Posts Tagged ‘Leah Barclay


The DAM(N) Project premieres at Floating Land 2013


The DAM(N) Project Premieres at Floating Land Closing Ceremony


Remember we went to the Encounters Festival at the Con to see Leah Barclay’s DAM(N) Project presentation? Poppy came away a little frightened (the music was so eerie at times), Sam came away angry (the injustice had him furious), and I was incredibly moved by an enormous story told simply and beautifully through evocative sound and images. I know, you were busy, and you missed it! But now you can see the LIVE PERFORMANCE TOMORROW NIGHT AT BOREEN POINT FOLLOWING FLOATING LAND’S CLOSING CEREMONY.



On Saturday June 8th The DAM(N) project will present their first major live performance in Australia – a site-specific work combining projections, dance and soundscapes in collaboration with Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, India’s leading contemporary dance company. The work features as part of the 2013 Floating Land Festival, and will be presented on the Main Beach at Boreen Point after the Closing Ceremony this Saturday night.


Two of Attakkalari’s most accomplished dancers Ronita Mookerji and Sylvester Mardi have working in Australia for the last two weeks intensely developing this site-specific project for Floating Land 2013. This will be the first time Ronita and Sylvester perform in Australia.



The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. The project was conceived and developed by Sydney based producer/director Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay and S. Shakthidharan, the director of CuriousWorks.

DAM(N) delves into the heart of the Narmada Valley, working directly with remote communities in central North India, displaced by large-scale dams securing hydropower for Indian cities. Water scarcity is a significant issue for both Australia and India and the issue of controlling and managing hydrological systems is extremely politicised in both countries. The construction of large dams on the River Narmada in India and its impact on over 30 million of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India.

IMG_2567-1024x682Ultimately, the DAM(N) project is designed to connect global communities around the common concern of global water security and reveal the ramifications of damming rivers that hold cultural and spiritual significance for indigenous communities world-wide.


This first stage of The DAM(N) Project highlights the validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in environmentally engaged interdisciplinary art practice. While the initial stage is focused on the relationship between Australian and India, the long-term vision for The DAM(N) Project expands into other communities and cultures worldwide.


The performance tomorrow night presents a rare opportunity to see a very intimate work by some of Australia’s and India’s best young artists.


The performance runs for 45 minutes at the Main Beach at Boreen Point from 7-7:45pm on Saturday June 8 2013



The Dam(n) Project

The Dam(n) Project


Queensland Conservatorium Ian Hanger Recital Hall

Thursday 16th May 2013

Encounters: India 


ENCOUNTER (noun), a meeting, exchange, a brush or rendezvous, confrontation

For seven days in May 2013, from early morning until midnight, the South Bank precinct will be transformed into a bustling parade of contemporary India. At the Nepalese Pavilion, a lone sitar player greets the dawn; an Indian Bazaar evokes the colours and fragrances of a Delhi market on the Forecourt; throughout the parklands and streets, bursts of Bollywood recharge the mind’s battery; the Queensland Conservatorium’s many spaces echo to myriad musical styles from more than 50 concerts and masterclasses.

The Dam(n) Project

The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around a common concern: water security. It presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development securing hydropower for Indian cities. The construction of large dams on the River Narmada in India and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India.


The project was conceived by Jehan Kanga and developed in collaboration with Leah Barclay and Shakthi Sivanathan, all from Australia. Dancers Meghna Nambiar and Sylvester Mardi from Attakalari in India have joined this group.



Is this India’s greatest planned environmental disaster?


The controversy over large dams on the River Narmada has come to symbolise the struggle for a just and equitable society in India. The story is long and complicated and will take a long time to tell. In brief, the Government’s plan is to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries. The proponents of the dam claim that this plan would provide large amounts of water and electricity, which are desperately required for the purposes of development.


The Dam(n) Project spans two continents and cultures to deliver a powerful message about the clash between a government and its people. Not all its people, just The Untouchables, the lowest of the low; the millions who live in the Narmada Valley region in North India. The Narmada River is India’s fifth largest (and largest west flowing) river, known as the “Life Line” of Madhya Pradesh.


On full development, the Narmada has a potential of irrigating over 6 million ha (15 million acres) of land along with a capacity to generate about 3,000 Mega Watt of hydroelectric power.


When I checked out the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) website, I tried to determine what they intend to do in order to achieve the following objectives, which are listed on their page:


  • to acquire and manage land in the Narmada Valley for the purpose of carrying out engineering works, to provide for human resettlements and the needs for irrigation, flood control and navigation;
  • to shoulder responsibility of human resettlement and rehabilitation in respect of projects in the Narmada Valley, to establish towns and villages and to take all necessary measures to ensure planned settlement and rehabilitation;
  • to advise for the proper conservation and development of forests, wildlife and fisheries in the Narmada Valley.


But with regard to Rehabilitation & Resettlement…


The page cannot be found 


The Dam(n) ProjectThe Dam(n) Project views a twenty-five year struggle through the eyes of outsiders, in loose doco style. We see the land, the immense body of water, and the faces of displaced people, and we gradually see the enormity of the problem. But everything is relative, isn’t it? There are more people who remain unaffected than there are those affected. Think of the Mary Valley, and so many other regions around the world. But people are becoming educated, aware of their rights, able to question the actions taken by those in power and willing to discuss possible solutions.


Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, this is progress; it’s an awakening and a growing awareness of human and democratic rights that have been denied an entire section of the population.


This year, it will be 25 years since the Narmada Bachao Andolan started questioning, organising and mobilising resistance against destruction of life and livelihood in the Narmada river valley.


Sam walked away angry. And I mean, ANGRY. He is usually angered by shows, or elements of shows, of questionable quality. This time, the one who doesn’t necessarily have the patience or the interest to sit in front of a foreign film, walked away from The Dam(n) Project without wanting to “walk away” at all! When I quizzed him on what he intended to DO about it, he wasn’t sure. SOMETHING. Okay. Are we going to India with these guys next time, to continue with a component of the project that will help the people fight their corrupt government and private corporations? MAYBE. Okaaay…


We actually might. But in the meantime, we will help to raise awareness, which I think is an undervalued part of the process of major change.


The Dam(n) Project

I wasn’t angry after seeing this film, but I was deeply moved. And glad that my daughter had also seen it. She thought a lot of it was “spooky” and “scary” sounding. (And when we talked with Poppy about it, of course she totally got why it sounded scary and why there were trees in the middle of the lake. She said she would be happy to go there to help but how? What would she need to do? Get her fairies to help her get the river flowing again? I told her I’m not sure that’s possible, even with the help of her fairies, but we will find out).


Leah’s original soundscape, created in collaboration with the children and adults of 20 displaced groups, is indeed “spooky” and “scary” sometimes, in turns jarring and dreamlike – there are entire sections of the film that are like stepping into somebody else’s dream and there are times when that dream borders on becoming a nightmare – the sounds of voices, of feet stepping across gravel, of water dripping, flowing, cascading… Leah stretches, distorts, layers and alters sound(s) so that quite often we’re immersed in another world entirely, and if the images were not so captivating, I could easily close my eyes and just listen…


The Dam(n) Project

But because we are visual beings, the images are a vital part of the experience. Footage of children singing, smiling and clapping together is slowed and blurred while their voices carry on at speed. Two figures – a male and a female, together and apart – dancing on a boat, on gravel, on the concrete wall of the dam, moving fluidly and presenting, in all its simplicity, the past, present and future of the place.  A female dancer breathing, turning, rising and exploring postures of the heart chakra and the sacred chakra, and the changed space around her, on the concrete surface above the dam. A landowner explaining the dilemma the dam has caused for generations of his family and neighbours. We watch him, animated and unrelenting, in triplicate across the screen, a projection screen set high, halved and shaped to look, appropriately, almost like a speech bubble. This little film has a lot to say.


These are real stories, rarely told, and it’s because of the passion, dedication, and creative drive of artists and humanitarians like Leah Barclay, Jehan Kanga and Shakthi Sivanathan that they reach us.


The next opportunity to get a glimpse of the latest stage of The Dam(n) Project – and you should – comes with the Balance-Unbalance International Conference and Floating Land at the end of the month.


See The DAM(N) Project tonight at Encounters Festival!

Leah Barclay

You know we love Leah Barclay


Australian Premiere Performance at Encounters Festival
ENCOUNTER (noun), a meeting, exchange, a brush or rendezvous, confrontation


A musical eco-view of an emerging dilemma in contemporary India.


The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project which connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. It presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development in an immersive performance combining projections, choreography and sound.


The DAM(N) Project has been developed in collaboration with Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts in India.

For seven days in May 2013, from early morning until midnight, the South Bank precinct in Brisbane, Australia will be transformed into a bustling parade of contemporary India. At the Nepalese Pavilion, a lone sitar player greets the dawn; an Indian Bazaar evokes the colours and fragrances of a Delhi market on the Forecourt; throughout the parklands and streets, bursts of Bollywood recharge the mind’s battery; the Queensland Conservatorium’s many spaces echo to myriad musical styles from more than 50 concerts and masterclasses.

The DAM(N) Project, with the support of Arts Queensland, is thrilled to be premiering our new audio-visual installation at the Encounters Festival


The hour-long experience will take place at 6pm on Wednesday the 15th of May at the Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium of Music.


The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. The project presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development securing hydropower for Indian cities.

This holistic project integrates innovative technology, diverse community perspectives and true stories of resilience to create an immersive performance combining projections, choreography and sound. The projections feature dancers Meghna Nambiar, Ronita Mookerji and Sylvester Mardi from Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, India’s leading contemporary dance company.

The first stage of this intercultural project was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and involved working directly with remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India.


The following is from


This performance draws on material from our first creative development journey into the heart of India capturing visual footage and field recordings in the affected landscapes. The source material is predominately from the regional area of Jobat, where the team collected stories and solidarity songs from over 20 displaced groups who had gathered at a satyagraha (non-violent protest). Embedding ourselves within both the satyagraha and remote affected communities was a vital part of capturing a complete story across the widely varied landscape.

In Badwani we interviewed Dayal Solanki, a young adivasi (Indigenous of Badwani) whose story became the common thread for our journey. He became our guide, leading us to the extremely remote village of Badal, accessible only by fishing boat from a makeshift wharf one hour from the nearest town. The region, which is now almost completely submerged under a reservoir, was formerly one of the most agriculturally productive regions in India.

We stayed in Dayal’s home, a wooden shelter perched on the arid crest of a mountain, and were welcomed by his family who told their stories of displacement and the hope they placed in their children. In addition to the satyagraha recordings, the source material in this performance is drawn from Dayal’s father playing traditional bansuri flute, his sisters singing and playing on the cliffs and the sparse and unsettling soundscapes of the submerged Badal village. The visual projections draw on a series of site-specific dances at various locations during our trip, including the Jobat Dam and submerged sites. Each movement of the work draws from our experiences onsite, ranging from abstract explorations of the powerful Narmada River to the songs of hope from the children.


DamnProjectHeader.jpg.440x300_q85_cropDuring our trip we facilitated workshops and enabled the children to collect images, video and sound to tell stories from their perspectives. The incorporation of these capacity-building workshops within the broader project will showcase the long-term contribution that creative empowerment can make to communities in struggle.


Ultimately, the DAM(N) project is designed to connect global communities around the common concern of global water security and reveal the ramifications of damming rivers that hold cultural and spiritual significance for indigenous communities world-wide.

This first stage of The DAM(N) Project highlights the validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in environmentally engaged interdisciplinary art practice. While the initial stage is focused on the relationship between Australian and India, the long-term vision for The DAM(N) Project expands into other communities and cultures worldwide.

This performance has been conceived and developed by Sydney-based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay, and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of CuriousWorks in Sydney.



Floating Land 2013: Nature’s Dialogue

Meanwhile, I think it’s important to note that I’m really pleased with our expression of interest for Floating Land 2013. While I can’t give anything away, I can tell you that, should our submission be successful, we’ll be needing incredible dancers and multi-disciplinary performers for a show like no other. We’ll also be inviting interested peeps from the community to get involved in the creative process. We enjoyed so much, working with local actors and non-actors to create Floating Words last year and we’re looking forward to being involved again, in any capacity, really; Floating Land is a very different festival for the Sunshine Coast. It’s growing biannually and gaining a reputation internationally. If you want to get in on the next one (31st May – 9th June 2013), stick with us, kids!



Floating Land is an ongoing conversation about creativity, culture and the environment pivoting on a dynamic ten-day event in the UNESCO listed Biosphere of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. Conceived in 2001 as an outdoor sculpture exhibition, Floating Land is now solidified one of Australia’s most significant green art events sparking the imagination of artists, scientists, politicians and conservationists globally. Leah Barclay was engaged as the guest curator in 2011 and successfully delivered a dynamic program on the theme ‘Water Culture’, expanding the traditional elements of Floating Land to include works engaging ephemeral projections, light and sound in the natural environment.

The biannual project is framed around a thematic site-specific artist residency and offers a platform for creative responses, provocations and interactive experiences that can underpin new ways of thinking and inspire change. The diverse creative responses of Floating Land become embedded in a rich program of community workshops, forums and interactive labs designed to confront and challenge a spectrum of environmental issues across disciplines. The intention is not just to deliver engaging experiences for the local community, but also to harness the energy of these conversations, ideas and visions across virtual platforms exploring new paradigms for our collective future. Visit for further information. Source:




Floating Land

Floating Land is a biennial, multi-arts, 10-day, Green Art event, the central site for which is Boreen Point, on the shores of Lake Cootharaba in the UNESCO-listed Noosa Biosphere. The event brings together local and international Artists to explore the theme of Water Culture and how water impacts our lives.


The Brief: Using actors to tell the stories, create an opportunity for visitors to the Floating Land site to experience the oral histories project, Floating Words, as several “moments” during the Dusk Installation Walks.

The Prep: Several actors were engaged and sent the text, which had been recorded and uploaded to Vimeo and subsequently transcribed. The goal was to re-tell the local people’s stories accurately, giving a real sense of the storytellers themselves, as per loose verbatim theatre definitions.

The Performance: The success of the first walk was always going to be dependent on the response from the audience. In this case, the audience was largely unknown; a crowd of around 30 visitors to this section of the site and immediately open and receptive to what we were doing. The atmosphere was created for us, by the perfect crisp, clear, chilly air and descending darkness. Boreen Point is a beautiful place, quite untouched by developers and still feels like a small fishing village; quiet, still, peaceful.

There has been a little more activity during the daylight hours – dance workshops, forums and live installations involving innovative local artists – but as dusk falls the mood has changed, slowed, fallen into lazy step with nature. It’s that sleepy  twilight time before the nocturnal creatures – and the performers – wake up and come out to play.

On the Dusk Installation Walks one meanders along the road down near the edge of the water (you won’t get lost because you walk with a guide and you follow the road and you stay with the group. STAY WITH THE GROUP). Lake Cootharaba is an immense body of water and at night, with various states of lighting projected upon its surface it is magical. We placed our actors at intervals along a particular section of the road, with a candle and their text. In an ideal performing arts industry, the actors would have had the day to learn the people’s stories, about their connections with water. But these are (we are) actors who do other things.

By candlelight, each actor emerged out of the darkness and read the stories of those who had earlier relayed them to the interviewers. In the crowd were two of the storytellers, thrilled to hear their story brought to life in front of them.

The Repeat Performance: The Dusk Installation Walks continue until Friday evening. The stories will be different, each unique in their content and style, each conjuring somebody’s memories and each delivered by local performers who have a similar connection with the water sparkling under the star light and with the land, cold now, under their feet.

Floating Land is an event like no other. If you can get to experience it – any of it – do.


Image by Adam West



I Can Do That!

“Youth Theatre” is the bane of my life. It hooked me at 15 years of age, it kept me busy on stage and off until I was 30, and now, er…with another birthday coming up, it wants to take over my life again. But to Youth Theatre, I say NO! There are others! The grown ups have me now! I will coach you but I will not direct your productions! Unless, of course,  you pay me and then I will happily direct anything your young, enthusiastic, untainted hearts desire.

Please note: Youth Theatre is different to “Theatre for Young People“. The latter enjoys (a little) government funding and (some) support in (some) schools and venues.

In the Australia Council for the Arts Review of Theatre for Young People in Australia (December 2003), the Executive Summary states:

Among other factors, early exposure to positive arts experiences correlate to later interest in and engagement with the arts. It is one of the reasons that Theatre for Young People (TYP) is so significant, why the nature and quality of contact with this work matters. For some, the rationale for engaging with young audiences, and supporting other specialist theatre companies to do so, is enlightened self-interest—the cultivation of tomorrow’s audiences. But there is an equally cogent argument—that children and young people are entitled to the same cultural rights as adults. They are not the audiences of tomorrow, they are the audiences (and participants) of today. On this basis, the same resources should be devoted to TYP and other means of providing access to quality theatre experiences as are devoted to adult, mainstream companies.

About one-third of Australian school children take part in organised cultural activities outside of school hours, according to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, theatre was just that other thing; the organised activity we did if we were not doing one or most of the following:

  • Swim Club
  • Surf Club
  • Netball Club
  • Rugby League Club
  • AFL Club
  • Soccer Club
  • Little Athletics
  • Ballet, Jazz and Tap
  • Gymnastics
  • Callisthenics’s

It’s a very sporty place.

N.B. The Callisthenics’s kids never really fitted in either.

There was only one place to go – if you really wanted to be taken seriously as a performer – and that was BATS (Buderim Amateur Theatrical Society). Those were the days! We would get hot chips, tomato sauce and tubs of Homer Hudson ice cream from the shop on the corner (the site is now home to a fancy French restaurant, a salon and a couple of old lady boutiques), which we shared outside, lying about on the grass, just as we did later, at uni…hmmm. There was nothing better for young voices! And faces! And figures!

We had cool teachers, who let us finish our ice cream inside. It was fun. And I learned early that you didn’t have to face the audience to say a line, which was a point of contention at school. (At school, I also argued about beginning sentences with capital letters. Thank you, Veny. And the existence of God. Thank you, Lutherans). We gained confidence, friends from other schools, regular performance opportunities and some of us even got our homework done in between rehearsals! We really did have some fun at BATS.

Some might say nothing has changed. I would say a hell of a lot has changed, however; BYTE (Buderim Youth Theatre of Excellence), based at the same hall in Buderim, run by Robyn Ernst for over 10 years has stayed the popular option. One of those cool teachers of mine, Ian Austin, had this to say, back in the days when he was given a say, about BYTES:

BYTES offers students from 5-18 professional studio training in acting, dancing and musical theatre with several public performances every year.  This esteemed training ground, enriches and builds talent and perhaps more importantly personal character.  BYTES showcase presentations add the imperative gloss.” Ian Austin Review Sunshine Coast Daily

And he’s right. I get to their shows pretty irregularly and when I do, I see this to be true. Basic character is evident, as is the self-confidence (some might say over-confidence). The kids learn their lines, they deliver them in well-projected voices, they sing mostly in tune (thanks to the talented teaching team, Scott and Libby Gaedtke) and they are always dressed magnificently and lit quite adequately. I am aware that there are other productions throughout each year, which might showcase a wider range of acting ability, however; I haven’t seen any lately and the last one I did get to – I think I mentioned in a post at the time – had cast members blacking up for To Kill a Mockingbird at the same time a production of Miss Saigon went on in Hobart without any Asians in the cast! Just saying! Nevertheless, the productions provide the performance opportunity and the gloss that kids need, to feel the magic of the theatre and to be able to say, when they see something they like and aspire to, “I can do that!”

The Pirates of Penzance was perhaps an odd choice, with so many male roles and – typically – very few males available to fill them. I always loathe girls playing boys unless the context can be updated and we get to enjoy the legalisation of gay marriage for the finale. Obviously this messes with the original book and a particular demographic in the region.

In the show that I saw on Saturday afternoon, the cast featured Brandon Maday (Frederic), Eloise Mueller (Mabel), Robert Steel (Pirate King), Daniel Moray (Major General), Brianna Schlect (Ruth) and Phoebe Sullivan (Police Sergeant). I have to tell you a) I know Eloise and b) Eloise was the stand-out. Her mature vocal work was matched by Brandon’s (and what a relief that was)! The ensemble were enthusiastic and the company clearly enjoyed themselves. And that is really important. Some parents would say that their child’s enjoyment of the activity is the most important thing. But what if that fun, enthusiasm, confidence and the opportunity to perform can be tied in with some basic stagecraft and performance etiquette?

That is precisely what my friend, Mary Eggleston, is doing at SODA (School of Dramatic Arts). She runs classes in Buderim and Coolum and she is really, for youth theatre, the hottest new kid on the block. SODA’s inaugural showcase, on Saturday morning, was testament to Mary’s ability to use original material and the talents of those kids involved. We saw younger students share The Rime of The Ancient Marinater, which is like giving your primary school production of Alice in Wonderland a bit of a Tim Burton slant! It’s not light stuff and the 7 performers handled the text and the context well.

A cast of 16 slightly older students re-told the story of our local lass, Eliza Fraser, as penned by Sue Davis. The material, Figments of Eliza, was originally performed by Mary as part of the NeoGeography project  and it was interesting to hear her voice-over relay some of the story as part of this re-interpretation. And it was a pleasure to hear the familiar qualities of another of Leah Barclay‘s original compositions as their underscore. As well as teaching these students basic stagecraft, voice, movement, discipline and performance etiquette, Mary has encouraged one of the students to develop his technical skills and so Tully Grimley, for this show, became Lighting Designer and Operator.

Mary works with young people in the same way that Sam and I work with adults. I know this because as well as seeing the results in performance, I’ve taken classes for her a couple of times and these kids respond in the same manner. They are keen to perform and even keener to learn everything they can about themselves and the craft along the way. This is perhaps the difference that we are noticing now on the Sunshine Coast. The performers we seem to attract want it all. Those who stay away want just to be recognised for their performances, regardless of the end result. So we play, we have fun and we make up stuff all the time, just like those kids! We also notice what it is that the individuals bring to the ensemble, how they are connecting with themselves and how they are able to connect with others.

Kids who want more than just the gloss of the final performance should check out SODA.

Adults looking for something fun, interesting and a little more challenging should check out Sam Coward’s production of David Williamson’s INFLUENCE for Noosa Arts Theatre.

John Waters as Ziggi Blasko


Information Night: Friday December 10th 7pm at Noosa arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Audition (Workshop): Friday December 17th 7pm at Noosa Arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Season: April 20th – April 30th 2011


Ziggi Blasko – early fifties, talkback radio “shock-jock”
Carmela Blasko – twenty-nine, Ziggi’s second wife, narcissist ballet dancer trying to return to form after childbirth
Vivienne Blasko – seventeen, turns out to be manic depressive
Tony – a taciturn man in his forties
Connie Blasko – forty-seven, social worker
Marko Blasko – dignified Croatian man of eighty-two
Zehra – forty-two, a slim Turkish woman


For more information email or check


Erotique: The Fringe of the Fringe

Finally! Home on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, where the air and the water and the streets are clean, for almost a week and I can tell you this…

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city…

Petersham Town Hall. The fringe of The Sydney Fringe Festival. If you were one of the few who found us out there, on the edge, thanks so much for coming; we hope you enjoyed the show.

We figure we’ve earned our stripes now. We were the out-of-towners this year, the interstate visitors, the Sunshine Coast emerging artists; we didn’t know anybody, our support network was small and we had very little local knowledge. We thought, “How excitement! This is what a fringe festival is all about!” We expected to meet a heap of other artists, see their shows, hang out in a chai-type-tent somewhere and talk theatre into the wee small hours.

Well, we met a heap of other artists on the first night of our stay. We met Kris Stewart, Artistic Director of the festival and Meryl Rogers, General Manager of the festival and we also met some of the top peeps in the industry at Mr Anthony Costanzo’s one-night-only show at Notes: Words and music from Life’s a Circus and More. Featuring Lucy Durack, Patrice Tipoki, Chris Parker, Rob Mills, Amelia Cormack, Maria Mercedes and Cameron McDonald, this first show – for better or for worse – served to reinforce my high expectations of what was to come and remained one of the festival highlights for me.

The other was Bare, a newish musical take on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers; in this case, two boys who fall in love at a Catholic High School. Friends there assumed it had been written and developed especially for the festival but I knew this was not so. In fact, I remembered reading that Bare was hailed as “better musically and dramatically than Rent” by Los Angeles Daily News in 2001. That’s a big call. And this production, seen by just 4 full houses at the Newtown Theatre, proved it.

Performed by a cast of senior students and new graduates, Bare was the show that blew me away. The collective talent was phenomenal and the entire production was pared down in order to simply share the heart wrenching story. There was never any question about what was happening where. These kids worked much harder than some of the professional ensembles I’ve seen. This includes the talented young MD and his band. Their energy, their focus and their intent, in most cases, meant passionate and perfectly authentic performances. As performer and performance coach, I was completely inspired and maybe even a little bit envious that these kids have had the opportunity to do a show that, clearly, I am too old to ever be cast in! I know that Ben felt the same way, hearing some of the songs sung in turns, so tenderly and powerfully by Seann Moore and Zac Smith. N.B. Not strictly true (I’ve still got time!) but look, Jenni Little, who played the unfortunate young Ivy, definitely had the show stopper, as her character struggled to come to terms with her roller coaster ride. The other stand out had to be Elyse Atkins, who played the hilariously self-deprecating sister of Jason, Nadia (or, as she self-proclaims throughout one song; “Plain Jane Fat Arse”). Each character’s journey was massive and I cannot stress enough, how professionally these kids delivered a really challenging – on so many levels – show. I hope to see them achieve their goals for this production next year and if possible, I would love to see it again.

Sam and I saw Wicked while we were in town (it closes in Sydney on Sunday). Of course, the production values were spectacular and I loved it because I love the show but I couldn’t help but wonder (and I often wonder about this so bear with me)…why did I feel that there was something missing? If anybody can enlighten me, please feel free to add your comments. I know not everybody loves Wicked but I actually, really LOVE Wicked! Having said that, the book is a little lacking in substance, assuming that we all know what happens next and that we are familiar with the characters. But when we are given a different take on those characters, I would like to see more of the layers, more of the complexities and, especially in Act 1, much more of who Elphie is; I mean, who she is outside of the stereotypical Green Kid who doesn’t fit in. In a spectacular, touring, professional production, just how does one DO that? Is there even room in the rehearsal schedule to work on individual characters to the extent that we will feel empathy for Elphie due to her own actions, reactions and emotions, rather than the simple sympathy that is derived from how she is treated by others? Is it just me? Am I a heartless, shallow soul? Alright, don’t answer that. I probably haven’t explained very well but I’m sure the same point will come up again.

Despite my musings, I came away from The Capitol Theatre (sans green glasses, glitter globe, shirt and cap) impressed with the performances. In fact, I think I am Lucy Durack‘s newest biggest fan. Her interpretation of Glinda was original, not to mention gorgeous and I’m going to say it (I don’t say it often), absolutely flawless. She and Patrice Tipoki, who (we are proud to remind everybody) hails from the Sunshine Coast, were wonderful together. I’m now even more excited about taking Poppy, four, to a matinee in Brisbane in January.

Meanwhile, back at our humble little venue in Crystal Street, Petersham, we had the usual technical hitches before our first show on Wednesday and, as usual, everything was alright on the night! We celebrated at Max Brenner‘s on King St, Newtown (I will write that once but in fact, the same could be said of at least three more “celebrations”! Copious amounts of chocolate was consumed by the cast. What a deliciously decadent discovery)!

Word of mouth, even without a sizable support network, worked and we enjoyed greater numbers at each subsequent performance. On a couple of occasions, we also enjoyed the pizzas from the boys next door, who thought it was about time somebody rocked up to give the topless pub waitresses up the road a bit of competition! That made Sam so proud.

Closing night saw us with an audience that was well over capacity and nothing but praise for the production. And lots of friends and randoms asking, “So how do you prepare to get naked?!” I’m going to put that to the cast and get back to you because I know just my version can get a bit tedious sometimes.

We got to 3 shows at Carriageworks and 1 other at The Italian Forum. At Carriageworks (surely the most under-utilised venue of the festival), A Tiny Chorus, Clammy Glamour and a secret show, upstairs between those two shows: The Nick Cave Murder Ballads. A Tiny Chorus moved me to tears and then later, in retrospect, I decided I would love to work with those girls to get something different from them! Not better, different. It was a superb show and it would be fascinating to see what else can be done with it, especially after winning some of the awards at the other festivals.

Clammy Glamour was tricky and untidy. Others loved it and their closing night sold out. Murder Ballads was mostly disturbing and a little bit amusing. Others would certainly reverse that statement to reflect their enjoyment of the shocking puppetry, like Coraline meets The Corpse Bride meets Team America (FUCK YEAH)!

Pistol Whipped, a dance piece, which was on late one night at the Italian Forum, was not at all what it promised to be. It was a great lesson in marketing.

That is what a fringe festival is all about!

We are still having fantastic conversations about everything we saw- conversations that started over coffee and dessert in various groovy cafes late at night and continued after rising late each morning, over the best breakfasts to be found in Newtown, at El Bahsa/El Basha on King St. The boys there made us feel completely at home and never once looked as if they were even close to throwing us out. No, not once! Clearly we were spending far too much on coffee and chai! I think it’s important to note too, that we helped support several other local establishments, including the cash-only (curses!) Pastizzi Cafe and the tiny Blackstar bakery, which had a selection of pastries and gorgeous sweet treats, including incredible edible-even-after-you’re-quite-full danishes and the most delicate pistachio macaroons. The only place that comes close to Blackstar on the Sunshine Coast is my latest discovery, thanks to the French friends of French friends, Maison de Provence in Cooroy. Now I find out that our composer, Ms Leah Barclay, has known about it all along!!!

We visited STC and pretended we were taking a break from rehearsals to grab a coffee over the water, as you do, feeling totes inspired by the famous names, the stunning photography and the current season’s imagery lining that corridor. As I tweeted, how good would it be to go to work here every day?! I know. There is no tone in tweets. Only some of you who really know me, really got that level of emotion. I know.

For a bit of R & R, we spent a full day in lovely Manly, which we thought felt a bit like Noosa in the old days – no, really – and enjoyed Spanish tapas or steaks, depending on the mood. I was extremely tempted, during both ferry crossings, to belt out a bit of THIS

…but thought better of it. It will make much more sense on the way to New York, obviously.

Um. So Ben was feeling left out of the nudity clause, obviously…

We managed to balance the week quite nicely, between our show, others’ shows and the fun and games. This was possible because we have, as I’ve mentioned before, such a fantastic team. It’s been sad to come home and fully realise that there will never again be a performance of Erotique. Not like this, not with these performers. If you missed it, you really missed it! We didn’t even film it. Not sure why. We’ll definitely regret that, having collected such great footage previously, to give La Ronde some immortality. And that’s the next focus: the DVD, which will give La Ronde a life beyond the sold-out Sunshine Coast seasons. Well, that and the creation of 2 more shows this year as well as 2 shows and a fundraising mega-event next year. A holiday in Greece is also on the list. Or at least one in Sydney.