Meredith Fuller talks with Ray Mooney, author of ’The Ethics of Evil: Stories of H Division’ (2016)

Available now from Amazon.com

Ray Mooney author 'The Ethics of Evil: stories of H Division'
Ray Mooney author ‘The Ethics of Evil: stories of H Division’

This visceral non-fiction book explores the true story of H Division, the punishment division within Pentridge Prison, Melbourne, that operated from 1958-1994, which was responsible for cultivating criminals who committed horrific crimes upon their release. “Some may have gone in as eighteen year olds, but the extreme brutality they were subjected to turned out potential monsters.”

Established in 1958 to punish prisoners like William O’Meally, in the 1970’s Ray spent 4 months in H Division, during his 7.5 year stay in Pentridge Prison. The sheer brutality that the inmates suffered was so unnecessary and horrific that Ray promised that if they wrote their stories, one day he would publish them. Ray writes about his experiences, and then includes their extant writing they entrusted him with. This 795 page book is a riveting read. Examples include Stan Taylor, Chris Flannery, Archie Butley, and Julian Knight – these compelling stories are shocking and and distressing.

He wanted a record about the truth of H Division that documented the terror and cruelty of their inhumane treatment. But no one made the link between the dreadful treatment they received in H Division and the subsequent escalation of the prisoners’ criminality.

The sheer number of these individual stories from a broad age range provide comprehensive evidence of their appalling treatment. The stories were poignant and piercing; I was moved to tears by a number of their stories.

However, not all of the book is gruesome – Ray’s dry wit provides respite, enabling us to laugh with him at some of the absurdity.

Ray was the first prisoner in Australia to start and finish a degree, despite nasty obstacles. Following his release in 1975, Ray went to the VCA. He formed an ex-prisoner’s theatre company called ‘Governer’s Pleasure’, and produced his play, ‘Every Night Every Night’

Ray Mooney is a well known playwright, author, theatre director, teacher of writing and film, and a tireless, enthusiastic supporter of people who seek creative self-expression or wish to right wrongs with . He has also re-released ‘A Green Light’ his trilogy of his association with Christopher Dale Flannery (Mr Rent-a-Kill) during the 70’s.

This e-book is a feverish page turner that intrigues, informs and entertains. I highly recommend it.

And A Green Light now available as 3 separate eBooks.

 

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‘The Angry Ant’ by Kelvin Glare AO, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police (2015) Book review by Meredith Fuller

'The ANGRY ANT' by Kel Glare AO
‘The ANGRY ANT’ by Kel Glare AO

I see too many kids today who do not appreciate their own intrinsic value as human beings being bombarded with negative feedback about their worth. Little wonder that these kids get into trouble when they’re constantly reminded that they are failures. That success comes in a variety of forms is something we should all appreciate…self-esteem and a sense of self worth is an important human attribute.” Conspicuous at the recent youth violence & drugs forum, he stresses that, “With strong support from my colleagues I will not give up on trying to change youth behaviour for the better. Prevention is far better than cure. Also not likely to keep my mouth shut!”

This book provides a refreshing insight into his family of origin and influencing life experiences that formed a leader who was responsible for over 10,000 sworn police staff and 2,000 unsworn; alongside an honest look into what he encountered throughout his professional life that informed his leadership style.

Kel Glare was a career policeman and lawyer who took the reins of an organization that was about to restructure following a state government inquiry. He developed the very first corporate plan for the Force and pushed for an integrated anti-crime strategy, as well as being a strong advocate for continuous education.

He brought the organization into the 21st Century: introducing technology; best practice management; a new balance of crime detection and crime prevention; new community programs that targeted educating children and youth about good citizenship; and embedding recognition of minority groups with the organization.

Glare’s philosophy of “setting a direction and getting others to follow willingly’ alongside his attitude of “never judging so called ‘misfits’ who may be ‘inherited’, but enabling them to become A teams” managed the perennial problem of being understaffed and underfunded in this complex profession.

What makes his book a great read for anyone interested in leadership in large organisations is his transparency of examination and reflection of the management and leadership of such a complex organisation.   How he handled opposition and political games is worth the book purchase, let alone the insight into country life, rabbiting, and flying planes! Glare is a future-thinking questioner of all things; his energy for continuous improvement and providing stretch for members explains how he ensured that change occurred.

We are given a fascinating look into the politics and dynamics of his career development, and his perspective on law enforcement. He chronicles in detail how a country boy from a background of adversity managed to rise through the ranks to become the Chief Commissioner.

Candid and controversial, Glare gives us insight into his personality, his style, and opinions. His integrity and honesty is refreshing – whether or not you agree with his assessment of politicians; members of the force; and the public, you can appreciate that he supports his conclusions by elucidating personal experience and evidence that informed his views. His ability to call a spade a spade is done with clarity and wry humour.

Glare admires determination and strong will, and maintained his ethics throughout his 30 year career. Unsolicited anecdotal comments from former criminals indicate that they considered him to be a ‘respected bloke who was firm and fair,’ a rare accolade.

As a vocational psychologist I am fascinated to note that his earliest recollections, at eighteen months, were a portent of ‘breaking road rules’ and ‘uniforms’; and the first life he saved was at the age of seven. Destined to join the police! He overcame the common obstacles of poverty and paucity of opportunity – a typical feature in many leader’s backgrounds – by taking self-responsibility, returning to study (becoming a barrister), and seeking to make society more equitable. He continues to work with project teams to address today’s societal problems.

He writes with humour, good natured self-deprecation, passion, and acknowledgement of his values, including his love for his family. He respects the support of his wife, Trish, and daughters Andrea and Lyndal who have been instrumental in helping him to continue his mission.

That he is also a Collingwood supporter is yet another endearing quality.

I recommend this book – book sales www.bookstore.bookpod.com.au or good bookstores such as Readings and Dymocks.  5 min VIDEO interview to follow shortly

Kel Glare AO, author chats with Meredith Fuller about 'THE ANGRY ANT'
Kel Glare AO, author chats with Meredith Fuller about ‘THE ANGRY ANT’

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THE MILL ON THE FLOSS | from BEHIND CLOSED DOORS 28 July – 13 August Review by Meredith Fuller for TAGG.Com fullercurioCity

THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Michael Cathcart, Hannah (Producer), Lorraine, Meredith
Michael Cathcart, Hannah (Producer), Lorraine, Meredith

What could be even more intriguing than an evening at the theatre in Melbourne? Combine it with an earlier visit to see how the performance group breathes life into the play during rehearsals, and how they warm up before the production! I’m impressed with a new series of workshops, visits, and talks to provide theatre goers with a felt experience and an informative peek backstage – this is a terrific concept for people who want to understand how much energy and effort is required prior to the theatre performance. Anyone who works with people will enjoy observing how individual actors and the group functions as they coalesce.

Optic Nerve’s workshop coordinator Loraine Little has tailored these ‘experiences’ for neophytes to stalwarts – contact her at workshops.opticnerve@gmail.com.

“BEHIND CLOSED DOORS” is one of three workshops being offered by the company as part of their coming season of ‘The Mill on the Floss’ at Theatre Works 28 JULY to 13 AUGUST. Enabling access to all of the threads of theatre, the program offers an enjoyable insight into the process director Tanya Gerstle has developed over her last 30 years in theatre and performance, and as Head of Theatre at the VCA.

“For those who are curious, this has been a chance to experience a little of the
process that goes into the creation of the visceral work of director Tanya Gerstle,” she explains.

Kate, Michael and I form a small audience up the back to view a rehearsal, and enjoy the cast’s messy formulation of this timeless theatre piece about a young woman’s courageous life’s journey.

Both theatre patrons and any theatre practitioners (new and experienced) will enjoy watching the way different directors and actors go about their craft. Many months go into producing the theatre season, and I’m sure that workshop participants will appreciate accompanying parts of this massive journey and being informed about the extensive effort required; some may be shocked by extreme morphing from rehearsal to performance.

During this reasonably early rehearsal, Gerstle challenges the actors to engage during every moment by exhorting them to, “ask what you’re seeing and feeling…would it be interesting if you put yourself, say, under this table? Don’t ask me, just crawl in and try it. I may say ‘no, it’s in the way, but make the offer!’ ”

While still in exploration stage, the cast plays with ideas and moves – providing an opportunity to throw out what doesn’t work, and uncover some gems. Decisions need finalizing swiftly as next week they begin lighting the stage. After listening to the story and propelling their bodies, they will much later put it all together with the dialogue – this different approach, developed by Gerstle, is called ‘pulse’.

Gerstle, is a vital director who combines her background as an actor and director with an exciting personal intensity. Her approach is like that of a choreographer, stretching the actors to bring a fresh verisimilitude to the work.

Watch for a scene where the mesmerizing Zahra Newman vigorously scrubs the floor on her hands and knees with her unruly hair mopping the air in unison. Grant Cartwright commands terror in his rare moment of stillness when he chastises his chattel – a chilling highpoint of the silliness of male supremacy.

Throughout the play we are accosted in every chakra by the DIRGE – 14th century chanting that haunts with stark beauty yet provides a paucity of comfort. The actors have exquisite voices, and the building of the Dirge is magnificent. We’re reminded that the Dirge was popularized by folk groups in the 1960’s, but I’m certain the younger audience members will doubtless re-remember from ancient patterning in the fabric of our ancestry.

THE MILL ON THE FLOSS by George Eliot, performed by Optic Nerve Performance Group – a stage version adapted by Helen Edmundson of the beloved novel. Showcasing former staff and students from VCA, this production features graduates from over 15 years. They include: Zahra Newman, Grant Cartwright, Luisa Hastings Edge, Tom Heath, Rosie Lockhart, Maddie Nunn, George Lingard, and James O’Connell.

Tickets: $ 30 – $ 26

www.theatreworks.org.au/whatson/buyeventtickets/?id=275

Workshops (limited places available)

Foundation Pulse, August 1 – 5, 12.00 – 4.00 (for actors)

Directing Text with the Physical Actor, August 8 – 12, 12.00 – 4.00 (for director/actors)

www.opticnervepg.com/#!2016-residency-1/ff05t

or email: workshops.opticnerve@gmail.com

For more information about the Optic Nerve Performance Group and to join their mailing list:

www.opticnervepg.com

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TAPE by Stephen Belber Dir Jennifer Sarah Dean Play Review Meredith Fuller

TAPETAPE by Stephen Belber

Directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean

Review by Meredith Fuller

The Court House Hotel 27 April to 7 May

‘Play Dead Theatre’ presents a fascinating psychological drama about love, hate, and honesty between old friends. We witness the memory of an event from the past as three friends relentlessly pursue their version of an event that has haunted them for different reasons.

The play is simple, uncluttered, and powerful; the writing is taut and clever. Held in an intimate room at the Court House Hotel, we do feel inside the set and breathe in tandem with the actors. In a small venue, the audience is riveted during the peeling back of convenient masks, a physical fight, and unanticipated plot turns that cause us to question what is true, and what purpose confessions serve. The audience sat on the edge of their seats for the entire performance, and enthusiastically chatted about the play afterwards at the hotel’s bar.

Michael Mack plays ‘Vince’, a twitchy vigilante drug user, to perfection. We hate to love him, but his endearing quips and demand for accountability from his mate, Jon, pull us in. Mack’s role embodiment and varied talents are impressive.

And here I must ‘fess up about a personal connection with one of the actors – I know ‘Jon’ played by Adam Hetherington, having directed him in ‘International Stud’ recently. Without dripping of nepotism or familiarity, can I say that I’m already a champion of his acting and he pleased me again in this performance? I am delighted to see him inhabit a menacing, slippery anger in this play, and value the director who stretched him.

We love to hate Hetherington, the glib film maker who renames his tendency for physical force as “excessive linguistic pressure” while he slithers out of the facts. Even his acknowledgement is tinged with daring belligerence.

The typical fight that ensues between the reminiscence of old friends fuelled by alcohol and drugs is a master stroke.

Director Jennifer Sarah Dean does a magnificent job throughout, and blocking a fight that is both scarey and amusing is a counter intuitive coup. Her smart direction gets the best from the script, cast and crew.

Hester Van Der Vyer plays ‘Amy’ with a blithe disdain that defies the audience to guess her cunning twists and turns.

Congratulations to the production |stage manger Ray Bradbury, set designer Aline Brugel, and Callum Robertson’s lighting. The look and feel of this set, a basic motel room, is real and profound.

Less is more, as the armless empty chair is a pivotal point of the triangle as they exchange positions and dance with our points of view.

In fact, the team did so well on the set that on Wednesday night an audience member popped into the bathroom and shut himself in the toilet before realizing. The rumpled bed was matched by a chaotic woman who played Goldilocks with the seats before clumping down the stairs looking for the real toilet during the performance. The free drink with the tickets obviously overrode manners, but it is a tribute to the actors that they managed to soldier on and retain audience attention.

Costumes were consistent with characterization; Van Der Vyver was suitably dressed in legal grey with a burgundy overcoat that suggested the stale blood of despair at men’s behavior. Hetherington was puffed with self importance in collar and tie, while Mack was a faded scruff.

The play’s program was one of the best I’ve seen. Actually, was that the publishing icon Bob Session’s group who were upset that the programs were sold out? Mack, as actor, and creator of Play Dead Theatre Company, is also the graphic designer responsible for this beautiful, efficient piece of origami.

Given the excellence of this play, I am groping for some constructive criticism. Perhaps this conceptually talented group could fix the small detail of a couple of typos by using an administrative support function, like manderey.com.au for text. I would encourage a further season of this play so that more people can enjoy it, but keep the intimate venue.

Adam & Michael with Meredith

CROSSxROADS musical theatre review by Meredith Fuller

Meredith_Fuller 

Crossxroads review by Meredith Fuller

In this Australian Musical ‘CrossxRoads’ we follow the life journeys of several friends after they graduate, travel, find and lose love, careers, relationships, and learn their true natures.

An engrossing musical from the creative masters Peter Fitzpatrick, Anthony Costanzo, Tyran Parke, David Wisken and Michael Ralph; a seamless crew; and impressive cast take us on an Antipodean journey that cleverly plaits relationships, work, love, loss, and consciousness over a decade.

Fitzpatrick’s adroit writing is satisfying and timeless; he has captured idiosyncratic Australian archetypes and key developmental stages – from the ‘loveable larrikin’ hero to the ‘best friend’ accompanier who uses propinquity to steer her life.

The writing nailed our quirky Aussie humour, as well as a smart integration of technology and social media. ‘Selfies’, projecting emails and crew shots, and a mesmerizing monitored Wisken gave the audience a visual treat. Refreshing homage was paid both locally and internationally – to Julian Slade (Salad Days), and many iconic films, shows and songs. CrossxRoads is accessible and entertaining to a broad age range with either limited or extensive appreciation of musicals, generation gaps, and geo-political, psychosocial culture.

The minute the cast twirled on stage I felt the audience surrender to joy as the eight were strongly talented and ideally suited to their roles

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Alinta Chidzey was spine chilling as she took us to a phenomenal place with ‘Amy’s Moving On’. On a lighter note, whenever Earnest Amy smiled, she lit up the entire theatre.

Stephen Mahy maintained a deft touch – his laconic restraint gave verisimilitude to his role.  His ‘Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Eyeful of the Eiffel’ were great.

Fem Belling, as ‘Hannah’ the bestie, was mesmerizing. This performer should have a long and busy career; an exceptional character actor, dancer and singer.  Keen to see a lot more of her musical theatre and acting prowess.

The Art Gallery scene was exemplary and Bianca Baykara’s B&D Narcissist was a tour de force

Loved two other cameos; Bronte Florian shaking her tail feather in the hotel scene, and Ryan Gonzalez channeling a menacing French criminal. Baykara and Gonzalez’s sensual solar plexus dance routines were also noteworthy.

At every crossroad, we witness red, green or black & white. The characters are invited to respond to the metaphorical pattern of traffic lights; to stay safe, to move impulsively, or to remain poised in the liminal space between. Or perhaps we are reminded that decisions come from soul (the billowing white set), the colours red for emotion and green for the physical instincts.

The choreography and costume design also reminded me of the Australian landscape – central Uluru’s mauves, purples, ochres and burgundies were depicted in the draping jackets worn by best friend ‘Hannah’.

I suspect the production could do with a shave of around 15 to 20 minutes. I just felt it was a tad too long. In all, much to enjoy and to ponder afterwards.