Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sydney Comedy Festival Gala

Sydney Comedy Festival, presents the SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA, in the Concert Hall, at the Sydney Opera House. 23rd April.

Oh, whoo!

Taken to the Opera House by a friend to attend a night of stand-up comedy.

The Sydney Comedy month long Festival has begun. This GALA hosted by American/Irish comedian, Des Bishop, introduced us to another 15 comedians who delivered 5 minutes or so, of their material. It was like being served a degustation of laughs in a swanky restaurant.

The Hall was packed. It was a very interesting crowd. Lots and lots of young people and some elderlies. Some in Hetero couples, cuddling up to each other between 'courses'. Some in Homo couples, in this modern age, cuddling up to each other, between 'courses'. AND, some bromance couples, straight from work, coatless, tieless, nearly cuddling up to each other during the 'courses', though more often sipping their drinks in the Hall.

There were lots of "Fuck, this. Fuck that', pre-occupied sex jokes as well as some clever sophisticated cultural observances amid the cheesy "I love youse all'. "Sydney is just great"."What about Melbourne?" "Oh, what about Bondi?!!!!''

I will give you now my personal rating of which of these comedians I might book in their Festival venues to get a full Main Course meal of their material:

  1. Ian Bagg from Canada: UPSIDE DOWN. - Hilarious. Command of the audience and ad-lib material from go-to-woe. Terrific.
  2. Lawrence Mooney from Australia: AN EVENING WITH MALCOLM. Political satire of some meaningfulness. Keen.
  3. Fiona O'Loughlin from Australia: GAP YEAR. County Women's Association with knife edge observation. Dry.
  4. Larry Dean from Scotland: FANDAN. Sexy, cute and gay-friendly funny! - maybe biased.
  5. Rhys Nicholson from Australia: SEMINAL. The delivery is as if he is on speed (?) Crisply cruel, yet, still funny.
  6. Guy Montgomery from New Zealand: GUY MONTGOMERY DOESN'T CHECK HIS PHONE FOR AN HOUR. Laid back and gentle stealth in his routine - classic NZ humour.
  7. Keith Franklin's CHOPPER, from Australia: BOGAN JESUS. Well, Chopper is an easy persona, really to gather laughs from. Predictably funny.
  8. Urzila Carlson from RSA and New Zealand: STUDIES HAVE SHOWN. Ok to good, just a little soft in her observations. 
  9. Andrew Maxwell from Ireland: SHOWTIME. First half of the gig was just okay but second half was spot on target - funny.
  10. Jamali Maddix from United Kingdom: LIVE. A trifle cliche but still humorous. Terrorist beard humour.
  11. Becky Lucas from Australia: CUTE FUNNY SMART SEXY BEAUTIFUL. Material just a trifle cliche, so, a bit boring - still one laughed. Tired single girl sex woes.
  12. Jason Bryne from Ireland: THE MAN WITH THREE BRAINS. One can really tire of dumb, cliche sex comedy routines - felt very 'old school'.  Air Vent SEx. Vacuum Cleaner sex!!! Huh?!
  13. Paul Chowdry from United Kingdom: LIVE INNIT. On this night, the material did not appear very comfortable - he looked relieved to get off. Looked smart but backed away from the audience.
  14. Harley Breen from Australia: FLAT OUT DOING NOTHING. Drop kick material - not really funny - duh! Why would you think that material was still appropriate in this day-and-age. My kid the football!! Does he have anything else?
  15. Dane Baptiste from United Kingdom: G.O.D. (GOLD. OIL. DRUGS) Well, some really inappropriate material, enough to wonder if he has been asleep during the last year. Hmmmm? Hmmmm? !!!!

The Host, Des Bishop likes the word 'fuck' and can dwell on his sexual American/Irish 'straightness' a lot (doth he protest too much, is what bubbled to my consciousness) - he is lucky that he has those looks, especially, the 'Baz Luhrmann' coiffed grey hair. Maybe rank him between Becky and Jason. We did get more than a degustation serving of him, of course.

My friend, may have had a completely different order/list. AND, I'm sure you will have your own favourites.

Fun to be at. At 5 minutes a pop - a go-go - you were either glad that there was no more and  that they were making towards the exit, or you were left wanting more.

A slick night in the theatre. Production values, simple but A1.

The Effect

Photo by John Marmaras

Red Line presents, THE EFFECT, by Lucy Prebble, at the Old Fitz Theatre, Cathedral St, Woolloomooloo. 18th April - 19th May.

THE EFFECT is a British play by Lucy Prebble, first seen at the National Theatre in London in 2012. The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) presented it in July, 2014. Andrew Henry (VERTICAL DREAMING) has Directed it for the Old Fitz season for Red Line.

THE EFFECT, received much praise, from the British Critics, at the National Theatre and had an highly appreciated outing in New York. It won The Circle Critics' Award for Best New Play. I saw the original production (check my blog reviews) Directed by Rupert Goold, starring the amazing Billie Piper, as Connie and Jonjo O'Neill, as Tristan. Tom Goodman-Hill, as Dr Toby Sealey and Anastasia Hille as, Dr Lorna James.

THE EFFECT takes us into the world of neurology - the mysteries of of the human brain, psychopharmacology and its applied ethics - depression, love and guilt. Medicine and the mind. The Personal and the Political. It is a play of ideas. The giddy exhaltations of love and the bleak wasteland of depression, the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry in its pursuit of medical progress in the workings of the brain and the necessity to make good profit/business, and, perhaps 'medical celebrity'. As in her play ENRON, Ms Prebble dares to bring to the theatre challenges for the brain and to the heart. It is intellectually provoking and also romantically perplexing. There are more questions, perhaps, than answers, but it can be a very stirring night of adult 'entertainment'. In the time that has passed since the original production medical science in its discussions around the research into the complications of the brain, and of depression as illness, may have advanced to make some of this play superseded in its practice, but has not blunted the fascination or erudition of its core issues.

Connie (Emilie Cocquerel) and Tristan (Firass Dirani) are volunteers (and are being paid) for a month long drug trial in a pharmaceutical laboratory for a large company, experimenting with an anti-depressant, under the planning of Dr Sealey ( Johnny Nasser) and the administration of Dr James (Emma Jackson). The two young volunteers gradually 'fall in love' and we are not sure whether it is a dopamine provocation from natural consequence or that of the drug. (Is one of them on a placebo?) The dilemma of the young volunteers is mirrored by the gradually revealed historical personal stance between the two Doctors.

This production of the play by Andrew Henry is more interested in stylistic packaging and frenzied acting experimentation and movement, that results in a mostly superficial presentation of the emotional complications and intellectual rewards of the play. The star of this production is its visual aesthetic - the white tiled, in the round, Set Design by Brodie Simpson, and, especially, the panache and 'sexy' neon/strobe Lighting Design, that is becoming a signature of the work of Alexander Berlage.

The signal that there might be something out-of-balance with this production of this interesting play hits one as we enter the theatre by a noisy (over loud) live musical overture (composed and performed, by Benjamin Freeman). It is disconcertingly assaulting and uncomfortable. This might be an Artaudian conceit from the Director but it is not justified by what follows once the lights are crashed down/shut with the slamming of the theatre's entrance door.

What follows is an acting presentation - style - that has attention paid to the superficialities of delivery (Movement Director, Shondelle Pratt) and speed of vocal effort, that is hardly attached to any focused necessity to present the clarities of the premise and arguments of the play, or, of truly investigated behaviours of human beings caught in the collateral damage of chemicals (artificial or natural) on the human brain. These actors gave performances of unengaged automatons - representations, puppets. Stylistic 'form' overriding experienced truths and enlightened argument. It became very exhausting to endure, ultimately disappointing.

Comparisons can be odious, but the National Theatre production of THE EFFECT left one subjectively devastated, all the characters revealed tragic consequences in the arc of the story - Anastasia Hille as Dr James, especially - and yet we were objectively, intellectually, stimulated. So stimulated that one needed to buy the play as quickly as possible to absorb all that Lucy Prebble had written. Devastated enough to seek a quick 'drink' to permit discussion and appreciation. THE EFFECT is quality playwriting that is not served adequately by this production.

The Sydney Theatre Company/Queensland Theatre Company production did not serve the play well either. Sydney audiences have lost out. It is difficult for me to recommend this production at the Old Fitz. I can recommend, in compensation, that you read THE EFFECT.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blueberry Play

Griffin Theatre as part of the Batch Festival, presents BLUEBERRY PLAY, by Ang Collins, in the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. 18 -21 April.

BLUEBERRY PLAY, by Ang Collins, is a one-act monologue, shortlisted for the 2017 Griffin Award.

The monologue explores the highs and lows of being a teenage girl in a small town with two important men in her life. Her dad, Jim, is leaving her life - her family's life - he is dying of cancer, in a very public and challenging way. Jono, a prospective boyfriend, just turning 18, is entering her life - she has dressed in a home made costume as a blueberry because the theme of his birthday party is 'childhood memories' and she wants to look like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka ... but sluttier.

Directed by Sheridan Harbridge (did we need the video stuff?), Contessa Treffone has the task/responsibility of a near sixty minute story to tell us, covering the well worn territory of a teenager in angst - nothing new to surprise or capture one, really. The writing, though more short story than play, has a sophisticated vocabulary and provides much emotional melodrama opportunity for demonstrations of abreaction for the actor.

Ms Treffone, on the night I attended, erred in the excessive use of volume as her main technical vocal choice causing one to pull back in one's seat, having to 'weather' being shouted at (playing with tonal range might help the variety of attack) and, as well, there was some dozen or so concentration lapses of misremembered lines covered with self-correction that, ultimately, provoked one to consider just how much was the actor 'in the moment ' or,  instead, in a mode of remote control - as they say "phoning it in!" Hard to stay involved and to suspend disbelief when the acting is so unfocused.

BLUEBERRY PLAY, in this monologue form, is an interesting 'pitch' for the development of a play yet to come, from a promising writer.

N.B. What was exciting was to sit in a theatre with such an enthusiastic young audience. They loved it. At only sixty minutes and $30, it was a bit of an affordable bargain, I guess, and with refreshment with handcrafted beers in the foyer afterwards, the beginning of a good night out, perhaps? Need to encourage more of that.

The Children

Photo by Jeff Busby

Sydney Theatre Company, in association with the Melbourne Theatre Company, presents, THE CHILDREN, by Lucy Kirkwood, in the Drama Theatre, at the Sydney Opera House. 29th March - 19th May.

THE CHILDREN, by Lucy Kirkwood, was first presented at the Royal Court Theatre in late 2016. The Sydney Theatre (STC) Company presented her CHIMERICA last year.

On a part of a crumbling coastline in the United Kingdom there has been an earthquake followed by a tsunami, that flooded a nuclear power plant, causing a disaster that is at present still, long after, being dealt with. Two retired, married, ex-nuclear scientists, Hazel (Pamela Rabe) and Robin (William Zappa), live just outside the exclusion zone in an old sea-side cottage, coping with, among other things, unreliable electrical supply, purity of water and a vegetarian diet. Hazel has enough to occupy herself - yoga and yoghurt and her distant children's families, via telephone - while Robin cares for the cows and a craving for tobacco. A geiger counter for detecting radiation infiltration - danger - is ever present. They are visited by a fellow scientist, Rose (Sarah Peirse), a surprise re-union, for Rose has been living in the United States and there has not been any communication, connection, for years and years.

There was, once, a close personal (and professional) connection and in a naturalistic, almost banal set of conversations and activities - the preparation of tea, a salad lunch (with lots of props: eggs, lettuce and bread, providing opportunities for what actors call 'secondary activities', to which Ms Rabe, with great alacrity, takes distracting advantage of utilising), sharing some homemade parsnip wine, conversation about breasts, and the cleaning up of a shit overflow from the inside toilet - a personal tension between the trio seeps into the atmosphere of this encounter revealing, gradually - oh, so gradually - their complicated past relationships and the wear and tear of what it is to grow old - the fragility of their physical body/selves - in the volatile world of their own making. It seems that we are in a tangled web of memories of hurts, a Pinteresque landscape of old times, good times, sexual rivalry times, to be celebrated, finally, in a dance to the behest of old musical delights.

Then, we are ushered from this little picture of personal drama to the bigger picture of the need for sacrifice and altruism on a global/planetary scale, with a challenge to take on the responsibility for what has been wrought by the human in pursuit of control of energy/environment. Framed by a 'domestic' re-union, the play expands to a greater philosophical field, when Rose tells of her real reason for her return to this cottage and these friends, in the shadow and waft of the nuclear plant that they helped build.

Suddenly, in recall and reflection of the writing we have been witness too, the what we thought were ordinary conversations and activities, we, imaginatively, can expand into a metaphorical (universal) resonance. The image of the egg and its repetition is not just about the literal egg, the breasts of the women and the cows (the milk of life), the plumbing and its shitty spill across the room (sitting in our own shit, perhaps?), the initial nose bleed has become a precursor, a demonstration  of other bloodier, brooding consequences.

Ms Kirkwood's chamber play has thoughtful accumulative power that comes out of ordinariness and, subsequently resounds a sad predictive consequence of a devastating kind. Director, Sarah Goodes, has the delicate measure of the production's stylistic needs and, as in her production of Joanna's Murray'-Smith's SWITZERLAND, a few years ago, 'drip-feeds' the clues of Ms Kirkwood's dramaturgical construct with subtlety of Design: Set and Costume, Elizabeth Gadsby, Lighting, by Paul Jackson, and especially, Sound, by Steve Francis.

Sarah Peirse, as Rose, gives a performance of complicated subtleties with an assuredness of absolute considered control of apt communication whilst being deeply immersed in the possession she has allowed, to bring Rose, as written by Ms Kirkwood, alive for us. This performance is the rock on which this production stands.

William Zappa, as Robin, plays sincerely, honestly, simply, his man, caught within the usual foibles of his gender (a man of his times) and the integrity of a man of science returning, slowly, to the knowledge of his philosophic responsibilities - a part of himself that he hasn't had to exercise for some time. The sense of the decay, the inevitable mortality of our biological  carapace is met by Robin with courage and practical application for better things.

The last of this trio, Pamela Rabe, has the intelligence and insight of the 'function' and dramaturgical responsibilities of Hazel, but, as usual (GHOSTS), employs her theatrical gifts to 'demonstrate' character and characteristics that draws attention, rather, to the actor's contrived humorous gestures that are comic flourishes, undoubted 'crowd-pleasers', but not completely true to the behaviour or sophistication of Hazel or the style of the play. Ms Rabe keeps pulling attention, in very subtle ways, to her skills as a comic actor, and in doing so disrupts the hard won subtleties of the writer and the truthfulness of the other performances. Her offers grow to become a theatrical distraction, even disruption (to use a contemporary Trumpian analogy), instead of a seamless contribution to the fabric of the play and its needs.

THE CHILDREN, is a very good play, and nearly a terrific production.

N.B. I took an American guest: $105 dollars a ticket including the usual fee demanded by the Opera House: $210!!!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Get Her Outta Here

Photo by Phil Erbacher

Isabella Broccolini presents, GET HER OUTTA HERE, by Isabella Broccolini (Tannock), at 107 Redfern Street, Redfern. 19-21 April.

GET HER OUTTA HERE, is a Performance Piece by Isabella Broccolini.
Red Lady has fallen from planet earth, a planet that no longer exists. With no knowledge of how she got there or what happened at the end, completely alone, Red Lady has landed in the room of red; a small hexagonal box floating in out of space. Faced with the realisation that she has left everyone and everything, Red Lady is forced to discover a whole new world and way of survival.
In a whole bunch of theatrical darings, Isabella Broccolini, offers a series of 'darkly raw comedic narrative ... Described as 'Frantic Radness", I write, perform and physicalize the struggles of Red Lady; a symbol and exploration of the female identity."

We find on entry to the theatre space, on the stage, a female body 'packed' in a suitcase, its arms and legs hanging out from either end in a density of red light. The show begins, daringly, in a long voice-over: a long telephonic sexual interaction that moves from text verbalisations, to iPhone to iphone conversation, to iphone speaker to iPhone speaker communication, where the male, and especially female participant have an excruciatingly extensive self-masturbation, the male comes relatively quickly, the female takes her time to a satisfying orgasm, which she does with a graphic and extensive vocal expression. This phone sex interaction takes some time.

What follows is an orchestral interlude where the 'prone' body packed still in the suitcase, still, remains inert. Its length is similarly daring in its choice. Ms Broccolini has considered theatrical intentions - the audience are made to endure, to 'dance' to her daring intentions - throwing us into objective investigations/engagement. There follows a sexually risque physical 'ballet/dance' with the suitcase - a comic burlesque!

Short stories of a surreal sexual sensitivity are woven through the work - your next visit to your local IGA may have new vibrations! The Red Lady's stories create a persona astonishing in its frank, matter-of-fact sexual appetite which comes sauced in the politics and extravagances of the hip world of our time - green health drinks, plastics/phobia amongst many others - we laugh in recognition of the environment and incident.

The combination of physical work, especially the expressively spectacular face that has the ability to be extraordinarily handsome/beautiful that shifts to contortions of fascinating grotesquery, with the telling of the self-written stories make for a startlingly interesting feminine/feminist exampling of the complexity of the female subterranean inner monologue of our species, that not all of us have knowledge of. Ms Broccolini demands that attention must be paid to it.

GET HER OUTTA HERE is not a perfect piece of work as yet but it is gob-smackingly thrilling in what it reveals and is breathtakingly admiral in its outrageous courage, bravery.

Ms Broccolini is an alert-ego of actor Isabella Tannock. There are only three performances of this raw (rough) promising work. Only 60 minutes long in a neighbourhood of hip eateries and bars - worth a visit.

Since Ali Died

Griffin Theatre Company presents SINCE ALI DIED, by Omar Musa. 11th - 14th April, presented as partof the Batch Festival, 11th -28 April, in the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.

Of many things, in SINCE ALI DIED, Omar Musa reflects the influence that Muhammad Ali had on him as a child living and growing-up in Queanbeyan, a Muslim/Australian: "a brown skinned child living in a black land",  and of his weeping at Ali's death on the 3rd June, 2016. For, Ali was not only famous for his greatness in the Boxing Ring, or his conversion to the Muslim faith, but also for his political advocacies, especially for the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and further, sometimes evoked in his use of what some labelled 'trash talking', a kind of speak that was free styled with rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry that anticipated what we know as rap and hip hop: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee","Black is Beautiful".

From some of my friends who also saw this work and Omar Musa: ".. powerful, smart and authentic, what a man - ideas about assimilation struck a chord." "We loved it, very moving. Aside from his amazing writing - it was wonderful to have an opportunity to stare unashamedly at such a handsome and charismatic man. We both got a bit teary now and then ... triggered."

From the blurb for the Batch Festival: "... rapper, poet and lyrical powerhouse ... Musa mashes poems, live music and stories together to confront heartbreak, human connection and the dark realities of Australian culture."

Stories of his family and friends intermixed with reactions to the racial politics that he has endured as an Australian/Asian Muslim male living in Australia radiate out with a personal and cultural resonance of such deep honesty and gentle wisdom, having been burnished in the crucible of a sometimes hostile environment, to such a heat degree, for the passion of anger to have been burnt away so as to effect a residue of a communication that evokes an overwhelming empathy and embrace.

All of these stories are written/spoken with such direct simplicity in a tremendous poetic language mastery, delivered with the relaxed physical ownership of a deep association of understanding and love, to create a charisma of such bewildering power, that I found myself weeping for most of the hour of this performance. Deep weeping of recognised truths. Touched by the poetry. Touched by the man's humanity. Touched by the egoless sharing. I was not the only one weeping. At completion there was a spontaneous standing ovation and an audience that was fused together in an admiring devoted and stimulated place in the world. Mr Musa gives you a sense of optimism, hope for the future. I went to the theatre perturbed and misanthropic with world and personal political weights but left that theatre, only an hour later, in an altogether different state of mind.

His poetry has been published and his novel 'HERE COME THE DOGS' are all impressive reads. Keep your antenna out for his next performance dates. Not to be missed whenever he next appears.

N.B. On Thursday I saw Nicholas Hytner's production of JULIUS CAESAR at the National Live Theatre Broadcast from the new theatre in London, The Bridge, and while hearing the Shakespeare text thought: "Wow, someone ought to commission a play of Shakespearian scale from Omar Musa. The poetic echoes of both writers resounded so powerfully."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Time Machine

THE TIME MACHINE, by Frank Gauntlett, based on the novella by H.G. Wells, in the Playhouse, NIDA Theatres, Kensington, 11th April - 2nd May.

As the Time Traveller, Mark Lee, as a soloist, narrates the first adventure into the future, found in the H.G.Wells novella, THE TIME MACHINE. The Time Traveller moves to the year 802,701, where he encounters the surface survivors of the planet, the Eloi, a 'tribe' of innocent child-like vegetarians, and later, the sub-terranean counter-tribe the Morlocks, ape-like predators, who are terrorised by fire and live in darkness and eat the flesh of the Eloi. It seems that the Eloi's were 'farmed' by the Morlocks.

Written in serial form THE TIME MACHINE was first published in book form in 1895. It reflects the Dying Earth genre, as a study of the end of time, the degeneration of the human species. H.G. Wells, has often been signified as the creator of the Science Fiction genre, although the earlier work of French writer, Jules Verne, (e.g. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH - 1864, or TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA - 1871) preceded it significantly in time.

On a Set Design of spare invention, or attractiveness (Derrick Cox), with illustrations, of disparate styles for Back Projections (John Kratovil), accompanied by a pragmatic Sound Design (Michael Waters), it is the inventive shifting Light Design (Martin Kinnane), along with the committed energy and skill of the actor, Mark Lee, that keeps the kinetics of the storytelling, that seemed to be evoked by the playwright, Frank Gauntlett, in stylistic verbal mirroring of the Wellesian Victorian language/argot, moving forward. The language style could be an obstacle for the ease of communications as a contemporary theatrical experience for some, despite the determination and grasp of the dramatics of the text that are embraced by Mr Lee. In fact, the best of this experience, in the Playhouse at NIDA, is the watching of Mr Lee grapple with such textual relish Mr Gauntlett's play, otherwise, it could be a fairly unmoving and dry time spent.

One can only ask why present this THE TIME MACHINE, today? In the Producer's note in the program, Adam Liberman, tells us:
Mark Lee first approached me about producing THE TIME MACHINE, in 2016 after seeing my production of BLONDE POISON, starring Belinda Giblin. He said that he had performed THE TIME MACHINE some time ago, loved it and believed it deserved another go. Saying anything "deserves" something always makes me suspicious, but knowing Mark's pedigree in Australian acting I was quite chuffed by the approach and willing to see where it would lead me. The script would be the key. ...
The script is indeed the key and this script did not seem to unlock much that we didn't know before, either about the H.G. Wells novel, its relevance for our time (which it could have) or Mr Lee's potential as an actor. I reckon that Mr Liberman's suspicion about the "deserving" of reviving this play ought to have been better regarded by him, before embarking. THE TIME MACHINE was Directed by Gareth Boylan.

Josephine Wants to Dance

Monkey Baa Theatre Company present JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE, based on the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whately, adapted for the stage by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry, in the Darling Quarter Theatre, Darling Harbour. April 16th - May 12th.

JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE, is a new Australian playwork for children. Josephine is a kangaroo who wants to do more than hop. She wants to dance. Not just any kind of dance. She wants to be a ballet dancer. It is a story of dreams, of determined aspiration and of believing in yourself and is part of the present atmospheric zeitgeist, of diversity, difference and tolerance, and recognition that talent comes in all shapes and sizes, so why not have a gifted kangaroo play/dance a dying swan?

No matter that her brother in the mob of kangaroos, Joey (Hayden Rogers), warns Josephine (Rebecca Hetherington), that dancing is just not the right thing to aspire to as a kangaroo, overcoming all obstacles, Josephine finds a way. She learns to emulate the 'dancing' of the Brolgas (Chloe Dallimore and Hayden Rogers) and of the Lyre birds (Amanda Laing and Chloe Dallimore), and is in the right place at the right time when a touring ballet company comes to the local country town at the Shaggy Gully Memorial Hall, and finds herself, after an audition, employed to replace the Prima Ballerina and her understudy (Amanda Laing, both), as Odette, the Swan Princess, in Swan Lake, under the desperate need of the Ballet Director, Madame Katerina Baroninski Gavrikova (Chloe Dallimore), and the magic of the Costume Designer, Philippe (Hayden Rogers), despite the alternative offers of the lead Male Dancer, Todd (Hayden Rogers), and the surprise of  Big Annie (Amanda Laing), the local Arts Promotions Officer.

Josephine premieres as Odette on 14th April, 2018 to great triumph. As Madame Gavrikova says: "She may be a kangaroo playing a swan, but that's no different to a human playing a swan! ... She must be seen to be believed."

On receiving the invitation from Monkey Baa Productions to attend the Opening performance of JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE, it was the list of the talent and their collective experience that made one jump at the chance. Should not be missed. What will they concoct?

The Book by successful children writers, Jackie French and Bruce Whately, adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry reads promisingly. We have already seen their wonderful collaboration with DIARY OF A WOMBAT. (It's coming back in July.)

Direction, by Jonathan Biggins. He, of the famous (cheeky) Wharf Revues.

Music and Lyrics, by Phil Scott. Too, of the Wharf Revues. Famous for his music scoring and witty songs. Could the music for JOSEPHINE both, as Sound Track and the Songs be better? be more wonderful? Not likely.

Choreography, by Tim Harbour. The rising choreographic 'star' of the Australian Ballet - this work inventive, clever, fun, cheeky, and of the first order.

Set and Costume Design, by James Brown. Flexible and beautiful touring Set Design and, especially, outstanding Costume Design - those Brolgas and Lyre-bird conceptions!!!! - the look, the aptness, and the ingenious design to facilitate quick changes are simply mind-boggling, the dress 'engineering' a wonder!

The famous talent of Chloe Dallimore (she of the legs that seem to go forever) being wicked in almost every incarnation - just wait till you see her double act with fellow Lyre Bird, Amanda Laing, or, as a faux Russian accented Ballet Director.

Amanda Laing and Hayden Rogers excelling in every task, character, song and dance - they have many responsibilities - wit, panache galore.

And last, but, by no way least, Rebecca Hetherington, as an utterly delightful and convincing kangaroo that can sing, talk and dance ballet - a wonderful piece of work - she will win the heart of every member of the audience.

This concoction of JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE, which I 'slavered' in anticipation of, does not disappoint. It is a very special and hilarious time in the theatre. The sum of all the talents/parts make a do not miss experience.

Built, supposedly, for very young children this show is a reward for ALL theatre goers.

In the foyer, afterwards, scoffing the fairy bread - traditional white bread near Tip Top quality, creamy butter and loads of 'hundreds and thousands'. Devouring delicious Chocolate Crackles with a thick base of congealed chocolate mixture on the bottom in the paper containers, and marshmallows, three on a stick with the top one dipped in chocolate (!), totally ignoring the fruit on sticks - totally - and gulping three full paper cups of sparkling, 'the real thing' Coca-Cola, I declared that Monkey Baa had a hit.

Monkey Baa could tour JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE for ever.
The Australian Ballet, and I saw David McAllister there, could buy it and tour it for ever, as well.
And I reckon, every 'gay performance venue and event could buy it and tour it for ever.
Three 'lush' market places and audiences for this work, I have no doubt.

AND, it was not just the sugar rush that made me say that, by the way - I really meant it! Mean it, still.

If you have children to take, then, take them.
If you don't, still go. Don't be shy.
Just, go, go, go.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Flick

Photo by Marnya Rothe

Outhouse Theatre Company and Seymour Centre present, THE FLICK, by Annie Baker, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre, City Rd. Chippendale. 5th - 21st April.

THE FLICK, by Annie Baker, is a multi-award winning American play. It won the Pulitzer Prize for 2014. It is also a play that has divided the audience's response between relish and rejection.

The Flick is a run-down cinema that screens re-runs/revivals in Worcester, Massachusetts. It is practically the only cinema that projects film rather than digital in Massachusetts state. We meet its staff of three, over a summer cycle (three months, or so, I think), in their raspberry coloured collared short sleeved t-shirts: Sam (Jeremy Waters), a 35 year-old, who has held down this job of Cleaning, Box-office and Refreshment duties for some time, and his long time assistant, Rose (Mia Lethbridge), who also has the added principal duty as the Projectionist. Rose doesn't clean. Sam longs to become the 'alternate' projectionist. Rose might be in her late twenties/thirties. Lastly, there is the new-comer, Avery (Justin Amankwah), a 20 year-old, black, be-spectacled, College student, on summer break. He feels he is a 'loner'/outsider, but is, as well an avid cinephile with an encyclopaedic knowledge and utter dedication to the magic of film (as opposed to the digital form) - all three have this 'disease'. Their cinematic 'mania' must be some compensation to work at The Flick, as they earn only $7.75 an hour.

The audience sit facing the run-down auditorium (Set and Costume Design by Hugh O'Connor) from the point-of-view of the screen. Each of the many scenes, mostly, take place between the session screenings, and we watch Sam and Avery clean - sweep and mop - the detritus left by the customers, and Rose prepare, upstairs, in the isolated projection booth, the equipment for the next screening. The break is usually twenty minutes or so and sometimes Rose joins them. In combinations of two or three, the scenes mostly are conversations about cinema, their job, with only a gradual information drip-feed about the family, social circumstances of each. Nothing happens much, except the action of cleaning. The conversations appear to be idle chatter - to pass the time - full of pause and silences, and it is only as we 'travel' through the long duration of the play that we gradually realise that we have been seduced into an intimacy of knowledge that engenders identification and compassion for these three, and that a whole Star Wars universe of change has, subliminally, taken place.

You must be warned, and this is where the division of audience response to this play occurs - Relish or Reject - that it is not a play for those with an attention deficit disability. It is for the contemplative and emotionally generous, it is for those who have an inclination to want to stop the world and its modern frenzy and get off, it is for those who have a comfort in zen-like gaze - an Eastern philosophic bent for wanting to watch rocks grow in your garden - to slow your heart, to slow your breath so that you can see - really see, and experience - really experience, other lives through your own. If your positive response to play-going experiencing is limited to the violent verbal and physical athleticism of say, David Mamet (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS - 1992) or, Sam Shepard (FOOL FOR LOVE - 1982), this work (and the other work of Annie Baker, in general) will be a challenge, as Anton Chekhov's work can be when it is properly produced with the careful intention of the writer at the front and centre of the artistic endeavour (and that doesn't happen often enough!)

Annie Baker with her sensitive observations of the daily interaction between people uses 'pause' and 'silence' as effectively as any spoken text, and it is there, then, in the respectful acknowledgement of that author's instruction/syntactical guide by the creative team, that this work will come to life - for, it is then that you the audience will have to actively engage and endow, solve what might be really going on, though unsaid. It is then when you, the audience, get to act, to have to contribute to the dilemmas, to imagine, to unconsciously utilise your life's secrets to make sense of what is happening to Sam, Avery and Rose in the living of their very ordinary day, days of vital, important, life-changing incident, for them, so that you will experience the 'stakes' of their lives, and 'grow' a sense of responsibility to what happens to them.

THE FLICK is a super-naturalistic, slow theatre experience, the first act some 100 minutes long, the second act some 70 minutes long - there is an interval provided so that the unmoved can escape. For those of us who come back after the interval, we have intuited what Ms Baker has done, which is to 'massage' the verbatim of closely observed people in mundane situations and activities and daringly repeats them, with small differences, so that for the vulnerable, metaphors are gradually distilled, and glimpses of the profundity of life in the everyday Our Towness, in the run-down Worcester Cinema, the ordinariness of just being, are revealed. There is no need for heated argument, savage violence, broken crockery or guns, or even death to bring drama, comedy, irony to the world of the theatre. The 'cock-and-ball' conflict of the usual play is replaced here with, perhaps, a feminine perspective that is expressed gently after observation and thoughtful exposures of truths to propose that none of us are unique or alone in the arc of the journey of life, and that, perhaps, we should relax and see what fate has in store, and not feel the necessity to force our will to control the events of our lives. Ms Baker's is a view of the world that doesn't need a 'war' - dramaturgical winners and losers - to teach lessons on what life is.

I have to confess to you all, my favourite thing in all the world is going to the 'pictures'/the 'movies'/ the 'flicks'. It began at the age of four or five in picture palaces such as the Randwick Ritz, the Kings in Clovelly, the Boomerang in Coogee and the Star in Bondi Junction - let alone those in the city: the St. James, The Mayfair, the Embassy, the Prince Edward, the Regent, the Forum, the Century, the State, the Paris and especially the Plaza (that building is still there behind all those ghastly franchise food halls - you can see some of the exotic foyer decorations, if you look up, up ,up), and so many others. In fact, my favourite most blissful moment, still, is just when the lights begin to dim before the 'trailers' for the coming films begin (although, the interpolation of all those commercials does ruin, now-a-days, a trifle, a significant trifle though - that ecstasy). So this play has, for me, the power of nostalgia and an extra dimension of identifying with these characters - in some ways it feels like biography and the ultimate effect for me was the promotion of a 'holiday mood', a lightness, an optimism at the end of the night. (It lasted most of the walk home!)

Under the Direction of Craig Baldwin, Hugh OConnor has Designed/created a look for the Set and Costume that is so apt that it could pass without acknowledgement of its innate skill. Martin Kinnane with his Lighting Design manages a variety of atmospheres from a kind of stark fluorescent reality to the mood of plushness and emotionalities of nostalgia and regretful contemplation of change and loss, even into the passing of the auditorium onto new management making demands of modernity in this flickering environment that facilitates the projection of film. Whilst, Nate Edmondson captures the Soundtrack of the film genres of this Flickerhouse, and Designs a 'tinny' stereo, that is so inferior in quality that it evokes, captures, a remembered time of the valiant suburban theatres' determination to attempt respectful quality of 'showing' - ahh, the memory of the cinema venue in Kogarah!

The performances by the actors are of a brave craftsmanship.

Mia Lethbridge is impressive with her five-fathoms deep connections to the source of the unknown 'grief' in her Rose (abuse?), with all of its externalised spiky, misguided sexual energy, and immature social and intellectual denseness verging on deliberate, self-protective naivity, which she is pitting against the stultifying opportunities of her small world. Can she escape? More urgently, does she even know she can escape? That she should escape?

Ms Lethbridge is more than matched by a truly remarkable stage debut performance by Justin Amankwah, as Avery. His ownership of the spoken dialogue is redolent with the puzzled pain of an intuitive intelligent youth - perhaps, the special pain and puzzlement of a black youth in a white world - such that it is a precious and fragile commodity, that one needfully feels one should reach out to Avery to protect him and advise him that it may all turn out well, given time. Mr Amankwah's principal persuasiveness is the complex and detailed 'ripples' of thought and the narrative of it, that he sensitively reflects for us, throughout all his body, but particularly with the muscularities of his face, in his active listening and thought filled deliberations in Avery's forward contemplations to solve his learning in the environment of this flicker house with these people. Avery's collective journey in this production was the spine of the experience of THE FLICK, for me. So, ultimately, full of pathos that one could weep.

Jeremy Waters, as Sam, gives an insightful and compassionate performance but does tend to show us too much at key moments - there is sometimes a breakout of the actor and his craft that is apparent, rather than the subtle, disciplined expression of truth with distilled clues, that ought to mask the 'volcanics' of Sam's 'tragedy', so that a living, breathing man rather than a passionate living, breathing "actor' be offered to us. There are sometimes gestures of theatrics given, by Mr Waters, that breaks the reality of Ms Baker's writing. Experience it rather than show it. Less is better. Restraint. Relax. Just breathe, don't force.

Matthew Cheetham fills out the other persona of the play with instinct and fine judgement.

There is so much to ponder, in writing about THE FLICK, in the diagrammatic possibilities of Ms Baker's play. The juxtaposition of life lived as opposed to the filmic constructs of supposed life. The need to have art to help us live more happily, reliably. The debate between the art of film and the loss that may be the norm with advancements of new technology: Film v's digital quality. The life of the ordinary, the Lowman rather than the King, and its value. The importance of theatre. The importance of the live experience. The importance of the shared experience. Ms Baker's style of writing, I hear some say! There probably is much more, to talk about, in the bar or coffee shop, lecture hall, afterwards, that THE FLICK might provoke.

I, as you can tell, am a fan of Annie Baker and her writing. I have waited for the opportunity to see a production of this play, though, of course, trepidatious on how it can be/should be done. Outhouse Theatre Company have before produced another of Ms Baker's plays,in Sydney, THE ALIENS, and was Directed by Craig Baldwin, and played by Jeremy Waters. Mr Baldwin has given TIME for Ms Baker's play to work, this time round.

I recommend this play and production. Remember the commitment that Annie Baker demands of you, before you decide to go. Though to not see it would be sad for me to know. Do go to the Reginald.

Ms Baker has two more recent plays: JOHN (2015) and THE ANTIPODES (2017).

Alison's House

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

The Depot Theatre presents, ALISON'S HOUSE, by Susan Glaspell, at the Depot Theatre, Addison Rd. Marrickville. 4 - 21 April.

ALISON'S HOUSE is an American play that won the Pulitzer Prize for the author, Susan Glaspell, in 1931. It is a play inspired by the life and work of Emily Dickinson, although, because of the denial by the Dickinson Estate to permit the use either of Dickinson's name or poetry, an invented poet, Allison Stanhope, is created. The Depot Theatre Company, led by Julie Baz, in presenting ALISON'S HOUSE, were 'motivated by a desire to bring iconic, but neglected plays written by women into contemporary consciousness...'

ALISON'S HOUSE's dramaturgy - plot construct and character drawings - belongs to the conventions of its time but has interesting, complex, female roles, and debate, including the provocative contemporary controversy concerning the right to preserve the private life of an individual as opposed to the possible public revelations that may reveal that they were less conventional than our moral code supposed. And, whether there is justification to destroy the found information/art to sustain the status quo or to reveal the found output no matter the personal revelations and the reconsidering of their moral stature.

Like Rebecca, in Daphne du Maurier's novel, REBECCA, Alison, now dead for 18 years, haunts the house and lives of all the Stanhope family and is of an influential concern. Alison because of her fame is still 'alive'. All the characters belong to the living stream of the normal human (animal) family, and has within its history all of the travails and complications of all those human needs. Adhering to the conventions of the society at the cost of personal happiness is the major dilemma of this play. Each of the characters reveal more about themselves than is conventional.

This play, requires, especially today, acting of a very accomplished kind to be able to reveal and sustain interest in the people, and plotting of the ethical concerns of the playwriting. In this production at The Depot Theatre that varies from good to not so good. There is some interest evoked by Matthew Bartlett (Mr Hodges), Eliot Falzon (Richard Knowles), Nyssa Hamilton (Elsa), Brendan Lorenzo (Eben) and Tasha O'Brien (Ann).

The Design, by David Jeffrey, has an attention to detail in the Costuming and the stylistic choices of the Set Design, within the confines of its budget, lit by Mehran Mortezaei, with an evocative Sound Design by Thomas E. Moore, deftly utilised by Director Julie Baz.

This production serves for those interested in neglected writing for the theatre and is a useful experience despite some of its limitations in performance.

N.B. The recent Terence Davies film, A QUIET PASSION (2017) with Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson is a do not miss thing to do.

Sami in Paradise

Belvoir Presents SAMI IN PARADISE, based on THE SUICIDE, Nikolai Erdman, by Eamon Flack and The Company, in the Belvoir Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir St. Surry Hills. 1st April - 29 April.

SAMI IN PARADISE, is a new Australian play, devised by Eamon Flack and The Company, based on a Russian text, THE SUICIDE, by Nikolai Erdman (1928).

The original play, THE SUICIDE, was set in Soviet Russia in the early days of the Stalin, seized leadership, where and when the political atmospherics changed dramatically with the New Economic Policy (NEP) dissolved and the social and economic life shifting towards totalitarian control. Semyon, finding life 'catastrophic' decides that suicide is his only option. Others see his impending suicide as an opportunity to use as a propaganda tool for their own agendas and inveigle him to be representative of their cause. What ensues is a comic/tragic chaos of desperate proportions.

Eamon Flack directs his company of artists to set this in a relevant Australian contemporary situation: they have come up with the present time and the Australian refugee moral dilemma. Says Eamon Flack in his program notes:
This is a comedy set in a refugee camp. There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today - refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people ... We've made this show together. I wrote the adaptation (the translation is not acknowledged) in the sense that I did most of the typing, but the research and the ideas that went into it have come from everyone involved. Over a period of several months we gathered hundreds of pages of research and dozens of hours of video content from a variety of sources, including self-made media projects written within the camps ... Why would life as a refugee bear such a resemblance to life in Stalin's Russia? Perhaps because both regimes seek to treat people as a problem to be solved ... In terms of what's Erdman's and what's ours, I'd say about 15% of the play is new material and the rest is a restating of Erdman in a different setting. ...

So, Semyon has become Sami (Yalin Ozucelik), and we find him in a United Nations type refugee camp (anonymous country), where he has been for years in a hopeless anticipation of earning the money for his family: wife, Maria (Victoria Haralabidou) and mother-in-law, Fima (Paula Arundell) to get to Germany. He decides to escalate his chances by learning to play the tuba - but the lesson guide becomes a 'nightmare' and in despair decides to kill himself, instead. Neighbours learn of his intention and a 'broker' within the camp, Abu Walid (Fayassal Bazzi) arranges, for a money 'donation', that this final act by Sami will be for a 'just' cause. Sami and his suicidal intention becomes representative for the Charitable Organisation in the camp, Charlie Garber as Charlie Gerber; for Women's Rights, Paula Arundell as Fairuz; for Education for girls, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, as Vaish: for the Church, Arky Michael, as Father Arky; for the 'Artist', Hazem Shammas, as Hazem, etc. A farewell 'party', a last supper affair, anticipates the shooting. Sami, drunk, goes off at midnight to do the deed, but ... mayhem ensues and the fact that Life is Beautiful, even in this place resonates as the final clarion call for a happy (?) resolution.

Eamon Flack has a bent for the hurly-burly comedy of the farce, particularly captured cinematic attempts, in the instance of say, the Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, and perhaps the verbally redolent 'screw-ball' comedies: e.g. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), BRINGING UP BABY 1938), THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), THE WOMEN or HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1939), and has pursued, I believe, a theatre style, in some of his work: THE ROVER, IVANOV, AS YOU LIKE IT, to replicate it, to varying degrees of integration and/or success.

In his notes for this production, Mr Flack notes:
Comedy is a technique that allows us to acknowledge things that we're otherwise too embarrassed to acknowledge. Because we're so embarrassed in Australia by the existence of refugees we always need them to be demons or saints - murderous terrorists or piteous supplicants (well, I need to interpolate, some us might, Mr Flack). This play is an attempt instead to lend this group of people the same privileges of silliness, joy, pettiness and ridiculousness that we get to enjoy.
Of my experience of the Belvoir/Flack efforts - this stylistic pursuit is, at last, working in SAMI IN PARADISE. Well, nearly. This company of actors explore and pull off the physical extremities with great competence and hurl themselves into the demands with a great sense of joy. They, too, relish the rapid-throw-away verbal gymnastics of their text, and the newly minted 'stuff', for example: the Charlie Gerber monologues, seem to be, especially, more pertinent and less of a comic show-off diversion than usual - the cast and the performance has been channeled into the 'idea/ideas' of the production.

The biggest problem with the audience reception of the verbal work in this production is really the difficult acoustics that Designer, Dale Ferguson, has given the production, with an open, bare, highly reverberant brick-wall 'squash-court' echo-chamber - no matter how interesting it LOOKS , and it does - that baffles and disfigures the clarity of the articulatory skills of the actors and turns their utterances into noise with a consequent lack of precision and clarity. Too, often, the actors are turned in wrong directions and elect to speak too softly for us, in this three-sided auditorium, for all to catch what is being said. As well, a live duo of instrumentalists, Mahad Ghobadi (percussion) and Hamed Sadeghi (Strings) often become more than background, atmospheric support, and tend to overwhelm the text which ought to be, I believe, the primary sonic offer.

I, also, wondered whether this text, especially in the last twenty minutes or so, becomes too didactic and obviously of a 'righteous' sentimentality? This company do seem to have a missionary zeal to communicate a very important social issue which they have, in double responsibility, also assisted in writing. Double reason for the zealousness.

It's unadulterated acceptance will be, of course, a matter of taste. I found it, uncomfortably, over presumptuous, a trifle 'icky' in what felt like an overkill of intention. It seems to me that Mr Flack and his team are 'playing' confidently to an assumed choir of similar beliefs.

SAMI IN PARADISE is hardly worth bringing to the attention of the ruling government, censoring, or punishing the artists involved, as it was for the original production attempt in 1932. Author of THE SUICIDE, Erdman suffered Siberian exile for several years and denial of true artistic identity for the rest of his life (he never wrote another play), and his Director, Meyerhold arrested, endured slow torture to death. There is nothing in this version of THE SUICIDE as SAMI IN PARADISE, that will cause offence to the ruling government or even its opposition party - probably, quite the opposite, it will flatter some of them/us to think how libertarian it is to enjoy such an enlightened entertainment - "I must tell my friends how funny it all is." (Just don't mention Nauru, Manus Island anywhere in the same conversation, I reckon. It may give pause.)

Last weekend, I saw Armando Iannucci's THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017) which could be, for those of you interested, an opportune comparison of intent and delivery - though it be a film, in technique, and has its own idiosyncratic artistic difficulties with its comic form.

This company is led valiantly and tirelessly by Yalin Ozucelik, who commits the whole of himself to the amazing arc of Sami's journey. He is supported by all the actors who give witty and amusing offers. I enjoyed, especially, Paula Arundell, as usual, in a double role, and was grateful to see Victoria Haralabidou on a MainStage (I, so, admired her work, years ago, in a self written play: ONE SCIENTIFIC MYSTERY OR WHY DID THE ABORIGINES EAT CAPTAIN COOK?). Too, Fayssal Bazzi and Hazem Shammas, two stalwarts of late, of the Belvoir stage, who grow stronger and stronger with every appearance, and a welcome to Vaishnavi Suryaprakash in several delightful turns of character creation - intelligent and joy filled.

SAMI IN PARADISE is fun, if not as politically deft as it might want to be.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jen Cloher concert

Lansdowne Hotel presents, JEN CLOHER, at the Lansdowne Hotel, City Rd. Chippendale, 31st March.

Two of my girlfriends ask me to a music gig at the Lansdowne Hotel, on Easter Saturday night. I check my diary. I'm free. "Okay", I say. "Who is on?" "Jen Cloher". "Oh", I say, "Great. I taught Jen when she was at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art). I remember, even, one of the scenes we worked on together: A PATRIOT FOR ME, from John Osborne's play. We had a struggle but Jen's sheer intelligence and tenacity made it a very interesting time."

In fact, I have not seen Jen since that time at NIDA. She soon gave up acting after graduating. Next, I hear of her career as a Musician/song writer.

Easter Saturday night: We watch one of the support bands: Mere Women.

Watch the small but very pleasant room upstairs at the Lansdowne fill with a very eclectic crowd. Young and old. I am especially impressed by the sheer diversity of her audience. Especially, the ageist bit. I had thought I might be the oldest in the room, but perhaps, that was not the case. Feels good.

We have two drinks each - gin and tonic for two of us, Young Henry's for the other - and the band comes on stage, on time! Drummer, Jen Sholakis; Bass guitarist, Bones Sloane; Guitarist and back-up singer, the exceptional, Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher.

Jen Cloher has grown into a very striking woman and radiates a generosity of love and confidence. She has a subtle but witty sense of humour. Quickly they are into their music. Their Sound. I am an absolute neophyte with this sound, unlike my two girlfriends, one having grown up in the Golden Age of Australian Music in the 80's (mixed with her surfing), the other with a powerful penchant for bands such as The Pixies. I know not much or, even, have a history of being able to read this sought of sound. I had had a chat, along with the second drink, about their impressions of Mere Women, just to find a 'level' for my comprehension of what was to follow.

What completely captures me, with Jen Cloher and her band, is the sheer power and complete confidence that each of these musicians have.

But best, it is the compassionate ownership of the lyrics of the songs, led by Jen Cloher, the open and transparent truths that are uttered - 'howled' - that paralyses one to attention. Coupled with the sheer expertness of vocal technique and the rigorous application of that being translated to a clarity and emotional cost of some staggering weight is what holds me, sometimes to a point of 'teariness' at its rawness and honesty. Time fleets and the weariness of standing, at 11pm at night, swaying - not from the alcohol, but to the music - to the gutsy sound wave of the instrumentation takes one to a transporting place of 'lost consciousness - a kind of ecstasy'.

When, I supposed, the classic formula of the instrument organisation of this form of music kicked-in, the human capacity of Jen Cloher's voice is matched by the simply spectacular translation of the passions of expression that Courtney Barnett summons with her guitar playing that transforms her into an energy force beyond human, except for its very human need to tell to us/for us of the human condition that is frighteningly primal in its origins. Courtney Barnett is no ordinary musician, she, like Jen Cloher, are extraordinary artists where there is no holding back the need to tell, the need to connect. One receives a super-human gift.

It is true as well of Jen Sholakis commanding and watching the offers from her fellow artists on her crashing drum kit, with Bones Sloane, present, passionate, quieter, though, just as thrilled to be playing in this room together for this audience.

A rock gig, Kevin?


But in the experience of it, it was so much more. Definitely, so much more than I expected. Jen Cloher may have thought she had left her Acting career behind her, but I could not help seeing the genius of the self-sacrifice that I witnessed - both, in her writing and performance - just as I did watching Hugo Weaving in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI***, a few days ago. Her performance has the transformative power of great Art and this collection of musicians are a wonder.

After, I catch-up with Jen for the first time in fourteen-fifteen years or so - me, behaving like a star-struck stage-door 'johnny'. We even asked her to autograph the vinyl L.P. one of us had bought. One meets a grounded, honest, generous woman of such embracing warmth and curiosity. And most wonderful of all, I reflect, after, on my walk home, a woman who is happy to be doing what she is doing. Really, happy with her body of work.

Follow her up. Milk! Records is her label. Jen Cloher is based in Melbourne.

Thank god for the Lansdowne and its support of Australian Live Music. Note that this program session featured three bands led by women: SUNSCREEN - Sarah Sykes; MERE WOMEN - Amy Wilson and JEN CLOHER.