Friday, February 24, 2006


On Wednesday night I went to see The Borough at Gasworks in Albert Park. I was mildly trepidatious. All I'd heard about it was that it was a history of Port Melbourne, which doesn't to me scream 'must-see theatre' (I don't know if that phrase even makes any kind of sense, actually). But a friend directed it and some other friends had expressed interest in going (for that reason, not the subject matter) so we piled up outside some bar in Chapel St just as dusk began to spread its warm husky hues across the land.

Somebody decided it would be a good idea to grab something to eat. Time on our side, we went for a Thai-Vietnamese place with tables outside, and spoke of many things. Most of these aren't that interesting or relevant, but one thing that came up was how the biggest obstacle preventing a manned mission to Mars from taking place was that a bunch of people cooped up in a tin can for a four-year trip each way would undoubtedly end up killing each other, or something equally horrible. I mean, it only takes a few weeks on Big Brother before the honeymoon is over and people are going at each other with the wrong end of the pool cleaner.

Being amongst the finest minds of our generation, a few solutions were batted around before we got bored/ADHD kicked in:

- one of the crewmembers must be an annoying robot, and therefore the first to go (but not tragically so). Doesn't work for me.

- one of the crew members must be an annoying human, and therefore the first to go. Much better. When the others realise what they've done, there will be no more killing.

- the sole crew member must be Tom Hanks, who's been into space before and who lasted much longer on his own in Cast Away and should be fine as long as a steady supply of volleyballs is at hand. If he does go mad, it will be entertaining for Earth viewers.

- send a bunch of Buddhist monks.

Now, I wouldn't mention all of this talk if it didn't come up again later. As we were leaving Gasworks, we noticed a poster for another event coming up in the same location: namely, these guys:


They almost look like Martians themselves. But lo! Do they look suspiciously like anyone in particular?


And we'd just spent an hour learning about Port Melbourne, home of the very nice MARS gallery!


All very strange.

Anyway, opinions were divided on The Borough. Half of our number (myself incl.) enjoyed it, other half didn't. I guess I kind of like historical stuff and also the fact that now I know more about Port Melbourne than most people, which makes me feel superior and non-ignoramus-like.
But it wasn't for everyone - culled from 25 interviews with residents, it was a pretty straight delivery of various voices expressing their opinions on the good ol' days, the bad ol' days and the current over-development of the area. Played out by two actors, one of whom wrote the thing, the job was pulled off pretty smoothly and economically, with a minimal design and lighting scheme. It was part verbatim theatre, part community event, part performed lecture. If you had an interest in the area (or lived there) you'd be well off seeing it. If you're not big on historical details and parochial anecdotes, though, maybe not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kid Cool

I found this picture while randomly searching for something else in the chaos that is my working life right now, and frankly it brought on a sense of immense calm and inner peace. I want what this kid's got (the coolness, not the sunglasses or thermal jumper). I'd love this kid to answer the door at an exclusive bar. I'd like him to be the celebrant at a shotgun wedding. I'd like him to turn out to be the elusive Mr Big I've spent the better part of my police career hunting down, narrowly missing him in midnight stakeouts and spinning high-backed armchairs around to reveal nothing but a taperecorder and a ticking timebomb.

Whoever took this photo is the John Woo of children's photography.

If you're in a time of crisis or doubt, just check in on Kid Cool.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Work = Play

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, they say.

This was demonstrated to memorable effect in the hilarious comedy The Shining, in which Jack Nicholson struggles with his career as a writer while trying to juggle his roles as father and husband. I think there was a wacky sidekick in there somewhere, but I'll confess it's been a while since I saw the movie.

But back on topic: what do you do when your work INVOLVES plays? Or worse, dull plays? Please revise the aphorism IF APHORISM IT INDEED BE.

Jack: Now I am confused.

Short story - I've seen too much to write up here lately. But in brief: The Theatre @ Risk show One-Way Street was great, and if it's remounted you get yourself along to watch it. A peripatetic tour of Berlin and its history by a very unreliable English guide whose own romantic and familial past is inextricably tied into his tale-telling. Simon Kingsley Hall is so much stronger in this than in his previous work that I was pretty astonished by his performance. Even his director laughed that he'd never realised Simon would be so good at comic stuff.

Wednesday night was Jo Lloyd's Public=UN+Public, a new dance work she's choreographed with Off Nibroll (from Tokyo). It was a very charming piece visually - the multimedia projections which took up three walls of the Chunky Move Studio were top quality CGI stuff, and probably cost a pretty penny. The soundtrack was awesome as well, mostly composed of the squeaky, beatsy, staticky electronica that accompanies most contemporary movement in Melbourne these days. The dancing was for the most part as good as I've come to expect from Jo & Co, who I think is up there with the best in town at the moment. I'd call this one


That's all for now. Like I said, I've just got too much work on these days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Can Leave, Did Leave

Last weekend I went to the opening of Can't Leave Tomorrow Alone, a play whose title is suspiciously reminiscent of a Bond film. I was looking forward to it, quite a bit really, perhaps for the potential Bond-factor (I was thinking knife-throwing midgets and deadly-yet-open-minded ladies in lycra playsuits). Didn't really work out that way.

We got incest, kidnapping, psychological torture, miscarriage, human trafficking, pedophilia, bondage, irresponsible Elizabethan ruff-wearing and a whole lotta shouting. Oh, the shouting. Part of the problem with the shouting stems from the venue. When you're performing in Theatreworks in St Kilda, you have to be loud to be heard since the space is so huge. But if you're loud, you end up getting lost in your own echo. They really, really need to invest in some kind of cladding for the roof or even painting it with an absorbent coat or something. Or more curtains. I don't know - I'm just a big picture guy.

But the shouting was also a feature of the play itself, which started things off at an emotional level of about 9 or 9.5 and got to ten in a couple of minutes. Doesn't leave much room to move, there. And watching a play at that heightened emotional frequency for nearly two hours is bound to leave you with strong impressions, good or bad. In my case, I like some modulation of tone, and at times probably had a pretty sour look on my face, as if I'd just taken a gulp of milk and felt solid bits go down.

The story concerned a wealthy couple who buy a third-world baby. When baby is all grown up, we find that Dad has just gotten her pregnant and Mum is in a state of denial over the whole situation. Baby soon gets kidnapped and held prisoner by a weird, creepily zen-like dude whose face we don't see much of. The expected amount of hilarity ensues.

Helen Thomson gave the piece a right old excoriation in today's Age, and I think she went too far (there were good elements to the play, and the story had more to it than she gave credit for). But the negative aspects were too much for this viewer: after someone miscarries, is it really necessary to bring the lights up on a massive jar of tomato paste? And when someone burns their house down with themselves inside it, does tipping said jar of paste over their own head really work as a symbol? Actually, I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't the tomato jar that was behind every flaw in the play.

Maybe I'm getting it wrong. Maybe it was a Howard Barker-type Theatre of Catastrophe piece set in a contemporary and recognisable world. But then again, I've never liked Barker that much, either.

Maybe it should have been a bit more like this:

Tell me there isn't more drama and excitement in that collage than you'll find in a thousand local productions. I have no idea what those images are from, by the way, or why someone felt the need to put them all in one place.

I left Can't Leave Tomorrow Alone really quickly, and even though it wasn't opening night, I didn't even glance at the catering.

Was there even catering?

I don't know, because I didn't even glance at it.

I just mentioned that.

Are you even paying attention?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My Life, My Cheese

Like most people, I have every expectation that one day, sooner or later, I will receive a telephone call during which an anonymous caller will state their intention to make a movie of my life. I usually imagine the voice to sound remarkably like the late Orson Welles, for some reason, and in the more elaborate versions of this fantasy I am speaking into an oversized gold receiver dangling from diamond-ring encrusted fingers (my own or somebody else's).
Now, I'm not delusional. I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everybody else (especially one-legged people). As an aside, however, I have developed a method of putting on my underpants two legs at a time, which involves lying on my back on the bed or floor and flinging them up in the air while kicking wildly. It usually takes four or five attempts, but it's hell satisfying once achieved.

Anyway, since I'm not delusional, I'm fully aware that such biopics don't just come along to any old joe. That's why I've been working on several secret projects that will set me aside from the common folk once revealed (hush hush for the moment but if you're thinking "could he mean robots who look just like normal peoples?" you MAY be on the right track.

But this is also why Orson doesn't just come out and say "we want the rights to your life and we're already two weeks into shooting with several leading Hollywood actors including Denzel Washington in an uncredited cameo as your fictionalised half-brother/table tennis coach". What he says is more like "we're going to begin with a six month development period in which we workshop the script we're using and conduct test readings with real live audiences".

And so it was with interest that I went to a reading on Monday. The script in question was a play, not a film, and it didn't so much tell the story of one interesting man's life as it did explore the grim future offered by cloning technology. Futur Deluxe is by an acclaimed Swiss playwright, and now that I think of it, Orson Welles made a famous comment about the Swiss in his film The Third Man. It was something about nothing ever coming out of Switzerland except cuckoo clocks. There was more to it than that but I'm so lazy I'm not even going to google it.

The play reading was a pleasant enough experience, comfortable and presented in the attractive environs of fortyfivedownstairs. The cast were mostly good, but I just couldn't get excited about the script. Cloning is not and never will be an interesting subject for a play, and if it does feature in a decent script it will be a 'despite' thing, not a 'because of' deal. A conversation afterwards included something along the lines of "it might have been a better play if the whole cloning bit was cut out", and if somebody is saying your play might be better without its central theme, you might want to rethink things.

The Theatre @ Risk crew have been responsible for some outstanding stuff, and this was just one of a week of different play readings they're doing alongside the season of performances of One Way Street which I'm seeing on Sunday. Since Futur Deluxe was the first of this season, opening night featured catering from some Swiss folks (might have been the embassy). That meant pretty good wine and bucketloads of cheese - white cheese, Swiss cheese and the biggest monster-truck-wheel-sized block of blue I've ever clapped eyes upon. And it was all great, in that "ewww, I think I'm sweating cheese" post-event manner. But kudos to the Swiss for a fine spread.

NOTE: this scene will probably be cut from the final script of my life.