22 Short Reviews

Paul Blenheim in MKA Richmond’s production. Image by Sarah Walker.

Don’t follow leaders.

So the charming devils of MKA Richmond, Melbourne’s righteous new writing theatre, recently hammered my script 22 Short Plays into something real, passionate and sincere, and they put it on stage. Directed by Tobias Manderson-Galvin, featuring Paul Blenheim, Conor Gallacher and Ellen Grimshaw. With a battery of other awesome makers carving some kind of framework for the play to live in, and showcasing it to a bundle of Victorianates. So I need to say thank you, a lot. And I am all kinds of the grateful. And equally to the people who came to see it, and those that came to see it that wrote about, and all the reviews – 22 of which I have gathered here – which even in their brevity are more thoughtful, provocative and wise than the plays themselves. Here we go:

1. Cameron Woodhead (his review from The Age, Microsoft Word Auto-Summarised): There’s a niche for true writers’ theatre. David Finnigan’s 22 Short Plays makes the 10-minute play festival Short and Sweet seem like War and Peace. “Plays” is overstating the case. There’s some seriously twisted hilarity.

2. Nickamc: A play about all the things that you thought theatre probably shouldn’t be about. A melange of skullduggery that makes for a charmingly offensive night. You may only not dig it if you expect your theatre to makes some overall sense. 4 stars.

3. Audience: An energetic exhibition of young talent.

4. Alli Sebastian Wolf: Puritanical Grimshaw rises to effervescence in this MKA cacophony, backed by Blenheim’s swift claws and the resplendent Gallacher on bass. Manderson-Galvin has directed an electrical storm. Finigan is Beowulf in denim. Bring a fire hydrant – these frogs need ecosystems.

5. Audience: Timely insanity for the sake of it.

6. Penelope, Theatre Alive: 22 Short Plays hits you like a slap in the face, and I feel strangely energised by the experience. Maybe this is what it feels like to be a rock song that has had the shit kicked out of it – sorry 22 Short Plays reference – you will be able to understand this one, I promise, after you see the play.

7. Audience: I don’t know what I just saw, but I enjoyed it.

8. Crossoverman: I loved some, hated others and was wildly entertained by most. But it’s the rapid fire collection of 22 concentrated bits of comedy that make this another MKA show worth seeing.

9. Declan Greene: Very, very good, utterly nuts. beowulf. fuck. brilliant!

10. Hanna Cormick: Fairy bread- if your bread was the slick MKA company and your sprinkles are made of wicked hot pointy shards of theatrical literary brilliance that cut up the insides of your mouth. And everyone loves fairy bread.

11. Emily Stewart: These are plays pick-pocketed from train stops, ATMs, gym class and the nightclub; these are plays that glitch on our culture-state. Sex. Boredom. Video games. MKA’s sharp direction and energetic cast add a technicolour focus to David Finnigan’s shambolic script. Your best friend will probably hate your favourite one. Vice versa. It’s love-hate like that.

12. Jimmy Deefcake: After last night, I
Worship at the altar of
David Finegan
I’m a heterosexual male but would happily sexually service any and all cast members of this production. Either individually, any conceivable pairing or as an all-in gropefest. There would be nothing sad about our threesomes.

13. Shasta Sutherland: FORMIDABLE INDEED; Finnigan and Manderson-Galvin are collaborators to keep-an-eye-on, laugh out-loud with and get a lil’ confused about life by. mka’s teeny, intimate theatre space is used perfectly and Grimshaw, Blenheim, Gallacher are fucking brilliant adding hilarity to some absurd middle-class, first world problem observations. Mostly HITS and some obvious misses; 22SPbDF is an mka WIN.

14. Max Barker: being in the audience for the prevIew night of this show was like being in year 4 and pretty unpopular but then somehow finding yourself out the back of the gym with the really cool year 6’s smoking and telling dirty jokes.

15. Audience: Brilliant, an absolute treat.

16. Emma Hall: snappy. communist. sexist. COMMUNITY!! cringey. doinky. lovely. (undergraduate). hmm… DEROS!! god-hating. DISCMANS!! communist. COMMUNITY!! huh. pukey. art. ORGIES!! (undergraduate). ouch. spreadeagled men. YES!! finally!! POETRY IN A BAD HAT. nice work 🙂

17. David Lamb: Just saw 22 short plays at MKA Theatre and I was at turns ecstatic, hysterical and displeased. You’re guaranteed to feel something!

18. Tegan Crowley: My face hurts from smiling.

19. Audience: I really enjoyed it.

20. Paul Culliver: At a base level, this was sketch comedy, but the performances were too polished and the production values too high for just that. At times bizarre and absurd, at some times incomprehensible. When it ended, you don’t know quite what you just saw, but you know you want to see it again.

21. Chris Summers: A very snappy, very clever smorgasbord of scenes. Really well directed and a great cast, too. Hilarious stuff.

22. Onomatopeia: I loved this show, it was frequently hilarious, the actors were outstanding, and the design was intriguing and yet…? It defiantly leaves you wanting more.

(I love that I’m not sure if Onomatopeia means ‘definately’ or ‘defiantly’ and either way, awesome.)

Now the next thing you need to do is to go see MKA’s production of Glyn Roberts’ The Horror Face (including sound design by no less a human than Nickamc) and Vedrana Klepica’s J.A.T.O. Don’t fuck around, either. Remember how you kept equivocating about whether or not to see Buddy Holly live, and then he died?

Image from MKA’s production of The Horror Face.

Hudson Mohawke fan fiction

You are concerned to see someone crouched on the ground with their arms wrapped around their legs and headphones on.

– Hi buddy, are you okay?

– Fucking… All hot…

– You’re what? You’re all hot?

– Hudson Mohawke. Oh shit.

– My god, you’re shivering. I’m calling a doctor. Can you stand up? You’re shaking.

– No, Hudson Mohawke! Mohawke! All hot!

– I don’t know what you’re saying.

– Come here. Come here. Look in my eyes. Don’t call the doctor. This. Put on this.

– This is a walkman? You want me to put the headphones on?

– Press play. It’s Hudson Mohawke. The song is called Allhot. Press play. Press play.

HUDMO. His website is here.

Bare Boards Brave Heart (featuring So It’s That Kind Of Quest)

So the first thing is it’s a music video on a rooftop. Or if not a rooftop then a warehouse – like a big industrial space all with a filter over the camera – like it’s looking attractive and special

or it’s just a white fucking studio and we’re done up like it’s the 60s, like it’s an early Rolling Stones video or it’s the Animals and I’m like Eric Burdon looking way too intense right into the camera singing about how there is a house in new orleans they call the rising sun and how it’s been the ruin of many a young boy and god, I know, I’m one.

Treat yourself by checking out Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders‘ tune Game of Love.

Those were the opening lines of the script so it’s that kind of quest. They have been cut, and they will never be spoken by a performer – ever – but I’m including them here to give them a tiny breath of life – perhaps someone reading them will enjoy, just for a second, the cadence and the images contained in those few sentences.

For the rest of the world, my play so it’s that kind of quest is a period drama for solo performer. Written in December 2010, the play is set in the final months of 2010 and vividly evokes the look and feel of that bygone era. So it’s that kind of quest takes its audience back to those iconic weeks at the end of 2010, before 2011 hit and things changed forever, perhaps for good.

So it’s that kind of quest is a thoughtful and sensual exploration of the film clip for Canadian tween pop sensation Justin Bieber’s wrenching One Less Lonely Girl. Over 10 provocative and stimulating minutes, so it’s that kind of quest unfurls the sensual flower that lies at the heart of Bieber’s mysterious appeal one erotic petal at a time.

Corinne Marie in subtlenuance’s 2011 production of so it’s that kind of quest, directed by Erica Brennan.


so it’s that kind of quest can be performed a maximum of TEN TIMES. The first performance took place in December 2010 at the ATYP Fresh Ink National Studio at Bundanon, NSW. The second production will be in Sydney from 21-25 June 2011, as part of subtlenuance’s Bare Boards Brave Heart.

subtlenuance has joined with a selection of emerging and established Sydney artists to produce a festival of solo performances, which they describe as: ‘A unique opportunity to focus on the heart and soul of theatre: extraordinary acting and writing. 6 writers, 6 directors, 6 performers, 1 week.’

So it’s that kind of quest will feature as part of Bare Boards Brave Heart and has been taken on by director Erica Brennan and performer Corinne Marie. I was lucky enough to visit Erica and Corinne during the rehearsal process, to discuss my ideas and intentions for the script and to see the direction they are moving in. This was really exciting for me – it’s always a delight to see your thoughts and images and words carried far, far beyond where you could have taken them. I was thrilled to see the outlines of the shape that Erica and Corinne are creating, and especially thrilled because my text has taken on a new dimension and meaning by virtue of their interpretation, and that’s a very special gift for a playwright.

Director Erica Brennan and my self at a rehearsal for subtlenuance’s 2011 production of so it’s that kind of quest

Erica subsequently posted in her ArtsLab blog her own take on our conversation, further developing some of the ideas we discussed and capturing (for me) some of the loveliness that lies at the heart of a creative partnership. This is why collaborative artforms such as theatre rule:

David expressed to me that as a writer and performer of his own work it was very special thing for him to witness me take his work into my hands and articulate it according to my impulses. I got the sense that the things he thought were missing in the piece were all of a sudden filled by Corrine (the performer) and I and between the three of us we had created a wonderful thing. He thanked me for my work and said he admired the chance I got as a director to be right in the middle of this creative collaboration with him on one hand, Corrine on the other and my own vision filtering through too.

The ecstasy of being a director is, like David alluded to, to watch those ideas and impulses which generate in my mind and body pass through somebody else’s body… It is being constantly surprised at what steps out on to stage in front of you  because it so much more than you verbally articulated in the first place.

Right on. subtlenuance‘s Bare Boards Brave Heart runs from 21 – 25 June at The Drill Hall, Rushcutters Bay – check the subtlenuance website for more info.

And to leave you on a thoughtful, philosophical note: the beginning of Jaden Smith’s (Will Smith and Jada-Pinkett Smith’s son and star of the 2010 Karate Kid remake featuring Jackie Chan) guest verse on Bieber’s Never Say Never.

Now he’s bigger than me
Older than me
And he’s taller than me
Stronger than me
And his arms’re a little bit
Longer than me
But he ain’t
On a JB song wi me
– Jaden Smith, featured on Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never

J Smith and J B, that’s who.