The Divine Cabaret

Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy remind me of that peculiar time in the Eighties when a musician could meld together any series of genre-bending ideas and quite easily cast them into the welcoming arms of any number of eager listeners. One only has to think of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman (For Massenet)’ – a song that is both brilliant and, if you are driving, makes you want to crash into the nearest brick wall by the seventh minute – which, in 1981, spent a week at number two in the British charts.

The Divine Comedy were and are a strange little band that wrote songs about public transport, bondage loving knighted public officials and gin soaked boys, and it’s this storytelling element that imbues the Melbourne Fringe show The Divine Cabaret.

Geraldine Quinn, Mark Jones and Karlis Zaid belt out a striking tribute to the group, but the beauty of the show is that the three singers, as well as the magnificent backing band are such consummate musicians in themselves that you don’t need to have a lick of an idea who the Divine Comedy are. I barely did, save for a few cheeky downloaded tracks so I could pretend to know what I was talking about.

The sense of Hannon’s original vocal style easily translates to the live, cabaret tinged performance that is given by Quinn, Jones and Zaid. Jones is also on keys, but the three vocalists beautifully spot each other’s solos with great harmonising. There wasn’t an off note in the evening, something that is usually expected with any performance.

There is an attempt by the three to construct a narrative, woven between the songs, coupled with a peculiar sense of humour that you can guess has been inspired by Neil Hannon, sometimes making you wish you understood the joke a little better. At the end of songs you find yourself trying to concentrate on the frenetic storytelling coming from one of the singers before you finally realise the reason it’s so hard to focus – the other performers have also launched into a barrage of noise at the audience, so that the stage is transformed into a chaotic storytelling battle, rattling along, descending into confident silliness. I liked the slow burn of it; it’s unexpectedness.

And gosh could the singers really wail. It especially came out when Geraldine Quinn sang ‘Thrillseeker’, with the other singers hanging back, happy to harmonise as she took over the stage, always on the edge of really physically thrashing about. Karlis Zaid was more self-contained, his gaze outward as at a target, especially when recounting the sexual dalliances of an unnamed knighted public servant (excuse me if I’m not sure of the name of the song, it felt weird to try and steal a set list). Mark Jones only once ventured out from behind his keyboard to tell a spoken word tale of what was lurking in his woodshed, other times approaching his singing with a more casual air that belied the intensity of his vocals.

This was a show of seemingly effortless musicianship that had a startling and vivid air, and a damn good, if subtle, sense of humour too.

The Divine Cabaret at Trades Hall, season concluded.

Melbourne Fringe Festival, September 22 – October 10

http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/the-divine-cabaret-182490?sc=1

Under Milk Wood

To begin at the beginning. How can it be that a single actor could even come up with such a brilliant but mad as hell idea: a one woman version of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, his 1953 radio play that features over 60 characters? Sixty of them! A play that was penned by the beautiful, damned, chauvinistic Welshman, encapsulating all that he loved and loathed about his countrymen; the sniping, the singing, and, of course the drinking; and all of it is brilliantly realised by Zoe Norton Lodge in this brilliant, and in many ways inexplicable, performance.

The play is set in a small Welsh village called Llareggub (‘Bugger All’ spelt backwards, an in-joke Thomas spent most of his life trying to slip in somewhere) from a predawn morning to the closing of the day. It consists of snatches of conversations, the solitary thoughts of the lonely and nostalgic, the young and old, and even the dead. It is not a slice of life kind of play – there’s too much magical, dense and grandiose language going on, especially from the narrator: “There’s the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed cobbles/of the humming streets, hammering of horse- shoes, gobble/quack and cackle, tomtit twitter from the bird-ounced/boughs, braying on Donkey Down.”

Bambina Borracha Productions – specifically their set designer, Natalie Hughes – have chosen a very simple set that can be easily transformed through the various props and guises available, underpinned by a multimedia backdrop (designed by director Vanessa Hughes) that adds colour to those sections of the play that require more than one voice at a time. A sheet hung up to dry on the washing line can become a shawl on Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, or a bundled up baby for Polly Garter, while the sound of drying washing whips in the wind.

Thomas originally wrote the play for radio, and it has since been adapted and mounted for theatre and film. This is what makes it so interesting to translate to a visual medium. You can’t have 60 actors traipsing about the stage, so it makes sense to put it on as a one person show, cut out the stress of elevating the importance of one character over the other. Even so, the thought, the precise detail that has gone into this production is amazing; you can see the exertion on the face of Norton Lodge, but it doesn’t affect one’s enjoyment of the performance one jot; in fact it enhances it. If we had been subject to such a flawless performance without the actor showing any sign of physical strain and concentration, it would have made the play less human, less engaging. As well as being taken in by the story, the audience found itself as if watching a marathon runner, egging her on to the finish line, but watching the grace of her movements on the way. Oh, and the Welsh accent? Fantastic. Watch this while you can.

Bambina Borracha Productions present Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, at Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall until October 9 

Directed by Vanessa Hughes, performed by Zoe Norton Lodge, set design by Natalie Hughes

Melbourne Fringe Festival, September 22 – October 10

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/under-milk-wood-182445?sc=1

She’s Not Performing

Margarite’s demons are catching up with her. A woman in her early 40’s with the energy to drink and dance the night away with a boyfriend who, while not that much younger than her, she treats like a refreshing boy toy, there’s something eating away at her that twists her joyful dancing into a frenetic sway. The stage at La Mama has been transformed into a gentlemen’s club, and it’s there, late at night with her boyfriend, Iain (Mike McEvoy), drunkenly watching the dancers, that Margarite’s (Andrea Close) memory is triggered. Twenty five years before, while still a schoolgirl, she gave birth, adopting the baby out straight after. She’s Not Performing portrays a segment, an impression of Margarite’s pain as she remembers her daughter, who should now be twenty five, and decides to search for her. As she slowly reconnects with the father of the child, Hamish (Christopher Bunworth), and increasingly alienates Iain, she finds herself drawn to the dancer she saw on that first night at the men’s club, a dancer, Annie (Rachel Purchase) who bears an uncanny resemblance to Margarite’s younger self. The character of Margarite is a bit refreshing; at the age of forty two she has not aged gracefully, and still messily navigates her way through the space. The dissonance in her character is a relief, but the relation of her character to the storyline is not. The subject matter of adoption is always going to be fraught, but She’s Not Performing is disturbing not because of its subject matter, but because of the inherently narcissistic motivations of the older characters. This would be an interesting bent if this narcissism was not also portrayed as heroic, moral and meaningful. Margarite is messed up because of the way society has moulded her into a type, a slut, and damaged goods. This, however, gives her the right to treat those around her as reflections and extensions of herself, characters, if you will, in her own psychodrama. This does well to create dramatic episodes, heighten the tension in a series of set pieces, but does nothing to make you sympathise with, or even like the main character. Margarite’s world is a vacuum, a slowly closing circle, with not even enough room for the idea that her daughter is a real person with her own agency. At no point does she speculate what sort of person her daughter might be. Instead she is thought of as an extension of Margarite, a reflection, demonstrated through the scenes she shares with the dancer in the strip club. She looks just like you. She is you. A handy metaphor for Margarite to confront her demons, to remonstrate against her fate using the figures of the ‘nice guy’ the ‘seemingly moral family man’ and ‘stripper’, to claw her way to some sort of peace and determination within herself in order to move forward. These are not, however, abstract characters. Rather they are people Margarite projects her anger and confusion onto. Demeaning her boyfriend, having flagrant disregard for the feelings and welfare of the dancer she ‘befriends’, Margarite’s hell is extended to anyone whose life she touches, especially for those who care for her. The peace she comes to towards the end of the play is at the cost of everyone around her, a note you feel is supposed to be poignant and determined, but left me feeling frustrated at the obsessive use of possessive nouns around an abstract figure, a daughter that is decided upon as Margarite’s salvation, whether she wants it or not.

She’s Not Performing at LA MAMA THEATRE A Doll and Soulart Production A New Play bby Alison Mann (Winner Melbourne Dramatist’s Emerging Playwrights’ Award 2008) Directed by Kelly Somes With Christopher Bunworth, Andrea Close, Mike McEvoy, Rachel Purchase August 18 – September 5

see original post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/shes-not-performing-182160?sc=1

The Return

Two angry yobs board the last train to Fremantle. The small and ratty Trev, contrasting with the grandiose and muscular Steve, find the perfect foil to their boredom when Lisa, a young law student, boards the train, swinging wildly between charm and outright threatening behaviour towards her. When another two characters, the initially introverted ‘writer’ and Maureen, a put-upon housewife, enter the scene, the play heads towards an overly convoluted climax.

The original insular and potentially explosive concept of the play, that of the train carriage at night, is sound. Unfortunately this underlying idea of a concept-driven set piece is the rule, rather than the exception to the play, with each of the characters remaining just that: types, vessels driving a script based in the narcissistic sense of shame the author, Reg Cribb, has drawn from a real-life experience of his own on the trains of suburban Perth.

Apparently, again according to the writer’s notes, he witnessed two yobs, thugs, name them what you will, harass and threaten a young woman on a train in a carriage full of passengers who failed to intervene. The writer’s guilt from not helping this woman in the first instance, and in taking the story of her trauma and making a play out of it in the second, can be an understandable point of artistic conflict. The proceeding half conceived attempts to salve these feelings of guilt are not. The ‘writer’ character transforms from the mute observer, to the Machiavellian, middle class artist, to unbalanced vigilante in a manner of minutes towards the end of the play, derailing any meaningful study of the variety of reactions human beings have towards aggression, vulnerability and peril. None of the characters are allowed either a picture of incompleteness or an ambiguous moral subtext. Each are driven by idealised concepts of love, passion, or revenge, unless of course the character is female, in which case their oblique and patronising motivations seem to be that they… well, had nothing better to do.

The central concept that the writer wants to explore is that of a disaffected masculinity, a manhood no longer in need. That is why everyone is drunk and stoned and violent, why this incident happened, because of a disaffected manhood. It is how the character of Lisa became a “battle scarred victim” to quote Cribb. It’s not that I don’t buy the argument; it certainly has resonance from when it was brought up in the post World War Two era. Then the post Vietnam era. Then the post Buffy era. But this play would only warrant further argument if it wasn’t for the presence of that pesky ‘writer’ character. His character is superfluous and as incoherent as Steve’s movement between being a swearin’ bogan and then completely changing the modulations of his dialogue to talk about Verdi. It’s not that a thug is incapable of talking about Verdi, just that the writer has an obvious expectation that you’re only capable of talking about him if you do so in a grandiloquent fashion. In the end we’re left with male characters, their heads in their hands, wondering where it all went wrong. Meanwhile the female characters are put down as they are picked up, useful objects to help the story unfold or for the men to identify with. Maureen isn’t a woman with slowly dwindling choices, she is the older lady who reminds Trev and Steve of their mum. Lisa is a woman to be threatened and rescued in equal measure, her only agency is that of disappearing once she is of no more use to the story.

The makers of the play, therefore, are left with an ensemble of characters whose only sure shot is of the protracted scream of rage and despair. The set is striking and gives a lot of scope for theatrical and physical manipulation of the confined tableau, but in such a confined space the air isn’t given to the characters to create a rhythmic rise and fall of tension, with a tendency to fall back on a level of projection which isn’t really warranted in the confined space of the Old Council Chambers. Unfortunately the effect of the stagecraft was lost on a script that lacked any coherent resonance, a clumsy stab at gender politics that is incapable of disentangling itself from the author’s own wish fulfilment.

TaDaa Productions present

The Return

written by Reg Cribb
directed by Andrew Gray
featuring Katy Brinson, Brendan McCallum, James Taylor, Emily Thomas and Anthony Winnick

The Return is a journey about everyday people on the last metropolitan train to Fremantle.
It will bring laughter, fear, threat and deceit … these stories may offend – please try not to judge.

Dates:
Preview: Wednesday, 2 May 2010 at 8.00pm
Season: 3 – 19 June 2010 (Tuesday – Saturday at 8.00pm)

Venue:
Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers
corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street, Carlton

Tickets:
$28 Adult
$20 Concession

Bookings > Bella Union:
03 9650 5699
Or online

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/the-return-181453?sc=1

Some film museums I have known

Some Film Museums I Have Known, produced by Sydney theatre company RhubarbRhubarb, is an effects laden journey into the stutter created in the cycle of referentiality.

Paula works in a film museum, endlessly introducing a video of the Lumière brothers explaining the history of film to us, the audience. There is a dovetail; while Paula explains to us her film script using a variety of props and projection equipment, as well as the novel use of portable spy cameras, Louis Lumière, the sickly identical twin of August, is disintegrating into the pixelated feedback of video. Their endless loop of information on the birth of cinema, what was supposed to be insurance towards their survival, falls apart. Paula, her existence posited on her film script, even if it’s only in her head, unravels also at the discovery of her film, already made, shot for shot, in her local video store.

The recounting of Paula’s film takes up the body of the work. To a receptive audience she recounts an absurd action film, filled with the clichés and outlandish twists that any self respecting Hollywood blockbuster is bound to have.

There was one point in the recounting of this film that I stopped and wondered why we were laughing. Were we laughing at the slack jawed Paula, at the deadpan recounting of her terrible film? Laughing in recognition of the clichés and tropes that she was reeling out as if for the first time? Sitting there you found yourself flickering, asking if Paula was sharing these clichés with you, a riff of recognition, a conversation in referentiality, or if she was evoking these tropes in an act of destruction, the actions named and shamed, no one daring to repeat them from that point onwards.

As we laughed at these tropes the framework of Paula’s existence slowly crumbled, reflected in the tenuous trackwork of the camera train, the increasingly distorted presence of Louis Lumière, the relegation of Paula’s film onto the video store shelf. You feel as if, since these cinematic crimes had been named, or at least referenced, that some sense of feeling would come out of Paula’s performance. That, when she discovers her entrapment in her own simulacrum there would be a sense of loss or tragedy or, well, that there would be an emotional endpoint to the piece. This is touched on by August Lumière, in his attempt to carry on alone inside the museum’s video loop, but Paula simply fades into the background of the innovative technology used. Not everything must have an emotional core, but there is a reason why these film references, boldly typed out on the program, were shared with the audience, why we as an audience knew what films Paula was referring to. Surely our absorption of these texts was not to have a back catalogue of conversation, surely all of these references mean something to us, surely we have some emotional connection to them. This side of the hyper-referentiality of the piece was left wanting, however.

Some Film Museums I Have Known is not about the emotional, connective content, rather the technological possibility of creating moving pictures. Story, as with technology, the scientific creation from a formula. It was a great piece to move forward from, but as a result it left me feeling a little cold about what it wanted to say.

Some Film Museums I Have Known

Performance • May 19 – 22
ACMI, Studio 1, Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI), Federation Square, Melbourne
Duration: 1 hour
Price: $15 Full, $13 Concession

Original Post:

http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/some-film-museums-i-have-known-181278?sc=1

A dinner to die for

A Dinner to Die For, part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, is a very specific type of show that will appeal to quite a few, but not all, festival goers this year.

In the tradition of the murder-at-the-English-country house narratives à la Agatha Christie and all of those derived from it, Bare Elements Productions puts on a chaotic, funny, borderline too cheesy, camp crime drama that strives to include the audience –who are all given roles to play – in the action.

The show takes place predominantly in the function room at The Retreat hotel in Abbotsford, a gorgeous little pub that was used as a set for the classic Australian soap The Sullivans (a little before my time, unfortunately, but copiously referenced in The Late Show, which was definitely during my time). From the moment you walk through the door you are greeted by a throng of punters dressed in their best, or closest to, twenties period gear, name tags blazing and ready to go. It is the audience that is the most unpredictable part of the evening: a certain amount of enthusiasm needs to be created and maintained, so don’t bring your grumpy friends, or you’ll regret it.

The cast of seven have varying abilities to hold a room that is being distracted by the dinner and drinks and plotlines that are firing across it. The most successful of this was the McDaventry/Braithwaite Ramsey characters/actor, who served as a sort of narrator, and therefore needed to be able to command attention. Lord Daventry gave a more subtle performance, a vehicle to pad out the story a little more, but you had to work harder to get information out of him.

You cannot get anywhere near a sense of complete consistency, let alone period consistency, when you are directing, cajoling and reacting to thirty increasingly lubricated diners, all with various abilities at participation. The actors involved did a stellar job of making the guests feel they could contribute to the story, put on silly accents, make silly quips and double entendres, and generally throw themselves into the night. By the end most of the audience was participating in sing-alongs and catchphrases, seaside concert hall style.

That being said little niggling details could have been fixed up to make a more cohesive late 1920’s atmosphere, most glaringly to me was the music chosen; very hot jazz that seemed out of context. But I suppose the delicious parma that I was eating would therefore had been disqualified as well, and I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice that.

In short, bring friends to this event, but only ones that are willing to play. Those there on the night who were obviously dragged there, stuck out of a group of patrons who wanted to do something a little different with their dinner out.

A Dinner to Die For

Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Date: 27 March – 10 April

Times: 7.30pm

Duration: 180 minutes

Venue: The Retreat Hotel *
226 Nicholson St, Abbotsford
* Licensed venue. Under 18s must be accompanied by a Parent or Legal Guardian.

Prices: Dinner and Show $80

Bookings: Venue Bookings 03 9417 2693

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/a-dinner-to-die-for-180897?sc=1

At the Sans Hotel

At the Sans Hotel, playing at Theatre Works in St. Kilda, is one of the finest pieces of theatre put on in Melbourne for years. Nicola Gunn has created a remarkable and indescribable character study – of which character you’re never entirely sure – pulling together threads of story, seen and unseen, into a blistering, funny and moving piece of performance art.

It is hard to describe what happens in At the Sans Hotel. Not to worry though – a telltale sign that something is good is when it is indescribable. The character that Nicola Gunn has created is an unstable figure in the Theatre Works space, a space purposefully made cavernous, part bureaucratic small town meeting, part decrepit, and crumbling hotel ballroom. Gunn starts off as Sophie, a French community centre worker, baffling the audience who sit scraping in their old school chairs, peeking between shoulders, each one trying to connect to what is happing – a meandering yet utterly absorbing journey along the mind of this woman, whoever she may be. Gunn was partly inspired by the story of Cornelia Rau, a schizophrenic woman who was detained as an illegal immigrant for eighteen months, unable to remember her name or even her true nationality, speaking German or English with a bad accent, using a different name, unable to find a reason for her deception.

The space is a character in itself, both immune to her identity and searching for it with her, refusing it with her. The piece works in the anticipation that someone else will join Sophie: Cornelia Rau? Anna Schmidt? Nicola Gunn? The character morphs at beautifully timed moments, created by a web of lies, and the desire to distance herself from them, to not have told them in the first place, to curb the compulsion that brings her into a slowly closing circle of herself. But, as with all tragic pieces that are somehow funny, her hell is inescapable, so what is she going to do with it? Stuffing her face with cake, talking down the phone to a dead line, acknowledging stolen plot lines while trying to explain the show to the viewer, the absurdity is something to be laughed at by everyone but the victim – who also happens to be the creator – of the situation.

The visual aesthetic arches slowly out of the piece as it progresses. What starts out as a visually basic piece slowly transforms into an intricate and sublime building of imagery, with the help of a series of unique, bold and thoughtful lighting states. Pieces on the ever growing stage area are each put there for a reason, a reason that is not drummed into you when it finally makes itself clear. Running around this massive stage with a portable stereo in hand, her safety net, Gunn is clearly in charge of her environment, whilst simultaneously being swallowed by it. And always there is the glimpse of a whole other world through a twin set of doorways. It is obvious that Gunn’s collaboration with Gwendolyna Holmberg-Gilchrist and Rebecca Etchell has paid massive dividends.

I’ll shut up now. Go see this thing, as soon as you can.

At the Sans Hotel, playing at Theatre Works

Date: 16 Mar 2010 – 27 Mar 2010

14 Acland St, St Kilda
Bookings: 03 9534 3388
Office: 03 9534 4879

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/at-the-sans-hotel-180839?sc=1

Simon & Susy

Simon & Susy is a two hander piece about the awkward love blossoming between a couple of social misfits. Susy is a shut in, terrified of the outside world, but greatly attracted to a call centre worker, Simon. The attraction is mutual, and it is with great, awkward patience that the two are brought together at Susy’s apartment. Simon starts off on the other side of Susy’s door, and he slowly gains her trust, with quite a few setbacks, enough to be allowed into her house. Through stop-start conversation, the two characters get to know each other, trying to break through the various misunderstandings that come up when anybody puts their heart on the line.

The first section of the play, where Susy is warming to Simon as he waits in the hallway to be let in is a cracker in terms of timing. Some of the jokes are fairly good, but it is soon after Simon’s entrance that weaknesses start to appear in the characterisation of the two leads. This becomes most apparent when the character of Simon inexplicably launches into a ten minute long explanation of the tertiary public education system, followed by a slightly shorter but even more awkward monologue on how interest rates work. These two long pieces of filler might have been better accepted had either of the two characters had a greater depth to them, but unfortunately these well turned rants highlight the fact that Simon and Susy are really just vehicles for either comedy or an extension of the writer’s psyche. While there is nothing wrong with Simon’s argument about public education, it doesn’t extend the story. At the end of the speech Simon apologises for being boring. When Susy, with lacklustre, reassures him that it was interesting, it indicates that maybe the monologue should not have been included in the script. With Simon once again retreating back into awkwardness, you find that you have discovered nothing new about the character, nor have you found yourself more endeared to him.

Similarly with Susy, the initial presentation of her character – highly strung, awkward yet endearing – turns into the entirety of her being. Her sporadic sexual confidence comes from nowhere, and her reactions to the unfolding situation is incoherent. It is incoherent in that the nature of her mental state is at no point established, again meaning that there can be no extension of her character beyond that. Plainly, her illness is her whole being, her entire personality, whether it is meant to be or not. In short Susy comes off as wacky and hysterical. When the time comes for her to speak about what is important to her, partly in response to Simon’s talk about student politics, she vaguely asserts her fears about the environment, a monologue that makes her appear, in opposition to Simon’s brief gift of eloquence, inarticulate, hysterical, patronised.

There were many likeable parts to Simon & Susy. The acting was mannered and well timed, the set and lighting was unobtrusive, the initial concept of the whole piece was interesting, but it needed much more depth, both to the concept and characters, so that it played as more than a comedy sketch or a direct reflection of the creators’ thoughts.

Simon & Susy playing at Cromwell Rd Theatre, South Yarra 3141, 27a Cromwell Rd, 8pm 3rd-7th of March

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/simon-and-susy-180654?sc=1

John Waters – This filthy world

John Waters’ This Filthy World, was a one-off, one man show playing Hamer Hall, with the speaker covering his long, trash-addled career at a speeding, frenetic space. The show was less of a polished act than an open acknowledgement by audience and speaker of the significance of a life lived in a less than conventional way. It was presented as a celebration of the sidelines of life, the gutter and trash that we all watch, but hate to admit that we love. Waters discussed some of his most significant films as a chronology, moving from his early influences of Fassbinder and William Castle, towards his breakthrough to the mainstream with films like Hairspray and Serial Mom.

Waters has had a long career and there is a lot to cover in the hour and a half show, so it was expected that he would only be able to skim over some of the events and films that have meant so much to so many varied groups of people. There is something about Waters’ show that is less than engaging, however. He is sharp almost to a fault, running with films, people, ideas that you can tell have raced straight from script to mouth, with little shaping or editing done in between. The show was a FAQ, a set of answers to questions that he has been asked again and again. Having decades to refine his response, Waters emphasises the anecdote and plays down the tragedy, so that by the end you feel that you’re not getting as much of an emotional attachment as you’d hope. The most obvious of this comes with the figure of Divine, who is often mentioned but rarely recounted with any level of intimacy, a few crumbs being fed to a hopeful audience, his character and stories kept secret. And who can blame Waters for that? An ageing man who makes films as easy as breathing, but, like so many of the survivors of artistic movements and events, are expected to be the storytellers, the chroniclers of an era, their own personal involvement stripped down to anecdote, to the recounting of forty years of filmmaking in a ninety minute show.

Many one man shows are aware of this pull, of stories complex by their very existence refined into a digestible format for public consumption. Maybe this it the transaction that the audience enters into when they take their seat in the auditorium. Maybe that is why the most successful one man shows embrace that inability to convey a whole experience, to translate the memories into a story that captures the feeling of certain events. Maybe this is where Waters falls short. Instead of a story we are presented with a chronology. An interesting chronology, but recounted at such a scripted and frenetic pace that we are not allowed to connect with the characters Waters is speaking of, let alone Waters himself.

Nevertheless Waters is a strong and shameless figurehead of trash, of the creators of art that will always remains in the sidelines. He reminds us of the respect that should come with a trip into this filthy world, a point emphasised during the question time at the end of the show. Traci Lords is a former porn star who acted in many of Waters’ films, and when an audience member boasted to him about owning the video pornography she had made when still underage, Waters reminded her of Lords’ life now, quiet, with a husband and children and books to her name, of the distance she has travelled from an exploited youth. The love Waters has for his artists is great, something that didn’t always hit the mark with the audience.

John Waters – This Filthy World
27 February 2010 
Presented By: Maggie Gerrand
Venue: Hamer Hall

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/john-waters-this-filthy-world-180634?sc=1

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

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/the-trial-of-adolf-eichmann-179580?sc=1