Three months in Melbourne

What have I been doing for the last three months in Melbourne?

Pip Smith and I got down here at the end of March, her from Sydney and me from the Cancers, and we’ve been scratching and chewing our way about the town for the last few weeks, heads on stalks and talking to people and seeing things and

well let’s see.


This Hour’s development of Ile and Moondirt.

I finally – after a few days in Sydney with Erica Brennan and Lucy Watson of This Hour – finished a new draft of Ile and Moondirt, my 2005 play in which the two protagonists are trapped on the narrow ledge of a cliff-face overnight. Erica and Lucy are about to go into a new series of developments on the work over the next few months, including an upcoming residency at PACT, and I am excited that I have finally given them a draft that I believe actors can use.


Shotgun Wedding. Image by Sarah Walker.

I repeatedly told myself ‘you’re a festival director, you’re a festival director’ and therefore managed to justify sinking a solid week and a half getting as deeply into the Next Wave festival as is humanly possible. And it was great. So many highlights, such a wonderful program and a really lovely community of friendly artists and audiences. Highlights: No Show’s Shotgun Wedding, Michele Lee’s Talon Salon and Dan Koop’s The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge, and Applespiel’s At The Request of Carl Sagan. And Natalie Abbott’s Physical Fractals, there’s a part of me that’s still watching that show AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

also there’s a shot of me getting married at 1:40 in this video because why not

Speaking of festival directoring, a pretty significant chunk of these three months have been doing admin and planning work for You Are Here – but alongside the thrillride that is funding acquittals, budgets and grant apps, myself and the other festival producers have begun discussing the program for March 2013. And for anyone who’s a human being, you should go to the website and dig on Erica Hurrell’s extraordinary wrap-up video from the 2012 festival. Yus.

I gave myself the challenge of getting to grips with a new script project while I was here, and that was Takeaway Play. While reading through a battery of old scripts, I happened upon a fragment I’d written in 2001, in between Quiet Time (Jackal and my first produced script) and The Mischief Sense (my second produced play and my first full-length). The fragment appears to be, as best as I can tell, the opening to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi play set in a fast food takeaway. I couldn’t leave the fragment alone, but nor could I finish the play, since I had no proper idea of what the full play was meant to look like or be about. Instead, I decided to wrap the fragment in another play, coating it like an oyster coats grit with mucus, thus creating a play-within-a-play. So we have, Takeaway Play.

Along with an array of writing tasks, I was lucky enough to get to do some recording with two of my most beloved collaborators. Nick McCorriston and I began to dig through a selection of poems by other writers, which we will hopefully release a little later this year. And Paul Heslin and myself have knocked together a brand new EP entitled Shark Egg, which is available for the free RIGHT NOW. Four songs, my chatter accompanied by some of Mr Heslin’s best work to date (in my estimation). Really excited about this. Have a listen if you like music, or if you don’t, don’t.


owen collins at ye show and tell. image by sayraphim lothian.

The lovely folk of Coney invited me, while I was in Melbourne, to put together a Playful Show and Tell Salon along the lines of the event that they have been running in London over the past six months or so. Coney is a theatre company and agency of play with an HQ in London but a network of creatives stretching worldwide. I invited five artists (Dan Koop, Elena Kirschbaum, Owen Collins, Sayraphim Lothian and Mark Pritchard) to speak about what was currently interesting them, whether it be a project, an idea, a question or a personal experience. On a wintry Melbourne Wednesday, 20 people gathered at Open Studio in Northcote for crepes, mulled wine and a fascinating discussion circling around the idea of ‘the audience’; what is it, who are they and how they fit in to our various practices. The event was co-produced by the charming Pop Up Playground team, who will be hosting the next Playful Show and Tell Salon in Melbourne in July.


campos de gutierrez

And now, briefly back in the Cancers for a few days before Finnigan and Brother (aka my bro Chris and I) depart to Colombia for a month-long residency at the Campos de Gutierrez, a 19th century coffee-plantation-turned-artist-space outside Medellin.

PSSSSYCHED.

takeaway play

I gave myself the challenge of getting to grips with a new script project while I was here, and that was Takeaway Play. While reading through a battery of old scripts, I happened upon a fragment I’d written in 2001, in between Quiet Time (Jackal and my first produced script) and The Mischief Sense (my second produced play and my first full-length). The fragment appears to be, as best as I can tell, the opening to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi play set in a fast food takeaway. Some kind of chief has imposed a brutal order over the ruins of wherever-this-is, and his HQ is this charming drive-through restaurant. A cadre of his soldiers appears to have gone rogue, led by the legendary Guliag Drench.

At least, I think this is what’s going on. I’m extrapolating from the page and a half of script that I discovered, which I have very little memory of writing. I can’t even tell whether some of the lines are being deliberately wry and serious, or whether I was genuinely going for that degree of histrionic intensity. I don’t know.

Either way, I couldn’t leave the fragment alone, but nor could I finish the play, since I had no proper idea of what the full play was meant to look like or be about. Instead, I decided to wrap the fragment in another play, coating it like an oyster coats grit with mucus, thus creating a play-within-a-play. So we have, Takeaway Play.

The concept of Takeaway Play is that a cast of characters are attempting to produce the aforementioned post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, on a boat. They are on a boat, and they are going to present the work at a major religious/political function in a week’s time, on another boat. There is a priest who has just been released from quarantine searching for someone in the cast who has impacted on him in some way. And it’s a play within a play.

The script is unfinished, but in my usual spirit of accepting defeat as soon as possible, I’m happy to share what there is of it with anyone who’s interested. Download Takeaway Play.doc

In the meantime, here are several scene samples. The first is taken from Scene 8, when producer Natalie attempts to give a rallying pre-rehearsal speech to her cast and crew. The second sample is part of the original fragment from 2001 which has been the inspiration / irritation behind this whole play. Make of it what you will: I have basically no idea.

Scene 8
jimmy edgar – it hasn’t got a name (machine drum remix)

this scene takes place in the most inspiring place on the ship. For me that would be at the stern where you can see the white water churned and spreading in the ship’s wake, but for you perhaps it is the ship’s dining room

or maybe the swimming pool, especially if natalie is standing on the diving board and everyone else is treading water

either way, natalie addresses her cast and crew – malkin, ile, cellabrina, plus the other actors / crew members I haven’t thought of yet

natalie: All of you, this is what I want: not just a production, not just a show, but I want to connect with you. We should be proud of ourselves. This is what we wanted, this is what we struggled for, the right to do this, to be here, to take this moment in our hands, to stand together for a moment on this boat, and I want to fall in love with you

I want to fall in love with you

you I don’t know, you I don’t know, but I don’t want to fall into the ground regretting the sunsets I didn’t spend with you because I didn’t try, you know you, Malkin’s boy, I want you to fall for me, and Cellabrina I want you to fall for me, and Malkin I want you to feel love, and loved, and at the end of this I want us to hug

really hold each other

I will never lose faith in you. I’m giving you my trust, I don’t just want this to be a one-off project, I want I want I want I want I want I want

to love you

to meet you at the bar twenty five years from now and kiss hello with decades of love behind us, hundreds of projects gone into our past and the sweat that I want us to drip together, can it fill a thousand baths? Can it? Why can’t it? And it can. I’m not a prophet but what I know about love

what I know about love

malkin: So am I basically grasping that you’re hoping we carry on working together after this? When this is finished you’d like us to carry on as a team?

natalie: You know what they say about depression? The idea that depression can be characterised as a black dog?

cel: Everyone knows that.

ile: That’s a Winston Churchill thing, isn’t it?

cel: It’s fucking, Nick Drake.

ile: It’s not even!

natalie: I think with a team like this and a project like this, and after this another project like this, and after that another project like that, I think we’ll never crash or hit a wall or get bitten by a dog like that.

malkin: If this is a success.

natalie: Sure if this is a success, but much more important is if we fall in love with each other, professionally. As a team. Producer, director, actors, designers, technicians, if we fall in love. I think we should ought to.

ile: We should ought?

cel: We ought should.

.

That was the first sample, written in 2012. This second sample is part of the original script fragment from June 2001 which the rest of this play is based on – the play within the play. In all honesty, I have no idea what this is meant to be about.


image by grant stoops

A battered car drives up to a drive through window. Two young teenagers with spears and shields sit on the back bonnet. Another sits staring out the window, smoking a small pipe. A man with long hair and leather wristbands stands at the drive through window. The driver is an older girl her name is CODE.

CODE: We’ve come to see the chief.
MAN: On what order?
CODE: Not on an order, we’re not doing orders right now. We’ve come to talk to him about our contract.
MAN: Who’s your captain?
CODE: Guliag Drench captains our cadre.
MAN: Guliag, that’s a name I know. Frederics, who’s that Guliag you were talking about?
CODE: He’s the Mao’brun. The grey frog. That’s what they call him, the grey frog.
FREDERICS: It’s the little punk who went mad down the river. The kidnapping thing?
MAN: Yeah, okay, I remember. But what do you want?
CODE: We want to see the chief.
MAN: I don’t fancy your chances.
CODE: He’s holding court. You can’t deny me an audience when the chief holds court.
MAN: Ah, then. You got a speech to give him? Something’s broken your heart and you think the chief’ll fix it?
CODE: Any being may see the chief when he is holding court.
MAN: You go on ahead. But I wouldn’t try to sneak Mr Drench in, if that’s your game. Chief might not see the sense of humour in that.
CODE: Guliag is nowhere nearby.
MAN: Go on.

CODE drives on. Parks the car and steps inside the restaurant. Walks up to the counter. Two scrawny looking teenagers lounge there, playing pinfingers.

CODE: The chief is holding court.
TEENAGER1: You want to talk to him, slick?
TEENAGER2: You’ve come pretty late.
CODE: Court does not end until sunset. You know that.

TEENAGER1 realises he will have to get up to lead them in. Gets up with a snarl.

TEENAGER1: All right. Come on, then.

CODE follows him. They pass backstage of the restaurant, through a door and then out into the large storeroom. CHIEF sits on a throne made from packing boxes. Behind him are two deformed teenagers. CODE is pulled to one side as CHIEF talks to GORDON.

GORDON: I have tried, my lord, I have tried. But again and again the weather defeats my tries. I… I, my lord, I must ask for more grain.
CHIEF: More grain? More grain?
GORDON: My lord, the weather, is, it’s ruined three patches.
CHIEF: From my already minimal stores, more grain? I have given you grain! I have given you grain! I want my magic bread!
GORDON: My lord, if-
CHIEF: Very well! You will have more grain! You will have the worst of my stores, the broken bags and the spilled. And no more time, you have had much already!
GORDON: Yes, my lord.
CHIEF: You’ll make me proud, Gordon. You will succeed.
GORDON: Yes, my lord.
CHIEF: Well, Gremlin? Show him out.
GREMLIN: Aye, chief sir.
CHIEF: Where is the wine? Someone call for more wine. Who is next?
TEENAGER1: He’s wanted to come to audience time.
CHIEF: Who are you?
CODE: My name is Code. I work in a cadre.
CHIEF: Which cadre?
CODE: Guliag Drench’s.
CHIEF: Silence! Next time you say that name Hobbs and Dirk will be obliged to let loose. And what business would one of Drench’s rat pack have back here? Listen to me – I should have shot him when I had the chance. I was going to. When I took that little mother on he was a devil. He was a devious fiend, and he did more damage to this shop than anyone has in a long time. I was seconds away from saying the words that would have sliced that little throat before he ever took a bite out of mine. He’s a filthy monster and I will kill him.