Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Basically I Don't But Actually I Do

Basically I Don't But Actually I Do
By Jochen Roller and Saar Magal

Earlier this year I read some kind of sciencey study arguing that the process of putting our gut responses into words often causes us to reverse that initial position; that is, in verbalising an instinctive reaction, we engage in some kind of interior dialectic that sees us taking up the side opposing ourselves. The people who took part in the study weren't critics, per se, and I've no idea of the validity of the testing, but it's an interesting conclusion, donchathink? Certainly one that most critics can probably find some connection with. It's a similar response to the one I had watching Jochen Roller and Saar Magal's Basically I Don't But Actually I Do. I distinctly recall feeling, during the performance, that much of it was naïve, confused, overly difficult, overly contrived. In the days since I've revised that opinion, and now I find a lot of intellectual pleasure in pondering the piece. Is that a bad thing? Is a gut response somehow more intrinsically authentic, more real? Maybe. But we don't live in the moment of reception; if I were to try to hold onto the feeling of that moment, I'd be writing my name in water.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Four Larks' Peer Gynt

By Four Larks Theatre.

I've seen all three of Four Larks Theatre's productions this year, and I'll be trying to get along to anything they do in the foreseeable future. But their adaptation of Peer Gynt, currently playing in the beautiful old building hidden down a Northcote laneway that they seem to call home, confirms just why the company is such a fascinating and frustrating anomaly in Melbourne. It's a case of extremes: what they get right they do better than almost anyone around, but the shortcomings of each work are just as pronounced. I can't think of any other group I'd subscribe to both because of and despite what I think I'll be getting.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Electronic City

Preamble: I wasn't going to review Hoy Polloy's new production Electronic City because one of my oldest friends (and current housemate) is in it. This is, in the classic parlance, a conflict of interest. But it's had me thinking about that old doozy for a while, and of course it's something that every critic in Melbourne probably bumps their shins against once in a while. In a way, I think a critic who doesn't have conflicts of interest might be in a more difficult position than one who does. After all, a 'conflict of interest' can also be shortened to an 'interest' and the whole idea of the disinterested critic is, to me, a troubling one in an artistic culture of the sort this city boasts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Malthouse Theatre 2011 - season one

Malthouse Theatre's first 2011 season was announced last night – the first under incoming Artistic Director Marion Potts – and while I'll get to the line-up in a bit, I thought it might be worth a quick look at the company she's taking over and the fellers who are vacating the building as she arrives.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MKA Richmond closure (sort of)

When I first heard about the opening of new theatre/playwriting hub MKA Richmond I thought it sounded like the kind of ambitious venture on the young, drunk or mildly deranged would attempt to pull off, but I checked out the opening the other week and was impressed to see an ambition being realised in a pretty professional way. Lots of industry support, nice venue, plenty of credibility, not a lot of naivety. One of those so-crazy-it-just-might-work things. The first gambit was a month of new play readings, a different one each night, and the season sounds like it kicked off well with sellout performances.

I've just received word that after only two days, the council has told MKA to shut down. A couple of local residents complained about increased foot traffic in the street (it's a 44-seater, so that's odd). The MKA folks have already found an alternate space to carry out the rest of the month's shows - in the QV complex - and the Richmond space will continue to operate as a kind of lab for development.

The full release is reproduced below:


Melbourne’s only new writing theatre as of Thursday November 4 is at the behest of City of Yarra bureaucratic red tape. Despite the intrinsic role of local government to support the values and beliefs held by the community through a rich cultural program, City of Yarra has opted to close the door on a promising creative venture that is set to benefit not only its constituents, but artists nationwide.

MKA Richmond, an intimate 44-seat theatre, from the outset offered itself as a gift to the artists of Australia. Artistic Director Tobias Manderson-Galvin said in his inaugural message “MKA Richmond will support the growth and development of Australian playwrights and dramaturgical practice as never before. Our company is committed to developing and producing extraordinary Australian theatre from new and established playwrights, and we will be persistent in our mission to have these voices heard here and abroad”. MKA was established primarily to foster a burgeoning community of playwrights in Melbourne, a contribution to the local theatre scene that not only has been lacking to date, but that many have been crying out for.

It is therefore most surprising that complaints from two nearby residents about additional pedestrian traffic in the area would lead to the closure of such a valuable artistic enterprise. MKA’s neighbours on Tanner Street include a hairdressing salon, a commercial gallery, the Cricketers Arms pub, a design studio, a brothel, and local residents. In this mixed-zoning area, it is inconceivable that a small writers theatre should be under attack.

Preliminary discussions with City of Yarra Statutory Planning Office together with the Arts and Cultural Services Office were extremely positive, insisting that MKA Richmond would be waived usual requisites such as the want for additional car spaces, due to its convenient proximity to the major public transport thoroughfares of Richmond Railway Station and Swan Street trams.

Co-founders Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Glyn Roberts were assured by the Council that they were a 'rubber-stamp away' from a gaining a permit to operate the space as a permanent professional theatre. Body Corporate of 24 Tanner Street similarly expressed its support for MKA Richmond and, additionally, their delight in the presence of a new cultural hub within the building. These meetings instilled in MKA the substantial confidence to warrant forging ahead with a short month long season of rehearsed readings in its pre-built theatre space and licensed bar.

Like Sydney’s Nimrod Theatre in the 1980s (now Belvoir St Theatre), the inability to secure the venue’s longevity initially disrupted artistic practice. However, through a wave of support from the likes of Patrick White, David Williamson, Peter Carey and Max Gillies, the future of the prestigious company, which continues to operate out of the same building today, was secured.

Yet unlike Nimrod, MKA Richmond’s pressures come not from the threat of demolition, but from the City of Yarra’s lack of support for a plentiful arts precinct in Richmond. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights serves as a pertinent reference under these circumstances, for Article 27 stipulates, “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. The trampling of a promising professional theatre operation in a densely urban locale is in clear breach of the basic human right to experience culture within the community.

On the same day that MKA Richmond’s Tanner Street home was silenced, the company was overwhelmed by tenders for the housing of MKA OPEN SEASON in alternate venues.

MKA will be temporarily transferring to a new location in Jane Bell Lane QV: MKA Melbourne. OPEN SEASON will perform the remainder of the rehearsed readings in this new venue, while MKA Richmond will continue to operate as the home of Melbourne’s new writing theatre.

If you feel inclined to rally against the City of Yarra’s decision, we welcome written gestures of support in any shape or form to All messages would be sincerely appreciated.