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Archive for the ‘theatre’ Category

Yes friends, I’m back. Three quarters of a year later, prompted by the Melbourne Fringe and a reference to this blog on this one. Ready to live up to the blog’s tagline and review, report and otherwise write on arts-related things (with a local focus). One thing that was stopping me from writing stuff here was the thought of having to write thousands of words on things when I feel like I don’t have that much to say, or it would take too much to work out how to say it. Deciding it’s better to do a little something than nothing at all (which is disputable), I have resolved to make a healthy number of little posts. They’ll probably average 200 words or so, rather than the 2000 I had previously, and will begin with the shows I’ve been seeing in the Fringe Festival. Don’t expect deep and full reviews, rather little thoughts and snippets. I may focus on one particular detail for the 200 words. Well that’s the plan anyway. I could very well end up being back to 2000 word posts before the Fringe is over. So without further ado, the first of these…can we call them reviews?…

DOGMEAT

Dogmeat poster

I think the main reason I enjoyed this show is because it was performed outside. A number of intercut and interlinked storylines set, it seemed to me, in a kind of post-apocalyptic world terrorised by wild dogs and people snatchers. But then again someone I saw it with thought it was actually about dogs, and the ‘people snatchers’ were dog catchers…

In a set made of the pre-existing La Mama courtyard with laundry added, the three actors take a number of different roles between them.

Sitting very much outdoors in the new courtyard, the audience was on benches sheltered by a tarp (the show goes on rain hail or shine, though it was quite a nice night when I was there). I said to someone afterwards “I don’t think I would have liked that play nearly as much if it had been inside”. Somehow I think a lot of the ‘character work’ was made to seem a little less self-indulgent as we’re still connected to the outside world merely by virtue of not being separated off by walls and a roof.

It was a robust piece and had a real sense of the communal storytelling in which theatre has its origins. Of course all theatre was originally outdoors, and mostly all in the day as well. It seems strange now that the norm is inside at night. Of course the advent of electric lighting made this feasible. After seeing this piece outdoors and really enjoyed the different feel it gave to it, I would be very interested to see a play outside in the day time. You get street theatre, but a full length play is rare. The seeming mystery and intimacy of night and the indoors is attractive, with its apparent potential for an experience separate to and beyond the everyday. But perhaps when the experience feels part of the rest of life and the world it can bring something even greater.

SEE THIS IF: You enjoy not realising three characters are played by the same actor til halfway through a play.

DON’T SEE THIS IF: You stop reading at the mention of two mates fingering a dead dog. Though I suppose you have to stop reading anyway since it’s the end of the review.

Dogmeat. Written by Tobias Manderson-Galvin. Directed by Jessica Tuckwell. Produced by Glynn Roberts. Matt Furlani, Conor Gallacher, George Banders. Part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton. 10pm. Until October 10th. Tickets through Melbourne Fringe.

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Baby Doll (Leone Darling) telling off her daughter (Steph Calthorpe)

Baby Doll (Leone White) tells off her daughter Diddums (Steph Calthorpe). (Photo by Louris van der Geer)

I was rather excited to see Honey-Bun and Baby Doll because Louris’  last show is one of my two favourite plays ever. I didn’t like this anywhere near as much, but it was still a great piece of theatre, and I’m still in awe of her skill. As I was watching the line kept running through my head- “Louris is Beckett, Louris is Beckett”. The similarity was striking. They shared, to point out one similarity, the comedy that is also deeper and unsettling. In Beckett’s work people often miss the comedy because his plays are considered so ‘meaningful’ and have such a place in the theatrical canon, but in Honey-Bun and Baby Doll the situation was reversed. People missed the more serious or unsettling elements because it was just a little piece by an amateur in a youth theatre festival.  The overall…style I suppose is also the same. The play as a situation which represents something wider, but also exists in it’s own right. Beckett created images, situations, events, which are not of our world or life, but neither are they above it, blatantly ‘poetic’ and ringing with the echoes of ossified historic grandeur. The woman stuck in a mound, talking away with a smile on her face. Honey-Bun and Baby Doll had the girl picking through a pile of electronics, pulling them apart, while her parents canoodle in the background.  Both creations are intensely theatrical. But what does that really mean? They have a direct presence in the theatre, are of the theatre, and the form cannot be separated from the content. Where Louris, or should I say Ms. van der Geer, and Beckett differ is in the degree of their removal from literal reality. Louris’ piece is much closer to life, in an external sense, than Beckett’s work is.  Louris had a house, a couch, a couple, whereas Beckett’s more ‘parents in dustbins’. One is something we would come across, in a literal sense,  in our everyday lives. The other is not. This is not to say that Beckett’s work is less relevant, or less connected with reality, in fact it could easily mean the opposite. Something does not need to be represented in a literal way to be close to reality. This same difference is present in the dialogue and the structure: Louris’ relied a lot more on the image we all have of reality. Beckett’s plays break free of any ties to naturalism or ‘realism’ and live solely in the theatrical space, unfettered. So perhaps we could say Honey-Bun and Baby Doll had the spirit of Beckett clothed in the garb of naturalism. With all this though, the difference is a matter of degree rather than opposing natures. The dials do not have to turn very far to get from Honey-Bun and Baby Doll to Happy Days. Those names themselves share something, a kind of gentle irony. Both plays and both names pick a little fragment out of life and hold it up to the light. It may look stange to us ripped from its surroundings and viewed from a different angle, in such bright light, but in the the end the light shining through it does not distort it, but illuminates it in a way we’ve never seen before.

The actors all rose to their task perfectly, there was never a sense that the script was good but the actors were letting it down. The two blended completely, making the play a single living object. It was always very much a play, it never drifted into seeming like a real interaction happening spontaneously, but it didn’t need to. Interestingly enough, it’s artificial nature didn’t make it seem dead or like things were happening simply because the script said they should. Spontenaity and artifice gelled perfectly. It was interesting seeing Leone Darling, who played Baby Doll, in another Hatched production. Her performance was nowhere near the quality it reached in Honey-Bun and Baby Doll, where her self and the role seemed to blend. In the other production, Welcome to the Show, she was merely going through the motions. I would put this down to the directors. It’s not merely a matter of a director ‘drawing out’ a great performance from an actor either, One of a theatre director’s main roles, whether conscious or not, is creating a certain atmosphere in rehearsals. If the atmosphere is right an actor is free to give a great performace. It’s more a matter of the director not stuffing the actor up, which is a much harder task than trying to make the actor better by some sort of addition.

I didn’t enjoy Honey-Bun and Baby Doll as much as I enjoyed Louris’ Hatched show last year, They’re All in Their Little Boxes. A few people I spoke to said the same thing, including Louris herself. I was trying to work out why and I think one reason is that Honey-Bun and Baby Doll was a lot more static. One of the basic parts of playwrighting is creating a routine and then breaking it. Macbeth is having a feast, then that routine is broken by the appearance of Baquo’s ghost. In They’re All in their Little Boxes, routines were being broken constantly, left, right and center. There was never a moment for you, as an audience member, to become complacent. Boredom was out of the question. I described it to Louris as a fast paced tennis match between me and the play. We were both being pushed to the limit of our abilities, and throwing out amazing shots, each of which our opponent had to use all their skill to return, but still their return shot was a terrific shot as well. Honey-Bun and Baby Dollwas more homogenous. On a smaller scale routines were created and broken perhaps just as fast, but they were all encompassed in one slow-moving river. The shots were still expertly executed, but followed a particular well-defined gameplan. If anything Honey-Bun and Baby Dollwas a much tamer play. It bowed further to the gods of the well-made play, though the one doing the bowing was still a genius. I personally would say fuck the gods, let your soul live unfettered by duty. After all, if we can’t do that in the theatre, where can we?

Unfortunately Hatched has already closed, as has Liminal Theatre’s Oedipus, which I saw yesterday (I’ll post the review tomorrow). I went to the closing nights of both. That’s a habit I should get out of if I’m going to write this blog and expect people to read it. “Oh yeah this show was great, the most life changing experience I’ve ever had. But you can’t go. It’s closed. Done. Yeah. Yeah I know I just posted this. I posted it after  it closed. Yeah. I know. Too bad. Sorry.”

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Honey-Bun and Baby Doll. Written, directed & designed by Louris van der Geer. Honey-Bun– David Peake; Baby Doll– Leone White; Diddums– Steph Calthorpe. Part of Hatched ’09, St. Martins Youth Arts Centre. Closed.

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