Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Henson Circus

Visit Theatre Notes for Alison Croggon's wonderful open letter in support of Bill Henson - complete with a number of comments posted (many of which make my skin crawl).

It's a bit scary out there at times...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

REVIEW: The Feigned Inconstancy

This article was originally published here on Vibewire.

Pierre Marivaux’s The Feigned Inconstancy is one of two 18th century comedies being presented by the VCA’s graduating company of actors for 2008. Like its accompanying piece in the series – Goldoni’s The FanThe Feigned Inconstancy is a farce centred around vain but star-crossed lovers and their attempts to secure one another’s affections. Director David Wicks has produced a solid work, making the most of a well-paced script that still manages to make us laugh knowingly about the fickle nature of love and relationships.

The title of the piece refers to the plan that the Marquise (Zahra Newman) and Dorante (Thomas Larkin) concoct to reclaim their wayward lovers the Captain (Josh Price) and the Countess (Julia Grace). By pretending to have fallen for each other, they hope to fill the true objects of their desire with jealousy and thus be reunited with them. But the path of love is never so simple, of course. While the characters are presented as almost cartoonish, the validity and depth of their emotions are never in question. This grounding in reality makes us care about these ludicrous characters, as we can recognise our own insecurities, personal failings and foolish romanticism exposed before our eyes. It keeps this 200 year-old comedy relevant and accessible for modern theatre-goers.

The cast seems to revel in the extreme silliness of the production. The show opens with a musical flourish, with the characters engaging in a series of exaggerated tableaux that foreshadow the developments to come. They jump up and down at various intervals, as if performing a demanding calisthenics routine. Similar choreographed vignettes take place between each of the acts, emphasising the intricate dance Marivaux’s characters perform as they swap allegiances and put elaborate schemes into practice. This over-the-top presentation is ever-present and works exceedingly well – the actors’ stylised, heightened performances feed their characters’ postulating and grand-standing. Music is also used cheekily to announce the arrival of characters to a scene, or emphasise visual gags.

The play is presented as it might have been to an unruly mob two centuries ago. Innuendos are punctuated with knowing winks to the audience, the language of the modern audience is sometimes used to contrast against the pomposity of these characters – a master gives his servant an encouraging thumbs up, the captain is unable to restrain himself from shouting “fuck” in a moment of exasperation. The actors play up to the audience’s laughter and sighs of sympathy - particularly the luckless Frontin, who stole many a scene with his shameless sulking thanks largely to an imaginative portrayal by Nick Cook.

While The Feigned Inconsistency does not quite reach its potential, it is a genuinely entertaining production with fine performances and enough ideas to give it ongoing momentum and charm.

VCA Drama Company 2008

Dates: Tuesday 20 May – Wednesday 28 May 2008
Times: Mon-Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm
Address: Performance Studio One, VCA Drama, 28 Dodds Street Southbank
Prices: $20 / $12
Bookings: / 9685 9225

Monday, May 19, 2008

REVIEW: Paradise City

This article was originally published here on Vibewire.

The interplay between people and the urban environment has been the focus of Arts House’s excellent Urbanology series. Branch Nebula’s Paradise City is a fitting end to the series, exploring the physical relationship between six artists and the unforgiving concrete landscape of the city with breathtaking grace. A dancer, a BMX rider, a skater, a break-dancer, an acrobat and a “fallen diva” all collide (literally) with one another in this dream-like fusion of movement styles.

The opening sequences have a ritualistic air. The performers cautiously feel out the possibilities of the space: skateboarder Petera Hona slowly works his board’s wheels over the stark floor of the set; dancer Kathryn Puie lets her body slide down one of the two ramps. Singer Inga Liljeström’s haunting, abstract compositions seem to call the performers to the sacred site. The piece slowly builds momentum – the performers chase each other in a circle – forming a centrifuge that illustrates the power they possess as well as the force that draws them to the space.

The performers ‘dance’ with one another, seeking out each other’s skills and styles. Acrobat Alexandra Harrison flirts cheekily with biker Simon O’Brien, repeatedly trying to bring him unstuck with her own athletic tricks. In another instance, Harrison and Puie attempt to mimic break-dancer Anthony Lawang’s moves, but the physicality of their preferred art forms still permeates their imitation. In many ways, each of the performers become part of the landscape themselves – sometimes obstacles to avoid, sometimes objects to play with. At times the group will gang up on one performer – Anthony Lawang is buried during a dance routine by roadblocks hurled at him by the five other artists.

Paradise City is a mesmerising examination of identity. It suggests that to interact with another being you must interact also with their culture, their self-expression. In one pivotal sequence, acrobat Harrison skilfully finesses the evening dress and high heels off the diva and attempts to mimic her gestures. While Liljeström sings “I’m held by a thread that starts at my heart”, Harrison stumbles around in her shoes – unable to recapture her own fluent style, let alone become the diva she desires to be. The performers continue to define themselves the more they fight against, instigate, terminate, play with, antagonise, and mimic one another. The music soundtrack also has separate, distinct styles and personalities – from electronica to classical – each time changing the way we view the action on stage.

Creators Lee Wilson & Mirabelle Wouters have put together a group of extremely talented individuals from disparate movement forms to create a work that toys with the boundaries between them. The clarity of the images is such that some motifs are repeated that do not need to be reinforced, with the momentum suffering somewhat as a result. While at times the pacing is a little too gradual, when all the elements are at work it is a riveting experience. As with the rest of the Urbanology series, Paradise City asserts that the stark and lifeless façades of the city streets is no match for the creative souls moving through them.

Branch Nebula

Dates: Wednesday 14 May – Saturday 17 May 2008
Times: 7:30pm Wed-Sat; 7:30pm & 2pm Sat
Theatre, Address: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Prices: $25 / $18
Bookings: 03 9639 0096 /

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MyMusic at MySpace

For those of you who have heard my music and those who haven't, I've recently put up three new recordings at I'd love to hear any comments or thoughts you may have. The songs are SMS Me which I wrote late last year, No Difference from 2006 and Overeducated Underachiever written in early '07.

I'm playing a Baby Drivers gig on Friday 23rd (see below) with hopefully some solo dates to follow in June. Keep checking in for more recordings this year - there should be a couple of Baby Driver tracks at in the next month.

You can sign up for the mailing list for my solo shows as well as Baby Driver shows by emailing

Monday, May 12, 2008

Music in May from me and Monica...

Hi everyone,
Well we've been pretty busy doing anything BUT performing music lately but the BABY DRIVERS will be playing again on FRIDAY MAY 23 from 9:30pm at the awesome BENDER BAR (635 High St, Thornbury).

Also appearing are the laid back jazz and funk outfit SUNDAY BEST, plus a special set by our friend Ben Mitchell - plus it's FREE ENTRY.

It's going to be a great night of music at a cool venue so please pencil us into your diaries!

Stay tuned for more dates in June. We have also been busy recording of late, so expect some great new recordings to appear soon on and

You can join us for updates and recordings by searching for the 'Baby Drivers' group on Facebook or subscribing to our mailing list by emailing

Cheers all,
Rhys & Monica

REVIEW: Get a Grip - L'Art du Déplacement

This article was originally published here on Vibewire.

The thrill of witnessing a spectacle often lies in the moment we witness something that we are completely incapable of doing ourselves. In extreme cases it is something we thought humanly impossible. We gasp. We cheer. We fly through the air with our heroes. Olympians, acrobats and magicians fit comfortably in this category. We ought probably now add the exponents of Parkour. In Get a Grip – L’Art du Déplacement, the athletic members of Trace Elements seem to thoroughly enjoy making a spectacle of themselves as they leap around an elaborate jungle of scaffolding and platforms.

Get a Grip is an intimate, close-up look at the spectacular and relatively new movement forms of parkour and freerunning. With echoes of gymnastics, ballet and martial arts, parkour is part movement style, part extreme sport, part way of life. A lone figure performs simple stretches in dim light as the audience file into North Melbourne Town Hall. As the show progresses, the complexity and difficulty escalates. First the five performers leap repeatedly over a wooden box, demonstrating the myriad ways of doing so, each adding their own character and individuality. Then there are two boxes to clear. Then three.

While this is more of a demonstrative introduction than a fully formed art work, Get a Grip still has the potential to move you – not just through the beauty of the physical manoeuvres but also through the philosophy that is omnipresent in the actions. Dotted throughout the film footage are brief testimonials from some of the performers. They explain how parkour has helped them overcome personal fears such as heights, improved their self confidence, and provided direction for their lives. The film’s cinematography is impressive, and the image of the group scaling the arc over the Southbank footbridge whilst bewildered pedestrians pass by below is particularly striking. Their leaping and tumbling through the urban maze provokes a primal response, evoking images of the human being as graceful hunter. As these practitioners or traceurs fly between the buildings and multi-storey car parks of Melbourne, they manage to transform not only their bodies but also the environment around them. A fence is no longer a boundary but a tool used to catapult themselves forwards.

The live component is, surprisingly, the slightly less compelling of the two. After exploring breathtaking expanses and rock formations in rural Victoria, the constructed scaffolding bars seem cold and restrictive in comparison. Part of the pleasure of watching Parkour is seeing traceurs plot a path through their environment. In fact, Parkour is partly designed to help overcome obstacles whilst being pursued or in an emergency. The restrictions of performing in a theatre make the live sections seem more like a training session. But there is still an incredible array of skills on display, from climbing vertical boards to swiftly traversing scaffolding bars with perfect balance.

Get a Grip is a generous and entertaining introduction to the ‘art of displacement’. It doesn’t try too hard to exceed this simple brief, nor does it need to. The incredible skills on display, combined with its thoughtful intellectual basis, provide more than enough elements to entrance.

Trace Elements

Dates: Tuesday 6 May – Thursday 8 May 2008
Times: 7:30pm
Theatre, Address: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Prices: $20 / $15

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

For Your Information

This hilarious but true informational sign confronted me in a toilet recently. Made my day.

Villanus News

Villanus, a piece I created with Vlad Mijic for Welcome Stranger last year, has been selected for the Under the Radar program at this year's Brisbane Festival. This is our first time touring a show interstate and we're excited to have the chance to be exposed in what looks to be a great festival, including works from Declan Donnellan, Barrie Kosky and Peter Brooks (who's doing an adaptation of The Grand Inquisitor, from one of my favourite books The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky).

For those who saw Villanus last year, we are redeveloping the show at the moment for Brisbane and are hopeful of showing the results in Melbourne at this year's Fringe Festival - we'd love to see you all there (more spruiking to come, obiously).

For those interested, you can find photos and reviews of Villanus here at the Welcome Stranger website.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

REVIEW: Blazeblue Oneline

This article was originally published here on Vibewire.

Creator Antony Hamilton describes Blazeblue Oneline as an “abstract snapshot of everything he loves to see, hear and feel”. Judging by the enthusiastic response of opening night, the audience also loved what they saw, heard and felt in this exuberant and ambitious mix of dance, visual art and street culture. Hamilton, who has worked with artists such as Lucy Guerin and Chunky Move, has created a fast-paced, acid infused, visual stream-of-consciousness with an infectious sense of fun.

Hamilton’s work uses carefully selected elements to consistently surprising, inventive and engaging effect. These are the elements of urban Melbourne – cardboard boxes, trash, spray cans, graffiti, and street culture. The stark white floor and walls of the set are literally a blank canvas for Hamilton’s explosion of colourful graffiti and fluorescent costumes. After a symphonic prelude that blares out like a siren announcing the arrival of something otherworldly, the lights come up on a sole figure in the urban uniform of an oversized tracksuit. After tagging the walls with the concentration of a calligraphic artist, he transforms elusively into a whirling collection of paper and trash before our eyes. Later a dancer manipulates a disassembled cardboard box into performing a series of flowing manoeuvres and shapes.

At times, the constant flow of ideas can almost be too much. One of the early sequences involves a heartbreaking duet danced by two large cardboard boxes. Later we are confronted by a life-size reanimated toy robot constructed from cardboard. Two dancers engage it by generating makeshift weapons from discarded aluminium foil. This narrative thread of an abstract sci-fi battle is suggested throughout the work, using Japanese anime and ‘80s culture as reference points. The piece moves at break-neck pace, its complexity snowballing with each new idea. These ideas feed off and inform one another well, but are not quite successful in supporting the overall structure and ending.

Perhaps the most successful and satisfying aspect of Blazeblue Oneline is its blurring of the line between dance and visual art. The set and lighting by Bluebottle continually demand we view the entire stage as one complete visual image. The set itself resembles the stark white environment of an art exhibition. Under strobe lighting, performance sequences such as the ‘dancing boxes’ resemble stop-motion animation of visual art installations. The two art forms blend seamlessly, with the choreography always responding to (and often helping to create) its visual environment. The act of graffiti art is of particular interest to Hamilton. Dances mimicking the way a graffiti artist moves when working work particularly well when set amongst the intricate images created earlier in the show. The ingenuity of some of the set devices – a jacket that magically slides up a wall; graffiti that is revealed as if being written by an invisible artist – is sometimes so technically fascinating that it almost detracts from the images themselves.

Blazeblue Oneline is, above all else, a celebration. It is chaotic and brash but always grounded by a sense of playfulness. At times it moves too fast for its own good – visual art often requires time and consideration for a viewer to get the most out of it, and the style of this performance constantly shifts our attention. Hamilton’s passion permeates throughout the work, and it is a performance that skilfully engages our own sense of wonder, asking us to review and reassess the everyday images around us.
Antony Hamilton presents BLAZEBLUE ONELINE
Dates: Wednesday 30 April – Sunday 4 May 2008
Times: Wed-Sat 7:30, Sun 6pm
Theatre, Address: Arts House, Meat Market
Prices: $25 / $18

REVIEW: Kristen Schaal – As You Have Probably Never Seen Her Before (from 25.3.08)

This article was originally published here on Vibewire.

With her cherub features and timid voice, Kristen Schaal instantly endeared herself to an enthusiastic crowd under the Melbourne Town Hall. Best known for her role as super-fan Mel on the popular television show Flight of the Conchords, Schaal has garnered a growing reputation for her “quirky” humour, winning awards including the Andy Kaufman Award for Creativity in Comedy. Her quirky creativity is certainly present in As You Have Probably Never Seen Her Before – a show that pleases as much as it confounds and intrigues.

Schaal’s performance is a mish-mash of styles and threads that often tends to work in spite of itself. There is no overriding structure to the material save for wherever Shaal’s often stream-of-consciousness logic takes us. One moment we are in familiar stand-up territory with Schaal riffing on iPhones and life on the comedy tour, the next we are in a comedic sketch with her partner Kurt, and later we are treated to a ‘sneak peek’ of her of her one-woman theatre piece on Anne Boleyn. She often treats the stage as some sort of therapeutic confessional - sharing intimate details of her dreams, as well as inviting us to critique her audition for an upcoming role on Law & Order: SVU. There are few traditional ‘jokes’ – the humour is largely drawn from Schaal’s persona, a character whose fragility, timidity and naïveté masks the vicious wit and brilliant force of ideas lurking beneath the surface.

While it is billed as a solo show, just under half the material is performed with her partner Kurt Braunohler – including some of the show’s more successful endeavours. Their interplay and sketches all show off Schaal’s persona to its greatest effect. This is largely due to Braunohler’s performance, which is also character driven, and the devotion and adoration his persona displays for Schaal.

The show is intentionally amateurish and anarchic in its execution. At times this style works wonderfully – Schaal hilariously transforms into Anne Boleyn simply by donning a black cloak and a woeful accent, and becomes Pocahontas by putting on an ‘authentic’ Indian headdress. Not everything hits its mark, however, and there is a thin line between anarchic comedy and anarchy. The emergence of her ‘boyfriend’ and later Winston Churchill from within the audience seemed to be more trouble than the effect warranted.

In many ways it is a credit to Kristen Schaal that she leaves the audience wanting more. Like comedians such as Demetri Martin she displays a truly unique and brilliant imagination that engages a well as entertains. However the material, as entertaining as it was, suffered from being stretched a little thin over the 60 minute performance. The pacing of the show often laboured slightly, with some material going on longer than needed. That said, Schaal’s performance is consistently funny, imaginative, playful and, above all, unique.