Archive | February, 2013

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

24 Feb

It’s difficult to say anything intelligent about sex. Fortunately, it’s easy to say something interesting.

Is that just the way we’re made?

To prepare for a Tennessee Williams’ play, I drank a bottle and a half of bourbon, imagined men’s eyes boring through my clothes, and had my date rip open his shirt while yelling ‘VERONICAAAA!!!!’

It must have worked, because I enjoyed Simon Stone’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I enjoyed the performances, especially Alan Dukes as Gooper and Lynette Curran as Big Mama.

I enjoyed the staging, with the turntable working both as a source of humour and tension.

I went away with plenty to think about. Like, how am I going to get me one of those turntables?

The world of Williams is one in which people are driven by animal passions, find that difficult to accept, and so lie to themselves.

This myth accounts for much of the popularity of Williams (that, and the fact he writes like angel.)

It’s a myth that well serves the needs of contemporary Australia. It tells us that we don’t have to live ethical lives. Or, more precisely, that the only moral demand upon us is the one to be truthful. We’re allowed to selfish. In fact, it’s natural.  The only crime is to pretend it’s not the way things are meant to be.

I’m probably talking in ridiculously general terms. (Perhaps I’m being passionately inaccurate.) But this myth is the meta-myth of the plays – the assumptions about  life so intrinsic to the work, that go so deep, that we have difficulty recognising them. Is this what makes  a great playwright? Someone who writes so well that we take their vision of life to be the thing itself?

Of course, in 1955, when it premiered, this play may have been valued for very different reasons. For example, its acceptance of homosexuality was probably groundbreaking. And who could pretend that issue has been resolved?

And let me use that idea to further illustrate my point. If we truly were the passionate creatures that inhabit the Williams’ world, why does it takes so long to resolve issues of obvious injustice? We are yet to legalise homosexual marriage. So many of us are supposedly passionate about it. Yet what have we personally done about it?

That is why the myth is attractive. We use it to tell ourselves that our self obsession is exciting, that as we pay our mortgages and perfect our Pad Thais we’re doing something thrilling.

We’re not.

Let us be truly passionate.

Veronica Kaye

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Belvoir, then Theatre Royal, til April 21

http://belvoir.com.au/

Advertisements

A Critic’s Curse

23 Feb

This is one of the things they teach you at reviewer school. Usually on a Friday afternoon, when everything is old.

The Critic’s Curse on Theatre Makers

“May no-one understand your work.

May no-one appreciate your effort.

May my condemnation be taken at its word.

May audiences stay at home, or prefer elective surgery, to your play.

May you touch no-one, as you will not touch me.

May you move no-one, as you will not move me.

May your audience feel only the dryness of their throats, the hardness of their seats, the passing of time.

DSCF9664

May your production be as ephemeral as the melting dew, or the breaking dawn, while my judgement be as eternal and effortless as the ubiquitous electronic screen.

May no-one share your joy, but know only obligation, as I have.

And though you bless all creation with your celebration, may it be only my cold evaluation that remains.”

Veronica Kaye

Dreams in White

20 Feb

Theatre is a result of sloppy thinking.

It’s the consequence of a lazy habit, endemic to our culture.

We take for granted the concepts of character, identity and personality.

As a child I had a black Labrador.  Drawing on all the vast imaginative resources for which children are famous, I called him Blacky.

Blacky was my dog.

But one day, to my horror, I discovered that a neighbour allowed Blacky inside her house and even kept a bowl for him. And called him Cuddles.

It was a betrayal I struggled with for years – right until the poor thing took his final trip to the vet.

And while I grieved Blacky, my neighbour grieved Cuddles.

But the true tragedy was that neither of us knew his real name.

Dreams in White by Duncan Graham is a superbly crafted play. The ensemble is brilliant. Director Tanya Goldberg’s production is eminently watchable.

Both-families-2a-591x480

It tells the story of a man who lives a secret double life.

It’s an appealing myth.

I don’t mean these things don’t happen. Far from it. Walk into any police station and undoubtedly you could hear shocking tales of duplicity from some hard-as-nails-tough-talking senior detective (that’s if he’s got the time before he rushes off to his next ballet lesson.)

What I mean is that the possibility of a secret double life is the sort of thing we like to believe.

It makes our privileged predictable lives seem more exciting.

(I have a secret dual life. I write these responses to theatre, but at the same time  I’m also the artistic director of an ubercool indie company that produces – fearlessly and without funding –  edgy original life changing work. But some would say this is merely fantasy.)

Some would also say that the extremity of the double life presented in this thought provoking play makes the issue seem an aberration or a rarity.

But it should be no surprise we live double (or even triple or quadruple) lives. A little self reflection tells us we are complex. The tragedy is that it’s other people we reduce to mere personalities, identities, characters. Sloppy thinking.

And we shouldn’t forget the contrasting phenomena either. From the inside we know we are complex, but we usually expend an extraordinary amount of energy denying this.  Our lives often become unrelenting attempts to maintain a simple singular vision of ourselves. I am good. Or I am clever. The effort involved in this self creation is extraordinary. And totally misguided.

Veronica Kaye

Dreams in White

at Griffin until 23 March

http://www.griffintheatre.com.au/

MilkMilkLemonade

14 Feb

Creation is God playing Hide and Seek with herself.

She knows herself.

And now she doesn’t.

She becomes the role.

Then remembers she’s the actor.

Milk Milk Lemonade is that sort of exuberant game. Director Melita Rowston’s production of Josh Conkel’s play is superb.

‘Do you mind if I take off my shoes? I can’t dance in them,’ says Emory, played brilliantly by Mark Dessaix. It’s a poignant moment, a moving symbol of liberation. Yet it’s said by a young boy play acting he’s an older girl at her high school prom.

Hide and Seek.

Towering over this production is a giant chicken, designer Antoinette Barbouttis’ ingenious way of presenting the processing plant that dominates the poultry farm where the play is set. Chain smoking Nanna, played by Pete Nettell with a wonderfully larger than life small mindedness, tells Emory that it’s the chicken’s role to be eaten.

And there’s that enormous chicken – an ominous warning. Whatever roles we choose to play, we can’t let others decide them for us.

And Linda the Chicken, played by Sarah Easterman, fights the role Nanna gives her, delivering a beautiful hard-boiled-in-ya-face stand up routine, one of the many crazy elements in this joyous play.

Keiran Foster as Elliot, Emory’s love interest, gives an energetic jack in the box performance. Elliot is painfully trying to push his burgeoning sexuality back into a more conventional box, only to have it explode out again.

We’re not all of one piece, and to underline the point, Conkel gives Elliot an evil parasitic twin, played to kooky perfection by Leah Donovan. “Punch the faggot” the twin says to Elliot.

At another moment Donovan is Starlene, Emory’s doll, forbidden to the boy by narrow minded Nanna.  And it’s Donovan’s performance, as Starlene, of I’ve been to Paradise (but I’ve never been to me) that sums up the play.

It’s a performance that’s deliciously subversive. It asks ‘What – exactly – is a genuine life’?

We play roles. We forget we play roles. We remember. That is the glorious game of life.

And everyone should be allowed to join in.

Veronica Kaye

MilkMilkLemonade

New Theatre til 2 March

http://www.newtheatre.org.au/