30 September 2006

2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival preview

MIAF 2006
Program Preview
12-28 October 2006

The 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival begins on October 12. Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds and her team have created a challenging, contemporary program that is vibrant and inspiring.

There is the usual degree of media controversy about this year’s offering. The Age described it as straying too far from the “traditional mix” and catering to “too few”. There were similar criticisms about Edmunds’ first program in 2005. However, I saw a lot of shows in that festival and they all had full houses and cheering audiences.
The 2005 program was filled with unfamiliar artists and companies, but they gave us unforgettable experiences and their work has become part of our local artistic language. The unknown gave us the freedom to enjoy the pure emotion created by art. I remember tears at Le Dernier Caravansérail (Odysées) (Théâtre du Soleil) and tears of laughter at Bloody Mess (Forced Entertainment). Thank you Kristy for straying from the “traditional mix” and letting us experience the authentic and the heartfelt.

So what does 2006 have to offer?

The program has a strong focus on collaboration across art forms and among artists. It explores artistic practice by rejecting barriers of culture, form, language, belief and place. By doing so, artists create new art forms and challenge our aesthetics. Robert Wilson invents colour (I La Galigo), Marie Brassard lets us hear human thoughts (Peepshow), Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto explore what music might look like (insen).

Australian art is presented with the same passion as the best international companies and artists. There are many Australian artists appearing, but they are not segregated as the “local” program. This is a truly international program, with no “us” and “them”.

With an extensive free program, you don’t have to spend to indulge in this event. Visit the Mostlandian Embassy, walk around the Visual Arts exhibitions and don’t miss Of All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim (Stan’s Café). There is also a selection of discount ticket packages available, and local artists can apply for an artist card that entitles them to discounted tickets and entry to the Festival’s artist lounge.

Children are encouraged to create their own art. Following the success of last year’s Kids Club is The Clubhouse – a purpose built venue just for younger audiences to enjoy workshops and performances. I was one of the very few adults privileged to see the Kids Club. It was encouraging, nurturing and just so much fun – children did not want to leave. This year kids can also take their grown ups to the interactive Children’s Cheering Carpet (Teatro di Piazza o d'Occasione) and on the kids’ Visual Arts trail.

Last year Kristy proved that she respects the festival audience and trusts us to find our own path in the program. So, trust this Artistic Director, grab the festival guide and take a chance on someone you are not yet familiar with. My path looks kind of like this:

George Orwell’s 1984 (The Actors Gang). Tim Robbins’ company (yes - the one from the movies). Their mission is to bring socially relevant theatre to a broad public. 1984 reminds us of where we could be without he freedom to express our opinions.

I La Galigo (Robert Wilson). Robert Wilson is one of the creators of Einstein On The Beach. If, like me, you sat mesmerised at the MIAF performances in 1992, you know that a Robert Wilson production is unmissable. If you saw Absolute Wilson  at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, this is your chance to experience the theatre he creates. I La Galigo is unique, visionary theatre that truly overcomes limits off belief, country and aesthetic. A cast of over 50 Indonesian performers present the epic poem, Sureq Galigo. This may mean very little to us now, but I believe it will be etched into our hearts by the end of the performance. Earlier this week I spoke to the Assistant Director about the creation of the work and what it was like to work with Wilson. Look out for the full story soon.

Blind Date (Bill T Jones/Anrie Zane Dance Company). A multinational company that explore national identity by melding dance with video, live music and monologue.

Voyage (dump type). This Japanese collective create surreal and illusionary work that merges all disciplines.

Ngapartji Ngapartji means, “I give you something, you give me something”. This project has always been one of sharing culture, language and stories. With a cast including elders and young people from the Pitjantjatjara community, the work in progress performance sold out last year. This year we see the world premiere of an epic Australian story that blends the familiar with the unfamiliar. Look out for Christina Cass’ interview with the company in the coming weeks.

Peepshow. Marie Brassard peeps into the forbidden - the perversons, deviations and vargaries of love. Intriguing enough – but it also uses digital technology to totally re-mix Bressard’s voice.

Tragedia Endogonidia BR.#04 Brussels (Societás Raffaello Sanzio). Text is abandoned as a powerful physical language unfolds. A world of emptiness, devoid of warmth. This is not for the faint hearted.

blessing the boats. When poet Sekou Sundiata needed a kidney, five of his friends volunteered theirs. He tells his very personal story by simply talking to us.

Mantalk (Thomas and Wells). This project starts with episodes 4 to 7 at the Melbourne Fringe. If you enjoy it, then episodes 11 to 16 continue at the Festival.

insen (Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto). Acoustic piano and electronic music. Two generations of artists explore new musical structures. Remember the soundtrack to Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence? Sakamoto composed it.

Ethel. Forget what you think string quartet should be – just come and experience their “distinctive fun, spunk and groove”.

The Ringtone Society. Bringing together adventurous musicians and composers to create a new and unique musical form – the ringtone. And we can download them to our phones.

The Tulse Luper Suitcase Film Trilogy (Peter Greenaway). Promising to be “even more unorthadox than his previous work” . If you like Greenaway – what more do you need to know! Apart from - there is an interactive online game that accompanies the films.

This story originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Honour Bound

Honour Bound
Malthouse Theatre
15 Septembr 2006
Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse

Honour Bound is a powerful work of art and an impassioned exploration of the ongoing incarceration of David Hicks in the US detainment camp in Guantanamo Bay. Fuelled by anger, frustration and an overwhelming sense of injustice; its harrowing and brutal images express the unimaginable emotion, fear and horror experienced by David and his family.

Nigel Jamieson (direction, writing and co-design) and Garry Stewart (choreography) have approached the controversial subject with honesty and a determination to explore our community reaction to the removal of the human rights we value.

Honour Bound explores the art of storytelling by using digital media and pure physicality to create unforgettable images about the limits of human endurance. Its strength and horror build by dehumanising the performers, whist humanising David and his family.

David Hicks has been in Guantanamo Bay for five years. For 18 months he was kept in solitary confinement in a 6x9x7 foot metal cell. The cell was within a shed, so he never saw sunlight, and cameras eventually replaced his human guard. The production design is based on David’s reality in Guantanamo. A small cage sits within a larger one, family are unreachable images, words bring hope from the outside - but they are also an uncontrollable power that accuse, betray and lie. It is a world with no natural light, where touch is feared, where beliefs are shattered and hope is lost.

There is no conventional script; every word seen and heard is a published document, a transcript, a letter or a recording of a real person. We never hear David’s voice, but we hear his words, see photos of him and meet his father (Terry) and stepmother (Bev). The real Terry and Bev appear on film. They are the dignity, the soul and the reality of this story. The image of Terry Hicks projected on the cell that holds his son is not easy to forget, nor is his matter of fact description of the torture his son has endured.

This story is about physical and emotional limits. Stewart takes his six performers to their own physical limits. Through extremely demanding choreography he says, “their struggle becomes real rather than illustrated”. This isn’t pretty dance. It is movement as a physical expression of emotional and psychological reactions. They move like humans who cannot control their own bodies or caged animals prepared to do anything to escape. The extra element of aerial work and use of the climbable caged walls creates a further dimension of unnatural space and movement.

Honour Bound is an exceptional piece of theatre that should be seen, regardless of its subject matter. It is also theatre that should be seen, regardless of its artistry.

Supporting the production is a screening Curtis Levy’s award-winning documentary, "The President versus David Hicks" followed by the filmmaker’s personal reflections on the making of his film.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

The Female of the Species

The Female of the Species
Melbourne Theatre Company
2 September 2006
The Playhouse, The Arts Centre

If you love a good “he’s behind you” gag, or you appreciate a deconstructed joke about Derrida deconstructing a piece of toast, you should enjoy the The Female of the Species. Joanna Murray-Smith’s script is witty, funny and intelligent. It is easy to laugh with, but a difficult play to enjoy.

The Female of the Species is a farce about the ironies and hypocrisies of feminism. Farce meaning the comedic tradition and structure, complete with mistaken identity, innuendo and unbelievable situations all liberally sprinkled with vagina jokes and the obligatory oral sex ‘gag’. It is also full of very witty and sophisticated jokes about the history of feminist literature (make sure you look at the wonderful book covers). If you don’t know your Dworkin from your de Beauvoir, there is a reading list in the program.

Ironically, the deliberate irony of combining two styles of comedy is unsuccessful and frustrating. The play opens with a delightful portrait of famous feminist-intellect Margot Mason and her young nemesis Molly. When Molly pulls out a gun, the structural and directorial descent to farce is immediate and almost …well.…farcical.

The direction and acting are uneven and reflect the conflicting styles. Director Patrick Nolan draws on every expected tradition of the farce genre. The characters find themselves in sexually compromising positions, situations are resolved as new characters suddenly appear through the french doors, and each time the plot loses momentum – a gun is fired to wake the audience up. I am unsure if this was meant to be a satirical deconstruction of farce, or just lazy direction. The final moments of the show do detour from the expected structure, but this moment fizzles, rather than jolts.

Conflicting acting styles add to the frustration. Some cast play with the farce, complete with sly glances at the audience, while others play it as a fourth wall drama with some funny lines.
Nonetheless, it is the engaging performances from all cast members that make The Female of the Species an enjoyable evening. Sue Ingleton is the standout. I’m sure many members of the audience were cringing or cheering, as they recognised Margot. Margot is also the most broadly drawn character and given a real (if not fulfilled) emotional arc. Roz Hammond (as her daughter) and Bojana Novakovic (as her captor) ably support her. Each character is original and tightly drawn, but their reactions and behaviours were frustratingly expected and clichéd. Roz continues to prove herself as a wonderful comedian (or comedienne – depending on which wave of feminist thought you chose), using the farcical style to full advantage. Bojana plays her character straight. Both styles work well, but not together.

The male characters are far less believable than the women. Again, I am unsure if it was meant to be satirical, but they seemed to fall straight from the pages of “Stereotyped Men and the Women who Love or Hate Them”. There was the namby-pamby SNAG; the angry, but sensitive black guy; and the big old queen. Each did exactly what we expect these characters to do if they appear in a daytime soap.

Murray-Smith’s script is a very funny observation of the impact of feminist thought. The jokes and the performances sustain the evening. However, I would have like to see it directed with more purpose and irony, rather than indulgence.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Penny Machinations

Penny Machinations
interior theatre
30 September 2006
Fringe Festival Club, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall

Grab your spare coins and head to the Fringe club for Penny Machinations. At $2, it’s cheaper than a beer. But, be warned, one show is not enough and you might find yourself scouring your pockets for enough change to get another hit.

Penny Machinations deservedly won the “Outstanding Special Event” award at the 2005 Melbourne Fringe. Back with new shows, the North Melbourne Town Hall stage has been transformed into an inviting pastel sideshow alley, with an array of mysterious private-viewing tents.

What I love about this Fringe is that so many companies are making theatre an active experience. It’s not just sitting in a dark room and watching. The Penny Machinations experience is about facing the unknown and the intimacy of voyeurism. The maximum audience is three. You cannot be passive and you have to make some choices.

Developed by Telia Nevile and Matt Kelly, Penny Machinations is a unique and clever concept that takes the sideshow alley to a much more interesting level. There are no freaks (well, not too many) and no short, boring narratives. Shows are impressions of experiences - kind of an intimate surrealism.

Friday and Saturday nights have different programs and no show is ever the same. If you don’t like your first choice, it's only $2 for another one. The spruikers can guide you– let them know if you’re in mood for drama, comedy, dance or simply the shortest queue. You may be in one of the sideshow tents, find yourself wandering the Town Hall or even get a ride in the Barina of Mystery (chose the Director’s Commentary version).

The arcade is open from 8pm to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s is a perfect way to use your in between show time, or better still – take along $20 and spend a couple of hours experiencing all of the unknown and unique delights of Penny Machinations.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Andrew McClelland's Mix Tape (C-90 Edition)

Andrew McClelland's Mix Tape (C-90 Edition)
Australian Comedy Management
29 September 2006
Festival Hub, Czech House

Andrew McClelland is totally delightful. I’d pop his tape into my cassette player anytime. Andrew McClelland’s Mix Tape sold out at the 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This is the special Fringe extended (C90) edition. If you’ve ever used a song to try and impress someone, see this show. 

Mix Tape is all about our love of music and the soundtrack it gives our lives. The mix tape may be a rough and almost antiquated art form, but it requires so much more skill and finesse than making a folder of mp3 files. Like the mix tape, the show selects some of the best “tracks” of stand up comedy and combines them into a personal and irresistible format. It’s not slick and commercial. It’s personal and fun, made even better by its flaws.

McClelland and director Alan Brough (from the ABC’s Spicks & Specks) really know their music. The tape includes Sesame Street hits, jazz, gangster rap, Australian urban pop and, the very densely complicated genre; metal.

This show speaks perfectly to its chosen audience - 30 something, live in Melbourne’s inner north, university educated and listened to far too many records or CDs as a teenager. However McClelland’s engaging personality has a much broader appeal. This tape is enjoyable even if the only ghetto blaster you have seen is in your parents’ photo album, or if you think M&M is spelt correctly and even if you don’t know why “summer of the 17th dole payment” is a very funny lyric.

Mixed Tape naturally finishes with a sing along that everyone in the audience joined in. However, we did have to sing a Monkees parody, because Michael Jackson won’t let us sing The Beatles.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Kunst Ist Scheisse

Kunst Ist Scheisse
The Caravan of Love
30 September 2006
Festival Hub, The Lithuanian Club

The Kunst may be Sheisse, but this is Kabaret (with a K) at its best: sexy, funny, inappropriate and political. Be prepared to moan with delight and pop your pop culture popper as you are enticed by the four gorgeous kunst(ists) of The Caravan of Love.

This is the country of Snowmanlandia, where Kunst ist Sheisse (Art is Shit) and a traveling caravan of four “performing misfits” have set down.

In a similar vein to The Burlesque Hour (seen at the Speigeltent) and Girlesque (seen in lesbian clubs), The Caravan of Love tear apart cabaret and burlesque to construct their own fabulous genre. Created as a response to our increasingly conservative society, Kunst ist Sheisse continually explores our expectations of female “normality” and proves that anger, lust and silliness are all vital to our lives.

Alice Palermo, Eva Johansen, Kate Sumner and Carla Rinaudo have been honing their troupe, with monthly performances since 2004. Their approach is original, their costumes are divine, their politics are sharp and all are very accomplished, dancers, singers and performers.

Put Snowmanlandia (the totally perfect Lithuanian Club) on your list of places to visit this week. This is my Fringe highlight to date and deserves many adoring fans.
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Apples and Ladders

Apples and Ladders
Lemony S
Malthouse Theatre

30 September 2006
Tower Theatre, CUB Malthouse

The dark, yet beautiful images of Apples and Ladders stay with you long after the show finishes. Puppeteers and creators Sarah Kriegler and Jacob Williams impart their tiny protégé with pure emotion to create moments that grab your heart.

Supported by a state government “images of aging” grant, Apples and Ladders started as an exploration of aging and alcoholism. The resulting performance is a perfect example of how the investigation of one theme can touch the universal. This show is about the grief of having your heart and passion stolen and the healing power of very small acts. (It also demonstrates that policy and grants don’t necessarily restrict creativity.)

The Knave of Hearts, the archetype devil/death, stalks an elderly man and an aging drag queen. The man loses the love of his life when his wife dies, and retreats to isolation. The drag queen turns to alcohol when forced to face the reality of his life. The scene where he joyously floats with the glittering reflections of the mirror ball, but is forced to see his own reflection is heartbreaking.

The puppets are exquisite and the cardboard set perfectly represents the fragile strength and disposability of the suburban setting. The production is completed with Richard Varbre’s lighting design and haunting melancholy songs from The Tiger Lillies. If you love The Tiger Lillies, be aware that there are no songs about hamsters, sheep or Aunty Mable.

The Tower Program at the Malthouse, along with FULL TILT at the Arts Centre, continues to highlight the astounding theatre that is can be created when independent works are given professional support and development. Apples and Ladders is a perfect addition to the Melbourne Fringe program, where local artists are continuing to explore form and aesthetics.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Something Drastic

Something Drastic

29 September 2006
Festival Hub, Errol’s Cafe

Something Drastic is one of those gems that get uncovered in the Fringe. Bridget Jones meets The Odd Couple, filled with delicious one-liners and loving satire of feminism, literature, contemporary theatre and theatre restaurants. And the best Bell Jar joke ever.
Director Rosemary Johns discovered Colleen Curran’s work at the International Women’s Playwright’s conference in Athens. It has been produced twice in Canada and adapted by Johns for its Australian premiere. Curran was at opening night and loved this production.

Something Drastic is the story of “stupid in love” Lenore (Delene Butland) her stupid “not in love” neighbour Heidi (Nik Willmott). One works at a theatre restaurant. One is a university academic. Both are at significant crossroads in their lives and their unlikely friendship develops over a year. These are original and appealing characters. Their behaviour is predictable, but they still surprise us.

They are supported by the five members of the “as cast”, who play an assortment of characters. Each are well drawn caricatures that make us laugh, but never distract from Lenore and Heidi’s journey. Some are more original than others, with the Sylvia Plath academics and the friends of Dorothy couple - Judy and her partner Judy – as the standouts.

The “as cast” also act as a surreal postmodern chorus. Their first appearances as clutter and bookshelves are confusing, but once the convention is established, their interpretations of a radio, a pile of bills, chooks, a bed and, never to be forgotten – a poem – are totally fitting.

Fringe venues are often inappropriate and makeshift. Something Drastic is in a function room above a noisy restaurant. This is ironically perfect. The room was originally designed as a flat, and the show is set in the existing kitchen. It could not have been designed better.

Something Drastic is another script that knows who it is talking to, but appeals widely. It is similar in theme to The Female of the Species (currently at the MTC), but more successful, because we are laughing with the feminists, not at them.

 This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.


Circus Catharsis
29 September 2006
Festival Hub, Lithuaniun Club, Main Theatre

At the end of Evermind the Frankensteinish monster joyously declares that he is “acceptable”. When dealing with a classic tale of regret and redemption, the character needs to aim for more. Circus Catharsis should also aim a lot higher. Evermind is acceptable, but could so easily be much more.
The three performers are recent NICA graduates and exceptionally skilled and versatile circus artists. Their strength, manipulation and clowning skills are ready for any professional circus troupe. Inspired by Frankenstein, their story has some original and comic twists. What Evermind lacks is a sense of theatre and story telling.

Evermind is described as narrative circus, which is “kind of like a musical except there are circus acts instead of songs”. Musicals work because the songs tell the story and express emotion. While the use of circus acts within their text was inventive (the foot juggling to create an electrical vortex was fabulous), it failed to express the emotion of the characters and stopped the momentum of the story.

Evermind has the potential to be unique and arresting, but needs direction to make it cohesive, atmospheric and narratively satisfying. Design alone would bring the show to a new level. Use lighting to create the darkness of the text and hide the effort behind the tricks. The card tables for the juggling props do not create a sinister mood. The live music supports the action, but the musician sitting at keyboard becomes a distraction.

I saw the preview performance of Evermind. If they adapt and learn from the preview it could be a very different show by the end of the run. If you want to support local circus and see some very talented physical performers, Evermind may be for you. If you want to see a tight piece of theatre that explores a well know story, there are many other shows in the Fringe.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Politely Savage

Politely Savage
My Darling Patricia
27 September 2006
Fairfax Studio,The Arts Centre

Frock up in your party favourite, but wear your flat shoes, because we’re going for a walk into the depths of our unconscious.

There’s no sitting around. This is a cocktail party (complete with champagne and food on toothpicks), there are only 40 guests and your hostesses are immaculate.

Politely Savage by My Darling Patricia combines interactive performance, installation, puppetry, film and performance art. It’s like a dream. Not a comforting and lovely daydream, but one of those dreams when you wake up clammy and spend the rest of the day trying to decipher it.

My Darling Patricia take the familiar and send it to that very dark place in the back of our minds. Their images are archetypal and sometimes obvious, but they work so very well.

Cecily Hardy is tantalising as our guide. She is mother/housekeeper/nanny – forever hovering between comforting and confronting, safe and foreboding. She convinces us to leave the party and follow her down into the world that was hidden by the pretty taffeta dresses. She takes us somewhere deep and unsettling, but we have to trust her to guide us out safely. Be prepared to walk.

This was my first show for the Melbourne Fringe and a perfect example of the unique and authentic work that can be created when artists are unrestrained by demographics, budgets and policy. Politely Savage is now polished and perfected, having already had two sell out seasons in Sydney. The Arts Centre is presenting it as part of the FULL TILT program, which supports the development and redevelopment of independent works.

Politely Savage finishes on Saturday. With only 40 people per show, this is one you really should book for.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

I La Galigo: The Colour of Heaven

Interview with Rama Soeprapto, Assistant Director of I La Galigo

One of the most anticipated events of the 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival is the Robert Wilson epic I La Galigo. I have only seen one of Wilson’s works (Einstein On The Beach, MIAF1992). Visceral, mesmerising and visually addictive, it was enough to change my concept of what theatre can be. Last week I spoke with I La Galigo Assistant Director, Rama Soeprapto, about working with Wilson, the international reception of this work and the colour of Heaven.

With a cast of over 50 of Indonesia’s finest performers, I La Galigo was developed through a workshop process in Bali. Uniting theatre, dance, music and poetry, it is inspired by Sureq Galigo, a centuries old epic poem of the Bugis people of South Sulawesi.

Working with a traditional narrative is an unusual course for director Robert Wilson. He has been described by The New York Times as “A towering figure in the world of experimental theatre”. Since the late 1960s his productions in the US and Europe have defined the avant guard, whilst questioning and shaping the look of theatre and opera.

Rama Soeprapto’s respect and admiration for “Bob” is very clear, as is his love for this production. His background is dance, visual arts, film and video, and told me he got the job by convincing Wilson that, “I’m here to learn and I really want work hard”.

His primary role was to translate Wilson’s vision to the artists of the cast. This not only involved translating language, but explaining contrasting, and somewhat contradictory, concepts of theatre and performance.
Sureq Galigo has traditionally been told through dance. Soeprapto explains that the traditional Indonesian way of dance is based on feelings. “Dances use their feelings to perform in the moment”. A performance is flexible, personal and unique.

This is very different from the Wilson tradition, where every nuance of the slightest gesture is an integral part of the performance. This visual language developed through his determination to give context and meaning to artists who are unable to express themselves in a text based world. Having overcome his own childhood learning disability, he started working in hospitals and schools, using theatre games to enable and encourage communication with patients and children unable to communicate. It was here that Wilson discovered the power of the smallest gesture and begun his ongoing investigation into the structure of simple movement.
Soeprapto says, “Bob is very precise…very detailed about how you stand and move.” There is no room for an artist’s changing emotional interpretation in a Wilson work.

Fortunately the melding of western avant guard and the traditional Indonesian has created something stunning. I La Galigo has received critical acclaim in Singapore, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Lyon, Ravenna and New York, but it was the reaction of the Jakarta audience that has established this production as truly remarkable.

The Indonesian audience know and love this story. Soeprapto says the Sureq Galigo is something they “know from their ancestors” and “have in their minds”. There was naturally some concern about the Wilson interpretation. Fortunately, the Indonesian audiences were “flabbergasted”, when they saw their story “done in such a good way.”

I La Galigo is one of the many works in the 2006 MIAF program that focus on collaboration among differing art forms and the creation of new aesthetics. Artistic Director, Kristy Edmunds, described I La Galigo as “inventing colour right before our eyes”. Intrigued by her description I asked Soeprapto about colour.

He simply replied that “the genius side of Bob Wilson” is how he brings colour into a performance. He will spend a week perfecting a colour. Inspired by the natural world, he will also make artists go outside and feel the grass. To recreate the colour, the image and the feeling of grass – they have to know what it physically feels like. Finally Soeprapto asked me if I could imagine “what colour blue Heaven looks like”. Wilson knows, and I am very looking forward to seeing the blue, the green and every other colour of I La Galigo.

This interview originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

29 September 2006

Launch: Melbourne Fringe 2006

Melbourne Fringe  Program Launched
27 September to 15 October

Nineteen days, 245 events, 3000 artists and over 100 venues...and only two weeks before it all starts. The Melbourne Fringe program was released last week. This years’ program is described as “an irreverent and relevant view of our world through artists’ eyes”, and is one of the most diverse programs in recent years. There is a lot to be excited about for Fringe 2006.

Unlike many other festivals and events, the Melbourne Fringe is still about the art. The program is a celebration of independent artists, and the core audience are lovers of the arts. It doesn’t attract the same size audience as the more commercial festivals, but the Fringe artists and audience are united by their passion for their favoured art form.

I love Fringes because they are accessible and open to all artists. They enable artists to show you the work that they really want to do.

There are no artistic requirements or selection criteria to be in this festival. If you have something you want to show an audience (and you pay the registration fee), you can be part of the Melbourne Fringe.

An open program encourages experimentation, exploration and risk from both inexperienced and very experienced artists. Over the years I’ve seen some of the most outstanding and some of the most atrocious theatre, music and art at Fringes.

As an artist, it can be a financial and artistic risk to be in a Fringe, but there is no “bad” show in a program. Even if your product isn’t quite ready for the world to see, your fellow artists and the appreciative audience will still respect the risks you took to be involved and be happy to share a beer, and some well meaning advice, in the Fringe Club at 2am.

Choosing what shows you are going to see is also a risk. Reading the festival guide is a daunting task. Each act is only given 50 words to convince you to part with your money, and their quoted review of “amazing” might have been written by the director’s mum. But - so what – if you like the sound of it – take that risk and go along. It’s could be less than the cost of a movie and you might see something that speaks to your heart, makes you cry or leaves you smiling all night - or you may see the worst piece of theatre imaginable. All have to be better than sitting at home watching TV.

I have read through the guide and these are my theatre tips. Some I know will be worth seeing; others are total risks. Check out the Melbourne Fringe web site or guide for performance details

acrobat (Arts House and Marguerite Pepper Productions). Unique and highly original circus. Their first Australian appearance in three years.

Andrew McClelland's Mix Tape .C-90 Edition. I missed the sell out shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Friends tell me its hilarious and an embarrassing recollection of the music we pretend not to love.

Apples and Ladders (Malthouse Theatre). Dark, bizarre and (I suspect) obscene puppets with music by The (ever wonderful) Tiger Lillies.

A Quarrelling Pair (Malthouse Theatre/Aphid). More local avant-guarde and miniature puppets.

Bash (5kinds Theatre). It’s a great piece of writing. Lets see what 5Kinds can do with it.

Cath Jamison in Secret Life of a Woman. “Illusion, women’s intuition, bizarre dating rituals and paranormal activity.” Who said being a magician was just about magic.

Coming Clean (The Old Melbourne Gaol). Watching some of Melbourne’s best comedians in the abandoned prisoner’s exercise yard AND Rod Quantock takes you on a tour of the gaol.

David Heffron: Nerd Alert! Convincing us that “Le Geek est Tres Chic!” is either going to be very funny or very sad. I hope we be laughing with and not laughing at.

Evermind (Circus Cathersis) Circus inspired by Frankenstein. Discover your inner monster!

Debris. Having seen Bojana Novakovic recently in The Female of The Species, I’m curious to see a work she has produced herself.

Keating (The Drowsy Drivers/The Melbourne Fringe). Another show that keeps selling out. This time the Melbourne Fringe are presenting it as a FREE gift to us all on opening night.

Mantalk, Episodes 4-7. Neil Thomas and David Wells promise a new form of performance. Episodes 11-16 will be seen at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Mz Josephine’s Amazing Holiday. Mz J is always a treat and brings a welcome zing to cabaret. And this time she goes through Nhill.

Penny Machinations (interior theatre). Friday and Saturday nights at the Fringe Club. $2 a show. Each show is unique and you will be the only one to enjoy it. Winner 2005 Melbourne Fringe ‘Outstanding Special Event’.

Politely Savage (My Darling Patricia/FULL TILT). Gothic, with a touch of Picnic at Hanging Rock, all in 1950s frocks.

Some Faces You Know (Ozanam House and Community Centre). These aren’t professional actors, they are people you might walk by and ignore. Challenging misconceptions of the homeless and marginalised.

Something Drastic. “Bridget Jones meets Theatre of the Absurd.” Director Rosemary Johns discovered this work at the International Women’s Playwright’s conference in Athens.

Songs for the Deaf. The media release says that writer, Caleb Lewis spent time workshopping his plays with Edward Albee. If Albee liked him, I’d like to see what Lewis is like.

The Bedroom Philosopher in `Living On The Edge...Of My Bed`. “neurotically erotic hyper-vague bohemian only-child theatrical madness”.

The Caravan of Love presents Kunst Ist Scheisse. It means Art is Shit. The story of a legendry troupe of performing misfits, with the audience playing an active role. And they had the BEST costumes at the launch of the Fringe program.

The Taking of Ramsey Street (theatre in decay). Robert Reid taking on terrorism and aussie soap opera. theatre in decay continue to present the unexpected.

MILK (The Town Bikes). The “bikes” get funnier, more refined and more naughty each time I see them. Looking forward to their first full length show.

This story originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.