Thursday, October 27, 2005

SmartArts Playlist Thurs 27 Oct 2005

Fjarkanistan - Amina
Amy - Dirty Three
A Time To Be Small - Interpo
lMusic is my Radar - Blur
Sister Jack - Spoon
Milk Bottle Trio - Saint Etienne
Modern Art - Art Brut
What Did We Talk About (Before You Had Babies?) - Rob Clarkson
Something in the Way - Nirvana
In A Radio Show - Okkervil River
Ballistics - The Great Fire of London
I've Seen It All - Bjork w. Thom Yorke
Don't Stop Now - Lemon Jelly
Cool Kids Keep - The American Analogue Set
The Chaos Offensive - Oceansize
Come In Out of the Rain - Engineers
Kennedy Killed the Hat - Buck 65
The Happy Sea - Colleen
The Winter Hit Hard - Hood
Dance Me In - Sons & Daughters

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ladies & gentlemen we are now starting our descent...

The last couple of months of my life have felt rather like being in a holding pattern above an airport, circling endlessly, lost in the clouds, waiting for clearance to start my descent from freefall into a new era of my life.

I think yesterday the signal finally came through.

I got a phonecall asking me to come in for a job interview on Thursday afternoon; a job I really want, and think I could do well. If I get it there's going to be a significant period of adjustment, as I haven't actually held down a fulltime job since I quit the public service in 1989. Yes, 1989. That's sixteen bloody years ago. Shit. Let me shake my head in disbelief and think about that for a moment.

Sixteen...years? Wow. I feel suddenly old. Sixteen years of working in part time jobs (as a medical receptionist at the Victorian AIDS Council, as the Text Coordinator of the 2000 Next Wave Festival, and as the Artistic Director of the youth arts organisation Express Media). Sixteen years of falling in love with all manner of music. Sixteen years of writing, spoken word performance, zine-making, and now blogging. Learning to DJ, opening Apocalypse, Abyss and finally Q + A. What a wild 16 years it's been!

Admittedly I'm putting a lot of hope into getting the job in question, but if I don't, well, something else will turn up, I know. I'll have to sign up for the dole first though, as I'm running out of money fast!

The other 'end of the holding pattern' signal yesterday was that after talking about it ever since getting home from Europe last month, I finally went and joined a gym. Today I was weighed and measured, and on Friday I go in to be walked through my fitness routine and be taught how to use the gym equipment without hurting myself.

There are plenty of other changes I want to make in my life (like starting to cook again for starters, and then maybe finding myself a goddamn boyfriend) but it really does feel as if a new direction is opening up before me. Like every other change in my life, I have no idea where it will lead...

Whci I guess is the exciting part!

Saturday, October 22, 2005


I should be doing the dishes. I should be doing my laundry. I should be vaccuming the flat. I should be cleaning the bathroom.

I should be reading media releases. I should be replying to e-mails from people who have requested an interview on my show. I should be listening critically to the pile of new release CD's on my loungeroom floor and making notes about them for my MCV music column and for next week's radio program.

I should be joining a gym. I should be drinking less. I should be taking less speed. I should be eating better. I should be calling old friends. I should be making new friends.

I should be finding a boyfriend. I should either tell D. how I feel about him (how I've felt about him for the last two years while being a shoulder for him to cry on when his emotionally and psychologically abusive boyfriend was getting too much) or just walk away.

I should be rewriting my old novel. I should be starting a new novel. I should be writing new short stories. I should be submitting stories for publication. I should be pitching articles to editors. I should start reading the novels I brought back from overseas. I should read all the classic novels I've never read.

I should stop downloading porn. I should stop compulsively cruising internet chatrooms in the the hope that I'll miraculously meet Mr Right in cyberspace. I should get out of the house more.

I should see more art. I should go to more gigs. I should see more films. I should throw dinner parties. I should get my act together. I should get my shit together.

I should.

I should.

I should.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Today's Playlist

For some reason - don't ask me why (who am I to explain my actions to you when I don't even understand them myself?) - I thought you might like to read a list of the songs that I played on my RRR arts program SmartArts today; lists apparently being popular things to write on your blog when you want to write something but are incapable of writing anything insightful, amusing or coherent.

So, today's SmartArts playlist:

Expect the Worst/Cos She's a Tourist - The Dears
Small Change - Gersey
These Wooden Ideas - Idlewild
Been Caught Stealing - Jane's Addiction
Rebellion (Lies) - The Arcade Fire
The Mercy Seat - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Wolf on a String - Machine Translations
Blood - Editors
Evil and a Heathen - Franz Ferdinand
Love in Fear - Constantines
Spirit Ditties of No Tone - Deerhoof
A Man Walks Into A Bar - Jens Leckman
I'm the Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side - The Magnetic Fields
Small Memory - Mum
Into the Light - Jah Wobble
After Dark (NDB Vocal Disco Mix) - La Tigre
A Little More for Little You - The Hives
Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore - PJ Harvey
My Lady Day - Antony and the Johnsons
Non je ne Regrette Rien - Edith Piaf
Let it All Turn Black - Sodastream
The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) - Tom Waits
Over All - Francoiz Breut

Oh, and if you're wondering about the picture, that's the cover of Francoiz Breut's new album Une Saison Volee.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Emptying out my brain on a Saturday morning

'Flying Lessons', a photogravure by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison (USA)

So it's just gone 10.44am on Saturday morning, and I'm sitting in front of the computer on the new ergonomic desk chair that I bought myself this week. My back will thank me for it, although my chiropractor will probably be sad cos it means she'll see less of me, which in my book is officially A GOOD THING (tm).

Right now I should be working: specifically, I should be reading though, then scoring on their artistic merit, a big folder of Arts Victoria grant applications that's sitting on my kitchen table. Instead I've been successfully procrastinating for the last hour by adding a couple of recent articles to my blog, then scanning through blogs by friends to see what they've been up to, then clicking on their links to discover new blogs (such as Surlyboy's blog: A Falling Out With The In Crowd. Love the name, liked the cynical humour of his posts).

Having done all that, and still not quite ready to finally do some actual work, I thought I'd write a proper, personal post here, instead of just cut'n'pasting in something impersonal that I wrote earlier in the week...


As an aside, if you're wondering why I'm supposed to be reading grant applications for Arts Victoria, it's because I'm part of a peer-based advisory panel who advise the staff of that particular state government department on who to award grants to.

It's always flattering to be asked to sit on these sorts of panels. It's a compliment, a sort of arts-industry accolade: "That man over there - yes, the one lounging casually by the aspidistra, a glass of champagne in hand - has refined taste and highly atuned critical senses. He's a mover-and-shaker in the arts community. He knows enough about obscure cultural stuff that we should ask his opinion about who to give money to. Get him on a peer assement panel, quick!"

It's also valuable from a professional point of view because A) I get to read how other people write their grant applications and take notes on how to make mine better, and B) It helps further my awareness of what's happening in the cultural sector.

God, I really must be an arts administrator at heart if I'm getting this excited by a huge folder of paperwork!


Things that have happened this week:

  • I forgot to send my niece Cate a card for her 13th birthday. I'm a bad, bad uncle.
  • I applied for a new job, as the cash payout from my last job (accrued leave that I never got around to taking) that's been fuelling my current languid lifestyle is fast running out. Said potential job is as the Program Manager at 3RRR. If I get it I'd be responsible for coordinating the station's on-air profile, liasing with 70-odd announcers, arranging special events and outside broadcasts, etc. It would be rewarding, hugely adventurous, and insanely demanding. I'm not actually sure if I really want the job, and if it's offered to me I can guarantee a panic attack and serious self-doubts about whether I could actually do it, but I certainly thought it couldn't hurt to atttude I may yet live to regret, I'm sure!
  • I went to the awards night and end-of-festival-party for the Melbourne Fringe Festival last Saturday night and had a truly excellent evening in a room filled with artists, performers, and Melbourne's fringe tribe. I got to know a couple of the festival staff a little better, especially Damien, the General Manager; had some good conversations with people, not just small talk; and got home at about 10am Sunday morning feeling more than a little the worse for wear...
  • Last night (Friday 14th Oct) I saw my first show at the Melbourne International Arts Festival and was rather underwhelmed by the experience. The production I was was Fagaala, staged by Compagnie Jant-Bi (a Senegalese modern dance company), an exploration of 1994's genocidal Rwandan conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis. While I could appreciate the production intellectually, it failed to move me emotionally, which is always the yardstick by which I judge any artform as a success. Some great images, very strong performances, and an amazing score, but still...
  • I also had an angst attack on the tram home last night about the fact that I've become such a loner in the last couple of years. I have lots of friends, but I don't really see them all that often. Is this a side-effect of living by myself? Instead of ringing friends and saying 'Let's go see a movie or hang out at the pub for a couple of hours' do I head out on my own because it's easier, less hassle? Or am I really becoming a recluse? More importantly, what the hell am I going to do about it?

Okay, I've been writing this post for almost an hour now, so I really should go and do some work. Those grants have got to be scored by Tuesday at the latest, and I'm supposed to be going to see a movie with my mate Mike this afternoon. Enough angst. Enough procrastination. Although maybe I'll do the dishes first...

Married To The Job

Young composer and clarinettist Richard Haynes talks with
Richard Watts about the great love of his life.

Aged only 22, composer and clarinet player Richard Haynes has already won numerous accolades, including Symphony Australia’s 2003 Young Performer of the Year award. He has performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland, and has seen his original compositions performed by ensembles and soloists in Australia, China, Germany and Italy. He’s young, gay, successful and good-looking. So why is he still single?

"I’ve chosen a particularly difficult career path within the classical music world, so I really must travel as much as possible and make as many connections as possible with other performers and composers and organisations," Haynes explains.

The past few years have seen him performing and studying in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and France in order to further his career. Consequently he says he has abandoned the idea of finding a boyfriend at present.

"In terms of relationships it’s very hard to maintain anything, and to be honest I haven’t really tried. I think I owe it to myself to cultivate what it is I’m doing artistically because, you know, I have the rest of my life to think about relationships. That’s my duty to the art basically. I’m really putting myself out, as you can see," he laughs.

Haynes is one of several young musicians who will be performing in Chamber Music Australia’s At The Edge Of Sunset Series: Contemporary Chamber Music From Australia, a week of concerts at Federation Square’s BMW Edge during the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

While his own works will not be featured, Haynes says he is delighted to be playing at the Melbourne Festival, and believes that his own compositional skills will benefit his performance.

"As a composer I can approach the music that I play from a composer’s point of view, and I think that has contributed to the fact that I happen to be a successful performer. I think I really understand what it takes to put across the idea in a piece to an audience," he explains.

Traditional audiences for chamber music events tend towards the older and the conservative, but Haynes hopes to see a younger audience attracted to this series of concerts, which have specifically been programmed by Chamber Music Australia to help counter the form’s sometimes stuffy reputation.

"Chamber music doesn’t seem like the coolest thing in the world, however it really is very cool. It’s contemporary music, it’s music that’s coming out of composers who are our generation," he enthuses, before going on to compare his own music and that of his peers to modern art.

"You know you’re going to encounter really unfamiliar and really challenging work in a modern art gallery, and you can chose to interpret it how you want. It’s the same with contemporary music. You don’t have to have an interpretation forced upon you; it doesn’t have a very broad or long historical cannon behind it, so you can really appreciate its art on your own terms."

On the Edge of Sunset Series at the BMW Edge, Federation Square, Mon 10 - Sat 15 October at 6pm. Bookings through Ticketmaster: 1300 136 166.

This article originally apeared in MCV #249, Fri 7 Oct 2005.

A Bad Case Of The Trocks

Richard Watts gets behind the tulle and tutus of male ballet troupe The Trocks to discover what makes the company tick.

Tory Dobrin has worked with the drag ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo since 1980, first as a dancer, and since 1994 as the company’s Artistic Director. He attributes his longevity with ‘the Trocks’, as the company are generally known, to a love for ballet that borders on the obsessive.

"I - and indeed all of the dancers too - really love classical ballet," he says. "It’s the sort of love that can be a really obsessive thing. We have fun with that obsession, so it makes for a good time. We’ve found the thing that we really love and we pursue it. It just happens to have a particular kind of twist."

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo formed in 1974, and over the intervening decades has grown into a company adored by gay man and hardcore ballet aficionados alike for their sly juxtaposition of camp humour and a mastery of classical ballet. Although their origins lie in the explosion of politically oriented drag theatre that appeared in the USA in the years immediately after Stonewall, Dobrin explains that the Trocks no longer see themselves as a specifically gay dance troupe.

"It’s not a gay company per se because we don’t really address gay issues; gay issues being marriage and adoption, at least those are the big gay issues in America. We do address gender issues though, because we deal with heightened stereotypes, but there is certainly a lot of gay sensibility in what we do."

That sensibility is at the heart of the Trocks’ performances, which spoof and satirise the conventions of traditional ballet and reduce their audiences to helpless laughter. A company of larger than life ballerinas pout, preen, pirouette and dance en pointe through a succession of exaggerated classical ballet routines, but beneath the comedy there is real artistry at work, and a real love for the formal conventions of the genre that the Trocks are spoofing.

"We usually bring in choreographers so that we can accurately stage traditional Russian ballet classics," Dobrin says of the process by which they bring such ballets to life. "Then after we set the piece, we start trying to work around it to find out where we can bring out the comedy. That’s usually a long process which all of the dancers participate in."

It is thanks to this process of participation that the dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo have successfully maintained their enthusiasm, as well as their devoted international audiences, Dobrin believes.

"It’s a new generation of dancers, and they’re also comedians, so there’s always an infusion of fresh energy which is nurtured, not squashed. That maintains our ability to come up with new material all the time. If all the same people who started out in 1974 were still in the company it would be deadly boring by now," he laughs.

The Trocks perform at the Arts Centre State Theatre from 27 October - 5 November. Bookings on or 1300 136 166.

This article originally appeared in MCV #250, Fri 14 Oct 2005.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Och, No!

Ordered to 'strike a pose' at Bec and Bob's wedding reception, Richard vogues, while Bec wonders just what the hell he is doing. (Oh, and note the sporan - very handy for preventing your kilt blowing up in windy weather.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Some recent CD reviews


Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK – Múm [Morr Music]

This hard-to-find debut album from Icelandic post-rock band Múm saw an original limited release in 2000, and has now been re-released on German label Morr Music. A combination of wistful, ambient electronica, cut-up beats, and a diverse array of instruments (including accordion, glockenspiel, guitar and harpsichord) it reveals the early Múm to have been more reliant upon synthesisers and harmonies than they are today, yet still displays the sense of experimentation evident on the band’s more recent albums. While primarily of appeal to Múm’s fans, Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK will doubtless delight anyone with an interest in Iceland’s innovative music scene.

'Glõsõli' – Sigur Rós [EMI]

‘Glõsõli’, the first single to be released from Sigur Rós’s forthcoming fourth album Takk… was one of several new songs the Icelandic post-rock band previewed at their rapturously received Melbourne show during their recent Australian tour. It opens with the soft chiming of tiny bells and an insistent yet moody guitar. These instruments are quickly joined by the tender falsetto of vocalist Jónsi Birgisson, who in the words of a six-year old fan of the band, "sings like his heart is broken". As the song builds, deep bass drums and suddenly surging guitars urge it on towards a spectacular crescendo. A single this good promises a magnificent album to come.

Horses In The Sky – Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band [XXX]

Thee Silver Mt Zion, a side-project for several members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, relies less on that old post-rock standard, the thunderous crescendo, and more on the nasal vocals of Godspeed’s guitarist Efrim Menuck. The band’s latest album is a protest album of sorts, composed of fragile and spacious tunes picked out on guitar, piano and violin, sparse droning, and solemn and contemplative melodies. Dissonance, acapella, and yes, even sudden, swooping crescendos play their part. As with Menuck’s anxious, semi-falsetto, some will find The Silver Mt Zion’s music maddening. Others will regard it as an expression of emotional purity. Either way it’s an acquired taste.

AnimaminA – Amina [The Worker’s Institute/Universal]

Icelandic quartet Amina enchanted audiences at Melbourne’s recent Sigur Ros concert with their delicate and organic approach to post-rock, both in their all-too-brief support slot and also as the band’s touring string section. Now Amina’s debut EP has been given a limited local release, with a second pressing expected shortly. Cello, viola and violin are combined with ambient sounds including a crackling fire, the hum of a wineglass and the soft chimes of a child’s music box. The resulting four tracks on AnimaminA are haunting, fragile, and utterly graceful.


'Sister Sneaker Sister Soul' – My Latest Novel [Bella Union]

My Latest Novel are the Next Big Thing to emerge from Glasgow’s indie music scene. Despite having been in existence for less than two years the young quintet are already supporting the likes of Teenage Fanclub and the reformed The Pixies. This single, lifted from a debut album to be released later this year, demonstrates their deconstructive approach to song-writing by breaking apart the familiar verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure of most pop-songs. Violin, cello, shared vocals and tight drumming contribute to a slow-burning, deceptively simple single, and aptly demonstrates that the hype building around My Latest Novel is far from unfounded.

'Trouble with Dreams' – Eels [Universal]

‘Trouble with Dreams’ is the latest single from the band that gave us the JJJ hit ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ some 10 years ago, and hails from the new double-CD Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, the magnum opus of Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett, aka E. All lilting drums, off-kilter calliope-like keyboards and a lyrical concern with the question of when to abandon your childhood hopes, ‘Trouble with Dreams’ displays the typical Eels ability to mask miserable themes behind catchy alt-pop tunes. It’s an austere yet shimmering track that is sure to have the music-loving public pricking up their collective ears.

Self Titled – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [independent]

This delightful album from Brooklyn’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is currently only available from the band themselves, and locally in the few rare record shops who have been wise enough to import it. It skips, jumps and twirls through 12 tracks of exuberant indie-pop, referencing artists as diverse as Talking Heads and Tom Waits without sounding contrived. Add in some downright manic melodies and the occasional introspective interlude, and you have an album that some overseas critics are calling the best new release of the year. Vocalist Alec Ounsworth’s slightly strident voice might grate on some people’s ears, or the lo-fi production sound a little muffled, but such criticisms aside Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut album is a bold and memorable introduction. Let’s just hope that they can sustain both its momentum and their careers.

Illinois – Sufjan Stevens [Asthmatic Kitty/Spunk]

The sweetly strange, inspired, and compelling Illinois is the second in a proposed series of 50 thematic albums, one for each state of the USA, from singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Rich orchestral arrangements sit comfortably beside neo-folk banjos, and the whimsical is effortlessly juxtaposed with the heartfelt as Stevens sings about everything from Superman to the deaths of friends. From song titles such as ‘They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbours!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!’ to a truly poignant song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Illinois is a engaging work of idiosyncratic genius.

Bang Bang Rock & Roll – Art Brut [Fierce Panda/Shock]

Simple, sharp chords reminiscent of The Buzzcocks or The Fall are coupled with semi-chanted lyrics from vocalist Eddie Argos on this debut album from Art Brut, London’s answer to Franz Ferdinand. Balancing social realism with wry humour, these 12 songs may lack originality, but they definitely entertain.

Arcade Fire - The Arcade Fire [Arcade Fire Music/Merge]

Following the worldwide acclaim of their 2004 debut album Funeral, Canadians The Arcade Fire have re-mastered and re-released its predecessor, 2003’s seven track Arcade Fire EP. While it displays some of the rich song structure and tormented beauty of Funeral, this EP is clearly the sound of a band in their formative stages. Songs such as ‘I’m sleeping in a submarine’ and ‘The Woodlands National Anthem’ lack the tension and grace of The Arcade Fire’s latter works, and the band’s influences are more obvious. While ‘No Cars Go’ (a rousing, driving number and an audience favourite at the band’s gigs) comes close to achieving the balance and finesse found on Funeral, this EP is definitely just one for the fans.

Notes From A Ceiling – The Mess Hall [Shock]

The second album from Sydney duo The Mess Hall, following on from their little-known, home-made self-titled 2001 release, sees this young Australian band trying to outdo The White Stripes with their bluesy rock swaggering, and they almost pull it off. Production is clean enough to be listenable without losing the grit and growl that makes The Mess Hall so much fun, and while the slower numbers such as ‘Skyline’ are less successful, and reveal the band’s limitations, there’s plenty of great rock moments on display elsewhere on this CD to make up for these occasional flaws.


Tales of the Drift – Hermitude [Elefant Tracks]

Tales of the Drift, the second collaboration from keyboardist Luke Dubs and drummer/turntablist Angus ‘Elgusto’ Stewart under the moniker Hermitude, seamlessly combines the best elements of hip-hop and electronica. It features the jazz-influenced, instrumental grooves for which the Blue Mountains-based duo are renowned, as well as occasional appearances from guest MC’s including the seductive Blu MC. From the evocative and exotic sounds of ‘Nightfall’s Messenger’ to the coolly minimal electro of ‘Plunge’, Tales of the Drift is a diverse and masterful album. That two such divergent tracks can sit comfortably beside each other on the one CD is testimony to Hermitude’s accomplished musical dexterity.

Secret House Against The World – Buck 65 [Warner]

Canadian Buck 65 (aka Richard Terfry) is a thorn in the side of conventional hip-hop. He spurns the macho posturing common among MC’s in favour of tales of rural struggle, while his music incorporates country and folk. On his latest album Buck 65 sings that "Hip hop music ruined my life", and while this may be a pose adopted for a particular song, it’s true that Secret House Against The World is his least-hip-hop friendly album yet. It is also his most diverse. There’s the melancholy, piano-haunted ‘The Floor’, the banjo-plucking folk-hop of ‘Blood of a Young Wolf’, and the off-kilter electro-rock of ‘Le 65isme.’ These tracks and others combine to form an album that is not always easy to listen to, but whose diverse, disconnected charms grow steadily apparent with time.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Links section added today

Just cut and pasted the appropriate HTML code into the sidebar of my blog so that I can start adding links to some of my favourite places on the web. I have to fine-tune it yet, but hopefully on another few days you'll be able to visit some of my friend's blogs, and many other informative, entertaining, or downright strange corners of our virtual world.

Right now though, I'm heading off for another evening at the Fringe!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dancing in the Killing Fields

Richard Watts talks to Fred Frumberg from Amrita Performing Arts about the struggle to resurrect an almost-lost Cambodian artform.

It is a backhanded compliment of the most terrible kind that dictators so greatly fear the ideas of artists and intellectuals that they murder us in our thousands whenever they come to power. Cambodia under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge was no different to China during the Cultural Revolution in this regard, for in addition to the estimated 1.5 million (one in five) Cambodians who died of malnutrition during Pol Pot’s regime, at least 200,000 more were executed as enemies of the state: countless artists among them.

"Approximately 80 to 90% of all Cambodian artists died in some way or another during the Khmer Rouge," explains Fred Frumberg, a former UN Peace Corp member who originally intended to stay in Cambodia for a year and who is still there almost a decade later. "Basically I just fell in love with the place," he says, "and after almost 30 years of civil war, I realised that nothing can be done in one year so I decided to stay on. It’s been just over eight years now."

Frumberg is the founder, director and creative producer of Amrita Performing Arts, a non-government organisation that works to ensure the survival and preservation of Cambodia’s unique artistic culture. As part of this year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival, Amrita Performing Arts will be presenting the Australian premiere of a recently revived, all-male dance piece, Weyreap’s Battle, an episode from the mythological epic the Ramayana, or Reamker as it is known in Cambodia. The work is staged through a form of classical dance known as Lakhaon Kaol, which was originally feared lost following the many deaths in the killing fields.

"Lakhaon Kaol survived in the same way that most other forms of the performing arts survived in Cambodia, of which there are about 20 forms including dances, theatre and whatnot," Frumberg explains. "The few people who survived set out almost immediately afterwards to find out who was still alive. They put out radio messages and they actually managed to bring together other survivors and to put together some of the old forms, of which Lakhaon Kaol was one."

He has no doubt that Weyreap’s Battle will appeal to an Australian audience. "For those people who want to learn more about Cambodian classical music and dance we have the amazing pin piet music from a classical orchestra, we have the narration, which is sung, and we have the classical dance movements performed by very professional, masked dancers, but there’s also some very comic moments in it," Frumberg explains. "There’s an entire scene which takes place underwater with artists playing fish and seahorses; and from a technical standpoint the narration is simultaneously translated into English with surtitles, so from every point possible I think this is going to be quite accessible."

The American-born Frumberg’s greatest concern is that people will consider him to be directing the company’s re-discovery of Lakhaon Kaol rather than facilitating it.

"I’ve had a few interviews about this where I’ve had to correct people in their questioning about my approach to the company. This is absolutely Cambodian driven," he is at pains to explain.

"Always in the back of my mind is the sense that eventually, as much as I love Cambodia, eventually I have to leave. Before the war Cambodia had a thriving theatre community; the king himself was a film director. They know about stage management, they know how to pay people and make posters and sell tickets. Because of the civil war the emphasis has been on the revival process, and what I’ve been doing is facilitating the evolution of the production side of things so that we can start thinking about real sustainability: how to place this artform so that it comes back into the common language of Cambodia’s culture like it was before the war, at which point I’m absolutely not needed any more."

Weyreap’s Battle at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, 6-8 October. Bookings through or Ticketmaster.

This article originally appeared in MCV # 248, Friday 30th September.