• 26 Jan 2012 /  Reviews, THEATRE

    ‘Salve Magister!’ ‘

    Sedate Discipoli!’

    That’s what we used to say at the beginning of our Latin classes at school – yes I come from last days of Latin being taught and I remember only a couple of phrases, mostly to do agriculture and war. The above translates: ‘Good Morning Sir!’ or – perhaps – ‘Hail Oh Great Teacher!’ And then in reply – ‘Be seated students!’ This could be me talking to you? Though I think our relationship is more mutual.

    Or, more likely, theatre as an art form addressing moi – telling me to sit down and listen (and watch). The bulk of the wisdom I have accrued in my life time thus far has come, pretty much in equal portions, from my lived experiences (mostly my mistakes) in all their wonder and glory and the many lessons I have learned Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 22 Jan 2012 /  Reviews

    I have been seeing a show a night for the past week with just one more before the 2012 Sydney Festival is over for me. I am grouping some of them here, as they kinda go together. Besides I need to get back to my real job – the bank manager in my brain is hassling me. I have seen more of this festival than I have for quite a while. All of it has been interesting, some of it quite special, with the home-made fare more impressive than the imported.

    Paul White in Afternoon of the Faun

    Certainly more stylistically and formally advanced. Others may hold a different view, depending on what they have encountered. I did not see Babel, for example, which was greatly admired by many. But as dance, I wonder if it could have Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 12 Jan 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    A pile of new home-grown works are premiering at this 2012 Sydney Festival – and I’ve seen three in 24 hours.Well, over a cycle of two evenings. What’s great about seeing them so close together is the chance to observe just how innovative much of our theatre practice is nowadays. What would have caused a great fuss a few years ago is is simply the accepted way of making work now. New means it leads to unexpected outputs – and hence fresh ways of looking at our ever-changing world.

    Russell Kiefel in Buried City - photo by Heidrun Lohr

    First off the rank was Urban Theatre Project’s (UTP) Buried City at Upstairs Belvoir. UTP have made regular appearances at Sydney Festivals over recent years. Based in Bankstown, often creating site-specific work, Festival regulars have previously had to trek beyond their cultural comfort zone Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 11 Jan 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    Okay so the Sydney Festival people have got back to me – and they have been doing what I was hoping they might have. It’s just not in the mainstream blurbs why would it be? Local community knows about the gig, lots of participation at all sorts of levels, and have the offer of cheap tIx and more

    Brook Andrew's Caravans

    “Yep, we’ve been working with huge numbers of the community for months. You’re right – Black Capital is a hugely ambitious project, so we were incredibly proactive in getting as many people on board,

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 26 Jan 2010 /  News

    Hi there readers!

    I have become increasingly interested in the extent to which shows have divided commentators of many events at this 2010 Sydney Festival. Every major item in the theatre program has had its friends and enemies. I would love to encourage readers of this site to pitch in with your own views. Unmuzzle and let your views go free to air. At no cost…except to your reputation!

    Below is a review from John Matthews who usually writes about visual art (and very well too – I highly recommend his site). But here he has a go at the Six Characters…and a smart response too. It is certainly the show I liked least so far from the big gigs – and not yet myself put up a cogent case. As mentioned previously, at least one of the regular theatregoers I most respect thought it fantastic. I might try and tempt him to pitch in here…under a pseudonym mate? I will have a go at some point, meanwhile Matthews does a good job putting a case ‘against’.

    John Matthews piece from Artkritique:


    And here is Jill Sykes review of the Giselle. Usually fairly mild-mannered, but tremendously informed after years in the game, Sykes really puts the fangs into this one. For what it’s worth, Giselle happens to be the show (of the above) I liked them most. But as I have said many times over the years: it doesn’t matter whether a reviewer/punter likes a show or not: in the context of a discussion, it is the quality of our/their reasoning.

    Sykes review first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald , but here it is from Brisbane.


    All readers with strong views about any of the works that might be described as ‘interpretations of a classic’ are invited to pitch in: the Hamlet, the Tempest, the Giselle, the Six Characters…they are the main ones. They form a meaningful body of work, in the very least adventurous and daring. So why are they dividing even the more informed and experienced of our theatregoers? I’d really like to know.

    I know it’s hot – and hard to think. But I do think Lindy Hume’s adventurous programing deserves feedback. She has thrown it out to us – it’s gutsy stuff – well, what do we think? Which of the above works did you like or admire – or loathe or maybe just disappointed you?  I am getting lots of private messages on this topic – who’s gonna be first cab off the rank! Guys and gals – throw out some comments – even a few questions if you like?



  • 25 Jan 2010 /  News


    Performers - Happy as Larry

    Performers - Happy as Larry

    My decades of deep study of eastern religions (watching Ang Lee movies and eating in Chinatown, etc) have taught me that the secret to life is to be happy without being too optimistic. Lindy Hume has subtly embedded this profound Buddha-like insight into the heart of the Australian content of this year’s Sydney Festival by getting our hopes up so high in advance of Optimism (SOH Drama Theatre)– for it to then so deeply disappoint. That was clever – not so much the show, but the programing clearly had a sting in its tail! Optimism was what they call in screenwritng a ‘plant’. Too much optimism can get you into trouble. Let me digress:’desire’ and ‘fear’ are the enemies of a happy life. And so it was with ‘equanimity’’ – neither fearing nor desiring that we discover life at its best. The elusive perfect balance of living truly in the moment – which I experienced for exmaple asI travelled on the train to Parramatta with my friend Augusta Supple to see Shaun Parker and Co’s Happy as Larry.

    Desire is bad coz it makes you want things in advance – often they don’t turn up or, if they do, not in the form you expect. Desire leads to disappointment. You are living in the future – not the present. Fear is the backward version, where you are afraid of that bad thing happening again. You are living in the past, again not the present. True happiness is involves living fully in the present – aware of every step and every breath you take. I am expecting to get closer to the art of equinimity or ‘living in the present’ in my next life. But as you can see, in that very expectation I have a long ways to go. So dont hold your breath!

    The good news is that my encounter with Happy as Larry was as ‘equanimous’ as the train trip. I sat there in the stalls and lived the production through moment by moment – and I was happy doing so. This is a lovely show that explores through music and movement different ‘types’ happiness. Or if you take a lead from the program notes – happiness as expressed by nine personality types as described by the Enneagram system of personality. I just did a quick test and turned out to be (in this quirky online version) more ‘caring and inter-personal + intense and cerebral’ than I am ‘powerful and domineering + success orientated’. Who would have known…??

    Onstage here we have performers acting out the behaviour and interpersonal dynamics of the nine types in ‘happy’ mode: The Perfectionist, The Seducer, The Performer, the Tragic Romantic, The Observer, The Devil’s Advocate, The Optimist, The Boss and the Mediator. Now I know that the idea of this show was based on this ‘Enneagram’ stuff, I’d love to go back and see if I can work out which performers played which ‘type’ of personality. I hasten to add the show is a treat to watch without having first dipped into the treatise.

    Anyways, that is all by the by. By not fearing or desiring in advance meant I arrived at my seat at the Riverside Theatre Parramatta is a lovely balanced mood and I just let the experience wash over me.I thought the show was groovy and inventive and quirky and fun. I liked the members of the troupe – separately and together. I thought they were a fascinating bunch of individuals who also happened to work very well together. I guess no matter what kind of happy person you are – or are portraying – it’s easier to get along with others (especially with other happy people) than it is if you are uhappy – even if you are hanging out with the same kinds of unhappy people. Except if you are a Goth of course – who love being unhappy – or have they all moved onto merchant banking now?

    I greatly liked Sean Parker’s work, This Show is about People at last year’s festival. Enough to be drawn to this year’s piece. To me it’s one of the highlights of the 2010 program so far. It doesn’t ‘interrogate’ or strip a major classic down to rubble and rebuld it. If it shows off it’s in the cutest, nicest way. Humane and humorous it avoids the grandious, the large statement: but it’s no less rich in texture, commitment from the artists, or craft because of that.

    Because it’s such a unified work I think all the artists should be named. Alongside Director/Choreographer Shaun Parker: Veronica Neaves – Dramaturg; fabulous original Music – Nick Wales and Bree Van Reyk; Designer – Adam Gardnir (how good is this guy). Lights – Luiz Pamphola. And the performers/devisers: Matt Cornell, Dean Cross, Ghenoa Gela, Josh Mu, Marnie Palomares, Harriet Ritchie, Miranda Wheen, Paul White and Lee Wilson.

    All gorgeous to watch.

    By the way, it not all bubbles and froth. As dramaturg Veronic Neave puts it in the program  notes: “Happiness is our most sungular human pursuit. It is seemingly so conditional, randomly regulated by external influences. Through the theatrical glasses of objectivity we see how absurd and perplexing our efforts are to hold onto something that is so elusive yet is as available as the air we breathe. That breathing thing again.

    Happy as Larry - the Mantra

    All 4 one & One 4 All

     Happiness on stage, as in life, is largely earned. Happiness is serious business. Ask the Dalai Lama. To be truly happy (joyful) while alive  without tunring a blind eye to the suffering all around us in myriad shapes and forms, is to master the art of being truly alive. My type says I am a procrastinator – so I must get round to trying it some time. Then again – do I deserve happiness? The spiral begins again. Then there’s the trampoline at the bottom! Happy as Larry doesn’t cost too much by Festival standards ($30 max), and it plays the Seymour Centre for a few shows after Riverside. Enjoy! Smile! For once – and enjoy a happy ending that is well and truly earned – by both audiences and performers.


  • 23 Jan 2010 /  News

    I haven’t been writing much on what I’ve been seeing at this year’s festival offerings because, to be honest, up until now I haven’t known what to say. I am not seeing a lot of work, but I have been seeing the big theatre gigs and a pattern is starting to fall into place. Apart from The Fence which is home-grown and with which I have had an association, I’ve seen the Berlin Hamlet, the London Six Characters…, the New Zealand Tempest; and as of last night, the Dublin Giselle.


    Six Characters in Search of an Author

    Six Characters in Search of an Author


    Welcome to Sydney Lindy Hume! Hume is a practising opera (mainly) director of note, and her interest in radical interpretations of classic texts by gifted directors is certainly what holds the above-mentioned list of works together as a group. Hume also has excellent taste – if I may say so myself. This is not a festival where I, as a commentator, must imagine who the works might please – and dole out accordingly. As an audience member, for once, I can speak for myself, and say every single one of these works has been utterly engaging. All have been genuinely top-drawer international festival fare.





    Which does not mean I have exactly liked them all; or that they have all been undiluted masterpieces. Nothing here like last year’s Hungarian Ivanov, which pleased absolutely everyone who saw it, and was indeed virtually perfect. Every work cited above has divided the core group of individuals I have had discussions with in foyers throughout the past two weeks. Among this group of committed theatregoers, every show has had it devotees and its dissenters. While I am happy to recognise the Berlin Hamlet as Picasso of the festival; the show that absolutely spoke to me was the Giselle from Ireland I saw last night.




    I realise now I have been hungry for some tender emotion, a quality assidously avoided in the Hamlet, and never quite brought to the surface in the Pirandello. And while Giselle is many other things, crazily original and often very funny, finally it also opens up its heart – and much love and sadness flows. Just as I was surprised to meet people who ’loved’ the Pirandello without reservatrion; I was entirely thrown off balance to walk straight out of the Giselle into a tirade of discontent. Absolutely second rate, a waste of money, we have better companies. I was so shocked at the vehemence (passion) I had to withdraw from the scene. As if it had been a child just handed to me for for safe care, I felt a deep responsibility to protect my experience of the work. In my mind - young Giselle had not been properly looked after by those with the responsibility to do so in the story, and for that she herself pays the ultimate price. Death.




    The point for now is this. Whether any one of us ’gets’ or or ‘does not get’ any of the above shows, at this festival, this is largely beside the point – in the context anyway of broader discourse. For once there is an opportunity for vigorous debate. About the work itself: and liking or disliking any of the above shows, more than someone else, had lead to some fascinating conversations. Conversations I have not enjoyed since the heyday of Adelaide Festivals run in previous decades by Anthony Steel, Jim Sharman and Barrie Kosky. To my mind, this is a true and proper festival. The real deal. I am sorry I haven’t got time to say a lot even today - I have got this other goddam assignment hanging over my head like a Sword of Damocles. But I will reflect more widely in a later post. I promise.

    I am putting this up today as a means of reporting in – also to recommend Giselle to any of you out there who have found over time that you tend to share my taste. And while we are in the business of giving plugs – let me say from the day the program for this festival was announced, the work I have had my eye on is the Stravinsky/Peter Sellars double billOedipus Rex and Symphony of the Psalms. It is yet to come. I will put more up on this also in a couple of days. But go Google for more on this show from the Festival website - find out what you can about this work and have a think about attending.


    OedipusRex - Symphony of the Psalms

    Oedipus Rex - Symphony of the Psalms


     In terms of directorial reinterrogation of classic works, nothing beats my experience of Sellar’s direction of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress which travelled one year from Los Angeles to the Paris Autumn Festival. To give you a hint of the calibre of the event it was conducted by Pierre Boulez, starred Dawn Upshow, and was set in an LA Prison. Again, this time, we have Sellars, Stravinsky and a work emanating from Los Angeles. The work is scheduled for the closing days of this festival. It is not cheap. But it is also the sleeper event in this year’s program and tickets are still available. Can I suggest you have a think about this one: even if on the day of performance you go down to Half-Tix booth and pick up a bargain.

    There’s my spruiking. I did say to Festival PR that I would give this show a plug as tix have not been walking out the door. But that conversation emerged from my enthusiasm, my expectation, my wonderful memories from the Sellars-Stravinsky encounter a few years back.