckingphoneOFF

I had a bit of a rant* today about people using their phones in the theatre.

There was many a bored person at After Life last night and the more polite ones left. The rest made sure we knew they were bored by using their phones. Guess what, that light is a bit distracting. And, it's just so rude!

Following Chris Boyd's lead, I'm all for naming and shaming.

So, along with Stalls C31and D29, I add Circle M22 for time checking from 9.15 onwards and N26/27 for deciding to read her program by the light of her phone.

*I don’t care how fucking bored you are, TURN YOUR GODDAM PHONE OFF IN THE THEATRE.

Let’s start something. Next time you’re in a theatre, before the show starts, have a chat to the people next to you. As theatre goers, they are probably someone you’d like to talk to, but after chatting about wine and seeing if you have better seats that B-list celebs in the audience, ask to see their smart phone, compare it to yours and have a competition to see whose turns OFF the fastest. If they don’t play the game, grab their phone and sit on it until after the applause. If it vibrates, that’s a bonus for you. If you HAVE to check the time; get a watch.

Quick, more "Joe" announced

I've nearly finished writing about last night's MIAF opening bitch fest, but there's much more exciting news just in.

There are two more performances of The unspoken word is "Joe"!

Details here. Book your fucking ticket now. (And give After Life a miss.)

And as I was so late to the review rave, I'll forgive a lack of quote.

Review: The unspoken word is "Joe"

The unspoken word is "Joe"
MKA and La Mama
6 October 2012
La Mama Theatre
to 14 October

The unspoken word is "Joe" has added as many performances as possible. The last lot sold out in 20 minutes. This means that the cast get pizza and those without tickets will have to see something else at the Fringe and believe what they heard about this show.

Last year, award-winning playwright Declan Greene recommended that I see a show co-created by Zoey Dawson. I know there's a lot of noise outside but you have to close your eyes was one of my favourites in the 2011 Fringe and since then Dawson's directed us The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of  Romeo and Juliet and performed all over the world in in MKA's The Economist.

Zoey's great! And wunderbeast producers MKA have grabbed her new script to create the rarest of Fringe beasts: a show that you can't get tickets for and a show that all reviews agree about.

"Joe" is a meta theatre reflection on indie theatre and breaking up. Really! What's so wonderful is that it's also nothing like that. Only the bravest go meta and so few succeed. Being in on the jokes, I was there from second one, but knew just how good it was when my date whispered, "It's not for real, is it?"

Hell yes, it's for real. It's so painfully real that it guarantees to send everyone back to their own memories of making art and stuff, being really serious about it, getting drunk, thinking you're the bee's knees and making a total muggins of yourself. It's wonderful stuff.

And it's all made more perfect with Greene's direction and dramaturgy, Eugyeene Teh's consistently awesome and witty design and a extraordinary cast (Nikki Shiels, Georgina Capper, Annie Last, Matt Hickey and Aaron Orzech) who never let us in on the joke.

Cameron used up all the best adjectives and the metaphor about taking liberties with dead body. And I couldn't agree more.

Review: Wittenberg

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
6 October 2012
Red Stitch
to 3 November

Hamlet, philosophy, temptation, indulgences (the paid for kind), Banksy rats, coffee and the quill. Welcome to Wittenberg, Germany, 1517, and Red Stitch, St Kilda, 2012.

Here a young Danish prince, who looks like he's stepped out of Brideshead Revisited, discusses life (or not), the universe and salvation with his university professors John Faustus and Martin Luther, who, despite the odd disagreement, are best mates who regularly enjoy a tankard together.

Sub-titled as a tragical-comical-historical in two acts, David Davalos's 2008 play is a post-modern-ish mash up of philosophy, literature, university politics and the Protestant Reformation. What more do you need to know!?

If you think it sounds like it's written by a nerdy clever dick who's read far too many books, you're spot on. This is the kind of play that justifies doing philosophy at uni, reading old plays and getting As for history in high school. So if you're a nerdy clever dick with a few spare degrees, this is wrtten for you – and you'll still miss some of the jokes because you'll still be laughing from the last barrage of witty wordplay and literary lampooning.

If you're not? Don't worry because Wittenberg is so damn funny that you'll feel like you know it all anyway.

It's similar to Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (enjoyable without knowing Hamlet – but it helps if you do),  but far broader and more contemporary. But it helps if you know Hamlet and at least one of the Dr Fs. Or there's this study guide from the premier production by Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company.

In the wrong hands, Wittenberg could be an obnoxious self-important bore of play, but director Jane Montgomery Griffiths ensures that the humour's as base as Luther's thank-you-god poo and banishes any hints of academic stuffiness – and still makes a 'publish or perish' joke work.

Ezra Bix (Faustus), Josh Price (Luther), Brett Ludeman (Hamlet) and Olga Makeeva (the chicks) are simply hilarious. Their grand, historic and tragic characters are anything by grand, historic or tragic. Hamlet's a bit thick and anxious but full of hope, Luther doesn't know what reformation means, and Faustus is reasonably content and has a regular gig singing at the local tavern. It's a bit like hearing the Queen fart; no pomp, ceremony or memorial tea set can restore the grandeur and they're far more loveable for being seen as human.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Jodie Hutchinson

10 October 2012

A letter to Christopher Pyne

Dear Christopher Pyne,

On Monday night, I watched you on QandA. I watched because I'm a good middle class ABC fan, but really because Nilaja Sun was on the panel. She was sitting next to you; the one who didn't talk to you about Downton Abbey.

As she wasn't given much of a chance to contribute to the discussion, I think it would be terrific if you flew down to Melbourne and saw her performance of No Child at the Melbourne Festival. It has to be more fun than a night in Canberra.

Here's my review; you get a mention. 

As you're Shadow Minister for Education, I continue to hope that you would do everything in your considerable power to make our schools the best in the world and to discover and learn about the best ways to teach our children. This show is an amazing opportunity for you to see how great teachers can make a difference. As it's just over an hour, it's also far less tedious than reading a parliamentary committee report.

If you make it down (I'm sure the festival will give you a freebie), I can invite some fellow 40-somethings to have a drink with you after the show to discuss what you saw and you can explain to us how your party could make our schools better. I promise you that we will listen and will not behave like you did to Kate Ellis on QandA.  We will expect you to follow our example. 

You and I have a lot in common. You're exactly a year older than me (oh yes, I understand the Leo stubbon streak), we grew up in the same city, went to similar schools, went to the same university and, being from Adelaide, we share some friends. 

So, what astonishes me is how we see the world so differently. 

You were the first MP I was compelled to write a "you-have-insulted-me" letter to. It was in the late 90s, you spoke at Flinders University and said that you didn't think that "two men and a cockerspaniel" made a family. (It may have been a different breed of dog, but I'm assuming you went for the bonus cock joke.) I lived in your electorate and went along to listen to what you had to say about education and social justice; you insulted my friends and my beliefs. I didn't vote for you.

I don't understand how a very well educated 45-year-old thinks it's ok to be so consistently rude to your peers (or anyone) in public. I'm embarrassed when I watch you in parliament.  I think your QandA buddy-buddy-lets-talk-about-Downton-Abbey-because-a-fellow-elected-minister-is-speaking behaviour was a disgrace. I don't know people who behave like that.

I know that I have behaved like that to people: when I was an angry teenager who didn't know any better. I am still embarrassed by things I've said and done and I am so very sorry to anyone who I ever spoke over, laughed at, judged, bullied or was simply a rude bitch to. That kind of behaviour is mean and unacceptable.

In the meantime, Christopher, I also continue to hope that any child who sees you behave like an obnoxious bully in public asks why you're not sent to the naughty corner and knows that behaviour like that only ensures a lonely and friendless life.

09 October 2012

Reveiw: Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises
The Production Company
3 October 2012
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 7 October

The Production Company finish their 2012 season with 1968's Promises, Promises and, for all its promise, it seemed to leave its audience perplexed. This is the first time I've been at Production Company opening night that didn't end with a standing ovation.

Promises, Promises opened on Broadway in 1968, the West End in 1969 and only came back to Broadway in 2010. Based on Billy Wilder's film The Apartment (written for Jack Lemmon and staring Shirley Maclaine and Fred MacMurray), it's a one-off collaboration between Burt Bacharach (music), Hal David (lyrics) and Neil Simon (book); names that should righty leave any theatre lover drooling.

Simon had four shows running on Broadway in 1966 (Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park), and the book (the action is all in the text) is as witty and observant as any of his award-winning plays. Hal David's lyrics are fautlessly funny and still able to break hearts (the show's most famous for "I'll never fall in love again") and I don't believe anyone who says that they don't like Burt Bacharach. Many try and copy his sound, but no one sounds like Bacharach better than Bacharach, and Orchestra Victoria capture his distinct dissonance, ear-melting harmonies and the 60s brass and big orchestra sound that ensures that even the show's lesser numbers are wonderful.

Set in 1962, it's a story about young no one accountant Chuck Baxter who lets middle-aged executives use his bachelor pad to have sex with young women, based on the promises that he'll get a promotion. Meanwhile he's in love with fellow no one Fran Kubelik, not knowing that she's one of the women in his apartment.

The gorgeous design captures the time, the ensemble ensure that "Turky lurky time" brings the house down, Chelsea Plumley's Marge MacDougall is a comic highlight with "A fact can be a beautiful thing", but the night belongs to wonderful Matt Hetherington as Chuck Baxter. Dismissing those who have been before him (Lemmon, Jerry Orbach, Sean Hayes), his Chuck is impossible not to adore (even with some lyric hicoughs and a sound mix that sometimes lost him in the band) and Hetherington is the heart of this production.

Production Company favourite Marina Prior is Fran, the object of Baxter's love and a young woman who naively sees no option but to be treated like she's worthless. Sure Matt and Marina's aren't 20, but vocally Marina's voice is too full and emotionally she brings too much maturity to Fran, missing her lightness and frustrating innocence. I would have loved to have seen Marina play the older and far funnier Marge.

But casting isn't what's holding this production back.  Promises, Promises is a product of its time;  a time of amazing clothes and music, but a time of attitudes that we hope not to see anymore. In his 1996 memoir, Rewrites, Neil Simon described the "enormous temptations" of their out of town run and says, "We were in a pre-AIDS world where all you had to worry about was your conscience and your discretion." It's not hard to see that the attitudes on the stage were the attitudes of the time.

Choosing to present this story is already a choice to comment on these attitudes.  By making one of the young women a man, director Nadia Tass makes a clear statement that we are looking at this story with a contemporary perspective, but this tone and directorial voice is inconsistent and confusing.

It's story about a woman who believe's she's nothing because she's treated like nothing, but playing the executives as buffoons and their 'girls' as drunken idiots supports the idea that what they are doing is harmless fun. It's this contradicting attitude to the time and the characters that leaves the production feeling awkward and flat. Of course, theatre is not tv, but Mad Men is set at the same time in the same city and world, and presents the misogyny of the time without demeaning the women (or the men).  Jilted secretary Miss Olsen (Hester Van Der Vyver) grasps the tone perfectly – nearly as well as Mad Men's Miss Olsen – and more of this subtle tone would give the show the guts it's missing.

As Promises, Promises is a show that's rarely produced (despite its pedigree), it's a wonderful choice for the season and subscribers won't be disappointed. There are issues, but I still enjoyed it more than the raved-about Chess and The Producers. It's a piece that lets story and character lead and any Bacharach is better than no Bacharach.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Review: The Seanace

The Seance
No Show
4 October 2012
Somewhere in North Melbourne
to 15 October

I can't talk about The Seance, but I was there.

An intimate group of about 10 meet outside the North Melbourne Town Hall. Welcomed by our host, we chat and hear disturbing stories about the area's past and hope that we're not being taken to the old asylum.

We also promise to keep our location secret. The Fringe don't know where we go and those who have been there know that breaking a promise made in the dark isn't worth the risk.

I can say that it really is a candle-lit seance with a glass and Yes and No questions, that it guarantees a case of the heeby geebies,  that you have to book because the space is intimate, and that you HAVE to book because this is one of those shows that people will talk about and you'll be thrilled to say, "I was there".

New Melbourne company No Show believe in reaching to the other side of the stage and bringing their audience into the experience. By being an active part of the ritual, we share and create the nervousness, fear and joy experienced by performers. You're not asked to perform or embarrass yourself, just to take part.  And note that there's a bit of walking and sitting on the floor.

The Seance combines performance, ritual, obsession, celebrity, fear and the unknown to create art: brilliant and welcoming art that explores beyond the obvious, that laughs at itself, that rejects any idea of boring and finds strength in a plastic pony.

If you're open to exploring the unknown: go.

If you're scared: take a deep breath and go.

If you believe the dead are with us: go.

If you don't believe: go.

If you're dead: you can go for free.

Hang on, I went for free! ... fuck. I read a dead girl's letter, the medium spoke to me, I spoke to people – I can't remember if they spoke back. What's that light? Sophie ... ?

This was on AussieTheatre.com

07 October 2012

Review: Eurotrashed

Daniel Kilby
4 October 2012
The Butterfly CLub
to 7 October

Damn you Daniel Kilby! Maudit sois-tu! It took weeks to get Loreen's "Euphoria" out of my head and now it's back and it's hard to write when I'm doing the dance and looking for my own dancing ninja.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, then I'm reaching a much broader demographic than I thought. I'm talking about the annual event that stops my world, the event whose delayed finals broadcast made me turn Facebook off for the first time in years.

Eurovision. Gay Christmas. It's impossible not to love this annual celebration of white suits, glitter, wind machines and atrociously catchy pop music that's been running since 1954. Only countries in the European Broadcasting Union can compete (which includes non-European countries; I don't understand so please don't ask), but that doesn't make it any less popular in the rest of the world and it's watched by squillions.

Dan's a fan with whom I can never compare. I've forgotten who sang what by the time we get to voting at the Eurovision party;  Dan knows who scored what in 2003, has all the CDs and knows the lyrics.

He also knows the international rules of the Eurovision drinking game and Eurotrashed is a celebratory deconstruction of songs that define when and why we drink for Eurovision. If you're only drinking for white suits, key changes and fire, you have a lot to learn and have possibly been far too sober for Eurovisions past.

And he sings these songs. Just him. No dancers, no inexplicable creatures, no commentary from the wonderful Julia and Sam. Of course he is wearing a white suit and suitably glittered shoes, but who doesn't? The unexpected delight/horror is hearing the lyrics (does anyone really deserve to know what Jedward are singing?) and discovering that some songs are really quite good, and others worse than remembered.

As a first run show, it's under rehearsed and Dan needs to relax and trust that what he's doing is going to be loved. Eurotrashed must go to Midsumma after its Fringe tryout and  work with a writer and director will give it a deserved 12 points. What made his 2011 show, Things I learned in high school, so lovely was the personal stories and the chance to get to know Dan. This is missing in Eurotrashed – and I suspect that there are some very good stories that result from being drunk and covered in glitter. It also needs the obscure Eurovision trivia ramped up and a sense of the scope of this event for those who aren't as obsessed.

Meanwhile, there's one show left (Sunday). If your a Eurovision tragic, you'll get it. The hardest thing is not singing along. (Please make the next run a sing-a-long.) If you don't know Eurovision, shame on you, but Eurotrashed might inspire you to watch next year. And regardless,  you get to hang at the glorious Butterfly Club, where watching the cocktails being made is as fun as watching the shows.

This was on AussieTheatre.com