No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Guardian Australia

Sydney Writers’ Festival

I just spent a delightful four days in Sydney with Guardian Australia for the writers’ festival around the wharfs on the Harbour – surely the most impossibly beautiful place to put a festival, and we had the most unseasonably warm weather to boot. I’ve left feeling exhausted and inspired, and with a reading list that has increased ten-fold. 

Here’s what I wrote while I was there:

David Malouf: my life as a reader

Growing up in Brisbane, he was eight when he first read Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, before his father bought him the complete works at aged ten. Since then, he says, he must have read each play “hundreds of times,” and yet, especially when watching Shakespeare in performance, Malouf continues to find lines he has never heard before. “There is nothing more extraordinary to finding your way into the mind of Shakespeare,” he says, still filled with awe. Shakespeare is, in Malouf’s estimation, the greatest writer the world has ever seen.

My Valentine, Sandi Toksvig review – a love letter to the world

The show is at its most touching when a homage to her friends and their adventures, and particularly the bond they often shared over the English language – and the puns that can be made with a language which is much more complex than Danish.

Thomas Keneally: ‘Joan of Arc was a stroppy sheila’

Watching Thomas Keneally in discussion with his biographer, Peter Pierce, you wonder if this is what their hours of interviews in preparation for Pierce’s Australian Melodramas: The Fiction of Thomas Keneally were like, or is this just a particular domain that rises between the pair when you place them in front of several hundred people, and tell them they only have an hour to look at Keneally’s 50 years as a writer?

Irvine Welsh, Sandi Toksvig and Gary Shteyngart on debauchery

Because of this, the most interesting things we hear are the anecdotes about life, rather than about writing: Shteyngart on his ex-girlfriend, who moved to Florida to date Shteyngart’s doppelganger, before she took his ear off with a hammer (“Maybe she just wanted to tell you apart,” suggests Welsh); one of Toksvig’s “few” drug stories, where she ate half a cannabis biscuit and went to bed; Welsh on discovering “let’s have a couple of beers” in America means two beers, “in the UK they mean two days”.

Culture: what is it, what’s it worth and who’s shut out?

Even as these panelists speak about listening to others, to observing how we all interact with the world, and about wanting to provide people with a voice, they are still finding they must question their own interaction with the culture. Speaking about how our society makes invisible thousands of seafarers who allow for global shipping, Rankin reflects on how he, too has made voices invisible. Recently reading Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, he was forced to question theatre he had previously made about Eureka. “How dare I exclude women from the culture?”

Tara Moss, Irvine Welsh and Damon Young on writing about bodies

Moss has been writing fictional characters for years in her crime novels, but here she discusses the analysis of the ways women’s bodies are perceived – and fictionalised – in society. Reading a section from her book, she relays quotes about women’s aptitudes and physiology from 1873 (Edward Clarke saying an education will steal blood away from women’s reproductive system), 1888 (Friedrich Nietzsche on women scholars having problems with their sexual organs), and 1915 (Charles L Dana and the impracticality of women’s spines for politics). Through this, the audience laughs – how archaic!

Amy Tan, Gary Shteyngart and Benjamin Law on being the children of immigrants

When Tan’s mother lived in Shanghai, she was a socialite. Moving to America for love to marry a poor minister, she struggled not only with the change in cultures, but perhaps even more so with the shift in status. Tan says it was in returning to China with her mother that she began to realise the complexities of her life. “I used to think she got into a lot of arguments [in America] because no-one could understand her English,” says Tan. “When I went to Shanghai with her she got into even more arguments, and I realised English only held her back.”

Emma Donoghue: ‘I didn’t need to take drugs – I had books’

The speech was written as she spent time in Australia this week at “the most fabulous of festivals. I’ve been to many festivals, and this is without peer.” She couldn’t have written it before arriving, she says, as “you should be a bit changed at the end of the Sydney writers’ festival.” And that change comes through: she references talks she heard and discussions she had with many writers over the week. She talks of Andrew Solomon’s opening speech, Sandi Toksvig’s Peas and Queues, Kate Ceberano discussing her daughter, and Nakkiah Lui on who gets to tell whose stories.

And do check-out all of our coverage from the four days at our live-blog, with many more articles about many more writers. There I have notes on Irvine Welsh being asked if people can skip his books and just watch the films; a short interview with Nakkiah Lui; a look at what festival goers are reading; thoughts on erotic fan fiction; and a short note of love to a brief glance at a first edition Enid Blyton. 


Pam Ann: ‘I only know three straight people: mum, dad and my brother’

She is certainly not one to shy away from giving offence. As we talk, the supreme confidence in herself as a performer and the character of Pam Ann comes through loud and clear: she knows who she is, and how she wants things to be done. Recently in Joe’s Pub, five people were talking so Reid ordered them to move to the back. “They got upset said I’d lost five fans. I went, ‘I don’t care. Get some manners and then come back and see me.’ People. You can’t please them all. You might lose five and you might gain ten. Or,” she says, laughing, “you might gain one. You get to a point in your life and your career where it’s just, like, whatever.”

Clearly, to continue to play one character for so long you need this confidence, and over the years, says Reid, Pam Ann has become “a bit tough. She’s not so soft anymore. I don’t think she ever really was, but she never swore like a trooper like I do now.”

Read the rest of this piece at Guardian Australia

Perth Festival 2014

Perth Podcasting

As the Adelaide Festival is about to begin, the Perth Festival is entering its last week. I was there last week to catch a bit of the action (and a bit of the ocean) with Guardian Australia, and you can catch up on all of our coverage from PIAF here, and Perth’s Fringe World here.

You can read my reviews of PIAF shows:

And Fringe World productions:

I also took a look at:

On the podcast, I:

The live blog for Adelaide’s festival season kicks off on March 7. Would love to have you all following along here, and subscribing to the podcast here. See you then!

Sydney Festival 2014

The bar at Carriageworks: a theatre home for the week.

The bar at Carriageworks: a theatre home for the week.

I’ve just come back from a wonderful week in Sydney covering the Festival with Guardian Australia. It was an excellent team to be working with, and you should certainly catch up on all of the coverage here.

While you’re doing that, you can read my reviews of:

And a couple of feature articles, where I asked:

On the liveblog, I:

On video, I:

And on the podcast, I spoke about:

We’ll be back at it all again in Perth in a few weeks. I cannot wait to get stuck into it.

No Plain Jane around the web

On Vitalstatistix’s Adhocracy for the Adelaide Review:

The landscape of the arts in Australia is changing. Increasingly, artists aren’t making works that can be easily defined as theatre or visual arts, etcetera, but instead work across art forms and disciplines. It is in this spirit many of the works at Adhocracy will be developed.

Emma Webb, Vitalstatistix’s Creative Producer, says programs like Adhocracy are part of a “growing movement to engage with how we make art, and art’s position in the world”.

On the excitement I felt of the ‘Australianess’ of Belvoir’s Angels in America for the Guardian:

Angels in America is certainly not a new Australian work in terms of its text, and the production makes no pretensions to be. The story may not be ours in 2013 – and probably never was ours even when Tony Kushner wrote his story about AIDS in a 1985 New York City. But the theatre of the piece feels firmly ours of today.

It’s both surprising and exciting how Flack’s production has this spirit to it, and he has found this largely through an Australian irreverent sense of humour. While Kushner said it’s “okay if the wires show” in his stage directions, in this production Flack’s stage magic is, for the most part, so delightfully rudimentary there aren’t even wires to hide.

A review of You, Me, and the Bloody Sea in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for ArtsHub:

The Space Theatre for the Cabaret Festival was the wrong venue for You, Me and the Bloody Sea. We needed a pub.

The kind of pub where the wind howls by outside, its salt stinging faces as they hurry inside to where bodies pack under the slightly too dim lighting. As the band plays, we want not so much as to watch them perform but to feel them. To stamp our feet and clap our hands and yell and sing along; or to tightly wrap our hands around another and softly sway.

An interview with Anna Krien about her book Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport for Artery:

Exploration of these themes has lead to a book that is frequently uncomfortable, and I wondered if Krien needed breaks from the material in developing the work. ‘You just kind of wade into it’, she replies.

‘I can’t get out of it. There is no real point in taking a break from it because it kind of consumes me, so no. You just go into that dark place and dig your way out.’

A review of The Comedy of Errors from the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Bell Shakespeare for the Guardian:

[…] scenes happen under the glow of a tanning bed, in 24-hour table tennis halls, and under the flashing strobe of a night club. It’s Shakespeare shown at his crudest and broadest, and his text feels comfortable in this world. At times the language is near impenetrable, at others it feels startlingly contemporary – but Savage’s production finds most success and its biggest humour when it goes beyond the text and into the physical.

And I’ll leave you with these sentiments from an unpublished (big on the One Man, Two Guvnors spoilers – shoot me an email if you want to read it) interview with Richard Bean for Arts Centre Melbourne’s Artist to Artist critical conversations:

“One thing that maybe this play has brought back into the tool kit of a playwright is the aside,” he tells me. “We’ve completely lost that from modern theatre – comedy or drama. There is absolutely no reason you can’t do a very serious play about a very serious topic and have asides. It doesn’t have to be comedic. And I think it’s quite refreshing to see this. It’s not the expansion of the form because it’s always been there, but the recovery of different techniques is going to be with me forever now. Why isn’t the actor talking to the audience?”

“It may have ruined me”, he finishes, thinking he’ll never be able to do a work without asides again. This draws contemplation to thoughts about what other facets of theatre have been dropped for being old fashioned or out dated, and how they can be re-employed in contemporary work.