so here’s a fine thing – thee good commandante Jay Christian and girlwoman Kellie Lynch collectively comprise the straw gods, performance troupe based in Portland, Oregon. I’ve collaborated with Jay before as writer/illustrator, and in particular on a series of short scribblings I produced in response to his On the Night Sea images.
image by jay christian
recently (dec 2008), the straw gods took these pieces of text and adapted them for performance in the Northwest Film Forum’s Left Field Revival performance event. filthy stripper bird gods. little souls in the afterlife. trouble. trouble.
Serious Theatre’s show was… Awesome. Director Barb Barnett took David Finnigan’s po-mo dystopia by its fractured, multi-voiced horns to create a live radio play that ticked all the boxes of compelling, original theatre. Five actors (Lloyd Allison-Young, Hannah Cormick, Raoul Craemer, Chris Lloyd and Virginia Savage) stood essentially still for 90 minutes as, through their different voices, they played out the story of seventeen year old Mack Finch, trying to take his driving test in a post-apocalyptic Canberra. Behind them, Gillian Schwab’s set sketched the broken bones of Canberra, a world dominated by steam and decay and monstrous things. Oceans all boiled into sky is what we hope for in theatre: every move, every change of the eerie light, every sound effect, every decision made by Barnett and her talented cast, contributed to the creation of a new world.
lloyd allison-young takes a small po-mo dystopia by its fractured, multi-voiced horns. image by ‘pling.
lantern-bearer, machine-shaman and whingy little shit: the best the human race has to offer. photo by ‘pling.
thank you ‘pling! it transpires that there are many amazing photographs of Oceans all boiled into sky, many of them featuring the extraordinarily attractive cast of Oceans all boiled into sky. Some photos also provide a glimpse of Gillian Schwab’s eerily beautiful cancerra-scape, not to mention her fucking brilliant pen and paper character sketches.
the board-game girl and honest jon, courtesy of ms gillian schwab.
So that’s all up on the site now, along with five reviews: Australian Stage Online, two from Culturazi (thanks dudes), Joe Woodward from CityNews, and my personal favourite: SCI-FI MISFIRES from Alanna Maclean at the Canberra Times. dig on that!
last, just for the sake of completeness, I posted up barb’s director’s notes, the production credits for the show, and I’ve uploaded the production draft of the script to this website if anyone wants it. what am I saying here? IF ANYONE WANTS OCEANS ALL BOILED INTO SKY, YOU CAN HAVE IT. IT IS YOURS.
downloadable in MS-Word format. and you should give me an email if you happen to download it and read it and like it, because that will make me so surprised-happy that I will spasm madly and if I am eating at the time I may choke and die.
anyway, all this gear is up on the oceans all boiled into sky webpage, which you can reach most easily by clicking on the hyperlink earlier in the sentence.
Serious Theatre has presented an innovative work that integrates all aspects of text, sound, multi-media and human sculpture into a series of pictures for the audience’s imagination.
Writer David Finnigan says he was ‘creating obstacles and hazards to make the director and cast’s job as hard as possible’ and writing ‘semi-unstageable battles’.
This required considerable focus from all involved to create a finely crafted sound and visual sculpture that allows the audience to imagine things appearing as if from real life fragments and dreams. It means the reference points for the audience’s experience are drawn less from traditional theatre and more from the likes of ‘electronic musicians who use the sound of broken and decayed machinery to build a beautiful aesthetic’. Finnigan suggests Kid 606 as an influence.
barb barnett was exacting in drawing out sharp voices tuned to strong rhythmic qualities from the actors. The ensemble playing was a lesson for all performers. This was complemented by a superb soundtrack that intertwined with amplified voices to shape the imagery of the text. The slight measuring of the sound graphics to suit the characters’ voices added to the feel of a recording that could be listened to on headphones.
Visuals were important and well used in a constrained way by the cast of five: Lloyd Allison-Young, Chris Lloyd, Raoul Craemer, Virginia Savage and Hanna Cormick.
So the fourth review of Oceans has come in from the Canberra Times, and it’s a motherfucking fist-in-the-air victory salute from Alanna Maclean. Alanna’s written a number of reviews of my work over the years, and I’d place this up there as one of my favourites, along with her review of The Mischief Sense (SCRIPT FAILS IN TILT AT IRONY) and w3 w3lcome the future (NOT LIGHTENING A WEARY WEEK).
The script is ‘aimless and lacking in tension’, but on the plus side it occasionally rings ‘true and local’. TRUE AND LOCAL! TRUE AND LOCAL! LOCAL L0CAL LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL! hehe-
by Alanna Maclean
Go into the Dickson Motor Registry for a driver’s test and you could end up in the hands of aliens, driving through a Canberra that is nothing like the one you know.
At least that seems to be what is happening in Oceans all boiled into sky…
Visually this production is challenging.
The five characters stand in front of a scrim and work to mikes on stands.
Elegant projections appear to one side.
Gradually, behind the scrim, a dark burned-out diorama of Black Mountain looms up, complete with a car driving up it and the tower.
The feeling is part graphic novel, part ancient science fiction radio show as Mack Finch (Lloyd Allison-Young) is kidnapped at the Dickson Motor Registry to serve the somewhat unclear aims of Gwen Malkin (Chris Lloyd) and Honest John (Raoul Craemer).
He finds an ally in the Board-Game Girl (Virginia Savage), despite the fact that she appears to be dead.
A wrecked Tuggeranong Parkway peopled by giant centipedes, dragonflies and spiders makes getting up Black Mountain to capture some cloud creatures difficult and Lake Burley-Griffin is as dry as the boiled-dry oceans of this post-disaster world.
However, despite the splendid set design (Gillian Schwab), Erika Ikenouchi and Warwick Lynch’s disturbing sound scape and some hard work by the performers, it is hard to grasp what drives this show.
David Finnigan’s script is poetic and occasionally funny but it all seems a little aimless and lacking in tension.
Yet it is good to see a Canberra playwright turn places we know into an alternative universe that draws on memories of the bushfires to call up an image of the city in decay.
And the little dialogues between Finch and the Board-Game Girl about school and relationships are so coolly done by Allison-Young and Savage they ring true and local.
Being very well disposed towards the various worlds of science fiction and knowing the power of fantasy genres I found myself wanting it all to mean much more.