No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: The Border Project

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 »

Are we not animals?

This article was originally published in the March 2012 issue of The Adelaide Review.

David Heinrich and Cameron Goodall. Photo Jonathan VDK.

Far away from the traditional proscenium arch of the Adelaide Festival Theatre, the 2012 Adelaide Festival is presenting a unique collaboration between independent theatre company The Border Project and the Adelaide Zoo. The partnership between the artists and the zookeepers has lead to I am not an Animal: an intimate but large-scale, site-specific theatre work in which the animals themselves take centre stage.

The project began over two years ago when Zoos SA CEO Chris West and Adelaide Festival Artistic Director Paul Grabowsky found themselves seated together at a lunch, and shared what West calls an “overlap in interest and concern in humanity”. After that lunch the conversation continued and a partnership developed between the zoo and festival, which then approached The Border Project about creating a work to be presented in the zoo.

There is enough open space at the zoo that a piece of work could play there with no reflection on its surrounds but The Border Project knew they weren’t interested in creating work, which wasn’t an interaction between performers, animals and an audience. In the words of production co-director Daniel Koerner: “There is no jazz band in the rotunda.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Festival Review: I Am Not An Animal

This review was originally published at the Adelaide Review

I am not an Animal, created by The Border Project under co-directors Sam Haren and Daniel Koerner takes Adelaide Festival audiences on a 75-minute audio tour of the Adelaide Zoo.  Here, the usual exhibits are supplemented by the unusual: the mountain goats are joined by a yodeler (Jude Henshall), the siamangs play with spacecraft.

The audio tour takes the audience on many journeys: connecting the world we live in today to the past we come from; the creation of life; human’s obsession with imaginary animals; the expendable nature of monkeys in the early days of space travel.  The Adelaide Zoo has been undergoing rolling exhibition upgrades over the past few years, and is a lovely place to walk around.

The show works best when the Border Project have taken adjuncts between animal and human behavior, relationships, and perceptions. Through these moments, they have found both humour, as in a scintillating if also slightly disturbing scene with rabbits (Alerio Zavarce) on a giant bed, and with pathos, as an “audience member” (Brad Williams) finds himself in an enclosure and is made to perform like a bear in a 1930s Russian circus.

Read the rest of this entry »

Adelaide’s Lament: Pent-up Frustrations

However much I talk about youth issues in Adelaide, it is in many ways a city where it is great to be a young maker of things – because the generation above us is missing.  They’re living in Sydney or Melbourne.  It’s much easier to find yourself noticed or to raise your voice above the din when there isn’t much of a crowd which needs to be broken through.  But how is this impacting on the younger and emerging generations of artists?  Is the cultural drain, coupled with a lack of venues where independent artists can present – and where audiences interested in independent work can attend – and Adelaide’s insularity having a negative impact on the quality of art produced?

In both Brisbane and Sydney this year, I saw work by people who were once based in Adelaide, but now these writers, directors, actors, and stage managers, live and create work in other cities for other audiences.  This work ran the gauntlet from among the best (The Seagull) to among the worst (Woyzeck) I saw this year, but the point is I couldn’t have seen it at home.  I don’t blame them – I’m not planning on sticking around forever – but this has a two-fold effect on the cultural ecology of Adelaide.  Not only are we losing these artists and these voices, we’re also losing the effect these artists can have on the generation who follows them: the knowledge base and the talent which can be shared is lost.

It is, of course, a self-perpetuating cycle.  The “brain-drain” creates its own pull, the more creative people that leave, the more others feel they need to leave, too, to find new opportunities,  be them creative, employment, or creative employment orientated.   Then, particularly in the case of arts administrators, as people start to return to Adelaide to raise their families, having worked interstate almost becomes a prerequisite for many higher level jobs.  There is, it seems, even the perception that you must leave in order to advance in a career in Adelaide.

It is not only the artists who leave, it is the other people interested in punctuating their lives with arts and culture outside of the festival context.  The more these people leave, the harder it is for artists to find audiences, and the more artists leave to move interstate.

The pull of the Adelaide artists in Sydney or Melbourne grows ever stronger, the pull of Adelaide grows ever weaker.

Read the rest of this entry »

Adelaide Critics Circle Awards 2010

Because I cannot find a copy of this posted on the internet anywhere, despite the fact that the circle is the arts media of Adelaide, and because I was just forwarded on the media release, the nominees for the Adelaide Critics Circle Awards 2010 are:

Updated with winners 7/12/10

Individual Award

• Nicholas Garsden, actor, for True West (Flying Penguin Productions)
• Corey McMahon, director, The Share (five.point.one)
• Hannah Norris, actor, My Name is Rachel Corrie (Daniel Clarke)
• Nathan O’Keefe, actor, for his body of work throughout the year

Group Award

• Brink Productions, Harbinger
• Leigh Warren & Dancers/State Opera of South Australia, Maria de Buenos Aires
• Slingsby Theatre Company, Man Covets Bird

Emerging Artist of the Year

• Ian Andrew, performer, Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA)
• Matthew Crook, actor, The Share (five.point.one)
• Aleksandr Tsiboulski, guitarist, for his body of work throughout the year

Independent Arts Foundation Award for Innovation

• Steve Sheehan, Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima
• The Border Project/Sydney Theatre Company, vs Macbeth
• Brink Productions, Harbinger

Individual Award – Amateur Theatre

• Megan Humphries, performer, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Northern Light Theatre Company)
• Myfanwy May, performer, Haywire (Therry Dramatic Society)
• Guy O’Grady, actor, An Enemy of the People (ActNow Theatre for Social Change)
• Sue Wylie, performer, Curtains (Therry Dramatic Society), The Vagina Monologues (Acorn)

Group Award – Amateur Theatre

• Northern Light Theatre, Monty Python’s Spamalot
• Therry Dramatic Society, Curtains
• Southern Youth Theatre Ensemble, Retaliation

Award for Visual Arts: Sam Songailo

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dale Ringland

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.

Read the rest of this entry »