Review: Business Unfinished (Bondi Feast)

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 27 – 29, 2017
Creator: Tom Christophersen
Director: James Dalton
Cast: Tom Christophersen, Tim Kemp
Image by Philip Erbacher

Theatre review
Tom Christophersen has a fascination for the paranormal, and in Business Unfinished, we gather around him as though around a campfire, listening to ghost stories that he has amassed. A collector of metaphysical tales, the idiosyncratic obsession that Christophersen presents, is something we relate to, for what he does in the show, is to question a reality of which everyone is implicated.

Believable or not, depending on each of our own constitutions, episodes in Business Unfinished are an inviting exploration into the nature of time and space, as well as an examination of the human tendency to create relationships with the supernatural, religious or otherwise. It then extends into the idea of sanity, and that sense of coherence necessary for the world to exist as an understandable, rational whole. An acceptance of incoherence would suggest that phenomena is beyond all human control, and therefore devastating.

Christophersen’s work on soundtrack is outstanding; blending firsthand accounts with an imaginative selection of music and a broad assortment of effects and clips, what we hear is deeply evocative, and a thorough expression of the creator’s unbridled fascination for the subject. Sound design however, is underwhelming, with two basic speakers behind the stage unable to manufacture appropriate sensations that would trigger our more visceral responses. Christophersen performs a substantial portion of the show as a lip-sync act, mouthing to recordings of various personalities, with astonishing accuracy. Stage manager Patrick Howard’s precision in dispensing cues is noteworthy in this regard.

Lighting design by Alexander Berlage is charming and playful, offering a good level of visual excitement to the piece. The space is problematic, being right next door to a rowdy watering hole, and the production insufficiently compensates for noise, leaving atmosphere severely compromised, in a work that is all about things creepy and ominous. Nonetheless, it is unequivocal that what its innovative director James Dalton delivers, is a rich and artful theatre, one that is as interested in its subject matter as it is in the characteristics of theatre itself.

Live performances comprise both the concrete and the esoteric. We go to them in search of magic, trusting that although the flesh and matter we encounter are essentially ordinary, something beyond the mundane will be experienced. If ghosts can be created on stage, we can make them appear in other places, voluntarily or involuntarily. As with gods, we can only prove their non-existence, but their presence is resolutely persistent, and ultimately ineludible.

www.bondifeast.com.au

Review: Bluebeard (Lies, Lies And Propaganda)

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 25 – 29, 2017
Original concept: Curly Fernandez
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Curly Fernandez, Melissa Hume, Gideon Payten-Griffiths

Theatre review
In this version of an old folktale, Bluebeard is a 42 year-old man who goes prowling in clubs, on nights known to be popular with students. They story begins for us, when he meets a 19 year-old girl. They drink and flirt, and everything seems quite normal, until she decides to go home with Bluebeard. Things begin to turn strange, with the man becoming increasingly menacing, and us wondering how much terror the girl is bound to undergo.

The story is unequivocally dark, but the show is whimsical, relentlessly quirky with all of its modes of expression. Situated in a beachside changing room, the staging space is unnerving, with its refusal of letting us hold on to our usual expectations of theatre. We should always think that “anything can happen” with art, but conventions are hard to defy. Bluebeard removes us from the security of a darkened auditorium, and successfully changes how we relate to the nature of live performance.

Having freed itself from the ordinary, the production is able to expose its audience to a truly creative and experimental exploration of the art form. Engulfed by the sound of rumbling pipes and the chill of concrete walls, our senses are more alive, and we want to read meaning into everything, because it all seems to embody significance.

Director Michael Dean embraces the exotic, making magic out of the impossible, to create an environment that allows us to share in his wonderful vision of a scary encounter. The absence of lighting design is restrictive in terms of the provision of atmospheric shifts for this grotesque piece, but the close proximity of performers ensures that we are kept engaged. All three are fascinating creatures. Curly Fernandez, Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths are completely vulnerable, unprotected from our unforgiving scrutiny at close range, under the cruel glare of fluorescent tubes. In a play where words are only a small element, their every move speaks volumes and the text we are presented is unexpectedly rich.

The girl is caught in a waking nightmare, but Bluebeard does not ask us for an emotional response. Our sympathy is not required. We absorb and analyse, finding an understanding of that which unfolds, and then relating that present event to the real world outside. Women are often disempowered, that is true, but how we navigate being in that position, is where things get interesting.

www.liesliesandpropaganda.com

5 Questions with Kerith Manderson-Galvin and Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Kerith Manderson-Galvin

Tobias Manderson-Galvin: Kerith Manderson-Galvin, if that is your real name and by all accounts it is (and if anyone would know it’d be me because I’ve known you my whole life). Isn’t it true that you often impersonate yourself or me or Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum when you give interviews?
Kerith Manderson-Galvin: Tobi, Tobi do you remember you got invited to read at some playwright’s event and you were overseas and you didn’t tell them you were overseas I don’t think and so I went and read as you. And then someone who I won’t name because maybe people won’t know the person but then that person always said I was a good actor. Which was so nice of them. Also I once performed in your place for another thing too.

That’s interesting that you bring up Jeff Goldblum because David Cronenberg once said to me, “No Kerith,” because I was and am an adept mimic, he said to me, “no Kerith, you’re doing it again.” And I said, “That’s right, do it the Kerith way, not the Jeff way.” And that’s just some of the fun we had.

Are you guys brothers?
We used to love that movie didn’t we but I think now I would hate it or be upset by it so I feel like it’s best we never watch it again.

Have you already lived this life and can you tell all of your fans an amusing story because if there’s one thing you’ve taught me it’s that people don’t really want to hear answer to a question?
I can’t think of anything amusing because you have put me under a lot of pressure Tobi, now I feel like it has to be the best and I can’t think of anything and can’t we do something else instead I really don’t want this to be the question and no I don’t need a glass of water. I’m just tired.

How old is the world and how much older will it be?
Age: 4.543 billion years
Mass: 5.972 × 10^24 kg
Distance from Sun: 149.6 million km
Population: 7.347 billion (2015) World Bank
Life expectancy: 71.46 years (2014) World Bank
Life Achievements: Best dancer on the Senior Single’s Cruise, 4 published Autobiographies, Runner on Law and Order Season 61, Episode 3.

So you have a show coming up is that right *slightly disaffected*?
I heard the exact same thing about you.

Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Kerith Manderson-Galvin: Yes Hello Tobi. Isn’t it true that you and I are twins, and that we are mirror twins, which is a superior form of twin?
Tobias Manderson-Galvin: This is a boldfaced lie, or misinformation, as I am two years your senior and in no way your twin.

Wait, I don’t understand. What do you mean we’re not twins? I’ve never heard any stories about you before I was born.
Yes there was the story of my first words: when I had seen some birds, then saw either more birds or the original birds for a second time and rightly or wrongly described them as “more birdy.” Also you’re conspicuously absent from the story of my first birthday (Hawaii), first steps (same day as birthday, in Hawaii), and the time that ASIO robbed our family home to steal photos of me (I was two weeks old, and you not born).

Did you ever wish that you had been an only child this is a very sad question I feel sick.
I have entertained the thought ‘what would it be like’, in the same way that I have wondered ‘what if I was dead’, or ‘imagine if we hadn’t done the one million things we’ve done that stop us from being presidents of Australia’ but have never wished it.

Tell me, how did the world begin?
That’s a secret I will only reveal in our show The Eternity Of The World (Parts Missing).

Thank you. Tell me, how did the world end?
Without incident or demonstration of any kind. Having refused the intervention of a priest, a last post to facebook, or even a final signing of an online petition, and having declared you had no revelations, or selfies to make – at first pale and trembling – you soon demonstrated an affected cynicism and exasperation, and in what can only be described as ‘a voice’ sang a few really Five Star Must See Highly Revoltingly obscene lyrics – an ironically failing to pronounce the word anarchy – then as all was put in place you gave out a last cry of “Long Live the Re…”.
Whether the cry was supposed to be Long Live the Republic or Long Live the Revolution we will never – ok it was Revolution. Complete calm reigned.

Kerith Manderson-Galvin and Tobias Manderson-Galvin are performing in The Eternity Of The World (Parts Missing), part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 21 – 22 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

5 Questions with Tom Christophersen and James Dalton

Tom Christophersen

James Dalton: What are the three most common mistakes people make when their house is haunted?
Tom Christophersen: I’m really glad you asked this. This is important stuff. When people encounter paranormal activity they usually do one of the following three, very dumb, things…

1) Deny everything, or worse, blame the strange chewing noises in the attic on the family cat. It’s never the cat. If paranormal reality television is anything to go by, ignoring creepy stuff is just going to bring about your quick and violent demise as the spirits/demons/energy in your house raise the stakes in order to prove its presence to you.

2) Burn the ouija board. Never burn the effin’ ouija board. It’s a portal. Spirits cannot return to the dimension they have been summoned from if you trash the portal. Think demonic ‘Sliders’. Put the board somewhere safe and priest-up. Get the heck blessed out of it and then have it removed and stored far, far away from your mortal soul.

3) Refuse to move. If your walls are bleeding ectoplasm, your children are possessed and your family pets are under spiritual attack, it’s probably best to leave. Immediately. Don’t even pack. Moving house can be financially demanding – but your life is more important than your credit history.

I’m about to die, how can I become a ghost?
Make sure you are really, really sad. Or better yet, furious as hell. It seems that people who die experiencing an extreme negative emotion are more like to imprint their energy onto a place/building/object. Similarly, murder victims often appear as ghosts, echoing clues or messages about their demise to the living. If you have unfinished business on earth, you’re likely to stick around.

You say your dad encountered spirits when you were a child. What lasting effect has this had on you?
At the time I thought it was completely normal. My parents divorced when I was about ten. I have distinct memories of Dad coming over to rental properties we (my mum, my sister and I) were thinking of putting in offers for to ‘check them out’ for ‘anything suss’ – ghosts. It was only when I was a teenager that I started to ask more questions about my dad’s experiences. For the record my father is the very picture of Agnostic-straight-white-Australian-masculinity which added to the mystery of these stories and encounters which became almost unspoken family lore as I grew up in Adelaide. It set up an idea in my head that the fantastic and the domestic could cohabit the same place.

What is queer about ghosts?
The American-based ‘Spiritual Science Research Foundation’ claims that 85% of gay men are possessed by female spirits (reverse that for lesbians). I’m not too sure that math checks out for me personally but it’s a pretty insane answer, right? Honestly though, I think there are ideas of otherness and outsiders that can be related to thinking around queer culture and ghosts. Both these things have been relegated to exist in the specific peripheries in our culture and so hold a certain taboo power. I guess both have the ability to scare people. They are both explainable but not with the scientific tools available to us at the present time. They both make complete sense in my mind.

Who would be a GILF?
So I’m going to assume that they are going to appear in their prime, right? If yes, then James Dean (total queen), River Phoenix… and Elvis because god dammit those eyes.

James Dalton

Tom Christophersen: Why is telling ghost stories in the theatre important?
James Dalton: Theatre is a ghost story. Our stages are haunted and we all huddle together in the dark like toffs at a Victorian séance, waiting to clap the dead away for the night.

Your work is often surreal. Why is surrealism important to you and how does Business Unfinished carry this notion of the fantastic?
Naturalism and realism say “this is how the world ought to be”, but surrealism croaks “this is how the world is”. Talk to children, talk to people up late and anxious, talk to someone in shock, talk to someone manic with joy: they all do, feel and see things that are bent from the norm. It’s unhealthy and worse to hide and deny such things, only telling people how there is a limited way we ought to be.

Business Unfinished is surreal in that you have brought these powerful images from the fringes of your waking life, introduced them to experiences from the fringes of other people’s lives, and share them in a mode that is both endearing and horrifying.

What five items would you insist be included in your personal ghost busting kit?
Audio recorder. Night-vision camera. My great-grandmother’s rosaries. Salt. Thriller on cassette.

What is your favourite scene from a foreign horror film and why?
The final video footage sequence at the end of J-horror classic Noroi: The Curse. It features people standing still in a way that feels wrong, and this is by far the most terrifying thing anyone can ever see.

Where do we go after we die?
We become the song that everyone remembers us dancing to.

James Dalton directs Business Unfinished, written and performed by Tom Christophersen. The show is a part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 27 – 29 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

5 Questions with Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths

Melissa Hume

Gideon Payten-Griffiths: What does the ancient story of Bluebeard make you think about?
Melissa Hume: It makes me think of deception, of a beast with a glistening smile, murder, a marriage mistake, a room full of blood and bones. All of the fun, juicy stuff. It also makes me think and question the concept of doubt. The nameless young woman becomes doubtful that Bluebeard was to blame for the multiple disappearances of his past wives. The doubt is enough for her to agree to marry him. What causes her doubt of his guilt? Is it his wealth, pressure from her family, or his kind, seemingly generous manner?

How does performing in a men’s change room and toilet make you feel and affect your devising process?
Performing in a men’s change room and toilets makes me feel like a theatre rebel! I’m really excited about it because there are so many interesting aspects and items to play with (toilets, taps, showers!) that you don’t usually have in a normal theatre. I’ve performed in site-specific works before and it’s always been an amazing experience. Often the preconceived ideas to how an audience should act are lifted, so it makes it all so immediate and exciting. It affects the devising process because the seating arrangement, architecture, layout and acoustics of the change room/toilets is really different from our rehearsal spaces. So these things need to be kept in mind when we devise and we also need to keep it somewhat flexible and adaptable.

Why are you an artist/performer/actor?
The idea of dying is frightening and the idea of living is also frightening. Somewhere amongst all of that is meaning, and I’m trying to find out what that meaning is through the lens of stories. There’s also nothing that makes me feel quite alive as when I’m working on and performing in a show.

5 desert island necessities?
Toothbrush. Floss. Tampons (such a luxury item). An avocado tree. Bear Grylls.

If you were not an artist/performer/actor, what would you be doing?
I’d be on a desert island with Bear Grylls.

Gideon Payten-Griffiths

Melissa Hume: Bluebeard; Or, The Marriage Mistakes Of A Nameless Bride will be performed in the men’s toilets and change rooms at Bondi Pavilion. Tell me more about this and your experience with non-traditional venues?
Gideon Payten-Griffiths: Unusual contexts and audience relationships has become a big part of my practice. The unexpected can simply thrill the audience or keep them active. It can transform the viewer’s everyday experience of that space or the normally relatable; with this you might talk about what lurks underneath, reveal the unseen. Site specificity can exploit a fusion between art and ‘real life’, offering a beauty and/or an unsettling quality which can provoke or open up the audience. Suspending the everyday creates joy. A men’s change room and loo makes me think of social conventions, competition and intimacy which could reveal (darker) aspects of the (male) psyche. For women entering the space there layers of permission, trust and disgust heightening questions of gender and the roles we play, romance and the mystery of the other. This amplification of the binary has me thinking about seen and unseen sides to the same story. Responding to the physical aspects of this space is also inspiring; the hardness, greyness, moisture, seclusion, compartments, obscured vision, neon lighting. In playing clarinet and other sound in the space, the reverberation, the source of sound and the ambient sounds of Bondi have great potential.

How do you think the audience will be able to relate to this adaptation of the fairytale Bluebeard?
I think we are exploring Bluebeard in terms of what it says about emotional needs, desire, intimacy, fear, trust, aspiration, reputation, gender expectations; all sorts of things we all experience that are in there alongside the far out, suspense, horror and eroticism of a good serial killer tale. Or is it? There is no script, we are re-making this story from scratch and still creating; it will be a contemporary view. It may have some abstraction which might further allow the audience to relate in their own ways. I think we want to resist the simple moral conclusions of a fairytale; that a young woman should be less curious or that Bluebeard is pure evil. It’s a story of courtship and life-altering choices. Meanwhile, we’ve been asking what drives people to extremes, what makes a ‘bad’ person and what is the source cause of horrifying acts; where is the killer in all of us? By the way, its not just a fairytale! These stories of violence happen, today, just around the corner…

Can you tell me your story of how you came to be a performer?
I became a performer when I realised I always was a performer. Having made, sung, danced and acted since an early age it was in my bones. Yes Mel, that meaning and life/death thing can be terrifying. Maybe something about this self-awareness and sensitivity is part of what got me to this profession, or vice versa. After school I went listlessly, and at times pathologically, in other directions. Then, in 2005 I did a training program at PACT centre for emerging artists and remembered I didn’t have to pursue one discipline but could explore the fusion of different practices. I could simply be and artist (person). I realised that being an artist was the only thing I could do – there is a special kind of joy and transcendence it brings. After we’ve taken care of the basics, it’s what we do. When we haven’t or can’t take care of the basics, it’s what we do. I think art in life used to be less about the audience vs. performer and more about a community spirituality. I’m still coming to being a performer. There’s the ongoing research into knowing and harnessing the self, my embodied energy and how to move and project it (in the endless entropy of existence). I love making and performing as an act of empathy, compassion and connection. To question, reflect, break down and see anew. To speak truth to power. To be the jester. I guess it is the sense of purpose to the work that is the real story. Let alone the fun in the play of it!

If your life was to be written as a fairytale, what would the first sentence be?
There was once a fool who lived at the top of an empty hill in a warm little invisible house and dreamed of being a real person. (I reserve the right to change the fairytale at anytime).

Do you have any pre-show superstitions or rituals?
Urinating. Hugging my colleagues (you know like energetic, inter-corporeal ensemble building, we are one, we are many, listening with my feet, seeing you with my elbow!)

Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths are performing in Bluebeard; Or, The Marriage Mistakes Of A Nameless Bride, part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 25 – 29 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

5 Questions with Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox

Harriet Gillies

Pierce Wilcox: Why do you love working with me?
Harriet Gillies: OMG it’s so good, obvi because Pierce is so good at banter game and then writing it down and making me talking shit sound like good dialogue 👍

No, but seriously why do you hate me so much, do we need to step outside?
Let’s GO.

Why is our show the best show?
Because I read out listicles about renaissance babies while we play The Pirates of Penzance music and you shockingly flirt with the audience, and because we drop a bucket of water on our heads. It’s also funny and interesting and cool i think 😉

What’s the worst thing on the internet?
This is such an inappropriate question – how could you Pierce how COULD YOU?! https://www.tweeddailynews.com.au/news/apn-meet-our-brainiest/146070/

I saw you talking to the witch who lives outside the grocery store, Ol’ Grocery Crone. I know she told you your future, don’t lie to me, what did she say?
Um it sounded like the world from that movie Joaquin Phoenix is in, Her and, like, I was Scarlett Johansson’s character omg sexy robot voice Harriet! #socool #thefutureisnow #comeseeourshow #youwillloveit #yqy

Pierce Wilcox

Harriet Gillies: Why is Harriet the best collaborator you have ever had?
Pierce Wilcox: Harriet is so goddamn great that working with her makes me infinitely better, thanks to the mere reflection of her glory. Even standing next to her increases my attractiveness by 300%. Plus she lets me nap on her couch when I get sleepy in rehearsal. I’m a big sleepy boy.

How excited are you about doing our show at Bondi Feast babe?
Girl, I am pinging you know it. I am going to get the worst fucking sunburn. I’ll be a crinkly theatre lobster.

What’s your all time fave audience interaction that we have had in They’ve Already Won?
Months after a run of the show, I starting seeing someone. She admitted that she first got a crush on me because of my performance in They’ve Already Won, but also she was bi and actually liked you more. That counts as interaction.

Do you think Dev Patel is a super babe, sex god, the finest man alive, or all of the above?
Dev Patel is the closest man has come to God’s perfect image. I would like to kiss the inside of his wrist.

What are you thinking about?
One question: is love is enough to save us?

Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox are in They’ve Already Won, part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 26 – 27 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion

Review: Round Heads And Peak Heads (Actors College Of Theatre & Television)

acttVenue: Bondi Pavilion (Bondi NSW), Nov 5 – 9, 2015
Playwright: Bertolt Brecht
Director: Lex Marinos
Cast: Simon Benjamin, Campbell Briggs, Alex Brown, Cait Burley, Sarah Anne Carter, Abbie Coco, Keegan Fisher, Joseph Hallows, Reilly Anne Keir, Richard Littlehales, Angelika Nieweglowski, Jake Scherini, Amy Shapiro, Romney Stanton

Theatre review
Bertolt Brecht premiered Round Heads And Peak Heads in 1936, when Hitler was leading Germany. The play talks about racial persecution, without specifically naming the Jews, and how ethnic minorities are used as a scapegoat of sorts for people in positions of power. It explores the dynamics between greed and justice in a way that is not far different from discourse today, although its cautious language (as a result of censorship) is certainly much more indirect than we are used to.

The production, directed by Lex Marinos, is an energetic one, with variations in texture that occupy our senses, but a more explicit adaptation to current political climes and social concerns would make it more engaging. Performances are uneven in the 14-strong cast, with some talents outweighing others. Cait Burley is a striking Isabella De Guzman, with intense and raw emotion accompanying a studied physicality that displays a daring adventurous spirit. Romney Stanton and Campbell Briggs have interesting roles that they sink their teeth into, both providing colourful portrayals energised by impassioned creativity. Also noteworthy are Angelika Nieweglowski and Alex Brown, who exhibit interesting presences and excellent commitment to their charmingly idiosyncratic roles.

Life is often not fair. Ability does not guarantee success, and hard work does not always see commensurate returns. We exist in predetermined structures that will identify and subjugate the weak, but fortunately in this lucky country, some semblance of democracy exists, and individuals are able to attain their heart’s desires against all odds. What the secret ingredients are, is anyone’s guess, but it is the very definition of success that needs to be evaluated and re-evaluated every step of the way.

www.actt.edu.au