Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye job.

So, I quit my job at the gay and lesbian publishing company MCV this week. Well, not this week exactly. I gave notice three weeks ago and finished up on Monday, which is an odd day to have your last day at work but hey that's production cycles on a weekly fag rag for you.

The reasons for my quitting were many and varied; indeed I'd been contemplating the move since the start of the year; but the thing that ultimately forced my hand was a request from the boss in Sydney that I change the days I worked for the company from Mondays and Fridays to Thursdays and Fridays. Since Thursday is the day I do my radio show on 3RRR, I said no. The rest is history.

Last night, Friday, was my very low key farewell drinks from the job. I'll miss the people I work with, especially the editorial team, Andrew and Rachel, but not the job itself. The income, on the other hand...

Hopefully I'll be starting a new part-time job freelancing for within a couple of weeks. Luckily I still have my two days a week at Arts Hub to get me through, although I suspect things will get pretty tight fairly quickly, given that Arts Hub pays monthly and I'm terrible at budgeting. Not to mention terrible at saving. At 42, I have zero savings in the bank and still live hand to mouth, as I did in my 20's. This really has to change.

I spent today drinking, going to a mate's place for the first BBQ of summer - it's not officially summer yet, but on the other hand it was 30 degrees, which is definitely summer weather - and watching the recent Star Trek film on DVD.

Tonight I was supposed to go to a party but I was feeling anti-social so instead I've sat at home drinking, reading other people's blogs, and listening to the two Halloween parties that are taking place at my neighbours' houses on either side of my block of flats. So much for having an early night - they kept me awake until 3am.

* * *

Editor's note: This post was started and saved on Thursday October 29, continued on Saturday October 31, and then not published until the following week, Sunday November 8. I really must pull my finger out and start blogging more frequently.

As of the time I finally got around to publishing this post I still don't have a new part-time job, and my severance pay is rapidly running out. Oh well. Shit happens.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More thoughts on MIAF 2009 (part two)

In which I finally get around to briefly blogging about the rest of the performances I saw at this year's Melbourne International Arts Festival. I haven't blogged about any of the visual arts events this year as I didn't see very many of them, save for Callum Morton's Valhalla, which was a great piece of work though I think the location it was placed, and the fact that it was placed on a plinth, did it a diservice.

These last few notes are perforce brief, written more as a reminder to myself than for any other reason, so you might want to skip this unless you're especially fascinated by the festival, or my life...

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

This transcendent work was a piece of verbatim theatre, a collage of Melbourne mapped out through a series of real life conversations on trains that were recorded and then turned into a script performed by Heather Bolton, Christopher Brown, Rita Kalnejais and James Wardlaw. Violence and threat rubbed shoulders with comedy and surrealism, and expressions of age and difference, hope and desire played out over the course of an hour. Created and directed by Anna Tregloan, with a sound design by J. David Franzke, and co-presented by MIAF, Arts House and the Store Room Theatre (where I am a member of the interim advisory committee), this was a simple but sublime work that allowed the audience to find their own meaning in the text.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Great doco about Iraq's only performing heavy metal band and their travails, though the screening suffered from some sound issues in the Forum, as the PA appeared to be tuned for the bands who followed, which made some of the interviewees a bit hard to understand. I've reviewed the film in more detail here, at Arts Hub.

Chunky Move - Black Marrow

Wow. Not always successful, but a fascinating and imaginative piece of dance theatre centred around apocalyptic themes.

The Black Arm Band - dirtsong

A bit middle of the road for my tastes, musically, though nonetheless a passionate and heartfelt evening of song. You can read my detailed review of the gig on Arts Hub if you're a member...

Ramallah Underground

My final festival performance for MIAF 2009 was this vibrant, excellent Palestinian hip-hop trio, Ramallah Underground. They rock. Check out their Myspace page.

Some thoughts on MIAF (part the first)

Finally, with Brett Sheehy's first Melbourne International Arts Festival now officially over as of last night, I am at last finding the time to jot down some thoughts about some of the events I saw. Better late than never, I suppose!

The Abbey Theatre - Terminus

Ireland's national theatre company presented this powerful and surprising work by playwright Mark O'Rowe at The Malthouse, a gritty and grotesque piece of dark magic realism written and performed as a series of three interlinking monologues. An older woman working at a telephone counselling service and her alienated and unhappy adult daughter are caught up in the affairs of a vicious serial killer who goes on a murderous rampage after selling his soul to the Devil and getting cheated in process.

Written in lyrical verse evoking both the language of the street and gothic fantasy, this was an engaging albeit grim piece of entertainment, and featured an outstanding performance from Karl Shiels as the sweet-voiced killer. Earthy language, unpredictable meter and creative wordplay reminiscent of Irish writers such as Joyce and Jamie O’Neill resulted in an enthralling text, balanced out by intense performances and dramatic storytelling, with the sonorous score and simple but effective staging rounding out the work.

The Hofesh Shechter Company - Uprising/In Your Rooms

These two outstanding contemporary dance works were one of my absolute highlights for the festival.

The masculine physicality of Uprising, which was inspired by the 2006 Paris riots, was ably and beautifully conveyed by seven male dancers: slaps on the back turned into blows, bodies prowled ape-like across the stage, tender embraces became wrestling matches, both tender and competitive; their movements accompanied by a tribal, industrially percussive score that fitted perfectly with scenes where the performers were marshalled and drilled like soldiers or assembly-line workers.

In Your Rooms
, featuring 11 male and female performers, evoked the risks and delights of relationships, alienation and compassion, with dancers plunging from light into shadow accompanied by a dynamic live soundtrack which, like the score for Uprising, was also composed by the Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter.

Shechter also contributes to In Your Rooms in voice-over, musing upon the macrocosm and microcosm and the connections, both personal and impersonal, between the two; while the score is played live by a band who are elevated above the dancers at the rear of the stage. A sample of the Sigur Ros track 'Takk...' was woven into the score, to great effect.

Viewed together, these were masterful, moving and beautiful dance works.

Transe Express - Mischievous Bells

This much-hyped work - part of the festival's free opening night celebrations - left me cold. Performers went up, they went around, they banged drums and rang bells, all the while suspended from a flower-like mechanical structure that gradually unfolded around them as it carried them on high. Repetitive and tedious once the initial 'awww' factor had worn off.

Rembrandt's J'Accuse

Peter Greenaway claims that Rembrandt's famous 1642 painting The Night Watch is "an indictment ... an accusation", and in this didactic and hectoring film the British filmmaker sets out to prove his point, while simultaneously asserting his argument that modern culture is visually illiterate. It's ironic then, that Greenaway has made such a talky, text-heavy film - in almost every frame the filmmaker is lecturing in voiceover or popping up as a talking head to ram his point home: that The Night Watch holds the clues to a murder.

You can read my detailed review of J'Accuse here, at Arts Hub. If you're not an Arts Hub member (why not?) I can summarise by saying that not only is Greenaway's film a somewhat dry and rather pompous lecture, it also selectively ignores established facts which don't fit with Greenaway's claims.

As leading Australian art critic Robert Nelson recently wrote in The Age:

‘Visual literacy consists not in inventing things that aren't there, but connecting the things that are. While reproaching the visually illiterate who only see what they want to see, Greenaway plunges into the very fallacy that he scorns.’

Science in the Dark: Elemental

I really, really wanted to like this work. Its creator, poet alicia sometimes, has been a friend of mine for many years, and I'm also good friends with the other three poets involved in the creation of the work, Sean M. Whelan, Emilie Zoey Baker and Paul Mitchell. Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to be able to rave about this show - an exploration of the mysteries of the universe through poetry, music and video projection, performed in the unique setting of Melbourne's Planetarium in Spotswood - it really didn't work for me, at least not as much as I'd hoped.

Musically and poetically it was great, especially Baker's, sometimes' and Whelan's work - I especially enjoyed Baker's science-meets-Buddhism take on the universe - but too many of the visual elements seemed simplistic and out of place, particularly during Baker's work. Had the performance utilised more of the star-scape projections of the planetarium proper, it would have been more effective, I think, and captured more of the coupling of art and science that the program promised. Too, I felt to much of the evening lacked the edge provided by live performance: pre-recorded, the poems sounded smooth but lacked the zest and variety that comes with live delivery.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Fringe, the start of MIAF

Just a quick note to say that I will be trying to catch up with some micro-reviews of the remaining shows I saw at the Melbourne Fringe Festival over the weekend (I saw 32 shows in all this year, so have been struggling to find the time to write about them) as well as the first couple of MIAF shows I've seen, the Abbey Theatre's gorgeously grotesque Terminus and the Hofesh Schecter Company's dance works Uprising and In Your Rooms, both of which I very much enjoyed.

So far so good for MIAF, in fact, though I was interested to see Peter Greenaway's take on The Last Supper, and his claims about visual literacy, roundly criticised by Robert Nelson in today''s Age. I suspect Greenaway might have a bit to say about that tonight at the Q+A after the screening of his film J'Accuse!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Around the Fringe (part the last)

Clearly I'm not going to get around to reviewing the remaining 16-odd shows I saw at this year's Fringe. Apologies to all the artists concerned, but 42 performances was a lot to see, let alone blog about! Here's a list of the remaining events I saw, just for posterities' sake. Those marked with an asterisk are the shows I recommend you see if they return at the Comedy Festival next year...

What a Little Moonlight Can Do

Ghostboy with Golden Virtue

The List Operators for Kids*

Take Off Your Skin (TOYS)

Antics Shop*

The Bedroom Philosopher: Songs from the 86 Tram

The Caravan of Love - Pure Kunst


Dead River

Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of the Fall of the Roman Empire*

Hannah Gadsby - Kiss Me Quick I'm Full of Jubes

Anyone for Tennis - Cutthroat


Daniel Kitson and Colleagues

The Last Gasp

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Here be spoilers

Oh dear. I seem to have fallen hopelessly behind on blogging about Fringe, but hopefully I'll get a chance to do a brief round-up of the most recent shows I've seen tomorrow - which now number 26 in total - on my afternoon off.

Right now, I just wanted to post a photo that made me go squee.

It's from the first epsiode of the new series of Doctor Who - yes, that's right, the one that hasn't aired yet. They're filming it in the UK as we speak.

So, wanna see it?

Beware spoilers!


You were warned.

Here it is!

Yep, Matt Smith as The Doctor, and Karen Gillane as Amy Pond. Ain't it grand? Photo taken on set - presumably with a very long lens - by Alun Vega.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Around the Fringe (part five)

So, as you've probably noticed, I've fallen well behind when it comes to blogging about everything I've seen in the Fringe Festival this year. I blame the fact that I kept going to see stuff instead of sitting at home blooging. Anyway, in an attempt to make up for my tardiness, here are a plethora of quickly-written micro-reviews of some of the other shows I've seen to date...

Bart Freebairn - A Breathtaking Magical Journey into the Ordinary

In which Bart awkwardly but endearingly discovers the magic of everyday life. Loose and not especially adventurous stand-up, but with a certain relaxed charm; especially the stories about family members and farting. Working with a director to tighten up his material would greatly assist Bart's work, methinks.

Three stars

The Hounds

Frentic pace and frantic mugging didn't work to The Hounds' advantage on their first preview night, which was when I saw this show, although working with a director who specialises in physical theatre has certainly worked to their advantage; both tightening their on-stage antics and opening up their performances, if that makes sense. As per their previous show, The Last Bucket of Water, this was essentially a series of sketches and ideas hung together on a fairly loose premise, although it was certainly a more successful production, I think. This local trio generate a lot of energy, which is matched by the audience's goodwill. Lots of laughs, but not an especially memorable night of comedy.
Three stars

Fuck: A Love Story

Performer Emma Sachsse has a lot of potential and some real pizazz, which works to her advantage in this bawdy show about her sexual (mis)adventures. I'm all for frank and occasionally crass comedy, but she needs to work at her pacing and delivery if she's to reach her real potential: too many stops and starts and awkward pauses in this show worked against the material Sachsse delivered.

Two and a half stars

Welcome to the Jungle

Local performer Bron Batten is one half of the organisers of The Last Tuesday Society, which has proven a fertile place for creative experimentation lately, with several Last Tuesday alumni launching solo shows at this year's Fringe. Welcome to the Jungle is one such show, and sees Batten presenting a series of sketches based around anthropomorphic charactersations of animals, including a transgendered bear, a depressed pantomime horse, and a lonely hearts club whale. Not every act hit its mark, but the shows sometimes uneven tone was easy to forgive in light of its quirky content and real heart.

Three stars

Monster of the Deep 3D

This gem of a show, written and performed by Claudia O'Doherty (of comedy troupe Pig Island) is little more than a presentation about the history and culture of Aquaplex, an underwater city established in the 70s by the world's governments, and recently destroyed in a cataclysmic and unfortunate explosion. In lo-fi quirky style, Claudia uses flipcharts and handmade props to provide hilarious insights into this fictional aquatic city. Beautifully structured and paced, and extremely unpredictable, O'Doherty's faux-naive persona perfectly offset her flights of fantasy. Not only one of the best shows in the festival, but featuring the best props I've seen in the Fringe for the last few years.

Four stars