Tag Archives: theatre

A Walk Through My Mind

Recently, I started taking long walks again. Coming out of the slough of despond can have that effect, and vice versa. And as I walked, I began to think. As as I thought, it seemed like a good idea to share some of my thoughts.

So last week, setting off from Crewe Toll towards Princes Street, in Edinburgh, I thought I would share what was on my mind as I was walking.. Siri obligingly opened my voice memo app, and the result is here for you to listen to. There is traffic, and breathlessness involved, so it’s all very ‘in the moment’ as we say in the biz.

There’s talk about theatre, and the weather, and I do apologise for the poor quality of the recording. Clearly this is going to be a steep learning curve.

As I mention in the recording, at the top of Dean’s Bridge, a rather interesting building can be seen. I still haven’t been able to ascertain if it’s a private house or not. Here it is.

Post Fringe Ponderings

The final performance (for now) of The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) took place at 7 pm on Sunday night, 3rd April, at the Phoenix Fringe Festival. The house was just over half full, but it seemed more, it’s such a tiny venue Space 55. It only seats around 36-40, and a few empty seats here and there don’t seem to matter.

The big guns were in. David Barker, Professor of Acting at ASU, and two guys from the Fringe Festival.  Angela (our director for the Phoenix production) brought her mother, and Zack, the MFA student who had been at the VASTA conference in 2009, the one who suggested that the production would be a real treat for students if presented to them as a lecture, had come along all primed to come up when invited to do a short passage from a Shakespeare monologue. Sadly, when the moment came, I completely forgot to invite him up! Sorry, Zack!

One thing that has been relatively consistent throughout all the performances, both in Brisbane and in Phoenix, has been audience engagement.  For the most part people laugh, smile, or listen intently. The Phoenix audiences were larger than in Brisbane – I don’t think we ever had more than 12 people in the audience in Brisbane, whereas we had 15 to 25 in Phoenix, and in a smaller space so they would have felt less exposed.  The Phoenix audiences were also much more prepared to look me in the eye, and to respond. I could look at just about anyone, and they would look back, whereas in Brisbane many people (especially non-actors) either avoided eye contact or refused to maintain it.

The difference at the final performance was that David Barker, who arrived about 10 minutes late and sat in the front row, just looked at me impassively throughout the whole performance.  He never smiled (that I noticed), nor did he ever give any indication that he was interested in the discussion, or the ideas expressed.  This only became truly relevant to me when I met him the following day at the Phoenix Film Festival schools workshop.  He came up to me and thanked me for working with Lauren (one of his students), asked me how she was to work with, and whether I had written the script. That was it.  In my book, that is code for “I didn’t like it much, and your performance did not appeal to me either”. He probably only came because of Lauren, which is fair enough, and was only interested to check that I hadn’t been taking advantage of her, or teaching her bad habits.

So there you have it.  All the people who stopped me on the way out after each of the three performances to thank us effusively, to congratulate both Lauren and me on our performances, to admire the production and the ideas expressed just evaporate into the “foul and pestilent congregation of vapours” that hovers, uninvited, close by, while the one mean-spirited response (or lack of) lights up like a ‘brave o’er-hanging firmament fretted with golden fire”.

What IS that?  You’d think I’d be able to control it better, after all these years.  I claim to be non-competitive yet I am unable to accept being anything less than the best there is. I know I’m not, by a long chalk, but I keep on hoping that somehow, some day, I will suddenly emerge as this great actor!  Of course, I work at it. I don’t expect to get any better at it without actually putting in the hard yards, doing the training, exploring, experimenting, engaging with the craft, developing my skill set.  The problem seems to be an old one. I get above myself. I don’t realise I’m doing it until I find myself being cut down to size.

From New Album 14/03/11 2:21 PM That’s Angela Giron, me and Lauren Dykes, the Phoenix division of Thunder’s Mouth Theatre.

So what does that mean – to get above myself? How is that even possible?

I think I am playing the good old Aussie game of hunting down the Tall Poppy. The rules are that nobody must stand out, or appear to be higher, smarter, richer, prettier, or anything-at-all-er more than anybody else. If they are, they must be cut down.  I refuse to play this game against other people, but boy am I terrified of being perceived as being a Tall Poppy myself!  Hence my real claim to fame, my actual expertise that qualifies me as a genuine Tall Poppy, is in the area of self-sabotage.  I’m the Best!

Massive Attack of Playfulness

When was the last time you played, like a child, a real game of pretend?  I have fond memories of playing in the back yard of the block of flats in Townsville we lived in when I was 7, my cousin Lloyd and I, re-enacting in great detail whatever movie we had just seen at the Saturday morning showings. If it was a Hopalong Cassidy film, he would be Hopalong, riding manfully around on a broom handle, while I would be Gabby Hayes, supporting and subverting his exploits in equal measure.  Our dialogue would be remembered snatches from the movie, liberally interspersed with “You must do this” and “You must do that” as we each unconsciously, and unselfconsciously directed each other.

Yesterday I was fortunate to see one of the shows at the Brisbane Powerhouse, in the WTF 2011 festival. (World Theatre Festival in case you were wondering…)  The show was “Apollo 13: Mission Control”, courtesy of New Zealand company Hackman, and for an over-age kid like me, it was heaven on earth. Actually it was out of this world, since I’m now on a roll with the cliches.

The auditorium of the Powerhouse Theatre was arranged as a replica of Mission Control, with rows of consoles complete with working switches, screens and lots of flashing lights. The audience was divided into two groups, Console and Media Gallery. Console actually got to sit at the consoles, flip the switches, play with the phones, solve some of the very real technical problems that arose and interact with the performers. We in the Media Gallery got to observe not just the action/re-enactment of the Apollo 13 crisis, but also to observe the audience/players below us.

This is a fabulous theatrical concept, and it is fabulously effectively executed by the members of Hackman. The script is sharp, beautifully paced with the dramatic events unfolding along with the improvised interactions with the audience.  I enjoyed the antics of the Mission Control members as they struggled with their personal and professional interactions, the joy and fear of the astronauts (two actors, one audience volunteer) visible on a couple of giant screens, and was totally fascinated by the audience/players and the degree to which they were prepared to engage with the game of pretend. Some immersed themselves completely, some took the micky at any opportunity, others managed the transition between playing the game and being moved by the enormity of the drama itself. It made no difference what age they were, from worldly seven year olds to star-struck parents.

A friend tells me that children nowadays are unimpressed when video of the moon landing is shown to them in school. What a shame. Of course, in 1969 the landing was filmed in black and white, it does look clunky by today’s standards. But I defy anyone to watch the lift-off of a space rocket filmed in close-up as it explodes out of its scaffold and rises majestically up in front of your face on a giant screen, and not feel your heart ascend to the heavens along with it.

I loved the whole experience, and take my hat off to the imagination and ingenuity of the Hackman team, and to Powerhouse and WTF 2011 for bringing it to Brisbane.