Friday, 15 October 2004

Outside In by Graham Pitts, Oct 15, 2004

Outside In by Graham Pitts
MPAC Arts Inc.
Atherton Gardens Housing Estate, Every 30 mins from 6pm-8.30pm,  Oct 15 to 23, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Director of Outside In, Graham Pitts, creates an inspired and moving community theatre project inside a public housing estate in Fitzroy.

Outside In is part of a community development project in the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate. The previous project, Inside Out, involved residents of the flats and professional artists in a show at Fitzroy Town Hall.

This project invites non-residents inside four flats in two of the 20 storey high rise blocks. We experience a potted historical version of the evolution of the population since the building of the blocks by Henry Bolte in the 1960s.

Security is the most pressing issue for residents. Providing doormen and encouraging a sense of community are effective ways to create security.

Our small group is guided up lifts, through security doors, down stairwells, past views that trigger vertigo, past building renovations and across the darkened grounds between buildings.

We begin in the 1960s at a mock replication of an immigrants' induction meeting which is run by a John Howard look alike (Stig Wemyss OK) with conservative views of cultures other than Anglo-Aussie. He makes the Chinese women sing Road to Gundagai.

Each flat is designed (Simon Doe) in the style of its period. Our first visit is to a flat representing the 1960s. The walls are plastered with copies of newspapers of the period.

European immigrants lived alongside Australians. An Estonian singer (Ann Kirss OK) is interrupted by the next door Aussie (John Connolly) who complains he can't hear his radio over her singing.

In this flat we are served vodka, view Estonian books and feel the bleakness of these small, cold rooms.

Flat Two is the 1970's when many Vietnamese and Timorese refugees arrived.
Vietnamese singer, Liz Thanh Cao (OK) and The Vietnamese Mothes's Group, sing two poignant songs: My Poor Village and Longing. Others serve chicken soup, spring rolls and bubble tea.

The 1980s saw an influx of refugees from the Middle East and China. A shy and charming Chinese family serves Chinese tea,  displays family photos and sings.
In another room, a Kurdistani musician (Fadil Sunar) sings and plays the Saz.

Flat Four houses an installation of taped interviews and is an homage to those who have been denied accommodation or asylum. In partial darkness, a community choir sings, Anything Can Happen to Anyone Anytime. (Musical Director, Jennie Swain)

Outside In is a moving reminder of the need for community and that anything can happen to anyone - anytime.

LOOK FOR:  The stairwell singers.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 14 October 2004

Melbourne Festival shows seen in Oct 2004

Via Dolorosa, David Hare, Oct 11, 2004 (engaging without any actorly style at all)
Men in Tribulation, Oct 11, 2004
Return of Ulysses, Playhouse, Oct 13, 2004
A Quarrelling Pair, Oct 13, 2004
Sandakan Threnody, Oct 14, 2004
The Call, Playbox, Oct 16, 2004
Buskers' Opera, Robert Le Page, Oct 20, 2004 (Disappointing and muddled, incorporating too many styles)

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

The Diary Project, IRAA Theatre, Oct 15, 2004

The Diary Project, IRAA Theatre
By Renato Cuocolo & Roberta Bossetti   
Melbourne Festival of Arts
George Adams Gallery, Arts Centre October 13 to 23, 2004
 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 15, 2004

The Diary Project, directed by Renato Cuocolo, performed by Roberta Bossetti, casts us as voyeurs. Both director and actor are living for two weeks inside the fishbowl of the George Adams Gallery.

They moved their entire house - bed, table and chairs, sofa, lamps, books, stereo - into the gallery and are visible day and night through a window.

This project continues on from The Interior Sites Project in which a tiny audience was invited into their home for an intimate dinner, a sleepover and personal disclosures from Bossetti.

The Diary Project is based on a diary written by Bossetti and Cuocolo beginning on 1 January, 2004. It tracks their daily lives, decisions to leave Melbourne, travel to Los Angeles and Italy.

Part One concentrates on January-February when they left Melbourne. Entries are mostly impersonal, casual observations with occasional more intimate references. Bossetti muses on homelessness, travel, a funeral home, the death of her uncle and notions of memory.

The piece is enlivened and most effective when the action is emotional or when Bossetti employs her considerable acting skills rather than simply reading.

The greatest attraction is Bossetti's easy, sensual charm. She wears a long sleeved white leather dress with revealing and distracting side slits.

She addresses us directly, prowls the space or sits on the bed, reads under a lamp, kicks off her shoes, lies on the bed in which they will sleep.
Cuocolo prompts her with questions, like a journalist. "Tell us about January 21." or "What do you remember about the funeral home?"

It is difficult to judge The Diary Project as a whole from one 50 minute performance. There are four components as well as shorter daily readings. What we cannot assess is the impact of the entire live-in event.

Part Two is written in Vercelli, Part Three in Rome and Part Four is a composite of the LA, Melbourne and Italy diary entries up to Sept 22. The tone and form of the performance might change for these three parts.

We have expectations that the leather diary will illuminate her experiences and make the personal dramatic. However, Part One lacks passion and a dramatic through line.

Compared with the intense insights, personal revelations and poetic form of The Secret Room, Part One of The Diary Project seems superficial.

By Kate Herbert 

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

uBUNG by Josse De Pauw & Koen Gisen, Oct 12, 2004

uBUNG by Josse De Pauw & Koen Gisen  
By Victoria (Belgium)
Melbourne Festival of Arts
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, October 12 to 17, 2004 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

UBUNG, by Belgian company, Victoria, is unlike any other show. It tickles, disturbs and yet is deceptively simple. Many shows incorporate film, but uBUNG does it differently.

Director and writer, Josse De Pauw, is also on of six adult actors who appear on screen. Three men and two women are captured on film during a very dysfunctional, very middle class dinner party in a comfortable home in a leafy region.

For most of the 75 minutes, their voices are muted while, on stage, young teenagers dub the adult voices with uncanny and often comical accuracy.

UBUNG works on several levels. Firstly, it is delightfully entertaining to hear the childish voices replicating the drunken babblings of adults and see them lip sync the dialogue so perfectly.

Secondly, we experience a peculiar reality shift as we witness the children dressing up in replicas of the adults costumes.

At a deeper level, because of the overlaying of child and adult, we are jolted into acknowledging that these adults are not grown ups at all, but children who have access to more intoxicants and experience greater social and personal problems.

We recognise that these children will become these adults in 20 years. uBUNG means ' practice' and this is what the children are doing; practising to be grown ups. uBUNG asks question about what we are teaching our children and how they interpret it.

The heightened performances on screen are rivetting. De Pauw plays Robert, the frisky host who is bored with his melancholy wife, Rolanda, (Carly Wys) and attracted to Ria, (Lies Pauwels) the dizzy, young, blonde wife of his philistine friend, Ivo. (Dirk Roofthooft)

The fifth wheel at the party is Olivier, (Bernard Van Eeghem) an eccentric, middle aged mother's boy who recites poetry with childish actions.

The sixth adult on screen is Georgy (George Van Dam) a Russian concert violinist with whom Rolanda is infatuated and who is bemused by the entire group.

Although the children lip sync to the large screen and on-stage monitors, there is no attempt to make them engage in all the ridiculous sexual antics, confused bickerings or ungainly violence of the adults. They engage and disengage with their characters with ease as taking on and off their costume.

UBUNG is performed predominantly in Flemish but the themes and characters are universal.

LOOK FOR:  Olivier's absurd rendition of a poem with actions.

By Kate Herbert

Sunday, 10 October 2004

Alladeen, motiroti, Melbourne Festival, Oct 10, 2004

The Builders Association  & motiroti

Melbourne Arts Festival
Playhouse, Arts Centre, October 10, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There are two striking elements in Alladeen: the digital set design and the schizophrenic cultural identities of workers in an Indian call centre.

Two companies from two nations collaborate on the Alladeen project: The Builders Association, from New York, and motiroti, from London. Both focus their work on new technologies, visual design, sound and performance.

The show is in three parts. It begins on a street in New York, moves to a call centre in Bangalore, India, that services American companies, and ends in a karaoke bar in London.

In New York we see a multi-lingual woman booking flights to London by phone. Her phone conversations are peculiar because her salesperson is an Indian thousands of cultural miles away.

The digital images (Keith Khan, Ali Zaidi, Christopher Kondek) create an astonishingly, real and vivid stage design of New York and London. Silhouetted actors walking through projected images delight the audience.

It is Bangalore that gives the production its heart. As we watch live actors, (Rizwan Mirza, Heaven Phillips, Tanya Selvaratnam, Jasmine Simhalan, Jeff Webster) we see their real, Indian call centre counterparts on screen.

Five Indians train to erase their cultural identity and mother tongue accent, acquire an American twang and assimilate geographical and cultural information that will convince a caller from Arizona that they are from some US city.

Such cultural schizophrenia, cultural appropriation and massive deception are an outrage to anyone that values truth or believes a global village produces grotesque homogeneity.

These young people are only successful if their personality is subsumed by some amorphous, US television personality.

New York highlights the multiple voices of our world. London has a less clear intention, perhaps to parallel, in the bar, the anonymity of our world. 'Joey', from Bangalore, sits alone, en route to a phone sales conference, the New York woman phones home, people dance or sing, ignoring each other.

The references and images from the Aladdin story and its various manifestations in film are stretched too far. New technology being a genie, making our every dream come true, has a rather tenuous connection in Alladeen.

We are confronted by a collision of cultures, the global economy and American commercial imperialism. But we are left craving more connection with these five people in Bangalore.

LOOK FOR:  The replication of a New York street.

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 8 October 2004

Eureka! (The Musical) October 8, 2004

 Music by Michael Maurice Harvey, Book by Gale Edwards & John Senczuk, Lyrics by Maggie May Gordon, John Senczuk and Gale Edwards  
  produced by Simon Gallaher and Michael Harvey
Where and When: Her Majesty's Theatre  October 8 to 22, 2004    
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on October 8 to 22, 2004 

 Devil's Mistress Gold, the opening number of Eureka, augurs well for a vibrant, new musical production. The first half produces the goods, although the second is too long with too many reprises.

The colourful score (Michael Maurice Harvey) follows the major musical styles and provides a couple of memorable songs although none stick in the mind overnight. Lyrics (Maggie May Gordon, John Senczuk, Gale Edwards) are witty and engaging. 

The Eureka story is one of Australia's few rebellions. Although small, it lends itself to an epic narrative, grand musical form and has echoes of Les Miserables.

The hero of the Eureka Stockade was Irish engineer, Peter Lalor (Ian Stenlake). In this musical, although he is essential to the rebellion, the focus of the story is is on his colleague, Sean Flynn, (Simon Gleeson) and Flynn's romance with Bridie O'Malley. (Trisha Crowe)

The book (Gale Edwards, John Senczuk) establishes the background of the goldfields, the troupers' stranglehold on miners and mining licences, and Governor Hotham's (Peter Carroll) appointment.

We see miners fighting to survive on meagre gold finds and brutal and corrupt treatment by the English under Commissioner Grey. (Michael Cormick)

Lalor's cronies epitomise the multi-racial goldfields.  Rafaello Carboni (Christopher Tomkinson) is an Italian poet, Frederic Vern (James Millar) a German, Long Tu (Yang Li) Chinese and Paddy O'Malley (Barry Crocker) Irish.

Strength of Unity is a rousing anthem for the rebellious quartet of Lalor, Carboni, Flynn and Vern. The same energy was needed in the Stockade battle which is a disappointment. The battle action happens off stage, leaving the show without a climax.

The most emotive song is A Vision Splendid, sung with great tenderness and sensitivity by Gleeson. His duet, It's a Long Way From Where You're Standing, with the vibrant Crowe as Bridie, is charming and funny.

Stenlake is in fine voice singing a delightful duet, The One For Me For Life, with Rachael Beck. Beck's solo, The Words to Say Goodbye, is warm and melancholy while Cormick sings the villainous Grey's solos with passion.

Three scintillating dance numbers are lead by feisty, outrageous Amanda Muggleton as brothel owner, Mercedes Cortes, who is revealed to be as Irish as potatoes. What Women Do is an affecting chorus sung as the women stitch the Southern Cross flag.

The Aboriginal narrator, Kardinia, (Pauline Whyman) is a courageous inclusion but is gratuitously and inappropriately grafted onto the Eureka story.

The show is an entertaining night in the theatre but I suspect it is not the Great Australian Musical.

LOOK FOR:  Gleeson singing A Vision Splendid

By Kate Herber

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Provenance by Ronnie Burkett, October 7, 2004

Provenance  by Ronnie Burkett  
Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes
Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre, October 7 to 23, 2004  
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on October 7, 2004  

To paraphrase one of his characters, puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett, breathes life into static forms. Alone on stage, he physically and vocally animates a parade of miniature people.

Provenance is the second Burkett production at the Melbourne Festival. Its methods echo the previous show, Tinka's New Dress, but it is tougher, more violent and bawdier.

Burkett is no shrinking violet puppeteer, hiding behind a curtain or black hood. He is front and centre with his marionettes and his charm and presence are essential to the story, style and characters.

He plays every character, manipulating with strings or manually. Burkett's form is fascinating because he physically and vocally blends with the creatures he creates.

On an elaborate and vivid stage, he pulls marionettes out of cupboards and animates them. Sometimes he speaks as the character without the puppet, at others he straps a puppet head to his forehead and his body completes the character. It is a compelling form.

The narrative follows Pity, a waspish, bold and very plain art history student who leaves her stodgy, Canadian university to research a painting that obsesses her.

The search for its provenance - the history of artist and ownership - leads her to a brothel in Vienna, peopled with eccentric whores, an acerbic madam and Herschell, an old American Jew who owns the painting.

Pity's obsession with the canvas stems from her childhood and her own lack of physical beauty.

The painting takes pride of place on stage and depicts a lean, pale boy, lashed to a tree and naked apart from a pair of green stockings.  A swan either attacks or enwraps his body.  This boy is Pity's only love and her search for the painting is also a quest to touch beauty and love.

She tells the ageing hooker and ex-chanteuse, Leda, of her gay father and his lover, who she calls Uncle Boyfriend. Leda, in turn, shares her tragic life story. It is Leda who reveals the horrific and true provenance of the boy in the painting.

Burkett's expertise, his circuitous train of thought, his rapid-fire dialogue and high camp humour make Provenance a fine theatrical experience. The denouement of the provenance of the canvas is an emotionally charged, electrifying poetic charge through a World War One battlefield.

LOOK FOR: A singing, roller skating monkey called Plato and Pity on ice skates.

By Kate Herbert

Saturday, 2 October 2004

The Zanni Troupe-Masquerade, Oct 2, 2004

 The Zanni Troupe - Masquerade  
by Kite Theatre Productions

 Melbourne Fringe Festival
 North Melbourne Town Hall, Oct 2 to 10, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Commedia del'Arte is a masked, improvised comedy that was prevalent in Europe for many centuries.

From it comes much of our contemporary comedy, slapstick and specific, recognisable characters such as Harlequin and Punch.

The Zanni Troupe show, called Masquerade, takes some elements of the Commedia and places three characters in a contemporary Melbourne locale. Two actors play Arlecchino (Steven Fioretti) and his sexy partner and fellow servant, Colombina. (Maggie Miles)

This show uses the elements of the Commedia: mask, stock characters, bawdiness and some physical comedy.

Colombina is the poorly paid but sexy servant of the old Miser, Pantelone (Fioretti) The foolish Arlecchino lets slip to Colombina, that Pantelone wants to marry her. She fantasises about the wealth, status and comfort of such a marriage - which upsets her doting lover, Arlecchino.

Masquerade is a valiant effort to recreate the Commedia in a modern context. Miles and Fioretti are playful enough at times. They relive Arlecchino and Colombina's past love trysts, naughty tricks at Pantelone's expense and wild rides on a motor bike through St Kilda.

However, there are significant problems with this show. The narrative lacks clarity. It relies too heavily on several verbose solo scenes and too much expository and unfunny dialogue.

Because the characters are alone on stage often, the relationship between Arlecchino and Colombina is underdeveloped.

Having Fioretti play both Arlecchino and Pantelone means that we never see Pantelone with any other character. This could allow further development of relationships, elevate the dramatic tension and provide fuel for comedy.

All the masks, but particularly that of Colombina, are overwrought and loudly coloured so that the character is unclear and the actors' eyes and expression are obscured.

Director, Tammie Kite could edit the show, vary the rhythm and increase the visual gags.  The pace is too slow for physical comedy, there are long pauses between scenes and much of the dialogue lacks spark.

With some sharper structuring of the narrative, clearer mime action, more focus on the relationships between characters, clearer masks and application of the principles of physical comedy, The Zanni Troupe could find itself closer to the intention of Commedia Del'Arte.

LOOK FOR: The motorbike ride

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 1 October 2004

St. Kilda Bangs, October 1, 2004

St. Kilda Bangs
 Melbourne Fringe Festival
Theatreworks  Sept 22 to Oct 9, 2004 at various times
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 1, 2004

St Kilda Bangs boasts the catchiest show title for the Fringe Festival. It is a program of diverse short works in theatre, dance, cabaret and comedy.

The program comprises: Auntie Klava's Kiss, about a Russian holy fool; Binned, a surreal two-hander; Flush, a cabaret about gambling; Spin Out, a satire of movies; and Life in a Jam Jar, about the mythical Sybils.

In Bound and Aoroi are two short movement works. In Bound is devised and performed by four women. (Alice Palermo, Kath Papas, Carla Rinaudo, Kate Sumner)

The images and movement are based in the domestic environment of women, or more specifically, mothers and daughters.

Innumerable empty teacups and saucers line the edges of the stage, defining this domestic location.  The clatter of dishwashing is part of the soundscape. Movements are repetitive, having their foundation in everyday actions such as pressing, washing, wringing, stretching and cleaning.

The opening sees one woman casually explaining a recipe for frittata as she unravels a huge pile of heavy, abnormally thick yarn. Another collects it into a skein while a third knits it into an enormous scarf using her arms as knitting needles.

The piece falls into several sections. Some are cheerful and communal, other are frantic and alienating.  Women fall to the floor, tumble into each other, living the half dark of the dim flame of a match.

Aoroi, the second piece by Rochelle Carmichael and Paul Schembri, involves more complex choreography and engaging physical imagery. Carmichael is a delightful dancer with great versatility and a compelling presence.

She and her very animated partner, Schembri, begin in semi darkness with bicycle lamps on their heads as if in a mine-shaft. They move like some peculiar subterranean or nocturnal creatures: lizard, marsupial or bird.

Their dance shifts from the spasmodic movements of the underground creatures to a fluid and sexual duet on a chair. She wears bird feathers. He pursues her, picking and pecking at them. They are alternately partners seeking connection and rivals in competition,

The final scene returns to the semi darkness and the fractured movement of the opening.

LOOK FOR: Check program for times for all shows: In Bound, Aoroi, Auntie Klava's Kiss, Binned, Flush. Spin Out, Life in a Jam Jar.

By Kate Herbert