Saturday, May 31, 2008

Next Wave micro-reviews

Some more brief mini-reviews of a couple of shows I caught during Next Wave...

Created by writer/performer Matthew Prest; Danny Egar, tent construction; Clare Britton, puppeteer; Eddie Sharp, performer/co-deviser.

A Next Wave performance, The Tent was set within a purpose-build tent-cum-theatre that was both set for the show, and catalyst for the unfolding story we were priviledged to watch.

Michael (Prest), a still-adolescent 20-something, walks away from his life wearing only pajamas, and encounters the sage-like figure of Brett (Sharp), a worldly, well-read recluse who calls the tent home. Some years later, Michael, now just another city suit, takes us, the audience, on a similar journey; re-discovering the tent and telling us about his experiences within and around it, in between dishing out bowls of hot soup and passing around blankets to ward off the autumn chill.

Managing to invoke a sense of menace (just what is in the soup we're eating? Is the hermetic Brett, who Michael seems both in awe of and afraid of, about to return and catch us invading his home? How will he react is he does?) and a sense of wonder through the use of puppetry, projection, lighting, and the sudden and unexpected transformation of elements of the set, The Tent managed to frustrate and entertain in equal measure.

While technically marvellous, it felt lacking in substance, its story under-developed; and while performances were strong, I felt they failed to articulate the exploration of Dionisisian vs Apollonian worldviews that the piece was theoretically about, but given that this was Prest's first major production as the main creative artist, this fault is perhaps understandable. Nonetheless, a promising venture from this group of Sydney theatre-makers.

The Tent
@ Next Wave Festival: season concluded.


A Brown Council production
Created and performed by Kelly Doley; Kate Blackmore; Fran Barrett and Diana Smith.

Another group of Sydney theatre-makers presented Six Minute Soul Mate, a production inspired by speed dating that explores the concept of intimacy in our time-poor culture, also as part of Next Wave.

Staging the work in a series of small rooms above the Carlton Hotel, which at various stages have been a brothel, exhibition spaces, and backpackers' accomodation, added poignancy to this at times uncomfortable performance, which consisted of a repeated series of theatrical vignettes which gained depth and drama as each character (which included a would-be funny man whose schtick barely hides his considerable misogyny, and a woman whose need is written all over her body) returned to present their monologue anew.

By turns amusing and touching - even, at one moment, frightening, as the lights were extinguished and the unseen character desperately implores someone, anyone to please just pash her - Six Minute Soul Mate was an endearing and promising work that unfortunately, like The Tent, felt not quite complete; as if it were a work in progress that was not yet fully realised.

Six Minute Soul Mate @ Next Wave Festival: season concluded.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Still sick, so more Who

As I still haven't got over this ghastly lurgie that's been afflicting me for almost a week now (note to self: Eurovision parties the day after you've come down with a viral infection are a bad idea; fun, yes, but still a bad idea) I can't quite bring myself to blog about anything too serious just now. Instead, let me give in to my inner geek once again, and post a few more Doctor Who snippets for you all (and for me, if I'm being completely honest).

Firstly (and thanks to Simon for showing me this) author Neil The Sandman Gaiman is a big Who fan, and wrote this over on his journal upon hearing that current Doctor, David Tennant, is taking time off in 2009 to play Hamlet:

"I know that David Tennant's Hamlet isn't till July. And lots of people are going to be doing Dr Who in Hamlet jokes, so this is just me getting it out of the way early, to avoid the rush...

"To be, or not to be, that is the question. Weeelll.... More of A question really. Not THE question. Because, well, I mean, there are billions and billions of questions out there, and well, when I say billions, I mean, when you add in the answers, not just the questions, weeelll, you're looking at numbers that are positively astronomical and... for that matter the other question is what you lot are doing on this planet in the first place, and er, did anyone try just pushing this little red button?"

Heh. Cute. Gaiman certainly has Tennant's characterisation of the Doctor down well. Which makes this next snippet of fan-thought even more interesting...

From the comic-book gossip blog, Lying in the Gutters, on what Stephen Moffat taking over as the new chief writer/producer of Doctor Who might mean for the show:

"Well, some people see Steven as transforming Doctor Who into something very different. That's not true, Steven has been a cheerleader for Russell's work on the project from Day One and will continue in that vein. Indeed, he may well fight aganst what is expected of him. But odds are we'll get some more fun time travel stories out of it, maybe a slight tweak towards intricate structure, and some interesting geek-friendly names.

Such as the rumour running around my BBC sources that Neil Gaiman being approached to write an episode for 2010. That would be this Neil Gaiman, comic author, fantasy novelist, screenwriter, poet and writer of the Duran Duran Biography 1985... [W]hen I asked Neil if he'd care to comment, he pleaded the Francis saying, "You may very well think that, but I could not possibly comment."

I do very well think that. I do.

Of course, nothing will actually have been commissioned by the BBC at this stage, and there's many a slip 'twixt cup and prosthetic lip, but it's looking good.

Hmmm. Hmmmmmm. *tilts head to the left and strokes chin* Hmmmmmmmm, I say again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I've held off from blogging about the mob currently baying for Bill Henson's blood for a variety of reasons, not least because I've been sick since Saturday, the day after this furore erupted (which is also why I haven't blogged about some of the Next Wave shows I saw late last week, though I heop to get around to that later today or tomorrow). Having taken today off work to try and sleep through the worst of my current fog and fever, I thought it due time to catch up with things, Henson included.

The other reason I didn't blog about the situation is because I hoped, perhaps foolishly, that it would all blow over quite quickly. Far from it. Instead, it's only spurring on additional attacks on the arts and artists.

There are two main points I'm been thinking about as I read the papers in recent days. One being the fact that I feel truly sorry for people who can't seperate nudity from sex - and in this case, sexual abuse of children by adults. There is, to my mind, a vast difference between a photograph, painting or sculpture of a nude, and a pornographic image. Porn is created specifically to arouse carnal desire; it's invariably crude, simple, unsubtle stuff. A nude may be shown for an array of reasons: to comment on innocence, on the sheer poetic beauty of the physical form, or as perhaps is the case in Henson's work, to illuminate the emotional storm that swirls about us in our adolesence as we cross over from childhood to adulthood.

The other issue that haunts me as I type this is an awareness of how conservative our culture has become. Were a play like Shopping and Fucking to open this week, or another Piss Christ to be displayed, I don't doubt that there would be more obscenity cases waiting in the wings; more hand-rubbing conservatives waiting to lecture us; more media storms.

I also fear for the teenagers who have previously chosen - and I do not doubt that they had a choice, and that they considered their actions carefully, given the circumstances - to model for Henson. I do not doubt that the conservative crusaders baying for Henson's blood have done far more emotional damage to his models than posing for his work will ever have done.

Lastly, for a well-argued, well-reasoned and carefully phrased comment about the current situation, I recommend you visit Alison Croggon's blog, where you can read the open letter in support of Bill Henson signed by her and many of the other participants in the Arts & Culture stream at the Prime Minister's recent 2020 summit. And Alison, thank you for your valued contribution to the current debate that swirls around us - I lok forward to discussing the issue with you on SmartArts tomorrow at 9:30am.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Who news

Here's the new series four mid-season trailer, which confirms certain rumours about which old enemy of the Doctor is returning in the final episodes of this season...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Impressions (take two)

Being some brief impressions - I wouldn't call them reviews - of some recently seen performances around town.

(I deleted last night's version of this post as I was in a foul mood when I posted it, and figured I might have been a bit too harsh on at least one of the shows I was discussing. On retrospect, it's still crap, but I wanted to be more considered in my condemnation...)

Bangarra Dance Theatre: Mathinna

The latest work by indigenous dance troupe Bangarra explores the life story of a young Indigenous woman, Mathinna, who was removed from her family at a young age and raised in the household of the Governor of Tasmania. Choreographed by Stephen Page, this production tells her story - a tale of vulnerability and a search for identity - through dance. While featuring a beautiful set and striking lighting design, I found the story itself presented almost too literally; an impression given weight by David Page's score, which lacked shading and subtlety. That said, a more abstract exploration of the work may have failed to convey the key elements of Mathinna's story, which was clearly central to Page's approach to the work.

"This is not a happy story. It’s about now, and the Stolen Generation … and at the same time, it was really about the spiritual world that Mathinna was connected to, and what happens to her after her death. It was always going to be a challenge," Page told MCV earlier this month.

Mathinna is now showing at the The Arts Centre, Playhouse until May 24

The Australian Shakespeare Company: Richard III Unhinged

This new production of Richard III by Glenn Elston's Australian Shakespeare Company could be read as an attempt by Elston, best known for his unashamedly crowd-pleasing outdoor productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and other plays, to be taken seriously as a director. If so, it's an abject failure.

The production stars, among others, Brendan O'Connor (perhaps best known at present for a recurring role on the soap opera Neighbours) as the villainous titular character, Richard of Gloucester; Phillip Cameron-Smith as Richard's eldest brother, King Edward IV; Denis Coard as the second-eldest brother George of Clarence; and a hopelessly miscast Lisa Angrove in a scenery-chewing role as the elder Queen Margaret, whose shrieked and muttered warnings to the court about Richard's villainy go quite unheeded.

The casting is one of the first of many flaws in this production. Save for O'Connor, who brings at least some charisma to his role, and his sly asides to the audience; the majority of actors were, to be blunt, dreadful.
The casting of Elston's own young sons as the doomed Princes Richard and Edward suggested nepotism at best; at worst a director blind to the faults of the entire production; their dialogue was delivered seeminly without understanding; and their lines were rushed. Elsewhere, flair and stage presence were singularly lacking, save perhaps for Francesca Waters as the Duchess of York.

The staging, too, left much to be desired. Clarence's murderers were played strictly for laughs, rather than as the indecisive criminals they should be, which coupled with the murder itself, played out high above the rear of the set, robbed the crime of any true sense of drama or infamy. Elsewhere, when Richard is forced to 'play nice' with the young Princes he is planning to kill, Elston has him snarling in barely concealed rage; another mis-step out of keeping with Shakespeare's presentation of the character.

In short, a lifeless, painful and excruciatingly bad iteration of Richard III. Over all, I can honestly say that this was the single worst production of the Bard I have ever suffered through. I heartily recommend you avoid it at all costs.

Richard III Unhinged is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until June 1st.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who news

According to a report from the BBC (so like, it's probably rather accurate) acclaimed screenwriter Steven Moffat is to take over from Russell T Davies as Executive Producer of Doctor Who for the show's fifth season (or season 31, if you include the classic series) which will screen in 2010.

This is excellent news, as Moffat has given us the best episodes of the new series to date: the two part 'The Empty Child'/'The Doctor Dances' in season one, the exquisite 'The Girl in the Fireplace' in season two, and the totally chilling 'Blink' in season three.

To quote the media release:

"My entire career has been a Secret Plan to get this job," said Steven Moffat. "I applied before but I got knocked back cos the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven. Anyway, I'm glad the BBC has finally seen the light, and it's a huge honour to be following Russell into the best - and the toughest - job in television. I say "toughest" cos Russell's at my window right now, pointing and laughing."

You can read all the details here. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and work myself up into a state of slavering fanboyish excitement...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are you ready for Eurovision?

Ah, Eurovision, how I love thee. I'm a relatively recent convert to the over-the-top camp kitsch which is the annual Eurovision Song Contest (thanks to Ms Sam opening my eyes for me at a party a few years ago) but it's rapidly become something that I absolutely love.

Russia's Dima Bilan

From Finland: Teräsbetoni

Andorra's Gisela

Big hair. Inane lyrics. Wonderfully ghastly costumes. Drinking games. Eurovision is lurid, spectacular, and wonderful. Will you be watching?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crime does not pay

Some villainous poltroons have robbed a warehouse, stealing gear from The Suitcase Royale and other fine performing folk. There's a benefit being held this coming Sunday May 25 in order to get some money together so they can replace their stolen equipment. Please say you'll come, do.

There will be performances by: POST (SYD), the Brown Council (SYD), the Caravan of Love, the Black Lung, Bron Batton, Film by the Safari Team, Live Music, swingin DJs and much more (to be announced) hosted by the Suitcase Royale at 25A Eastment St Northcote. Doors open at 8pm, performances around 9pm. A mere $10 entry!


I've had a couple of things on my mind this week, including work issues and lifestyle changes; the catalyst for such contemplation being the imminent departure of my housemate to his new abode.

Mike moved in at the start of last year, and having recently entered the world of the home-ownership (namely a one-bedroom apartment in Clifton Hill) he's moving out tomorrow. It's been fun having him around, and certainly having someone to share the bills and rent has made my life a bit easier, though in some ways it's also allowed me to continue my somewhat eratic and indulgent lifestyle. With Mike moving out, I'm now facing the decision of whether to find another flatmate (recognising that finding someone who can put up with me could be tricky) or go back to living on my own, which I did for six years before he moved in.

At the moment I'm leaning towards living by myself again; I miss having a study - a dedicated workspace is advantageous when I'm writing - and with the spare room freed up again for my computer and bookcases, I'll also be seriously able to de-clutter the loungeroom, which, as any of my guests will testify, is in something of a state, with books piled on the floor, stacks of CDs everywhere, and media releases and invitations scattered across it all like confetti on a church's steps after a particularly crazy wedding.

However, going back to living alone will mean making some significant financial readjustments. I'm already facing having to save some serious bucks for the Morocco trip in October; added to that is the fact that I'm about to be going back to paying the rent and bills on my own again.

Given that I'm something of a wastrel when it comes to my finances; and that for the last several years I've lived decadently and excessively (balanced out with periods of poverty because I've splurged on a couple of CDs instead of remembering to buy food); and that I drink to excess far too often; if I want to be able to afford living on my own again, it's time for me to make some changes.

I have to start cooking instead of getting take-away from the local restaurants every night. I have to start having several alcohol free days a week, instead of drinking a bottle of wine every night. Basically, I have to grow up a little, and stop living like I did when I was still in my mid-20s; get some focus back, and then see what life turns up. It should be interesting.

And of course, while all this has been running through my mind, I've also been maintaining my usual ecclectic lifestyle. In the past week I've:

  • Been to the opening of the 11th Spanish Film Festival, the character-driven comedy-drama Seven Billiard Tables (a little slow-moving, but full of solid performances, especially from the two female leads, Maribel Verdu and Blanca Portillo); and watched the contemporary flamenco-inspired musical Scandalous - Why Do They Rub Their Little Feet Together - another Spanish film with three strong female leads, representing three generations of one family; as well as some rather cute squatters... The festival is on until May 25 at Cinema Como and the Westgarth; I'm rather keen on checking out its horror/thriller program, Cine Fantastico.
  • Attended the opening night of the biennial Next Wave festival, curated by my mate Jeff Khan, its Artistic Director. Go you!
  • Watched some classic film noir in preperation for an interview on RRR on Thursday; as well as some classic old episodes of Doctor Who from the 1970s (the Tom Baker era, for those of you who were wondering).
  • Angsted over whether to attend the opening night of Mathinna, the new work by Bangarra Dance Theatre, or the opening night of Opera Australia's new production of My Fair Lady on Friday night (the dance piece won out).
  • DJ'd at the Laird Hotel, playing rock and indie, at a new monthly queer night organised by my mate Glen.
It's been rather hectic, as you might imagine!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Films I totally want to see #397

Until today (thanks, Defamer!) I hadn't heard anything about Twilight, a new teen vampire movie based on the young adult fiction series by Stephenie Meyer, which looks pretty damn cool. Check out the trailer and tell me what you think...

I reckon I might have to track the books down, too.

International Day Against Homophobia May 17

Sunday, May 11, 2008


This one man show, written by Irish playwright Donal O'Kelly and performed by Cork-born Melburnian Des Fleming, is a cinematically-structured exploration of a remarkable historical event: the rescue of six Fenian prisoners from an English prison in Fremantle, WA, in 1876.

The six men, soldiers in the English occupying forces, had been convicted of treason for their involvment with the pro-independence Irish Republican Brotherhood, and transported to Australia. Over the next ten years, the plan to spring them from the penal colony, on board the whaling ship Catalpa, captained by George Anthony, was engineered.

The play opens with Fleming playing a struggling screenplay writer who has just fumbled an all-important meeting with a group of producers. In frustration, he presents the pitch he should have made: talking through and acting out the settings, scenes and characters of his screenplay-within-a-play about the rescue by the Catalpa.

From describing wideshots to sudden cuts; from a seabird circling above New Bedford, Massachusetts to Captain Anthony's lonely wife, and the morally upright captain himself; Fleming plays every character, even, at one point, a whale. It's a demanding performance, and Fleming rises well to the occasion; assisted throughout by the simple set design, striking lighting by Bronwyn Pringle, and a live score by Wally Gunn incorporating loops and samples, a record player, and a piano at which Gunn is seated throughout the performance.

While Fleming doesn't quite convince in every role, lacking the subtle emotional shading that the play at times requires, his performance throughout is a sterling one; while the script is never less than engaging: lyrical, poetic and imaginative. O'Kelly's writing successfully plays on both cinematic convention (such as a storm in whose clouds are seen the vengeful face of Captain Anthony's mother-in-law, at whose death-bed he swore never again to set out to sea) and the narrative freedom of the theatre. The complexity and intelligence of the script can be seen in its use of peripheral characters, such as a French maid in Fremantle, who seems incidental and almost unnecessary when first introduced, but who is later shown to play a valuable role in the dramatic denoument post the prisoners' liberation.

A complex, well-structured and fascinating play about a remarkable voyage and the equally remarkable people who participated in it; strongly performed and definitely recommended.

At the Brunswick Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre
Corner Sydney and Glenlyon Roads, Brunswick
Until May 18

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Return of the Living Dead Blog!

I'm baaaaaack!

Rested, re-energised and raring to go. Or something like that. And what better way to begin than by posting about the forthcoming 3rd Melbourne Zombie Shuffle?

What do we want? BRAAAAAAAINS!!!

When do we want em? BRAAAAINSSSSS!!!

Yes, a day of undead hi-jinks when rotting corpses (or at least a close approximation of same thanks to theatrical make-up) stagger the streets of Melbourne, drooling, twitching and generally staggering amok.

What fun! Will you join us?

Saturday, June 14, 2008
12:30pm - 3:30pm
Carlton Gardens and beyond
Cnr Rathdowne & Victoria
Melbourne, Australia

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dear Blog

No, I haven't forgotten you, but apart from talking about the various DVDs I've been watching this week there doesn't seem a lot to blog about. That, and the fact that I still don't have access to teh interwebs at home yet after more than a fortnight thanks to a fuck-up by Netspace, means that posting updates is kind of tricky at the moment.

But soon, I promise!