No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Sydney Theatre Company

Briefs: Face to Face; Into The Dark

I’m not entirely sure when my life got so busy. Or, perhaps, how I used to fit it all in. I’m currently in Newcastle to speak on a panel called I Started A Blog … Now I’m a Critic for the Crack Theatre Festival as a part of This Is Not Art. Over the next fortnight, I will be in Melbourne, where I am producing Sepia in the Melbourne Fringe, and then it is down to Goolwa for the Regional Arts Australia conference Kumuwuki / Big Wave. I then have a couple of projects I’m working on when I’m back in Adelaide, that I can’t wait to share.

In light of this, I have edited down two pieces I worked on and then were relegated to the “to finish when I have time” pile. I know I can be rather less than brief, perhaps this is the start of a new experiment.

Face to Face was the second stage adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman film I saw this year. I unfortunately didn’t find the time or brain space to write about Persona at Theatre Works, but Alison Croggon does a wonderful job of capturing how the team took this story that was told originally in a film exploitative of the medium, into a play exploitative of its medium. In Face to Face co-adaptors Simon Stone and Andrew Upton approach from a similar place: taking the screenplay and not the film, they create a work which is of the theatre.

In Face to Face we watch the unraveling of the life, and subsequently the mind, of Jenny (Kerry Fox). Through the sparse set (Nick Schlieper), times and places roll over and into one another: the movement of sets on and off the stage in unison choreographed movement with the cast brings some of the most powerful visual images to the work.

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Review: The Splinter

This mother and father have much to be thankful for. Their daughter Laura, just four years old, has come back after who knows what she went through in the last nine months. She’s not talking. She’s taller. Harder somehow. But she’s back. That’s all that matters, isn’t it?

Until the questions start to pop up. Why isn’t she talking? Why does it appear she doesn’t remember who her parents are? Why does it all seem just a little off? For the mother this is easy: her daughter has returned, they can move on with their lives. For the father, it is not. Questions, doubts, apprehensions become bigger and bigger, until they are all he can see.

You can never return home, the saying goes. So when a lost child returns home, what home could they possibly be returning to?

The Splinter is a deliciously spooky play from writer Hillary Bell and director Sarah Goodes. In the intimate space of the Wharf 1 Theatre they have created a haunting work in which the world within the play, the world of the theatre, and time all seem to be stretched and played with. Although just 75 minutes, the world of the play seems to slow time: the unease of the play enveloping.

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Adelaide’s Lament: Pent-up Frustrations

However much I talk about youth issues in Adelaide, it is in many ways a city where it is great to be a young maker of things – because the generation above us is missing.  They’re living in Sydney or Melbourne.  It’s much easier to find yourself noticed or to raise your voice above the din when there isn’t much of a crowd which needs to be broken through.  But how is this impacting on the younger and emerging generations of artists?  Is the cultural drain, coupled with a lack of venues where independent artists can present – and where audiences interested in independent work can attend – and Adelaide’s insularity having a negative impact on the quality of art produced?

In both Brisbane and Sydney this year, I saw work by people who were once based in Adelaide, but now these writers, directors, actors, and stage managers, live and create work in other cities for other audiences.  This work ran the gauntlet from among the best (The Seagull) to among the worst (Woyzeck) I saw this year, but the point is I couldn’t have seen it at home.  I don’t blame them – I’m not planning on sticking around forever – but this has a two-fold effect on the cultural ecology of Adelaide.  Not only are we losing these artists and these voices, we’re also losing the effect these artists can have on the generation who follows them: the knowledge base and the talent which can be shared is lost.

It is, of course, a self-perpetuating cycle.  The “brain-drain” creates its own pull, the more creative people that leave, the more others feel they need to leave, too, to find new opportunities,  be them creative, employment, or creative employment orientated.   Then, particularly in the case of arts administrators, as people start to return to Adelaide to raise their families, having worked interstate almost becomes a prerequisite for many higher level jobs.  There is, it seems, even the perception that you must leave in order to advance in a career in Adelaide.

It is not only the artists who leave, it is the other people interested in punctuating their lives with arts and culture outside of the festival context.  The more these people leave, the harder it is for artists to find audiences, and the more artists leave to move interstate.

The pull of the Adelaide artists in Sydney or Melbourne grows ever stronger, the pull of Adelaide grows ever weaker.

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We don’t need your traditional legitimate taste, or, how the youth are redefining culture

The Puppet Show: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1963

In the past few weeks, interesting commentary on the state of youth and the arts has come out of two studies: Australia’s TheatreSpace Preliminary Report, and Norway’s Changing Relations: Class, education and cultural capital.   Encompassing vastly different research practice, focus, and intent, they nonetheless together have interesting things to say about how we define culture in relation to young people, and how young people define themselves in relation to culture

An article provocatively titled Are The Arts Irrelevant to the Next Generation? speaks to the Norwegian study which showed that between 1998 and 2008 there has been a “marked decline in interest and use of almost every form of culture that is identified with traditional legitimate taste” (emphasis mine).  The study took on a much broader glance at relationships between cultural knowledge and interests with economic backgrounds, but through a study of university students the ideas of a generation can be drawn.

The Norwegian study points towards a shift in interest towards musicals, to pop/rock concerts, and to crime/suspense novels, and appreciated the shift towards “privatisation of cultural consumption”.  While these are all (to a greater or lesser extent) a part of “popular culture”, I take consistent umbrage with the exclusion of these from “traditional legitimate taste.”  What is it about these which means they not of “legitimate taste”?  What is it about the new which is illegitimate? What is it about the non-traditional which instills fear?  What is it about the traditional – the opera, the baroque – which legitimises its place in culture, be that theirs or ours?

The TheatreSpace report, a study of nearly 3000 young theatre-goers in the Eastern state capitals, confuses things somewhat by buying into the current arts definition of “youth” as aged 14-30 – and thus conflating reports from high-school students with those in their twenties.  While the notion of studying youth and culture is one I obviously appreciate, a high-school student attending a weekday matinee with their class is having a vastly different relationship to the work than a “young professional” attending on a Friday night with their friends.  The study tends to skew towards the high-school, curriculum-based experience.  Is the artistic community served by assuming all youth are having the same experience?

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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

If you’re not Shakespeare, it’s good to be Brecht (or Lally Katz)

An analysis of Australian Theatre in 2011 through the Major Performing Arts Group theatre companies.
Update #1: 14/11/2010, Malthouse Season Two: Three female directors, four male directors; four male writers, one female writer, one male/female pair; five world premieres, one text from 2010; all Australian works.

1. An introduction and a context
2. What ever happened to the female playwright?
3. Directors: The female strikes back!
4. The classic or the new, what wins out?  (And what are the classics, anyway?)
5. The curse of a premiere culture
6. Oh, the places you will go!
7. Where to from here?

 

An introduction and a context

This all started for me when at the Woman and Theatre panel at RightAct I started to look at where the work I was seeing in 2010 was coming from in terms of writers and directors.

I then began to wonder if the bias I was seeing was a true indication of the bias in the industry, or if it was the plays I was selecting.  This lead me to creating two studies of 2011 theatre: the productions of the Major Performing Arts Group (MPAG), and the productions we will be seeing in Adelaide.  This is my write up of the MPAG productions.

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Review: The Trial

Josef K (Ewan Leslie), awakes one day to find out he is under arrest.  For what, the arresting officers cannot say, but he is free to go about his life, until he must present for his trial.  From there, Josef K’s life proceeds to spiral out of control, as the impasse of being persecuted by an unknown power, for an unknown crime, takes over and destroys.  Kafka’s The Trial, adapted by Louise Fox and directed by Matthew Lutton, is an uncomfortable and inexplicably satisfying play.

Inexplicable, because as you can see from that lack-lustre of a plot summary, the nature of this story and its themes are hard to pin down and identify.  Yet, the collection of elements gives way to a fantastical production, helped in no small part by Leslie, who won his latest Helpmann for  Richard III as I wrote this.  Leslie gave a huddled performance, a man who was hushed and nearly defeated by life itself before we meet him, who becomes unquiet and tense as the absurdity of his trial takes its toll.  Simply a beautiful actor to watch, he has an energy which feeds into the audience, and carries the play.

Ewen Leslie as Josef K. He also, really distractedly, reminded me of my friend so much in mannerisms.

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Review: Vs Macbeth

Vs Macbeth
(most of it) by Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Haren
Presented by The Border Project, The Sydney Theatre Company’s The Residents and the Adelaide Festival of Arts

Vs Macbeth was an odd theatre show: a production which worked the best in the constant reminder that it was a theatre show.  Rather than being sucked in by the characters and the story, rather than being exposed to a world and feeling that it is so complete, Vs Macbeth is about something much simpler about that: it is about actors acting.  About a group of people coming together to create something, but with the artifice of the theatre always present.

Cam Goodall shows off a brilliant unemployment beard. Theatre: the only place you can be paid and own one.

Credited as mostly written by Shakespeare, Vs Macbeth is a production of Macbeth with all of the mistakes left in.  Even amongst non-theatre people, the ‘curse’ of Macbeth is well known (if not completely understood – I had a friend mention it by name once and then apologise, profusely, even though we were far from a theatre): a play that is so plagued by death and accidents that its name mustn’t even be uttered in a theatre, and instead it goes by The Scottish Play.   Taking this idea and running with it, The Border Project and The Sydney Theatre Company’s The Residents (now there’s a name for you!) created a play which ‘tempted fate’, mistakes were chronicled, and put into the play.

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