• 03 Jan 2012 /  Other

    I slipped into 2012 like a green tree snake – slithery and quietly and happy in my own skin. Due to the convergence of any chance elements I found myself at the moment of transition on a balcony of an apartment on the bend in Mcleay Street that takes you from Potts Point into Wolloomooloo Bay. With a group of truly lovely friends we were guests of a 93-year old gentleman – a widower – who had been in the building since the 1950s. The spic interior looked as if it had never be altered in those years. His flat jutted like the front of ship into the night air. And how balmy was it? So I got to see the Newson fireworks from a most spectacular angle and prefect distance. We could see the whole panorama from stuff shooting off city buildings across to the bridge – all its goings on – and what seemed to be about five main sites stretched all along Sydney Harbour – was Fort Denison one of the take-off sites? Anyway – we got the lot.

    Yesterday then involved a little picnic in Prince Alfred Park, a swim at Coogee and a 8pm turning up at a run-down pub in Chippendale for the end of a Kooky party – a scene that collates a bunch of this city’s most harmless if colourful oddballs – and one of the very few ‘branded’ dance events I could ever find myself these where 1. I know people and 2. feel even slightly comfortable about wriggling my limbs to a funky tune without feeling foolish! Kevin Jackson wrote some months ago of the You Little Stripper crowd at Red Rattler. Much the same gang tho this was a more low-key ‘recovery’ type affair. So there you go – a brief insight into my exotic lifestyle beyond theatre foyers. Not usually so interesting I should add, but a nice start to the year.

    Before 2012 Sydfest swoops into action in a few days let me do a bit of catch up. Brief, but I just want to get this stuff up and out. That may sound a little ungracious – but I hope you get my meaning. I am trying to get into the habit of waking up every morning and going pretty much straight to my desk – or wonky depending how dodgy I feel. But to the matter – some recent shows I have seen and don’t want slip into the past unacknowledged. First up – Phil Spencer’s The Great Apeth.

    Anyone who sees me at opening nights would know I often attend these events with actress Maggie Blinco. I’ve rarely mentioned her name on this site, because the ‘personal’ for me has mostly been about ‘me’, when a more interesting personal all along would have at least included  ‘my friends’. This is a tricky aspect to the business of writing however: to what extent one can and should put out stories (however near or far to factual) that touch on other people’s real lives. Not Maggie, far from it, but many of my friends live somewhat controversial lifestyles – and how much does a friend who happens to write have a right to put their stuff out there. Maybe I should ask Helen Garner!


    The Great Apeth was one of about ten playlets on an autobiographical theme curated by Phil Spencer at the old Fitzroy under the banner of The Horse’s Mouth. I went down particularly to see Spencer’s own piece, The Great Apeth, mostly because Spencer had cast my friend Ms Blinco to play his grandmother.

    A rif on Madame Blinco.

    Ms Blinco with her pal the bloggist - photo by Brett Monaghan

    A truly wonderful women with such an enormous life force – hardworking, joyful, kind and generous. Maggie Blinco has become so much part of my life this past half a decade, and kept a close watch over me these past several years while I have been struggling more than usual. A women full of courage and laughter and magnificent joie-de-vivre – who also just happens to make the best chutneys and often cooks fabulous meals for large groups of friends. Most importantly Maggie Blinco is an actress. An actress who featured in some of then most interesting and successful production on the days of the Old Tote and Nimrod. Including Pearl in Richard Wherrett’s Summer of the 17th Doll at the Nimrod in 1973, Rex Carmphorn’s 1985 production of Nowra’s The Golden Age in Melbourne, and the STC’s production of one of David Williamson’s most talked about plays, Dead White Males. Always one to keep up with the young, in recent years Maggie has acted in a number of successful Indie gigs including The Beauty Queen of Leenan, Stories From the 428 and Kiss Me Like You Mean It. She has recently started work on a new play called Biddies (the female partner to Codgers) which will tour nationally. Maggie was also the sexy lady selling Tim Tams on tele last year. Sales went through the roof!

    So there – that’s a little bit about the person I am so often seen with in foyers. And despite seeing her in many shows this is the first time I written about one of the productions she Maggie has been in.

    Victoria Sponge - takes a lot of beating!

    The Great Apeth was a sweet little piece which, by way of metaphor, included a real Victoria sponge that miraculously emerged from an oven towards the end of the play – to be enjoyed by some lucky members of the audience. Ms Blinco made this cake for each performance, though sadly it was all gobbled up before the plate got to my row. I saw Spencer’s lovely homage to his relationship to his father, called Bluey, about a year ago, which included a puppet Chimp. So we go from a great ape to The Great Apeth (the meaning of which I have forgotten – it’s regional slang for something). This was a more modest piece, but also a first showing, where Bluey has been around a while. Ihht certainly revealed enough potential to merit further work. If I had a dramaturgical comment, it would be that while Spencer focuses on ‘his relationship’ to his grandmother, she does not quite get to tell enough of her own story. Understandably The Great Apeth is conceived and delivered through the grandson’s eyes, but at some point you start to want the character of the grandmother to tell more of her own story. I wouldn’t say Blinco is obliged to work with crumbs, but the drama itself may benefit from whomever is playing the grandmother to have access to a larger slice of the cake. (I write this without having discussed this with either Spencer or Blinco – it’s my view, not as a friend of the actress playing the grandmother, but rather as a veteran theatre-goer with an interest in what sort of writing craft leads to good theatre and leverages the bestest performances.)

    The playlet, like the cake, was rather a light slice of life but rich in gentle charm; and the fondness Spencer and Blinco enjoy for each other’s company clearly mirrored the play theme – a bond many of us have likely had with an elder in our family – if not grandmother then a great aunt. I had such one, my Aunt Patricia, with whom Maggie Blinco shares the same birthday (Cosmology?). Blinco was ideal for the role, not least because the character epitomised a mental adeptness and physical sturdiness, along with a dry wise sense of humour. All traits Blinco drew on with an effortless charm that caused audience members to ooh and aah. Spencer meanwhile was his delightful ‘boy-next-door’ self.

    Phil Spencer - looking serious!

    The Horse’s Mouth included ten works in all, of which I saw three: along with The Great Apeth the night I went included Zoe Coombs Marr’s monologue, I‘ve Been Everywhere Man, a road-trip adventure (often misadventure) as a solo lesbian to Cooper Pedy – very drily told and a lot of fun. And Tim Spencer’s  ‘interview’ with a gay hooker called Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine – with actor Charles Purcell in the pay-per-view role. It was quite an original take on what could have been quite a predictable sojourn, so in all a good night out.

    I’m not really into critiquing these works, just saying I saw them and acknowledging the ever-growing scene of indie productions of new writing. Obviously, the more opportunities to road test developing material the better.

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  • 30 Dec 2011 /  Other

    Well it’s been a rather scrappy year year for me post-wise. Blogging – if I have to use that plain word. Lots of shows I missed and others I saw and did not write about it. Then some excellent theatre I did see – and some of it I did write about. I think. Everybody knows that I have had health problems to the point where I really have to stop talking about such tiresome stuff, even if these ‘personal issues’ are not finished with. To be frank, I have been waiting for these difficulties to pass before I took up life and writing again with hitherto passion. But after so much ‘waiting’ and so little progress I am faced with the prospect that my pain problems my never pass. If so, I need to change my mental posture. If this is the deal from here on in, for survival’s sake I need to readjust my head-space. I am going to have to mature into into some sort of Buddhist-like acceptance. I should say in passing – so tricky is the game of life – that hope may be born in its abandonment. In my heart of hearts I do believe I will get better. But not while I wait – or dare to presume to. The basic decision is: James you have to move on. If the kitbag is heavier so be it. Very many people on the planet – hundreds of millions – have pulled shorter straws. Get back to writing – it cultivates happiness. In the least, keeps you distracted.

    The bloggist - getting back to my roo(t)s - lol

    All if which reminds me why I think Waiting for Godot is the very best play of Modern times. The play in which ‘nothing happens twice’ and happiness eternally postponed. It speaks to me as a Modernist at heart (and mind). But a Modernist who lives in a Postmodern world – and who understands that art practice has had to change to speak to and about life now – this latest (new and yet re-used) version of the ‘human condition’ that’s been called Postmodern. It’s an odd position to find myself in. Born in 1955, a couple of years  after Godot premiered. The point at which Modernism in theatre reached it highest point – and effectively announced/denounced its own end. Well – use-by date anyway. Dragged by its coat-tails off the stage. Godot is an exclamation mark at the end of an era.

    So here I am uncomfortably at home with the language and rituals of Modernism – its respect for order, hierarchy and ideal of perfection. The Ibsen play, Leavis’s critical values – etc. And yet a true believer in the view (the fact!) living circumstances have changed so much – multiplicity, repetition, looping – that the critical language ascribed to the task of tug-boating Modernist art practice into lively dinner party conversation no longer has the torque needed to straighten out our thoughts on the world (and its art) as we find it today. (Yes, you will probably have to read the paragraph again. That’s okay it took several rewrites to get it clean.)

    Henrik Ibsen - the very model of a Modernist

    The world is different, art practice is different. Even theatre – often the last of the forms to move with the times – has started to become different. Even in Sydney in the past year. Though there have been forebears – notably Kosky’s The Lost Echo, Benedict Andrews’ ‘oeuvre’, and some squeaky noises coming out of Carriageworks – the official date we moved out clocks forward was probably the opening night of Simon Stone’s production of The Wild Duck. Why, because indisputably – it worked. Oh The Lost Echo worked too, but not enough people were yet ready to face its implications.

    All of which places me in an awkward position because I have not kept up with the critical language that has evolved hand-in-hand with Postmodernism. That is party generational, mostly laziness on my part – but also a reflection of the fact that this language has paralleled and interfaced much more passionately with – say – visual art. And art of the new technologies. And not theatre. Not theatre in this city in our time anyway.

    Damien Ryan's excellent outdoor production of The Taming of the Shrew

    I got up this morning to write about Shakespeare – notably productions of two of his comedies – As You Like It at Belvoir directed by Eamon Flack and The Taming of the Shrew (the outdoor Sydney Hills Shakespeare in the Park 2011) directed by Damien Ryan. And I will get to them – if not today. They were/are both good productions – also both a lot of fun. Then I was drawn, by way of preamble or segue, into Kevin Jackson’s overview of theatre in Sydney in 2011.  It fell out of my email box. And a goddam fine evaluation it is too. Which is what got me starting where I began at the top here today. Aware that I had seen a lot of shows – because I knew what Jackson was writing about (and almost overwhelmingly I agreed). But myself, I had written about so few of these shows – and that gave gave me pause for thought: what an odd year for me personally. For my personal life (and its vicissitudes) to so invade the public realm of my writing, such as it can be called.

    Eluding the clutches of auto-obsession, can I say in passing, we are lucky to have in this city a group of very fine onliners (okay bloggers) including Jackson, Supple, Epistemysics, 5th Wall and myself (when I am in form) – there are others. Together we shit on what is presented in the local print media, and combined we almost make up for the singular achievement of La Croggon in Melbourne. So for a fine assessment of this year’s Sydney output go to Kevin Jackson here - Looking Back 2011 – and my way of compare-and-contrast from Jason Blake  - Star Turns and Back Up in the Wings – at the Sydney Morning Herald (a pretty fair effort btw given the constrained circumstances of our print media).

    And just to loop in a quasi-Postmodern way – where the notion of value itself is tendentious – I note that Kevin Jackson, out of all the shows he saw this year, most admired The Libertine which played at the Darlinghurst Theatre (and I am sorry to say I did not see). Directed by Damien Ryan – same-said director of the Hills outdoor Shrew I saw a few nights ago – which I want to say here and now is, to my mind, one of the best shows I have seen this year! So garlands, in old-fashioned showbiz language, to carry into 2012 for Mr Ryan from two of this city’s ‘umble bloggers. Well done mister. (He also gets a letter to the editor in today’s SMH!)

    And so for 2012 – and the autobiographical strand of this little post. Waiting for Godot – more accurately in French – En Attendant Godot. ‘Attendance‘ not so much’ Waiting‘: more of a component of ‘acceptance’ in that. Not so restless. Which is why I think the play is so great. It is the play that show us what life on this planet is like once we accept God is lost to us – God is dead. We have killed her and now must live with the consequences. But what’s great about the play, which is really only revealed in a good production, is that the primary coping component of surviving the debacle of God gone – is laughter. From wry smile to raucous chortling. Which makes the play just that little bit Buddhist – big bit really. To be able to look at all the sorrow in the world, all of it, as a true Buddhist can, and without a flicker of denial – still smile. This smile is not a luxury or an escape – rather a necessity to living. Living truly. Because, as we smile less (says he wanly), the light starts to fade. And when we stop smiling full stop, at the point of suicide for example, the light is switched off.

    Roger Rees and Ian McKellen - happy chappies

    Of course the death of Rosie Lalevich has cast a long shadow across many of us – because to many of us we equated this beautiful woman with joy itself. And so if Rosie can’t do it any more, how are the rest of us meant to? I don’t have the answer to that – though clues are found in the kindness of others. Our own kindnesses when we can manage them. And in the best of art. Which takes us back to En Attendant Godot. A good production of that play – for example the one we saw in Sydney in 2010 with Roger Rees and Ian McKellen (not just Ian McKellen thank you – takes two to make a cosmic joke) – helps us live. Because, while there is no denying our ontological circumstances, a resounding tinkle of laughter (read joy) rang loud and clear on that occasion from the stage. And like shaking the hand of the Dalai Lama, such experiences stay with us – and help us stumble along.

    You might guess from this little piece that, in my months of quietude, I have been thinking of where to take this blog. Gosh, maybe I can even call it for what it is! Let’s see – as the monks in saffron robes advise – little steps…

    I am pondering broadening my writing landscape. I’m sorry but ‘reviewing theatre’ in itself just does not do it for me any more, as much as I live on the air of staged experience – week in week out. And I find being introduced as ‘a critic’ or ‘reviewer’ embarrassing. Like I am standing there in front of some poor innocent person covered in shit. Why and how we (you and I) move on from here I cannot say. In advance, I do not know. But neither did/do Vladimir and Estragon. And they, after all, are our role models – lol.

    PS: there is a blessing in not having been raised on the language of Postmodernism – for it has many traps for all but the most thoroughly versed writers and readers. But what lies ahead – indeed has arrived – is a challenge to those of us who wish to write about theatre in this city. Write – not just enthuse or complain. If theatre is indeed at last is catching up with, well not just visual art, but more effectively mirroring the world we actually live in, then we have to find a critical mindset – if not an exact language – to match. I can’t promise you I am going to achieve that. But I do know one thing from Modernism – form is function. Aka – the medium is the message. Aka – what we say is one and the same as the way we say it. So obligingly moves are afoot. (Stage direction: ‘Does not move.’)

    PPS: Will write on the Shakespeare comedies next…and probably Ryan’s Macbeth which I am seeing 2nite!

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  • 02 May 2009 /  Other

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    And in the end there was pizza!

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    All Photos by Brett Monaghan

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  • 23 Apr 2009 /  Other
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    Cast & Crew - Glenorchy, Greater Hobart: Photo Brett Monaghan

    For the season at Latrobe, I relocated from the cosy guest house of Neal and Pam Rodwell to the luxury guest wing of the home of Stephanie Finn, my collaborator on ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, her husband, Nick Kent, their two daughters Olivia and Michaela, and their cats, Tilly and Minka. They live at a coastal hamlet, called Penguin, halfway between Wynyard and Latrobe.

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    The Biggest Fairy Penguin in the World

    Nick grew up here and after many years on the mainland, and some success, the family has relocated here. When Nick is home he likes to cook – so here I was enjoying a different version of Tasmanian domestic 5-star hospitality. And certainly not complaining.

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    The Astor Hotel - Hobart: "You can check out any time but never leave..." The Eagles

    It was with Stephanie and a car full of gear that we travelled south through the Tasmanian heartland and into Hobart. We were the first from the crew to arrive at what is one of the most delightful hotels I have encountered in my centuries of global travel. It is called The Astor Private Hotel: “Not uptown, not downtown, but in town.” And it is run by a most delightful woman called Tildy. Big hART had the entire hotel to itself, and Tildy was amazingly tolerant of the mess we left each night in the sitting room – after coming home from tech runs and performances and staying up late as travelling theatre folk tend to do. It was like a kind of Alice in Wonderland upside version of Faulty Towers where only good things happened and everything worked.

    The Ten Days On The Island festival was now in full swing, and unfortunately – as happens in festivals – This Is Living had been relegated to a venue quite unsuited to its character. The Derwent Entertainment Centre (DEC) in Glenorchy, officially Greater Hobart.

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    Me and the enchanting Ms Tildy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The same ‘community’ work had been undertaken in the months prior to our arrival, and so we had a new group of seniors and a new group of young people. This time the young people were not ‘skater dudes’ so much as half of Rae Dunium’s drama studies students from years 9/10 at nearby Rosetta High. The other half formed one of my ‘Everyone’s a Critic’ classes. So the students were equally divided between those ‘in’ the show, and those ‘thinking and writing’ about it.

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    Brett Monaghan arrives to join tour: Photo Nicholas Higgins

    My time in Hobart was particularly hectic. I ran a second ‘Everyone’s a Critic’ class at Claremont High, where one of the themes of the play took on a special relevance: in the form of  ‘youngies v oldies’ down in the local village shopping square. Tensions were running high as ‘oldies’ were seeking to ban the ‘youngies’ entirely from the precinct. So along with the general discussion about the ‘nature of theatre’, easy stuff, the notion of how the ‘young people’ might strategically and pro-actively move the community debate forward was actively discussed. The last I heard, the class’s self-devised production this year was possibly going to take this subject as its theme. Its own version of This is Living meets High School Musical! So again you get an idea in how Big hART works – often in the most unexpected ways.

    Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC)

    Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC)

    My time was also taken up with a more high-powered festival project called ‘Critical Acclaim’ which brought together a group of writers who wanted to look seriously at the art and craft of reviewing. They were a most delightful group of people, their schedule beyond hectic – but I greatly enjoyed my two days with them. That project involved a number of ‘facilitators’. I handed over to Ms Alison Croggon – mistress of the premiere Australian theatre blog-de-realm – theatrenotes. It was good to meet her at last in real space and time, after so many communications ‘on-line’. We shared a round table discussion at an oblong table with the class, and to the surprise of the students (and perhaps ourselves?) we pretty much agreed on everything each of us had to say about the duties and ups-and-downs of being a critic.

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    Bumping-in at to the DEC: Photo Brett Monaghan

    While I was away with these pixies, the show was being bumped into the DEC, which – so far as interior décor goes – has all the charm of a large Centrelink office. This is likely to be a meaningless visual reference to most of my readers – having only known success -  but for me the vast dispiriting spaces and plastic chairs, silent TV monitors, do-nothing security guards, etc, reeked redolent of recidivist years handing in fortnightly forms to bitter and begrudging….

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    Not exactly a community feel: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The production failed somewhat to connect with the urban Glenorchy community, and I am unsure if many of ‘global influence’ visiting the City of Hobart for the festival considered our production a priority. The vast space available to us was closed down with a ring of black curtains to more intimate proportions; and staff at the centre was thankfully fabulously helpful.

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    Stage manager Jessica Smithett is happy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    While the production had less ‘soul’ in Glenorchy, the wiz-bang technology available helped certain members of the crew – sound, lighting and AV in particular. There was no meaningful place for entertainment ‘outside’ the venue. But the stage depth did allow for massive half-pipe to be located, this time, on stage.

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    Sound guy Andrew Poppleton is very happy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    With fewer ‘skater dudes’ available in Glenorchy (as a matter of principle we did not raid down-town Hobart),  the Rosetta High students gave the youth component quite a new more ‘choreographed’ look. Interestingly there were more women this time among the ‘seniors’ component, and they were a particularly lively and enthusiastic mob. So while the show may not have made its mark on the broader Glenorchy community, it was a wild success for those from this community who had chosen to get involved.

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    The Glenorchy Seniors: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Most of the Seniors even stayed back for the arduous bump out, as did the bulk of the kids. Other changes made included bringing the community stall indoors into the foyer, along with a more diminished version of the skater ‘show and tell’. Onstage, the skater component was huge and visually magnificent, as lighting changes allowed for huge shadows of the youth ‘moments’ to be flung up against the theatre’s huge back wall.

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    Telen Rodwell skating under lamps: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The brutality of the Glenorchy environment exposed some of the production’s less obvious innate weaknesses, which Scott had the courage to confront. Dramatically, he decided to remove the interval break. This improved the rhythm of the piece and narrative flow. Astutely, Scott also moved a tiny bit of amusing dialogue up to the very top of the opening scene. In thus grabbing a laugh first up, the whole drama unfolded through a more whimsical lens. And the show enjoyed more laughter from audiences at every performance there-after. Amazing how theatre works.

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    The half-pipe installed: Photo Brett Monaghan

    A highlight in advance of the first matinee was news that federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett wished to make an announcement to the Big hART mob. Typically Scott Rankin improvised a highly dramatic format. Ten minutes before the first performance came to a close, while the skaters we had were doing their ‘thang’ up back, the show was stalled and Garrett walked out onto the a stage into blinking bright lights surrounded by an ebullient gaggle of ‘today’s youth’. Television and print media were pre-prepared. Garrett gave a most engaging speech directed to the mostly high-school student audience about the value of participating in the arts of all forms, and honoured Big hART for its leadership in this field with a special ‘minimal strings attached’ funding of $450,000.

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    Peter Garrett handing out cash: Photo Brett Monaghan

    For Big hART, which has survived up to this time on the veritable ‘smell of an oil rag’, it was the climax of a series of financial rewards to have been awarded the company over previous weeks. One was Big hART being awarded the highly prestigious Group Award in the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards, a few days earlier, worth $70,000. Creative Director Scott Rankin dedicated the award to the ‘philanthropy of Bob Targett’, who has donated the last 15 years of his time to work as Big hART’s company administrator in the head office in Devonport.

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    Rosetta High contingent: Photo Brett Monaghan

    There was also good news from SBS television as Big hART was named  one of only 17 recipients, out of 500 bids, to be included in SBS Foundation’s ‘donated air-time’ scheme. Big hART’s campaign – “Unusual Stories From Inspiring Communities” – will run between May 2009 and April 2010, profiling the Ngapartji Ngapartji, GOLD, This Is Living and Drive projects.”

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    Rosetta High backstage: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Out and about one night after the show, hanging around Hobart’s lively Salamanca precinct, I spied a gentleman and a gentleman spied me – as we both got out of neighbouring cars. His name is Mike Morris (not to be confused with another with the same name who has spent many years involved in theatre in Australia). Mike is a producer of some note, based in London, connected to artists as prestigious as Pina Bausch and Robert Lepage. Mike also creates massive ‘community-based’ projects around the UK, not unlike the work of Big hART in philosophy. We had not seen each other for seventeen years. Such are one of the pleasures of arts festival attending – bumping into colleagues from long ago.

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    Scott Rankin always fine-tuning: Photo Brett Monaghan

    As the fates would have it, Scott Rankin wandered into the heady environment ,and so I set to introducing these two worthy artistic types, flooding their wine glasses with more at every opportunity – seeing only good in their getting to know a little of each other’s work. I made the mistake, however, of matching them drink for drink; even though my own attention had turned to a delightful conversation with actor Paul Blackwell (who happened to arrive with Morris).

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    Bruce Myles (Morgan) & Lex Marinos (Ron) rehearsing: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The upshot of this Dionysian frenzy was a rather dramatic setback in my hotel room later that night. It was the first time I had got drunk since the now famous ‘incident on the train’. I was fortunately sharing a room with Brett Monaghan, but neither of us had ever encountered a panic attack in the form of hyper-ventilation. I discovered later all my decisions only exacerbated the state I was in – for example, putting myself under a hot shower. At one point, Brett found me almost unconscious on the floor of the bathroom. In my own mind I had fled to Mars – the planet of psychic war – and been utterly defeated.

    xxx

    Mr Billy Mercer - wise before his time: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Folk in other rooms were awoken by the racket, including hard-boiled Billy Mercer. Brett mistakenly warded him off unaware that here was an expert in this particular frontier of life-experience. The next day Billy – who appears to have suffered considerable brutality in his own short life – took me aside and explained to me what he knew about panic attacks and how to deal with them.

    xxx

    Let there be light: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    This good counsel passed on, I regard as one of the biggest ‘Big hART’ moments for me on the tour. Here, the kid from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ was passing on hard-earned wisdom to a city yuppie old enough to be his father. He taught me the trick of ‘breathing into a paper bag’; and explained how you “can’t change the past…mate.” I glanced at Billy at one point and asked him what he aspired to? “I just want to help other people,” he shrugged. Not one for big speeches, he added, “That’s all.” That’s all? The Big hArt crew working around us at the time, I did wonder where such a crazy idea might have come from….


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  • 17 Apr 2009 /  Other

    Ready Get Set: Glenorchy Greater Hobart

    Three weeks into the Tassie trip my regular photographic partner, Brett Monaghan, turned up in Hobart – staying with us for the short season at the Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC); and then onto our visit further south to the Franklin. As he had done in Ernanbella, with Ngapartji Ngapartji, his task was to document the production on and off stage, including – at his request – a set of portraits. Here are just some of the portraits he took in Hobart over the first couple of days on tour with Big hART’s This Is Living.

    Note to readers: so much to report from the Tasmania trip, but also catching up in Sydney with a show a night. Whew…And have been lined up to interview one of the most amazing Australians I have ever met for the National Library - war correspondent for the Times (UK), among many other jobs, Murray Sayle. One of only two writers ever to have a whole issue of the New Yorker devoted to one of his stories (on Hiroshima). Very This is Living: after being parachuted into Vietnam and witnessing live the Bloody Sunday riot in Ireland, bumping into Che Guevara in the South American jungle, etc, he’s now got Parkinson’s Disease and stuck in a nursing home – bored off his brain. Still has all his wits of course. I will be his ‘taper dude’. More soon…..

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    Anne Grigg

    Anne Grigg

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    Kane

    Kane Watts

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    Mike Dixon

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    dixon

    Helen Dixon

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    Lochie

    Locky Rankin

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    Rhyll Cashion

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    Kade Redmond & Scott Rankin

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    Cleone Probert

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    Jordan Latoa

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    Lex Marinos

    Lex Marinos

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    Olivia

    Olivia Kent

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    ghost

    Tony Webb

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    Stephanie Finn

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    Ethan Haywood

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    ghost with stick

    Keith Wilby

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    Mel Robertson

    Mel Robertson

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    Bruce Myles

    Bruce Myles

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    Bronwyn

    Bronwyn Purvis

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    Billy

    Billy Mercer

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    Emma Wells

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    Nicholas Higgins

    Nicholas Higgins

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    Alwyn Friedersdorff

    Alwyn Friedersdorff

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    Telen Rodwell

    Telen Rodwell

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  • 10 Apr 2009 /  Other
    Latrobe - Rehearsing New Ending: Photo by Hayley

    Latrobe - Rehearsing New Ending: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    It has been a whirlwind of activity since the show opened in Wynyard on 20 March, with director Scott Rankin further fine-tuning the show in advance of every new performance. This included a Saturday matinee being added in Wynyard after the two scheduled performances sold out. As described in my last post, the show was not quite ready on opening night – from a technical point of view. But, as you would know by now, all Big hART projects juggle the goal to offer a ‘valued community experience’ with the creation of a ‘fully aestheticised work of art’. I hardly need to say that the world of theatre as we know it usually divides these two goals down the middle, and indeed keeps them well apart. And it is a core ambition to merge this two value systems that set Big hART apart from every other theatre company in Australia.

    new ending - action

    Latrobe - New Ending in Action: Photo Hayley Crawford

    What I saw at Belvoir Street Theatre in January 2008, when Ngapartji Ngapartji was presented as part of that year’s Sydney Festival program, was a Big hART show at its at most theatrically evolved. But that high point had been eight years in the making. It was only after seeing the show and doing a bit of snooping around online, that I became aware of just how much more there was to to a Big hART project behind the scenes. How do I justify the fact that, at this point, a theatre lover like me had virtually no awareness of the previous 16 years of Big hART’s work? Well, the company started small and has taken many years to come to national attention. It is also a company without a home venue, and structured so horizontally that it operates beneath the detection of conventional media radar.

    Lyric and Bucky - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    Lyric & Bucky - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    My own personal excuse is that, just as the company began to emerge I, myself, disappeared. :For the eight years since I left the Sydney Morning Herald, I had spent much of my life ‘away from the theatre’ living on 25 acres up at Glenorie near Dural – north-west of Sydney, growing ponies, breeding vegetables, ‘picking and packing’ in a supplies warehouse, and working at a boarding kennel for yuppie puppies. This last was a great job: I used to do weekends when the boss took some time off, no other staff, and I had up to forty dogs on my own. The great achievement was to see if I could settle the lot of them down for an afternoon nap. After a big group play, of course.

    Lyric and Romeo: Photo by James Waites

    Lyric & Romeo (the sire was an Arabian - hence the cute nose) - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    Indeed it was not an easy life to abandon, but then again sometimes an abyss opens up between yourself and the person you once loved; and so it’s time to pack the Jeep Cherokee with whatever you can and, tail between your legs, turn up back in town.

    Bucky as a teenager: Photo James Waites

    Bucky as a shy teenager - Hawkesbury Show: Photo by Charles Clark

    Maybe see if there is a chance to hook back into one’s previous life – which in my case has always been writing about ‘show business’ in some shape or form. When nobody in the print media was interested in a story about Big hART taking  Ngapartji Ngapartji back ‘to country’ – the town of Ernabella, 600k’s south-west of Alice Springs (home to many in the cast) - I decided to leap into the 21st century and set up my own dinkylux blog-empire. Thus jameswaites.com was born. Six months down the track and I think me and the site are just starting to get to know each other – strengths and weaknesses.

    Ludwig: Photo by James Waites

    Ludwig - my 70kg failed Harlequin Dane: Photo by James Waites

    The above is a note to some of my readers who have only caught up with this site more recently. If you have not been here from the beginning, perhaps one day you take a look into the Ngapartji Ngapartji folder and see, not only where this online project of mine began; but also witness – mostly through the links to Brett Monaghan’s photos – the amazing creative adventure that was. And still is! In fact, just last week, a trailer-teaser was sent out by Ngapartji Ngapartji Creative Producer, Alex Kelly, to show us how the film doco, Lost For Words, shot on that trip, was coming together. It looks totally awesome! I wrote back to Alex: “I wish you guys would stop making me cry!”

    Ludwig Became a Fashion Model: Queen Victoria Building Season Catalogue

    But Ludwig Became a Famous Fashion Model Instead: Queen Victoria Building Season Catalogue

    Brett and I entered that project at a very late phase of its evolution. With this most recent trip, we dropped into a project – This Is Living – still in its relative infancy: a mere two years in the process so far. To find out more about those two years can I suggest you go to the This is Living website and have a good look around. There is a heap of stuff up there. If you go to the Big hArt’s core site, you can find links to other previous shows or currently in various stages of evolution: including the new biggie – Gold – which is connecting up farming communities along the length of the Murray-Darling basin.

    Bruce Myles on stage at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    Bruce Myles on stage at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    But back to Wynyard: immediately after the audience exited the theatre after the first performance, director Scott Rankin announced there would be a new end to the show the next night. This is the way tour worked from beginning to end: every day there would be another rehearsal of some sort and further fine-tuning. For an experienced observer in theatre-making like myself, it was fascinating to witness Rankin’s capacity for self-criticism, or is it unstoppable creative flow? And conditions were difficult. We would be visiting four towns across Tasmania, performing 12 times in seventeen days to over 2,000 people. Mostly in small-town community halls. This meant not only bumping-in and out of four entirely different venues, travel time, bedding into new digs; but also linking in with new ‘community’ cast members in each town.

    Lex Marinos (Ron) with Witnesses (foreground): Photo by Amelia Dearnley

    Lex Marinos (Ron) with 'Witnesses' Mike Dixon and Alwyn Friedersdorff (foreground) at Latrobe: Photo by Amelia Dearnley

    As mentioned in a previous post, the on-stage company comprised of three professional actors (Anne Grigg, Lex Marinos and Bruce Myles). We took four of the Wynyard community ‘seniors’ with us on tour to work with the newbies in each town; just as we took a small contingent of the Wynyard skaters to mix it with each new ‘youth’ group.

    Choreographer Kelly Alexander with two Latrobe 'Witnesses, Elizabeth and John Skinner: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    This meant that bumping in not only included re-erecting the set and re-lighting the show, hooking up all the audio etc; it also meant fresh rehearsals with the new ‘community’ performers. They were not entirely unprepared: senior production people, Chris Mead (Associate Director/Chorus Coordinator), Kelly Alexander (Choreographer), Stephanie Finn and Kirsty Grierson (Community Producers) had been working with these groups over previous months. This team was lead from the beginning (before the beginning!) by This is Living‘s Creative Producer, Sophia Marinos, who turned out on the tour to be one of the most capable and fun professionals I have ever worked with in my life.

    xxx

    This is Living's Creative Producer Sophia Marinos: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    None of the new groups had yet experienced a tech run or dress with the full cast, and we might have only 24 hours before opening night. It was exhausting for everyone, especially the touring seniors, ‘the Wynyard Four’, and the three professionals. Astoundingly, spirits remained high and goodwill always the predominant vibe, no matter the fatigue or pressure.

    Skating at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    Skating at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    The towns we toured after Wynyard were Latrobe, not a great distance to the east on the north coast; then to Glenorchy (Greater Hobart), and finally south to Huonville/Franklin in the pretty Huon Valley. Not only did we have different venues and cast members in each town, for short seasons of two or three performances; but also changes to the script. Local touches were always added: Here’s a little from the opening song by the Dunaways:

    The Dunaways: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    The Dunaways: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    Southwesterly (prelude)

    Houses cling to hillsides. Watching over shipping lanes
    Like a thousand widow’s walks, southwesterly, always the same….

    Chorus (Wynyard):
    The Inglis and the Emu, The Forth at Devil’s Gate
    Always heading northward, To escape into the strait

    Chorus (Latrobe):
    The Mersey and the Leven, The Forth at Devil’s Gate
    Always heading northward, To escape into the strait

    Chorus (Franklin):
    The Picton and the Huon, The springs at Hasting’s Caves
    Always heading southward to escape into the bay

    The second and third shows at Wynyard were more successful technically as light, sound and audiovisual components settled in to place. And then there was the new ending. Initially, the three groups of actors – the three professionals, seniors and skaters – remained in their segregated worlds, even as bows were taken. But the drama cried out for union – in a way that reflected the experience of the company in rehearsal and about to go on tour. So Scott’s new ending involved a classic Big hART manouvre of the ‘Witnesses’ inviting audience members to dance with them, lights up on the skaters up back also slow dancing. And then a great shwhoosh forward as all the kids from up the back – about 20 in all – came running down to join the main cast and seniors in a massive moshpit shakedown. As per photographs at top of story.

    Just as we had the community choir in Wynyard, in Latrobe we had the local brass band, the Latrobe Federal Band, the oldest continuously surviving brass band in Australia.

    Latrobe Federal Band: Photo Hayley Crawford

    Latrobe Federal Band: Photo Hayley Crawford

    I started my own project in Wynyard, under Scott Rankin’s suggestion, called ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, and I’ll say more about that another time. The Wynyard group included locals aged 16 to early 80. The Latrobe group focused on a senior high drama class with a few adults from the local community mixed in. Below is a picture of the Latrobe class, a very smart and fun group of Year 12 from Don Academy (Devonport), before we went in to see the show. Included in the photo, third from left, is Mary Kille who performed as a ‘Witness’ in the Wynyard version.

    "Everyone's A Critic' in Latrobe, Don Academy Drama Teacher Keren Smithies (second row centre): Photo HayleyCrawford

    Mary arrived at the Latrobe class with a poem she had written in response to her experience as a performer. It is dedicated to Anne Grigg, who plays one of the lead roles; and it describes how Mary once missed her cue, so transfixed was she on Anne’s performance.

    Actor and Poet - Anne Grigg and Mary Kill: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Actor and Poet - Anne Grigg and Mary Kille: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I don’t know what you think, but when Mary read the poem to the class – in a voice flooded with humility and trembling grace - we were awestruck. The water images refer to the lines Anne’s character was delivering at the time. If this is what is born of a Big hART project, then Scott Rankin and his people must be doing something right.

    MISSED CUE

    I was transfixed by transient beauty,

    as you descended that extraordinary stage,

    and all your words and all your song

    flowed like the river

    where once you had swam

    naked and glistening as a fish,

    secretive,

    in dark water.

    You spoke and sang of love and loss,

    and yearning for the joy you’d known,

    which now was gone for ever.

    And I, a novice, bit-part player wept,

    as those pedestrian, banal, intruding words

    which I was meant to speak,

    died in my throat;

    and the guitarist, with his thrumming chords,

    covered my lapse.

    ‘twixt audience and actor,

    as from a spangled dew-dropped spider’s web,

    the thread shone,

    jewelled

    and unbroken.

    Mary Kille

    March 2009

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  • 07 Apr 2009 /  Other
    Ms Amerilia Dearnley from the Gold Coast who photographed for Big hART

    Ms Amelia Dearnley from the Gold Coast who photographed for Big hART: This Photo by Brett Monaghan

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  • 07 Apr 2009 /  Other

    I am back in Sydney as of Jetstar late last night, and will spend the next couple of weeks catching up on documentation of the Big hART This Is Living premiere Tasmania tour. So much happened, so many great stories to share. And with photographer Brett Monaghan arriving a week or so back – lots of gr8 new pix!

    This is my personal favourite shot. Me and Pub Bouncer! aka Bronco or Blue Dog. I think he is at least 17 years old. I don’t know what it is about me and dogs but we just get on real good! Bronco keeps a fierce eye out for ‘behaviour’ issues at the Lady Franklin Hotel, located next door to the beautiful Palais Theatre, our last venue for the tour. The men in this area are not exactly soft and they enjoy a schooner or three. Any fights break out and Pub Bouncer limps over and looks sadly at the dudes with the wisdom of age and they stop. It works every time.

    Me and Pub Bouncer - Franklin Tasmania: Photo by Brett Monaghan


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  • 25 Mar 2009 /  Other

    I have promised my magnificent hosting family, Pam and Neal Rodwell, ‘not to tell anyone’ on the Mainland how wonderful this little north-west coast Tasmanian town of ‘W’ is: pretty without being dinky, a stunning natural setting, friendly happy citizens of all ages, who almost always say hi to you when strolling around town. After the riotous experience of the Wynyard (oops – I am damn hopeless at secrets) Agricultural Show more than a week back, it has been foot-to-the-pedal in getting Big hART’s new show, This Is Living, ready for opening night.

    Breakfast of Champions: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Essentially, this has included all that involves a bumping into what is a classic Aussie country-town ‘heyday’ auditorium. The Old Wynyard Theatre (1926) is owned by the new proprietors of the adjacent Wharf Hotel, who have recently restored both properties with great love and attention to detail.

    Setting Up the Half-Pipe: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I owe the owners of the pub no favours, so this is an honest pitch when I say anyone touring a show around Tasmania should think about taking advantage of this lovely venue – and the keen local community who packed the short debut season of This is Living to the rafters.

    Love is in the Air? - David Pendlebury, co-owner of the Wharf Hotel with Annie: Photo by James Waites

    Tech runs involved bringing together the three core groups of performers: the professional leads (Anne Grigg, Lex Marinos and Bruce Myles), the Wynyard ‘Witnesses’ (the older-age community component), and the young (skaters and other youth).

    Three's a Crowd: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Big hART regular, Peter Dixon, of pumpkin-growing fame (see earlier post) lives right next door to the theatre. His sheds, yard and even his house is a treasure-trove of abandoned engines and other unidentifiable mechanical wotnots from times past, some restored – many still awaiting his attention. I think, these days, Peter makes corrugated-iron water tanks for a living; but he has been involved in many shows.

    xxxxxx

    Steptoe's Aussie Cousin - Peter Dixon: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    The ultimate Mr Fixit, Peter (aka Captain Caravan) was responsible for the workability of the convoy of ancient mobile homes engaged in Big hART’s production, Drive-In Holiday, which toured the Tasmania extensively as part of the 2007 Ten Days on the Island festival. Apparently every vehicle got home without succumbing to an unsolvable technical hitch. Peter has stepped up in this production to an ‘acting’ role, as one of the Wynyard ‘group of four’ Witnesses who will tour with the show.

    Bearing Witness: Helen Dixon & Terry Smith with Anne Grigg: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Proximity and suitable equipment led to Peter’s yard and shed being used for the heavy-duty prop-making which included a lot of welding and assembly by other sometimes more ingenious means. Ben Lambert, who was on the Ngapartji Ngapartji tour to Ernabella has been involved in most of this work.

    Ben Lambert

    Big hART's Ben 'Pepper' Lambert: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    While Wynyard Witnesses settled into their evocatively ‘ghostly’ outfits, screen-printed with images of old newspaper clippings (costume designer Zoe Churchill), the hard yakka of putting up lights and wiring audio-visual equipment together – and then making it all WORK! – began to eat into days and long into evenings.

    Beige is the New Black - Zoe Churchill's Witness costumes: Photo by Neal Rodwell

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    Sophia Marinos and Zoe Churchill: Photo By Emilia Dearnley

    Fashion Victims - Sophia Marinos and Zoe Churchill: Photo By Amelia Dearnley

    Meanwhile, a few days prior to opening night a massive half-pipe was assembled outside the theatre. There was to be a display of skater skills for audiences on the way in to see the show; but from the time the tube was up, it became a town youth hotspot.

    Street Action - The Skater Posse: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I even had it explained to me just how a skateboard rises with the feet in advance of jumping a gutter or skidding along a rail: it would take a truly ‘beautiful mind’ to mathematically calculate the gravity-defying physics of these seemingly ‘mainstream’ skater feats.

    Artful Dodger - Big hART Junior Techie, George Nicholas: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    A number of young locals, who have worked on previous Big hART shows have lalso joined the production team including George Nicholas who worked on Love Zombies, taking over the lighting desk after Nicholas Higgins had ot leave the show early.

    Double Trouble - Big hART bloggist with sidekick Amelia Dearnley: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Meanwhile, my own personal duties began to kick in. Scott Rankin had asked me down to Tasmania to work on a program, typical of his lateral thinking, called ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, designed to encourage more vigorous critical thinking among local audiences. In Wynyard, this would begin with a troupe of eleven enthusiasts, ranging in age from 16 to 81!!

    Illuminating the Past - Wynyard Witness Mike Dixon: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Rees Campbell
    A wooden disk for a stage, a live band and a row of directors’ desks lined with several laptops. The old-fashioned filament globes symbolise beautifully the era of still photography and contrast dramatically with the digital projection of live skateboarding.  But the question echoing from the technical run is whether the multi-media technologies are complimentary or conflicting?

    Telen in control: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Teen Control - Big hART's Telen Rodwell: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    I will go into this project a little more next time: suffice it to say, it is a brave director who lets lose a bunch of potential brutalisers and naysayers on a new work. On any work! I will also let you know when a meaningful amount of this work has been posted onto the This Is Living website.

    Dunaways' Sounds of Silence: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Dillon Roberts
    Music ensemble, the Dunaways, exceeded my expectations in creating soulful melodies inspired by 60’s pop and folk music.  And so I ask the question: does the music suit the show and vice versa? The answer is an emphatic – amazingly! For those of you attending, all I can say is be prepared to be impressed. Big hART has once again put on ‘the big show!’

    Idol Rejects - Skater Kade Redmond & "Everyone's a Critic' Dillon Roberts: Photo by James Waites

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    Local Yokels - Big hART's Bronwyn Purvis & Top Tradie Jesse Randall: Photo by James Waites

    Local newspaper, The Advocate, took an interest in our little ‘criticism’ project: and so after opening night a full page was devoted to our activities, including some nifty paragraphs from some of the participants. They could not be full reviews, as the writers had to work from what was to be a dress rehearsal, but turned out to be a tortuous tech run. Make that crawl! My writers were still impressed.

    Family on Tour - Mum & Dad: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Freda Cook
    The new stage attracts the eye like a full moon tilted in the sky, surrounded with many stars.  Around the stage ghosts are seen drifting and observing the progress of the world.  Moving at speed, boys on skateboards can be compared to life with all its ups and downs.

    One of the appealing characteristics of any Big hART production these days is the accumulation of workers who are capable of putting their egos in their pockets and simply getting on with the – usually massive – job that needs to be done on minimal budgets and emasculating time frames. This was noticeable out in the desert with Ngapartji Ngapartji and again this time on getting up This is Living.

    Inter-Generational - Ginger Rankin and Neal Rodwell: Courtesy of Neal Rodwell

    Part of the luxury for me on this tour so far has been the above-mentioned accommodation. I have been guested by the Rodwells, who have been friends with Scott Rankin pretty much since his arrival in Burnie in the early 1980s to work with so-called ‘street kids’. Neal, already engaged in schemes assisting the disabled, saw a like-minded comrade in Scott Rankin; and their lives and ideals have remained intertwined for the past thirty years.

    ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    In fact, Neal and his wife Pam attended Scott’s first-ever show in Burnie, a one-person musical entertainment at the then popular and very alternative venue called The Electric Jug. Neal says, even back then, Scott revealed a fascination with multi-layered themes. Apparently as the story unfolded, and between songs, Scott would disrobe to reveal a new character in a different costume underneath.

    OO7 - Acclaimed Advocate Photographer Don Carter: Photo by James Waites

    Not surprisingly, a bevy of fresh local faces turned up to be part of the opening night support team. Including no less a figure than Don Carter, retired Advocate photographer, on ushering duties, whose life story shares quite a few similarities with that of Morgan, the character played by Bruce Myles. The script refers to specifically photos of sporting highlights, debutante balls and a visit by the Queen.

    : One Kick Two Kick – Photo courtesy of The Advocate

    And just as the skaters kicked into their truly spectacular pre-show display our in the street, a section of the sidewalk was populated by the voices of the Wynyard Chorale, with appropriate bodies attached – big men to the bass voices etc.

    'You'll Never Sing Alone' - The Wynyard Chorale: Photo by James Waites

    The street outside the theatre began to fill with audiences, and various volunteer staff working with everyhting from front of house to a fundraiser stall.

    Lady Luck - Barbara King and Big hART's Stephanie Finn: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Characteristic of the production’s core theme, young and old took it in turn to impress the milling crowd. In good time the audience was called into the theatre, and it wasn’t long before the Dunaways opened the show with just a hint of the exquisite musical backdrop they had created over recent months.

    Skater Dudettes - Witnesses Alwyn Friederdorff and Helen Dixon mucking up with the Skaters: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    To be honest, the show was somewhat behind schedule on several technical fronts: and opening night was about as close to a slip on a banana peel as you could get. To mix metaphors: it was a breach birth, the child was born with ugg boots on and an umbilical cord around its neck, red-faced as a nun caught out with a surfie in the back of a panel van, laughing and crying in equal amounts. But it was ALIVE! And the many parents involved were beyond joyful. Out the front, workers from different Big hART shows got together to say hi to each other.

    Hard Core Big hART - Scott Rankin and Michelle Kotevski: Photo James Waites

    Show over, technical people had to be reconstructed back into humanoid shapes from the pools of sweat they had been reduced to through the previous two-and-a-half hours. The healing powers of Tasmanian beer cannot be under-estimated. Core cast members could remember little of the experience.

    Okay - So Three Isn't a Crowd After All: Photo Neal Rodwell

    Witnesses were thrilled to at last have participated in a full run in the presence of a life audience – and experienced the resultant the buzz . And the kids behind the scrim, whose job it was to occasionally burst into skater action or wild mosh-pit moves, against a backdrop of fleeting moving images, were more proud of the fact that for most of the evening they had been able to sit still out the back there and not talk or move.

    And in the End there was Skating: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Okay, so there was a bit of mucking up, but by modern-day ‘attention deficit’ standards the achievement for most was akin to surviving alone in a Himalayan cave and living on melted snow for a several years.

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  • 21 Mar 2009 /  Other

    This is my debut exhibition of ‘art’ photography! Watch out William Yang, Mario Testino and Annie Lieberwitz, I am hot on your heels.  All these pix were taken with a Box Brownie whilst blindfolded – aimed to capture and celebrate the ‘amateur’ ethos of the small-town agricultural show in the very texture of the images. My specialty at the moment appears to be tending towards flower arrangements and cows.

    Just to let you all know that we have been flat-chat since my last post. Big hART’s This is Living debuted last night at the Wharf Theatre at Wynyard to a packed house, as part of the 2009 Ten Days on the Island Festival. But more of that soon. I have also completed my first series of “Everyone’s A Critic’ classes, which comprised a group of eleven locals, aged between 16 to 84. Again I’ll report back soon on that too. For now, just to let you know we had a ball and six of the group’s short-version reviews, along with one from me, have been published in a special feature in today’s Advocate newspaper.

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    My best Shot!

    My Best Shot!

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    Sorry I missed the chook pavilion!

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