Wednesday 23 April 2008

One Man Star Wars, April 23, 2008

One Man Star Wars
by Charlie Ross

Forum Theatre, 7.30pm until April 23 to 26, 2008

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It’s almost impossible to do justice in words to Charlie Ross’s One Man Star Wars. 

He really does condense the entire Star Wars trilogy – six hours of it – into one astonishing hour of action, vocal sound and innumerable aliens. He does it alone, without props or set, without sound effects and definitely without the aid of George Lucas' technology.

Of course if you don’t know the movies you will be on your own little planet of confusion for the whole hour. Robots, star ships and Jedi knights will whiz by you at light speed.

Ross recreates John Williams epic and evocative music with only his voice as well as the whirr of a light sabre, the buzz of star fighter, the animal cry of furry Chewbacca, and the raspy breathing of Darth Vader.

With only his imagination, his physicality and voice, he conjures an entire Imperial Army, hoards of Rebel fighters, the Death Star, X-Wing Fighters, the Millennium Falcon and Star Fighters and even those giant Imperial Walkers that look like metal camels.

He peoples the stage with a parade of much loved characters and cheekily peppers the performance with occasional laconic comments on their idiosyncrasies. Luke Skywalker is a whining brat with bad hair, Princess Leia is Princess smarty-pants with bagels on her ears and Han Solo is a bit of a bogan. 3CPO, the tinny English robot, is just as smarmy and
supercilious as he is in the movies and R2D2 comes to life with his familiar whistling trill.

A highlight is Jabba the Hutt, the grotesque, monstrous fatty whose huge flapping mouth Ross creates with only his arms. The Master is a slightly camp Vincent Price style villain and Obi Wan is an acerbic Englishman. The final battle scene in Return of the Jedi features the unforgettable alien Admiral with the bug eyes and his incomprehensible offsider with the
squashed face.

The physical skill and vocal acrobatics of Ross are truly gob-smacking. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing with an invisible light sabre, this show will be a romp for you.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Haneef: The Interrogation by Graham Pitts, April 16, 2008

Haneef: The Interrogation by Graham Pitts
La Mama, April 16 until May 3, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is difficult to resist the overwhelming desire to shout, “He didn’t say that, he didn’t mean that!” during Haneef: The Interrogation. 

As one actor says, “The day after they come for me, they come for you.” The point is made clearly by writer Graham Pitts that any one of us could be detained and questioned indefinitely under Australian anti-terrorism laws.

Pitts is writer of numerous politically and socially challenging plays. In this script he incorporates the actual transcript of Indian doctor, Mohamed Haneef’s second interrogation by the Federal Police about his possible involvement with the London and Glasgow bombings in July 2007. It makes fascinating and though-provoking theatre.

However, Pitts writes more than simply a verbatim replay of the transcripts. The interrogation is interrupted sporadically when the two actors step out of role and argue about the morality and the legality of the new laws and about human rights issues that underscore this landmark case.

Director Gorkum Acaroglu focuses attention on the relationship between Haneef  (Adam McConvell) and his interrogator (Simon King). McConvell is exceptional as the young doctor Haneef, capturing impeccably his polite reserve, confusion and his anxious squint. McConvell’s intermittent outbursts when he steps out of the role of Haneef voice the outrage expressed by some and alert us to the inconsistencies and misinterpretations embedded in the interview.

King portrays with integrity the police interrogator’s diligence and adherence to protocol. King also steps out of role to argue the case from another perspective and we are acutely aware of the fear and urgency under which he is operating. This is not a police bashing play but rather a further interrogation of the process by which Dr. Haneef was detained.

The play is even more disturbing knowing that Haneef was questioned from 4.15pm until the following morning and he answered 6,000 questions. He was under suspicion because one bomber was his second cousin and Haneef not only socialised with the bomber’s brother but left his old phone SIM card with him. It was purported to be at the bombsite but was actually found 100 miles away.

The evidence seems sketchy and tenuous – but make up your own mind about the issues when you see this confronting play.

Kate Herbert

Friday 11 April 2008

This is Not My Beautiful Life Book review, April 11, 2008

This is Not My Beautiful Life 
by Elly Varrenti

Book review: By Kate Herbert

For those of us who guard our personal lives with metaphorical Rottweilers, Elly Varrenti’s intimate revelations in This is Not My Beautiful Life make us gasp for air. It is the rollicking life and times of a 40-something single mum with hopes and despairs we cowards hide.

Firstly, my own personal declaration: Elly is my friend. We spend countless hours on each other’s couches laughing and lamenting, whining about our lives and advising, or in her case, ignoring advice. (I wish people would listen to me!)

Her book emerged like a phoenix from her occasional musings on ABC Radio National program, Life Matters. If you recognise her honey-toned voice, it will resonate in your head as you read.  But the book is a different, albeit related, species.

Such candour is almost shocking to those of us who carry our secrets close. Elly spills her guts about, well, everything: lovers, marriage, divorce, family, co-parenting, food, art, work. You name it, she spills it. It scares me and I know her!

Of course there is great art in her writing. It is poetic, nuanced, colourful, carefully structured yet simultaneously a stream of consciousness. Despite her achingly honest revelations, peer between the lines and you’ll find secreted dozens of unspoken stories just asking to be told. Each acerbic aside masks another narrative. Listen carefully or you might miss them because she’s been heroically tactful in her evasions and eliminations. When one’s life intersects so dramatically with others, it can be a dangerous sport to out people.

Although I heard in person many of these tales of woe and joy– I was even present at the ill-fated wedding – I laughed and cried my way through the book. Each character in her vivid life leaps off the page. Her larger-than-life Italo-Australian family is lovingly drawn. Meet her marvellously blunt, fiercely intelligent and equally hilarious mother, her outrageous sister, her historian father who left when she was thirteen and the beautiful, dysfunctional Nonna from a village near Genova. At Christmas lunch there’s a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Sandinista pilot... “It’s sounding like one of those jokes,” she quips.

There are lovers with bad clothes and worse attitudes, errors of judgement, the dashed hopes of an actor and failed ambitions to be a broadcaster (Shame on ABC for not giving her a radio show). There’s an ex-husband (say no more) and a beautiful, tow-haired little boy who says hilarious five-year old things (“The alien’s name is Kevin and he has antennas”). I can feel his hugs and hear his pearly laughter now.

This unbeautiful life is often discomfiting, helpless and hapless but frequently achingly funny. I’ll leave the last word to Elly, “…it finally dawned on me that the gap between what I thought my life was going to be and how it was actually shaping up opened up like a huge and unforgiving chasm.” Get it now?

By Kate Herbert