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.