Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Fringe Festival

25
Sep
10

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.

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13
Jul
10

The Sydney Fringe – Suck it and See

Here are the recent shows, which I would normally, however I will not this time, write about:

  • The Nambour Show, now known as The Sunshine Coast Show but really known for never being anything BUT The Nambour Show
  • The Noosa Longweekend
  • Kidz on Broadway
  • Anything Goes
  • Tender

Here’s why…

You may have heard. We are off to Sydney! We have accepted The Sydney Fringe Festival‘s invitation to share with their festival audience in September, a more intimate version of our sell-out show, La Ronde. Re-named and re-configured to better suit the requirements of the festival and its more liberal audience, Erotique will see six dedicated actors and their fearless leader/director fly in and out of the big smoke for just four performances. Of course, it would be nice to duck over to Montreal first but August is flat out here. Maybe next year! As you can see, my head has been full of festivals (how ABOUT that Montreal one)?!

Also, real life has gotten in the way of writing regularly. Sad but true. It seems Ms Virginia Woolf was right (in fact, I have never doubted her); one does indeed require a room of one’s own in order to write. Let’s see how far we get tonight then, shall we?

Husband and Director, Sam Coward, updated his Facebook status today to reflect his currently conflicted state of mind.

Directing is creating…..Producing is destroying!!!!

I’m sure the producers of the world will have their differing views on that. I disagree purely from a financial point of view. If I had the money, I would be able to produce whatever I wanted, using whomever I preferred, wherever I desired. Sam says I could also achieve this by being Queen of my own country. Whatever.

As a director without the capital to make bigger dreams come true, producing is, in a sense, destructive. Changes and compromises can’t be avoided. A smaller, less costly variation of the show must now travel, bump in to a new space, bump out and have pleased (or not) audiences outside of the local area, where we enjoy the support of friends, fans and family. The prospect of taking our baby outside of our warm, sunny, coastal comfort zone is frightening! Overwhelming! But it must be done to serve our souls!

So. Just so you know. We have re-cast the role of The Poet and re-named him The Boy. Unfortunately, we lost Nathan to PAID ACTING WORK. Yes, it’s true. It exists in this state (and just across the border, apparently) and he nailed it! As you might imagine (or not) there was quite a lot of interest in the role. The successful candidate was, serendipitously, available to take on this new challenge now, when he had previously been unable to consider even auditioning for the show. This time, the time was right for Ben Johnson.

We met the other night. Production meeting/dinner party, of course; similar to the last one. N.B. No cameras. Oh, and no voice. That’s right. The universe is obviously trying to tell me something. More on that later. All new key people were present at this event, except for Ms Mary Eggleston, who is currently rehearsing with the re-formed Fractal Theatre, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia. DON’T MISS IT.

There are some major changes. We have cut Scenes 1 and 2 and scenes 9 and 10. We are yet to write the new final scene, Scene 6, which involves The Boy and The Friend (previously known as The Maid). They will cross a boundary in their relationship that has already sparked raucous debate amongst the cast.  Clearly, we all feel very strongly about the place of sex in a relationship between a man and a woman.

N.B. While my husband may agree with Harry’s sentiment, for the record, I’m not agreeing entirely since I happen to have always had Sally-type-just-friends-men. My husband says I’m naive and in a permanent state of denial. He has had quite a lot to say tonight!

Anyway, I hear you ask; why did we not write the final scene already? Well, in continuation of a truly collaborative process, we didn’t try to write anything new without the new cast member’s contributions. You might remember that this is how the entire script was re-interpreted, by the actors and director, as we rehearsed. Currently, that cast member, Ben, is in Melbourne. He doesn’t get back to the Coast for 10 days. We will be in Sydney in about 60 days. Sam, Ben and I will write our scene as we rehearse when he returns. Intense, I know. Exciting, isn’t it?

Then there is the re-write, which also involves Ben-who-is-currently-away and the lovely Kay, whom you will fondly recall, was The Girl. She will remain known as The Girl but she is now The (expectant) Girl. I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning this because the joyful news helped us to decide to keep her on board and re-write her scenes, rather than write her out of them. The first of her scenes will be beautiful, the second horrific.

We always thought La Ronde would have a long life. We were determined to give it life somehow, somewhere, in some manifestation. Of course we cannot forget that we also have over 100 hours of footage, including the HD footage of the entire show, shot from 3 different angles with which to to play, thereby legitimising the work and giving it some permanency in the market place…er, once we can view it, edit it, produce it and distribute it (and assuming we have determined our market)! Perhaps it is fair to give Newcastle’s Crack Theatre Festival a shout out at this point! They have invited Sam and I to discuss, as part of a panel of artists, the pros and cons of theatre-making on the Sunshine Coast. It is part of the TINA Festival and we are very much looking forward to mixing and sharing perspectives and strategies with other struggling artists!

So. It seems that people outside of our little local region, at least in Sydney, are interested in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

It’s so sad that we are not taking with us, the entire original cast and the show in its original form (and by ‘original form’ I mean our original form, not Schnitzler’s). I’m so grateful to have had such a bold, brave, creative cast and crew to start with. The success of a project is its people, is it not? How lucky we are to have had friends – old and new – drawn to us just like that, at Sam’s invitation to “come play” and, trusting him, join us at work on this little project that does indeed have a life beyond two Sunshine Coast seasons and a hard drive full of footage!

Erotique will be seen at The Sydney Fringe Festival for 4 performances only.




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