Saturday, December 31, 2011


I am dying over here. If I had my own site, and I was holding my own awards ceremony, I would call it 'The Sammys'. AHAHAHAHA.

I've done 200% more stuff this year, seen 100% more things and lived about 50% more than usual, and after a year of writing down thoughts on most things I've seen I'm taking today to do a quick look back over everything. Anyway for anyone who's interested (and so I can keep count), here's my favourites for 2011:


Best Production - Lysistrata (Directed by Caroline Heim)

Best Play - Please Be Seated (Directed by David Meggarity)

Best Professional Work - Fractions (Directed by Jon Halpin)
Best Independent Work - La Boite Scratch #6 (Devised by Sarah Winter)
Best Student Work - Lysistrata (Directed by Caroline Heim)


Best Recording/Album - Sweeney Todd (Performed at Théâtre du Châtelet)

Best Song - Pour Gabrielle (Performed by Jorane)

Best Instrumental - Scarlett Flying from Cirque du Soleil's Iris (Composed by Danny Elfman)
Best Soundtrack - The Banquet (Composed by Tan Dun)
Best Live Artist - Jason Robert Brown (Performed at Queensland Conservatorium)


Best Day of the Year - September 30th

Best Word - Crepuscular

Best Exhibit - 21st Century Art (Hosted at GOMA)
Best Movie - Being John Malkovich?
Best Event - FAST (Hosted at La Boite Theatre Company) and La Boite Theatre Company 2012 Launch Party (Hosted at La Boite Theatre Company)
Best Book/Text - Attempts on her Life (Written by Martin Crimp)
Best Game - Skyrim (Created by Bethesda Softworks)

As always, I'd be interested to hear anyone else's opinions. There was a lot of really epic stuff going on this year and next year is going to be even more hectic. Hooray!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Worst Song of 2011 (of all time?)

I've heard some truly dreadful music this year, but this song just eclipses the others without any competition. It's so unbelievably bad, it has to be lived!

The tuneless, screeching 'song', tentatively titled Kundalini, was 'composed' by Nick Littlemore for Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana. Zarkana opened this year to extremely mediocre reviews, with Cirque recieving a lot of backlash from the Broadway community due to it's unnecessary extravagance of booting out the annual Tony Awards from Radio City Music Hall to stage the show there.

There are multiple things wrong with Zarkana, but at the core it's Cirque's 'holier-than-thou' attitude, thinking that they can employ a bunch of randoms and stick them on million dollar projects. Nick Littlemore has no qualifications to work in theatre, and the only success he's ever had is with one song by Empire of the Sun. He's totally unsuitable to work with Cirque and I hope they fire him as soon as possible and replace him with an authentic Broadway composer.

I have no more words. I just had to share this with you "in all its horrifying glory" (Tolotti 2011).

I was utterly speechless at how bad this was the first time I heard it. I can't believe this is featured in a professional production - and more-so, I can't believe this is featured in a multi-million dollar professional production on BROADWAY, where music is arguably the most important aspect of any production. My friend Roderick managed to sum up the piece in words beyond perfection.

"[The song is] nothing but primal screams, earth-shattering cacophonous sounds and screeches not only powerful enough to wake the dead, but can also bring back dinosaurs and animals from extinction dating back to the early stages of the Paleozoic era." - Rod Digga, 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twilight is Pretty Bad, But it's Okay

The first book the series is the best.
I'd just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and I was exhausted. I bought it last year in November at the same time when I bought my Dad a copy, in an attempt to read it together so we'd have something to discuss. Of course I failed because I got sidetracked with Dream (which I also haven't finished) so I finally picked the book up around September this year. It was a very hard read since Dickens describes everything in detail before diverting the story by embarking on these gargantuan tangents which really try my patience, so I decided that to feel like I was competant reader again.

My family is very book enthusiastic, and since I'd read Harry Potter over a few weeks in July I decided that I should probably try its self proclaimed enemy, The Twilight Saga. There is this weird, unwarranted competition and resentment between Harry Potter and Twilight, which is a little confusing since their genre and content is entirely different. I guess it all boils down to the fans of Twilight proclaiming their enjoyment the franchise more than Harry Potter, and Harry Potter fans are sort of totally crazy defensive. Mum had read them last year and said she somewhat enjoyed them although didn't try to hide that she was bored in certain points in the series. I'd seen the first two Twilight movies and remembered they were pretty bad, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was.

Believe it or not, and despite the fact that I'm about to grill its faults, I actually enjoyed the series for some mindless reading. Although I'll never rank it among my favourite books or something I'll recommend to people, it was mysteriously easy to just get swept up in the craze . . . despite the fact nothing really happened? 

For those who haven't read the books, the series is written by Mormon Stephanie Meyer, a suburban mom who claims the idea of the books came to her in a vivid dream. The series revolves around the fairly average teenager Bella who goes to live with her father in the most boring redneck town in the world. She attracts the attention of the most gorgeous boy in the entire town, the enigmatic Edward Cullen, before she is swept away by the romance and discovers that he is a vampire. There's no point describing the overall story arc in depth because basically everything just turns out exactly perfect.

The two lead characters are so loathsome. Bella is outrageously pretty, smart, and has so much potential, but she always finds a way to sabotage herself. I just feel like if her character could have fun, we would actually identify her more as a person rather than a bland and wooden character. She is absolutely useless, avoids making friends and avoids socialising, and if she's not with Edward she is irrationally and stupidly occupied about worrying about where he is. In one of the books, Edward's sister Alice invites Bella over for the weekend to go shopping and have a girl's night, and although Bella goes she manages to think about Edward the whole time, worry where he is, worry if he's done his hair, etc. She's just such a boring character without any really redeeming features. One thing I will attribute to the brilliance of the character is the faceless and universal appeal she has. Meyer's lack of intricate description and uniqueness of the character enables girls everywhere to plaster themselves into Bella's role. The sweeping and enticing idea of having a perfectly beautiful boyfriend when you're just an average girl must have a great appeal.

Edward is a borderline stalker, and he's proud of it. In the first book he admits that he watches Bella sleep, and watched her for months before they started 'dating'. That is so fucking creepy. He wasn't even bashful or a little embarrassed by his infatuation, and without that little flaw I felt totally alienated by him. Meyer has written this perfect and flawless character that can never do any wrong, who does these things that make him look like a compulsive control freak. He is a perfect match for Bella, and he never has any fun either. He is always assuring her he loves her (more than she loves him), declaring that he is not good for her, worrying if she's safe, following her around, telling her where she can and can't go, telling her how beautiful she is, taking giant risks and making decisions without thinking things through. Meyer explains through the progression of the novels that this is all excusable since it falls under the guise of 'passion'. In small doses, and with some variation of the character's attributes, this would be kinda sweet and I suppose acceptable. But ever 10 pages Edward must say something from the list above. It's so tiresome, and by halfway through the second book I was done with the character.

I didn't care for Jacob and his irrational childish behaviour.

The two lead characters running stupidly through a forest in slow-motion (New Moon).
The characterisation is the key problem with the books. Due to the repetitive nature of their interaction the saga is just ultimately uneventful since it just circles around itself. To make it worse, nothing ever really happens in the plot since characters always manage to thwart any of the major decisions that the other is going to make. Bella just manages to stop Edward killing himself, the Cullens manage to prevent the Volturi fighting them, Edward returns to stop any relationship with Jacob. The list goes on. Somewhat like Dickens, but lacking the sophistication and charm, Meyer goes off on tangents around characters that are never featured or didn't really require a 50 page back-story. The one thing that does happen is that Bella has a baby. I'm clueless as to how, since her husband is a vampire with no blood so it'd be pretty hard to get a boner and then you have the problem that his seed is over 100 years old. But it's okay to have loopholes since it's Twilight (for example, the vampires are frenzied when they smell blood, but Bella has no problem hanging around with her special time of the month).

I love (and when I say 'love' I'm being sarcastic, so I actually mean 'loathe') when Meyer throws in some references to classic novels in a vapid attempt to make us think she's well educated. Bella is, of course, a fan of English literature, and she describes her life events as parallels to famous works. In one of the books she describes one of her loves as 'just like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights', when describing her pseudo love triangle she busts out 'oh this is just like when Paris was in love with Juliet in Romeo and Juliet', and when a message to her is hidden in a book it is conveniently placed in The Merchant of Venice where a reflection of the series is made in relation to the characters in the play. Meyer also manages to squeeze in dozens of enormously complex words, the kind that should be reserved and used sporadically in academic essays (some of my favourite being irrevocably, chagrin, - actually, I have to stop there. I had actually planned to find more but I can't be bothered looking at the book anymore). The intent just oozes off the page since you know she wants to follow it with a statement like "which I've read and therefore makes me a competent author so literature critics back off!"

My triumph with the series is the fact that I have actually experienced a literature phenomenon. In his usual air of superiority, my brother scoffed at me for reading the book. I told him that I would like to read the series so that I can have a real opinion of the book before I evaluate it. He scoffed on and told me the books were rubbish, and I asked him if he had read them. He stumbled for a second and then confirmed he didn't need to read them, because "they're just a typical girl's wet dream fantasy". I loooove the little knowledge that my brother is just too snobbish to experience something first hand and then make a judgement, rather riding on the views of other people, and it makes me feel good that I draw my own opinions. While the series is hardly a suitable example for good literature, moments of the series are actually quite compelling and at certain times in the books I was very engaged (however, I'd say equally, if not moreso, I found moments to be a bit dull).

Despite the series of flaws, the series is undeniably a literature phenomenon. It has captivated audiences all over the world and managed a huge profit of while popularising and greatly expanding the demand for sci-fi romances in the market. It's fairly poorly written, but it can be engaging at times . . . although I'm not sure how. Nothing really happened in the overall story arc, but I'm glad that I can honestly say I've experienced the series and am entitled to make a judgement on the books, unlike some people. But I sorely need to read a comedy or something serious now to prove I am a real reader.

I re-watched the movies and they're a whole different realm of stupid.

TL;DR Version - I'm glad I've read the series so I can now judge it fairly, rather than other people who just dismiss it. It's not as bad as everyone says it is, but it's flaws are characters, plot, and the wanky writing so . . . pretty much everything. But it still manages to be somewhat interesting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Fractions' by QTC

Prior to Fractions, the only exposure I'd had with Hypatia had been through glancing over her Wikipedia article, and watching Agora (both were pretty distressing). Based on the life of a female mathematician who is ostracised and later executed by zealous Christians, Marcel Dorney's new dramatisation of the life of Hypatia is magical, drawing upon historical events and recounts as inspiration to create a new telling of her final years and the fate of the Library of Alexandria. Fractions is a stunning piece created by an incredible cast and wonderful technical elements which I really recommend you make the trip to see.

The cast were all magnificent so I'm going to go ahead and write a big ol' block of text to describe them all. Jolene Anderson is mesmerising as Hypatia. She performs with an incredible mix of grace, passion and ferocity, communicating Hypatia's strong values and ethics mixed with the stubbornness that is her undoing. Hugh Parker portrays Orestes in a similar manner, firm and trusting as a paragon of order and justice that tries to resist and maintain the fragile balance of the political and the religious. I tip my non-existent hat to Jason Klaren who played Kyril, the loathsome and detestable antagonist. People around me uttered painful moans and protests whenever he appeared on stage and while he spoke something negative (which was all the time). It was lovely to see Lucus Stibbard on stage again, his characters were performed sincerely and were extremely likeable (he always carries this vibe of youthfulness and energy about him). The audience adored Eugene Gilfedder as the old Rika, the battered and candid soldier who provided some comic relief through his commentary. I was thrown a little by his crazy accent but the tenderness and genuine concern he showed for Hypatia and her obsession was a wonderful touch of humanity. This was easily the best cast I've seen in a professional production this year.

My favourite moment was when Hypatia addresses the audience and snaps that if the crowd want to talk, they can go outside. I burst out laughing and she shot the most FEROCIOUS look at me. Loved it.

This text is pretty anti-Christianity, and it's pretty obvious that the action of forcing your belief on someone is still socially unacceptable today. But some people just insist doing it.... around every ten minutes there will be at least one statement from a character which incriminates the religion as an erratic organisation that will blindly put their faith before any logic and common sense (all the plays I've seen by QTC have done this... it's pretty delightful). I initially wondered if Dorney had been influenced at all by Alejandro Amenábar's movie Agora, but upon inspection of the programme Dorney started this in late 2007. I was wondering since the political and religious discourses are pretty hard to miss in this play, although I'm not sure what the overall message of this play was unless it was just to point out Christians were in the wrong around 400CE. They are portrayed as being ignorant, incredulous and slanderous towards people with any other faith (so... pretty much not much has changed). The amount of crap they do and get away with in this play (such as harming those who don't share their faith, burning knowledge that doesn't) is sort of disgusting, but the grotesque factor is intensified since most of it did actually happen in real life. Not sure where I'm going with this paragraph, I just started writing it because it looked like I hadn't written enough for the rest of this blog.

Joleen Anderson plays 'Hypatia' in Fractions.
I did love the show but it's not without its problems - it has pacing issues during some of the lengthier speeches in Act One (I found myself wondering if you can buy sour cream that you can just pour onto food, like you see on TV with soup... like, you can get sour cream in a carton and spoon it onto food, but can you get it in a form that's similar to milk?) and I found the flow of dialogue really erratic with the fusion of random modern day words and colloquialisms. I guess I could super-analyse it and look into why the direction was picked but overall I think the choice of some words sounded a little sloppy and disrupted the flow of the piece, and also partially took away from the location of the work.

These are minor concerns though, especially seeing as most of the time I was enamoured with the set. Simone Romaniuk's and Ben Hughes' visions for their design was gorgeous. The stage is a simple set up with doors on each side and a table in the middle. Simple design, but above the actors were shelves that held hundreds of rolled scrolls of various sizes. Combined with the evocative lighting hues ranging from fragile blues to bright gold, the stage was nothing short of beautiful and the library resonated with grandeur. I was also really pleased with Brett Collery's work as sound designer and composer. The main tune of the show was played by a forlorn cello with a crap-load of reverb that evoked a bunch of different emotions at once.  The music was ample, but if anything I would have liked to have heard more of it since it added a lot. I didn't really hear a distinct motif or notice any significance in terms of the music commenting on the action, but it was paired really well and heightened emotion.

The melancholic Fractions is the best QTC piece I've seen (ever) and is definitely one of the better professional productions I've caught this year. The cast are wonderful, the music, set and lighting all compliment each other perfectly, and the text is definitely worth experiencing since we'll never know what really happened to Hypatia (except she was systematically and brutally murdered by irrational Christians).

Tickets for Queensland Theatre Company's Fractions range from $30 to $75, and is showing until December 10th. Book by visiting QPAC's website or by calling 136 246.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Fucking finally. Sometimes I want to scream and smash my violin across my knee because all the ideas I have in my head I can't actually express properly through Pro Tools or written down. Tonight I decided I wanted to write down an idea for a piano waltz I've had in my head for the last month. As usual it sounds great when I play it on our grand, it sounds shit in Sibelius, but then when I transfer it into Pro Tools there is something infuriatingly bad about the quality. It's all because I can't handle synth cellos and pianos. They're just fucking unacceptable. It's annoying that most of the instruments I write for are piano and strings and both are disgusting when computers try to re-create the sound.

So I got pissed off for a while then I decided to play around with some of the other options. I went back and cut down all the parts so it's mostly just semibreves for the main melody and I ended up with a soft synth pad setting called 'Shimmer' to play the bass, added two 'music boxes' to replace the left hand, and a celeste to replace the melody. Then I cut the entire piece in half because I couldn't handle the stress of redoing all the parts tonight.

And it may only be about 10 seconds long but it sounds like something that would be reasonably okay to have in a show. Like, if it was fleshed out, had better mixing, had the rest of the instrumentation and providing it was appropriate to the scene and the main melody had been introduced previously, and so on. If you'd like to listen to it, I uploaded it here just so I can keep track of what I'm writing and so on. It's sounds so unprofessional, but something that could probably pass in pro-am theatre. I wonder what Steve Toulmin uses? Maybe I should just swap over to sound designing instead?

Just give me a freaking microphone already!!!

Also this is my 100th post on Blogspot. Happy Birthday to me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pygmalion by QTC

Melanie Zanetti looks about 40 in this 'photo', but looks about 18 in real life.
If you loved the feel-good score of My Fair Lady, you'll already be familiar with the story of Pygmalion. Directed by Michael Gow, the piece is showing at QPAC's Playhouse after being delayed by the Queensland floods. Since I'd been putting off viewing the show for a few weeks, I finally got to see it last night and thought it was alright. It has a lot of weaknesses, but its cast is lead by two very good actors and experiencing the script was worthwhile.

The cast are pretty good with the stand-outs for me being the two leads. The prolific Melanie Zanetti plays Eliza Doolittle, a shrill street-rat who throughout the story is transformed into glamorous and 'proper' lady. I hated the character, but also feel that Zanetti's portrayal of the character is exactly as it should have been - really tedious to begin with before her transformation to a respectable (hilarious) woman. Robert Coleby's performance of Professor Higgins was thoroughly enjoyable, totally embodying and personifying misogyny through every minutiae of his body as a wonderfully frank and witty character. I disliked Gow's direction for the ensemble, which involved the overplaying of several minor roles. The ensemble seemed under-utilised, and when they did find a use for them it seemed inappropriate - the introduction to each scene by the chorus members were totally unnecessary and detracted from the immersion of the play. Unfortunately Shaw writes gargantuan chunks for Alfred Doolittle to speak every time he enters the stage, so anything involving Chris Betts on stage just made me want to die. I just couldn't maintain my interest in anything being said and couldn't contain my desire to eat the delicious Coles' brand coke bottle lollies in my bag. There were dozens of times where I couldn't hear lines properly because the accents were so atrocious, spoken too fast, or not enunciated properly.
Robert Coleby (Higgins) and Melanni Zanetti (Eliza).
It needs to be said that the first stage of Eliza's transformation and meeting with Mrs. Higgins was nothing short of incredible. Perfectly orchestrated, Zanetti parades around the stage awkwardly shouting "HOW DO YOU DOOO?" at the cast, and her long winded statements about the weather and how her aunt died of pneumonia had me howling with laughter - I didn't have a problem being the only one in the theatre laughing. I loved the follow up with a delightfully excited Kerith Atkinson as Clara tries to emulate her behaviour believing it to be stylish. Combined with the snide comments of Professor Higgins the scene is an absolute riot. 

What I LOVE about Pygmalion is its witty script. It's oozing with all these cracking situational comments, tongue-in-cheek remarks on society and misogynistic slander. I don't care what other people think, misogyny is funny because it's so absurd - and when people get offended by it, it's hilarious. I think the script, of Act One at least, was probably my favourite aspect of the play. It's a glorious mirror to what Victorian society was like, and to an extent Gow has directed the piece in areas to have relevant commentary on how our modern society works. My absolute favourite moment was during the fantastic scene at the end of Act One, when discussing the word 'fuck' ('bloody' in the original script) Clara remarks "Such nonsense, all this early Victorian prudery!". I think it's genius of Shaw (and Gow) to make a teasing observation of the social hierarchy - why all this stuffy behaviour over a word? "And it's so quaint, and gives such a smart emphasis to things that are not in themselves very witty." Too fucking right. Regrettably the script does seem to lag at moments in Act One, and then eventually curls up and dies at the end of Act Two. By the piece's conclusion, all around me people were yawning, sighing and examining their nails. I just wasn't invested at all, and I was just thinking about eating ice-cream (you know, those cheap, nasty ice-cream cones from Maccas for 50 cents) and imaging how hard it would be to play the keyboard part in Iris. The final scenes are exasperatingly long and it seemed like everything was just going around in circles.
Robert Coleby (Higgins) and Melanni Zanetti (Eliza).
The sound design was unbelievably boring. I'm not sure if it's the Playhouse, or QTC, or both, but the sound was just dead since it didn't go anywhere across the audience. The voices of the actors seemed to be hollow and didn't resonate (that's definitely due to acoustics), and due to the lack of the noise surrounding us in the voices and effect there was no immersion into the play. It was very obvious that the audience was watching a play rather than being drawn into another world. It's difficult to say why the choices of songs seemed inappropriate, particularly the ending song, but the over-romanticised soundtrack that was ripped from the 50s or something didn't fit into a 19th century setting. It would have been more suitable to have an instrumental soundtrack, there could have been some great musical commonality with The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba as it was mentioned in the script.

I enjoyed the set design, which was a use multiple scrim to reveal different areas and locations of the play. A clever use of the scrim was using a small follow-spot navigates around a gigantic detailed map of London to shift the action of the play without the need to move the set. While I mostly liked what was happening on the stage overall there is so much wasted space. There is a wonderful sense of Victorian lavishness in the set, but above the actor's shoulders there was nothing going on. Too much wasted space for such a witty and intimate show. I have no idea what they could have put up there, but anything would have been better than the nothing that was there.

So overall I liked Pygmalion due to the acting and the script, but there were some poor direction choices in terms of the cast, the sound is a disappointment and the set has a lot of wasted space. Since the script also lags in some areas overall there wasn't enough immersion from the production to keep an audience totally captured for the duration. Regardless, the show was enjoyable for what it was. Whatever that is. And it's worth seeing so you can live that glorious scene at the end of Act One.

Tickets for Queensland Theatre Company's Pygmalion range from $30 to $75, and is showing until November 27th. Book by visiting QPAC's website or by calling 136 246.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trial this for me?

I got inspired by imagery of Dead Puppet Society and the word 'exsanguinate' (ooo it just rolls of the tounge) and made a demo of something... I don't even know what.

If you'd like, you can download it here - leave me a comment or message me what you think, I'd be happy to discuss it. 

It's inspired by Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (the 1st movement, Allegro Moderato), and tries to keep in the vein of impressionist music by not being restricted to a time signature (I'm not even sure what time it's in). Recorded on my handy iPhone, you can hear the cars passing from the road outside (lol) and it's a little muddy and out of tune since I only did one take of all instruments and I had to follow my unpredictable violin solo. I make a couple of mistakes and have some flat notes, and the quality of the iPhone really drowns the volume the bass. But it's good to have a basic idea of something recorded and I reckon I could dig it up for something and re-work it when needed.

I wish I'd taken up my Dad's offer to invest in a microphone too at the same time. I'm still fiddling with Pro Tools but producing some good stuff, it's just I can't bear synth strings. Anyway, something to look forward to...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My new favourite word

My new favourite word is exsanguinate. It's a process which involves the release of blood from the body to a degree sufficient enough to cause death. It's just such a strange collection of letters and it carries this sense of authority, grandeur and enigma. Interestingly it's such a glum process, it's the opposite of the word sanguine, which means that a persons disposition is usual humorous, cheerful and optimistic - and of course passionate. My goal in life is to be described as being sanguine, but it probably won't happen because the word is so archaic. Whatever. Maybe I'll just describe myself as that. I wouldn't like to be described as sanguinary though, which means to be constantly bloodthirsty (although I suppose I am that too).

I had the pleasure of seeing everyone else's Production 1 shows. Two of them I didn't really appreciate, but Caroline Heim's Lysistrata and David Megarrity's Please Be Seated were perfect. Flawless. I adored both and saw them twice. I would have paid a lot of money to see them. Thoroughly enjoyed them. They were my favourite pieces of the year. That makes my three favourite (along with QUT 3rd year actors in Festen by Sean Mee) pieces of the year student theatre pieces. It's so... I dunno, uplifting? Inspiring? Wonderful? to see that you don't need thousands/millions of dollars to create wonderful theatre. Just actors who play their roles with such conviction, an inspiring artistic vision from the director, and a great text. I've already expressed my thanks to all involved, but once again - everyone involved in those productions, well done. I'm devastated that I'll never be able to live those incredible ephemeral moments again.

I don't really like Miss Saigon, but it has its moments. I remember seeing it and giving it a 6/10. Its gotten way too much praise while the score overall is very hit and miss, ambling over dozens of songs that lack direction and likeability. 'Now That I've Seen Her' is probably the worst composition I've ever heard when it comes to musical theatre - it's like they grabbed some notes and threw them on a score and said "that'll do, pig". The worst bit is definitely the libretto, with rhymes that are too obvious and lines that are crass and lack sophistication. Now that my daily bitch is out of the way, regardless, I do really love the song above - it's been in my head every now and then since I saw the show last September. And just because I haven't said anything about anything for a while, I thought I'd share that. 'You Will Not Touch Him' is badass too.

I need to get a new background for this site.

I need a fucking microphone so I can record this music I've written. Computer generated strings and pianos are unacceptable. Necessary to buff up and make your real instruments sound better (a la Sinfonia) but if you rely solely on them to make music it's going to sound regrettably tacky. Go nuts on other instruments though!

I have to write an article for WTF today but I'm not sure what to write about... hoping to interview some local artists to make sure they get some extra coverage for their shows.

Uh that's all for now. Looking forward to sitting down these holidays and writing a lot of stuff... where the fuck is that fucking microphone?!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

World Theatre Festival 2012 Blog

Heads up! I've been offered a place as a World Theatre Festival 2012 ambassador (man I hate that word - it sounds like I'm delegating large quantities of Turkish Delight to foreign countries), and I need to write blog posts at least once and week leading up to the festival. However, as part of the contract I've signed, I'm not allowed to review other theatre I've seen on the same blog, so instead I'll be having a completely different blog which is dedicated to WTF 2012, which you can read here if you're interested.

I'll still be writing my thoughts on everything else here though. Ta-daaaah!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Being Honest is Important

I'm getting tired of being known for this imaginary negative attitude I supposedly have towards art. A lot of people I talk to ask for my opinion on theatre, books, and music, and when they receive my honest opinion they wail about how I "always look for the negative things" in everything. Since I'll be reviewing a lot of theatre for fun in the next year, I just want to clarify that that isn't what I do.

It's true I criticise a lot of things, but that's not out of spite or because I purposely look for the negative aspects in something. When I criticise, I don't criticise because of antipathy to someone or anything uselessly childish like that - what kind of person would decide to dislike someone and just trash them and their work? I always attempt to find the great aspects of shows because let's face it - not enjoying aspects of art, including pieces of theatre, an actor's portrayal of a character, or a style of music is extremely tiring and unpleasant. Why would anyone on this earth bother picking on someone just for the sake of it?

I may have an obscure taste in music, but when it comes down to art (theatre in particular) I know exactly what to expect from a good performance. I enjoy seeing a well-rounded performance with the appropriate input from the actors to connect with the characters, a well crafted sound-scape complimented by a good lighting design, and compelling story to keep me engaged for the entire duration. Honestly, I wish that was the case with every show I see. But, sadly and unavoidably, not all the theatre I see in my life is going to be up to that standard. It's not just random dislike I've developed for certain shows, it's because I personally don't feel fulfilled or awed by the production. Don't forget that when you read my blog, you are reading my thoughts and opinions on something I've experienced. Throwing praise at art that doesn't deserve it is utterly counter-productive because it's just providing a huge ego-stroke to those who don't deserve it.

If you don't write candidly about the pieces, places, and companies that aren't doing a good job by creating horrendous art, when you write with praise about the places that are, you're not going to have any credibility. In my experience, and providing it has some reasoning, people are impressed and refreshed when they receive honest feedback as it gives them a chance to examine their work and create something that's even better. Everything within the creative industries gets defined in relation to each other. By being brutally honest when it's needed about places that aren't serving customers well, you're actually doing a favour to all those creatives that do serve their customers properly - because your praise of them will have some meaning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

* Means Free

From now on, if you read an article by me that has an asterisk in the title, it means I got to experience the product/music/album/event for free.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

'The Hunter' Soundtrack Review

Couldn't find the CD cover, but it looks like this.
Australian films scores are often brushed aside and forgotten about despite possessing impressive and beautiful works that rival scores of Hollywood blockbusters. Following my rekindled love of Australian music by Michael Yezerski, an acquaintance recommended I listen to the soundtrack of The Hunter, and I'm really glad I took her advice because the soundtrack is stunning.

The Hunter is nothing less than gorgeous, with the whole score emitting this serene candour which is stunningly evocative. Co-written by Matteo Zingales, Andrew Lancaster, and Michael Lira, the score of The Hunter is a subdued, but luscious and somewhat surreal through a hybridity of instruments with generated samples. If I had to compare to it any other score I would say it's in a similar sound to Desplat's score of The Painted Veil, Newman's piano work in American Beauty, and Jeremy Soule's score for Guild Wars: Factions. Note how incredible all those scores are, and then place this soundtrack right next to them.

The score is inspired, rendering an otherworldly and empyreal offering for the ears to enjoy. With the foundation of the score being created through beautiful chords produced with a string section, the sound is embellished by a lovely subtle piano in addition to some rhythmic percussion with superb and sensitive mixing which really draws out the emotion of the score. Various moods and elements are evoked through the arrangements, with the score overall flowing as a mellow and cohesive experience.

The whole score is lovely to listen to, but a few tracks are particularly noteworthy. The titular piece 'The Hunter' is wonderful, setting the tone for the rest of the album through its characterisation of a bitter-sweet chord progression that sounds both inspirational but devastatingly tragic (I also love the percussive interlude at the end). It's followed by 'David Martin' which plays in a similar vein with the entrancing strings painting the primary motif of the score. 'Lucy Armstrong' is utterly beautiful, with a lamenting tone evoked through an incredible swelling of the bass with the distant piano. The climax of the album can be heard with a flurry of strings on 'Where Are They Now?' which is simply breathtaking and inspiring. All the other tracks are great too, but I thought I should probably discuss some in detail.

The score for The Hunter is excellent, with some achingly beautiful music. It's not obnoxious and loud, but subtle, delicate and wonderfully colourful. I feel like I've gone around in circles describing the score because it's all so good I feel like I haven't described anything in detail. The team of composers in addition to their production company 'Sonar Music' have crafted an exquisite score that resonates and is inherently evocative. Australian composers on the move, I'm keen to hear their next offering.

The soundtrack for 'The Hunter' is written by Matteo Zingales, Andrew Lancaster, and Michael Lira, and is available on iTunes Australia for $16.99.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Alien in Australia

By R. Godfrey Rivers, 1904.
This is my favourite painting ever. I first saw it, acknowledged it, walked around the entire art gallery, then left, then returned an hour later just to look at it again.

Mylo Xyloto no big deal

I want to write a joke here about MX Magazine.
Mylo Xyloto (say "my-lo zy-le-toe" out loud, then marvel at how superfluous it is) marks Coldplay's further attempt to conquer every single instrument known to man. The album has been hyped up pretty much since the release of Viva La Vida back in 2008, and since Coldplay is seen as one of the world's biggest bands the album has a lot to live up to. Overall the album is fairly ordinary of Coldplay with a few great songs, a few lame ones, and a bunch of stupid transitional tracks that last about 30 seconds that should have just been stuck onto their respective tracks.

The album has a few great moments. "Hurts Like Heaven" is a really good album opener, it's high energy and catchy and distinctly feel good, but the best tracks are spread between the album. "Paradise" is hypnotic, boasting these otherworldly strings which pulsate throughout the song in parallel with multi-layered vocals, synths and piano. The song is entrancing and somewhat seductive, make it the quintessential, good, original sound that Coldplay is world famous for. The middle of the album has "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall", which is somewhat obnoxious with its instrumentation domination scheme and the indie-hip lyrics about being original and partying down to music while emotionally crying (or something like that) is really feel-good with the embellishments and guitar rifts at the same time as a bitching drumbeat. The best moment on the album is "U.F.O" - it's sensibly and appropriately short, with Martin's vocals being suitable and tolerable. The single acoustic guitar is glorified by a gorgeous chorus of strings which evokes a sense of nostalgia while continually evolving.

The rest of the tracks are okay but really nothing special. “Princess of China”, “Charlie Brown” and “Up With the Birds” are effectively elevator music to me. "Us Against the World" is pedestrian - it sounds like a B side from A Rush of Blood to the Head, sounding okay but not particularly memorable or special. "Up in Flames" is dreadful, I just deleted it off my computer. It's such a soapy self-indulgent mope which sounds like a combination of a soft-core porn soundtrack and a dirge, created by the usual Coldplay piano, clichéd 80s synths and loops sprinkled with Martin's woeful falsetto. It may only run at 3:13 but it feels like an eternity, I completely tuned out after 30 seconds. The other disaster is "Don't Let It Break Your Heart" which is just a bombardment of high energy drums, fucking stupid synths and yodelling with seriously bizarre mixing. I just can't handle it, and I don't think I can face listening to it again.

The album is extremely mediocre, and although it's not totally unpleasant and has a few decent songs, I've got no desire to listen to it again when I've got a ton of other great music to experience. I'm fairly sure if this didn't have the word 'Coldplay' tied to it, it wouldn't be doing anywhere near as well as it is on the charts. I'm going to wrap this up right now since I'm going to listen to Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres again because it's over 9000 times more interesting. 

Mylo Xyloto is available worldwide for something like $15.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

La Boite's 2012 Season Launch

La Boite's 2012 Season Launch was amazing fun, and I am ecstatic about next year's line up. I think I got an offer to attend because of the ambassador campaign back in May when me, Jordan, and a couple of other people were put in some brochures to raise some money for La Boite's ambassador program. Let's just get the negativity out of the way: I'm not keen on any of the fonts being used for the show titles, but hopefully at this point they're just placeholders until artwork/design is finalised

The night started off with a video that attacks your senses making references to the season before a frenzied Helen Howard talking about all the opportunities in life that have passed her by concluding with an introduction to the first mainstage show, As You Like It. It will be directed by David Berthold (so expect some shirtless people) and opens in February. I can't wait for this show - the cast has 10 primary actors playing the major roles and an additional chorus of actors in training from QUT and... the other place. I think I heard the total number being something like 18, which I am really excited for since La Boite's biggest cast this year was 7. Glad to see that Thomas Larkin, Kathryn Marquet and Hayden Spencer are also returning to the box. I hope there are some trees or foliage in this show.

The next show that will be a mainstage is Midsummer, a loose adaptation on A Midsummer Night's Dream with songs (which was my original pick for David to direct). Looks like La Boite picked up that Brisbane audiences are lapping up musical material, because this has sold out theatres in the UK and the US - we're even being treated to the original duo cast. Cora Bissett and Matthew Pigeon, who are the mains, popped up on video and said how delighted they were to be coming to Brisbane. Providing that the music is good, I am too.

In May we'll be experiencing A Hoax which is the play I'm least looking forward to. It apparently revolves around an Indigenous woman who allegedly wrote a best-seller memoir, and has been offered to write a sequel - however, it turns out the original was written by a white social worker on her behalf. Panic ensures. The world turns upside down, panic ensures, babies eat dingos, etc. La Boite bills it as a "vicious satire on the politics of identity, modern celebrity and the peddling of abuse culture". Sounds heavy, but I guess we had to have one of them.

I lost my shit when it was announced that The Harbinger was making a return, but as a mainstage, in August. I remembered when David gingerly told us that they were re-working the whole thing, and it makes total sense since the season was a total sell out. I think this could potentially be the show where I leave La Boite loving everything, providing it has better music and less pirates. Dead Puppet Society absolutely deserve all the attention they're getting and I really hope I'm mesmerised by it this time.

The last mainstage show which plays in September til October is Tender Napalm which will also be directed by David Berthold. It's billed as just another love story which evolves into a fantasy of 'tales of golden shores, snakes, serpents, kings, queens and blood'. I just can't really comprehend the description at all, it's that bizarre. It will probably have shirtless people, but judging by the artwork I guess it'll be visually stunning (I hope).

There are 5 Indie shows this year. The Danger Ensemble are returning with Children of War directed by Stephen Mitchell Wright, which will undoubtedly be a winning combination. I'm thrilled that Benjamin Schostakowski's ensemble Monsters Appear will be playing A Tribute of Sorts, which is a piece inspired by Edward Gorey's delicious macabre work. The others I don't really have any opinions on because I was too happy for everyone else. Looking forward to them though.

After that we partied til the cows went home and then went home with the cows and partied some more. I walked around hugging and kissing everyone who was badass, thanked a number of people, continually shouted at David Morton, and sang many obnoxious Sondheim lyrics at various people.

It was an incredible night and all I can say is that I would rather be an ambassador for La Boite next year because I can't wait. In fact, I can't believe it was just yesterday - it feels like years ago already. The 2012 line-up looks explosive, vibrant and unbelievably exciting. Mixing the contemporary with the traditional, as always David Berthold's choice of theatre has totally repositioned La Boite as Brisbane's most compelling theatre venue - there's so much new, exciting talent and originality coming from these shows. I just can't wait. Not sure how I'll sneak into the launch next year, but I sure hope it'll happen.

I never want to wash this off... wish it was Season Launch every night!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Today, in This Week

I thought I should probably write something to bump the picture of the Blobfish down because I've had some complaints about how ugly it is (you savages).

I got a copy of Pro Tools which fucking rocks my socks. It comes with over 6000 samples of audio including loops and instruments. I haven't even scratched the surface of the interface yet - it allows you to edit MIDIs, edit audio, record straight into. Like, I am dying here, I have endless possibilities of what to do now. Dying. Right here. Now I can make REAL demos.

I think I'm excited with the new Coldplay CD, but to be honest in the same day I got two new Jorane CDs and I can't handle them either, they're just so good. I haven't even bothered looking at Coldplay beyond a first listen. I also had a listen to Bruno Corlais' soundtrack for Coraline, which is also gorgeous. A nice eclectic blend of acoustic and orchestra instruments in addition to a kids choir that sings in an imaginary language - the style is very similar to Benoit Jutras' way of composing which I guess makes sense since they share French in their roots. Listened to Parade (OLC) again while doing the dishes and I almost killed myself I forgot how sad it was. I'm soooo indie. Too much good music!

La Boite 2012 Season Launch tomorrow which should be awesome. Also volunteering at QPAC on Thursday and Friday which should be good fun too.

Uhh well that's all for now. We'll finish with a picture I drew especially for you, dear reader, inspired by Picasso.
Don't scroll down any further than this, or you'll see the Blobfish! (You bigot) 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Blobfish That Was Beautiful to Me

I've decided that among all my random ideas for pieces to devise, I've decided that the most attractive project would be on the ugliest of subjects:
Oh, just look at it.
For those not in the know, that gorgeous little specimen is called a Blobfish. There are a bunch of fucking weird things in the ocean, but this one takes the cake for me. They are rarely seen by humans due to the fact they live live deep under the water, off the shores of Tasmania and Victoria right here in Australia. How lucky are we!? Dubbed as "the world's most miserable looking fish" by the London's Daily Telegraph, the Blobfish have no bones because they live hundreds of miles under the surface, where the pressure is so great if they had bones they would be pulverized. Shit man, I'm not even sure if they can swim - they're inedible because they're made out of a mass of gelatinous material which has a density that's slightly less than water, which lets them bob along the ocean floor without exerting any energy. This way they can just float along with their mouths open, eating whatever passes in front.

Lest you ever encounter a floating Blobfish, it would simply devour you whole. Apparently they also make an active effort to consume shellfish such as crabs, but looking at their track-record I find this unlikely, probably just a scandalous rumor concocted to besmirch the untainted reputation of the benevolent Blobfish. The pressing matter is that the Blobfish are currently facing extinction due to deep-sea trawling. They're farmed accidentally in the same areas where lobsters, the arguably better looking species, are harvested. I'm not sure what the rate of reproduction between Blobfish are, but rolls of gelatinous mass couldn't be getting it on too often. Numbers are diminishing, and it's not known if these fish live anywhere else except Australia. Our time is running out!

The look, the sadness in his eyes. Unhappiness can be seductive, but probably not in this case.
Yes, okay, on the first impression they're hideous. Disgusting, fuck ugly monsters. But what an assumption to make to say they're all the same! In the comment sections of news reports across the Internet, these unique creatures have attracted a wall of hateful responses. There is so much potential and content to discuss when it comes to Blobfish. Perhaps a good old fashioned allegory on judging based on appearance? An uplifting tale about self-discovery and finding individuality? Just something to raise awareness about their dreadful plight? I know this entire article has a hint of sarcasm, but I'm serious about raising awareness. These may be grotesque creatures, but their threat of extinction is very real.

I don't know how, but this blogpost has convinced me that this will definitely happen (probably for Capillaries next year?). But to end, I noticed this remarkable discovery. Someone get Dead Puppet Society on the phone, I need to point this out. That's a snapshot of the fat version of Victor Blott from Dead Puppet Society's 2009 show Victor Blott - A Desire to Rot. You may not have noticed it quite so quickly, but if stick eyebrows on our charming gelatinous relations... what do we have here?!

My. God.
The resemblance is uncanny; collaboration is imminent.

But seriously, if anyone in the Brisbane region is keen to help get this ridiculous idea moving, send me a message on Facebook. I think we could be on to something.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

'Mind Games' is Cabaret on Steroids

Jo, being the vixen she is.
I am exhausted from all the brilliant art that has attacked me this week, but I wanted to write down some quick thoughts on Mind Games, in the hope that it will inspire some more people to try to catch the show as soon as possible. But anyway, what a week - the Iris soundtrack, then Ruben Guthrie, and tonight was Mind Games. Written, composed, and performed by the versatile Jo Loth, Mind Games is a cabaret that revolves around the theme of depression and mental health. It's probably not the most marketable show, but it's a crime that Mind Games won't be sold out every night.

Jo Loth storms the stage as her German diva alter-ego, the vivacious and hilarious Jolene Mindtrick. Loth's performance is like a prism held up to light a complex delivery that is just brimming with emotion. With great sensitivity and respect to the subject, she guides the audience through a totally unique experience. Mind Games is funny, charming, and engaging - the entire thing just sparkles with brilliance, captivating the audience through the essence of humanity and honesty.

The ingenuity of this production is the way that Loth's songs incorporate separate narratives into the music. They're funny, ironic, and incredibly touching. Any audience member who has experienced or had contact with depression can empathise with a score of characters which are found throughout the stories within the songs. While Loth has intertwined her personal life with the show, her personal stories never become unbearable or totally immersive since the audience is alienated by the fragmentation and interjections of other stories. Not that it stops us from being connected - the scene where Loth describes spending nights alone crying and contemplating killing herself just left me in a silent wreck. I fucking thought I was going to die from sheer excellence - I don't think I've ever connected with anything so heavily in theatre.

The musical score for this show was the center point and was the highlight. Loth, alongside the exceptionally talented arranger and pianist Wade Gregory, has composed songs that stretch over numerous genres, including rap, country, and faux-classical. The music is catchy, with some stand out tunes that are so touching - they're not pandering or boring compositions either, they're memorable and really enjoyable. Like the genres, Loth's vocals are diverse, flicking between dynamic, sultry, soft, raspy, and operatic with ease. She has a formidable but lilting timbre which adapted to fit all her vocal styles, and she was a delight to listen to. Gregory masters the piano, flicking in improvisations and embellishments on the music to add to that sparkling live element of the production. The duo are exceptional performers and I hope a collaboration or recording of this eventually surfaces because the music was great (despite the fact it destroyed me). I've actually been singing 'I'm Fine' out loud since I left the theatre 4 hours ago.

I wish this show could have had a high budget. I sat there wishing Loth could have a score of musicians, and that MetroArts could have had a more complex lighting and sound set up. The only complaint I have was the encore. After this gorgeous ballad, mixed with these unbelievably inspiring and uplifting speeches that separate the verses, there's an encore. Fair enough, the music is well worth it, but the song is a reprise of the opening song. Fair enough, but the opening song has these lyrics which are pretty heavy, talking about exposing our failures and repeatedly reminding everyone of our humiliations. It's an awesome song melodically, but I would have liked to have heard some cheeky new lyrics rather than feeling that we'd run around in a circle. Would have preferred a reprise of 'I'm Fine', but I guess that would have been an even more unsuitable choice.

The most touching part of the show was the reaction it provoked. There was a table at the back with information and brochures on depression, which a good portion of the audience went up to and collected whatever they wanted. I commented that it was a bit sad that it had to happen at all, but Jo said it was a good thing people were trying to help themselves or others. The idea that people have been so moved by the show as to be inspired to change an aspect of their lives is just a testament to how incredible this night was.

It's hard to comprehend we're still in Brisbane with so much incredible entertainment playing around the corner. I loved Mind Games. I'm planning on seeing it at least three times, it's just so worth it. Engaging through its witty script and the connection it establishes, Mind Games is a captivating and touching performance by Jo Loth and Wade Gregory, who glide through music styles and emotions with ease. Please, please make an effort to see it. I guarantee you will not regret it. And if you do, make sure you recommend the show to someone you don't like so they can hate it as much as you do...

ETA (18/10/11): Caught the show again on Tuesday, and Jo's put in an alternative encore. After the fun reprise of the opening song, she says "Now here's attempt #2 at being a Jazz singer". It's a revelation - a symbolic victory that she's overcome all the obstacles and is finally achieving what she loves. The ending is now wonderful. You go, Jo! 

Tickets for Jo Loth's 'Mind Games' range from $15-$20, and is showing until October 22 and is showing at MetroArts Studio. Book by visiting the Metro Arts website or by calling (07) 3002 7100.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ruben Guthrie - Two Thumbs Up

Just looking at that makes you want to drink something.
Just quietly, between me and you, people who sporadically read this blog, there were dozens of times during Ruben Guthrie where I just wanted to grab (or hug) director David Berthold and just say "Nice job". I think blog reviews are over 9000 times more entertaining to write if I had mounds of scathing criticism, but I can't really fault Ruben Guthrie in any specific area. A dark, contemporary Australian comedy, La Boite have indeed gone out of this scene with an extremely humane production. Ruben Guthrie is a drama that's devastatingly emotionally draining, highly relevant and ultimately, extremely relatable to its audience.

Ruben Guthrie is a 29 year-old creative executive of 'Subliminal', the most successful advertising company in Australia. After a celebratory night resulting in drinking way too much, Ruben's loved ones intervene by claiming he has a problem with alcohol, and ship him off to begin AA meetings. From there, his personal and professional life change dramatically to accommodate his new life of abstaining from alcohol, and the support network of Ruben is firmly tested.

Lauren Orrell (Zorya) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) sizzle with chemistry onstage. Hooray!
The cast are electric, combining to create an ensemble performance that runs the gamut of human emotion. Gyton Grantley stars in the titular role, playing Ruben Guthrie as the cheeky and arrogant, but infuriatingly loveable and obscurely relateable victim. I was originally going to describe Grantley's portrayal of Ruben by comparing it to something like a prism held up to a light that omitted different colours depending on how you looked at it, but I haven't slept in a while so it would be silly for me to try and conquer that. But his portrayal is multi-faceted, easily transferring himself between the comedy and his most profound personal thoughts through his impressive ability to tap into performing with inspiring, vivid realism. The role seems gargantuan, and to communicate such a deeply emotional tale of struggle for an audience each night, and to make it seem original each night, there can only be good things said about Grantley's performance. The remainder of the cast are excellent and are almost perfectly cast in their roles, playing them sensitively and realistically, without falling into any notable clichés. Darren Sabadina, who makes his professional stage debut, plays Ruben's closest friend, a shameless and flamboyantly gay socialite and fellow drinks enthusiast called Damien. Filthy in speech and action, Sabadina adorns the role with sly attributes such as continually encouraging Ruben to give into temptation. The rest of the male cast also attempt to deter Ruben off his new path. Hayden Spencer plays the suave and crafty boss, whose talent for devising advertisements pales severely in comparison to his star pupil Ruben. As Ruben's performance drops due to his creativity diminishing from a lack of alcohol, his advice to Ruben is vague, unhelpful, and occasionally contradicting as he simultaneously works to suppress his own personal experiences. Ruben's father, played by John McNeill, is equally unhelpful. In a state of disbelief, his father awkwardly tries to encourage Ruben to continue his initiative, but constantly becomes a hurdle by insisting that Ruben should drink. McNeill's performance is fascinating to watch, as he embodies the Australian attitude of drinking so spot-on. His feel and actions in the role are absolutely natural and believable.

The stand outs are found in the female cast - they were comprised of such vivacious performances that I feel I'll never tire of watching. Lauren Orrell, who in Ruben Guthrie makes her professional stage debut, plays Ruben's fiancée Zorya in a manner that is utterly charming. As Zorya, Orrell steals the stage with her portrayal that balances a weak attempt to emit an icy callousness, which is fragmented by a lovely tenderness towards Ruben which aches of compassion and naiveness. The chemistry between her and Grately is just explosive, oozing with sensuality and character that's both endearing and ultimately tragic. Kathryn Marquet plays Ruben's sponsor and later fiancée Virginia with an ingenious and sort of unnerving mix of a playful and happy-go-lucky girl that often dramatically jumps between being sportive and being utterly domineering and ferociously controlling over Ruben's actions. Marquet's character is so complex, a very sweet and quirky do-gooder who wants the best for Ruben but communicates this horrible, festering, controlling nature that's delivered in lines such as "I'll tell you when you're different" and "Your life is my life now." I literally shook my head in panic when she said those lines - it was just such an incredible achievement in communicating a subtext. Ruben's mother, played by the supremely talented Caroline Kennison, commands the stage so strongly with an air of maternal caring and wisdom, but also unearthed anguish. There were scores of moments where I was touched by the emotion found in her actions, but her soliloquy in the second act is nothing short of brilliant. I was practically moved to tears alongside her, as she regretfully acknowledges to the audience that the men around her have been slowly consumed by alcoholism while she has silently watched on. The performance that the ladies of the cast portray is simply stunning.

Caroline Kennison (Susan) owning the stage with one of her numerous provoking moments.
The most coruscating moment in the drama is when Ruben, severely intoxicated after an intense relapse, hears a series of attempted interventions from his family and friends. Although it started off in a dangerous manner of Ruben mumbling shit like "Mummy, Daddy" (gross. If anyone is writing theatre avoid using those words at all cost. It's almost as corny as having people singing 'Happy Birthday' in a vapid attempt to create some unnerving tension. Anyway, I'll continue writing positive remarks), I ended up with goosebumps in this scene, which was a perfect balance of interaction from the ensemble with Ruben. Wefts and interjections of pre-recorded dialogue in addition to a low key electrical drones are interweaved with Ruben's breakdown and the active dialogue of the ensemble. It's a moment in the drama which is utterly compelling, a moment of truth where each character reveals their personal fragilities and fears to help Ruben slow his insatiable thirst of alcohol. In a warped way I'd say it's a beautiful scene, which shows alcohol as a luxury which potentially can effect anyone's life.

On a whole the show is excellent. Among the comedy there are so many fantastic, entertaining, and moving moments that resonated with me. What's so wonderful about Ruben Guthrie is that it's totally relatable. Most of its audience can totally identify and empathize with these characters on stage - it shows a facet of humanity that hasn't been attained in the mainstage La Boite shows this year til now.  Since drinking is a gigantic part of our lives, the commentary on the attitude Australians have towards alcohol is fascinating since it's absolutely true - the ridicule Ruben receives from his father and his boss after requesting water rather than wine is totally spot on. The anger that Spencer erupts into, bemoaning how Australia has become infested by metrosexuals is undeniably a topical matter that Brendan Cowell has chosen to question at this point in time, and the acknowledgement of the problems of alcohol have become more prevalent due to organisations such as Alchoholics Anonymous seeking a change in awareness. The ingenuity of the text is found through its purpose to question our own association and moderation with alcohol. Says the boy who drank five beers within an hour after the show. Yewww!

There only aspect I wasn't thrilled with was the portrayal of Ruben's friend gay friend Damien. It comes across as really obnoxious. Loud and shameless, he emits the same persona as the Sassy Gay Friend where you just feel the need to eat some fire to get past how grating it is. I get the feeling if he was directed to tone down the outrageous actions and the chemistry between him and Ruben would have been much more intriguing. The moment where Damien breaks down after being called a 'faggot' seemed totally out of character since someone so flamboyant who regularly refers to himself in that manner... it seemed it would have made more sense if he had processed the thought internally and used his voice to express some disappointment. Anyway, one criticism for a 2 hour and 30 minute play isn't too bad.

Darren Sabadina (Damien) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) in the penultimate scene.
Lighting and sound was fine. Although the lighting had something like 9000 lights on at once the only moment where I actively appreciated it was during the glorious creation of the Arctic Circle. I don't really have anything to say about the sound, except that I did enjoy the feel of the rock intro/outroduction. Likewise with the costumes, they were so realistic and relevant I can't say anything beyond it being acceptable, and the set was minimalist so I don't have any words on that either. This wasn't something that evoked an incredible mise-en-scène, but I was thrilled that Ruben Guthrie was actually using the theatre-in-the-round format. The layout and direction of the staging was excellent and I really love the idea that each time you view the show you'll be able to find a new point of view and see scenes in a new light.

Overall, Ruben Guthrie is a wonderful play to end the La Boite season. I'm tempted to call it beautiful, but that doesn't seem to be a term that's popular with anyone at the moment. With a top-notch ensemble of actors led by the charismatic Gyton Grantley, Brendan Cowell's text is vividly brought to life to examine the fragility of the human willpower and question our association with alcohol and note the effects of our actions on our surroundings (like David hitting my beer out of my hand and smashing it on the ground). Totally recommended, although prepare to feel emotionally drained and have an annoying inclination to control yourself the next time you reach for your sixth drink. A tour-de-force of emotion and drama that is worth seeing, two thumbs up.

Tickets for 'Ruben Guthrie' range from $28-$48 (or if we're besties, $18), and is showing until November . Book by visiting La Boite's website or by calling (07) 3007 8600. The photos on this page are taken by Al Caeiro  
which I stole from the resources section of the La Boite website, but it should be okay because it's for promotional purposes so they hopefully make some more money, so don't try to make me the bad guy in all of this, but I'll have no problems with removing them.

Cirque du Soleil and Danny Elfman present Iris - Spectacular

The new, shitty cover.
I was NOT prepared for the brilliance of this soundtrack. I hoped on the bus and saw a link to the album, loaded it, and literally teared up. Enter a lamenting, entrancing and gorgeous piano introduction - listen as it builds, swelling with embellishments of a symphonic orchestra, into a flourishing waltz. All at once the piece is powerful and moving, yet subtle and magical. The new Iris soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil is just brilliant! Danny Elfman provides a style that is simply magical. It's incredible, a compelling and generous creation that draws upon ultra, neo-Romantic composing techniques combined with an eclectic mix of world influences all stamped with Elfman's incredible idiosyncratic pallet. There are beautiful piano melodies, exhilarating string arrangements and bold, brassy moments which render the album to be nothing short of phenomenal.

This is Elfman at his best. Working on this project for a solid two years, as opposed to the usual soundtrack deal of three months on a movie, the soundscape of this album is so varied and dynamic it's hard to comprehend the awesomeness on a first listen. A homage to the scores of movies, this soundtrack draws upon references and reinvents popular and stereotypical movie music styles. There are shout outs to jungle blockbusters like Indiana Jones and King Kong ('Snake Women', 'Patterns'), Gothic and magical scores such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands ('Silent Movie', 'The Twins'), the schmooze vibe tones of the trendy 20's ('Film Noir', 'Movie Studio'), and a tour-de-force homage to the syncopated beats of West Side Story ('Rooftops'). Despite their influences, all the tracks inherently original, and the experience is incredible. I'm actually running out of inventive words to use to describe it. The upbeat 'Kiriki' theme is a brilliant fusion of exhilarating rhymic strings with bows on fire in a distinctly circus and Gothic vibe, and 'Scarlett Balancing' is simply heartbreaking - the lyrics have the potential to be corny and pandering but in this case they come across as esoteric and nebulous combined with the luscious arrangement of the orchestra and the ethereal mixing of the choir.

The most coruscating moment on the album is the exquisite and flawless 'The Broom/Flying Scarlett' arrangement. Beginning with a reprise of the opening tune shared delicately between woodwinds and a solo violin while strings flourish softly behind, the piece is utterly stunning. It provokes this incredible but practically indescribable emotion that resembles something like yearning. It's an ephemeral and achingly beautiful piano waltz paired with this forlorn, angelic voice which fragments and harmonies itself, and slowly layers with chimes and glockenspiels which leads into the striking, driving and powerful orchestra accompaniment. The arrangement is sweeping. Fucking oath, I'm listening to this right now and I am covered in goosebumps -  it's just so good.

It's been way too long since a soundtrack, and a Cirque du Soleil one at that, has moved and resonated with me. It's been an absolute joy to discover this wonderful soundtrack. Danny Elfman has managed to bring his own style to Cirque du Soleil without alienating or messing up its typical world flavour, and the melodies and motifs he has crafted are some of the most beautiful I think I've ever heard in a soundtrack. Iris is simply stunning - to all Elfman fans, soundtrack aficionados, and music lovers, you will not regret listening to this. Check out the link below to get a listen to the album in full streaming. Simple worldclass quality - it's good to see that the Machine du Soleil can still produce magic with the right direction.

Cirque du Soleil's 'IRIS' is written by Danny Elfman, and will be available worldwide on November 22nd for $15 and can be pre-ordered on and the Cirque du Soleil Online Boutique. You can hear the entire album in full streaming at the Iris Official Website.

ETA (18/10/11): They've reverted to the new, shitty cover design. Gross. Way to cock up the CD again, Cirque.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jorane Rocks My Socks

I always enjoy listening to beautiful and talented women.
Really, I bought Evapore by Jorane about 3 years back, and although I've loved it for some reason I never thought to branch out into her other stuff. I found 'Stay' on YouTube and listened to the original over 9000 times. This cover is great too. Watch and enjoy, people. Meanwhile, I want another Jorane CD asap.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Can't Write This Assignment

I have 17 pages of notes, a clear idea of how Robert Lepage makes theatre, and a huge knowledge of KÀ. But I can't seem to write this assignment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five Great Movie Moments

In my eyes, obviously. If you were going to pop up and tell me that "SAM, THATS JUST UR OPINION!", stop right there - because we all know that it's my opinion on the basis that I was the one that said it. This is just a list of five moments that pop into my head if someone ever asks "What are you favourite movie moments?" and they usually haven't heard of them.

This blog post contains major spoilers for any of the movies you haven't seen. So read at your own risk I suppose.

5. Hypatia's Last Walk
Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia and Max Minghella plays Davus.
 Movie: Agora Year: 2009 Director: Alejandro Amenábar Actor(s): Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella 

Agora is a semi-fictional historical drama based on the life of Hypatia (Weisz), a female mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and dreamer from 400 CE. Her perseverance in studying and teaching the subject of stars among the religious turmoil of her time resulted her being ostracised by Christians who believe her to be a witch. In the final scene of the film, Hypatia is dragged to an alter, stripped naked, and is to be skinned alive by the Christians. At the suggestion of her long time friend and once-slave Davus (Minghella), who has felt an unrequited love towards her all his life, the Christians choose to stone her alive instead. In their last few moments together, Davus, after receiving consent from Hypatia, strangles her so she won't feel any pain after her death. Hypatia's body is then stoned and dragged around the city.

I was blubbering in this scene since it was so unbelievably unfair. Those crazy Christians! What was breathtaking about this scene was the acting and the dreadful situations the characters found themselves in. Hypatia gives a small nod, and Davus goes ahead and strangles her - and at that moment there are a series of flashbacks to when they were happy together as friends. My stomach lurched when Hypatia starts struggling for air, and Davus starts silently crying, all complimented perfectly by Dario Marianelli's screeching and otherworldy music. It was just absolutely incredible how much this film instills a sense of mis-justice and remorse. I had to go walk Calcifer in the garden to just cheer up afterwards.

4. Empress Wan's Death
Zhang Ziyi plays Empress Wan in 'The Banquet'.
Movie: The Banquet (Ye Yan)  Year: 2006  Director: Feng Xiaogang  Actor(s): Zhang Ziyi

The Banquet is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and keeping to the story, everyone manages to pop their clogs at the end of the movie. After a dramatic showdown in the Imperial Palace, Empress Wan (Gertrude) is the sole survivor of the imperial bloodline. Believing power to be firmly in her grasp, the scheming Empress' celebrations are interrupted when a flying blade from an unknown source strikes her in the heart. As she is dying, she turns around to face her assailant; her confusion shifts to horror and anguish, as the blade is then dropped into a mossy koi bed, the final shot being of her blood soaking into the water.

I wrote the last few sentences on Wikipedia, so I feel some entitlement to using it on this blog. I love this scene because of the beautiful cinematography, the whole movie is like a moving painting, but this scene in particular because of the wonderful acting of Zhang Ziyi. Her face is beautiful. Sure, she's dying, but the look, which is a mixture of confusion, anger, disbelief, anguish, is just utterly captivating - the emotion just pierces me! Combined with the open work the ending creates, it's very compelling. Paired with the fantastic music of Tan Dun, the scene is like poetry to me.

3. Sophie's Lack of Confidence
Howl (Bale) and Sophie (Mortimer) have a quiet moment in the secret garden.
Movie: Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) Year: 2004  Director: Hayao Miyazaki  
Actor(s): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer

Howl's Moving Castle, inspired by the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name, is a 2004 animated fantasy film. It tells the story of Sophie Hatter, an 18 year old, beautiful young girl who severely lacks confidence in both her abilities and looks. After accidentally angering the wicked Witch of the Waste, she is transformed into an 80 year old woman, and takes refuge in a magical wizard's tower called 'Howl's Moving Castle'. Through her journey she must learn to break her curse by discovering her own confidence in herself.

There are dozens of scenes in this movie that just take my breath away, but I never feel for Sophie quite so much as I do in this scene. During Sophie's (Mortimer) curse, Howl (Bale) takes her to a secret garden. Lost in her wonder and joy of the garden, Sophie's curse slowly fades away, the old woman becoming a laughing young girl again. After a somewhat serious discussion of the future, Sophie asks Howl if he is going away. When Howl assures her that he is just making sure she has a good future, she pleads with him to let her help, saying "even if I'm not pretty... and all I'm good at is cleaning". Howl is taken aback and insists "Sophie, you're beautiful!" but it's too late - the curse has already kicked back in and the youthful Sophie is replaced by the old woman, who simply smiles sadly and says some remarks on how getting old you don't have to worry about beauty. It's heartbreaking, and a little bit inspiring that Sophie acts the way she does, always kicking herself back down. I love the simple dialogue which creates such a vivid insight into the character's emotions, and the beautiful aesthetic of the scene around them.

2. The Baudelaire Mansion Burns Down
 Movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Year: 2004  Director: Brad Silberling  
Actor(s): Emily Browning, Liam Aiken

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a dark comedy film adapted from the widely popular books of the same name. The plot follows the lives of the recently orphaned Baudelaire children, who are being relentlessly pursued by their nefarious guardian, Count Olaf, who wishes to use them to inhered the gigantic fortune their parents left them since their death. After surviving a series of unfortunate events (see what I did there?), the children are taken back to visit the ruins of their beautiful mansion. As they stand in silence, reminiscing the beauty of their old home, the children watch on as their memories are gradually consumed by reality, and they are left standing in the charred remains.

Despite the fact I just explained it above, this scene is just indescribable. The whole thing is led by a chilling and ethereal score by Thomas Newman, with a delicate piano which transforms into the most heartrending and luscious strings I've ever heard in a film score. The children, Violet (Browning), Klaus (Aiken) and Sunny have the most perfect faces - a forlorn look that shows a fusion of misery, disappointment and anguish. The exquisitely effect of the mansion violently fading away to reveal the charred remains is without a doubt one of the most poignant moments I've ever experienced in any movie.

1. The King of the Golden Hall
 Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Year: 2002 Director: Peter Jackson   
Actor(s): Miranda Otto

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a modern epic, and the second instalment of the hugely popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. Set in the universe of Middle Earth, the races, most notably in this movie the humans, are attempting to repel an assault on their homelands by the armies of Sauron. In this scene, following the death of her brother and a creepy molestation scene by her father's advisor, Éowyn (Otto) storms from the room with tears in her eyes, and steps out through the atrium of the Golden Hall to look at her surroundings. The wind blows her hair all over her face, and she looks on in desperation as the flag of her kingdom rips of a nearby pole, and flies into the wind.

Not gonna lie, the best part of this scene is the music. Howard Shore's best work, this moment is played on a Norweigan fiddle called the Hardanger fiddle, which is probably the ultimate music ever heard in a movie. It's tragic, inspiring, beautiful, expressive, magical, most coruscating piece I've ever heard. And that's enough for me. Huzzah!