Posts Tagged ‘La Boite Theatre Company

12
May
14

Machina

 

Machina

La Boite Indie & Madcat Creative Connections

With the support of QPAC

The Loft

May 8 – 24 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Six Degrees – Bloomberg – Usenet – GeoCities – Friendster – MySpace – Orkut – Flickr – Facebook – Twitter – Tumblr – Instagram – Pinterest – Linkedin – Google+ – SnapChat – Kik – Machina

 

deus ex machina

 

No, not the Smashing Pumpkins album, not the motorcycle, and not the famed café chain (now open in Bali!).

 

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I don’t know that Machina’s ending is quite right but let’s not start there. Let’s start at the very beginning, which is basically where we are right now, transfixed by a screen, quite possibly by multiple screens, juggling gadgets; probably engaging in several conversations whilst simultaneously checking emails and scrolling through news feeds.

 

We are living masterfully created half-lives online and something else, something almost resembling real lives, offline.

 

Machina is a play to make us think deeply about the connections we make – or fail to make – in real life and those we make so effortlessly in the virtual world via various social media constructs, which we’ve had at our fingertips since well before 2004 when the world’s most popular platform, Facebook, first appeared. That’s right. It’s Facebook’s tenth year so what better time to program, as part of the La Boite Indie season, Richard Jordan’s intriguing new work about a guy who decides that “going inside” is a better option than continuing life on earth. Think about that. It’s mind blowing.

 

One month ago, David Sergeant made the ultimate commitment to social media, choosing to forever separate mind and body by uploading his consciousness into social networking site Machina. An experimental and irreversible new process known as ‘going inside’, the user discards their need for a physical body and attains a kind of digital immortality in the cloud.

 

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WOW. UPLOADING HIS CONSCIOUSNESS. As you will have read in the Playwright’s Note and in our interview with Jordan here, the notion of disappearing from real life in order to live eternally in the ether is not as sci-fi as it might at first appear to be. Sometimes I think some of us are already ready to opt (out) for that. Scary, really. There is good reason behind the loneliness people feel, despite having thousands of Twitter and Insta Followers and Facebook friends…the interactions are not quite the same, are they?

 

youneedtogetofffacebook

 

I used to spend a lot more time on Facebook and Twitter. No, really! Social media is an addiction and I tend to go through phases of taking responsibility for decreasing the amount of time daily on each social media platform. I seem to be on Instagram a lot more often lately. I totally blame Fat Mum Slim’s #fmsphotoaday challenge for that! I also love to keep up with pics from my family on Insta because there’s a new baby, and #100waystospellterese

 

I often explain to friends that Instagram is to the Internet what Disneyland is to the planet – it’s the happiest place online.

 

I can’t stand the sob stories, vaguebooking, self-promotion and relentless advertisements in my Facebook news feed so more often than not I’ll use Insta to post a photo (my Insta is also synched to Twitter #sorrynotsorry) and I’ll use Facebook just to check in somewhere #xsneverstops

 

procrastination

As the X of XS Entertainment I often feel a certain amount of pressure to maintain the public image we’ve worked so hard to establish. Don’t get me wrong, we really actually do have heaps of fun! And if we’re not having fun, I’m generally not posting about it. Social media lets us edit our lives this way so what we’re seeing is only the most interesting, gorgeous, intelligent, witty, wonderful, successful versions.

 

Wait. You knew that, right?

 

I still rely on gmail for invites, press releases and quick notes about what’s happening around town but I’m trying to measure the amount of time spent being a passive user of social media, which is really just another way of admitting that I’m trying to procrastinate less.

 

As a consequence of not being prolifically on any particular platform anymore, I miss stuff. I miss birthdays, engagements, weddings, separations, the births of babies, the acquisition of new pets, and the loss of old pets, your new pair of shoes, your new property, your new position at work, your children’s achievements and much more. Sometimes I suffer from serious #FOMO and other times I genuinely think that friends and family members will call or email if they have something they need me to know. Sometimes I’m right and I hear from them IRL! Hooray! Sometimes I CALL THEM! I KNOW! I feel slightly disconnected, yes, but I’m not prepared to go back to the hours of trawling through news feeds, and liking and sharing and re-tweeting to safeguard against you thinking that I don’t care about what’s happening in your life. I do care. But LIFE is happening (or trying to happen) here too and sometimes that doesn’t need to be announced.

 

I MIGHT BE WRITING. BUT I MIGHT NOT POST ABOUT IT.

 

I have friends who simply deactivate their accounts temporarily in order to get things done. Do they really? Wow! Do you? Do you get more done? Or do you sit and wonder what everyone is up to while you’re not reading their updates? My preferred strategy involves resisting checking any social media before the school run and also, whenever I’m supposed to be focusing on something. Like a review. Or a movie. Or a conversation. *opens new tab to check Facebook purely for the Production Gallery images on La Boite Theatre Company’s page. Really.

 

deactivatedfacebookforanhour

 

On weekdays that’s around 9am and for the most part of the day…some days. Some days I just see how many hours from waking I can stay off social media! I know, it’s exciting, isn’t it? When I’m out somewhere I might post a foodie photo, check into a place on Facebook and see that I have, like, 84 notifications. Sometimes I check some of them. I’m truly sorry if I miss your stuff. I’m confident in the knowledge that if our friendship and/or support is valuable enough to you, you’ll call or sms or email to get my attention, and just so you know, I’m trying to do that more often too. *brings iPhone screen to life to make sure there is no message regarding tomorrow’s arrangements, which include a lunch date, school pick up, yoga and a meeting in Brisbane at peak hour traffic time. What was I doing? Oh, the blog. Review. Right.

 

In Machina, Director, Catarina Hebbard, has deftly created a world on stage of missed connections – barely-even-there connections – as well as ever-present people with whom the characters are yet to connect (I love the opening image of dancers floating “out there”, together in isolation in the ether…or is it in real life?). It’s as if we are watching the same self-study that leads to considering deactivating the social media accounts, but not seriously, because if we do so where will we be? What will become of us? We won’t exist in the minds of others if our news is not in front of them every day and we might even cease to exist for ourselves. What are we if not a continuously evolving online presence? #ifitdidnthappenonfacebookdiditreallyhappen

 

machina_liamandpeter

 

Some of the connections between characters come across more successfully than others. I love the very awkward relationship between Scott (Jack Kelly) and Tom (Liam Nunan), particularly during their first meeting at a bus stop. Necessarily AWK-WARD. This scene is played out beautifully, perfectly timed to elicit the sort of restrained laughter we feel might offend because somebody (Scott) is just trying so hard! I feel like Nunan is the one to watch here – he has some superb moments of reflection and intense emotion throughout the play as he struggles to communicate offline and away from his completely competent online persona. Within his story is the crux of the play – how do we see others, and ourselves, and how do we present in real life with the same confidence and charisma as that which we’ve created online? In contrast, Kelly may have some subtlety to learn but his vivid characterisation is perfectly suitable, and he brings a lovely lightness to the production.

 

machina_liam

An odd friendship develops between Amanda (Luisa Prosser) and Hannah (Judy Hainsworth) that could possibly become another play – it seems to want to be its own story, with the girls switching online and actual identities, however; other than to prove a point I’m not sure why there is so much time afforded to this. The connection that we need, and the one I enjoy most, is between Isobel (Kaye Stevenson) and Adam (Peter Rasmussen). Stevenson plays David’s mother and she connects online via the social media platform, Machina, with Adam, who confesses he is there “for the sex”. Through this unlikely relationship she learns the truth about David – that at thirty-something her son was depressed and friendless, and felt his family would be better off without him actually being around. Despite the exposition, I left feeling a little confused, I’ll admit, which is perhaps the desired effect. Was David really dead then? He must be, but the question remains, are we ever truly gone now?

 

one-does-not-simply-get-off-facebook

 

It’s clear that the piece has come from eleven separate scenes, the feeling of “dis/connect” is apparent throughout, though at one point early on, a scene erupts in such a tumult of noise and movement, a frenzy that detracts rather than adds value to the notion of Multi-tasking, like when I come back the next day to the ten or more tabs left open on my MacBook because I was “in the middle of something” or “coming back to something” or “keeping something to read for later” (yes, I know there are apps for that!), and I end up closing the window in frustration, too overwhelmed to start again and check out one by one, each of the tabs I felt were so important.

 

Machina is a beautifully considered and intelligent new work that needs some work, sure (the séance and the grating pulling-the-plug sound in between scenes can probably go!), but see it in The Loft, a space made more intimate than you might expect, with its white “cloud” overhead, and pure white blocks and props rather than the clutter and colour of real life. It makes it a rather surreal environment, as if we’d floated in after being online for thirty days straight. The design team, comprising Andrew Panda Haden (Lighting and Set Design), Phil Hagstrom (Composer and Sound Design) and Susan Marquet (Costumes), has had a field day keeping it simple and helping our focus to shift from one part of the fragmented story to the next.

 

The final part of the play offers some hope after all, promising that it’s still possible to make real-world connections, and that it’s really not as difficult or as awkward as we sometimes think it is, but the end comes too quickly, almost before we absorb what’s happening – physical contact, a warm and familiar, old fashioned, comforting, homecoming big old bear hug. Because that’s it. That’s sometimes all we need to do to reconnect; actually reach out, literally, hug. hold a hand, sit and look at each other, and take turns to listen and really talk to each other, actually engage, fully, without a smartphone in one hand and a mouse or tracking pad under the other. It’s clear (perhaps it already was) that the implications of virtual and social media taking over traditional communication channels include the loss of the skills we already had, that for some of us didn’t come easily in the first place. I can’t even imagine what social media would have done for me growing up. Apparently, I hid behind my mother’s skirts and said very little until I was nine. I know, you don’t believe it either. Now, with a daughter not turning nine for another year, who is totally tech-savvy and always checking in with me (“Mum, aren’t you going to foodie photo this?”) and downloading her own apps (“Mum, it’s a free one. I need your password!”), I’m really aware of how much time I spend on gadgets relationships.

 

phonestack_game

Richard Jordan’s Machina is a cold, hard kick in the guts and a self-effacing laugh at the same time, and if you’re not already suggesting a phone stack at dinner, you will be after experiencing this show.

 

 

SHARE THIS REVIEW #justkiddingbutnotreally

 

 

machina_kaye

 

Images by Nick Morrissey.

12
May
14

Congrats Chris Kohn – La Boite’s new AD & CEO

 

Exciting news! I know, I’m late to it because I’m trying to stay off social media when I can. Bahahaha! Well, like I said, I’m trying. (I’ll let you know how this is going in my review of Machina). La Boite announced the appointment of Chris Kohn as their new AD & CEO at 8:41am this morning so naturally, I’m feeling a little behind the eight ball! Apparently, contrary to what I’ve told Sam, I DO need to get up and check the news feeds first!

 

Chris Kohn. Image by Dylan Evans.

 

The Chair of La Boite Theatre Company, Professor Paul Makeham, announces that Chris Kohn will succeed David Berthold as the company’s new Artistic Director and CEO.

 

Chris Kohn is highly respected nationally as a cultural leader, and he brings an extensive professional network to the role. He has an excellent track record both as an artistic director and sector leader. He was the selection panel’s unanimous choice.

 

Mr Kohn has previously been Artistic Director of acclaimed Melbourne-based Arena Theatre Company; and he was co-founder and Artistic Director of leading independent company Stuck Pigs Squealing. Under his directorship, Stuck Pigs Squealing received six Green Room awards, four Fringe Festival awards and two New York International Fringe Festival Awards.

 

Mr Kohn has also been recognised with numerous industry awards and nominations including: a number of Green Room Awards for Direction and Writing; an Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fellowship; the George Fairfax Memorial Award, a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship; and the Sidney Myer Fellowship.

 

Mr Kohn moved to Brisbane n 2012 to take up the role of Queensland’s Theatre Diversity Associate, a position created by the Australia Council which has enabled him to establish strong local relationships, particularly with La Boite, Queensland Theatre Company, Metro Arts and BEMAC.

 

Mr Kohn said he is honoured to lead a company such as La Boite which has always embraced reinvention throughout its almost 90 year history.

 

“I am absolutely thrilled to be presented the opportunity to lead one of Australia’s most dynamic and nationally significant theatre companies. La Boite is a company with a unique and adventurous audience, committed staff and deeply invested supporters. It is a particular privilege to be building on David Berthold’s work to cement La Boite’s place in the national arts landscape.”

 

Mr Kohn will commence as Artistic Director and CEO at La Boite in late May.

 

 

In 2012, Chris Kohn told Directions (National guide to tertiary education n the arts) about the drawbacks of working in the Performing Arts.

 

 

“The money is bad. Building a career is hard, as there are not always clear pathways. Often your success or failure is dictated by other people’s decisions, like whether you get funding for a project or whether you are asked to work at a particular theatre. And that can be dictated by a range of factors, including change in programming staff, fashion, luck.”

 

 

Lucky for us, Kohn’s pathway led to La Boite Theatre Co. Congrats, Mister! Now, who will we see step into the role of Theatre Diversity Associate (no, don’t apply yet; note the date on the PDF!)

 

See what’s on at La Boite

 

25
Oct
11

La Boite Theatre Company’s Twenty Twelve

Twenty Twelve is almost upon us. I know this because I hear the Christmas Trim Shop in Myer calling to me constantly, in an ethereal voice not unlike Marina Prior’s, singing “Come to my garden…”

Image by Kristen Walther

(this is not Marina Prior. I know this because I met her once, at Southbank. We wore similar salmon pink and somebody took a photo of us, you know, a real photo that was printed and put in a shoebox somewhere)…

I also know that Twenty Twelve is coming because we have had, lately, season launches coming out of our ears, funnily enough, not unlike Murgatroyd’s Garden. Yes, I’m tired. I’m exhausted, in fact. This year was never going to be this busy. It’s all good, though. We’re easily bored and we love what we do. We love being a part of this painfully slowly growing industry in Queensland and we are still based on the Sunshine Coast because we love to live here. No one who visits us at our open-air office in Mooloolaba needs this explained!

walkerbooks.com.au

By far the most impressive season launch – as far as launch parties go – has to be La Boite’s. I love the way this company has re-created themselves in the last year. They are The Party People masquerading as a theatre company!

“I love what our theatre can do. This is a theatre that allows for the most direct and fundamentally sensual conversation between actor and audience I have ever encountered.”

David Berthold, La Boite Theatre Company Artistic Director

It’s an exciting season and what’s more exciting is the mutual admiration party getting started all over town, as a little bit of love and respect is tossed around between our Indie and mainstage companies. The last to launch their 2012 season will be !Metro Arts but they too tend to do the industry party thing rather than anything really formal.

If you missed the Twitter stream, search #laboite2012 and if you’re not feeling a part of it, you soon will. “If theatre is an act of gathering then your involvement is an act of living.” DB

There’s a year long theatrical rave about to take place in Brisbane and you’re all invited!

21
May
10

Not Another Review (Stockholm)

DISCLAIMER: This is not a review.

I guess I am a self-confessed Almost-Critic. I go see theatre and sure, I “review” it; everybody does. Most often, the reviews my friends and I come up with are verbal and held as conversations (and heated debates) over turkish delight, cheesecake and coffee at Three Monkeys. No doubt, many reviews will now happen over at Drift, which celebrates the opening of its long awaited, greatly anticipated supper club tonight and which I am bitterly disappointed to miss. Sorry, friends. Still so sick. I will be there in spirit and honestly can’t wait to see a show and raise a glass!

So, what most of us don’t do with the review of each show we see, is write it and publish it under the guise of “theatre critic”. In order to claim this title, I think one needs a terrific combination of talents, listed below:

  • the time, the energy and the means to see lots of shows
  • the ability to write well (YES. DON’T ARGUE ABOUT THAT ONE)
  • a sound knowledge of theatre and the performing arts in general
  • an interest in research and the acquisition of accurate details and interesting titbits of information pertaining to the show and its performers and creative team
  • a reasonably objective perspective

Which brings me to: if one were to know someone involved in a production one reviews, should one ‘fess up? Or is it possible for a theatre critic to remain objective about a production whilst sustaining a connection with it? I think we like to think (expert readers of critical reviews that we are) that it’s not possible. However, I think it might be that many theatre critics are inextricably linked to their local theatre scene…am I right? It’s a small world, this little local growing theatre industry…perhaps it’s different in New York. Perhaps the New York readers can comment on that. Do I have any New York readers? Anyone? Anyone?

So. Far be it from me to go out on a limb and proclaim that there are really very few good theatre critics around here. If I were to go out on said limb and say so, I’m sure I would not be the first. And yes, of course there are a few very good ones (you will find a few of those links on this page). After receiving great reviews for our recent production of La Ronde, I had been thinking about these things. Actually, I have been thinking about these things since Ian Austin finished up at The Sunshine Coast Daily as theatre critic. Ah-hem.

And then, this morning, on a friend’s Facebook page, I read this

Brisbane needs to invest in some new theatre critics. Just saying. We have a couple of great writers, and a lot of theatre lovers who love talking about their feelings. Quoting song lyrics in a review? Listing the emotions that you felt in Act 2 (‘sadness and happiness all at once’). Really? Who keeps inviting them places?! Ok rant over.

This made me quite determined never to write a review again! Mainly because I think I fall somewhere in between the emotional self-labelled critic and the objective academic critic. So here is Not Another Review (Stockholm). It’s not even very long. No, really. You can go back to whatever it was you were doing in just a minute. Were you making coffee? Go on, put the kettle on first. Right.

The thing is, it floored me. This Stockholm show, which I’d read rave reviews about and heard mixed feedback from friends, absolutely floored me like no other. At times, sitting there, in the dark at the top of the theatre (thank the box office I was not closer to the action) I actually thought I couldn’t breathe. Frantic Assembly‘s production of Bryony Lavery‘s Stockholm is an extraordinary piece of theatre. I cannot imagine sitting through it again, which is just as well because it has sold out. And because it really got me.

I noticed at its conclusion that I was the first out of the Roundhouse Theatre and in front of a mirror to fix my make-up. And then I couldn’t think. I couldn’t think what it was exactly that got me. And it was not immediately, either, let’s just clarify; during the first ten minutes I was wondering if it was going to live up to the rave reviews. I had to climb into the same space and tune in. And into the eleventh minute I was in tune and in love with Socratis Otto and convinced that he and the show were indeed going to exceed all expectations (though I was still fearful of how they – and I – would deal with the subject matter). What my friends and the critics had failed to express was how I would personally respond to this challenging piece. And how could they know? It’s certainly a tough gig those theatre critics have, because without assuming how any theatre goer will respond, they are to present an objective overview of the production, taking into consideration all aspects of the production and yet, at the same time, resist giving away too much (incidentally, this is where a lot of movie critics, IMHO, miss the mark). There’s a fine line between tell-all-know-all summaries of the story and writing to entice, seduce the audiences into our theatres to experience the thing themselves.

If I had been on my own to see it and in another theatre, in another city, I might have left before the end, something I have only ever done at extraordinarily bad productions. So not because it was bad but because it was so good I almost couldn’t bear to see (and feel) the inevitable end of it. But again, I can’t think exactly what it was or at what point I felt so helpless, hopeless and lost and alone. It certainly was not  the actual fight scene, which I felt was over-choreographed and under-rehearsed. There. I said it. In fact, that’s my only criticism. Every other gesture, expression, move (oh! the delicious devouring cutlery debauchery on the island bench), every other word (oh! and how about that Cate Blanchett influenced vocal work, huh?) got under my skin. Let’s clarify again. On the night I saw them, Socratis Otto and his little smile got under my skin and Leeanna Walsman sometimes left me cold and wondering why must we continue to define and justify our behaviour as women by what ails us?! Perhaps that was her intent in the role. Perhaps that was the intent in the writing. Suspicion and jealousy will drive you mad.

I actually can’t remember thinking at the time that a disease or some sort of malady was addling her brain and keeping her there, I just recall that the first thing my husband commented on afterwards was, “Why choose the easy option and make it a disease that holds her there?” Did he/I/we miss something? Seriously! It’s Stockholm Syndrome! It’s already a recognised psychological disorder…isn’t that enough?! I was such an emotional wreck that I’m not sure I got it and if somebody would like to explain why she wouldn’t simply feel enough to want to damage him and why he wouldn’t simply love her enough to keep her/stay regardless, I would appreciate it. Also, was it so clear cut that she was the captor? Really? Did I imagine that he could just as easily be her charming captor, even in all his apparent innocence and when all signs eventually indicated otherwise? Look, I am gonna have to read me some Stockholm script!

When we coach actors, especially younger actors, we tell them to raise the stakes! I actually would see this show again – on the condition that they raise the stakes and show us the relationship as just a relationship. Nothing “wrong” with her, no disease, just a really bad match. And they have captivated and then captured each other. The devastation we witnessed in the various (cyclic) stages of the relationship disintegrating and healing (sort-of but never really healing) just HAPPEN. Hell, Sam and I have our fights. He will tell you he’s the one held captive! I have in fact, stabbed him…out of pure frustration. Not even a big deal. Not due to suspicion or the fact that he still won’t quit smoking or that he never picks up a wet towel (guys, what is WITH THAT?!)  No, no. In fact, he will tell you. He loves to tell that story!

So we were in our old kitchen. Doing the dishes. This was pre-dishwasher days. She’s going to write a book: The Dishwasher Saved My Marriage. It’s true. It did. Anyway, I was flicking her little butt with a tea towel and she’d already told me to STOP IT several times. I love how it starts out as this quiet little “stop it, ok?” and gets to “FUCKING STOP IT OR I’LL FUCKING STAB YOU!” And she did. She fucking stabbed me!

“Told you I’d stab you, didn’t I?”

What the…??? “YOU FUCKING STABBED ME, YOU CRAZY WOMAN! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY FUCKING STABBED ME!” A huge fuck off carving knife in my chest, blood and everything! She’ll tell you I’m exaggerating. But I’m not. There was blood. She was mad! What? Nah, I was alright. No doctors for me, mate! It was just a little stab wound. Nothing really. Had a scar for years, though. Well, it’s gone now, faded; you can’t really see it now. The real wound runs deep, though…What? Nope, never flicked her with a tea towel again. What, you think I’m stupid, mate?

Clearly, there was a lot in Stockholm to recognise, either because something like it has happened or is happening to you or somebody you know or because nothing like it has ever happened to you or somebody you know. Be grateful for that! I think every relationship is just as destructive as the last (or the first) unless we continually work on the communication part. And the healing part. And of course, the sex on the stairs part; now that is always a good therapeutic session…………

The working set, designed by Laura Hopkins, was the best I’ve seen, although I have to be honest, my more macabre, disturbing self was waiting for somebody’s head to be held under the running water and rapidly filling sink (but we’d already had the head-under-water a different way – that desk a freaky genius touch, with astonishingly precise lighting by Andy Purves to guarantee the desired effect) and/or for somebody’s hand to be held down against the stove top (but HOW I hear you ask. I know…I don’t know). Was that just me?! I loved the raised bed, I loved the physical risks the actors took, I loved that it was all for NOTHING. That the way in which they played in that space was an accurate reflection of the futility of trying to mend their broken hearts (and damaged, not diseased, minds) again and again and again. I think I was heartbroken by the end of all that trying and forgiving and trying again and could see so much that I never want to…feel.

And now you see why I can’t write the reviews my friend is wanting more of. Because I FEEL. Because I can’t keep what I feel out of what I’m writing. Or living. And that seems to be a bigger issue at the moment for lots of reasons. And for another post, though they are few and far between at the moment. Now go make your coffee. And go make your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/captor/friend/fuck buddy one too.

And stay if you must. And get out when you can.

06
May
10

Creativity…

…is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Scott Adams

So. We have all been in recovery mode.

Post-Show Syndrome affects us all in different ways. For example, I don’t write. I should write, I have lots to write about but I don’t actually feel like sitting down and writing. It’s a bummer for the blog readers.

Other sufferers have more obvious signs of disenchantment and depression. Like, the friend who continues to wear her costume, in its entirety, in the house, on any given day or night of the week. I haven’t seen her wear it out yet but I feel sure that day is coming. And the friend who texts or messages us on Facebook or calls to ask, “What’s next? What can I do next?” and I can hear her inhale desperately, on the sixth cigarette of the day. That is my non-smoking friend. And then there’s the friend who is all nonchalant and calls to ask how are we doin’? Like, he’s okay but how are we doin’? Like him, we must be suffering, missing it, dying for the next thing to happen…and it’s true. so it’s happening already.

We are re-writing La Ronde. Amongst other things, that is.

First, there is The Cindy McKenzie Breast Cancer Foundation Gala Ball (A Night in Monte Carlo) on Saturday night. In co-operation with White House Celebrations, we are providing a little bit of additional entertainment and a whole lot of ass sass!!! I have to admit, I’m looking forward to being handed a little Lycra Miss Monte Carlo suit and not having to stress, like everybody else on the Sunshine Coast this week, about what to wear to the biggest ticket event in town!

An entirely different audience on Sunday will see me bare a little more for my art. Well, it’s not my art at all but the incredible artwork of Kat Farrar, who is going to transform me for the Fantasy section of the Australian Bodyart Carnivale in Eumundi. Kat is a previous winner of the competition and the current favourite contender. I can’t wait to see what she does with me! My body is a canvas!

From the Carnivale, I will high tail it straight to Birch, Carroll and Coyle Cinemas at Maroochydore, where Tracy Darin’s inagural Young Filmmakers Showcase, a collection of short films from the Young Filmmakers of the Sunshine Coast, will be well underway. Our performing artists will provide pre and post show entertainment for this fantastic free community event. That’s right. FREE. RSVP via the website. This event is destined to become one of the main events for Queensland filmmakers, already inspiring generous support from the screen industry and from local business.

We are also looking at a space. And that’s all I can say about that at the moment.

We are also in post for the doco, Inside La Ronde. That is, next week, we are viewing the masses of footage and narrowing down the six vastly different outlines and approaches. Originally, it was to be a “Sam’s Story” approach. And now we’re not so sure. La Ronde stopped being just one man’s vision as soon as he started talking about it! So pizza, cab sav and a late night it is!

What else? We are seeing Mr Percival on Friday night, Stockholm on Saturday night and our daughter, Poppy, on Sunday, when we will enjoy high tea for Mother’s Day and finish planning her fairy birthday party (poppy’s, not her mama’s), which we are hosting in a couple of weeks, in The Enchanted Woods. Really. Such is the natural beauty and enchantment of our local area. I think I am more excited about it than she is! Quite calmly and pragmatically, Poppy has said, “Mama, we’ll just put on a show for my birthday, ok? It will just be a fairy show for all my friends. And cake. A Barbie Fairy Cake.” (We made a practice cake today, which was delicious and I made Tom and Sam have some with their cups of girly-man tea after their tough-guy poker game tonight. I am pleased to report that the lavender hue and the high butter content was met with approval). So, yes. Poppy gets it. At nearly four, she knows how it works. We plan the event. We promote it. We rehearse aspects of it. We serve food and beverages, we put on a bit of a show and

that’s entertainment!

Seeing Judy suddenly snap into it and perform the guts out of this makes me so sad. And makes me think of all the mundane things that we try to not let get in the way of what it is we love doing (whether or not we’re paid each time to do it).

Of course there are also the day jobs that do pay and the groceries (that cost more and more) and the family and the friends-who-are-not-in-the-theatre and the housework to fit in as well. N.B. Not all of those are mundane! Oh no! There are times when I actually enjoy cleaning!

So while nothing has been going up here, a whole lot –  of real life – continues to go on HERE!

12
Feb
10

HAMLET

Hamlet. La Boite Theatre Company’s 2010 season opener, directed by the company’s Artistic Director, David Berthold (who also has a hit, Holding the Man, about to debut in London’s West End), opened on Wednesday night at Brisbane’s Roundhouse Theatre. I saw the preview on Sunday night. And before I tell you anything else, I am telling you, GO SEE THIS SHOW. Regardless of how much you loved or loathed The Bard at highschool, whether or not you’ve seen any of the  film versions (I’m wondering, as much as you are, how The Lion King or The Banquet made it into that list), whether or not you’ve read any reviews or the associated comments, or visited theatres in cities all over the world simply to see their own Hamlet. Oh, yes, people do; I know them! They do it for Les Miserables and no doubt, for Wicked too (but probably not for Oklahoma. Just sayin’)…

The company website will tell you:

HAMLET by William Shakespeare

This is the must-see theatrical event of 2010.


And others are bound to tell you, in greater detail, why they consider this particular production a must-see. Or not. You will find those reviews (and some very interesting comments) here, here, here, here, here and quite possibly, here. Well, at least, these are the places I expected to find them too. I am telling you here, that I consider this Hamlet to be great theatre. Here is a professional production with everything- every element- I expect to see, hear, feel,  experience, discuss, remember, use as an example in my teaching…whenever I see a show, any show. And by professional I mean that, as far as I am aware, Brisbane has two fully professionally-operating theatre companies; La Boite and QTC who should both be getting it right and presenting great theatre for the masses and not necessarily just those who are bound to attend. This is a Hamlet that, one hopes, will bring audiences back to the theatre.

I am well aware that I got more out of this show than did many others. So sue me. I saw a preview. I saw the potential of a few aspects and the clarity and fruition of others. I saw something entertaining. I let go of all preconceptions and assumptions and I let myself be drawn into Berthold’s Denmark, with its arguable inconsistencies. I didn’t care that political details were diluted or by the fact that I was not moved to tears (god, don’t tell me we have to have tears to make theatre great again). Die-hard Hamlet fans would no doubt have missed terribly, some additional sub-plot and mystery and DRAMA. Home and Away? The Bold and the Beautiful?  MASS AUDIENCE APPEAL AND COMMERCIAL SUCCESS (thereby guaranteeing government and public support for the season and securing the long-term future of La Boite at precisely the right time)? OMG. SHOCKING. I feel it might be important to note, for the sake of the future of this blog, that I have never been critical about the popular appeal of shows produced by theatre companies in Brisbane or on the Sunshine Coast, merely the standard of said shows.

I loved the delightful early performances of Eugene Gilfedder and Trevor Stuart and their contrasts later, in the same roles and in their secondary roles. I’m sure these two rate as gods amongst men, as far as the Brisbane acting scene is concerned. It took me a little longer to warm to Helen Howard’s Gertrude – perhaps this was the intent – but I felt as if she also had to warm to the role of sexy, sultry seductress. By the time she got naked I was somewhat more convinced of her character and motives.

Now, let’s just talk about that, shall we? Everybody else has. The nakedness, etc. Interestingly, others have been quick to question whether or not the nudity and simulated masterbation were absolutely necessary. Um. Necessary or not in what sense? All too shocking and should not have been included……….because……….because??? Nope. I’m really struggling with this one. I found this Hamlet to be extremely unsettling, as you would expect it to be and then suddenly upbeat, as you had always hoped it could be. It is intriguing, confronting, unconvoluted and I found it easier to follow than most shortened versions produced especially for highschool students. Tell it to the HOD, kids. But don’t mention the controversial inclusions such as nudity, depravity and the pure EVIL of man. And woman. Mostly of women, it IS Hamlet’s world, after all. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say that this version, with its nudity and its Toby Schmitz (and sorry, it has to be said, there are some of us who are really disappointed about the nudity not being his), should be filmed in HD from several angles and packed up as part of the senior school curriculum, not to mention to distributors who will put it into cinemas around the world on the last sunday of every month. I think you were still thinking/hoping that this was going to be an ordinary, like, a proper review, didn’t you? Yeah, no.

I admired Helen’s naked courage, confidence and elegance. I thought it befitting for the character by that stage, to disrobe in front of us; I thought it made quite a character statement as well as, if it was indeed a gimmick included for the supposed shock value, it was successful! Brilliant! Cheers! I also remembered Kate Winslet’s Ophelia, to which a blog reader referred,  and I thought Gemma Yates-Round was justified in her homage to that performance…I just wanted to see her commit to it rather than fear her own or the audience’s  response to it. Perhaps she will get a little braver about it so we are not at all mistaken about what we see happening. I also think she will learn to take her time and find Ophelia’s desperately sad madness gradually, rather than put it on all of a sudden so we are sure to see it. How lucky Gemma is, in her professional debut, to have Helen Howard by her side. Intriguingly, the two roles were recently played by one actress. You can read that review here. To have a director who trusts his actors is something one cannot explain to non-actors. Well, I will give it a shot another time. Watch this space.

Look, as far as I’m concerned, if you must direct or act a bold and sure-to-be-shocking thing then just make it bold and shocking! Make sure you’re ready for it and follow through. Do it to shock me. Really do it. And do it well. This brings me to: for the life of me, I fail to understand why such things are still so SHOCKING in the theatre. Is not the theatre the place for shocking? Many of you will remember, that the old La Boite (that’s right, kids, the precious, delapidated, much loved space at Hale St) once played host to The Shock of the New festival. It wasn’t a program full of nakedness and debauchery but suffice to say, La Boite has always tried to be a bit brave, bold, new and shocking. Thank God somebody is doing shocking again!

As for school bookings, I know that many school leaders will take issue with full frontal nudity and simulated masterbation in any show, particulalry when it appears in a “classic” (“Oh my! How dare they mess with Shakespeare! What an insult! We can’t possibly expose our students to that! And, more importantly, we just don’t have time to respond to parents’ questions!”). I believe that if teachers and parents are unwilling to discuss the more confronting aspects of a production or they are going to continue to prevent young people from experiencing great theatre, then that is the real shock. I applaud the teachers and principals who continue to support the Performing Arts and the rich education of their students. And so if there is a school requiring a good drama teacher who strongly supports this premise and is not afraid to say so, do call me. I need a real job, having done myself out of several in the last 2 years, due to my strongly stated beliefs that do not necessarily weigh in with those of the particular schools in a certain area that we know well and love very much despite their continual contradictions and miscommunications *smiles sweetly, hands over resume and decides that honesty really is usually not the best policy*

So let’s keep it real, folks. Hate to be the one to tell you but…your students are still sexting and lying about their age on Facebook and seeing far more graphic violence and simulated sexual acts, far more often, on their screens. And by screens, I mean cinema, plasma, PC, Mac and iPhone. Any perceived damage done will be because nothing is said in the debrief. Or because the student misses out on the experience altogether because somebody else has deemed it “inappropriate”. This is how misconception, fear and hype about normal, real, actual things pervade our society. Warning: the following statement may offend some readers due to its blasphemous tone. For God’s sake, people, let the arts change our lives! The whole issue reminds me of a parochial Brisbane type blog post from some time ago…..sigh.

So. Into the Roundhouse via the top doors. Tricky. I noticed the floor. Nice. But ruined. The house lights dimmed and…disappeared completely! We were plunged into total darkness for what seemed like an eternity, well, at least a full minute longer than one would anticipate, in terms of establishing mood and seducing the audience, making us feel comfortable (or not, as the case may be) and drawing us into the sacred space and all that stuff. I would have timed it but I thought the light from my iPhone may incite physical violence from another audience member…

What I got, from those first few moments of blackness and Tibetan prayerness was a sense of DREAD. To the audiences’ credit, had it not been for the oddly dreadful-peaceful opening soundscape of that Tibetan horn we would have heard a pin drop (was it a rkang gling? I’m guessing. I don’t actually know. But I’m not making it up entirely; I googled “tibetan horns” and…voila)!

In the pitch black, Steve Toulmin’s dread-inducing soundscape actually prepared me, more than any other mechanism could have, for the heavy content of the play. I know, I know, some of you think they skipped over the heavy bits. But this production had other merits. To the actors’ credit, they found their first marks in that blackout! I’m afraid this occupied a relatively large space in my head for more than a couple of minutes. It’s not that I’m that easily impressed but more that I appreciate good craft and something as simple as lights up and the play begins can be a disaster! Or magic. Just say those words aloud. Go on, in a mysterious whisper: lights up and the play begins…magic! That was great! It is just always such a relief to me, when I find within the first couple of minutes of a performance that I actually want to STAY and see the WHOLE SHOW. This is important, I think, especially in light of the fact that we just don’t have the time or space here to discuss the shows I would have preferred not to suffer sit through. I’m sure you feel the same. It’s just that some of us are silly honest enough to blog about it. Sometimes. After a scotch. Or two. Just kidding, kids. Don’t drink and blog. As I mentioned I think, in my original post for this blog; generous audience member, harsh critic. This time it seems I have not been so harsh! This reminds me to tell some of you, lay off the other bloggers and reviewers about having a drink before the show! Judgment much? Save it.

So anyway, once I’d suddenly tuned into the language (it takes a moment, a line, a phrase, a Tibetan foghorn to remind you to be ready to focus, this is Shakespeare; it’s different for everybody)…I thought of Pearl Harbor. I’m so sorry, Greg Clarke and David Walters but I did. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that the sparse set, with its towering interior wall (and security cameras) and its hospital bed and its lifting and cracking, once elegant floor under, looked a bit like the interior shots of that (add preferred adjective) film. Not that they had security cameras at Pearl Harbor either. Now that I think about it, it was nothing like it, was it? But these are the images you see in your head and try to separate, as you’re laughing at the sudden hilarity of Toby’s inflection/facial expression/gesture/kinda-funky-without-getting-the-follow-through dance move, the useful from the rubbish. Useful? The hundreds of Hamlets who have only delved as deep as “angst-ridden”, “sullen” and “oedipal” in their character studies and realising within the opening minutes of a performance that this is not one of them. Rubbish? The Pearl Harbor reference, of course. This is embaressing. CAN WE PLEASE MOVE ON NOW?

Toby Schmitz’s Hamlet, with his rock-star-morning-after voice is intelligent, super cool, a little bit cruel and quirky. I liked the Emo/Edward Cullen thing. I loved that his Hamlet was recoiled and delighted by the Hedwig-inspired rock-musical-within-a-play (New concept? Maybe not. Absolute genius version of it and thoroughly entertaining? YES)! I loved that Toby the actor obviously has a wonderful sense of comedy and that he was encouraged to use that to show us his own interpretation of Hamlet the character, after we have seen so many others. I thought he was crush-worthy and I hope the school girls and boys attending with their enlightened and inspiring staff members go away giggling and sighing over him. I just wonder if everything he takes out on Ophelia will become clear before the end of the season…

I’ve been trying to resist but I have to add that it seems to me, from various comments attached to blogs and facebook updates, that it is the local performing arts community who – again – are less than satisfied with this production. The general public want more of the same. So. two things: everybody in Independent Theatre quit griping and criticising and go see a show, produced, designed, performed and directed by your peers, for what it is. Great theatre for the masses. After all, isn’t that how this theatre business began?