Archive | October, 2013

Love Field

29 Oct

Billed as ‘a flight of fantasy’, this is a theatrical confection, a fascinating non-typical Australian play.

It’s a conversation between Lyndon Johnson and Jackie Kennedy, set only hours after JFK’s assassination.

Despite being peppered with historical allusion, Ron Elisha’s play is not an attempt to present a truthful account. But it’s certainly engaging, thought provoking theatre.

Photo by Tessa Tran, Breathing Light Photography

Photo by Tessa Tran, Breathing Light Photography

Director Michael Dean elicits eminently watchable performances from both Ben Wood and Lizzie Schebesta.

And Nick Plummer and Susan Millar have done a wonderful job of transforming the simple downstairs TAP white box theatre into the interior of AirForce One.

With two famous people and their milieu presented the play becomes, if not hagiography, then certainly an exhibition of icons. Johnson and Kennedy as political royalty? This is a fascinating tension. America is a democracy, isn’t it? And aren’t we?

The play is an exploration of the connection between the personal and the political.

It can be tempting to believe that our politics (and our morality) are something we attempt to live up to, a guide for our behavior. But a piece that looks at the personal lives of the politically powerful can draw attention to the possibility that our politics are often simply self serving.

And, of course, we’re all politically powerful.

And it’s self serving to assume we are not.

Veronica Kaye

Love Field by Ron Elisha

Downstairs TAP til Nov 2

http://www.bakehousetheatrecompany.com.au/

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An Ordinary Person

29 Oct

This one’s a conversation starter.

It’s a truism that our response to a play is based on our personal taste. But it’s often assumed that our taste in theatre is similar to (say) our preference for a particular flavour of ice cream.  It’s thought to be an almost physical response, beyond our control. Like sexual orientation.

I constantly argue that it’s not. Our taste in theatre is based (enormously, though not entirely) on assumptions I would class as political, and therefore assumptions which can be, and should be, questioned.

Pic Katy Green Loughrey

Pic Katy Green Loughrey

Despite being billed as a comedy, Robert Allan’s play is a passionate exploration of a controversial and crucial issue. This highly intriguing play explores the concept of victimhood.

My political assumptions about seeing oneself as a victim could be stated in this way:

  1. What we can give up does us good.
  2. What is taken away from us does us harm.

Do my ideas align with those presented by the play? On the balance, I would say no.

Director Julie Baz draws some good performances from her cast. (I particularly enjoyed Carla Nirella’s portrayal of a woman navigating issues of loyalty and morality.)

This is confronting new work. As it should be.

Do see it, and be prepared for some lively post show discussion.

Veronica Kaye

 

An Ordinary Person by Robert Allan

Old Fitz til 16 Nov

http://www.sitco.net.au/

Reading Reviews

17 Oct

Every artist knows there’s an art to reading reviews.

Or maybe not an art. Maybe a wine list. Or there should be.

But as a writer about theatre, I have a confession. I enjoy reading reviews of plays after I’ve seen them.

I know this makes nonsense of the idea that reviews are consumer advice. Rather like drinking from some random bottle you find under the sink and then reading the label.

I avoid reviews before seeing the play because everything feels like a spoiler.

I like to sit down to Hamlet and be surprised. “Oh, it’s in Swahili this time.”

I like to read reviews after I’ve seen the play because I don’t particularly want to know about the play. (I’ve seen it.) I want to know about the reviewer.

Or more precisely, I want to know about another person. I want to know what they value.

Because we do value different things. In aesthetics. In morality. In politics.

There is a danger to living in a pluralistic society that openly acknowledges this: we can forget to be truly amazed at how varied is the human experience. We can reduce the idea we value different things into a mere truism. But each one of us gazes through a different window. To……….. where?  I want a peek.

Reviewers say ‘Have a look through this window.’ And I want to thank them for that.

And to mix imagery, and to return to artists, let me conclude with this:

Theatre makers are like nuclear physicists. With every play they fire up the old particle accelerator. A handful of particles are energized beyond the expected and then are sent speeding towards a larger more inert mass. And in the collision we all discover a little more about the universe.

Veronica Kaye

The Good, The Bad and The Lawyer

16 Oct

The centre of this play is Henry Crowley, played by Mark McCann. A comfortable lawyer, his world is rocked when his wife (Tricia Youlden) decides to sponsor an asylum seeker (Geoff Sirmai). And to add to Henry’s discomfort, his very working class cousin (Marc Kay) drops in. It’s not good timing; all Henry wants is to present the image of successful stability to a journalist from the Financial Review (Brigid O’Sullivan).

There’s some good laughs in Tony Laumberg’s script and director Richard Cotter elicits big fun comedic performances from his whole team.

GBL 37 - Mark+Tricia

The character traits satirized are self importance and narrow mindedness.

The power of theatre is its concrete nature. No airy abstractions here, not when there are flesh and blood characters so close we could almost touch them.

This is also theatre’s weakness. Henry Crowley in all his glory – parochial and devoid of generosity of spirit – is a particular man.

That man.

Not me.

How many people have sat in a theatre and tried to find comfort in that belief?

Veronica Kaye

The Good, The Bad and The Lawyer

TAP Gallery until 27 Oct

http://www.tapgallery.org.au/2013/09/the-good-the-bad-the-lawyer-starts-october-10-early-bird-offers-2/

Roberto Zucco

7 Oct

With my no doubt frustrating tendency to write philosophy instead of theatre criticism, it might be expected I’d take this play about a serial killer and use it as a launch pad to discuss that old chestnut – “the nature of evil”.

But I won’t. Instead, I’ll use it as an excuse to write about conventionality.

Zucco’s violence, and the responses to it, are symbolic. This is not a blood thirsty play. It’s an amusing and engaging exploration of rebellion.

It begins with the murderer escaping a supposedly inescapable prison. The prison guards are conventional, in the sense they don’t see it coming, and conventional in that they’re characters virtually out of commedia. Played with a wonderful sense of fun by Neil Modra and Sam Dugmore, they return later in the proceedings as gloriously keystone-like cops.

Zucco, played with marvelous energy by Tim Cole, baffles those around him because he is so unexpected. We follow his extraordinary journey.

Photography by Katy Green Loughrey

Photography by Katy Green Loughrey

He has a whirlwind romance with a young girl. Played with a fascinating balance between naivety and dissent by Gemma Scoble, she longs to escape the expectations placed upon her by her family. Their only concern is that she’s marriageable material and can follow the conventional path.

In a powerfully tense scene, Zucco talks to an old gentleman who is lost in the subway. He’s taken a wrong turn, and is confused and vulnerable. Adrian Barnes plays this brilliantly, capturing the deep doubt of one who suddenly finds the world larger than he had ever imagined.

Later, Zucco kidnaps an “elegant lady”. She is more than willing. This is her chance to escape from her stultifying middle class world. Kirsty Jordan, harmonizing humour and dignity, creates a character whose authority and strength drive her to challenge the very milieu that originally empowered her.

Director Anna Jahjah has drawn from her entire cast engaging performances. I particularily loved Lyn Pierse’s joyfully larger than life characterisations.

Martin Crimp’s translation of Bernard-Marie Koltes’ play is rich and intriguing. There are some delectable speeches.

This play is part of a European tradition. Think Jean Genet. Criminality as rebellion.

It’s a risky symbol. And no justification is offered for Zucco.

It just throws it out there the idea that conventionality is problematic. It offers no alternative.

But what alternative can there be?

To live Life fully – and this play reminds us Life can be over much sooner than we imagined! – to live Life fully, we cannot pretend to know it in advance.

Veronica Kaye

 

Roberto Zucco 

Old Fitzroy until 19 Oct

http://www.sitco.net.au/

 

 

Singled Out

4 Oct

I had a friend, who desperately needing to get somewhere, stole a car. I don’t know where it was he was so keen to go, but unless his desired destination was Goulburn Correctional Facility, his decision proved an unwise one.

When he was released, I asked what it had been like. Apparently, apart from the obvious fact he couldn’t leave, the experience wasn’t so bad. Free food. Free accommodation. The only problem? The company. “I had to spend a whole year of my life with a bunch of criminals,” he said.

Other people.

They’re a challenge.

And increasing numbers of us are choosing to live alone.

Why we are choosing this, and what are its consequences, is the subject matter of Augusta Supple’s Singled Out.

Josipa Draisma in Grace De Morgan's "Ikea". Photo by Marnya Rothe

Josipa Draisma in Grace De Morgan’s “Ikea”.
Photo by Marnya Rothe

Supple has pulled together a brilliant team of writers and actors. In a series of playlets, this team explores the phenomena from multiple angles. It makes for a fascinating night of theatre. There’s powerfully delivered monologues, cute puppetry and some good laughs.

I don’t write reviews. I write about what theatre makes me think about.

This production made me think about solipsism – the belief that other people don’t really exist.

It made me think this because the choice to live alone smacks strongly of a desire to avoid others. I make no moral judgement. In fact, I’m going to argue the opposite of what you might suppose.

Solipsism, or the question of whether other people actually exist, is a fascinating philosophical issue. I don’t mean it’s interesting in the sort of silly way, that as an undergraduate student, I cut my teeth on arguments about whether the chair I was sitting on was actually there. It’s interesting because it asks me to question how seriously I take the proposition that other people are independent of me and hence equal to me.

The acceptance of the actual existence of others is the great ethical challenge.

A clever monologue begins Singled Out. Performed by Roland Baker and written by Luke Carson, it cheekily asks what are the economic ramifications of the trend to single living. People are reduced to dollars.

It’s only too easy to reduce those around us, both locally and globally, to something less than human. Other people become extras in our private movie, tin soldiers in our conflicts, annoying randoms in the crowd. We don’t take them, or their needs, seriously.

Accepting that other people are independent of us (that is, real) doesn’t mean we’re isolated from them. In fact, the contrary is the case. Acceptance of true otherness is how a relationship begins. Otherwise it’s just exploitation. Or neglect. I can only understand someone else’s needs when I actually listen to them and not merely play games with the toy version of them I have in my head.

The decision to live alone is an assertion of independence. It’s also a potent symbol for an authentic life, the beginning point where both ourselves and others are given the space to be acknowledged and appreciated as individuals.

It was an exciting theatrical decision for Augusta Supple to explore the concept of living alone, and with an engaging and no doubt deliberate irony, the result is stimulating examination of our relationship with others.

Veronica Kaye

Singled Out

Seymour Centre til 12 Oct

http://www.seymourcentre.com/events/event/singled-out/

Writers: Vanessa Bates, Wayne Blair, Sarah Carradine, Luke Carson, Emma Magenta, Grace De Morgan, Tim Spencer, Alli Sebastian Wolf

Performers: Amanda Stephens Lee, Bali Padda, Rosie Lourde, Josipa Draisma, Leofric Kingsford -Smith, Amber McMahon, Roland Baker, Eloise Snape, Richard Cox, Alex Bryant-Smith, Paul Armstrong and Kate Fitzpatrick

Theatre and Judgement

2 Oct

We have a predilection to judgement. It’s a good thing. It powers our moral life. Only the most naive think that a predetermined set of  rules can guide you through the complexities we face. We constantly have to judge the best course of action.

However, our faculty of judgement is often corrupted. An example of this is when we judge the person not the behaviour.

Is it also possible that it’s a corruption of our faculty of judgement when we apply it to art? I appreciate this is a radical suggestion.

Imagine you were on a panel to determine which theatre maker might receive a $1 million grant. (I’m obviously assuming you have a healthy imagination.) Unless you’re going to pull a name out of a hat, your decision must be based on something. Perhaps you will suggest the grant be given to the artist whose work would most benefit society. (This, of course, would be difficult to determine, but that’s why judgement is a serious matter.) If you choose to give the money in this way you would be making a moral judgement.

However, if you merely attend an evening of theatre and afterwards make a judgement, what is the moral component? I’m not arguing there isn’t one. Perhaps you’ll judge the production to be promoting racism or sexism. Or joy and acceptance. Or you might simply decide it’s presenting an unnecessarily narrow vision of life.

But if you judge the acting to be poor, or the costumes to be garish, what exactly is the moral component?

Well, it might be you who is promoting an unnecessarily narrow vision of life.

Of course, you could counter that I’m ignoring the category of aesthetic judgement altogether, or unfairly collapsing it into a minor subset of ethics.

Perhaps I am.

And perhaps my qualms about the passion sometimes displayed in our aesthetic judgements are indeed misplaced, and we should shout and scream about what happens on our stages, and in our stories, while somewhere else children quietly starve.

Veronica Kaye.