Friday, August 29, 2008

Random notes and Wuppertal whispers: Throw your body into the fight...

Let me quote Robert Pacitti quoting Raimund Hoghe quoting Pier Paolo Pasolini: "throw your body into the fight."

Thread 1: here am I, an Australian quoting a Briton (of Italian ethnicity) quoting a German writer and man of theatre (born in Wuppertal) quoting the late Italian poet, intellectual, film director and writer.

The only thing I can guarantee [okay, okay, "assert with confidence" then] is that I heard Pacitti correctly and wrote it down legibly as he spoke. But one assumes Pasolini's original line was Italian. And Raimund Hoghe picked it up in translation into German...

Thread 2: the significance of the line to Hoghe -- dramaturge for Pina Bausch for a decade -- is quite lost in quotation. When Hoghe, the hunchback [as the Goethe-Instit in Canada styles him], took up Pasolini's challenge, he took it rather more literally than everyone further down the chain. He formed Compagnie Raimund Hoghe to question "our conceptions about abnormality and our expectations about dance."

Back to Robert Pacitti.
Just as risk is relative, culture's relative.

I wouldn't call my work activist. Of course it's partial.

I make really bad theatre.

After a theatrical pause, he added: "But I'm not trying to make theatre."
I think I make quite bad dance too.

Pacitti was speaking after a performance of his signature work Civil -- inspired by "the naked civil servant" Quentin Crisp -- which had a lightning fast tour of Australia this month. Pacitti no longer performs the work. He now directs Richard "Dickie" Eton (the flag-wearer, above, click on the image to enlarge) in the thing he devised a dozen or so years ago.

It has got to be said, Robert Pacitti's monologue to the audience after the show[? installation? set of formal opportunities?] was far more compelling and coherent than the mannered, romantic and really rather dated Civil. [And don't get me started on the shitty sound!!]

Other relevant and amusing snorts from his address:
Crap work is crap work... We try to make alright work.

Great work can happen in any form. [Including bog ordinary naturalism.]

I am a git.

And, wonderfully:
If I didn't want it to change [i.e. from performance to performance] I'd make a bloody film.

Hoo-bloody-ray for that.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

"It was the cotton bowl, sister woman."

Not the sugar bowl, rose bowl, punch bowl or salad bowl!

Stray cat notes...

When MTC Artistic Director Roger Hodgman directed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1990, the company had two associate directors: Simon Phillips and Gale Edwards. Now Simon is AD and Gale is his hot shot guest director.

In 1955, MGM bought the film rights of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play... for Grace Kelly! (Dear God, what were they thinking?!) Names bandied about, at the time, as her possible co-star included Elvis Presley!!

When the film came to be made, references to Maggie's sexual frustration and Skipper's homosexuality had to be removed. So, Brick's drinking was downgraded to hero-worship... and vaguely attributed to him having an undemonstrative dad! Anyone remember the terrific scene in the film where Burl Ives (reprising his role from the Broadway production) bangs on about his hobo dad? Hobo, this time, not homo. [Sorry.]

If memory serves, Ken Tynan saw the original production and wrote about some bits sounding as out of place as a kazoo in a string quartet. He eventually discovered that the kazoo was, in fact, a Kazan! Director Elia Kazan pressured Williams into changing the ending to make Brick, er, a bit less of a prick.

Gale Edwards' production goes for the ending as originally written. (Williams revised the ending a second time which attempted to splice the hardness of version one with the wussiness of the Kazan rewrite.)

Funnily enough, v. 1 ends with Brick (almost) echoing Big Daddy's words:

Wouldn't it be funny if that was true?

v. 3 ends with an exact echo of Big Daddy's words:

Wouldn't it be funny if that were true?

I quite like the slightly false note of v.1 with Big Daddy getting the subjunctive case thing right and Brick, the jock, not.

v.2 ends with the icky Hollywood line, spoken by Maggie: "nothing's more determined than a cat on a tin roof -- is there? Is there, Baby?" [puke!]

And god bless Gale Edwards for not turning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof into a modern-day parable of drug-abusing, retired (and/or 'closeted') athletes!

One final thought/challenge... Liz Taylor (a radiant, unforgettable Maggie in the film) played another Maggie a few years back... if you read my Herald Sun rant about stunt casting, the answer will be obvious! What was the show, and what did she say? Verbatim answers only!


Wit's End: Philippe Genty's Lands End

Dear Philippe... can I call you Phil?

The world has moved on. The soft-core misogyny and nightmarish fantasies at the heart of your art is exposed... all the castration fear and rape revenge stuff. Dump it on your therapist, not our stages.

Funny you should use that song by Jet. Are you gonna be my girl. I doubt the St Bede's boys would use imagery as obvious as yours in one of their videos.

Head in the clouds... or a really big bag of flatulence?

I'm probably over-reading, but it comes from years of watching your noncommittal art. The first image. An upright bar of violet blue light next to a large circle of white light. A one and a zero. Of course the upright is the powerful thing. The other is just a diffuse little absence. A prick and a hole. A penetrating presence and an absence. A void. A sperm and an ovum. The IVF needle and the single penetrated cell. Boys and girls. Deep, Phil. Deep.

Do I see more pop-cult references here? The bum-faced girl, that's South Park series five, no? When the photo of Kenny's anorak-clad butt gets plastered on the milk carton. And the pig faced man, is that Dr Who or something a bit more arthouse, like one of Matt Barney's Cremaster cycle?

And do I detect some American Beauty in all those plastic bags and updrafts? Some Addams Family with the speed-dialing disembodied hand? "Why, thank-you Thing!" Maybe a bit of King Kong in the massive gorilla foot-paw?

You know what, Phil? I really don't care. Your chick-swapping bored me. The disappearances were no more than magic tricks. A series of set pieces.

Stage craft without ideas is like... is like religion without god.

Lands End. Directed by Philippe Genty and Mary Underwood. Assisted by Clélia Jeanne Colonna. Compagnie Philippe Genty. State Theatre, the Arts Centre, Melbourne, unti August 16. Then the Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, August 20-23. Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay, August 27 to September 6. Her Majesty's Theatre, Adelaide, September 10-13.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Chris Rock - No Apologies

Chris Rock. The No Apologies tour. Hisense Arena, Saturday August 2, 2008. August/September tour dates (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, UK & US) below.

As I push through the turnstiles at the Stop Making Sense Arena (formerly the Vodafone velodrome) Cameo's song Word Up is throbbing. I immediately think of Barb Wire and, inevitably, of Pammy. I jam on the mental brakes. (Burning rubber, skid marks... I said STOP!)

Inside, it's Nelly Furtado and "I'm like a bird" and a three-screen presentation of African American Afros! I'm guessing this has something to do with the work of Malaak Compton, Chris Rock's wife. Compton is the founder-director of styleWORKS, a salon that provides free "dos" for women going from welfare to workforce.

It's a bit unnerving, though, as if I've happened on the wrong gig. Instead of Chris Rock, I'm gonna get Christian Rock. Some kind of evangelist. Funny, when Rock takes to the stage, his initials are projected. Huge. Kinda gothic. Rock, presumably, is not old enough (or radically feminist enough) to know that CR once stood for something.

Though his invitation to look at the world through his dark pupils is undoubtedly enlightening, Chris is more into self raising than consciousness raising, I reckon. And bully for him. Punters are paying between 65 and 150 bucks a ticket for one man plus warm-up and a DJ in the foyer. (I wouldn't pay $150 to have a royal command performance by George Carlin, via séance. But, there you go.)

Rock has pretty much sold out his smaller shows: the State Theatre in Sydney and Hamer Hall (a mere 2500-seater) in Melbourne. Last night's show -- his first (ever) show in Australia -- and next Saturday night at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney, are his biggest here.

Chris Rock (photograph supplied)

Just for comparison, in the first show of the current tour, last December, Rock played to 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden.

The Hisense Arena (the place was renamed in July) can seat about half that number. In its end-on stage configuration, as used here, it's about nine thousand. The stadium wasn't quite filled to the targa top, last night.

Just thinkin'... After ten days in Australia, Rock will have grossed enough to buy a new mansion in Alpine, New Jersey. (Think Blige, Jay-Z, Denzel... the rest of the community is as non-black as Melbourne seems, to Rock.)

Perversely enough, one of the less-interesting routines is about Rock jacking off into his car each time he refuels. Why? Because whenever he forks out that much money, he expects sex. No mention of his fans paying brothel prices for the pleasure of his company... where the "happy ending" is only relative.

I open my review of the show (scheduled to run in tomorrow's Herald Sun) with a quick reminder of one of Rock's brilliant early sketches about working for minimum wages at McDonald's. Remember this?
You know what it means when they pay you minimum wage? You know what they're trying to tell you? It's like: "Hey, if I could pay you less, I would. But it's against the law."
Nowadays, it would take most of that minimum wage for a Maccas kid to see Rock perform.

Another of the less successful running gags is about the lack of blacks in Australia; that we hunted Aborigines until the 1920s and ate them; that the ones he's seen in Melbourne warned him to leave. Given that Melbourne is far and away the least racist of the state capitals, this was met with patient laughter. Encouragement to get on with it.

[Just an aside, Chris. It would be far more interesting to ask why Melbourne is the least racist big city in Australia... I'm thinking about that one about the Irishman who declares that the Irish were the only people in Europe not to discriminate against the Jews. After a long pause, the Irishman continues, sweetly: "We never let them in in the first place."]

A few times during Rock's two-hour set, I imagined that he might have been improvising. There's something he does that fools you into believing he's making it up as he goes along. Something about the long build-up to a punchline that doesn't quite floor us.

One of the sustaining themes of the show is Rules. Minorities are alowed to abuse majorities, though not one another. The weak are alowed to abuse the strong. The powerless, the powerful. The disabled, the abled. The ugly, the beautiful. The fat, the skinny and so on. Any reversal of that abuse cycle is just mean, he says. As something of a munchkin himself, he gives us a taste of tall abuse. Screaming, apoplectic:
I hope Osama bin Laden crashes a plane into -- your mouth.
Mouth seems NQR. Why not head? Or face? Or just into you? Mouth seems likely to be one of those "if only I'd said" moments. And yet the line stays with you. It's such an odd image. (The set is so rapid fire, there's no time to dwell. It's only hours later that I got the penetrative aspect to the, er, gag.)

A majority of the show is portable -- in time and place -- without quite being universal or timeless. The topical references betray the preparation and the age of the show: Britney losing her kids, Amy Winehouse just plain losing it, Wesley Snipes's trial for tax evasion, Barack Obama having to denounce Ludacris's urge to paint the White House black, the disgrace of Marian Jones and steroid-abusing sportsmen, Anna Nicole Smith's black pall-bearers, yada yada yada.

Rock uses these slightly stale references as ways into -- and links between -- his best material.

It really is a delight to hear the Rock ricocheting from one idea to another. To ping from John McCain's age ("He's so old he used to own Sidney Poitier!) to Barack Obama ("a really black name... you hear it, you expect to see a man holding a spear.") to Ludacris to -- a propos of not much -- Flavor Flav. ("Flavy Flav must be killed!!") [Interestingly, not "whacked".] [And, indeed, it's a missed opportunity for a Public Enemy #1-style gag.]

His Hillary material is scintillating. Hilarious. [God I wanted to spell that Hillarious.] He puzzles as to why Hillary would want to work in the room where Monica gave Bill blow jobs.

Then comes Chris Rock's trademark racial high-wire act. Why Obama needs a white wife. Why black women hate white women who take the good black men. "There's only eight of them!" [i.e. good black men.] Why black men would dropkick Keira Knightley to get to Rosie O'Donnell. Better and worse! This is territory that Rock has been rutting for close to two decades. It's incorrect, it's charged, it's terribly naughty... and it's all painfully true... well, most of it!

As much as I enjoyed hearing Rock's Eddie Murphy "huh huh huh" laugh live, is two antidepressant hours, live, worth more than you'd pay for Rock's entire discography? Hmmm. Tens of thousands of Australians think so. Who am I to argue? [*gives thin melty butter smile*]

I can't wind up without mentioning Rock's brilliant warm-up dude, Mario Joyner. Joyner's only three years older than Rock, but he does a whole set about ageing. ("Midlife crisis? No! Midlife Christmas!")

The happy-to-be-single stuff actually reminded me of material Rock used to do about gays not being permitted to marry... and his envy of them.

Joyner's routine is classic piece of stand-up. It deftly entwines a couple of apparently unrelated threads.

Last night, he got our attention, held our interest, left us hungry for more and didn't eclipse the main man. But, hell, if you see that he's doing any solo gigs around town, do go see him.

Yeah, he does meat-and-potatoes stuff about cell phone reception, GPS navigation and ticket tearers at cinemas, but he ties it all up very neatly. (The sweet talking GPS machine -- instead of dissing him for missing his exit -- helpfully announced that it was calculating a new route... and wasn't bitching about his mistake two hours later! This, of course, was more positive reinforcement of his chosen bachelorhood.)

Chris Rock 2008 Tour Dates:

4 Aug 2008 7:00 P
State Theatre Sydney

5 Aug 2008 7:00 P
State Theatre Sydney

6 Aug 2008 8:00 P
The Civic, Auckland, New Zealand

8 Aug 2008 8:00 P
State Theatre Sydney

9 Aug 2008 8:00 P
Sydney Entertainment Center New South Wales

10 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Victorian Arts Center Melbourne

11 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Victorian Arts Center Melbourne

15 Aug 2008 8:00 P
The Borgata Hotel and Casino Atlantic City NJ

16 Aug 2008 8:00 P
Mohegan Sun Casino Uncasville CT

24 Aug 2008 8:00 P
Orpheum Theater Vancouver, BC

25 Aug 2008 8:00 P
Orpheum Theater Vancouver, BC

26 Aug 2008 8:00 P
Orpheum Theater Vancouver, BC

27 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Paramount Theatre Seattle WA

28 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Paramount Theatre Seattle WA

29 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Caesars Las Vegas NV

30 Aug 2008 7:00 P
Caesars Las Vegas NV

4 Sep 2008 8:00 P
Olympia Theatre Dublin

Please cue Simon and Garfunkel: "I am Chris Rock, I am in Ire-land."

6 Sep 2008 8:00 P
Hammersmith London

7 Sep 2008 8:00 P
Hammersmith London

12 Sep 2008 8:00 P
Apollo Theater New York NY

13 Sep 2008 8:00 P
Apollo Theater New York NY

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