Sunday, September 30, 2007
Perth's PVI Collective were back in Melbourne for the second time in as many years with a production called reform; an interactive work staged live on Swanston Street which explored issues around surveillence and social control.
Following a briefing session at North Melbourne Town Hall, the audience were equipped with headphones through which was a live radio broadcast was fed, and escorted out by our guide from the 'Loyal Citizens' Underground' to the tramstop outside. Carefully walking between the lines, and not jaywalking, we crosed the road and awaited the tram - all acting as inconspicuously as possible, which is tricky when you're a group of 20 people wearing identical headsets and accompanied by a miked-up guide in a fluro yellow outfit who's broadcasting instructions to us all as we progress - together with an ambient electronic soundtrack by Pretty Boy Crossover and politely-worded messages about crime and punishment.
Upon alighting in the city, the real show begins - members of the collective working in pairs and sweeping the streets - sometimes literally - while gently accosting members of the public and correcting their anti-social behaviour with a warning about the laws they're flouting and issuing code of conduct cards on subjects such as unlawful assembly, loitering, disorderly conduct and littering. As they progressed, we were fed a live mix of their actions and the responses of the sometimes confused or angry people they were speaking to.
The nature of a show like this is that it could all go so horribly wrong; a belligerent drunk could get nasty - and hey, this was on Grand Final Night in the city, so you can imagine what it was like (though it would have been much worse if Geelong had actually lost!). Conversely, it could have been quiet, and consequently dull. Last night, however, I enjoyed myself immensely and was simultaneously entertained and confronted in equal measure (did you know that a group of three or more people can be construed as an unlawful assembly? No, I didn't either.).
Also, the response of the general public when 20 people simultaneously start obeying orders which no-one else can hear and acting strangely, en masse, in a public space, has to be seen to be believed...
reform: three and a half stars
Season ended on Saturday Sept 29
Next I was meant to see an 8:30pm show last night at La Mama, but missed it due to timing issues post-reform. Doh! Instead, I had dinner and hung out at the festival club for a while, before trouping off to see my next show at 10pm...
I Love You, Bro is a one-man play based on a bizarre real life crime, written by Adam J. A. Cass, directed by Yvonne Virsik, and performed by Ash Flanders.
A 14 year old boy, Johnny, becomes obsessed with a 16 year old boy who lives in his city and who he meets in an online chat room. He creates a female alter-ego who begins to seduce the older boy. They fall in love, but Mark, the older youth, wants to meet her. More lies are spun; an ever-increasing web of deceit and fantasy which culminates in a suicidal Johnny - in the guise of yet another fictional person - asking Mark to kill him; to stab him in an alleyway as he says, "I love you, bro".
It's all quite surreal, yet quite true, and simply and powerfully done. The script is tight, the staging minimal; the performance strong. While I was never emotionally involved with the piece, it still drew me in, perhaps because I've experienced, to a far lesser degree in my own life, the power and attraction of the internet's facility for aiding obsession and anonymity. Occasional lines in the monologue, in which 'Johnny' explained internet slang and shorthand to the audience, jarred a little, and I wasn't always convinced by the truth of Ash Flanders' performance, but overall I very much enjoyed this show, and recommend it as an excellent example of a strong story simply told, which in some ways is indicative of the whole Fringe theatre experience.
I Love You, Bro: three and a half stars
Until October 13 at the Fringe Hub (The Loft, Lithuanian Club)
Afterwards I retired to the festival club, hung out with a mate, drank champagne, and listened/watched Fringe Spin, a DJ playoff...there was also some sporadic dancing, I believe, but I was waaaaay to tired to stay on the dancefloor for long.
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this review are made in an individual capacity and do do not represent those of the Board of Melbourne Fringe. Just thought I should say that to be on the safe side, given that I'm the Chair and all...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Well, it should have been an hour, but last night being opening night, de Staic tried to add a few new elements and consequently the show ran half an hour overtime, to its detriment. What should have been tight and entertaining felt occasionally flacid, so that de Staic had to work twice as hard to hold the audience's attention. Overall this was an amusing comedy of misadventures presented by a charismatic and colourful performer who can and will do better as the show settles into its Melbourne season.
North Melbourne Town Hall until October 13
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this review are made in an individual capacity and do do not represent those of the Board of Melbourne Fringe. Just thought I should say that to be on the safe side, given that I'm the Chair and all...
Friday, September 28, 2007
Are you coming?
Thursday, September 27, 2007
PLEASE GO AND HUG SOMEONE THAT YOU LOVE: especially if you've not told them how you feel about them in the last 48 hours.
This community service announcement was brought to you by flu, alcohol and loneliness.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
We now return you to our regular schedule.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Not that you need a great knowledge of Dickens to enjoy the show, or her performance. Over the course of two hours (plus interval) Margolyes presents a remarkable overview of the man's life and work: showing how the characters in his fiction were inspired by some of the key women in his life (ie his wife, the sister-in-law with whom he was in love and in whose grave he wanted to be buried), how his art rose above his seeming bastardry, and demonstrating her own, quite remarkable versatility as well as Dickens' dazzling prose.
It's clear that Margolyes adores Dickens' writing, and one of the joys of this show is that it so clearly and directly communicates her passion for the man's work. Not just playing, but embodying some 40 characters from a range of Dickens' novels (including icons such as the decaying Miss Haversham from Great Expectations as well as numerous minor characters) Margolyes wove a dramatic magic that was sometime poignant, at other times hilarious. The scene from Chapter 23 of Oliver Twist which opened the second half of the show, in which Margolyes played both a magnificently grotesque Mr Bumble the Beadle and the object of his mutal affection, Mrs Corney, was a particularly memorable example.
Throughout the evening Margolyes demonstrated amazing range and great comic timing. While I found one or two scenes slightly overplayed, I was more than willing to forgive the occasional self-indulgent moment, such was the strength of the production overall.
Simply staged, with a minimal lighting design, and accompanied at times by a pianist, Dickens' Women was a joy to behold. If you get the chance to see the production before it ends its brief run at The Arts Centre on Sunday, or at one of its other appearances, such as in Frankston, Brisbane and Sydney, please do go. I assure you, you won't regret it.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Night after night of circus, dance, cabaret, comedy, visual arts, puppetry, floating silver pillows, Sigur Ros and Merce Cunningham, passionate conversations in The Famous Spiegeletent, indescribable art hybrids from around the corner and overseas...
I can't wait!
Sunday, September 16, 2007
No. We don't.
I don't, anyway.
I care about the mandatory detention of refugees. I care about the rise in racism since Howard moved the country to the right in order to nobble One Nation and pick up Pauline Hanson's disenfranchised supporters. I care about abandoning the the idea of an Australian republic and turning our backs on reconciliation. I care about art coming a poor second to sport. I care about draconian anti-terrorism legislation that erodes our rights in order to save our way of life. I care about the impact of sedition laws on our freedom of speech. I care about accountability, honesty and transparency of government. I care about the soul of my country, which has been blackened and tarnished by Howard's cold heart and the Coalition's sticky, grubby fingers.
That's what I care about. Bring on the election.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
My friends Bec and Bob, whose wedding I attended in Glasgow just over two years ago, have had a bouncing baby boy. To say I am delighted would be a mammoth (sans the shaggy coat and tusks) understatement.
Casper Carey-Grieve was born at his parent's Glasgow home at 11:44pm, on Friday September 14, weighing a healthy 6 pounds 14 oz. Mother, father and baby are all doing fine. Welcome to the world, laddie!
At about 1:30am my friend and I strolled to a rather quiet Control, then on to Witness Protection Program; from there to a somewhat claustrophobic Pony, then home. Today I am ruing spending all my money last night but looking back, it was a happy evening. Happy is a word I am trying to use more often.
This blog post, you will note, is somewhat scattered and sporadic, probably due to the loss of a few more brain cells last night. You'll also probably note that I haven't been writing much about the arts lately. I haven't been going out a great deal, and when I have, I haven't seen anything worth writing about in detail.
Stompin's Home at the Meat Market, for instance, was pleasant enough but unremarkable; though it must be said that the language of dance is the artform I'm least fluent in, so perhaps I missed subteties that enthralled others. A cardboard house, different dancers in each room, a montage of sound and body evoking different eras and emtions; a youth company. Simplistic and somewhat predictable, though sustaining my interest nonetheless.
Otherwise, a bit of downtime is perhaps in order prior to the opening of the Fringe.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to muster the enthusiasm to sort through some books and CDs and see what I can sell secondhand, so that I'll have enough money to get through the week until I'm paid on Thursday...
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Speaking of the rows of journalists in the Canberra Press Gallery peering down at an embattled Howard in the chamber, quoth Kimbo:
Suffer in your jocks, little Johnny.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
British actor Miriam Margolyes discusses her life and career with Richard Watts.
When asked why she is touring
“Because he’s Dickens,” she says, in a tone that brooks no argument.
“Because he is the best writer who ever lived…a journalist who was blessed with a dazzling imagination, so his writing combines his sharp observation, coupled with that enchanting, dazzling imagination that allowed him to create convoluted and amazing plots and extraordinary characters.”
Would she say that Dickens’ characters, such as Fagin from Oliver Twist and Great Expectations’ Miss Havisham were larger than life, as well as extraordinary?
“I don’t know if they’re larger than life,” she ponders. “They’re livelier than life.”
Margolyes, too, is livelier than life: prone to laughter, and with an unruly mop of curls crowning her plump, friendly face and sparkling eyes. Her visage is well known, thanks to a 40 year career that’s included a BAFTA award-winning performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence; and roles in such popular films as Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; although one of her earliest roles was providing voice-overs for female characters in the 1980s TV series Monkey, aka Monkey Magic.
“Good Lord, that was a long time ago,” she laughs, when I mention the program was iconic for anyone who grew up in Australia in that era. “It was hysterically funny doing it; we were just pissing ourselves. I’m very happy that it’s been enjoyed by lots of kids all over the world since, but I never thought it was anything important.”
When asked to what she ascribes her sustained career in a notoriously fickle and cut-throat industry, Margolyes again responds with laughter.
“Huge talent,” she quips; then says, more seriously, “and amazing luck.”
Margolyes is invariably described as a character actor, rather than as simply an actor; though evidently its not a label that rankles her.
“It’s a shorthand, for saying that I’m not the love interest,” she explains, before adding that she would never want to be the love interest. “It’s much more fun to do what I do, because I have to have fun too, not just the audiences.”
Consequently, Margolyes explains with characteristic frankness, she tends to take more interesting, lower-paying roles over blander but more financially rewarding work.
“For example, doing this tour in
Margolyes is no stranger to
“I have considerable investment in this country, and I love it,” she says proudly.
Given that Margolyes is cautious of speaking on the record about her private life, despite acting with the Gay Sweatshop Company while in her 20s, it is with caution that I ask her if that includes being emotionally invested in Australia, as well as financially.
“Emotionally, financially, I just like it. I’m now at the age that I can do what I want, and I want to come here and live here. I like it very much,” she says.
Her openness encourages me to ask Margolyes about her sexuality, and after an initially cautious reply (“As an artist, I don’t want to be labelled; I don’t want to be hived off into a smaller group. I’m whatever is required to create a character; that’s my job.”) her answer, ultimately, is direct and disarming.
“What I think you should say is, I have lived with – not lived with - but been adored by and adoring of a woman for 40 years. There’s nothing more needs to be said.”
Dicken’s Women at the Arts Centre, September 18-23, and Frankston Arts Centre, October 9-10. Bookings on 13 6100 or www.ticketmaster.com.au.
This interview is an expanded version of a feature running in MCV #349 this Thursday September 9.
Monday, September 10, 2007
*cue sonorous echoing voice* DEAD IN THE SOUL, I say! *end sonorous echoing voice*
It was one of those interviews that became a conversation, and was quite lovely; and ended with her asking me, "Was I what you expected?" which was rather unexpected.
Even more unexpected was the email I received from her today.
"I wanted to thank you personally for the time you spent with me yesterday," she writes. "It was a real pleasure to be interviewed by a sensitive & intelligent person, who focussed on me & had CLEARLY done a lot of research."
I've never had an interview subject contact me before to thank me for my work. It's rather lovely. Thank you, Ms Margolyes; I'm flattered!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
- Read the paper over breakfast;
- Tidied up, wiped down benches, etc;
- Put out the recycling;
- Sorted through a huge stack of mail and media releases, sorting the wheat from the chaff, and started planning my radio show for the next couple of weeks;
- And listened to about 10 promo CDs I've been sent, which barely makes a dint in the stack of CDs on the coffee table, but at least its a start.
And oh, what an utter delight it was. In all my years of movie-going, I don't think I've ever seen a film which so perfectly captures the joy of creativity; the fraught, awkward, painful pleasure of bringing a new work of art into the world. In this instance it's music that is the focus of the film; but any artist will appreciate Once, as will anyone who's not an utter curmudgeon; because it's also very much a film about love.
Tender, simple, and beautifully told, Once refines its story down to the fundamental basics of human need: for companionship and love. It also, partially through budgetary requirements, tells its tale with paucity and restraint; focussing on emotional honesty and truth instead of flashy cinematography or incidental detail.
In many ways, it's an archtypal plot told with the simplest of storytelling. Boy meets girl, boy and girl make beautiful music together, boy loses girl. I won't go into the details of the story, suffice to say that it's sincere and gentle and deeply moving: throughout the 88 minute running time of Once I was constantly wiping away tears - often tears of joy.
Please see it.
Please also see Experimenta Playground, a new media exhibition now showing at Black Box @ The Arts Centre, which I revisted this afternoon (via street art in Hosier Lane) after attending its opening night a couple of weeks ago. A word of advice though: Baby Love, an interactive installation which allows you to spin around dodgem-car style in a giant tea cup while being seranaded by a giant cloned baby burbling remixed love songs, is only on display between 12-2pm, and 5-6pm daily.
This afternoon's pleasures were extended by birthday drinks with my good friend Cerise, along with many of her cohorts. We drank, laughed and discussed drug abuse and the Hawthorn Football Club, among other topics.
Thereafter - isn't this turning into a gently action-packed day? - I headed home for an hour or so, then returned to the city and a rooftop performance by The Mime Set and poet Sean M Whelan, at the rooftop bar atop Curtin House on Swanston Street. Sadly, inclement weather brought an early end to the evening, but the combination of music, poetry, and the city skyline at night seen from a new perspective added up to a winning combination. The soon-to-be-voyaging GMan and a certain Hibernian seemed to agree with me.
It's been a simple, busy, happy Sunday. I hope yours was equally enjoyable.
Nor have I - well not exactly - but I haven't exactly had fun, either.
The night opened with me I watching Collingwood beat Sydney in the first round of the AFL finals; all well and good (hot Pies!) after which I headed down to Abbotsford gay bar, The Laird, with a mate for a couple of drinks.
It's no surprise that I didn't really relax there: long-term friends would know that I've never really been entirely comfortable in gay bars, which I don't think is attributable to any hangover from the internalised homophobia I used to battle - not these days, at least.
I think it's more because I've spent so much of my life - the formative stages of my adult life, particularly in my 20s - socialising in straight clubs, seeing bands, whatever. The whole 'everyone is subtly checking everyone else out' cruising vibe of The Laird, like most gay clubs, is not something I'm competely comfortable with, for a variety of reasons.
Then I moved on to Lambs Go Bar, in the hope of catching up with another mate, but he couldn't make it. While I was there, though, I also felt out of place, because I was an average of 10-15 years older than everyone else there. Is this the real reason the middle-aged disappear from our radar, because they subtly, perhaps even conciously, feel they no longer belong so they retreat home, to a safe and controllable environment?
I don't want to become fossilised, so I intend to keep going out; but at the same time, I don't want to become old and sad and tragic and still trying to be down with the kids when it's clear I should have been put out to stud ages ago.
Essentially, I'm flumoxed. Oh well, getting drunk seems like a perfectly adequate temporary solution...
Friday, September 07, 2007
Yesterday was the launch of The Age Melbourne Fringe Festival 2007 at RMIT's Storey Hall, a suitably baroque venue for an event that featured fabulously caustic poetry, half-naked acrobatics, a drag king and a farcical sideshow act (as well as the obligatory speeches from various dignitaries and sponsors).
Given that I'm the Chair of Fringe, I was one of the speakers. It was kinda fun. Hell, I even got quoted in The Age today!
The real reason for this post, though, is to tell you to pick up a copy of the festival program, or check it out online, then book tickets and go! See a couple of shows, see heaps of them: it's the largest festival ever, and this year is celebrating its 25th year.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Here's a couple of pix to show you what you missed!
This too shall pass.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
"I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing. I had to write of a sad time as a witness - not to cloud your smiles - please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows closed in, the stars came out.
I am in love."
Derek Jarman (1942-1994), At Your Own Risk (pub. 1992)
Why have I added this quote? Because I've signed up to Facebook*, and needed a couple of favourite quotes for my profile, that's why.
* God help me.
That's what I was just doing - well, bouncing around my loungeroom grinning delightedly - within a minute of putting the new The Polyphonic Spree album, The Fragile Army, in my CD player. The opening track, 'Section 21 [Together We're Heavy]' brought a gap-toothed grin to my face and had me literally dancing/bouncing/pogoing around my cluttered loungeroom, swept up by a sudden outpouring of euphoria and delight.
"It's like running away with the wind in our faces, like flying,
And you and I are open wide."
A self-described 'choral symphonic rock group' from Texas, the 20-plus strong band are best known for performing in flowing robes (which they've swaped for black uniforms on this new release), and performing songs which some consider twee and articifically happy; but which hit me all the impact of love at first sight, to which I respond with a gasp of joy and tears of happiness welling up in my eyes (and yes, I am foolishly romantic and a fool for love, when I'm lucky enough to find it from time to time). I've even heard the band described as cult-like. Wow, cynical much?
Their gig at The Palace a couple of years ago remains a delightful memory for me; especially their encore, when the band emerged from the back of the room and wended their way through the crowd, singing as they went; I'm smiling again just thinking about it, actually.
I'm going to go back to listening to The Fragile Army again now. Expect to hear it played fairly regularly in the coming weeks on SmartArts!
Saturday, September 01, 2007
I survived reading Mandy Sayer's latest book - something of a chore - but loved listening to Mia Dyson's new album, in preperation for Friday's Faine show.
I survived another night of research on Thursday, and an impromptu 11:30pm visit to a new queer club, where I was revived by great tunes and an electric atmosphere.
And I survived my first appearance on The Conversation Hour with Jon Faine on 774 ABC radio - despite a fit of nerves that saw my hand shaking when I raised a glass of water to my lips.
Faine is an intimidating presence - quick witted and very sharp - but once I warmed up I quite enjoyed myself, although I was never exactly relaxed: perhaps because I was unsettled by being on the other side of the studio desk for once, instead of in control of the panel. I'd done my homework, and prepared questions for our guests designed to provoke insightful and revealing answers. It seemed to work: his producer has already said they'd like to have me back as a 'semi-regular guest co-host' on the show, which I'll look forward to.
And yesterday, walking to work through the Fitzroy Gardens, a vivid flash of emerald feathers as a lorikeet swooped past reminded me of how much beauty exists in this world.