Let Them Eat Cake

HyperFocal: 0

A modern re-fashioning of the myths surrounding the infamous last queen of France – Marie Antoinette – who lived like a rock star against the backdrop of a blood-thirsty revolution.  LadyCake is an electrifying and darkly witty piece that sees a flamboyant collision between 18th century France and the modern day,  contends with the way speculation, gossip, assumption and physical criticism can cruelly undermine a woman. Creators and performers Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway spoke with TAGG ahead of the season,

Candace Miles, Introduce us to LadyCake, what’s the show about? 

LadyCake is a modern re-fashioning of the myths surrounding the infamous last queen of France – Marie Antoinette – who lived like a rock star against the backdrop of a blood-thirsty revolution.
 
If you scratch surface of this work, what might we find a little deeper down?
 
We are curious about the public life versus the private. Is what you hear about someone really the truth of who they are? How easy is it to tear a woman down from her throne?
 
We love using comedy and a heightened style to open up the story-telling; to take it into weird and wonderful places. If you scratch the surface of LadyCake, you’ll find three energetic and electric girls on stage, trying to unravel the complex dimensions of this woman.
 

Madelaine Nunn  Marie Antoinette, quite a character to take on, but is the story of this famous character still relevant?

Exploring the life of Marie Antoinette is such an exciting challenge to us!
 
Marie Antoinette stands out as a figure who has been reduced to mythical proportions: was she a teen icon or a draconian villain, a loving mother or a heartless queen?
 
LadyCake uses Marie as a device to draw parallels with the way in which we put women on pedestals in a modern day context.
 
How do you relate to her personally, what do you think can be taken from her story?
 
Even though she lived a life that seems in retrospect to be a fictitious drama, similar to that of a Shakespearean tragedy, she was a real person. She was sent away to a foreign country, to marry a man she’d never met, with tremendous expectations placed on her shoulders and was watched by the entire world.
 
Despite popular culture’s understanding of her, Marie Antoinette was a vulnerable young woman thrust into a foreign spotlight. If we look beyond her privilege and status, you find a girl who was adored, criticized but ultimately fallible, just like anyone of us.
 
Anna Rodway, What should we expect from the work, visually, thematically and conceptually?
 
Visually: you’re going to experience a technicolour, theatrical landscape. Think pink, party, high hair, floral tones and three, frivolous, fun-loving handmaidens… but amidst this luxurious party, there’s something darker brewing in the Trades Hall, Carlton.
 
Thematically: The merging of a public and private space. The influence of media and propaganda. The rise and fall of a woman in power.
 
Conceptually: A collision between 18th century France and the modern day.
 
What do you hope audiences will take away from LadyCake, or walk away having felt?
 
We want the audience to be dropped into a world and taken on a colourful and captivating journey led by three, master story-tellers, Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway.
 
As you leave our show – to walk across the road for a beverage at the John Curtin Hotel, or a hot chocolate on Lygon Street – you’ll be feeling that there may just be more to Marie Antoinette than a myth about a woman without a heart… or a head.
 
For more info, or to book your tickets click here

Donna Jackson on the art of industry

Over ten days, the Art & Industry Festival will celebrate and investigate the ever-changing industrial and manufacturing heartland of Australia based in Melbourne’s western suburbs. This inspiring new festival puts a spotlight on the local industrial creators and resources in the Hobsons Bay area that is home to craft brewers, carmakers, designers, oil tanks and treasured heritage buildings. Culminating in multiple art presentations and activities, the festival includes custom-made fashion inspired by local industrial heritage; opens days at Toyota and Qenos; meeting industrial enthused creators from Spotswood, Newport, Williamstown, Altona and Laverton; and a family night at Seaworks featuring fireworks, car crushing, sideshows and songs. TAGG spoke with festival director Donna Jackson, ahead of this exciting program…

Let’s start off tell us  a little more about the festival?

Ok so this is the inaugural art and industry festival and the idea is to not do a festival of something that is predictable. I think we’ve got festivals right across the city now in different places and across the state and sometimes they can be generic. So as the as the artistic director of the inaugural art and industry festival, my inspiration was to look closely at the area that I live in, which is the Western suburbs of Melbourne, and to see what’s unique about it and a way to frame a festival around what’s authentic to this area.

And what are some of the things in the area that you think are unique and deserve I guess a bit more light shined on them?

I think that sometimes it’s looking at assets that people don’t normally recognise, so, the Western suburbs of Melbourne around Altona, Laverton, Braybrook, Newport, Williamstown, Altona – they’ve all got an industrial history. And so it’s the place in industrial heartland of Victoria and Australia where we have a history of building trains for many, many years building boats(?) we’ve also had a coal-fired power station now we’ve got a gas-fired power station that have both been built here, and it’s also through… it’s Science Works(?) we have the big pumping station which was used to pump sewerage out of Melbourne that turned Melbourne from being ‘Smelbourne’ to being somewhere that worked. So the history of industry is linked to the Western suburbs of Melbourne and we’ve got a lot of architecture and industrial design here in the buildings and the environment that we’re surrounded by. So the idea is to use some of those old industrial sites that people may not normally get access to and invite people in to explore them and to think about what’s important about the industrial heritage of this area.

But also we’ve got places like Toyota closing that builds cars in Altona and so in some places, the manufacturing is moving out, and it gives a lot of opportunity for artists and designers and makers to move into industrial buildings and do new and exciting things in those environments so that first of all there’s an opportunity to go out and find some of those exciting, new things that are happening in the area.

Is the decline in manufacturing in those sort of degrees of areas one of the reasons this festival has begun?

I live in the Western suburbs of Melbourne and I was working in events around Australia working in places like Mandurah, Western Australia, doing a kayak ballet for a festival in Mandurah, and then I was working in Canberra for the centenary of Canberra doing spin(?) car events for the centenary of Canberra in 2013, and the inspiration for the festival really comes from me thinking that I’d like to work in my own area where I live, and I’m based in Newport, in Melbourne, and I thought, well, how can I engage with the local community here, and as an artist and director, offer something? So my offer was to invite members of the community who may not normally be seen as artists, and to engage with them to create the festival. And so in the festival we’ve got people like Shane Paton, and he’s from a company called Quazi Design, which is in Hall street in Newport, and he’s designing furniture. And to say, well, furniture designers and builders are artists.

I did a show called We Built This City at Science Works where I engaged with the building workers and I had, and invited a brick layer to lay bricks as art of that performance and he was very highly skilled and very fantastic to watch like a choreographed piece watching a brick layer lay bricks and I wouldn’t say all brick layers are artists but I would say some of them are artists. And we placed this show in Science Works down in this pumping station down on Douglas Parade which is just this fantastic, gothic designed building and you can see in there that the brick layers in there were artists. It’s finding things that people don’t normally recognise as art and highlighting them in the festival.

Do you think that this is also bringing back or playing emphasis on a high level of craftsmanship as well? When we’re looking at the over development of places in Melbourne at the moment of high rises going up everywhere, is this going against that as well and taking it back to the highest quality of those sort of skills and manufacturing and the rest of it?

Yes and I think that’s also there is a disposable culture now sometimes in building and making and we’re looking for things that are authentic, that can last for a long time and that are quality and to have things that last longer and that are of more value. For example we’re doing a fashion event called IF – Industrial Fashion to open the festival, and in that we’ve invited local designers to be inspired by local buildings, a lot of the architecture that’s been around for a long time, and then to make quality garments and to see people who sew, not just people who sew, but it actually is designers who makes quality products that have structures under them and architecture and design linked with fashion. And I imagine that these costumes and outfits that are being made for our fashion event that we’re opening the festival with are the sort of things that will last and be around for a long time because they’re crafted and designed well. That’s on Friday the 18th of November at 8 o’clock. We’re starting it with designers and makers and we’re building costumes, but we’re actually using quality sewing and structure and I think these will be around for a long time. Because things appear on screens and then disappear, there’s also a desire to have things that are crafted and that we take a longer time to make.

We’ve just looked a little as the past. What do you think is going to be the future of the Hobson’s bay area? What do you hope is going to be the future and what do think the community should embrace to move forward as a collective, as a unified body?

Well I think there’s a thing about the Hobson’s Bay area that’s just the diversity of people who live in the area from all different backgrounds. There’s been people, waves of immigration who have come into places to work into different industries, and there were waves of ten pound poms who came out to work in the plastic industry in Altona, and the plastics industry is actually doing very well, and they’re not disappearing. And we’ve also got the petrol chemical here… tax and environment with mogul(?) and those companies  tend to be doing very well, and they employ a lot of local people who are very committed to their work places. But we’ve also got people moving into old factories and warehouses. For example we’ve got Two Birds Brewing, who are also in Hall street in Newport, and they’re two women who are designing and crafting new boutique beers. And so there’s a little factory down there – and there was hardly anybody using those factories along Hall street –and now we’ve got Two Birds Brewing in there and we’ve got people coming from all over Melbourne to sample their boutique beers. So, I think the future will be opportunities for artists in the Western suburbs, and as long as they’re linking in to the past of the area and telling authentic and interesting stories through art, that I think they’ll have an audience. So, a feeling here at the moment that something is happening in the Western suburbs, something exciting. And part of it’s sad, but things like Toyota disappearing, there we’ve got other companies that are blossoming, and then we’ve got opportunities for artists to create new art products or engage with the community, to give them surprises and ideas and glimpses about what the future might look like. So it’s a complex environment and I think it’s an exciting time here.

So as the population grows, how does it keep its own identity in the wave of gentrification across the rest of Melbourne?

I think that the thing that’s interesting about using the word gentrification which sometimes can be used when we’re talking about industrial sites but then have little bars in them, and that’s happened in lots of places around the world – one of the places that I saw was Manchester in England where they had a whole wharf side area that had you know wasn’t being used any more and then it was turned into a really groovy bar.

I think that sometimes when we use the word ‘gentrification’ it can look quite “oh, this is superficial and only yuppies can have smashed avocado there, which has been one of the debates in the papers at the moment, but, because we are linking to authentic stories – so one of our events is Spark, which is an old style family night of fun – and that’s Friday the 25th, 6.30 to 10 o’clock – that’s in Williamstown at Sea Works, which is an old wharf, and when you go into that wharf down there, we’re going to be doing angle grinding and we’re going to have fireworks and we’re going to have people doing sign writing live on the spot, and furniture makers welding, and bands, so you might go, “oh well is that gentrification?” Well actually, when you walk in there, because this is an old wharf that’s been there since the 1850s, it doesn’t feel like gentrification. Not everything here is clean yet, and feels totally homogenised. There’s old ropes there, there’s old boats, and you can still walk out on the pier and see Melbourne from the Williamstown side, and it feels – and you know – that thousands of people have worked on this wharf for years and years and years, and what we’re doing links to the story of those people working on that wharf for hundreds of years. So, I think you avoid gentrification by linking into authentic and real stories that have a bit of depth. One of our artists is Zoya Martin and she’s doing a project called Talking Hands. And what Zoya’s done is that she’s photographed different workers’ hands from across the region.

And she’s photographed the person who makes footballs, the AFL football. It’s these hands with the knobbles on it and how hard and rough those hands are from, you know, crafting leather to make footballs. She’s also photographed a nurse who was helping to deliver babies at the Williamstown hospital and you could see her hands and how soft and strong her hands are from “catching babies” as she describes it when children are born, to our sign writer, Tony Mead, a close up of his hands where he’s learned for thirty years to hand paint signs. And he’s a really good example of the complexity of the area. He’s learned a craft for thirty years, which is hand sign writing. Now he’s going into being  able to do hand sign writing, but he can also use a computer, print on to Perspex, and do LED signs. I think it’s interesting to see that we live in an exciting time when we need to value our old crafts but also be aware that the world’s changing, so we’re not just living in the history of the past. And that’s why it’s exciting. It’s often art is interesting when we’re at that friction of complexity and we can fill the spark of change but we’re not really sure where we’re going.

For more information on the festival click here.

Blessed

“In a shitty flat sit two shitty people, shitty lives hanging out all over the place” This is the precursor for Blessed, a new theatrical work that is to debut as part of this years Poppy Seed Festival. Written by Melbourne writer Fleur Susannah and presented by Attic Erratic, the work explores inter generational poverty in Australia and how this sits within the context of religious mythology. TAGG spoke with Fluer ahead of the season

Tell us about your background, where are you from, and what inspiration do you draw from the every day?

I am from Adelaide, location-wise. In terms of art, my background is both in directing and writing. For some people, this can mean that the two roles blur together – they begin directing their writing or re-writing the scripts they are working on – but I have found the opposite: working as a director has given me immense faith in directors.

I think I observe people, cities, light very closely. I don’t tend to lift whole conversations or narratives from the real world but I’ll plagiarise my own observations constantly, and use them to colour or detail a moment.

Fleur, what led you to write Blessed, what are some of the concepts and themes that you are wanting to explore?

Two thoughts, The Bible.There was this day in Year 5. We were all given different Bible stories to illustrate. I was given Abraham and Isaac and I read it and I went to the teacher and I said “this is fucked!” or however ten-year-old Fleur talked and she said “Oh I probably should have taken that one out.”

I think about that a lot. That her answer to a child confronting this shitty, difficult story in this book, this book that still defines our morality, was “I probably should have taken that one out.”

I think that’s why I do it. (This will be my second Biblical play and not my last.) I maul Bible stories. Maul or humanise. Make them have modern-day repercussions and emotions. I’ll leave the Greek tragedies to the other theatre-makers, we’ll take the ones that are still being read aloud every week. Those old stories that people pore over in search of new meaning.

They’re big stories. They reach right down into what makes us a society and yet I don’t think we ask enough questions of them. I don’t think we make them human. And theatre is really good at making things human.

And secondly; Australian poverty. When I was writing this I was thinking a lot about Jim Cartwright’s 1987 play, Road, this angry, beautiful, messy British play, which rages against the poverty inflicted by the closing of the mines. A play that ends with four young people screaming “somehow a somehow I might escape” into the dark. I was wondering what an angry, beautiful, messy contemporary Australian play that raged against poverty would look like. Well, the poverty wouldn’t be caused by the mines. It would be intergenerational. Which, for many, feels even more inescapable because there seems to be little any government or body can do to fix it. And it would be on the edges of our cities. On the edges of our consciousness. These wouldn’t be the British, fist-shaking, sign-waving poor. These would be the quiet, forgettable people. The ones who make us uncomfortable on the train but are almost forgotten once headphones go on.

And what would it take for these two to escape? An act of God. A literal hand reaching down through the roof. Something has to switch the power back on and light up this whole mess.

Tell us a little about the narrative and the characters, what connection do they share?

We see the characters at two different moments in their lives: as teenagers, meeting for the first time, baffled by the connection they feel and then 15 years later, now exes, who have not seen each other in many years. For me, if was very important to show this time difference. The startling thing if how little has changed. There is a sense of stagnancy. Even 7 years of absence has changed nothing.

Is there any significance behind the show’s title?

Hard to answer this without giving away the story. The whole work is a juxtaposition of the shitty and the divine. I love giving such a beautiful, holy and delicate title to a play that is so rough and human.

What sense/emotion do you wish to evoke in the audience, and what do you feel will elicit the strongest response?

I want them to reexamine a Bible story. A story which has been served to us so many times that we accept it, stripped of its human impact and the callousness with which a frightened woman is treated. I want them to think about Australian poverty: to hear this story in their own accent and perhaps recognize the voices.

I want them to laugh a bit too. It is pretty funny.

Away from the work, what challenges are currently faced by writers, in terms of economy and society?

For most of us, we are faced by a lack of trust from companies, who doubt that audiences will want to hear from us. When companies spend money on theatre, most spend it on year after year of development without getting works to the stage. I think those that reach the stage can end up sounding too polished and clean, sanitized by so many hands scrubbing away at it. I want to see companies just take a risk, trust audiences and trust writers. There are some amazing ones out there.

How does this work fit within or go against others being presented within this years festival?

There are so many connections running through the shows. For example, I share a studio with Morgan Rose, of Riot Stage and regularly work with Yvonne Virsik, director of What’s Yours Is Mine. There is a lot of mutual love and support between the companies. I think we all share a passion for the new, the passionate and the irreverent.

Blessed opens on November 8th and plays till the 20th at The Malthouse Theatre, for more info or to book you tickets click here

Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour

Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour, presented by National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre is most certainly a show for those that love their humor dirty and their characters loud. It’s a dazzling affair that tells the story of six young girls coming of age . The work is based on The Sopranos, adapted by Lee Hall from the words on Alan Warner and as an adaption it is mostly successful.  However, in wanting to create a performance resonate of the times  it perhaps does not overcome all challenges. In fact, the characters here may of been fresh fodder for audience say ten years ago, but having being presented with the same stereotypes in so many works not just restricted to stage, but perhaps more prevalently in movies as example, there is little that breathes fresh life.

Let talk about the works merit, it is indeed humorous, with each of the characters endearing  themselves to the audience in their own particular way, it’s with sheer delight you watch as they turn from the most sickly of sweet schools girl to sex obsessed rampant loud mouthed teenagers in the blink of an eye. Director Vicky Featherstone, has made from this performance, a tightly wound coil, that pensively unravels. The sense of dual identity associated with each of these characters as they slip between scenes is also impressive. It takes the loose shape of some rollicking musical, with each of the performers taking to the score with more than enough youthful bravado; from choral numbers to those songs with a bit more kick the musicality is on point. The Band, led by Laura Bangay and joined by Becky Brass and Emily Linden, know this work inherently and it shows, the trio support the ensemble as a whole, though more could of been done to involve and in turn unify the cast, too often the band felt like an unnecessary addition instead of an element that should do more than just accompany.

Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour works with lighting intelligently, subtle changes of color allow the underling emotion to be drawn out. On the other end of the spectrum, the  performance works with the most grotesque and colorful of disco lights to best ability, emanating the sad and faded interior of bars that are well past their hay days. Set design by Chloe Lamford, makes the most of the small space, and has kept within a limited colour palate that extends right the way through this production.

This is quality theatre, though perhaps made all the better if you are able to look past the somewhat tired narrative and characters that the work is built around. It’s indeed poignant, in your face and unapologetic and worthy of a look, it’s playing at The Arts Centre, Fair Fax Studio until October 22nd, for more info click here

 

 

Two Dogs

Melbourne is a diverse place, you need only cross town to experience different cultures, diverse communities and the most awesome of culinary delights. So it’s fitting that Melbourne Festival as a celebration of this incredible and diverse place we call home; should offer up Two Dogs, a work that speak directly to our Chinese community, though provides something that is as special and beautiful to those outside of this. Having our city play host to a work of this lineage is of vital importance, perhaps not so much for the general public but for other makers, as the work, its narrative and its structure flies in the face of what is more often presented here in Melbourne.

As a whole, it is a strong performance,  held together in part by the onstage camaraderie shared between performers Liu Xiaoye and Wang Yin. The very fibers of this work speak from a different place, time and language. Following on from a long tradition of Chinese theatre, Two Dogs is a fable of sorts, truthful in its delivery,  and not reliant on the elements more often employed in contemporary theatre. More so it relies on the perfect and intrinsic delivery of two performers that each possess a well tuned, highly physical and slap stick style comedy. Also of note is the musical interludes that help break the dynamism, while at times adding, as only music can, an emotional hook that pulls audience further inward.

In direct response to time and place, are some perfectly executed and brilliantly truthful local iconography’s that as much draws incomprehensible parallels between; as they take the piss out of Melbourne, and Australian culture more broadly. They rightly point out that we live in a place where our prime minister is only temporary all while barbecues have become a formal occasion in themselves.

You do at times have to battle with this work, correcting much of the surtitles that fell out of sync with the performance and cutting the run time are perhaps two remedies that could be found. As a result, traction was at times lost with the experience becoming a little confused. Though these are minor criticisms, there is indeed some joy to be found when one of only a few non-Mandarin speakers in the theatre, watching the delight on other peoples faces while you yourself are happily lost in translation. We need to do more to encourage and support this kind of performance, not only by ways of creating regular opportunities for international companies to present in Melbourne, but by building awareness, providing an education and encouraging critical discourse founded on the benefits of cultural exchange, creativity and immersion. Two Dogs has finished its season.

What The Water Gave Me

Melbourne Festival is now in full swing, with a plethora of amazing shows taking over our city for the next two weeks, among the very best of international touring works are others made more locally. Dance Territories, this year continues with strength choosing to present work that sits not quite within the realms of dance, with the work by Sarah-Jane Norman, also sitting within the context of installation all while drawing audience inwardly into this political charged worked that cuts a swathe through the idea  or concept of colonization here in Australia, TAGG spoke with Norman ahead of the season…

Sarah Jane what stance did you take when exploring or unpacking colonialism?

In making the works that comprise Unsettling Suite, the body of work which includes the three pieces I am performing and exhibiting at Melbourne Festival, I set out to explore the intergenerational echo of colonial violence as it is lived through though the body. I have found it to be true of my own experience as an Aboriginal person, as well as that of many people descended from ancestry which has been directly marked by colonial violence, disposession, slavery, genocide, etc- that the trauma experienced by our ancestors and older relatives is carried quite literally in our bones- it is an ineffable, complex, but very concrete physical sensation, this weight of history. I grew up in a country town which cashed big time on peddling a lace doillie view of Australian colonial heritage, in which the brutality of the settler history was overwritten by pseudo-victorian country quaintness. This is the sort of thing which probably seems quite harmless and charming to a lot of Australians who are happy to spend a weekend taking devonshire tea at a stately homestead without giving much thought to how many Aboriginal people might have been disposessed or killed by the pastoralist who built it, not to mention the extent to which the living descendents of that clan continue to be affected. We carry the weight of this violence in the depths of our beings- diving in and attempting some understanding of how that grief is lived on a daily basis- through the body- is part of a bigger personal and political process which I aim to engage through my work, and I invite audiences to join me in that. Non-Aboriginal people seem to have a hard time engaging with the truth of Australia’s history and their complex position as the beneficiaries of violence. When the rules and mythologies of the dominant culture are weighted in your favour, it’s very easy to retreat into collective denial. This land was stolen by force from our ancestors, who never ceded their Soverignty. This history remains shamefully unacknowledged, because to admit to a theft of such a scale is to destabilise the legitimacy of Australian nationhood. This denial of history and its continuing consequences creates an enourmous subliminal tension in the Australian psyche- the overwhealming guilt, shame and instability which underpins it has generated an Invasaion Complex- why do you think Australia patrols its borders so strictly? Why we think it is acceptable to violate the rights of refugees? Because Australia is terrified of losing what it unlawfully and violently stole in the first place. When i called the series “Unsettling Suite”, this was the kind of un-settling i was calling for. Australia will remain in a state of arrested development- culturally and politically- until this history and the continued marginalisation of Indigenous people is atoned for and addressed. Saying “sorry” is a start, but it is not enough. It’s also not enough to make room for Aboriginal stories and voices only as far as they are pleasing or digestible for white audiences. There is a range of aesthetic and thematic conventions that have come to define Aboriginal art as it  is recognised by the white gaze. My work fulfils none of them. As a contemporary artist I am looking for a new language to speak of a deep and complex grief, and my work is a direct invitation for audiences to meet me in that process. I want audience to get close to that process- we are all implicated in this history, we all have to live with it and with ourselves.

What can audience expect from this work, is it at all political?

Well, my work is engaged with the politics of de-colonisation, so yes. De-colonisation means a lot of things- on the one hand, it involves very concrete political goals. It also involves work that takes place on the symbolic and discursive levels, which is where I am best equipped to contribute as an artist. Artists and intellectuals have always been an important part of social movements because it is part of our job to expose the interlocking joins of oppressive power structures as they operate at a symbolic level, and invite an audience into a deeper consideration of those dynamics and where they might stand withing them. In a Western tradition, you can make an arguement that art is always political, even (maybe especially) when it claims not to be (because there is no such thing as political neutrality). For Aboriginal people, art making has always been intrinsic to our cultural and political survival and resistance- and yes, as a people who have been and continue to be systemically oppressed and marginalised in this country, when we make art as an assertion of our existence, of our sovereignty, of our culture and agency- of course it is political.

Explain to us the strengths and weakness presented by the marriage or cross pollination of artistic forms

I am generally distractable, over-curious and strongly averse to anything that calls itself authority- so the interdisciplinarity of my practice is arguably a product of my temperament. I could never be monogamously married to a single discipline, not because i’m a flake but because the questions that i want to ask as an artist often necessitate calling on a range of technical or artistic pallettes in order to be fully realised. Much of my work is invested in exploring states political and experiential liminality as i understand them- I am a queer, indigenous artist, who is culturally Blak but physically white- passing, who is non-binary gendered but currently feminine presenting, with a complicated and contradictory class background- so my choice to work at the borderlines of disiplines is perhaps reflective of where i am coming from as a person who exists largely at the unstable interstices of identities/selves. Those are the strengths. The weaknesses? It’s a lot of work and you feel like an imposter 99 per cent of the time. It can also be hard to find your place when the the world of cultural production in general is so clearly divided along disciplinary lines, you have to code-switch between one space and the next depending on the context you find yourself in.

What has been your biggest inspiration when creating this work for Dance Territories?

All of the works that make up the Unsettling Suite were first concocted on either the 9 hour bus ride south (through Gundungurra and Yuin country) from Sydney to the south coast, or on the train north from Sydney, through Darkinjung and Gaewegal country, northwards to Newcastle. I generally seed my ideas in Australia, almost always when in the bush or travelling through country, and take them overseas to develop them and refine them- I work regularly in the UK in Europe, and have kept a base in Berlin for the last 8 years. I don’t have a studio- I have most of my best ideas in transitory space- airports and trains, and hotel rooms. Or in the bath. A lot of my work is derived from unpicking complex physical and emotional states so i suppose these liminal kinds of spaces give me clarity. I do remember that The River’s Children was one of those rare cases that arrived as a bolt from the blue- I was on a residency in rural Portugal and I took an afternoon nap, and in the space between sleeping and waking the whole piece just arrived in my mind. I had been staying near a river and washing my clothes in river water every day, and hanging them to dry outside on lines which were strung across a circular planting of eucalyptus trees.

How is the audience pulled into this work, and is their involvement a catalyst within the work?

In the case of these two works, then audience are involved very directly, in that both works make direct invitations for the audience to either offer something or consume something that is offered to them. For me, i seek to centralise the audiences body within the experience. This is a huge part of both my artistic and political praxis. I am totally disinterested in being a spectacle for the audience’s gaze- i am the facilitator and the co-agent of an experience which hopefully has many layers. I am much more interested in what an audience member feels or carries of a performance three days or six months or ten years after they have seen it that what they experience in the moment- though of course this is important too. I try to engage, however subtly, as many of the audiences five senses as i can in every work because i want as much of the flesh engaged and present as possible.

Dance Territories opens on the 14th of October, a double bill, The Rivers Children and Take This For It Is My Body will be presented alongside of the work of french artist, Nacera Belaza who will be presenting The Shout for more info click here

 

Tanderrum

Over the past four years, to mark the commencement of Melbourne Festival the five clans of the Kulin Nation: Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wadawurrung n welcome us to country in Tanderrum, a ceremony that up until recently had not been performed here in Melbourne since 1835.

These are the first words spoken before the 18 days of stories and sensations that will follow: an opening ceremony and Welcome to Country by the First Peoples, the traditional custodians of this land. Through Tanderrum, we acknowledge the lore of the creator spirit Bunjil and pay respects to the vibrant living culture of this country.

Photos by Timothy Treasure

 

Going round the twist

Wes Snelling, undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s most awesome cabaret performers is back, and in fine form, bringing his larger than life, booze infused, neurotic and slightly terrifying character Tina Del Twist along for the ride.

Tina was the cherub and comrade to the likes of Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe… But she never quite made it to be a household name. Or did she? In Tina’s eyes, she did.  Known for her ‘beautiful voice and wicked sense of comic timing’ – The Age Melbourne. Loved by audiences and critics alike, this gin-soaked velvet draped madame has been described as the lovechild of Dame Edna and Amy Winehouse. TAGG spoke with the unlikely pair about Gold Class, which will be taking place at the Melbourne Fringe Festival hub, deep in the bowls of the beloved Arts House…

Introduce us to the work, what’s it called, and why?

Wes: It is Tina del Twist GOLD CLASS. It is a live cabaret concert like being at the cinema, but it’s live. It’s like being at home on the couch but this is in the privacy of your own fringe festival. There are VIP banana lounge seats available (which come with a complimentary wine) and Tina may throw some cheese at you at some point. Tina is a fabulous lush of a woman I produce. She is my Aunt, an alcoholic and a little deluded. I have her here with me now…

Tina: Hello darling, how are you?

Wes: so how would you describe the work Tina?

Tina: Well I sing lots of songs with my wonderful guitarist. I sing songs about.. oh how dull of me I don’t want to talk about the songs I am singing, it takes the fun out of it. Songs are there to be heard and lyrics interpreted via melody. Otherwise they would be poems, or chapters in a novel wouldn’t they, not songs. Come and see the concert and you’ll hear the songs. But they are of the blues and jazz vein. And I tell some jokes and stories you know.

Wes: Does that answer your question?

What drives you as a creative, is it the joy of performance, or the thrill of creating new work?

Wes: Well I will hand that one over to Tina…

Tina: Sorry what was the question? … Oh look, you know what, every time we are creating a new song or show or ‘work’ as you like to call it, I think god this is going to be a fun adventure, and then just before we start the process I have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get to the performance that is when the fun starts, it will all be ok, and then you get to the night of the performance and you are about to go on stage, you have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get to the end of the show and the applause arrives it will be worth it. Then you get to the end walk offstage and wonder if anyone actually liked it and you have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get paid you know, and then you realise the show was a fundraiser for a shed that needs to built somewhere in Nunawading to house a lawn mower, and so you go home and cry yourself to sleep. But to answer your question, what drives me as a creative is Gin.

Wes: What Tina is trying to say is that she really enjoys the entire process but most of all loves engaging with her audience.

What should audiences expect musically, and where drawn inspiration from when creating the work?

Tina: What should audiences expect musically? Songs darling.

Wes: Tina be nice. So, I know working with Tina on this there are quite a few original acoustic songs that are folky, bluesy, jazzy.

Tina: Let me talk Wes darling you sound like a dickhead. So there are quite a few original acoustic songs that are folky, bluesy, jazzy. The only time we choose to do a cover song is if we think we bring something new to it. There is no point just covering a song because you love the original, it has to also fit the context. Otherwise it’s karaoke. So we do songs by Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, songs that I grew up with and a lot of Australian work too but the lyrics have to make sense and be relevant to me. For example I wouldn’t do a song like Baa Baa Black Sheep because I am not a sheep, and I am not a fan of children so what’s the point? We do a song by that wonderful man Michael Hutchence, Devil Inside. I spent a lot of time with him back in the day. He taught me how to be sexual. But to answer your question, I draw inspiration from wine. And valium. At the same time.

Why do you think Tina Del Twist is still as popular, or perhaps notorious as ever?

Wes: I’ll take this one, Tina has just drifted off.

She is persistent! Ha! Tina is a talented alcoholic who once was a starlet but she is now living on the other side of that and is completely deluded that the stardom has ceased. There is an underlying darkness and tragedy to this that she doesn’t harp on about. In some ways everyone has or knows of an Aunt Tina. Not necessarily one that sings but certainly that Aunt who rocks up to xmas smashed and has no filter and takes you out the back for a joint. Her dementia often kicks in and she says whatever she likes. And that is why she is really fun, and why I think audiences can get a kick out of it as she often says things people are thinking but may not feel comfortable saying.

How do you see this performance as standing out from the rest of Melb Fringe this year?

Wes: I will start by saying it is not a competition. I think Melbourne has enough audiences to go and see shows. You still have to work hard to get people there. I think people do go and see more than one show. I would personally like to steer away from the idea that we stand out from each other because it creates a competitive culture, particularly in a fringe festival where I believe one of the main purposes is to nurture all artists involved.

Tina: Oh shut up Wes, this show stands out because it is the best.

What do you hope that audience will walk away with post show, and why?

Wes: I like people leaving a show and asking questions. Specifically, ‘why didn’t we book a banana lounge Gary?’

Tina: There can be a stress when creating a show that there has to be resolution at the end or that you have to leave the audience with one message to take away. I try not to focus on that. This particular show has a lot of light and shade in it and it is much like a mosaic puzzle, in a good way. Over the course of an hour you get presented with all these dots to join in the form of music and anecdotes, and you let them wash over you. Then when you leave all the dots make sense. This is my favorite kind of cabaret.

For more information and to book you tickets click here

Not Another Indie Cabaret

The delightfully disenchanted cabaret songstress Jessamae St James, is looking to stand out from the pack with her new performance Not Another Indie Cabaret. A work that is self described as “Soaked in satire, part self-deprecating reflection and part love letter to making excellent life choices whilst drunk on eBay.” and directed by Steven Gates one third of Australian comedy powerhouse Tripod, should indeed prove to be a trifle entertaining.

Pair this with the lusciousness that is The Butterfly Club, who are presenting the work as part of their Melbourne Fringe season, you have more than a good chance of having a great time in checking this one out. TAGG spoke with Jessamae ahead of the season.

What is the inspiration behind you show?

The show is a comedy cabaret, a satirical mash of indie, pop and spoken word. I was inspired oddly enough by cabaret! You see, I don’t want to perform ‘just’ another indie cabaret. But what the heck does that actually mean? I mean, isn’t cabaret by it’s definition pretty indie? And then if it is an indie cabaret how do I know if it’s indie enough? Questions. Drama. Throw in a loop station and some questionable online shopping. Oh also, a trumpet kazoo.
 
Why cabaret, and what do you hope to give audiences, and what do you hope they take away from the performance?
Cabaret so perfectly captures my loves; music, story telling and intimacy. Urgh that sounds so squishy but I love cabaret and so I tend to wish a lot from it. I think it’s such a wonderful way to tell stories and can also be outrageous ridiculous fun. I really hope to remind audiences that not taking ourselves too seriously can be a source of wonderful joy!
What do you feel defines your work, and sets its apart from the rest of the Melbourne Fringe Season this year?

All of the songs in Not Another Indie Cabaret are written by me using instruments that I’ve bought whilst drunk on eBay! Also, the show is directed by Steven Gates (who is 1/3 of the multi award winning comedy trio Tripod), he has a wealth of knowledge on all things funny.
 
You have an incredible voice, talk to us about how you came to be a singer, and whats your training background?

In high school I was 100% a music theatre geek and went on to study music theatre at VCA. I then went back a few years later and completed a third of the jazz improv degree. Whilst I was there I found myself wanting more and more to be creating and devising theatre and so I took some time off to do that, and haven’t looked back! Although the songs in this show aren’t stylistically jazz, I’m very much influenced by jazz in my writing. Early on when I first began writing I was lucky to be part of a song writing mentorship where I was mentored by Deborah Conway. Since then I’ve somehow managed to sing jazz in nightclubs, in beautiful theatres whilst performing striptease in burlesque shows and combine it with my kitsch 80s omnichord for silly synth-y fun.

Not Another Indie Cabaret opens on Tuesday the 20th September and plays till Sunday the 26th, for more information or to book your tickets click here.

It’s Time To Make A Move

Chunky Move are a company that have and continue to be at the forefront of Australian dance, often blurring the lines between technology and the physical form, they have deservingly won a place in the heart of many. Now its ninth year, their groundbreaking initiative Next Move, see’s the company commission the work of emerging and independent dance makers, something that is now more crucial than ever. As part of this year line up is Mermermer, a performance that has come from two of Melbourne’s most talented creators, Nicola Gunn who most recently  was responsible for Ghetto Blaster and Jo Lloyd who last presented Confusion For Three at Arts House. It’s a bold pairing, the two possessing a unique style that is each their own, and should make for an amazing performance. Jo Lloyd spoke with TAGG ahead of the upcoming season

What was the genesis for creating the work?

Over the past three years Nicola Gunn and I have engaged with each others works, and one duration piece we made for Melbourne Now (2014) opened up a practice which engaged my movement with Nicola’s words. This triggered us to develop this intersection of languages further, and Mermermer became the continuation of this preoccupation of ours. We also shared an interest in extinction and the premise of entertaining each other.

Visually, what can we expect from the work?

Saturation and landscape have been strong considerations for this work. As well as utilising the physical and verbal languages to stimulate the imagination and shift perceptions, we have worked with concepts of representation and the connotations the supporting elements conjure up.

What has come out of the collaboration between yourself and Nicola?

We have been conscious of engaging in the strengths of our individual practices, so we can augment what we each know how to do. We are more interested in finding modes of performance that are unfamiliar and engage with a liveness in performance.

What has been some of the more unexpected elements of the work?

Ideas and concepts that came up early in the process persisted and came back frequently enough that we became convinced those early ideas were actually the guts of the work. Yet the distractions along the way were a reminder that the process is the piece.

Do you identify with any current trends in dance performance, and do you sit with in or outside of such things?

Dance and the body engaging with a broad range of performance contexts has had a surge recently (movement in galleries, dance in theatre performances and site specific works) which could be referred to as a performance trend. I don’t consciously try to have a perspective on performance trends whilst I’m engaging in a creative process, my focus is perhaps more about consciously working in relation to my own performance trends.

What does being included in Next Move, offer up, being an independent performer?

The rare opportunity Chunky Move offers with Next Move is immersive, the artist is able to engage with the staff throughout the process and create the work in the venue where it will be presented. I have had to remind myself that the support is available, because as an independent artist you are used to taking on many roles, but with this commission, there are experts in their field ready to do the work we often take on ourselves.

For more info or to book your tickets to Next Move, which opens on Friday the 9th of September click here.