Helen

Helen is an American woman who has the perfect life. Musical, a mother, married to a rich lawyer husband, she has no reason to quickly slip into a suicidal depression that tears her family apart, which is exactly what she does. She befriends a younger, yet equally troubled cellist and slowly finds her way towards some form of happiness through electro convulsive therapy.
It’s hard to comment on a film such as this, because you can see the good intentions seeping through the cracks of nonsense and white, upper middle class presumption that present themselves as part of the universal. Let’s put aside Helen’s plight descending from a privileged state which means that her subsequent medical treatment is swift and highly personalised. The thing that baffles me most about American movies is the presumption that the standing husband/wife unit have no friends or support structure outside of family whatsoever. Towards the beginning of the film we meet a bunch of people that the pair sit laughing around a dinner table with, but the only other time we see a ‘friend’ is when she is attempting to seduce the husband now that she’s found out Helen has debilitating depression.
The film commands us to see the big D as an entirely medical problem that comes out of nowhere. But you only have to see the figure of Helen, who is entirely obsessed with her husband and daughter to see where there may be a problem. Any time she focuses on anything outside of that family unit (her piano playing, her new friend Matilda) it is seen as a symptom of her depression. Her husband at one point is even violent towards Matilda, but is forgiven because he is ‘frustrated’ that Helen wont go home with him, to the isolation that probably contributed to her depression in the first place. But no, the only thing that can fix her is drugs, ECT, and going back to the family unit. No other options are explored. At one point, Helen talks about her depression as if she is an addict: I’m terrified I’mgoing to relapse. Take these two pills, and if it’s not working in the morning, then take two more pills.
Judd is very good in the role of Helen. Her portrayal of Helen’s uncommunicativeness, her inability to express her pain except through messy tears is commendable. My main problem with the film was what it was trying to say, as it lay somewhere in-between an in depth study of depression and a redemption story. If it was a study of depression, it was clinical and over-medicalised: of the two mentally ill characters, only the one without previous life problems could be saved. If it was a story of redemption, its quasi-scientific use of mental illness as its ‘trial’ was overly simplistic.

See the original article posted here: http://www.beat.com.au/arts/2011/04/8/helen/american-middle-class-depression-electro-colvulsive-therapyit-family-unit-helen-helen-helen-s-uncomm

Headliners

Headliners showcases the best in up-and-coming talent coming out of the America’s gruelling comedy circuit.  There’s a wide range of comedians on offer, playing on a rotating bill throughout the festival. This all goes down at the Hi-Fi bar with acts including Moshe Kasher, Tom Segura, Sean Patton, Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates.


Out of the swathe of
Headliners acts I spoke to Moshe Kasher, the Californian comedian who was named Best New Comic of the Year by iTunes for his album Everyone You Know Is Going To Die And Then You Are. I asked if he had plans for Australia: “I’ve been here before. Both in actuality and in my imagination via the movies Australia and Crocodile Dundee so I knew exactly what Australia was like before I got here. While here I plan on going into the ‘outback’ on ‘walkabout’  and going ‘croc hunting’. Also I will be playing ‘didgeridoo’ whilst eating a ‘vegimite sandwich’. Also I will be snorting ‘cocaine’ off of a ‘stripper’s tits’.” Indeed.


His particular brand of hipster vitriol was named Best Of The Festival at Montreal’s Just For Laughs, Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza and the Aspen’s Rooftop Comedy Festival. Asked to describe his comedic background, Kasher replies obliquely: “I am a trained ninja assassin. That’s all I’m willing to say,” but when pressed goes on to add: “I am an angry effeminate Jew who likes girls.” Definitely angry. In fact, when asked about this anger and his propensity towards the offensive in his comedy, he replies simply: “Suck my dick.” This is going well.


On to safer territory, Kasher gives his picks for the festival: “You have so many stand-outs… Arj [Barker] is an old friend but you guys seem to have heard of him already. Marc Maron, Paul F. Tompkins and Maria Bamford are amazing Americans. I mean each one is a unique genius. Greg Proops is a master.”


Moving on to the lineup as part of Headliners, Moshe reels them off: “Of the younger bucks, Tom Segura, Hannibal Burress, Matt Braunger, Garfunkel & Oates, Sean Patton and the impeccable gentleman, Bo Burnham are all unmissable.”


Twee musical comedy-folk duo Garfunkel & Oates have definitely made a splash over the past couple of years, appealing to the indie crowd with their Youtube releases such as Fuck You (featured on US sitcom Scrubs), Sex With Ducks, and a personal favourite, Pregnant Women Are Smug (lyrics include: You’re just giving birth now/You’re not Mother Earth now), showing themselves to have equal stakes in the cutesy folk song and the potty-mouthed ballad.


Kasher isn’t the cleanest comedian either, as he has hinted at before. His tagline is a close indication of this: Comedian. Jew. Jew Comedian. OBGYN.


OBGYN? “Well I never got my official OBGYN paperwork so at this point, I’d say I’m more of an amateur enthusiast.”
And finally the big question, would you rather not wash your towel for three months, or your bedsheets for three months?Trick question, as I use towels as sheets and curtains as underwear. I smoke crack.”

Moshe Kasher, Sean Patton, Hannibal Buress, Tom Segura, Matt Braunger, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates perform Headliners at The Hi-Fi from March 31 – April 3 and at Melbourne Town Hall from April 5 – April 24. Tickets are $23.50 – $31.50 and available through Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/headliners/america-s-gruelling-comedy-angry-effeminate-jew-aspen-s-rooftop-comedy-comedian-comedy-cen

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic

Paul Foot falls in with the past decade’s refreshing crowd of high surrealist comedians which, on this side of the world, is instantly associated with French duke darlings The Mighty Boosh.

In fact, the pedigree isn’t just a vague association, as Boosh-style guru Noel Fielding directed (in the broadest sense of the word) Foot’s current comedy show Ash In The Attic.

Despite being seen as the man who speaks a comic language from a galaxy far, far away (with a heavy dose of Shire horse-based humour on the side), Foot sees things otherwise: “My style of comedy is quite simple, I tell a few jokes, and then go home. Although they’re not really jokes, more like disturbances. I have characters too, such as Skeleton Johnson, Inspector Foot and Penny. Penny likes Australia; Penny is bi; Penny likes to take things to the next level.” Are Foot and Penny going to get up to much when he’s in Melbourne? “I’m going to make an effort to get out a bit more in Australia and maybe go on a rampage smashing beach huts with a golf club. I’ve been offered free surfing lessons but I’m not interested unless they can provide me with waterproof sudokus.” Fair enough.

Skeleton Johnson and co. all come up regularly on Foot’s website, a spidery rambling extension of his brain. “Originally Jemima Lozenge was my web editor, but she was so awful at hosting a website that I had to sack her. She couldn’t even host a small cocktail party in the suburbs of Southhampton. I currently edit my own website; it’s a nice way to relax after a week in the casino. Live by the slots, die by the slots, that was my Great Aunt’s motto before she died.” One section even categorises every joke Foot has ever told in a stand-up show, including how it went with the audience, and whether he is considering reviving it again. Maybe it’s an indication of the inner workings of a mind that completed a mathematics degree in Oxford before moving on to comedy?

But really the mainstay of the website is for it to act as a haven for Paul Foot’s ‘connoisseurs’, the exclusive name he gives to his ever loyal fans, rewarding them with secret gigs and much more: “Every year I hold the Annual Paul Foot Art Competition in which connoisseurs of my comedy draw me and the winner receives a hamper of objects from my house. You can see a video of me judging this year’s on Youtube.”

There really is something admirable about cultivating a following. “My connoisseurs are my lifeblood. Unlike other organisations, such as the Flansham Whist and Chatterbox Society, everybody is equal within the Guild Of Paul Foot Connoisseurs. The members are not fans of me; they are appreciators of my humour. They have no particular interest in me as a person and wouldn’t be bothered if I were run over by a bus, other than the fact that my comedy would end (after some brief laughs about the bus).”

Even so, Foot’s popularity has grown to such an extent that he now needs to hold “secret secret shows” for the old guard cream of his connoisseur crop.

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic at Melbourne Town Hall’s Cloak Room from March 31 – April 24. It’s at 9.30pm Tuesday – Saturday and 8.30pm on Sundays. Tickets are $23 – $29.50 and available from Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/paul-foot-performs-ash-attic/julian-barratt-noel-fielding-paul-foot-mighty-boosh

Melbourne Fringe: Girls@Work

Theatreworks in St. Kilda have taken their opportunity at the Fringe festival this year to showcase the wild and wonderful women of Melbourne theatre, covering straight performance to Cabaret, from serious subjects to do with immigration and feminism, to the dissection of the female orgasm. Entitled Girls @ Work, and encompassing five separate performances, as well as two workshop-based events working with women in the business, it’s a large and diverse undertaking for the venue. I spoke to Angela Pamic.

“We’re celebrating our thirtieth anniversary and were going through the archives for the venue. It became apparent that the company itself had a strong female presence right throughout its history. The founding company members had some really strong women amongst them, one woman in particular, Kaz Howard who has since passed away.  She was, by all accounts, an amazingly fiery, energetic, charismatic, woman who kind of pulled the company together and created these amazing works and an ensemble… And so when we realised that we thought it would be nice to celebrate our thirtieth birthday about women and actually to celebrate the artists in the industry today, to give them a platform to show their work.”

 
Of the five works being shown, two are physical/dance pieces (PaPer Man & The 499th Day, The She Sessions), two are straight theatre (I Could Be You, Instability Strip), and one is cabaret (Le Petit Mort – The Orgasm). All of the shows are on most nights, which means that if you go, you might not end up seeing just one type of live theatre.

 
“We wanted a broad cross range of performances, not just theatre or dance.  An audience member could come to the venue and see three different things in one night, broadening their arts experience. This way they get to see things they might not normally see.”
 
GIRLS @ WORK
VENUE: Theatreworks
DATE: Various
TICKETS: See website

See the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/festivals/2010/09/23/melbourne-fringe-girlswork/arts-australian-comedy-festival-film-fringe-fringe-festival-gig-girlswork-show-t

Tomorrow, In A Year

Ralf Richardt Strøbech is the director of Tomorrow, In a Year , an opera mounted by Hotel Pro Forma and a highlight of this year’s Melbourne Arts Festival. It takes the life of Charles Darwin as a starting point, with music scored by Swedish duo The Knife and choreographed by Hiroaki Umeda.
 
Strøbech’s opinions on the opera are both open and precise, so it’s a good idea to let him do most of the explaining, starting with how much the production has evolved since it was first mounted. “It’s not the same piece as when it opened, which is nice because Darwin also made several changes in his Origin of Species. In the sixth edition it only contained 21% of the original book… so if it was insistently the same way every time it would be non-Darwinian.”
 
But what is the story, really? “It’s only fragments of a narrative… although there definitely is an underlying structure. The big one is about the life of Darwin himself, split into four parts. The Beagle voyage is the first where it’s about youth, then there’s the death of his daughter Annie, so that’s much more about middle age, and making a family, and then the third part is about the publication of his book, and the last part is about how he becomes a recluse and allows the world to exist around him. Then there is of course time itself, all evolutionary time starting from 4.65 Billion years ago.”
 
Darwin’s daughter Annie died at the age of ten after a series of health complications. The effect of Annie’s death on her parents was devastating, moreso as Darwin’s theory of evolution developed and he wondered if her death was because he had married his cousin. I ask if this interests Strøbech. “It does… The second part of this performance treats that a little bit… [There] is this beautiful story about the letters of Charles Darwin. He’s with his daughter at the hospital and Emma’s actually at home with all the other children… she gets these letters sent by messenger describing how Annie’s state deteriorates while she must keep up her face because she doesn’t want to alarm all the other children. So this to me was extremely interesting: How do you cope with that? And this is a pivotal image in the play, sung by the mezzo soprano, the dilemma between actually having an emotional storm on the inside while having to keep up appearances on the exterior.”
 
He just answered my next question. I was interested in who the Mezzo Soprano was supposed to be representing, because she’s female and it’s the story of Charles Darwin, so I was interested in the choice of gender roles. “In a sense they don’t represent anyone, the three singers; in a sense they just represent themselves, to be very hardcore post-romantic. That being said, there are times obviously the male singer is very much Darwin, you can’t help but read him that way. [The mezzo soprano] has moments when she is an actual person, I would say in Annie’s Box she’s really Annie’s mother, but other times she’s more like time itself, because [her voice is] very grand and has the capability of suggesting something outside the individual’s body… she’s also somewhat distanced from the audience whereas the second lady Lærke [Andersen], who is an actress, is much more a representative of the audience onstage.”
 
And as for live musicians on stage? Turns out there are actually none. “None, exactly none, there are no musicians on the stage or in the pit, it’s all electronically produced,” says Strøbech. “The music was all made by The Knife who are completely incredibly fantastic. They make everything from scratch, so Olaf [Dreijer] went to the Amazon to record sounds, he also went to Iceland and then they were kind of transformed into this electronic score. The singing is live and there also is live voice manipulation and vocal coding so the singers can be in harmony or even in rhythm with themselves.”
 
If that’s not enough for you – the story of the greatest scientist of our time, incredible choreography and the mind-blowing music of The Knife – here’s Strøbech’s advice: “I think the most important thing to say is that we always tend to look for explanations in things but… this performance is really about accepting that the origin of thoughts is from sensing and observing. I think this is Darwin’s method. It’s only because he freed himself of all preconceptions that he was able to find a new path.
 
“And I think this is the most important thing about the opera: that it doesn’t want to bring one specific reading, it’s much more showing something that speaks to the senses more than the brain… and that was very much how we would work, the Knife and Hiroake… It’s a process and that in itself will read its meaning, much as the way a rosebud doesn’t mean anything other than a plant wants to get laid. It’s not symbolic in any way apart from to just be.”
 
Hotel Pro Forma’s Tomorrow, In A Year plays at The Arts Centre from Wednesday October 20 until Saturday October 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets range from $25 to $110.50. You can book through The Arts Centre or Melbourne Festival.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/content/tomorrow-year-0

Fleur Elise Nobile

 

Visual, and now performance artist Fleur Elise Noble comes over the line from her hotel room in Korea, and we both know we have a task ahead of us; close to the opening of her multi-disciplinary and conceptually diverse show 2 Dimensional Life of Her, a performance which incorporates projections, live action, visual arts and puppetry all in the one space, where do you begin talking about it? Well, how about starting with the obvious, which was why was she calling from Korea? “I’m here on a two week residency, working with digitised art and music, using traditional Korean culture as a basis.” Sounds excellent, and quite far from her background in Adelaide.
“I studied painting and sculpture in Adelaide and then New York. My main focus until two years ago was in drawing, but then I moved into other mediums like animation, puppetry and performance, and from that exploring different ways to bring it all together in a new show.”
That show is 2 Dimensional Life of Her, running out of the always surprising and dynamic Meat Market in mid August as part of the Mobile States program, which is produced by Performing Lines, a touring contemporary performance initiative that targets small production companies and arts practitioners going solo. The initiative favours the more multi-disciplinary and technically ambitious members of the art world, “they kind of knit together the whole tour through other venues throughout Australia, this particular work will have performances in Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. Usually they do Adelaide as well, but since that’s my home town I’ve actually done this show there before.”
The Mobile States project goes for the highly experimental, which is where Noble’s work comes in. Set in her studio, it is a multi disciplinary show about the artist confronting her own work. “It’s a theatre production that’s ninety five percent made out of projection. The intention came from spending so long working with two dimensional artworks. Drawing for me was always about something emerging from nothing, but often when it was exhibited it became about interpretation of the established text, just a final product, a picture hanging on the wall. This was finding a way of bringing people into the space where something is in the process of being made. It’s about the unexpected things that can take place in the process of creation.” This can be seen in the snows of paper that are both handled by the animated puppets in the performance, as well as being used as a projection surface for those selfsame animations. Searching for another explanation she says, “It’s almost like a pop up book, a three dimensional pop up book. All the surfaces are constantly changing. [The performance is] A book with an inside and an outside, so they can become two dimensional objects as well.”
A lot of the projections in the show utilise puppets in the form of stop animation. This painstaking process involves multiple marionettes each with their own coordinated movements. The use of the puppets seems to be an act of separation, an extra stage entered between the conception of the piece and the artist’s final involvement in it. The artist inhabits the construction of the setting, physically assembling the elements of paper, projection and puppetry, but she still allows these elements their own life in the act of performance, which is the point the audience becomes that little bit more than mere spectators.
The use of these figures also highlights what seems to be an increase in the use of puppetry in performances for both adults and children in recent years. “For me it comes out of doing so much sculpture, and wanting to bring those pieces to life. I animate my sculptures, my puppets, then project them during the performance.” A technically challenging performance, how much preparation went into it? “Two years, with lots of different phases, loads of experiments to work out what was possible. This particular show, making the puppets, took ten months full time to put it all together on very little funding, with all the objects made from nothing. It often involved twenty four hour working sessions in places that I’d hired overnight, so it was pretty epic.”
Have you done the show anywhere else before? “Well I just got back from a European tour of the show. I did it at the International Festival of Live Art in Scotland, as well as the Danish Children’s Festival. I mean those are the polar opposite in terms of audiences. [The show] doesn’t just go across mediums, but also audiences, from little kids to high end Arts people.”
And what happens after your show in the Meat Market? “There’ll be a New Zealand tour, then Europe again. After that I’ll be working for five months doing a creative development grant for a new show that will be premiered at the World Theatre Festival at the Powerhouse in Brisbane in February. For that I’m again going to be working on live performance, working on its visual language.” A visual language that seems to be strongly established in 2 Dimensional Life of Her.

Beat Magazine, Issue August 4th, 2010

Skins and Sharps

Kustom Lane Gallery in Hawthorne last Sunday launched an exhibition showcasing the Sharps and Skins subculture that was unique to Melbourne in the seventies. Through the crush of those who lived it and those who venerate you can find an ultimate collection of the movement’s paraphernalia, put together with loving care by Sam Biondo.

The space creates a snap-fast immersion into a subculture that venerated the likes of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and sparked yet another media storm over the moral turpitude of ‘the youth today’. Through the Rose Tattoo album covers and proud sartorial displays, this exhibition makes a nostalgic smile play on the lips of every quiff sporting Sharpie, Skinhead and rocker with that distinctive Melbourne pride.

The exhibition, featuring artists such as Steven Pricter and David Mellows, sports sketches and paintings of the proponents of the movement, revelling in a homemade quality that is the essence of any lasting subculture. The hair, the shoes, and in this case the cardigans, are no laughing matter when it comes to showcasing your style and affiliations. Alongside the sketches are raised shoes, newspaper articles and album covers that all had some association with a movement that was seen as, and did have, a brutish side to it, with violent clashes between the gangs leading to the subculture’s ultimate demise. Most interesting is a collection of potboiler novels featuring Skins and Sharps, their covers with dangerous looking youths on them staring out at you through the glass cabinets.

This show is certainly a labour of love, and the attention to detail is infectious. By the end you’ll find yourself squint eyed, carefully studying the magazine articles and music charts as much as the veterans who were actually there.

Beat Magazine, July 7th Issue, 2010