Archive | September, 2012

Grimm tales

13 Sep

On the way to Grimm Tales last night, I stopped off for a drink with a friend at a little atmospheric bar.  Glass of wine in hand, he leaned towards me in the soft light, and said that I reminded him of ……an Old Testament wisdom writer.

I don’t care what people say, I don’t think anyone looks good in mood lighting.

Feeling as old as Methuselah, I arrived at TAP Gallery, and was uplifted.

Grimm Tales is a collection of the stories of the Brothers Grimm engagingly adapted by Carol Ann Duffy and Tim Supple. The directors of this production, Sepy Baghaei and Ava Stangherlin, have created a show that’s inventive and fun. The cast deliver vibrant performances.

The Grimm Brothers were not wisdom writers. They were collectors. Fired by nineteenth century romanticism and its insight that in a radically changing world much was about to be lost, they collected European folk tales. Despite the sanitized versions most of us know, the original stories (and here we get something much closer to the original) are wild old things; violent, passionate and (many would argue) morally dubious.

The received wisdom is that stories, all stories, are our attempt to impose meaning on the otherwise random nature of Life. They are attempts to force Life to fit.

But I left last night’s production musing on exactly what it is that stories do. To say they impose meaning is such a violent image, and one that reveals bad faith about the great human experiment. Sure, the subject matter of stories may be violent, but is story making itself violent? Spiders spin, birds sing and we tell stories. Are our stories a battle against Life? Or are they our natural birth right?

Veronica Kaye

Grimm Tales

Adapted by Carol Ann Duffy and Tim Supple

TAP Gallery til Sat 15th

http://2012.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/grimm-tales

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The Case of Katherine Mansfield

12 Sep

Often, when actors claim something is truthful, you hear this quite disconcerting sound. If you were to try to describe it, I guess you’d call it a ‘rolling’.

It’s my eyes, rolling back into my head.

Ok, it’s not just actors. We all suffer from this temptation: the desire to express undeserved certitude.

When we declare something to be the Truth, often we’re simply attempting to ensure that things are viewed in a particular way. Our declarations of Truth are political actions, shaping perceptions of the world, and so the world itself, to our advantage.

Perhaps this is an overly dark vision of humanity. In it, the opposite of Truth is not falsity, but honesty.

Honesty is an openness to doubt and to less than pleasant truths about ourselves. It’s a commitment to further enquiry and to representations of reality that aren’t merely self serving.

Honesty is a virtue. Its twin sister is courage.

Katherine Mansfield was an unflinchingly honest writer. She was also a courageous writer. To observe, and acknowledge, the injustices we commit and the suffering we endure is not just a skill. It’s a moral act.

The Case of Katherine Mansfield by Cathy Downes is compiled from Katherine’s writings. A mixture of published and unpublished words, the piece is incredibly moving.

If there was a challenge to presenting text that wasn’t initially written for the stage, Downes and director Ashley Hawkes have more than successfully overcome it.

In this production Katherine is played by Rosanna Easton. Katherine Mansfield is extraordinary. Rosanna Easton is extraordinary.

I cried. I nearly sobbed.

(It’s been a long while since I’ve sobbed at the theatre. And that time my mother relented and bought me another choc top.)

To be affected by this piece you don’t need to have read any Katherine Mansfield beforehand. But you’ll want to read some afterwards.

Honesty comes from making close observation, of others and of yourself. It’s an acknowledgement that little things can matter. It’s an appreciation of the value, and rarity, of small kindnesses. It’s an acceptance that, sometimes, the divine is in the detail.

Veronica Kaye

The Case of Katherine Mansfield

13, 14, 15 Sept

Mr Falcon’s 92 Glebe Point Road

http://2012.sydneyfringe.com/event/theatre/case-katherine-mansfield-cathy-downes

I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard

5 Sep

I don’t, actually. I’d settle for a warm handshake. And a little intellectual conversation.

So I don’t want to sleep with Tom Stoppard. Toby Schmitz on the other hand…..

I saw a preview of this show. But as many artists know, every performance is a preview. The real action happens later, in the audience’s hearts and minds. Perhaps in the foyer afterwards. Perhaps in the car on the way home. Perhaps when we next choose to replace a harsh word with a soft one, or a simplistic explanation with a gentle smile of bafflement.

I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard is replete with knowledge about the biz and that’s part of its charm. It’s well aware of the theatre world’s foibles, and of the many challenges faced by artists.

Schmitz’s script is clever and very engaging. There are some great situational set-ups and plenty of terrific one-liners. (In some circles, the one-liner is denigrated. It’s not part of naturalism’s doctrine;  it allows characters to be as intelligent as the artists who create them. And that’s a dangerous heresy, for how then would artists be special? )

Director Leland Kean has cast well and elicits winning performances from the entire team. I found Caroline Brazier as the actress (sic) particularly poignant.

Now, everyone’s a critic. Except me. I write about what plays make me think. (For the audience every performance is a preview.)

And what did I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard make me think about?

Early in the play the question of the value of theatre is aired. It then remains suspended in the play’s atmosphere, a thin mist but one impossible to avoid, regardless of the personal stories that unfold.

Of course, the question ‘what is the value of theatre?’ contains a category error. It’s like asking ‘what’s the weather pattern of Wednesdays?’ There’s no such pattern.

There is no ‘value of theatre’. There’s nothing so distinct and clear and unassailable that can transcend the flurry and fuss of life. Sometimes, at their weaker moments, artists would like there to be. Then their challenges – and they are many – would be easier to face.

But whatever value there is in theatre is dependent on too many variables, the audience being one. For every performance is a preview……

Veronica Kaye

I want to sleep with Tom Stoppard

Bondi Pavillion til 22nd Sept

http://rocksurfers.org/