Blak Nite Cinema

Though the weather has, so far, proven to be slightly less hellish than last year (fingers crossed), Melbourne seems to be taking greater advantage of the long, slow outdoor evenings in the city.  Moonlight Cinema, Rooftop Bar, if we can get outside to while the night away we’re a bunch of happy Melburnites.  Blak Nite Cinema taps into this community of outdoor antics, coupling nighttime frolics with the ever-growing appreciation of Indigeonous cinema that has in the past couple of years been heralded by the release of award-winning Samson and Delilah and musical romp ban Nue Dae.  Bringing together film, music, and food, the free event (sorry, did I forget to mention it was free) will screen a combination of shorts and features by up and coming Indigeonous film makers. 

This is the second year the festival has run, starting off as an initiative run by the City of Melbourne’s Indigeonous arts program.  Although the presence of a short by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah), and one of the nights being hosted by actor Aaron Pederson are certainly trump cards for the event, the emphasis is also on supporting up and coming directors and filmmakers in the industry.  Speaking to Dena Curtis, writer and director of film short Hush, she is filled with praise for the initiatives that have helped her start out as a filmmaker.  “The Australian Film Council (now known as Screen Australia) and SBS had an initiative called ‘Bit of Black Business’, where thirteen, five minute dramas would be workshopped and screened on SBS.”  The result was Hush, a short film about two aunties who seemingly meet up to play cards with each other.  Instead, one of their daughters finds out, they’ve been running a phone sex line.  “The idea popped into my head when I was watching tv with my brother.  Those phone sex ads came on and I started thinking about my aunties and what they talk about when they meet up together, they’re very rowdy and don’t really have any shame.”

Hush is Curtis’ second film, originally travelling through the short film festivals throughout the 2007/2008 seasons to wide acclaim, winning awards at the Independence Festival, as well as the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival.  The film is unusual in its focus on older women, their need for independance as well as an expression of sexuality.  “As a certain age the roles are reversed between parent and child, and some of the film is about the battle over that swop.   Older people aren’t useless at all, and they want their independence, but this film is also about how they can still behave like kids.  Parents think sex is the naughtiest thing possible for their kids to talk about.”  Ethel and Mary are played by veteran actors Marleen Cummins and Barbara Auriel Andrews, one of the first female indigenous singers to make her mark.  “The other good thing about casting Marleen and Auriel was that they’re old friends, so they weren’t really shy about talking about their sexuality.”

Hush is part of a pattern for this year’s festival, that of indigenous filmmaking set in a more urban environment.  Kirv Stenders’ Boxing Day, a quiet, desperate film about Chris, an ex-con trying to host a post Christmas dinner for his niece and brother’s ex wifeis set amongst silent suburban houses that don’t seem to notice, let alone react to the chaotic revelations that are going on inside ex-con Chris’ house.  Mad Morro, a documentary directed by Kelrick Martin, traces the story of James and his impending release from prison, returning to the family home of his mother Debbie in Taree, and a hard slog of readjustment to life outside gaol.  “It’s important to depict and urban indigenous life.  For a long time people have perceived indigenous people in a certain way.  Black people have the same experience as everyone else, they love, they lose, they fight, they drink, they smoke.  It’s important to have stories that reflect that, that expand the idea of what indigenous people want.”

Beat Magazine, February, 2010

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Capitol punishment in the USA is a mechanised procedure. In the administering of lethal injections, a number of guards are used, each given an individual tasking, the placing of one needle here, the rolling of a trolley there, so that when the final button is pushed, not one individual thinks the death of the inmate is their fault alone, they alone are not responsible for homicide. This was the crux of Eichmann’s argument in his trial for war crimes in Israel in 1962, and an important question that I thought would be addressed in The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Instead was a jumble of images, none weak, none strong, that left the physically well mapped out production with a vagueness towards its true intentions, the desire for reverence towards the survivors of the holocaust affecting any penetration of the problems of systematised violence, and its continued ripples throughout society.

Neil Cole’s script is an attempt to cover the trial of the “architect of the final solution”, Adolf Eichmann, following his kidnapping to Israel and subsequent trial for crimes in the early 1960’s. This is interwoven with the stories of holocaust survivors Arnold Erlanger and Kitia Altman, subsequent Melbournians. Both stories provoke interest; the post-war years whose fallout lasted decades longer than anyone predicted, the cruel ironies that decided life or death over the millions victims of the holocaust, the survivors and their wonder at the very fact of their survival.

These themes are carried out symbolically, the characters carrying certain props around, transferring them, highlighting them more than they needed to. Arnold and Kitia’s stories, although interesting in themselves, have trouble extending to Eichmann’s story, which, although it is titled as such, the play barely covers in any real sense. Every player in this twisted, damaged, raked over and sublime horror has a story attached to them, whether it be sympathetic or sociopathic. The punches in this play were pulled, giving Eichmann a voice only in the seeming transcripts of the trials or the robot answers of meetings. This is the standard. Eichmann himself seems to be the pinnacle of moral paradox, as Hannah Arendt said, the centre point of “the banality of evil”. And yet since that point has been made I do not buy it as dramatic currency. If you are going to deal with the subject, deal with it. I don’t mean by portraying graphic representations of the results, I mean by dealing with the fact that the holocaust was made by and of human beings. Drily recounting events through the shrug of history’s shoulders, held up by the transcripts of a generation other than ours, does not, nor will it ever, salve the guilt felt by an act that remains a blur in the corner of our eyes.

The staging was well spaced and physical, the transitions of actors to their different, symbolic roles, effective. Again the parts of Arnold and Kitia were diminished by their soft brush, their lack of power compared to the scenes with figures of authority, raised on platforms, gowned or uniformed, behind desks or paper or pens. This was sometimes effective, sometimes a detriment, to the play. The ultimate failing of this play was the timidity towards its characterisations. The play wants to invest in Kitia and Arnold’s story, but always withholds. Too timid to invest in a monster, too desirous to side with the sympathetic characters, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann’s frailty stands in its inability to privilege its subject matter over its symbols.

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Eagles Nest Theatre

By Neil Cole

Directed by Jasper Bagg

AT: Studio 1, Northcote Town Hall (189 High St Northcote)
21 October to 8 November

$27 / $17concession /$22 Preview /$15 Preview Concession, Groups 10+, Early Bird (book before 10th Oct), Community Groups

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Mikelangelo in The Nightingale of the Adriatic

Mikelangelo in The Nightingale of the Adriatic was a comfortable and intimate gig played out at the Butterfly Club in South Melbourne. This show, without his Black Sea Gentlemen, wasapparently created to suit venues such as thethirty seater of the Club, geared towards the more personal ballads of Mikelangelo, the songs that he has been fiddling with or playing to himself most recently, a salon-like performance where he encourages you to speak up and talk to him, banter, and of course laugh.

Mikelangelo is an accomplished musician who still knows his limits and his strengths. He also knows how to make an entrance, sauntering in with a moody tuneful whistle, only to later join himself on the piano, settling the audience into the very squishy venue.

The show was a chance for Mikelangelo to also talk about his family’s Croatian background, but there’s something about his storytelling that has a refreshingly hard edge to it, the nostalgia somewhat stripped down or at least deadened in his family’s tales of the old country. This becomes most obvious when Mikelangelo talks about his Aunts’ cooking, which was, he says, terrible. The traditional dishes prepared for him putting him off eating ever again.

One thing that Mikelangelo does enjoy talking about is his hair, and more specifically his favorite brand of pomade (Black Diamond if anyone is interested), launching into a nice little song The Continental Barber, the banter beforehand dotting that style of Barber all over the map of not only Melbourne but also parts of regional Australia.

The good thing about Mikelangelo is the joy that he takes in expressing melancholy, without some of the bling that other cabaret acts have. Sometimes the bands with gypsy/eastern European/alternative roots become a bit toopunk, rancid and intense, but Mikelangelo has a more gentlemanly air to him, inviting you to join him in his world, rather than forcing you to watch a display from the sideline.

And, what I always enjoy from watching his shows are the obvious obsessions that cannot help but shine through, hence the presence of one of the few Croatian cowboys songs you would have heard, or the Dean Martin tinge to many of his tunes. Mikelangelo is the type of performer who can do nothing but share his imagination with you, which is always well-coiffed fun.

Mikelangelo in The Nightingale of the Adriatic
The Butterfly Club
Season Closed

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Bittersweet: MFF

Bittersweet takes place at the end of an evening, in the bygone era of a dusty nightclub. Four performers and a house band take part in a beautiful burlesque evening, housed in the cavernous Meat Market. This venue acts as both a blessing and a curse for the various and extremely talented performers that take part in this circus burlesque.

The Dice Club is a seedy, sweaty haven for the members of society cut adrift. The MC pulls together the threads of acrobat and dancer Stephen Williams, chanteuse Anna Pocket Rocket and sensationally talented trapeze and hula artist Simone Page Jones into a vague recollection of the final moments of the club before its spectacular demise.

MC Richard Higgins pulls the separate parts of the show together admirably, drawing together the massive talent of the performers within a narrative that is neither too simple nor too overbearing. Sometimes his voice is lost through the single mike in the cavernous space, but he maintains very well.

Simone Page Jones has a substantial voice that is something I have not heard in a long time. Her more subtle pieces worked better than her big tune Send in the Clowns, which although brilliant was still anchored in slightly unsuitable setting. Page Jones, at the end of the night, was singing to herself in the mirror, stationary, a lonely figure. This didn’t translate well to the cavernous space of the Meat Market, losing some intimacy in the translation.

Stephen Williams, a masked and hatted figure for much of the first part of the show was a beauty to watch, with an amazing sense of body control. I often become apprehensive in circus acts, sometimes being unable to handle the physical heights that some performers have. Williams was a confident presence on stage, and his acrobatics were graceful, and, more importantly, part of the narrative that had been created.

Anna Pocket Rocket was a stand out for her versatility and vulnerability as a performer. I have always been struck by the contrast of the hula and trapeze acts. The hula is an intense performance, given to moments of both incredible strength, but also extremely contingent on mess ups being made. This was incorporated into Rocket’s act, as was the grace and flexibility that comes with a trapeze act, the independent body of force that can be used for a performance in the air.

A great an entertaining performance from all parties involved where a more intimate venue would have proven better. I understand the need for vigorous safety measures and as an extension for there to be a lot of room, but the narrative begged for a more closed in space where the audiences were more given to interact with not only the performers, but more importantly with the MC, who has the most important story to tell.


With Richard Higgins (Last Tuesday Society, List Operators), Anna Pocket Rocket (Absinthe, Aviator Club UK), Simone Page-Jones (Svetta Dobranoch, Company of Strangers), and Stephen Williams (Baseline Circus UK).

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The Hat Box: MFF

The Hat Box, Family of Strangers’ second production, spares nothing in its gorgeous artistic design and brilliant performances, both from the actors and musicians in the production. What it makes up for in these departments, however, cannot save a disappointing and dull script.

Lace (Lucy Honigman) and Sean (Michael Wahr) have set a course for Spain in their little boat, Sean trying to fulfil his lifelong dream to meet his father, show him his new squeeze, and reconnect with his ancestry. But this world is too good to be true, as it slowly comes crumbling down around the two characters. The actors performed beautifully, holding together the many contrasts that the script demands, with Honigman a stand-out, gathering together the many threads that Lace demands.

Brigid Gallacher has created a thoughtful artistic scope for this play. The design is intricate without being too busy. It has a handmade quality to it that unifies the performers without swamping them. Tessa Pitt has created an amazing series of surprising and versatile props and backdrops, including lunchbag fish and doily clouds that make the set warm and interesting, contrasting with the second acts’ far more dirty and hand worn look. The symmetry between these two contrasting sets in the two acts is still held, with the markers of what has come before making it an interesting world to inhabit.

The scenes and snippets are punctuated by three very talented musicians, apparently on their own far more precarious vessel. Simon Rashleigh, Rachel Zbukvic and Carlos Parraga soundtracked a lot of the scripts’ intentions beautifully.

Hannah Cuthbertson’s delightful costumes aided in unifying the look of the play, with stage hands wandering around the stage dressed as sailors, and actor Honigman looking like she’d just stepped out of a Gilbert and Sullivan production in her amazing dress.

Despite all of these positives, I still had trouble with the script. It really needed to have a few editors go over it, for it to sit in a drawer for three months. What was attempting to act as subtext rapidly became text and needed to be buried in the script far more than it was. The character structure of the male not being able to view women as anything beyond a Madonna or a whore is a classic trope. But no attempt is made to reconcile this dichotomy, or even explore it. In the script, it only existed as a statement, rather than an idea. Sean is trapped inside his own anxieties, the crushing of his spirit through the oppressive force of his childhood, but there was nothing beyond that, making the character into an immovable force. In the end, neither Sean nor Lace are characters, rather moving symbols to an thought that is not extended. There is a certain grace with which you can approach a script. Daubing symbols on the audience is an exhausting experience and one where you’re left feeling a bit used.

The Hat Box: St Martin’s Youth Arts Centre – Irene Mitchell Studio

28 St Martins Lane South Yarra

8.00pm (60min)
Full Price: $ 18.00

23 September – 11 October

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Retail pulls off an amazing array of theatrical difficulties, revelling in the size of its cast, the chamber-like echo of the space, and the gawking presence of an unsuspecting public just outside of the action.

Retail is set in two fashion boutiques located across the road from each other. There is the bridal store run by the matriarchal Anna (Milijana Čančar), assisted by the terminally used and frustrated Jennifer (Emma Fawcett). Across the way are the trio of good time girls that run Tony’s boutique (Lisa Infante, Kristy Barnes-Cullen and Kimberly Stark), and in between travels Bernadette (Sonya Kerr), Guy (James Deeth) and Rob (Mark E. Lawrence), moving between circumstances for reasons that only gradually make themselves clear. Adding to the orbit of characters are nervous fiancées (Steph Hutchison, Claire McArdle), mamma’s boys (Carl J. Sorheim) and customers out of their depth (Tristan Watson). The links between these characters are explored over two days, the seedy side of their situations gradually revealed, culminating in a dramatic conclusion.

A cast of twelve in such as space would seem at first to be madness, how do you not swamp the set? But I only realised the size of the ensemble when they came out at the end, my finger tracing each head, remembering and counting their place in the story. That Thompson has melded this ensemble into having the discipline of a netball team is amazing, with transitions having an amazing level of fluidity.

There was a massive amount required of the performance, both physical and technical: four separate entrance points, exterior miked scenes, a space of concrete to project over, a fully visible audience, multiple characters for some actors, and members of the public trying to figure out what the hell is going on from the outside. Also there was a dance sequence, something I usually loathe but this time really enjoyed. But all were handled with such casual grace that you were enthralled in every moment, whether it was to do with the actual story line on stage or the fluidity of the production.

Jane E. Thompson is a director who understands that theatre is theatre and not film and not television. An obvious statement you say, but something that needs some serious attention in Melbourne. The audience is not a fixed gaze, it is not a camera, no matter how some would like it to be so. A production cannot force the crowd to only see what it wants to see. Even in the most pristine play the eye wanders, it takes in the surrounding stuff of a production. So you have two choices, awkwardly try and disguise it, punish the audience for looking at all, or say to the audience, yes, I understand, this transition too makes up what the play is. It gave an energy to the characters that I have not seen for some time. You could believe that if a member of the public did happen to walk in, that none of the actors would even consider breaking character, instead incorporating it into the show.

The most engaging substance of this play was an understanding of the word production, a play of many parts, where, when the threads are pulled together, something great can be made.

Plays at No Vacancy Gallery
Address: Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne, Melbourne, 3000 
Date: Friday 2nd October, 8:00pm to Friday 2nd October, 8:00pm
Tickets: $15:Concession $25:Ful

30th Sept- 4th Oct, 7th -11th Oct @ 8pm
Sat 3rd & Sat 10th Oct @ 2pm

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A Little Piece: MFF

Tipsy Teacup’s very original and adorable puppet show, A Little Piece, is a reminder of another important part of not only the Fringe, but any Arts festival, and that is that wherever there are grown-up punters looking for events that entertain and challenge, so too do they often have little ones toddling behind them.

A Little Piece caters to an audience of four at a time, and I saw my show (they do ten x ten minute shows a night at the Lithuanian Club) with another grown-up. Inside a little cubby we were told the tale of Harry the Hedgehog, a puppet that is trying to find his place in a world of lost bits and bobs behind a series of doors beautifully designed by Ben Landau. The thing about the show is its equal accessibility to adults with a good sense of child’s play, especially important since a lot of the doors are numbered in double digits, which the audience are required to interact with, something that might be a little difficult with smaller children.

Sam Hill and Rennie Watson have inventive and fluid puppeteering, with Hill giving voice as both narrator and Harry, a sometimes difficult task when there are audiences rushing in and out of the Lithuanian Club’s other venues, with the occasional bleed of music coming through the auditorium. But the very aspect of the setting makes up for these distractions, since you are inside Harry’s little world, being asked to participate and interact with the performers, making it a fun experience all round.

Special mention should also be given to the sound which was done by Kirri Buchler, which wove itself into the background. Also, the handmade aspect of the piece where audience members are invited to sit on chairs provided between shows and talk to the performers. A fun little piece for all ages.

A Little Piece: Lithuanian Club

Tipsy Teacup Productions

Venue: Fringe Hub – Upstairs Foyer, Lithuanian Club
44 Errol St North Melbourne

Transport: Tram 57, Stop: 12

Melways: 2A J10

Time: Mon-Sat 6.30pm-10.10pm, Sun 5.30pm-9.10pm, every 20min (15min). Excluding 7:30pm – 7:50pm

Full Price: $ 10.00
Tuesday: $ 5.00


Other: Max of 4 audience members at a time
Show takes place in an enclosed space

23 September – 11 October

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