A Response: The Bacchae | St Martins & Fraught Outfit at Theatre Works as part of the Melbourne Festival

October 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Language is dangerous. The written word can be formalised and structured. Its rigid connotations are far more fixed than an image, a moving tableau, or fluid bodies in motion. And so it seems Adena Jacobs would rather focus on the phenomenological and the semiotic rather than text itself. She is freed in this space of symbols and is empowered in the bodily response she can generate though sound. This binocular approach to theatre making produces an experience that is felt in the gut and one that also requires a considered response. There is potential for confusion on the audience’s behalf, but in Jacobs’ developed craft we are taken to one hell of a place.

The Bacchae, at Theatre Works, as part of the Melbourne Festival, is a production created by Jacobs and Aaron Orzech. It incorporates some 21 young women and one young man. It is a frightening spectacle of bodies and signs that provokes the audience and questions the way in which they construct meaning and project expectations onto young women. Some audience members left; whether they were bored or bothered by the production is unknown. The points at which they left were often at moments of uneasy imagery and the seemingly unseemly use of young people, in particular women, in such a way. « Read the rest of this entry »


A Response: Desdemona | Melbourne Festival and UnionPay International

October 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

There is an insurmountable idealism at the heart of Desdemona, which is its ultimate undoing. Where last week’s, The Roar clearly stipulated that the actors do not speak for all women everywhere, here, the production tends towards mimesis, and collapses All women and All people of colour into the two leading ladies, in order to serve its driving desire to, it would seem, end racism. This noble cause is a dangerous ambition that leads to innumerable issues in execution. Although I saw a preview, this is an analysis of the ideas at work in the piece.

As the titular character walks the underworld in conversation with the dead, she dominates the space and relegates her supporting cast to vehicles to ease her own suffering. The five people of colour have very few words compared to Desdemona and it seems as though their only purpose is to absolve her (and therefore us) of the guilt of hundreds of years of inequality. The conclusion, that love and conversation will make everything better, seems at best naïve and at worse complicit with the systematic subjugation of minorities. Far be for me to tell Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison that her text is problematic; however, in performance, there is a resounding feeling that the conversation is very one sided. The notion, that two women, one white and one black, forgiving each other on stage affects a cathartic experience for the audience is hazardously Platonic — this is the very reason performance is excused from the Republic. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Response: Doublespeak | The Dig Collective

October 14, 2015 § 1 Comment

The Dig Collective is unlike other independent theatre companies in Melbourne. They have a particular blend of avant-garde ‘cool’, Australian irreverence (sometimes referred to as ‘larrikinism’) and a desire to engage in socio-political theatre that is often found wanting in other, more comfortable companies. The manifestation of the latter quality has, until recently, been somewhat obscure though, and Dig’s work has always been more mischievous and derelict than cutting to the quick.

Helmed by Alex Talamo, with a rolling troupe of thespians at her disposal, The Dig Collective confronts modernity by digging, digging, digging, though for what and where, we’re never quite sure. The catch phrase they used to describe themselves in the past (bequeathed to them by Cameron Woodhead, I believe) is zombie vaudeville. Watching their work can be a frenetic, physical and existential experience. Their shows have been at Melbourne White Night, Short and Sweet, MudFest, around campus at the University of Melbourne and Harvest Festival, as well as elsewhere. Their latest show Doublespeak recently played at the Metanoia Theatre (formerly the Brunswick Mechanics Institute) as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. « Read the rest of this entry »

And Juliet

October 13, 2015 § Leave a comment


Scene one

A rather bare stage. Two women — later revealed to be the NURSE and LADY CAPULET — enter.

They stand downstage centre and speak to the audience, almost as a chorus.

LADY CAPULET: In fair Verona.

NURSE: We lay our scene.

Lights up on a bedroom, it’s empty, it belongs to a young woman.

The two women look at each other.


LADY CAPULET: Where is my daughter?


The NURSE shrugs.





Finally: enter JULIET 

JULIET: Who calls?

NURSE: Your mother.

The two exchange a look — ’of course is is’

She turns to her mother and curtsies

JULIET: I’m here. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Response: The Roar | at Union House Theatre

October 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

The Roar is a piece of theatre that is worth writing about; it’s worth documenting, exploring and engaging with; it is important that it is not ignored or forgotten; it is worth repeating. It is a tour-de-force and a marvellous interrogation of the place of the female in the dramatic landscape.

Devised pieces can so often go awry—resulting in a jumbled series of images that may have made sense in the rehearsal room, or to those following the particular strains of logic, but have become indecipherable in performance to the audience—not so with The Roar. There is confidence here, clarity and an exciting exactness to the piece’s execution. Due in large part, I am sure, to the curator, Kathryn White—though the six devisors must not be forgotten either—who manages the process with impeccable attention to detail. The movements unfold at a splendid pace, balancing the urgency with which the performers carry their message with the grace and deft hand of skilled theatre makers, confident in their craft. « Read the rest of this entry »

After ArtsHub

October 12, 2015 § 2 Comments

It sort of started with an article on ArtsHub when Jane Montgomery Griffiths responded to critics’ reviews of her text (and performance in), Antigone. She argued that there was a gendered response to production. She went on to contextualise her practice, her research and the way in which men often find women they can’t explain away or dismiss troubling. Then the comments started rolling in (the discussion section is filled with additional commentary). Then the commentators took to twitter, as they are wont to do, and the conversation drifted slightly away from gender and towards artists engaging publically in their own or other people’s practice. And then Jane Howard made a bold point (not dissimilar to her one recorded by The Lifted Brow earlier in the year) “if you want your work recorded into history, I think in 2015 that’s the artist’s responsibility”. So, as I sat at my MacBook Pro pretending to be Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder, is this really the case?

« Read the rest of this entry »

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