No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Rose Myers

Festival Review: School Dance; and investing in joyous artistic visions.

Sydney-based actor and playwright Matthew Whittet has enjoyed a perhaps disproportionate amount of his success as a writer Adelaide.  Twelve, his first play was workshoped at the National Playwrights Conference in Perth in 2006, and his first produced play was Silver, a monologue which Whittet also performed, at Downstairs Belvoir in 2009.  His latest work, Old Man, will again be playing in Belvoir’s downstairs theatre this June, but between these Sydney outings, three of his works have had main-stage productions in Adelaide.

Two of these plays were presented in very quick succession in 2010, with Windmill Theatre producing Fugitive in August, and Brink Productions producing Harbinger in September.  While the shows weren’t without their issues (particularly in the final scenes of Harbinger), Whittet did in many ways cement himself to Adelaide’s audience as someone with a unique mind, twisting slightly off centre into bizarre universes filled with awkwardness, and with love.

School Dance, again produced by Windmill, premiered in the Adelaide Festival this year.  While this work still sits very early in Whittet’s career as a playwright, it was embodied with a wonderful of air of trust on behalf of Rose Myers and Teena Munn, the Artistic Director and General Manager / Executive Producer of Windmill, respectively.

Like Fugitive, School Dance has been directed by Myers, and above all else feels like Whittet was given the absolute freedom to make a work to his vision. The resulting play is one that, as soon as you start to detail it on the page, sounds so peculiar, so unconventional, and so illogical that it wouldn’t work; and yet through this trust is borne something that works absolutely.

Read the rest of this entry »

Australian Theatre Forum: Interdependence, or, what’s love got to do with it?

In this afternoon’s panel, Interdependence: Love, Money & Artistic Exchange, we were asked to consider the fact that the ecology should be characterised as co-dependence.  I came in from an afternoon talk on the place of critics in theatrical culture, and how artists support these: both fiscally and through giving them the tools and vocabulary to write about the arts.  More “amicable” than “terribly frank” as promised, talking about co-dependence I am reminded by one of my favourite quotes on the art of criticism and the intersection this has with the artists they write about:

“Is criticism less important than the literature it criticises? Oh, dear! What I think we should do with this question is reject it.  Though conceding that criticism is, if you will, a parasite upon which it criticises, as the misletoe upon the oak, one needs not declare the result inferior. If it has less of quality A, it has more of quality B. The oak may be king of the forest, yet it is the misletoe that one kisses under at Christmas. (What would it mean to say: oak is better than misletoe?)”

– Eric Bently, Thinking About The Playwright (1987)

But more on critics later. In lovely and frank conversations about the nature of a collaborative process, they were as much (or more so) a conversation about failures and hardships in collaboration in partnerships as the success story.  What it boiled down to was collaboration, like theatre, is a dialogue, and if one partner isn’t listening, if one partner stops talking, if the partners are actually having slightly different conversations, it is probably going to fall down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Fugitive

TThe king has abandoned his kingdom, the knights have taken over, and tyranny rules the land.  Robin returns after a two-year absence, and quickly falls back in with his friends: Marion and Wil.  When Robin fails to save the life of a young boy, he and his band, joined by Little John, move into the woods and steal from the rich to give to the poor.  This is Robin Hood like you know it, and yet nothing like it.

Eamon Farren as Robin Hood.

With carpeted lounge, two walls with forest photographic wallpaper, some doors, chairs, and logs, in Fugitive Jonathon Oxlade has created a delightfully simple set: the changes in locations (along with many props) exist only in our imaginations, yet we are never left with any doubt as to where they are.   Exceptional lighting by Richard Vabre, and composition and sound design by Luke Smiles help to compete the puzzle, and are both as integral to the narrative as the dialogue.  It is a true testament to this production and team that these three arms of design never seem like distinct entities: they are constantly working in such an incredible balance it seems as though they were created by the one mind.  Coming together with these elements, the story and production doesn’t need to spell things out, because through this creativity a world much bigger than could ever be realised on stage is created.

Read the rest of this entry »