Thursday, January 31, 2019


Photo by David Hooley
Squabbalogic Independent Music Theatre presents in association with Kings Cross Theatre and bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company, HERRINGBONE - A Vaudevillian Ghost Story. Book by Tom Cone. Music by Skip Kennon. Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh. At the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) in the Kings Cross Hotel. January 18th - February 3rd.

HERRINGBONE - A Vaudeville Ghost Story, is a work by Tom Cone. With Music by Skip Kennon and Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh. It first appeared in 1981 and this is its Australian Premiere. It is a one man performance. Jay James-Moody takes on its mantle. For ninety minutes he sings - 14 songs - and dances everything. He gets to create and play and sustain 11 characters. SYBIL (1976), may pop into your mind. Or even the recent SPLIT (2017), may do, too, such are the amazing number of 'possessions' that Mr James-Moody delivers in this production.

A ghost wearing a Herringbone suit, besides some grubby underwear, retells the story of a poor family in Alabama who in 1929 are disappointed with the benefits of the will of their recently deceased relative, who then, inadvisedly, pursue the training of their 8 year old son, Arthur, as an entertainer - an old vaudevillian, a midget who was once part of a duo act called The Chicken and The Frog, is induced to coach him, in the hope that he will make it, later, as a child "movie star" in Hollywood. (Great Depression Dreams.) The sub-title of the show ought to give you the inkling that not all goes well. Arthur can't stop dancing, (THE RED SHOES, pops into your mind), as he becomes possessed by The Frog-half of the old vaudeville act.

The subject matter of this Southern Gothic Tale drags one into an uncomfortable suspecting that what transpires in Mr Cone's Book is a terrible case of 'insanity' brought about by child abuse that ends in suicide with a jump from a 14th story window. It has the feel of horrors of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST - a 1939 novel by Nathaniel West, which was transposed into a great film by John Schlesinger in 1975: The character of Harry Greener, played by Burgess Meredith, a down-and-out Vaudevillian - surfaces into one's memory in Mr James-Moody's Lou. And, add the haunting figure of Homer Simpson (yes, that is the character's name), and, further add his last dreadful act, played by Donald Sutherland, and the imagery is complete. HERRINGBONE, unfortunately, has none of the literary sophistications of its predecessor. HERRINGBONE, is dross for the gullible.

Jay James-Moody has produced this show, and co-directs it as well, with Michael Ralph, who is also the choreographer. Plucking this obscure 38 year old work from obscurity would have been an irresistible tantalisation for any gifted performer for it requires a prodigious talent to venture this one-man piece and will demonstrate the versatility and stamina of the artist who dares. And, certainly, he who dares in this instance, wins. It is a breathtaking exhibition of Mr James-Moody's talent and potential.

This exciting exhibition is, unfortunately, expended on this work that is less than transparent and plummets into ill conceived narrative and does not seem to have much to say or illuminate - it gets into a 'squirmy' place with a sex encounter between 8 year-old George, possessed by the midget, Lou, and the front desk keeper of the Hotel, Dot. Dot, she, who demands to hear the child's voice repeatedly, to get off! The Book is 'freaking'-weak, to say the least. The Music and the Lyrics, are not memorable and, relatively, I would estimate as third rate. And really, and truly, Mr James-Moody need not have proven his gifts for us for we are in awe already: last year's dexterous characterisations in SHE LOVES ME at the Hayes Theatre, and his tour de force in the otherwise over burdened production of Patrick White's A CHEERY SOUL was a standout - there is much else, as well.

There is a three piece band: Natalia Aynsley (Assistant Musical Director and Keys), Amanda Jenkins (Double Bass) and Tom McCracken (Drums) under the Musical Direction of Benjamin Kiehne. Maybe, it is over volumed by Sound Designer, Jessica James-Moody. Benjamin Brockman has delivered a crack -a-jack Set Design and a Lighting Design that keeps, fortunately, everything alert. He is a boon to this show.

HERRINGBONE - A Vaudeville Ghost Story, is a production for the fans of Mr James-Moody - and who isn't? - who can, then, ignore the Play that is the framework for this - it must be - passion project (?) I can ignore the short-comings of the play and can still remain an avid fan of Mr James-Moody's gifts and talents.

The Big Time

Photo by by Brett Broadman
Ensemble Theatre presents, David Williamson's THE BIG TIME, at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli. 18th January - 16th March.

THE BIG TIME is a new play by David Williamson. It focuses on the world of the entertainment industry. The struggle of the actor. The struggle of the writer. All of them trying to reach The Big Time. For, as Mr Williamson tells us in his Writer's Note in the program:
In the entertainment industry there's only one place all hopefuls want to be. The Big Time. If they make it, they become wealthy, but perhaps even more importantly they are finally treated with respect. ... That's why the competition to make The Big Time is so fierce. ...
He goes on to say:
Given that I've inhabited this world for nearly fifty years now, and that two of my sons are NIDA acting graduates, my daughter was an actors agent, and my wife was a drama teacher and a theatre critic, I know that in the industry that creates fictional drama, the real life drama can be intense. And that's what made it irresistible to write about.
So, based on a life time engagement in the entertainment industry - first hand and second hand - Mr Williamson draws on what he knows, firstly, as a writer himself, dealing with agents and producers, then, of his two sons' experiences as actors and his daughter's and wife's experiences as actor agent, drama teacher and critic. This, the truthful claim of ownership of this play's territory, was re-iterated in the press publicity for this production.

Vicki Fielding (Claudia Barrie) and Celia Constanti (Aileen Huynh) went to Drama School together - NIDA, Mr Williamson tells us (where both his sons went). Celia was the naturally gifted one with a genuine collaborative personality, who was comfortable with her talent and shone at Drama School, she got to play great roles: who will ever forget her layered student performance as Masha, confessing to her sisters in act three of THREE SISTERS?!!!! Vicki, was the feisty, difficult talent, genuinely unhappy with her opportunities and felt discriminated against in the system of Drama School - she got to play the maid in the same production of THREE SISTERS, for god's sake!!! (someone has to, I guess. Stanislavaki famously said "There are no small roles, only small actors". He, of course, was the Artistic and Financial support of the Moscow Arts Theatre, and was - how fortuitous - one of the leading actors, in his own company! Vicki, on the other hand, is just a struggling no-body talent in an unappreciative environment.)

Celia has worked in the industry and become a famous and secure talent - commodity - of the television world - a Logie, New Idea and TV Week covers etc. Her work is popular but unchallenging of her 'real' talent. Vicki, has had no easy time and to stay in the profession has worked in fringe work, earning barely a living, but in an artistic field of challenge and growth, as compensation, she believes. These two, who have managed to stay connected as friends over their career years are often at loggerheads as Vicki admonishes Celia, at their coffee-meet-ups, for her acceptance of the easy path at the expense of her talent. (She sounds like a caring, 'good' friend.) Celia confesses her comfort in what she is doing. Then, somehow, Vicki, with no Directorial experience but with a 'boots and all' personality has been given the opportunity to Direct an 'indie' film - a film script , of much promise. What a turn-up, eh?! What an unbelievable industry risk taking decision! A difficult actress given the Directorial reins of an "indie' film, with no practical credentials. Bravo, industry. (Believable?)

Vicki, abrasively, convinces the Producer of the film, Nate Macklin (Matt Minto), despite the fact that they have secured Rose Byrne and Hugh Jackman as the leads (it must be a great 'indie' film script?!), that they should test Celia for the lead. Celia, reluctantly does so, at the badgering request of Vicki and against her Agent, Nellie Brown's (Zoe Carides), inclination. Believe it or not - and we want to, for Celia is a very likeable person - she impresses Nate and he wants to go with Celia, instead of the box-office certainty of Rose Byrne (oh, really). But, Vicki says 'NO', that there is something absent from Celia's audition, even though she has promised, verbally, the certainty of the  role to Celia. Revelation: it is a blatant set-up and double cross of her so-called friend. The audience, I was with, drew breath at this audacious duplicity - it looks like revenge by Vicki for Celia's talent and life good fortune, and her own frustrations. By the end of the play we learn that difficult Vicki is a ruthless operator who has no qualms about her actions. For Vicki, the industry is a dog-eats-dog world. Know your objective and passionately, ruthlessly, pursue it (she did learn something at Drama School, it seems.)

Woven into this is Celia's partner of long-standing, Rohan Black (Jeremy Waters), who 15 years ago was a highly respected screen writer, but now is regarded as an industry 'has been' - no success for 15 years. He is spurned by the industry which connects us back to Nate. Nate baldly gives the humiliating disrespect-scene in an interview with Rohan at a 'pitch' meeting for a proffered idea. Rohan is devastated with this unequivocal statement of his industry standing. Added to all of this is that, his long time partner, Celia, wants a family, but really she is also the bread winner, and with Rohan not able to make an earning, it might not be possible! Strain on the relationship.

Rohan's best school friend, an ordinary blue-collar bloke, not working in the entertainment industry, Rolly Pierce (Ben Wood), who meet up at regular beer-catch-ups, confesses of the collapse of his real world - marriage, job etc. Oddly, at the end of this scene, we discover that Rolly - who has not had an inkling of a creative bone in his routinely educated body, til now - has jotted down some notes of an idea he has had for a television series which he got while overhearing a bus conversation (on a bus, of course - his marriage breakdown as not gone well financially, for him) and hands them to Rohan. Rohan takes the notes but forgets about them until he is pleadingly reminded by Rolly at another catch-up.

So, Rohan, at the rock-bottom of his own creative life, reluctantly reads and, guess what? - man, oh, man you wouldn't believe it - Bingo - an Eureka moment! Rohan finds an inspiration for a television series and not only that it has a great role for Celia and as she has given notice to her long running 'soapie' work this script is a possible come-back in a more meaningful work. Rohan the shining knight hero comes in for a two career bail-out! Celia, gets excited and  helps Rohan develop the script, especially the 'fleshing' out of the leading role.

The script is pitched to Nate and he loves it, and although, he has had to sack Vicki from her Directorial role on that 'indie' film at the request of Hugh and Rose - not done without acrimony, you can bet, considering Vicki's displayed temperament - he has recently seen her acting in a role on television, and strike her lucky - offers her the role.

Poor Rohan, he is then forced to decide between his personal demand for his wife to play the lead (which they wrote together), or, Nate's warning ultimatum that the project will be 'flicked' by Netflix, unless it is Vicki. Vicki has accepted it, it seems. Rohan, angsts, but concedes. Celia is destroyed, separation between the two ensues.

Then, guess what?  Vicki revenges herself on Nate, for her removal from that film as Director, and drubs Celia's ego further, by reneging on her decision to play the role and flying off, she believes, to happier creative climes in L.A. Celia, Nate, Rohan and Rolly (oh, by the way Rohan had denied his mate, Rolly, any credit to the product, and so, no financial redress) are left without a thing. Because, Netflix bales.

Mr Williamson has created a fictional creative drama out of what he knows, that, maybe, has some shadow of a real-life experience, study. A cartoon shadow, really -this is truly 'fiction'. For, THE BIG TIME, as entertaining as it sometimes is in its comic dialogue, has a very superficial, glib, bald dramaturgical structure. The narrative is packed with coincidental (contrived) events for dramatic impact (or, is it for exaggerated satiric effect?), that is risible. The context of the scenario's background in THE BIG TIME is mostly drawn by the 'name dropping' of famous industry figures and institutions to give it, it felt, some patina of veracity. The characters in the play are, archetypes, drawn with pencil thin background, barely hiding their dramaturgical function.

It seems everybody in the entertainment industry has a price to hit THE BIG TIME. And that price always trumps the value of trust and love for other human beings - whether they be your business partners, your best fiends or even your long-time partner. There is a speech in the play, tacked into the weave regarding a social comment concerning the woeful state of professional, contemporary, ethics and the accepting of normalising its place in the world. It is thrown almost nakedly at us, in a word-smith magician's flourish to, perhaps, hint, that THE BIG TIME is, indeed, a serious contemporary play of social and moral depth. It is unhappy that this notion does not come from within the action of the play but is tacked on as a kind of yellow paper stick-on.

Fortunately the Director, Mark Kilmurry, has the theatrical magician's trick of 'smoke and mirrors' and handles the action on the stage with ease, on a clean uncluttered Set Design and fresh 'modern' Costume Design, by Melanie Liertz, lit with a comfortable gleam to keep an atmosphere of fluid action on the go, by Nicholas Higgins. The show flows crisply and leaves little opportunity for any of us really to have time for pause at all the 'fairy-tale' contrivance dished up to us - and it does have, after all, lots of funnies -and we are happy enough, it seems, to be distracted from the bitter social commentary, that could have been the spine of the action.

In the central role of Celia, Aileen Huynh, has a pleasing presence and a sophisticated revelation of someone with a backstory - we come to care for her. Jeremy Waters, tackles Rohan with reserve and an easy, not to dark a turpitude - he is not a villain just a thoughtless and hapless, spineless 'goof'. Claudia Barrie, does what she can to bring dimension to the Vengeful Pyscho that is Vicki, but she is, relatively, up against it, the writing is stacked against her - Vicki ought to have played the 'scheming' Natasha in Three Sisters, rather than that maid at Drama School. It would have been preparation for Vicki's real evolving persona! - Chekhov's Natasha has her text stacked against her, too. Zoe Carides, has charm, in an underwritten role, and Matt Minto and Ben Wood, play function adeptly, their costuming helpful in creating character.

THE BIG TIME is a new play by David Williamson and this is its World Premiere. Mr Williamson has presented a new play once a year now for several years, like clock-work. They have become a box office staple for the Ensemble and are extremely popular with their audiences. The company usually has near sell-out everytime his work is curated in the Ensemble Season catalogue. It is an amazing and prolific output. Some may think it is too fast to maintain quality - the quality of the work is a poor compare with some of Mr Williamson's early career.

THE BIG TIME is a little better than some of the other recent yearly showings and not too difficult to enjoy if you don't look and listen too closely. It is, certainly, a better work than CELLULOID HEROES, Mr Williamson's 1980 play that dealt, directly, with the entertainment industry - the film industry.

I understand the production is sold out!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Beware of Pity

Schaubuhne Berlin (Germany) and Compicite (UK) present, BEWARE OF PITY, based on a novel by Stefan Zweig, in a version by Simon McBurney, James Yeatman, Mada Zade and the ensemble. In the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay. 23rd - 27th January.

UNGEDULD DES HERZENS (THE HEART'S IMPATIENCE), the only novel by Stefan Zweig (1939) has been devised for performance, by two of the leading avant grade theatre explorers of Europe: Schaubuhne Berlin and Theatre Complicite of the UK, under the title, BEWARE OF PITY. It was first seen in Berlin in 2015, at the Barbican in 2017 and now, in Sydney, in 2019.

Simon McBurney of Complicite, working with the Schaubuhne for the first time, has led a team of seven actors: Robert Beyer, Marie Burchard, Johannes Flaschberger, Christoph Gawenda, Moritz Gottwald, Laurenz Laufenberg and Eva Meckbach into deconstructing the novel with James Yeatman (Co-Director) and Maja Zade, and has with, especially, the Sound Design of Pete Malkin, and his sound associate, Benjamin Grant, found a form that takes us concentratedly into the world of Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller, a member of a cavalry unit of the Austrian-Hungarian army based in a locational fringe of that empire, months prior to the assassination of the Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, that brought the world into a cataclysmic disaster of four years of destructive war.

This production is performed in German and is accompanied by sur-titles in English. It is a two hour and fifteen minute journey without interval. The production is extremely faithful to the organising of the novel and has all seven actors on stage verbalising narrative as well as acting out scenes in character, both, with microphone assistance and deft physicalisation. The play has two actors engaged as our hero Hofmiller, Christoph Gawenda, as the 'framing' narrator remembering the story and Laurentz Laufenberg, as the enactor of the past events. Both are superb. All the other actors are excellent, shifting roles during the experience, aided by simple costume changes, Designed by Holly Waddington. It is on an open Set Design, by Anna Fleischle, that mainly is concerned with the pragmatics of the performance style rather than any period detail - a glass cabinet that moves on wheels in many imaginative transformations, a gurney-like table, also mobile, tables/desks with microphones on stands, chairs, music stands with copies of the script lit sensitively in an important and intricate atmospheric Lighting Design by Paul Anderson. The depth for the opportunistic imaginative immersion for the audience to create the actual world in the play's historic context, both, figuratively and emotionally, is in an intricately and versatile, brilliant use of Video Design by Will Duke.

Hofmiller, a young cavalry soldier from a family of no caste, is drawn into the circle of the only Family of significance in his Unit's placement, the Kekesfalva's. At a dinner to which Hofmiller is invited he makes a social faux pas when he asks one of the daughters of the house, Edith, to dance, There is an immense tension when he finds that he has asked a young cripple to do so. In abject embarrassment he attempts to apologise and sends her flowers the following day. Edith is impressed and invites him back to the castle and there begins a relationship of subtle affection and compassion - one that may be driven by pity for her on his part. Unfortunately, Edith develops a love passion, and Hofmiller under pressure from her family, becomes engaged to her as an encouragement for her to take a treatment for her affliction. She believing in him becomes more enmeshed in her feelings for him. He has come to find her touch repulsive. Publicly, within the unit and town, fearing ridicule and contempt, he denies his engagement. Hearing of this Edith, fluxes in the heated temper of the enraged ill, despairs and, through an incident of history - the Declaration of War, does not receive a re-assuring telegram from him, and ultimately, suicides. Hofmiller is wracked by guilt - Beware of Pity.

The sur-titles, placed at the back of the action, on the sides, are the security (the life line for us non-German speakers) of the performance, and the exercise of the experience is the necessity to read to give clarity to the action of the play. There is a very dense and detailed sur-titled element. It is rather like reading the novel in an intensified version accompanied, peripherally, by live and video action. Strangely, one becomes able - adept - to the reading and the watching, and both coalesced into a seamless concentration. The length of the uninterrupted performance was not a chore and I was surprised at my lack of time memory.

The play is an old-fashioned melodrama of the 1930's-40's style, made 'superior' and given depth with a moral 'struggle' and lesson. The production by Mr McBurney and this very assured company of collaborators, on the other hand, is stylistically contemporary and crisp in its highly efficient action/Directorial conceits. It is delivered with great confidence and and reveals an exemplary ensemble full of artistic cohesion and trust. It is cool and clean. It is immersively clear. It has a kind of demanding arrogance -'catch us if you can/will' - and has a rewarding pay-off if you buckle under, read the sur-titles, and go with it.

BEWARE OF PITY, a two hour traffic on the stage, that is absorbing. Mr McBurney, who usually delivers his works with a dense focus of technical innovation and contemporary tools, has weighted this production with the words from the novel, and simplifying his methods, encouraged true and thrilling performances from his actors. This is a production of the highest quality.

Le Gateau Chocolat: Icons

Photo by Jamie Williams
Sydney Festival presents, LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT: ICONS, in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Festival Gardens, Hyde Park. 23-27 January.

Le Gateau Chocolat, is a Cabaret performer from the UK. He first performed as part of the Sydney Festival in 2011. ICONS, is his new show celebrating musical heroes that have shaped his life, using his personal autobiography to catalogue the heroes and songs chosen. 'It is a mix of pop, opera and rock with renditions (sometimes just snipped quotes) from musical legends including Whitney, Bowie, Pavarotti, Madonna and Meatloaf.'

Le Gateau Choclat is sumptuous in size and presents as a beautiful, bearded baritone gay 'drag queen' of Nigerian origins. He uses his own rich and expressive voice, nicely and sensitively micro-phoned by his Sound Designer, and it can be certainly thrilling in its range of note as he moves between public and private personas to sing about love, heartbreak and identity. There is witty verbal and physical anecdotal 'patter' between songs, while indulging in grotesque costume changes of a decidedly poor man's imaging of the Grace Jones-look - there are a few glitzy coverings usually topped with a deliberately ridiculous, architectural head piece - hat. It felt ironically self-deprecating.

The audience I saw this performance with were avid fan boys and girls of all ages and responded to the performance with that special love that fan boys and girls have - both audience and performer flattering each other with the rapport - they loved the concluding sing-along of a Whitney song.

As a new comer to Le Gateau Chocolat I was not so easily wooed and felt that I was watching a performer using the construction of his show as a mediative abreaction, an enacted therapy session, which we were invited to witness, for, the events of his life scripted tended to dwell in a heart-felt melancholia, producing resonant vibrations of, mostly, angst. I found it a little uncomfortable, indulgent, to be part of.

It was no accident, I thought, that Le Gateau Chocolat reached into the opera potential of his voice (it was a little unsteady) and quoted an aria from Ruggerio Leoncavallo's opera PAGLIACCI (1892) - the story of a circus clown that has been duped, cuckolded - the aria of a sad clown. The aria, in the opera leads to murder and tragedy. There was an air of unresolved, and artistically unimpeded, depression emanating from the performance persona - a piercing inner grief not really disguised by a deliberate effort of a distracting comic garb - his little blue dunce's cap perched precariously on that vast dome of manliness. The repertoire of the performance stayed in similar and constant territory. and tone.

Last week in the Spiegeltent I was moved by PAUL CAPSIS who gave his all to his audience. This week with Le Gateau Chocolate I was not moved much and felt that perhaps I needed to have seen his last show he gave at the Sydney Festival to truly appreciate the rapture of his audience around me. He just didn't really take off. Maybe, he was distracted by the intrusive noise of the Road Works drilling not to far away from the tent.

Whatever! It was, relatively, an oddly enervating - draining - night.

The older couple beside me asked what I had thought. I replied, "Comme ci comme sa', wavering my hand in gesture. They looked, gently, disappointed. I added, "He has a wonderful voice". They relievedly smiled at my stab at positiveness and I was able to extricate myself out of the tent without spreading my 'so-so' appreciation any further - fans are fans, and can be zealots of defence.

Love and Anger

Photo by Suzanne Phoenix

The Griffin Theatre present LOVE AND ANGER, devised by Betty Grumble at the SBW Stables, Darlinghurst. 21st - 26th January.

LOVE AND ANGER, is back after a one night stint in the Griffin Bach Festival last April. Betty Grumble, a subversive burlesque artist from the fringe of Sydney theatre activism is, spectacularly, back.

With the 1967 text, THE SCUM MANIFESTO, by Valerie Solanas - a radical feminist work - in her hands and quoted from, serving as a reference to give this work, well spine, Betty uses her body in a ' in-yer-face' reveal to parody, satirise, mens' historic objectification of women and to re-claim the sexual normality of the female.

She is fearless (courageous) in the method of her activism and it is startling, provoking, funny, and an hour in the theatre that you will not easily forget. It is rare to have this kind of show on the stage of a mainstream space and here it is: again.

Amongst much, there is a parody of a stripper's 'bump and grind', with that music that we can all quote, blended with the routine of her own mother's Body Building performance in a pink bikini, that is elegant and powerful in its physical beauty and control, hilariously executed, dripping with the intensity of the political irony that Betty Grumble gives this sequence, that was escalated, for me, by the personal remembrance of the actual location of the Griffin Theatre which is only a short distance from the notorious Strip Club enclave of Darlinghurst Rd (now in decline but still there) where men and women boggled with taunt the female form and sexuality. Ms Grumble's performance is delicious.

There is definite Method in Ms Grumble's Madness and there is, for me, no gratuitousness in the show. It expresses the ANGER of a woman at the world that is, but, also, is balanced by the LOVE she has for all of the human species - even - especially, the men.

It is a wild and daring ride - I thoroughly recommend it. See my past blog for more information.

Do go for the loving provocation.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Brett and Wendy

Kim Carpenter's Theatre of Image in association with Riverside Theatre, as part of the Sydney Festival presents the World Premiere of BRETT AND WENDY - A Love Story Bound By Art, in the Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. 18 - 27 January, 2019.

BRETT AND WENDY - A Love Story Bound By Art, is a performance piece Created by Director, Designer Kim Carpenter, the Artistic Director of The Theatre of Image, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary year.

Says, Mr Carpenter in his program notes: "I created this script like a collage, gathering material from interviews, conversations, books, observations and personal experiences and curated them into a form as 'I can see'".

The work attempts to explore the biographical journey of artist Brett Whitely from that of the boy, to the teenager, the student, the man, the family man, the world traveller, the painter. We hear and see the influences: his original skewed perception of objects and sense of 'wonder'; his relentless pursuit of disrupting the norm; of his appreciation of other great art (look at art before looking at nature); his admiration of Lloyd Rees; the influence of the 'love of his life', Wendy; of the surrounding influence of his parents and of his daughter, Arkie, and the indulgence in the embracement of alcohol and other drugs. One learns in this brief skirmish through the material chosen by Mr Carpenter and shown, details that deliver new insight and validated pre-knowledge of Brett Whitely, that had been accumulated from a life lived at a radical cutting eye view and of his 'fearless' pursuit of his source for and pre-occupations as an artist. His love of beauty and nature and as well, an interrogation of evil and violence - a consuming attraction to opposites - dichotomy.

It is the imagery that Mr Carpenter gives us, what he sees, on the wide white oblong box of the Lennox Theatre stage, where elegantly designed and placed properties and swathes of sensitive paint colour, provide an idealised sense of an artist's studio surrounded by a stimulating world of events that appear in a 'collage' of chosen historical documentary film, of photographic images of art - black and white sketches and paintings - people and incidents of history - social and political -  accompanied by written verbal information, that easily and quietly, triumphantly, whisks us away into a comfortable place of mediation and meditation of the challenging draughtsmanship and content of this prolific 'genius' and his output. The choice and managing of the stimulus of this imagery has a sureness, a confidence and a sufficiency, from Mr Carpenter, as an artist in his own rite, assisted by the Digital Artist, Fabian Astore.

Inside this space, Choreographer, Lucas Jervies (who recently made the Australian Ballet's new SPARTACUS), with three dancers: Robbie Curtis, Naomi Gibbered and Dean Elliott, create character(s) and narrative through moving sculptural imagery of the most beautiful kind. It is swift, poetic and indelible in its affect and glowing force, made most handsome though the Lighting by Sian James-Holland. (The bath tub scene, truly capturing). Too, Mr Jervies creates effective movement (dance) with the company's actors as well.

The 70 minute performance is supported by a score played live by Composer and Musician, Peter Kennard, creating an atmosphere and a spine of direction through tympanic tempo and rightness of a sound, provoking an aural imagery of a deeply resonant, transcendent kind.

Visually, musically, BRETT AND WENDY is great. This is a production of Imagery that is glorious.

The weakness of the work, that is a distract, is the writing - the text. Mr Carpenter seems to have been responsible for this as well, as no Writer is acknowledged in the program - nor, is there of an assistant dramaturge. It is mostly briefly, stated bare facts, and stunted quotations of opinion. There is little characterisation of actual flesh and blood in the actual words to give the actors leverage for creativity, and the actors have been Directed (not Directed?) to merely recite without ownership of character of any depth, or useful contextualised circumstances - they become merely puppeteered mouthpieces.

Paul Gleeson, has the most opportunity to inhabit his text as a living flesh and blood Brett for he has more text to speak and nearly reveals a three dimensional man. Whereas, Leeanna Walsman has little persuasive conviction as the 'verbal' Wendy (physically, though, she is uncanny in a likeness), and nor does Tony Llewellyn-Jones, or Jeanette Cronin, Olivia Brown and young Yasmin Polley, in multiple roles. The actors appear hapless to have impact in the many disguises of character that the costumes of Genevieve Graham provides. The Choreographic portraits of the characters, delivered by the dancers under the aegis of Mr Jervies, are the most convincing identification for the audience.

This weakness does not undo the night in the theatre but it does prevent it from completely taking off and overwhelming the audience into a full transport of experience ecstasy. Mr Carpenter is secure with what he 'sees', would he were as secure with what he 'says'.

After last week's disappointing Premiere of SHANGHAI MIMI in Parramatta, this World Premiere of BRETT AND WENDY - A Love Story Bound By Art, in the Riverside Theatre does resonate with an assured artistic achievement that is worth hunting out to catch.

The Weekend

Moogahlin Performing Arts presents a World Premiere of THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, in Bay 20, at Carriageworks, as part of the Sydney Festival. 18-23 January.

THE WEEKEND is a monologue/play by Henrietta Baird, first developed at Yellamundie Festival in 2017. It began as a 10 page text and has now developed into a 65 minute monologue.

It is performed by Shakira Clanton, Directed immaculately by Liza-Mare Syron, supported by a marvellous and subtle continuous Score by Nick Wales and Rhyan Clapham, in a Set Design by Kevin O'Brien, of a three panelled 'circus mirror' of warping exaggeration, surrounded in light bulbs, as part of a very intricate and useful Lighting Design by Karen Norris.

THE WEEKEND begins with an introductory Choreographic dance (Vicki Van Hout). Lara, is part of a dance performance in Cairns - a three week engagement. She receives a phone call from her youngest son - their father, Simon, hasn't been seen for days and they are running out of food. Lara with only the weekend to find him worried and alarmed returns to Sydney - and, once settling (rescuing) her boys, begins a traverse into the world of public housing and its denizens in a confrontation of drug taking and dealing and the attendant unhappy activities of that world under the threat of losing her kids to the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

Shakira Clanton, re-telling the story of Lara's THE WEEKEND, plays a considerable series of characters seamlessly, with a fine physical definition, and a keen sense of all the individuals, with a sophisticated emotional entry and empathy. It is a mercurial performance sustained with stamina and winning confidence.

This one person monologue is written with breathtaking reality and white knuckle tension - the music score is key to maintaining that propelling energy. The dramatic storytelling, fortunately, is sprinkled with insightful comedy character study and the laughter it triggers allows one to release the gathering anxieties of Lara's journey. For, the vertiginous thrust of the plotting of the narrative grips you tightly, breathlessly, as you identify with Lara and her desperate plight (one screams internally -"Dump that Bum Bag for God's sake"), and the ultimate denouement of learning is a relieved surprise.

Like the people of the community in Tower One and Two, Lara realises that she too is an addict. But, an addict that has nothing to do with drugs but to a system that has had her accepting the abuse of the community and that of her 'needy' sex attraction to her Simon. The near loss of her children has her realise that her 'jealousy' and obsession  is the self-destructive 'bomb' that will destroy her children's lives and her own, unless she goes cold-turkey to that addiction, that would, inevitably assure the repetition of the cycle of social and cultural annihilation that she has tried to reverse in her own experience.

The text of THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, has the sense of an authenticity of a lived experience and brings a reality to the world of her Indigenous First Peoples contemporary urban struggle and life. Like Kylie Coolwell's BATTLE OF WATERLOO, this play takes one into a world reflecting the tragedy of a community in the lower depths of survival. It is a true tragic/comedy written with great love and understanding and is a compassionate illumination for its audience, that probably has never known that that world even existed - exists - or, if they do, in the periphery of their consciousness, has generalised a judgement decision of condemnation concerning that community. Experiencing and becoming familiar with an individual, in THE WEEKEND's Lara, we come to genuinely care for her and her human dilemma to survive and succeed. The experience of THE WEEKEND delivers a social consciousness revelation that ought to raise understanding and urge compassionate reaching out to assist fraternally the marginalised, the expelled, the discriminated, the 'judged',  the displaced.

Moogahlin Performing Arts is NSW's premier First People's performing arts company, formed in Redfern in 2007 in honour of Kevin Smith's request and in memory of the founding members of the Black Theatre. The vision of the company is 'transformation through cultural arts'. The Co-Artistic Directors are Lily Shearer (the Producer of THE WEEKEND), Frederick Copperwaite and Dr. Liza-Mare Syron (the Director of THE WEEKEND). They have laboured over ten years, and the longevity of this dedication is delivering work of diversity and high quality. Last year the company as part of the Sydney Festival presented BROKEN GLASS, in Blacktown, which was, for me, a truly incisive, insightful and  transformative work, that I felt privilege to have had experienced. THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, is further confirmation of the importance of the work and vision of this company.

The Chat

Photo by Prudence Upton
JR Brennan and David Woods, presents THE CHAT, a devised work, in Track 6, Carriageworks, as part of the Sydney Festival. 16-20 January.

THE CHAT, is a very interesting work.

JR Brennan has worked as a parole officer in Sydney's Long Bay Correctional Centre, and as an artist, created a series of performance workshops with Performance maker and choreographer Ashley Dyers for ex-offenders in the Melbourne area. THE CHAT "created in collaboration with participants from these workshops and leading criminologists, is a work that fundamentally challenges our notions of criminal identity and asks the audience to play judge."

This work has been in an evolving process since 2014 and has been performed in Melbourne and Brisbane, with David Woods (Co-Artistic Director of Ridiculusmus) as the principal performer. The other performers are Arthur Bolkas, Shane Brennan, Nicholas Maltzahn, Ray Morgan, John Tjepkema, Simon Warner and Les Wiggins. Four of these performers are actual ex-offenders and parolees.

The work is performed on a long purple carpeted traverse stage, with audience seated either side. At one end is a screened space that has an office referral desk and a heightened lounging chair. At the other end is a cubed metal space with desk and two chairs in front of a screen on which live footage is thrown during THE CHAT.

We are greeted by the company and guided to seats and engaged, some of us, in conversation. The performance begins, and after introductions to the company and their roles in the performance to come, a series of workshop exercises are shown - trust games etc - then one of the ex-offenders is selected and begins a participatory interview. And, it becomes a role-play routine where, actor David Woods assumes the identity of the ex-offender and the ex-offender assumes the identity of the parole officer.

Essentially it is an extended improvised process between the two men where the audience become privileged with the background and circumstances of the 'criminal identity' of the offender - on my night, we met in detail, Les Wiggins. Each night, during this season, a different 'identity' is the subject of the core revelation. At the conclusion of this intriguing process two or three members of the audience are invited to participate in the discussion of the 'mock' Parole Board, whilst the rest us are encouraged to discuss what we have witnessed. The audience are invited to ask Les any question for further information. In due course the audience are invited to decide on whether the parolee ought to be given another opportunity or re-imprisoned. We do. Then the "Parole Board" delivers its verdict.

The performance is designed to bring a community visibility to the difficulties of the parolee in his social re-engagement with the real world and the intricate balance the responsible Parole Board has in its delivery of decision, especially to those who have broken conditions of their original parole in seeking a re-trusting.

It is a totally engaging experience and one that has the strangely conflicted emotional wants of an audience introduced into the complex history of an individual who we know has been declared a 'criminal' and who is at our 'mercy' as to the hopefulness of his future, having failed already once the Justice System's trust. The performance is non-dramatic, it has a feeling of actuality without any gratuitous feel of intruding or peep-show indulgence. Certainly, one is left with much to discuss and ponder after the performance has finished. It is immaculately organised and has the tentative feel of real-life vulnerability and the possibility of crashing into failure - it puts the audience into a defensive state of anxiety mixed with good will.

THE CHAT is an experience of some real worth.

David Williamson's JACK MANNING TRILOGY (FACE TO FACE - 2000; CONVERSATION - 2001; CHARITABLE INTENT - 2001), are a series of plays about community conferencing where the extended families - the 'victims' - meet the offender in a an attempt of reconciliation, and they gave (give) insight into the complexities involved with human yearnings and the rigidity of the Law, and they are entirely absorbing (one better than the others, particularly), but are conventionally bound by the structure of the 'well made play' into some decided bourgeois order with not much visceral risk.

Similarly, but in content of a different kind, the the plays of prisoner Jim McNeil: THE CHOCOLATE FROG - 1970; and HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW - 1974, gives privy into the complicated humanity of the prisoner and it resonated within its rougher but well made play boundaries.

THE CHAT is of an entirely different kind of experience. Not quite the experience of an audience watching, at invitation, the enactment of a play performed by asylum internees concerning a murder as in Peter Weiss' , 1963 play: THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF JEAN-PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF MARQUIS DE SADE (MARAT/SADE, for short), that turns into an actual witnessed murder, THE CHAT, has some of that play's anticipatory subliminal human fascination that keeps one, gently, but expectantly on edge, and prepared for shock.

This play has won many awards and this production is a fascinating learning experience. A real Festival event.

Paul Capsis with Jethro Woodward and the Fitzroy Youth Orchestra

Sydney Festival present, PAUL CAPSIS with Jethro Woodward & The Fitzroy Youth Orchestra, in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Festival Gardens (Hyde Park). 17th and 18th January.

When one witnesses the talent of Paul Capsis live on stage, it puts much else into perspective. This is the Best Show that I have seen at this Festival and it is the force that is Mr Capsis that makes it so - he is unique, special. He not only has the skills, he has 'IT'.

Paul Capsis is a GREAT artist. Every gesture, from his 'mad' costuming, to his excessive wig, and in this case his 'Baby Jane' make-up is a calculated craft with a spontaneous spirit that wants to give. To give to his audience. He does 2oo%.

He lifts the experience of ART into a stratosphere that only a few have the wherewithal to be able to do. Not only does he have a remarkable voice of magic sounds over an extraordinary range (still), but, also, the interpretative genius with the lyrics of his material, supported by vocal equipment that delivers every word - every single word with impact. That quality, alone, is what escalates him into the realms of the GREAT. Aretha Franklin could do it. Frank Sinatra could. So could Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee. (Listen to their recordings.) Paul Capsis can do it and does still.

He has an instinctual 'feel' and seems to channel the energies of the universe, for the musical inspiration of each song that he chooses, and it is vivid and startling in its combination of spirituality and science to watch as he becomes 'possessed'. He moves and jigs - fingers, hands at the wrist, arms and head jerks bringing that wig to a life of its own with its own production vocabulary. He, like a great wizard, seems to summon the original creators to possess him as he honours them.

Each song, in this 1hour and 20 minute Set, from Skyhooks' EGO IS NOT A DIRTY WORD, across Nancy Sinatra's BANG BANG (MY BABY SHOT ME DOWN) - I know the Cher version - to Lou Reeds' A PERFECT DAY, is personalised and owned by the performer with such intimacy that I feel confident in saying that every member of the audience can easily conceive that Paul Capsis is singing directly and only to them - I began to cry during the BANG BANG rendition and that was only the third song in this repertoire. Heartbreak of my own betrayals came tearfully back.

In the Lighting Settings and the Sound Design of the space of the Spigeltent, atmosphere is spun, even at a 6pm gig! And the 4 piece Melbourne Band led by Jethro Woodward surrounds Paul Caprsis with inspired playing in arrangements that are stirring in their affect. They are alight with energy and the joy of doing what they were meant to do.

Now, I have to tell you that I would never play this music at home - I have no real affinity for it - but in the magic that this ensemble exudes I could not have been more mesmerised and enchanted. I surrendered and received an invaluable experience.

Bad Luck if you haven't booked - for this is a 'genius' experience and it is a rarity. It is what makes life worth living.

Orquestra Akonan

Photo by Prudence Upton

Sydney Festival with Daptone Records, present, ORQUESTA AKOKAN, in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent Festival Garden (Hyde Park) 15 and 16 January.

ORQUESTA AKOKAN, is a big band mambo collective, comprised of some of Cuba's finest musicians and others from New York, celebrating Havana of the 1940's and 50's. The band is led by Cuban singer Jose 'Pepito' Gomez and piano player Michael Eckroth and Jacob Plasse featuring a crack brass section.

The Spigeltent had had all its furniture cleared and we entered into a 'mosh' pit style accommodation with the permanent 'bank' table and benches surrounding it. There was room to dance. Exploding with energy and sound the evening took off. Coupled began to dance all over the place. The music is what it is and it was what most of this audience wanted. Daptone Records has just completed their last album and ORQUESTA AKONAN's presence in Sydney may have the synchronicity element of a propaganda motive in delivering this sound for a world music appreciation. This Sydney audience, knew all about it and relished the chance to hear it live.

I pined for the Ricky Ricardo orchestra - really the Desi Arnaz Orchestra - and wouldn't it have been lovely if Porto Rican Ricky Martin had made it, too. You can't have everything, can you?

Shanghai Mimi

Photo by Prudence Upton

SHANGHAI MIMI PTY LTD, FINUCANE and SMITH and CAEG, present SHANGHAI MIMI, at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, as part of the Sydney Festival. 10th - 20th January.

SHANGHAI MIMI, is a cabaret entertainment having its World Premiere in the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. Inspired by the legend of 1930's Shanghai, the 'Paris of the East', an international port city of foreign enclaves, a city famous for its flamboyant clubs and heady nights, a live band (led by John McCall) playing vintage Chinese jazz and blues, a group of artists (eight, in number) feature as dancers (Choreography, by Simon Abbe and Wu Baoyong), acrobats and aerialists (the Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe) - they represent a diversity of origin from China, Cameroon, Australia and France.

The concept originator was Douglas Hunter, who co-producers with Li Li. Designer, Eugeene Teh, has created a Chinoiserie of red lanterns and golden curtains and organised a run-way platform that juts out into the auditorium so that the performers can perform their 'skills' in the midst of the audience. The costumes, though they glitter and sparkle are rather aesthetically 'lumpy' in execution, lacking in 'sex appeal' - a key element, surely, of this kind show? Jenny Hector, as Lighting Designer creates illusion to keep the show 'pulsing' with energy. All of this is Directed by Moira Finucane.

The entertainment is centred about the persona of Shanghai Mimi, a chanteuse that ought to be the femme fatale attraction, its spine, its raison d'etre, its 'sex goddess' - think Marlene Dietrich. Our SHANGHAI MIMI is Sophie Koh, the artist impersonating that figure, and unfortunately reveals a vocal skill that lacks the chutzpah or variety for the songs selected for her to perform - added, there is a decided lack of charisma or theatrical presence and the night slowly burns less than bright under her 'reign' as the star of this Cabaret.

So, where is the atomic spark in this cabartet? Possibly, in the 'noise' the band makes? Simon Abbe as M.C. has all the energy in the world but not quite the finesse of a star, no arresting discipline or sense of physical finish struggling with a movement vocabulary that is repetitive and limited - try as he does, the evening cannot take off - it is messy. Energy needs to be 'harnessed'. His choreography is adequately danced by the company but has no zest or pizzaz.

The incredibly talented Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe, present an amazing set of skills and acrobatic disciplines but on the night I saw the show tended to be tentative and, worse, cautious, in the execution of their 'wares'. Many fluffs and flubs were evident. Their efforts were focused on getting it right not projecting risk at all. There was no act presented that suggested the thrill of danger. The performance had no edge, no sense of possible catastrophe - it was asking for admiration not disbelief. After the frequent visits to Sydney of performers in the Cirque de Soleil tent, this indoor cabaret felt safe with a whiff of beginners on trial. It felt hybridised into a sanitary mode of no offence and no contravention of the 'Health and Safety' regulations that prescribes the action. Sydney's underground Burlesque shows have artists that challenge the audience and usually energise their performances with a sense that they will fly or crash, they perform always with as sense of 'life or death'. They give one an exhilaration. Not at SHANGHAI MIMI, however.

The concept is a terrific idea and money seems to have been thrown at it which gives it a patina of expectation but the execution is decidedly third, or to be generous, second tier. It is not a bad night in the theatre but it is certainly, not a great night - there is no stand-out performer or moment onstage.

 Moira Finucane, an Australian talent who has made her mark as a burlesque performer and creator is the Director of this very different genre. There is structure to the production and a sense of possible build, but whether because there was not enough time (was rehearsal time short?) to whip these young artists into a calibre to what makes stars, plotting it into a constructive entertainment order (It, for instance, never knew when to finish - all the tricks were going to be shown, come hell or high-water no matter the time), is not enough, or, is it that none of these performers have the requisite "IT"? - not many do (Vale Carol Channing).

This cabaret show had a genuine excitement in the first 20 minutes, or so, reflected back by the audience response but it dwindled rapidly into a mild appreciation. In fact, the only whiff of the kind of energy needed to puff and bluff this production into a zinging mood, was the impromptu and heartfelt speech in the curtain call given by Ms Finucane - the hard 'cheesy' sell speech!

This production opening in Western Sydney hopes to go on to touring, nationally and internationally, but much work needs to be done on what felt on Opening Night like a first provincial try-out. SHANGHAI MIMI is not, as yet, good enough. One longed for the dangerous atmosphere of Ang Lee's LUST/CAUTION, or even Orson Welles, SHANGAHI EXPRESS, or the comic discipline of the Chinese vaudeville number in Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY - exuberant cheekiness.

Good luck with it.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

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.


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


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.