12
Oct
10

Red Sky Morning

Red Sky Morning got me. It really got me. It really got me thinking. About all sorts of things. Bear with me…

THING 1

How close to self-destruction are any of us? Are we not all ever-so-slowly imploding silently over something? No? Not at all? Perfectly, delightfully happy in every way every day? Really? Okay. Maybe it’s just me.

But have you never thought (or not quite thought) while you’ve been driving, about letting the car gradually drift into the other lane entirely? Or off the road entirely and into the scrub and the trunks of the eucalypts? Off a cliffside and into a canyon? You’ve never had a Thelma and Louise moment? Not ever? Just me? No prescriptions filled twice over and no one at home to cook for? No walk-into-the-sea fantasy? No wish for a loaded gun? Just me. Okay. Well, clearly not I’m afraid, because this is something that Red Sky Morning dares to address. Or at least dares to dare you to consider.

Stop. I don’t want you to flood my inbox with ARE YOU OKAY messages because I’M OKAY.

The point of difference of course, between seeing these events in our mind’s eye and taking action to bring about these events must be somewhere vaguely in a place where we remember we are loved and we have an awful lot to live for. Or, if one can’t remember such a poignant thing at that point, perhaps it’s the fear of enduring any sort of real physical pain that stops us. Or the knowledge that those left behind will suffer unbearable anguish, unable to ever understand what it was we forgot there was/is to live for. I’m not sure. I’ve never stepped (or steered) quite that close to the edge. In any case, how do we stop time at that point, in order to reconsider and take that step away from the other place, the place of tragic – not always quite conscious – decisions about finally, one dark day or night, acting out our fantasies of self-harm or suicide? I can’t actually answer that. It’s heavy stuff.

Red Sky Morning is really heavy stuff. Tom Holloway has written nothing and everything about my life. And quite possibly about yours too. His ability as a writer is obvious and something that, during the afternoon’s discussion with the cast and the director, they kept coming back to. I could feel that they were, rightly so, in complete awe of Tom’s lyric. I’m fascinated that from a piece written originally in Word columns, for three characters to speak a monologue each, together in cacophony for the duration, a brilliant composition was structured and workshopped and re-structured and rehearsed and re-structured, to become distinct movements, delivered to stunning emotional effect. Sam Strong is a BIG fan of Anne Bogart’s work. So yes, you got those references there. I knew you would.

In turns, David (company AD), Sarah (company casting), Erin (company admin) and Sam Strong (director), explained the process by which this show came about. It became clear that it has been the collaboration, between writer, director, designer, actors and audiences, over a three-year process, that has made this piece so real and raw and really funny and completely devastating all at the same time. The cast, without exception, were simply outstanding in their vocal work particularly (um, rote learning lines my arse, guys; maybe to begin with, as one might learn poetry in the primary school but then there is talent and intuition and intellect at work!) and in their uncanny ability to match each other’s continuously changing energies, making physical and emotional connections (and complete detachments, sometimes almost within the same instant) without actually connecting with each other through touch, proximity or any eye contact. Ever. Seriously. I’ve only seen that level of intense commitment – I’m talking about that level of extreme character too – in the snippets of Alice Ripley in Next to Normal on Broadway, on YouTube. In actual fact, there are a few parallels there, between mother and mother, which would be apparent if you are a theatrical geek-freak, as I am, and you have perhaps watched said clips of Alice Ripley in Next to Normal on Broadway, on YouTube, something like, ooh, six million times.

I MAY HAVE EVEN POSTED IT ALREADY. HERE IT IS AGAIN BECAUSE IT IS SO GOOD.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE. NEXT TO NORMAL IS COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU. That is, if you’re anywhere near MTC and the precinct next year.

THING 2

Red Stitch is my new favourite company in this country. In fact, I will attribute them with validating the way that Sam and I approach our work and with inspiring us to continue down this path, gather the right people around us gradually and produce great theatre in our own time, via our own non-methods, attracting and building our own audiences along the way. It is highly unlikely that anybody will really care about that now, at this point. I’m just saying. For future reference. For, you know, editorial, for when they’re searching desperately at deadline, for quotes and links to include in a feature story about the theatre-makers from Queensland. I’M JUST PUTTING IT OUT THERE. FOR THE UNIVERSE, YOU KNOW?

THING 3

See, now we’ve progressed beyond the Seuss Things.

The touring set is pretty much the original set. It cost the company $1000.

The reddish earth for the floor is sourced locally, wherever they go, immediately giving a great sense of place and somehow – not entirely sure what I mean – a sense of trust or normality (or something) and authenticity (or something) to this production, just by it being there, underfoot. I think it was the reality underneath, if you cared to look through the thick, murky layer of fantasy and smog (hello, Mt Isa memories) that served to ground us again, bringing us back to that safe, child-like place of trust and normality, just as the father craved, grasping handfuls of earth as he lay there upon it, just considering his place in this lonely place and just as the daughter craved, reacting violently to everything happening outside of her control by forcing a fight, in the dirt in the school yard, with her best friend, finally losing all self-control and regaining at least some sort of self-respect in the defense of her mother against the public taunts and accusations, which she had previously ignored.

Then again, the director and the designer may have had a conversation that went something (or nothing) like this:

DISCLAIMER: I did not hear Sam Strong say, “mate” in all the time we were there. It’s late. I’m tired. If it were a show about putting on a show (currently enjoying a Brisbane season), this is how it would play out.

 

 

Timber. Timber floor boards, mate.

No. Too warm, too friendly, too comforting. How about dirt?

Dirt. Soil. The real, red earth. The dust of life

No mate, that’s Bui Doi you’re thinking of; they’re doing Miss Saigon in Brisbane while we’re there, aren’t they? That’s a brave choice.

Yeah, yeah. Brave choice…

Dirt, mate; let’s get the local dirt and spread it across the floor. It’ll be even more comforting than boards.

Yeah, yeah, no boards; local dirt’s good. But you know it’s been done, mate.

No, not for ages, mate; not since Capricornia and that was only seen by the Brisbane peeps. Do the local dirt, mate.

Alright, mate, that’ll be brilliant. And local. Dirt.

 

 

ASIDE: When I notice that in the back of the cute little STC season brochure for 2011, in their clever little SUPPORT US YOU LOVE US YOU LOVE OUR LAVISHNESS (and p.s. don’t forget our efforts to recycle and greenify the company) the donations they received this year covered costume and set costs upwards of $20 000 for multiple productions, I realise what sort of company I would like to work…like. I would say work for, only you would not say no to an STC gig if it were to come up, would you?! Well I certainly wouldn’t. But by the same token, there is something to be said for the humble independents, draining minimal funding and producing exceptional theatrical work for their country, regardless. Hats off, I say.

So within the strict confines of an ingeniously designed venetian-blind-box, a little family, in a typical almost-outback small town struggles to simply be together. On the surface, it’s a play about survival. Under the surface, it’s about questioning the desire to keep trying…fighting to survive. Who can be bothered? And what (or whom) for?

A husband and father convinces himself that he is, in fact, “bloody lucky” and heads off to work each morning before his wife and daughter are even up and moving. They are both, however; wide awake and considering the day before them. The play is, to begin with, surprisingly…upbeat. The daughter, off to high school and, with a crush on her teacher, chatty and looking forward to getting out of the house and being amongst friends. The mother, off to the kitchen to…oh! just grab a beer before breakfast, after seeing an elephant in the hall before getting out of the house and going for a jog. And so it goes…but not like anything I’ve seen or heard before. And I was ready for it! Having spent the same afternoon on the fourth floor of the Judith Wright Centre with the generous cast, stage manager and director, discussing every aspect of the show, it came as an enormous shock on so many levels – and a total sensory overload – to actually hear two or all three of the actors speaking at once!

THING 4

In a dysfunctional family (and, let’s face it, that could be any family, really, depending on just how closely you look at it) how agonising is it to choose to go on with each day rather than to end the pain, frustration, confusion, miscommunication and missed opportunities – for everyone – in a life that hasn’t turned out quite the way you thought it would? (Did I mention boredom, resentment, regret, regression, manic depression and delusions of grandeur? Yep. That’s right. Remember, I’ve lived out west too). Well, we certainly saw the agony. We felt it. I felt it so that I couldn’t breathe. And because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sob, which is really what I felt like doing, as if I were in front of that heart-wrenching film, KOLYA, once again with my four-year old daughter asking, through her own desperate tears, “Mama, why won’t the mama take her boy?” (and her absolutely bewildered tears at the end of it, “Mama, how can the mama take her boy back now?!” Her capacity for sympathy and her depth of understanding confounds me).

Anyway, the last theatrical work to really get me like that was Steppenwolf’s production of Stockholm. At the end of it, I was a complete mess. And as an artist, I thought, “WOW…we can do that!” At the end of Red Sky Morning, I fell apart and, as an artist, thought, “WOW. HOW THE FUCK DO WE DO THAT?!”

The academic in me wants to sit in on everything this company does and just observe and absorb…and ask lots of questions about process and write it up for my thesis. The actor in me wants to do their very next production, whatever it may be, and work collaboratively to be a part of something amazing. And the director and teacher in me wants to work with new talent and use my non-methods, which of course pay homage to Bogart, Chubbuck, et al, to continue to introduce actors on the Sunshine Coast to this little world that we are trying to build here. What is, I realise, a microcosm of Melbourne’s Red Stitch community. That is, if I may be so bold as to claim any similarity to their ensemble philosophy and innovative approach whatsoever!

Brick by brick, somebody recently told me, though I think he referred specifically to building the Brisbane theatre scene at the time. Brick by brick. It applies wherever we are. So. I tell you what. We’ll give it another year here. One more year of bricks. Okay? Then…well, who knows? Brick by brick and day by day, I say!


6 Responses to “Red Sky Morning”


  1. 1 Sharon Grimley
    October 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

    No, not just you. And I can help with another brick or two… 🙂

  2. October 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Brilliant analysis, Xanthe – thank you for posting and reflecting and sharing your thoughts.
    BTW – it’s not just you!

  3. November 3, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Thank you so much for this!
    It’s so great to hear that the show inspired so many ‘things’ for you.
    Just so you know, we still reminisce about that afternoon with you all – I think there was absolutely a mutual amount of inspiration flying around that day.
    Please tell me we can come back someday soon!
    Hoping you don’t mind that I post a link to this on our tour blog…
    Erin


Leave a Reply to xsentertainment Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: