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.’
Isabelle Martinez (Christine) and Nina Rumbines (Onie) in Sipat Lawin’s 2009 production.
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.
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
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 2005 – Hate Restaurants 2005 – One Night Only: Dallas Rockwell’s Confessional Tour 2007 – To heat you up and cool you down
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
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
Jigsaw Theatre Company
Dr Russell Brown and Rep
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
gwen malkin (chris lloyd) is disappointed in you, david. Sci-fi misfires. tsk, tsk, tsk.
Alanna Maclean, The Canberra Times
Thurs 4 Dec, 2008
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.
oceans all boiled into sky
or, we welcome the future because we have no choice
design by gillian schwab. photo by ‘pling.
A play for the men and women of the planet.
Oceans all boiled into sky is a road trip / coming of age story set in the nation’s capital after the Earth’s oceans have boiled into clouds of steam. Year 11 student Mack Finch is preparing for his driving test when he is kidnapped by a priest and co-opted into a desperate band of guerillas. Instead of showing off his parallel parking, Mack finds himself driving a reckless team of commandos on a do-or-die mission into the heart of Canberra’s fog-shrouded ruins. To attain his P plates, Mack must not only face the horrors of the steam-apocalypse; he must face his own feelings for the girl who rejected him at the Year 10 Formal.
Oceans traces Mack’s journey from the dragonfly-plagued jungle of the Tuggeranong Parkway to the terrifying heights of The Black Mountain, with a jiving soundtrack of the most music music music that there is! Direct from the Panasonic tapedeck of a 1983 Mitsubishi Starwagon: music for battle, music for travel, music to soundtrack a hot young commando outfit striking out into the ruins of Canberra!
if you want to, you are welcome to have, read and produce Oceans all boiled into sky (MS Word document format). The only caveat I’d insert is that if you want to produce it, or any of it, or all of it several times in quick succession, just give me an email and let me know so I can get excited.
chris lloyd is hot commando soldier-scientist and film-maker gwen malkin
Serious Theatre’s November 2008 production of Oceans all boiled into sky was the finale of the Street Theatre’s Made in Canberra season. Director barb barnett and a squadron of phenomenal actors, musicians and designers transformed the Street Theatre into the living-room you remember from the 1950s, where you and your family would gather after tea to hear the latest radio-play broadcast over the wireless. Over four sold-out performances, audiences curled up on couches and cushions with their loved ones to relive the ecstacy of those days with this all-live radio-drama.
Just been rereading Jeff Noon’s 2001 manifesto ‘How to make a modern novel’. This essay and Noon’s work in general, has been a massive influence on me since my brother Tom first loaned me a copy of Vurt in 1997.
Sometimes I even forget how much my work has been shaped by his. Looking over the Manifesto again, I’m struck by how many of Noon’s precepts have been incorporated into my work. Discussing a record by Richie Hawtin:
‘The CD consists of 38 pieces of music, played on a number of turntables, with two or three records being played simultaneously. Hawtin includes a diagram on the CD’s sleeve, which depicts where each record begins and ends. With this in mind, we could use Richie Hawtin’s CD as the template for a novel. We need to create 38 stories, which then blend into each other using the CD’s diagram as a guide. As one story comes to an end, another story, or two other stories, are mixed into it. These new stories are then carried on, until further stories are added to the mix.
Hawtin will return to the same record twice, or to a different remix of the record; we can use this technique to allow our various stories to reappear at different places in the narrative. There are no rules, only opportunities. Above all, imagine the pleasure gained from following the various stories through the mix.’
This is the exact route through which a lot of my work has come about. Always and all the time, creating tiny short fragments of writing – scraps of conversation, settings, characters, story arcs, anything. Then, whenever a larger work needs to come about, grab a selection of these pieces (the more disparate the better) and drop them in one place.
Now, how will these pieces fit together? Most of the time, they won’t. Any sort of coherent thread linking the fragments at this stage is an unlikely bonus. Nevertheless, find some links, somewhere, between some of the pieces. Put two different speeches in the mouth of one character, place two disconnected events in the same setting at the same time. When you’ve aggregated together some larger chunks, you can start hunting for the threads that will hold it together – and noting which pieces still don’t fit, no matter what you do to connect them.
Originally, I used to do this other writers’ words – again, borrowing from Noon’s lead. However, where Noon’s transformations left his source material utterly transformed, my pieces often ended up as pastiches of other people’s work – in music terms, more like a CD compilation than a proper DJ set. This was the criticism behind my 2003 play w3 w3lcome the future (actually, there were many and varied criticisms of w3w3, but that’s the one that I think was most relevant).
The one occasion where this sampling and remixing really came into its own was the frozen shape collective’s Chosei: Eternal Life (2002). The collective in question was myself, Nick McCorriston and David Shaw, and the show was produced by Opiate Productions as part of a double-bill with an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether. Nick, Muttley and I each contributed a short story to the mix (with additional material donated by Emma Markala), and we attempted to gather them into one coherent whole.
Brian W. Aldiss – Swastika! Greg Egan – Axiomatic Anton Chekhov – Death of a Clerk Jeff Noon – Homo Kareoke Ted Chiang – 72 Letters Tibor Fischer – A Portrait of the Artist as a Flaming Deathmonger
Chosei went through a huge range of incarnations in the space of a very few weeks, finally settling upon an idea which to this day I can’t determine the origin of: set in 1953 in an old Soviet prison camp in the wilds of Siberia, Jewish scientist/mystic John Genius has been employed by Stalin to prophecy the future of the USSR. Genius’ method is to use the re-animated semen of Adolf Hitler, collected from two ejaculations of the Fuhrer in 1927 and in1945. The two different batches of sperm produce different variants on Hitler, which are kept under control by Genius by use of Kabbalistic magic (precisely formulated magical instructions imprinted on the back of their necks), and forced to face one another in endless games of Go, which Genius analyses to interpret the future of Russia.
Chosei is something we are all fairly proud of – whatever else you can say about it, it was original in its own happy way.
More recently, the mix CD process has been behind the formulation of my spoken word pieces. The current piece I’m working on: god is a renegade (for performance at This Is Not Art on September 29) has been gathered together out of scraps from play scripts (The North Sea, Weasel and Brown on the Beach), conversations with friends (duels to the death, prostitute confessional) and other poems (Platypus Fever). The linking narrative has grown out of some words I found in a folder of some old word documents:
‘We know that God has a variety of different personas that he adopts. That he adopts because certain activities require a particular personality, or because he simply likes one or two attitudes more than others at particular points. We know that the most common persona he adopts is that of a harried resistance fighter, a sort of covert soldier who is constantly under attack and/or surveillance, and is always nervous and never at rest.’
Another of Noon’s tricks was to publish a Discography of his novel Needle in the Groove. These were the artists and albums he was listening to while creating the work, and music and rhythm being such a central aspect of Noon’s writing, he elected to highlight them. Whether influenced by Noon or not, I think it’s fair to say that certain musics, texts and movies have been significant factors in the creation of all my works. I would love to acknowledge and give props to as many of these musics as I can think of (without in any way blaming them for the work that resulted thereby). This will be my page of sources.