Sunday, March 30, 2008

Adelaide Festival

I traveled to Adelaide for part of its International Arts Festival. Two works stood out for me. TO BE STRAIGHT WITH YOU, a production by DV8, led BY Lloyd Newson from Great Britain. On every level from the verbatim text ,the politics, the skills of the performers (especially in their clarity of storytelling whilst dancing or moving even skipping), the video artists and the exhilarating technology that supported it all, this was great theatre. I often lament that the theatre is too tame and all too often a bourgeois comfort of sedation. It was thrilling to be stirred to Anger and have a Need to express one’s Outrage. Took me back to reading of the Mercury Theatre productions, or the early theatre productions of Gorky or Brecht in my History of Theatre texts. Provocative material that does change one’s view of part of our contemporary life. The Company and ALL the bodies that help this company to work deserve high praise. I hope it returns for an Australian Tour.

The second work was the Schaubuhne, Thomas Ostermeier production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Wonderfully conceived and daringly acted by these actors it was a bracing night in the theatre. The outrageous choices of Kirsten Dene as Big Mama and the bravura last act of Bettina Hoppe as Mae were well balanced by a truly dying Big Daddy, Josef Bierbichler (his cancerous pain was palpable) and the intelligence and focus of Jule Bowe as Margaret and Mark Waschke as Brick. The Set Design along with the Music and Video support all added to give one an Epic night in the theatre .Great lessons for our local artists in Australia. Strange that the program note does not acknowledge Tennessee Williams as the originator of the work.

SACRED MONSTERS with Sylvie Giuillem and Akram Khan was ok. More an invitation to watch two great dancers workshop with each other. They shouldn’t have spoken, it was dull and trite. Clearly their strengths were in their dance and movement. It was a priviledge to watch them in the flesh together. Much preferred the last Akram Khan piece ZERO DEGREES and am now nervous with what will happen when he pairs up with Juliet Binoche!!!!!

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tim Supple’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM was in Sydney as part of its international tour. It was physically robust, sexy, and funny with hints of darkness. Spoken in seven languages the play was superbly told without the assistance of surtitles. In fact it was supremely funnier and more engaging than THE SYDNEY THEATRE ACTING COMPANY'S portentous/pretentious moribund production by Edward Dick last year. The sheer delight of the performers in performing accompanied by a live orchestration was refreshing and memorable.

The Year of Magical Thinking

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion was performed by Robyn Nevin and directed by Cate Blanchett for the Sydney Theatre Company. This is a wonderful piece of writing and Robyn Nevin was wonderfully vulnerable in this one person piece. I saw this early in the run (twice) and felt that I had never seen Ms Nevin so delicate and fragile with her usual strengths of cool intelligence and insight. Sensitively supported by Cate Blanchett with a provocative Set Design by Alice Babidge beautifully lit by Nick Schlieper and an abrasive but mostly apt Sound Design. Stimulating.

Guilt Frame

First up in March was a Sydney Theatre Company offer from its New or Experimental Theatre wing WHARF2LOUD. They had invited the DE Quincey Co to present: embrace: GUILT FRAME. Usually this company is seen at The Performance Space in Sydney, a space known for its experimental nature. Tess De Quincey and Peter Snow presented a 45 minute experience of “ART” within the frame work of a gilt picture frame .This is one of a series of explorations using structural elements drawn from The Natyasastra an ancient Indian treatise on artistic practice, in which the performers negotiate a series of eight emotional states. Tess De Quincey works within BODY WEATHER, a contemporary dance training founded in Japan by a butoh dancer Mia Tanake. In Butoh style the two participants exchanged places within the picture frame and back again only their upper torso visible. Maybe they traveled through eight states of emotion, I’m not sure. What I did marvel at was the skill of Tess De Quincey in contrast to a less disciplined or skilled performer, Peter Snow. It was fascinating to have the opportunity to admire the contrast in such detail. The piece was accompanied by an interesting minimalist sound design by Michael Toisuta called in HOMAGE TO LIGETI. While this work is not for everyone it is a good sign to see the Sydney Theatre Company offer its subscribers an opportunity to experience real experimental work. A healthy sign of the Upton /Blanchett idea of performance-theatre. I hope the audience that did see it are encouraged to follow the De Quincey Company. For me they are mainly Miss but I certainly would love to see the last work they presented for The Performance Space at The Carriageworks last year again: a site specific work called THE STIRRING. A MAJOR Hit for me.