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

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

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/mikelangelo-in-the-nightingale-of-the-adriatic-179548