Memories of 2010 – and a few hopes for the new theatre year

The light’s in the sky for the first day of 2011. Time to look back and sketch out – from a very personal perspective – a view of the theatre year just gone.

2010 in Queensland theatre was the year of change, and the word most often heard in conjunction with this sense of refreshment and newness – excitement even – was ‘independent’ or ‘indie.’ The work of small, indie companies spiced the theatre year in the state. It was varied and always intriguing even if, at times, the reach of much of the work exceeded the grasp – as it should. Continue reading Memories of 2010 – and a few hopes for the new theatre year

Review: The Timely Death of Victor Blott – Dead Puppet Society at !Metro Arts Independents

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Top Posts of 2010

Originally published May 5, 2010

Puppet theatre (~ Punch and Judy), c.
Image via Wikipedia

What is it about puppets? Doesn’t matter what form they take, what cultural background they spring from – and they’ve been all over the place for milennia – puppetry remains one of the most popular and compelling performance forms in world theatre. It’s probably an extension of our fascination with the craft and art of human representation, and provides the comfort of a more innocent age of amusement, harking as it does back to childhood. Not all puppetry is playful, however. Some of the world’s great puppet theatres contain terrifyingly blood-thirsty plotlines and special effects designed to shock and scare the audience silly; Mr Punch from the British tradition is no exception.

In Australia we’ve run the gamut from quaint to quirky. Our most famous puppeteers include Peter Scriven, the creator of The Tintookies who toured for the Australian Elizabethan Trust in the 1950s, and Richard Bradshaw, whose whimsical shadow puppetry owes much to the great European shadow plays as well as the Indonesian Wayang Kulit. Currently touring Australia is the Erth Dinosaur Petting Zoo with its giant dinosaur puppets delighting and scaring the littlies silly, if this video is any indication. Definitely not for the small folk, though possibly even more terrifying is the … ahem … artistry of the hugely successful Puppetry of the Penis duo, Australians Simon Morley and David Friend.

Meanwhile, another home-grown troupe of live actors and puppeteers, accompanied by a little friend are currently playing in the !Metro Arts Independents Season in Brisbane. In a westernised version of the grand traditional Japanese Bunraku or ‘doll theatre’ (which we saw most recently at work in the touring Avenue Q), Dead Puppet Society under the direction of David Morton bring us The Timely Death of Victor Blott written by Maxine Mellor. This is one definitely not for the faint-hearted. Audiences are warned in a foyer notice that the play contains themes that may ‘shock and offend.’ Continue reading Review: The Timely Death of Victor Blott – Dead Puppet Society at !Metro Arts Independents

December 20-26, 2010: It’s that time of year again … ho, ho, ho!

It’s a week when most of the state is powering down to relax with friends and family. As I write, the sun is out, the birds and the cicadas are singing, and it’s stopped raining.

There’s not a great deal happening in the theatre world. Shake and Stir continue their December workshops, this week for Primary schoolers. Fractal’s promenade production of Under Milk Wood continues at the Old Museum Building, but only until Christmas Eve. Most other companies have closed their doors for a break, or will do so on Friday.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of Greenroom’s readers and contributors for their interest and support during 2010, the first full year of operations of this site. For my part, it’s been a labour of love, and I’ve very much enjoyed my interaction with Queensland’s wonderful theatre community during a year of change, growth and great expectations for the future.

Thanks to all those who submitted themselves to interviews, and to Dave Burton and Nick Backstrom (in exile) and Lucas Stibbard who cheerfully responded – and wonderfully well – to my requests for guest reviews and commentary from time to time. Zane Trow and Paul Osuch also posted about their own labours of love here, and it was good to hear other voices at work.

Greenroom attempts to provide a curatorial service for professional theatre in the state, and a forum for any and all who have something to say. Because there should be more public commentary on theatre and the arts in general in Australia, we plan on continuing our approach into 2011 by canvassing informed opinions and shouting them out here. Thanks also to those who take the time to comment so thoughtfully on posts. Most bloggers love getting feedback; we’re no exception.

Our big project right now is the inaugural Groundling Awards. If you haven’t already nominated your favourites for the 2010 season, please do so before they close at midnight on February 1.

In the meantime, Greenroom is taking a seasonal break until Monday January 10. If things work out right, your favourite posts for 2010 should start appearing here auto-magically during the break, and with notice in Twitter.

Have a marvellously merry and safe Christmas and New Year’s.

Warmest wishes

Kate

PS. Forgive the gently falling snowflakes on the page – a theatrical and seasonal geeky conceit that has absolutely nothing to do with Queensland, I know. I just couldn’t resist. If there’d been a falling rain plug-in, I’d have used that instead – or maybe not!

Theatre Will Eat Itself (Guest Contributor: Paul Osuch)

Did you know there was a get together of independent theatre Artistic Directors and General Managers last week at Flipside Circus? It was a bit of an old school invitation in … umm … email instead of Facebook but, nonetheless, it was sent around.

I went along because I had recently sent an email and Facebook message around asking people if there was a Brisbane Theatre Producers’ network I could tap into to talk to people about my current project, the Anywhere Theatre Festival. I received a number of responses about things that had happened in the past (and generally imploded). Then, completely unconnected, I received an email from Markwell Presents’ Stephen Maxwell about the event at Flipside Circus.

What happened at the event? Well, I’m not supposed to tell you, but we came up with a secret handshake, discussed how we would form a cartel that would limit any kind of funding going to any other company, and devised a strategy to steal everyone’s audiences.  Pity you weren’t there. Or, in reality, we had some lunchtime food and drink organised by Flipside Circus and Markwell Presents, had a chat to a mixture of people we had and hadn’t met before (or for a while) and then decided we should do this again on at least a quarterly basis.

The event got me thinking. In Brisbane theatre I think we are great at coming up with new ideas and starting new things. I think we are pretty shite at admitting someone else has come up with something great and joining in or simply sharing. It isn’t an original thought. You may argue it isn’t even an accurate thought. There are exceptions. However, after attending many forums, sessions run by visiting international artists, sessions run by funding bodies or festival organisers, I’d have to say it could be a reason why many of these events are woefully underattended. Or is it? Continue reading Theatre Will Eat Itself (Guest Contributor: Paul Osuch)

Scratch! Dave Burton (Interview 13)

David Burton

Someone on Twitter this morning posted ‘I wish we could have creative development all the time.’ This sentiment is well understood by artists everywhere. Of course, creative development for its own sake is hardly the point. Every theatre maker longs to have the work go before an audience, and, hopefully, be remunerated appropriately for the effort involved. But, to begin at the beginning …

SE Queensland has some rather good creative development opportunities for independent artists and creatives, as well as support platforms for low-cost productions, many of which are of new work. A few are long-standing and well-regarded by the industry. They include various programs out of  !Metro Arts, which most see as the support hub for this kind of work, certainly in Brisbane. There’s also La Boite’s Indie program which has just finished its first year of operation and, if you are to believe those who have taken part, or spoken to audience members around the  place, then it’s been a raging success. Queensland Theatre Company has several long-standing writing programs which include the prestigious Premier’s Drama Award, which is the only one of its kind in offering a full production at the end of a lengthy creative development period. In the regions, JUTE in Cairns is involved in creative development of new work, whilst Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre Projects Company, through its Regional Stages grants, initiated a creative development process for what eventually became David Burton’s April’s Fool. Earlier this year, the play went on to a fully professional production at home, in Ipswich and in Brisbane. The EPC recently also engaged in creative development process for Water Wars, which will get up in the 2011 La Boite Indie Season.  Now La Boite has launched Scratch for 2011. I wanted to know more, so I asked David Burton. He’s one of the 5 newly-created Associate Artists that have been engaged for the year to produce new works from … scratch. Continue reading Scratch! Dave Burton (Interview 13)

MEAA Showcase Agreement: breakthrough?

The ongoing discussion around the labels professional and amateur, independent, pro-am etc. continues elsewhere and will, undoubtedly, go on. I’ve written elsewhere on this issue – here and here. Last week I noticed that Katherine Lyall-Watson revived the discussion in a post called ‘Pro vs Am‘ on OurBrisbane.com. Along with a couple of others, I had my 2c worth in the discussion which has since petered out – for the time being. You can be certain it will return.

I also noticed from the latest MEAA Equity bulletin that A Catch of the Breath by Robert Thwaites currently playing at !Metro Arts is the first to utilise the new Equity Showcase Agreement. I was intrigued to see what these terms and conditions comprise, so I got in touch with MEAA – the Agreement isn’t on the web yet – and they very quickly sent through a copy.

It’s an interesting document, and one which may sort out some of the disgruntlement over labelling, maybe set to rest the ‘taint’ of amateurism which can linger around productions not covered by MEAA awards, but which use the talents of professional artists. More importantly, it provides a way to protect its independent members from exploitation. Should there be any disputes arising from the Equity Showcase Agreement, all parties have to agree, on signing, that MEAA will mediate. Continue reading MEAA Showcase Agreement: breakthrough?