Saturday, June 30, 2007

This is terribly juvenile of me, but...


In sorrow and fustration (one imagines) more than anger, Adam Broinowski has a rant about cruel and unusual treatment his play (sic) Know No Cure has received from the 'crickets'.

In response to a positive account at the VCA's Spark Online, he writes:
"finally an engagement by a critic with the piece which goes beyond the demand for simple narrative. You would think, from the other responses, that no one had seen the wooster group over the last 20 years..."
But, like the first commenter to take him on, "A Hairy Ape", I have seen the Wooster, and still wanted to shoot myself.

However, I am prepared to admit that an outside eye might make a performance text out of Broinowski's blank-faced, blank-verse text. Broinowski did his writing (and his cast) an enormous disservice by directing Know No Cure himself.

See also Michael Scott's "play whipping" at The Program and Cameron Woodhead's reluctant demolition of the play in The Aged. (And we all know, when critics -- and doctors -- start showing kindness, you must be terminally sick!)

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Potted Meat Productions: A Porthole Into the Minds of the Vanquished

A Porthole Into the Minds of the Vanquished. Written and Performed by Warwick Allsopp and Tamlyn Henderson. Directed and produced by Ansuya Nathan. With Live Music by Jeremy Brennan. Potted Meat Productions.

At the Sydney Opera House Studio, June 29 and 30. Then The Malthouse, Melbourne, July 4 to 7. Also Edinburgh (Gilded Balloon Teviot Wine Bar) from August 2 to 29, 2007.

In their big ol' boots and grampa shorts 'n' braces, this dynamic duo is a knotted handkerchief short of a Gumby. That's a Mister Gumby, by the way, of Flying Circus fame. Intellectually, though, they bend and twist ideas around as if they were the other kind of Gumby, the claymation green one that came with a rust-coloured pony called Pokey.

Warwick Allsopp and Tamlyn Henderson are a pair of hunky and fabulously talented WAAPA music theatre graduates. Ion-trailing shooting stars. Henderson is dark and handsome with a Daliesque twirly mustache and Allsopp is the spit image of Heath Ledger... and they both have platinum-tonsiled million-dollar DJ voices.

Their tight and hyperventilated routines run the gamut from bizarre to really really weird, ricocheting from universe to universe with no obvious reason but plenty of rhyme.

Jokes, here, are like stings between songs. They're thrown away like diamonds. One clocked in at just seven words: "Roald Dahl... children's author or Indian Muesli?" And if you picture an oily snake-oil selling radio jock with one hand cupped over his ear, saying it, you're getting warm.

If there is a through-line here, and I'm not entirely convinced that there is, A Porthole Into the Minds of the Vanquished is a kind of condescending celebration of mediocrity. Of low achievement and failure.

Henderson and Allsopp not only have us laughing along with the losers -- not at them -- we're just about ready to sing along with them. We leave baffled and utterly utterly dazzled.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

A new sun god: Apollo #11?

In my shallower moments -- and, lord only knows, there are plenty of those to spare -- I wonder what Rampaging Roy Slavin and HG Nelson would make of ballet; what they would bring to a work like Apollo, George Balanchine's seminal ballet... a defining work of 20th century balletic neoclassicism. I imagine, too, how they might 'call' a performance, like competitive gymnastics. (The concept of an audio-described ballet amuses me rather too much, I confess!)

Having sat through the Australian Ballet's frightfully serious (and frightfully well executed) recreation of Apollo twice so far -- I'll see a third cast before the Melbourne season's out -- I'm also wondering if Balanchine was ever laughed at.

When Apollo first appears, he's wrapped up tightly, as if in a straitjacket. Before he's freed, he tilts his head back, mouth wide open, and pivots like one of those sideshow clowns you pop balls in the mouth of.

On top of that, Balanchine's Apollo (famously) plays his lute windmill style, a la Pete Townshend. Handmaidens cross the stage in an upright wheelbarrow race, en pointe. The muses goose-step, they descend like spinning tops and they play bouncy hopscotch. Calliope spews words from her mouth with a thrust of her palm. Polyhymnia literally thumbs her nose... in imitation of a mask, one hopes.

In my review for the Herald Sun, I wrote that Apollo, after eighty years, "seems more like the last chapter of the old (European) testament rather than the first of the new (American) testament. [Damn, I wish I had written 'old (world) testament' and 'new (world) testament' instead!!] But it's here, on this New Romantics program, as the point of origin. Time zero."

Funnily enough, the opening section of the ballet -- the birth scene -- is still dazzlingly modern, splendidly muscular and joltingly sexual, all hair and bare feet and limbs. But most of the rest -- innovative as it is -- is dinky and arch. All architecture and artifice.

But, as I say, Apollo's place on the program is as the point of origin; the reference; it's the Mister Potato Head ballet -- "there to welcome you."

Tonight, I've just seen young soloist Adam Bull (left) take the title role. (This is either cast three or cast five, I've lost count.) Far and away the tallest dancer in the company, Bull has fairish, curly hair and a smallish head. Tonight, he looked like a Roman god.

Before you say "well, derr, Chris" I'll say it again. This lean young man, 25 or 26 years old, was only a garland short of godhead. He is an inspired choice for the part. Apollo is a role Bull was ready for. And he didn't disappoint.

The sun god himself at Delos

The other delight in this particular cast was Robyn Hendricks, who danced like she had new shoes. (I mean that in the good way, not the "god damn these things are crippling me" way.)

N.B. I'll replace these borrowed pics with local production shots as they come to hand.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

indy in Sydney (or how someone with the improbable name Sydney Brisbane came to Melbourne)

My belated (and rather small) response to Ming-Zhu's musings about Sydney vs Melbourne theatre is this... The main difference between the indy scenes in the two capitals is that venues and venue-operating companies in Sydney curate seasons of independent works to supplement their own output. They cherry pick the best from what seems like a multitude of small, mostly unfunded companies and projects. Melbourne indy companies, by contrast, find venues for themselves.

This is both a simplification and a generalisation, of course. A statistical average if you like. And it's constantly evolving and shifting. The Tower Theatre at the Malthouse is as close as Melbourne gets to Company B Belvoir's B-Sharp or Griffin Theatre's Stablemates. In a way it's a no-brainer. Bringing finished and polished works to new audiences. Wow, why didn't I think of that?

One gets the sense, in Sydney, that only the tip of the iceberg is on show. The scene in Melbourne is flatter, more sprawling. But don't make the mistake of assuming that Sydney's all glitter and be gay. The indy scene hasn't been stronger.

One of the brightest lights on the Emerald City's horizon is The Old Fitz, a pub theatre venue with a formidable record for staging great shows. Two shows -- both as it happens by playwright Dennis Kelly -- have made it from the Old Fitz to Melbourne in the last year.

Debris was on at Black Lung during the Fringe Festival. (My review is here, Alison Croggon's here.) And, now, Syd Brisbane's production of Osama the Hero is on at the Carlton Courthouse, courtesy of La Mama. This is the show that Daniel Schlusser described as "one of the most intelligent 'straight' theatre pieces" that he saw in '06.

The point of this long-winded preamble is to direct your attention to new kid on the blog (sorry) Bardassa who has been writing some very shrewd, very interesting reviews of opera and theatre.

In one of those freaky, deja vu, stalkery coincidences, the bad-ass Bardassa and I were at the same performance of the play on Sunday. And, no, I have no idea who the hell he is! (When I first discovered the then pseudonymous Minkshoe, at the very start of Mink Tails, I realised we had trudged the same path down Lygon Street one night. Very weird indeed!)

Bardassa's review of Osama the Hero is here.

Now, get reading. I need some bloody sleep. (Not to mention booty sleep.)

UPDATE: Alison's review of Osama the Hero is now up.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Tease and trapeze: once you pop you can't stop...

The hair-raising Moira Finucane in The Burlesque Hour More
(photographs by Heidrun Lohr, click on the images to enlarge)

I fear I have misled you, gentle reader. (And, well, I'm feeling misled!) It turns out The Burlesque Hour More is not so much a sequel as a remix. I reckon that two-thirds to three-quarters of the material comes from the original show. That's all fine and dandy if you didn't catch it first time around -- it's absolutely worth seeing -- but there are few surprises... and surprise is an important element of the show.

Azaria Universe has a couple of clever new contributions: one brilliantly complements Ms Universe's bearded lady hula-hoop routine, the other turns her into the Michelin Woman.

This time around, there are guest spots each night from luminaries such as "Strawberry Girl" Maudie Davey and macho man extraordinaire Angus Cerini (who performed on first night).

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

To the two of you hanging out to read my review of Know No Cure, it is spending the day -- possibly the whole weekend -- with the Herald & Weekly Times lawyers. (Ah, the joys of trapezing with a safety net!) (In a publishing environment that finds criticism 'unpalatable', that's kinda reassuring. Esoteric Rabbit has a comprehensive and thoughtful rundown on the latest attack on fair comment...)

Actually, all the organs I write for have good lawyers. Fairfax can't afford to fight -- and even less afford to lose -- so they tend to be the sharpest and most cautious "lawmen" (that's like gunmen, Kerryn, honest). HWT fights to the death, so is usually pretty gung ho.

Even The Big Issue can call on the cavalry in times of need. Before the 2000 Olympics, the bully boys in Sydney were threatening to impose massive fines on the Big Ish if we didn't get our (homeless and long-term unemployed) vendors off the streets. Corrs Chambers Westgarth -- long-time pro bono sponsors of the Big Ish -- charged in to our defence.

Corrs, bless 'em, also support OXFAM, The Salvos, RSPCA, Very Special Kids, you name it...


And, finally, for all our Euro-readers... I've updated the tour dates for Lou Reed's concert performances of Berlin. There are new (or additional) stops in the UK and Italy.

Moira Finucane as "The Queen of Hearts"

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Teaser: The Burlesque Hour More

Is it really three years since The Burlesque Hour rampaged into town? If my files don't deceive me it's one month short of three years. So the sequel -- which opens tonight at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne -- is well and truly overdue. The divas are promising "new guests!" and "new acts!" and just plain "more!"

As a reminder -- and as a teaser -- here's one from the vault... my response to the first instalment.

The Burlesque Hour, conceived by Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith. At fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, until July 25, 2004.

On the barometric scale that arcs from feminine to feminist to female, The Burlesque Hour is so far off-the-chart, the needle is pointing to Meteor.

Okay, so that's the brand name not the forecast, but you get the picture. You're going to need incontinence pants -- for one reason or another -- there's a storm front approaching.

The Burlesque Hour is a series of set pieces -- lip-synching mimes, dances and commando acts -- by an unholy trinity of fatale feministas: Moira Finucane, beauty queen of the damned; Yumi Umiumare, an Asian tiger in a China doll shop; and Azaria Universe, the perfect blend of form and function.

Yumi Umiumare is the only woman I've ever watched strip without being able to tear my eyes from her eyes. Written on her body in elegant Japanese script -- already blurring from perspiration -- is a lesson about ephemerality. Umiumare has a crazy sense of humour, totally off-beat, and an absolute devotion to her distinctive style of Butoh cabaret. She is total class, even when pulling thirty pairs of knickers from under her school uniform.

Azaria Universe is all sex and circus, fishnets and hula hoops, fetish and fantasy. Her routine to one of Polly Jean Harvey's Stories From The City could single-handedly propel her into the Performance Art stratosphere. You will not forget it in a hurry.

As for Moira Finucane, left, maybe I should have called her drama queen of the damned. Hers is the ecstasy and the agony... The ecstasy is a frantic, quivering, claw-fingered, shakin'-all-over routine in vanilla white. The agony is her black widow act to Elvis Costello's 'I Want You'. Finucane opens and closes the show spectacularly.

Not even a crook knee could stop artist Mirka Mora from being the first to her feet when the show finally wound up.

The Burlesque Hour is eye-popping, balloon-popping, cork-popping theatre. It's the kind of show you need a cigarette after... and several months of psychoanalysis.

An edited version of this review was first published in the July 19, 2004, edition of the Herald Sun.

The Burlesque Hour More runs until July 15, 2007, with interstate seasons likely.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

grogblog vs mogblog

I'm typing this with my 'familiar' sitting on my shoulder. ("Jesus, Dusty, get yer claws in!") Her tail swishing in my face.

I've been mulling over this little aside from Kerryn at PC for some days, now. I'm not at all sure I agree with her grogblog vs mogblog argument. But I'm examining my conscience very very carefully.

She writes:
(For anyone new to this blog who is bemused by the catblogging and other domestic preoccupations indiscriminately mixed up with the posts about politics and culture and ideas, this kind of heterogeneous reportage is one of the most pronounced manifestations in the blogosphere of gender difference, and in my case at least is a deliberate if very mild bit of feminist activism. Never mind the women from Venus and the men from Mars; my equivalent book on the subject would be called Male Bloggers Compartmentalise and Female Bloggers Don't. Now read on ...)
The elipsis and parentheses are Kerryn's. The cat pic, below, is my own. Dusty, however, belongs to no man.

Incidentally, Wraith (who also answers to Dusty, Shadowfax, Shadecloth and -- er -- Fluffy) turned out to be a grrrl. Picket (Pikelet, Pickle &c.) is the boy... and a shy boy at that.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"The penis. Mightier than the sword..." I'm sorry. I'll read that again.

A tale of two pricks...

So when did Google develop mind-scanning techniques? Some unsuspecting punter googled "JOHN HOWARD australian prick" yesterday, hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button and landed here.

How did they know?

Also in the last few hours, some dude in Atlanta went looking for "unusally (sic) big penises" -- as you do -- and landed here. (At least I wasn't the first hit, dear reader.)

To complete the phallic trifecta, a "shot my wad"-style enquiry directed a Mister Boston of Massachusetts here. (One of my commenters, Fairly contented of Fitzroy, explained the origins of the expression to another commenter, Contrary Mary, here. How blessed we are with all this shared wisdom.)

Anyway... moving right along. I was here to plug some intelligent writing. So wipe that smirk off your face, assume a suitably po-faced face, and read on.

Sarah Noble is to opera what Alison Croggon is to theatre: an articulate, intelligent, independent voice. And a most dedicated blogger to boot. She was pretty much essential reading when blogging "remotely" from New Zealand at Prima la musica. Now living in Sydney, the noble Sarah has started up a splinter blog dedicated to all things Opera Australian. She manages to be opinionated without ever pontificating; polite but steely. If opera's your thing -- and, hell, it's one of mine -- Soggiorno Amoroso is well worth a live bookmark.

After the jump is a pic from the upper reaches of the Mekong. I'm afraid I won't be sharing the fruits of my Canon for a while. Not until my photo editor pillages the best of the rest.

(photograph: Chris Boyd, click on the image to enlarge)

Captions anyone? I'm thinking: "Me King, Me Kong..." or a Karate Kid reference.

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