Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apologies, The Trial & Namatjira

It seems that more than not when I post something on this blog, it starts with an apology for a lack of updates. Sorry about that, maybe I should just stop promising these things! Unfortunately for you readers, it’s been a very busy few weeks, between the Sydney Fringe Festival, This Is Not Art Festival (which you should definitely check out the results of at Applespiel's blog - you can download the show we did... awesome. http://applespiel.wordpress.com/), and just a general amount of crazy things happening in our personal lives, that things have been put on the back burner here at The Perf.

What I offer to make up for it is a quick wrap of a couple of shows that I’ve seen lately. I might get around to doing a closer analysis of other seasons as well as post my long-awaited opinions on the Belvoir Downstairs changes, but I guess I have to start learning to make fewer promises.

The Trial – STC

Let’s put it out there – I’ve been excited about this production since it was announced last year. More Ewen Leslie in my life can only be a good thing. When the production rolled around however, I realised that there was even more amazing acting to be had with a fantastic ensemble of John Gaden, Peter Houghton, Rita Kalnejais, Belinda McClory, Hamish Michael and Igor Sas. I mean, they’re all stars in their own right really, so it was pretty exciting to have them all together, and this was really what I took away from the production. I thought the production was strong, and vividly created the increasingly maddening world of Joseph K. Unfortunately it dragged and there were definitely times when I dropped out of it and started thinking about other things. However, the further I get away from the show, the more I simply remember the fantastic performances and intelligent stage design. The final stage trick, whereby what was previously thought to be a backstage area was revealed through a dropping of curtains to create an almost cathedral like feel in what is not one of Sydney’s most giant theatres, was quite an achievement and more than brought me back into the world of the play. I left impressed. From what I hear though, others did not, let me know why!

Namatjira - Belvoir

This show made me feels some things very strongly. The strongest of which was a sense of absolute regret for not seeing Ngapartji Ngapartji. It must have been a phenomenal show. Trevor Jamieson is amazing. He is amazing physically, he is an amazing storyteller, he has amazing comic timing and he is amazingly honest. What this translates to is an incredibly engaging performance. For the two hours of the show you are absolutely in his hand, following along as he recreates the story of Albert Namatjira, Australia’s first Aboriginal citizen, and one of our country’s finest painters. The content, which Scott Rankin has done an amazing job of synthesizing, is absolutely astounding and depressing at the same time. All the things that you go into the show expecting will make you happy turn out to be sad. The fact that was the first Aboriginal citizen is countered by the fact that this was simply allowed so that the government could tax him, and it also placed him between a rock and bottle shop in his community, where his newfound ability to buy alcohol (a privilege only extended to citizens) made him a lackey to the many people who saw him as their uncle. His meeting with the Queen is countered by a radio report of his visit to Taronga Zoo which describes how the other animals got very excited at having a creature that was closer to them in their midst. The fact that his artworks at one point epitomised the height of Australian art culture is obscured by his inability to buy land that would allow him to support his community. In fact all of his achievements are left marred by the revelation that despite all his fame he died poor, and unhappy. It is these paradoxes of his life that Rankin has so effectively highlighted and Jamieson masterfully brings out, putting forward a few paradoxes of his own. One particularly memorable moment was when Jamieson explains that Aboriginal practice of leaving behind elders who have grown incapable of keeping up with the tribe. He doesn’t pass judgement on the practice, but instead turns the moral question onto the audience asking, “Would you take them in? Surely, if an old Aboriginal person knocked on your door asking for help at 2am you’d welcome them into your home.” However, Jamieson’s perfect manner of audience interaction is impossible to adequately describe here, instead, I just recommend you get along to this show in its final weeks if you haven’t already.

It would also be remiss of me to not to mention Derek Lynch, who does a superb job of playing all the characters around Jamieson. His turn as the queen is particularly memorable, and it gave me an odd jolt of patriotism knowing that I live in a country where an Aboriginal man can portray our female head of state with no more recourse than hysterical laughter from the audience.

Perhaps even more exciting than the show itself however, is the community project around it. Check out the details RIGHT HERE.

Hope that’s enough to keep you interested for a while. Hopefully have more for you soon.

Oh, and Applespiel have a show tomorrow night, it’s free, in Sydney, and a whole lot of fun. Check out the details here:http://www.performancespace.com.au/?p=4904 We're very excited to be presented by Performance Space.

Hope all is well!

Simon

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