short plays from march 2012

I call myself a playwright and I call these short plays. image by Linton Hartfield.

Over 10 days in March I was in the middle of the You Are Here festival. Co-producing, production managing, 45 events in 10 days, all that jive. No time to write anything, especially not anything worthwhile. But going through my notebook from the festival period I’ve found some scraps which viewed from one angle are incoherent notes, and viewed from another angle* are extremely short plays. At least one of them is Karmin Cooper’s instructions from when she loaned me her ute. But fuckit, I call myself a playwright and I call these short plays. You make your own mind up.

*a distance, if you squint really hard


only a good loose frenzy or a burning ship
or driving down the avenue with the sky all pink and yellow and rich with clouds and pale trees gathering shadow between them

– I see the tower on the hill

– I see the ground turn under my feet
a cold grey fire
a sinking canoe in the lagoon where the river runs into the sea

– pale blue water churned with sand covering rocks lined with razor sharp oyster shells
if you’re not careful you could cut your feet up wading across that river
you could hurt yourself badly
slice a tendon open perhaps
or slash open a toe all the way to the bone
either way a little cloud of red blood curling from your foot
you know mixing with the sand and salt water
swirling into the sea
this is not a threat, you see, it’s just


–    it runs on diesel so
turn the key in the ignition halfway
wait til the red light on the dashboard that says ‘glow coil’ switches off
then turn it over
first gear is pretty much stationary
I usually just go straight to second
the brakes are designed for if you’ve got a load in the back
so if you’re not carrying anything you can find them pretty sensitive
the handbrake is a lever under the dashboard
push it in to unbrake it
the brake light will stay on but that doesn’t mean anything


–    through here is our dining room
we ask that you do not speak in this room
we eat one meal each day in silence
it allows us to contemplate our food and consider our day and enjoy each other’s company without needing to articulate it

–    so what do we do? do we each serve ourselves?

–    normally we take turns to serve the rest of us, but the others have mostly finished by now, we have come late.  we will serve ourselves.

–    are there any table etiquette things we should know? like is putting elbows on the table a thing?

–    other than to be silent and respectful, no, no rules. we are each individuals and the way we serve and eat our food is an expression of our character. you can learn a great deal about someone simply by observing the way they prepare and eat a meal.

the three of them enter the dining room and fall silent. each of them serves themselves a plate of food and eats it. each expresses their own character through the way they prepare and consume their meal. each observes the traits revealed by the others.


anyway the crashing pipes
the cold silence in the car

–    why’d we go and get dressed up if we can’t even be civil to each other?

and you think

–    this is a long way from the night I gave you head while you were driving
when we had to pull over by the bank of trees and watch headlights disappear past us
the sound of kangaroos moving uphill through the trees
don’t blame it on me


a steep stone staircase running up and down five storeys
a small stone cavern juts off into the dark somewhere near the bottom
several lighting trees and some old par cans throw a blue and red light on a small stage
there are two performers
there are three audience members
wet jackets and raincoats thrown over empty seats
the room smells like wet dog

two of the audience members leave after ten minutes
the remaining audience member is probably the director


Strange Pilgrims performance

Image by Sam Burns-Warr.

So to take a moment, this is a really simple and straightforward post in which I link to a video of me performing.

The performance took place in December 2011 in the Penguin Cafe, Manila, as part of the Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s  Strange Pilgrims showcase. Along with fellow Australian writers Jordan Prosser, Sam Burns-Warr and Georgie McAuley, I was in the Philippines to workshop and develop a new script with Sipat Lawin. Inspired by Koushon Takami’s Battle Royale, Sipat Lawin, our new work was entitled Battalia Royale, and we were neck-deep in rehearsals, workshops and day-long scripting sessions.

Amidst the intensity, we managed to find time to take part in Strange Pilgrims, Sipat Lawin’s irregular evening of experimental music and performance. Taking place on this occasion in the Penguin Cafe in Malate, Jordan, Sam, Georgie and myself each promised to present something.

Adrienne Vergara presents the Killer-Killer game. Image by Jordan Prosser.

The Sipat Lawin crew offered up a weird selection of performances, from Joelle Yuvienco’s recitation of an aria, to Sarah Salazar’s musical theatre number Taylor the Latte Boy, to JK Anicoche’s disturbing rendition of a children’s book, to Adrienne Vergara’s interactive Killer-Killer game, with the Australian playwrights interspersed throughout the evening.

JK Anicoche presents a heartwarming children’s story that somehow manages to utterly chill the blood. Image by Jordan Prosser.

Georgie’s performance was a beautiful mixture of poetry and prose, evoking the gentle beauty of the dying embers of a party. Sam’s piece was a high-speed tour of Everything We Know So Far, somewhere between performance lecture and stand-up. Jordan’s philosophical story Who’s going to be there when you die? conjured up an array of possibilities for your final moment (and it is also up online for your viewing pleasure).

Jordan Prosser asking who’s going to be there? Image by Sam Burns-Warr.

My piece was a mash-up of samples from a few different sources:

Image by Sam Burns-Warr.

If you’re interested, check it out here – with thanks to Sam Burns-Warr for the filming and the editing.

March 2012: Battalia Royale and You Are Here

It’s nearly the end of March 2012. It has been a big month in my life, for two very important and very different reasons: Battalia Royale and You Are Here.

Battalia Royale image from Theaterati.

Over six nights and two venues, the Sipat Lawin Ensemble spent the month in the midst of  the premiere season of Battalia Royale, an interactive performance inspired by Koushon Takami’s Battle Royale. Scripted by myself, Jordan Prosser, Sam Burns-Warr and Georgie McAuley, directed by JK Anicoche and featuring more than 40 performers from across Manila, Battalia Royale was an extraordinary success. Audiences for the first three performances (at the Cultural Center of the Philippines) were:

  • Day One – 250+
  • Day Two – 450+
  • Day Three – 900+, with the venue closing its doors for fire safety reasons.

The strictly limited tickets for the subsequent three performances in an abandoned school in Cubao sold out more or less immediately, with approximately 360 audience per show. So an audience of a little over 2,500 for the first season.

Design by Pepe and the Polygons.

The reception to the show has been incredible. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive (Andare Avanti in the Philippines Star announced that ‘Battalia Royale could be the most groundbreaking play in the last decade‘), though the show’s gratuitous bloodshed and violence have been the subject of numerous critiques and debates. Coverage for the production has gone international, with articles in the Daily, the Arab Times and Reuters International. And the fan response is extraordinary, with fan fiction, fan art, fan tumblrs, fan facebook groups and fan videos with over 10,000 views cropping up all over the place. It’s genuinely hard to keep up.

Image by Gibbs Cadiz.

It’s also fairly terrifying. This is a show about a class of teenagers who are kidnapped and forced to fight one another until there is only one survivor. It’s a harrowing premise, and it was an intense experience writing and workshopping the script – I can only imagine how it feels to perform it. A lot of the critical discussion around the work has focused on the active audience response – rather than watching passively, the Battalia audience shout, cheer, boo, chase the action as it moves from scene to scene, and in one instance make the decision of whether a character lives or dies. What are the ethics around presenting a hyper-violent story such as this, and what are the artists’ responsibilities when it comes to the audience reaction? These are questions the Sipat Lawin guys have been chewing over, and which I am now preparing to submerge myself in as well. If you’re interested in any of this at all, get to the Battalia Royale blog, which will give you some background on the project as a whole – or you can also check out my previous blog post from December, giving a little insight into the experience of writing and workshopping the script.

An artist working on the CMAG wall as part of You Are Here’s Paste-Up Project. Image by Adam Thomas.

The reason I haven’t been properly engaged with these issues until now is from 8 – 18 March, the second You Are Here Festival has been underway. Following the successful pilot festival which I co-curated and produced in March 2011, You Are Here was funded for a second year by the Centenary of Canberra and Canberra CBD Limited. Taking place in vacant shopfronts, pubs, cafes, bookshops and found spaces throughout the CBD, You Are Here featured 45 events over 10 days.

Hadley directing Rosie Stevens to show the next giant Lindsay Lohan image via the codeword ‘Rosie! Crump!’, as part of the Tokyo Tween Knife Brawl. Image by Adam Thomas.

Curated by my co-producers Yolande Norris and Hadley, YAH 2012 was a different beast to the 2011 festival, with the longer lead-time and a more sensitive approach to programming resulting in (I think) a broader and more engaging festival. Approximately 5,000 people attended the festival over the last week and a half, which I think is pretty damn good.

Crowd at So You Think You Can Hipster losing their shit to Dead DJ Joke. Image by Adam Thomas.

If you’re curious at all about any of the events or the festival as a whole, ramble over to the You Are Here website and chew through some of the blog entries. Alternatively (or additionally), you can dig on the festival’s Facebook page for tons of image galleries (courtesy of photographer Adam Thomas), or roll straight to our Vimeo channel to absorb one of the 24 videos (courtesy of videographer Erica Hurrell).

Best of all, we have received a tentative confirmation that the festival will go ahead in 2013, and we are investigating ways to make it live beyond that. So, all is exciting, yo.

Nickamc and my self sipping herbal tea at the Gunpowder Temple of Heaven concert. Image by Adam Thomas.

Those are the main things. The other things, of which there are many, I will be babbling about as soon as I have properly rested and thoroughly read this When The Devil Dares Your Kids: Protecting Your Children From Satanism, Witchcraft And The Occult book that Hadley gave me.

The customer reviews on Amazon are not wildly flattering.