Posts Tagged ‘true story

10
Jun
13

Delicacy

Delicacy 

Brisbane Arts Theatre 

24th May – 15th June 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

Delicacy, by Melbourne playwright Julian Hobba, is a two-handed drama based on the joyless true story of two German men – Armin Meiwes (“Der Metzgermeister”) and Bernd Brandes – who met in an internet chatroom devoted to cannibalism. Meiwes advertised to meet a “well-built man who wants to be eaten”. Brandes posted a reply that said: “I offer myself to you and will let you dine from my live body.”

“It leads us to the place where thinking stops.” Investigating Officer, Wilfried Fehl

Delicacy was first seen in 2006, at Melbourne’s Trade Hall, directed by Wesley Enoch and featuring Luke Mullins & Paul Denny.

 

This is by far the strangest play I have seen yet. What makes it even more chilling, is the knowledge that this story is based on real life events. The depravity of this production’s characters is horrific, and terrific to watch.

 

Unexpectedly, more often than not, some moments came off as comical. I still can’t decipher if this was the director’s, or the cast’s intention. If so, then they were successful. If not, I can only say it is within human nature to cope with things of such morbidity by resolving that it is humourous. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to process some of the content if I didn’t think it was in jest and intentionally bizarre in order to make me laugh.

 

Another reason for finding some moments to be comical might also fall upon the cast themselves. All the elements were there. I just couldn’t believe it. Perhaps that’s not them, that’s me and my reading of it; as audience members we’re protecting ourselves from fear. Then again, Greg Scurr, as the meek Denny, just wasn’t selling it. The character himself seemed contrite, like a bad homage to Norman Bates. Difficult to do convincingly, the old thespian art of fake blood spill has been mastered. I couldn’t see the source of the fake blood at all, which gave me the shivers.

 

Despite the comical moments, there were still many times when I was unsure of my emotion. Fearful isn’t exactly the right word. The phrase, “Oh My God, is that his…?” was murmured a lot. As was, “What the hell?” whispered most likely too loudly. There aren’t many shows that can achieve that sort of reaction without any full frontal nudity involved. Merely by their darkness, these characters transported us to a world of inevitable death and outlandish horror.

 

Also noteworthy, was the fact that everything (except the blood and drugs), was real. Something you rarely see on a community theatre stage; Rachel Cherry’s design included a real functioning kitchen with a real fridge, with real food served and consumed on stage. I suppose I should assume for my own comfort that the masturbation scenes were acted. Those perhaps went on a bit too often and unnecessarily. The crudeness of it made it intriguing to begin with, and then it became comical. But finally I found it to be nauseating and over done.

 

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Delicacy is a bizarre and unexpected discourse of a play if ever I saw one. Bring a friend along if you do care to see the show. Be wary and open minded, and leave the children at home.

 

WARNING: Delicacy contains adult themes, graphic violence and coarse language. Not recommended for those under 18 years.

22
Feb
13

Holding the Man

 

Holding the Man

 

Well, some of us have waited a long time to see David Berthold’s acclaimed production of Holding the Man. And the Brisbane audiences are loving it, believing in the relationships, crying in the closing moments, struggling to express their emotional response afterwards, and feeling that they understand its themes and delicate issues; that they can relate to the difficulties faced by Tim (Alec Snow) and John (Jerome Meyer) and their families and friends. But there might also be those who walk away cold, completely unaffected by the emotion that is manipulated by production elements thrown generously at a script that centres around a relationship strong enough to stand on its own. Of course, essentially, what’s evident in the writing is that this is Tim’s story, the way he wrote it, and playwright, Tommy Murphy, has beautifully realised and theatricalised the memoir so that we can take an entire life’s journey with Tim and John in just over two hours. Without the additional cast of intriguing characters, and hilarious scenes involving the NIDA students and staff, parents and potential gay partners on the dance floor of a seedy night club, all plucked out of real life, it would make an entirely different play, and we wouldn’t have the context, or the vital characters who support the boys during their 15-year relationship.

 

Holding the Man

On opening night I got the impression that the response was mixed…or undecided. For the first time at The Roundhouse in a long time, the house was divided between those who rose to give a standing ovation and those who stayed seated. I must admit, I didn’t feel like the end of the show was a feel-good, leap-to-your-feet-and-applaud kinda’ moment, despite my appreciation for the work of the creative team (Brian Thomson, Micka Agosta, David Walters, Basil Hogios and Guy Webster) and cast (Snow, Meyer, Jai Higgs, Lauren Jackson, Eugene Gilfedder and Helen Howard). Sometimes you sit and continue to feel and to process without feeling like immediately jumping up and down. In fact, I felt like I experienced a more tender, more honest show on Tuesday night. More worthy in my opinion of a standing ovation, but again, I didn’t feel it was the appropriate reaction because of the sombre mood! I can’t wait to hear what you thought of the show. What interesting discussions our diverse responses inspire! I love that theatre has the power to make us feel so strongly about it!

Here are a few fair points from marketing guru Adam Brunes (he’s hopped on over to EDC so you can be sure you’ll know what they’re up to this year!),
“You should all see this. Here are a few reasons why. 1) It’s one of the most beautifully designed shows I’ve ever seen at La Boite. Ever. 2) You will laugh out loud, and probably look to the brightest light in the lighting rig to hold back tears. 3) Helen Howard and Eugene Gilfedder are at it again, this time sharing a circle jerk, and probably a costume or two. 4) It’s a true love story. 5) Four of six actors are making their professional mainstage debuts, and that alone is worth celebrating.”

 

Holding the Man

Agreed… but I can’t review La Boite’s Holding the Man, in fact, I won’t be reviewing La Boite’s main stage shows at all this year. I’d love to, but in my capacity as Learning & Participation Specialist (that’s fancy for education consultant), apparently there’s a conflict of interest. Sorry about that. What I want to do, though, is give you a brief take on each show from a drama teacher’s perspective, and offer up a sort of a Cheat Sheet each time a production opens, in case you didn’t get time to read through the teacher resources. When you do have time, DO read through the Education Notes, which are available online (look, if you get to nothing else, Benjamin Law’s article is ESSENTIAL pre-show reading), and let me know what else you’d like to see addressed in the next document, in preparation for FOOD. You can also get in touch with me via email or phone, to talk about anything you already have planned (or would like support in planning), anything you’re wondering with regard to assessment tasks, or if you have any concerns about a show’s suitability for your students. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting it all into context and I can help you do that.

 

So on Tuesday night, La Boîte officially launched the Learning & Participation Program, and staged a preview of Tommy Murphy’s adaptation of Timothy Conigraves’ memoir, Holding the Man, just for teachers. It was a decent turn out, with many of the teachers and syllabus specialists in attendance whom I admire and respect, so, you know, no pressure…

 

Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, introduced me and I spoke a little about the main stage program, the professional development opportunities for teachers, the student workshops, and the ambassador program, for which applications have closed TODAY. I do this job outside of the job all the time. When people ask me, “What should we see?” and “What’s good?” I can confidently tell them that La Boîte – our state’s second largest player – is so accessible, enjoyable, and inspires terrific conversations and lasting friendships. I know that’s not just my experience because I talk to so many for whom a trip to La Boite is a regular highlight throughout the year. I’m looking forward to hearing from teachers this year, and seeing some of you again already at the Drama Queensland State Conference next month!

 

From a drama teacher’s perspective there is so much to Holding the Man.

 

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CONTEXTUALISE: How much do you think your students know about the 1980s and the HIV/AIDS climate in Australia? Don’t assume they know anything just because you remember it (after all, it wasn’t that long ago!). Here are some Youtube clips to get you started (although I couldn’t watch the Challenger explode again). Seriously, if time and headspace allows, start with the original memoir by Timothy Conigrave AND Holding the Man and AIDS in Australia by Benjamin Law. Also, remember there are plenty of crossovers for your English students, even if they’re just analysing film clips…

 

 

 

 

 

DISCUSS: You must have time programmed for both free and facilitated discussions.

 

Holding the Man

WRITE: I love letting students write their thoughts and projections about a show after looking at the marketing collateral. Pick up the Avant Card or get on the website and take a look at the images used to promote the show to the public. I also love giving students time to write their FIRST RESPONSE after a show. It’s not a review – they can dissect and critique the show in the responding task – but it’s the immediate reactions, thoughts and feelings after experiencing somebody else’s world.

 

 

If you’d like some more ideas, or you’d like to offer some feedback and ideas for the next lot of Education Notes, email me xanthecoward@gmail.com

 

Images by Al Caeiro

 

06
Apr
12

april’s fool: return season


This April, the powerful production April’s Fool, based on the 2009 death of Toowoomba teenager Kristjan Terauds, embarks on a national tour.

A startling work of sadness, loss and love, while laced with humour and ultimately optimism, April’s Fool has been based on interviews about Kristjan by local playwright David Burton, with friends and family of the popular youth, who died from complications from illicit drug use just two weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

After its debut season in 2010, young people, parents, teachers, youth workers and theatre critics alike, for its honesty and ability to engage its audience without preaching or lecturing, universally praised April’s Fool.

We asked Writer, David Burton, and Director, Lewis Jones, to tell us about what it means to re-visit this moving play and offer it up to a whole new audience. Rehearsals started last week. Jones said, “It is a little surreal coming back to something, where it is almost entirely the same cast – four out of the five cast members are the same.” The only change of cast we’ll see for this tour is Belinda Raisin replacing Kathryn Marquet.

Jones explains, “The initial creative development process came directly out of the events on which the play is based, in that David Burton began conducting interviews on which to base his verbatim work within four or five months of Kristjan’s death. There were then three intense creative developments between then and the final rehearsal period. The show premiered in July 2010, some fifteen months after Kristjan died. It was a very raw and immediate process for all involved, which I think made its impact very raw and immediate as well.”

Writer, David Burton

Burton notes, “It was originally commissioned by the Empire Theatre Project’s Company. So Lewis Jones, the director, is the brains behind this whole project. I quickly caught Lewis’ passion for the piece and ran with it. When you sit down and hear the story for the first time it’s pretty astonishing, and we had Kristjan’s father’s journal as source material too. Lewis’ passion, along with the family’s desire for positive change in the community, really fueled the project and turned it into what it was.”

Director, Lewis Jones

As Director and the person who had to instigate the production – it was a high-risk undertaking – Jones was not sure how the local community would react. “I knew that it was a story that was both innately theatrical but more importantly, it was a story that needed to be shared. And I feel that this is why it has been received so positively by audiences. It is a story that we share with the audience very gently and with a great deal of love. It is not sensational. It is not ‘dramatic’ in the usual sense of the word.

We have found that audiences appreciate the gentleness and the directness of the storytelling and young people respond very positively to the work, because it respects their ability to make up their own mind. At no point does the play tell them whether to take drugs or not to take drugs; it just tells the story of one boy who took drugs.

At a Conference I was talking to Nicole Lauder who is a close family friend of the Terauds family. At the time, Nicole was General Manager of La Boite Theatre and in asking her how she was, she shared that she had just been up in Toowoomba watching the son of a friend die. She asked if it was time to revisit Margery Forde’s X-Stacy and I suggested that it was probably time for a new work within this genre.

She put me in touch with David, Kristjan’s father who had written a journal entitled ‘April’s Fool’ chronicling the last days of his son’s life. It was a devastating read and I asked if it could form the basis of a new theatre work and very generously the Terauds family gave permission for the development of the work.”

Burton interviewed family members and friends to get the full story. I asked if this was a “difficult” process.

“Difficult is too simple a word. It was one of the most beautiful and awful experiences of my life. It’s still haunting. Obviously you’re sitting with people who are going through massive grief, so it’s very sad. But you really become aware of how much love is in a community, and how much a death can affect so many people. It was never difficult finding people. Overall, people were very willing to come forward and talk quite openly. The community was extremely gracious and generous with their stories.”

The result of such generous, courageous community sharing is a new breed of verbatim theatre. Burton notes, “If I can make up an entirely new label, I’d say April’s Fool is a ‘narrative verbatim’. We were always very focussed on the narrative. We don’t stop too often to really stop and smell the roses and reflect in this play. I always wanted to keep the story moving. So in that sense I think audiences shouldn’t expect a ‘discussion’ about the event that you can see in some verbatim plays. April’s Fool tells you a story. That was always it’s main goal.”

Not an easy story to share.

Even so, neither Jones nor Burton had any misgivings and they remained consultative throughout the process, allowing those interviewed to have a seven-day cooling off period. He says that the immediacy of the interviews was of utmost importance to allow it to be part of the grieving and healing process. Jones observes, “I guess that is how the rehearsal process is different this time. There is a distance from Kristjan’s death. The mood in the rehearsal room is somewhat more reflective. The premiere season had an urgency to it, this remount is perhaps a little gentler, though nonetheless powerful, and it is underpinned with the knowledge that this is a show that has proven its artistic merit and its ability to have a positive impact on the communities where it is performed.”

During the original rehearsal process, Burton says he was involved as much as any writer. “I would pop in every week or so to check in, tweak things and make changes. Lewis Jones and I work extremely well together, so there was the occasional phone call where we’d bounce around ideas. I was there when we showed the parents for the very first time. That was one of the most memorable days of my life. But overall, it was such a pleasure to work with the team.  It’s a superb cast and crew.”

“There were a few key people with this script that really bounced it along,” says Burton. “The most influential was Lewis Jones, along with Christie Tickell and Michael Futcher. There was other advice from the cast along the way too. Theatre’s a collaborative art form, and especially with a piece like this it’s important to remember that you (the writer) actually has very little spiritual ownership of it. So if someone suggests an idea that’s brilliant, who am I to complain? Once again, the team behind this was brilliant, so I always felt the script was in good hands.”

As well as holding an open call for actors who would complete his cast, Jones handpicked Barbara Lowing and Allen Laverty, whose work he had known for many years. “I knew I could trust them with the material,” he said. “There is an added dimension to working on material you know to be real and immediate and all the cast met what I will call the main players over the creative development process, with David Burton perhaps operating as a conduit; he had, after all, conducted the interviews and built close relationships with the family and close friends. The most important thing for the family is summed up by Kristjan’s mother, Helena who said, when asked why she was prepared to let this tragic story be shared, said, ‘If I can stop another mother going through what I have been through, then it is worth it.’”

Interestingly, Kristjan does not appear in the play, nor do we hear his voice. Burton says, “It was an instinct. The very first thing I knew about the play was that it wouldn’t feature Kristjan in any real physical sense. The fact he’s not there is what the play is really about. And an attempt to reenact his life or have someone play him flirts dangerously with bad taste. I kind of really like that by the end of the play you feel like you know Kristjan, but you still feel like he’s incredibly mysterious. I think that’s really important to the piece.”

I wondered what that original opening night would have been like, as a member of that community, as a member of that family…

Burton remembers, “The opening night was huge. It was terrifying. But then the lights went down and it all played out and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We all hung around with the family and the cast and it was a really beautiful symbol of a community coming together. Kristjan’s whole community seemed to be really pleased with it. From there, the play’s had pretty amazing affects. We get feedback from every show that blows us away. It’s changing lives, which is what Kristjan’s parents originally wanted.”

I asked Burton if he thought April’s Fool should be mandatory reading/viewing for high school students. He said, “I’m biased, so of course I think yes. But I certainly don’t think it would hurt! We’ve had people come to this show and say things like ‘I never knew theatre could do that.’ We’ve had teenagers come and then go home to their parents and confess their drug problems that same afternoon. We’ve had several local politicians see the show and say that every teenager and parent should be exposed to it. I think it’s a vital issue, and I do think that there’s very little out there that talks about these issues in quite the way that April’s Fool does. I think it’s rare you get a play like this.”

Original audiences might want to see this production again. “They might want to bring a friend or a young person who is now in the age group who are most deeply affected by these issues, but who was not the last time it can around,” says Jones.

The response from school groups has already been phenomenal. When the government doesn’t show their support for the arts, it’s vital that schools and parents do and it’s pleasing to see so many families, teachers and principals prioritising a student trip to this show.

“They witnessed real characters, real feelings and real reactions. It shocked them, it challenged them, it angered them, it saddened them, it made them laugh and it made them cry. This was the first performance my students have been really passionate about.”

Michelle Radunz, Drama Teacher at Chinchilla State High School

“I was amazed by the rapt attention of the large audience of school students. They appeared to hang on every word. For me, this is clear evidence of the play’s success in reaching its target audience who will hopefully consider and discuss the issues long after the season has finished.”

Katherine Lyall-Watson, ourbrisbane.com

April’s Fool is a real, raw, affecting story but Jones would not describe it as “hard-hitting.” Rather, he explains, it is “remarkably gentle – profound, moving, beautiful, sad. From my perspective it is an act of love. The work opens up discussion on a difficult topic. This work will save lives.”

April's Fool is available at australianplays.org

Kate Foy reviewed the world premiere in Oakey, near Toowoomba, in 2010 and likened the play to – “a piece of art and in form and intention” – a quilt, with its fragments of deep feelings and shared history. I was curious about what made the final cut.

“There were long and very confidential conversations between Lewis Jones and I about certain pieces of information. You’re going to encounter that with any verbatim play. There are some moments in the play that we took a small (and very calculated) risk by including, because we felt they were important. There are other moments that we sacrificed along the way. Sometimes this was because it was information that was too sensitive. But almost all of the time it was simply because a moment didn’t work because of fairly mundane theatrical reasons.

We have to wonder if the experience of telling a difficult story is a cathartic experience for those involved in its telling. Burton notes, “The six or so months that I worked with the family was fantastic. I can’t speak on their behalf of what their emotional experience was like, but I know a lot of them felt positively about it. I think it’s dangerous to assume these things can always be cathartic. Grief is a funny and mysterious beast. For one person it may be ‘cathartic’, for another it can be extremely dangerous. The only reason we ever went ahead with the project was that the family (who have been involved in theatre before and understood what would happen) were so enthusiastic for it. They really wanted it to happen. I feel humbled and honored to be a part of it. It remains one of the things I’m most proud of (creative work or otherwise) in my life.”

Burton is currently writing a couple of plays for school audiences with Grin and Tonic Theatre Company. He’s also writing a new work, which will premiere at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba in September. “I have a weekly podcast that I do with a mate about arts in Queensland (stuffandthings.com.au) and I’m polishing off a couple of novels that will hopefully see the light of day quite soon.”

As Director of Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre, Jones continues to seek out work that “transcends the ordinary by putting us in touch with the intangible.” He points out, “Yes, that last sentence is not logical. Perhaps it sums up my artistic heart.”

Jones’ support for new work, new talent and the growth of the industry in general does not go unnoticed. He says, “I carry with me a belief in the ability of EVERY one – artist or not – to have their life enriched by the arts. There is a lot of shit that goes on around the arts, and so I like to focus on ‘the work’. In the end it is about connecting artists to audiences and audiences are our masters.

There are audiences out there with a hunger for productions that feed them – perhaps – spiritually and it is our task to make work that transcends the ordinary.

My hope for Queensland is that we continue to acknowledge that we have some brilliant theatre makers and that we have the capacity to take that to audiences near and far – and that we do not need to validate what we do by seeking approval from afar.

It’s about the work and supporting artists to develop business models that allow them to build genuinely sustainable practice.”

Book online to see April’s Fool at the Judith Wright Centre or Nambour Civic Centre

 

 

 

25
Mar
12

the laramie project

The Laramie Project

Centenary Theatre Group

Nash Theatre

10th  – 31st March 2012

Reviewed by Meredith McLean


The irony of this production of The Laramie Project being held in a church hall made me chuckle quietly to myself. An irony you will understand if you see the play. It was a short-lived stint of laughter though. Knowing The Laramie Project from my days of my nose in a book I was well aware that despite there being funny characters this is not a comedy. I wouldn’t be surprised if you left the Nash Theatre feeling heavy hearted too.

The Laramie Project is a very unique piece of non-fiction made for stage. Moises Kaufman and his members of the Tectonic Theatre Project collaborated in the November of 1998 to bring us what is called verbatim theatre. Along the rural buck fenced landscapes of Wyoming nine members gathered in Laramie four weeks after the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. A young 21 year old university student who was gay and punished for it gravely. More disturbingly two boys had committed the crime, the same age as Matthew. Just a couple of kids like him. The play, under Moises Kaufman’s terms, is never made up of traditional scenes. Only what Kaufman calls moments, snippets of interviews with real people. Their words, the true words, being reverberated on a stage whether it be far off in New York or here in Brisbane.

The immensity of dedication to a play like this isn’t trivial. Each of the eight cast members at the Nash Theatre had at least eight roles each, some many more. There are no stagehands in this production either. Each actor must change scenery, costume and attitude unseen in the shadows. Presenting himself or herself to the spotlight one by one as a changed person. The costumes as well as setting are of a minimalist nature. This enables the actors to depend solely on their craft to portray a different person each time. With the change of a hat or maybe a table moved slightly forward it is up to the cast to convince us of who they are. In their voice, their movement and their stage presence the audience puts all of its trust in them.

This production is political. It can be solemn. At times the people will make you laugh but then you’ll understand the vastness of truth, sadness and love held by these people for the town. Whether they are Matthew Shepard’s friends or Doc the kooky, local limo driver all of them embody a strange loss for Laramie. That’s why when seeing this production the cast hold your focus intensely. So dramatically that a distraction doesn’t just catch your eye. It breaks the gravity of your attention all together. The choice to use multimedia as a means to communicate a scene or emotion was not the right choice for this play. Understandably, the black screen depicting the title of each “moment” was effective. It gave a sense of time and place. However, the pictures of a bible while talking to a priest or a snowy street in Laramie while talking of the weather were unnecessary. Watching the stage I could tell these eight talented people could easily portray the setting and the emotion needed through their performance alone. The screen constantly changing to pictures found on the Internet kept dragging my attention away from them.

Each of the cast embraced the idea of taking on a menagerie of characters embodied in one person. But three men stood out for me. They made me momentarily forget they were still the same person, then like flicking a switch they’d change and I’d be excited to see who they had become next.

Aaron Bernard first caught my attention with the slow lilting observations of Doc the limousine driver. When he looked out to the crowd and said “The last thing on earth he saw was the sparkling lights.” sadness made me shift uncomfortably in my seat. Then the jumping, twitching flurry of words from Matt Galloway the bartender made me laugh and nod along with the rhythmic storytelling Aaron portrayed.

Daren King likewise blended in and out of a range of characters with ease. There’s a certainty in his movement and voice. His confidence to intentionally look lost is what made characters like the Unitarian minister, the doctor and even one of the perpetrators seem so real.

Tom Yaxley was possibly the luckiest to experience some of the most pivotal characters in this production. I couldn’t help but secretly giggle at his portrayal of the director and chief writer, Moises Kaufman. The accent and poise was like something taken out of an interview and that’s exactly what is intended of the actor. But my favourite of all the roles Yaxley takes on is Father Roger Schmit. It’s odd to think these characters are all people taken from factual interviews and yet a real person still feels like a plot device. His powerful words, real quotes from the catholic minister, hit home and Tom Yaxley delivered them rightly so.

Dan Lane took the helm as the director of this production. His involvement with the Nash Theatre over the last two years equates to his first time directing for this particular group. His mindset is clear when you watch the actors on stage. Above all it is an actor driven performance and his dedication to that goal is apparent in the play. In the final closing of the production that last image on the stage is an excellent summary. Not only of the play but also of Dan Lane’s capacity for the stage.

This production will not lie to you. It will never promise you something it can’t deliver. Everything said and done is a refraction of the truth that occurred fourteen years ago. If you like to search for the truth or just enjoy theatre that aims to express meaningfulness The Laramie Project at the Nash Theatre is a show you need to see.


21
Mar
12

The Laramie Project – thoughts

Thoughts from Elizabeth Best, Cast Member of The Laramie Project at Nash Theatre, New Farm.

I still vividly remember how I felt the first time I saw The Laramie Project and heard Matthew Shepard’s tragic story for the first time about 8 years ago. Matt was only 21 years old where he was savagely beaten and left for dead tied to a fence in small town Laramie, Wyoming, in the USA. He suffered this horrendous attack at the hands of two other kids, and he was singled out because he was gay. I remember feeling shocked that anyone could do something like that to another human being, feeling sad that a young life was cut short and feeling hopeful that pieces of theatre like this could bring about change.


So naturally, when I heard Nash was doing Laramie, I jumped at the chance to actually be IN the show that had so captivated me all those years ago.

What is most fascinating to me is that the show is verbatim theatre, which means that the words spoken on stage are taken directly from interviews, court transcripts and other found texts; Laramie Project isn’t just based on a true story, it IS the true story – every single word of it. Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theatre Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard. They conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. They have constructed a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences.

Laramie is a show that takes a lot of work: eight actors share more than 60 roles, ranging from local bartenders, to judges, to the perpetrators themselves. My 12 characters include a Wyoming waitress, a lesbian university professor, the girlfriend of the perpetrator and the wife of a homophobic baptist minister. With this in mind, research was a huge part of my process in this show; I needed to know who these people were, where they came from, and where they ended up once the play finished. Then with that information, I needed to figure out how the heck I was going to differentiate between them all! Luckily, some of the characters came from different regions which meant different accents, then the personalities of the characters lent themselves to different voice timbres and, of course, the physicality that comes from the whopping age differences: my youngest character is 21 and my oldest is in her late 50s. And with so many characters, it’s so easy to slip into caricature, which is something I wanted to avoid. That is where the research helped and knowing that these people were real and that their stories continued on after the final words of the play.

The Laramie Project is a show that conveys an important message and shows us the human condition in its many forms; it shows frailty, weakness, hatred, brutality, caring, compassion and most of all, hope. The fact that it is a true story  – Matthew’s story – instilled in me a need to do these people and this story justice and, as one of the Laramie characters Father Roger Schmidt says, to “say it right. You need to do your best to say it correct.”

BOOK NOW

Thursday – Saturday @ 7.30pm

Nash Theatre

Merthyr Uniting Church

52 Merthyr Road, New Farm

25
Feb
12

discover love

Discover Love

Belarus Free Theatre (BLR)

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

I adore the Visy theatre. It’s that “just right” Mama Bear sized space for very special stories. What a perfectly intimate space it is for Discover Love: a heart-wrenching, horrifying, bittersweet, beautiful story, based on actual events, from the world’s most political theatre company. If you wanted to see this show in Belarus, where it’s a crime to speak out against just about everything, you would have to know somebody who knew where it was being staged. Audiences are directed to secret performance spaces using SMS and word-of-mouth. Belarus theatre workers (and their audiences) have gone underground…it’s rave theatre and I’m grateful it’s a novelty in this country – “The Lucky Country” – and not a necessity.

The Lucky Country indeed. In cruel contrast, enforced disappearances, abductions, kidnappings and torture are rife in Belarus. In fact, politically motivated people have been disappearing, all over the world, since Nazi Germany’s Nacht und Nebel Decree of 1941. They speak out (or murmur something quietly at a party or at their workplace) and suddenly they simply disappear. Relatives of those who have disappeared have said that the pain of losing their loved one is the most acute a person can experience. There is no knowing whether or not the person is alive or dead. There is only the knowledge that they are being mistreated for their beliefs.

Directed by Mikalai Khalezin, Discover Love is the true story of Irina Krasovskaya and her husband, Anatoly, told from the point of view of Ira. She reveals how, in the midst of a near-perfect marriage and a beautiful life, Toly was abducted and murdered for his assistance to the democratic body of Belarus. It’s a love story turned political story turned human story. And it pangs, though not at first. At first, Ira shares tenderly and generously, the words bubbling over one another in her impatience to paint each picture, stories told by her grandmother and remembers, fondly, evenings spent around the radio, the spritely, contented Jewish neighbours who dance and cook and smile, and (not so fondly) her diffident father, who stomps into the tiny apartment in his heavy military boots and goes again, leaving a paper bag of candy – not the chocolates Ira preferred – on the kitchen table (“A father should know what his daughter likes!”).

Pavel Gorodnitski, who steps into a number of secondary roles, also has the heavy duty of playing a traditional clay pipe (like an ocarina), to open and close the show, establishing that, although based on real events, the story to which we are privy is a play; a piece of theatre.

The actors offer energetic, heart-filled performances, all joy and strength, demonstrating a deep connection to their story and to each other; we see it during a delightful tango, choreographed by Olga Skvortsova. We breathe in with Ira, the fantastic fragrance of fresh oranges (a rare treat in so many cold countries), spilling from their plywood box, setting up some wholly sensory theatre. I always hope to experience more of this (and we do, during Neil Armfield’s production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll). It’s whole theatre, like the notion of the whole child in education, catering for every sense, every aspect of the experience. This simple joy, however, is masterfully transformed into fear and horror, as the assassin crushes the oranges underfoot on the day of Toly’s abduction, turning a symbol of goodness and beauty into a senseless, merciless act.

The space starts out clean and simple, the changing of bed linen used to bookend each chapter of the story; like the fairy bell to turn the page in your favourite Disney book, pretty handmade quilts projected onto a screen, above which are surtitles. A note on surtitles/subtitles: It often feels like we’re missing something, flicking between words and actors; missing something of the actors when having to read the surtitles or missing the precise meaning of the words whilst watching the actors. Like sitting back in our seats and tuning into the language of Shakespeare, it’s possible to follow both. It takes practice, which indicates that we should all see more foreign theatre, films and Shakespeare. (There is no shortage of great Shakespeare in Brisbane this year)! I love language – I feel sure I spoke plenty of languages in a previous life – and it was wonderful to hear the lilt and sharp edges of the Russian along with some beautiful Belarusian.

Despite Ira’s laments, Discover Love is such a light, lovely story for so long. There’s a feminine quality to the telling of it, so much innocence and joy, which is not entirely lost but becomes, unsurprisingly, a great deal darker as political events impact more directly upon the family. Harsh, interrogative lighting replaces the softer, gentler glow of happier times.

The concluding prayer, accompanied by projected images of protestors holding photographs of those who had disappeared, got me. And it got the majority of the audience, visibly, audibly; we were moved beyond words – I literally could not speak to anybody after the show about what we’d just been through together  – and a sense of solidarity was established, in a moment of sympathy and compassion for these people, whose lives are unimaginable horror. Then the audience left the sacred space of the Visy and we made our way upstairs to the bar… and what did we do with those feelings when we left? What feeling remains, long after the show is over? What now?

This is life-affecting theatre. Whether or not it’s life changing is up to the individual.

human-rights-belarus.org

amnesty.org

icaed.org