Autopsy Play Backwards and Other Plays

A fairly recent and totally welcome turn of events: Canberra Youth Theatre‘s Actors Ensemble will be presenting Autopsy Play Backwards and Other Plays, a selection of my short works in a free performance at the C-Block Theatre on Tuesday April 6.

Depending on who you are, that sentence may not make a lot of sense on first read. To provide some background:

The Actors Ensemble is Canberra Youth Theatre’s elite squadron of performers. Selected at the beginning of the year through audition,10 performers aged 18-25 undertake an intense year-long program of workshops, masterclasses and productions under the direction of CYT Artistic Director Karla Conway, designed to transform them into a tight-knit collective of skilled and flexible theatre-makers.

from CYT’s 2007 production Comfort. photo by ‘pling.

As well as several major productions (including the recent butoh-i-think Battlefield), the 2010 Ensemble will present the monthly Seed Staged Reading Program. From the website: ‘The CYT Actors Ensemble will rehearse and present a staged reading of a new work, premiering plays from new Australian and international playwrights. Come along to the C Block Theatre once a month to see and hear the hottest new voices in contemporary theatre.’

The first of these readings is entitled Autopsy Play Backwards and Other Plays, a selection of my short works including Autopsy Play Backwards itself and a small bundle from my 22 Short Plays collection (follow links for full scripts). I’m really excited about the program, for two main reasons:

1. For a number of years, Autopsy Play Backwards has been the script of mine I most wanted to see staged. A number of theatre-makers have expressed interest, but somehow this simple 3 page fairytale of an autopsy, backwards, has always eluded a proper production. I understand that stage directions such as: ‘ZOFIA puts MR G’s heart back into his chest. The blood is sucked back into MR G’s body,’ may be challenging to carry out, but man 90% of the fun of theatre is in finding ingenious solutions to such challenges. Anyway, I’m really psyched to see what the CYT ninjas do with it.

2. To accompany ye autopsy play, the Ensemble have picked a range of my absolute favourites from 22 Short Plays. As well as Disease Play (Smallpox + Cancer + kareoke bar), which is such a charming snippet of dialogue I’ve worked it into a number of my spoken word sets and solo show Sun Drugs, the evening will feature Footprints: A Parable of Man and God, TV Guide, Coat Made of Eyes and Ile and Moondirt.

ile and moondirt. image by frosty

Ile and Moondirt! I’m not kidding! My beloved duo of pharmacist and blues singer, trapped on an icy cliff-face high in the Andes when the sun sets, forced to perch on a tiny ledge until morning, gracing a stage for the first time since late 2005! You know what I say to that?

ile: we dare not stop climbing tonight.
– we are high above a glacier lake in the gouging ice-peaks of the Andes
– as these mountains crash like pistons into the storming sky
– because we are hundreds of metres up an ice gully on a thin wedge of igneous rock
– since the sun has shuddered back beneath the earth and night-time is nailing in fast
– because of these reasons, we are pinned to the face of the mountain like drops of water to a windscreen, and within that analogy you can imagine us being PEEEEEELED
moondirt: from the windscreen like
ile: peeeeeeeeled from the windscreen like
moondirt: peeled from the windscreen like raindrops sometimes are peeled from the windscreen of an accelerating car.

Autopsy Play Backwards and Other Plays
7.30 – 8.15pm, Tuesday April 6
C-Block Theatre, Gorman House
More info on Canberra Youth Theatre website.


While going through some old folders, I happened upon a copy of THE BEST REVIEW OF ALL TIME that I’ve ever received. There have been plenty of great reviews of my work – countless great reviews – too many to count – it’s as if the last ten years has been as far from a series of damning indictments of my work as you could get.

But this stands out. In 2004 while at the Australian National University, I undertook a creative writing course entitled Story to Script, as part of which we had to submit scripts for our classmates to review. This was the response of one fellow student to my short script The Cigarettes:

I found this short piece really disturbing. I had a very strong reaction to the abduction and abuse of the young boy. The whole scenario seems pointless and sadistic and hence, very depressing.

It is hard to comment constructively on such a short piece especially given the limited character development and that it is not clear what is being aimed for in terms of genre/impact.

The dialogue of the petrol sniffers is so unbelievable that I wondered if it was meant to be humorous (but failed to see the humour). People who sniff petrol would be barely coherent let alone be discerning enough to care/know who was singing Bette Davis Eyes or to know anything about the roots of rock and roll. If they ever did know, the permanent brain damage caused by petrol sniffing would severely impair their memories.

It is not clear why/how the victim sleeps through the tattooing – no doubt a further violation of his body/liberty.

all the boys say she’s a spy… she’s got...

The script in question (all 1.75 pages of it) after the break: (more…)

dogmeat by tobias manderson-galvin

Tobias Manderson-Galvin looks a little like this in real life.

Tobias Manderson-Galvin is a Melbourne playwright, one of the inky-black swarm of writers for what I think of as Melbourne’s Gutter Theatre. I’m an opiniated idiot, so I feel entirely comfortable classifying the few writers I know from this scene into rough points in the Gutter constellation: Declan Greene represents the body-horror underbelly to transplanted yankee pop culture, Glyn Roberts is the sadistic architect of onstage suffering, Thomas Henning is an inky black hole in which theatre itself is drowned, and Tobias Manderson-Galvin is the sexually charged troubadour of the scene, the erotic muse of degradation and destruction.*

Manderson-Galvin’s stage adaptation of French symbolist Mallarme’s An Afternoon with the Faun is a lyrical detour through the world of sexual innocence and maturity, in which the stereotypes of the virgin and the whore are fully unpacked and unravelled, and the male protagonist is guided from sexual innocence to experience by a warped mentor in a trajectory that runs from UFO encounters in regional New South Wales to the milk-drenched tropes of every piece of Dutch erotic fiction you’ve ever translated through Babelfish. It reminds me of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls – read as a piece of theatre, it’s too debauched and meandering to stand up, but considered as onstage pornography, it’s totally rich and rewarding.

I Googled ‘erotic afternoon with a faun’. This is from Wikimedia Commons and that’s all I know.

Manderson-Galvin’s new work Dogmeat is more overtly theatrical, a fantasy of destruction and degradation set in a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland. As one character says. ‘It’s a fucking shock piece, not a beauty pageant. Miss fucking Scheszschuan, you dickhead.’ Still, the script glows a dull red with sexual energy.

Dogmeat follows the adventures of Dogmeat, a mostly silent youth chained to a post outside his parents’ one-room hovel in an unnamed slum. He is visited by adolescent wasters Coyote and Lucky, and filmed by a pair of gonzo journalists. The characters in this world relentlessly sort themselves out into a brutal pecking order, with Dogmeat consistently at the bottom. And that’s enough about the story.

Manderson-Galvin glories in the powerplay of the submissive/dominant onstage relationship – how far can you push this kind of destructive relationship? What degradations can one character force on another? Where in that dead dog’s body are you willing to shove your finger? It’s of course grotesque, but it’s never there just to make the audience flinch. There’s a kindness and sweetness in the writing that helps you become complicit in the melee. This is what happens when you don’t just let the bad shit in, you welcome it and actively get off on it.

I don’t really give a ____ about trying to top that: top that.

Also, the single best game of onstage tetherball in the history of theatre, without doubt. As the protagonist’s sidekick rapped in the magical hiphop sequence of Teen Witch: Top That.

Dogmeat is scheduled to be produced for the 2010 Melbourne Fringe at La Mama Theatre, or more specifically in the carpark outside La Mama, with sensor lights and two idling cars providing the light and sound. Track Manderson-Galvin down via the internet if you’d like to know more or want to direct it.

* That whole paragraph is the erotic muse of my having my head up my own ass, I’m well aware.

North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits 04: A Most Curious Dream

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The fourth and last installment of the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits is (sages say) the most coherent of them all.In August 2006, Hadley aka The Human Cannonball Academy wrote a play entitled …a most curious dream, which was directed by Jordan Best and produced by Centrepiece Theatre at the Street Theatre in Canberra, Australia.

In September 2006, David Finig aka blind wrote a response to Hadley’s play entitled …a most curious dream (eight and a half pesos remix).

The final edition of the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits is a mix of extracts from …a most curious dream and the pesos remix. Let me reproduce just a small sample for you here; this is from Hadley’s ‘How I Lost My Virginity’ chorus:

I lost my virginity…

...when I was seventeen/I was fifteen/was Twenty three./Twenty four./Twenty five./Sixteen./Fifteen./Forty eight./Thirteen./Never./Heaps!/On a boat./On camp./In a bed./On fire./To my boyfriend./To my boss./Seventeen./Twenty six./To some chick I met in a./In a  public toilet./When I was nineteen I lost my virginity to a girl that I was really in love with. She had a pegleg and played the accordion. We had sex in a tent and I didn’t last all that long. When we finished she stroked my hand and got up and left. A few minutes later she came back with a blanket wrapped around her and took my hand and took me outside. It was night time. There were more stars in the sky than I’d ever seen in my entire life. We sat there quietly and ate liquorice and watched the stars. I couldn’t stop smiling. The stars were like teeth and my teeth were like stars. My head felt fuzzy and I couldn’t even talk but that was okay. There were so many stars. It felt like the stars were under my skin, but not in a bad way. They were gentle and fuzzy and lit me up. So many God damn stars./I came./What? Just then?/Yes… was it good for you?/You’re on the other side of the room./Did I… did I do it right?/Well, traditionally there’s some sort of… contact. Before you… umm./It wasn’t good for you? You didn’t enjoy it?/

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Download the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits 04: A Most Curious Dream.pdf (5.2mb)

Visit the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits homepage and download episodes 1-3.

Sun Drugs in New Zealand: Tour wrap-up

Back in the Cancers after ten days in New Zealand, touring new solo show Sun Drugs to Auckland and Wellington. Sun Drugs, directed by Naomi Milthorpe and written/performed by my self, is a grimy teen romance set in the flash-flooded streets of Manila. The show follows hip brothers Mouth and Throat and their attempt to transform art-class geek Alexis Cobweb into prom queen in one week. As the blurb put it: ‘All the sweeping romance of The English Patient and the sassy dialogue of Mean Girls compacted into 25 minutes and microwaved. Including DIY-vibrator making workshop.‘ If that sounds impossibly ridiculous, I invite you to consider Freddie Prinze Jr’s entire career.

After a weekend exploring the North Island with playwright (and fellow Interplay-er) Kate Morris, I rolled to Auckland on Tuesday March 2 to headline Poetry Live‘s Tuesday night poetry event at the Thirsty Dog. Had a cool night hanging with some rad Auckland poets, then to Wellington for a four-night season at the BATS Theatre as part of the 2010 New Zealand Fringe Festival.

BATS Theatre. Images by Lina Andonovska.

BATS was grand fun. Cool people, cool venue, excellent vibe. It felt as if generations of young theatre-kids produced their first shows at BATS, honed their skills and experimented with content and style in the tiny black boxes, then as they evolved and grew more skilful, they stayed at BATS and kept producing kickass works. There was a radical sense of community, like a critical mass of weird artists had dug an amazing niche for performance out of a wall in downtown Wellington.

Most excitingly, the upstairs green room I used to warm up pre-show is actually the meeting place for the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffalo, a society open to any male over the age of 18, provided he is a ‘true and loyal supporter of the British Crown and Constitution’ and he ‘enters of his own free will and consent’. The RAOB’s purpose is to ‘Defend the weak, to help the unfortunate and render assistance to those in difficulty or need’ (quotes from the totally suspect Wikipedia entry). This noble aim has been overshadowed by the RAOB’s far more powerful achievement: the installation into their lectern of a pair of glowing buffalo horns.

20-25 curious punters rolled into the tiny Pit Bar at BATS each night for what reviewer Hannah Smith described as ‘a cinematic tale of epic destruction and high school prom queens set in the Philippines,’ delivered in ‘a combination of novelistic exposition and screenplay style camera directions with brief outbursts of physical exertion’. I also performed short pieces for the Chit Chat Lounge talkshow at the Fringe Bar (check out the Youtube clip) and on Radio Active FM.

At the end of the Festival, Sun Drugs was nominated for Best Solo Show in the 2010 Fringe Awards (which is more than Freddie Prinze Jr can say for anything he’s been involved with) and I limped back home weary and satisfied.

Huge thanks to ArtsACT for helping underwrite the cost of this tour, and to every other human being who helped make Sun Drugs happen: Miriam Barr from Poetry Live, all the BATS team, the NZ Fringe crew, Kate Morris, Lucy Hayes, Lina Andonovska, Hadley, Andrew Holmes, and especially to director Na Milthorpe, who crafted a mound of loosely-formed pulp into a 25-minute torpedo of teen prom goodness.

My next aim is to organise more Australian performances. I’ll be presenting the show in Wagga Wagga on April 12 for the Riverina Writer’s Centre, and in Canberra on April 30 for the Traverse Poetry Slam, but I’m itching to tour it to other cities. If anyone knows of any performance events / producers / venues in Melbourne, Sydney or anywhere else in NSW/VIC/QLD, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted Hannah Smith’s review of Sun Drugs for NZ Performing Arts website Theatreview after the link – dig – (more…)

Sun Drugs in Wellington

Two nights of Sun Drugs in the Pit Bar at the BATS Theatre in Wellington down, two nights to go. Two packed crowds (packed in crowds meaning twenty people in the tiny bar) and way fun times. Two shows left, Friday and Saturday 9.30pm at the Pit Bar, completely free so show up early for your seats (and to get well liquored before the show begins).

Derek Flores, myself and Vinyl Burns.

Last night I also did a spot at the Chit Chat Lounge, located in the Fringe Bar. This is a talkshow style event hosted by Derek Flores and Vinyl Burns. I presented a tribute performance to the memory of Thomas Henning, the late (dead) playwright and director of Melbourne’s Black Lung. Footage is visible on Youtube if you click on this hyperlink.

We miss you Thomas.

When I say tribute what I mean is that I scrawled THE FIRE CAUGHT FIRE across my chest and taped my face up with sellotape. But I think wherever Thomas is (Heaven) he’d appreciate that little gesture.

Also worth mentioning: a review of Sun Drugs was printed in Theatreview. Allow me to carefully cherry-pick some quotes and remove them from the scaffolding of (totally valid) criticism that underlies them:

A man walks into a bar, pulls out some shaving foam and hands razors to the brunettes seated at opposite ends of the front row.

I liked it.

When they work they are marvellous – the way in which Cancer and Smallpox are differentiated from each other in their scene for example – but

I enjoy how these sections break up the less visceral narrative sequences, but

further develop and hone this piece would be an excellent idea

UNQUALIFIED PRAISE! Or at least, a better review than Freddie Prinze Jr got for his performance in She’s All That. Take that, Freddie Prinze.

Sun Drugs in Auckland

Grand first run, thanks to Miriam Barr and the Poetry Live poets and audience. Of course first run technical niggles. You think you’ve simplified it down as much as humanly possible, touring with a tube of lipstick four razors and an mp3 player, & yet you know, deep in your heart of hearts, that forty minutes before the show starts you’ll be fucking around on your laptop trying to edit Solomon Burke’s 1959 hit Cry to me from stereo to mono. But it all mostly worked. Mostly it all worked.

Backed with Anna Rugis’ gorgeous a capella tunes derived from 19th century Scottish folk tunes, and Poetry Live’s lovely swap-a-poem evening, whereby poets read one another’s work. On the other side of the street, a prostitute paced the corner the entire night, and the sign for the sex shop adjacent read VIBRATORS 50% OFF.*

After my performance, a man got up on stage and told a story in response to Sun Drugs – his father died in 1949 of Tuberculosis at the age of 18. He reminded us of the wonders of Penicillin and the danger we’re in through overprescribing antibiotics when we haven’t discovered any major new strains since the seventies. So let no-one accuse my work of having no substance.

* That’s either 50% off the price, or they’ve sawn an electric dildo in half and you’re expected to jam a bunch of loose circuitry in yr holiest of holies.