Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Neighbourhood Watch, by Alan Ayckbourn

Photo by Natalie Boog

Ensemble Theatre presents NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH by Alan Ayckbourn at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirrribilli.

Reading about Alan Ayckbourn there are some 'claims' that after Shakespeare, Mr Ayckbourn is the then next most performed playwright in the English speaking world. Mr Ayckbourn was born in 1939 and is still writing for the theatre and has now a list of 77 plays, the last being ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES performed in August, 2013. It premiered in the theatre that has been the incubator of most of his work, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Looking at some of his play titles, one can grasp the writer's quality of impact, and understand the SIR that was bestowed in front of his name by the Queen, in 1997, and estimate that it is ,indeed, justified: ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR (1972), THE NORMAN CONQUESTS (1973), BEDROOM FARCE (1975), JUST BETWEEN OURSELVES (1978), A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL (1984), WOMAN IN MIND (1985), A SMALL FAMILY BUSINESS (1987), MAN OF THE MOMENT (1988), THE REVENGER'S COMEDIES (1989), HOUSE AND GARDEN (1999).

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH was first presented in 2011.

Mr Ayckbourn's plays concern themselves, mainly, with the middle classes of England, across the three stratas of that class - upper, middle and lower - and the jostling for 'position' by the people in them for dominance (of any kind), and observing usually, with forensic accuracy, the gender 'wars' that, also, are going on - underlining the interplay between truth and artifice in our every day lives. There is, resultantly, a great deal of comedy that make these plays uproariously funny, and have given Mr Ayckbourn huge popular success. But, because of that accuracy of observation they, often, transcend the subject matter and genre and can be read as bleak, dark and tragic experiences, as well - the audience, are, given pause, cause, to ponder, their extended families' world and domestic politics.

The writing of WAY UPSTREAM (1981), in hindsight, registers a change of emphasis, focus, in the writing interests of Mr Ayckbourn. The subsequent plays, more and less, moved from plain realism into the field of allegory, with a pre-occupation to face the 'evil' in the world, represented by characters who want 'power', and are prepared to manipulate the world about them to achieve it by whatever means possible. The plays register an assumption that power and evil are two sides of the same coin, and although the plays retain their comic aura, they are sharpened with a moral and social irony, so that they develop questions about the prevailing moral and ethical benchmarks, about us. Enter, then, on the Ensemble stage, NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, (so, interestingly different from the pre-occupations of Lally Katz and, I suppose, the Belvoir artistic movers and shakers, with their NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH play, I,  passingly, observed to some friends).

An unmarried brother, Martin (Brian Meegan) and sister, Hilda (Fiona Press), both in their fifties, and both devout Christians, move into a neighbourhood estate called Bluebell Hill, into a house with a panoramic vista of the countryside, slightly blighted by the intrusion of the physical, visual presence of another community, ironically called, Mount Joy - it, decidedly in 'distress'. It is the misunderstood intrusion of a Mount Joy denizen - a young boy - into the back garden of the new arrivals, that is the catalyst to the formation of a Neighbourhood Watch committee.

The committee is made up of a small group of ordinary, apolitical human beings who find some satisfaction to being part of something, to fill in their days - the other residents are generally disinterested and/or apathetic. Dorothy (Gillian Axtell), a retired administrative employee of the local newspaper, and avid observer of the goings-on of her neighbours; Gareth (Jamie Oxenbould), a pathetic handy-man, obsessed with medieval instruments of torture e.g. the stocks - it turns out his interest is not only of their history but, also, of their re-creation (!); Amy (Olivia Pigeot), the attractive, sexually charged wife of Gareth, seeking a substitute for her frustrations; and Rod (Bill Young) an army and security officer retiree, with delusions of his present capacities. Another couple, Magda (Lizzie Mitchell), a sexually repressed music teacher, and her husband, Luther (Douglas Hansell), a turbo charged male looking for some outlet for his life frustrations, are also added to the mixture of dilemma at Bluebell Hill.

The social and cultural observations are hilarious in their mundane details and we certainly sense the sexual discontent of the neighbourhood, and gradually come to see what tragic extremes, to satisfy and subjugate these basic animal needs, all the characters  participate in, consciously and unconsciously, to find what they perceive is happiness.

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH is, principally, a study of Hilda, who, driven by her deep seated sexual frustrations, channels her energy into her religious faith in Christ, and transmutes it to her mission to save all from 'evil'. Her growing desperation converts her actions as the second-in-command of the Neighbourhood Watch, having manipulated her weaker brother into the role as titular leader, to impinge her growing fascistic obsessions onto the relatively naive, or meek and unassuming others. In an escalating construct of black farce Mr Ayckbourn takes us, the audience, into a fierce comedy, that has us laughing at the "ridiculous" situations he puts his ordinary people in, while we intellectually gasp at the preposterous developments, recognising the possibility of the 'truth' of it all. The climax of the play has Martin, the rebelling brother, dying in a hail of bullets from a hovering military helicopter while brandishing at it, a statue of Christ. One of the characters, later remarks, "Who would have thought that Jesus could be mistaken for a lethal weapon?" Such is the vehemence of Mr Ayckbourn's vision with this provoking play.

The production at the Ensemble led by Director, Anna Crawford, in a simply neat Design of a living room (hung over by swathes of barbed wire, ensnaring decorative lighting globes) by Amanda McNamara, with attractive lighting by Peter Neufield, and all the action supported by a very efficient Sound Design by Daryl Wallis, is extremely competent, and, mostly, captures the intention of the writer.

I had quite a good time.

What prevented this production reaching a fuller potential, I thought, was a lack of focusing of the journey of the principal driver of the action of the play, Hilda, so that we can more transparently perceive her gradual, and then, vulgarly obvious manipulations of the others in the play.  Hilda is as benignly active, as say, that notorious creation Mrs Bucket, nee, "Bouquet"- played ruthlessly by Patricia Routledge, in the television series, KEEPING UP APPEARANCES - and this, Ms Press does well. But, that she does not shrug this illusion off, as Hilda goes through metamorphic change, during her desperate course in the play, to reveal  the monster that is Hilda, - rather like the Livia Drusilla in the 1976 television adaptation of Robert Graves, I, CLAUDIUS (played, famously, by Sian Phillips) - and help us watch this growth, almost as co-conspirators, some of the play's effect is lost. Instead of growing in malignant stature throughout the play, Ms Press tended to remain curled over, bent in disguise, instead of unfurling the 'evil' that Mr Ayckbourn step-by step reveals - a 'gorgon' with no mythical trappings, a 'monster' of magnificent  menace! For the attentive, the opening monologue delivered by Hilda at the funeral service to her brother, glitters with all the clues to this woman's pious mendacity. The bulk of the play is told in flashback, and the final reveal of sexual manipulation by Hilda of the innocent and abused Magda, is the final flourished daub to the portrait of a true, contemporary horror that is Hilda.

 Hilda is simply the latest of Mr Ayckbourn's villains, and is, indeed, the 'sister' to of one of Mr Ayckbourn's earlier creations, that of Karen Knightley in THE REVENGER'S COMEDIES (1989). Both these women, Karen, and Hilda, are in a relentless pursuit of power, and their self interest is fanatical to the point of perversity. The crafty techniques employed by Mr Ayckbourn, lead us into much gleeful laughter, resulting from the casual dialogue and activities of these women, and so makes us part complicit in the events, even, conspiratorial to their development, because we don't stand up and protest the 'evil' of these truly power-hungry personalities. In NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH Hilda, bedazzles us with the seeming innocuousness of her activities in the moral void that Bluebell Hill transforms into under her 'watch'.

Brian Meegan as Martin, gives a brilliant display of the technique that Ayckbourn requires, to succeed: a precise handling of all the text, (his breath and articulatory control, a marvel) and a Chekhovian depth to the character. That this Martin is not, perhaps, initially, a little weaker under the thrall of Hilda, in this production by Ms Crawford, does present some confusion for the audience to the ultimate psychological journey in the play. I believe, that Martin is really an intimidated 'worm' that gradually turns against his sister's power, and is crushed, radically, for it. Mr Meegan's Martin is too confident and attractive, instead of someone who blossoms from a sexually repressed, ordinary bloke to a wooing aroused male, who under the glowing 'come-hitherness' of Amy, grows, to develop the courage of his own right to happiness, as his own man. At last, defying Hilda, at the age of 50 - a small miracle happens! The development of this journey in this production is not as clear on stage, as it appears to be written on the page.

Gillian Axtell, as Dorothy, gives a quintessential Ayckbourn performance - the awful normalities, pettinesses of Dorothy are so accurate as one could suspect that Ms Axtell could be playing herself - let's hope not. Too, Jamie Oxenbould is extremely insightful as 'weird' Gareth, and judges his satiric effects with a very fine balance - this actor seems to me, puzzlingly, under-used in the bigger picture of our Sydney theatre scene - this performance was a 'gem'. Olivia Pigeot assisted by a set of outrageous costumes hits her marks with scintillating brio.

The underdevelopment of the relationship between the two outsiders to the neighbourhood watch team, the husband and wife, Magda and Luther by Lizzie Mitchell and Douglas Hansell is, too, a weakness in the production. Ms Mitchell, Mr Hansell and, also Mr Young as Rod, present a too literal reading of the actions of their characters, and do not have the necessary complications of observed character - that is, the kind of Chekhovian detailing in backstory that Ayckbourn demands. They gives us no subtext that would justify their complicated motivations for their actions. Mostly, they are contented with blustering generalisations of text and physicalities. Servicable but, ultimately, dullish - diminishing the writing opportunities of the Ayckbourn oeuvre.

To play Ayckbourn it is necessary to value the task as a complicated opportunity to play in depth in the Stanislavskian/Chekhov field of play, as preparing artists. Chekhov always declared his observations of his domestic worlds as comedies (including, his short stories) and it is necessary to approach Ayckbourn with the same level of commitment to the revelation of motivation in the sub-textual lives of Ayckbourn's characters and situations. There is a tragic-comic element to all his plays as palpable as that of Chekhov. This is what makes Ayckbourn great, and not just a writer of 'boulevard' entertainments. It is what the revivals of Mr Ayckbourn's work has been substantiating in the past years: that these are classic observations of humanity in his work, that are timeless and universal. History had seemed to have decided that Stoppard and Pinter were the great writers of this period and Ayckbourn, more simply, just the popular one - an appellation that Mr Ayckbourn does not eschew, rather, self-deprecatingly, embraces. There is , however, growing admiration as to the 'greatness' of Ayckbourn, as time advances, and the body of work, survives intact, and flourishes in revival after revival. The 2009 production of THE NORMAN CONQUESTS that triumphed both in London and New York heralded a serious rethink and appreciation.

Pinter and Ayckbourn had admired each other, we are told in the biography of Alan Ayckbourn, by Paul Allen: "Pinter and Ayckbourn grew up in entirely different worlds. .... but both playwrights start as realists, observing the world in which they live, and then turning the heat up on their characters. Ayckbourn invites us to see comedy in the personal politics, Pinter the menace. Ayckbourn creates infinite variation in narrative form, Pinter refines it. But each deals with brutality observed but not necessarily explained. Each is pretty determined to have the words spoken as they are written for the very good reason that rhythms and sense and style have an organic relationship with content, and have been crafted with care and purpose." (2).

There is much reason to enjoy the title of the Paul Allen biography of Alan Ayckbourn: GRINNING FROM THE EDGE. Indeed, his plays attest to that grin from the edge of  his society. It is this that has required me to write so substantially about this production of NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH at the Ensemble Theatre. There is a world of joy and acerbic revelation for audiences in the plays of Ayckbourn and I wish to see many of the other plays on Sydney stages. In the above list of plays there are many that I have not seen, and what I would consider major works, that reflects a strange neglect by us, of a great artist: A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL; A SMALL FAMILY BUSINESS; THE REVENGER'S COMEDIES, for instance. There are also some plays that should be seen again, and wouldn't it be a treat to see THE NORMAN CONQUESTS again. It is a long time ago, that Old Tote production at the Seymour Centre, but memories do linger and pine for revival of acquaintance, I reckon.

This production of NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH at the Ensemble was appetising, and looking at their Subscription Season, one is tantalised by much that they are offering. If the production rigour continues to grow and continues with confidence there are several plays that pull my attention (I have to confess that in recent times, I have sometimes attended work at the Ensemble, that I deserted at the interval, because of a dissatisfaction in the performance: acting and/or directing - money, and worse, time, wasted!) Two wonderful international plays, seen at the Melbourne Thetare Company, but not in Sydney: CLYBOURNE PARK by Bruce Norris and OTHER DESERT CITIES by Jon Robin Baitz, for instance. The rest of the season is arresting, as well, with new directors, for this theatre, presenting work at this venue, with an expansion of the company of actors  that are usually seen on this stage. It looks encouraging.

The Ensemble represents a tenacity to survive as a constantly performing arts body, and I feel, I hope, that a renaissance of status, to challenge the others on the other shore of the harbour, is on the horizon. About time, I reckon.

P.S. I thought of the workings of Alan Ayckbourn and NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH while watching the latest Martin Scorsese film, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, written by Terence Winter, based on the Jordan Belfont memoir, a potent satirical black comedy, reflecting the moral void that the United States appears to be 'floating' in. The extreme situations that the characters play in, are as outrageous and just as dangerously funny, and just as stringently 'scary". It is, perhaps, just an accident of timing, of coincidence, for me to draw such a parallel.

1. ALAN AYCKBOURN by Michael Holt - Northcote House, 1999.
2. ALAN AYCKBOURN ; GRINNING FROM THE EDGE by Paul Allen - Metheun, 2001.

Monday, January 20, 2014

On The Shore Of The Wide World

pantsguys Productions and Griffin Independent present ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD by Simon Stephens at the Stables SBW Theatre, Kings Cross.

ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD by Simon Stephens won the Olivier Award for Best play in 2005. Mr Stephens, also, won The Olivier Award for his adaptation of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG, from the novel of the same name, by Mark Haddon, in 2013. pantsguys Productions has previously presented Mr Stephens' PUNK ROCK, which was also directed by Anthony Skuse - and this production is a return to form for pantsguys after their, unhappy, for me, recent production of SWEET NOTHINGS, late last year.

Mr Stephens grew up in Stockport which is a suburb 11 kilometres from the centre of Greater Manchester, North West England. Several of his plays: PORT (2002), ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD (2005), MOTORTOWN (2006), HARPER REGAN (2007), PUNK ROCK (2009), are all set in that area of his origin, Stockport. And what has been accumulating by focusing on individuals and their families in this particular community, set in the framework of the United Kingdom, and perhaps, because of their appeal and success around the world (here, in Sydney, for example) is a construction of a series of plays, whose ramifications are relevant to the universe of the brotherhood of humanity - much like say THE ORPHANS CYCLE of Horton Foote - a three part, nine play look at the people of a town called Harrison in Texas, or the August Wilson, ten play cycle known as THE PITTSBURGH CYCLE, or say, Louis Nowra's THE BOYCE TRILOGY, set in Sydney. They provide a storytelling experience that although set in a tiny 'city' in a foreign country is as pertinent to there as it is here.

"How many stars are in the universe?", Peter Holmes asks his wife, Alice, in the play. "200 billion," he estimates. "How many people are there on the earth?", I asked myself, at that moment in the play. "7 billion." says Google. And like those stars in the universe, each of those 7 billion people are as unique as each of those stars in the 'heavens'. Each are as unique, each are on their own trajectory, and each is as independent and interdependent to each other as those stars that hang in the gravities of the evolving universe.

ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD has that breadth of vision within the context of the three generations of the Holmes family, of this play, set in Stockport - all are connected and yet all are independent. All of them are known to each other, but all of them have 'vastnesses' that are unknown to each other. We never know, completely any person, and perhaps, least of all ourselves. This is the aching revelation of this wonderful play. That all of us have secrets and most are not known, and that there are consequences of cause and effect of this great truth, is partly, mostly, what this play is about. It is a pleasantly comforting experience, perhaps, because it is proffered in the context of what is a recognisable world of an ordinary family. A family, like ours. "All happy families are happy alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way", says Leo Tolstoy in the first paragraph of his novel ANNA KARENINA.

The title of this play comes from  a poem by John Keats: "When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be". To quote:
…And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love ! - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
Charlie Holmes (Paul Bertram) and Ellen Holmes (Kate Fitzpatrick) are the grandparents; Peter Holmes (Huw Higginson) and Alice Holmes (Amanda Stephens-Lee) are the middle generation of parents; Alex Holmes (Graeme McRae) and Christopher Holmes (Alex Beauman) are the younger. This younger generation of boys, both, provide a bonding between all, but will also, each in his own way, provide the catalyst for this family to have cause to SEE each other properly. Therein lies the drama of this play. In his program notes Mr Skuse quotes from Robert Hughes in his book A JERK ON ONE END: REFLECTIONS OF A MEDIOCRE FISHERMAN (1999): " ... it is easy to look, but learning to see is a more gradual business ..." When one looks at one's loved ones: "What do you see?" and then, "What can you see?" is a reflection that Mr Stephens and this company ask us to consider in our own relations.

All the company of actors have the magic ingredient of individual clarity and skill and the great gift (or accident), in the performing arts, of a simpatico ensemble. All are a part, of this production, worth nurturing, and all the parts make a whole, worth cherishing.That this hallmark - always striven for by all who embark to apply their craft to the art of performance - is a rarity in the theatre, and yet a common element of most of Mr Skuse's work, is worth taking note of, and underlining. Amanda Stephens-Lee, Graeme McRae, Alex Beauman, Lily Newbury-Freeman, Jacob Warner, Alistair Wallace and Emma Palmer are part of the acting ensemble.

But it is, particularly, the beautifully, etched portrait of extraordinary vulnerability and painful courage that Huw Higgingson brings to the father, Peter Holmes, in the middle generation of this family saga, this very ordinary family's saga, that radiates basic human frailties reflecting us all, that provides the keel of the journey through this production. The understated growing awareness of his predicaments and the painful, at last, verbal exposition of his longings make for a soul holding set of great moments in the theatre. Not to be missed by those who love good acting.

And to further add to the performing interests of this production, and a powerful reason to get to the pantsguys-Griffin Independent production, up at the Stables SBW Theatre, is to welcome and applaud two Australian actors of an older generation in this production: Paul Bertram and Kate Fitzpatrick. I have often speculated about the consistency of good work that we regularly see from some great artists and often marvel at, say people such as Ian McKellen, Frank Langella, or Judi Dench and Meryl Streep etc and count some of their quality of consistency to the fact that they have had lots of practice opportunities. Here, in Australia, those opportunities are not necessarily available, so it is with extra wonder that one watches Mr Bertram and Ms Fitzpatrick, who I have not seen at all regularly in the theatre, if at all, for many, many years, and appreciate such consummate skills, judgement and 'beauty' exampled in their craft in this production.

Mr Bertram inhabits a character not altogether a pleasant human being, and is able to draw from us, ultimately, a compassionate understanding, if not complete forgiveness, for his Charlie Holmes, with insightful and fearless, unerring delicacy - I shall not be able to forget his great long speech, towards the end of the play, and never, for certain, the pathetic image of his semi-naked body, slumped in a kind of private anguish on a bench; whilst Ms Fitzpatrick gives a centred, understated and ultimately, moving creation of a long suffering and misunderstood woman, attempting to do the right thing for all - and, usually, least right for herself, as Ellen Holmes. The quiet tears streaking her makeup is affecting, and, not least, because there was no attempt to demonstrate them - the sensibility and sensitivity is immaculate in its choices from Ms Fitzpatrick. It is interesting to see Ms Fitzpatrick appear without nervousness, that I could see, on the night I attended, for the Stables theatre is a very vulnerable space to play in, and some time has passed since she has performed - although I did see her give a monologue at the Seymour Centre in SINGLED OUT, last October and was impressed. Having the opportunity to speak to her after the performance, Ms Fitzpatrick talked of the thrill and excitement, of being back on stage again, a place that she felt, almost with relief, was a welcome place to find herself on again. Let us hope that more of both these two artists is seen in the near future, for their skill and passion is a marvel to behold in the context of the Australian industry cruelties. In any other country, perhaps, they would be just as famously consistent and brilliant as the above mentioned "stars" and, just as often, seen. Think the example of Jackie Weaver and her recent international success - it isn't just luck, you know (!) and when was she last on the major stages in Sydney?

Gez Xavier Mansfield has designed both the Set and Costumes for this production; Sara Swersky the complex lighting plot, whilst Marty Jamieson has made a quiet and unobtrusive Sound Design. There should be note of the excellent work by Linda Nicholls-Gidley with the dialect coaching (although, one or two of the actors appeared to be too accurate for some of our Australian ears to catch all). The Direction of each of the actors in this large ensemble of 10 actors (for Sydney theatre) and the stylistic management of the characters as witness to the events of the play, has been thoughtfully and excellently prepared by Mr Skuse.

ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD by Simon Stephens is an auspicious beginning to the Sydney theatre season of 2014, and considering the dearth of interesting theatre work available, in this January Sydney Festival, is a must see.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Am I

Sydney Festival and Sydney Opera House present AM I by Shaun Parker and Company. Music by Nick Wales. In the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

AM I is a new work arising from the creative inspirations of Shaun Parker, Nick Wales and their artistic team. Mr Parker and Mr Wales have collaborated on numerous works, including SPILLS AND TROLLEYS for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, HAPPY AS LARRY (with Bree van Reyk), THE YARD and THIS SHOW IS ABOUT PEOPLE. It is a collaboration that is maturing into great things and it was a wonderful to watch AM I, unfold:
A new music and dance collaboration investigating the notion of 'I' within the context of the modern-day global tribe.
It seems, to me, to be one of their best integrations of text, movement, dance, music and design to date.

The text, which is the spine of this work (Dramaturgy by Veronica Neave), talks of notions of the origins of life from 'nothing', to the explosion of a light-energy, to the creation of the universe and, then, particularly, to the wonder of the complex, and yet simple creation of the "universe'' that is the human - its unique brain (the beauty of mathematics: the idea of Pi, as a perplexing, remarkable agent to all we know, is tantalisingly brought to the 'table' of discussion). It acknowledges the efforts of man in his attempts to solve his wonder, his curiosity, both, through science and religion, or, science or religion. Amusingly, in a latter speech, there is a listing of all the 'historic' deities from pagan to contemporary times spilling into, even, the influence of searching for 'perceptions of a God', perhaps, through agents such as: MDMA or caffeine (!), twitter, grinder (!); a post-modern joke-nod to the audience, that struck the right chords of collaborative effect from the startled and bemused 'us', in our seats, when we suddenly recognised some of the every day touchstones of our curiosity of this otherwise sober search for understanding, meaning, with a jolt of humour.

This dramaturgy began with the idea of our beginning as 'nothing' and took us with all our scientific and philosophical complexities to a finishing point of 'nothing'. A circle of thought provocation was drawn, rewardingly, for us, as the light faded to a metaphoric theatrical 'nothing' after a mere, but intense, 75 minutes. Mr Parker in his notes, in the program, tells us; "AM I attempts to qualify what it means to identify ourselves as 'I'. Am I my culture? Am I my faith? Am I my genetic material? Am I a random cosmological consequence? ..." These questions, ideas, were also raised in another work, co-incidentally (or not), by a dance company: the Australian Dance Theatre (ADT), in 2012, in Garry Stewart's, BE YOUR SELF.

Maybe, these creators/works have lead us to the next step of enquiry which, perforce may have us concede that the essential Platonic notion of the 'inner self' is misconceived.
"...There is no inner self. Looking in we have found nothing - nothing stable anyway, nothing enduring, nothing that we can agree upon, nothing conclusive - because there is nothing to find. We human beings are a part of nature and therefore we are more likely to find out about our 'inner' nature, to understand ourselves, by looking outside ourselves, at our role and place as animals." 
In the words of John Gray: "A zoo is a better window from which to look out of the human world than a monastery." [1].

Whoo hoo!

All this provoked, in me, by a music/ dance work? Yes, indeedy - that bus trip conversation, home, was heady!

And how did this happen? Well, by the text, delivered by an elegant Shantala Shivalingappa, accompanied by physical gesture from her with traditional South-Asian sensibility. In the form of a lecture/conversation to us, the audience, we are guided through a set of ideas, provocations that enlighten, amuse and enliven thought. It is clear and graspable and had no condescension, it respected our intelligence and focused our comprehensions in an easy and flattering manner. That Ms Shivalingappa has an Indian heritage and incisive edge and charm, triggered, in my memory, two other experiences that arose into my consciousness to resonate and support my journey in AM I: the Complicite's, A DISAPPEARING NUMBER (2008) and the Ang Lee film THE LIFE OF PI (2012) based on the novel by Yann Martel (2001). AM I was contextualised by both these works, for me.

Further, to my observation of the marvellous integrations of the 'artistic tools' of this work: the verbal clarities were enhanced by an ingenious lighting design by Damien Cooper. A wall of light bulbs, spans the width of the back 'wall' of the dance space, behind the dancers, and has been programmed (Pat Smithers), like a computer screen, to support the language of ideas. We begin with a simple single bulb, pulsing in the dark, that ultimately dazzled us, blinded us with light , co-ordinated with Ms Shivalingappa's apt text, that could represent the "Big Bang" at the beginning of it ALL- it literally blinded one in a sensational manner - an "oomph!", like a physical blow, to which we all physically reacted and verbally responded to - we, too, were kind of dancing and singing (!) as if we were involved in a 'contact-improv' exercise. Throughout the rest of the work the dancers appear to interact with this "light-wall' giving the appearance of 'dancing' with it - causing and affecting patterns of flexible impulses - it is, mightily, imaginatively, affective. Our imaginations were impelled to 'dance' too, to the musics of its time identifying with the tribal unity of the implied investigative ceremony that is AM I.

Cloaking and propelling all of the impulses of the artists is a truly beautiful score created, composed by Nick Wales, played live, on a platform hovering above the set at the back of the stage. Seven musicians/collaborators create this ingredient, which is the major instrument of integrated inducement for the audience to shift from the pragmatic phenomenal world of the theatre space, to enter another, that is sublime, in experiential terms.

 A vast range of instruments and three vocalists mesmerise the space that the sounds float in, to transport us, viscerally, emotionally and intellectually, through the demands of this work - and those 'demands' became pleasures in the collective conglomeration of the notes on the pages of Mr Wales' score, translated kinetically into the air.

Nick Wales, in his program notes tells us:
I have tried to define a unique sound within the ensemble - imagining that the musicians are part of a tribe from a parallel world, pushing them to find new performance practices, singing and playing styles that could be exclusive signatures of that tribe. Ancient songs of Armenia have greatly influenced and informed the work.
I am attracted to their ethereal quality, which somehow sits between Western and Middle Eastern scales - a musical midpoint, which seemed fitting. I have deconstructed and re-contextualised fragments of melodic patterns to create new compositions, blending the percussive and devotional traditions of Indian music with Western harmonic progressions. Tribal rhythms of the Middle East and medieval drone music have also informed the musical process.
Winsome Evans and her 'orchestra', The Renaissance Players, one of Mr Wales' mentors and foundation influences, was thanked in the program notes.

The musicians were Tunji Beler, Alyx Dennison, Jess Green, Jason Noble, Jessica O'Donoghue, Bree Van Reyk and Nick Wales, himself. Ms O'Donoghue in the higher voice, along with Ms Dennison in the lower voice, augmented sometimes with Ms Green' s vocals, accompany themselves with the other musicians on a range of instruments that include: baglama, electric guitar, violin, viola, rebec, harmonium, melodicas, harmonicas, gatam, bass marimba, bugaraboos, mridangam, bass clarinet.

The Sound Design by Bob Scott balanced the surround sound effects in the auditorium in an enveloping expertise and inspired sensitivity. Totally embracing and  immersive.

Six movers/dancers: Josh Mu, Sophia Ndaba, Jessie Oshodi, Marnie Palomares, Melanie Palomares and Julian Wong have collaborated with Shaun Parker using contemporary dance languages across a wide spectrum of styles (e.g. locking and popping, martial arts) to fuse with complex ideas of science (for instance Dr Helen Johnson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Physics at Sydney University, involved in the study of neutron stars and black holes - how galaxies are formed - was involved with input to the ideas of this production). The patterns of movement in close packed forms, using shining metal 'sticks' (rods) - modelled from martial arts sticks - created what I, subjectively,  imagined were structures of molecules, atoms;  of explosions of  'divine' matter across the universe. Many other allusions, illusions, projections, subjective imaginings were made by me at the instigation of these dancers and their 'dance'; and with the introduction of a metal fan, exquisitely handled (danced) by Julian Wong, there was added a further aura of spiritual colour, for me, as it snapped open and shut, the sound as impactful as the moving image, reflecting the light of the grid as if it were a satellite in the bigger universe. It was alluring and created a world beyond the mere physical gesture of the dancers on the stage.

Truly, a magic of imaginative layering was invited by all the elements of this production, that inspired one to experience more than the normal, rather, a paranormal matrix, leading to a total theatrical (spiritual) immersion.

AM I became, as Dr Helen Johnson hoped, as Shaun Parker, Nick Wales and Company endeavoured, "a gateway to larger learning", to assist us to understand our 'tribal' natures and its patterns. AM I becoming not just another physical entertainment or another dance piece, but an instrument of provocation and wonder about the miracle of our existence. Five years in the nurturing, AM I is palpable proof that artistic patience, and the value of that kind of long time practice, is what good art requires (and corporate regimens need to understand when it comes to demand for "output") - and of the healthy and respectful collaboration between great talents: Mr Parker and Mr Wales. In this work there is a sort of oscillation between intellectualism, anti-intellectualism, between romanticism and enlightenment. There is an expression of a history of ideas going on: "... the history of philosophy, of science, of sociology, of language, of folklore and ethnography, of economics and politics, of literature, of societies." [1].

The Sydney Festival season for AM I was short, and one hopes that this work, which had its world premiere here, will continue to refine and develop, and return for us, in Sydney to revisit, to be seen by a wider audience. It deserves one.

Congratulations to all.

P.S. One wishes that our Australian playwrights could write, at least, occasionally, on a platform of vision similar to Shaun Parker and Company, or Australian Dance Theatre; or the work of Michael Keegan-Dolan and his company Fabulous Beast (GISELLE); or Lloyd Newson's DV8 (CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS), other than that of the usual, pathetic sexual and personal politics of the man and woman next door in their bedroom or at the pub, in the grand Aussie tradition, drunk, under some pool table!

1. IDEAS. A History From Fire to Freud by Peter Watson. Phoenix - 2005.


Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

Brevity Theatre Company in association with Sydney Independent Theatre Company presents the Sydney Premiere of WITTENBURG by David Davalos at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo.

It is 1517, and Hamlet (Alexander Butt) has returned, for a tennis tournament, to his university at Wittenburg, from a summer vacation in Poland where he has been studying astronomy with "One Doctor Nikolai Copernik ..." and is facing a spiritual dilemma based around new ideas, theories, that the earth moves around the sun, and not as his church (the good old Roman one) has taught him, that the sun moves around the earth! Enter two of his tutors: John Faustus, M.D., J.D., Ph.D, a Doctor (David Woodland), who is considering marriage to Helen (Lana Kershaw), at last - he is troubled by this inclination; and Rev.Fr. Martin Luther, D.D., a professor and confessor (Nick Curnow) - who is also troubled, and mightily, with his church's selling of indulgences, through the agency of a Dominican huckster, John Tetzel ! These two tutors, beside struggling with their own concerns, begin a verbal battle to secure the loyalty of their pupil, Hamlet. Faustus for his mind, Luther for his soul.

WITTENBURG by David Davalos (2008), then, as you can surmise from the above, is a literary conceit that gleefully mixes fact and fiction to play an intellectual game of havoc around the battle of Reason versus Faith, and of the human/animal dominance of each man's individual selfish obsessions (Helen and the Church). One quickly assumes the remembrance to plays such as Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD  and TRAVESTIES which play similar games with familiar figures of fact and fiction. Indeed, Mr Davalos admits that Shakespeare, Shaw and Stoppard are his idols. For those of us who enjoy such flattering games of broad, literary, intellectual comedy, WITTENBURG at the Old Fitzroy Theatre is a happy night - mostly.

In his program notes, the Director, Richard Hilliard asks:
Do we go for a full period piece? How much should we highlight the historical and literary references ... ? Do we go mainly for the comedy, highlighting the impossibility of these characters interacting in the first place. In the end, I believe the simplest choices are always the best, and so we're simply playing for the truth. The truth of these characters, what they believe, what they desire. ...
The outcome is, then, that Mr Hilliard's production sits in a white, abstract contemporary post-modernist design of quite some attraction and useful flexibility (Benjamin Brockman - he, also, has created the Lighting Design), and costumed his actors in contemporary clothing - not at all distractedly, rather, well conceived, and there are enough other anachronisms to justify the choice - and has guided his principal cast to give a well grasped and lucid clarity to the arguments, earnestnesses and jokes of the text. However, he seems to have settled for his actors to be mostly 'talking heads', rather, than what he suggests in the above note: "simply playing for truth" - creating 'truthful' characters of real flesh and blood (it is, of course, the real difficulty for directors and actors, with most of Shaw and the early Stoppard plays as well, to find real flesh and blood gambolling in the witty agendas of these writers. Alas, so it seems, in this instance, with Mr Davalos' work in this production by Mr Hilliard.

Mr Woodland is best in striving for a balance of 'brain and heart' in his crafting, although he could pay a little more attention to the detail of his diction: "would chu" for "would you", and very few "- ing's" at the end of those words that had them! - niggling of me, I know, but it did become a focus of some of my concentration, a distraction - and his three musical numbers seem more Mr Woodland showing-off his ukulele skills than John Faustus entertaining in the local pub in a context of the world of the play. Mr Curnow and Butt falter at experiential  revelations of truth in many of their crucial moments, and palpably 'act' (fake) their opportunities, and push us, the audience, into objective positions of detached acting 'judgements', forcing us outside the necessary theatrical suspension of disbelief. Whilst Ms Kershaw, on the other hand, wants to make an emotional meal in indulged self-affection in most of her work, especially that of Helen and Mary, ignoring the intellectual tempo of delivery required by the writer, to succeed.

So, the play's the thing.

WITTENBURG is good fun. If you are up for a flattering mind game to connecting your own literary knowledge to the cleverness of Mr Davalos, a la Stoppard, this is a good-old-romp to indulge in. I did enjoy myself, especially, in the first half, but, gradually, tired of its breezy jokiness in the second half, because I had not been engaged by any real, subjective, identification with the characters to sustain my interest. Too much talking-headery going on. (A fault of the direction, not the writing.)

Mr Davalos' other two plays: DARKFALL (2001) uses Milton's PARADISE LOST and the Bible to spring his creativity; while DAEDALUS (2002) is a fantasia concerning Leonardo da Vinci, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia and Niccolo Machiavelli, other, it seems, collages of characters, time and ideas. David Davalos is worth keeping track of, I reckon.

 Howard Shapiro of the Philadelphia Inquirer quipped, of WITTENBURG: "Finally - a decent Presbyterian Reform Comedy."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Circus Oz - Cranked Up

CIRCUS OZ in the Big Top at Darling Harbour.

CIRCUS OZ is 35 years old and now in a glorious air conditioned Big Top, they present a new show called CRANKED UP (it is version 2.0 of FROM THE GROUND, which premiered in Melbourne in June, 2012), set on a building site, where they have, so the program notes tell us, "knocked together a series of circus acts around the ideas of construction, building and fabrication", to provide all the necessary opportunities to display the virtuosic skills of this 13 strong company. Add musicians.

They do it all, and it is the 'company ensemble' blending of skills that impresses. Especially, someone like myself who has never seen the company before.
"In a time of the cult of the individual celebrity, it's perhaps this commitment to what a creative, irreverent group of people can achieve together that is one of Circus Oz's enduringly radical and endearing qualities."(1)
Certainly, the warmth that the audience, on opening night, gave to the performers and the performance is some measure of the place that this company has developed, for some, over its history.
"Circus Oz believes in diversity, social justice and a good time for all."(1)
This company has two indigenous performers, Dale Woodbridge and Mark Sheppard, delighting the audience, (that is diversity, I guess. The company has made efforts to reach into the Indigenous communities, whilst on tour and now, says the program notes, has a dedicated Koori Programs Manager - that is, certainly an important cultural commitment and, by-the way, good governmental politics!). There are several, passing, 'political' asides made, during the show, concerning social justice (asylum refugees and gay marriage rights, for example), and lots and lots of good times, signalled by the laughter and, sometimes, a sense of awe, at the thrill of some of the acts.

There is a feel of community inclusiveness about this circus, a feel-good 'family' vibe. I felt that if Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were still making those MGM films known as the "backyard musicals" - you remember the ones, where Judy and Mickey would convert the local barn or garage or whatever, and 'put on a show' with the local talent that would knock Broadway-for-a-six - and Circus Oz could get their attention, they might be onto something very promising indeed. "If not MGM, or Disney, then how about ... let us see ... I know, Bazmark! Keep it in the Aussie family.  'Hey, Baz, here is your next musical!' "

Circus Oz has that feel about it: "Anybody can do this" and excites, the kids, perhaps, that they could do it, too. On the night I saw CRANKED UP, this company dropped enough of their tools and skills to make some of us feel that we could, indeed, do it. The 'near enough is pretty good enough' quality of performance standard was what one took away from this show, overwhelming the positive impression that the few agile (or competent) acts and performers had given us. There was no embarrassment about the 'drop' or 'fudge' from this company (the orchestra's improvisational ability, led by Bec Matthews, is very watchful, and a great support in covering this dimension of the show), and so, erudition was surpassed by home spun charm - an Aussie larrikinism was substituted for dependable (let alone once-in-a-lifetime) skills. I did have remembrances, unfortunately, of the Canadian Cirque Du Soleil skills plaguing my experience in this Bog Top at Darling Harbour, and certainly thought, "You know, I want more AMAZING SKILLS on display here." Maybe, this was just a night of unusual performance aberrations.

I loved and was amazed at Mason West's balancing act. I loved the musical 'wrecking ball' from Bec Matthews. I admired the trapeze stuff (but, then, one always does love the thrill of it, even the patently obvious 'failures' that necessitate the repeat of a 'trick' - my childhood memories of Ashton Circus and their trapeze, tented up in the local park, are treasured still.) I laughed at the easeful comedy of Dale Woodbridge and all his other contributions.

Truth to tell, I had a 'relaxed and comfortable' time - but, hardly what I would call, what Circus Oz promises, a 'radical' night out. It is a good 'family', inclusive middle-of-the-road circus show with just enough going-on to please the good old Australian larrikins who once would have liked to have run away with the circus. For, it looks as if anybody can do the tricks for Circus Oz, if they have enough chutzpah, and don't have to worry about the old axiom that 'practice makes perfect'.

N.B. 1. The program notes to Circus Oz -  CRANKED UP.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Looking back on 2013

2013 was a very satisfying year in the theatre.

The overall impression was the high quality of Acting that we, generally, saw, and that the Independent Theatre scene provided a lot of it. It was often the strength of the ensemble of a production that was striking, not, necessarily, a single outstanding performance or duo. This was usually supported by all the elements of the design crafts as well.
The major disappointment was the lack of new arresting Australian writing for the theatre.

Where to begin?


  1. I was wonderfully moved by SMALL AND TIRED by Kit Brookman at Downstairs Belvoir - in fact, exuberantly distressed by it, for all the right reasons.
  2. THE WESTLANDS by Dale Turner, presented by Weatherboard Theatre Company and True West at the Riverside Theatres in Paramatta. It truly spoke to me in a contemporary Australian voice, in a way that I have not heard for a long time. I wept with recognition of the world, of the characters and of a way of writing that I hadn't realised, up till then, I wasn't hearing anymore.I was proud to be an Australian - peculiar, huh? The play needs 'work', for sure, but the production and vision of Michael Piggott (see also THE TWELFTH DAWN) and his company of actors had me tearfully grateful. Excited.
  3. THE SECRET RIVER by Kate Grenville. Adapted by Andrew Bovell (I love the appellation of the writing credits). The play, when working closely to the material of the source novel was best. Emotionally powerful. The addition of the indigenous narrator was, for me, uncomfortably inauthentic - it undermined the whole (Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Festival and Allens).
  4. SONGS FOR THE FALLEN by Sheridan Harbridge, a musical-cabaret hybrid, an exploration of the life of the Parisian Courtesan, Marie DuPlessis in the Reginald, at the Seymour Centre. An impressive work with a great central performance by the writer.
  5. ONE SCIENTIFIC MYSTERY OR WHY DID THE ABORIGINES EAT CAPTAIN COOK? by Victoria Haralabidou. Presented at the Tap Gallery for VHS Productions, directed by Ian Sinclair with wonderful performances by the author, Ms Haralabidou, and Aaron Jeffreys. Silences were valued by the writer and the company - wonderful
  6. LITTLE MERCY by Sisters Grimm - Ash Flanders and Declan Greene. Just flat out camp-audacity with quality artistic support from the Sydney Theatre Company artisans. A romp.
  7. THIS IS WHERE YOU LIVE by Vivienne Walshe was a Griffin Independent with Just Visiting. None of the other new work at Griffin struck a chord with me at all. Simple, honest, coming of age journey. Yalin Ozucelik and Ava Torch  (aka Amie McKenna)  gave beautiful performances, directed by Francesca Smith.
  8. FORGET ME NOT by Tom Holloway at the Belvoir St Upstairs; 
  9. LENNY BRUCE: 13 DAZE UN-DUG IN SYDNEY 1962 by Benito Di Fonzo, for Rock Surfers at Bondi Pavilion; 
  10. CUT SNAKE by Amelia Evans, Dan Giovannoni and Paige Rattray for Rock Surfers at Bondi Pavilion; 
  11. ATOMIC, a New musical Book and Lyrics by Danny Ginges and Gregory Bonsigore, Music and Lyrics by Philip Foxman in the Parade Playhouse. A development project of some sophistication. Stuff to do but extremely promising. 
  12. I'M YOUR MAN by Roslyn Oades - fascinating technique for verbatim theatre.
I admired and applauded the Rock Surfers and all who sailed with them for the support they gave to Toby Schmitz's audacious, EMPIRE: TERROR: ON THE HIGH SEAS - a failure but a GLORIOUS one. Bravo.

I was made angry by STORM BOY adapted by Tom Holloway at the Sydney Theatre Company; and absolutely appalled by BEACHED by Melissa Bubnic at the Griffin.


Let's start with the Independent Theatres first. They have had an excellent year.

  1. THE MOTHERF**CKER WITH THE HAT by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Presented by Workhorse Theatre Company at the Tap Gallery. Directed by Adam Cook the ensemble of actors were terrific: Troy Harrison, John Atkinson, Zoe Trilsbach, Nigel Turner-Carroll and Megan O'Connell. A verbal and emotional knock out.
  2. PENELOPE by Enda Walsh. Presented by Siren Theatre Company at the Tap Gallery. Directed by Kate Gaul working with a top notch set of actors: Arky Michael, Tom Campbell, Philip Dodd, Nicholas Hope and Branden Christine. Verbal feast and comic desperation.
  3. THE DREAMER EXAMINES HIS PILLOW by John Patrick Shanley. Unpathed Theatre Company at the Tap Gallery. Directed by a new comer Vashti Pontaks with Ainslie Clouston, Scott Lee and Peter McAllum. I had to seriously address my prejudice about the quality of Mr Shanley's oeuvre. Took me some place special!
  4. THE REMOVALISTS by David Williamson. A revival of this Australian classic that presented it in an entirely arresting way. The play was re-discovered. Led by Leland Kean with a great cast: Sam O'Sullivan, Laurence Coy, Sophie Hensser, Caroline Brazier and Justin Stewart Cotta for the Rock Surfers at Bondi Pavilion. "Kick-ass" integrity.
  5. TORCH SONG TRILOGY by Harvey Fierstein at the Darlinghurst Theatre, directed by Stephen Colyer. The three and a bit hours passed absorbingly.
  6. CARRIE THE MUSICAL, Music Micahel Gore. Lyrics, Dean Pitchford. Book, Laurence D. Cohen. A surprise production of real conviction by Squabbologic directed by Jay James-Moody in the Reginald, at the Seymour Centre. 
  7. TOP GIRLS by Caryl Churchill at the New Theatre. Directed wonderfully (except for that awful set) by Alice Livingstone. What a great play! 
  8. A BUTCHER OF DISTINCTION by Rob Hayes at Old 505, Surry Hills. Directed by James Dalton. A curiously kinky play.
  9. DIRTY BLONDE by Claudia Shear and James Lapine, directed by Stuart Maunder at the Darlinghurst Theatre. Tracing the career of Mae West was surprisingly winning.
  10. ALL MY SONS by Arthur Miller at the new Eternity Theatre, directed by Iain Sinclair. A great writer respected by all working for him.
N.B Tap Gallery and the number top experiences - punching way above its weight.
        Welcome to the ETERNITY THEATRE - an exciting new space.

Mainstream Companies:

  1. THE MAIDS by Jean Genet, in a new English translation by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. A play that I used to "hate", directed by Benedict Andrews with three extraordinary performances, Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debicki. Great theatre, my favourite experience in Sydney this year. Sydney Theatre Company.
  2. ANGELS IN AMERICA by Tony Kushner. This epic play carefully and faithfully directed by Eamon Flack with an extraordinary ensemble:Marcus Graham, Paula Arundell, Robyn Nevin, Amber McMahon, Deobia Oparei, Luke Mullins, Ashley Zuckerman and Mitchell Butel shook the world about me.It was the length of the 'double-banger' structure that seduced me with this unflagging company of actors. Belvoir St Theatre.
  3. MACHINAL by Sophie Treadwell. Directed by Imara Savage in the Wharf 2 Theatre, the ensemble of artists: Robert Alexander, Matthew Backer, Brandon Burke, Ivan Donato, Harriet Dyer, Katie McDonald, Terry Serio and Wendy Strehlow with Design by David Fleischer, Verity Hampson and Steve Francis:  a small masterpiece appeared - almost.
  4. ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD by Tom Stoppard, Directed by Simon Philips with a stellar cast, including Toby Schmitz, Tim Minchin and Ewen Leslie, this old warhorse of a play took off - Sydney Theatre Company; and WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett played by Philip Quast, Luke Mullins, Hugo Weaving and a glorious, Richard Roxburg, similarly, a great old warhorse of a play, that had its moments (neither of these plays (not the productions ) are in my top list), directed by Andrew Upton - Sydney Theatre Company.
  5. HAMLET by William Shakespeare survived a 'treatment', given by Simon Stone, with a great ensemble cast: Emily Barclay, Thomas Campbell, John Gaden, Nathan Lovejoy, Robyn Nevin, Anthony Phelan, Toby Schmitz, Greg Stone - Belvoir St Theatre, (certainly streets ahead of the disaster of the year, for me, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, also directed by Simon Stone).
  6. DRIVING MISS DAISY by Alfred Uhry at the Theatre Royal with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines. Directed by David Esbjornson with an immaculate set design by John Lee Beatty this was a showcase of quality acting from some masters of the craft. Spell binding.

Performances to relish:

DESIGN I noticed:


OTHER PERFORMANCES that I am glad to have experienced:
  • THE RISE AND FALL OF MAHAGONNY by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht at the Komische Opera, Berlin. - an education.
  • THE FORTY PART MOTET a reworking of Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis by Janet Cardiff and George Bure. A sound installation on tour in Bruges, Belgium, in an old converted Hospital for the Poor. I was moved to tears. (shown in Melbourne some years ago).
  • IN THE REPUBLIC OF HAPPINESS by Martin Crimp at the Royal Court, Londion - a disturbingly relevant play.
  • TWELFE NIGHT and THE TRAGEDIE OF RICHARD THE THIRD: Globe Theatre at the Apollo Theatre, London. A Quintessence. (Both).
  • THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble in the Cottesloe at the National Theatre, London. Outstanding performance by Anastasia Hille. Terrific writing and performances.
  • Paris Opera Ballet; GISELLE. Unearthly.
  • BIRDS WITH SKYMIRRORS: Leni Ponifasio - MAU at Carriageworks. Breath taking.
  • G from the Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) by Garry Stewart at Sydney Theatre. Staggering.
  • NEDERLANDS DANCE COMPANY at the Sydney Opera House this June. Amazing. Smart. Moving.
  • EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH - Philip Glass and Robert Wilson at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Fun seeing a Masterpiece of what was once the Avant Garde and now is, Museum. Theatre - the media developments have surpassed what was once achieved - let's see a new Directorial vision dealing with the material. Philip Glass is the great thing. One that had to be seen.
  • THE GLASS MENAGERIE with Cherry jones and Zachary Quinto in the Booth Theatre in New York. A Shining Gem of a production - how to renovate a play with all the respect in the world for the writer and the text.
  • ANNA NICOLE - an opera. Music by Mark-Anthony Turnage with Lyrics by Richard Thomas at BAM. Astounding and moving. It happened to be the last performance of the New York City Opera, as well- tragic to witness that end! on such a high.
  • THE NOSE by Shostakovitch at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center. William Kentridge director and designer - a genius (?)
  • LIFE AND TIMES: EPISODES 1-4, presented by Nature Theatre of Oklahoma at the Melbourne Festival - a 10 hour marathon, of quirky 'stuff' with the promise of another 6 episodes to come! I love a marathon.
  • Anything and eveything presented by the AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (ACO).

Ta, da.

2014 begins.

Thanks for reading.