Review: Being Dead (Don Quixote) (MKA Theatre / Unofficial Kerith Fan Club)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Mar 6 – 10, 2018
Creation and performance: Kerith Manderson-Galvin

Theatre review
In Being Dead, Kerith Manderson-Galvin is constantly “corpsing”, or “breaking”, unable to commit to the theatrical device known as a character. This is all a ruse of course, in this avant-garde variant of the Don Quixote story. A work of art is to be created, a show is anticipated to be staged, and the accompanying ambitions are, as always, unimaginably grand. Artists needs to be brave; we expect performers to be polished up, ready and flawlessly poised, but that does not mean a negation of their humanly vulnerabilities.

Manderson-Galvin’s presentation embraces qualities normally prohibited. Hesitant, apologetic, confused and very nervous, the actor reveals all that conventional wisdom deems unsuitable for theatrical consumption. These states of being, although negative, are unquestionably authentic, and within the text’s radical employment, they become saliently relevant to its story of wild aspiration. To dream big, one’s weaknesses cannot be ignored. In throwing one’s all into a project, imperfections too require attention.

The character we see, never really knows when their show begins. They are fearful and indecisive, in a perpetual state of procrastination, but for the audience, it is clear that the performance is underway the moment we see the genius Manderson-Galvin pacing on stage, portraying the fear that grips anyone who wishes to accomplish something extraordinary. It is a strange discipline that is being flaunted, an odd coupling of overt awkwardness and concealed deliberateness. It is false bravado turned inside out, for an experience wonderfully unusual and perversely delightful.

Equally enjoyable are its several sequences of sheer beauty, unpredictable and comforting, gestures of kindness perhaps, to release us of its otherwise stubborn edginess. Lights by Jason Crick and sound by Jules Pascoe, keep the production contained and coherent, pleasant elements that we cling to, like a security blanket, amid Being Dead‘s resolve to challenge and disturb.

Unbeknownst to themself, our protagonist succeeds in their search for something magical. Preoccupied with anxiety, they fail to detect all the good that is being created. Fear is a monster, an adversary to be combated with great fortitude and ferocity. Strength will deliver victories, but stillness is necessary, if the rewards are to be appreciated.

5 Questions with Grace Lauer and Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Grace Lauer

Tobias Manderson-Galvin: You’ve come all the way from Dresden, Germany (via L.A) to be in Puntila/Matti and I wonder as it is the structure of a classic joke: did anything funny happen to you on the way to the theatre? PS it doesn’t have to be funny haha.
Grace Lauer: I had a crazy experience/crazy apparition while driving. 10.30pm so it’s dark. I’m on a part of the autobahn that has no speed limit so I am going quite fast, there is nothing around, no infrastructure, nothing, just road and all of a sudden lit by my headlights I see these white legs in massive heels flash up on the side of the road really close to me like right there .. and then they are gone just as quickly. Or I passed. I’m not sure. I was so perplexed.. and creeped out somehow. A prostitute? The ghost of a prostitute, the legs of a ghost of a prostitute, my imagination? I drove even faster hoping it, they wouldn’t follow me, the ghost legs of the autobahn prostitute, yes that they wouldn’t follow me or it wouldn’t follow me, my imagination – yes that my imagination wouldn’t follow me, leaving it in the dust or better on the tarmac of the autobahn near the spot of the legs of the prostitute the autobahn legs. When I spoke to my brother he offered up the information that street prostitution is very illegal in Germany so neither she nor her legs should have been there really. I didn’t succeed. My imagination is right here with me.

Driving… you play Matti the chauffeur, in Puntila/Matti, so you, I didn’t know this but so you have a licence to drive?
Only a German one. I’ve only driven in Australia a couple of times, I don’t think I’m allowed to. Somehow I got pulled over one of these times and I was so nervous, and I gave him – the policeman – the German licence and he wanted to do the test- the alcohol test. I was giggling uncontrollably and he said ‘Have you been drinking m’am’; and I was really really nervous so I wasn’t blowing properly and then I said, ‘I think I ate an orange yesterday maybe it fermented in my stomach’. And then my mother – who was in Australia, she was in the passenger seat – said “it’s my daughter’s first breathalyser can we take a photo please,” I failed three more times to do the breathalyser test and my mother wouldn’t stop taking photos so the policeman let us go.

The ghost on the street is that the only ghost you’ve ever seen?
One other time. I was running a race in year four. And I got teamed up with a guy. And the guy- so the girl were running the race. And the guys were side lined supporting you as cheer squad. So I got teamed up with this guy I was MASSIVELY in love with. And I remember running and being in front but Deborah K. was running next to me and she was much taller and had longer legs than me and so like I recall running and then the gym teacher was like ‘come on guys support your girl’ and this guy was cheering so loud and I was like ‘I NEED TO WIN THIS’ and then it wasn’t like a prayer or something but in my head I was like ‘please please run faster’ and I just shot off and won this race by like metres and metres and so that was my first encounter with a ghost. Or even the ghost.

Did you win your sweetheart’s affection?
Not until years later and we went out for quite a while. We ‘dated’. I never told the boy about the ghost though and it didn’t last. The crazy thing and I was talking about this to some filmmakers in a sauna in LA. At least they said they were filmmakers. And also it seemed like everyone has their own radio station or podcast in L.A. So anyway they seemed to subscribe to this proto-Freudian, cult-like concept that everyone has an experience between the ages of like 5 to 8 years old that defines your whole life. For me it was winning that race.

But you became an actor not a runner. So how is this your defining moment?
It was a moment of realisation- no believing, let’s say, that there is this potential for a greater benevolent force. So I’m not sure I’m totally 100 percent comfortable with Matti killing Puntila at the end. We can give spoilers here right?

Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Grace Lauer: Have you ever seen ghosts?
You know we’re in Puntila/Matti, not Ghosts at Belvoir right?

I’m asking the questions. So have you?
Once I saw a dragon. I was visited by the Patron Saint of Telemarketing. I’ve communed with angels. I can travel my soul into other people’s bodies and control them like puppets. I can manifest balls of pure energy and all four elements. I can know anyone’s deepest desires by hearing only their cough. There is a spirit panther that follows me sometimes. But no I’ve never seen a ghost.

Speaking of Freud, have you ever seen a psychologist?
A psychiatrist/therapist actually; I went for 12 weeks. Each week she (the doctor) would say ‘I’m really sorry my office is being used by a colleague so we need to use this other room today I normally use for children. So we’d meet in this room full of stuffed toys. She said get comfortable so I arranged all the toys on the couch with me; with a fluffy anaconda around my neck as a scarf. She’d ask questions and sometimes the toys would answer. At the end of the twelve weeks I said to her: ‘So what’s wrong with me doc?’ She said nothing but I was very entertaining and she felt guilty that she’d been the one getting paid for the time. I never returned.

We had 14 walk outs on the second preview; does that bother you?
Once I did a show with an audience of 5. I didn’t like the attitude of three of them so I kicked them out. The show is not for everyone. Tolerance has its limits. I bumped into the three on the street later that night and they said ‘you’re the worst comedian we’ve ever seen’. I said ‘You didn’t see me.’ Turned out one of the two people that I left in the audience was a reviewer. Five stars.

There’s a fair bit of play between yourself and the audience that you didn’t tell me about in rehearsal. Does that happen when you go to other people’s shows?
Only if it feels appropriate. I once threw a show at punk hardcore luminary Henry Rollins’ spoken word concert (at Rollins himself), and he seemed pretty chill with it, but then beat me up in the carpark afterwards while his manager shouted ‘take a photo and post it on the internet, punk, no-one will ever believe you’. So I pick my battles now. But still- F*** you, Rollins.

Grace Lauer and Tobias Manderson-Galvin are performing in Puntila/Matti, part of Sydney Fringe 2017.
Dates: 25 Sep – 14 Oct, 2017
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: Puntila Matti (MKA Theatre / Doppelgangster)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 25 – Oct 14, 2017
Playwright: Tobias Manderson-Galvin (after Bertolt Brecht and Hella Wuolijoki)
Director: Tobias Manderson Galvin
Cast: Antoniette Barboutis, Grace Lauer, Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Image by Rupert Reid

Theatre review
We are told that the show’s departure point is Brecht’s 1940 script Mr Puntila And His Man Matti, but not much else can be certain in anyone’s reading of Tobias Manderson-Galvin’s Puntila Matti. Its deliberately bewildering enactment of a chaotic aesthetic, places us in a theatre that is less about stories, and more about experience and experiment, with time as a foregrounded instrument of its artistic practice. We look at a juxtaposition of bodies within time (and space) to garner meaning from any work of theatre, and in the case of Puntila Matti, we are challenged to find a way to appreciate and to comprehend all the riotous action, when its creators intentions seem to be to obfuscate the original narratives on which the show is built.

Manderson-Galvin acknowledges the European history so intimately entangled in the Western art of Australia. If Bertolt Brecht is present in every official form of theatre education disseminated on our land, then this relationship we endure, with a distant past from a faraway region, has to be interrogated. We can try to ignore old Europe’s stifling domination, and pretend to create new voices that are transparently offshoots of that heritage, or we can examine it with irreverence and subversion, as is done in Puntila Matti. Manderson-Galvin reframes Brecht in his own words, then makes them distorted and unintelligible, almost Dadaist in style. This is not a play about dependable dialogue and consistent characters. It is about the establishment, and how we can confront it.

The centrepiece is Manderson-Galvin himself, an imposing figure, wildly energetic and disarmingly intuitive as live performer. A fearlessness in his approach provides assurance of a man in charge, but it also keeps us on our toes, compelled and vigilant in the absence of the fourth wall convention. Grace Lauer provides a sense of anchor to proceedings, a necessary counterbalance that gives texture and dynamism to the presentation. Antoinette Barboutis is on the periphery, playing disoriented narrator with remarkable comedy, consistently, and delightfully, stealing the show from under the key performers.

When we come to recognise the bad in our inheritance, the brave will seek reparation. If our art is broken, it only makes sense that the most innovative of us, will attempt to find solutions. Reacting to the racist, sexist, homophobic, classist (you get the drift) systems in which we have to operate, requires that all participants, practitioners as well as audiences, must learn to face up to the new. It will be awkward, perplexing, even distressing, but those are sensations inherent in any true and radical emancipation. We may never be able to entirely abandon the past, but in rejecting the familiar and the comforting, we know that a genuine progression is in process.

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