No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Alirio Zavarce

Review: The Migration Project

For the last six months, theatre maker Alirio Zavarce has been an Artist in Residence at William Light R-12 School and Woodville High School. This residency has cumulated in The Migration Project in the 2013 Come Out Festival.

Arriving at the Torrens Parade Ground, we are each passed a migration card. It asks for our name, our date of birth, our method of arrival. Then the questions get stranger: are you blonde? A real blonde? What is better – lamingtons or pavlova? Would you be prepared to eat a whole jar of Vegemite to prove how Australian you are? Are you secretly racist?

We fill these in while waiting in line, and at the end stands Alirio Zavarce, asking each of us “What makes you Australian?” We again line up, this time in five queues, as we wait for the rest of the audience to be processed.

We are directed into the next room, dropping our migration cards on a table on our way in. The room is filled with circles of chairs, and in each circle is a student from one of the two high schools. We small talk: where in the world have you been? What hobbies do you have? They tell us a bit about themselves, where they’re from, and how we’re all a part of this big wide world together.

We move again, this time into an end-on theatre set-up. The high school students take their places on the stage, and the performance truly begins. Introduced and lead by Zavarce, the students tell us their stories of how they came to Australia, or how their families came here. They write words to describe Australia on blackboards, they pull props to tell their stories out of suitcases. Intercut through this are videos of other students talking about the world they live in: what makes them Australian? How does racism make them feel?

The Migration Project feels of the same central philosophy of Zavarce’s lauded Sons & Mothers: Zavarce taking an instance in his life – there his relationship with his mother, here his migration to Australia – and using it to instigate a collaborative community work. Where Zavarce created a space for the men of Sons & Mothers to truly own the work, though, that same space doesn’t feel like it is offered to the young adults at the heart of The Migration Project. Their stories are slotted into the work, but the work is never of their stories. In the end, we are left with just a cursory glance.

The piece is quite nice: we see some students telling their stories, and they do a lovely job of this. But in the subject matter – and in the students – it feels like there is so much more potential.

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AdlFringe Review: Book of Loco

Tandanya’s theatre has been transformed. Out has gone the seating bank and in is – quite literally – thousands of cardboard boxes. Big ones, little ones, square ones, rectangular ones, all stacked on top of each other forming four walls reaching sky-high.

We take our seats, talking about the Fringe’s events so far, our days, our plans for the evenings. Then, we notice someone walking around the seats. Sitting down in empty chairs, looking around to take stock of who is in the audience, is a man in a black suit – hardly your typical Fringe attire.

This man is Alirio Zavarce, here to introduce us to his thoughts and his life, which he has titled The Book of Loco. Everyone is a little bit crazy, he hypothesizes. What we consider to be normal and what we consider to be loco is, maybe, just a result of the reality presented to us.

But how best to tell us this story?

The lights go down, and Zavarce stands in a spot light. He opens the story in an airport. He has just flown back to Australia with a re-enforced prop suitcase from a performance. The customs officials are suspicious of the suitcase and —-

Wait. Lights snap on. Maybe that’s not the best way to tell it. Does he need to give us some back-story? Do we know who he is? Do we care yet? What if he hasn’t explained the constructs of the world and our relationships with sanity? Perhaps he just needs to comb his hair, and then he can jump back into the show ….

Part biographical journey, Book of Loco traces its own creation, compounding factors of both the world and Zavarce’s world changing over the past decade or so – the World Trade Centre attacks, break-ups, deaths, moving to Adelaide – in which Zavarce found himself questioning, losing, and refinding versions of sanity. Going a bit loco. Something he hypothesizes we all go through.

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Fringe Review: Sons & Mothers

Sons & Mothers: titles don’t get much more explanatory than that.  This show, quiet and simple, yet swelling with ideas, stories, heart, and, eventually, making our eyes swell with tears, is the stories of those relationships.  Seven sons tell the stories of their seven mothers, of childhood and adulthood and all the fun times and stumbles along the way.  These sons lovingly introduce us to their lives, their stories, and their mothers.

In 2005, director Alirio Zavarce returned to Adelaide from a visit to his mother in Venezuela.  The trip wasn’t a happy one: he had returned to say good-bye to his dying mother, a huge loss in his life, his family, and particularly in the life of his older brother who had been blind since childhood.  In Adelaide, he was comforted by the men he has worked with for many years through No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability’s Male Ensemble.  These men told him stories of their relationships with their mothers: some alive, some no longer with us, but always in their hearts.

From these conversations, Alirio and these men eventually built Sons & Mothers, a devised work sharing their lives and loves for their mothers.  For many of these men, Alirio tells us, the relationship with their mother is probably the closest relationship they will ever have with a woman.

The work is embodied not only with pathos, struggle, and great heart, but perhaps all the more importantly, with great humour.  They have demonstrated an acute understanding of how to play their audience (“Clipsal makes me angry” is proudly proclaimed by Duncan to the no doubt arty audience who has been putting up with the sound of hornets and road blocks), but also a want to show the joy and loves in their lives.  Some of these men have lost their mothers, they have all certainly faced (and will continue to face) discrimination and difficulties, but we are privileged enough to see them at their most joyous, doing something they love, and are good at: performing on stage, telling their stories, and sharing their loves and fears with an audience who are absolutely there along for the ride.

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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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