Posts Tagged ‘Objective

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.

14
Apr
10

The Mechanics of Undressing – Part 2

By Sharon Grimley

So, to date I have undressed publicly at least 12 times (excluding rehearsals, over the past 2 months).  I still have at least another 2 performances to go before our first season is complete – I say this in hope of a second season materialising – and I, and the Socialite, am surprisingly comfortable disrobing for an audience.  Sure, there is still the frisson of excitement when I remember that my audience don’t expect this, as I remove my peignoir and camisole, but any reservations about appearances have melted away.  I am just doing my job.

However, it struck me over the last few weeks that other people’s reactions to my doing-what-I-am-doing, in the name of theatre, are widely varied.  And this puts me in mind of a memorable question from an authority from my past, Professor Julius Sumner Miller:

“Why is it so?”


What is it about a body?

We all have one.

Most people are equipped with one of two variations on the bits attached to them.

So what makes people fearful of it?  OR more particularly, fearful of seeing someone else’s?

Nipples?

REALLY?


The reactions I have encountered are as follows:

Ignore – “If I don’t mention it, it isn’t happening.” – a response common to conservative friends and parents-in-law

Awe – Being a “woman of a certain age”  …I rather like this one!

Curiosity – “What does she look like?” “Does she look like me?”  “Does she look like I imagined?”  “ Is she going to take it…..oo, yes, I think she’s… oh my god, she’s really going to take it off!”

Fascination – “I expected to be confronted, but found myself mesmerised instead.”

Disgust – OK, I made this one up.  Not to date anyway (or to my knowledge, anyway).

Seeing another person’s body is not something we are culturally equipped for.


At the beach or in television shows or in magazines or in billboard ads (OK, everywhere), we seem to deal with various degrees of undress, but seeing another REAL human naked RIGHT UP CLOSE is something often associated with private and intimate relationships.

Isn’t it right then that, in a play dealing with sexual relationships, some degree of nudity would be appropriate and genuine and integral?

Oohhhh…. it’s the SEXUAL relationships they don’t want put under scrutiny, yes?  And the icky, uncomfortable, basic, not-for-public-consumption feelings they get when they see someone else undress…

Or worse still, that they might never be able to look me in the eye again.

The Maid and The Socialite

After a sell-out season in Noosa, the Mooloolaba season of La Ronde is SOLD OUT


30
Mar
10

The Director’s Wife

Contrary to popular belief, being The Director’s Wife is not an advantage during the production process, in fact; it’s quite the opposite. I have found, several times now, that it is in fact, a distinct disadvantage to be married to the director. It doesn’t make the casting process any easier and if cast, it means a roller-coaster of a ride ensues! Nancy Allen recognised it long before I did! She and Brian de Palma divorced in 1984.

As well as trying to manage – wait, let’s just say find a reasonable balance between – the home, the theatre, the husband, the daughter, the work, the errands, the sanity (the list goes on)…one must also take on the following roles:

Directorial Consultant

(Sounding Board)

Sam: Hey honey, what if everybody is made up like in Rocky Horror?

X: Um. No. It should be beautiful, not grotesque.

Sam: Right. Okay. So everybody will be made up like in Rocky Horror…

Dramaturg

(Late night Google Girl)

Sam: HONEY! Can you get off Facebook and find all the adaptations of La Ronde and who did them and when they were done?

X: *opens new tab*

Personal Assistant

(The Maid)**

Sam: Baby, do you want coffee?

X: *saves draft and gets up to make coffee*

Personal Secretary

(Human Answering Machine)

Everybody, every time they call: “Hiiiiii! How are yooou? Goood!  Goood! So…is Sam there?”

X: *has already walked to where ever Sam is and handed him the iPhone*

Sure, I know, the director’s focus should be on the show. He has every right to live and breathe it, think and talk about only it, relate everything to it and take notice of how everybody else feels during the process, not to mention plan way ahead in case it takes off and tours the world…but only if he is unmarried. If you are the wife of a director it will drive you MAD.

Or it will drive you to come up with an Oscar winner. Just sayin’.

N.B. I have to include this because it was inspirational in the development of Scene 2. And because sometimes I feel like I’m being flung about, physically and emotionally, just like Ms O’Connor, both on stage and off (though she is much more elegant and beguiling and beautifully, delicately damaged than I and also, I tend to exaggerate for the sake of the story).

I love my husband.

Sometimes he remembers to tell me later, long after the rehearsal or the performance, that he loves what I’m doing. Other times…he is busy reminding somebody else to resist changing anything after Opening Night, or helping to strike the mirrors or, a week ago, twice (this is true), on the iPhone doing a radio interview instead of the usual morning coffee. He didn’t even have a coffee in hand! Now, I know there’s a multi-tasking issue there too…but there’s something a little amiss about this picture from the outset. You should know that Sam doesn’t skip that first coffee of the day for anybody. Suddenly, during this rehearsal period, he’s omitting it from the routine in order to gesticulate and concentrate on what he’s saying live to air before 9:00am! Unbelievable! I feel duped! I have been led to believe, for all these years, that my husband simply cannot function in the morning without coffee. Or sex. Or, preferably, both.

Don’t try to tell me that we are not, each and every one of us, completely and inexplicably, obsessed with our art.

We have at home, a little pre-cursor to every conversation. It’s quite simple and I think you’ll find, if you employ a similar measure in your own happy/unhappy home, it’s a strategy that aims to clarify and appease at the base level of every marriage and/or working relationship. I think, like most obvious solutions, we stumbled across it right before a shouting match conversation over coffee. I simply enquire as to whether I am being consulted as The Wife, The Cast Member, The Mother or The Social Media Marketing and Publicity Officer. I cannot help but think of Ko-Ko advising The Mikado.

Disclaimer: It was completely unnecessary to post all of these clips. Part 3 is the relevant, albeit slightly obscure reference, pertaining to an advisory role. But are they not delightful? Was this production not pure delight? Have you not enjoyed the little break from living and breathing and reading La Ronde?! Ladies and gentleman that was interval. And now it’s over.

Aside: My music theatre and operetta loving siblings and I watched this production over and over for years! It must have been shown on the ABC and my music theatre and operetta loving father must have recorded it on a video tape. That’s right. It was the eighties. It was VHS.

Right. What was I saying? Oh yes. I don’t always feel that I am in the best position to advise the director. I feel conflicted. No, not afflicted, conflicted; there are conflicts. Sometimes I try to be the objective Wife With Nothing to do With the Show. And then as The Director’s Wife who was Cast in the Show and Accepted the Role Against Her Better Judgement, I argue the point that will invariably make or break a scene.

Sometimes we actually agree.

After a questionable start to our scene work (he wanted me to be pathetic. I wanted to win a little bit), Sam has trusted me implicitly in the development of my character and he has, as part of the process, allowed me opportunities to explore possibilities and approaches to my scenes that were not obvious to him at the outset. Of course I share his vision; we all do, after just 8 weeks, rehearsing only in our pairs and fitting rehearsals in around our work, friends, family and other “real life” commitments, as we do when we are not making an income from this theatre thing. We are a close-knit little company now, having collaboratively re-written and re-shaped a good 60% of the original text. And having pulled an all-nighter to film the production for the documentary.

My interpretation has always been swayed by the desire for beauty to have an emotive effect on the audience (I’m a bit old-fashioned and feminine that way), as well as the need to portray my character as someone with stronger and more intriguing qualities than just those of a long-suffering victim (I’m a bit contemporary and feminist that way). Sam has wanted the physical,emotional and intellectual power play within each vignette to achieve the same results, challenging viewers to really feel something, even if they are unsure about what it is they are feeling. Originally, Sam wanted my character to come across as genuinely pathetic and without any power at all, just by the end of the scene with Shane. He wanted to save my “win” for the following scene. I argued the point with the same stubborn resolve I was looking to find for the character…and I hope I’m now getting across a win – of sorts – because my objective throughout has been to get him to love me. And I have to believe that he does.

I think that, almost by accident, we found that in my scene with Sharon, our different approaches amounted to the same thing. My objective would be the same: to get her to love me. But Scene 3 was always intended to be The Beautiful Scene. We were told when cast that having a relationship outside of the theatre was going to prove to be either a complete disaster or the best thing for us. For some reason, this comment infuriated me and I thought at the time, “What a ridiculous thing to say! What does he mean? This is Freudian! This is code! This is excessive use of the exclamation mark! He knows Sharon and I will be fine. He’s actually referring to our marriage and this show will be the end of it after all” (I’m a bit melodramatic that way).

The truth is that my husband, The Director, realised at some point (I don’t remember when, I blocked it out; there were tears) that he had been directing me very differently, communicating with me differently to the way he communicated with the other actors…because I am his wife. He was over-compensating and speaking to me more harshly because, for some reason, I should know better. Or he should set an example. Or something. Of course, being his wife, I should be able to read Sam’s mind. I should have somehow absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, his preferred creative vision and direction for me. Oops. My bad.

Another thing. Very interesting. Because I am The Director’s Wife, Shane was hesitant at first about really working our scene. From his perspective, having never worked with Sam before, he had a really scary scene to do! He was pretty reluctant to viciously and violently overpower me, throw me to the floor and carry out a simulated rape…in front of my husband. Once we had convinced Shane that I was fine with the evil intent and the physical nature of the scene (and that Sam and I had experienced this very issue before, when I was Fantine on a stage in Mt Isa) we came up with a terrifying encounter, which makes it relatively easy for Shane to fearlessly assault me and for me to show real fear, leaving the audience cringing and me shaking. I will save the breakdown of my substitution, inner objects and the moment before for another time, like, for the launch of my posthumously-published memoirs…

So anyway, before we had Leah Barclay‘s stunning original score, this was the inspiration for Scene 3. Simple. Whimsical. Beautiful. I insisted on using it to underscore the scene during rehearsals, until we had the actual piece, written by Ms Barclay in India and sent to us via email, after just one meeting with The Director, during which he described the mood and movement of the scene.

It seems Sam and I approach the work, like marriage and like raising a child, very differently sometimes. Sometimes the fact that we disagree is what works, forcing us to reconsider our perspective and our respective priorities. And sometimes it’s a matter of just knowing when to choose our battles. It’s just marriage, after all.

There are also times when, despite my best intentions, passion and dedication; I’m just an ordinary housewife and mother and The Director’s Wife is just another multi-layered part to play. And there is really very little acting involved.

** I play The Maid both on stage and off.

21
Mar
10

The Husband and The Wife

The sanctity of marriage.

A wife may wonder

…and never dare to ask.

A husband demands an answer, a response, validation and appreciation.

A wife yearns…and never mentions.

A wife seeks validation elsewhere.


…women amongst themselves…


A wife may wander…


La Ronde

Noosa Arts Theatre, Noosaville:

March 25th, March 26th, 27th and April 1st, 2nd, 3rd at 7:30pm

Sunday March 28th at 2pm

(07) 5449 9343 or http://www.noosaartstheatre.org.au

Cafe e1 (Europe on 1st), Mooloolaba:

April 9th , April 10th, April 16th and April 17th

Cafe Europe on 1st, First Ave, Mooloolaba (07) 5477 6288

– champagne, supper and show for just $60-

$5 from every ticket sold at Mooloolaba goes to the Cindy McKenzie Breast Cancer Foundation. Thank you for helping us to support the wonderful work they do.

20
Mar
10

The Soldier and The Maid

The power of a man.

To conquer, to control, to take everything; leaving nothing of a soul.

Not a sound, not a breath of confidence or control.

No thought for tomorrow.

There’s only tonight. There’s only now.

Power for now and tomorrow…begin again.

La Ronde

Noosa Arts Theatre, Noosaville:

March 25th, March 26th, 27th and April 1st, 2nd, 3rd at 7:30pm

Sunday March 28th at 2pm

(07) 5449 9343 or http://www.noosaartstheatre.org.au

Cafe e1 (Europe on 1st), Mooloolaba:

April 9th , April 10th, April 16th and April 17th

Cafe Europe on 1st, First Ave, Mooloolaba (07) 5477 6288

– champagne, supper and show for just $60-

$5 from every ticket sold at Mooloolaba goes to the Cindy McKenzie Breast Cancer Foundation. Thank you for helping us to support the wonderful work they do.


18
Mar
10

The Maid and The Socialite

Imagine the power if it were yours to play at.

What would you say? What would you do?

What would you command of others?

Every fantasy at a nod, a smile, a gesture; as gentle or as gratuitous as you like. An insatiable appetite.

You with the power. She with the will to satisfy.

La Ronde

Noosa Arts Theatre, Noosaville:

March 25th, March 26th, 27th and April 1st, 2nd, 3rd at 7:30pm

Sunday March 28th at 2pm

(07) 5449 9343 or http://www.noosaartstheatre.org.au

Cafe e1 (Europe on 1st), Mooloolaba:

April 9th , April 10th, April 16th and April 17th

Cafe Europe on 1st, First Ave, Mooloolaba (07) 5477 6288

– champagne, supper and show for just $60-
$5 from every ticket sold at Mooloolaba goes to the Cindy McKenzie Breast Cancer Foundation. Thank you for helping us to support the wonderful work they do.


17
Mar
10

La Ronde

The Maid and The Socialite

The unspoken. The unspeakable. The impermissible.

Tempt fate and try to put the little pieces of your fantasy together.

Try to create your destiny…at the same place, at the same time…every day, as she kills you silently with a smile…a look…a look away…and you continue to foolishly lavish the same attention, regardless of the return.

La Ronde

Noosa Arts Theatre, Noosaville:

March 25th, March 26th, 27th and April 1st, 2nd, 3rd at 7:30pm

Sunday March 28th at 2pm

(07) 5449 9343 or http://www.noosaartstheatre.org.au

Cafe e1 (Europe on 1st), Mooloolaba:

April 9th , April 10th, April 16th and April 17th

Cafe Europe on 1st, First Ave, Mooloolaba (07) 5477 6288

– champagne, supper and show for just $60-
$5 from every ticket sold at Mooloolaba goes to the Cindy McKenzie Breast Cancer Foundation. Thank you for helping us to support the wonderful work they do.