way too much love.

This last Manila trip should not have happened. Why. Why did it happen. What is wrong with me.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Philippines to collaborate on Sipat Lawin‘s new massive crowd-sourced performance piece LOVE: This Is Not (Yet) A Musical. I’ve been collaborating with Sipat since 2009, most massively over 2011-12 for Battalia Royale (with the rest of the Too Many Weapons collective), but this one was different, because for this one there were 20 other Australian artists with me.

I should not have gone. I have no job, no real means of employment. If you’re keeping track, I make a living by moving piecemeal from project to project, earning a fee from some of them and not from others, and trying not to own too many things. I probs don’t earn enough to go to the Philippines for ten days in July and pay rent for the remainder of the year.


This is the thing, right: last year I’d invited photographer Sarah Walker to come to Colombia with Chris and myself. She couldn’t do it, so we began discussions about a possible trip to Manila this year (see her dramatic reconstruction of the conversation here). And then at a point during the planning phase of the trip, I thought I’d extend the invitation to a few other artists to see who else might want to visit. I thought one or two people might jump on board – in fact, pretty much everyone I emailed said yes. So, 20 people.

That sounds like it was a bad thing: it was fucking incredible. For one, the artists were the most amazing troupe of human beings you could hope to take anywhere. They are all extraordinary collaborators, fantastic human beings and proactive, restlessly creative individuals. They are my favourite kind of people. For two, Sipat totally rose to the occasion. Rather than flipping out and asking me what the hell I was thinking, they billetted all 20 of us in their own houses (huge shout outs especially to JK Anicoche, Sarah Salazar, Joelle Yuvienco and Teresa Barrozo), and they brought us in to the creation of LoveNOT in the most generous, kind-spirited way.

The best thing for me was that I wasn’t actually heavily involved in the artistic collaboration myself – I was really just responsible for the logistics (and everyone more or less took care of themselves, so there wasn’t much of that). That meant I got to stand back and watch as 20 of my favourite Australian collaborators began making work with 40 of my favourite Filipino artists.

TYPHOONS: 3. The first one hit a few days before we arrived and dissapated, the third (Cyclone Nando) veered north and hit the coast of Taiwan instead, but the second one, Cyclone Maring, hit Luzon square in the northern provinces and dumped a hefty amount of rain on top of us. 48 hours holed up at JK’s house eating Yellow Cab pizza by candlelight, reading Pinoy Cosmopolitan and bad erotic fiction, is a very special kind of cabin fever. We were all safe, though Sarah Walker spent a bonus six hours in Kuala Lumpur, and Nick Delatovic and I had to do a 2am trek across the ebbing floods to collect her from Manila airport.

POOL PARTIES: 3. Two of them happened in the venue for LoveNOT (a health spa / swimming pool complex in Quezon City) and one of them happened under an extraordinary waterfall near (not at) Pagsanjan Falls.

RIZAL FOUNTAIN RAPS: 12. The Too Many Weapons tradition of recording spoken word performances whenever, wherever we go on tour blew out spectacularly this time round, with more than half our collaborators jumping on board and filming their own.

NEW COLLABORATIONS SPARKED: ?. So in a real sense, the reason for doing a massive international exchange like this was not just to contribute content to LoveNOT, though that was amazing and a huge privilege to see it come about. It was about making connections so that things can continue to flow between those two scenes. The Philippines is close, close, and I just want the barriers to become more porous. In practical terms I mean, I want more international collabs, more projects, more tours, more exchanges, more learning, more fighting, more making things happen, more making things happen, more making things happen

more things happening

So we’ll see.

In the meantime: a huge shout out to Sarah Walker for all the photos, massive love to JK and Sarah and all our Sipat lovers, and the following Australians for jumping in without hesitation or fear:

Adelaide Rief
Chris Ryan
Emily Stewart
George Rose
Georgie McAuley
Jess Bellamy
Jordan Prosser
Karmin Cooper
Nathan Harrison
Nick Delatovic
Nick McCorriston
Nikki Kennedy
Rachel Roberts
Sam Burns-Warr
Sarah Kaur
Sarah Walker
Shane Parsons
Simon Binns
Vanessa Wright

(all these gorgeous pics by sarah btw)

Yolande Norris and the Bloom Festival

image by adam thomas

I don’t know this but I think it: in the course of your life you get maybe five truly great creative partners. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had so many extraordinary collaborators, and some extremely productive working relationships, but by any measure my partnership with Yolande Norris was one of the all-time best. We got some cool shit done. I learned so much from her. She is one of the raddest people I know. And this weekend she’s kicking off her first major arts project since hers and my final You Are Here festival in March: Dig.

Bloom is a festival showcasing the best of the vivid arts community based at Gorman House Arts Centre (of which Lande is Program Manager). Since 1981, Gorman House has been the base for countless Canberran creatives (including me and everyone I ever did theatre with from 2001-06), and right now it’s undergoing a whole crazy renaissance with Lande and Joseph Falsone at the helm.

From Alice McShane’s dope BMA article about the festival:

Meeting in the sunny courtyard of Gorman House amidst the buzz of its weekly market, it’s clear what Norris is so excited about when it comes to the imminent celebration of this iconic artistic site. At once inviting and secretive, this hub of creativity feels like a serene refuge despite its close proximity to the city’s centre. The very walls of this former youth hostel and current artist residence allude to countless untold stories, and beautiful works to be discovered. With two very distinct past lives, the unique history of Gorman House plays a vital role in Norris’s mission to reconnect Gorman House and Ainslie Arts Centre to their communal roots.

Starting its life as a public service hostel in the 1920s, Gorman House went through decades of housing young people, with Norris likening it to ‘a uni residence’, explaining, ‘It would have been really fun, it would have been crazy, and for a long time it was women only as well. It would have been kind of wild.

‘So even though Gorman House is heritage, which makes people think of [an] old, nice and lovely vibe, it actually is a place where young people gathered for years and years and years, so we’d like to remind ourselves of that. That it is a place where people would come for entertainment and to spend time with one another.’

Bloom is running over Saturday and Sunday 20-21 September and featuring Canberra’s creative overlord the Skywhale, among a bunch of other rad humans. The program’s online here. Now, go soak it up.

Taking the kids-killing-kids trope too far.

image by sarah walker

So this week I’m opening a theatre show in Melbourne. I’m in a show, the show’s in a theatre, you can buy tickets, there’s an opening night and (presumably) a closing night. It’s classic theatre, which, as a dude whose shows have more recently been on in cafes, bookshops and swimming pools, is strange for me. There’ll be printed programs, lighting cues and a bow at the end of it. It is the real deal!

It is called Kids Killing Kids and it’s about theatre, violence and the Pinoy people. More specifically, it’s about the Battalia Royale project we did with Sipat Lawin in 2012, and what that experience taught us about the Philippines and the weird realities of cross-cultural collaboration.

(Also, yes, the acronym, we get it, but what you might not be aware of is that KKK means something slightly different in the Philippines. Just sayin.)

The Time Out article by Andrew Fuhrmann is an extremely good background to the production, and one of the best written articles about a show I’ve been involved in, ever. Dig:

It’s a dilemma few other Australian playwrights will ever face. On the one hand a salivating audience of thousands, on the other, a serious case for censorship that goes well beyond cultural conservatism. What was it about the Philippines that so energised the arguments?

Presented by MKA — Melbourne-based theatre of new writing — Kids Killing Kids uses documentary footage, interviews and photos, as well as testimonials from members of Sipat Lawin, to tell a very personal story about four over-confident foreigners who wandered into Manila and inadvertently helped create theatre history.

image by sarah walker

Kids Killing Kids is the work of the Too Many Weapons collective, a collaboration between myself and writer / performers Sam Burns-Warr, Georgie McAuley and Jordan Prosser. We’ve been working together as a quartet since November 2011, and in that time they’ve become some of my favourite artists, collaborators and human beings, so it is a total pleasure to be joining forces with them.

We’re lucky enough to be working with two other amazing artists: Bridget Balodis (of No Show) has come on board as director and Melanie Koomen is designing it. Mel’s design aesthetic is fantastic (we have our own forensic mindmap of the creation of Battalia!) and Bridget’s vision and practice as director is really fucking inspiring. I’m so so grateful to both of them for coming on board, and for throwing huge amounts of time and energy into making this thing a thing.

Plus the experience of working with a real, trained director! Kids Killing Kids features ‘blocking’, ‘vocal projection’, ‘body language’, ‘expressivity’ and all the other things listed in the Wikipedia entry for ‘Acting’. So it’s the real deal, honestly.

image by sarah walker

Kids Killing Kids is being co-produced by MKA and the Q Theatre in Penrith. Huge shout outs to Glyn Roberts from MKA and Katrina Douglas from the Q – they’ve gone so far above and beyond for this show that it’s bizarre calling them producers, they’re almost more like collaborators. Suffice to say, it wouldn’t be happening without them, and they are both smart and good looking.

The show has three seasons over the next five weeks:

Melbourne: In the North Melbourne Town Hall (the fringe hub) as part of the Melbourne Fringe: Friday 20 September – Thursday 3 October, every night except Monday.

Newcastle: As part of the Crack Theatre Festival on Saturday 5 October. (Doubly exciting for me, as it’s my first time back at the festival Gills Schwab and I co-founded since retiring as co-director in 2010).

Sydney: At the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, from Wednesday 16 – Saturday 20 October.

image by sarah walker

Also, on other MKA-related news: Founding co-director Glyn Roberts has departed the company, and in his place, Tobias Manderson-Galvin has appointed a stellar crew of artists and producers to take over the reins. I’m excited to announce that I am MKA’s new Creative Associate (International).* Googling my new MKA colleagues was pretty intimidating – this is a pretty all-star team, and I am pysched to be on the list. Word up to Glyn, tho, the dude is a magician.

image by sarah walker

* you understand what that is exactly as much as I do; let’s figure it out together, yo.