Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 1 - Wandering Hanger Festival

The festival began with a mid-afternoon opening ceremony, and went on to some performances in the afternoon.

If I could, I would describe the opening ceremony, and my experience of delight, warmth, and confusion as I stepped onto the toy tram, in hand an old suitcase emblazoned with my name in Cyrillic lettering, being announced to drum fanfare and stepping out into a surprisingly large swarm of local press in a carefully orchestrated spectacle that still had something beautifully earnest about it.

People Spoke
Nova Linia Hardware Warehouse

Nova Linia is a hardware warehouse in Ukraine (the Australian equivalent is Bunnings). It was the venue chosen to host my performance, which opened the festival.
It was an incredible experience to perform in this place, and the irony of performing a political work in an icon of capitalism’s new frontier was perhaps funny only to me. I wore a t-shirt emblazoned with a defence of protest, and slowly made my way through the work.

How was it received? I honestly don’t know - which is maybe a good thing. Once again I was pleased with the conversation afterwards, a complex one about the usefulness of political action.

Photo - Pavla Berezuka

Sports Hall 
Youth Theatre Teatrali, Tbilisi

Monday, September 23, 2013

Festival of the Wandering Hanger, Ukraine

The Festival of the Wandering Hanger in Ukraine is a performing arts festival featuring acts from Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. I will be there as a guest from 26th-30th of September, providing a critical angle on what I see.

The website for the festival is here (Ukrainian)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The theatre maker and the institution

I wrote a short argument for theatre makers rejecting institutions in the current global political environment, published here courtesy of A Younger Theatre.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Note: My critical authority was compromised more than usual here. All points speculative.



Schlock, a word derived from Yiddish meaning ‘poor copy’, is what happens when the horrific is made suddenly comic. It is also, for some reason, unfashionable in the theatre. This is something I’ve never understood. Despite its under-the-table connections with the world of ‘low art’, I’ve often found in it something deeply and surprisingly poetic, and it has a long and interesting tradition, beginning, at least in a spectacle sense, with the phenomenal immersive experiment of Étienne-Gaspard Robert’s Phantasmagoria in 1797. The unifying nature of schlock - whereby an audience collectively faces a horrific encounter, and comes away laughing together - I find quite affirming, and sort of nicely, gently shocking. It brightens my mood.

Since the 1970s, all of this is cultural territory claimed by the contemporary horror film, and so Stephen King’s work, which begins in earnest in 1970, sits exactly at this neat crossover, and in some ways defines it. If King wasn’t a well-known exponent of schlock – he’s far too earnest – it can certainly be interpreted that way from a distance. (From a distance, say, of Germany, although some might say that’s not so distant).

This schlockification of King is evident when someone tries to make a film of one of his novels. They inevitably encounter this earnestness, the sincere psychological believability of King’s narratives, which is just plain impossible to represent on film. The best film adaptation of a King novel is surely Kubrick’s The Shining, which is actually open caricature. Jack Nicholson's performance is, to me, an acknowledgement of the medium’s deficiency, an expression of defeat, let’s say, likewise Shelly Duvall’s often mocked performance, known mostly for its lack of acting and dilated pupils. Pet Semetery’s adaptation, where a novel about the psychological torment of death becomes something more shallow and, well, gross, is another case in point. The TV-movie of IT is perhaps the biggest exponent, adapting an allegorical manifestations of a shape-shifting antagonist, standing for some darker psychological malaise in American culture, into a meaningless set of shock-cornucopia. One is potent, the other just means you can’t ever laugh at a clown again.

 Foto: Alexander Jaquemet

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Plebs sein - Plebs werden. Im Totem Winkel 2 ('Plebs be - Plebs will be. In Blind Spot 2')

Foto: Rudi Neumann

Of the various dilemmas which define our world today, the problem of ‘distance’ is maybe the most unsolvable. The idea naturally refers not only to physical distance but to perceived distance, that is, the gap between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, which is a space manipulated for (often suspicious) ends. The same person who would never point a gun has no hesitation of sending an army into war, people who are greatly concerned about climate change feel no pressure to change their lifestyle, people without any xenophobic intent will hold preconceptions about people in far-off countries who they have never met, and with whom they don't have anything in common.

Overcoming this distance (if you like, a ‘fourth wall’) is one of the primary hallmarks of today's great theatre, and if you like an authentic stream of contemporary theatre's humanistic project. Whereas the media reinforces the distance, great theatre collapses this perceived otherness, and, for a transient moment, shows it to be what it is - constructed.

I was pleasantly surprised by Vierte Welt’s first attempt at articulating Alain Brossat’s  Im Totem Winkel, mostly because it felt like an earnest and sincere failure at coming to terms with and recounting philosophy. Philosophy has a different kind of distance - something like an elitism or removedness from everyday life, and I was surprised by the attempt to cross this. Mostly I was surprised by its lack of irony or theatricality. It was a simple, dry delivery of a dense, almost inaccessible concept. At many times it resembled a lecture. We (that is, my able guide through the German language and I), were generally in accord that this was an honest approach to difficult material. But we had an obvious question afterwards: Where exactly are the Plebs in all this?