Thursday, May 3, 2007

Where In The World Is Rhys Sandiego?

Rhys lives! Yes, it's true.
Where on earth have he been? I've been trying out various undercover identities, including a stint as an aspiring social work student, but have been found out and had to 'break cover' (spy-speak). As the dust settles, I have been keeping honest in a law firm typing out letters and words. I have been keeping busy working with Cowboy Mouth on a new piece that will be on around early September (the plugs blackmailing you all to come won't begin just yet... but soon!). I've taken a bit of time off from my tunes, but I am set to start playing a few dates later in the month.

But enough about me. Let's talk about my blog! I've been pretty neglectful of late, and would love to have written more on the things I've been seeing lately - I will try and remedy this in the days to come. For those curious, this is a very, very truncated set of thoughts on some recent expeditions (unfortunately a lot of this will only make sense to those who also saw these pieces)...

24.3 Black at the Malthouse
Not knowing much about the piece's subject (the murder of Betty Short), I really enjoyed this intriguing work. The central performance was hypnotic. The set of windows/mirrors in the middle, the real whispers (as opposed to stage whispers), the 'looped' nature of the show... it all certainly emphasised the mystery of the Black Dahlia. It was a great exercise in deconstructing evidence that was not static, but unchanging, incomplete and indecipherable. I also really liked the books cased in melting blocks of ice and the working mechanism that led to the water activating a terrifying alarm of cutlery (that's my best attempt at a description of it!). I enjoyed the freedom of roaming around the performers, to work more autonomously as an audience member. It was, however, a very dense work and I almost wish there were even more objects and 'artifacts' as part of the installation - more 'clues' to help illustrate the story.

24.3 180 Seconds in Heaven or Hell at NMTH
What a party! This gathering of artists to deliver a barrage of 3 minute performances had a carnival, almost (adult) rave feel to it - like a bachaanal even. Some of my favs were Lucy Guerin's vaccum man piece, Ingrid Weisfelt's mad nun, Angus Cerini and Chris Kohn's piece, and CW Stoneking - who was a bit of a revelation to me. Lawrence Leun was a fine host, and I particularly liked the last minute, informal feel of it. Hope it becomes an annual event.

29.3 Marcel and Albertine: Proust on Love at The Stork
My first initiation to Proust. The performances were great (particularly Nicola Gunn) and it the venue complemented the work perfectly - the intimacy and austere nature of the space particularly. It's examination of social class, scandal and sexuality has aged particularly well, and I was surprised at how contemporary and relevant it felt. Full of playfulness and melodrama, as well as authentic emotion.

9.4 The Ghost Writer at The Arts Centre
I was really looking forward to this as I had loved Contruction of a Human Heart by the same playwright. The piece was solid enough, as were the performances (particularly Belinda McClory). However, the space was far too big for the work, and director Julian Meyrick squandered alot of the play's life with his too-slow pacing. I sqiurmed at a couple of 'MTC moments' - for example when the mother of a dead daughter does a small monologue on the loss of her daughter - cue 'serious' music, lighting change... puke (apologies, I will try and clean up my language). Still, some fine writing and a nice set too.

15.4 The Pitch at the Malthouse
This was a real crowd pleaser from Peter Houghton. It was an energetic and sincere performance - Houghton has a great knack for conjuring up images and is a fine story teller. It was a well paced satire of Hollywood, as well as (a little less satisfactorally) a sympathetic look at a writer struggling for success and for love. The central character's back-story seemed a tiny bit underdone, and the set was great but revealed itself to be very versatile in the final scene (and as such I think Houghton could have benefitted from using it more. I really enjoyed myself and laughed alot, but was always a little aware of the 'strings' or the 'craft' - perhaps this too would have benefitted from a smaller space (it was initially staged at La Mama i believe - and you can't get much smaller than that!).

- End Part One
- Part Two (later this week) will include Exit The King, Tense Dave and OT.

Farewell friends, feel free to drop a message telling me what you're up to. Also I'd love to hear what others have thought of these shows.

Later all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Rhys-Goodness in the World

Some rather glorious procrastination has led to me setting up a myspace site for both myself and for my other project the Baby Drivers. The sites are pretty bare at the moment, but I have added a dash of colour to distract from this. I have also uploaded a Baby Driver song and a solo song - both are pretty old recordings now and not quite where I/we are now but at least those of you who haven't been able to come to my/our gigs can get a small sample of our music.

You too can procrastinate by visiting: and

Anyone who has myspace is encouraged to become a 'friend' (i know i know) and to leave a comment that might make me look far more popular than is actually the case!

More soon, amigos.

Friday, March 2, 2007


As you may have noticed, my page design has had a quick shave and haircut. Not sure of the results yet, but there were so many pretty designs available I thought it was wasteful to stick to one look forever.

I too am currently undergoing what feels strangely like a facelift procedure. I have returned once more to the loving arms of university - this time to begin a slightly more 'practical' course than Performing Arts: Social Work. I am hoping to use the degree to lead to a part-time career that will leave me a bit more secure and free to make theatre and music. So far, the results have been mixed. I have enjoyed a couple of the lectures, but can't help feeling like I am 'betraying' my arts background - this is not, after all the Master in Perf Arts I'm still considering, nor is it the VCA Animateuring course. Nor is it Rhys spreading his impressive theatrical (and musical) talents throughout Melbourne with an ever-growing canon of challenging work.

While I have a genuine interest in SW, I must admit one of the most appealling facets of the course is the guarantee of (paid!) work afterwards. For all the hours I have spent in rehearsals and at gigs, I am yet to see the millions in renumeration I had anticipated. Yes, Perf Arts is a difficult way to make a living - you need to be driven, but you also need to be lucky. I often find myself envying those who are able to live entirely off their artistic endeavours. Whether they are famous actors/singers, or avant garde companies doing the festival circuit, I often see their situation as ideal. However, perhaps being a 'full time' artist is not in the artist's best interests. If art is a tool to comment on the lives we lead, then perhaps the first step to becoming a successful artist is to get a life. (Ha! I'm scoff at my own argument).

We shall see. I made other plans and now I expect life to happen to me. John Lennon had better be right.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thoughts on 'The Nature of Things: Relics & Time'

I've been a long time admirer of Renato Cuocolo and Roberta Bosetti's ongoing investigations into the performance experience. However, whilst I enjoyed The Diary Room and particularly Private Eye, I often feel I am never quite getting the full affect the pair may have intended. As I wrote my honours thesis on the role of the audience, I am particularly drawn to presentation, and innovative approaches to 'conversing' with the spectator. The problem is that often the 'hook' of the conventions used in IRAA's work (eg the one-on-one [or so it seemed..] experience offered in Private Eye) overshadows or possibly even distorts the content of the work. Their work is typically driven by memories, secrets - often presented in wordy, revealing 'confessions' and usually performed primarily by Bosetti. It's not always easy work. The writing is dense, poetic and full of imagery - and it is not always easy to understand Bosetti's thick Italian accent (though, admittedly, focusing intently and decoding the language is half the fun).

So it was with great curiosity that I showed up at their residence last week for 'season one' of their latest work - The Nature of Things: Relics & Time. We entered, and were left to wait in a sparse room, where a TV in the fireplace ran a video 'tour' of the house in Vercelli (i think it was). Then we were finally called and taken through the house, shown actual objects and objects similar to those in Roberta's childhood home. All the while she began relating to us her memories of the house, the kitchen, certain objects - in particular a certain table cloth. This object is the catalyst for her memories of a particular time in her life that become clearer and clearer to both her and us as the evening wears on.

On a purely academic level, it was thrilling. I loved the concept of trying to revive and transplant the ghosts of your childhood home into a foreign setting decades later to a room full of strangers. We witness Roberta, through a process of repetition and noting down details, having a 'revelation' about the past, that causes her to reassess her memories, and the memories she associates with certain objects. Near the beginning of the piece, she chats with us briefly, asking us to share memories about our early homes. In turn, with her revelation, we must question our own shared memories - are they fact, fiction, or somewhere in between?

I attended with five friends. Four of them absolutely hated this piece while the other (Vlad the Cowboy Mouth) liked it quite a lot. I admit to falling somewhere in the middle. As I said, I very much liked the ideas involved - and as I write about them here they sound even better than I remembered!, but the piece really failed to make any connection with me (and I it) in real time, in a meaningful way. Again (and I hate to say this because it seems such a petty criticism), Roberta's accent made the effort required to follow the language quite considerable. It also made her 'conversational' style and casual interaction with us seem stilted - in a way I could see the 'script' and it felt a bit like seeing the strings on a puppet. I felt that the objects or 'relics' in the house did not go far enough in realising the theme of dislocation - perhaps more objects, more details would have been useful. While IRAA's work has never intrinsically included audience 'participation' as such, they have attempted to bridge the gap created by many theatre formalities - both in their performance location and in their presentation and style. A real intimacy with the audience is often offered and achieved. I feel The Nature of Things failed in this aspect. Yes, we were invited into their home, but it felt quite clearly choreographed and scripted (as it was, of course) and the 'story' itself failed to fully engage the visitors (especially the ones I saw it with).

In the end, it was another satisfying experience - seeing fine performance makers at work, with a challenging idea and another innovative presentation. Whilst this time it felt a little hollow, it certainly won't stop me catching their next work.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

For Your Records...

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

Well, boredom and the internet have yielded another indispensible love child of information. This is what I am, apparently. For the record, I love plants, nature, the outdoors - all of that green stuff. Preferrably when it's on TV. Nurturing my own plants? Taking valuable minutes out of my flashy but brief existence on this planet to do so? Please. I'm an artist - not a robot! I vote NO to personal plants. I do, however, like cats, puppies and fish. With garden salad, of course.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thoughts on 'Chocolate Monkey'

Just a quick recording of some of the thoughts I had on The Amazing Business' Chocolate Monkey which I managed to catch on Wednesday 7th. It was so easy to enjoy this piece. It was frenetic, funny, honest, and many artists will identify with many of the struggles John-Paul Hussey plays out. In many ways, it appears to be a piece about a piece - one that's failure was the ovum from which this work appeared.

Hussey is the sole story teller here, and does so through a number of characterisations and accents. He excels with te accents - not so much for their technical perfection, but for the spirit and tone of the characters he portrays. I often felt he was least comfortable as himself - stumbling over a few lines over the evening. Hussey's energy and physicality sort of belies his stocky, pot-bellied form (with his bald head he resembled Little Britain's Matt Lucas). When he initially introduces himself to the audience as 'the cheeky monkey', it is not a stretch to imagine him as such - and I think this part of his charm, and why everyone responds to his heartfelt tales of the ups and downs of the independent theatre scene so strongly.

Of course, the piece is about much more than theatre. It is about beginnings and endings, inspiration and isolation. While the piece was easy to enjoy, I couldn't help feeling there were some themes and ideas that deserved more investigation. The conclusion and some of the metaphors involving the 'ovum', a Kinder Surprise and the toy within were a little too neat and at times rather obvious. Also, there were a couple of ideas that appeared early on, hinting at something more before being mysteriously forgotten about - leaving their inclusion seeming rather incongruous. For example, near the start Hussey tells in three easy steps how to speak Japanese - in effect it turns out to be how to 'appear' to be speaking Japanese (pretend to be constipated etc). It was almost offensive, but seemed to hint at the idea of stripping things down to their most basic (perceived) elements. I was certainly interested in where in might go, but it wasn't referred to again and I have no idea what its purpose was. In the end, however, it doesn't really matter. It is Hussey's own story that is pivotal. His struggle with weight, the failure of his theatre piece, the endless questioning of his day-to-day existence - it is a very personal story, and as such it is certainly effective.

Anyway, that's about it. It was nicely staged at the Black Box (a venue a really like, despite the immovable columns). The music was almost a character in itself at times, and the lighting and wall and floor projections worked really well also. In short, I had a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Express Myself

This will surely be a test of how many people actually read this blog (i have this horrible feeling it's just me).

I found myself quite frustrated in the last couple of days as I was struggling to find 'inspiration' whilst playing my guitar. I think this is partly due to the fact that I have been very creative and productive this last month, and I'm simply not happy that I'm having a slow week(!).
When I was very, very young (this will give you an idea of just how sad I am) a bored young but musically gifted Rhys would take old letters written by grandparents and compose melodies to the words - whatever they were ('my corns are getting woooorse'.)
In my teens I actually helped a couple of friends by turning their lines of poetry or lyrics into a song. I always found working with another persons words or ideas very helpful in leading me in new directions. Here, finally, is the point of this entry -
If you are interested in having your poetry or lyrics turned into a song by Rhys - please feel free to email them to rhysauteri [at] hotmail [dot] com. It doesn't have to be a poem, it could be a short story or true life experience you would like me to try and adapt. I'll pick the best two or three (or none if no one is interested) and make a song, and try and record it for this page (or alternatively perform it at an upcoming gig.

I hope this doesn't sound too much like me trying to get others to write lyrics for me! I actually think it's pretty cool that two people can collaborate on a song without meeting or possibly not even knowing each other. Anyway, let me know...

Thoughts on Don's Party

I attended this revisiting of one of David Williamson's earlier (and considered by many to be one of his best) about a week ago - primarily to understand the seemingly immense popularity of this playwright. The play has aged fairly well, considering, and much of the coarse language surprisingly retains its startling quality ('cunt features' was my personal favourite). It follows the events of the night of the 1969 election, where everything is looking up for Don and his fellow Labor Party would-be revolutionaries - until the inevitable happens and their spirits tumble. It is a revealing examination of the male psyche, the political mindset of those on both the left and right, as well as the subtle ways the 'big picture' can effect everyday people (and vice versa). In many ways it is still a relevant play, and a piece that deserves new examination.

That said, I am unsure as to what the MTC was hoping to achieve with this production. Peter Evans thwarted almost every opportunity to breathe life into this piece. The set was bright and colourful - almost stereotypically '70s. In any case, the layout was wasted as it sprawled out across the vacuous Playhouse stage - sucking the energy out of every exchange. Indeed, the pacing was laboriously slow and most of the comedy seemed to be focused on the paraphenalia, customs and fashions popular in the era - a move which unnecessarily devalued the human stories (and made the more cathartic moments in the second act seem awkward).

The performances were solid, particularly Mandy McElhinney - but were still often the presented as the broad characters Williamson has done to death in the past (it was as if each actor/character felt they needed their own particular 'quirk'). In this and many other ways it almost had the feeling of farce - but it should have been more than that (and it made for a pretty poorly paced farce at that).

From the knowing laughs, 'oohs' and 'aahs' of the audience (I shit you not) i got the feeling this was a production for everyone who fondly remembered the original to revisit it in a fairly accomodating form. This is a philosophy which does not serve the MTC well. In short: I was pretty bored.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The 2006 List

Hi everybody and happy new year!

I've been exceptionally lazy with this blog lately, but I've been busy rehearsing for a couple of gigs and getting excited about playing music again.

Anyway, I've been meaning to post a list of my favourite shows for '06 - so here goes. I was pretty busy this year finishing my honours in Performing Arts, as well as putting on my own show Towards Omelas, so there were many shows I missed that many others highly recommended. In particular, I didn't see anything from the VCA this year (a shame as I have really enjoyed their work over the last couple of years), and missed The Skriker which both Alison Croggin and Vlad Mijic adored. This is not a 'wrap' or commentary on the year - though I may do one next year, depending how much I am able to see.

Over all I had some great theatre experiences last year (although I must say I thought 2005 was an exceptionally rich year for Melbourne theatre.

Anyway - my top six plays for Oh Six:
1: Pichet Klunchun and Myself - Jerome Bel & Pichet Klunchun
(this was one of the best theatre experiences I've ever had - a beautifully engaging piece filled with humour and a quest for understanding)

2: Tragedia Endogonidia: BR.#04 Brussels - Societas Raffaello Sanzio

3: The Importance of Being Earnest / How To Be Funny - Ridiculusmus

4: Peepshow - Marie Brassard

5: Delicacy - Dir. Wesley Enoch

6: Mantalk - Neil Thomas & David Wells

Other shows I loved: Structure and Sadness (Lucy Guerin), Objects For Meditation (William Yang), Timepieces (Circa), La Douleur (Laurence Strangio), A Mile In Her Shadow (Store Room), Translations (Malthouse), The Telling (Masters students from Monash Uni), Headlock (Malthouse), Honour Bound (Malthouse).

Well, there you go. Feel free to agree/disagree/add your own thoughts. For a more complete wrap of the year's work, visit Theatre Notes or Chris Boyd's site (or Vlad's site - he is promising such a post!).

Here's to another great year of theatre.