No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Adelaide Blogs

RightAct10 Day Four

After four days of panels, the conference ended up giving the audience an insight into what had happened during the days at Format, as participants in the workshops had been working on creating their own political theatre piece, working with a writer, actor and directors to shape their work.

Three pieces were presented and then discussed in terms of conception and execution. It was an interesting insight, seeing what politics and performance styles came out of such an intensive weekend, and seeing derived work so early into the process.

Again, the discussion built off the presentations and on to the floor afterwards, a great conclusion to a very interesting and thought-provoking weekend. I certainly feel that my knowledge about and connection to the Adelaide theatre scene was strengthened insurmountably over the four days. I was also terribly flattered by some comments about this blog by people I respect very much.

Huge thank you to everyone involved in the weekend. I’ll see you next year!

RightAct10 Day Three

Without a performance as a launching pad and without the focus on theatre, it was a smaller and quieter crowd at the third night of RightAct, as the topic took a turn to creative campaigning and youth-led projects. Once again, the thing I got most out of it was listening to the journey the people on the panel have taken to get to their positions, and the conversation that spilled on after the panel.

Much of the conversation concentrated on the position of social media and the internet in campaigning and arts projects, and how that is constantly changing and causing people to re-address. Of interesting not to me was the Federal Government accepts internet signed petitions, yet the State Government does not.

Another point of interest was the discussion of how in many ways the internet can not replace groups of people getting together in a room or on a street and tackling issues there. In my experience, it hasn’t. As I sit here, typing away my monologue, things that appear on my blog or other places I write are often picked up by friends or acquaintances and I have conversations about what is here, the same way I have conversations off the screen about many other topics. The battle may be being waged, the conversation may be being started on-line, but I don’t think – and the panel didn’t think – that that is where it stays.

RightAct10 Day Two: Theatre and Social Change

Starting off with forum theatre piece Expect Respect, night two of RightAct10 followed up a panel focusing on Theatre and Social Change, with Christie Antony of AC Arts, PJ Rose of No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability, Geordie Brookman of the State Theatre Company, and Georgie Davil of Carclew Youth Arts. This night had a very different feel across it than Friday night: more collaborative, certainly, and I think more hopeful for what theatre is and can be.

Expect Respect is a forum theatre piece on rape and sexual assault, designed for high school students by ActNow Theatre for Social Change in association with the Legal Services Commission. In two halves, it discusses where “the line” is, legally and morally, and how people can actively change their behavior to enact change in others, as audience members are asked to call in and change the behavior of characters.

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RightAct10 Day One: Women and Theatre

RightAct10 kicked off last night at Format, and continues tonight at 7pm.  Last night opened with a moved reading of Seven Jewish Children, followed by a panel on women in theatre.

I found it a hard piece to watch, primarily because I don’t know a lot of the details about the Israel/Palestine debate, and so I was simultaneously trying to watch and take in the piece while sorting through my mind, trying to anchor the sections of the script to the moments of history they are referring to.

I’m not going to get into a discussion on the themes of the play on my blog, because, love it as I do, writing on the internet is not a safe place to explore my very confused and not fully formed issues on the conflict (to read me being political, scroll down and read about my feminist opinions).  I appreciate Churchill’s script for giving me something to think about, but personally I got more out of My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Adelaide Fringe this year.  I hope I will be able to sort though my thoughts and write some more about it in the coming days.

The Woman and Theatre debate, in my eyes, really came to the forefront of debate amongst the Australian Theatre Community at the announcement of Company B’s 2010 season, where there was just one woman in a creative leadership (writer/director) role.   Since then there have been talks in Melbourne and Sydney, online and on the radio, and last night RightAct10 brought the debate to Adelaide.

Anne Thompson from The Eleventh Hour and Flinders Drama Centre, Catherine Fitzgerald, recently announced as the STCSA’s new Associate Director for 2011, and Jennifer Greer Holmes, executive producer from Vitalstatistix, made up the panel, and some great issues and opinions were raised and discussed (both among the panel and off the floor), but unfortunately in my eyes, at moments, the debate steered away from the roles and positions of women in theatre, and onto what type of feminism we should subscribe to.

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Review: Harbinger

I’d been suffering with a fever and stomach bug the week before I saw Harbinger, and it was rather horrible, but coming in waves, so I started Harbinger okay.  It then hit me again towards the end of the play, so there was a portion which I struggled to absorb.  It then stuck around for most of the week after I saw the play, and when I finally thought I’d kicked it, it came back while I was writing this review.   I apologise in advance for the level of delirium this was written in.

The Harbinger promo flyer

A short re-enactment, detailing where the marketing for Harbinger came from (in a way which actually, I am informed my Matt Whittet in the comments, is not the way marketing happens at all.  Life is so much funnier in my own head!)

In 2009

Sean Riley: “Look, I’m really sorry Chris, I know I said I would have Skip Miller’s Hit Songs for you, but it just isn’t going to be ready by next year’s season.  Do you think I could have some extra time?  Just until 2011.”

Chris Drummond:  “That will be fine, Sean.  We’ll find someone else to write a play really really quickly.”

Back in the Brink office

Drummond:  “Who do you think we can get?  That Whittet kid, he’s writing something for that Windmill lot, isn’t he?  If we overlap their season with our rehearsal period, we wouldn’t even need to pay for his accommodation to be in Adelaide or anything.  And Windmill always gets good reviews, so we can surely sell some tickets off that!”

He calls Whittet.

Drummond: “Matthew!  Look, we’re not going to get this play we’re supposed to show next year ready in time.  I know we usually go through a long and exacting development process, but you can write us up something really quickly, yes?”

Keep Reading! (I promise there is an actual review in here)

Safe!

So there’s this thing, you might have heard of it?  It’s called Fringe Benefits, and it’s okay, I guess.  I mean, if you’re in to that sort of thing.  Which I guess I kind of am.  Anyway…

It isn’t going anywhere in a hurry!

Why Fringe Benefits is important, and we’re going to save it

Edit: Saved. Good job, team.

Adelaide and South Australia had a disgusting report to wake up to on Wednesday morning.  310 pages on huge and unforgiving cuts to the arts, to the police force, country fire service, public service, almost every sector you can think of (well, except for sports).  In the arts, the Film Festival, Windmill Theatre Company (“the best children’s theatre company in the country” according to The Australian[1]), and Vitalstatistix Theatre Company were all slated for the axe.  Carclew was going to be sold off, the SAFC’s funding slashed, the Elder Conservatorium gone, Helpmann grants gone.  It was filed with repulsive suggestions, showing a complete lack of respect for everyone in this state.[2]

Waiting with bated breaths for the budget release at 3pm, the actual budget isn’t as bad as all that.  But the arts still suffers cuts to the air of $14.3 million over the next three years[3], and these are going to hurt small and medium sized companies the most.

Also cut, along with suburban touring Out of the Square and regional touring Local Stages, is Fringe Benefits, the free program offering discount tickets to people aged 18-30 in Adelaide.

But hey, at least the Festival of Arts can go annual with its extra $9.9 million over three years.

What Fringe Benefits does on behalf of the Adelaide Fringe is an acknowledgment that the arts in this city extend far beyond the Festival season. Adelaide comes alive during the Fringe, but the rest of the year amazing people with their Adelaide companies are putting on work.  This happens year in, year out.  What the budget fails to realise is this: we can’t be a “Festival State” if all we have are festivals.  We cannot have a strong festival without having a strong cultural backbone which extends the rest of the year.  We cannot become a city which imports its art and imports its audience four weeks a year, and abandons it the rest of the time.

Fringe Benefits does this.  Their website says “We live in a vibrant, amazing city full of creative people who are doing things differently – and Fringe Benefits is going to tell everyone about it.
”[4] They are about promoting this city, this wonderful city, and the art and creative people that it is home to: not just in March.

Part of the Adelaide arts scene since 2006, Fringe Benefits has sold 24,500 tickets, engaged with over 200 organisations, and 16,000 18-30 year olds living and working in Adelaide. [5] They are important for organisations, as an important marketing and support tool, and for us, as consumers, a “one-stop-shop” for our arts needs in this city.

The arts are expensive.  They are.  The price is prohibitive.  I am lucky enough now that I can choose to spend a lot of my money on theatre tickets, and I receive comp tickets when I review.  When I was a university student, I would add up while I worked I’ve now worked enough hours to by that ticket to the show I wanted to see this weekend. But even now, if it wasn’t for Fringe Benefits, I would see an awful lot less.   I can see a show for under $20 with Fringe Benefits, at the most $30, and more often than not I can get these seats in A Reserve.   We’re not shunted to the back of the gods because we’re in our twenties: the companies which put these tickets out respect us as audience members.

And Fringe Benefits respects us as audience members.

The other thing which is neglected as a “Festival State” are small companies.  No, the people at five.point.one or ActNow aren’t making work which is strong enough for the Festival Of Arts.  They should be asked to be.  They are young companies of young people, who need that platform in this city to learn and to grow and create people who can work at the level of international festivals. Even beyond this ground, not all work is made for a festival audience, and it shouldn’t be.  Some things just don’t fit into the Adelaide Festival.  Trying to even define what does fit is hard, because with each new artistic director comes a new aesthetic.  Losing money for small companies for the sake of a festival dilutes the training ground and the experimental platform in this state, which causes an exodus of young creatives, and a city of arts which can’t grow.  Which can’t expand.  Which cannot create it’s own work for the Festival, and which dies: a Festival of imported work, for an imported audience.

This model causes the arts to change from being about the art to being about tourism. Art can of course be linked to tourism: the Save The Arts campaign in the UK is using this as one of their platforms, Melbourne appreciates this by running their Winter Masterpieces[6] series and investing heavily in producing large-scale musicals (Wicked, Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins). But the heart of the arts cannot be about tourism.  It has to be able local artists creating work to be seen by a local audience.

And Fringe Benefits respects local arts makers.

I work at the Mercury, and every time I have worked with someone at Fringe Benefits (primarily Lauren Presser), they have been nothing less than wonderful.  Enthusiastic, supportive, wanting to know what they can do to help us.  And they do help us.  As they help many other organizations.

So, we have Fringe Benefits supporting young arts goers, and arts organizations, year round, big companies and small companies. We have an asset to this state, and what I’m sure is the best program of its kind in Australian, and perhaps the world.  And what is its budget?  $50, $60,000 a year?  I don’t know, but whatever it is, it is an operation which works on the salary of one person, and then a shoestring.  To get rid of it is just petty.  It is petty, and pathetic, and we won’t stand for it.

We won’t stand for the mere proposal of cuts that were put forward for the arts.  And we won’t say “well, at least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”

Generally, I don’t subscribe to the idea that I am ignored as a 21-year-old.  I don’t feel like we are overlooked in politics.  But things like this show me that the Government don’t see us as voters.  Voters are families, not young, single people, who want to contribute to this state.   People my age are politically engaged: most of my friends voted below the line, something which I can’t say for my parent’s generation.  Two of my friends this year stood in the state election: Kelly made it to the senate.  We are young, and we are engaged, and we care about this state.

We’re going to fight for it.  Things like Format and Renew Adelaide are all about fighting for this city.  But we can only say we’re going to stay here for so long.  I love living in Adelaide, and I think it is a vibrant one with high quality art, and I think if it looses that I can’t stay here.  I can’t fight if there is nothing left to fight for.

So now is the time to fight.  And we’re going to.  We are standing up, and being counted and letting you know that we will NOT STAND to lose Fringe Benefits.

If you are running a campaign on this, I want to know about it.  In the next couple of days I will be drafting a form letter for individuals and organizations to complete and send off.  I’ve never done this before.  I want help, and I want to help you.

If I can get bar snacks in the Festival Centre, if I can save year 12 sports day, I can save Fringe Benefits.

We can save Fringe Benefits.

Join Fringe Benefits

Join the Facebook page (which, I was beaten to forming, go Adelaide!)

And fight.

(References)

Coming up in Adelaide

Just trying this out, a small “what’s on in theatre Adelaide” as per what has come across my radar.  Mainly coming out of the fact that these are things I will sadly be missing this weekend, because I will happily be in Launceston, but which I recommend if you’re looking for something arty to do:

Vitalstatistix Theatre Company are running Adhocracy down at their home Waterside this Friday and Saturday.  Take a cutorial team, make them get sixteen artists, five provocateurs, shut them in a room together for two days, and see what happens.  So what does happen?  I don’t quite know what you would expect: and there-in lies the excitement.  Members of the public can watch the process, get involved or just observe this Saturday night from 5pm, before being shown the final product, and dancing the night away.  A great opportunity to see our artists create work which is raw, intimate and immediate.  And look out for some stuff from the bunch of writers/bloggers they’ve invited to the Friday night, hopefully for your internet reading enjoyment.  I think they should just do the whole thing over for me when I get back, yes?

Vitals creative Producer Emma Webb says:

Despite our plethora of city-based festivals, in Adelaide there are rare opportunities for artists to immerse themselves in hybrid and collaborative space.  Adhocracy is inspired by interstate events such as This Is Not Art and Underbelly, where interdisciplinary artists are invited to collaborate, critique and create on the spot.  For this year’s inaugural Adhocracy we’re bringing together 25 highly talented performance-makers, visual artists, bloggers, writers digital artist, and composers in a massive mash-up.  For audiences it’s about seeing art-making uncovered in a highly-charged, inspiring, unravelling evening at Waterside.

Yeah, look at those copy-paste skills.  Damn straight.  (With any luck the artists will be doing more than that).

At the Dunstan Playhouse, the State Theatre Company play their final weekend of romeo&julietgo see it and join in on the debate.  Personally, I think you’ll find something great.  If you’re not entirely sure, you can get $25 rush tickets (or pay-what-you can with Healthcare card) to the Wednesday 6:30 evening, or Sunday 5pm matinée, from the box office one hour before the show.

Brink are playing their first weekend of Harbinger in previews, by that young so-and-so which wrote a mildly amusing play, Fugitive (okay, okay, so it was it was brilliant!  I’m just upset my superior modelling/photographic skills will never make it to Windmill’s facebook *sob*).  Matthew Whittet’s second world première in Adelaide in as many months, Harbinger is your traditional and friendly “Boy meets girl, girl eats boy” stories which we all grew up with in our terribly disturbing childhood nightmares.  They will also be doing live captioned performances of the show on September 4th – how cool is that?  Let’s make it standard, Adelaide!  Also, tickets start at just $19.95 for GreenRoom members!  Adelaide ticket prices can be awesome, I’m sorry.

For something a little off our mainstages, Bad Company present The Adventures Of Dead Jim at the Bakehouse.  For a good read, take a look at why producer Matthew Vecchio thinks you need to support the bigger slice of Adelaide culture.  Coming from “an environment of frustration cured by a resistance”, I hope I’ll be able to squeeze it in next week, but not sure on my chances.   $22 full price?  Where can you get that?!

If you’re hanging out with kids, Patch will be bringing the great Gillian Rubinstein books Sharon, Keep Your Hair On! to life at the Odeon.  “Jase, we need more space.  We’ll have to move to a bigger place.”  “Sharon, keep your hair on, we’ll just build a little more on!”  Yes, yes I do love children’s books.  Why do you ask?

And finally, I probably don’t need to tell you on the other end of the spectrum, David Campbell will be presenting his solo The Broadway Show at the Festival Theatre.  It’s no secret I love the Cabaret Festival, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to see something crazy and raw and innovative one day, and something slick and polished the next.

If you think I’ve missed something out, let me know in the comments and make me jealous of yet another thing I won’t be going to!

See you next week Adelaide!  For my crazy Junction 2010 / Launceston adventures (the appointment to get my hair cut by a ten year old has been made!) check out Lowdown Magazine.  I’ll try to have some stuff up here, too!

A bearded dweeb with a bad tie boring us senseless with his obscure expertise.

Isn’t interesting how when you talk or write about something, you start to notice stands of it coming out of every nook and cranny? Coming off my blog on why I blog and review, and think it’s important to have young voices, I was linked the next night through You’ve Cott Mail (which is the best arts email to arrive in my inbox – I am constantly finding inspiration and news I wouldn’t find anywhere else, highly recommended) to Michael Phillip’s writing for the Chicago Tribune in Right to an opinion – – or wrong?, about a critic was fired after editors thought his bias against the Cleveland Orchestra.   He has some wonderful thoughts:

Approached the wrong way criticism is an inherently arrogant and narcissistic pursuit, yet what I’m left with, increasingly, is how humbling it is. It’s hard to get a review right for yourself, let alone for anyone reading it later. It’s even harder to be an artist worth writing and reading about, because so much conspires against even an inspired artist’s bravest efforts.

It is exceedingly rare when I don’t struggle a little in reviewing a show, I certainly feel this responsibility to “get it right” just for me, and then trying to work out have I phrased this best for others to read?  Have I been fair?  Sometimes I just write and I feel like I got it on the first try, with very little editing (and these are exclusively raves), but most of the time there are hours of editing and re-wording and deleting and re-writing before I feel I am close to something I can publish. He finishes off by saying:

But a critic must write as if he has everything and nothing to lose, just as a filmmaker or an artistic director or a music director should have no choice but to aim high and dig deeply and damn all the rest of it. Otherwise, it’s steady as she goes and one more paycheck (if you’re fortunate) gratefully received, and that simply is not good enough.

I think I still have a way to go on this front, but I like to think I’m getting there.

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Review: An Enemy of The People

Guy OGrady: sitting with class since 1997. Photo by the brilliant photographer and venue and event manager Aaron Schuppan. Adelaide is too small. I love it.

My review for this incredible show by ActNow Theatre for Social Change (just a bit of a mouthful).  Disclaimers I’m sure should follow: I know Sarah Dunn and production manager Megan Huitema, and then, clearly, that night I met a lot more people involved in the show.  And they’re all wonderful.  But that’s not why you should see it, you should see it because it’s good.

This review originally appeared on http://www.australianstage.com.au

ActNow Theatre for Social Change and Sean Riley have taken the very brave choice of presenting Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. The youth theatre company, whose ensemble confidently tackle roles written for actors much older and more experienced then themselves, succeed admirably and deliver a measured and accomplished production.

An Enemy of the People
 has a rather simple narrative: Doctor Thomas Stockmann (Guy O’Grady) discovers the baths, the lively-hood of the city, are supplied by a water source teaming with bacteria. While he originally has the support of city residents, his brother Mayor Peter Stockmann (the assertive Kurt Murray), seeing the economic impact that rectifying the situation would cause, turns the town against Thomas, labelling him “an enemy of the people.”

In-the-round in a parlour room in Ayers House, the artifice of presenting to an audience is removed. By the very nature of the fact that the audience is not only surrounding the acting space, but the space envelops the audience, director Edwin Kemp Atrill has skilfully directed his actors to only exist in the space, and the blocking delightfully appears to be free of constraint through thought to audience perspective. While anything presented in-the-round is of course going to lead to excessive masking of actors,Kemp Atrill and the cast make no apologies for that, leading to a very refreshing presentation in which much pretence is removed.

And while the masking certainly means that you miss many things, and I did find it unfortunate at times, there is something wonderful in this knowledge that every single person in that space is seeing a different play than you. This staging leads to some great moments where, because frustratingly you can’t see the faces of the actors in the scene’s primary interaction, you are forced to focus on, say, Catherine Stockmann (in a touching performance bySarah Dunn) slowly breaking down in the corner. It feels like a point of privilege to be watching this almost private moment; something that I perhaps wouldn’t have noticed if not for the very act of masking forcing me to open my eyes to other things on the stage.

Naturally using the space involves using the existing lighting structures and lamps, which were left on throughout the performance, except, inexplicably, during the curtain call, when it would’ve been nice to properly see and thank the cast. Because of the constant lighting set changes occurred in full light, and worked best when the tail of one scene overlapped slightly with the head of the next. However, due to this naturalism in set and presentation, the use of music, composed by Rory Chenoweth, had a tendency to remove me from the scene. The production became much more powerful when all you could hear was the breathing of the actors, and the ticking of the antique clock.

In the lead role of Dr StockmannO’Grady is the standout amongst a strong cast, and is very much an emerging actor to watch. He gives a nuanced performance, bringing a keen intensity to a role which grows and develops over the arch of the narrative.

Most striking about Ibsen’s play is as we watch it half way through a frustrating 2010 political campaign, is almost 130 years after he penned it the relevance of Ibsen’s work is startling. Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s adaptation of the play, further edited by the ensemble, remains truthful to Ibsen’s text, while being a tight and contemporary adaptation, shedding the stiffness which plagues many earlier translations of his work. Presented in Australian accents, the choice to preserve parts of Lenkiewicz’s cockney slang to indicate class is questionable, even if just a minor quibble.

Beyond being a brilliant production that deserves to be seen fully on its own merits, it is exciting to see theatre of this nature taking a foothold in Adelaide. A young, professional company, bringing us an interesting, challenging, historically important production: this is independent theatre at its finest.

ActNow Theatre for Social Change and Sean Riley present An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen, a version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz.  Directed by Edwin Kemp Atril with assistant director Gemma Sneddon, designed by Kate Moore, composition by Rory Chenoweth, production manager Megan Huitema.  With Guy O’Grady, Sarah Dunn, Catherine Story, Kurt Murray, Alexander Ramsay, Nicholas Cutts, Felix Alpers-Kneebone, Alisa Dunlop, and Loki Reef Macnicol.

***

Coming off my post about why we need young voices commenting on the theatre and about 30 minutes after I submitted that review, Barry Lenny posted his review for Glam Adelaide here.  I simultaneously love and find hilarious that the very thing I found the best about the play was the very thing Lenny thought was the worst.

From my review:

In-the-round in a parlour room in Ayers House, the artifice of presenting to an audience is removed. By the very nature of the fact that the audience is not only surrounding the acting space, but the space envelops the audience, director Edwin Kemp Atrill has skilfully directed his actors to only exist in the space, and the blocking delightfully appears to be free of constraint through thought to audience perspective. While anything presented in-the-round is of course going to lead to excessive masking of actors,Kemp Atrill and the cast make no apologies for that, leading to a very refreshing presentation in which much pretence is removed.

From Lenny’s review:

There is a trap in performing in a small, non-theatrical venue in that the actors tend to deliver their lines to one another and not to the audience, which happened here. The lack of projection, coupled with poor diction and rushing lines, ignoring all punctuation, made this a difficult performance to follow. This was worsened by it being performed in the round, as it is even harder to hear what an actor is saying when they have their back to you. This is easily remedied and no doubt will have been corrected by the next performance, acting on comments made by audience members.

Brilliant.  But I don’t know what audience members he was talking to: the ones I was talking to were all agreeing with me.  My favourite thing, I will stress again, was that it just was. No acting to the audience: no making things a little less natural to fit the audience’s expectations that they should be presented to.  It was just honest itself.  And I hope that it wasn’t “corrected”.

And for all my harping on about reviewing: if you thought what I wrote was shit, especially if you were someone I talked to on Wednesday, call me out on it and let me know.  Because I want and need to know your opinion, and I very much want to talk theatre with you again.

Also, if you are reading this, are in Adelaide, and interested in theatre I strongly encourage you to come along to RightAct 10 which these guys are running.  Panels, performances and workshops concerning theatre, politics, activism, performance and social change at Format over the October long weekend.  I’m looking forward to it.