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

Talanoa: Shigeyuki Kihara

The Emerge festival is upon us again. Presented by Multicultural Arts Victoria, it is a showcase for those artists newly arrived on our shores, presenting their art practise and traditions, establishing a basis of understanding amongst the variety of communities that cohabit Melbourne. One of the highlights of the festival is the Talanoa: Walk the Talk VII performance and forum, which will be kicking off on the 20th of June. Conceived and mediated by Samoan performance artist Shigeyuki Kihara, this is the seventh instalment of her trans-Tasman project. “As a Pacific Island diaspora artist… I wondered: in an age of global migration that results in cosmopolitanism in many big cities, how can we actually live along side by side with people who are already there, who are making their homes where they are, amongst other people who are making new homes for themselves?” Thinking about ways to bridge this gap, Kihara thought of the ancient Samoan concept of Talanoa. “It alludes to a process of exchange of dialogue between two conflicting clans, coming together to establish a mutual ground based on love, respect and peace. I strongly believe there is not enough Talanoa in this world.”

To explore this process, Shigeyuki brings together seemingly disparate groups with different cultural backgrounds, and mediates a process of understanding and sharing, culminating in a collaborative performance of song and dance. “I think there’s all these government policies… and a lot of critics that talk about concepts of ‘cross cultural’, ‘transcultural’, etc. etc. But all those fancy rancy terms are always up on high, and never trickle down.”

Her first Talanoa was staged in Auckland, between Chinese Dragon dancers and a Scottish Highland Pipe band. This time for the Emerge Festival, Kihara has been working with the Dambai Dancing Sudan Group and Te Roro n Rikirake Kiribati Youth Group. “My project has been understood by those who I have worked with as a community icebreaker, it’s a great way to get to know one another… And funnily enough, most of the time when I bring these communities together, like for example when I brought the Kiribati, which is a very rural pacific island, and the South Sudanese community into this, and the Sudanese said things like, ‘you know I wouldn’t have guessed there is such a country called Kiribati,’ and there are other cases where some members of the Kiribati and the South Sudanese were literally neighbours, they’ve never spoken to each other until they were engaged in this exercise.”

At first the project seems like a massive undertaking, if anything because of the dance groups’ radically different backgrounds. “My father’s Japanese, and it’s my mother that’s Samoan, and people often say: ‘My that’s an interesting, odd mix.’ But what is the right mix? There’s this really static idea that culture does not evolve, that it does not engage. When I approach them… a lot of the communities that say yes are communities that want to engage, and are prepared to share where they come from.” This means anything from fusing rhythms together to preparing afternoon tea for each other with traditional foods. “I’m trying to provide opportunities for people to explore each other, because most of the time we think we have to travel abroad to understand where a community comes from, when they’re just literally next door.”

When the concept of Talanoa is introduced to these communities, is there an equivalent in their own culture? “I find that a lot of traditional ideas from the Pacific, which is where my background is, are universal. It’s just a matter of, how do we apply it in this environment. Because I’m working with grassroots communities, and it’s always intergenerational… it’s more of a forum for the older generation to pass on the core values of the community: self-confidence, social responsibility, community engagement… because in the mainstream we only dance when we go out and get drunk at a nightclub, but for some communities song and dance is what they do all the time.”

Kihara is a powerful and eloquent speaker for Talanoa, and that drive is infectious. “When you strip away the costumes and the ethnicity, the gender, essentially what they are trying to pass on… are core values about social responsibility, which has been really inspiring. I’m trying to go beyond the surface of, what they wear, beyond the kilt, beyond the grass skirts, beyond the drums. Why is it that these communities are so attracted to coming together through music.”

Beat Issue June 16th 2010

Andrew O’Neill: Occult Comedian

Andrew O’Neill, The Occult Comedian, is about to debut his show in Australia. He took some time out to answer some questions.

What number Melbourne Comedy Festival is this for you?

This will be my first. I’ve never been south of the Equator before, although I did once live with an Australian, and I worked in Mambo in Covent Garden for a bit so I reckon I’ve got the country pretty well figured out. The stars are different. That is scary.

Tell us about your show.

It’s called Occult Comedian and it explores my dabblings in black magic, as well as my weirdo lifestyle choices. It’s mad and surreal and fast-paced and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever written. I’m a transvestite, too, so you’ll see me looking pretty.

How did you end up doing comedy?

I’ve always been a massive comedy fan and it was really just a natural extension of trying to make my mates laugh all the time. I am 100% less annoying in social situations now. Well… 50%…

What thing/person/idea are you most obsessed with at this time?

A Croatian black metal band called Drudkh are making me very happy indeed, and the Jonas Brothers continue to be alive, which makes me very unhappy. Alan Moore continues to be my biggest influence and various entities that I converse with are helping through the first phase of this trip.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Josie Long is sublime, Jason Cook is brilliant… my hot tip is a little show called Eric’s Tales Of The Sea… 100% true stories of a man’s life on Royal Navy submarines. It’s completely hilarious and heartbreaking and real. You have to see it.

Can you tell us about your extracurricular activities?

Aside from sending myself mad doing ritual magick, I’m in a steampunk band called The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. We’ve just recorded an album called Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1… We dress like Victorian misfits and we sound like early 80s British punk mixed with Victorian music-hall and a dash of death metal.

What about your affair with Jack the Ripper?

I used to work in the Cabinet War Rooms, which is where Winston Churchill fought WW2. I was reading my 20th book on the Ripper and wondered how old Churchill was in 1888. He was 13. Bingo. So I wrote a show called Winston Churchill was Jack The Ripper, which took on a life of its own… I now perform that show round the actual murder sites.

Do you have anything in the works right now?

I’m slowly working on a psychogeography-themed series of shows based on… places that have had most influence on my life. I have a DVD in the pipeline and my band’s album comes out in May.

Would you rather not wash your towel for three months, or your bed sheets for three months?

I’m a metal-head. This happens more than you’d think…

Beat Magazine, Issue #1210, March 24th, 2010

Eddie Ifft

Eddie Ifft is back in Melbourne for the Comedy Festival. To pass the rigorous Festival entrance exam, he answered a few questions for Beat.

Tell us about your upcoming show for the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

This year’s show [his second] is about not keeping my big mouth shut. It’s called Things I Shouldn’t Have Said and it’s a compilation of jokes and stories that I have said over the years that have had me banned from radio and TV, fired from jobs, even thrown in jail a few times. 

What thing/person/idea are you most obsessed with at this time? 

Crossfit. It’s kind of a workout cult I am in, that all the military special forces do.. After 14 years of touring, partying and destroying my body, I have decided to clean it up… I still party a little. I got really drunk in Vegas recently, so drunk that I walked out of a nightclub at 5am and people were going to the Las Vegas Marathon. On a bet with my friends, I ended up changing my clothes and running the race on no sleep and 10 vodkas.

Which city has been your favourite to play at (apart from Melbourne)?

I played a place called Prominent Hill. It wasn’t really a city but a makeshift gold mining town in the bush. It was really different for me. If you blind folded me and took me there and told me that we were on Mars, I would have believed you.

A lot of comedians from the USA have had an easier trot these past few years in terms of available source material for them to make fun of.  Does the current political climate in the US mean that you have more, or less comedy fodder?

George Bush made it really easy for a while. There was a reprieve for a while with Obama, but as… the hype around Obama has died down, people have started to realise that it isn’t the politician, but the system … My country and our celebrity culture never cease to amaze me either. We have more people on death row than any other country, but yet we have a whale that is responsible for three deaths at Sea World and he is probably doing back flips for the crowd right now…. It’s not the whale’s fault either. You put me in a swimming pool and make me synchronize swim with a ball on my nose, for fat dumb people, I’d want to drown someone too.

Are you a Winter Olympics fan?

I can’t believe some of the events. The Skeleton? What is that? It’s the event, where they luge downhill on their stomach, head first. These people get to go to the Olympics and call themselves Olympians. I mean good for them, but I don’t remember skeleton tryouts in high school… I’m pretty sure everyone that tries out makes the squad, because there are probably only three people in the country that even do the sport.

Beat Magazine, Issue #1210, March 24th, 2010

Dead Cat Bounce

Dead Cat Bounce – the musical comedy band from Dublin – are making all kinds of waves during their trip to Australia. Call him a trooper, I spoke to bassist Shane the day after the group discovered all the gear from their Adelaide venue had been stolen ten minutes before they were due to go on. “I’ve spent the day getting new equipment and filling in police reports so this is a bit of a break,” he told me over the phone. 

Is this your first time in Australia?

“I was here once back when I was ten, but this is the first time we have the opportunity to really explore the place, and we’ve been reading up. I don’t know if you’ve seen photos of Damien [drums], but he’s the most ginger man you’ve seen in your life, he burns instantly. Luckily it’s been pretty overcast lately.”

Despite a string of sell out shows, their trip seems to have formed a pattern in terms of luck; “Yesterday I woke up with a huntsman beside my face.”

Any other encounters with wildlife? “We went to one of those wildlife parks, and we saw this emu running around, kicking the kangaroos and chasing people. As we were leaving we said to one of the keepers, you know, ‘Should you really have that emu running around like that? It’s pretty vicious,’ and they just said, ‘the emu’s escaped again!?’”

The four members of Dead Cat Bounce met at Trinity College in Dublin, finally deciding to combine their comedy and band experiences after they became housemates. Their break came with their first gig, which comedian Will Ferrel just happened to be in the audience for. “It was a very weird experience, he walked into the room and the tone just changed. [The audience] were watching for when he laughed, and they would laugh even more. The next day we got a development deal with Irish Television.”

Dead Cat Bounce are an amalgamation of two great loves, comedy and rock ‘n roll. “A lot of what we do is the big eighties hair rock, taking the excess of various genres and making it fun and interesting and different. Our show goes from 80’s hair metal to barbershop to hip hop. We’re like The Muppet Show really, but bigger, and we try and make each night a bit different.” After the massive amount of buzz from Adelaide, is there anything special in store for Melbourne? “Well, we heard it was an amazing city for music, and we were planning on having a go at one of our ‘Bootlegs’, a live band mash up set that we do. It started out as a party piece, but now we’re asked to do it all the time. The last one was of Back in Black with You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrissette. We set up outside on the balcony of our venue in Adelaide, brought all the PA’s and speakers out, but we were shut down by the police fifteen minutes in.” Very AC/DC.

Beat Magazine, Issue #1210, March 24th, 2010

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