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Thank you, 2013

Dear 2013,
I slowed down this year because there were things I needed to get done, needed to write and needed to contemplate. That means I didn’t see all the theatre I wanted to see or all the films I wanted to see.
On TV, I loved Hannibal and Broadchurch and how Fringe ended and how Game of Thrones threw a wedding and House of Cards and Arrested Development’s odd fourth season. I really liked the Americans and thought Mad Men’s sixth season was really impressive, especially by the end. I saw Breaking Bad, but didn’t love it the same way so many people loved it. Justified wasn’t as great as it used to be, but still fun. Homeland went completely off the rails. And Doctor Who just isn’t the same anymore.
At the cinema, Before Midnight was almost perfection and Gravity was exquisite. World War Z was suprisingly good. Iron Man 3 was an excellent follow up to The Avengers. Thor 2 was just fun. Star Trek Into Darkness and Elysium were disappointments. Frozen was just delightful. And, given…

My Favourite Theatre of 2013

This year I saw shows in Melbourne and Sydney. The Top Ten are my favourite shows of the year, but the Next Ten are basically all in eleventh place. After a slow start to the year, the Melbourne Theatre Company’s NEON Festival kicked things into high gear – and after that, the rest of the year was full of exciting, imaginative, passionate and memorable theatre.
Note: these are listed in alphabetical order
THE TOP TEN
ANGELS IN AMERICA: MILLENNIUM APPROACHES & PERESTROIKA – Belvoir The classic American play about AIDS in Reagan’s America in a stunning production at Belvoir.


BY THEIR OWN HAND – The Hayloft Project, Neon Festival/MTC Hayloft shakes up Oedipus in this smart triptych.
LIFE AND TIMES, PARTS 1 to 4 – The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Melbourne Festival A ten-hour epic that played out in the Playhouse, bringing an audience of 600 together to experience a life (and their own lives) in a way we’ll never forget.
NIGHT MAYBE – Stuck Pigs Squealing, Theatre Works It’s difficult to pu…

2013: A year of development and planning ahead

2013 was always supposed to be a planning year. A writing year. I wasn’t going to put on any shows in Melbourne. I was going to write a lot and aim to get work on in 2014 and beyond.
The biggest project this year was “Who Are You Supposed To Be” for the Edinburgh Fringe. That was on the cards from late 2012, but even from a distance it felt like as much work as putting on a show here. It had to be written. Then Jen had to find a director and another actor. And I wrote press releases and sent them all over the place – trying to get publicity and critics to the show.
Being a Doctor Who-themed show, the publicity almost generated itself. 50th Anniversary. Change of actor announcement. And the director and other actor we found were perfect for the show.
Then the gang put the show on in London in November for a short season and it sold really well. And more great feedback from our audiences.
It’s weird that I didn’t see the show, but then that happened quite a bit this year. Short & S…

Visiting Jesse & Celine: Before Midnight

I’ve known Jesse and Celine for eighteen years now. I met them at the right time, I think. We were similar back then. Their passions and intrigues and romantic notions were similar to mine. They are two or three years older than me, but that’s not much in the scheme of things.
I don’t remember who I shared their first story with. My friends from the mid-90s say they don’t remember Jesse and Celine. Perhaps I met them with a friend with whom I’ve lost contact in the years since? Much like Jesse and Celine lost contact after their first meeting in Vienna.
Nine years later, I saw with the couple again. This time, their lives and my life were very different, though our concerns were still similar – our fixations on the troubles of the world and our discovery that our lives weren’t going to turn out quite the way we expected.
I had, admittedly, never expected to see them after they parted ways in 1995. When I heard they were reuniting in 2004, I was worried. What if the second time wasn’t…

A remarkable ode to the unremarkable: Nature Theatre of Oklahoma's LIFE AND TIMES

One of my favourite novels & films about the act of writing is Wonder Boysby Michael Chabon, where the character of Grady Tripp is in the midst of writing his second novel – which has reached thousands of pages long with no end in sight. The key moment in the story is when Tripp realises that writing is about making choices and the mid-life crisis he’s having is blocking is ability to make those choices, both in life and on the page.
Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life and Times (Parts 1 to 4) is full of a lot of very deliberate choices, particularly in the creation and development of the script – but also in its direction, production and acting styles. But where it reminds me of Wonder Boys is in its unfinished nature and its insistence that it not conform to typical narrative tricks or structures.
Life and Times is the story of the life of one of the ensemble of actors who works with the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. She has been interviewed by phone by the artistic directors of the …

What I saw, you won't see: The Rabble's ROOM OF REGRET

I want to tell everybody to rush out to see The Rabble’s Room of Regret at Theatreworks.
But I need to warn them they will not see the show I saw.
I want to try to explain what I saw and how I felt.
But I don’t want to give anything away.
I want to see it again.
But I don’t.
Room of Regret, The Rabble’s response to Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” is an immersive theatre piece that explores notions of vanity – but refuses to let you see the whole picture. The audience is broken up into small groups, led to one or other of the many rooms – and then the show asks the viewer to confront hilarious, graphic, absurd and brutal scenes, while refusing to give anything away. At least, to begin.
And yet I know some audience members never left the seat they were first assigned. I know some who were given freedom to explore, didn’t explore. I know there were moments too gross to watch and some too brutal to look away from.
Our reaction to theatre is always our own. We bring our own liv…

"What the fuck was that?" My opening lines of dialogue

I've just copied down the opening lines of dialogue from all of my plays, just to see if there was any pattern. I'm not sure if I've learned anything from this yet... let me know if you spot anything significant.


“So many of my days feel like they are repeating themselves.” – About Time  
“I’ve got to go.” – Cleopatra’s Shadow  
“The sun has just exploded and the Earth has eight minutes until it feels the effect.” – Eight Minutes  
“You have to imagine this place is packed.” – everything. First time for...  
“Sorry for the wait.” – The Fidelity Act  
“Where were you last night?” – It’s Not the End of the World  
“When I’m not Lady Macbeth, I’m a figure in my husband’s art.” – Lady M  *
“I set fire to a brothel once. “ – Like a House on Fire  
“My mother was born into a cage and she was raised there.” – A Modern Superwoman  
“Throat cancer.” – The New Normal  
“There once was a girl from next door / Who moved in when she was four...” – Poems a Dead Boy Wrote  
“Excuse me, s…

4 Shows: Savages, The Cherry Orchard, Columbine, night maybe

We’re two-thirds of the way through the year and a quick look at the theatre I’ve seen this calendar year, I’m almost certain that many – if not all – of my Top Five shows of the year, I have seen in the last couple of months. Across main stage and independent theatre, I’ve been quite disappointed in the quality of shows I’ve seen in Melbourne. Until recently.
The tide began to turn with MTC’s Neon Festival and ever since then, I’ve been much more impressed. Here’s some thoughts on shows I’ve seen recently.
SAVAGES

Patricia Cornelius and Susie Dee have designed a confronting but poetic examination of masculinity and misogyny at 45 Downstairs. The angled stage is disconcerting to look at even before the four men begin to prowl around it, but this simple design choice adds a lot of weight to Cornelius’ already dense script. The four characters are beautifully delineated, even though they have so many thoughts and instincts in common. What I loved most about it was Cornelius’ use of lang…

About Time @ Melbourne Fringe, 27/28th Sept

Back in late 2010, I wrote About Time as part of the Melbourne Theatre Collective 48 Hour Playwriting Challenge. It got a reading at the end of that weekend, but hasn't seen the light of day since. It was re-written once in early 2011 and just this past weekend for its upcoming production.

As part of Melbourne Fringe 2013, Broken Mirror is staging a mini festival of short plays under the umbrella, "Bite-Sized Theatre". Like Short & Sweet, winners from the first two rounds are voted through to the third week finals by audience and judges. Unlike S&S, there are only 12 plays in this festival and can be longer than ten minutes.

Don Bridges will be directing the piece, which will feature in week two of the "Bite-Sized Theatre" programme: Fri Sept 27th, 9:30pm and Sat Sept 28th, 4pm and 9:30pm.

Tickets on sale for all three weeks of the festival on sale now.

About Time is the story of two women moving in together - and the exact moment six months later when on…

Blogging about Lally Katz's Stories

Last night, I saw Lally Katz’s new show, Stories I Want to Tell You in Person. This isn’t a review, but a few things I was thinking about after. The show opens tonight at Malthouse. I saw the final preview.

I first became aware of Lally Katz’s work through The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy, which was presented at the MTC in 2009. That show featured Brian Lipson, who went on to appear in Lally Katz’s A Golem Story at Malthouse in 2011. The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy was a Stuck Pigs Squealing production. Their latest show – night maybe – opens at Theatreworks this week. Brian Lipson’s in that one, too.
Last night, Brian was in the audience of Lally’s show. After the show, Lally said she was trying to figure out a way to mention Brian in the show, but she decided to stick to the script. A script about her life. A script about writing and being a writer. Mentioning Brian would have fit right in.
Ever since the Apocalypse Bear Trilogy, I’ve been keeping an eye out for Lally Katz’s work – which became…

Edinburgh #8: Rehearsal photos

It's almost here. Three days until Who Are You Supposed To Be opens at Edinburgh Fringe.

Jen, Cameron and Emrys are in Edinburgh now. Our amazing designer/lighting tech/photographer, Isabella will be joining them soon.

Here are some (dress) rehearsal photos...




And the amazing prop suitcase, made by Isabella from a case donated by Helen (who gets to keep it after)!


A Modern Superwoman: Workshop in Adelaide

Last weekend, as part of Five.Point.One’s Reading Sessions, my play “A Modern Superwoman” was workshopped for a full day and then given a reading that night.
Readings are very helpful to guage audience reaction, whether it be laughter in the right place or noticing how well they are engaged or if they are restless. And the feedback afterward can be very helpful. I had a reading of “A Modern Superwoman” in Melbourne back in March – and the discussion and feedback afterward was very helpful.
The version that was workshopped in Adelaide last weekend was an updated version of the play, but it’s the first time I’ve sat down with a group of actors to discuss it, interrogate it and see how well it holds up.
The play has been in development for the past eighteen months or so. I’ve been working closely with actor Clara Pagone during the writing – from workshopping the original idea to making sure each draft got more and more clear in a narrative and character sense.
It’s now on its fourth dra…

Edinburgh #7: Three weeks until opening night...

It's less than 48 hours until the finish of our Indiegogo fundraiser for Edinburgh Fringe. I'm still amazed at the generosity of family, friends, colleagues, fellow artists and strangers for all they've donated so far. We're so much closer to where we need to be now - posters have gone to print, costumes are being bought and assembled.

I'm starting to plan the annotated script that we're giving away as part of the fundraiser. Jen, Cameron and Emrys are ready to get into the nitty gritty of the final few weeks of rehearsals. (Being the creative fellows they are, Emrys directed a production of Twelfth Night last weekend at Stratford-Upon-Avon, in which Cameron appeared as Feste.)
This morning I woke to find that the Australian Times - a newspaper for expat Australians published in the UK - has listed Who Are You Supposed to Be as one of the Top Australian acts at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Number #7, in fact!
It even appeared in print:

We've had a bit …

A Modern Superwoman in Adelaide: Five.Point.One's Reading Sessions

five.point.one presents...  A Modern Superwoman by Keith Gow
August 4, 7:30pm. Bar open from 6:30pm. Holden Street Theatres, Adelaide.
Starring Sophie Bruhn, Claire Glenn, Matt Gregan, Roger Newcombe, Caitlin McCreanor
Directed by Tiffany Knight

Adventures in theatre: Sydney Edition – The Maids, Angels in America

THE MAIDS

Cate Blanchett and her husband, playwright Andrew Upton, have been the Artistic Directors of the Sydney Theatre Company since 2009. Just before Blanchett retires from the role of AD, while Upton keeps running the place, I thought I should see a show they have both worked on – an adaptation of Jean Genet’s “The Maids”. Directed by Benedict Andrews, one of the finest stage directors working in Australia today.
I had heard of the play, but didn’t really know anything about it beyond the basic premise. I had heard great things about the production, but one clear dissenting voice, but mostly I was excited to finally see Cate Blanchett on stage. The bonus was getting to see Isabelle Huppert opposite her – and Elizabeth Debicki almost steal the show as the maids’ “mistress”.
The play is about two maids who plot to murder the woman they work for. It’s a black comedy – and this production is riotously funny – and very black indeed. Not that you could tell that from the immaculate and…

Jumping the lowest bar: Passing the Bechdel Test on stage

The Bechdel Test was first described in the comic strip, “The Rule” in 1985. A female character says she only watches films that satify the following three requirements:
1.The film contains at least two women 2.Who talk to each other 3.About something besides a man.
The rule is supposed to be a low bar to get over. But it demonstrates effectively how often Hollywood fails when it comes to representing women on the big screen.
This blog post includes a lot of great graphs on the number of films that pass the test. And this site is a user edited guide to specific films and discussions of which rules films pass – and which they  fail. Sometimes there is disagreement.
Films and theatre are different mediums but I decided to put the theatre I have watched and the plays I have written to the Bechdel test.
As I mentioned before, the Bechdel Test seems like an easy one to pass. It doesn’t suggest how important the women are to the film or the story. It doesn’t suggest that the women are interesti…

Unspoiled: a fresh take on Hannibal the Cannibal

There’s been a lot of talk in Australia recently about adaptations of old plays into “new works”. And there’s a constant refrain that Hollywood has lost all imagination, which is why mainstream fare is so often based on something with brand recognition – a comic book, a superhero, a television series, a remake. And it’s easy to bemoan remakes and reboots, prequels and sequels – especially if you have a fondness for the original movie. Or TV series. Or comic book. Or theme park ride.
Bryan Fuller’s new TV series, Hannibal, is based on the characters that first appeared in Thomas Harris’ book, "Red Dragon" – first published in 1981. That book has already been made into a film twice: Manhunter, a lean thriller from Michael Mann in 1986; Red Dragon, by director Brett Ratner in 2002.
The character of Hannibal Lecter first appears in "Red Dragon", but he’s most famous for appearing in Thomas Harris’ sequel, "The Silence of the Lambs" (1988) – and the film of t…