Finnigan and Brother live on FBI Radio Sydney

Important news to begin with, then my own guff:

Ira Gamerman writes good things which you ought read.

First of all, American comrade-playwright Ira Gamerman has launched his own website, featuring a battery of information and background on his work. What you need to do is contact Ira to request a copy of his full-length SPLIT, which he brought to the World Interplay festival in Cairns last year. It’s one of my favourite playscripts of ever, and as far as I know it’s never been produced outside the US and don’t you see this is your chance? Also bug him for a copy of Dated: A Cautionary Tale for Facebook Users (because you’ve seen enough embarrassing attempts at exploring social networking in live performance, you may as well see it done right) and Play (by play by play by play by play by play by play), because it’s drawn from Samuel Beckett’s stunning Play and it features me as a lecherous douche. Well worthwhile.

Secondly, Melbourne comrade-playwrights Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Glyn Roberts have launched their own Writers Theatre. Based on the Royal Court Theatre in London and Griffin Theatre in Sydney, the MKA Richmond is intended to showcase the best emerging playwrights and scripts. The MKA launches this November with a month of back-to-back play readings, before kicking off its 2011 season with Vedrana Klepica’s JATO. To which I say: fuck yeah.

Jen Williams (right) and sisters in Illyria Productions’ Bronte. Image by Rosie Woodford.

Lastly, Sydney comrade-playwright Jen Williams and her company Illyria Productions opened their production of Bronte at the ATYP Theatre on the Wharf last week. Polly Teale’s script tells the tale of Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte, their lives and how they came to be such renowned literary figures in our culture, but really the show is an exploration of how many fucking fly things you can do when your set is made entirely out of books. It’s on until August 7 – go see go see go see.

Alright, now to the selfish me-related news.

thank you, Sydney heatwave that forced us to go shirtless and thereby look like a pair of horrible fratboys
about to pour beer on each other in a Hilltop Hoods moshpit

Finnigan and Brother, the duo of my brother Chris (guitar/FX) and my self (words/handheld radio) is presenting a live set on FBI Radio in Sydney this Sunday 1 August. We’re featuring on Sunday Night at the Movies, FBI’s ‘weekly journey into the nether regions of sound’ from 9-10pm, hosted by Brooke Olsen. We’re premiering a new work we’ve been devising entitled Solar System, as well as our re-enactment of the loveable Kings of Leon’s onstage meltdown at the Reading Festival last year. Bless them for their commitment to their craft, their devotion to one another and their endless ability to humiliate themselves for my amusement (see pigeons shitting in Jared’s mouth incident).

Solar System features abstract sound poetry (thank you Steve Reich’s Come Out), real-life science history (the story of how the moon came to orbit the earth, to be precise) and high-octane action sequences (punching stingrays and fly-kicking a swarm of bees), with just enough room left over to abuse Rage guest-programmers for their unimaginative music video selections. A brief sample to whet your appetite:

This is a prison-break story in which the earth tries to break free from the sun and run from the solar system into the dark. It starts the night that each of the planets gets a new guitar.

Venus says ‘I want to form a White Stripes covers band and play Seven Nation Army at every school assembly.

Mars says ‘I want the 12-string shaped like a crocodile so I can play planet blues.

The sun says ‘The Earth doesn’t get one.

The sun yells all the time: ‘Scrape me clean, Mercury! Venus, recite Springsteen lyrics to me! Mars, kidnap children from their parents at Disneyland!

Chris: ‘These photos mean that I can never run for prime minister.

We’ll be on-air from 9.10pm – 9.40pm EST. If you’re interested, tune in to 94.5 FM if you’re in Sydney, or stream the show via the internet if y’re not. If you’re curious about this whole Finnigan and Brother thing, you can read the whole story, listen to tunes and check out our videos here – do it.

True Logic of the Future reviews

The last two weeks were spent almost entirely in the Dance Studio of the Belconnen Arts Centre. In a 19th century study, in a computer, in a tent. Specifically, in the extraordinary set designed by Gillian Schwab for Boho’s True Logic of the Future.

image by ‘pling

Science-theatre ensemble Boho Interactive is the company I co-run (with fellow deviants Mick Bailey and Jack Lloyd), and True Logic is the show we have been developing for the last nine months, along with Gillian Schwab, director barb barnett and performer Cathy Petocz. For a good background on the play (and an awesome retrospective on the company), check out Na Milthorpe’s article in the July issue of Exhibitionist.

The Canberra season of the show finished last night, with a short break before we take it on tour to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney as part of the Ultimo Science Festival. It were an intense, exhausting and exhilarating week, with packed houses and audiences testing every aspect of the play’s interactive components, but the responses from punters have been really encouraging. Initial reviews have been grand, too – here are a smattering:

Cathy Petocz as Jen Howe. Image by ‘pling.

Trevar Chilvar, Australian Stage Online

Nothing pleases me more than to have my ideas of what constitutes good theatre challenged, and the talented and immensely clever cast and crew of True Logic of the Future have done just that. This is a creative and intricately constructed performance that presents many challenges for the reviewer, not least of which is the question of whether it should be reviewed at all.

The work is driven by the ideas of William Stanley Jevons, a nineteenth century philosopher whose work had substantial impact across a number of fields. While this is a potentially didactic and dry theme for a play, it is nonetheless a fascinating experiment when it is turned on its head to be about the audients’ capacity for rationality. And so rather than emotive elements like character and plot providing the work’s movement, this is provided by the audience’s interaction. The play insists that the audience, wherever they’ve come from, is capable not only of understanding Jevons’ ideas, but of constructing them. A far more interesting proposition than the story of a dead man’s life.

And far more interesting than the portrayal of dead man, the three onstage writer/performers; David Finnigan, Jack Lloyd and Cathy Petocz are simply remarkable. With a script that can change direction at a moment’s notice, depending on audience interaction, and clearly defined objectives, their professionalism is of the highest standard. They are likewise supported by musician Michael Bailey, without whose sense of the moment their performances would fall flat.

Some might argue that True Logic of the Future, as a production developed in conjunction with a museum, isn’t really theatre; but I think it rather challenges us to define what theatre really is. At the end of the day (or the performance), what really matters is the nature of the experience and how, as a member of an audience, you’ve related to it. True Logic of the Future takes ideas that are philosophically dense, and not only presents them in a narrative that’s easy to relate to, but also provides engaging experiences that illustrate their point. While this may not suit fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it is nonetheless the heart of theatre; it’s what keeps theatre alive.

As theatrical experiences go, this is among the most enjoyable I have ever had. The way in which the performers draw the audience into participation so effortlessly ignited a sense of playfulness and wonder most commonly associated with childhood, and while other experiences may impress with language, skill and profundity (as this one does), I simply found myself incredibly grateful for the awakening of my sense of wonder.

image by ‘pling.

Cris Kennedy, The Canberra Times

Locally-based video artist Jack Lloyd, musician Michael Bailey and writer David Finnigan work together as a collective, calling themselves Boho Interactive, and explore science through performance. Their 2007 work A Prisoner’s Dilemma looked at the science of game theory, while their 2009 installation Food for the Great Hungers was informed by complex systems science as it re-imagined 20th-century Australian history.

Their new show, True Logic of the Future, is the result of a residence at Belconnen Arts Centre and a partnership with the Powerhouse Museum. The Powerhouse has contributed a reproduction of the Logic Piano, something of a Jules Verne-era computer, designed and built by the great 19th-century thinker William Stanley Jevons, and through the narrative the Boho Team explore the life and scientific and economic theories of Jevons.

Before I enter the performance space, purpose-built in austere timber and calico by show designer Gillian Schwab, the usher warns of the interactive nature of the show, but reassures audiences participation isn’t mandatory. The set is a Victorian-era drawing room, complete with performer David Finnigan silently encouraging the crowd to search among the set to uncover key props whose relevance will become apparent during the show.

Finnigan is joined on stage by Cathy Petocz and Jack Lloyd, playing, respectively, journalist Jen Howe and statistician Alex Moore. The three characters come to realise they are avatars working within a computer environment, in reality the scanned consciousnesses of real citizens at some point in our not-to-distant future, and their role is to help calibrate the computer’s settings of a new Big Brother entity who will control government decision- making.

All of the backstory to Boho’s research for this show the work of Jevons, the plausibility of their future scenario constructs, the wonderful period reproductions by the Powerhouse gives you a richer experience as a viewer (or, if you get involved with the interactives, a participant). But you don’t really need to know any of this going in: the team don’t wear their intellectualism on their sleeves. Instead, under director Barb Barnett, they have simply produced a fine piece of drama that explores some of our bigger challenges as a society the loss of anonymity, of power, and control of our environment.

The actors are terrific, there are some nice little conceits possible in a sci-fi show, like the characters playing against their own inner monologues, and Michael Bailey sits obscured among the audience, pressing the buttons and pulling the switches like a soulful trombone-playing Wizard of Oz.

image by ‘pling.

In addition to these sanctioned efforts, there have been some insightful discussions of the play on various blogs. Check out Michael Sollis’ Island Universe, Tom Worthington’s Net Traveller and Ross Hamilton’s Wordsmiff.

Lastly, thanks to everyone that came to the show, for taking a risk on what is easily one of the weirdest performances I’ve ever been involved with. For anyone in Sydney this August, the season runs Saturday 21 – 28 (yes, opening on election day – the stars have totally aligned for us), Bookings through the Powerhouse Museum.

A parable for the Anthropocene: True Logic of the Future

Boho Interactive‘s new interactive performance True Logic of the Future opens on July 13 at the Belconnen Arts Centre in Canberra.

Campbell’s Wharf’. Pictorialisation courtesy: Mr William Stanley Jevons (deceased)

Since September 2009, Boho (myself, Jack Lloyd and Mick Bailey) have been in residence at the Belconnen Arts Centre researching and devising this new work. True Logic combines narrative theatre, game-based interactive sequences and a live soundtrack of trombone / electronica into a taut science-fiction thriller.

The play takes place in the near future, in a city on the brink of collapse. Refugees fleeing rising sea levels and coastal floods fill the city, while drought is turning the farmland into desert and crops are failing. As the city’s infrastructure buckles under the strain of the added population, food, water and medicine are growing scarce. Demonstrations turn into protests, protests turn into riots, and the desperate population prepares for violence and looting.

Battling crisis after crisis, the government are losing their grip even as the city crumbles beneath them. In the face of mounting emergency, the city’s leaders propose a drastic solution to the city’s problems; a last-ditch alternative to disaster. But even while the government’s last-ditch plan provides an escape route from the city’s spiral into chaos, the cost of carrying it out is desperately high.

Finding themselves in a 19th century study laden with bizarre artifacts, three strangers – radical journalist Jen Howe (Cathy Petocz), idealistic bureaucrat Alex Moore (Jack Lloyd) and assayer Will Sands (David Finnigan) – are asked to help activate a computer program.

An illustration of the cloud chamber devised and constructed by Mr William Stanley Jevons

As Jen, Alex and Will grapple with Victorian-era scientific instruments such as the Logic Piano and the Cloud Chamber, they begin to unravel the mystery behind the strange glitches affecting their environment and their selves. Willingly and unwillingly, each character reveals secrets about their lives and provide glimpses of the city’s descent into chaos. As the significance of their task becomes clear, the trio are forced to make a desperate decision which will shape the future of their society.

What is your freedom worth? What would you sacrifice to be safe?

Boho is David Finig, Mick Bailey and Jack Lloyd. image by ‘pling.

Created in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum, and featuring director barb barnett, designer Gillian Schwab and performer Cathy Petocz, True Logic will premiere at the Belconnen Arts Centre from July 13-18 before touring to Sydney for a season at the Powerhouse Museum as part of the Ultimo Science Festival from August 21-28.

Visit for more information and booking details.