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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Described as “Shakespeare meets The Wire”, The Brothers Size is written by 27-year-old American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, a newly inducted member of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble. We speak to director Imara Savage as she brings to stage McCraney’s poetry on paper.

What was it like working with Tarell Alvin McCraney? Wow! I wish I had worked with Tarell. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him and had to content myself with YouTube clips and interviews. Tina Landau, the director of The Brothers Size at the Steppenwolf describes this piece as a choreo-poem. Tarell himself admits that he harbours a not-so-secret desire to be a dancer.

How would you describe his style? It is Greek theatre and Shakespeare in the sense that gods and mortals collide. It is The Wire in that it’s written in contemporary African American vernacular. It is prose, verse, hip hop anthem and a gospel choir. It is movement and song. It is Peter Brook’s The Empty Space and Grotowsky’s “poor theatre”, in that it strips theatre back to it’s basic state and demands of the actors their voice, text, bodies and their relationship with the audience to be the tripod on which the show stands.

How does music play a part in The Brothers? The play is written around drum rhythms. The rhythms of the music of the Yoruba tradition are embedded within the text, so that even when there is no music, the audience is listening to musically encoded text. In the same way that Shakespeare provides us with rhyme and metre, Tarell’s words are built around rhythm and song. His influences come from his favourite hip hop artist Common and his first theatrical experience being in Baptist churches watching his grandfather preach the story of Lazereth rising from the dead.

On another level we are working with Miriam Liebermann, an accomplished musician who has spent a good deal of her life in Latin America and Africa studying the music of the now dispersed Yoruba traditions. So there are three dynamics at play. Firstly the songs that Tarell himself references (hip hop, soul and R&B), secondly the music of the Yoruba traditions played live by Miriam on stage (mainly drums, kora and voice) and thirdly there are the rhythms played out in the text.

As the director, what impressed you about McCraney’s words? When I first read the play I thought, “this voice is truly unique”. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it was. Tarell’s text is raw, exposing, poetic, beautiful, violent and sensual, just the way life is.

There was a play, True West, about brothers at STC late last year. Why are stories about brothers so compelling to tell and watch? I saw True West. Actually, I was directing another Shepard play Fool For Love at Belvoir around the same time which was also about siblings. I don’t think brothers are any more interesting than sisters, fathers, mothers or half cousins for that matter. Brothers are about family and family will always be a compelling story to tell and watch.

Until 16 Apr, SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross. $26-$30. 8002 4772, griffintheatre.com.au

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CROSSROADS: CONTEMPORARY RUSSIAN PHOTOGRAPHY

In a room, a monkey is about to drop a piece of paper into a ballot box and the title below the photograph reads, “Invitation to the sincerest form of flattery”. In another, a young girl with an elaborate hairdo burrows her face into the neck of her boyfriend. The sadness in his eyes shows another side to the much anticipated “School-leavers ball”. The five contemporary photographers displayed at Crossroads are so distinctive, you forget you are viewing the same exhibition but like a tapas dinner, the individual dishes add up to a satisfying and delectable meal. Curators Irina Tchmyreva and Evgeny Berezner have cleverly chosen Sergey Bratkov, Aleksandr Gronsky, Gregory Maiofis, Andrey Polushkin and Oleg Videnin to showcase each of their very particular styles to the idea of crossroads. Sometimes, the theme stand out like a crying woman on a lovers’ bridge and at other times, you have to search to understand the irony or look twice to see hidden clues in multilayered collaged old photographs. Beautiful, melancholic, ironic, tongue-in-cheek and eerie, this rare insight into Russia’s contemporary photography.

Until 30 Apr, Gallery 1 & 2,  Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford St, Paddington. 9332 1455, acp.org.au

Have you ever felt like you were standing outside yourself looking at you? I have when I’m hungover, mostly wishing I wasn’t the one on the couch with the insufferable headache. Victorian artist Sean O’Carroll coined the term ‘interspection’ to describe a self-reflective psychological state of looking at oneself from the outside. The subjects of his images are exactly and literally just that. A fully clothed person is examined by their naked reflection. The photographs are flawless but the repetition of the idea gets somewhat mundane as a collection. Since the concept is duplicated in each image, the intensity of ‘interspection’ lies mainly in the acting chops of the subjects, leaving only two strong contenders in the exhibition; rendering the rest poor copies.

Until 17 Apr, Gallery 4,  Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford St, Paddington. 9332 1455, acp.org.au

In my interview with 67-year-old Aboriginal actor Jack Charles this week (watch this blog), he described himself in his twenties as such, “I was political and thought of myself a useful person but I wasn’t as outspoken as I can be today. I was very shy and held back quite a bit. But theatre was the driving force behind putting me in front of people. I realised my potential here.” And today, he tells his story of drug abuse, the arts and the memories of being a part of the stolen generation on stage at the Belvoir Street Theatre. Join Associate Professor Peter O’Connor as he discusses theatre as a vital forum for communities to express issues that are otherwise overseen, ignored or even suppressed. Entertainment aside, there is no denying that theatre is a byproduct of our social, political and psychological world.

Mar 29, 6-7.30pm, Sydney Law School (Camperdown), New Law School Building, The University of Sydney, sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas/lectures/

BB King has performed more than 10,000 concerts in his lifetime. Period. I could just stop here, give you venue and ticket price information and be done. But just for giggles, I’ll throw in a few more numbers. Over 75 albums, 15 Grammy awards, ranked #3 on Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time’ and the octogenarian has been professionally recording since the 1940s. The King of Blues is still going strong and he’s probably got history and music soaked through to his bones. If you missed him at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, here’s your second chance to see a living legend on stage. No really, BB King is the recipient of ‘Living Legend’ medal in honour from the Library of Congress. Now, that’s a CV.

Apr 12 & 13, State Theatre, 49 Market St, Sydney. $107-$154. 9373 6655, statetheatre.com.au

Chris Wainhouse

Friday 25 March

Comedy Court: Kristin Bosenberg, Andrew Megregar, Ray Cashman, Joseph Mifsud, Tobias, Danny Giles, DJ Zoran – Star Bar ($10)

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church by Daniel Kitson – Downstairs Theatre, Seymour Centre ($25)

Matt Iseman – The Laugh Garage ($12-$25)

On a Wing and a Prayer: Fiona O’Loughlin – Sydney Opera House ($55-$59)

Sydney Comedy Festival Preview Night – The Factory Theatre ($25)

Tim Minchin vs Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Sydney Opera House

($49-$129)
Saturday 26 March

Chris Wainhouse – Happy Endings ($15)

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church by Daniel Kitson – Downstairs Theatre, Seymour Centre ($25)

Matt Iseman – The Laugh Garage ($12-$25)

On a Wing and a Prayer: Fiona O’Loughlin – Sydney Opera House ($55-$59)

One Man Lord of the Rings: Charles Ross – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

Quick Comedy: Kristin Bosenberg, Matthew Wakefield, Sacha Marx, Danny Morgan, Jenny Campbell, Peter Lloyd, Blake Edwards, Cam Lord, Jen Wong – Star Bar
Tim Minchin vs Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Sydney Opera House ($49-$129)

Sunday 27 March

Jacques Barrett, Joel Creasey – Sydney Comedy Store

On a Wing and a Prayer: Fiona O’Loughlin – Sydney Opera House ($55-$59)

One Man Lord of the Rings: Charles Ross – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

Tim Minchin vs Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Sydney Opera House ($49-$129)

Charles Ross

Tuesday 29 March

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

Owen O’Neil – Sydney Comedy Store

Wednesday 30 March

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

Mixed Nuts – The Laugh Garage ($12-$25)

Owen O’Neil – Sydney Comedy Store

Thursday 31 March

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

Owen O’Neil – Sydney Comedy Store

Friday 1 April

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

MC, Oliver P, Alan Glover – The Laugh Garage ($12-$25)

Owen O’Neil – Sydney Comedy Store

Saturday 2 April

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

MC, Oliver P, Alan Glover – The Laugh Garage ($12-$25)

Owen O’Neil – Sydney Comedy Store

Sunday 3 April

Charles Ross: One Man Lord of the Rings – Sydney Opera House ($45-$65)

PLEASE GIVE

It’s been a while since I recommended a DVD of the week, and it’s time damn it! The first is a quirky little comedy that I love so much, I demand you watch it. It nicely sums up the contradictory lives we live managing accumulating wealth and the guilt we feel because of it. It also touches on infidelity without “real reason” and insecurities despite age. I think Please Give uses a very simple, clean plot to tell a  very clever and funny story. And Catherine Keenan just keeps getting better. Must watch.

 

DUE DATE

I know this film did not receive very good reviews but I watched it two days ago and laughed so much I had to take a break from my Oporto meal. That never happens. Road trip films are predictable so the quality of the film relies solely on the acting chops of the protagonists and Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis make a really great dysfunctional pair. Brush off the hoity toity reviews. This is funny.


Comedian Matt Iseman is 190cm tall, a trained doctor and is the host of a home makeover show in the States. So the man can fix anything around the house, save your life and make you laugh while he’s at it. Ladies, we speak to the man who seems a tad too good to be true.

For Aussies who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself? I used to be a doctor.  Now I tell jokes.  I am the go-to guy on Clean House (television show on Style Network) which means I’m good with a hammer.  I host Sports Soup and American Ninja Warrior which means I love sports and ninjas.  I am an all-American guy who loves his friends and family and thinks classical music is the hair metal bands of the 80s.  I could eat breakfast three meals a day, especially because it’s the easiest to make.  I am pretty much a guy who is looking to enjoy life to its fullest.

You chose comedy over a medical career but is there anything you miss about being a doctor? I miss better parking and being able to give people drugs to make sure they laugh at everything I say.  Other than that, I really haven’t ever looked back.  Sure, I’m not saving lives now, but I love going to work.  And I rarely get sued anymore.

 

 

You seem to have had many different jobs. Which was the worst? I worked at Taco Bell for one day.  Then I found out what they put in the tacos.  Considering I had eaten there almost every day in high school, that was a rough job.

 

What are you looking forward to seeing/doing in Australia? I’m not sure if boxing a kangaroo is legal anymore, so I guess I’m just looking forward to meeting the people. Everyone I meet from Australia seems to be friendly, easy going and capable of drinking enough beer to get a blue whale drunk, so I want to meet them on their home turf and experience the world the way they do.

Mar 24 – 26, The Laugh Garage Comedy Club, cnr Elizabeth and Park Sts, CBD, $15-25, 9264 1161, thelaughgarage.com

What is it about blood, guts and gore that keep audiences coming back for more? Festival Director Dean Betram shines the light on this dark genre.

A little birdie told us that The Tunnel is the opening night film. Could you tell us a little about it and why it was chosen to open the festival? Not only is The Tunnel a terrifying and fantastically realised independent horror flick, but it is a testament to the incredible audacity of the indie filmmaking spirit,  in so far as the filmmakers developed an internet savvy fund-raising and promotional campaign to make the film a reality. Come to opening night and hear them tell their incredible story at the Q&A to follow the screening!

What films are you excited for the audience to see? Obviously the entire program excites me, but to list just a few: Dead Hooker in a Trunk is a heck of a lot of subversive fun, directed by and starring two of the genre’s hottest up and coming directors: twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska (pictured). The festival’s audience is also going to love Absentia, one of the most original and effective monster movies that I’ve seen in the last decade. The horror comedy The Last Lovecraft, already an international festival hit, delivers an hilarious take on the writings of cult horror author H. P. Lovecraft (Reanimator, Dagon, Call of Cthulhu) and is going to be a massive fan favourite. The highly anticipated Chilean feature Descendents will tick all the right boxes for zombie aficionados. And finally, genre legend Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Millennium) stars in his best role in years in Wilderness, an edge of your seat creature feature cum psychological mind trip that is going to blow the audience away!

What is about horror films that people just can’t get enough of? I think it is part of human nature to want to sit in the dark and be scared by a horrific story. Once we gathered around campfires to experience scary storytelling, now we huddle in cinemas for the same chills.

What’s the difference between horror and thriller? As the names of the two different genres suggest, a horror film should evoke a sense of horror in the audience, while a thriller should thrill. Also, if a film deals with overtly supernatural themes, or contains a decent helping of blood and guts, it definitely moves from the realm of thriller to horror. Obviously there is some crossover between the two.

What are your top five horror films of all time? Tough call, but John Carpenter’s Halloween, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Ruggero Deoadato’s Cannibal Holocaust.


Mar 31 – Apr 8, Dendy Cinema, Newtown. 261-263 King St, Newtown, 8594 9000, dendy.com.au

As promised, my interview with Arj Barker. Published in 3D World, Brisbane & Gold Coast

Comedian Arj Barker chats to KOMI SELLATHURAI about his dance skills, a case of halitosis and repeat complaints from audiences about his stand-up show, Let Me Do The Talking, coming soon to the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

 

Maybe it’s his drawl or the way he takes his time with the answers as if he were smoking a spliff in between questions, everything Arj Barker (eventually) says sounds funny. And that’s why Aussies can’t get enough of Californian Arjie Barjie. We love him here because he is so deadpan (I can hear his poker face over the wire), he makes colleague Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords look like a Hi-5er.

Taking inspiration from the Conchords song, I ask Arj what he’d do if there were “too many dicks on the dance floor?” “Leave or go to another club,” he says without hesitation. Are you a good dancer? “I can be when I am inspired. Once in a while I can really get in the zone. When I’m not in the zone, I’m really shit because I’m awkward and my heart’s not in it”.

Ironically, it is especially his awkwardness that makes him so endearing. On stage in Sydney last year, he lost his cool and then his momentum over a heckler. He walked around on stage uncomfortably only to be cheered on riotously by a crowd that obviously adored him. Yet, he received some serious complaints about his show, Let Me Do The Talking.

“It’s a great show from beginning to end. I’ve been working really hard on it but I’ve had a lot of complaints since the start of the tour and it’s always the same complaint.” What’s that, I asked concerned. “People say their faces hurt from laughing. If you get a chance to see it, you should. I can honestly say it’s a very funny show, probably my best show yet.”

Arj likes to take the piss and he enjoys the occasional prank. So when I confessed that I Googled his name and was surprised to find a picture of him in his birthday suit, he said, “Yea, that. It was meant to be a practical joke. I was house-sitting and I thought it’d be funny if I took a picture naked with his guitar. And when he sees it, he’d be like WTF were you doing in my house. I guess that picture got leaked.”

Oh well… He seems like someone extremely comfortable in his own skin. Does he laugh at his own jokes when he watches himself? “Well I don’t watch myself, only when I’m helping with the DVD editing. But I don’t really sit around and watch myself. I leave that to other people.” Maybe he’s a Johnny Depp type, far too critical about himself. “Well, I don’t need to. I know what I’m gonna say,” he says laughing.

And if you do get your hands on his latest DVD, Forever, you’d get a sneak peak into his previous dabbling in Flash animation, Arj and Poopy – a series starring himself and his cat Poopy that speaks in farts. “I’ve had a coupla cats but Poopy is not specifically based on any one cat,” he says as I ask him if the series was based on a cat he owned or how about a dog. “No, but I’m sort of an uncle to several dogs.”

Besides, with Arj’s lifestyle, it may be a little difficult to own pets. He’s been in Australia now for more than half a year. “I have a lot of friends here and I don’t differentiate good friends and family.” Despite his semi-residency in Oz, he flits around state to state in a manic nomadic way. Flying all the time can’t be fun.

“I sat next to somebody with not the freshest breath in the world. I generally don’t chat too much until we’ve landed. Because if you start talking in the beginning, you may have to chat with them the whole ten hours. And if they have halitosis, that can be a real problem.”

Oh Arj, just a little compromise for having made it as a comedian. What would have happened if he wasn’t a comedian though? “I think I’d be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. But I think business would be tough since the internet came out.”

There’s never a dull moment when you are in a conversation with the Arj. He is the people’s comedian, in this case, the Australian people’s comedian. The kind you’d want to have a beer with after the show. But even the most likeable, easy-going people must have regrets or unfulfilled dreams. So I ask my final question: What did you believe in when you were 18 that you wish you still believed in today?

“Santa Clause. I was really gullible so I didn’t find out till I was 19.”

Mar 15 – 20, Brisbane Powerhouse, $39-$44, briscomfest.com