Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrow

Photo by  Zaina Ahmed

NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR, is a 1922 German Expressionist silent horror film, Directed by F.W, Murnau and starring Max Schreck as vampire Count Orick. The creators were sued by the Bram Stoker family - the author of DRACULA - 1897 - for copyright infringement, which they hadn't sought to acquire, and this was despite their attempts to disguise the source, by changing names of characters and the narrative. The penalty demanded was that all copies of the film were ordered to be burnt. However, one print had already been distributed around the world. Copies of it were made, subsequently, and propelled it, over the passing years, into cult status. It is an highly esteemed and influential - EMPIRE magazine rated it as number 21 on the list of The Top 100 Films of All Time, in 2010. The original score was made by Hans Erdman and is lost.

Taking this information Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari, frames his production around the search by an academic for a verifiable copy of the original film. His 'performers': Lucy Burke, Jeremy Campese, Lulu Howes and Annie Stafford, Designers Victor Kalka (Set and Costume) and Veronique Bennett (Lighting) have developed in workshop, scenes that fit around the 'title cards' of the silent film with, it seems, some spattering knowledge of the action of the actual film, and inspired by the new score composed by Melbourne artist, Justin Gardam.

This Symphony is titled 'A Fractured Symphony', the word 'fractured' being key to understanding the liberty in direction that the scenes we see, took. Like The FRACTURED FAIRY TALES sequence that featured in the 1959-64 television cartoon animation: THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY, BULWINKLE AND FRIENDS, that took, in its omnibus format, famous fairy stories and told slightly warped versions, often with politically astute twists and turns that tickled the brain as well as the funny bone, Montague Basement has fractured the 1922 NOSFERATU: A Symphony of Horror, and improvised and spoofed contemporary situations to bridge the gap between the original title cards from the Murnau source. This is where the cleverness of the conceit of creativity starts and in the experience of this production, unfortunately, ends.

This public exposure of these workshop developments is, it seems in the performance at OLD 505, premature. The segments are mostly regurgitation of popular political critique, attaching itself to subject matters that are now over trodden with exemplary cliche that really are most tiresome with their familiarity and telegraphed cuteness and wittiness, further compounded with overegging knowingness about the joke said or about to be said. (Annie Stafford is a reliable 'comic' who uses a knowing self deprecation as tool for cueing the laughter - she is a master of this technique, which first came to our attention in her performance as Mash in STUPID FUCKING BIRD, to be followed with the same performance in WHOSE UTERUS IS IT ANYWAY?, and, now, here). All of the actors, however, display performer technique and skills that are not up to the difficult task they have set themselves.

To understand the possible sophistication of the 'target' area and form, a viewing and a study, of say, the Adam McKay films VICE or THE BIG SHOT, or, the recent THE DEATH OF STALIN, might give some purview of what to aim for in content and acting method. In this text of NOSFERATU, none of the scenes, or the playing of them, by any of these actors, have any sophistication that merits admiration. The texts don't appear to have had much drafting or edit to find shape and subtly for an audience, and the actors do not appear to have been guided by a unifying Director's hand and so there is little sense of structural relationship from one episode to the next. The text is a structural mess of many, many disconnected worlds purporting to tell the Murnau story as well as delivering an hilarious contemporary political/social commentary - NOT.

Another sign of the prematurity of this 'work showing' is the lack of thought of how the production is going to move from one environment to another without having to suspend the action in torturous digressions to facilitate scene change of props etc. As there are an enormous number of scenes (or, at least it was experienced that way) it is an interminable interference and distraction. Director, Saro Lusty-Cavallari, has had no forsighted plan to construct an integrated scenario that will keep his work fluid and buoyant - the play comes nearly to a halt every time we move from one 'title' card to the next. Let us not really comment on the ineptitude of the transference into the last scene of the play, or of the last scene itself - we had sat without interval (when we might have escaped) for nearly 90 minutes by this time, and simply endured it all with a dwindling empathy for the Company's artists' efforts. "Good grief", I thought, "these poor actors were destined to repeat it all for many, many more nights." I hope the Director went through it every night with them, just out of respect for his actors' trials to try to sustain the demands asked of them.

A lot of hard work has been done, but there is need for a lot more work to be done, and maybe a movement in re-casting to find actors with the necessary skills to pull this very particular genre of comedy off. There is more aspiration on view than actual skill - both in vocal and physical character acting, and in the playwriting.

NOSFERATU, was certainly 'a fractured symphony': a true symphony of Horror - a 'horrible' night in the theatre.

The play out music, the audience exit music. is a recording of the MONSTER MASH from THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, I thought it was amusing, considering what I had just seen, and thought a word adjustment to make it a MONSTER SMASH (UP) might be more appropriate to indicate the achievement.

La Passion De Simone

Photo by Victor Frankowski
Sydney Chamber Opera in association with The Song Company Australia, present LA PASSION DE SIMONE, an Oratorio. Music by Kaija Saariaho, Libretto and Lyrics, by Amin Maaloof, in Bay 17, Carriageworks, Redfern, as part of the Sydney Festival. 9th -11th January.

LA PASSION DE SIMONE, is an Oratorio by Finnish Composer, Kaija Saariaho, to a Libretto, with Lyrics, in French, by Amin Maaloof. It featured an orchestra, choir and electronics. It premiered in 2006. A Chamber version was presented in 2013, with no electronics and the choir substituted with four vocalists. This is the version that the Sydney Chamber Opera presented under the Musical Direction of Jack Symonds at Carriageworks.

It's form uses the Passion Play formula, and is shaped around the Christian (Catholic) Church's practice of the Stations of the Cross - a meditation of Jesus Christ's last journey from Pilates condemnation, through the crucifixion to the laying in the tomb. LA PASSION OF SIMONE is a journey in 14 'stations' highlighting ideas and events in the life of, relatively, unknown Simone Weil (1909-1943), a French Philosopher, mystic and political activist, from a collection of notes, collated and ordered by a devout French Catholic friend and philosopher, Gustave Thibon, under the title of GRAVITY AND GRACE, published posthumously - the notes were not intended for publication. The 'stations' of this work presents Simone Weil as an individual of a severe asceticism and a passionate pursuer of truth. Her own books were all published after her death in the 1950's - 1960's. She appears to be a left-leaning intellectual who became religious and inclined towards mysticism and wrote throughout her life Marxist, pacifist works with a deep commitment to the working classes and support of the trade union movements of the time.

I felt that there was an attempt by the librettist, Amin Maaloof in his lyrics, to beatify Simone Weil on a journey to sainthood, that seemed to ignore her autobiographical frailities and imaginative susceptibilities; that, for example that she had a germ phobia and regarded herself as 'disgusting' and could not be touched; that despite her extreme short-sightedness and lack of accuracy with a weapon so deleterious that she was a dangerous presence in the vicinity of her fellow 'soldiers' and, yet, could not comprehend why she was forbidden to fight with weapons in the Spanish Civil War of 1936, and, later, in 1943, denied field work as part of the behind-the-lines French Resistance and, instead, asked to do desk work! - a turning point of despair in Mr Maaloof's libretto for Simone, by the way; that despite being a declared agnostic, upon visiting the church of Saint Francis in Assisi, in 1937, had a divine rapturous revelation from that long dead Saint, and became a mystic; that despite being diagnosed with tuberculosis, in England, in 1943, decided to eat, in sympathy, with what she felt to be the equivalent food intake of her French Compatriots, and gradually starved herself to a point where she had a cardiac arrest and died; that the coroner of the time wrote: "the deceased did kill and slay herself by refusing to eat whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed." ; and that Charles De Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, described her as 'insane'.

The extremity of this text made me disbelieve the seriousness of the work - it felt like radical Catholic propaganda of the most extreme kind. I became more and more disconnected from the work and ultimately was taken to a place of groaning out loud (literally) at its preposterous portentousness and pretence, seeing it as a right wing Catholic conspiracy about this ill, young woman. Without any 'study' of Simone Weil, for a contemporary audience her symptoms, in the libretto, were alarming health issues. Brought up Catholic the message in this libretto: that the more we suffered in this earthly life the better our immortal life in the arms of God in heaven will be, took me to a place of anxious stupification.

Too boot, then, the production by Imara Savage in collaboration with Designer, Elizabeth Gadsby, does not attempt to engage an audience into a theatrical journey that could cause one to deny cynicism about the writing of Mr Maaloof and, instead, perhaps, encourage one to empower the meditations of these 14 'stations' with some impactful experience, other than turgid boredom. This is an Oratorio - not an opera - and there was no dramatic action to perform - but the 'dramatic' choices of Direction by Ms Savage were frustratingly tedious, whatever the 'metaphors' may have been in the required endurance of it all.

On the huge landscape of the floor stage of Bay 17 at Carriageworks, there is a mound of nicely sculptured rice (uncooked) sitting on the fore-stage beneath a gleaming metal funnelled container (from which it once poured from, I assumed the image was about), lit decorously by Alexander Berlage, whilst dramatically upstage to one side, the figure of the principal singer, Jane Sheldon, stood, faced upstage, slightly diagonally, at an extremely large screen. She is, as is the mound of rice, similarly, sympathetically lit - and is so, with progressive lighting state choices. They are the only dramatic gestures throughout this 75 minute piece of art, Directed by Ms Savage.

Ms Sheldon is on stage when we arrive, and one supposes she has stood there for some 20 minutes, before the performance begins - an endurance demand, indeed - and never ever moves from her position, but does, tensely, physically shiver and shake, in sympathy with a video-image of herself that has appeared on the screen she is facing, during the sung performance. On the screen the video figure of our solo artist has made a slow approach towards us for some 10 minutes, or more (or, so it feels) before she stops and then begins to endure the (painful) raining of rice upon her body from above, for the full extent of the experience - it must have been painful.

The performance proper, begins with these derivative echoes of a Bill Viola video masterwork of imagery - its visual metaphor for this musical work grasped, however, within 2 minutes or so by us - and continued relentlessly without the mystique of the Viola genius for the entire production length. The combined banality of the consistent gigantic imagery of the video (by Mike Daly - it is a feat, by the way) and the fact that Ms Sheldon never engages us front-on directly, takes us into the realm of Art Installation porn-torture. For, at least in a Gallery one can elect how much time one can take of a particular installation with agreeable equanimity and choose to stay or go, but which, in the theatre, becomes a turmoil of debate of should I endure this or should just stand up and leave?

"I've got it and I have only limited time to live life. You are stealing my life and filling it with banality! With banality from all artistic directions."

There was in this production no shock-of-the-new just a tedium of choices that once, 30 or 40 years ago, might have been regarded as avant-garde, but, today, are excruciating, unimaginative and dull. Dull, dull. A 'cutting edge' edge gesture that was a blunt weapon of dramatic impasse - a stalemate, indeed.

I, I guess, like Simone Weil, made a choice to suffer - mine, however, unlike Simone Weil's wilful pursuit of suffering, was out of politeness to those seated about me more than anything. Perhaps it was my residual catholic fret - once a Catholic, always a Catholic - that made me to endure all so as to be able to offer it to a god as part of a 'good deeds' credit if there really is a god and I am called to account, like the Medieval Morality figure EVERYMAN, for self sacrifice and a position in heaven for my immortal lifetime as a reward. It's what I call 'lay buying' just in case there is a heaven.

Next.

Look, I am not a musician and I could (can) only experience the musical aspect of this work as an impressionable 'novice', and I found the score of Kaija Saariaho, as only a secondary aspect of this performance - the orchestra situated to the extreme left hand of the stage, in a place of near exile, made it difficult to attend to properly - I was on the righthand side in the audience. The score did not arrest my attention or distract my seething focus from the growing tension I felt about the Libretto and Lyrics and the boring (pretentious?!) visual choices of Ms Savage. I was not thrilled in any way. No Shostakovitch cleverness, as in THE NOSE or LADY MACBETH OF MTSENSK or allure, as in Bartok's BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE or challenge of anything written by Francis Poulenc. Nothing as unique as Phillip Glass or John Adams. Theoretically, I'm told the original score is a progression from 'serialism' to 'spectralism'. It achieves some dimension with the combination of live orchestra and the use of electronics - although, in this chamber version, there did not appear to be any 'electronics', except for the amplification of the singers, especially Ms Sheldon, in her upstage facing position - for Directorially, there would be no other way to hear what she was doing. Her voice seemed to me, adequate, if not in the same frame or fame of quality, as the voice of Dawn Upshaw, for whom this piece was written (there is a recording). Now that could have been a thrill.

LA PASSION DE SIMONE was an endurance test, for me, of an overwhelming experience of turgidness and gathering fury at those Catholics, whom I supposed were behind the plodding plotting of this work! A Festival work, I suppose, ought to be contentious and this was, for me, one of those works of time wasting in the theatre that won't easily be forgotten, and memorialised with a sense of dread.

In an entry exam to a school, which Simone Weil took twice to qualify, she achieved first place - Simone De Beauvoir came in second. Now, for my money, trying to sainthood the Passions of Ms De Beauvoir, a different Simone, would have been a more interesting challenge, experience, I reckon. Elena Kats Chernin, where are you? See if Mr Wesley Enoch is game. to commission you and a decent librettist.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Home



Sydney Festival presents, HOME, Created by Geoff Sobelle, at The Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay. 9th- 18th January.

HOME is a work that was created by Geoff Sobelle through workshops and residencies in four American institutions: MANA Contemporary (Jersey City, NJ), BRIC Art House (Brooklyn, NY), Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA), and ArtsEmerson (Boston, Philadelphia). HOME premiered at the 2017 Fringe Festival (Philadelphia) and has been travelling the International Festival Circuit since, including the Edinburgh Festival, the Brisbane Festival and a stint in New Zealand. Now in Sydney.

A group of seven actors led by Geoff Sobelle (who, also, is a performer), Directed by Lee Sunday Evans, with Scenic Designer, Steven Dufala and Song Composer (and performer) Elvis Perkins, present 'a magical meditation on the meaning of home: What makes a house a home?'

Beginning on an empty stage, an actor enters from the audience, wanders across the stage and sets up some industrial lighting equipment to assist him in a construction of a three framed wall for a house. Once standing he slides it sideways to reveal a small bedroom 'house' that through illusion becomes occupied by a number of different people. That house disappears and a two story multi-roomed apartment house appears in its place. It, too, becomes occupied by many different people, not related, who go through the rituals of living - sleeping, showering, peeing-shitting, cooking, cleaning, washing, reading, writing, etc - in this domestic environ. Over time the decoration of the house is altered and grows and we are invited to watch the usual cultural benchmarks of the urban citizen marked, those that intrude from birth to death. The seven actors play multi-characters demarcated through swift change costume. There is no text, just well-timed choreography. This house becomes a home, with the simple magic of this company before our gently 'bewitched' eyes.

This house becomes a home, even more so, when it becomes occupied by members of the audience, at the invitation and coaching of the company, to partake in those usual celebrations of life. The audience members are given 'silent' (whispered) instructions that gives them roles and functions in the complex scenography of this theatre event. The magic is that these 10 or 20 people (no kidding) become 'real' within the action of the unfolding of the theatrical strategy with the actual performers: they bring bottles of wine, presents, they participate in many different recognisable scenes in the life of the contemporary audience: dancing, celebrating (even a same  sex wedding - the audience applauded), loving, quarrelling. The passing of time is registered through the appearance of the great landmarks of urban living, a baby is celebrated, a later birthday celebrated, and even the Grim Reaper joins in so that a wake is, too, celebrated. The costume changing is immense and subtle in its weltering confusions.

Further, the party spills out into the auditorium with the spreading of light decoration across the whole theatre space through the manual manipulation of the seated audience, we even sing a happy Birthday to one of the audience 'players', Jo. Surreally, two members of the recruited 'actors' are sat at tables with micro-phones and are invited to vocally reminisce about their own childhood homes, both at the same time, while other events of 'mimed' human-interaction continues about them. It's a deliriously joyful wonder when a four piece band appears on stage and joins the mayhem as the climax of this organised chaos. Magically, there is a gentle descent into the aftermath of a party with the leaving of the guests and, poignantly, the house is emptied of all its human occupiers and in the closing minutes of the performance a deserted and abandoned house with flapping plastic sheets ghosting in the space, signals, perhaps, calamitously, the urban blight, detritus, of the human animal on the landscape. The wilful abandonment of human constructs across the earth. When as a species we are extinct will this be our gift to what follows? One comes to understand the temporal life of the animal in the face of nature as the Darwinian Theories, perforce, move on through time. Nature always survives, in one manner or another.

Elements of Simon Schama's 1995 book: LANDSCAPE AND MEMORY, wafted through my experience consciousness. Recently moving home I have wondered who else has lived in these new walls I am now occupying. The layers of their presence present, the 'ghosts' shifting through these spaces in the fascination of the "TIME" theories, I have read of- "string theory etc". The archaeological stratums of the great cities of Rome or Istanbul with the revelation of the construct of the many houses, one on top of the first, of the second of the ... through the thousand of years of human occupation, as these cities seek to build (mundanely) an underground transport system, crept into my thinking as I watched. We are told that "Geoff Sobelle created HOME after discovering different layers of kitchen floor, each laid by different residents, in his 100-year-old house." Imaginatively, then, escalate our species' history-impact on the planet, from that kitchen linoleum, to the haunting of the abandoned cities of past civilisations across the world, even of the relatively recent Chernobyl landscape.

Inspired by that ordinary discovery of the layers of linoleum on a kitchen floor this company has created a meditative piece that is a delight not only in its philosophical surprises but humorously, dramatically, through the conjuring magic of the manner of its audience inclusion-in-action to invent this world. Sophisticated illusion-magic in many hues transports the audience into a surrender to a delirious indulgence of delight, that may also conjure a spirit of insight and warning.

This is a Festival event for all the family.

Geoff Sobelle's HOME hits home, at many levels. It certainly did for me.

Do Go.

Since Ali Died


Griffin Theatre Company in association with Sydney Festival and Riverside Theatres present, SINCE ALI DIED, Written and Performed by Omar Musa, in the SBW Stables Theatre, Nimrod St, Darlinghurst. 8-19 January.

Rapper, Poet and Award Winning Author is Omar Musa.

In this memoir monologue performance he is a brown man in a black country talking to, mostly, white people, about how he has felt - feels - stigmatised as being 'unAustralian' for most of his life.

SINCE ALI DIED is a Memoir Monologue, originating from a young man who has a Muslim Malaysian father (Borneo) and a white Australian mother (European - Dutch origin) who grew up within the reaches of Queanbeyan, a small, country city not too far from Canberra , the Australian capital. Written in poetry and rap song rhythms, in it we meet characters that have had meaning in his life: Muhammad Ali, Omar's father and mother, Danny, his best mate, and Jamilla, a girl capable of awakening a passion that startles and confounds him.

This is my second experience of this work, the first being at it's premiere season, also at Griffin, in 2018. SEDUCTION is the word that dominates my feelings.

Firstly, seduction by the sheer physical presence of a performer that has a charismatic, magnetic charm that is beautiful, tender, raw and gritty. A voice of resonant sounds and eyes that tell of communicative trust. The work seems to be fuelled by anger in search of redemption, not just for himself, but especially for others of his 'world'. It has an anger and a melancholy, and an intelligence sifted by the fine netted lines of life experience and formal education to a vulnerable compassion for the human condition, that embraces the marginalised, and attempts to bring them into the realm of consciousness for the other, bigger world to understand, by looking at the 'dark heart of things' that occupy the flailing human lost - what some may call 'losers'.

Secondly, seduction by a language usage that has a mellifluous texture of deeply considered choice that reveals and exposes a love of country and people that makes one weep at its beauty and aptness. Words, language, that has a simple sophistication that reveal the contemporary Australian landscape, persona and temper in a way that quietly supersedes all the past imagery delivered to me by other poets - past and present - reflecting on what it is to be an Australian in the natural and political landscape that has been, is, essentially hostile to his presence. A truthful, young voice emanating up from a multi-cultural crucible of hard living and observation that I recognise as an authentic voice, whether it is rendered in pure poetry or in the world, international rhythms of the hip hop, rap slam poet. It is ecstatically wonderful and sometimes unbearably incendiary.

SINCE ALI DIED is a performance memoir that wants you to understand and so sits for too long in the acceptable zone of relative non-offence as a soft confrontation - he does not wish to alienate you in any way. Omar Musa's 2014 novel: HERE COME THE DOGS goes deeper into the 'dark', and with its flaws takes us into the dark night of a soul, that has one fearing and anxious for its survival. If performance work in the theatre is going to be a continuing source of 'reaching out' from Mr Musa, then it needs to be braver in revealing the truths of what he knows. It needs more risk, the risk that great artists take when they feel the impulse to write and reflect the world that they know for the others, that ought, need, to know of it. All artists are 'possessed' and are held, always, in a titanic grip of the need to express itself, a grip that squeezes the artist tightly, and causes pain, but it is a pain that can be cathartic and redemptive for the writer and for his audience - it is too, necessarily addictive. All the great writers suffer to create for us less blessed souls.

I have been in awe of Mr Musa's gifts and have been an advocate to encourage you to witness this artist and hear his gifts. SINCE ALI DIED, in my second experience was a less emotional experience but still as mesmerising, as seductive in his radiant presence and in his sublime use of contemporary Australian language and modes. You will not go unrewarded - DO GO and encourage him to persevere with the challenge of his gifts. We need them and him.

The work, this time, has a guest artist: vocalist, Sarah Corry, and is Directed by Anthea Williams.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Looking back on 2018

A good year in the theatre - 2018. Not too traumatic. Many rewards.

1. New Australian Writing I liked a lot:

MOTHER, by Daniel Keene, at the Belvoir Upstairs. Play has been around - first time in Sydney - one woman piece.
BURIED, by Xavier Coy, at the Old 505. Two new one act plays of promise by a new writer. Also, well performed.
SINCE ALI DIED, by Omar Musa, as part of the Bach Festival at the Griffin. Memoir Monologue written and performed by Award-winning Slam-Poet, Omar Musa. It is having a return season at Griffin in January. Highly recommend.
HOME INVASION, by Christopher Bryant, at the Old 505. What an excitement rush!
THE SUGAR HOUSE, by Alana Valentine, at the Belvoir Upstairs. Gorgeous, old-faashioned form with a true beating heart. Beautifully owned by the actors and other collaborators.
LOVE AND ANGER, by 'Betty Grumble'. A subversive political work, written and performed by 'Betty Grumble' that was part of the Bach Festival at the Griffin. It is outrageously fearless and from an artist who is not afraid to say it how it is. It, too, is having a return season at the Griffin late January. DO NOT MISS.
THEY DIVIDED THE SKY, by David Schlusser, based on a novel by Christa Wolf at the Belvoir Downstairs. A Melbourne visiting company, with the stylistic conceits of this company obviously front and centre.
AIR, by Joanna Erskine, at the Old 505. A marvellous play about Grief - funny and moving. Should be seen in a bigger venue.
LOST BOYS, by Lachlan Philpott, at the Merrigong Theatre, Wollongong. A new work commissioned by the Merrigong Theatre, from Lachlan Philpott, concerning the Murders of Gay Men at Bondi. This MUST be seen again in Sydney. Why isn't it?
MUM, Me and the IED, by James Balian and Roger Vickery, at The Depot Theatre, Marrickville. An urgent, important, play concerning the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and our returning soldiers and the wider community. (I Directed this work through some 28 drafts! Dramaturge was Katie Pollock, the recent recipient of the SBW Writer's Grant, for 2018).
THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, by Kate Mulvany, adapted from the three Ruth Park novels, for the Sydney Theatre Company, at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. Two full length plays, cherry-picking from the novels to create an impressive journey of some of Australia's suburban heritage post-war. A monumental production.
THE MISANTHROPE, an adaptation by Justin Fleming, of a play by Moliere, for the Griffin and Bell Shakespeare, in the Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. Wickedly wicked and cleverly re-shaped for an Australian contemporary audience. This is not the first Justin Fleming inspiration via Moliere.
DEGENERATE ART, by Toby Schmitz, at the Old Fitz Theatre. A play fancifying, cogitating, about Hitler and his Henchman. I have no idea if this is a good play or not, but, it was certainly an experience, that without the enterprise of Red Line at the Old Fitz, and its vision to produce it, we may not otherwise have had - it was worth the 'pain'.
EAR TO THE EDGE OF TIME, by Alana Valentine, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre. Science and Art - a striking play of ideas and politics. An international prize-winning play having its first production in Australia.Why haven't we seen it before this year? Weird!!!
THE FEATHER IN THE WEB, by Nick Coyle, at the Griffin Theatre. A dark comic sensibility glaring a gaze at contemporary life.
BLAME TRAFFIC, by Michael Andrew Collins, at the Old 505. Clever writing by a young writer.

2. Other plays that I was really glad to have seen this year:

BROKEN GLASS, presented by Mooghalin Performing Arts and Blacktown Arts Centre. Installation and Performance piece. A spiritual transformation for all who saw it. Lily Shearer, Lise-mare Syron, Andrea James - an insight into the psyches and histories of some of our Indigenous sisters.
THE TOWN HALL AFFAIR, from the Wooster Group, as part of the Sydney Festival. Thought provoking stuff, as well as witty and provocative in its form and performances. A true Art Festival event in the sense that it extended its audience beyond its more usual experiences in the theatre.
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and THE WILD PARTY, two musicals presented by a little company called Little Triangle - both shows had negatives but so many really performance positives.
THE CHILDREN, by Lucy Kirkwood. This British writer is so good and important.
THE FLICK, by Annie Baker. One of the incredible American writers completely ignored by the STC and Belvoir. JOHN, is to be seen at the Seymour Centre in 2019.
Ab [intra], a Dance work from the Sydney Dance Company, Choreography, by Rafael Bonachela, Music by Nick Wales, Design by David Fleischer, Lighting by Damien Cooper - sensational!
REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN, by Alice Birch. An amazing play in a botched production. Another of her plays: ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE, is to be seen next year at the Old Fitz.
STUPID FUCKING BIRD, by Aaron Posner. An American playwright giving us a startling but affectionate adaptation of the SEAGULL. A sometimes indulgent production at the Amateur Theatre the New Theatre, in Newtown, punching way above its weight - though one should, always, keep an eye on what they are showing: there can be rewards.
THE ROLLING STONE, by Chris Urch. A British play that was a traumatic, devastating experience in the theatre. The company of actors uniformly terrific.
CALAMITY JANE - the musical shake-up that we saw last year at The Hayes. Still rambunctious in its definite affection for the work and the genre, as part of the Belvoir Season.
THE HUMANS, by Stephen Karam. Another great American contemporary work ignored by the STC and Belvoir. Why, oh why? With only six actors - the bean counters of both companies ought to have jumped at its contemporary content as part of their seasons.
JERSEY BOYS - the second revival of this glorious juke box musical. A masterclass of its kind.
YEN, by Anna Jordan. A British play of great angst.

3. Performances I cherished:

Noni Hazelhurst in the one person monologue, MOTHER, by Daniel Keene.
Hugo Weaving giving a tour-de-force in THE RESISTABLE RISE OF ARTURO UI, despite the Directorial camera distraction, and a rambling adaptation of a great work by Bertolt Brecht.
Kate Cheel and Morgan Maguire creating amazing work in HOME INVASION - a new Australian work.
Emily Barclay - in a one person monologue, LETHAL INDIFFERENCE.
Omar Musa, in his own memoir monologue SINCE ALI DIED.
Mia Lethbridge and Justin Amankwah in THE FLICK.
Tony Sheldon, as Bernadette, as fresh as daisy, in the revival of PRICILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.
Kris McQuade, infinitely subtle and powerful; Sheridan Harbridge having been given a challenge, at last, pulled it off, in THE SUGAR HOUSE.
'Betty Grumble' in her one woman political provocation LOVE AND ANGER.
Stephen Phillips and Niki Shields in a Melbourne show THEY DIVIDED THE SKY.
Eloise Snape, in remarkable form in AIR.
Sarah Snook, as SAINT JOAN, in the Performance of the YEAR.
Taylor Ferguson triumphing as Jo in a botched (and unnecessary) production of A TASTE OF HONEY.
Elijah Williams, an amazingly sustained performance in THE ROLLING STONE.
Virginnia Gay and Shedian Harbridge being 'naughty' together for our benefit in the touring production of CALAMITY JANE.
Melissa Jaffer, making a spectacular, and relatively overlooked return in THE LONG FORGOTTEN DREAM, by H. Lawrence Sumner.
Ella Scott-Lynch, focused brilliance in many characters in KING OF PIGS, by Steve Rogers.
Heather Mitchell, giving a 'lesson' of bravura acting in THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, as Grandma.
Guy Simon, for his double act in THE HARP IN THE SOUTH. Subtle, detailed and full of compassion - no histrionics can be seen - an actor's actor.
Georgie Parker, in LUNA GALE.
Diana McLean, giving wonderful performances in AIR and, especially, THE HUMANS.
Ryan Gonzalez, in the musicals, IN THE HEIGHTS and JERSEY BOYS.
Ben Gerrard, pulling it off in cheeky, incisive, style as Cymbeline in THE MISANTHROPE.
Belinda Giblin and Gabrielle Scawthorn, both fiercely engaged in EAR TO THE EDGE OF TIME.
Kate Mulvany as Dr Katherine Stockman in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.
Michelle Lee Davidson and Tina Bursill giving their all in THE FEATHER IN THE WEB.
Lyn Pierse, in LIE WITH ME, a newly devised work. Amazing commitment and dedication in a difficult exploration of bewildered grief and guilt.
Jeremi Campese and Ryan Hodson in YEN. Heartbreaking.
Jamie Oxenbould in EURYDICE, as brilliantly clever, as always!
Phillipe Klaus in MUM, ME and the IED.


4. Other Artists:
Designers, Isabel Hudson, Michael Hankin.
Sound Artist, Ben Pierpoint.
Directors, Alexander Berlage, Anthea Williams, Sarah Goodes.

I Directed MUM, ME and the IED, at The Depot, with a company of actors that I should like to acknowledge: Elaine Hudson, Martin Harper, Josh Shediak, Matilda Brodie and Phillipe Klaus, who worked tirelessly and generously with the writers, James Balian and Roger Vickery.

New Seasons - 2019 in the Independent scene

This is not a blog concerning a Performance. This concerns the plans for two theatres in the Independent circuit in Sydney. On Sunday 25th November and 2nd December I attended the launch of two 2019 Seasons. It was quite a pleasure to see, at both, a majority of young artists and their supporters, present.

I just thought to remark on the foresight and enterprise of LIMELIGHT ON OXFORD and THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE (bAKEHOUSE). Both organisations have planned 2019 with a generous sense of the development of the young artists in this city by giving the opportunity to create and produce work in their spaces. (One needs to note that both organisations have included the more experienced as well.)

LIMELIGHT ON OXFORD have afforded 20 Productions, scattered throughout its three storey building, and THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE with bAKEHOUSE have a similar number scattered in different venues inside that building. Julie Baz and David Jeffrey of LIMELIGHT ON OXFORD, and Suzanne Millar and John Harrison of bAKEHOUSE with the management of the Kings Cross Hotel, are not only giving space for the artists but, also, are keen in developing an audience of the young for the theatre. They, both, are providing a full night out with Theatre, Food and Drinks available - both venues hoping to create Artistic Hubs and Centres for a 'hotbed' of excitement in craft and hopefully art intensities.

Check out both their web-sites it could be an exciting and very risky time.

Congratulations to both organisations. Good Luck.

P.S. Red Line at the Old Fitz are also promoting a very exciting 2019.