Haiku #165 (Sydney Writer’s Festival book launch)

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The world fell away.
She couldn’t take her eyes off
Him, spilling warm tears

Of pride. Hours of
Harvesting at his laptop.
Now he eats the fruit.

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Short and Sweet Gala Finals 2016

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The Short and Sweet Gala Finals at The Depot theatre were very impressive this year. There was such a variety of plays performed, having made it through Wildcard rounds, People’s Choice, Judges’ picks and weekly Top 80s. I’m always in awe at how well crafted these plays are, with wicked plot twists, sharp dialogue and astute social critiques. What’s more, the commitment from the actors this year was very impressive. There were several monologues performed,  as well as ensemble pieces with music, with casts that ranged in age and cultural background. Congratulations to all the acts that participated in 2016 Short and Sweet!

“Game Night” took to the stage first. In a satirical take on family conflict, the audience was taken on a journey following a game of monopoly that lead to chaos. A fun, lighthearted play to get the audience laughing and set the scene for the night.

“Baby Blues” threw us into the deep end with a hilarious monologue delivered by a hand puppet. This fun play gave a cute critique on middle class parenting and the perils that come with it, from the perspective of a baby. With subtle commentary on the debate around public breastfeeding, Ruth Pieloor, gave a flawless performance.

I particularly enjoyed “The Political Bachelorette”. This reality game show parody had fast quips and explicit commentary of contemporary Australian politics. The characterisation and political rhetoric was very well captured. In fact, I hope to see Kate Macdessi in the writing credits of revues or skits (Chaser-esque) in the near future. It was very current, with clever commentary on gender equality and our government system.

“Walked Over” was one of my favourites. In an astute snapshot of married life, we were faced with a conversation between a man and wife, that oozed with tension and acidity. The wife clearly had a stranglehold over her partner and he didn’t have much freedom at all. This play was really lifted by the cast- unnerving and completely convincing, and ended with a tip of the hat to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Excellent plot twist!

“Heaven.Com” was a unique insight into Heaven, and what would happen if Heaven were finally hooked up to the Internet. In a cheeky look at illegal downloading, hacking and overseas service centres, this play was a light comedy that put the IT industry in the spotlight.

“Tea Time” was this year’s pick by the festival director, and presented the sad reality of life with Alzheimer’s disease and/dementia. It was rather unsettling, because it felt more like a vignette of real life, with sneaky echoes of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.

“Chemistry Test” ended the first half with a bang. This clinical comedy of Internet dating called for very physical performances from the actors, and left the audience laughing with a last minute plot twist. It was a feel good performance that held up a mirror to our online habits,  and the profiles we post of ourselves.

Following interval, “Match of the Century” was the highlight of my night. It was a polished mash up of hip hop and rap, with a sprinkling of slam poetry, aided by talented musicians on double bass, percussion and keyboard. This flawless performance followed a 1970s chess tournament between the  Soviet and the United States. The ensemble were so quick and never missed a beat- their fast dialogue was mind boggling. Sublime!

The Wildcard Finals Judges’ Choice was “Bi. Cycle (The Sammy Steel Spin Class)”. Written and performed by Sam Anderson, this play was a whirlwind monologue exploring sexuality through the cathartic process of instructing a spin class. Anderson’s performance was so physical and incredibly passionate. The lack of props left everything to the imagination, and the slick wordplay made for a powerful message. A clear crowd favourite.

“Blind Date” was a whimsical play on the art of dating, and showcased the thoughts of the couple through performed subconscious banter. Clever and feel good, this play was a fun snapshot of dating reality.

“Who Wants To Be A Channel Nine Intern?” was a really fun play about a job interview – gone reality show. This performance gathered momentum and just snowballed Into laughter that bounced off the audience.  It felt quite improvised and self aware.  With a lot of production elements in sound and lighting, it really felt like the real deal.

“Sauerkraut” was a unique monologue set in Nazi Germany. Writer and performer Gina Cohen displayed a passionate and physical performance that was able to to create the scene in our collective imaginary. She had incredible focus and commitment.

“The Revenge of Mr Meowgi” was the perfect play to finish the night with. A grown man in a morphsuit, acting like a cat trying to sabotage a date- the audience was in hysterics. Such a fun concept ended the night on a high. 

I look forward to next year’s line up.

Image credit:

Luke Nowell’s pLight Review

As part of the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival, Luke Nowell brings to life a nonsensical physical comedy. Nowell’s one-man performance, pLight, showing at the Fusebox Theatre in Marrickville follows the great success of his previous entry into the 2014 Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival, The weaning of Life.

It was definitely not what I was expecting- it was more. I think physical comedy can often be hit-and-miss, but pLight was a clear winner. There was something for everyone as he forced the audience out of their comfort zones into an entirely new space. This space relied heavily on the engagement of the audience and their willingness to suspend their disbelief. Through lighting and sound production, the audience travelled with Nowell to distant planets, socially awkward parties and blizzards. Nothing was left sacred as he explored the many facets of life in small, poignant and hilarious sketches.

Nowell’s production is nothing less than Absurd. Having studied at French clown school, Ecole Philippe Gaulier, his physical theatre incorporates elements of pantomime, naivety, dramatic irony  and he gives his everything to the performance. As with most absurdist theatre, it holds a magnifying glass over the follies and arbitrariness of the mundane. His performance pushes these to the extreme, eliciting a certain hysteria from the audience I was in- it was euphoric and most worked on the shock factor of the unexpected.

It was a visceral experience that incorporated very simple elements of slapstick, and visual humour that is accessible to everyone, regardless of comedy-preference. His comic timing and attention to detail is impeccable as he embodies all of his personas down to his very toes. There are also running gags that perhaps seem a little redundant until an anti-climax which is just purely nonsense.

I loved it, I had just a great night (and actually was a bit disappointed that it ended when it did). Nowell is very skilful at making his physical theatre seem effortless. It’s whimsical and light-hearted and a bit surreal at times- but definitely worth a watch.

For more information: http://www.pozible.com/project/197797

It’s Rubeeeee! IN LIGHTS! – Sydney Comedy Festival

Showing as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival, Rubee Sookee presents her one woman whirlwind show, “It’s Rubeeeee! IN LIGHTS!” at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville. For context, the performance is-

“set in an imaginative world where toys come to life, Rubee awake to find Colin the Teddy Bear still drunk and in despair. He’s broken up with his boyfriend and Rubee decides he needs cheering up.”

Her performance shows her esoteric view of the world which flows in a series of short sketches, many of which are quirky commentaries of real life. It was in these skits, (particularly ‘Desperate Girl At Party’,) that I identified with the dramatic material. Rubee is great at shining a light on the absurdity of life. The sketches are also made dynamic by being interspersed with a few musical numbers, bringing a comedic twist to Beyonce and Kylie Minogue tracks with the help of friend and back up dancer, Levi. To top off her routine, Rubee presents stand up and one liners that borderline caricature through impersonations and tasteful black humour. Her show is simple, yet so effective and although her sketches lack a common thread or explanation, each skit holds dignity and integrity. They stand alone as snapshots of life’s moments.

Rubee says she was inspired by the age-old wonder and awe that comes with holding conversations with your toys and staging scenes with them in your bedroom. It is in this way that her use of prop is quite creative and elements of the imaginary really add to the performance.

Having started in university revues and presenting her material in the 2014 Sydney Fringe Festival, Rubee has made it to the Sydney Comedy Festival and should be congratulated. Her genuine sincerity and playfulness make her performance as unique from the rest and she seems to exude a tremendous passion for making people laugh, which really comes across on stage. I’m keen to see her consolidate her and see what she does next.

Check out the promotional video: https://vimeo.com/gemmade/httpvimeocomrubeeinlights

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IMAGE CREDITS: http://www.enjoygram.com/cstar3xpress

The Bearded Gypsy band.

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Blue Mountains Blues, Roots and Folk Festival in Katoomba. On the Saturday night, I looked at my watch, marked the darkness cooling the earth and trundled across to the Katoomba RSL to catch the Bearded Gypsy band.

Although amused to find them quite beardless, I was more surprised to discover such a young band had graced the stage, so late in the evening. I hoped they were good, otherwise this rowdy, drunk knee-ed audience in the local pub would clap them off stage.

Boy, did they see my concerns and, raise me one- they were fantastic. What the band lacked in beards, it made up for in sheer talent. They were energetic, a passion that filtered through the willing audience which held long into the night. They were tight, their individual talents on fiddle, acoustic guitar, bass and drums were crisp. They were well polished and their integration of instrumental solos were seamless. The drums and bass held the sound together like how, keeping beat and maintaining tempo, while instruments like the fiddle, ukelele, mandolin and both acoustic and electric guitars took flight.

They were a clever fusion of old melodies, taking inspiration from Celtic blues and gypsy jazz, and creating a new monster that was a little cafe jazz, a little bluegrass. Whatever genre they took notes from, they showed they were versatile and flexible, not only replicating a well loved and recognised vibe, but also creating a soundscape that was uniquely theirs- an eclectic hybrid. While their vocals were good, their instrumentals were electrifying on stage, creating tunes that got most of the crowd up and dancing.

Upon researching more about them, I was pleased to find that their career is already a did one, having supported the Beards and the Cat Empire. At the moment, they’re touring nationally, so I hope to see them around.

Image credit: https://m.facebook.com/BeardedGypsyBand

The Plough @ Tamworth Country Music Festival

Discovered busking at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, The Plough is band well-worth listening to. Recreating “olde timey string” sounds, this four piece group boasts talents in mandolin, fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitar. Their harmonies and ability to pick up requests is really impressive and they play with such enthusiasm and vigour. Their sound is authentic and when listening, I felt like it was in a sepia film from the American deep south. I was excited to find such bluegrass talent in Tamworth.

They performed towards the end of the Peel Street (the main street) in Tamworth, which is a feat of true bravery because it’s often difficult to pick up bystanders unless you’re smack bang in the centre of town. Yet, they drew a crowd and the people stayed to listen. They were raw and authentic, no bravado for the country music festival like some of the other boot-scootin’ denim short shorts or spurred boots. Nay, they stood, some barefoot and a little bedraggled- a sincere, authentic band to match a genuine sound.

We requested tunes from the Coen Brothers’ film “O, Brother Where Art Thou?” and their renditions were met with roaring applause. Each play is equally skilled in their own right, showcasing multi-instrument talents in bluegrass and deep southern vocals. They thrived, even when their banjo player nearly swallowed a fly.
Their knowledge of country and bluegrass added to an impressive repertoire, which only enhanced their performance. They had a special guest come and sing for a few tunes, a rather laid back affair supported by Nick Payne from Dear Orphans. This glorious camaraderie between bands and band members gave the Tamworth Country Music Festival a warmth in atmosphere, surpassing the temperature (which was in the high 30’s!)

SHORT AND SWEET GALA FINALS

Reviewed by Regi Su
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Image source: http://whatsonsydney.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/short-and-sweet-gala-finals-review.html#more
This year, the world’s biggest little festival, celebrated their Sydney Gala Finals at the Seymour Centre to conclude the 2014 festival. During this year’s Short and Sweet Festival, over 162 plays were performed out of around 1000 nominated internationally. To date, the festival has catered for more than 3000 original new theatre works globally, since it began in 2002.

The top twelve at the Sydney Gala Finals were as follows-

1) Guided By Voices- This piece was creative and original. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this piece as it opened the set with humour, good nature and a quirky insight into the little voice commentary we often have while we humans make decisions. Excellent timing and excellent acting.

2) Nana- During this play, the audience roared with laughter at the sexually explicit humour presented by a little old lady. The synopsis states that the play “explores some of society’s most taboo topics: love, loss and sexuality among the aging.”

3) The Blue Balloon- I really enjoyed this play. For me it was touching, metaphorical and it showed excellent use of props and lighting. The use of space was very creative and the idea was very innovative, with undertones of human loss, even depression. Very poignant.

4) Stalemate- This was a wonderful play; innovative, original and terribly amusing, with relevant pop culture references. It magnified the frivolous in a fresh new way, as the protagonist had chosen to bake a cheesecake with a biscuit base, but the biscuit backfired with a lengthy lawsuit demanding his rights. There were puns galore.

5) Some Other Toy- This play engaged with an original futuristic concept, while the audience were in stitches over the dilemmas that arise when the use of a sex toy goes horribly wrong. Great use of lighting and well-acted by the two women who held the scene.

6) Wild Flowers- This play finished the first act with a bang and led us into the interval with a food fight. The fight arose from high-pressure tension between three ladies at a tea party and their social etiquette, rules and psychological bullying. An exaggerated flare up that left the audience in high morale by the night’s half-way point.
7) Therapist- I thought this was an exceptional play to open the second set with. It explored the power dynamics and power shifting between a therapist and her patient and, how these dynamics can shift at a moment’s notice when new information is uncovered and revealed. The plot twists showed an excellent release of information for the audience to connect with and the acting was impeccable, with Richard Carwin providing the biggest personality change. The innocence of the plot and its professional execution made this play a memorable one.

8) Level 2- This play was creative and inventive in a self-reflexive comment on humanity and human behaviour. It broke the fourth wall and made us, the audience, the subjects. The performance wonderfully engaging, a very interesting play to watch.

9) Moonage Daydream- This piece was a happy-go-lucky look into the lives of a married couple after a concert; the drunken confessions, the tired accusations. It was wonderfully hilarious and the actors managed to hold character for the length of the play. They dealt with real issues under the guise of exaggerated topics and the audience loved it.

10) Late for School- This play was so relevant and dark. Its heaviness weighed on me and gave me chills. We followed a stressed school teacher as she went through the motions of dropping her daughter to daycare, surviving school, then realising that perhaps she never got around to dropping her daughter to daycare. The release of information was flawless- for those who were swept along by the play and didn’t predict the ending, the shock factor would’ve been phenomenal. I realised halfway through and so the play then relied on the build-up of tension and suspense. Dramatic irony was carried by an excellent script and magnificent acting by Patricia Rowling.

11) Blabbermouth- A wonderful play held by three characters who’s witty, fast paced repartee engaged the audience with only one word at a time exchanged by each. The dialogue was excellent and the scripting was totally commendable. There was a great release of information with plot twists and turns, leading the play down unexpected pathways. I thoroughly enjoyed this play.

12) And What A Fine Morning It Is- TO finish of a wonderful night, this performance was a good natured satire of suburban competition- over a white picket fence. The escalation of humour that mirrored the rise in tension, gave us a great look into the pride and dignity of competitive men.

This year’s Gala Finals showcase some of the most professionally executed, original subject matter and talented artists this industry has to offer. I’m very interested in what next year has to offer.