In 2002, during our second year as independent theatre-makers in Canberra, myself and Nickamc and Muttley were spending a shitload of time together getting drunk and stoned in odd spots around the city, talking about theatre and making plans. The upshot was that when Jules Fleetwood, Amy Feldman, Nickamc and Muttley formed Opiate Productions in early 2002, Nickamc and Mutt straightaway flagged Opiate’s second show in November for the production of an original piece by the three of us. That piece, produced as Chosei: Eternal Life but known to all of us thereafter as Chosei: Frozen Shape, was paired with Jules’ adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s black comedy Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.
From my perspective, the most interesting part of the play was the writing process. Cramming together the formulas from Jeff Noon’s Mappalujo and Cobralingus experimental texts and fitting them to our purposes, we agreed that each of us would provide a short story and we would mash the stories into one meta-work. The source texts we decided on were:
Set in Manila’s flash-flooded streets, this grimy teen flick follows the attempts of two hip brothers to transform a geeky loner into the prom queen before an epidemic wipes out the entire city. Part-theatre show, part-science lecture and part DIY-vibrator making workshop, Sun Drugs crams all the exotic beauty and sweeping romance of The English Patient into 30 intense minutes and microwaves them.
Condensing the image-rich poetry of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, the vivid travelogues of Jack Kerouac, the fascinating science lessons of Carl Sagan and the hormone-drenched characters of every lurid Hollywood highschool romance you’ve ever seen into one free performance, Sun Drugs is a glorious celebration of everything good in this world.
First performed by David Finig and directed by Naomi Milthorpe in March 2010. Sun Drugs is 25 minutes long and intended for one performer, though you could adapt it for more – go for it.
A man walks into a bar, pulls out some shaving foam and hands razors to the brunettes seated at opposite ends of the front row. He proceeds to shave his face by playing an elaborate variation on Colombian Hypnosis. What on earth is going on? It is Sun/Drugs – the half hour one-man show being performed this week in the Pit bar.
Sun/Drugs is presented by Australian artist Blind (there is no program so I cannot tell you if that is his real name) a charismatic young man with energy to burn. One part performance art, one part The English Patient and one part Dirty Dancing, this is a cinematic tale of epic destruction and high school prom queens set in the Philippines of all places.
It is pretty wacky. I liked it.
Smallpox and Cancer make small talk in a bar. Two brothers lay bets over making geek girl Alexis Cobweb into prom queen. The streets of the Philippines are flooded. Somewhere in there we are given very businesslike instructions on how to build our own vibrator and bring ourselves to orgasm.
These disparate storylines are woven together and the whole is narrated in a combination of novelistic exposition and screenplay style camera directions with brief outbursts of physical exertion. It is vigorous, quirky and performer-centric.
There is definitely an intriguing piece of theatre here, though at times the different parts of the performance work at odds with one another. The performance art elements are arresting and affecting but many of them do not serve the story that we are being told. When they work they are marvellous – the way in which Cancer and Smallpox are differentiated from each other in their scene for example – but other elements, such as the extended shaving sequence at the beginning, are never made significant.
I enjoy how these sections break up the less visceral narrative sequences, but I think if this work is to be further developed they would need more functionality and to be tied more tightly to the narrative.
Blind is a very appealing performer and most of his success stems from this personal charisma. Though he embodies a wide range of characters with clarity – most of these are signified by nothing more than a pose and it is always clear who is who – they could easily be extended to create a richer fictive world. I would say that getting a director to further develop and hone this piece would be an excellent idea.
That said, I had a great time. In the intimate space of the Pit Bar the crowd was laughing and pretty much transfixed with this performance. It is extremely Fringey, extremely free, only half an hour long and only 25 people a night get to see it. Make sure you are one of them.
I must disagree with you. I loved Sun/Drugs, it had a quality of Performance Art which we rarely see in Wellington. I think to construe it as a piece that endeavors to be theatre, to tell a cohesive and understandable story is to miss the point of Sun/Drugs. The beauty of this work was when we understood nothing, because we felt everything. The power of the piece was how unhinged it was. I found myself sitting there with absolutely no idea what on earth might happen next. A creeping sense of danger that I might be his next acomplice in one of his deranged debarcles. But a growing sense of faith as I was drawn to this charismatic performer, he was our leader in this strange journey because he seemed so sure of himself, even as he demonstrated how to insert a cellphone up your Vaginal tract – he was so straight faced and confident in what he was doing.
Though he allowed us to laugh and enjoy ourselves, and though it was in a theatre bar, my understanding was that he was drawing from the traditions of the performance artists such as Yves Klein or Carolee Shee. People who challenge us not to comprehend – but to take us to the edge of the uncanny, via the limits of our comfort zones. He made us feel like voyeurs by making himself and others the victim in this weird game that we found ourselves enthralled in.
The parody ‘prom queen’ storyline that eventually brought the whole thing together at the end I thought was the weakest element because it allowed me, and the rest of the audience to feel safe and comfortable, have a chuckle, able to predict what would happen next. If Mr. Blind would take any advice from us I’d say less story — more surreality. The thing he needs more of to get this piece to reach its potential, is definetly drugs in the sun, the last thing he should do is get a director!
Finnigan and Brother is the duo of siblings Chris (guitar/FX) and David Finnigan (words/radio/visuals). Living in close quarters all their lives, they have written together, created theatre together and cooked together, but only in 2007 did they start recording together. This is how it works:
Their recordings combines Chris’ fast-flowing and bony song-structures (Meddle-era Pink Floyd via Underworld and Stars of the Lid) with David’s scattered story-poems, contributions lovingly coaxed from the FM/AM airwaves, and lo-fi psychedelic visuals, feverishly captured by the in-built recording devices in tape dictaphones, Sony Walkmen and cheap mp3 players.
In 2007, David and Chris were two parts of the music/performance/visual art/cooking experiment that was Fight Fire With Knives, and in 2008 they joined forces with laptop artist Paul Heslin to form Diplodocus. As a duo, Finnigan and Brother first performed live at the 2009 Multicultural Fringe Festival in the Cancers. Their work featured in the launch edition of digital zine Goofbang, and their music has been featured on Sydney’s FBI Radio by New Weird Australia and Sunday Night at the Movies.
The following is a selection of Finnigan and Brother’s output from the last three years, downloadable for free as mp3. If any of this takes your fancy, please feel free to drop a line and invite us to your city to play.
Finnigan and Brother – FBI Radio live set (Aug 2010)
In August 2010, Chris and David were invited to perform live on Sunday Night at the Movies, a weekly sound-art show on Sydney’s FBI Radio. The set consisted of two pieces: a 90 second version of The Goddamn Kings of Leon, and the premiere performance of an extended piece entitled Solar System.
finnigan and brother – solar system (live FBI radio 2010).mp3 (12.6mb)
A prison-break story in which the earth escapes from its orbit and runs from the sun out into the dark. This 20 minute multi-part epic combines natural history lessons, religious propaganda pop, deconstructed sound poetry and high-octane action sequences (breaking into the aquarium and punching the fish!).
Finnigan and Brother – Golden Globe (Dec 2009)
At the end of 2009, Chris and David assembled in a North Sydney apartment for two days to record a new selection of material. By superb coincidence, those two days saw the city gripped by the most severe heatwave in a number of years. The end result is that in all the footage and stills from the Golden Globe sessions, Chris and David are shirtless and look like a pair of skinny Aussie hip-hop fans.
finnigan and brother – golden globe.mp3 (32.4mb)
The title track for the December 09 sessions is an oozing psychedelic jam trading off between Chris’ crawling acid-rock and David’s slow-spinning liquid circles on the overhead projector. The tune is cool, but you have to check the video for the proper magic-mushrooms-effect.
finnigan and brother – medical drama.mp3 (15mb)
Music for a tense medical drama. The climax of an episode. Long panning shots of the hospital. The patient is wheeled into the surgery. The doctor is sweating – he hasn’t performed surgery in five years – and he’s drunk. But there’s no-one else. The nurse offers him a tray full of fresh instruments. The doctor refuses. From his back pocket he produces a scalpel. Blunt. Dirty. Rust spots. Leaning in, he makes the first incision… Check out the video for this song.
Finnigan and Brother – Golden Globe videos
One of the key instruments in the Golden Globe sessions was the overhead projector, responding to and influencing the music through the vivid images emerging and evolving organically from David’s lo-fi VJ/shadow-puppetry. Check out clips for the following tracks on Youtube:
In 2007, the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Pits mourned ten years since the tragic loss of Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, the People’s Princess. Over four spectacular nights, the NBKFP held an all-styles fundraiser tournament to raise awareness of the press harassment which led to her death. The tournament featured local fighting identities A. WALKER, Pablo Latona, the Bohemes (Jackal Lloyd, Mutt Shaw and Mick Bailey) and Lucy Leaf, as well as The Human Cannonball Academy and blind. Their contributions, and the blood they shed, are included in this issue.
Other highlights from this edition:
Jeff Goldblum’s opening remarks from the North Belconnen Knife Fighting Anti-Princess Diaen Dying All-Styles Cage and Blade Tournament 2007!
Photoshopped still images from Dorothy Takes It All The Way In with Princess Diane and J.R.R. Tolkien’s faces photoshopped over the original cast!
Hadley’s recipe for how he beat the bubonic plague!
Max Barker’s journal of the years he spent running with a wolf pack in North America!
‘What is our responsibility to our public figures? As Jeff Goldblum, I’d argue that it is threefold. First…’ He goes on a bit, but it’s good stuff.
You are KGB, aren’t you? Image from Cryo Studio’s KGB. Do you like how the image runs into the right sidebar?
Good things sometimes happen! While in the malevolent haze that was the 09 Crack Theatre Festival, I happened to meet playwright and musician Ashley Walker (aka Relevant Elephants). Once away from the panic and police, we were able to talk in more detail and undertook a collaboration, with Ashley taking the scalpel to some of my words.
The result is JC Flavour, a marinated and lightly grilled reworking of my poem of the same name. You can hear the track on Ashley’s MySpace, along with a battery of other electronic morsels.
image by frosty
Locating this poem required excavating the old Mappalujo from which it was birthed. This collaborative effort, entitled The Proxies, was written by myself and Chris Finnigan in 2003. The Proxies is one one of the better Mappas I undertook (click here for a full description of the concept of a Mappalujo and to look at Jeff Noon and Steve Beard’s original), and from it I discovered this gem – Chris’ short piece Cryo Studios:
The phone rings
“Have you heard?
We have lost control of the Moon, attackers have captured Moon.”
You’re about to leave
The man leans on the door
“You can’t leave, they are searching your room.”
I can’t enter my room, they are in there
The room is empty, the bed is made up for the next visitor
You knot the sheets
Good work Lorric!
Hi, I’m Caitlin
Oh I love travelling with you
A little bit cold
The bar is filled with dreary drunks, a stern barman stares at you intently.
Don’t forget we have to be at the park by 2:00!
uhhhh leave me alone
What do you want?
That will be 20
You drink the vodka, it tastes musty
The park is nice. There is a statue of Johnathon Montague in the center.
A little bit cold
You place the bomb on the chair
The man in the blue coat is dead but the man with the briefcase runs toward the subway
You run but quickly lose him
You let the briefcase slip through our fingers! You’ve failed me one too many times Lorric! Now Marco Polo is going to know not to drop by here. Leave me alone! I need to think.