Friday, October 21, 2011
Sydney Theatre Company presents MONEY SHOTS as part of Next Stage 2011 at Wharf 2.
The program tells us that we were to see 5 new fifteen minute plays about money from some of Australia's most exciting new theatre-makers: Tahli Corin, Duncan Graham, Angus Cerini, Rita Kalnejais, Zoe Pepper and the out going The Residents: Cameron Goodall, Julia Ohannessian, Zindzi Okenyo, Richard Pyros, Sophie Ross and Tahki Saul directed by the 2011 Richard Wherrett Fellow, Sarah Giles.
The Sydney Theatre Company's Literary Manager, Polly Rowe (who recently acted as dramaturg on BOXING DAY at the Old Fitzroy Theatre) along with Tom Wright, Associate Director to the Artistic Directors, Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton tell us that MONEY SHOTS originated when "á pool of grant cash that could be liberated to blow on commissioning young or emerging artists (was identified). Inspired by the opportunity to redistribute some wealth, we came up with the concept of a show comprised of five miniature plays, which would stand alongside one another to pick away at a giant theme. At the time of commissioning the plays, most Australians believed the GFC to be a bullet dodged but with the gun still smoking it felt like a fitting moment to muse on money .... without the input of economists or the output of calculators".
They go on to say: "Our writers and devisor have responded to the artistic stimulus we offered by creating plays that examine financial crisis at its most human level. ...."
The key words in all this verbiage are "when a pool of grant cash could be liberated to blow..." for it was well and truly 'blown cash' . The quality of the writing and the superficiality of the approach to the world's GFC crisis is truly dire and truly of pygmy scale in contrast to what Ms Rowe and Mr Wright identify as a "giant theme", the present unfolding of the GFC crisis. No SERIOUS MONEY struggle here. No ENRON here. No THE POWER OF YES here. Just silly juveniles and broken marriages with perhaps a coin or a pile of notes thrown in the air or to the ground, literally, to remind us that these plays/sketches were to be "about money" Truly pathetic. Any real guidance and dramaturgy go on here? Hard to believe so. (Check what Mr Pinter might call a sketch. A play. He wrote both).
I can not imagine these sketches will ever see the light of day again in any serious context.The whole event felt like an end of contract blow out concert that was meant only for the end of contractors to enjoy. An awful waste of cash and not a very interesting farewell showcase for these young artists after such a long moneyed contract with the Sydney Theatre Company.
The best of them, THE ARCADE by Tahli Corin concerning itself with young adolescent love and the exploitation by a sexual predator, had money appear, only as a prop to be counted as a means to begin each of the episodes. This work had charm and harm revealed and gave Zindzi Okenyo and Tahki Saul a little gift to create two delightfully believable youngsters. In fact, this is some of the best work that Mr Saul has given in his residency with The Residents. Ms Okenyo sustained my belief in her range and credibility.The two actors played well together and made the sketch work.
Ms Ohannnessian revealed a spontaneity and comic flair not featured before in her work, as part of her Residents tenure and the fact that she survived against the contrived and forced efforts of Mr Goodall in this very poor TV sketch by Rita Kalnejais, HOW TO GET VERY CLEAN - a static piece of writing that had more to do with hair than money, was a marvel to observe.
NO EXIT FROM THE ROOF by Duncan Graham with Sophie Ross and Richard Pyros, had tiny vignettes of the breakup of a marriage barraged with some tribal chanting (Composer/Sound Designer, Stefan Gregory) every minute or so and ultimately the noise became the only memory of content. Not quite true. I do recall that this work by Mr Graham seemed to be free from his usual usage of the myths of the world to create a framework to pitch his content.
In fact, MONEY SHOTS began to feel it was really the Cameron Goodall show, considering that he featured heavily in three of the five sketches. One of them: DRILL DOWN by Angus Cerini, who some of my friends have championed for the writing, but in my experience, became an isolated spotlit solo, where the content of the work was pushed out of focus to accommodate the excessive vocal consonant work of this craftsman. Tiresome.
The last sketch directed by Zoe Pepper and written by Zoe Pepper, the Ensemble and Brett Stiller: FIDDLER'S COIN is best forgotten for the sheer banal concept and incoherent structure - surely, a late night party improvisation that only the late night party goers and their sponsored beer drinking friends could find in anyway amusing.
Ms Giles demonstrated that there is a way to work with no real design support and did her best with sketch content not really worth her sweat and tears. A waste of her talent.
What was the company really thinking here? This was awful. And a wasted opportunity. If cozened, and the details developed dramaturgically, it could have been interesting to see what these artists that the Sydney Theatre Company regards as "Some of Australia's Most Exciting New Theatremakers" could do with one of the more crucial issues of the day. I wonder what this lot would have done with Climate Change as their subject matter? Or Afghanistan or the Middle East crisis?
I shudder to even speculate.