30 November 2012

Review: Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert

Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert
Present Tense and Theatre Works
21 November 2012
Theatre Works
to 1 December

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook was first published in 1968. I was born in 1968 and in her honour I ensure that I, at least, taste any cake, tart or treat offered to me. Well that's my excuse this week.

Yes, I'm meant to be writing an arty review about Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert, a musical in St Kilda, but I'm reading recipes from her first famous book and want to make some almond cheese rounds or go to St Kilda for cake.

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook taught the last of the Baby Boomers how to cook; it was like Masterchef  but on paper and without cravats or gastronomy.  There wasn't a copy of Margaret's book in my house when I grew up, so I thought garlic and olives were woggy and weird, that a tin of corn in a tuna mornay was a vegetable and a squeeze of lemon on fish and chips was fruit.  Cookbooks taught me how to cook (Charmaine Solomon was my Margaret) and it's easy to forget the impact a good cook book has. If you can't cook, how do you show your family and friends that you don't hate them? 

The show? It's my favourite musical of the year. It's as perfectly delicious as the Chocolate Kooglehoupf at Monarch Cakes in Acland Street, as fresh as new season plum from the St Kilda Farmers Market and reminds us that the secret ingredient of success is a often person who's nothing like the faux fame of their brand.

Based on Fulton's autobiography, I sang for my supper, writer Doug McLeod, composer Yuri Worontschak and directors Bryce Ives and Nathan Gilkes have been developing this musical for a few years. In this time they've crafted a story that embraces a fascinating woman who has as many flaws as the rest of us, filled it with nostalgia, told it with love, placed it firmly in the cultural context of now and told it through the emotion capturing magic of music.

It opens in 1988;  it was the cheesy year of Australia's Bicentenary, but it wasn't the best time for Margaret. The man she loved had died, the bank was at the door because she trusted the wrong person and she'd been made a bloody Living National Treasure.  With her mum and a best friend to talk to, the story heads back to the 40s when teenage Margaret danced with a soldier and moved to Sydney to earn her own living during the war, and shows her career and personal life from Maragret's eyes.

Amy Lehpamer is Margaret and she'd better be resigned to playing this woman for a long time. Amy looks nothing like Margaret, but captures her determined soul with a dry wit that refuses to see the past through rose coloured glasses, but knows that an extra layer of cream or passionfruit can make up for inevitable mistakes.

She's joined by the equally scrumptious Josh Price, Laura Burzacott, Zoy Fangos and Zoe McDonald, and a band and back up singers who are allowed to fantastic.

Margret and her family were at opening night and have been back. This says more than any review. Think of your favourite photos. They're certainly not the ones that make us look hideous, but neither are they the ones photoshopped to perfection. We love reflections that are honest but show us at our best; this is how Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert shows Margaret.

It's celebratory, heart warming and promises to leave you grinning, crying and wanting Pavlova. It's selling out every night, but don't let that stop you seeing if there's tickets left. It's too good to not be back, but there's something special about seeing a first run of a show that's going to become something amazing.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

28 November 2012

Sad Farewell to Theatre Notes

I'm sad to read that Alison Croggon has decided to close down Theatre Notes. She tells us why here. I'm going to miss Theatre Notes (a lot), but totally understand why it's time.

Theatre Notes inspired me to start SM and I know there are many other bloggers who will say the same.

Alison's writing told me to not be afraid to write deeply about theatre, to use my own voice, to never speak down to readers and to not feel guilty when I don't have time to write something (or read something; Black Spring is on my pile).

Just this weekend, she was talking at a conference and discussed critics as advocates for the arts.

And perhaps that's the Theatre Notes legacy. Criticism isn't about antagonism between writer and artist. Theatre writers write about theatre because we love it. We don't like all that we see and we certainly don't agree all the time,  but we write about it all. We read and write to discuss thearte and art, to celebrate the amazing stuff created and to see a work from a different perspective. It's not about "us" and "them"; it's all "us".

How Alison has sustained such an incredible output of incredible words continues to amaze me.  I really have no idea how she kept writing great criticism and finished a novel this year.

If you don't know just how much she writes, here's her bio and alisoncroggon.com will take you to her novels, poetry and everything else.

Theatre Notes is going to be very missed, but I look forward to reading all that Alison creates now she's freed up some time.

And who is Cameron going to fight with now?

November review previews

26 November 2012

Sometimes Sydney: The Opera House Project

Sometimes there isn't time to write, but The Opera House Project was launched last week and it's more fun than reading blogs.

Described as an online interactive documentary, it's awesome as a history of a building that you can't help but look at EVERY time you see it, as a reflection on Sydney, as a history of performances and events, and as a bloody amazing use of the interwebs. Thank the gods it wasn't made as a book. It would have been an exquisite book, but it would have been expensive and read be so few.

Review: Wild Surmise

Wild Surmise
Malthouse Theatre
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse
15 November
to 2 December

Jane Montgomery Griffiths says her adaption of Dorothy Porter's 2004 verse novel Wild Surmise "is an enactment of the act of love that is reading". Until now, I hadn't read Dorothy Porter. I'm nervous of verse novels; I think they're a bit pretentious. How great to be so wrong. This Malthouse production celebrates Porter and compels a reading of the novel, while relishing being told on a stage.

Alex is an astrobiologist and minor science celebrity. She's engulfed in an affair with Phoebe, an older American scientist, and married to poetry professor Daniel, who's had enough of corporate universities, dreams of getting back at pretentious students and is diagnosed with cancer. There's no comforting romance or confessional resolution in a story that hurts with the honesty that Alex and Daniel can never share.

The first thing seen on the stage is Humphrey Bower (Daniel) reading pages of verse; all the pages of his story that are stuck on the walls/window/mirror of his world. Designer Anna Tregloan and lighting designer Paul Jackson have created an exquisite double-mirrored world with reflections that distort and confuse like a Vegas magician but so beautifully open what feels like a new dimension on the stage where Alex and Daniel can simultaneously be in the same and different worlds.

Director Marion Potts captures why Porter's poetry is so loved, but brings a life and interpretation to the story that lets the theatre own this telling. Porter's words fly with their surprising rhythm and cosmic comparisons, ground with metaphors of terrible Elvis movies and unflusable big black turds, and comfort with the familiarity of St Kilda beach and Mario's coffee. Pott's encapsulates Alex being a Sydney girl with her fumbling with a red expresso machine and never lets the characters become as heroic or honest as their raw thoughts.

In a conventional narrative we hear conversations and imagine the unspoken; in verse we hear the unspoken and are left to imagine the awkward conversations that never share the emotional truth and poetry in their hearts and heads.

Montgomery Griffith and Bower speak verse like it's their only language and there's not a syllable uttered without understanding and intent. Their powerful and painfully truthful performances love the text but show what Alex and Daniel feel about each other beyond the words. They don't speak to each other, but are so aware of the other that they react when the other thinks or speaks about them. It's this detail that adds the heart that creates people we care about, even if their behaviour and thoughts are not what we'd chose.

When we read, we add the detail that makes a story ours.  This production adds the character detail for us, which leaves us free to really listen to Porter's words. It's not like reading, but it captures the passion of falling in love with a book and a writer because its damaged people are so clear that we feel like we're in their world with them.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Pia Johnson

And please read Chris Boyd's review.

22 November 2012

Review: Midsummer

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
16 November
Red Stitch
to 15 December

It's a tale about 30-something angst with accents, so it has to be in the Red Stitch season – but Midsummer is as welcome and gorgeous as a warm turquoise day under a shady tree with a shamelessly expensive picnic basket with your best friends, and your favourite musician turns up with a guitar.

In 2008 UK writer David Greig and composer Gordon Mcintyre created a play with songs that sells out every time it's produced. And, if the outpouring of love from opening night was anything to go by, Red Stitch's production will have to extend. Book now. Just do it. It's pure outrageous joy that will leave the most cynical and single of us a little less cynical.

Mid-30s Helena and Bob meet in a wine bar. They're so not each other's type, but there's far too much wine and ... we've all been there. It's a text-book rom-com structure but filled with such vivid life and unexpected situations that it feels like Grieg invented the genre. This is writing that can soar with hope because it welcomes the chance to embarrass the hell out of its characters and put them in the worst situations – and then add vomit, miscalculated bondage and being chased by a petty crim called Big Tiny Tam.

Ella Caldwell and Ben Prendergast's performances are touching and real, and so very funny. They perform like it was written for them, like the writer knew their strengths and the emotional secrets that drive their acting. But it wasn't, it was created with and for the original cast.

Trying to understand why this writing connects so strongly and feels so fresh, I found this article in The Guardian by Greig. He talks about watching actor Michael Gambon do something perfect that wasn't in the script and how the part was written (by Caryl Churchill) in way that gave the actor everything he needed and nothing that he didn't. It was "like a piece of music for the actor to play".
"I suddenly, really viscerally understood that the 'wright' at the end of 'playwright' is indicative of the fact that a craftsperson's job is to fashion vehicles, just like a cartwright or wheelwright, which an actor can inhabit and travel in. It really was fundamental and thereafter I have been much more aware that when writing, my job is to leave space for the actor."
I finally understand what I mean when I say something is over written; it feels false because it's so caught up in being exactly what the writer imagines that there's no room for the other creators to make it their story. Shakespeare got this. Write an exquisite story, but let the performers and creators decide how to tell it.

And director John Kachoyan and designer Peter Mumford make Midsummer even better by leaving space for the audience to make the story theirs. It's two people in a small room with guitars and cheap stuff stuck on the walls, but I deny anyone to not describe in detail the city they saw and how much the story was "just like me".

This is theatre that gets into your heart and leaves you happy, and if you're trying to tell someone that you fancy them, this might be the perfect date show.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Jodie Hutchinson

21 November 2012

Einstein in Melbourne again

In 1992, I caught the overnight bus from Adelaide to see Einstein On The Beach at the Melbourne Festival. I knew nothing about it, apart from the music was by Philip Glass (that guy with the neat film soundtracks) and that it had an almost mythical status as a masterpiece. This was my first time in the State Theatre and I didn't move for four-and-a-half hours.

First performed in 1976 in Europe and New York, Einstein launched the careers of director Robert Wilson and composer Phillip Glass. Its only Australian production was in 1992 and over twenty years later, there are five more exclusive Australian shows from 31 July to 4 August 2013.

There are shows that change how you see theatre; Einstein was one of those for me. Hundreds of shows later, I still haven't seen anything that's come close to it, including Wilson's I La Galigo and The Temptation of Saint Antony

With no narrative, its hypnotic meld of music, design and dance (Lucinda Childs) rejects any idea that communication is about text.

Overcoming a learning disability as a child, Wilson's earliest work was with disabled and brain injured children in the 60s. He used theatre games in hospitals and schools to enable and encourage communication with patients and children deemed unable to communicate. In one hospital show, his cast of patients were only able to make small movements with their hands or mouth. So he connected them all with photo sensitive string and showed how humans can visually communicate no matter how impossible it may seem.

His stage language developed from this time and it's why it's so hard to describe the experience of his work, because it's work that doesn't care for words.

Even more exciting than seeing The Temptation of St Anthony in 2007 was spending a couple hours in the State Theatre watching Wilson direct and perfect the first minutes of the show during a tech run. He's a scary director who demands respect with a precision that doesn't allow for vagueness, interpretation or spontaneity.  The first run of the show's opening was mesmerising. Then Wilson stopped the run and fixed it.

There was some spacing inconsistencies, he spent minutes directing someone how to sit on a chair, he told a hidden chorister at the back of the stage that he saw her move in her head before she moved on the stage, and he insisted on the exact speed of the removal of a piece of set (and that it was re-painted because there was some grey showing when it was lifted out). The next run of those minutes was already so different and by opening night it was perfect. These tiny details tend to go unnoticed, but that is what makes this director’s work so addictive. He takes a beautiful moment and makes it exquisite.

Tickets for Einstein in the Beach are available from 20 December at artscentremelbourne.com.au.

Here's Bob and Phillip (and Susan Sontag and David Byrne) talking about the reaction to Einstein  in 1976 in the film Absolute Wilson (seen at MIFF in 2006). Wilson produced it and sold tickets from $2 to $2000 and sat the $2 tickets next to the the $2000.

Review: Music

Melbourne Theatre Company
14 November 2012
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 22 December

Music's another play about middle-aged, wealthy middle class academics who think their lives are empty, so it has to be in the MTC program.

Jack (Richard Piper) is a retired 50- or 90-something academic who has weeks to live, his wife Margie (Janet Andreawartha) doesn't care and has a Schubert recital to prepare for, his doctor and friend Max (Paul English) is shagging Margie and asking Jack for feedback on his short stories, and Jack's brother Peter (Robert Menzies) is a miserable Catholic priest who hasn't seen Jack in three years. There's ranting about the dumbing down of the English department, affairs, grief over a child, the accidental description of the quilt from a lover's marital bed in the writing given to the cuckolded husband, and everyone decides that it's time to tell the truth about things that really don't matter when you or someone you sorta like has days to live.

As Billy Connolly describes dull folk as beige wearers, Music wears a beige elastic-waisted fleece pant with a matching cardi.

With writing that brings attention to itself with atrociously awkward alliteration and rhymes that even students from the dumbed down English/Cultural Studies department would roll their eyes at, it's a story made from cliches worthy of a daytime soap. No, I take that back, the melodrama of soap is addictive and surprising in its outrageous inventiveness. There's nothing unexpected in this tale.

Dull story choices aside, what's missing is the heart and relationships that make us care. Situation doesn't make character and exchanging smart-arse comments, well-read quotes and a Les Murray joke doesn't make dialogue. Relationships are made in the subtext, the things not said that say so much more than the chosen words. While each told secrets (that the other knew), the space between the characters was empty, which left them feeling no more complex than  the jaded academic, out-of-love wife,  miserable priest and wanna-be-writer doctor who appeared at the start.

Then there's the music. In the program notes, writer Barrry Oakley says the music's used "more or less" like in opera. My snobby reaction was to wonder if he'd ever been to an opera.  Then I read on. Despite the Beyreuth and Wager references (Hitler liked him, you know), the writer jokes that he "couldn't sit though the entire Ring Cycle – all those hours and hours, days of music".  At least that explains why the music is nothing like an opera and sounds and feels as inspired and relevant as a Top Twenty Tunes for Old Farts cassette from the bargin bin at Big W.

Over at Malthouse, there's another story about middle aged, wealthy, jaded academics. In Wild Surmise, he has cancer, she's had an affair. It's pretty much the same story, but this one soars.

This appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Jeff Busby

19 November 2012


My favourite Twitter # is #SongsForTheMargaretFultonMusical. I wish I could take credit for "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Sandwich" or "Big Girls Don't Fry", but the best I could do was "Lettuce Be".

If you haven't heard, there really is a musical about Margaret Fulton, it's on at Theatre Works and the preview audiences are loving it.

Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert was written by Doug Mcleod (who is one of my favourite children's and YA writers, here's his site – get his books for kids you know, but read them yourself first) and composed by Yuri Worontschak (whom I don't know, yet), and Doug especially has formed a friendship with the cooking superstar, who, rumour says, will be at opening night.

Here's a terrific interview in the Theatre Works newsletter that went out today.

There's still some $25 preview tickets available for Tuesday's performance or it runs until December 1.

And you can read about how to get tickets for the Theatre Works La Soiree fundraiser on 26 December

18 November 2012

Where to find a Ho Ho Ho

It's mid-November, so time to think about Christmas parties. For freelancers and artists who work from home, there's no one giving us free drinks, mince pies and the opportunity to get felt up by the boss, but don't despair as there are a couple of awesome parties for us.

Last Tuesday's Office Christmas Party

Tuesday 27 November
The Shadow Electric at The Abbotsford Convent
and a promise of free booze at 7pm start time
Facey event details

Last year's Last Tuesday party was hot and there weren't even mince pies.

This year, the party is finally accepting its divine origins and heading to the Abbotsfod Convent.

There will be a short performance show hosted by Richard Higgins with the likes of The List Operators, Dr Professor Neal Portenza, Tina Del Twiste, Bron Batten and Poet Laureate Telia Nevile.

But after there will be AUDIENCE KARAOKE!

AND you can sit on Santa's lap (RRR Smart Arts's Richard Watts) and have a photo taken by Max Milne. I predict that my favourite Facey day of the year will be Weds 28 when we all put our Santa pics as our profile.

Finucane & Smith's Christmas Cocktail Party Like No Other

Wednesday 12 December
La Trobe Ballroom at the Sofitel on Collins
with killer cocktails and scrumptious canapes
Facey details

This sold out pretty damn fast last year, and so it should.

A night in a ballroom with posh grub, fancy drinks and underdressed wildness – and you get the bonus warm feeling of knowing you're supporting  Finucane & Smith's 2013 season.

16 November 2012

Miles and Simone's debut album

I decided to go to the theatre on Wednesday instead of heading to The Toff for the launch of Miles & Simone's debut album, Home in Your Heart. I made the wrong choice.

Both Melbourne based, Simone Page Jones is an opera singer and cabaret artist, and Miles O'Neil is a founding member of the junkyard band and performance group The Suitcase Royale. If you were at the Festival Hub on Sunday afternoons, you may have caught a sneak preview of this gorgeous duo and Simone's super cute dog. I really loved that the dog sat on stage with them.

They have been friends for a long time and say that last summer they "found themselves on many an afternoon drinking gin and singing lonesome duets in the backyard. As the months got colder they left the backyard and began recording the songs in Miles’s spare room studio."

The rough mix of the album took them to Portland, Oregon, where was mixed by renowned engineer Adam Selzer.


"Eleven songs of sparse acoustic duets subtly augmented by an old piano, pedal steel and the plunk of a banjo. Set in the folk/country tradition and maintaining at their core an Australian feel both in the lyrics and laconic style, the songs are straight from the heart and tell tales of the things that were, the things that weren’t and everything in between."

It's already been described as "a work of quiet brilliance" and just having a listen to the sample tracks, I wish I'd said it first.

You can listen here and buy here.

Launch photos by Telia Nevile

14 November 2012

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project
Mockingbird Theatre
11 November 2012
Chapel off Chapel
to 11 November

The last performance of Mockingbird Theatre's production of The Laramie Project left a lot of the audience crying and some of the cast.

I didn't get along until the last night, but the season had plenty of great reviews, nightly tears, standing ovations and repeat visits. It wasn't a perfect piece of theatre, but perfection be damned when it's a story that reaches so widely and is told from the hearts of its performers and creators.

In the late 90s, I remember reading about a boy who was tied to a fence and bashed to death because he was gay. For a moment I felt for the boy and his family before moving onto the next story. Writer Mois├ęs Kaufman was in in New York when this happened and took members of his Tectonic Theater Project to the town in Wyoming where it happened and interviewed people who lived there. Thanks to the result, The Laramie Project, over 30 million people know that boy's name was Matthew Shepard and are unlikely to forget his death.

Since its first performances in 2009, this eight-person piece of verbatim theatre (based on interviews from real people) has become the most performed plays in the US, and the 2002 HBO film took it to people who don't go to theatre. (Hint: You Tube.) The online project continues to extend the story and reach as far as it can, and in 2008 the company went back to Laramie and The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later was performed simultaneously in 100 US cities. In Melbourne, Red Stitch brought it to us.

I imagine that the worst a production of Laramie can do is to place the story so firmly in Wyoming that it distances its audience, but even then it can't help but force them to think about their own town.

The people of Laramie love Laramie, a town with "good people and lots of space". Matt Shepherd loved Laramie. There are people who won't wear a rainbow bandana and believe in the man/woman/child concept of family, but I've never been anywhere where there aren't. I knew someone like everyone talking on the stage.

What struck me especially about Mockingbird's production is that director Chris Baldock never shied away from the love of Laramie. It's easy to paint it as red neck town that's not us. It's braver and far more honest to stress the normality of the town.

Knowing the story, left me able to listen to more than the inexplicable horror of Matt's death. What struck home was the discussion of the boys who killed him. They were in their early 20s, but called boys. These were local boys known by everyone. Larmie's a town of 26,000 – that's a couple of Melbourne suburbs.They were good boys who had friends and jobs. No one interviewed said that they even considered that these boys would be so violent and their struggle is understanding how boys they knew could do this.

Which leaves me thinking of the boys I know. Boys I cuddled as babies, boys I grew up with and played chasey with, boys I worked or studied with, boys I dated, boys I snogged, boys I fucked, boys I ignored or stalked, boys I fancied, boys in my family, boy's I've written about. They're all good boys and I can't think of one I know who would do something so inhuman. But I've heard at least one from every one of these groups of good boys and lovely men make a poof joke or refer to "them" and think that I'd agree.

As I hope that no one I know ever had to suffers anything like what Matt Shepard did, I hope that I don't ever have to wonder how any one I know could hate so much as to cause such suffering.

Les Mis, les movie

The Les Miserable movie isn't released until 26 December, but since the first trailer release, I've heard many fierce criticisms because they have dared to use actors instead of singers and let them sing with their natural voice.

I can't wait to hear what they say when they hear that they sung live on set!

I fell in love with the film from the first trailer showing a starved Anne Hathaway singing Fantine in tears with a voice that sounded like she was desperate, starving and broken; a raw voice that didn't remind us that she's a singer in a wig.

I wanted to write about the importance of intimacy on film, but this says it all much better, with music and pretty people (and I don't mean Russell).

I know what I'll be doing on Boxing Day and am prepared to break my "never watch Rusty" rule.

I also loved Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd  and take back my initial criticisms of HBC's voice.

Review: Field Recordings

Field Recordings
Bang on a Can All-Stars
Melbourne Recital Centre
5 November 2012

As we keep an eye on the USA today (pretending to understand how the electoral college system works), here in Melbourne, we can celebrate great things from the US with the super-awesome ever-delightful Bang on a Can All-Stars sextet from New York (a blue state with 29 college votes). After 20 years, they finally debuted in Melbourne on Monday night and have their second and final concert tonight, Wednesday.

And how welcome they were in Melbourne. In the balcony a little boy waved as they bowed, and grandpas in the front rows bopped away like teenagers to the encore written by Thurston Moore. There really is nothing quite like sitting in an audience and feeling them fall in love with the performers and creators on the stage.

I know what it's like, I've had a serious crush on this group since I saw them in Adelaide in 1996, when Barrie Kosky brought them to the Adelaide Festival. They played music I hadn't heard; music that made me re-think what I knew about music. Dammit, they changed my CD collection into something cool and made me want to live in Manhattan.

Bang on a Can was formed in New York by composers and musicians David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe. 25 years ago they held a one-day concert of unknown, new and experimental music in a SoHo Art gallery; today BOAC supports, commissions, plays and celebrates new music all over the world. The also still run the annual marathon concert in New York. One year I'll go.

Committed to changing the environment for new music, they believe "that people needed to hear this music and they needed to hear it presented in the most persuasive way, with the best players, with the best programs, for the best listeners, in the best context".

In 1992, the Bang on a Can All-Stars were formed with the best musicians to tour to the best festivals and concert halls. Now that Melbourne has an amazing newish concert hall at the Recital Centre, the best listeners can gather to hear them. It only takes one concert to be hooked.

The six-piece group has some new members, but fans will be thrilled that a couple of founders (Mark Stewart and Robert Black) are playing in Melbourne and that the newer members (Ashley Bathgate, Vicky Chow, Ken Stewart and David Cossin) are just as terrific. And this concert can't forget sound engineer Andrew Cotton. Combining technical skill with passion and glee, these are musicians who are so much a part of their instrument that they can't be separated. You can really watch the music being created as they play.

Their All-Stars genre-shattering sound is difficult to describe but impossible to forget. Music isn't traditionally written for  bass, cello, clarinet, electric guitar, piano and percussion. For me it's the sound of electric guitar, cello and clarinet. Like caramel, salty peanuts and chocolate ice cream, it sounds wrong until you try it – and once you do, you'll never want vanilla blandness again.

Monday's concert was Field Recordings, a co-commission by Bang in a Can, the Barbican Centre London and over 200 people who financially supported the project. Nine composers were asked to find something to record and create a piece that included the recording. From a film of a cat looking for a drink to a recording made in a bag at an airport to readings from John Cage's diary, the mix of recording, film and live music creates something that can't be fully appreciated through headphones and joyfully celebrates the art of connecting by looking/listening/seeing from a different perspective.

Tonight (Wednesday) they are joined by students from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in a concert that includes Brian Eno's Music For Airports, which has been transcribed for a large ensemble and BOAC founder Julia Wolfe's Big Beautiful Dark and Scary.

Wolf wrote this piece after watching 9/11 attacks with her two young children, two blocks from the Twin Towers. I've seen/read a lot of work about these attacks, but they always seem distancing. Music is the art that captures the emotion and lets us, who are so lucky to have not experienced anything like it, know for a moment what it felt like. Wolf's piece can't be described better than big, beautiful, dark and scary, and I can't wait to see and hear it live tonight.

 (And, as the number 275 appears earlier than expected, maybe some extra celebrations will be in order.)

This was on AussieTheatre.com

09 November 2012

Things that made me smile today

It's a day of overdue assignments, late reviews, medical tests and I've run out of eps of Downton Abbey to distract me, but the interwebs is always here to let me concentrate on things far more interesting than overdue words.

Two things that have made me smile today.

Telia Nevile's photos of herself as Molly Ringwald in John Hughes films.

The series is featured at milkbarmag.com.

The gorgeous Amanda Fucking Palmer lost her voice, but still did her Paris gig, with the help of Twitter, fans and karaoke.

07 November 2012

Last chance to see the All-Stars

Tonight is Melbourne's last chance to experience the sensational Bang on a Can All-Stars at the Recital Centre.

On Monday night,  they were welcomed to Melbourne with the kind of audience love that makes you crave live music. In the balcony a little boy waved as they bowed, while grandpas bopped like they were teenagers to the encore written by Thurston Moore.

I've had a serious crush on this group since I saw them in Adelaide in 1996, Barrie Kosky brought them to the Adelaide Festival, and I still feel like a groupie. They played music that I hadn't heard, in a way that changed the type of CDs I bought.  (And who knew Philip Glass was more than film soundtracks to get stoned to!)

If you missed Monday, here's a taste.

Tonight (Wednesday) they are joined by students from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in a concert that includes Brian Eno's Music For Airports, which has been transcribed for a large ensemble and BOAC founder Julia Wolfe's Big Beautiful Dark and Scary.

Wolf wrote this piece after watching 9/11 attacks with her two young children, two blocks from the Twin Towers. I've seen/read a lot of work about these attacks, but they always seem distancing. Music is the art that captures the emotion and lets us, who are so lucky to have not experienced anything like it, know for a moment what it felt like.

BOAC celebrated 25 years this year by giving fans a free download of the Big Beautiful Dark and Scary album. Wolf's piece can be described no better than big, beautiful, dark and scary, and I can't wait to hear it live tonight.

And here's the review on AussieTheatre.com

Laramie Project ticket special

There are only five more performances of Mockingbird Theatre's production of The Laramie Project. It finishes on Sunday.

I haven't had a chance to see it, but here's Richard Watt's review from Arts Hub.

I did see Red Stitch's The Laramie Project – 10 Years Later earlier this year and know what an impact this project continues to have. I remember hearing about Matthew Shepard's death when it happened and time hasn't lessened the impact. When young people come out to family and friends and are met with a look that doesn't celebrate, it's because they are terrified that this could happen to you.

The producer says that the response has been overwhelming and I've heard that there have been standing ovations and repeat visitors to this production.

To let as many people see it as possible, all tickets are being sold for $25 to the final performances.

To book a $25 ticket go to chapeloffchapel.com.au and use the promo code PATRON.

06 November 2012

5Pounds of Rep opens tonight

Five different directors and a group of five actors rehearse and present five very different plays over five weeks.

Tonight, 5pound theatre open 5Pounds of Repertory Theatre at The Owl and the Pussycat (opposite Richmond train station on Swan Street).

Founded in 2010 by Jason Cavanagh and Susannah Frith, 5Pound aim to make theatre that challenges and inspires audiences and actors.  And the short rehearsal periods ( while performing at night) are sure to challenge and energise everyone, especially as it's hoped that many discoveries will be made on the stage in front of the audiences.

Cananah says, "I have an incredibly romantic idea of the old theatres.  I picture the high pressure, high stakes world of working rep’s.  The round the clock intense pleasure of squeezing every drop of creative juice you can muster to get that show up there stomping the boards.  The close relationship with the audience, the backstage mayhem, the full pelt, full time creative outpour, and a well earned applause at the end.  If we can capture just a small taste of that… it will be a dream come true."

Jumping into the maelstrom of creativity are some of Melbourne's favourite independent directors, inlcuding Robert Reid (The Well) directing Ben Ellis's Falling Petals (last seen at the Malthouse, about 10 years ago) and Celetse Cody (Choir Girl) directing a musical that I know nothing about.

Week 1. November 6–10. Pygmalion, directed by Daniel Lammin
Week 2. November 13–17. Sally… A Musical, directed by Celeste Cody
Week 3. November 20–24. The Unnamed, directed by Danny Delahunty
Week 4. Nov 26 – Dec 1. Falling Petals by Ben Ellis, directed by Rob Reid
Week 5. December 3–8. After Hamlet, directed by Trent Baker

Book here

02 November 2012

Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 
John Frost
27 October 2012
Her Majesty's Theatre
to December 15

After the degustation of emotion, politics and confrontation of the Melbourne Festival, what better than a mouthful of fluffy sugar and an almighty fart? A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has no pretentions about being serious art.

First performed on Broadway 1962, it's ancient Rome, where slaves were whipped, women were bought and political correctness meant wearing the right toga to the senate. Giving a finger to the romantic gentility of musical theatre at the time and celebrating the ancient-Greek influences on vaudeville, there are tit, eunuch and fart jokes galore, as it asks the timeless dramatic question, "Who gets to de-virgin the teenager: the virgin boy, his dad or the stranger who bought her from her pimp?".

I've really tried to like this show.

                                                                    From the original recording LP

It was Stephen Sondheim's first score (music and lyrics; his previous work was the lyrics for West Side Story) and the book was co-written with Larry Gelbart (the dude who wrote the best episodes of MASH). If you're expecting dark and biting satire with music that stains your soul, remember that it takes time to hit your stride as an artist. Musically it's forgettable, but hints at the glories that followed, and book-wise there's jokes and structure without a hint of depth or complexity. It's a simplified world where men are manly or limp, and women are lovely and stupid, vejazzled and bendy, or old and sexless.

So why do it? It's as satisfying as a bucket of fairy floss.

Geoffrey Rush wanting to play Pseudolus the scheming slave is the lines-at-the-box-office answer. It's an old-school, star-led romp – and who can resist a romp with our-Geoffrey in a toga? Looking like he's having more fun than he dreamed of, this is Geoffrey's fart-in-the-general-direction to anyone who forgets that it's meant to be fun.

And throw in the commercial-dream cast of telly and theatre must-sees who have earned their first-name recognition because they are all damn good and totally watchable.  There's Shane Bourne, Magda Szubanski and Gerry Connolly for the oldies; Hugh Sheridan for the youngies;  Mitchell Butell, Christie Whelan-Browne and Adam Murphy for the theatries; and Bob Honery for everyone (Bob was in the original Australian production in 1964).

It may be the best that a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum can be.

Director Simon Phillips turns the serious to 0 and the giggle-and-hoot to 11. And Gabriella Tylesova's design of cardboardy houses and tassled-togas is as witty as any of the jokes. Like her design for Love Never Dies, it's an eye-orgasm to look at with detail that creates the world and the characters in an instant.

It's a show where the cast are applauded before they open their mouths, corpsing is compulsory and anyone daring to question its politics or guts will be scoffed at.

This appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Jeff Busby