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we are all john lloyd cruz (but we are trying to be bea alonzo)

clyde_01

Hi, I’m Clyde Enriquez, I’m an actor and snowboarding champion. I was 2009 silver medallist at the European International Winter Sports Games, representing Switzerland.

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I don’t snowboard so much these days. I still like to get out on the slopes and cut a few sharp turns on some fresh powder, but what I really like to do these days is to think about what it means to be a human.

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Today I’d like to talk with you about being alone. We’re all alone, really, but sometimes on our journey through life we meet someone else. And sometimes, like it or not, we lose that someone. And what happens then?

I learned a lot about this very topic from two very dear friends of mine: John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, in their documentary ‘One More Chance’.

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the film begins with john lloyd cruz and bea alonzo, talking to each other, flirting and being lovely, EXCEPT in classic rom-com style, it turns out that they’re both talking to DIFFERENT PEOPLE

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I’ve seen this done a few times, most recently in Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis’ Friends With Benefits, and it’s always terrible, but Friends With Benefits was the worst on so many levels, One More Chance is smooth in contrast

So both JLC and Bea are flirting with people who aren’t their partners. But whereas JLC goes in for the kiss with his friend, Bea is shocked when the guy goes in for the kiss with her. She is upset and she leaves, which means that for the rest of the movie we never see this guy again

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WHICH IS A SHAME

JLC and his male friends stand around and complain about Bea, Bea and her friends stand around and they all insist she goes back to him.

This is the beginning of a major disparity in this film – Bea’s friends offer her very little support, when she says she wants to be free of this clinging, cloying relationship, they push her back into being with JLC because it’s convenient for their mutual friendship. JLC’s friends, by contrast, bend over backwards to support him no matter how much of a callow asshole he’s being.

All of this makes it even more impressive that Bea manages to push away from him, find herself, and grow as a human being, because she has to do it ALL BY HERSELF.

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JLC and Bea break up because of the misunderstanding double-affair thing, but then JLC is a total fuckwit and won’t even let Bea leave the house without being a total fucking manchild about every little thing. Where I come from we call that abusive rather than cute, but whatevs.

Then after harassing the hell out of her, they begin to flirt and then they’re about to have makeup sex

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one of the least appealing things I’ve ever seen in a film: JLC creeps under the bottom cover of the doona, so his face appears like some kind of beardless gremlin between her legs at the bottom of the bed. Fucking nightmare territory, man, I was making the sign of the cross at the screen like crazy at this point

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BUT THEN his work calls, and he blows her off for work, and then begins the long, harrowing sequence of the movie in which he is both ignoring her and micro-managing her, controlling her, shutting her down, hemming her in, pushing her around, gaslighting her, flirting with other women in front of her, and then whenever she says anything about it to him, shutting her down in this super-reasonable, mature-man voice that makes me want to hit him

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The highlight of this whole sequence was Kuya Bodjie as the cranky architect boss giving her shit about the scale model, because architecture something something. The whole architecture thing in this film isn’t really worked out in detail, but Bodjie goes for it nevertheless,

AND THEN THE CRISPY CHICKEN SCENE

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JLC – It’s a good thing we got that model fixed or we would both be in trouble. I would be in trouble. You think I’d ever let that happen? Basha, remember, we’re a team. Don’t let your emotions rule you. You’ll end up hurt that way.

JLC takes Basha’s chicken and peels off the crispy skin. Basha watches it happen with hate blazing in her eyes.

JLC – Then you’ll complain that you’re tired of it. Don’t forget your 7pm deadline. We don’t want to be late for dinner at Kenneth’s.

Bash grabs the crispy chicken skin. Poy grabs her hand.

JLC – Bash!

Bea – Just this once.

JLC – You know that’s bad for you. That’s cholesterol.

Bea – Poy, just this once.

JLC – What’s your problem?

Bea – I want space.

JLC – Space?

JLC moves his seat away.

JLC – There. Space.

No-one has ever hated anyone as much as Bea hates JLC in the look she gives him now. She gets up and leaves.

There are another couple of forgettable scenes, and then it builds to a break up where Bea quits her job, and finally lays it out in front of him in one of the most beautiful, honest breakup scenes I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t accuse him of anything, she doesn’t complain, she just says that the relationship’s not working for her, and she needs to leave in order to be able to figure out what’s what.

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This scene speaks to the universal misery that is a breakup. You don’t know exactly what’s not working, you don’t know in perfectly clear terms what you want, you can’t break it down in plain simple language, you just CAN’T, because it’s messy as fuck, and all you know if that something’s not right. But at the same time, you don’t want to walk out on the other person without giving them a clear and reasonable explanation.

But what if the only thing you know how to say is ‘It’s over because it doesn’t feel right?’ I mean is that enough?

I think it should be. At least to begin with. You can come back and debrief later, but at the time, if your partner says that to you, I think all you can do, as awful as it is, is listen to them and accept.

Of course, JLC doesn’t listen, he tries to shut her down and ignore her, even when she drops the bombshell line:

‘I want to stop wondering what if. I want to know what is.’

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(I guarantee you when the scriptwriter finished writing that line, they threw their pen down, punched the air and said HELLO SUCCESS)

Now we move into the part of the film where they’re both a mess. Bea does the right things, she gets a haircut and becomes a new and different woman, JLC devolves even further into a spineless blob, his friends take him out to date someone new (!) while Bea works on her t-shirt design business, focuses on her art, and gets on with shit.

In one of the many uncool moves made by Bea’s friends and family in this film, her mum invites JLC around to fix the sink and surprise her when she’s trying to get ready for work. DO NOT DO THIS THIS IS BULLSHIT.

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JLC even creepily goes to her house and watches her from the bushes for ten seconds, because… why? How is he a matinee idol? I hate him so much.

AND THEN beautiful lounge singer Maja Salvador rescues a drunken, vomiting JLC from the carpark, he grotesquely tries to make out with her and then pukes. Maja is a ray of sunshine in this movie and her acting is a whole other thing, but it is beyond even her to figure out how to make it make sense that her character falls in love with JLC.

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Is he a witch? Does he have magic powers?

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GOOD QUESTION JLC

He pashes her, she slaps him, he pukes, she leaves.

Next, we are introduced to our other top billing star. Bea parks her car outside a house, for no reason, gets out to look at it. Another car stops and out gets DEREK RAMSAY.

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Derek – Can I help you? You’re lost, right?

Bea – Huh?

Derek – That’s what it says on your shirt.

Bea remembers that her t-shirt says LOST AKO and she laughs.

Derek – So what are you doing here?

Bea – I’m just looking at the house.

Derek – And?

Bea – This one is owned by a man without any plan to start a family.

Derek – Why do you say that?

Bea – The house is not kid-friendly. It has too many edges and the materials are too masculine, too tough.

A BIT LIKE DEREK, HEY

Bea – If I were the architect, I’d lessen the edges and put more curves to balance it out.

The subtext here is that Bea would be a sexy feminine influence on the rich male bachelor who owns this edgy man-pad

Derek – Maybe that’s why my ex-girlfriend left me. That’s what she said when I designed this house.

BOOM! In one line, Derek has dropped the following three bombshells:
1. I’m single
2. I own a house
3. I listen to your opinion

Bea – This is your house?

Derek – Mark Yaneza. The man who has no plan to start a family.

Bea – Um, I have to go.

Derek – You’re an architect?

Bea – Used to be.

Derek – I’d actually like to hear your creative input. Here’s my card. We have an opening at the firm.

The subtext here is that Derek would like to have sex with Bea.

Now we see Bea get a new job, a fulfilling job, she begins to rebuild her life, she makes a new friend in Derek, Derek drives her to a gathering of her old friends, a gathering where JLC is at. It’s a five year anniversary of their friend Kenneth going blind. JLC is a piece of shit and causes a scene, upsets Bea, makes everything awkward, ruins everyone’s night, picks a fight with Derek, and for some reason Derek does not pick up a folding chair and beat him to death with it.

JLC explains that you have to let three months pass before you find another boyfriend. It’s a good rule of thumb, but every case is different, and how do you know when you’ve moved on, when you’re ready?

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Derek, in this shot, does not give a shit for the three month rule.

Not long after that, we find that JLC has somehow (black magic) seduced Maja Salvador into being his girlfriend. Bea rolls with it, and kindly wishes him the best. And then JLC’s deadbeat aunt and uncle decide that they need Bea and JLC to work together to design their house, because they’re insensitive to the most basic currents of human emotion.

But all of this is just a prelude to of the most moving scenes in the film, maybe one of the most moving scenes in modern cinema history: JLC and Maja Salvador’s monthsiversary.

Just FYI, the monthsiversary is a pretty pinoy tradition, or at least it’s not an Australian tradition, so this shit is new to me.

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Maja jumps in the car.

Maja – I thought you were having dinner with Chinno and Kenneth!

JLC – I feel like being with you.

They affectionately hug and kiss.

Maja – It’s a Thursday. And what is Thursday for?

JLC – Music day. But can’t it be another Popoy day?

Maja – Baby I also have to give time to my music.

JLC you LEECH, just let the lady pursue her art, what’s the matter with you

JLC – But I want you to be there. I want to introduce you to them.

Maja – Baby you can do it. And you better do it now. Sooner or later you have to face them.

She squeezes his chin.

Maja – But since you’re here already… I wrote this for you.

She gives him a framed picture. She reads out:

Maja – I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done,
I’d do it for sure.
Those are just the lyrics. I’m saving the music for our second monthsiversary. Happy monthsiversary!

He gives her a weird flat look.

Maja – You forgot, didn’t you?

He hugs her apologetically, but then SURPRISE he gives her a box. It is a bracelet.

JLC – Looks like you don’t need it.

Maja holds out her arm, he bracelets it up.

Maja – I love you baby.

JLC – Love you too.

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Maja you stone fox! Maja is wonderful, Bea is wonderful, Derek is wonderful, everyone is wonderful in this film except for JLC.

There’s a scene where JLC and Bea meet each other, and he’s basically polite, and she’s so delighted with his remotely adult conduct that she calls Derek to be all excited and ‘why was he so nice to me, he didn’t scream at me!’ because that’s how low the fucking bar is set for this character, if he doesn’t yell at you it’s like he’s won an olympic gold medal or something

Christ, if you have a friend whose biggest achievement is that sometimes he doesn’t scream abuse at you, I think you need to Let Him Go

Now there’s a whole series of scenes where JLC and Bea are working together on building this house. I hate the house and I hate JLC’s aunt and uncle, but it’s worth it for some heartrending shots of Bea just looking full of feeling

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Depressingly, a lot of the character arc in this bit of the movie is Bea realising that she’s still attracted to JLC. I get this, to a degree – if you’ve broken out of a shitty relationship, especially a long-term one, and you’re striking out on your own, there’s gonna be points along the way where the loneliness and the challenge of the unknown feels heavy and hard, and you crave the familiarity of a love that you let go, especially as time and distance softens some of the shitty edges. This is hard, and this is where good, true friends can help by reminding you of what you’ve got, of who you are, of keeping your eyes on the prize.

Bea’s friends, however, are total flakes, and they want her back with JLC for their own damn convenience. So she gets no support, no reinforcement, and JLC meanwhile is flirting with her like crazy, safe in the knowledge that he has another relationship on the go, a plan b, because he’s an emotionally crippled man-child.

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If I were there, I would be helping Bea move on. If I could beam myself inside a movie, this would be it.

It all comes to a head in this scene, which is one of the saddest moments of defeat I’ve ever seen in cinema. Bea and JLC are arguing about designing his stupid aunt and uncle’s stupid house, and finally she gives up, because honestly, what’s in it for her, doing his family a favour after all the shit he’s put her through. They’re midway through an argument, he’s being patronising and insulting, and then interrupts her to take a call from Maja, with whom he starts being needlessly affectionate on the phone too.

Bea stalks out of the meeting because frankly who needs that bullshit?

JLC – Basha wait! Let’s talk about the revisions!

Bea – I’ll take care of it. I’ll just text you.

JLC – Basha let’s try to be professional about this, okay?

shut up you hypocritical patronising twat

Bea – I am being professional.

JLC – Yes, I can see that. Why are you being like this? Because I’m commenting on your plans? I’m not sourgraping. I’m in line.

Bea – There you go again.

JLC – There I go again what?

Bea – There! Saying that there’s no problem when there is!

JLC – Because there isn’t any. How can I fix the problem if you’re not going to tell me what it is? If I don’t know what it is?

Bea – Popoy, you can’t solve every problem. And believe me, you don’t want to know what my problem is.

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JLC – Just tell me what’s wrong!

Bea – You really want to know? It’s me, Popoy. I’m the problem. Because I’m hurting even though I know I shouldn’t be. How I wish I can just pretend I’m okay and that this isn’t painful. After all, I wanted this… How I wish I can say I’m happy for you, for both of you. How I wish I can… But I can’t. And I feel so horrible… because the truth is, I’m still hoping that you’ll tell me… that’s it’s me… that it’s always been me… that it’s still me you love.

JLC – I love Tricia.

Bea – I know. I know.

JLC – She loved me at my worst. You had me at my best. And you threw it all away.

WHAT A FUCKING A-HOLE

Bea – Is that what you really think? Popoy, I just had to make a choice.

JLC – You chose to break my heart.

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Remember, guys, always make sure to stick the knife in and twist it. If your ex-girlfriend confesses her feelings for you in a moment of weakness, make sure you use the opportunity to grandstand about how much she hurt you, throw it back in her face and make her feel like shit. God forbid you employ a little bit of compassion or kindness.

The next scene comes out of the fucking blue – one of their friends has just tried to kill himself by drinking shampoo after being broken up with. All the friends gather around, including Bea, JLC and Maja, and JLC delivers a speech about how good it is being broken up with because sometimes then you find someone better, really pointedly making it awkward for his ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend, his suicidal friend, all their other friends, and the doctors who are wondering why he’s being such an asshole and making it all about him when his friend is on the verge of death.

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THAT’S OUR JOHN LLOYD CRUZ, HEY

Then JLC and Bea have sex, because why not? I mean you’ve just made your ex-girlfriend feel like shit for the last six months, why not cheat on your current girlfriend with her?

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It’s hard to tell, but the impression I get from the soft lighting and mournful power ballad soundtrack that this is pretty melancholy mopey ex-sex, rather than being fast, furious illicit sex out of a hunger and desire. Do either of them come? It looks like a couple of friends catching up for a quick coffee rather than anything super intimate.

Okay so skeezy deadbeat that he is, JLC has just cheated on his girlfriend, and the polite thing to do would be to confess and break up with her, right? But this is JLC, so even that much effort is beyond him. It’s up to the girls, as always, to do all the fucking work. So here we go, Maja Salvador to the rescue YET AGAIN.

JLC is sitting at a cafe, staring guiltily off into the distance Maja sits opposite him, her eyes full of knowing.

Maja – My song for you is done. Will you read it for me?

She passes him a napkin across the table.

JLC – ‘I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done -‘

Maja – …but it cannot be done. I can’t do it, Popoy. Because you won’t let me. Popoy just say it.

JLC won’t say it because he is a coward.

JLC – Trish…

Maja – There’s no easy way to do this, because it already hurts too much. So just tell me the truth. Please. Do you love me?

JLC – Trish, you know I love you.

Maja – Do you love her?

JLC – I can’t stand seeing you hurt.

(while he sits there and casually hurts her)

Maja puts her hand over his eyes.

Maja – So if you hurt me, you won’t see. Do you love her?

JLC – I’m sorry.

Maja cries.

Maja – Do you want us to end this?

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JLC – Can you still forgive me?

BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU, ISN’T IT MATE

Maja gets up and leaves.

Now the next scene, JLC finds Bea on a park bench and apologises at length for being an asshole. This is quite a nice scene, I like this one. Finally he lets her know that he’s taken a job in Qatar for the next two years, and he’s fucking off. He farewells her, and off he goes to grow as a person.

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In the ACTUAL final scene of the movie, he comes back after two years and they get together, but let’s imagine instead that he loses a leg in a workplace accident in Qatar, stays there for good, Bea meets someone else, someone who really cares for her, and she’s happy, and they never see each other again.

I think the point that this film is trying to make is that as hard as it is to be with someone else, it’s really fucking hard being on your own. We make all sorts of terrible choices to be with anyone – anyone – rather than being alone. We’d rather bone John Lloyd fucking Cruz than face staring at that blank empty darkness without another warm body to grab hold of.

Loneliness is freedom, freedom is loneliness. How do we be alone?

Are we gonna be okay on our own?

We have to figure out how to be okay on our own, or else we’ll end up with John Lloyd Cruz. That’s the fight we’re fighting. So good luck to all of us.

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(As a little context, if you’re interested, I wrote this piece for Clyde Enriquez, who performed it for Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Strange Pilgrims event at TomatoKick Tomas Morato, Manila, 16 December 2015. And she made it good and it was a grand performance. All the better because Clyde is actually an ex-professional snowboarder who did indeed represent Switzerland back in the day, so that added a certain verisimilitude to the whole thing.)

Pag pinagmamasdan kita, parang nagmamalikmata


(play this tune while reading this post for full effect)

I’ve been here in the Philippines since Thursday, so five days now. Most of that time and all my mental energy has been going into learning this slab of Filipino text which I’m going to try and use to get on to Foreignoy, the GMA Network’s reality tv show for foreignors with the ‘heart of a Pinoy’.

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What is Foreignoy?

It’s a reality TV show / game show on Eat Bulaga, which is the GMA Network’s long-time noontime show and a bastion of Filipino daytime TV culture. And they have a special segment just for foreignors, or at least, foreignors who have some relationship to the Philippines, where they have to sing, improvise a skit in Filipino, and then face each other down in a popularity contest of some kind.

Why do you want to get on Foreignoy?

I don’t know, except that I want it more than I can ever remember wanting anything ever before in my life. Do you think the albatross knows what it’s doing when it starts flying halfway across the world to its winter feasting grounds? I don’t think so. I think it just knows that it needs to go, and it starts to fly, and that is that.

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What will happen if you get on Foreignoy?

I WILL WIN.

Actually I won’t win (except I will), but the real point is, get on the show, and then see what happens. In this life I guess the finish line is always moving.

How will you get on Foreignoy?

I DON’T KNOW. HELP ME.

My current plan is to put together an audition video showcasing my skills and hoping someone from GMA sees it and is duly moved by it. But I mean, if you have a better idea, let me know. If you know someone from GMA, give them my email address. If you ARE from GMA, get at me let’s talk.

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But Finig, you can’t sing, you can’t dance, you can’t really speak Tagalog, you’re not that pretty and you have a stupid beard, what do you have to offer the audience of Eat Bulaga?

All of these things are true, but I want this more than any other Foreignoy competitor has wanted it in the history of the show. If raw unfiltered urgent passion counts for anything, I outstrip everyone in the history of the show.

How’s the rehearsing going?

Maraming hirap. I spent 90 minutes last night pacing around the living room repeating the line ‘pag pinagmamasdankita, parang namamalikmata’ over and over, because my wretched English-speaking mouth can’t hack it. My voice is going, my throat is sore, I’m having weird lucid dreams about fumbling lines, and I’m not even halfway through.

I have listened to this timestretched loop of Abra’s Diwata over 2000 times today and it’s not helping.

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But I will get there. Magiging okay lang ang lahat. Because Donnalyn Bartholme. Because Abra. Because Sarah Geronimo. Because Salbakuta. Because AlDub. Because Asin & Freddie Aguilar. Because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because Ryzza Mae, because we have 84 years left of this century and it’s up to determine what it looks like, and I don’t want to live in a future where I didn’t win Foreignoy

Because I AM a kakaibabe

Singapore interlude

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It’s mid-November and I’m sitting in Singapore on Circular Road watching all the pretty office workers go by looking fancy and sharp as razors. I’m on my way to Manila, where my challenge is going to be (a) having a bullet planted in my baggage, (b) sitting on EDSA for 5+ hours because of APEC, and (c) my pabebe wave is rubbish. Still though, I think the technical term is CANNOT WAIT.

I’ve spent the last few weeks in between Sydney and Canberra. It was all prep work – prep for the new Finnigan and Brother EP, prep for Best Festival Ever travelling to Sweden next year, prep for Kill Climate Deniers coming up in 2016. And of course that kind of prep feels sometimes really positive, and sometimes like you’re standing totally still getting nothing done.

Maybe I’ve been getting nothing done. It doesn’t feel like it, but there’s nothing that’s quite ready to share, nothing that I’m happy to break out and put across the wires. So for now, I think I’ll just leave it and say I’m gonna be in Manila in that headspace very, very soon. And the future’s frightening, same as always.

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Some funding applications for you to read, copy, get wealthy with

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This one’s probably a bad idea for reasons I’m not 100% clear on, but you know, fuck it.

Yolande Norris is going up to Crack in a couple of weeks to run a workshop on grant writing, which will be dope. She and I were having a chat over the phone about it, talking about what would be most useful for people to know, how best to communicate grant-writing practice for people who haven’t done it before. And the thing that I kept coming back to was: you need to see examples of other grants people have written.

My first grant application, Sylvie Stern sat down with me and basically helped me write it, paragraph for paragraph. Because she was fucking wonderful and had the time and patience to sit down with a wannabe theatre-kid and talk me through it line by line.

When Gills and I started the Crack Theatre Festival in 2009 I had no idea about festivals or anything to do with them. One thing that stuck out for me was Nic Low (National Young Writers Festival director at the time) showing me his budget spreadsheet for the NYWF – and it blew my mind. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like, and suddenly it all fell into place and I managed to fumble my way forward from there.

A year or two ago Bryony Kimmings kicked off her brilliant You Show Me Yours project where she started sharing her project budgets publicly, to open them up to discussion. It’s fucking scary sharing your budgets, because everyone’s a fucking expert, everyone knows what you’re doing wrong, and there’s no defending yourself against lazy armchair critics. But I thought it was a great initiative, and I wished then that I’d had the courage to share my own admin files.

It’s been said by heaps of people that signing up to be a peer assessor for one of the funding bodies is a great way to learn about grantwriting – you read hundreds of the things, and get an insight into what makes a good application and what makes one crash and burn. Being a festival director was similar, in that we were digesting and responding to heaps of applications and trying to glean the content out of the awkward grant-speak. But not everyone has the time or capacity to be a grant assessor. It shouldn’t be a requirement, should it?

With all that in mind, I decided it was probably time to share some of my old applications here, for anyone who might be interested, and particularly anyone who’s pretty new to the grantwriting game. They’re not necessarily any good (and they definitely didn’t all get funded), but maybe if you’re getting your head around the whole world of funding, these might be worth glancing at?

I really wanted to include a couple of the applications I wrote for Crack and the You Are Here festivals, but because there was a whole bunch of people involved in the writing of those, I don’t really feel I can share them. Weird how personal some of this stuff, feels, hey – especially when you think you mail this shit off to some random strangers you’ve never met to read it over and give you a thumbs up or down. But there you go. So I’ve shared what I feel I can share.

Good luck all you motherfuckers we’re gonna be okay we’re gonna be okay

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 9.37.42 am copythis has nothing to do with anything really but I watched How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days this week and here is a screenshot of Kate Hudson

ASIALINK
I applied for Asialink’s 2015 round and was successful – I don’t think you need to apply with a budget, or at least I couldn’t see one in my application, so this was the bulk of it.

David Finnigan – Asialink application 2014

ANAT – SYNAPSE
The Australian Network for Art and Technology has (had?) a program called Synapse, where artists undertake residencies in research institutions. I applied for funding to complete a three-month program of research at University College London in 2011 – and I didn’t get it. Not sure why, but I have a sneaking suspicion the hyperbolic last paragraph in the proposal didn’t help.

David Finnigan – ANAT Synapse application 2011
David Finnigan – ANAT Synapse budget 2011

BRITISH COUNCIL – REALISE YOUR DREAM
I’m not heaps into the name ‘realise your dream’ for this funding opportunity, which is (was?) the British Council helping Australian artists get over to the UK. But that might be just sour grapes because I didn’t get the funding.

David Finnigan – Realise Yr Dream application 2012

OZCO EARLY CAREER CREATIVE FELLOWSHIP
This is Ozco’s initiative to support early career interdisciplinary practitioners with a two-year fellowship to support their practice. I was really fortunate to get this one – I think the program has been impacted now by the $104.7 million funding cut to Ozco.

David Finnigan – Ozco Creative Fellowship application 2014

OZCO EXPERIMENTAL ART FUND
Boho was invited over to the UK to present the first season of Best Festival Ever in residence at the London Science Museum. To help cover our costs to get us over there, we applied to Ozco’s Experimental Arts fund – and we were successful.

David Finnigan – Ozco Experimental Arts application 2014

I had a hunt around my hard drive for the budget for this application, but because the project was funded by a variety of sources (seven, by my rough count) it’s a bit too messy to share here. Get at me via the email if yr curious.

Aight, I hope this is vaguely of interest to yall – if not, here’s Dean Blunt’s 100, get to it.

Where do your ideas come from, Finnigan?

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This is one of those weeks where I go around and around in frantic mental circles questioning the choices that got me to where I am. What is driving me to make work? What is the machinery behind my process?

Like I’ve said before, without the structure of a full-time gig, it’s easy for an artist like me to run into all sorts of existential questions. Unless I’m right in the thick of a project, I have time to stop and question myself. And right now I don’t have the momentum to ignore the worry that it might all be a total shambles. And so last night, sitting alone in a parked car, I was thinking over and over about how projects get started.

How does it happen, then? Finig where do your ideas come from?

Usually the seed of an idea comes from my frequent and high-dosage sensations of jealousy, fear, anger and particularly, spite. That’s where it starts, and later, if I’m lucky, comes a slightly more healthy mix of constructive emotions.

The seed of an idea is usually the urge to needle someone. Most of the YAH events that I programmed came from a specific urge to annoy Hadley or Yolande. This is how we came to hosting a Christmas In March event with a reenactment of the Beep Test in the middle of it. Or I air a stupid thought on social media, and as soon as someone criticises it, that’s enough to guarantee that it happens.

11201905_10153798855799505_1379026310089970685_neven my best ideas are bad, and involve me being a reindeer for hadley. pic by adam thomas.

Then, once an idea exists, you can apply your social conscience, intelligence, sense of craft and aesthetic values on top of it. Does it engage the community, is it accessible, is it meaningful, does it resonate with the context? These are crucial filters, but the idea itself doesn’t come from those questions. Nothing so noble or constructive in that first moment.

If enough people say something is a bad idea, I’m gonna double down on it. I could’ve let Kill Climate Deniers go, if not for the fact that some peeps insisted on making a feeble melodrama out of the fact that ArtsACT funded the script development. Now the sheer fact of that challenge has engaged those instincts, and it’s going to happen. Because it matters, because it’s relevant, because it’s saying something purposeful and worthwhile, but also because a bunch of people think it’s a bad idea.

My decision-making flowchart is a fucking shambles, and my internal mental process for What Should I Do Now is more dependent on what’s on my walkman than any kind of logical scheme. In general: If I’m not feeling scared, I’m not happy. If I’m not out of my depth, I’m not happy. If I’m not directly contravening someone’s well meaning advice, I’m not happy.

I don’t have a plan, but I know that I can’t really trust anyone else’s example, because I don’t know anyone who’s done what I want to do. And what is that? I don’t know, but I know it doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve seen before.

My decision-making is based off bad instincts, fortified by collaborators who, I mean we trust each other, even if none of us really knows what it all adds up to, and guided by cobbled-together bits of advice from my mentors. Brenna Hobson. Nicole Canham. Jan Wawrzynczak. Tassos Stevens. Robyn Archer. Good, thoughtful advice, applied haphazardly and without a sense of the big picture.

I think to myself, what are you doing? I think to myself, you have to do something, you have to make something. I think to myself, these are the stories you need to tell, these are the things you need to fix. I think to myself, have you fucked over anyone recently? I mean, specifically? I think to myself, make something, anything, to distract yourself from thinking.

I think about the refrain of this old Gomez tune a lot – the chorus goes, ‘you better convince me man, cause I don’t know what I’m doing – you better convince me man, cause I don’t know who I’m screwing.’

11703515_10155819472915704_4704864505902018753_othis was karnabal, which was also a confusing experience. pic by jordan prosser.

Some days you’re at a crossroads, and all you really know is that none of the roads go anywhere you want to be, but you need to keep moving or else you’ll rot on the pavement where thou rottedst half.

You don’t want to get a gig in any of the structures because you don’t believe in the system, you’re not looking for a full-time job as a whatever in an organisation. But outside those structures you can’t do anything, make anything, change anything. And you’re already implicated up to your neck and there’s no point pretending otherwise.

You want people to see your work, you want your work to be part of the ecosystem, you want to be a part of the conversation and somehow move the conversation towards that point of crisis, you want to build platforms where people can come together and begin to address the real challenges facing us as a species, as a planet. But you don’t know how to connect your work to all those people in the world. How does work find an audience?

Those institutions, the theatres and the TV studios and the radio stations, they’re full of beautiful people working hard, and some days they seem so porous and other days they seem baffingly impenetrable. And you feel like if you could fold yourself into the right shape maybe you could slide through the gaps. But there’s no logical way to do that and maybe it’s bad news to start thinking about folding yourself into anything.

Jess said our job is to keep flashing our lights at the sky:

The problem for us is having enough rocket fuel to beam up our signals for as long as we can, and to trudge along with enough water packed on our backs to stay healthy in all the right ways. Our job is to keep making, keep creating, while recognising that sometimes the sky is very full and even very bright messages can be dulled by the camera-flash cacophony that surrounds us.

JUST HAVE YOUR LUNCH SORTED FOR THE DAY

And today I just wrote, for no-one really, something that doesn’t really fit anyone’s template of the art they want, a piece about a vigilante group forming to rescue a kidnapped popstar, a thing just for me, probably.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

IMG_0596rev 01image by javier vela

Doing a show in Canberra after a long time away: what’s that even like?

And this week, the strange but kinda delightful feeling of being back in the Street Theatre in Canberra, presenting a Boho show. The Street Theatre is one of the places where I got my start, doing Boho and Opiate shows there back as far as 2002, and it has a lot of memories for me. It’s also rad to be bringing Best Festival Ever here, the first Australian season after three years of development and performances overseas.

In case you’ve not spoken with me for the past couple of years, Best Festival Ever is the latest production from Boho, the science-theatre ensemble I run along with Jack Lloyd, Mick Bailey and David Shaw. David (well, Muttley) and I have been working on BFE since 2011 with three members of Sydney ensemble Applespiel: Nikki Kennedy, Nathan Harrison and Rachel Roberts, as well as UK director Tassos Stevens and designer Gary Campbell.

Best Festival Ever is an interactive performance that takes place around a table, in which a playing audience of around 30 people program and manage their own music festival. The show draws on a lot of ideas from climate and systems science, and functions as a bit of a primer to some key concepts from complex systems science: ideas such as interconnectivity, feedback loops, the tragedy of the commons, tipping points and resilience.

I had a grand conversation with Richard Watts from Artshub about the work, and he circled in on some of the core ideas and themes of the show – well worth a glance if you’re curious.

Even after three years we haven’t come up with a good, simple way to describe it: ‘part theatre show, part performance lecture and part massive boardgame’ is how we’ve framed it for the Street Theatre season. But as complex as it sounds, it’s actually one of the most intuitive shows I’ve ever worked on – we’ve spent years working out the details, but the broad aesthetic shape we settled on within a few weeks of getting to grips with it during our residency at University College London’s Environment Institute in 2012.

After presenting it in a host of different spaces across London and Stockholm last year (I think 21 performances in 14 venues?), it’s a total luxury to be doing it in the Street Theatre, with lighting and additional design by Gills Schwab and sound design by Nick McCorriston. I feel kinda guilty because everyone this season is working harder than me – Nikki, Nathan and Rachel are performing every night, and Muttley has done a beautiful job fixing heaps of the props. With the script and marketing stuff all out of the way, my only job has been facilitating the post-show conversations with the scientists.

And this has been the loveliest part of this whole season. Being in Canberra, we’ve been able to assemble a lineup of some of our all-time favourite scientists, old collaborators and new, and conclude each show with a conversation / informal Q&A about the science content of the show.

Last week we had Will Steffen (Climate Council), who talked about planetary boundaries and global tipping points, Brian Walker, who discussed resilience and thresholds in systems such as the Goulburn-Broken catchment, rioting crowds and the human body, Nicky Grigg, who talked about modelling human behaviour and the Australia 2050 project, Joanne Daly, who talked about food security and dealing with invasive species, and Ellie Malbon, who talked about Canberra as a system and the issue of health inequality.

This week we’ll be joined by Steve Cork, John Finnigan and Bob Costanza, and Muttley and I are doing a talk of our own on behalf of the company after the Saturday matinee.

pic by the canberra times photographer Jamila Toderas

It’s been a really lovely experience – the audiences have been great, we’ve sold out the season and had to add additional shows, and we’re all really happy with where the show is at. The big question for me is, where do we take this work next? We really haven’t made any huge effort to line up an Australian tour for the show. That hasn’t really bothered me until now, because I’ve been focused on connecting in with some of our international peers, but right now I’m starting to see how lovely it would be to bring the show to more Australian audiences.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on this front, let me know, yo.

The Palawan EPs

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Now this is a really nice thing that happened and I’m delighted to get to talk about it.

After the Karnabal Festival in Manila, Jordan Prosser and I headed to the island of Palawan in the western Philippines to spend a few days being tourists and generally skulking about. I was a bit of a wreck by that point, unfortunately, a little too ragged and wrung out after the chaos of May. Jordan generously organised all the logistics, and I did nothing except fall asleep on his shoulder in the plane to El Nido.

While we were spending the week sea kayaking, snorkelling and gathering our heads, we recorded a cluster of new spoken word pieces. Again, all at Jordan’s prompting – I was a total passenger in this regard, just scribbling my pieces and mumbling them into the recorder while Jordan recorded, edited and gathered a collection of found sounds.

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In the end, we had a body of material that was too much for one release, and rather than overload it with words, we made the decision to break it up into two EPs, which allowed Jordan to space out the poetry with a selection of field recordings.

The next phase was that I went through my folders and pulled out a whole bunch of unreleased Fossil Rabbit material from a few years ago. The advantage of being Chris Finnigan’s brother is that I get access to a whole heap of his recordings that no-one else has heard, and so we snagged Chris’ permission to use some songs from his unreleased 2010 demo EP.

Jordan stitched the two EPs together, and the result ended up being unexpectedly lovely. What I realised listening to them is that in order to digest spoken word, you need room – which Jordan allowed. And so you don’t feel like you’re being bombarded, you can actually take the words on board when they come.

The centrepiece of the first EP is The Comfort of Facts, a poem which Jordan half-wrote then invited me to collaborate on. It’s a really nice piece about the vastness of the world (and how little that really matters to any of us) and when we finally recorded it (in Kuala Lumpur airport just before he sprinted off to catch his flight to Melbourne) it felt like the perfect keystone for that collection. My love letter Hey Sam Hey Georgie (to the other half of Too Many Weapons) is a messy but well-meaning piece, and Jordan’s Mid-Air Collision and Devil’s Canyon poems are both beautiful and eerie as hell.

The second EP features a song that Jordan wrote and recorded entitled Softly Softly (because he’s a goddamn triple-threat, thank christ he can’t dance), and MH370, the poem he wrote in response to the vanished Malaysian airlines flight, has a strange Picnic at Hanging Rock vibe. The centrepiece on this EP was my What Are The Things That You Think, which is a piece I don’t remember writing, but which I infer was scribbled down at 4am one night last winter. I don’t know any more than that, but it’s a pretty accurate cross-section of the stuff that passes through my brain most days and nights.

Finally, to close the second EP, Jordan suggested we draw out a recording he had from the Karnabal Festival International Platform showing, where Japanese playwright and theatre-maker Natsuki Ishigami was speaking about her collaboration with Andrew Cruz and Anino Shadowplay. So that beautiful sample (‘I’m lucky… I’m honoured…’) closes the record, accompanied by Chris’ track Lakeside.

I don’t know if these pieces will be in any way your jam, I just felt like here we came close to getting something right, you know?

All the videos yuu can eat

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Recently, Too Many Weapons gathered in Sydney for a couple of days at the ABC Studios in Ultimo (nicely timed to take place during the ABC lockdown, bless) and while in Sydney, we recorded a new iteration of the ongoing Rizal Fountain Raps series.

That brings the total entries in the Rizal Raps series up to nearly 30 videos, including a bunch of guest appearances by friends and collaborators in Quezon City in 2013.

The Rizal Fountain Raps started in 2012 when we were in Manila, recording a cluster of short spoken word performances at the fountain in Rizal Park in Intramuros. Following that round, Sam, Georgie, Jordan and myself have kept up the tradition of recording a new spoken word performance at every touring destination we visit.

I decided I’d like a place to host all that content on this website, and so I’ve created a new page just for videos, where I’ve gathered a bundle of documentation from the last seven or eight years. There’s Boho plays, Finnigan and Brother clips, and spoken word performances. Basically it’s a glut of my terrible beardy face and you should make up your mind whether that’s something you need in your life before clicking on the link.

Pulling it together, I realised how many of the clips were down to the efforts of just a few people. So huge thanks and much gratefulness to Sam Burns-Warr, Shane Parsons, Erica Hurrell and Jordan Prosser: you guys make it real.

And now to give you something worth staying on this page for, here are the clips from the most recent Rizal Fountain Raps edition, recorded earlier this year in the Melbourne Docklands:

Camiguin Sonnets: It’s A Free Concert From Now On

This is an opportunity to update you on what I’ve been up to, which is always murky as hell and who really knows? Planning. Procrastinating. Panicking. In roughly equal measure. But this is my professional website (ha) and so I try to minimise the amount that I talk about my hours staring helplessly at my notebook or yelling at myself in my own head for how little I’ve done / am doing / will ever do. Instead I try to keep the focus on things I’ve actually done.

So! Some things I’ve actually done!

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While we were in the Philippines, myself and the rest of Everything is Everywhere – the redoubtable Ira Gamerman, Siobhan O’Loughlin and Jess Bellamy – took some time to record what we euphemistically called Sonnets. In this instance, a sonnet is a performance to camera, not dissimilar to Too Many Weapons’ Rizal Fountain Raps series.

We wrote and performed them at Camiguin Action Geckoes Lodge, in northern Mindanao, and they turned out pretty charmingly, if I do say so myself. Jess’ piece hews closest to being an actual sonnet, while also being a charming meditation on the value of a good piece of ass. Siobhan’s is a breathless ode to a Japanese apartment, which is also a love letter, which is also lovely. And Ira’s is a song called Come Again Camiguin, an example of Gamerman’s ability to throw out a gorgeous pop hook in any circumstances, performed topless.

Mine is called It’s A Free Concert From Now On, because fuck it why not, and I kinda like it. And maybe you might as well? And so here it is for you, complete with a cameo by Ms O’Loughlin herself, and a gorgeous lizard on the roof, and the sentiment, I stand behind.

this is an open letter to the prime minister of australia
anna breslaw who wrote one of the better cosmopolitan sealed sections I’ve ever read
karl hyde water on stone water on sand
the bolt comments twitter feed
ryzza mae, ryzza mae, and everyone on the ryzza mae show
my name’s david finnigan and

there are addicts everywhere
under every bed
behind every car windshield
there are addicts in your place of work
they are driving your taxis
running your childcare centres
building your bridges
and crouching behind your eyeballs right now listening in

but rather than trying to squash that part of you I say
good luck and hold on to the stuff you’re hooked on
if you’ve got enough cash to start a recreational drug habit
dive right in
get in a loop
don’t back away from the things that you need

I mean like ice
I mean like red wine
I mean like ketamine
I mean like nights on the island checking your phone waiting for a dealer to text back
dragged slowly towards the edge

I mean if you need it
if you can’t function without it
if you find yourself waking in the night panicking unless it’s right there
then do what your heart says and run to it

I mean like sex with people who are no good for you
I mean like travel to places that don’t need you
I mean like diving deep down til your ears are gonna burst and the light dims down and there’s just sharks down there
I mean like running away from things as soon as they start to get hard
I mean like being in your own head because your own head scares you
I mean like taking years off your life with every poor decision and pushing the boat out to sea as the wind picks up and the sun goes down

I mean like let’s not pretend that anyone loves you as much as drugs love you
as much as power loves you
as much as ambition, stupid sex and lighting fires loves you
as much as making promises you can’t keep to people who need you more than you need them loves you
yes!
as much as your aching back your tired eyes from staring at the laptop too long your bank account when was the last time you checked your bank account when are you going to take a real step forward instead of all these goddamn steps back loves you
I mean real talk who knows you as well as your own paranoia and neuroses?
who’s been with you all the way through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the heat and the energy, apart from your weird problems?

I mean I love you, everyone here loves you, ira siobhan and jess love you, it’s a free concert from now on
but the one major thing you need to remember tonight before you go back up into the woods to go to sleep or if you stay here
is that the scorched mess of fear and pain and jealousy and anger in your head is your first lover
it’s been there for you and you’ve given it the whole world
and wherever you go in this lifetime until finally the thoughts wink out for good
that horror in your mind is closer to you than your own shadow
so love it

and you damn well better remember that because if you don’t we blow the whole thing
but we’ve got it, right here

so to the prime minister, the honourable speaker for warringah
to noynoy aquino, the kids in bieber’s entourage
all the charming boys and girls nervously expressing to their partner their desire to try a little analingus tonight pls
to the sweet hetero boy you brought home tonight who doesn’t have a clue
to the nervous straight girl who invited you back to hers who doesn’t know how to ask for what she wants
to the theatre kids, the sipat lawin ensemble
the ones ruining their futures to make something that means something even though they don’t know what that fucking means and fair enough
to the trike drivers playing checkers on malingap street at 2am
and the staff of shakeys on matalino
to the camiguin kids playing in the surf
kuya rat, yuki the lizards on the bamboo roof, all the starfish in the sea
ira, jess, siobhan everything is everywhere all the time
and all the fucking creatures holding it together by the thinnest of threads and yet presenting such a pretty face to the world
good luck and don’t dare give up

you are such beautiful fuck ups

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All the shows I did in Manila in May 2015

So so so so so so so, Karnabal Festival in Manila. As well as helping Sipat Lawin produce the International Exchange platform for the festival, I was involved in four productions that took place as part of the festival.

Previous experience (particularly with the first You Are Here fest) had taught me that being an artist in a festival you’re producing is possible, but not ideal. A little bit of performance is fine – as per the Teen Makeouts shows in YAH 2012 and 2013 – but trying to do a big full-length new show is not. Trying to do four separate shows is ridiculous.

In the end, all four shows happened and worked, more or less, but I am left with the stinging feeling that I could have done better, in every instance, if I’d had more focus.

Anyway – this is what happened:

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Gobyerno

Total hubris here – when we ran Gobyerno in Korea with Creative VaQi, we were doing our best to pack everything into the two hour slot we’d been given. Here at Karnabal we had two two hour slots again, and we had way more material we wanted to test. Our solution was to break the shows in half and do two completely different performances, with totally different material. Effectively, we ended up presenting two completely different shows over the two nights.

On the first night we did the State of the Nation address, where the participants created their own ideal speech from a leader, discussing the issues they felt most strongly about. The first half of the show is the audience discussing and debating their ideas for the country’s new direction – the second is them preparing and then filming the leader’s speech, complete with journalists, cheering crowds, angry protestors and full orchestration. Brandon had proposed doing a long trick shot for this scene, which I thought was completely ridiculous, but ended up being utterly brilliant. The whole show was a crazy ride, and it felt like everything landed really nicely.

The second night we did Urban Planning – in which participants designed and debated their ideal city, creating a massive floor map of it. In the second half of the show they create a filmic journey through the city. This was lovely, but the audience this night was way bigger – up to 60 from 35 the previous night. With only four artist/facilitators, the structure of managing the crowds started to buckle and sway, and when we brought the whole crowd together, it almost completely fell over.

This show is a pretty exciting proposition on so many levels, but also a powerful challenge, because of JK’s basic desire that it is an interactive participatory work that happens at scale. He wants at least 150 participants in the final version. I think that’s an incredibly hard task. Which is part of why I’m involved.

gob_adrian begoniagobyerno. image by adrian begonia

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gob02_jpgobyerno. images by jordan prosser

Appropriate Kissing For All Occasions

This was a nice one, maybe the easiest of the bunch. Isab Martinez and I had already collaborated on this back in 2013, and this was a reboot with some edits and additions. It was incredibly satisfying to see it up close and personal – Isab is a really sharp comic actor, totally able to hold a crowd, and totally owns the arrogant TED-speaker with the gaping emotional wounds at her centre character. And her criticism of people’s kisses was outstanding. This was just a joy to watch, really.

akfao_jp akfao, image by jordan prosser

Relationship Anatomy

This was a little newer and a little scarier. Isab and I collaborated on a new work which took the form of a group therapy session. Essentially, Isab’s character was seeking advice from strangers about her relationship, which is slightly shaky and on the rocks. The guts of the work are a facilitated conversation with the audience around their opinions on relationships, what are the key elements, when is it time to call it quits, etc. This is pretty delicate territory, and we were unsure of whether we had something that quite worked.

We presented the show three times. The first time, it sort of worked, if you squinted hard enough. The second time it completely crashed and burned. The third time, it landed beautifully. Three different audiences – different ages, different backgrounds, different numbers, different attitudes, different settings – as an experiment it was ideal. We learned a lot. It was fascinating to see what different groups decided. And there was one really satisfying theatrical moment, where if the audience decide that the relationship is dead in the water, Isab calls the guy up then and there and dumps him over the phone.

My favourite moment, though, was when Isab asks each audience member to describe their ideal partner as an object, and why. Some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever heard stemmed from this moment. A book with the covers torn off. A forest. A circle. Yes.

ra_jpisab and me, pre-relationship anatomy. image by jordan prosser

Everything is Everywhere

The joint work of myself, Jess Bellamy, Siobhan O’Loughlin and Ira Gamerman. We joined forces after spending a fortnight together in New York last year, and out of that stemmed this project. Over three weeks up to and during Karnabal, we produced a whole raft of new stories, scenes and monologues, and wrapped them together in a framework in which the four of us competed to take over the Philippines.

The basic breakdown had to do with our specific makeup as a company – two men / two women, two Americans / two Australians, two Jews / two Irish Catholic atheists. The resulting show saw us play against each other in three rounds, trying to score points by convincing the Philippines that we were uniquely qualified to understand and engage with them.

In the end, Jess won the contest (because of her UNBELIEVABLE score in our bonus round) and became leader of the Philippines, delivering this acceptance speech (courtesy of Ness Roque):

“Mabuhay! Hindi ko alam ang sinasabi ko. Ako ay isang puting papet. Tingnan niyo ako! Nagsasalita ako pero wala akong alam kung anong sinasabi ko! Ang saya saya! Kekembot ako. Sasayaw ako. Pinagtripan lang kami ng Sipat Lawin. Kekembot ako. Sasayaw ako. Mukha na ba akong tanga? Pero hindi ko alam kung bakit. Maraming salamat po! Maraming salamat po! Mahal ko ang Pilipinas!”

Mahal ko ang Pilipinas indeed.

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eise04_adrian begonia#EisE. images by adrian begonia

Okay so that was my artistic input into the festival, which, again, probably shouldn’t have been there. But I think I can say, I’m grateful it happened?

I’m grateful to everyone who lets me make art.