Wake Up Call: Australian Theatre Forum – Brisbane 19-21 September 2011

Guest post by Zane Trow

The second Australian Theatre Forum will be held from Monday 19th to Wednesday 21st September 2011 at Brisbane Powerhouse during the Brisbane Festival. A steering committee has been formed, and will be “announced soon.”

The powerhouse is located in a converted power...
Image via Wikipedia

This little snippet appears on the Theatre Network Victoria E-News site for June and there is also this elsewhere on the same site.

This’ll give you, dear reader, some background on the Theatre Forum itself and a recent “workshop” held towards planning for the 2011 event.

The first thing to emerge on the list of goals for 2011 is:

  • At the next forum in 2011 we want: Better representation of Independent theatre makers (at the Forum and in general)

So my first question is, “Who, from the Independent sector, is going to be on the steering committee”?
And my second question is, “Who from Brisbane is going to be on the steering committee”?

Who from the Independent sector is going to be on the steering committee and who from Brisbane is going to be on the steering committee?

Both seem to me to be reasonable questions, as certainly the planning “workshop” (Towards an Australian Theatre Forum 2011, Tuesday 23 February 2010, Adelaide Festival Centre) seems to me to have been run by the usual suspects, with certainly no Brisbane representation that I can see. I may have missed the Brisbane people in attendance; I may also have missed those same Brisbane people calling for a wide input into the event by seeking opinions from us all so that when they sit on a national, Australia Council-funded forum they can speak about Brisbane theatre from a position of strength and support. Continue reading Wake Up Call: Australian Theatre Forum – Brisbane 19-21 September 2011

A fifth letter: Thoughts while sitting in a waiting room

Hello Greenroomers

I had another audition the other day for a TVC. It was one of those dispiriting ones when they want to see what faces you can pull. I hate them. Oh well, it’s just TVC casting laid bare really.

Auditioning is of course the curse of our profession, a necessary curse. But at its best, it can be very enjoyable. No, really.

Do you know the story of  The Long-Jumping Jeweler of Lavender Bay? It was a short story by Hugh Atkinson, which then became a movie (1971), a Little River Band song and a novel, also by Hugh Atkinson (1992). It tells the story of a little man, living his humdrum life, who works as a jeweler in the Sydney CBD. To get to work he takes the ferry from – you guessed it – Lavender Bay. One day, lost in thought, he almost misses his ferry. On an impulse he runs and jumps the gap to land on the deck, to the acclaim of his fellow passengers.

Pleased by their reaction but more by the feeling he got while jumping, he makes this a regular thing, and lets the ferry get a little further away from the wharf before he does his leap every day. And every day the passengers wonder and bet on if this will be the day he does not make it.

Then he starts to notice something. As he jumps, while he is in the air, he glimpses a paradise and a beautiful woman, somewhere above the ferry’s roof. And as he jumps longer and higher, he sees more of the paradise and the woman, who is beckoning him. And soon he is jumping for the woman, not for the ferry. The jump gets longer and longer, he gets higher and higher and one day, inexplicably for his fellow passengers, he disappears: no thud on the deck, no splash in the water. The Long-Jumping Jeweler of Lavender Bay is never seen again.

This story popped to mind the other day while I waited for an audition. The leaping, the glimpse of paradise, the thump of the wooden floor as we land again – auditioning can be a bit like that. You may accuse me of romanticizing the process. But why shouldn’t we?

Love and mercy.

This post is part of a series by guest blogger Nick Backstrom, a Brisbane actor and writer who is now based in Melbourne.

Soul food: a fourth letter from a voluntary exile

Hello Greenroomers

Last night I watched Ratatouille, the excellent Pixar film featuring a rat (who is an excellent chef) and his adventures in a Paris restaurant. It also features Anton Ego, a critic of devastating reputation. Although Ego is used by the writers to satirize the role and cult of critics (as if his name wasn’t a clue) he actually has two moments that redeem him and critics generally.

When he sits down to write his review of the restaurant, that could destroy or make a career, he pauses for thought, then pens a review of unmitigated praise, that starts with these words:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.

This is salve to anyone who has ever felt the brunt of the critics’ scorn (and felt the nagging fear they may be onto something). But for me, an equally magical moment occurs some minutes before this scene, when he is served the titular dish. One mouthful and his mind shoots back to his childhood and memories of his mother cooking him dinner in a beautiful bucolic and fleeting scene. We discover Ego’s drive – he wants food that feeds his soul. He is bitter because he finds it so rarely.

I think all the great critics – of food, of theatre, of art, of literature, hell, even sport – are trying to find their equivalent of that mouthful of food that goes straight to their soul. And I believe audience members too want that, though perhaps they are not so mindful. But when they receive it, they know. I believe that because that is my experience when I go to the theatre, a film, pick up a book, or watch TV. Yes, much of that may be purely entertainment, fluff or time-filler, and excellent as examples of such. But I also need those shots to my soul. They may be irregular, but they must keep coming. Continue reading Soul food: a fourth letter from a voluntary exile

Review: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre

You could infer that the show must truly be something if it’s memorable weeks later in this age of disposable entertainment. You could infer that I have avoided writing this for as long as I could. You could infer a lot of things. Fact is I was asked to write this because I had seen the show and Greenroom was having difficulty finding time to attend La Boite’s latest production of The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco. So what does that mean?

Firstly, it means I hadn’t intended to put my thoughts forward so they have become fractious and disordered in my head in the weeks since I saw the show. Secondly, it means I am looking at the work with the benefit of hindsight and the handicap of its being most of a month ago. There is much to be said for the school of thought that there are two worlds, things as they are and our ideal versions of them. Finally, it means that I have had quite a few discussions with people about their experiences of the work.  As such, I have had to try and find my way back to what I saw and how I felt about it.

I’ll try now.

When it was announced that Brian Lucas would be directing Eugene Gilfedder and Jennifer Flowers in Martin Crimp’s translation of Ionesco’s The Chairs my ears pricked up; there is a lot to like about that sentence. Brian Lucas’ work as a performer, choreographer and dancer is sublime and singular: an idiosyncratic and brilliant mind coupled with a masterful sense of physical performance. Eugene Gilfedder has, in recent years enjoyed a thoroughly deserved resurgence in his work, best described as brilliant and idiosyncratic, and intense. Jennifer Flowers has been a presence in Australian Theatre for decades, recently as tour director on The Year of Magical Thinking and notably in her Helpmann Award nominated turn in Doubt. Martin Crimp is a fine writer – his Attempts On Her Life is a truly great play, and Ionesco is responsible for some of the most memorable plays of the Absurdist movement. So from the outset there was a lot of excitement and anticipation.

Actually, it wasn’t just me, everyone I spoke to beforehand was the same. Maybe that’s why I have waited to write this, taking time to remove the play I wanted from the play I got – there is nothing worse than a review that spends its time talking about what should have been done.

So here’s what I saw. Continue reading Review: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre

Review: Fat Pig – Queensland Theatre Company at Bille Brown Studio

78 Montague Road
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr

I’d like to say that I stand atop a mighty moral pedestal where body issues simply don’t affect me: ‘No, of course I don’t judge people on their weight.’ I hope I don’t, but study after study shows that I do, on some subconscious level. Nothing quite attacks the gut (no pun intended) like an insult about body weight. It’s one of society’s instant triggers. It can mean the start of mass bullying, a riot in defence of the victim, shattered friendship groups and absolutely horrid depression.

So watching Fat Pig puts you in a place where you’re constantly shifting your reaction. The insults that are hurled at the character of Helen, both to her face and behind her back, are ruthless, brutal and hilarious. The play begins when Helen meets Tom in a cafeteria. They begin dating, but Tom is the subject of ridicule from his work colleagues because Helen is overweight. The play’s deliberately abrupt ending suggest Neil LaBute’s script is meant to leave us asking questions of ourselves and society’s views. I’m just not entirely sure how successful this is. Continue reading Review: Fat Pig – Queensland Theatre Company at Bille Brown Studio

Letters from a voluntary exile: a third letter

GUEST POST: Nick Backstrom is an actor and writer, formerly based in Brisbane and more recently in Melbourne. He also sings, teaches and directs, though rarely at the same time. Nick’s Melbourne relocation will form the basis of his occasional posts to Greenroom. He would be delighted to respond to any comments or queries made here.

Hello friends

Let me tell you a story.  I went to a casting the other day for an RACQ commercial.  If I had landed it I would have been flown up to Brisbane to shoot it, and it was a Queensland-only ad.  As I waited, one of the other actors asked the receptionist if they were looking all over Australia for the right face.  She replied “Oh no, we just do all our casting out of Melbourne.”  I told them that was why I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane.  So it goes.

It’s been interesting reading all the stories recently about what’s wrong with Queensland theatre – or not wrong.  May I weigh in? Too few venues, too little funding.  I know, startling insights.  

Melbourne is chocka with little venues seating less than one hundred or thereabouts. These places are affordable, accessible and if it all goes wrong, it really doesn’t matter.  If it works, fantastic!

Continue reading Letters from a voluntary exile: a third letter