No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Adelaide Blogs

It’s Pretty Clear.

Adam Cook comments on the lack of female writers and directors in the state theatre companies.

Interview with Cook, 18/3/2011,  from The Barefoot Review.  Listen here. Quoted from 15:00, talking about the vision for the State Theatre Company:

I make lists.  And you write: New Australian; Comedies; Classics; Radical; Imported Foreign Hit – you know, because there is always one of those, whether it’s God Of Carnage… this year in Sydney and Melbourne it’s a play called The Vibrator Play, there is always a brand new play from overseas that people are all doing or all considering because it’s a terrific play.

So that’s sort of how it happens.  And then working out what opportunities I can create for local directors.  I don’t import anybody.  Everybody who works here is from here.  Because I think you can’t turn up and bring your mates when you come to a new city.  And not even your mates, but people you esteem and admire from other cities.

So when we get criticisms about the lack of opportunities for woman directors: there aren’t any living here who’ve earned their stripes except for Catherine Fitzgerald.

People think just because they want to direct that they should be in a 600 seat theatre working with us, and David Mealor has earned it.  You know?  He’s so entrepreneurial, he’s so gifted. He’s done lots of work off his own back.  I had him assisting me on two shows last year specifically for that reason, so that I could have a better sense of him and how he works and how he thinks so I could give him a job on the main stage.  And he’s earned it.

So you know, there is a lot of talk in the cultural community at the moment about woman directors and woman playwrights and the lack of representation in State companies.

Q: Coming off the back of BossLady?

Well, before that.  Last year was all about woman directors and where are they, and this belief, frankly, that there was this conspiracy amongst male directors to keep women out. And I was at a forum in Melbourne, which was a two day forum, and I was one of the few men there, but I thought I’m very interested in all of this and to hear it all and to put our point, and what I didn’t have the guts to say, but I’ll say to you, is that there is no conspiracy, you just have to be talented, and the people who would hire you have to agree that you are.

And that is the blunt fact of getting a job.  You just have to be good.  And the same with playwrights, they think “why aren’t you doing my plays?”  Well, I don’t think it’s very good. There’s always one answer, isn’t there?  Why isn’t someone dating you, why isn’t someone returning your call or your text, whatever.  It’s pretty clear.

Are You There, Artists? It’s Me, Jane.

There is a particular rhetoric that gets thrown around Adelaide theatre circles (and I really do hope it is Adelaide specific) which goes along the lines of Arts Administrators exist only to steal money away from the artists. It is brought up frequently.  For every one time it is specifically brought up as an attacking piece of “conversation” or “debate”, it is mentioned ten times as a side remark or a snide comment.

It often stems out of the funding debate.  And there are certainly questions to be asked about distribution of arts funding.  But when this specifically is brought up this is not what is said, and is not what is heard.  What I hear is a pointed and deliberate attack on administrators as individuals.

Monday will be one year since I started my Arts Administration Traineeship.  That is one year of working hard on a crap wage for the belief that when I do my job well, I create the framework so artists can do their job better.

Are there dickheads who work in arts administration?  Absolutely.  Just as there are dickheads who are artists.  But in my experience, most administrators are there because they love art, and because they want to support artists.  They want to do all the crappy jobs (and there are a lot of crappy jobs, just as there are lots of good jobs) and ultimately get everyone paid.  Including themselves, for their long hours and crappy wage.

No one works in the arts to get rich.  We could be working in the corporate sector, “ripping off” big business, for a lot more money.

I hate feeling that I am working myself so hard at a job I am really good at and that people – the very people we do this all for – can’t see that.  I hate seeing people who have worked in this sector for years are still attacked, and must still defend their choice to be an administrator.  I hate seeing friends who describe themselves as equally proud of being an artist and an administrator, made to feel lesser because someone thinks half of that is selling out.

I am so glad I work in film, where the role of the producer and administrators is respected.  Vitriol like this makes me question if I will ever work within a theatre context.  Because I can’t handle being attacked in this way.

I can’t handle being accused of being lesser than my artist counterparts.  I can’t handle being accused of working this job only so I can steal and squander money from the artist.  I can’t handle being told that I wouldn’t be a good theatre curator, because as someone who isn’t an artist I will never truly understand the work.  I can’t handle being told all this, and then being told, by a woman, that I will never have a leadership position because of my gender.  I absolutely disagree with every one of these statements.

I am twenty-two.  I have been employed as an administrator for a year.  I love my job, and the people I work with, and all of the incredible people who have supported me throughout this year.   Most days I feel like I want to commit myself to this profession for life.  Some days I have to listen to things like this, and question why I think I want to work a job which affords so little respect from the very people we do this all for.

Not everyone is saying this.  I believe there are more artists who understand and respect the role of administrators than who don’t.  But the people who make these comments are often very loud.  They often speak very well.  I’m sure it can be attractive for an artist to hear these comments and think ‘I’m not getting paid enough.  Are these people the reason why?’ So it is very easy for these opinions to dominate a room; even if they’re not the thoughts of everyone, a room that is overall very anti-administrator can be the result.

And that really hurts.

I think it is important to note that this came up on International Women’s Day, at an event about women in the arts.  This is important to note, because I feel like I am more judged, more attacked, more sidelined, for being an arts administrator than I have ever felt for being a woman, or for being a feminist.

Is this really the arts culture I tell myself I love?  Some days I’m not too sure.

AdlFringe Diary 2: Week Minus One

I’m going with the adage slow and steady wins the race, and so have only seen five fringe show so far.  Of course, I say only five, and then think about how the Fringe actually opens tonight, so perhaps you’re not convinced.

In the warm up week, I’ve spent some lovely afternoons and nights in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, which had their opening last Tuesday.   While the top end of the Garden seems to have become a bit garish and gaudy with the almost overwhelming scale of arcade amusement rides, this doesn’t detract from the open lawns and lit trees and dancing Dutchmen of the Eastern End.  Garden reviews have been written for Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima, The Wau Wau Sisters Are As Naked As The Day They Were Born Again!, Nothing Is Really Difficult and Cantina, with Songs To Make You Smile rounding out the five (twitter lengthed review: A lovely show with a lovely voice, but a tad repetitive and narrow for those who didn’t grow up listening to songs from that era).

I’ve also spent two nights at two launches: Accidental Productions launched their fringe program at their lovely new Hutt Street Fringe venue CitySoul, and the launch of the Coopers Urban Garden Experiment which Nexus has set up in their courtyard, creating a gorgeous piece of greenery within the brick and concrete jungle which is the Lion Arts Centre of my second home.

Because I was in the Fringe Parade last year, I remember quite clearly the less than delightful 40-odd-degrees it was that evening.  In retrospect, it perhaps seems better than today’s rain.  Chookas to all for opening; hope you don’t get too wet!

 

Review: The Wau Wau Sisters are as Naked as the Day They Were Born Again!

According to all evidence, the day the Wau Wau Sisters were born, they were covered in glitter.  But apart from all this glitter, they were very very naked.  Lest anyone think this is a show about the sisters being Born Again, I feel that there should be some punctuation in the title: As Naked As The Day They Were Born, Again!

Although it would be rather hilarious if an evangelical Christian group thought an 11:30pm (veering on the side of 12am) show in the Garden of Unearthly Delights was about two women being born again, and walked in to that.  (And there is a nice parallel which could be drawn from their past show The Last Supper … )

So assuming you are at least somewhat versed in the Fringe (whether that be Adelaide or other I don’t suppose it would matter), I’m going to guess that you figured The Wau Wau Sisters are as Naked as the Day They Were Born Again! did involve copious amounts of nudity.

What you may not assume (because, perhaps, with the Fringe, these assumptions are better left untouched) is that nudity 1) is the very first thing you see in this show – no time for a strip tease here, and 2) is wonderfully, delightfully, marvelously captivating and fun and funny.

This picture is called "Cowgirls trying for it all to be okay" Photo by Don Spiro

When they arrived for last year’s Fringe, the sisters’ suitcases never showed up, and the duo received much publicity as their producer Daniel Clarke (@danioclarke) “tweeted the shit out of it”.  This year –  would you believe it! – the same thing has happened, and to save trouble they are doing the show sans clothes. When Clarke bursts in part way through the show with the finally arrived suitcases, it seems as if the day is saved – they can wear their costumes after all!  But no, that would be far too easy, wouldn’t it?

An almost reverse burlesque is brought to the show as Adrienne Truscott and Tanya Gagnes tease the audience as they get dressed.  The show in the always magical Spiegeltent  is peppered with acrobatics on the trapeze, or on each other, Country and Western songs which are perhaps just a little bit wrong (who doesn’t love that great family song classic, You Cut the Cocaine, and I’ll Cut the Cheese?), a healthy dose of audience participation from two very willing and generous men, and, of course, more nudity.

I laughed so loud and so hard their were almost tears.  The Wau Wau sisters are fantastically funny and cleaver, and they delight – just as the audience delights – in this free nudity which isn’t really about anything more than can’t it be fun to be naked?

Daniel Clarke presents The Wau Wau Sisters are as Naked as the Day they were Born Again! The Garden of Unearthly Delights, nightly at 11:30 until 27th Feb (excluding Mondays). More information and tickets.

That old classics debate

Plays change over time, usually for the worse.  Ten-year-old plays have a way of seeming talky, while twenty-year-old plays often sound like school boys late for assembly, briming with over-elaborate explanations.  Over twenty, reputation is up for grabs: it’s classic status or bust.  That is what ‘classic’ means: that a play can change its meaning and survive.

-  Richard Eyre & Nicolas Wright (2000) Changing Stages: A View
of British Thetare in the 20th Century,
Bloomsbury, London, p253
(Emphasis mine.)

When I came across this paragraph I think I re-read it a good three or four times, just letting it sink in.  I think this is the most perfect description of a classic text I’ve come across.  That a classic is that thing which still rests with gravity on our society, no matter how society has moved on from the situation at hand.

I do fear some texts which were perhaps still relevant with changed meaning twenty years ago are no-longer, but they have been decreed as classics and now can’t be touched.  The danger is, I feel, theatre moving from a classic in which we can still derive meaning, to a museum piece – a curious relic of a time which was, but with no pertinent baring on our current lives.  Yes, one which perhaps greatly influenced modern playwrights; but then perhaps it is their turn on the stage, in that great living beast which is theatre.

Looking at the Penguin Classics book range today, trying to choose my next fiction book after finishing the mammoth essay which was Changing Stages, I was again struck by the thought that while I have such choice and freedom over the novels and non-fiction texts I read and am exposed to, I have such limited choice over the plays I see.  Not that anyone is dictating to me you must see this, you cannot see that (although my wallet sometimes has a say), but in that the limits of theatre – that it must (or at least really should) be made by a talented and highly skilled group of people, coming together in a particular time and a particular place – places limits on the reach that an audience can have.  The smaller the place, the higher the limits.  So while I can walk in to bookshops and libraries in Adelaide and choose between literally millions of books, or failing that, find the world of literature just a mouse click away, my theatrical choices in Adelaide in any given year are limited within the hundreds.

I don’t quite know what this means for my theatrical education.  Should the selection of what texts I see be deferred over to experts?  Does this expand the shows I would see outside of my own tastes and world?  Or does it simply narrow it into the world view of a few select people?

I have very little patience for bad literature (or even mildly adequate literature): I won’t read it, and by many people’s standards I probably don’t give it a fair chance at all.  But when there are so many millions of books I have never read, nor will never get to read, why waste even a chapter on a book or an author I’m not enjoying?  But I can’t look at a theatre season, or, worse, sit in an audience and think yeah, I’d chuck this one away.  In the scheme of things I suspect this is a good thing: forcing me to judge things on their merits as a complete work rather than a couple of pages, but then there is always going to be that feeling, particularly starting the year, looking at theatre brochures and fringe guides and thinking but what am I missing?

What old texts could be standing upon these plays, but haven’t been decreed a ‘classic’ by the powers that be?  What new texts aren’t getting a look in edgewise?  The theatrical offerings in this year’s Fringe are outstandingly poor – hopefully some gems, and there is a few I have my eye on – and, to be completely honest, I’m not looking forward to the rest of the year with the feverishness I have come to expect from myself.

Could I have done a better job?  I doubt it. But that is the curious nature of the beast: we’ll never know, we’ll never get to choose, we just have to hope that the people doing the choosing are the best people for the job.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my Penguin Classic We Have Always Lived In The Castle and I need to get better acquainted.  This isn’t what I set out to write about at all.

2010, You’ve Been Good To Me

A Thank You, and the obligatory Best Of Worst Of lists

To everyone who has supported me and my blog and my other writing this year: thank you.  This year has been truly magnificent, and getting so much respect for my writing has played no small part in that.  When I decided to not pursue my Honours degree I knew I was making the right choice; I could have never grasped just how right that choice was.  To everyone who has read, commented, subscribed, or talked to me about something I’ve written, you blow my mind.   To the companies and artists in particular who have taken me on as part of the community, in my strange hybrid of administrator / writer / reviewer / blogger / fan, I am eternally grateful.

Even those of you who have given me bad feedback, the overestimation of the impact of this blog warms my cockles.  Those of you who got here by searching for naked pictures of actors or Plain Janes, you creep me out a little and don’t get my thanks, sorry.

After much hemming and hawing over how (and if) to do a Best/Worst of The Year, I eventually decided to just go for the traditional top and bottom five.   Not necessarily the best and the worst, but in a completely subjective analysis my favourites and my biggest disappointments.  I loved 54 of the 88 productions I saw, and most of the rest leaned towards the love over the hate side, so it’s been a pretty fine year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: My Stories, Your Emails

This review originally appeared on www.ArtsHub.com.au

Ever personable, Ursula Martinez – the headline act at Feast 2010 – candidly shares stories with the audience. Starting with essentially a series of unconnected one-liners, Martinez begins My Stories, Your Emails bringing us into her life, her family, and her sense of humour.

Ursula Martinez in My Stories, Your Emails. Photo: Tristram Kenton

As she reads her stories from a folder, some seem to end just before the punch line, and so, as we realise we’re not going to hear that final beat that we are expecting, the joke becomes all the more funnier.

It is delightful to see how, after many seasons, Martinez still amuses herself with her jokes. At times she can barely contain a smile when she recounts a story, or imitates her Spanish mother or the boy from her apartment building who just had his hovering exam. At other times she looks straight into the audience and laughs along with us. In the second half, as she reads others emails from a laptop, creating characters for the writers, the characterisation might, ever so slightly, disappear, as she reacts to the audience’s appreciation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Adelaide Critics Circle Awards 2010

Because I cannot find a copy of this posted on the internet anywhere, despite the fact that the circle is the arts media of Adelaide, and because I was just forwarded on the media release, the nominees for the Adelaide Critics Circle Awards 2010 are:

Updated with winners 7/12/10

Individual Award

• Nicholas Garsden, actor, for True West (Flying Penguin Productions)
• Corey McMahon, director, The Share (five.point.one)
• Hannah Norris, actor, My Name is Rachel Corrie (Daniel Clarke)
• Nathan O’Keefe, actor, for his body of work throughout the year

Group Award

• Brink Productions, Harbinger
• Leigh Warren & Dancers/State Opera of South Australia, Maria de Buenos Aires
• Slingsby Theatre Company, Man Covets Bird

Emerging Artist of the Year

• Ian Andrew, performer, Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA)
• Matthew Crook, actor, The Share (five.point.one)
• Aleksandr Tsiboulski, guitarist, for his body of work throughout the year

Independent Arts Foundation Award for Innovation

• Steve Sheehan, Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima
• The Border Project/Sydney Theatre Company, vs Macbeth
• Brink Productions, Harbinger

Individual Award – Amateur Theatre

• Megan Humphries, performer, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Northern Light Theatre Company)
• Myfanwy May, performer, Haywire (Therry Dramatic Society)
• Guy O’Grady, actor, An Enemy of the People (ActNow Theatre for Social Change)
• Sue Wylie, performer, Curtains (Therry Dramatic Society), The Vagina Monologues (Acorn)

Group Award – Amateur Theatre

• Northern Light Theatre, Monty Python’s Spamalot
• Therry Dramatic Society, Curtains
• Southern Youth Theatre Ensemble, Retaliation

Award for Visual Arts: Sam Songailo

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dale Ringland

Crack Open Your Wallet for Crackers

Today, the State Theatre Company opened the doors to their workshop and rehearsal room for a massive party to raise money for Adelaide actress Michaela Cantwell, who suffered a stroke after the final performance of romeo&juliet.   It was a great event: local musicians, food, drink, raffles and an auction, with all money raised going to Michaela to help fund her rest and recovery and get her back on our stages as soon as possible.  It was also great to see so many people to come together for the cause, a huge thank you and congratulations to all the volunteers who made it happen.  Michaela also made an appearance, which was just the biggest gift to everyone in attendance.

I spent the day walking around with the giant amazing camera I borrowed for the weekend.  Unfortunately, I do not possess the skill to use the camera well in low light.   One day.  For now I will just leave you with this photo of the crowd gathered for the auction:

If you missed the event and would like to donate, contact the company at rsvp at statetheatrecompany.com.au

I would love to see this sort of event happen again, hopefully for happier circumstances.  Of course, if you want to party in the workshop, come along to the next Red Carpet Party, but I think we should think bigger than that.  How about a few Sunday workshop parties a year to raise money for Assistant Directors, designer secondments, play developments, or readings.  Or let’s think really big: how great would it be if fundraising events like these could go towards creating and producing a Second Stage season for the State Theatre Company?  Works that take too many risks, or are too small to work for a three-week season in the 650 seat Dunstan Playhouse, put on for seasons in small Adelaide or suburban venues with fully paid professional staff.  That would be a great thing to see.

Reviews: The Event and The Good Doctor

With more plays on at the Bakehouse Theatre on Angus St this week than at the Festival Centre, I reviewed two of the plays that were on (with the third being one I saw at the Fringe). Wednesday night was The Event, directed by Daniel Clarke, and Thursday was The Good Doctor by Accidental Productions.

It was really a quite surreal experience, watching The Good Doctor the day after seeing The Event.  I feel as if I am quite tuned in to directorial and actor’s choices under normal circumstances, I can understand the technical side of theatre while being swept away by the emotional side, but in this case every choice, every moment, every moment was seemingly amplified:  a play about the technicalities of theatre completely transformed my way of experiencing another piece.

This review of The Event originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

The Event is a curious thing to write about on paper. So simple, so purely a derivative of theatre, it does seem like an extraordinarily strange job, to be a stranger, a professional observer, who sits in the audience and listens to the words written by a man in order to go home and write my own words in response to those words.

There is a stage, empty. There is a pool of light and in it stands a man. The man is an actor, the man is Nick Pelomis. But of course we’re not supposed to know that. To us he is just a man. And the man stands on the stage and speaks to us the words he memorised by another man, John Clancy. But we shouldn’t know that either. For weeks, the man on the stage read and spoke the work of the writer, and another man, Daniel Clarke told him how to say the words and how to stand and how to act. Just another thing we shouldn’t know, that should be obscured by the magic of the theatre.

And while The Event doesn’t introduce us to these particular people, it does introduce us to the curious curiosities which is theatre, drawing back the curtain of artificiality and narrating what exactly it is that makes a piece of theatre. The lines, the direction, the measured movements and the repeated choice, that manipulative change in the lighting: the performance of the thing.

With your attention brought to be so closely focused on the rehearsal, on the deliberate choice in every movement, every move the man makes is questioned: is this a choice? Is this rehearsed? Is this how he has done it before, will do it again? Or did I catch a moment of spontaneity? That couldn’t possibly have been rehearsed, that was here and now. Wasn’t it? Was it?

This is a testament to Pelmois and Clarke that even when constantly told this is theatre and this is not real, you buy into the character presented. I know, you say to yourself, that the play they are talking about is invented, but since this man is talking about that play, this play is real. Surely?

The counter to this, of course, is the audience becomes hyper aware to each stumbled word, each slight flub: ah, a mistake! I caught it! Under Pelomis’s hand there may be few victories in this game, but they become much more amplified than under any normal circumstances.

Clancy’s script succeeds the most when it is talking directly about the acting process and the audience (and the reviewers in the audience). At times, when steering away from this most elemental form, the primary message of the piece can get a bit lost, as the man goes into deeper reflections on theatre and society and the play stalls. But when it is at its best The Event is a side-achingly funny and clever look into stagecraft.

One which will probably never let you look at a man, standing in a pool of light on stage, in quite the same way again.

This review of The Good Doctor originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

A sneeze on the back of the head of General Mikhail Brassilhov in the theatre doesn’t turn out well for Ivan CherdyakovPeter Semyonych, seducer of women, attempts to show us how to sleep with a man’s wife, by using the husband to do the deed. Mrs Schukin is hardly impressed with the fact her husband was fired after five months of being unable to work, and she expects something to be done about that.

Funny and light-hearted amusement, The Good Doctor is modern American playwright Neil Simon’s take on the classical Russian works of Chekhov, as the Writer takes us through a series of sketches of his writings.

The further director Hew Parhman (forced to make a guest appearance on opening night as the cast missed their opening cue) and the five-person ensemble push the humour and clowning, the more successful the play becomes. Andrew Pantelis has a tendency to give too much reverence to his lines, particularly in the role of the Writer, but loses some of the stiffness as the play progresses.

Working in the small and inflexible Studio Space at the Bakehouse Theatre with limited sets and lighting the play truly rests on the shoulders of its cast. All actors need to work on development of their characters: including creating a bigger distinction between roles that doesn’t rely on simply changing accents, a rather inexplicable choice.

Regardless, the production belongs to Kyle Kaczmarczyk and, at times, Eddie Morrison as they demonstrate their ability to find the extremities of the comedy in Simon’s text. From the awkward and gangly physicality ofKaczmarczyk, to the overbearing or nervous energy of Morrison the biggest laughs are brought.

While the production has some shortcomings and the youth of the ensemble shows, ultimately it achieves a night of jovial and farcical entertainment. One hopes that through a dedication to creating self-produced works, the artists involved in companies such as this are only going to grow.

Daniel Clarke presents The Event by John Clancy.   Directed by Daniel Clarke.  With Nick Pelomis.

Accidental Productions present The Good Doctor by Neil Simon.  Directed by Hew Parham.  With Andrew Pantelis, Emily McMahon, Lucy Markewicz, Eddie Morrison and Kyle Kaczmarczyk

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