Off the blog
Recent writing at Guardian Australia
For those who like their theatre queer, feminist or to explore gender, something exciting seems to be happening on Sydney stages in 2014. On the main stages alone, Belvoir, Griffin and the Sydney Theatre Company will be producing plays that touch on these themes.
Belvoir has three shows I’m looking out for including Cain and Abel, a collaboration with The Rabble, one of the most exciting theatre companies in the country.
It was the independent theatre in Melbourne that really excited people this year, and at the epicentre was the Neon season at the Melbourne Theatre Company. Five of Melbourne’s leading independent companies were given support and complete creative control to create work for the company’s Lawler theatre. The results were urgent and provocative: writing for the ABC, Alison Croggon called it “some of the most challenging and exciting new work made in this city”.
This ambitious project from New York theatre company The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma is the life story of one of the company members. The production is still a work in progress (they hope to have it completed by 2017) and at the festival they’re showcasing the first four “episodes”. The production can be seen over three nights or in one marathon, 10-hour session that includes a barbecue dinner. Ten hours is sure to be confronting, perhaps occasionally dull, and challenging for the audience as well as the performers. Not only is this must-see theatre, the must-see way to watch it is to go for the marathon.
De Heer’s film is a slow indictment of the colonialist relationship between white law and Indigenous people. It is a film you need to settle back into and experience rather than try and get ahead of the story. Through a slow burn, de Heer asks his audience to experience and reflect on Charlie’s life and this complex clash of cultures. When Charlie is indicted it is for a crime he did indeed commit, but we also see the endlessly complex, unsupportive and disparaging circumstances that lead him to that point.
The strong performances are captured with Thornton’s crisp cinematography in charming and simple snapshots of Australia – an open verandah, a campfire, a marina – and yet the series of monologues fail to come together as a compelling feature film. With the stories tied together only thematically, there is no drive to the film and you wonder if linking the stories together in this form was the strongest way to present them.
Under the direction of Sarah Goodes we always return to Blackwell’s performance: the great sadness in the struggle of his failing brain, his aimless meander around the room. She finds private and quiet moments with the supporting cast, and it’s in the tender moments that Doyle’s script is strongest – a man deeply passionate about the world and the universe and the secrets it keeps, his son facing a long battle as his father’s mind shuts in on itself.