Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Suck Me: Homoeroticism in vampire cinema

This is my belated post for the Vampire blog-a-thon, created and reanimated by him we call "The Master", but who is known to most as Nathaniel, and whose place of unhallowed rest is The Film Experience.

Vampires have long been a symbol of unrestrained and rampant sexuality, both in literature and cinema.

Scenes such as those where Dracula's brides accost Jonathan Harker in Transylvania, as described by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel Dracula, perfectly encapsulate both a Victorian sensibility and a sense of dangerously unrestrained sexuality:

"They whispered together, and then they all three laughed, such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of waterglasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on...

I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one's flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in languorous ecstasy and waited, waited with beating heart."

- Dracula, Chapter 3

The homoerotic, and the overtly homosexual, are another central motif of vampirism, and have long been expressed within the extensive canon of vampiric cinema.

Much has been made of the homoerotic elements of Interview with the Vampire, Neil Jordan's languid (some would say turgid) 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice's novel, and starring Tom Cruise and Bratt Pitt. Allegedly at Cruise's insistance, much of the queer subtext of the film was excised, leaving a single, powerful scene between Louis (the pouting Pitt) and Armand (Antonio Banderas) as the only overtly homoerotic moment in the film.

There are far better films, and far more overt displays of homosexuality, elsewhere in the vampire genre.

Here are just a few:


Tom Holland's 1985 horror-comedy Fright Night contains a touching scene where the hero's geekish and misfit sidekick, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) is seduced by the suavely sensual vampire Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon). Although nothing is expressed overtly, for queer viewers - and many modern viewers - the homoerotic nature of this scene is writ large.

"Hello, Edward. You don't have to be afraid of me. I know what it's like being different. Only they won't pick on you anymore... or beat you up. I'll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand."

There's also a significant homoerotic charge between Dandrige and his 'housemate'/servant, but you really need to watch the film to appreicate it...


Lesbian vampires are far more common in cinema than gay vampires, as the idea of two women together is both less threatening to straight men and more arousing.

As a case in point, consider Et Mourir de Plaisir (literally To Die with Pleasure... but in the UK known as Blood and Roses) Roger Vadim's somewhat somnulent 1960 take on Sheridan Le Fanu's classic lesbian vampire novella Camilla (which predates Stoker's Dracula, being first published in 1872),

Films such as Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983) are far more explicit in their lesbian content; and Roy Ward Baker's Hammer production Vampire Lovers (1970) displays a gorier, pulpier sensibility - and is also a remake of the Camilla story (see also Jimmy Sangster's sequel, Lust for a Vampire (1971) and John Hough's 1972 follow-up Twins of Evil, all starring Ingrid Pitt) but I still have a soft spot for Blood and Roses.

It's a subtle take on the story, and while some will consider its lyrical style stultifying, its imagery is memorable, its cinematography graceful, and its eroticism is restrained yet sensual.


Directed by openly gay director Joel Schumacher in 1987, this is a delightfully excessive film, in which Sam (Corey Haim) a teenager who just happens to have posters of Rob Lowe on his closet door, and who is fond of bubble bath (hello, gay much?) must rescue his older brother Michael (Jason Patric) from the pouting, threatening and seductive gang lead by David (Kiefer Sutherland) who have made him "one of us."

Although some might consider the queer subtext in this film to be fairly well hidden, you can have great fun analysing The Lost Boys.

Is it a vampirism-as-AIDS metaphor? Perhaps it's suggesting that unbridled teenage sexuality inevitably leads to straight boys being lead astray? Is it a 'homosexuality as threat to the traditional family structure' story? Or perhaps it's implying that the absence of a father in the family home leads to boys taking bubble baths and drinking blood?

According to Lee Anna Mariglia, The Lost Boys is a subversive celebration of the gay lifestyle in the conservative Reagan era. The film's adolescent vampire hunters proclaim themselves "fighters for truth, justice and the American way," establishing that the battle between vampire and human is a fight of ideologies as well as a physical struggle. Earlier in the film, Michael swallows David's essence - his blood - in an overtly homosocial bonding session that converts him to vampirism. Soon after - shock, horror - he shows up at home with his ear pierced. And it goes on...

This film is so bloody queer. Grab the popcorn, your boyfriend's hand, and have fun. Because even the tag line for this film is gay, gay, gay.

"Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire."

If that doesn't sum up much of the gay lifestyle, I'll turn straight.

* * *

Now over here, you can find a great essay entitled Marginalisation and Eroticisation in Vampire Fiction which expands the discussion of homoeroticism to include what the author calls bieroticism.

Then there's the films I haven't seen, such as David DeCoteau's The Brotherhood (in which our vampire frat boys "wander around the house in their underwear looking sweaty and giving each other knowing looks...tender, sultry looks...").

In some of the films I have seen, but not revisted for years, there's all manner of same-sex shenannigans to enjoy.

Camp, effeminate vampires can be found in Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and Blacula (1972) and there's even gay vampire porn...

But that, dear readers, I shall leave entirely to your imagination.

Happy Halloween!


Feel free to check out some of the other vampire blog-a-thon entries:-

Over at Certifiably Creative, you can learn more about the Countess Elizabeth Bathory and some of the film's she's inspired.

Silly Hats Only pays homage to George Romero's masterful modern take on the myth, Martin.

Goatdog discusses The Fall of the House of Dracula

Cinema Fromage delves deep into the vampiric secrets of the 1970's, baby.

Over at My New Plaid Pants you can learn more about Bill Paxton in the superb Near Dark than you perhaps cared to know...

Critic After Dark looks at vampires in the Philippines.

And Biter, sorry Bitter Cinema, gets all You Tube on your throat.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Dear me, Dame Edna!

Quite how it's eventuated I don't know (actually that's a lie, its because the Breakfasters' weren't able to work around her schedule, as far as I know) I'm interviewing none other than the Housewife Superstar herself, Dame Edna Everage tomorrow morning at 3RRR.

To say I'm flabbergasted would be an understatement - I'm also awed, jubilant, and rather bloody nervous. Wish me luck, people!

As always, suggestions as to pertinent interview questions are always welcome...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's all good

Fancy dress. Humphrey Bogart. Empathy and literary friends.

A remarkably quick recovery from a charmingly messy evening.


Andrew Denton's God On My Side. Remarkable hair. Lucid lunatics. Scripture-spouting puppets. The Rapture Index. End times.

A walk through the park. Teenage girls dancing on the lawn beneath the elm trees before collapsing in a giggling heap. The distant drone of an aeroplane.

A lazy Sunday afternoon.

What's not to like about weekends?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reasons to be nice to the eldery #427

My sister just sent me this. I have no idea if it's real or rigged, but it's kinda cute either way.

John Cameron Mitchell

I'm pre-recording an interview with the director of SHORTBUS and HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH tomorrow night.

Any of you lot got any bright questions you'd like me to ask him?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Land of the Free - yeah right!

How would you like to be initimated and harrassed by airport security, just for wearing a t-shirt? That's what happened to Raed Jarrar, a US architect of Iraqi descent back in August.

I've only just found out about this incident courtesy of gay blog Debriefing the Boys. Matt's now planning to buy one of these t-shirts in reaction to the incident:


The same company make a couple of other cool designs, such as one that declares the wearer to be an 'Enemy Combatant'. I think it might be time to do a spot of on-line shopping, don't you?

I'm in love...

...with Captain Jack Harkness (gay actor John Barrowman), the bisexual, time-travelling rogue who first appeared in the new series of Dr Who written by Queer As Folk creator Russel T Davies.

Last night the first episode of the new Dr Who spin-off Torchwood, about the secret organisation led by Captain Jack in modern-day Cardiff, Wales, made its debut in the UK to a record audience of 2.4 million viewers.

Isn't he dreamy? ;-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Too cute

This video from a Dutch kids' TV show has been doing the rounds for a while, but I finally just found the time to watch it, and found myself crying happily as I did. Yes, it's a touch sacharine, but it's also heartfelt, lovely and beautiful.

More bashings but also arrests

Last month I blogged about the brutal bashing and sexual assault of a 60 year old man at Victoria Park, a Ballarat beat.

Well, there's been another two attacks with exactly the same modus operandi, with a group of four men attacking another man at Victoria Park, and another only an hour later at Black Hill Lookout last Thursday.

This time though, there's some good news. I've just spoken to the Ballarat police, who tell me they've arrested two men aged 18 and 19, and two minors over the assaults. One other offender is still at large.

I'll update once I know any more about the outcomes of this story.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Could you please help me out?

Not content with asking you to help me decypher my dreams, now I'd like your help with my weekly club Q + A please, dear Blogsphere.

As some of you may know, almost 11 years ago a couple of mates and I set up a club called Queer + Alternative as a reaction to the mainstream gay scene, which never played any of the sorts of bands that we were into. Over a decade later Q + A is still going strong, and this year we've been nominated as one of Melbourne's best weekly clubs in the 'one nighter' category of the annual Rainbow Awards.

Want to help me stack the voting in the best branch-stacking tradition of any political party you care to name? You do? Hurrah!

All you have to do is go here, register, and vote away - I'd also recommend voting for Troy Gurr from MCV in the Media category, and Claire Jackson from the Queer Film Festival in Woman of the Year, but that's entirely up to you. It should only take you a couple of minutes to complete.

Remember, a vote for Q + A is a vote for me, so show the love, people. ;-)

Does this make me corrupt, or just a successful lobbyist? Hmmmmm....... *walks off stroking chin in contemplation*

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What does it all mean?

Earlier this morning, enjoying a sleep-in on my first day off for a while, I dreamt about these nasty little buggers, the South American fish candiru (Vandellia cirrhosa).

If you haven't heard of them before, they're a species of fish reputed to be capable of detecting urine in the water, and following to its source. Should that be you, foolishly skinny-dipping in the Amazon and having a piss at the same time, the frolicking candiru them swims up your urethra, imbeds itself in your body courtesy of spines in its gills, and begins to drink your blood. Charming, hey? Sounds rather like a member of the National Party...

The point of this post, though folks, is to ask for your assistance in interpreting this dream! What, pray tell, does it all mean? Please make your suggestions below, via the usual comments function.

Over to you!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My own mini queer film fest

The last two nights have seen me take the phone off the hook, refuse to respond to work-related e-mails, open a couple of bottles of red, and generally relax.

Fuck it's been good.

I've also launched into my own mini queer film festival, catching up on a couple of DVD's I recently ordered through Amazon, as well as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which I picked up on DVD on the weekend as a consequence of having seen the stage play recently.

It was Donald who urged me to watch the DVD of Hedwig, specifically because of the feature-length 'history of Hedwig' doco that's one of the extras on the disc. Whoooooooo! Talk about excellent - it adds so much more to the film, and having already loved the show, learning more about it was an utter delight. Thanks for the tip, mate.

So last night, having watched the doco, I watched the film again too, this time with a new eye for details such as the Titanic mural that's in the background in one scene, and the Riverview Hotel t-shirt Tommy Gnosis is wearing in another. Yay! I also sang drunkenly along to several scenes, having consumed two-thirds of a bottle of red by that stage...

Tonight though, it was time to get French.

First cab off the rank was
Grande Ecole, directed by documentarian Robert Salis.

Bowing to parental pressure, Paul (Gregori Baguet) and Bernard (Arthur Jugnot) head off to the most elite university in France to study business. Their flatmate is the even posher Louis-Arnault (Jocelyn Quivrin); a handsome water-polo player with an equally gorgeous girlfriend (Elodie Navarre).

Paul's strong-minded girlfriend Agnes (Alice Taglioni) begins to suspect Paul's interest in Louis-Arnault is more than a simple friendship, and challenges him to see who can seduce the young man first. Paul declines the wager, but is in love with
Louis-Arnault all the same, but also becomes involved with the handsom Mecir (Salim Kechiouche) who is not only a Muslim Arab, but working class as well.

This drama about bisexual love and lust set among the youthful French elite was, quite frankly, a little dull. While aspiring to explore gender and class dynamics, it fell well short of any real insights, and also failed to develop dramatic tension or a vibrant style, though the constant parade of naked flesh kept me vaguely interested (though not enough - several times I paused the film to check my e-mails; it was only grim determination that made me watch the film through to the end of its 110 minutes). Overly talky, and under-developed, frankly I don;t recommend it at all.

Next up was Christian Faure's Just a Question of Love, originally a French TV movie, nut which went on to become lauded on the gay and lesbian film festival circuit. It's a surprisingly fresh take on the tired coming-out genre.

Laurent (Cyrille Thouvenin) is a gay university student in mourning for his cousin and friend, also gay, who was abandoned by their family on coming out. Consequently he uses his best friend and flatmate Carole (Caroline Veyt) to help him maintain an illusion of heterosexuality, despite knowing that deep down she is really in love with him.

Things go awry when Laurent meets the handsome Cedric (Stephan Guerin-Tillie) and his acceptinging and loving mother Emma (Eva Darlin). When they fall in love it creates complications for both men, who are unsure how to handle each other given their different circumstances. Cedric pushes Laurent to tell his family he is gay, but Laurent is (correctly) afraid that if he does come out, his parents will never accept him or his choice. One man fears the consequences, and the other fears it will hold their relationship at a standstill.

Although some of the supporting characters are simplistically drawn, the story never descends into melodrama, and neither Cedric or Laurent are presented as perfect. Their flaws drew me further into the story, and at one point had me in frustrated tears, wishing that one or the other could just bite the bullet and say 'J'taime' ('I love you'). Of course when they did, I burst into sobs.

Overall the film is well acted, with a strong script and surehanded direction that avoids bathos and melodrama. Recommended.

Time for a giggle

Thanks to Twitch, I just discovered my new Number One most eagerly anticipated film of summer: the French comedy Poltergay.

It is, no doubt, every young couple's worst nightmare. You move into your new home, a magnificent old mansion, only to discover that - horror of horrors - it is haunted. But not just any old haunting. No, your new home is haunted by the spirits of disco dancing homosexuals from the 1970s."

How could this not be excellent? Those of you who are fluent in French will probably want to go to the official site in order to learn more. Why, oh why did I not study harder in Year Eight Language Studies in 1980? Merde!

Monday, October 16, 2006

What a glorious day

Woke this morning hangover free after being ridiculously well-behaved at last night's Fringe artists' party, dished the dirt in my Beat column, then headed off to work at MCV, revelling in the fact that I'm back to being the News Editor after a stressful two weeks as Acting Editor.

Dappled sunlight shone down through the vivid leaves of the elms in the Fitzroy Gardens. The sky was a deep, clear blue. A handsome shirtless lad driving a ute grinned back at me when I smiled at him at the Hoddle Street traffic lights.

I have no committments for the next two nights, and plan to relax, unwind, and start enjoying life again. Ladies and gentlemen, it's officially good to be alive!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I know everything

At least so says the badge I picked up tonight at the Is Not party - and what a splendid party it was. There were bloggers, poets, designers, radio folks, publishers, editors, madcap dancers, musos, involved discussions about the political subtext of zombie films, newly engaged friends, and a total absence of mysterious, witty and seductive gentlemen making eyes at me. Ah well, you can't have everything I suppose.

Probably a good thing too - otherwise I should become jaded.**

** This message brought to you by a 100% totally not jaded Man About Town, who is about to saunter down to a nearby bar and position himself attractively in a corner. Wish me luck - or at least no hangover tomorrow!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Get on the bus

I can't recall when I first heard about John Cameron Mitchell's new film, Shortbus. I picked up on vague mutterings about it a year or two ago, but nothing really registered until earlier this year, when the finished film screened at Cannes. That's when the buzz - not to mention the vague sense of moral outrage among some pundits - about this new film from the writer and director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch really caught my attention.

Shortbus is the most sexually explicit drama to come out of the USA, and features real sex instead of carefully choreographed simulations. Having advertised for people prepared to have get their gear off - and get off - in front of the camera, Mitchell slowly assembled a cast, and with them, workshoped their characters.

Such characters include former child star Jamie (P J DeBoy) and his depressed boyfriend James (Paul Dawson), who are considering opening up their five year relationship to new partners; sex therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) who has never, ever had an orgasm; and Severin (Lindsay Beamish) a dominatrix unable to emotionally connect with the world. The threads of their lives gradually intertwine at the titular salon in which much of the action is set: an avant guarde island in the midst of post September 11 New York.

"If you have your photograph taken at Ground Zero," one of Severin's clients asks her, "do you smile?"

All of them are looking for love, for connection, and Mitchell gives it to them - and to us - only after an, at times, fraught journey through life's lowest moments.

The film's establishing shot conveys an instant sense of the physical, as the camera darts about the body of a statue, showing us its fingers and toes before pulling back to reveal that the object of our gaze is the Statue of Liberty as we've never seen her before. With this one scene, Mitchell establishes both the playful tone of the film, and tricks us. We expect now to view a film in which the physical - specifically the physical act of sex is front and centre - and it is, but it's also perfectly integrated into every other aspect of the story.

There's nothing arousing or voyeuristic about the fucking, sucking, rimming and wanking that decorates the screen in Shortbus; Mitchell uses sex to reveal the emotions behind the people who are getting it on so passionately, and in doing so crafts a tender, lyrical and often hilarious story.

Don't see Shortbus expecting to be aroused - do see it and expect to be moved. On a couple of other blogs today, when describing it, I've called Shortbus the most life-affirming film I've seen this year. That's the line I'm sticking to. Although not without flaws, this is a beautiful, rewarding and transporting film that will, for its 101 minutes, take you somewhere warm and wonderful - and best of all, you won't have to sleep in the wet patch afterwards.

1000 words

As in, "a picture says...."

Welcome to the state of my head. Please close the door - quietly - on your way out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Religious Right were *gasp* RIGHT!

Just as we suspect ladies and gentlemen - it's too terrible for words - oh won't someone think of the children?!

And the Fringe goes on

Two more shows last night - although I almost didn't go to either of them because soon after I got home from work I burst into tears for no readily apparent reason (general tiredness and stress I think). After sobbing on the couch for half an hour, I roused myself, and started walking to North Melbourne, and was lucky enough to score a lift with Sol, my favourite vet in the world, and Keating! producer extraordinaire Catherine Woodfield from Rathdowne Street onwards. Thanks guys.

I then saw some much needed comedy, which cheered me up no end:

Stephen K. Amos

The Lithuanian Club until Saturday 14

Effortlessly engaging with the audience, the smoothly talented Stephen K Amos seemed to spent most of his time improvising in this show, although I'm suere there was a lot of scripted material in there as well; it was just difficult to tell where it started and stopped, and where the improv took over. I was sitting in the front row, but was very clearly not picked on, as I'd chatted with Stephen a few times at Fringe gigs in the past few weeks.

Last night was cheap-arse Tuesday, which brought a lot of backpackers out of the woodwork, if the number of accents I heard while waiting for the houselights to go down was any indication.

I didn't take any notes, so I can't really go into detail as to what subjects Stephen was joking about, but it was very, very funny, and raised my spirits considerably.

The Town Bikes present MILK

Until Saturday 14 at the Lithuanian Club

Part madcap cabaret, part burlesque, part comedy; this new show from The Town Bikes, their first foray into a longer work, was a delerious, hillarious show. I think I gained as much enjoyment from the often befuddled faces of the audiences as I did from the show itself, having already seen a work-in-progress viewing of Milk, and so having some idea of what I was in for:
which included cows kidnapped by flying saucers; an eroticised homage to Heidi and Looney Tunes cartoons; squirting jets of breast milk; and much, much more. Bravo!

Oh, and congratulations to Biker Gabi, and her partner Mr Log III, who are expecting. Bevis's Wifey has just popped out a sprog - it looks like this breeding malarkey is contagious!

Like to get to know you well...

Mr Monkey Jedi (no relation to Mr Monkey Punch Dinosaur) has tagged me. So, in case you don't yet know me well enough...

My earliest memory is… My mum hunging out wet sheets on the clothesline when I was about 3 years old, the sheets flapping and billowing against the blue sky.
At high school I… hid in the library in order to avoid being bashed up (it didn't work).
My first relationship was… not until I was 25.
I wish I’d never worn… drag.
My mother told me… that Mother's Day was a capitalist plot.
I wish I had... the ability to budget and save/a good memory for names/a boyfriend.
My most humiliating moment was... my so-called best friend humiliating me in front of a bunch of mates in Year 9 by pouring a bucket of cow shit over me.
At home I cook… Cook? I'm sorry, I don't understand this concept. Please explain.
My last meal would be… Mum's homemade roast lamb with all the trimmings.
I’m very bad at… saying no to new projects.
When I was a child… I wore glasses, had long hair and wore green obsessively.
The book that changed my life is… Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story and/or The Joy of Gay Sex, or Paul Monette's beautiful, heartbreaking Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story.
It’s not fashionable, but I love… pretty much anything I wear; fashion and I have never been on first-name terms.
Friends say I am… witty, accepting, intelligent, caring and complex (I checked my Johari window to find out).
The song I’d like played at my funeral is… 15 years ago I wanted 'Solsbury Hill' by Peter Gabriel and 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' by Bauhaus. I really should update my funeral plans. How about 'Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása' by Sigur Ros?
If only I could… fly.
The last big belly laugh I had was… last night watching Stephen K. Amos, which was sorely needed after a stresful and quite frankly miserable week.
What I don’t find amusing is… Australia's Funniest Home Videos.
I’m always being asked… "You're such a nice guy, why don't you have a boyfriend?" Hello, if I knew the fucking answer to that question do you think I'd still be bloody single?!
If I wasn’t me… I'd be an oak tree.
At the moment I’m listening to… the MCV staff stressing on production day; the traffic on Bridge Road; and the the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.
My favourite work of art is… The Dying Gaul.
If I were a car I’d be… a hearse.
I often wonder… why people delude themselves into thinking that there's a god.
I often wonder (2)... why otherwise sane, rational people vote Liberal.

And now I tag... the lovely Clem.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Man about town

Several weeks ago fellow blogger D.U.P. suggested I change the name of my blog to 'Man about Town." Given that I didn't really have a name for it at all to begin with (I'd named it after myself, which is pretty lame, really, although in my defense this blog was originally only ever intended as a repository for my journalism, in order to prolong its shelf-life) I can't quite remember why I changed it to 'Watts with Words' a couple of months ago, but that's besides the point.

D.U.P.'s suggestion has stuck with me. It's resonated.

So much so that a couple of minutes ago I changed the name of my blog. I like the new name. It already feels comfortable, it reflects who I am and what I get up to - not just my work but my infatuation with pleasure and entertainment.

Yes, I'm a hedonist, a decadent sybarite, a hopeless homosexualist who's addicted to cultural pursuits. Guilty as charged!


There's something especially annoying about having a cold - or a minor dose of the flu, or whatever virus I have at the moment - when it's such a glorious day outside.

I can't help but feel it should be grey, overcast and raining, instead of having all this bright sunshine streaming down.

My sinuses are blocked, I have a serious case of the sniffles, and my chest is constricted, making me want to cough all the time.


For the record, can I just say that it's actually quite difficult editing, and paying close attention to detail, when I feel this crap? Why couldn't I get sick next week, after the Fringe Festival is over, and when my boss is back from his holiday?


*sulks in corner*

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Fringe in Brief

Two more shows seen over the weekend.


At Northcote's Black Lung Theatre until Sunday October 15

Genius. Sheer bloody genius. That's the best way to describe this insane, hilarious, unsettling and chaotic show, which walks the knife-edge between self-indulgence and deliciously subversive theatre with absolute perfection.

Imagine George Clooney as a feverish con-artist, instructing his bumbling-yet-disturbing sidekick on the best way to run a scam, and both of them infatuated (for radically different reasons) with the junkie prostitute who will shortly OD in their living room.

Now imagine dirt-smeared performers baring their buttocks at the audience; actors breaking out of character to complain about their limited and cliched roles; loud arguments with the band who also appear on stage; and a television set that pours wine into proffered cups.

That's the world of Rubeville - the single most subversive and enjoyable show I've seen in this year's Fringe Festival. It puts everything else to shame. See it - see it now!

LCUK - Falling In and Out of Luck

At Fitzroy's Bar Open until Sunday 15th October

Spoken word performances aren't everyone's cup of tea, and often with good reason. Having attended more than enough badly written, flat and monotone readings of 'poetry' to last me for the rest of my life, it's a delight to see a writer of the calibre of Sean M. Whelan in performance. Coupled with the atmospheric sounds of Melbourne band The Mime Set, Whelan's surreal and sensitive texts are brought to unique life.

I would have liked to have heard Sam Wearing singing more, as she has a beautiful and strong voice, but it was also a great development to see her sharing more of the spoken word delivery with Whelan, as she counterpoints his slightly limited vocal range superbly.

The band were dynamic, intense and moody, and overall it was an excellent night's entertainment, and a grand way to end a rather challenging weekend.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Trying times

It's been a difficult week. Not just emotionally, although obviously that's part of it. Work has been stressful, as I'm filling in for my boss, and I've also slightly over-committed to Fringe this year, being a dramaturge-mentor for the Outside Eye program as well as a Judge in the performance category.

Then there's all the other crap that's been going on. Like the comments made by this woman, for instance:

"Hello, I'm a rabid ideologue. Do you like my conservative attire? And aren't my 1950's-esque pearls simply to die for? Actually, a third world labourer probably did, while diving for them. Ahah-ha-ha!"

In case you don't recognise her, that's Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop, who tried to justify the Federal government taking over the state-based curricula currently being taught in Australian schools on the basis that some of what was being taught in our class rooms was coming "straight from Chairman Mao".

Oh, won't someone please think of the children?!

Yes, all those nasty Maoist teachers, demonising intellectuals...

Oh wait, that's our Glorious Leader Prime Minister John Howard, sorry.

"Please God make the nasty socialists go away; and if it's not too hard, can you get George to say nice things about me again? That would be bonzer. Oh yeah, and if you could just persude Janette to swallow, it would be triffic. Thanks, Lord!"

Yes, little Johnny has attacked our tertiary university system for producing intelligent people who examine the causes of the world's ills and come to the logical conclusions, ie that governments should be focussed upon caring about the greater good, rather than the rights and incomes of the few.

It's depressing, demeaning and infurating that the fate of our country is in the hands of these people. When even former Liberal Prime Minister's say that our current leaders foster intolerance, you know we're in a bad way.

Oh well. At least there are people out there still fighting the good fight, and prepared to stand up for what they - what we - believe. It's people like these that give me hope, and help get me through these dark times.

Right, that's my astute political analysis and satire done for the week. It's time to get back to the Fringe.

Not entirely wasted

After crawling out of bed at 8.30am, feeling fluey, I spent three hours this morning finishing my notes for a two hour performance writing workshop I was due to run this afternoon at Gasworks. Then I negotiated public transport, disruptions caused by the Melbourne Marathon (it's all your fault, DUP!) and my general sense of bleurgh-ness, only to arrive at Gasworks to discover that only one of the three people who'd actually booked for my workshop had shown up - and she was also sick, and was thinking about going home!

Not surprisingly, the workshop was cancelled. I was mildy peeved, as you might imagine, given the work I'd put into planning it.

Oh well - at least I got out into the spring sunshine for a few hours, and on my grumpy way home I found time to drop into ACCA to check out Gillian Wearing's retrospective exhibition. It's superb; a revelatory examination of human nature through the media of video and photography.

Looking at her work, I was reminded of this quote by Oscar Wilde:

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Do go and see Wearing's exhibition if you get the chance.

As for me, right now I'm going back to bed for a couple of hours, so that I'll have enough energy to see Sean M Whelan and the Mime Set tonight at Bar Open at 10pm. Perhaps I'll see you there?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More SmartArts

This week on my show, I spoke with:

Back to the Fringe

Due to work being so hectic this week, I've been unable to see much at the festival since Sunday, but made up for that last night by catching three shows in a row. For two of them, I had the esteemed and always enjoyable company of my dear friend Lisa Greenaway, a writer and sometime- performance partner (and also the editor of The Program, an Australia Council-sponsored arts portal for da yoof). We enjoyed a couple of drinks, some superb calamari, and our usual sparkling conversation.

Afterwards, I retired to my couch with a glass of red and a book - Notes from the Teenage Underground, the debut Young Adult novel by Melbourne author, screenplay writer and excellent human being, Simmone Howell.

Now, on with the reviews!

The Nightmare Heap

At Bar Open, Fitzroy until Saturday 7th October

Staging a play above a bar is no easy matter, and congratulations to Wit of the Stairs, the company who mounted this independent theatrical production, for inventively using the limited space they had on offer. A semi-circular couch became the mouth of a mine; a bed was raked at a steep angle on a set of stairs so that the audience could clearly see the woman sleeping on it; a mysterious figure clad all in black, like a Victorian mourner, sat in a dark corner, awaiting their cue.

Atmospheric music greeted us, which coupled with the staging, effectively set the scene for this play, whose press described it as "funny and disturbing... a bedtime story for grown-ups."

Sadly it all went downhill the moment the actors began reciting their lines, although the fact that they started 20 minutes late certainly didn't endear me. Trite and expository dialogue, coupled with wooden acting from the male lead, and over-acting from the other performers, meant that this play about the supernatural infiltrating the real world became rapidly unbearable. While I regret to say I walked out after 20 minutes, I do not apologise for doing so: festivals are too short to waste time on such lacklustre theatre.

Absolute Necessity

Dante's Fitzroy until Sunday 8th October

After pouring my heart out in a fit of maudlin drunkeness on this blog the previous night, I confess that when I re-checked the festival program on Friday to remind myself what I was about see, to discover that Absolute Necessity was a "hybrid art performance" about love and relationships, I fretted momentarily.

The fact that this show by Chiaroscuro Creations (a collective of Deakin University's Bachelor of Contemporary Art students) was described as "a unique theatre-dance-media mish mash!" concerned me even more. Someone needs to tell these people how to write a better, catchier and more descriptive blurb!

That said, this was an extremely enjoyable production, and at only half an hour, was refreshingly brief and direct.

Krista Green and Ross MacPherson played the Bride and Groom, a theatrical Everyman and Everywoman. As the show began, they launched into an interwoven conversation, more paired monologue than dialogue, that explored, dissected and celebrated a romance throughout all its phases.

As the pair spoke, two dancers, the fluid Clio Williams and a slightly more awkward Heath Barrett, evoked the ever-changing mood of the text through swiftly stylised movement. An excellent video projection of an ever-changing landscape - sometimes autumnal, sometimes swept by falling snow - and a minimal score was well integrated into the production.

Green and MacPherson failed to adequately convey the emotion of the piece, and their delivery lacked range and modulation, while the production as a whole took at least 10 minutes to really find its feet. That said, its disparate elements successfully merged together to form a strong whole. With more development, and more accomplished performers, Absolute Necessity could be tremendous. As it was, despite its flaws, I found myself utterly engaged by the time it concluded.

In the Beginning? Uhmmm

Dante's Fitzroy until Sunday 15th October

Having heard a bit of a buzz about this show, I was keen to check it out, and am delighted to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.

A twisted take on the Biblical creation myth, In the Beginning? Uhmmmm begins with God (Rod Primrose) in a nursing home, tended to by two attendents, the Devil (Hamish Fletcher) and an Angel (Olivia Crang). The two struggle wordlessly with their attraction for each other, and God struggles to gain their attention, which when it comes, is not always welcome.

His bed becomes a stage on which first God, and then his attendents, play with bones, fruit and other objects - mostly memorably, a raw chicken, plucked and headless, which dances and cavorts to create the single most inspired piece of puppetry I've seen this year.

While this production could do with further dramaturgy in order to draw out its narrative, and its multimedia aspects are underdeveloped, it's definitely one of the most memorable shows I've seen so far in the festival. Quintesentially Fringe, fanciful and startling, I heartily recommend it to you all.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Melodramatic much?

Reasons not to blog when drunk #276.

Clearly I was in a crap mood last night. Now I'm just hungover. Owwwwwwww.

Jealousy and the Decemberists

Thanks to Mike, I'm currently listening to several new tracks by a band I adore: The Decemberists. Even though it's 4.20am, and I'm drunk and tired after DJ'ing at Q + A tonight, I'm loving the tracks I'm listening too. I wonder how long it will be before the album's released locally?

If you check out Mike's blog, he not only talks about The Crane Wife, The Decemberist's new album, but provides links so that you can listen to several of the key tracks from it yourself.

So, thanks Mike.

But simultaneously, I have to say, upfront, that I'm incredibly jealous of you.

I've been single since May 2000, following the spectacular disintegration of my last major relationship. Since then there's been a succession of one night/hour stands, a few briefs flings, and a handful of awkward and unconsumated crushes, but nothing lasting, enriching, or significant.

Last week Mike met a new bloke at Q + A, and the two of them have been spending almost every intervening day together ever since. I watched them together briefly tonight, and was struck by their comfortably physical familiarity (which as far as I'm concerned is well deserved after all the shit Mike's been through).

But at the same time, yes, I was jealous.

I was jealous because Mike only met this bloke for the first time a week ago, but yet the two of them already display a degree of intimacy that I've longed for for years.

Mike makes meeting someone, flirting with them, cuddling them, look so fucking easy.

Someone asked me tonight how I manage to keep so busy, how I juggle so many commitments and responsibilities in my life. The answer was simple - it's because all the effort and energy I'd like to pour into a relationship, I invest in other aspects of my life, to stop myself feeling so absolutely fucking lonely.

And god I'm such a walking fucking cliche that I'm actually crying as I write this, and I'm probably going to cry myself to sleep.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Insert title here (aka: stuff)

Although I had grand intentions of seeing at least four more Fringe shows this week, life keeps throwing obstacles in my way; some welcome, others definitely not.

It's been a busier week than usual work-wise, as my editor Troy Gurr is having his first holiday in several years. That means I'm acting editor of MCV this week and next week, which while a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the paper's production, could not have come at a worse possible time. It's the middle of Fringe for god's sake; all I want to be doing is seeing shows and viewing exhibitions, not editing real estate features and proof-reading PDF's before they go to the printers! Still, the extra money will definitely come in handly, and as I say, it's a great learning opportunity.

Monday night, after leaving the office, I went off to meet up with a spoken word choir who I'm acting as a dramaturge for, through the Fringe's new Outside Eye program. In previous years Fringe has been able to assist artists to learn more about marketing, or help them find a venue or a director; this is the first year there's been a means of assisting directly with the artistic outcomes of shows, and it's exciting to be involved.

As a result of our two hour session this week, I can already see a difference in the troupe's performance; it's more fluid, less stilted. Hopefully after another two sessions next week with them and the actors they're pairing up with, there will be some significant growth.

Tuesday was another long day at work, followed by a merciful two hours relaxing at home (including catching up with a mate, Brendan Palmer of Uber Lingua fame, for a quick drink at Kent Street) before heading over to gay and lesbian radio station Joy 94.9FM in South Melbourne. I was a guest on Crooked, a relatively new show on JOY at 11pm Tuesdays, hosted by Bridge, who I got to know several years ago when she was working at the Builder's Arms Hotel. She'd asked me in for a 10 minute interview, part of a series of interviews she does with diverse members of Melbourne GLBT community. We ended up having so much fun - and she really got me to open up - that I was there for over an hour. Great interview, great interviewer, great fun.

Wednesday, more MCV - my first taste of deadline day, rushing to get the paper to print so it would be ready to hit the streets on Friday morning. Our 300th issue, our first gloss full colour cover, and my first edition as acting editor. Whew, was I glad when it was delivered to the printers!

Wednesday night was the 4th annual Fringe Trivia Challenge - teams from numerous Melbourne arts and cultural organisations, including the Comedy Festival, MIAF, the Spiegeltent, Next Wave and Triple R - in a delightful evening of trivial questions. Our Fringe team, made up of Board members, staff and volunteers, came third. I was torn between playing for Fringe and playing for Triple R but stuck with Fringe out of loyalty and tradition - and because I'm Deputy Chair. Maybe next year radio will out...

Today was dominated by my radio show this morning; not the greatest show I've done I confess; I was underprepared having not had yesterday to research, review and prep for interviews, but I still had fun. I'll post more about the show shortly, in a seperate entry.

Tonight I spent a significant stretch of time on the telephone, talking to my young niece Sian, who has cystic fibrosis and who has just been admitted to hospital in Canberra - and then doing the family rounds, talking to Sian's mum - my older sister Megan - and finally my mum. Sian has a Staph A infection, and has been basically 'coughing up a lung' as my sister describes it, despite being on antibiotics for a month. Luckily the new medication she's on seems to have stabilised her, so she's going to be ok, but it was a bit scary hearing how sick she'd been.

The news about Sian has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works, given that I was supposed to be going to an exhibition opening tonight, followed by another short Fringe show, but I'd much rather be assured that my niece is ok first and foremost. So, I'm taking advantage of this unexpected couple of hours at home before Q + A tonight to do some blogging, which brings me to a conversation I had after the show today with Cerise, my film reviewer.

"Why do you blog?" she wanted to know. "Why do you post often very personal information about yourself online for all to see?"

It was a good question, and one I still don't know the answer to. I know I like blogging; it's a logical progression from publishing a zine, which I was doing back in the 1990's, but I really, honestly don't know why I blog. So I'm throwing the floor open to you.

If you're a fellow blogger, why do you blog?

If you're not a blogger, but you read my blog, what is it that brings you back here to keep reading? (That's something else Cerise asked me: who are the people who read this blog? I'd like to know too.)

I welcome your comments and thoughts on this curly question. Over to you, people!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Big Day Out Melbourne has a home

The City of Melbourne announced yesterday afternoon that the Big Day Out has finally secured a site for its Melbourne leg. The lack of an available venue had put the touring musical juggernaut in danger of having to miss Melbourne altogether.

Last night the City of Melbourne's planning committee approved Princess Park as the BDO venue - which is great news from my point of view; I thought it was a fantastic venue for the event this year.

Due to redevelopments, the showgrounds are not available.

Lord Mayor John So said that Council had tried to accommodate everyone affected by this proposal.

“The Big Day Out is a terrific youth culture event that attracts up to 40,000 people with the majority in the 16 to 26 age group,” the Lord Mayor said.

“If organisers cannot find a venue, Melbourne might lose this youth event. Princes Park is the only possible venue for 2007. The event will be staged at Flemington Racecourse from 2008.


Monday, October 02, 2006

More Fringe fun

Three more shows yesterday:

Me Time

North Melbourne Town Hall until Saturday 14 October

Two naked German tourists in a Bangkok spa bath have a circular discussion about love, death, fantasy and genocide. This almost perfectly realised production by 'Angus Bart' and 'Lucian Cuthbertson' is definitely one of the most accomplished shows I've seen at the Fringe so far. A dry, discordant and unsettling play that goes nowhere, but which is fascinating in its trivial minutiea. A strange, ridiculousmus comedy.

North Melbourne Town Hall until October 6

Comedians Chris Kennett (RRR's The Pinch) and Tim Harris have done something new for Fringe this year: instead of writing a comedy show, they've written a play. There's a strong vein of humour running through the piece, but it's a very mordant humour. There's also an exploration of some dark contemporary themes.

A simple two hander with a set consisting of two chairs, Mule is set in an Indonesian prison cell, and consists of a series of exchanges between Stewie, a strangely cocky drug-mule (Harris) who's been arrested at the airport carrying several kilos of heroin; and Bryce Mcintyre, a young representative from the Australian Embassy (Kennett). Harris manages to be both likeable and malevolent as Stewie, while Kennett conveys his character's fear and confusion admirably, although neither are professional actors.

Despite one or two lapses into exposition, the dialogue is sharp, and the 45 minute show never drags. A satisfying though not especially adventurous production, though both writers deserve praise for pushing their artistic boundaries.

The Taking of Ramsey Street
The Lithuanian Club until October 14

Theatre in Decay are a very hit and miss company. Their 2004 production Empire, set in a parked car with the audience of two or three sitting in the back seat, was one of the best things I saw in Fringe that year. Mata Gelap, another production the same year, was a terrible mishmash of puppetry, satire, music - everything but the kitchen sink, really.

Their latest production, once more written and directed by Robert Reid, is a satirical musical about the Cronulla Riots.

If the very concept unsettles you, for whatever reason, avoid this production. That said, I rather enjoyed it. Billed as 'a work in progress' on the program, it's definitely still rough around the edges, but with more development, could definitely be satisfying. Its humour is well developed, although a subplot involving a Hillsong-style church needs more work, as do some of the characters.

Staging is minimal, and the singing ability and projection skills of the cast vary from passable to poor (sadly, the female lead playing Fisher was almost inaudible at some points of the night) but nonetheless I found myself laughing and engaged throughout the show.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Further adventures in Fringe

After crawling out of bed late on Saturday afternoon, thereby unfortunately missing DavetheScots's housewarming party, I slowly put my brain back together, retraced my movements after leaving the festival club, and vowed never again to allow myself to be waylaid by the thought of 'just one quick nightcap' at a bar close to home...

Then I threw myself back into the thick of things.

Autogeddon by Heathcote Williams

Northcote Town Hall until Thursday October 12

Somewhere inside this ambitious, sprawling, 90-minute production about the impact of car culture on our planet, there's a sharp, incisive 30- 45 minute play waiting to come out.

An excellent series of vignettes presenting such characters as an animated pair of crash-test dummies (excellent physical comedy by Corey Corbet and Simon Kearney) and the beautifully realised and very menacing Oil-Ogarchy pigs, with their swaying, petrol-bowser penises, could not save this laboured piece of theatre.

The flat singing and uneven acting didn't help, but the worst fault of Autogeddon is its self-indulgence; it's simply too long. It needs a good dramaturgical reworking in order to advise the writer when to cut material that simply doesn't work, such as the bulk of the laboured Wizard of Oz-referencing narrative. Awkward scene changes as a trolley variously representing a car and a hospital gurney was wheeled endlessly on and off were another drawback, and further slowed down this already over-extended production, which director Alice Bishop has failed to curb.

That said, Ryan Hodge's set design was simple yet instantly evocative, and costume designers Alice Bishop, Vic Nguyen and Anita King have done a superb job, ably assisted by mask- designer Dan Cooling.

The Wireless

Northcote Town Hall until Saturday October 7

A cast of three very talented actors bring this light comedy about a small regional radio station to vivid and entertaining life. Despite a completely unnecessary epilogue that rams the moral of the story about media ownership home a little too heavily, and overly-complex scene changes, The Wireless is a pithy, clever play by Vega FM writer Paul Menz that had me frequently guffawing.

The Chinese Art of Placement

Until Sunday October 14 at North Melbourne Town Hall

A one-man show performed by Candian actor Stephen Najera, The Chinese Art of Placement takes us into the life and mind of ex-poet Sparky Litman as he prepares for a party and arranges his apartment using the 'art' of feng-shui.

Within the first ten minutes we begin to realise that all is not well in Sparky's life, and as the show unfolds over an hour, everything starts to unravel - including Sparky's sanity...
Najera is amazing in his demanding role, and the play itself is as intense as it is amusing. This is a comedy so dark as to be nocturnal, and deserves to be seen, although its claustrophobic dramatics will not be to everyone's tastes, unless they're prepared to enter Sparky's special world.

I would have liked the piece to be 10 minutes shorter - less is more, people! - but overall I would definitely recommend this piece, a US-Canadian-Australian co-production.

Soundtrack for this blog post:
Into the Blue Again by The Album Leaf.


Part one of a series of briefs comments about the shows I've seen at this year's Fringe Festival...

Thursday 28th September

Fringe Furniture: the SM bed and chair were definitely highlights. Overall though I can't help but feel the event has lost some of its magic since moving from the Fitzroy Town Hall to the more sterile confines of the Melbourne Museum. This year's theme of 'Go for Baroque' would, I'd hoped, inspire some truly creative entries, but the sensible and slick still dominates...

Friday 29th September

Festival Club Opening Night, North Melbourne Town Hall: a superb night's entertainment at the Festival Hub:
  • I had my photo taken in a booth with a complete stranger, courtesy of the Melbourne Photobooth Project, an awkwardly intimate and unique experience;
  • Admired some excellent artworks created by students from NMIT in Picturesque, including the coolest bowling pins you will ever see, and a series of works reinterpreting Russian dolls;
  • Saw two perfectly formed miniature performance pieces courtesy of the highly recommended Penny Machinations: The Barina of Mystery, performed by Wes Snelling, and Skilltester, performed by Margaret Locke, who sadly had to rate me a D-grade psychic, but assured me that there's always room for improvement. I'm trying, Margaret, I really am!
  • In a tag-team of true Fringe style, drag king Beau Heatrbreaker performed on the main stage before introducing a group of elderly female tap-dancers, whose dynamism really added to the energy of the night.
  • The Wicked Force Breakers then popped, spun, flipped and generally amazed the crowd;
  • And finally, several glasses of champagne and schmoozed sponsors later, it was time for the last hurrah from The Drowsy Drivers' Keating! Oh my GOD, what a show. I knew it was good; people have been raving about this show ever since last year's comedy festival, but I've never quite managed to get around to seeing it. Tonight I whooped, laughed, hissed, and loved every single minute of it. This is absolute gold, people. It's so good that I will seriously consider flying up to Sydney to see it again in its new incarnation at the Belvoir.
"Historically accurate* and independently verified by skimming through Don Watson’s book, KEATING! is the simple and time-honoured tale of an Australian political superhero and his battles against assorted mugs, dummies, dimwits, gutless spivs and scumbags.

Share in the heady rise, tempestuous reign and tragic fall of the Placido Domingo of Australian politics. GASP! as Hawke ignores the Kirribilli agreement! THRILL! as Prime Minister Keating sticks it to the drones opposite! CHEER! as he wins the sweetest victory of all! HISS! as the evil Howard betrays his colleagues in his thirst for power! SCOFF! at the blatant historical revisionism!

KEATING received the Barry Award, the Golden Gibbo and the Age Critic's Award at the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Best Original Score (Cabaret) 2005 Green Room award, and was nominated for Best Musical at the inaugural Sydney Theatre Awards and Best Original Score at the 2006 Helpmann Awards. It runs for approximately one hour, and folks of all political persuasions are welcome (though some may feel more welcome than others). You'll have the time of your life!*
* non-core promise"

More to come shortly...