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Showing posts from 2020

REVIEW: #txtshow (on the internet) - Melbourne Fringe

2020 is the year of Zoom, boxed people on your laptop screen, sometimes trying to talk all at once. Meetings and meet-ups. Lectures and lessons. And because Zoom has become so ubiquitous, it’s also being used more and more creatively. Riot Stage used it to chat to us and stream their short film. Brian Feldman is using it to create his show, day after day. Audience members are welcomed to Zoom and the show, and asked to keep their cameras and their microphones on but to change their onscreen name to “anonymous”. We are to wait until the character of “txt” appears and then we have to start typing. You see “txt” (performed by Brian Feldman) will perform whatever we type into the chat box. No one knows who is typing what and Brian doesn’t know what he’ll be saying until the text appears in the chat. It’s the quickest I’ve ever seen anything I’ve written be performed for an audience. Zoom has been used all year for work and for collaborations. #txtshow is an evolution of that – perhap

REVIEW: Riot Stage Gets Famous - Melbourne Fringe

Early in 2020, Riot Stage – the youth theatre company – was getting ready to launch their show Everyone is Famous at the Next Wave Festival in May. They had been working on it for two years. They even got as far as appearing at the launch for the Festival. Then COVID happened. The members of Riot Stage had to wrestle with what to do next, just like theatre companies all over the world. They wanted to keep making theatre but had to think outside the box. Instead of premiering a show about persona in the age of social media, they made a documentary about trying to get famous in three weeks. Social media connects us all and every platform has its own quirks and expectations. And they all need content. The Riot Stagers launch new accounts to post art, sexually-revealing photographs, thirsty pics of Harry Styles, bad makeup tips from a learner, and reviews of pickles. The goal, of course, is to get as many followers as they can in three weeks. One Riot Stager goes the old-fashioned

REVIEW: Stay at Home, Kasey Gambling – Melbourne Fringe

Have you ever felt trapped at home? I know, it’s 2020. If you can work from home, you must work from home. There are only four reasons to leave your house. You can only leave for one hour a day for exercise. No one can visit. But have you ever felt really trapped at home? And scared? Unable to leave. Four years ago, theatre-maker Kasey Gambling created an immersive audio experience for a single audience member on the streets of North Melbourne called The Maze . It’s still one of the most memorable pieces of art I have ever experienced, headphones in and following a woman on the street. Wearing headphones on the street can get you killed. At home, they should be a form of escape – listen to music, listen to podcasts, phone a friend. And yet, Kasey’s new show, Stay at Home , isn’t an escape. It’s another immersive audio experience, but this time you’re not following a woman, you’re in her shoes. But this is your house. How well do you know your own house? You’d think, after loc

REVIEW: Trash Talk – Tash York, Melbourne Fringe

  I’ve watched a lot of streamed theatre of various kinds during lockdown, as I wrote about here . And even as Melbourne slowly emerges from Lockdown 2: Electric Boogaloo, we’re still not quite ready for live theatre, so Melbourne Fringe is online for everyone’s enjoyment. I’ve seen many of Tash York’s shows in the past, including the one she did for VCR Fest back in… I dunno. I’ve lost all sense of time. That was a fun hour of cabaret, that was only slightly affected by technical difficulties. But we’re all in this together, learning new technology and how to enjoy a public thing privately. Tash’s brand has always been the heavy-drinking chanteuse, who parties too much and likes to eat late-night nuggets. There are always lyrical twists or complete re-writes to the songs she sings, though. “History Repeating” and “In the Mood” are reinterpreted for our times, 2020 the year from hell. One of the regular features of Tash’s shows is her taking prompts from the audience on a theme

Seeing It Again Through New Eyes: Watching Reaction Videos on YouTube

SesskaSays reacts to the Eleventh Doctor's departure on Doctor Who One of the things I’ve missed during lockdown is watching television with other people. I have some close friends that would regularly get together to watch shows, so we could talk through whatever the hell happened on Westworld or unpack everything we feel watching June suffer over and over again on The Handmaid’s Tale . I’m used to watching television alone, too, but there’s nothing quite like having a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. One of the reasons or excuses I have for watching Twin Peaks countless times is that, over the years, I have introduced a lot of people to the show. I re-watch it because I love it, but I also sit there waiting for their reactions. To the end of season one or the reveal of who killed Laura Palmer. Or the season two finale. And, more recently, to see how they process Part 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return . Back in 2013, after the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castamere”

Streaming/Theatre: Thoughts and feelings on missing an art form

Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic in 2016 I miss theatre. I miss a lot of things but theatre was a weekly fixture in my life. I write plays and I review plays and even if I wasn’t reviewing, watching theatre was always an opportunity to learn more about how theatre worked. And to be entertained. The experience of theatre is ephemeral. A play changes every night. It’s living and breathing. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. And then it turned out the existence of theatre is ephemeral, too. And within a week in March, my thoughts turned from “should I be sitting in a large audience” to “wow, theatres are all closed, I wonder how long this will last”. At the start of the pandemic, I made a pretty conscious decision that I would take time away from playwriting. The world had changed so suddenly and so had my daily life and trying to find the passion and energy for creativity seemed like too much of an extra burden. Fuck all this talk of S

REVIEW: SLUT by Patricia Cornelius

Laura Jane Turner in SLUT  by Patricia Cornelius A man is dead, we’re told. A good man. A man with a job. Not a drunk. Not homeless. He’s a hero really. Just wanted to help Lolita and now he’s dead. We’re told this story – this anecdote – by a trio of young women, friends of Lolita, who have known her from a very young age. In fact, there’s some question about who knew her better and who knew her the longest. Because the better they knew Lolita, the better they might understand her. And the more they understand her, the more righteously they can pass judgement. Lolita was a carefree child. Used to love riding a bike. Ride it fast. Feel the ache in her legs and sweat on her face. All she had to worry about was staying on the bike and enjoying her lovely, lovely life. She stopped riding bikes when she was nine-years-old. Her friends tell us that everything changed for Lolita when she turned eight and grew breasts. Huge ones. When she was eight years old. A child with

REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – Ridiculusmus

Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play, The Importance of Being Earnest , is subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”. In its satirical way, though, it’s not so trivial at all, even as it appears farcical. Yes, the story is about two men who lie about their identities to get out of numerous obligations, but in his criticism of a certain social strata, Wilde is effectively calling out the people sitting in the audience. And with its clockwork like structure, in some ways it’s really a Serious Comedy for (or about) Trivial People. Back in 2011, the Melbourne Theatre Company produced a star-studded production of the play, with director Simon Phillips recreating his 1988 production, reuniting some of his original cast with some new theatrical stars like Christie Whelan-Browne and Toby Schmitz. This was a gorgeous rendering of the play in full, savouring Wilde’s delicious language and turning up the tension of his finely-tuned plot with some incredible physicality and top-notch performan

REVIEW: The Feather in the Web by Nick Coyle

Michelle Braiser is Kimberly in Nick Coyle's The Feather in the Web A woman has baked her friend a cake to celebrate surviving the year – she’s been through chemotherapy and a divorce. Her friend tries to be grateful for the gesture, but it’s clear that the cake tastes bad and – Next thing we know, both women are smeared in cake and one has hot coffee poured all over her. Kimberly is leaving home forever and this is her final destructive moment there. No wonder her mother is glad to see the back of her. Kimberly is chaos and driven by pure impulse. She has no social graces and adheres to no societal norms. She humiliates and assaults a shopping centre make-up artist and he leaves her smeared with red lipstick, which she wears as a kind of war paint for most of the rest of the play. All of the above sounds grotesque, which it is, in an absurdly delightful way. It’s uncomfortable and shocking and hilariously funny. The comedy comes from the outrageousness of e

REVIEW: New Balance by Christopher Bryant - Midsumma

Christopher Bryant is a playwright. I know that, because I’ve seen plays he’s written. He’s queer, because I saw his one-man show, Intoxication , which was about his sexuality but also about his addictions and the accident that almost killed him. Each show I see of his tells me more about him; even if it just tells me how good of a writer he is - how insightful and thoughtful he is about the world around him and his process of making theatre. Chris is also disabled. His new show, New Balance , partly reckons with that new facet of his self and identity - and it also places his story in the wider context of the queer community. How does Chris see his cis, queer, disabled self? How does he see himself inside the community he lives in? How does that same community see him? Complicated, thorny questions to be addressed in only an hour of theatre - but potent and galvanizing. Chris is a fine storyteller, whether behind-the-scenes or on stage in front of us. When I saw Intoxication, it

REVIEW: Poorly Drawn Shark by Andrew Sutherland and Vidya Rajan – Midsumma

Andrew grew up in Perth but moved to Singapore, where he became a model and an actor – and a coveted very-white-man in the gay community. Ming was born in Singapore but moved to Perth at a young age, unable to go back to his homeland, for fear of being trapped there, forced to do military service. What happens next is a clash-of-cultures, a white boy feeling unappreciated and an Asian man being kept from his family and his history. But it’s messier than that, as history and gay sex tend to be. The spectre of colonialism remains in the form of a regressive law that makes sex between adult men illegal. And the lessons Andrew is learning are steering dangerously close to the cringeworthy novel by Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love – later turned into a film starring Julia Roberts. Sutherland and his co-writer Vidya Rajan throw a lot of ideas at the wall, scrape them off, put them in a blender, and have the traditional Singaporean symbol - the merlion - spit them out

REVIEW: This Bitter Earth by Chris Edwards – Midsumma

A young man sips a glass of wine, waiting for us to file into the theatre, while Kylie plays. As we settle in, he’s a long way from settled – nervous, anxious, eager to tell us about a dream he’s had. Even though he knows that when most people recount dreams, they are dead boring. He’s a country boy who has moved to the big city – let’s call it Sydney – for university. He’s sleeping on his uncle’s couch and after being shown the expected touristy sites, he starts to explore the world by himself. He’s gay and he’s never seen a penis other than his own. He’s drawn to a busker singing “My Heart Will Go On” and shaken up by two dude-bros shouting at gay couple kissing. “Stop shoving it down our throats,” they shout, unaware of how unintentionally homoerotic they sound. The guy whose story we’ve been following, decides to follow them. And this is just the start of the first vignette in a series of short moments by Chris Edwards exploring queer sex and relationships i

REVIEW: Cirque Stratosphere

The Clown (Salvador Salangstrang) walks through the audience, dressed as an astronaut, bouncing along as if doing a spacewalk. He warms up the crowd with calls of cooee, but also by orchestrating a communal rendition of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey , “Also sprach Zarathustra” – with the audience on vocals and two volunteers on drums. “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade…” With these words from President John F. Kennedy, we are brought into the 1960s and the space race. A team of astronauts walks onto the stage – the men of the Apollo moon missions – and a voiceover describes their fitness, strength and the precise nature of their work. And with that, Cirque Stratosphere begins; a show full of athleticism that requires precision from the acrobats and performers on stage. The background of the race to the moon is backdrop, colour and movement – a subtle trajectory from earth to the stars. The real strength of the show is in