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My Name is Dee Race

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A joint creation of Josh Inman and myself (Finig). Josh and I each wrote 10 pages of this 20-page autobiography of Gay-Spy-Bishop Dee Race, flipping coins to see who got which page. Then we wrote our halves of Dee Race’s life, without comparing or consulting at all. That is why Dee Race’s life is so awesome. Digit.

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My name is Dee race, I’ve done some things that I haven’t been proud of, but always managed to scrape together some self respect. My pride has kept my mouth shut some 25 years and it took a shit load of money and a sweet faced publisher to persuade me to write about what you want to hear about and not about breeding big dogs.

So here it is on the first page: I drank beer, I sang songs, I fucked women, I fucked the government, I did time, and I cleaned up and bred dogs. Big dogs… and I smoked weed with Willie Nelson. My name is Dee Race and this is my

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already in those days. I never resented my father for those trips. I had another set of fathers – better fathers in basically all respects – in the gypsy buskers that used to play in the dockside brothels and taverns. They took me in, and it was from them that I first learned to scrape a fiddle.

The gypsies sang exclusively in Ukranian and Russian, so to keep up with them I learned a smattering of both languages. On my 10th birthday, the gypsies inked my belly with my first tattoo – a crude depiction of the naked mouse goddess Klunskeivna, caught in a mantrap and trying to gnaw her leg off at the knee to escape.

Needless to say, when my mother discovered it she was furious, and I was locked in the attic room for 59 weeks as punishment. My only companions were the sun (mercilessly hot in the afternoon hours) and the battered violin I had stolen from a sleeping hobo. In this lonely, claustrophobic space, I first began to compose.

My ‘attic songs’ were essentially all revenge ballads, fantasies of what I would do to my parents when I was released, set to the mournful

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Something else. I had kept all of our love letters, each one of hers has the date when I received them and I have copies of mine in triplicate. I still have them today. We were married at the end of summer after our Prom. We honeymooned in Cancun, where I bought my first guitar.

We would drink tequila and as Glenda could already play the trumpet, we thought of starting our own mariachi band. We moved to Arizona for about 40 months, I took a government job to pay the bills, sourcing a manufacturer for new lighter weight plastic cased rifles for the army. This didn’t sit well with my
image by R. Grafkin

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informed my parents that he would need to amputate my left leg below the knee. The operation was a grisly affair, with my chief memory being the certainty that I would kill the doctor as soon as I was allowed up from the table.

Afterwards, life at home changed drastically. My mother adjusted to my one-legged clumsiness by criticising the ‘filthy Slavs’ who had gotten their paws on me. My father dealt with his son’s maiming by absenting himself four or five days out of seven. We barely spoke to one another, even about the most mundane things, and he never again mentioned the lumberjacking apprenticeship he had spent so many months arranging for me.

And myself? How did young Dee Race cope with the loss of half of his left leg? Well, other than the cloying self-righteousness of my mother and the disappointed distance of my father, I found myself enjoying my crippling immensely. There was pain, certainly, but in those days it was easy enough to get a fifty-weight of Finnish Ibuprofen from the coastguard black marketeers, and the weeping stump-wound was rarely more than a bleeding itch. More important than any physical pain was the feeling of freedom – freedom

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from all my commitments and obligations – that my injury allowed me. I felt as if a new Dee Race had been born, and his life was waiting for me to take it up.

That summer, 1962, I stole my father’s most valuable purebred monkey, Supreme, and hitched a bus to New York. From Greenwich Village I wrote a terse letter to my parents explaining that I was packing Supreme and I would execute him unless they paid a small ransom. $410 was couriered to my chosen drop-off box within the week. I mailed Supreme back via Express Post, then took the remaining $403 to Ostler Studios in Manhattan and produced my first album.

The studio executives were impressed with my money, intimidated by my beard and charmed by my exuberant fiddle-playing. They welcomed me into the Ostler Music stable and found a recording studio for me right away. While I was laying down the raw versions of what would become my first album – Nothing Can Kill Dee Race – the executives would frequently drop by to check on their one-legged folk-singer. They changed my bandages, made me cups of tea with lemon and honey, and offered me any number of backing musicians. I refused them all, and instead insisted that the executives themselves play on some tracks, tapping typewriters and ruffling sheets of paper. In less than six days, Nothing Can Kill Dee Race was

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And ran offstage. Jefferson Airplane sat with Glenda, who was topless. The room was swirling with pot smoke. Outside in the darkness I could hear John Fogarty singing Fortunate Son, though I thought I had sent most of them to sleep with my heartfelt leftist folk music. Watching my wife, the mother of my children, dancing and kissing the Airplane’s bassist inspired what was to be my first hit song:

She could share her money / she can share her food
She’d share the work load wherever she could
She walked to old St Petersburg town where
She’d share her love with the men she found
She said she’d return, and I believed her of course
Returned with a letter, titled Filed For Divorce

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but since by this time I was playing regularly with the Byrds and partied with the Who when they toured the US, I was able to simply ignore them. Around this time I encountered a young Texan outfit called the Thirteenth Floor Elevators on their first trip to the big city. These kids were so fervent in their appreciation of acid it was hard to relax in their presence, but we had several good afternoons tripping out of our tiny minds on Wall Street, running down the narrow alleyways and laughing at merchant bankers. It was around this time that I had a confrontation with a junky on a train (he was staring offensively at my sunglasses, so I punched him in the forehead and elbowed his windpipe a number of times until he started vomiting and choking at the same time) by the name of Lou Reed, who was at that time beginning to perform as part of the Velvet Underground.

It was around this time that I first met Glenda Snoxall. I had just released a double album entitled No-One Knows Where Dee Race Has Hidden His Leg to superb critical acclaim but poor sales. I was thinking of an international tour to boost my fan base in Europe, when I was assailed in the street one afternoon by a red-headed young lady with a trumpet, smoking a badly rolled cigar. She grabbed me by the shirt and told me that No-One Knows was my best album yet, and that this would be the record to finally show the Asians, all the Asians, that white Americans could outbreed them any day of the week. This was Glenda Snoxall – trumpet player for the Fist Gnomes and militant racist, an activist and member of a number of abhorrent

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in the face. With our marriage looking increasingly like a rubber stamp and source of more heartfelt lyrics, my drinking was spiraling out of control. One night, in Tennessee when I was particularly drunk, I felt a pair of calloused hands help me out of the gutter. When my vision cleared I noticed it was Willie Nelson, with whom I had been touring. He threw me into his pick-up and we drove. After a while I started coming to, and he threw me a leather pouch. Inside was some grass and cigarette papers. I told him I had never rolled a joint before, and he looked at me straight-faced and said “What? You’ve got to know how roll them, how to hold them.” I think we drove to Washington that night, and the joke never stopped being funny.
image by frosty

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less than a week before the wedding. I told the small one with his peaked cap and his massive overcoat trailing almost on the ground; ‘I’m Dee Race, goddamn you! I won’t be pressured!’

The tall agent, who had not this whole time stopped patting his dog, shrugged. ‘It’s of no concern to us, Mr Race. We have enough on you to put you away right now, for twenty or thirty years without blinking an eye. We’ll arrest you at your wedding if you like, heighten the drama somewhat. Would you like some drama?’

‘What would I have to do?’ I asked, gritting my teeth, trying to pull myself out of the freezing cold water.

‘Report to us once every ten days,’ said the short man. ‘Anything that happens. Everything. Every dirty word at a party, every time someone trips over a microphone lead on stage – you scribble it down and pass it on to us.’

‘What does the CIA care about the people I know?’ I asked, on my hands and knees, shaking myself dry like a dog. ‘They’re all horrible people, sure, but they’re at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to drugs, and they don’t know the first thing about politics.’

‘We care because we care about America,’ said the dog-patting agent. ‘My mother cared about it, and her mother cared about it too, and I reckon I care just enough that I’ll get my hands dirty dealing with a goddamn heroin addict folk singer if it’ll keep the Reds from rubbing their filthy mitts all over it.’

They gave me my instructions, and then they left me alone in the shallow pondwater. I crawled home that night, and Glenda was so wrapped up in the wedding preparations she didn’t notice that I was soaking wet and frozen almost to the bone.

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So that was that – I became an informant. I’d like to say that I was upset when I learned – years later – that the CIA agents by the pond were complete frauds, that I had been duped by undercover KGB operatives, and that all my information was being piped direct to Moscow. To be honest, though, it made little difference. Aside from the embarrassment of being blackmailed by KGB agents into supplying secrets to Communist Russia by their claims that they could trace a link between me and the Communists, it didn’t matter to me who I was selling secrets to.

The pathetic thing is that none of the secrets I sold were really very good. Consider that over the years that I was a KGB informant (1970 – 1973) my wife Glenda was involved in nearly nine militant ‘actions’ (I believe today they would be called terrorist acts) on behalf of a number of white supremacist extremist groups, that she spent nearly $41,750 of my earnings from record sales during this period (my 1971 double-album Dee Race Wins The Race Every Time There’s A Race sold exceptionally well and kept us in good comfort for some time), mostly on small armaments to provide to guerilla activist groups, and that both the American government and the Russians were keeping serious tabs on her (after her attempted bombing of a low-income tenament house in New Jersey, the FBI opened a special file on her in which she was codenamed ‘Emperor Fu San’), and yet I never had a clue. I was too busy to keep track of Glenda, and she seemed happy enough whenever I did manage to catch up with her.

Instead, my reports for the KGB (which I dutifully addressed to Agent Powder of the CIA, in the mistaken belief that I was serving my country) were filled with the exciting minutiae of the folk/rock/pop scene of the time. “DEAR AGENT POWDER I THINK THE NEW YORK DOLLS MIGHT BE GAY, ALSO THE MC5 CAME AROUND TO MY APARTMENT ON FRIDAY BUT I WAS OUT AND FRED SONIC SMITH TAPED A PHOTO TO MY DOOR FROM THE VIETNAM

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That’s how I did it and it was easier than I thought to sell one’s national secrets; I was approached at what was both my 35th birthday and farewell gig. The show was about halfway through and one of the reserved tables still was empty. A well dressed man with a pinched face came to take the seat. He was accompanied by two very burly men dressed in suits with crew-cut hairdos. They stood out because they were not the usual type of characters to appear at a concert.

Backstage the two burly men approached me after my post-gig shower. They said ‘Hello’ in a curious accent that I’ve later identified as Baltic. They told me to have dinner tomorrow night in a restaurant on 21st street at six o’clock. A private table will be booked under my name. The restaurant was the Gay Bishop. The bigger of the two then snatched my towel from my waist and left and that’s how it happened.

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Another story to do with the reds is the strange disappearance of my old music manager. He was due around at my place for a dinner that I was cooking, the table was set for four and my two guests were left waiting until we decided to eat. I was cooking a soufflé and there was no way to leave it any longer. We were talking about my divorce to Glenda and how she reverted to her maiden name of Snoxall and in the settlement took most of the money from the Russians. The silly thing is I had kept exact records of all the transactions, which would have been inadmissible in court if I wasn’t prepared to fight the US government capitalist bastards in their highest of courts… the media. Instead of bravado I took it meekly and in the only interview I told Miss Snoxall to stick her trumpet in her brass section. Next to her balls.

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To sum up my life I released a 50th birthday album, with each track being related to a certain portion of my life, from childhood to my birthday. It was given a frosty to lukewarm reception. However I have boxes of it so write to my publisher and we’ll send you a free copy. This is the track listing:

1: awkward smiles in class
2: virgin waltz
3: mariachi wedding
4: six kids and a six pack
5: a slab and a slap
6: sharing with Jefferson
7: carrots in my beard
8: two fat legs that walked out
9: 35,000 (lies dollars and lines)
10: on the lam
11: all you fucking pigs
12: hard time
13: fucking like a dog
14: that big blue sky
15: forty-nine

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suicide in court, maybe get a bit of that press focus on me, see if the tide of public opinion doesn’t swing in my favour…’ My lawyer was doubtful, but I was sick of listening to his advice, and anyway, the man listened to the Eagles and he refused to believe that Creedence Clearwater weren’t actually born on the bayou. Fuck him, I thought. The worst I could expect was that I’d have a scar on one of my forearms, and what’s that but something else to tell the ladies?

In the event, the stunt went wrong in a number of ways. First of all, I foolishly chose to attempt it on a Thursday morning before 10.30am, when there were barely any reporters in the court. Secondly, I chose a moment when a particularly huge bird flew into the courtroom window, cracking the glass and drawing everyone’s attention. Thirdly, when people did notice that I’d slashed a dirty great slit in both of my wrists, they responded with genuine turtle urgency. I remember the doctor tapping the ash off his cigarette, then balancing it carefully on the edge of the ashtray, quickly combing his hair and picking his teeth on his way to my rescue.

To cut a long story short, I was in a coma for 71 weeks, and when I woke up it was 1979 and I was sentenced to 13 years in prison, starting as soon as I was well enough to be shipped there. Glenda had for Papua New Guinea only a few weeks after my courtroom wrist-slashing, and was wanted as a war criminal in the US and Canada for her so-called ‘Northern Summer Sabbatical’. I saw her on

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the news while in the hospital – she was somewhere in the jungle waving a flamethrower around. I later found that she had divorced me six and a half years earlier (the cocktail of hypnosis tapes and injected steroids I indulged in virtually daily throughout the early 70s resulted in a fugue state in which I would sign anything Glenda gave me and remember almost none of it). That was depressing, but the worst moment was when the package arrived containing my new fake leg. My usual fake leg was made from the rear spar of a British ‘Vickers Valiant’ nuclear bomber, and contained ‘prohibited metals’. I was supplied with a prison leg made from the same plastic they constructed Barbie dolls with, and it crumpled under my weight the first time I leaned on it. It was not a promising beginning.

But prison was far more enjoyable than I could have predicted. All the cons rubbed noses with me in a friendly greeting gesture when I arrived, and invited me to participate in one of their many constructive projects. I assisted in the construction of a hot-air balloon (reinforced newspaper balloon and a tinfoil gas cylinder filled a trickle at a time from the prison stoves) in which a murderer named Orthodox Greg escaped, and after that I was given Orthodox Greg’s old stomping ground: the dog kennels. It would be wrong to say that I did not like

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I met the second love of my life in 1997, tied to a pole outside the local canasta club. Her name was Apsu-lutely. She had the most wonderful colour and lines and then I knew exactly what it was that I should be doing to fill my time on the outside, now I was no longer drinking, singing or packing supreme in prison sex. This dog was magnificent to me, though in time I would learn it was only a mediocre dog, but the sight of its powerful body and short hair, I knew this was a dog for me. Also the idea of a political statement made through a dog appealed to me.

I made some enquiries and bought a pup for $2500, and started it in obedience classes real early. I joined the American Lhasa Apsu breeding society with my first dog, Emperor Fu San, but it seems I was given the wrong advice, and as a novice breeder, as with marriage, I had bought the wrong dog.

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Across from Hong Kong. This was the bitch my fledgling kennel needed, its blood lines were strong, but there were few examples in America. Her temperament was sound, backline perfect, and her face angelic. I named her Forbidden City Forbidden Dreams.

She won judges commendations two years in a row and a third placing. I then had an offer to join her with China Commands, the top dog. I agreed and we split the litter. I had a dog and a bitch pup. The bitch was named “Tibetan freedom” and went on to win best in show. The dog turned out too aggressive to show, but I kept him for my own companion dog, as some teenagers had started jumping the fence and stealing souvenirs that they could sell on eBay along with plenty of counterfeit memorabilia. His name was Emperor Fu San Tu, or just San-tu. Now his teeth are less formidable, but his eyes are bright as he rests his head on my lap.
image by arran mckenna

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The only fly in the ointment was that the higher I progressed up the ladder, the more intense and, well, psychotic the people became. My first few dog-shows were a joyous relevation to me – fresh out of prison, exploring the delights of freedom with my beloved Fu San yapping at my side. Now I was in the professional leagues, the competitions had a desperate, hungry yearning I had not encountered since 1967, the night we locked Jimi Hendrix out of the apartment building and made him wait in the snow for four and three quarter hours while we taunted him from the window. Fu San was still performing brilliantly, and I had no intention of backing down before I reached the top of the pile: a gold medal for Fu San in Santo Domingo. Still, certain clauses in the rulebook of the 1990 International Dogshow Championship Tourmament did not sit well with me:

  1. Upon attaining first prize, the victorious DOG is assumed to have attained Godhood, and will be shot through the head and dressed in the sacred oils and herbs for its ascension to heaven, accompanied by the gravegoods of its possessions in life and its human companions;

But I decided I would cross that bridge when it came to it. In the meantime, I bought a bicycle with a sidecar, made several modifications (cut away the left pedal and made a holster for my wooden limb), placed Fu San in the sidecar with a big fresh bone, and began to pedal one-legged to the city of Santo Domingo. When we reached the shores of the Atlantic ocean in Florida, we waited on the docks until dark. When it was completely black and deserted, I sealed up the sidecar tarpaulin, trapping Fu San inside, and tipped the bike into the water. With one arm clutching the handlebars, I swam with one leg and one hand across the bay towards the Vaccination, a sturdy coalship bound for the Dominican

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Republic. I swam as hard as I could, but even so, Fu San’s air had nearly run out by the time I was able to attach the bike’s electro-magnet above the waterline of the ship’s hull.

The trip across the Caribbean was not fun. A bike seat is not a comfortable seat on which to perch for seventeen days and nights, especially when you are barely metres above the swell and constantly heave up and down into it. I ate all of my dry biscuits in the first three days, and had to look forward to a solid fortnight of no rations. What was worse, however, was the lack of drinking water. I was surprised to find the ocean water was salty and not to my liking. Fu San was willing to drink it, though, so I splashed handfuls on to his snout and drank his urine whenever he was able to go. In this way, we travelled to the tournament, feeling very sorry for ourselves and wishing we’d paid the $61 for a plane ticket.

When I dragged up the mostly shrivelled remains of Fu San onto the Dominican Republic shoreline, the fishermen recognised me instantly. Some of them shrieked at me that I was dirty Commie asscrack fluff, and someone else threw a jagged slab of concrete at me. I tried to reason with them, but in my state of mental and physical derangement, I only made things worse. Soon I was lying staked to the side of a small hill while above me, the villagers prepared to loose an enormous boulder to roll over me and crush me. Fu San they had set fire to, and his twitching hide was black with ash and flecked with flickers of burning dog skeleton. He lolled his head to look at me, as

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I reconciled with my eldest daughter recently, I wonder if this was due to the low level media attention that has surrounded the book deal. It’s the way of children, interested in their aging parents only when they have money. Its true that it was an inordinate amount of money for a shitty little memoir, and perhaps it could have been more interestingly if I did take up Roy and Tom’s suggestion I joined their band so they didn’t have to ask Dylan, but I thought at the time a band like that would fail comically. I did allow them to keep the name I suggested, and last year their ‘Best Of’ was released. I saw no royalties, and wasn’t in “thanks to” section of the booklet, but if you listen to “End of the Line” Orbison croons “Dee Race, for the name, thanks”, its really quiet and backwards masked. But its there and that’s what counts. My name is Dee Race, and this was my life.

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Ile and Moondirt

Five creatures departed from the city of Bilennium on a mission into the mountains. Two survivors (pharmacist Ile and blues-singer Moondirt) begin the journey home through the frozen peaks and ravines, carrying the proof of their successful achievement.

As the play begins, Ile and Moondirt are halfway up a steep cliff-face when they realise that the sun has set and night is falling fast. Rather than risk their lives climbing in the dark, the pair decide to tie themselves to the cliff wall and wait out the hours until it is light again. As the darkness grows, the pair begin to hear sounds that suggest their victory was not as complete as they had hoped…

Download Ile and Moondirt as a Word doc.


image by frosty

short stories about jan

So in July 2008 Jan Wawrzynczak dies, which is to say one of the major figures in my artistic life and a really important friend and mentor. This is not to get bogged down in that, just that the only response I could summon that felt remotely faithful to his memory was to write him something. Jan’s favourite piece of my writing was my Short Stories about Lenin, so in that vein:

Jan directs theatre along sixteen kilometres of rocky cliffs

These initial collaborations aside, Jan’s first production using an all lichen cast took place along sixteen kilometres of rocky cliffs in the Faroe Islands west of Norway. Working through a variety of translation software and sign language, Jan choreographed more than 1300 square metres of lichen into a complex dance which lasted over seven hours. Viewed from the ground, the performance looked like nothing more than waves of dull-coloured fungi surging slowly over the wet rocks and mud. From a great height, the patterns of dry mould told a different story. For the 96 men and women crammed into the small flotilla of hot-air balloons and micro-zeppelins hovering 400 metres above the cliffs, the flowing and shifting patterns of different lichen species traced out a detailed narrative covering 91 years of literary history. Beginning with a parade of Dickens villains, Jan’s subtle story moved through Film Noir gangsters and the shadowy menaces which populate Absurdist Theatre scripts before a grand finale in which the lichen re-enacted the entire first and second series of Twin Peaks.

Unfortunately by this time it had gotten dark and the balloons had run out of fuel, so the audience had to miss the finale. Upon landing, they were informed that Jan had absconded from the Faroe Islands early that morning – his whereabouts unknown – and that he had stolen the Education Minister’s favourite whale.

Jan vs. The English Royalists

Jan’s cadre of piglets now numbered 14, and many of them had nearly attained their full growth. They were all battle-hardened revolutionaries now – 31 months of near continuous guerilla warfare had seen to that. Even the youngest – the piglet affectionately known as Camera-Camera – had spilled her share of Cavalier blood. They were veterans, every one of them; a crack troop of commandos, disciplined and ready to follow their commander anywhere.

Jan leaned out of the low branches with a pair of binoculars. ‘They’ve fallen for the diversion,’ he murmured to the young pig crouched on the branch next to him, ‘They’re leaving the main road and coming down towards the river.’

The pig whispered the news to his comrades on the same branch, and they passed it on – a hushed oink briefly rustling through the branches, and then silence. On the other side of the shallow river, a detatchment of 30-40 English Dragoons were grumbling indignantly to one another as they cantered along, gesturing to the muddy river bank and their gleaming leather stirrups.

‘When’s the word?’ Camera-Camera murmured softly to Jan as the troops trotted closer and closer to their hiding place. ‘What’s the word?’

‘The word is Bring These Suckers Pain,’ Jan whispered back, ‘And the when is BRING THESE SUCKERS PAIN!’

In one startlingly cohesive movement, 14 young pigs leapt out of the trees, unfurling their camouflaged hang-gliders as they jumped. To the English cavalrymen, it looked as if the trees across the river had simply exploded, spraying a payload of high-speed pigs gliding towards them and firing round after round from their modified timber Derringers.

Jan is not bad at card-games

Curlworth and his two cronies looked crookedly at Jan over the low card-table, their beady eyes staring at his cards as if they hoped to figure out his hand with X-Ray vision. Brantworth shrugged, dropped his three cards carelessly; ‘Ace and a nine,’ he grunted. Stabworth followed him; ‘Pair fours,’ he said. Jan said nothing, and Curlworth sneered victoriously. ‘Pair nines!’ he grinned cruelly, ‘And a Jack on the side. What’s it gonna be, Wawrzynczak, me old chum – are we gonna take your toes first, or your ears?’ Brantworth and Stabworth laughed uproariously, and the three thugs clambered to their feet, reaching in hidden holsters for their weapons.

Jan’s eyes flicked from face to face, thinking rapidly. He had just constructed the bare rudiments of a plan, however, when a torpado flashed past them, missing the submarine by less than a metre, and detonated before travelling another fifteen metres. The submarine lurched sideways and threw the men into the wall, while the shrieking sonar announced that a second torpedo was on the way, followed by at least fifty more! Jan attempted to stand upright, only to find his hands and feet transforming into reptilian claws, scales glimmering with a lizardlike sheen. The gypsy woman’s Shapeshifting curse had struck again, at the worst possible moment! As his face lengthened into a crocodilian snout, Jan’s phone buzzed with a gentle, innocent ringtone. Jan looked at the caller ID and yelped – of course, his niece’s wedding started 40 seconds ago, and he was supposed to be giving away the bride! His sinuses flooding with guilt, Jan turned in time to see the locks of the specimen cages click open and eight experimental Military War-Dogs burst free, each equipped with four side-mounted Laser Harpoons and a reel of Boomerang Grenades, jacked up on testosterone growth hormones and a lifetime of cruel treatment. Snarling and spraying laser-fire, they charged down the corridor towards him, even as the earthquake finally split the ocean floor below. Jan could hear the wicked Sea God cackle through the briny depths as a sheet of lava 50 metres wide and 35 kilometres long sliced upwards towards his tiny craft at hundreds of metres per second.

Jan’s eyes narrowed.

Without the slightest hesitation, Jan’s hands flashed through a pattern of gestures, signing a rapid command in Ancient Earth-Tongue, the language used by the planets themselves when they talk amongst each other. As his clawed finger carved the sentence’s final arc, the ocean below the submarine froze instantly, hardening into an icy shell which the Sea God’s lava smashed harmlessly against, and Jan tumbled effortlessly into a cartwheel, spinning towards the escaped canine experiments with a carefree grace. As the leader of the pack leapt towards him, lasers spraying and electrified teeth crackling blue sparks, Jan brought his right elbow down on the dog’s skull and his left hand up into the dog’s vulnerable belly. In the quarter-second of elbow-strike induced dizziness, Jan sought and found all the dog’s favourite places to be scratched and rubbed on his belly. As the remaining seven lurched towards him, ready to strike, they instinctively recognised the transaction that had taken place and bowed their heads to Jan, the new Leader of the Pack. Jan acknowledged his new troop of followers with an honest smile and seven swift belly-scratches, all the while wildly pressing buttons on a remote control he had hidden in a shoulder holster. The moment the activation sequence was keyed in, a robot clone halfway across the world snapped into life, slapping a handlebar moustache across its face as it jetpacked towards a wedding service some 60 kilometres away. The robot touched down outside the church the exact second the limousine pulled up. Opening the door, the Jan-Bot offered the blushing bride its elbow, giving her a wink and activating a loudspeaker in its mouth connected to Jan’s mobile phone. Jan laconically murmured a  collection of witticisms and home-truths perfectly suited to put his niece at ease and make this the happiest day of her life into the phone, while scribbling at white-hot speed a set of equations and magical formulae on the tunnel wall with a permanent marker. Slicing his kneecap with a recently received Eftpos card, Jan splashed a few drops of blood on to the grafitted runes, and the spell was complete! As his crocodile jaws retracted into the famous Jan jawline and his skittering claws softened into smooth human flesh, Jan grabbed the sonar screen with both hands and fly-kicked the steering panel. This bold, unexpected move sent the submarine into an unpredictable series of loops and spins, while the barrage of torpedoes sailed harmlessly past on all sides, carving charming trails of bubbles in the cool blue waters.

Turning back to the card table, now scattered in shards across the length of the submarine, where Curlworth, Brantworth and Stabworth clung desperately to whatever surface they could grip, Jan knelt down and retrieved his cards – still lying face down, exactly where he had placed them. Looking over three pairs of terrified eyes, Jan turned them over one by one: ‘A nine. A nine. And a King. Curlworth, you and your boys owe me a new air-conditioner. I want it installed in my office by Tuesday, dig?’

Curlworth’s voice drifted up softly from some deep well of terror: ‘…I dig.’

to heat you up and cool you down


Isabelle Martinez (Christine) and Nina Rumbines (Onie) in Sipat Lawin’s 2009 production
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Written in 2006 in the Philippines, during my Writer’s Residency with Tanghalang Pilipino. Working with director Issa Lopez and a group of actors, we workshopped and experimented with the idea of a performance exploring the lead-up to a kiss… What do you think and feel in the moments before kissing someone else for the first time? How does a kiss come about?

To heat you up and cool you down (usually known as thucy) is set in a restaurant during rush hour. Waitresses Christine and Onie take orders, make drinks, serve food and talk, but behind their conversation is a fragmented jumble of thoughts, desires, emotions, impulses… the conflicting impulses within Christine and Onie’s minds are personified in the play as distinct characters.

Thucy‘s cast (all female) can be as large as seven and as small as two. The play runs for approximately 30-35 minutes and is free to perform, so long as you make sure to email me first and give me a heads up.

Download To heat you up and cool you down.doc

Thucy is my popular script to date. Since being written in August 2006, it has been produced on four separate occasions by different companies. To whit:

Tanghalang Pilipino, September 2006
Chunky Far Flung Cafe / Gallery, Cubao Ex, Manila, Philippines
Directed by Issa Lopez

The National Multicultural Festival, February 2007
Belconnen Theatre, Canberra
Directed by Max Barker

Heidelberg Theatre Company, January 2008
Heidelberg Theatre, Melbourne
Directed by Caesar Cordovana
Review: A deep, provocative and sensual play exploring the trials of love, lust and death in a luxurious restaurant.  A series of internal monologues conveyed the inner torment of three waiters coming to grips with their sexuality and attraction towards each other.  The fantastic use of lighting, costumes and movement swept the audience into the emotional turmoil of understanding the mysterious laws of attraction under society’s watchful eye.  A provocative kiss, a ghost-like girl and whispering voices of the mind culminated into a moving and fragmented journey into human love.
– Susannah Rowley, Prompts Magazine, Feb 08

Sipat Lawin Ensemble, February 2009
Penguin Cafe / Gallery & Bobot’s Place, Manila, Philippines
Directed by Kristine Balmes and Sofia Gonzales

Images from Sipat Lawin‘s production:

 

older bio

This David Finig myself is a pharmacy assistant, writer and theatre-maker originating from the Cancers, capital city of Australie.

I have worked as a theatre-maker since 2001, when I formed theatre-collective Bohemian with three like-minded compadres. Since then I have written, performed, directed and produced performance events and festivals with a range of companies in Australia, the USA and the Philippines.

Download a copy of my official CV as a Word doc here, or read on for an informal bio. WARNING: it is told in backwards order, starting with 2008 (so as to capture your attention with the recent successes before you get to the comparatively awkward projects of my teenage years).


it is a photograph of my feet

2008

Jan-Feb: worked at the HERE Arts Center in New York as part of the stage / tech crew for HERE’s annual Culturemart Festival.
Performed spoken word at the Nuyorican Cafe and the Bam Bam Slam, New York.

April: Performed spoken word with cellist Grahame Thompson for the Tableaux Vivant Peep Show, including Haunted Brothel and 4-Digit Pin.

May: Worked as Artistic Administrator on the May 2008 Canberra International Music Festival, helping co-ordinate, promote and stage-manage more than 70 concerts of classical, contemporary, jazz and electronic music in venues around the ACT.

June: Bohemian toured A Prisoner’s Dilemma to High School and College students in the ACT, thanks to a touring grant from the Foundation for Young Australians. Bohemian presented a sell-out public season of A Prisoner’s Dilemma as part of the Street’s 2008 Independent Program.

July: Bohemian presented A Prisoner’s Dilemma for a season as part of the Brisbane Festival’s curated Under The Radar fringe at the Metro Arts Theatre in Brisbane.

Aug: Participated as a writer in PlayWriting Australia’s 40-Hour Play Generator, producing after a home-brand breakfast cereal play, which was subsequently shortlisted for the Short + Sweet short play awards.

Oct: My script Robot Salesman Training Play produced as part of BKu & the Hunting Season’s Duofest, directed by Lucy Hayes.
Performed a spoken-word mash-up of the top ten songs in the 1996 Triple J’s Hottest 100 at the finale of the Hive Variety Nights.
Performed with Diplodocus for a Halloween concert event in Ainslie, Canberra.

Nov: Serious Theatre and director barb barnett produce a sell-out season of my sci-fi road-trip play Oceans all boiled into sky as the finale in the Street Theatre’s 2008 Made In Canberra season.

Dec: Tied for first place in the ACT heats of the Australian Poetry Slam and was one of 18 poets Australia-wide to compete in the National Poetry Slam Finals at the Sydney Opera House.
Segments from my On the Night Sea performed by Jay Christian and others in an underpass in Portland, Oregon.

.


the bohemes in Brisbane airport: Mutt, Jackal an myself – photo by Mick

2007

Mar-Nov: Manager and curator of Belconnen Theatre’s W.E.T. Season, featuring ten seasons of new works by young and emerging Canberra theatre artists.

Feb: Jan Wawrcynczak produced and Max Barker directed my script to heat you up and cool you down as a double-bill with Noonee Doronila’s Manila Takeaway for a season at Belconnen Theatre as part of the National Multicultural Festival.
Performed a solo spoken-word set at the Hippo Lounge for the National Multicultural Fringe Festival, presenting Tamiflu vs Platyfus Fever.

Mar: Following its premier at the National Multicultural Fringe Festival in the ACT, Bohemian toured interactive science-theatre performance A Prisoner’s Dilemma for a season at Higher Ground, as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
Oceans all boiled into sky was one of 17 scripts selected for inclusion in the inaugural Interplay Online play festival, which linked me with professional dramaturg David Ryding.

May: Stage-managed Jigsaw Theatre’s Flotsam and Jetsam on a three-week tour schools tour of Adelaide and rural South Australia for the 2007 Come Out Festival.
Acted in the ArtsACT-funded showing of Hadley’s Bring Me The Head Of Edgar Allan Poe, directed by Naomi Milthorpe as part of the WET Season.

June-Dec: With Jan Wawrcynczak, applied for and received funding from the Foundation for Young Australians Launchpad Fund to plan and implement the Hunting Season, a season of performances in 2008 by young Canberra theatre and performance artists. I managed the June – December Research and Planning stage of the project, with the advice and support of Jan and the Belconnen Community Service.

July: Bohemian toured to Queensland to present A Prisoner’s Dilemma as part of the 2007 Asia-Pacific Complex Systems Conference.
My script Footprints (a parable of man and god) was produced as part of the Canberra Rep’s 2007 Comedy Revue.

Aug: My Victory March script sketches were produced by physical theatre duo A La Mad Nix as part of their Canberra Youth Theatre Open House season.

Aug-Oct: Performed six gigs as vocalist and VJ with music / theatre / visual-art / cooking ensemble Fight Fire With Knives, including Canberra Living Artist Week’s State of Belonging and the Phoenix Bootleg Sessions.

Oct: Performed spoken-word set in Newcastle, NSW for the National Young Writers Festival (part of This Is Not Art), featuring God is a Renegade and All the pieces that weren’t up to Standard.

Nov: Stage-managed the Street Theatre and ANU’s production of Duncan Sarkies’ Lovepuke, directed by Naomi Brouer.
Featured performer at the Best of the ACT Poetry Slams event at the Front Cafe, presenting my Sickness in the dark mix.

Dec: My script When I die I will rot and nothing of me will survive was produced as part of BKu’s Duofest, directed by Alison McGregor.


chris finnigan and shasta sutherland in before the elephants reach the beach (bku 2006)

2006

Feb: Wrote and directed four episodes of The Adventures of Boy President, a serial drama presented as part of the National Multicultural Fringe Festival.

Mar: Professionally engaged to co-write Canberra Youth Theatre’s Arcane Secrets, a large-scale performance event with more than 100 performers, staged in the ACT Civic Centre.
Professionally engaged to manage publicity for barb barnett and Serious Theatre’s production of All-Mother at the Street Theatre.

Mar-May: Received funding through ArtsACT to write and workshop the first draft of a new work entitled Oceans all boiled into sky (working title: Car Play) with dramaturg Paschal Berry, director barb barnett and five professional actors. Oceans was one of five scripts nominated for the 2006 Max Afford National Playwrights’ Award.

June: Won the very first ACT Poetry Slam at the Front Cafe with my beloved Platypus Fever.
Performed a downloaded piece of poorly-written erotic fiction entitled Special Education at the Street Theatre’s Bunch of Fives monologue night, and was subsequently barred from performing there.

July: Wrote and directed Before the elephants reach the beach, which featured in BKu’s Damned If You Duo play festival.

Aug-Sep: Travelled to the Philippines to take up a Writer’s Residency with Tanghalang Pilipino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila. Working with Tanghalang’s professional directors and actors, I wrote and workshopped two new scripts which were presented for short seasons in Manila: Sagrado sa Loob (Sacred Inside), co-written with Rogelio Braga and directed by Tess Jamias, and to heat you up and cool you down, directed by Issa Lopez.

Oct: From March 06 I worked as Programme Administrator for Hidden Corners Young Carers Theatre, providing respite and arts activities for young people caring for a family member with an illness or disability. Working with director Max Barker and the YWCA of Canberra, I was responsible for planning, budgeting and managing Hidden Corners’ two-week tour to the Northern Territory to devise and perform a new performance entitled Carers’ Territory with CarersNT.
My monologue When I was six I decided I didn’t believe in God was performed by Nick McCorriston at the Street Theatre for A Bunch of Fives.

Dec: The ban was lifted and I performed at the final A Bunch of Fives monologue night at the Street Theatre, presenting a mash-up entitled All the pieces that weren’t up to Standard at A Bunch of Fives.

2005

I co-wrote and performed in Raoul Craemer’s Vidooshaka: the Indian Clown at the Multicultural Fringe Festival. My one-act play Hate Restaurants was directed by Estelle Muspratt for Canberra Youth Theatre’s Whining and Dying, I contributed two pieces to BKu’s duologue festival: Weasel and Brown on the beach and Playable Demo, written with Jack Lloyd, and I performed in Buzzing Productions’ contact improvisation production in November.

Most epically, I was one of the producers of NUTS/Bohemian’s One Night Only: Dallas Rockwell’s Confessional Tour. ONO was three short plays set at a pop concert: Max Barker’s and my improvisational piece Savage Dancefloor (a witchdoctor unleashes his evil upon the mosh-pit), Hadley’s Flush and Stu Roberts’ Loose… Ships.

2004


vampires – image by nickamc

In August, Bohemian produced and Nicky J directed my play Vampire Play, which was dramaturged by Filipino/Australian playwright Paschal Berry. Vnampqir tells the story of vampire gang warfare in a fictional subway under Canberra and it was Bohemian’s biggest commercial success. (Let me make clear that what I mean by that is that we didn’t end up coughing up more than a third of our yearly incomes to get the bastard on the stage, unlike all our other masterworks from 01-03.)

2003

In January, during the Canberra bushfires, I wrote and directed w3 w3lcome the future, a road trip play about a pilgrimage to see Canberra’s guru. I also performed as “I” in BKu’s Withnail and I, the Schmurz in Bohemian’s production of Boris Vian’s The Empire Builders, and the Man from Zod in Hadley’s monologue The Man From Zod.


myself and jackal lloyd as ‘I’ and Withnail in BKu’s Withnail and I – image by nickamc

Encountering Hadley was one of the single biggest events in my history as a writer. Hadley is a more different Canberra playwright who comes from the world of infomercials, a sexual obsession with Chuck Norris and drinking Gandhi’s piss. It have been fruitful.

2002

In 2002, Bohemian produced Pinter’s One for the Road (torture in a police state) alongside Stuart Robert’s Bonesyard (19th century graverobbing), Steven Mallatrat’s The Woman in Black (gothic horror) and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (grotesque pop classic!). Bohemian’s sister company Opiate Productions produced a one-act play by me, Nick McCorriston and Muttley entitled Chosei: Eternal Life.

2001

In January, myself and three other deviants (Jackal Lloyd, Mick Bailey and Nicky J) formed theatre-collective Bohemian Productions. Our mission statement:
1. make plays
2. don’t go broke


jackal in our very first piece of press (The Canberra Times, April 2001)

We began by producing a double bill of two one-act plays at the Currong Theatre in Gorman House: Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter and Jack and my Quiet Time. This is being the story of five strangers who wake up in a room with no memory of how they got there. One by one they are taken out and killed, and their bodies returned to the room.

Later in 2001, I wrote and directed my first full-length play; The Mischief Sense, about a swarm of supernaturally enhanced thieves. The review is fantastic: Script Fails in Tilt at Irony.

2001 – Quiet Time
2001 – The Mischief Sense
2002 – The Woman in Black
2002 – Chosei: Eternal Life / Frozen Shape
2003 – w3 w3lcome the future
2004 – Vampire Play
2005Hate Restaurants
2005 – One Night Only: Dallas Rockwell’s Confessional Tour
2007 – To heat you up and cool you down

oceans productions credits

Director’s notes
Combining elements of Science Fiction, teen romance, history and/or science lesson, buddy-flick, and para-fable, David’s fabulous road-trip is frenetic – unrelenting. oceans… asks a lot of its audience, and in exchange, the play offers a world view that is alien, yet frighteningly familiar. Like all good 1950’s Sci-Fi, oceans… casts its eye over society, and, finding it lacking, asks how an individual’s choice/s alter reality. What is too great a risk? – How much can one take before breaking point? – the existential web of life…

Sound is integral to the pace and rhythm of the play. The language, melodic and meandering, is further enhanced by track-titles like: ‘Rich, Thick, Syrupy’, ‘Gruesome, Heavy’ and ‘… to herald in a new era of prosperity…’ Sound has the ability to influence the structure of matter; it resonates within the human body; it is a weapon and has restorative qualities; it has power.

My profound thanks to David for letting me mess with his world – I am forever changed! – & to the outstanding Chris, Raoul, Hanna, Ginny and Lloyd; for forever fixing the world of oceans… in my mind – you are glorious, giving, ‘human beings of the human race’.

Gillian never ceases to amaze me – her holistic approach to design is a delight – I thank her, as I have for the last many-a-show, for her dedication and creative spirit.

Warwick’s and Erika’s compositions are outstanding. The world outside the Starwagon – redolent yet unknown, contrasts the relative sanctuary of the interior.

Jack’s considerable contribution adds a much-needed visual element to support the ‘Radio Play’ concept. The character drawings come to life to support the action.

So settle back – shoes off – turn on the radio and immerse yourself in a young man’s ‘journey of discovery’ unlike anything you’ve encountered before!

barb barnett
serious theatre


barb barnett. photo by ‘pling.

Directed by barb barnett

Featuring:
Raoul Craemer
Chris Lloyd
Lloyd Allison-Young
Virginia Savage
Hanna Cormick

Set, costume and lighting designer: Gillian Schwab
Projections designer: Jack Lloyd
Music and SFX: Warwick Lynch and Erika Ikenouchi

serious thank
Caroline Stacey & The staff at The Street Theatre
Bernadette & Barney Barnett
Jim Cotter
Bridget Balodis
Peter Matheson
Kimmo Vennonen
‘pling
Erin Pugh
David Shaw
Nigel McRae
Jigsaw Theatre Company
Dr Russell Brown and Rep

oceans images

photos by ‘pling. the pen and paper drawings and the beautiful eery landscape in some of ‘pling’s photos are both by Gillian Schwab.



 

 

dragonflies

dragonflies

dragonflies ruled the earth.

back tae oceans

oceans history


hanna cormick is a licensed religious practitioner. photo by ‘pling.

In January 2004, I received a mentorship with playwright Paschal Berry through the Canberra Youth Theatre Engagements program to develop my script Vampire Play for a production that August. My response to this awesome opportunity was to panic, put Vampire Play aside, and start work on a new script completely, drawing in equal parts from Jeff Noon’s short story Creeping Zero and his novel Falling Out Of Cars. These first sketches were the guts of what would become Car Play, and then Oceans all boiled into sky.

In 2005, I received funding from ArtsACT to write and workshop a first performance draft of the script (under the working title of Car Play), working with dramaturg Paschal Berry, director barb barnett (of Serious Theatre), and five actors (Raoul Craemer, Lara Lightfoot, Alison McGregor, Jack Lloyd and Rob de Fries). From January – May 2006, I wrote endless reams of garbage, while Paschal, barb and the actors attempted to shine a light on what, if anything, was worthwhile about the script. In May 2006, there was a public reading of the script, which was attended by 80-90 people. The feedback from the audience was generally positive (although it was fairly unanimous that the 3rd of the three acts was pointless and boring), and that was that for a while.

In December 2006, Car Play was accepted into the inaugural Interplay Online Festival, and received further dramaturgical support from playwright David Ryding. At the end of the year, the script (now properly named Oceans all boiled into sky) was nominated for the Max Afford Award, a national playwriting competition. The judges described it as:

A sharp and witty comedy with Orwellian overtones. The plot is brisk and engaging and the characters are vivid and enjoyable. The style is theatrical and the conceit of the writing holds up well until the denouement. The panel felt that, whilst the resolution needs some work, the playwright shows great instinct and promise.

At the beginning of 2008, I met with Caroline Stacey, director of the Street Theatre, to ask whether a production of Oceans might be at all of interest to the Street. Caroline was positive, and arranged for the script to receive further dramaturgy from Peter Matheson. I approached barb barnett, who had workshopped it with me in 2006 and directed the public reading. barb was willing to take on directing again, and so Oceans was programmed for a November 26 – 29 season, as a Serious Theatre production for the Street’s 2008 Made In Canberra series.

oceans all boiled into sky script samples

back to oceans all boiled into sky
back to scripts

.

script samples
this happened in the canabrae
orders from the human race in Shanghai
the tale of the mongoose and the two cobras
steam planet motherfuckers
the black mountain
medicine eating song
the only prayer I know is Fibonacci’s
fifty five hour day
have you ever, like, kissed anyone?
there is no protection
feeling funny in my head, lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
and a treasure map! made in MS Paint!


Australia’s charming capital city, known to my phone’s predictive text function as The Cancers

this happened in the canabrae
shh. drop it down. arright, now, I need you guys to act real cool for a few seconds. if you’re sitting in a cold dark cave with a projector fluttering and these images spattered on to the wall, then you’re watching this documentary. this was filmed in the capital city of Australia.

me, I don’t know the details, but as I understand it there were networks of humans that linked up into one massive human society, wrapped around the surface of the earth. when the oceans were stuck in the ocean beds, there were humans gathered in knots on all the dry surfaces. here on this fragment of the planet, the humans gathered around a knot called Canberra. in these cracked and bleeding streets there were human men and women lurching around all day on their back legs. now, only a few brave and desperate sapiens dare travel through this fog-ridden wasteland. those humans are we humans. you are watching the soldiers in the battle for planet earth.


a Mitsubishi Starwagon – the interior is 0.58cm wider than the exterior

orders from the human race in Shanghai
priest: Stop dancing! Stand still – twitching – wired – all muscles tense – all eyeballs wide and staring! We start from here. The time is zero – it is zero hours since we were here last. Begin!
honest: I realise I’m fine. Utterly fucking fine. I feel like someone’s spreading butter on my spine.
malkin: Is he still chattering? Give us a job, let’s go.
mack: I can’t slow my breath down. I want an asthma puffer. I want more than that, I want two asthma puffers.
priest: See here on the floor, the marks and shapes in the mud? It is a message from the city of Shanghai.
mack: I think I’m hyperventilating.
honest: These are our footprints from dancing.
priest: Because you cannot read the code. It is news about the war.
honest: What’s happening? Are we winning?
priest: See these patterns here, these streaks in the mud? The tide is turning, at long last. All over the planet, human beings are taking back the surface. In Edinburgh, in Brasilia, in Ulan Baator, the humans have taken back the streets and forced the clouds into the sky.
honest: That’s fantastic!
priest: Here in Canberra we will not lag behind. You have been given a vital mission. Here, these stumbling smears? The human race in Shanghai wants you to capture a live creature.
honest: Alive?
priest: A live creature. I have a new vehicle for you, salvaged out of the mud. This is a starwagon. This will take you into the heart of Canberra, up the side of the Black Mountain to the Black Mountain Tower.
mack: Can you please show me how to get back into the Motor Registry?
priest: Honest Jon will be the lantern-bearer. Malkin will record the documentary of your mission. Let me present you your driver: Mack Finch.
mack: I’m sorry, I thought you were my driving instructor and I’ve followed you through the wrong door or something. I’m supposed to be in the Motor Registry carpark.
priest: This is your test.
mack: No, this is all fucked up. There was a door, there, we went through it like two minutes ago.
priest: Now this is the importance of your mission: Shanghai has sent you gifts! Here, help me dig them out from the mud. Shanghai has pushed these presents all the way through the centre of the earth and almost out the other side.
mack: Where the hell is the door? This is the bottom of a cave!
honest: What’s this stuff down here?
priest: You realise I wouldn’t send you unprotected into the Canberra! Why ever worry? Let nothing trouble you! Can’t freak out when you’ve got cassette tapes to soundtrack your mission into the wastes!
honest: Good crunching crackling human music?
priest: Along these thin strips is coded the signals to create the most music music music that there is! Tapes that when placed in a tapedeck summon entire rock and roll bands, or drifting blues songs, or rabid electronics! Tapes for battle, tapes for travel, tapes to soundtrack a hot young commando outfit striking out into the ruins of Canberra!
honest: That’s all I need, Mr Priest-man! Good music to keep my ears sweet, a good motor vehicle wrapped around me and good company to roll through the hours with!

.

the tale of the mongoose and the two cobras
honest: Chill out, man. No more of this freaking over third gear. You ever hear the tale of the mongoose and the two cobras?
mack: No, I don’t know that story.
board-game girl: I’m here. Focus, I’m here. Fix the signal. Here. I am – here –
honest: I know that story. I’ll tell you what, there was once upon a time a field by a river, and the mongoose came out of the snakehole and said “The cobra was pregnant but I killed it anyway!” and the birds sang a song in the mongoose’s honour and there was peace and safety. Peace, and safety.
mack: That story didn’t have a beginning or a middle.
honest: We all want peace and safety. Peace, safety and peace. What’s your name?
mack: Mack. Mack Finch. I was supposed to be going for my driving test-
honest: Mack, the point of the story is don’t worry about third gear. Just keep driving forward until we hit the Tuggeranong Parkway, then on the Parkway up the Black Mountain. That’s how we attain peace and safety.


image by Peter Newman (redux.org)

steam planet motherfuckers
mack: What the fuck are these things?
malkin: Like a map of pinpricks stabbed out of the air – Honest, cram me into the corner, I want to get a wide shot.
mack: I’ve never seen smoke do that.
malkin: It’s not smoke. It’s steam.
Our driver starts to understand that this Canberra is not the idyllic bush-capital he is familiar with. Why? What happened here? Honest?
honest: The oceans boiled.
malkin: The oceans boiled. All of the water that covered seventy percent of the earth’s surface boiled into steam. That steam now floats over every centimetre of the earth’s surface.
Let’s speak with the van’s documentator – world-weary soldier Gwen Malkin. Gwen, how are you doing?
Fucking mostly blind, and I can’t make my arms or legs work properly.
That’s great. Gwen, you just mentioned that the clouds covering Canberra tonight are actually steam from the earth’s boiled oceans. Can you explain what might cause the oceans to boil?
Well the oceans didn’t always rest on the surface of the earth. If we go back – way back – 3.5 billion years ago.
Wow. That’s a long time ago!
That’s right. The earth is forming around a heavy iron core. There’s a sea of molten rock wrapped around, but all the h2o is super-hot steam, blown over the earth by gale force winds.
Eventually, this sea of lava cools down enough that a crust forms over it like the scum on a bowl of soup.
mack: What the fuck is this?
honest: Tuggeranong Parkway! Now keep driving upwards, this road will take us up the Black Mountain!
mack: This is a forest!
honest: Once, the Parkway was the avenue of royal chariots.
malkin: When the crust on the outside of the earth cools down to about 350 degrees celcius, the steam starts to condense into rain.
All over the earth, huge rainstorms crash down. But the instant that rain hits those burning hot rocks, it boils right back up into the sky! Steam-planet, motherfuckers!


the black mountain tower – image by Amanda Graydon

the black mountain
There are waist high ferns and stumpy conifers to wade through. There is the murmur of dragonfly wings and the screech of centipedes. Off in the distance, though, there is a sound like a thin scream, a frequency you’re just on the edge of tuning into.

It’s the sound coming from the mountain. Really you can only see the base. The whole mountain is wreathed in mist and fog, moving all over it. Sliding all over it. And the steam and fog just reach up into the sky and meld with the clouds all through the city.

That’s a huge puzzle. That’s a tapestry of information woven out of particles of water vapour.


this is an Arthropleura and it is 2 metres long and was the dominant life on this planet for a long (too long) time

medicine eating song
malkin: good old lullabye poison!
I hate to have to swallow you
I can feel the inside of my head
my brain my skull the blood the nerves
crumbling into sand

just do your job for as long as you’re supposed to work.
75 milligrams once every twelve hours?
don’t worry about stopping it
but hold as much of my brain together as you can

.

the only prayer I know is Fibonacci’s
mack: I can’t stop thinking of ways in which I might die, might hurt myself. I’m in a spiral and the only prayer I know is Fibonacci’s. one. one. two. three. five. eight. thirteen. twenty one. thirty four. fifty five.

fifty five hour day
mack: look at those clouds over to the east. they’re like sheets of blood. what’s making them so red?
malkin: the sun’s coming up. lemme get the camera out.
mack: in my school we learned 24 hour time.
malkin: the day is fifty five hours long.
mack: no it’s not, it can’t be.
malkin: you were taught with the old clocks where you count to twelve twice and then the day is over. right? that because when those clocks were made the earth was rolling along in its orbit at a speedy speed of 24 hours per spin. but the spin is slowing down. the earth isn’t turning as quickly. these days we see the sun for 20 hours straight. it’s been pitch black night for nearly 25 hours now.
mack: that’s not possible.
honest: that’s gonna have to be possible. in about sixty seconds the sun is gonna come up and you’re gon have to stare at it for 30 hours straight.
malkin: we now move in for a close up as Mack’s head explodes.

.

have you ever, like, kissed anyone?
board-game girl: What do you want? Kisses? Do you want kisses?
malkin: Driver awareness reconfiguring.
mack: Sorry, what was that?
honest: Mack, where are you turning? You’re turning the wrong way. I’m going to have to remove success points from your, your successing.
board-game girl: Have you like, have you ever kissed anyone?
mack: Yeah, kinda. I kissed Rosemary Barnes in Year 10.
board-game girl: Are you serious? She’s such a bitch.
mack: Yeah, she is a bitch. I think she was showing off. She did it all in front of her friends and they were all laughing.
board-game girl: Was it nice?
mack: It was all right. I don’t think she knows – ah, shit! What the fuck are you doing to me? Get out! Get out!


image by Peter Newman (redux.org)

there is no protection
honest: I think it’s messing with the blood in my streams.
malkin: Of course it’s messing with the blood in your streams.
board-game girl: Can you feel it, Mack? It’s knocking your molecules over one by one.
mack: I don’t want to die.
board-game girl: Why not?
mack: Just because I don’t win awards or I don’t have a million friends doesn’t mean I need to – I have heaps of reasons to be alive!
board-game girl: Downloading connec – connec – twenty one temperature degrees. Thirteen hours, Twenty one degrees – twenty one –
honest: What are you doing to my blood? My fingernails are about to burn off the ends of my fingers!
malkin: There is no protection.
honest: Music. We need music, we need human – music –
malkin: There is no protection. In this van that tumbles through this city that crumbles there is no protection.
honest: Where are the cassettes?
board-game girl: – temperature – thirty four
– degrees – cel –
thirteen hour –
discon –
honest: My fingers are growing tongues!

.

feeling funny in my head, lord, I believe I’m fixin’ to die
mack: Honest.
honest: Shit! Mack?
mack: Honest. You wanna play a tune?
honest: You don’t look too well, Mack.
mack: I wanna hear some good music, that’s my trouble. Why don’t you fix me up something twitchy?
honest: I’ll see what I can do.
mack: feelin’ funny in my head, lord,
I believe I’m fixin’ to die, fixin’ to die-
feelin’ funny in my head, lord,
I believe I’m fixin’ to die-
well I don’t mind dying
but I hate to see my children cry…
board-game girl: How are you feeling, Mack?
mack: I feel all right. I feel right. I feel like I’ve always been wrong. I’ve wanted the wrong things. I was wrong to try to pass my driving test. I was wrong to try to make my dad proud of me. I know what’s right – I’m a failure and that’s all right. It’s a very special kind of RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT!
honest: Hey Mack, man, hey Mack the Mack Finch – are you going to die?
mack: For sure! That’s where it’s at, man, that’s the only positive way forward!

.

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back to oceans all boiled into sky
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oceans all boiled into sky reviews


centipede. image by gillian schwab.

Naomi Milthorpe, BMA Magazine
Adrienne Gross, Australian Stage Online
Joe Woodward, Canberra CityNews
Nigel McRae, Culturazi
Bic Parker, Culturazi
Alanna Maclean, The Canberra Times

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Naomi Milthorpe, BMA Magazine
Thurs 11 Dec

Serious Theatre’s show was… Awesome. Director barb barnett took David Finnigan’s po-mo dystopia by its fractured, multi-voiced horns to create a live radio play that ticked all the boxes of compelling, original theatre. Five actors (Lloyd Allison-Young, Hanna Cormick, Raoul Craemer, Chris Lloyd and Virginia Savage) stood essentially still for 90 minutes as, through their different voices, they played out the story of seventeen year old Mack Finch, trying to take his driving test in a post-apocalyptic Canberra. Behind them, Gillian Schwab’s set sketched the broken bones of Canberra, a world dominated by steam and decay and monstrous things. Oceans all boiled into sky is what we hope for in theatre: every move, every change of the eerie light, every sound effect, every decision made by Barnett and her talented cast, contributed to the creation of a new world.


The Priest (Hanna Cormick) is probably one of the monstrous things dominating this world. image by ‘pling.

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Adrienne Gross, Australian Stage Online
Sat 29 Nov

Have you ever had something important to do, and the night before was full of strange dreams – a playback of snapshots of what happened during the day? Then the dream had by Oceans Boiled Into Sky’s lead character Mack Finch surely was from watching B-grade sci-fi flicks and Fox News the night before taking his driving test. The resulting journey leads from the ‘peace and safety’ of the Dickson Motor Registry to a post-apocalyptic Canberra. Along for the ride in the Mitsubishi Starwagon is the audience, whose smiles and quizzical looks are prompted by expressive cast members and an overall quirky production.

Oceans Boiled Into Sky is a sci-fi black comedy, a 75-minute single act described in publicity as a ‘road-trip coming of age story.’ I’d describe it more of a realisation of consciousness, as we can’t escape our subconscious, it’s hiding in the steam and just when you think it has lifted, it just rains back down – the things we try to block, the other person you want to be.

Oceans Boiled Into Sky is not an A to B story, but one from E to T with bits of C thrown in. The play works well for a Canberra audience who would get the in-jokes and could picture giant creatures lurking about in the fog of Tuggeranong Parkway.

As soon as the yellow doors open on The Street Theatre’s, ‘Street Two’, the atmosphere is set for the unexpected. The wisp of steam fog floats above couches, chairs, crochet rugs and puzzles to create an intimate lounge atmosphere fronted by five microphones with a background of sheer fabric shrouding Black Mountain Tower and outlines of boiling rocks.

The set provided context to what playwright David Finnigan describes Oceans Boiled into Sky as a ‘post-apocalyptic Canberra somewhere in the distant future-past’. Huh? Well, exactly. Though, this confusion is what can be entertaining if you let yourself be taken along for the ride in the 1983 Mitsubishi Starwagon with 3 and a half characters. Half, because one is a ghost. The others are a Fox News-type newsreader with a split personality of a drill sergeant, a peculiar charismatic media-gigolo and a gangly teenage boy haunted by an unrequited love interest – the prim and proper chess starlet.

The characters begin their journey from a cave after being issued a mission by a priest (the Thatcheresque Hanna Cormick) to save the human race. Guerrilla fighters – tough Gwen Macklin and slick Honest Jon – are to be driven to ‘The Black Mountain’ via the Tuggeranong Parkway by ring-in driver, bewildered Mack Finch. Along the way, they must play cassette music to motivate them to fight off nasty steam creatures, one of whom they must eventually capture. Making sense? Not really, but that’s not the point. The characters switch between who they are and who they want to be, eventually finding the truth.

This diverse range of personalities and the complete bizarreness of the story comes from the highly creative mind of Finnigan, who was recently named the tied winner of the second heat of the Canberra leg of the 2008 Poetry Slam competition. The play itself was nominated in 2006 for the Max Afford Award, a national playwriting competition. He has worked on the script since 2005 and has recently brought it to the current iteration with director Barb Bennet who makes the most of the small space and embraces the constraints, by considering every minimal movement made by the actors, such as facial expressions and stances.

Overall each character was expressive and clear, bringing movement to a static situation whereby they flawlessly spoke their lines from a fixed place non-stop for 75 minutes. The furrowed brow and awkward stance of Mack Finch was exactly how gangly teenage boys angle themselves around girls, so that it adds to the cringe moments of chat-up lines involving ‘sh**house teachers’ and ‘parties that are sooo gay’.

The staunch bulldog pose by Gwen Malkin (Chris Lloyd) behind the microphone was an entire presence of stubbornness as she played ‘the strong one’ so common in road-trip storylines, switching seamlessly in her split role of documentary journalist to fearless commando.

As a balance to the seriousness was the deftly played Honest Jon by Raoul Craemer with his pretty-boy preening and suaveness; the equivalent of Fonzie from Happy Days combing his hair just so after levelling a baddie. He delivered the witty muddling lines with winsome charm that roused giggles and chuckles from the audience.

Maybe Lloyd Allison-Young as Mack Finch has really had an out-of-Canberra-Toto moment before, because he was just as contorted with confusion and fear as one could be – face twisted in worry and hands shaking in clenched fists as he drove the mighty Starwagon to their destiny, and his Ps.

Virginia Savage – the Board Game girl – intercepted the story in mysterious voice flashes until becoming her near-real character of a repressed goody-two-shoes teen weary with worldly expectations of her conquering the chess tournament circuit. Holding character in prim poses and sarcastic eye-rolling, she was believable as a teenage girl trying to deal with the inanity of teenage boys.

The nature of the production being in a form of radio play of course means that sounds and music play a significant role. The sound effects such as water dripping added atmosphere and context to the character’s location, while the music served to break the single stream of consciousness into steps up towards Black Mountain. Warwick Lynch and ANU School of Music Composition students compiled the effects and added pieces of composed music from Erika Ikenouchi whose funky beats, bleeps and beeps cause disconnection between real self and expected self. However, the noise got confusing at times with the music being too loud to hear the voice altering tunnel tools.

Gillian Schwab, who also did the set design, continued the multi-sense effects with the lighting design, which was very effective using different colours to show altered modes of the duel personalities/states of mind and provided visual context with the frantic screen sketches flashing from the projector onto a sliver of stage screen.

The highlights of the play were the well-acted one liners from Honest Jon and the part where Mack Finch cringed his way through chatting up Board Game Girl – the script so true to life it seemed lifted from an eavesdropping outside McDonalds on a Friday night.

While I had a smile on my face or quizzical look for most of the time, I felt the fast pace slacken around three quarters before reaching the climax, then the closely followed end. The confusion of each character’s purpose was a bit brain-draining. But then so too can be a Shakespeare play with all the Bottoms and Pucks and Oberons lurking about with their respective motives. Just go along for the ride in the sexy Starwagon and enjoy the groove of the funky music and frenetic scripting with the quirky Canberran characters.


raoul craemer as honest jon. ‘charismatic media-gigolo?’ I think so. photo by ‘pling.

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Joe Woodward, Canberra CityNews
Thurs 4 Dec

Serious Theatre have presented an innovative work that integrates all aspects of text, sound, mulit-media and human sculpture into a pictures for the audiences imagination.

Writer, David Finnigan, says he was “creating obstacles and hazards to make the director and cast’s job as hard as possible” and writing “semi-unstageable battles”. This required considerable focus from all involved to create a finely crafted sound and visual sculpture that allows the audience to imagine things appearing as if from real life fragments and dreams. It means the reference points for the audience’s experience are drawn less from traditional theatre and more from the likes of “electronic musicians who use the sound of broken and decayed machinery to build a beautiful aesthetic”. Finnigan suggests Kid 606 as an influence.

At an historical moment where nothing is sacred and all is fragmented, Serious’s work is timely and appropriate. barb barnett has been exacting in drawing out sharp voices tuned to strong rhythmic qualities from the actors. The ensemble playing was a lesson for all performers. This was complemented by a superb sound track that intertwined with amplified voices to shape the imagery of the text. The slight measuring of the sound graphics to suit the characters’ voices added to the feel of a recording that could be listened to on headphones.

If the cast’s visual texturing of the moment wasn’t so compelling, one might have closed the eyes and let the sound wash over and around one’s head. Visuals were important and well used in a constrained way by the cast of five: Lloyd Allison-Young, Chris lloyd, Raoul Craemer, Virginia Savage and Hanna Cormick.

I was reminded of watching Jack Kerouac’s film The Subterraneans with its amazing Andre Previn sound track and quick dialogue. The writing of William Burroughs immediately comes to mind as well. Perhaps pertinent in a year where And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, an early novel by Kerouc and Burroughs has been published for the first time!


Virginia Savage plays the part of a pissed off teen prodigy at a crappy house party.

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Nigel McRae, Culturazi
Sat Nov 29, 2008

Oceans All Boiling into Foot Odour

I jest.

For a moment last night, in my panic at finding myself in a warm theatre, with no decent means of escape, as I felt the combined pressures of a beer-bloated bladder, hot feet, a dizzy spleen, sleep deprivation (only diverted from crankiness by the afore-mentioned beer consumption) and the strange sense that I had stumbled upon a joke that I would never get and of which I might be the butt, for a moment, I say, I thought I might pass out.

It was made worse because, at about minute 65, I distinctly remembered the conversation I enjoyed before the bell with the sound guy (the very enjoyable David O’Rourke) who assured me there was an interval during which we could continue our surprise reunion. This in contradiction to the advice I received from someone who attended opening night. If this is just the first half, how long can this thing go on I thought. And is that the smell of my own feet?

Luckily there were quite a few unshod feet in evidence (there being a carpeted and pillow-bedecked space at the front of the packed house where I was ensconsed), not quite enough to eradicate my concerns about people smelling mine and actually take off my shoes (which I was dying to do, and to lie down on the pillow which was mostly occupied by a lovely lady to my right) and I don’t even have particularly smelly feet…

Luckily again, the aforementioned sound guy was right about the interval but wrong about the show, he doing sound for The Idea of North next door and me seeing Oceans All Boiling Into Sky, the reading of which in our back yard caused a minor kerfuffle ten days ago or so.

With all these things buffeting my normally contented soul, I sat on a cushion in the smoky darkness and attempted to penetrate the many mysteries of ‘Oceans’. The first five minutes made no sense. The pace is ‘machine gun’, many times the cast talk over one another and there is music, adding, initially, to the aural confusion. There was also a perceptable low frequency feedback ring on Hanna Cormack’s mic making her short early addition to proceedings that bit more unintelligible. For a while I feared the tech would get in the way of the play. Wasted energy. The rest of the evening was crystal and nicely balanced. Cormack shed a tear during her brief appearance. I don’t believe it was scripted.

But really the problem is mine. I’m bad enough at listening to, say, a poem, read at normal speed in good listening conditions. Normally I’ll be three lines behind by halfway and just give in to the melifluousness of the sounds (or boredom), a pleasant enough experience if you’re being read to by a beautiful young woman while naked in a bath on ‘e’. But I’m not really ‘getting it’.

I guess I’m just retarded in that way. Even with a preview like I had, I was lost at first, but magically, around minute ten, as if the radio had finally been nicely tuned, the multi-streamed avalanche of jibberish, gobbledegook and hornswaggle gelled into a meaningful discourse that I could follow. Or at least part thereof. It’s a road trip, a nightmarish, Kafkaesque journey through both Canberra and the abysmal labrynth of a teenager’s mind.

The character of Mack, played by a real life teenager, is the perfect vehicle for young Lloyd Allison-Young. Plastic faced and fluid in transition from almost hammy angst to suave candour and blithe unaffectedness, Allison-Young proved that barely anyone has to have any idea what’s going on and the whole room can still be amused. The rest of the cast are excellent, at least to my untutored eye, coping well with a very demanding script, the equivalent, methinks, of playing lead fiddle in a Tchaikovsky symphony.

Raoul Cramer is suitably authoritarian and megalomaniacal, his movember moustache aiding the visual effect admirably. Chris Lloyd, as I’ve previously uttered, gives good female newsreader and effortlessly traverses her multiple characters, and dear Virginia Savage evokes a range of emotions, from lust as pure as the driven snow, to sorrow sweet as mother’s milk.

Laced with local geographical icons, ‘Oceans’ was, for this born and bred Canberran, like viewing the familiar haunts of the past through a fractured looking glass, each landmark a metaphor for something dark or seamy or sad. Are the monsters on Black Mountain the cultural imperialism of the mainstream media? Is Lake Burley Griffin death. Does it matter? Can you enjoy a play like you might a ride on a roller coaster? All sensation and no comprehension? Can you marvellously enjoy a guitar solo without understanding each nuance, every flattened 6th?

Apparently you can, because I did and didn’t (get every nuance). The two blokes in the pisser agreed with each other they had no clue what was happening. Sometimes the best stuff takes closer examination. Perhaps I should go again. This time I’m going early, getting a good posi, and taking my shoes off.


lloyd allison-young is mack the mack finch is dangerously throwing away his mack, mack. photo by ‘pling.

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Bic Parker, Culturazi
Sat Nov 29, 2008

Last night I went with my friend to a performance of a play and it was a hoot. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed myself. I was captivated by the delivery and stunned by the fact that it was written about Canberra. I want to tell you about the doo but I don’t want to give it away. I did speak with the director after the production about the production and she agreed, well she didn’t seem to disagree with my assessment so I will tell you.

One first walks into a sixties type speakeasy, lounging around at tables, on lounges and on the floor. Five mics on stage, simple, five characters, one human, the others afflictions of the machinations of that individual. All in all this play deals with a very serious issue of mental illness and its reality and society’s reactions to it which, as you will discover, is to laugh at and be entertained by it. That is a good question. Why do we laugh at disfunctions? A most enjoyable and thought provoking play.

FOUR STARS


gwen malkin (chris lloyd) is disappointed in you, david. Sci-fi misfires. tsk, tsk, tsk.

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Alanna Maclean, The Canberra Times
Thurs 4 Dec, 2008

Sci-Fi Misfires
Go into the Dickson Motor Registry for a driver’s test and you could end up in the hands of aliens, driving through a Canberra that is nothing like the one you know.

At least that seems to be what is happening in Oceans all boiled into sky…

Visually this production is challenging.

The five characters stand in front of a scrim and work to mikes on stands.

Elegant projections appear to one side.

Gradually, behind the scrim, a dark burned-out diorama of Black Mountain looms up, complete with a car driving up it and the tower.

The feeling is part graphic novel, part ancient science fiction radio show as Mack Finch (Lloyd Allison-Young) is kidnapped at the Dickson Motor Registry to serve the somewhat unclear aims of Gwen Malkin (Chris Lloyd) and Honest John (Raoul Craemer).

He finds an ally in the Board-Game Girl (Virginia Savage), despite the fact that she appears to be dead.

A wrecked Tuggeranong Parkway peopled by giant centipedes, dragonflies and spiders makes getting up Black Mountain to capture some cloud creatures difficult and Lake Burley-Griffin is as dry as the boiled-dry oceans of this post-disaster world.

However, despite the splendid set design (Gillian Schwab), Erika Ikenouchi and Warwick Lynch’s disturbing sound scape and some hard work by the performers, it is hard to grasp what drives this show.

David Finnigan’s script is poetic and occasionally funny but it all seems a little aimless and lacking in tension.

Yet it is good to see a Canberra playwright turn places we know into an alternative universe that draws on memories of the bushfires to call up an image of the city in decay.

And the little dialogues between Finch and the Board-Game Girl about school and relationships are so coolly done by Allison-Young and Savage they ring true and local.

Being very well disposed towards the various worlds of science fiction and knowing the power of fantasy genres I found myself wanting it all to mean much more.

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SCI-FI MISFIRES! SCI-FI MISFIRES!