Letters from a voluntary exile: The Bellman’s Map

I have just spent the last two weekends exploring using the Bellman’s Map. The Bellman’s Map is from Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, where the Bellman, the captain of the group, presents them with a map that is “A perfect and absolute blank!” which his crew is delighted with, as it’s one they can immediately understand. Except for the bit about immediate understanding, I felt like a member of the crew being presented with a blank map by Scott Williams at a workshop on Meisner Technique, presented by Melbourne Acting Academy.

Scott is a teacher and director, originally from California, and trained with Sanford Meisner himself. He has been directing since he was 17, and has perused many activities both on and backstage, but directing and teaching has been his major focus. Since 1996, he has been based in London where he established the Impulse Company where he is currently Artistic Director.

I knew almost nothing about the Meisner Technique. I bought Sanford Meisner’s book  On Acting some years ago, but stopped reading it when I thought I really needed to do some of the exercises described before I could understand it. A friend of mine tried to explain Meisner to me just before I commenced the workshop, and succeeded in making me think, “Oh god, I don’t want to do that for four days.” Turns out she didn’t know what she was talking about. Didn’t stop her talking though. But I digress. Continue reading “Letters from a voluntary exile: The Bellman’s Map”

Review: The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble and La Boite Indie at The Roundhouse

Back to the theatre last evening for the first performance of the final production in La Boite’s 2011 Indie program. It’s The Danger Ensemble’s The Hamlet Apocalypse directed and designed by Steven Mitchell Wright. It’s had previous seasons in Melbourne and Adelaide, and it’s now back home. Last night was the first time I’ve caught a piece from The Danger Ensemble and I’m very glad I did. Its intelligent, gutsy theatricality and complexity will please some and, just possibly, repel others. Whatever you do, leave your preconceptions in the foyer. As the website has it

The Hamlet Apocalypse is a dsytopia of the now generation, a silent party, a desperate plea, a rambunctious prayer… Seven actors stage Hamlet on the eve of the apocalypse. As the line between fiction and reality blurs; the actors, their characters and their worlds collide and are distilled into the simplest of human states. It’s about the power of death and the value of life.

The sheer energy of the ensemble at work and of the production itself is mightily affecting. Certainly, you cannot hide in the usual safety of the dark auditorium. Dane Alexander‘s sound and Ben Hughes‘ lighting are terrific and cruel!  From the moment you enter you are caught in the spotlight – literally. The show gets its claws into you and, from this point until the final blackout, you are jumping in your seat.  For 75 minutes there is no exit, no retreat for audience or performers … Continue reading “Review: The Hamlet Apocalypse – The Danger Ensemble and La Boite Indie at The Roundhouse”

Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

So evocative are Ben Collins’ sound and David Murray‘s lighting designs for Kate Cherry‘s excellent production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  that you can almost hear the skeeters hummin’ on the honeysuckle vine, feel the cooling breeze off the Delta, and smell the coming storm’s electricity in the oppressive air. The crackle of electricity within the Pollitt family home and the  heady odour of lies and falsehood  that lie at the thematic heart of this masterpiece of modern drama – the ‘smell of mendacity’ – are also wonderfully captured in the action played out with gusto in QTC’s co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company.

Other reviewers of this production have referred to or compared it with the heavily adapted 1958 film version which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives. The movie seems to have left an almost-indelible mark on the work despite the screenplay’s being openly scorned by Williams. References to the repressed homosexuality of the former footballer Brick were largely omitted from the screenplay which also included a heavily reworked third act reconciliation between father and son. The play was first directed for the Broadway stage by Elia Kazan in 1955, and went on to take out the Pulitzer Prize for drama in that year. However, and at Kazan’s urging, Williams substantially revised the work for a revival in 1974, and this is the version which has usually been produced since that time. This production may nod towards the film in its look but, make no mistake, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a great play of classic proportions and classic themes; it almost needs the stage’s size and accommodation for its playing out. Continue reading “Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse”

Jamie Simmons: Food, Drink, Think (Interview 26)

I follow a lot of people and organisations on Twitter and, a month or so ago, I noticed that an account for a cafe, @jamjarbrisbane was tweeting some verrry interesting lunchtime menus – worth following and checking out for myself, I thought, and so I did.

I met Jamie Simmons the Jam Jar’s co-proprietor that day – another face to face tweetup between total strangers – and, somewhat to my surprise, he shared his thoughts about opening up the café for live performance.  The Jam Jar’s philosophy or modus operandi is ‘Food, Drink, Think,’ and Jamie wanted to pair the hospitality of food and drink with his love of performance – especially theatre – to create a venue where spoken word, slam poetry, short plays and performance in general could happen every couple of weeks. It turns out he went on to do just that, and so it seemed a good idea to catch up with Jamie and see how it was all going.

We sat down to have lunch and chat, and this is what we said … it’s a 5 minute audio interview with all the background details … enjoy! (Our lunch arrived just after I’d done the intro – hence the slight repeat. I can thoroughly recommend their burger, by the way.)

Performing in the Jam Jar (mp3)


Their next Theatre night is August 16th, and the first Open Mic Slam Poetry session is on this coming Sunday afternoon August 14 at 3pm. All the details can be found on The Jam Jar’s website – http://www.jamjarwestend.com. That’s also where you can find out more about submitting work and taking part in their ambitious program of activities. PS Jamie is smart enough to have appointed an Artistic Director (Mariana Jocelyn aka ‘Rocket’) to handle that side of the business, so the prognosis is good!

I’ll be back. As well as the burgers, Jam Jar’s coffee is also very good.

Sound Bite #1: The View from the Sixth Row

Ta-daa! Greenroom’s first sound-bite via the delightfully simple app Audioboo, which I use a lot on my Posterous blog when travelling. You can record from your desktop or, as I usually do, via the free Audioboo iPhone app. You can record up to 5 minutes with a free account and add photos, tags and so on and on-post to Facebook, Twitter or, as I’ve done here, embed the code in a blog post.

I thought it might be appropriate from time to time here on Greenroom when there’s something to say that benefits from a sense of the environment. It’s a powerful tool – no slushy sybillants, and Audioboo also captures ambient sounds as you speak. Click on the link below to listen.

I was killing some time yesterday afternoon on South Bank and caught the theatre photography exhibition by Reiner Irmer at the Tony Gould Gallery. Reina has captured performance ‘on the fly’ from the sixth row of the stalls – hence the exhibition’s name. It’s black and white, and captures many of the productions that played QPAC during the 90s.

I would have enjoyed more large-format shots, but it’s well worth the visit. Ah, memories!

If you have half an hour to spare do see it. It closes in October.


A View From the Sixth Row (mp3)