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

Cashing In On Queer Culture?

There has been some negative comment circulating in regards to Melbourne Festivals listed ticket price for Taylor Mac. Mac is a performer or more-so true embodiment of queer reverence, with a career forged through the bars and night clubs of New York. A narrative many can relate to, but Mac has achieved the kind of international recognition for their tireless pursuit of creative expression and visibility, that most only dream of.  Collaborator of prominent Melbourne theatre company, MKA and queer identifying performance artist Kerith Manderson-Galvin spoke with TAGG on the issue;

“I guess I just think there are already a lot of opportunities that queer people miss out on or are left out of.”- Continuing, Manderson-Galvin says “The festival website says it looks back on rebellions and revolutions- and I wonder what a financially inaccessible show offers us for revolution now, and what future we have to look forward to.”
 
There is a huge but not often discussed class divide within the GLBTIQ community, on one hand you have a select group of often white, cis gender males who have progressed through life to land in a moderate place of comfort. On the other end of the spectrum we have our trans brothers and sisters as example; who often still face difficulty and rejection from those both inside and out of our community. So it’s a grand gesture that speaks of more than the artistic integrity of Melbourne Festival that they bring to us the work of this artist. Not only as an opportunity for the GLBTIQ community to come together but also granting us a highly visible and public queer figure to be present at a time where topics such as marriage equality are still hotly contested. 

 

Speaking with Richard Watts on 3RRR’s SmartArts yesterday Jonathan Holloway Melbourne  Festival Director, responded to the issue by explaining.

 
“It is a work about inclusion that starts at 39 dollars with cheaper tickets discounted for people under 30 or in the industry for Taylor’s work. Of which you can see a one and half hour performance, a whistle stop tour for about forty bucks. Which i think is fairly good for a Hamer Hall or Forum Show.”
 
“Yes if you then want to see the full 24 hour marathon of which there are a 850 seats, the very top ticket price is 699 dollars. It is 150 performers and 50 crew members working for two weeks just on this piece one piece of work. And nobody is doing it for nothing, we pay absolutely everyone who is involved.”
 
“Once you start saying 200 people, of which 33 of them are flying in from New York. Doing something and telling a story that will be incredible; you get to the point where actually the level of subsidy that goes on top of that is absolutely worth it. And when you just work out the economics, there was no way to do it without that top ticket price.”
 
“But for me the 100 something people that are from the community who are performing and who are involved, that’s where the inclusion also is, aside from the audience.”
 
So there are compelling arguments being put forward by both sides, but is enough being done, and what will the final response be from Melbourne’s QLBTIQ and arts communities? For Melbourne Festival, its perhaps a moment of opportunity for them to further cement their relations with these communities instead of ostracising individuals whom are already forced to exist on the margins. 

Wani’s Tale Of An Afronaut

If there is a work that brings to the surface both the triumph of the personal, or the continued fight of a collective identity, its this one. Tales Of An Afronaut so perfectly paints an uncomfortable truth, a reality that we either except or choose to ignore.

There is a rhythmic energy to the deliverance of words that are wondrously constructed, sharp and poiant reflections on a theme, they rain down on the audience like spit fire. Gracefully eloquent, precise and to the point, this performance doesn’t mess around,  drawing parallels between communities both in Australia and abroad.

Black deaths in custody are unfortunately a dark and unsettling reality of which future generations will hopefully reflect upon. We need only look as far as the injustice served upon those youth in Don Dale Detention Centre to understand this reality. Tales Of An Afronaut could be seen as a study into the very essence of powerful and politically charged work and the way in which art delivers upon creating a positive discourse.

Presented at Arts House, the performance is set in the round within a small upstairs space, the sense of intimacy afforded here really heightens the whole experience. The narrative structured around a series of interconnected vignettes with Wani’s emotive verse and the use of projection and sound giving a greater scope and depth of field. The work however could have gone deeper and there are some scenes where the juxtaposition between images could have been further developed. The raw and unpolished qualities are not without their benefit, indeed much of this performances honesty comes from this place.

Autobiographical works of this nature not only provide the artist a way in which they can share their personal stories, but also in-turn they provide audiences with an insight into a culture or community they sit outside of. The question remains of how far reaching this, or for that matter, any performance within the same genre actually is. Because this is a great piece of theatre an you want to believe it will make an impact. The thought that things such as racism and classism still exist in 2017 is a deeply unsettling thought, and is a reality that we must all come together to combat regardless of who we are, or where we come from.

Perhaps this review looks to deeply at the performance and misses the mark completely, as a non person of colour, these observations are only my own. So see it for yourself this week at Arts House and draw your own conclusions.

For more info or to book your tickets click here

Melbourne Festival Our Top Ten

The Melbourne Festival program has just been released. Once again, for 18 days this October it will unify, divide, enchant and entice our city with some of the most colourful, bright and brilliant acts from around the world. Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway describing the selection of this years program  as having

“Searched the world for the most courageous, visionary and ambitious artists: artists who are actively taking on the biggest subjects with flair, excitement and drive. We have drawn together as many of them as possible to create a blockbuster that attempts to remind us all what humankind is capable of.”

The 2017 line up has something for everyone and TAGG will again this year be bringing our readers the very best of the festival. To kick things off, here’s our top 10 picks.

 

Tanderrum

For the fifth year, Melbourne Festival opens with the celebration of the ground on which we stand and the people whose ancestors walked it before our time. Performed by the clans of the Kulin Nation, through Tanderrum we acknowledge the lore of creator spirit Bunjil and pay their respects to the vibrant and living culture of this land.

Federation Square Wednesday the 4th of October at 6.30pm.

Tom Waits’ Black Rider: The Casting Of The Magic Bullets 

It maybe hard for one to go wrong with an opera penned by Tom Waits that has on it’s bill  both Meow Meow and Paul Capsis, these two veteran performers have and continue to delight Australian Audiences. Presented by Malthouse Theatre this work continues on a bit of a trend for gothic theatre that has emerged in Melbourne and should prove to be an impactful performance.

Playing at the Malthouse Theatre from Friday the 15th of October.

All The Sex I Have Ever Had

As part of Melbourne Festival 2016, Hair Cuts By Children placed scissors in the hands of school kids and allowing them to play barber for some of the more intrepid Melbourne Festival patrons. This year the same creative team Mammalian Diving Reflex brings us something a little different. With Seniors taking the seat to talk about sex, life and longevity. Because let’s face it, we all do it and it certainly isn’t a new invention.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse from Thursday the 12th of October.

Bangsokol: A Requiem For Cambodia

Over two million Cambodians, were in the 1970’s, murdered. But in the face of this genocide and over the proceeding 40 years, a resilient and strong community has grown. Giving voice to a country which is still reeling from such unimaginable events. Spanning song, film, dance, voice and orchestra this is the first major symphonic work to commemorate the atrocities that played out in Cambodia

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne Hamer Hall on Friday the 13th & Saturday the 14th of October.

Tree Of Codes

If any performance this festival  promises to deliver “Epic” it has to be this one. Having wowed audiences across the world, Tree Of Codes finally touches down in Australia premiering as part of this years Melbourne Festival. Between dance, light and structure, this is the work of three of the world most resplendent artists Wayne McGregor, Olafur Eliasson, and Jamie xx.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre from Tuesday the 17th of October.

Ever

Now settled into their new digs at Temperance Hall, BallatlLab under the guise of Phillip Adams, for this years festival gives us Ever. A transformative, painterly expression of vibrant minimalism and chromatic Romanticism morphing Shaker and Quaker roots and nostalgic tropes of the American West. 

Playing at Temperance Hall from Friday the 6th of October.

Ayoung Kim

Korean artist Ayoung Kim’s work is for the first time presented in Australia through dual exhibitions, Porosity Valley, Portable Holes and In This Vessel We Shall Be Kept. To walk through an exhibition by this artists akin to taking a voyage across dark and eerie waters, where real events rub shoulders with myth and memories are made mutable.

Exhibiting at Collingwood Arts Precinct, The Gym and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Mueller Hall Herbarium from Friday the 6th of October.

Under Siege 

A chance to see one of China’s most epic stories reinvented as one of this century’s most ravishing spectacles. The work of renowned Chinese choreographer and dancer Yang Liping this is her vision of the climactic battle between Chu and Han armies; an encounter that changed the course of Chinese history.

Playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre from Thursday the 5th of October. 

Dark Circus

A riotous work for all ages, Dark Circus makes its Australian debut for Melbourne Festival audiences. Combining shadow puppetry, live illustration and hand drawn animation they present a scripted piece that is never the same twice. The resulting effect, is something close to “cinema without film”.

Playing at the Malthouse Theatre from the 5th of October.

Taylor Mac: A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music

From 1776 to 2016 this is a decade-by-decade account of American history and popular culture, told by the unmissable Taylor Mac. Re told from a radical, queer and unapologetic view point, these stories are often forgotten, dismissed, or buried. Part celebration, part exorcism, all party, this extravaganza will take its place as one of the most spectacular moments Melbourne has ever witnessed.

Playing at Forum Theatre and Hamer Hall Arts Centre Melbourne from Thursday the 5th of October.

With this being just the tip of the iceberg, head to the Melbourne Festival website to find out about many of other great offerings this years festival promises local audiences. 

Frankenstien

Presented by Theatre Works and Don’t Look Away and written by Lally Katz, this a modern interpretation of work penned by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Oddly beautiful, and uncomfortable in it’s own skin this production is laced with some potent undertones but more importantly it’s just damn good fun all round.

This is Frankenstein, but not as you would know the fabled character, nor his beastly creation, instead stripping back the work to uncover and explore notions of the outsider. It’s a blistering two hander, where in a flurry of scenes, Victor, over come with self loathing, battles with the idea of playing parent, while the rampant need for normality that his creature seeks, provides this work its centrifuge. Break out musicality, evocative lighting and a glitzy eighties vibe, completing this perfectly realised work. 

Other, less obvious choices adopted further extend upon themes of family, belonging and acceptance, it is a work that despite its surrealist vision, speaks directly of themes that through their universality will always prove contemporary. A connection to the work is easily established through The Creature, and unlikely in-road, but you feel for her, and her desire for love and affection. 

Both performances delivered by Chantelle Jamieson and Michael McStay are stoic and well refined, though they just need more time to really sink into the rhythm of the performance. Moments of strong physicality do emerge but are not delivered to their full potential, lacking a little in self assurance. Richard Whitehouse, who here is responsible for the lighting, has delivered a really beautiful component that unifies and further deepens the mood and aesthetic. Director Phil Rouse, has added a subversive and surreal undertone to the performance also.

Some technical issues dogged the performance, audio levels need to be addressed as do some of the projections used, but as the performance finds its feet and settles into the run, these should easily be ironed out.

An impressive, thought provoking work wrapped up into a tight one hour package, Frankenstein is now playing at Theatre Works until the 29th of July, for more info or to book your tickets click here 

We All Know What’s Happening

The rich, colourful and checkered history of an island, that lies just off the coast of ours, provides the narrative and the once perfect, tropical backdrop to this performance. But as the performance traces the lineage from past to present, the effects of colonisation and the ploys of various continents to take from this island ts natural resources. Leaves us the present. For what is faced by Nauru and it’s people is clearly, and evidently a disaster. 

The performance takes the form of a school pantomime, it’s all pops of colour, prop heavy stuff with some deeply evocative memories of childhood at play. But cutting deeper than these superficial and at times satirical movements, you can recognise that choosing such a young ensemble is an a intelligent and timely theatrical device. With detention centres and off shore processing still a hotly contested issue, it’s important that we continue to stoke the fire, insight curiosity and inspire conversation, not just between us as adults, but perhaps more importantly with the next generations to come. We All Know Whats Happening, comes at a time in Australia where our schools have only begun to really educate on white Australia’s violent history of invasion and conflict. The ensemble give as much they can, and the performance is solid and co-creators Samara Hersch & Lara Thoms should be commended for such a brave and unsettling image. 

Mid performance all children younger than the age of twelve are asked to leave the theatre, next coming the most uncomfortable truth that is our governments attempts to sweep under the rug, valid claims of child and sexual abuse on Nauru. Here the performance strikes its greatest chord.

Creatives and visionaries should always strive for work that is resonate, powerful and of the times, however in the cold hard light of reality, one must also question how far reaching theatre of a political nature really is. Not to diminish what is being communicated here, but how will this show permeate the outside,  what is its ability to effect change? Theatre won’t drastically shift conversation nor instile in our government empathy. Sadly outside of the theatre the world continues to turn, the planet continues to burn and we continue to regress further. In reflection of such negative and uncompromising thoughts the power of this kind of  performance is visible. In an otherwise darker growing world, things that shine and own such an innocence need continuing. We All Know Whats Happening playing this week at Arts House, for tickets or more info click here

 

An Uncomfortable Truth

Australia is a beautiful sun drenched land, full of promise and richness, but scratch the surface and just below you will find some pretty ugly truths some  would much prefer to see swept under the rug. There’s perhaps no greater truth that is as ugly as our treatment of refugee’s. Indefinite detention a likelihood many face after escaping unimaginable realities most here in Australia could not begin to imagine.
 
Welcome to Nauru, a tropical island full of palm trees, phosphate mines, coconut water and kids. Set against a backdrop of handmade costumes and colonialism, We All Know What’s Happening is an absurd, true story about Leonardo da Vinci, the Pacific, seagull shit and state-sanctioned abuse. Part school musical, part history lesson and part political probe, this is a new performance being presented at Arts House, Samara Hersch has created this new work, and spoke with TAGG about it’s probing nature and the direct correlation between our current treatment of refugees and colonisation.
 
Samara what power or perhaps strength is found in the voice children, that is different to those of adults, and the conversations we have?
 
Children have a strong idea of justice and fairness. They challenge our complacency as adults. The kids in this work range from 10- 18 years of age – yet they all share a clear understanding of how important it is to take responsibility for one’s actions as well as the importance of speaking up against injustice. 
 
How would you personally describe the relationship between Australia and Nauru?
 
Our relationship with Nauru is complex and like many colonial relationships fraught with a history of exploitation. We have tried throughout this work to stress the vulnerability of Nauru and it’s inhabitants and to redirect the gaze onto Australia and other colonial powers that continue to take advantage of the country.
 
Talk to us about the creative process that went into creating this work?
 
Last year we did a call out for children who wanted to be involved in a performance and who were specifically interested in human rights and refugee issues. We ran a number of workshops with support from Save the Children. This work has developed in collaboration with a group of those children through improvisations, discussions and research. 
 
What should Audiences expect from this performance?
 
This work plays with a range of theatrical tropes including musical theatre and school history lessons. It is satirical, ridiculous, moving and intentionally political. There are all sorts of absurd true facts about Australia and Nauru that you would never expect.
 
What do you hope for audiences to take away from this work?
We hope that audiences walk away feeing motivated to keep this important conversation alive and to realise the power we have to speak up against injustices occurring in our name.  We hope people feel inspired to take action and challenge our own complacency. 
 
We All Know What’s Happening opens this month at Arts House on Wednesday the 19th of July for more info or to book your tickets click here

The Tale Of An Afronaut

Melbourne may be in the grips of Winter, those long grey months synonyms with our city. But over in North Melbourne, Arts House are turning up the heat with their current season, which continues to champion the unique and contemporary work that this venue is famous for.
 
Melbourne-based poet wāni Le Frère will be presenting his latest offering as part of this upcoming season.  Through a lens that is both retrospective and current Tales of an Afronaut pays tribute to the incredible lineage of storytelling embedded deep within the black/African diaspora.  TAGG spoke with Wāni about the performance, lineage, the power of words and the passing down of story through generations.
 
Wāni why poetry, and how does story telling sit within your culture, what is it’s strongest power?
 
I come from a long line of incredible story telling, from friends, family, grandparents through to both my mother and father, especially my father. Most of the lessons I’ve learnt in life have come through those stories weaved in as metaphors and proverbs, and all Im doing is continuing this living cultural tradition. I’ve always been fascinated by its ability to draw you in and speak truths to your being that you didn’t even know you were searching for. It’s like a transportation to a whole other space and time where only the present and current state matter and everything else is irrelevant in that particular moment except the moment itself 
 
Talk to us about the performance, what does it entail, what has been the process behind creating the work? 
 
Introspection and self analysis is a large part of not only the creation of my work, but the work itself. It’s basically to me like a window of my current state. I believe people are always growing or i’d like to imagine they are and the other part of inspiration is an acknowledgement of where I am by putting a permanent seal on that particular moment through poetry, in this case through spoken word. Also a deep desire to see the community I come from prosper and just be able to be awesome without having so many obstacles before them, so I try to make sure to find ways to leave the doors open behind me in spaces I’ve been given footing.  
 
What are some of the challenges faced by writers and artists in 2017, Australia, do you think there is a lack appreciation for the form?
 
I can’t speak on challenges that face writers and artists in Australia because I don’t believe I represent all artists, but some of the challenges I’ve faced is finding spaces that de-centre whiteness, or patriarchal Eurocentricised ableist, heteronormative as the only ways of being and anything that fits outside of that is seen as foreign or unwelcomed. And that’s hard cos I’m still going through the process of unlearning all that myself. Also getting paid your worth, I’ve heard it’s tough as an artist from others but add being black African to the mix n it’s another story, an even in saying that I’m conscious that I’m one of the fortunate ones. N folk don’t want to believe it’s an actual issue. Is the art form respected, well for myself and the circles I navigate I think it absolutely is.
 
Finally, tell us about your hopes for this performance, and what do you hope will come next for your creative practice? 
 
I hope people are able see more than just a performance, but window into a reality they may not be familiar to. I hope they leave feeling a bit more full than how they’d stepped in, I hope it touches them in some way, I think that’s the best I can hope for. As for my next creative project! I guess we’ll have to wait till next time to see. 
 
Tales of an Afronaut opens Wednesday 26th of July, for more info or to book your tickets click here

Fiona O’loughlin

There is something unique about O’loughlin musings on the Australian identity. Being born to an migrant family, a child hood spent in a small country town, escaping to the big smoke in pursuit of her dreams. It’s the kind of story line that we know so well through our own personal experience, or as represented in our screen cultures and literature. O’loughlin, having experienced some pretty dark battles, takes this almost cliched story line, lacing it with some deliciously dark antidotes, that emerge throughout the performance in the most perfect of moments.

Perhaps to liken O’loughlin story and popularity with Australia’s love for the underdog is a little reductive, but can not be overlooked. She speaks candidly about her battles with addiction, the breakdown of her marriage, and the pressures of parenthood. From the sharing of her own experience she further adds subject matter, that to an Australian audience is unquestionably resonate. Some of the best lines surround the expense paid for IVF treatment, the 80s in Australia and on a more contemporary note, even Cocaine Cassie makes an appearance.

The material here, has been unpacked by many comics, film makers and authors, and it is a risky choice for any one wanting a refresh. But this is Fiona O’loughlin, a woman that always takes what has been done that little bit further, and sometimes to far.

Also, it should be mentioned that for nearly four weeks earlier this year, O’loughlin was in a coma given only a 7 percent chance of pulling through. It is perhaps because of this, that the performance has a certain quality not often found. Here we see a veteran performer rediscovering her craft with a fresh perspective, it’s not just an hour of heavily edited and rehearsed stand up,  at time’s O’loughlin focus seems elsewhere, moments that falter,  endear us all the more. Anyone who shows such strength and fragility on stage, while sharing so deeply and gifting so much laughter, needs to be commended.

With one of O’loughlin daughters the opening act, singing three of her original songs is a peculiar choice. The obvious conclusion to draw from such choice, would be as an antidote to the comedy which follows. But with similar themes from both performers  the bleak reality of life and the connection of family is what stays in the mind throughout and post performance.

Is this the greatest hour of comedy served up by O’loughlin, perhaps not, but with so many moments which remain with you, it is certainly not without merit. How O’loughlin further shapes her craft moving forward will be interesting, let’s hope she continues her story telling in such a raw and brutally honest manner.

Fiona’s season has finished, however there are a stack of great shows happening or coming up soon down at Map 57, to check out their full program click here

A New Kind Of Music

Melbourne’s music scenes continues to flourish, away from the draconian lock outs other states have so quickly adopted, on any given night you can stumble across any number of local musicians treading the boards in any number of watering holes. 

Melbourne’s Dan Vogl is one such musician, whose star is just on the rise, with his latest single If I Die, ready to launch. Produced by non other than Guus Hoevenaars  of the Scissor Sisters the song lures you in with its bold soulful lyrics and holds you there with its catchy chord progressions that continue to ring long after the final hum. TAGG spoke with the young musician about the single, inspiration and what makes Melbourne such an awesome city to create music in.

How would you describe your music style, and who are some of your biggest influences?

I would describe my sound as a mix of Indie/Rock and Folk. I am influenced by so many different genres of music some of my favourites include City and Colour, Mumford and Sons and Crowded House.

Tell us the story behind “If I Die“. what does the song speak of?

“If I Die” is about an internal struggle around the ideology and concepts of religion and how people are raised to believe in stories or traditions dependant on their surroundings. It cries out for a greater knowledge of the world and to see outside the box that certain beliefs can trap you in.  

What makes Melbourne music scene so incredible, is it the artists, or the setting (our city), or both?

I believe that the Melbourne scene is full of people who truly give a damn about maintaining a strong community. The streets, the artists, the venues, the weather, it all combines to produce a buzz of creation and excitement.

When did you know you wanted to be a musician, and why?

The first ever concert I attended, I was front row at  Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in ‘07. I was teaching myself how to play guitar at the time and it flicked this incredible switch inside me to pursue music. Ever since I can remember music has always been something that fully encapsulates emotion and expression in my eyes.

Having already teamed up with some pretty incredible names, who else would you love to collaborate with?

Some of the best experiences I have had in music is collaborating, jamming and hanging out with other musos. Within Melbourne, I would love to play with and learn from guys like Paul Kelly, Dan Sultan or Chris Cheney

If you could give one piece advice for other musicians, what would it be?

Take your time in producing the best possible music as possible. You only have a tiny opportunity to capture someone’s attention so make sure it is your best work. Also to get off the couch or computer and go to as many gigs as possible, getting out and meeting as many people as possible can create so many great opportunities that an email can’t.

Dan’s single  ‘If I Die’  is launching at The Gaso Upstairs on Thursday 27 July for more info click here