Tuesday, 31 December 2013

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 local release dates, Life of Pi was one of my favourites of 2013, too. Much Ado About Nothing was also a delight. And, oh yeah, Catching Fire was amazing! American Hustle, as well.


2012 was probably my favourite year, so 2013 was going to have a tough time living up to it. Some years you just have to slow down, look around and plan for the year ahead. I can’t always keep barrelling into new things; I want to plan things and make them the best I can. No point making things that aren’t the best they can be.

I have so many people to thank that I’ll kick myself if I forget anyone, so here’s an overview:
  • Thanks to everyone involved with Poems a Dead Boy Wrote at Sydney Short & Sweet
  • Thanks to everyone involved with Like a House on Fire at the Western University of Michigan
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with the reading of A Modern Superwoman at Cold Readings
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with the reading of Who Are You Supposed to Be in Melbourne
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with the workshop and reading of A Modern Superwoman by five.point.one in Adelaide
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with the production of Who Are You Supposed to Be in Edinburgh and London
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with Eight Minutes at Townsville Short & Sweet
  •  Thanks to everyone involved with About Time at Melbourne Fringe
And looking forward to 2014:
  •           Thanks to everyone involved in the creation of The Dead End
  •           Thanks to everyone involved in the ongoing development of A Modern Superwoman
  •           Thanks to those involved with the early stages of Who Are You and The House of Goodbyes


Yes, yes. That whole list is compiled from a year where I slowed down. Wait for 2014, when I pick up speed and go for broke.

Happy 2014 to all my readers!

See you in the new year.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

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 put into words how beautiful this show was, not to mention how moving and intelligent, passionate and insightful. Theatrical perfection.



NO CHILD... – Nilaja Sun, Theatre Works
Sometimes, all you need, is one woman on stage playing a couple of dozen characters. A tour-de-force.

ROOM OF REGRET – The Rabble, Theatre Works, Melbourne Festival
And sometimes you need a maze of rooms and corridors and a strong company to lead you through their unforgettable take on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

SAVAGES – Forty-Five Downstairs
Patricia Cornelius’ poetic and penetrating and powerful examination of masculinity and misogyny.

THE BLOODY CHAMBER – Malthouse
A masterful stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s short story. Theatre making at the absolute top of its game.



THE MAIDS – STC
Benedict Andrews. Andrew Upton. Cate Blanchett. Isabelle Huppert. Elizabeth Debicki. Jean Genet’s The Maids. Seriously, what else needs to be said? Black comic perfection.

THE SOVEREIGN WIFE – Sixxters Grimm, Neon Festival/MTC
Declan Greene and Ash Flander’s bring their unique sensibility to an epic story of Australia. A fitting end to the Neon Festival, with a few digs at conservative theatre companies for good measure. Hilarious and biting.


THE NEXT TEN

COLUMBINE – MUST Theatre, Daniel Lammin
Daniel Lammin’s devised and verbatim meditation on the Columbine massacre. Sharp and devastating.



CONSTELLATIONS – MTC
Sometimes life turns on the words you choose to say and those left unspoken. Parallel universes and a performance for the ages from Alison Bell.

MENAGERIE – Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, Neon Festival/MTC
A tribute to Tennessee William’s work and creative process. Brilliant and untamed.

ON THE BODILY EDUCATION OF YOUNG GIRLS – Fraught Outfit, Neon Festival, MTC
An almost silent meditation on youth, puberty and the traps of a rote education.

PALACE OF THE END – Theatre Works
Three tragic monologues that take three different points of view on the American invasion of Iraq. Performances and direction, magic.



PERSONA – Fraught Outfit, Malthouse
By every right, a stage adaptation of the film Persona should not work. Adena Jacobs pulls off the impossible.

SOLOMON AND MARION – MTC
A lovely little surprise at the Melbourne Theatre Company, that didn’t need star power to pull it off.

SUMMERTIME IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN – Sixxters Grimm, Theatre Works
Southern melodrama was never so hilarious. What a cast. What a script. What a crocheted set!

SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE – Opera Victoria
Sondheim’s masterpiece on the creative process is precise and delicate and very moving.



THE CHERRY ORCHARD – MTC
Simon Stone is let loose at the Melbourne Theatre Company and while the arguments about adaptations continued around him, this show proved what a smart theatre maker he is.


THE HONOURABLE MENTIONS

BECAUSE OF REASONS – Five Pounds of Repertory Theatre

GYPSY – The Production Company

OTHER DESERT CITIES – MTC

ROTPETER – Butterfly Club

SHADOWS OF ANGELS – The Owl and the Pussycat

SONGS FOR EUROPE – Melbourne Fringe

STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON – Malthouse

SUPER DISCOUNT – Back-to-Back Theatre, Malthouse

WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT – Malthouse

ZOO STORY – Revolt Theatre


Note:  Before you ask, I didn’t see The Rabble’s Story of O at the Neon Festival. Probably my biggest regret of the year. I also didn’t see much at Melbourne Fringe, but that was around the time I needed a break.

Favourite Theatre of 2012

Favourite Theatre of 2011

Sunday, 1 December 2013

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 & Sweet Sydney. Short & Sweet Townsville. The University of Western Michigan’s Directors’ Festival.

The only production of a play of mine in Melbourne was “About Time”, which popped up at Melbourne Fringe as part of the Bite Sized Theatre series at Broken Mirror.

I did have two readings here, both at the Owl & Pussycat – a development reading of “Who Are You Supposed To Be” and as part of Cold Readings, the first public read of “A Modern Superwoman”.

“A Modern Superwoman” also went to Adelaide for five.point.one’s Reading Sessions. And I went over for that.

Development of “A Modern Superwoman” is nearly two years old now, though the story dates back a long time. And I’ve recently secured a director to direct its premiere production... in 2015. When you want to work with the best, sometimes you have to wait. And I’m happy to wait.

But in the meantime, we’ll use 2014 to make the play as good as it can be – and try to get some development funds to work with the dream cast we’re hoping to put together.

The other project I’ve been working on is a film script. One of my goals for this year was to write/develop/make a short film. Which reminds me, I’m actually working on two film scripts at the moment – a short film version of a short play of mine (that’s never been made) and a feature film script.

I’m always hesitant to talk about works-in-progress, especially when scripts are in flux and you never know what projects are going to go and which ones are going to stall. I’m pretty confident both of the film scripts are in good hands.

Making a short film (which I’ve done in the past, but only as part of the 48 Hour Film contest) was for me to have a project I could show to the world. Theatre shows close. Filming them doesn’t replicate the experience. And a short film seemed like a reasonable way to accomplish what I wanted.

I’ve been hesitant to spend time writing a feature film script, because I spent a lot of my twenties doing that – only to have it not lead anywhere. Plus, if I write a play, I can stage it myself if I have to. Films take a lot more time. And having not written a feature length screenplay in a while, the process of writing it is a lot harder. Not that my plays don’t torture me sometimes, but this screenplay was tough. But, first draft done. And I like re-writing a lot more than I like writing.

I was approached to write this feature by a producer friend of mine, who had a director friend that was looking for a new project. They approached me with a concept and then allowed me to take that away and add in elements that would make it feel more like a project I wanted to write. Not that I didn’t love the concept of what they came to me with, but it took some thinking about.

We worked on the story together – originally it was only going to be a short, but after I wrote up the treatment it was a lot longer than a short. And then we decided to make it a feature and we discussed how to flesh out the concept.

And then I had two months to write draft one. Having outlined the whole film, which is something I don’t tend to do on projects I initiate myself, the writing of the first draft was relatively fun and easy. But it seemed to get harder as it went along, just simply because a film is so different to a stage play – and the genre of this piece is wildly different from anything I’ve written before.

But I love a challenge. First draft is done and emailed to producer and director tonight. I await their notes. The working title is “The Dead End” – but that’s all I want to say about that right now.

And while I’m waiting to develop “A Modern Superwoman” and re-writing “The Dead End”, I’ve started to develop a new immersive theatre work with my old theatre producing partner, Wallis Murphy-Munn. That’s been on the drawing boards for a while now, but the idea is starting to click. I’m a bit protective of that project, so I don’t even want to tell you the working title.


It’s been a really fulfilling year for me creatively. A lot different from 2012. But I’m always trying to flex different creative muscles and that’s what has been satisfying this year – trying new things and spending time making projects they best they can be before releasing them to the world.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Visiting Jesse & Celine: Before Midnight

Celine & Jesse watch the sun set
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 as good as the first? What if they’d changed too much? What if they didn’t like each other or I didn’t like them?

But as I left them alone in Celine’s apartment, even though that moment was ambiguous, I knew we would see them again. I knew, at least, this time they would not lose touch.

I saw Jesse and Celine together again this year. This time, in Greece. A lot has changed in their lives. A lot has changed in mine, too. They are in their early 40s – I’m not quite there yet. They seem settled, but maybe not comfortable. Their relationship seems stronger, and more brittle at the same time.

No, not brittle. It’s full of the emotional connection that time brings. It’s volatile because of the history they have and the commitments they have made. It’s passionate because it’s love.

The details of my life and their lives are entirely different now. I still love them, though. I’ve known them for eighteen years, after all. I can forgive them their foibles and their bouts of selfishness. I know, deep down, that they love each other. And when they fight, they are the arguments of people who fit together and who work together.

Even when Jesse calls Celine “the mayor of crazy town” and Celine tells Jesse she doesn’t love him anymore, I know it’s borne out of two people who have a lifetimes’ worth of ammunition. Sometimes they don’t know when to use it and when to hold back.

What I liked about catching up with them this time was seeing them not only in a new place but in a new context. We meet other people who are part of their lives, both familial and friendly. This is not just one night in Vienna or ninety minutes in Paris. This is a full day, the last day of a holiday – with  all the joy and regret the final day of vacation can bring. Yet again, they aren’t in their real lives – they are on the precipice of going back to work, taking new jobs and returning to a routine neither of them are quite satisfied with.

They are, after all these years, still a pleasure to be around. They might argue now more than they ever have before, but they also know each other better than anyone else in the world – they can make each other laugh, they are so comfortable with each other, they fit. Sure, there are tensions, but what relationship doesn’t have little tensions throughout a day.

It took me a while to write about reuniting with Jesse and Celine this year. On first thought, it was a bit too painful; it was worth doing, but it was raw in a way my other visits with them never have been. And that negative emotion overwhelmed my memories of that day we spent together.

Thinking back only a couple of months, I have to remember that this time is much like the last two times. This is just a day in their lives. This is just another day out of hundreds of days. If it were just the third in a film trilogy, it might be a dramatic finale. But if it is just another chapter in a book – or another book on Jesse’s bio page, it’s not the beginning or the end, but just the middle. The continuation of two lives.

And if it is just a continuation, if it is just another day, if I get to meet Jesse and Celine again in nine years time, the pain of the arguments they had on that last day in Greece will dissipate. And as with every time I have left them before, I’m never sure if it’s the end for them or not. I guess that’s fitting.

Monday, 28 October 2013

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 Boys by 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 company and the show has been developed around these recordings. Parts 1 to 4 comprise a marathon 10 hours of theatre, though it was presented in Melbourne in both three parts across a number of nights – as well as the full four parts in a day, which I attended last Saturday.

When the project is completed, there will be anywhere between 10 and 16 parts that stretch across a full twenty-four hours of experience. Part 4.5, for example, is a short animated film. Part 5 is a book for the audience to read in the theatre. Melbourne Festival only presented parts 1 to 4.

What we see on stage is a replication of these recording about this life, a typical middle class, white suburban life. The stories are embellished by theatrical trickery, to enhance our experience of interacting with these words – but in another way, what we get is very raw.

There’s been no attempt to sanitise the language or polish it up to make it feel theatrical or dramatic. As many of us would do, when trying to recall all the parts of our lives from birth through the later teenage years (the show so far), the speaker punctuates a lot of her stories with “ums” and “like” and nervous laughter.

Early on, I thought I might get tired of hearing so many of these awkward moments – moments that playwrights would normally polish out or not even put on the page to begin with. Dialogue on stage is most usually artiface, even when a writer is striving for naturalism. Life and Times strives for hyper-naturalism with the recreation of this exact phrasing, even though the rest of what we’re watching on stage is as far from natural as you could expect.

But as the show progressed, I fell under its spell. It is genuinely funny and uplifting. There are moments of darkness, but it doesn’t tend to dwell in them. The actors are fully commited to telling this story, while also embodying this woman’s life through deliberately choreographed movement and dance – and in parts 3 and 4, parody and farce.

The thing about telling the story of an unremarkable life, though, is the many moments that evoke memories of the audience themselves. As a playwright, some of my writing is inspired by moments in my life – even if it’s just based on a feeling, rather than anything resembling my actual experience. And in writing, I strive to tell stories that will connect with audiences. Usually, though, the point of storytelling is often to transport the audience. With this show, it feels genuinely like they want the audience to regress, to remember and to fill those awkward, repetitious moments with memories from their own childhoods.

The ten-hour marathon was broken up by three intervals, including a dinner break where hamburgers were prepared by the actors in the show. And much of the audience at the Saturday marathon was made up of actors, writers and directors of the Melbourne and Australian theatre-making scene. The sense of community was palpable. We were in this for the long haul. We wanted to be witness to this life and where it was headed.

Of course, unlike most theatre where stories end, Life and Times is still part way through its creation. The subject still lives. The show is still in development. And it’s a long way from completion.

But,  in the meantime, the first four chapters of this unremarkable life is told in a theatrically remarkable way. And all those “ums” and “likes” and awkward “hahahas” are gaps into which our own memories flood, making connections in her life, in their lives and in ours that were not apparent before we were witness to this extraordinary show.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

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

Room of Regret
Photo by Guy Little


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 lives to that performance. Critics can’t be objective; their reviews are subjective – beholden to their own experiences. And theatre, that tricky and ephemeral beast, is always changing, never static. Each night will be different, because live performance changes with the energy of the actors and the energy of the room.

An audience can always change a performance. Do they laugh at the right or wrong places? What are the right and wrong places? Do they engage with one actor’s performance or another? Do they allow being taken by the hand from one room to another and another? Or do they slink quietly into their seats to just observe?

There was a moment early in my experience of Room of Regret that was dark and intimate and very confronting. And because of that moment, the rest of the show resonated with me in a deeply personal way. Had I been deprived that one moment, I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed the show. I’m not sure how I would have experienced it at all.

But because the veil had been lifted and my eyes were clear, I felt more deeply what they were saying about vanity and celebrity and self-perception and sexuality – in The Rabble’s own dreamlike/nightmarish way.

I could tell you about Room of Regret, but I’d only be telling you about the show I saw – which will not be the show you see. What I saw, I loved.

But, if you missed it, I couldn’t even tell you what you missed.


Room of Regret runs until November 3. I saw it last night at its first preview.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"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, sir? Do you have the time?” – Richard Di Gregorio: On Time  

“I have a two hour break on Thursday afternoon, where I need to get to the library, stand in the lunch queue and be on the other side of campus for my three o’clock tute.” – Sibling Loyalty  

“I know. I’m early. Eight, forty-five.” – The Twelfth of Never  

“This is exactly how it was. A hot day. Those two sitting side-by-side.” – [untitled]

“What the fuck was that?” – who are you  

“Who are you supposed to be?” – Who Are You Supposed To Be?  

“Remember the letter I sent when I was thirty? That was five years ago for me... I hope you get these in the right order!” – You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia  



* technically the first line of dialogue of Lady M is "Come you spirits, that tend of mortal thoughts..." - but I stole that

Friday, 30 August 2013

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 language, to heighten the experience, but to also dig under our skin and expose the dark heart of these average blokes.

Until Sept 8th at 45 Downstairs

THE CHERRY ORCHARD


Simon Stone may be controversial when the matter of adaptations arises, but when examining his work as it stands, he’s one of our most exciting directors. This somewhat modernised adaptation of Chekov’s classic play is entirely faithful to plot and character, but beyond that the design and direction is bold and very memorable. The stark white frame enlivens the comedy but makes stark the tragedy that is befalling the family. The cast is superb and I love the way that Stone plays outside inside the proscenium. This didn’t change my world, but it did reaffirm that Stone is an exciting director and his adaptations are fascinating.

Until Sept 25th at Southbank Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company

COLUMBINE


Director Daniel Lammin and students at Monash University have explored their memories and the evidence of the Columbine high school shooting in this perceptive and insightful piece of verbatim theatre. Lammin is an exciting director on the independent scene and this is his biggest work to date. He also calls it his most important. The show is both the actors recreating moments from that fateful day in 1999, reciting quotes from interviews, reneacting videos and talking about their own recollections of the events. The devised script and Lammin’s direction keeps moving, enhanced by beautiful performances, evocative lighting, affecting music and choreography that is sometimes frightening and sometimes amusing.

Until Sept 6th at Monash University Student Theatre

night maybe


I was so enamoured with this show, I saw it twice. I haven’t seen any other shows more than once this year, not necessarily because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t (sold out) or I didn’t have time (so much theatre on in Melbourne; also I have theatre to make, as well).

Every element of this show comes together to enhance every other. It may have started with Kit Brookman’s insightful script about growing up, burgeoning sexuality, gender confusion and familial discomfort (and perhaps abuse), but it’s brought to life inside Mel Page’s incredible set and lit to perfection by Richard Vabre and evocatively scored by James Brown.

Luke Mullins’ assured direction pulls everything together, keeping the performances suitably restrained but always somewhat otherworldly. This play feels real and like a dream and like a nightmare, sometimes all at once. Central to the performances on stage is Sarah Ogden’s subtle, complex and layered turn as Sasha, who is both lost in the woods but also able to navigate her way through the trouble she finds there. Ogden is always magnificent, but here she flawless.

The rest of the cast are superb in supporting Ogden, Tom Conroy and Marcus McKenzie play multiple roles – Conroy standing out as Tom and Sally. Brian Lipson is suitably unnerving as a character referred to in the programme as “Ghost” but he’s much more menacing because he feels so real.

The play is non-naturalistic, though it tricks the audience with its somewhat naturalistic dialogue at the start. Some of the events seem muddled, but the production is so evocative in so many ways – and so beautiful to look at and to listen to and to watch, that even when you can’t quite understand what is happening, you can appreciate the beauty and feel the characters’ uncertainty anyway.

Until Sept 1st at Theatreworks

Sunday, 25 August 2013

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 one of them says she has run out of time. She has to go.

Starring in About Time are:

Whitney Duff as Megan

Lauren O'Callaghan as Layla

About Time will play during Bite-Size Theatre, at Broken Mirror - 27th and 28th September. As part of Melbourne Fringe 2013. Tickets on sale now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

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 really easy in 2011, when she had three mainstage productions. A Golem Story at Malthouse. Neighbourhood Watch at Belvoir. And, finally, Return to Earth at MTC, which featured Anne-Louise Sarks, who directs Katz’s current show. She was also in the audience last night and is mentioned in the show. In the dramatic finale.

Lally Katz on "the phone" to Marion Potts

If it feels like I’m obsessing too much over connections here, I probably am. But that’s part of what this show is about. It’s about how Lally creates theatre. It’s how she battles with her subconscious. It’s how she uses people in her life to create the characters in her stories. We travel from the Apocalypse Bear all the way through her career to last night, final preview at the Malthouse theatre.

Lally Katz is an engaging speaker. I’ve read interviews with her. There are great interviews of her online. I’ve heard her speak at the Wheeler Centre. Stories I Want To Tell You In Person is an extension of her chatting about her life, just in a room full of – mostly – strangers. Some of whom have seen the shows she’s mentioned. Some of whom have been in them. And some who have been written in as characters.

What I personally enjoyed about the show was the connections I had to the moments she discussed playwriting, and the honest moments of reflection she had when talking about her career. And she answered several questions I had about her career in the show, specifically - what happens the year after you have three mainstage productions on? The show is mostly about that year and what led her to making this show.

Theatre productions are so often defined by the fact they are ephemeral. They exist for that season, then disappear. This is the second season of this show, after it premiered at Belvoir earlier this year. But because of the way Katz talks about her last few years, just the mention of A Golem Story and Neighbourhood Watch and the Apocalypse Bear make them seem more alive. When Katz reflects honestly about the critical failure of MTC’s Return to Earth, the truth is buoyed by the fact that this was the production that made her the most money in her career.

And all that money led her to a psychic in New York, where she asked them about lifting a curse… a curse that seemed to doom her love life, while her career was going great. The psychic stories are a good hook for the press release, but the reason I enjoyed the show was because I’ve been watching Lally Katz’s career for a few years now – and this show proved why. She’s a great writer. And a wonderful presence on stage.

Monday, 12 August 2013

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)!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

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 draft, revised for Adelaide – and it was in pretty good shape before the workshop. When I write the fifth draft, I’m going to be very confident the changes I make will be for the better; I gained new insight into the characters from the actors who worked on it, as well as from the input from our director, Tiffany Knight.

Having talked to a couple of directors in Melbourne about the play earlier this year, the fourth draft has always felt like it was ready for the next step – getting it on its feet, working with actors to hear how it sounds and to get feedback about character motivation and narrative logic. Does each character’s story make logic sense? Emotional sense? Does the out-of-order chronology enhance or detract from the piece? Would everything track if the play was laid out in chronological order before being shuffled again?

The best part about getting actors involved is that they take ownership of their characters; they need to make connections that other actors don’t need to make. And sometimes they find motivations that I didn’t intend, but which strengthen the work. In particular, the character of Bernice – who has developed the most from her original conception – finally came into focus for me when Caitlin McCreanor talked about Bernice’s relationship to two other characters in the show: Marion (the titular Superwoman) and Richard (an off-stage character). I did some last minute re-writes in one of her scenes, to bolster her character and play down the character of Richard.

As we progressed through the workshop, we’d read a scene and then Tiffany would ask the actors involved in that scene where the character is emotionally – what has happened just prior to that scene, what state of mind are they in. Even if this play was played chronologically, there are large leaps of time in the narrative – allowing the actors to explore where they are both before and after particular moments in the story.

All of the actors had great observations to make – and if anything was unclear, I was asked to clarify my intention. That’s always a good moment in the creation of a work, because I need to be on my game, I need to be able to explain my choices in the writing. Admittedly, sometimes the actors made connections that made more sense than what I’d originally intended; occasionally I could fold that into my goal for the scene and sometimes I had to admit that what the actor brought to the scene made more sense.

I think there was only one scene where I just had to admit it needed a lot more work, because as it stands it’s confusing about its intentions. Or I was confused about what I was trying to achieve. We left it in for the reading, but it’s definitely the moment that stands out as needing more work.

In contrast to that scene, at least the rest of the workshop showed the script is in good shape. It needs work, but at least now I have specific goals to achieve for draft five.

Thank you again to five.point.one for the opportunity to workshop the show in Adelaide, as well as present it as a reading – which provided some good feedback, too. One man on Facebook called it “the highlight of the series so far”, which was amazing to hear.

And thanks again to Tiffany Knight, our wonderful director who kept the workshop moving – and somehow we got through two read-throughs and some intense discussion of the piece in the seven hours we had together.

And thanks to Sophie Bruhn, Claire Glenn, Matt Gregan, Roger Newcombe and Caitlin McCreanor – all of whom had great things to say about the play, their characters. Wait ‘til you see the next draft!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

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 of publicity at Doctor Who sites, blogs and in the Edinburgh Press. See the almost exhaustive list here.

Last weekend, while the boys were off in Stratford, Jen was doing a lengthy vlog-cast (?) interview about fans, fandom, crowdfunding and the show! See it below:



Meanwhile, I've been sending out press releases, trying to set up more interviews, planning a possible tour of the show post-Edinburgh. Maybe Manchester. Hopefully London. And more into the future...

And, of course, trying to get everyone to support the show at Indiegogo or by buying a ticket! Spread the word. Only 44 hours to go on the fundraiser. And three weeks until opening night!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

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

Saturday, 13 July 2013

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 colourful set – the mistress’ bedroom, filled with large bunches of flowers and a rack of clothing spanning the width of the stage. A bedroom that is otherwise surrounded by glass walls.

The genius of the production is that while you might choose to focus on the almost slapstick work of the actors on stage, a large, imposing screen hangs above it and onto that screen is projected close-up of the actors: harsh images of their faces, sometimes distorting them, sometimes exposing the clear devastation of events. One minute it’s an hilarious farce and the next, you’re confronted with a discarded pair of shoes, a twitching hand or a face that tells a story without blinking.


Blanchett, Huppert and Debicki are incredible, not a single one outshining another. Huppert’s accent was sometimes a little too thick to be clearly understood, but oftentimes the emotion or the action spelled it out clear enough. Blanchett, who has lit up the silver screen for so long, is an absolute powerhouse on stage. It seems so ridiculous to say that, but since this was my first time seeing her live, it was so exciting for me. Debicki is having an amazing year, since she’s also starring in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” – and proving she is the equal of Blanchett and Huppert is an incredible achievement.

I don’t remember the last time a production has made me laugh so heartily and consistently from beginning to end. Well, almost to the end. Because as this dark comedy reaches its climax, it gets blacker and blacker until the final blackout. And the three women took three bows. Well deserved.

*

ANGELS IN AMERICA

Where should I begin? 1994. The show – both Millennium Approaches and Perestroika - premieres at the Melbourne Theatre Company under the direction of Neil Armfield at the Playhouse – and I missed it. I wanted to go. I wanted to find someone who was willing to spend seven hours in a theatre with me. I wanted to have that experience. I was studying writing at the time. I’d never heard of such a thing – such an epic play, such an event.

Cut to 2003. Angels in America premieres on HBO as a six-hour mini-series. This was before I started using torrents to download TV shows, but it’s one of the last times I remember sourcing a video taped copy of something after it aired in the US. Video tapes? Remember those?

2013. Belvoir Theatre in Sydney produces the whole thing, the first professional mainstage production in Sydney since 1993. And I got to see the entirety of this epic of 20th century playwriting on stage for the first time. And it did not disappoint.

I do still wonder how I would have reacted to this as a naive nineteen-year-old. Almost twenty years later, the piece – which is set in 1985 – has lost a little bit of its power but none of its intelligence and wit. 

Audiences are still witness to virtuosic performances and theatre magic, even if it’s done in a tongue-in-cheek style. The appearances and disappearances of characters are done in a low-fi way. The angel ascends by climbing a step-ladder. But the power of he text still evokes a time and a place – and tells a story of identity and gender and sexual politics that still remains vital and relevant today.

Times change, people change. The text has changed. Tony Kushner’s programme notes allude to some of the changes he’s made to Perestroika, still wrestling to get Part 2 right, where he says Part 1: Millennium Approaches appeared fully-formed twenty-two years ago. I’ve seen the mini-series and read the text of the script. I know some sections and scenes Kushner suggests are optional. And Kushner has strengthened Joe’s story, though in such a way as it is hard to notice as an audience member; apparently there’s more there for the actor to hook into, while Joe’s ending is still left as ambiguous as ever.


This production, under the auspices of director Eamon Flack, was emotional without being devastating. It was exciting to watch Millennium Approaches, even from the back row. It was thrilling to watch Perestroika from the front row, some of the actors only an arm’s length away. Perestroika is messy but understandably so; the characters’ lives are turned upside-down, they are grappling with changes they cannot comprehend. Personal, emotional and societal changes that upended communities dealing with the AIDS crisis in 1985.

It’s a pity it took me twenty years to see Angels in America on stage, but there’s no way to change that now. It’s not like the show is produced very often in its full, unadulterated glory. But then, sometimes shows this powerful need time to find the right director, the right actors and the right time to bring it back. This production has found all of those elements.


This great work is on at Belvoir St Theatre and transfers to the Theatre Royal in Sydney on July 18.

Friday, 12 July 2013

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 interesting or relevant or strong or multi-layered, just that they exist and talk to each other about something apart from a man. Films could pass this test by having a cameo appearance by two women saying hi to each other.

How does theatre compare? Some of the conventions of theatre make analysis tricky. The recent On the Bodily Education of Young Girls by Adena Jacobs and Fraught Outfit had a stage filled with young girls and women – but it is essentially dialogue free. In Angela’s Kitchen last year, Paul Capsis plays all the members of his immediate family – including his mother and grandmother, who interact during a large dinner scene starring the whole family. For me, both of these shows pass the test.

One-woman or one-man shows are typical stage endeavours. As are two-handers. It’s very unusual for films to have casts this small, but on stage it happens a lot. A female monologue about anything apart from a man still fails the test. A male and female two-hander, even about the subject of gender politics, fails – even when the female character talks to her mother, because the mother is unseen. But I’m not sure that’s exactly the spirit of the Bechdel Test.

Putting aside comparisons between the two mediums, using those three rules, 50% of the shows I’ve seen in the last twelve months pass the Bechdel Test. At last week’s Sunday Sessions at Belvoir St theatre in Sydney, playwright Tom Wright discussed analysing the plays of all the mainstage theatre companies in Australia every year – and his overall impression is that most years only 20% of shows pass the Bechdel test.

For comparison, of the Top 20 user-rated films at the IMDB, only three pass the test – Schindler’s List, The Godfather Part II and Pulp Fiction. But barely.

*

Penny (Renee Palmer) talks to herself in Like a House on Fire
but passes the test in Painting with Words & Fire

If you’ve seen any of my plays or read this blog for a while, a lot of my work is dominated by female characters. But how does my writing stack up against the Bechdel Test?

I have five full-length plays. Three of them pass the test. The fourth is a two-hander, one man and one woman. It’s the play I alluded to above – one about gender politics, where the woman is seen to speak with her mother, but her mother is on the other end of the phone line, unheard. The fifth play is a one-man show. Three of five. 60%.

I have twelve short plays that run between five and twenty minutes. Only three of these pass the test. 25%.

One other features two female characters who do not talk to each other. Three others are female monologues, which – when combined – actually produced a show that did pass the test, Painting with Words & Fire. But as monologues, they are three women talking to themselves.

Of all my short plays, the casts are usually two or three only. One has four characters – two men, two women; the women do not interact at all.

*

The Bechdel Test is a simple proof that women are almost invisible in feature films. While the graphs linked above might suggest about half of all films pass the test, remember how little it takes to pass. Passing the test doesn’t mean women are well represented in that film; the only reason Pulp Fiction passes is that two women discuss tongue piercings and fellatio. The Godfather, Part II and Schindler’s List pass based on one scene each.


In theatre, I think it might be more clear if a work passes or doesn’t pass. We don’t have extraneous characters; either there are two female characters who interact or there are not. Characters aren’t on stage for cameos, they are always important parts of the work. And yet, the percentage of mainstage theatre company works in Australia still puts the number at 20% pass. To me, that is a major failing.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Edinburgh #6: VIDEO - Director, writer & cast

Jennifer Lusk, Cameron K McEwan, Emrys Matthews and I discuss Who Are You Supposed to Be? amongst other geeky loves.



Our Indiegogo campaign is still running - any support is greatly appreciated!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

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.

Mads Mikkelsen, delicious as Hannibal
in Hannibal (2013)
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 the same name (1991). The popularity of the character in the film, where he is played by Anthony Hopkins (who won an Oscar in the role), led to both a sequel – "Hannibal" (novel 1991, film 2001) and a prequel – "Hannibal Rising" (novel 2006, film 2007).

Dr Hannibal Lecter is imprisoned by the time of "Red Dragon" and its sequels, but his back story is alluded to in the original novel – he’s a psychiatrist who is also a serial killer and cannibal.

Will Graham, an FBI profiler, is the lead character in "Red Dragon" and functions much like Clarice Starling does in "Lambs" – he is trying to track down a serial killer and must use Lecter to help him catch the killer. Unlike Clarice Starling, who is fresh out of the Academy, Will Graham has a history of tracking down serial killers – including the Minnesota Shrike, as well as the Chesapeake Ripper, who turns out to be Hannibal Lecter.

Anthony Hopkins, chewing the scenery
in Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The tension between fresh-faced Clarice and Lecter is based mostly on her naivete; can a brand new agent really deal with the psychological warfare that Lecter will wage against her? With Will, it’s about the two characters’ history together; Will put Lecter in jail. Lecter almost killed Will in the process.

Hannibal, the television series, is a prequel to those events. And creator Bryan Fuller has fleshed out the lightly disseminated back story from Red Dragon into a first season of tense, intriguing and mesmerising television. Harris sketched the background of these characters in only a few pages in his original novel; Fuller uses the knowledge we have from the books and previously-made films to play with our expectations and flesh out a part of the story we’ve never seen.

Prequels often come with a lot of baggage. We already know what’s coming. Our instinct is usually to know what happens next, not what came before. But in this case, the series also feels like a remake and a reboot all at once. Fuller isn’t telling the backstory of Anthony Hopkins’ version of the character or Brian Cox’s version of the character. He’s recreating Harris’ characters for the modern day, which planning on retelling the entire Hannibal saga over seven seasons.

In many ways, because this is a reinvention of the story of Will and Hannibal and Jack Crawford, the show can both play toward and against expectations. We know where the story is headed, but we don’t know how we’re going to get there. We know Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper and we know the delicious meals he serves are helpings of people, but the other characters don’t know that and don’t suspect him.

And we know Will Graham is the genius who finally and eventually puts Hannibal behind bars, but he doesn’t have enough information yet – though throughout the first season, he starts to put the pieces together. The stag that he sees in visions during season one clearly represents Lecter, without the character himself actually being able to put the pieces together.

Silence of the Lambs is one of my favourite films and Harris’ first two Lecter novels are great page-turner thrillers. The franchise gets problematic after that, both on the page and on film, but the characters of Lecter, Will and Clarice are some of my favourite fictional characters. The notion of this series sort of puzzled me, but Fuller and his crew have pulled it off brilliantly.

In "Red Dragon", we know that Will investigated the case of the Minnesota Shrike and after that he was institutionalised. The first season deals very much with that part of Will’s backstory. We may wander down paths that Harris never intended, but we still keep merging with the story that we already know; Will must eventually put Lecter behind bars.

The show also alludes to how Will might eventually put the pieces together, foreshadows Lecter gutting Will with a knife, re-uses the famous line of dialogue - “having an old friend for dinner” - and gives a wink to the character of Clarice Starling but putting a proto-Clarice character into Jack’s past in the guise of Miriam Lass. If Fuller gets to make all seven seasons of his show, these pieces will more neatly fall into place.

In this age of spoilers, propagated so quickly by social media and message boards and blogs, Hannibal is almost spoiler proof. The twists and turns from several seasons hence are already known to most of the audience. You can spoil yourself now by reading "Red Dragon" or watching Silence of the Lambs. But until we get to those points in the series, Bryan Fuller has a lot of breathing room – and lot of distance where he might flex his creative muscles.

He also has the impetus to smooth out problems he has with the narrative as it has already been re-written. Fuller has already said he’s not a big fan of the novel/film "Hannibal Rising" – and does not like the conclusion to the novel, "Hannibal". (For me, the film improves on the ending of the book, but overall the story is convoluted and the characters of Hannibal and Clarice are far less interesting in both. I can’t wait to see what the show does.)

The opening scene of the television series quickly puts us inside Will Graham’s head and we are treated to a visual representation of the “pendulum” he must quieten in his mind, an image straight from Harris’ novel. The final scene of the first season inverts a very famous image from the film Silence of the Lambs (scored by music from Ridley Scott’s Hannibal); a remix of ideas from several incarnations of the characters of Hannibal and Will. And the television series is richer for it.

Brian Cox, enjoying the meaty role
in Manhunter (1986)
Adaptations, prequels, sequels and reboots are a risky business because people have strong emotional investments in stories from their past. Those films being remade have brand recognition for a reason; people already love them. Hannibal uses the affection we have, if the word affection can really be ascribed to a serial killer who is a cannibal, for a character and a collection of stories that we’ve already seen play out once. The show takes us back to the beginning and we get to see a fresh cut of the meat of these characters and this world.

*


Fuller’s plan for the show is to remake Red Dragon as Season Four, Silence of the Lambs as Season Five, Hannibal as Season Six and have a seventh season to wrap everything up. He will be putting some characters from "Hannibal" into Season Two. And he is negotiating with MGM for the rights to Clarice Starling and Jame Gumb, so let’s hope that will happen.