5 Questions with Faran Martin

rsz_faranelise_headshotWhat is your favourite swear word?
Motherfucker. It has dawned on me how inappropriate it is, but I can’t lie about the fact that I favour it.

What are you wearing?
I am wearing my pyjamas, which is an old Boy From Oz show shirt. Can I live that down?!

What is love?
Undeniable and unequivocal. Magic.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
King Kong gets 3.5. I’d give it 5 for passion to the cause, achievement and a truly beautiful creature in Kong, but a few essentials fell by the wayside to present the wonder of technology.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s ridiculously good. The crickets are raving already. I just gave a solo preview outside my bedroom window and they’ve not shut up all night.

Faran Martin is performing in Pinball, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 11 – 28 Feb, 2014
Show venue: TAP Gallery

Review: Chi Udaka (TaikOz / Lingalayam)

chiudakaVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 16 – 18, 2013
Directors: Anandavalli & Ian Cleworth
Choreographer: Anandavalli
Music: Ian Cleworth, Riley Lee, Aruna Parthiban, John Napier

Theatre review
Chi Udaka sees a collaboration between two Australian companies from disparate backgrounds. TaikOz’s performance is based on Japanese percussion and wind instruments, and Lingalayam explores traditional Indian dance and music. Both companies work with specific disciplines and cultural influences, but come together to seek out a mode of expression that combines their respective talents. Whether discovering similarities or using disparities, Chi Udaka features a showcase with flashes of symbiosis, discordance and parallels.

Directors Anandavalli and Ian Clenworth do not seem to work with an ideal outcome in mind, but focus instead on a sense of exploration and surprise. What results is a production that is unpredictable and intriguing. One unifying component is a mesmerising quality that both cultures possess within their own forms, and their show together is definitely an enthralling experience. There is a spiritual element that is undeniable in the work, and in spite of the diversity in modern religious lives, it appeals to the sacred in each person, and aims for an uplifted audience.

An unfortunate flaw in the production is lighting design. Largely due to the restrictions of the York Theatre, which does not have conventional wings to allow for floods of light to illuminate the performers bodies effectively, the production has a muted look that prevents a greater, more direct connection with the audience. Relying on lamps from fly bars and footlights work well in the more subdued sections, but they detract from the efforts on stage in the more rousing moments of the piece.

Chi Udaka is a modern Australian marriage, imagined and realised by adventurous and brave people in the arts. It is a new dawn in our continuing re-definition of the Australian identity in our artistic and social landscapes, and while things may not always be smooth and easy going, this is a show that demonstrates a desire for purity and a respect for pluralism. It is a joyful moment when we are able to cherish all our different histories, and converge with trust and peace to create a new voice, one that embraces all that is good about the land on which we live and breathe.


5 Questions with Alice Livingstone

alicelivingstoneWhat is your favourite swear word?
Fuck – straightforward, one syllable, and can be spat, groaned, muttered or screamed with equal effect.

What are you wearing?
Whatever’s clean that the cat hasn’t then had a nap upon.

What is love?
Family and friends who stick by you no matter what.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Summertime In The Garden Of Eden presented by Sisters Grimm as part of Griffin Independent. 2 stars – was disappointed, after absolutely loving their Little Mercy at STC last year.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Well, it’s got songs, dance, blokes in frocks and very naughty laughs, not to mention a bit of nudity, so for a Mardi Gras show, that should fit the bill. I think a wider audience will also enjoy its great entertainment value.

Alice Livingstone is directing Privates On Parade, from New Theatre’s 2014 season and part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 11 Feb – 8 Mar, 2013
Show venue: New Theatre

Review: On The Shore Of The Wide World (Pantsguys / Griffin Theatre Company)

pantsguysVenue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jan 8 – Feb 1, 2014
Playwright: Simon Stephens
Director: Anthony Skuse
Actors: Alex Beauman, Paul Bertram, Kate Fitzpatrick, Huw Higginson, Graeme McRae, Lily Newbury-Freeman, Emma Palmer, Amanda Stephens-Lee, Alistair Wallace, Jacob Warner

Theatre review
Conventions of drama seek to draw in audiences, to create a kind of psychological and emotional engagement that other art forms do not offer quite as readily. Plays about family dynamics in particular tend to provide an experience that is about sentimentality, whether melancholic or uplifting. On The Shore Of The Wide World however, keeps viewers at arms length, encouraging an objective perspective and intelligent discourse about contemporary middle class family lives. This does not mean that the audience is alienated to an extent that we do not care about its characters. Conversely in fact, Anthony Skuse’s direction appeals to our humanity and allows us to empathise with each diverse personality, while engaging deeply with their challenges and circumstances.

One of the main techniques employed to place the material in an intellectual framework is the positioning of actors on stage even when the scene unfolding does not involve them. We see these “extraneous” characters watching and thinking about what is being played out, and try to scrutinise their responses. This causes a constant tension that adds dimension to every plot development, for we are always reminded of repercussions and contrasting points of view.

The ensemble is marvellous. Characterisations are convincing and intentions are clear. We know who these people are, what they think, and how they feel about each other. Kate Fitzpatrick plays the role of grandmother Ellen with restraint and a whole lot of authenticity. It is a minimal performance that works splendidly within the confines of the intimate theatre, and we never question the validity of the actor’s choices. Fitzpatrick’s work is wonderfully elegant, telling her story very persuasively, while being very still. The most memorable performance in the production belongs to Huw Higginson. The role of Pete is written with a lot of thoroughness, and Higginson’s interpretation is equally exacting. His portrayal is subtle and vulnerable, but the actor is unafraid of dramatics when they are required. His chemistry with all co-players are palpable, creating an on stage family that is entirely believable.

This is an unusual theatrical experience, one that talks to its audience with intelligence about themes that are universal. It addresses our concerns with honesty, but does not provide convenient resolutions. Like a good parent, this is a show that tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.


5 Questions with Phil Spencer

philspencerWhat is your favourite swear word?
My English teacher once called my class an incorrigible pack of rapscallions, which I though was rather excellent.

What are you wearing?
An American Apparel T-Shirt. I will admit that American Apparel do have morally dubious and problematically pseudo-pornographic marketing campaigns but they are ethically manufactured. So one out of two isn’t bad right?

What is love?
In no particular order…
Coopers Green.
Gilbert (the cat).
The Smiths.
My wife.
Kurt Vonnegut Jnr.
Tim Tams (preferably frozen).

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Blue Wizard by Nick Coyle (at Tiny Stadiums). 5 stars. The single best opening scene of anything I’ve ever witnessed with my face. There was smoke, strobes and a voice warbling power ballad. Cher would have keeled over and died if she’d have been there. She wasn’t.

Is your new show going to be any good?

Phil Spencer is starring in You And Whose Army?.
Show dates: 16 – 17 Jan, 2013
Show venue: The Newsagency

5 Questions with Cole Escola

coleescolaWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?
A tasteful bolero jacket made of recycled human flesh and a pair of wedge sandals from Jessica Simpson’s Payless collection. For makeup I chose a neutral lip color and coupled it with a smokey eye. Instead of blush or bronzer, I finished the look with a thick layer of battery acid to give it that “I just died in a car accident” effect. No pants.

What is love?
Full disclosure, I’ve never even heard that word before. Sorry, I guess we don’t have it in the states.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was Waiting For Godot on Broadway starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. I give it zero stars. Take that, McKellen!

Is your new show going to be any good?
I wish I could lie, but unfortunately the show is going to be extremely good. Honestly, it will be a transformative experience for everyone involved. We’re going to break down some walls and make some truly heartening discoveries. No pants.

Cole Escola is performing in Desperate Houseboys, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 18 – 28 Feb, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre

Review: Wittenberg (Brevity Theatre / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

rsz_wittenbergVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jan 7 – 25, 2014
Playwright: David Davalos
Director: Richard Hilliar
Actors: David Woodland, Alexander Butt, Nick Curnow, Lana Kershaw

Theatre review
Wittenberg is a play that examines the struggle between theology and philosophy. We are positioned along with Hamlet (in his younger years) in the centre of the action, caught between reason and religion. David Davalos’ text is a dense one. Western literature is referenced relentlessly, creating a post-modern structure based on citations of classical concepts, characters and quotations.

Richard Hilliar’s direction is confident and precise. He places equal emphasis on dramatics and content, ensuring a show that appeals intellectually and is also fabulously entertaining. Hilliar does his best to make sense of the lines, which are frequently academic and cerebral, and while some of us might find it challenging to absorb everything, the direction succeeds in keeping us engaged at all times.

Design elements of the production are simple, elegant and effective. The set in particular, works well with the space and the performers. Lighting is creative but also unintrusive. It is a pleasure to see the Old Fitzroy stage given some three-dimensionality and lightness.

Performances are consistently strong, and all actors seem to be very thoroughly rehearsed. Intentions are clear, and their control over their tricky lines are very accomplished. David Woodland’s performance however, is completely show stealing. His portrayal of John Faustus is charismatic, committed and irresistibly convincing. He has a fearless approach that effervesces unceasingly, and he resonates strongly at every turn. We hear his points of view clearly, and we empathise with his vulnerabilities. His co-actors are not weak by any stretch of the imagination, but the show becomes unintentionally asymmetrical in its intellectual arguments due to the overwhelming persuasiveness of one side.

Ultimately, this is not a play that seeks to change anyone’s core beliefs, but it reminds us of the other, and the values it holds close. Wittenberg is about the plurality of our existences, and the constant negotiations we endure in making sense of our daily lives.


5 Questions with Lady Cool (Tamarind Elkin)

rsz_1583099_4306672What is your favourite swear word?
Egg. I fell in love with the N.Z film ‘Boy’ & adopted their use of the word Egg as a derogatory term about someone. And to be honest, much like when the philosopher Satre wrote “Hell is other people”, what most inspires me to use cuss words is the behaviour of some Egg…which is unfortunately all too often!

What are you wearing?
Chanel no.5 (it’s way too hot to wear anything else)!

What is love?
According to Jesus it’s unconditional forgiveness.. Wish me luck with that one won’t you…

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Fortunately or unfortunately however you view it, I’ve been way too busy doing shows this last year to go & see any.. (use to be the other way round)!
However as a Xmas gift I’m going to see a Beatles tribute show @ the Sydney Opera House this Saturday, so in advance ill give it 5 stars… just to practice my positive thinking.

Is your new show going to be any good?
I certainly hope so..! I feed off the audience so they do help determine the outcome. It went down like cream cake @ The Camelot Lounge so ill see how the audience respond to it in a more theatre style setting. Much like when Oscar Wilde muttered “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster” I too pray the audience is cool 😉

Lady Cool (Tamarind Elkin) appears in “Conversations with My Shrink”, week 2 of Short+Sweet Cabaret.
Show dates: 15 – 18 Jan, 2014
Show venue: New Theatre

Review: Am I (Shaun Parker & Company)

rsz_r1222886_16043263Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Jan 9 – 12, 2014
Director & Choreographer: Shaun Parker
Music: Nick Wales
Dramaturge: Veronica Neave
Dancers: Josh Mu, Sophia Ndaba, Jessie Oshodi, Marnie Palomares, Melanie Palomares, Shantala Shivalingappa, Julian Wong

Theatre review
With Am I, Shaun Parker & Company continues to redefine Australian dance and identity. This work relies heavily on traditional Indian forms of performance and Chinese martial arts, to create a new contemporary dance that is not only about Australia but also an international landscape. As societies come to terms with technological advancements and multiplicity in their cultural compositions, art begins to conflate and we seem to be arriving at a time when a universality, in creativity and practice, usurps geographical differences. Shaun Parker’s work is international not only because of its high standards, but also because of its global language.

Shantala Shivalingappa brings an Indian influence that gives the production a sense of dreamlike storytelling. She is an omnipresent narrator, with a magnetism that can only be described as enigmatic. Slight in stature and mild in temperament, it is a wonder that the audience’s attention is completely lost in Shivalingappa’s minimal performance style whenever she takes centre stage. Julian Wong’s talents as a martial artist are utilised to perfection. The way his disciplines are reinterpreted to create a new art form, is probably the greatest achievement of this work. The opening up of something that is seemingly rigid and old fashioned, in order to create a brand new redefining vocabulary in movement is an incredible feat, which the company should be extremely proud of. A particularly memorable moment sees the combination of Wong performing a “qigong” style routine along with Josh Mu’s responses using “popping” from the breakdance lexicon. The meeting of the two is breathtaking, and clearly (as words will no doubt fail), has to be seen to be believed.

Music is performed entirely live with a band and singers that have achieved a magnificent level of symbiosis with the dancers. Lighting design is creative and ground-breaking, with a “wall of light” that provides illumination in all senses of the word. The level of sensitivity at which both these elements are designed and directed is masterful. They are not often in the foreground of proceedings, but are absolutely crucial to the success of the show.

Am I is Shaun Parker’s meditation on spirituality. It inspires ideas on God, creation, and inevitably, the meaning of life. It is Parker using the performance space to ask the biggest questions, and what results is something transcendental and divine. This is a company determined to communicate, and the show speaks to audiences of all kinds. Its concepts are grand but universal; its tone sophisticated but never hoity-toity. It speaks to all, but seeks to appeal to the most sacred that is in us all.


5 Questions with Maryann Wright‏

rsz_maryann_wright1What is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. It still delivers an acidic bite in some contexts and can be a satisfactory meaningless expression in others.

What are you wearing?
Honest answer – gym clothes. Just finished a pilates class and am too lazy to change. In my head I’m wearing something… at least mildly attractive and a little more breathable.

What is love?
Selflessness, Sacrifice, good Sex. Notice the trend of Ss? They’ve got something going for them.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Carrie the musical, 5. I hear the actress who played Frieda was fucking hilarious (see above – question 1).

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s my first fully-fledged cabaret so you know what they say about first time experiences. But it’s called NUTS and I’m a little nuts, so there’s a start. Got the casting right.

Maryann Wright stars in NUTS in Week 1 of Short+Sweet Cabaret.
Show dates: 8 – 11 Jan, 2014
Show venue: New Theatre