Sunday, June 26, 2005

Influence - An MTC Production

I subscribe to two theatres in Melbourne. One the Malthouse has renewed itself and these days gives a reason to go to the theatre. The other, the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC), is the oldest professional company in Melbourne - and sometimes it age shows

Going to MTC productions generally depresses me. The audience is mostly made up of people over 50 (or 70), looking well off and victims of "affluenza". Am I one of these people?

The productions are generally populist, mainstream - but to be fair - usually of high quality.

So yesterday along I went to see Influence the latest play by David Williamson - the acute observer of Australian culture. But I arrived feeling less than positive. Looking around, the audience looks the same - I feel depression deepening - and the question lingers for me as to whether Williamson has passed his "use by date".

This play - unusual for these days in that it has a cast of seven - deals with a Sydney shockjock called Ziggy Blasco who:

... likes to push buttons. Right-wing and self-righteous, the top-rating talk-back announcer gets the switchboard lighting up with his 'common sense' declarations on everything from dole bludgers to refugees. The trouble with Ziggy is that he actually believes the simplistic rubbish he spouts on air, which puts him at enormous disadvantage in the real world.

Well? Overall I think the play works. Sure there are lots of predictable, polemical arguments - brother and sister, father and daughter, father and son, husband and wife, step-mother and daughter, etc - and realistically there is no saccharine ending. The world is much more complex than the Ziggys of the world would have us believe.

But Williamson leaves us with that uncomfortable awareness that the "button pushing" by the Ziggys ( or Hitler, or Bush, or Howard) works.

And in the end - isn't that the purpose of theatre.

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Monday, June 20, 2005


The 2nd in the Malthouse Theatre's winter season - a joint production with Chamber Made Opera - is Recital featuring Helen Noonan in what is described in the publicity as an "other-worldly experience".

As an opener I have to say that the new Artistic Director Michael Cantor has resuscitated this theatre that was slowly "fading to grey" under Aubrey Mellor. Now productions hold interest and as a subscriber I look forward to seeing what he has on offer this time. Under Mellor it became all too predictable and lacking any real excitement.

Now Recital.

Channeling all those great women who have gone before her, Helen Noonan plays the Ghost of Opera, the very Diva of Divas. Serving an eternal sentence in the purgatory of her own imagination, this Diva is the quintessence of the world's greatest opera singers'; or perhaps a lost and demented soul who simply thinks she is.

Her extraordinary story is told through a combination of original soundscape, well known arias, witty text, and almost balletic Callas-thenic gesture. Distinctions between art and life, fantasy and reality, tragedy and comedy become one as the Diva possesses the stage.

Arias featured in Recital include the most loved of the classical repertoire, including Mi Chiano Mimi from LA BOHEME by Puccini, Habanera from CARMEN by Bizet and Queen of the Night aria from THE MAGIC FLUTE by Mozart.

I didn't like it a lot. This is an almost entirely sung piece and much of what is being said(sung) was lost to me. There was apparently humour in this piece but it was mostly lost on me. Quality singing, great lighting and costume - but not a work that did a lot for me.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Joy of House Hunting

What a complex set of emotions is experienced when going through the process of house hunting. Outright opposition, relunctance, tentative interest, real interest, growing concern about lack of preparation, panic, sense of entrapment and finally, a hope for failure at auction.

Buying a new house after 15 or more years is a serious business. Contemplation of the outrageous costs involved, of the need to reconfigure your whole life. Yet I am not the only member of this family. Do I just play the role of relunctant sceptic while others enjoy flights of fancy.

Perhaps it will all pass.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Boulevard Delirium

On Tuesday night, we went to see the Schauspielhaus Wien production of Boulevard Delirium. Starring Paul Capsis with concept and direction by Barrie Kosky this was a....different night at the Malthouse.

A very different audience from the usual Malthouse crowd, this one dominated by gay men and hetrosexual, Jewish couples. This is a one man show backed by 5 very capable musicians from either Australia, Australia or Spain.

After a mildy shaky start, Capsis presents an extraordinary performance as he takes on the mannerisms, speech and singing styles of a range of departed "chanteuses" including Bessie Smith, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Bille Holiday and Marlene Dietrich.

Very witty, wonderfully rude and entertaining. How does Capsis find the real Paul under all of that.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

The Annual Trip to the Healesville Sanctuary

Each year on the Monday of the Queens Birthday weekend, my family travels to the Healesville Sanctuary some 70 kms east of Melbourne.

We have been animal sponsors at Healesville for 10 or more years and as members of FOTZ (Friends of the Zoo) we get free admission to the sanctuary.

This is a wonderful place to spend 3-4 hours walking around the very natural bush setting with enclosures that give a maximum of space and as natural a habitat as possible. Their work on the platypus and the various exhibits for this animal are an absolute treat. As is the opportunity to touch Australian animals - wombats, dingos, etc.

A very pleasant day with a walk in the bush and its sounds and smells:

- the smell of lemon eucalyptus leaf litter
- the mimicry of a lyrebird in full song and full display.

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Technorati and Melbourne Meanderings

The mystery of how blogs get captured by search engines like Yahoo, Google and Technorati still escapes me.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

alias GRACE

Caroline Lee takes on that most extraordinary task for any actor - the solo performance - and over one and three quarter hours she puts on a masterful performance.

In this Malthouse Theatre adaptation of Margaret Attwood's novel, this woman uses her voice to totally capture the audience, Either in the lilting irish tones of the lead character Gracie Marks, her Canadian masters and mistresses, her jailers, or her inquisitors Lee's mastery is complete. She uses the stage space to great effect with simply props and wonderful lighting to hold your attention.

Her Gracie Marks, so simple and unsophisticated, yet so manipulative and so in charge.

Lee's performance deserved more than the half full theatre on this Queens Birthday Long Weekend.

Another great production by the revamped Malthouse.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Test

Just a test post to see if it shows up in

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cattle and the High Country

The way this story is being reported shows (a) conservative parties concerned with the individual rights while (b) the Government taking the action seems ham-fisted and only concerned about legislative authority.

I don't know whether closing the Alpine high country National Park to grazing is a good thing or not. But if it is doing damage, claiming a heritage right to graze cattle is no justification. It just says "we have been damaging highland pasture for a long time and we have a right to continue".

Whatever the outcome, the cattlemen from the high country know how to make a point.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

3 Dollars or "The Tanya Tigers of Edam"

Another Monday night another movie at the Nova in Carlton.

This time the Australian film " Three Dollars" starring David Wenham and Frances O'Connor.

According to the director, "the film is about a good man being tested in all aspects of his life. Tested in his relation with his wife and daughter. Tested in his morality about his work. Tested in his financial situation, and tested even in the streets he walks on!"

True, but it takes a long time to get there. Some bits are simply unbelievable e.g. the tramp for a night scenes. Not great but another enjoyable David Wenham performance. Somewhere there is a great film just waiting for Wenham. This is not it.

And why "The Tanya Tigers of Edam"? In the film, the Frances O'Connor character (Tanya) tells her young daughter that she is doing work on the "Tamil Tigers of Elam". Later in the film - in a very tense moment - this is fed back by the child as ...

The Tanya Tigers of Edam.