The Way Out

Close your eyes, really tight, breath the clean air and even just a for a second, imagine a bleak and dystopian place that has snatched from us all that is great about this country. Now, was that difficult, or is it not so much of a far reaching prophecy?

For debuting play-write Josephine Collins, this is the backdrop to which her characters and narrative are set. The writing is tightly wound stuff, taking the form of a rambling conversation shared over a pint in some backwater pub with an old timer, busy spinning yarns ’bout old time.

From the perspective of this being the first full length theatrical work written by Collin’s, there’s a finite attention to detail, a strongly developed nuance of the interaction between and the importance of character and back story.  The allusion to narrative device is a deliberate choice, lingering questions left post performance. It’s  undeniably political without being brash, and a strong example of activism through art. The Way Out touches upon and references the current day in an eerie and eluding way. The mention of bodies being strung up along the exterior of Flinders St Station, a beautiful image and notion to introduce. Here similarities can be drawn to the recent adaption to screen of Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale.

Penny Harpham, director, has really brought to life these characters and their story. Particularly drawing out and using the overriding testosterone seeping from the pores of the loping young male characters. Odd moments of humour appear and simmer, each performer and their intertwined stories ricochet off each other and with a great rhythm found already, so early into it’s season. The richness offered up makes for a strong basis, but some characters do need to soften a little.

Bringing the dystopian future into a visual reality, the work of set designer Charlotte Lane, here transforming the intimate Red Stitch Theatre into a ramshackle pub a location and set not dissimilar to scenes from Fury Road. Lit beautifully, and with elements of the se extending further than the stage itself, this production easily traverses the fourth wall . 

Noting that Bruce Springsteen was to some degree the inspiration for the musical score- created by Daniel Dixon, may seem a curious choice, but the more one thinks about this obvious conclusions between countries and times do emerge. His resulting collaboration and work on this production is a nice edition, and gives a cinematic edge to the production.

This work has been a labour of love for so many, with creative development spanning a number of years. Made a reality by Red Stitch and their INK program, it’s a bold choice to support the presentation of new material by a new playwright, and for this Red Stitch have triumphed. Truely great theatre. 

For more info, or to book your tickets click here.








2017 NICHE

Kicking round the local theatre scene and treading the boards both locally and further afield for around a decade, Elbow Room have once again delivered a potent work, dripping with their trademark darwinistic style. Niche bridges such far divides as our evolution from primate to man to now, where in an almost canabilistic fashion we seek out, hunt and consume the popular culture corporations feed us and is sought through social media feeds.

It’s fanciful stuff, sometimes dwelling that moment to long on a single point of contention, to only, secondly laters break into the most extravagant musical interludes that would make even the most seasoned drag queen moist at the crutch.

The music plays a huge part in this performance, the creative love child of Eryn Jean Norvill, Marcel Dorney and Robin Waters. If ever their careers in theatre fail (which is not at all likely), they could easily break out into the world of popular music and production- move over Gaga.

A two hander, with the performances of Emily Tomlins and Erym Jean Norvill impressive particularly in final scenes where the power play between these two woman channels just a little  Baby Jane. The on stage action is constantly disrupted by projections of both actresses, taking on roles that in direct response challenge, mimic and criticise the Australian identity for want of a better definition. These mise en scènes providing a much need comedic antidote;  

Lighting is used effectively, however the production team may have spent more time assessing how the performance, and it set respond to and sits within in space. Site lines, here are an unfortunate issue. 

For all the glitter, the performance does perhaps reach an uneasy and to early crescendo, with final scenes missing several exits off this freeway of cataclysmic exploitation it. But not with standing, the proceeding fifty minutes of theatre is well worth the ticket price.

I first discovered the work of Elbow Room nine years ago, then presenting upstairs at the Lithuanian Club in North Melbourne, as part of Melbourne Fringe. After what has been close enough to a decade,  to now reconnect with this company, has been a privilege, and stands as an example of the strength, resilience and talent present here in Melbourne. They may be continuing to reach maturity and the depth that other contemporaries have reached, but this work is certainly a step in the right direction and they are damn close to delivering us a knock out performance.

You will walk away from this one, barely able to register what has just transpired, in the most beautiful way. With the banging soundtrack playing on loop inside your head for days to come. Niche plays Northcote Town Hall this week till Saturday, get on it folks.

For more info, or to book tickets click here

The Real And Imagined History Of The Elephant Man

Melbourne audiences have recently been offered up a plethora  of theatrical works made in the same gothic style, brooding, incomplete and fanciful experiences. This work may however remain proof that a tight production, abundance of smoke effects, emotive sound, lights and everything else at your disposal, won’t always prove enough to wow an audience. 

The dramatic exploitation of physically disabled characters. Parallels drawn between London in years proceeding the industrial revolution and our present, here unspoken truth of climate change. These parallels between place and person proof enough of the works artistic merit.  But when a vast majority of art and theatre now collectively seek to push an agenda or incite conversation, each voice has to be  heard louder than the last.

The script limits the depth of these characters, none granted enough premise to foster connection. A radical empathy or sense there of, desperately missing. Having single performers take to multiple characters here has back fired, the resulting effect is confusing, oft missing the mark. The heightened sense of reality which builds in opening scenes, seemingly promises something great; but dissipates quickly. With all the important bits like character, connection, back story and plot lost, the performance canters along and soon falls into its own fail safe rhythm.

There is no great ending or resonate sensation left post performance. Theatre centres around and is at its best a study into the human condition. Not just a moment, but something which is documented, archived and kept. This work aught to be so much more, so much better than it is. Could it be that classic story telling is dead or now lacks some of its resonance? Could a fresh approach to this subject matter, more time or a more intuitive knowledge of the creative fabric that is Melbourne, given us what this performance should have been?

This work has great bone structure though little else. See it for the spectacle, but don’t look to close, nor think to deeply- this is decent theatre, but still leaves much to be desired.

The Real And Imagined History Of The Elephant Man is now playing at Malthouse Theatre, for more info or to book you tickets click here

ST KILDA ART CRAWL 21 – 24 Sept 2017

Born from universal art and culture. Inspired by California’s successful community strengthening Venice Art Crawl and fuelled by St Kilda’s passionate grass roots’ creatives.  The St Kilda Art Crawl has arrived.

Similar to St Kilda’s sister city of Venice Beach in California and like the Venice Art Crawl, St Kilda Art Crawl is a not for profit incentive for the people by the people.

It’s aim is to galvanise community spirit and co operation by proactively integrating the business world with the world of art and culture. The life blood of any great city.  This is a unified drive inviting St Kilda’s local artist, musicians, writers, poets and street artists to share and celebrate who they are with the world.

As well as combined effort and support from the local traders, artists will be supported by extensive media coverage through TV, Radio and online media.

The World is Your Oyster so get involved!

Last night Wilbur Wilde was MC at Acland Street’s Veludo Cafe host to the second Mixer for SKAC bringing together artists, enthusiasts and local traders in preparation for the next St Kilda Art Crawl on the 22 – 23 of September 2017 – a week before the grand final; and with a collaborative spirit SKAC and VAC will be streaming events via their mutual Facebook pages linking the sister cities in celebration.

Original SKAC member Mick Pacholli in Q & A

Original SKAC member Mick Pacholli in Q & A

Colonel Pietro Iodice chairman of SKAC in Q & A

Colonel Pietro Iodice chairman of SKAC in Q & A

Geoffrey Fry SKAC Creative Director in Q & A

Geoffrey Fry SKAC Creative Director in Q & A


Enthusiastic brethren

Coin Talbot with partner Liz with Jean and Wilbur Wilde MC for the evening

Coin Talbot with partner Liz, friend  Jean and Wilbur Wilde MC for the evening

Film by MYnewsroom Tim & Simon Barnett & Photographs and promo byKerrie Pacholli



Pins and Needles

Written by Thomas Ian Doyle
Directed by Gabrielle Savrone

Lucinda Cowden
Mardi Edge
Aston Elliot
David Macrae
Ticket Bookings

A cutting comedy exploring the love and the lives of two middle-aged married couples who decide that it’s time to explore their silent sexual desires. Carolyn and Gregg set the table, whilst Joe and Fay make the bed, as they all venture to navigate love in the modern generation. But with their younger years behind them, this proves more adventuresome than expected.

4th -13th October, 8pm

Bowie and Mercury Rising

Chapel Off Chapel – July 26-30 2017

International composer Warren Wills’ tribute to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie is a visual mess. This bemusing mishmash of montage, interpretive dance and lasers does little to honour the memories of these late icons. The often-convoluted arrangements highlight Wills’ skills rather than allowing the music to shine, detracting from the tribute.

From the obvious head shots of Bowie and Mercury through to seemingly random stock images of scenery, the projected montage has the coherence and professionalism of a school PowerPoint presentation. The transitions between images are choppy and they seem to serve no purpose other than filling in space.

Fortunately, Melbourne RnB singer and actress Thando Sikwila, whose credits include Dreamgirls and The Colour Purple, graces Chapel Off Chapel with her powerhouse vocals once again for Bowie and Mercury Rising. Offering some redemption for the disorienting visuals, Sikwila’s rich, smooth vocals supported by Wills on piano are the main draw for the show.

Inexplicably marketed as a musical, Bowie and Mercury Rising is more cabaret than musical, and more ‘inspired-by’ than tribute. Sikwila is given the host-esque role of cohering the performance, but her awkward dialogue of puns and impersonal anecdotes between songs fall flat. Don’t expect a story and don’t expect an emotional journey; there’s little in terms of narrative to guide the audience, and Sikwila unfortunately lacks the warmth and charisma needed to drive the performance in this role.

The show’s lighting budget appears to have been allocated to gear rather than design. Jason Bovaird’s light design demonstrates the same lack of cohesion as the other elements of the show. Late in the performance, a short laser show is as unexpected as it is underwhelming, apparently moving through all available settings rather than having any semblance of structure. Lights also occasionally blind the audience; squinting at the stage through the brightness, I can see I’m not the only one shielding my eyes from the glare.

Melbourne dancer Jessica Mortlock is undoubtedly talented, but her contribution to the show does little to ease the jarringly incohesive show. From writhing beneath sheets to gyrating atop the piano and later donning retro clothing to enthusiastically grin dance like the next member of High-5, Mortlock’s choreography treats each song as an individual show with no thought to the overarching performance. Mortlock clashes energetically with the laid back Sikwila, gently swaying while she sings.

Bowie and Mercury Rising should probably come with an epilepsy warning and complimentary sunglasses. Nevertheless, Sikwila and Wills will at least entertain you with this Bowie- and Mercy-inspired cabaret.



 PYT Fairfield                                                                                                            Lead artist: Karen Therese                                                                                      Arts House North Melbourne, July 20-23

Some very interesting things are happening in the arts in western Sydney just now. Quietly, and with surprisingly little attention from the rest of Australia, a remarkably fertile cultural milieu has developed.

Perhaps the best exemplar is PYT Fairfield, which seems to be going from strength to strength. PYT Fairfield is led by Karen Therese, an artist of singular dedication and strength of vision. In recent years, Therese has emerged as one of the most exciting voices in Australian culture, largely on the back of her work at PYT Fairfield, and with a small but significant amount of support from funding bodies.

Tribunal is a meaty and quietly passionate play that picks at the scabs of Australian politics and identity. Originally staged at Griffin last year in Sydney, this is its first trip away on tour. 

Tribunal’s conceit is as a kind of Australian truth and reconciliation commission, presided over by an indigenous elder, Aunty Rhonda Grovenor Dixon. On trial is Australia’s recent immigration policies, and, by implication, Australia itself. 

Bringing together the voices of Afghan refugees and the Australian human rights lawyers and Red Cross workers who try to help them, Tribunal presents the dilemmas of forced migration and militarised borders with a knobbly but by no means pessimistic realism. The story is a familiar one, and yet here it is rendered fresh.

The key story is that of Afghan Hazara refugee Mahdi Mohammadi, a young actor-director forced to flee Kabul after his feminist theatre troupe came to the attention of the Taliban. Mohammadi’s story is perhaps atypical of the plight of refugees globally: displaced by violence, he was lucky enough to be judged a genuine refugee and gain safety in a rich nation. In contrast, as he reminds us, many aren’t so lucky, including a friend currently locked up in Australia’s immigration jail in Nauru.

But Mohammadi’s story is also important in that he reminds us why people want to come to Australia in the first place: not just to escape violence and war, but also to build a new life for themselves and their families. It is only by attacking or ignoring the individual stories of people like Mahdi Mohammadi that the citizens of rich democracies like Australia can pretend that our policies are in any way generous, liberal or humane.

Every show needs a star, and Mohammadi is it. He portrays his journey with quiet assurance and deep integrity. It’s a kind of theatre that reminds you that name actors, expensive sets and cutting-edge sound designs are entirely superfluous to the basic and universal human experience of narrative. Also impressive were Katie Green, playing a disillusioned Red Cross worker, and Paul Dwyer, playing a series of officious Department of Immigration bureaucrats.

What made Tribunal so refreshing for me was the rediscovery of a type of theatre that had once seemed almost extinct in this country. After its hay day in the 1980s, community theatre was systematically attacked by hostile funding bodies in the 2000s, culminating in the disastrous abolition of the Community Cultural Development Board of the Australia Council in 2005. The reasons were complex, but they boiled down to elitist disdain for a supposed lack of artistic quality. 

By the early 2010s, Australian stages seemed to have been taken over by an ostentatious and showy style of theatre, in which classic texts were used as vehicles for star directors to demonstrate their mastery of spectacle.  

In contrast, Tribunal taps into different theatrical traditions, and asks very different questions of its audience. Despite a few rough edges at certain moments, there was no lack of craft on display. 

By insisting on presenting the voices of real asylum seekers, woven into a true narrative, PYT Fairfield has given us a genuinely radical work of theatre. Instead of the faux-verite of a Simon Stone, here we saw real people inhabiting their life experiences, in a way that was none-the-less powerfully theatrical. The result was both moving and profoundly satisfying.

Merciless Gods

It’s so refreshing to see some great theatre being produced, though calling Little Ones stage adaption of the work by Christos Tsiolkas “great” seems almost reductive. It’s impossible not to be simultaneously blown away yet also drawn inwardly into this performance. Each of the spiralling narratives builds to an unsettling end, as all of the sexual tension explodes and enigmatic energy comes simmering to the surface. 

This is the gritty underside of Australia, the kind of places, people and situations that are brought down and into disrepute by our main stream contemporaries and media outlets. It takes no prisoners and it’s bleak bordering on the dystopian. This sense achieved not by painting the big picture but instead tapping into the psychological landscape that lies just below. 

The ensemble give in to their respective characters, the over lapping and playing of multiple roles by a single performer is at times a confusing, but deliberate choice. Many times over, you experience just drifting away and becoming lost in many of the heavy passages of text and about this, there is something meditative. Other times, you are brought back into the moment so viscously that you are reduced to tears. The subject matter is unflinching, a terminally ill man who has given consent for his wife and children to administer a lethal dose or the bombing of a gay sauna and rampant sexual exploitation just some of the many themes. 

The eye to detail that has been applied to this production by each creator is evident and the picture they manage to paint proves a sumptuous backdrop.  The stage forms a sharp and abrupt shape that teeters out from a rich red velvet curtain, the audience flanked on two sides,  everything here has been edited down to a distinct colour pallet of blue orange yellow and red. The lighting design is second to none, it’s subtle and its refinement gives further depth to an already layered work. 

Nothing can prepare you for this level of awesomeness, it is the very best independently produced locally made theatre we have seen this so far year. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended, this work is important and will be spoken of for sometime to come. An easy prediction to clean up at next year Green Room Awards, Merciless Gods is now playing at Northcote Town Hall.

For more info or to book your tickets click here


Respectable Thief Nástio Mosquito

Projects 104: Nástio Mosquito “Respectable Thief” Performer: Nástio Mosquito The Museum of Modern Art Titus 2 Theater New York, N.Y. September 23, 2016 Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Respectable Thief – where to begin exactly? This is a work which is as much layered as it is a superficial and visceral experience that skirts around a concept, never quite giving to us, the full picture. Powerful, evocative and immersive, each element here works in duality to present a vision that has evidently been granted time enough to develop.

The words of Nástio Mosquito cut deep, loaded with subtle commentary on the social and political spectrum of the world in 2017. Not only do the words of this amazing performer resonate, but his physicality vocals and attitude go almost too far, toe-ing a precarious line between art and arrogance. Self assurity only works when the performance is good enough to carry such bravado, and Respectable Thief is more than good enough.

The lighting and video, both the work of Nástio Mosquito and key collaborator Vic Pereiró are both heavily stylised, and this approach results in a visual continuity on par with the best. It’s hard not to draw parallels by the work of Chunky Move in recent years with Complexity of Belonging and Lucid as two good examples. But what makes this work different is it’s honesty, the way it presents as both a polished and unpolished thing. The narrative is almost intangible yet you know it’s there, the rhythm and the sharp manner in which each following scene proceeds, giving this performance enough momentum to propel the whole thing towards closing scenes. The comedic elements and interaction with the audience also two clever components which further cement a connection. 

The soundtrack to the work is awesome, loud and bashful, littered at times with the faintest hint of synth hooks and the kind of beats that have you re-listening to a song many times over. In fact, this is the kind of performance you could revisit several times only to rediscover something new upon each return.

Arts House has this past week chosen to present two very similar works, with Tales Of An Afronaut also enjoying a debut season. The only suggestion to be put forward is to witness both of these works back to back, with the above mentioned performance offering the perfect opening accompaniment. The team behind the presentation of works at this note worth Melbourne institution continue to impress. If other venues would be so bold, then Melbourne would continue to mature as a respected place where multiculturalism and inclusion are a given.

See this work while you can. For more info or to book you ticket click here

Incognito a one-act play at Red Stitch Theatre, East St Kilda.

Jing-Xuan Chan & Kate Cole

There’s no doubt  Incognito is a fascinating and adventurous piece of theatre.  What else? Okay, intriguing and mysterious. And the probability is that some audiences will totally get it, the possibility is also some (members of this audience or that) will leave scratching their noggins, trying to stimulate the grey matter inside the skull…for the brain is a locus for the plot in this four-hander.

 Ben Prendergast & Kate Cole

Ben Prendergast & Kate Cole

Incogni Incogn Inco Incognito is mysterious in several ways as it stretches through time and the actors are required to play with character. Technically, for ‘the actor’, the play is demanding, with each player required to play at least four characters, and as many as six, without benefit of costume change, or off-stage moments to re frame. Four actors and 21 characters. So now is the moment to play the critic and to assert that the four actors were fabulous, none did falter a line and in the show I saw, the second-only public performance, well the sold-out audience couldn’t stop the applause. The actors, Ben Prendergast, Kate Cole, Paul Ashcroft (all seasoned Red Stitch players) and guest Red Stitcher Jing-Xuan Chan, well deserved it. And throw in Directors Ella Caldwell and Brett Cousins & the rest of the crew. Incognito stimulating, I enjoyed it. The play was presented in minimalist-ish fashion, with a dodgy piano and a jar with brain bits pretty much the only stage props…well as stage objects, include the constant presence of the whole cast. You’ll understand if you go.

What’s it all about, Albert? Well, it’s sort of about Albert E’s brain, about the Einsteinian space-time continuum, about brain trauma, about same sex sorties and space-time ‘wormholes’ but essentially about a lot of ‘who am I?’ Maybe ‘who was I?’ and ‘Who will I become?’

Colin Talbot’s full dissertation on this play can be read here in Toorak Times