Sun Drugs at the Front Cafe this Friday 30th

Sun Drugs at the BATS Theatre in Wellington

Blessed, blessed The Internet. While in Wellington performing Sun Drugs as part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival a few week, I received a lovely review from a Ms Hannah Smith on New Zealand’s Theatreview website. Hannah’s analysis was very much appreciated: while extremely positive overall, she had some thoughtful suggestions about Sun Drugs’ overarching structure and flow. A sample:

These disparate storylines are woven together and the whole is narrated in a combination of novelistic exposition and screenplay style camera directions with brief outbursts of physical exertion. It is vigorous, quirky and performer-centric.

There is definitely an intriguing piece of theatre here, though at times the different parts of the performance work at odds with one another. The performance art elements are arresting and affecting but many of them do not serve the story that we are being told. When they work they are marvellous – the way in which Cancer and Smallpox are differentiated from each other in their scene for example – but other elements, such as the extended shaving sequence at the beginning, are never made significant.

I enjoy how these sections break up the less visceral narrative sequences, but I think if this work is to be further developed they would need more functionality and to be tied more tightly to the narrative.

This element was never made significant.

So, fair points, and I will ponder them further as the show undergoes further edits. It was a lovely review, and I was grateful, and that was it. Then a couple of days ago, while filing away coverage from the NZ trip, I returned to the Theatreview site and discovered that one Ms Robin Kerr had posted a response to Smith’s review:

I must disagree with you. I loved Sun/Drugs, it had a quality of Performance Art which we rarely see in Wellington. I think to construe it as a piece that endeavors to be theatre, to tell a cohesive and understandable story is to miss the point of Sun/Drugs. The beauty of this work was when we understood nothing, because we felt everything. The power of the piece was how unhinged it was. I found myself sitting there with absolutely no idea what on earth might happen next. A creeping sense of danger that I might be his next acomplice in one of his deranged debarcles. But a growing sense of faith as I was drawn to this charismatic performer, he was our leader in this strange journey because he seemed so sure of himself, even as he demonstrated how to insert a cellphone up your Vaginal tract – he was so straight faced and confident in what he was doing.

Though he allowed us to laugh and enjoy ourselves, and though it was in a theatre bar, my understanding was that he was drawing from the traditions of the performance artists such as Yves Klein or Carolee Shee. People who challenge us not to comprehend – but to take us to the edge of the uncanny, via the limits of our comfort zones. He made us feel like voyeurs by making himself and others the victim in this weird game that we found ourselves enthralled in.

The parody ‘prom queen’ storyline that eventually brought the whole thing together at the end I thought was the weakest element because it allowed me, and the rest of the audience to feel safe and comfortable, have a chuckle, able to predict what would happen next. If Mr. Blind would take any advice from us I’d say less story — more surreality. The thing he needs more of to get this piece to reach its potential, is definetly drugs in the sun, the last thing he should do is get a director!

Needs more drugs in the sun.

Loveliest – thing – ever! Thank you, Ms Robin Kerr, whoever you are, you are full of wisdom and I dig you. I don’t know who is right, Smith or Kerr, but if the show falls somewhere in the middle of those two opinions I’m going to be pretty happy.

Which is all a longwinded way of saying that Sun Drugs is on this Friday 30 April at the Front Cafe in Canberra, as part of Traverse Poetry’s monthly Poetry Slam. This one is themed HUNGER and it will be charming, as they always are. Please come and get your fill of delicious poetry, novelistic exposition and vaginal tracts. Word.

Lina Andonovska’s website online!

So my partner, flutist and flamenca Lina Andonovska, has opened the doors of her new website for thee all to come and explore. Go: be appropriately dazzled by her extraordinary list of achievements and download some samples of her hypnotic playing while you’re there. Do it!

Lina herself is currently in Beijing, competing along with 49 other flutists from around the world in the Nicolet Flute Competition. Things is extraordinary things.

The Sipat Lawin Ensemble

method in this madness. madness in this method.

A post to describe the Sipat Lawin Ensemble. This is partly selfish, because the Ensemble is presenting one of my plays this week, but also borne out of a sincere respect for the company and their practice.

The Sipat Lawin Ensemble is a group of young theatre practitioners based in Manila, consisting of graduates of the Philippine High School for the Arts. The company dervices its name from PHSA’s resident theatre company Dulaang Sipat Lawin, which in turn is named after the freely roaming hawks of Mt Makiling, on whose slopes the school is based.

Sipat Lawin came to my attention through Herbie Go, the New York-based former director of Tanghalang Pilipino who taught many of the Ensemble while they were at school. Herbie showed a copy of my script THUCY (To Heat You Up And Cool You Down) to the company, who decided to produce it in February 2009. I managed to sneak over to Manila for the Penguin Cafe performance in Malate, which was and remains one of the most stunning actualisations of my scripts I’ve ever witnessed.

from Sipat Lawin’s 2009 production of THUCY

Since then, the company has performed multiple versions of THUCY in venues around Manila, and will be presenting a new short season this Thursday 22 – Friday 23 at 9pm in Mag:net Katipunan.

This is exciting to me for obvious reasons, but it’s just one tiny slice of the picture for Sipat Lawin, who are currently in the process of exploding 2010. As well as THUCY, the Ensemble has so far this year remounted their adaptation of F.sionll Jose‘s short story Pragres, staged a 100-phone sound installation as part of the NCCA’s Ani ng Sining Arts Month Celebration, and presented three iterations of Haring Tubul, the Ensemble’s adaptation of Jarry’s Ubu Roi (a sanitised excerpt at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the full spittle-flecked insanity at Cubao Expo and a house in Malate). An upcoming adaptation of Animal Farm (Empirio Animalia) will be shown in the streets of Manila (particularly those streets with fountains). And to round matters off, an adaptation of Koushun Takami’s teen-pulp thriller Battle Royale is due in November.

from Sipat Lawin’s 2009 production of THUCY

All of which is extraordinary, and much respect to the Sipat Lawin animals for embarking on all this insanity, but I particularly wanted to highlight the company’s performance practice, which I think is totally exemplary. Sipat Lawin produces primarily lightweight, flexible shows which can be presented in a range of venues – theatres to living rooms to cafes to outdoor courtyards, or whatever you have – and once they’ve produced a show, that show is then in the repertoire. That means that if an opportunity to remount a previous work arises (say, a new season of THUCY at Mag:net), the company can assemble the cast, organise some rehearsals to refamiliarise themselves with the work, and get the thing on stage within a week.

The dedication that it requires to work in this kind of format is pretty serious, but the payoffs are obvious. Sipat Lawin Ensemble is flexible, responsive, prepared and they’re continually testing themselves in new environments, performing to new audiences, perfecting their practice and building a name for themselves in one fell swoop. I have much admiration for them.

Also, go see THUCY if you’re in Manila this week.

Eleven Eleven podcast

Two particularly mind-blowing things this week. Firstly, I just spent the weekend in Wagga Wagga at the Booranga Writers Centre, delivering a spoken word workshop and performing at the Writers On Stage event on Monday 12th. Rad times – huddling in Booranga’s gorgeous cottage at the back of Charles Sturt Uni, performing last night at the Basement Theatre with a brace of Wagga’s awesome poetry talent, including Derek Motion (stunning razor-sharp slam style) and David Gilbey (image-rich stories drawing cobweb-slender links between Japan and Australia).

from the Mick’s Bakehouse website.

Even more exciting was the fact that the Allsorts, the delightful orchestra providing the evening’s live music and ‘social lubrication’, featured on guitar Michael Di Salvatore, founder and head baker of Wagga’s famed Mick’s Bakehouse. From the Bakehouse website: ‘The company’s many awards include four times winner of Australia’s “Best Gourmet Pie”, five times winner of the Sydney Royal “Champion Gourmet Pie” and three times winner of the Sydney Royal “Champion Pie”. At both of these competitions, it has won the most gold medals awarded, claiming over 100 from the Great Aussie Competition and 32 from 35 in the history of the Sydney Royal. It has also won the inaugural Great Aussie Pastie Competition.

The second exciting item: I am the April guest-programmer for Alias Frequencies’ Eleven Eleven podcast. Eleven Eleven is an experimental music podcast & radio show that explores sound in its various forms: experimental, avant-garde, improvised, noise, electronic and headphone music. I haven’t been contacted to give an interview on this podcast (presumably because I’ve been out of contact in Wagga), so I’m going to do the only polite thing I can think of and interview myself.

Q. blind, how did you come to be programming the extraordinary Eleven Eleven podcast, whose previous guests include luminaries such as illbient maestros Once11 and DJ Olive, and Toy Death’s Nick Wishart?

A. Eleven Eleven curator and Liquid Architecture co-director Jennifer Teo approached me late last year and expressed an interest in featuring my gluey, story-encrusted spoken word and musical collaborations in an episode of the series.

Eleven Eleven curator and producer Jennifer Teo.

Q. What is the spine of your 60 minute set?

A. My new solo show Sun Drugs is the core of the podcast, with a slew of collaborative performances with folk like Paul Heslin, Reuben Ingall, Chris Finnigan and Leon Twardy stapled to it, and a smattering of genius sampled from the unending wonderment that is the FM radio band.

Q. Will there be enough holy hiphop to satisfy fans of Christian rap?

A. The quantity of holy hiphop will be sufficient to satisfy even the most discerning God-obsessed MC.

Q. Tell us more about the deployment of Christian rap on this podcast.

A. I’m not kidding – the snippet of radio chatter and music from One Way FM 91.9 which opens the set is probably the best thing you will ever hear.

Q. (Listens to opening 5 minutes of podcast.) I’m speechless that this insanity exists.

A. I know.

Check out the podcast here.