Monday, May 30, 2022

PYGMALION

 


Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

 Directed and designed by Rachel Hogan. Belconnen Community Theatre. May 27-June 7 2022. Bookings: www.tempotheatre.org.au.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

The cast of Pygmalion

Tempo Theatre is to be congratulated on an excellent amateur theatre revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Many may know the plot of Shaw’s didactic drama about class and language from the popular Lerner and Loewe film, My Fair Lady. In fact, Lerner and Loewe have done the original play a disservice by presenting it as a romantic comedy, rather than as a socialist dissertation on the English class system as defined by language. As Shaw writes in his preface, “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making another Englishman hate or despise him.” The success of Tempo’s Pygmalion under the direction of Rachel Hogan is due to the fact that Hogan has remained true to Shaw’s intent to elevate the status of the English tongue to the superior status of Shakespeare and Milton as Henry Higgins, professor of phonetics declaims. Class and status clash in the opening scene. The scene is set on a cold wet night in front of the Opera House at Covent Garden. Before the curtain rises two suffragettes (Philippa Russell Brown and Kathyrn Holopainen) are seen parading their placards before the audience.  A lady of the night (Kah-mun Wong) offers a red rose to a member of the audience. Opera goers Mrs. Eynsford-Hill (Crystal Mahon)  with her daughter Clara (Ellis French) and son Freddy (Lucas Edmunds) search for a cab to take them home. In the corner Eliza Dolittle sits with her flowers. At the back of the stage sits Henry Higgins (Adam Salter),noting the variety of accents that are uttered from the characters’ mouths and instantly defining their place in society. Higgins places each person according to their speech from the East End to Epsom. He meets kindred spirit and  Indian Sanskrit authority Kershaw Pickering (Thomas Cullen), Although played out on a somewhat cramped setting, director and cast effectively set the scene in its Edwardian period and with characters that are instantly identifiable and real. 

In Scene 2 Shaw inverts the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. Pygmalion’s sculpture was brought to life by Aphrodite. Professor Higgins accepts the bet from Pickering in front of Eliza and his critical housekeeper Mrs. Pearce (perfectly played by Joan White) and vows to turn a living flower-girl within six months  into a duchess, a creation sculpted in his image of a perfectly spoken and elite member of society.  The scene is now set for a battle of wills, a clash of character and the universal struggle for democratic socialism and equality.  

Having set the scene efficiently and effectively on the small Belconnen Community Theatre stage, the success of Tempo’s production rests with the truthful delivery of Shaw’s splendidly authentic text and the performances. Hogan and her cast have achieved an excellent and straightforward  presentation of Shaw’s entertaining, absorbing and thought-provoking social comedy. On a limited budget and during a fraught pandemic, Tempo has staged a revival that is a pleasure to witness.

Meaghan Stewart Eliza Dolittle. Adam Salter Henry Higgins
Shaw’s witty and perspicacious dialogue is beautifully served by some excellent performances. Adam Salter’s Henry Higgins offers a triumphant interpretation of the bombastic, pompous, arrogant and supercilious misogynist, intent on satisfying his egotistical end. Elaine Noon gives a poised and firmly controlled performance as Mrs. Higgins. She displays a commonsensical rationality befitting her maturity and ability to tap into her son’s petulance, vulnerability and filial obedience. Salter is ideally coupled with Meaghan Stewart as Eliza. An actress of enormous accomplishment, Stewart demonstrates that she has the ability to transform from the cockney “guttersnipe” to the refined model of Higgins’s phonetical genius while retaining her wilful, independent nature. Salter and Stewart are the force that gives this production its special appeal They are very well supported by the supporting cast. Peter Fock as Eliza’s father gives a cor blimey performance from his Fagin like entrance to his Carnegie like subjugation to cruel middle class morality. Shaw’s affectionate mockery is given full flavour by Fock’s Dolittle. Tom Cullen’s youthful Pickering lends a restrained tone of civility to the character. His Indian experience obviously makes him an excellent foil to Salter’s professor. 

I have a soft spot for Shaw’s Pygmalion and it is to Tempo’s credit that I was able to sit back and thoroughly enjoy Shaw’s clearly enunciated intent and delight in the touch of period and the natural and honestly depicted performances. I am also a great fan of My Fair Lady, and I was pleased to once again see Bernard Shaw’s original play debunk the romantic comedy of Lerner and Loewe’s  purposefully middle class coated musical. Hummable, singable songs make for much loved musicals but they are not the stuff of Fabian fervour. Tempo deserves special praise for bringing Shaw’s Galatea so pleasingly to life.

 

Entanglement

 Photomedia Exhibition | Brian Rope

ENTANGLEMENT | NOELENE LUCAS

Canberra Contemporary Art Space | Until 12 June 2022

Noelene Lucas is a video installation artist with a background in sculpture. Her work addresses our land from ecological and historical perspectives. It has been curated into major exhibitions in Australia, Europe and Asia, awarded three major Australia Council grants, Thailand, Paris and two Australia Council Tokyo residencies, the latter one deeply affecting both her life and art practice.

Birds are disappearing. Common wild birds connect us to nature. The chance of seeing a Kookaburra in SE Australia has halved since 1999. Those are just three of the messages presented on some of the video panels in this thought-provoking exhibition by Lucas.


Noelene Lucas, Bird text, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Other panels display slowly moving clouds and ocean waters overlaid with words such as Ozone (O3), Halons (CBrClF2), Halogenated Gases – Fluorine (F2), and Black Carbon (PM2.5). Those words are about a colourless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odour and powerful oxidizing properties, unreactive gaseous compounds of carbon with bromine and other halogens known to damage the ozone layer – including a poisonous pale-yellow gas that causes very severe burns on contact with skin, and a climate-forcing agent contributing to global warming.

 


Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_022

I’m no scientist and had to research the meanings of some words when writing this. Nevertheless, the message about environmental changes and damage had been very clear to me whilst actually viewing the works in the gallery.

Another video panel reminds us – if we need any reminder – that “We are dependent for our wellbeing on the wellbeing of the environment.” And yet another informs us that “Filling the Hunter’s existing 23 massive mine voids will cost $25.3 billion but the government holds only $3.3 billion in bonds.”

 


Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_008

This well-presented exhibition leaves visitors in no doubt that environmental issues are important and require urgent attention in order to “Save the planet” – words that passed by, overlaid against clouds, on another video panel.

Bird numbers and habitats have dwindled as we have destroyed many forests and wetlands, plus our previously clean air and water. Birds have disappeared as humans have destroyed their life support systems - as well as our own. So, it is most appropriate that there are also several videos of various birds and of water contaminated with drifting litter. The clear message is everywhere as you walk around the exhibition spending time watching the moving imagery.

 


Noelene Lucas, Galah, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Central to Lucas’s work is her investigation of the land from both environmental and historical perspectives. Land, birds and water quality in the light of climate change are key to the environmental research. At the base of all her video work is the exploration of time and fleeting moments.

 


Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_011

Every day we hear or read about unprecedented flood or fires, that glaciers are melting faster and faster, that people’s homes and gardens are being inundated by rising sea levels. We are told there’s yet another crisis then, thankfully, that it’s passed.

We only have to consider the recent flood events in NSW and Queensland to appreciate the truth of those words. More crises do keep occurring and many of us now expect that, as a result of climate change inaction, they will only happen more and more frequently – that we are moving towards creating a world that our descendants do not deserve. If any reminder of the problem is needed this exhibition serves that purpose most effectively. 

Entanglement highlights so many environmental issues and points to our involvement in the climate change crisis. But it also points to where hope resides - in our contact with other life forms, in seeing and valuing and not being indifferent to the damage that has been done.

This review was published in the Canberra Times of 30.05.22 here. It is also on the author's blog here.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

CHEMICAL REACTION

 


Chain ReACTion. 

Devised and presented by Rebus Theatre at Questacon. Japan Theatre. May 28 2022 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.  

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Following on from its highly successful interactive theatre piece What If Scientists Ruled The World. Rebus Theatre , Canberra’s own theatre company for mixed ability people, has created a new interactive work, Chain ReACTion that was presented in Questacon’s Japan Theatre. The performance that focuses on the issue of chemical contamination is a piece of Forum Theatre that invites an audience to consider the issues and social, political and economic consequences of chemical contamination in the workplace and in the community.

Forum Theatre was created by Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal as an aspect of his Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal regarded audience members as “spectactors”. That is they were invited to be active participants in solving problems, empowering the oppressed and effecting social change. Actors would present a short performance and then invite the audience to ask questions, identify possibilities for change and replace a performer on the stage in order to present their possible solution to the conflict or dilemma. Boal would act as the facilitator or as he termed it The Joker and he would direct the process.

This is the convention adopted by Rebus Theatre to explore the issue of the impact of a fictional chemical compound, Nastoid, that may have been responsible for the deaths of three children from kidney failure as a result of the existence of Nastoids in products produced by the Thing a me bob factory in the country town of Petersville. The danger has come to light as a result of a newspaper article that has released the fact that the scientific creation of the compound has resulted in toxic elements being released.

Rebus has constructed a life and death situation that begs a host of questions in search of answers. Responsibility, accountability and open honest communication are placed under the theatrical microscope. Davison’s performance as the distraught parent in search of answers is particularly compelling, and the human face of this potentially deadly scientific discovery immediately commits the audience  to get to the bottom of the situation. Clinch expertly navigates their participation, directing their questions, inviting their comments and enabling them to see different versions of the performance play out as they try to arrive at solutions. Each performance will vary according to the audience’s suggestions and requests. The actors need to be flexible enough to adapt to different versions or additional scenes in order to provide sufficient evidence for informed decisions to be made. Forum theatre at its best is more than entertaining. It is empowering and a highly effective agent of change.

Six actors and an Auslan interpreter, Brett, occupy the stage.  Professor Theo (Phil Dooley) asks the science communicator  Fiona  (Dr.Johanna  Howes) to prepare a media release on his new discovery at very short notice. She releases the findings to a journalist (Linda Chen) and the report goes viral and comes to the attention of the Mayor of Petersville (Joel Swadling) who invites the science communicator to address the community in the presence of Bruce, the CEO of the factory (Phil Dooley) and Stephan (Robin Davidson), a worker at the factory and the father of one of the children who died. The performance and the audience interaction is deftly facilitated by The Joker (Ali Clinch)

 I was particularly impressed to see how earnestly and vociferously the younger members of the audience cut through prevarication and avoidance of responsibility and action to offer constructive suggestions for resolution. Theirs is the powerful demand for justice and  compassion. Their voice resounds with hope for the future. Although the Mayor appears more concerned with attendance at the Christmas feste, the spectactors have succeeded in having the factory closed down and the workers paid during the closure until firm evidence can be presented

Boal provided an opportunity for ordinary people to play a role in empowering a community to enact change. RebusTheatre has taken on the mantle in Chemical ReACTion. All injustice, all inequity and all oppression is placed under the microscope for all to challenge. Judging by the  enthusiastic and committed interaction of the audience at Chemical ReACTion, Rebus once again asserts itself as a theatre company determined to make a difference.


BECOME THE ONE by Adam Fawcett

 

Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski  in "Become the One"

Directed by Lyall Brooks. Composition and sound design by Tom Backhaus.

Presented by Lab Kelpie at   Belco Arts 26 and 27 May.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

 

 “Become the One” is the first play by Victorian playwright, Adam Fawcett. It won the 2018 Playtime Award for new queer writing, and has been remounted in 2022 for an extensive tour of Victoria.  This short season at Belco Arts comes at the end of that tour.

Thoughtful, witty and entertaining “Become the One” explores a romantic relationship between a high-profile AFL footballer and his openly gay partner, written from the perspective of the partner.

Tom is a top AFL player in line for a Brownlow medal. He lives alone in a trendy high-rise apartment. When he finds himself attracted to Noah at their very first meeting, he resists the attraction by putting on a gruff front.  Noah, who is in no doubt about his own sexuality, playfully tests the ground with playful banter.

Despite his denials that “he is not gay”, Tom employs Noah as his cleaner, and very quickly their relationship becomes passionate. Eventually Tom invites Noah to move into his apartment, but on the condition that their relationship remain secret from his associates, especially his mother and his adoring fans.

Although Noah agrees to this arrangement and understands Tom’s reasons, he continually questions Tom about the authenticity of his feelings. However when on the eve of the announcement of the  Brownlow Medal when Tom announces he will give up his football career as proof of the importance of their relationship to him, Noah is shocked and begs Tom to reconsider his decision.

Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski in "Become the One"


Stylishly directed by Lyall Brooks with the intimate scenes frankly and sensitively staged, the play is presented in an attractive astro-turf setting which cleverly evokes Tom’s luxury high-rise apartment complete with replica Eames chair. Atmospheric musical links by Tom Backhouse cover the quick costume changes by the actors to denote the passage of time.  These became a little confusing at Belco Arts as apparently the actors couldn’t move behind the set so had to do a quick dash in front of the audience to be on the correct side for their entrances.

Perfectly cast, both actors gave compelling performances. Chris Asimos was perfectly believable as Tom, the buff champion footballer fighting to understand his sexuality but terrified it would become public knowledge. Similarly Mason Gasowski’s portrayal made it easy to understand Tom's attraction to Noah’s flamboyance while capturing Noah’s insecurity about the depth of Tom’s feelings and difficulty in accepting that he had “Become the One”.   

                                                                Photos supplied


       This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 28.05.22

Saturday, May 28, 2022

TERRA FIRMA - QL2 Dance.

 

"Metal Park" choreographed by Melanie Lane

Choreographed by Melanie Park, Cadi McCarthy and Stephen and Lilah Gow.

Composed by Adam Ventoura, Christopher Clark, Zackari Watt.

Costumes designed by Cate Clelland – Lighting designed by Mark Dyson.

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse 26th - 28th May.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

 

Ql2 Dance varies from other dance companies in that its works are always created around social issues of concern to its young participants.  The dancers are encouraged to study the issues and contribute ideas on how their thoughts can be expressed in dance terms.

 Professional choreographers work with the dancers to translate these ideas into cohesive ensemble dance works, thereby giving the young dancers invaluable insights into the process of dance creation.

This process has been nurtured by Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne, who for the last 23 years has surrounded her dancers with professional choreographers, designers and composers to bring those ideas to fruition.

The concept for this year’s presentation is “Terra Firma”, a triple bill of three separate dance works examining concepts of solid ground in an ever- changing world. The works were created under particularly difficult conditions as a result of the Covid pandemic, with dancers having to rehearse in masks, and in some cases via Zoom. None of which is evident in the three powerful works which make up the program, which were danced with extraordinary commitment and precision by the 25 dancers involved.

"Metal Park" choreographed by Melanie Lane.


Melanie Lane explored materialism through the relationship between body, objects and our built environment with her work “Metal Park”. It commenced with the dancers grouped in a striking, dimly lit tableau. As the tableau unfolded four large black objects emerged which were revealed as black garbage suggesting waste.

Working to an atmospheric score by Christopher Clark which featured repeated harsh metallic sounds, the busy dancers, costumed in shades of grey, white and black, moved between mechanical unison movement, groupings in which they strained against each other and acrobatic tableau’s, various household items and long rods to create a powerfully conceived and performed evocation of modern society.

" Shifting Ground" choreographed by Cadi McCarthy.


Cadi McCarthy, with her work, “Shifting Ground” which was performed to a dramatic soundscape composed by Zackari Watt , called on her dancers to explore the shifting environmental, political, social and emotional terrains in which they exist.

For this work, which included four visiting dancers from McCarthy’s own Newcastle youth dance ensemble, Flipside, McCarthy employed a fascinating movement repertoire which required the dancers, costumed in attractive rust and black costumes, to break into two groups to perform complex unison movement to protect their domains, before appearing to reject overtures of intimacy and finally ending with a prostrate figure alone on the stage.

'Tides of Time" choreographed by Stephen and Lilah Gow.


The third work “Tides of Time” by husband and wife choreographers, Stephen and Lilah Gow, explored notions of time, questioning ideas of present, past and future. Working to Adam Ventoura’s compelling soundscape, the work commenced with a stunning filmed sequence by Wildbear Digital in which the dancers seemed to float through blackness until revealed on stage in striking crimson costumes where they competed for the use of an imaginary mirror.

As the work progressed the black background was replaced by beautiful watery images through which the dancers appeared to float. “Tides of Time” is a beautifully choreographed, visually striking work which proved the perfect finale for a memorable evening of challenging, superbly performed new works. For which Cate Clelland’s excellent costumes and Mark Dysons dramatic lighting were outstanding contributions.

The icing on the cake was a triumphant series of cleverly choreographed bows, the work of Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne, which paid homage to each of the works by repeating a snippet from each work performed from the various casts who performed them.

With every aspect superbly produced and performed “Terra Firma” is an outstanding superb example of why QL2 Dance is so admired as the nation’s leading youth dance organisation.


                                                   Images by LORNA SIM


      This review first published  in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 27.05.22

       


 

Pygmalion

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.  Tempo Theatre at Belconnen Community Centre Theatre, May 27 – June 4, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
May 27

Creatives Team:
Director – Rachel Hogan
Lighting Design – Neville Pye; Sound Design – Angus Eckstein
Set Design – Rachel Hogan
Costumes – Rachel Hogan, Sandy Cassidy and Cast

Characters in Order of Appearance:
Suffragettes – Philippa Russell-Brown, Kathryn Holopainen
Clara Eynsford-Hill – Eilis French; Mrs Eynsford-Hill – Crystal Mahon
A Lady of the Night – Kah-mun Wong
Freddy Eynsford-Hill – Lucas Edmunds
Eliza Doolittle – Meaghan Stewart; ‘Kershaw’ Pickering – Thomas Cullen
Henry Higgins – Adam Salter; Mrs Pearce – Joan White
Alfred Doolittle – Peter Fock; Mrs Higgins – Elaine Noon;
Maid – Kathryn Holopainen

________________________________________________________________________________
Tempo Theatre sought out Rachel Hogan to direct, asking for a ‘light’ choice.

Considering what Bernard Shaw himself wrote in 1941, you may wonder about Tempo’s agreeing to do Pygmalion: I wish to boast that Pygmalion has been an extremely successful play, both on stage and screen, all over Europe and North America as well as at home.  It is so intensely and deliberately didactic, and its subject is esteemed so dry, that I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic.  It goes to prove my contention that great art can never be anything else.
[ Preface to Pygmalion, Penguin ]

You may have wondered, too, why Shaw gave it such an awful name, Pygmalion, instead of the oh-so attractive title My Fair Lady.  That Lerner and Loewe musical was staged in 1956, six years after Shaw died; and was made into the famous movie in 1964.  I have always felt that Shaw would have felt ambivalent about the ending of My Fair Lady, where Rex Harrison’s Professor Higgins  is almost avuncular and Julie Andrews’ Eliza reappears as if still wanting him after all, as he sits sadly hearing her recorded voice.

(I have written on this issue previously in my review of the Opera Australia production at https://frankmckone2.blogspot.com/search?q=My+Fair+Lady)

The famous British director Trevor Nunn had no doubts in his 2001 article in The Guardian, Poor Professor Higgins! In George Bernard Shaw's original play, Eliza and Henry don't even get it together. No wonder My Fair Lady is miles better than Pygmalion….But the real achievement of Lerner's adaptation is his insight that the story requires not one, not two, but three personal journeys. Doolittle is changed into a respectable member of the reviled middle classes; Eliza is changed into an new woman once her "guttersnipe" habits are expunged; but the third metamorphosis is of Professor Higgins, who is transformed finally and movingly from a man unable to express his feelings into a more complete emotional human being. Pygmalion is a collection of very brilliant theatrical and comic ideas, but My Fair Lady quite simply is a masterpiece.
[ https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/mar/14/artsfeatures.georgebernardshaw ]

Along with Rachel Hogan, and her excellent cast, including at least two drama teachers, I don’t agree with Trevor Nunn.  Rachel's production is lightly done, with a finesse that is entirely true to the original Shaw play, which he called – ironically – a ‘romantic’ comedy.   

If you want schmaltzy romance, choose My Fair Lady.  If you want the truth, go see Tempo’s Pygmalion, laugh at Adam Salter’s Henry Higgins (because you can’t laugh with him), and enjoy Meaghan Stewart’s irrepressible Eliza – and especially feel with her that tremendous sense of relief that in her determination to be her own person she has found a way to escape her arrogant, even violent, Pygmalion: the sculptor who stupidly falls in ‘love’ (i.e. lust) with his own creation.  Pig-malion, I would call Professor Henry Higgins.

“Tempo Theatre Inc. is a non-profit community theatre organisation proudly serving the Canberra region. We produce and promote live theatre, foster social interaction between people interested in theatre, and promote theatre skills development.”
[ https://tempotheatre.org.au/main/welcome.html ]

Tempo Theatre has served us very well indeed.

Now to the production itself.  

As a Londoner myself, whose grandfather was a true Cockney – born within the sound of Bow Bells (and whose grandmother was Welsh, like Eliza’s according to the phonetics professor) – I was impressed especially with the accuracy of the accents, though I did find the harshness of Peter Fock’s ‘undeserving poor’ voice in his first scene a little hard to follow.  He, and even Meaghan Stewart when in the gutter in the opening scene, could slow the pace to bring out more of the ‘knowing’ quality of the language – which Meaghan captured so beautifully in the ‘not bloody likely’ scene.  Cockney expression, often what I knew as a child as ‘chi-acking’, makes fun of the person being spoken to, while also being an in-joke that the listener – if a true denizen of Tottenham Court Road – appreciates.  (How Shaw, an Irishman, came to understand Cockney so well always amazed me.)

The details of the characterisations was the next element that made this production impressive.  The trick in Bernard Shaw’s writing is to play just enough ‘over-the-top’ in an expressionist style to bring out the subtlety of the comedy (this is Shaw being didactic) at the same time as formulating naturalistic characters which draw upon the audience’s empathetic feelings.  I call this acting both outwards and inwards at the same time.  It makes Shaw’s dialogue special.  Shakespeare did it so well using verse.  Shaw can be harder to fathom: many directors think his dialogue is boring!

Everyone in Hogan’s cast cottoned on wonderfully to Shaw’s intention, placing their character in their social class with just the right personality.  

I was pleased especially to see Elaine Noon’s Mrs Higgins take control of her scenes with the two childish ‘boys’ Henry and Kershaw Pickering; and a similar strength in Joan White’s Mrs Pearce – yet with the recognition of her place as a servant dependent for her income on her employer, the often irascible and childish Professor.  The change in Alfred Doolittle when he comes into the money – but with middle class morality obligations – is easily over-played too far.  Stanley Holloway could get away with this in the romantic My Fair Lady; but Peter Fock got it right as it should be for Pygmalion.  The Eynsford-Hill family also all kept that balance.  We could see them as a real family of individuals without the satire of their class taking over their scenes.

Playing Colonel Pickering as a younger character than is usually done, worked very well.  Thomas Cullen had the class behind him that placed him in Henry Higgins’ environment, while his less imposing figure yet with worldly experience made him able to play more equally with Eliza – allowing the scene in which she explains how important it was for her when he had called her ‘Miss Doolittle’ to have a greater impact for us, in our times where the issues of how men treat women, at all ages and levels of society even within our democratic Parliament, have become exposed so much more openly than in 1914.  Presenting Philippa Russel-Brown and Kathryn Holopainen as suffragettes with Votes for Women signs at Covent Garden made its political point clear – very suitable for Bernard Shaw’s didacticism.

Finally the details of the development in the characters of Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins and their fraught relationship were played out by Meaghan Stewart and Adam Salter with the exact balance needed between the acting outward and acting inward that makes this production a thoroughly satisfying success.

And I must conclude by saying that the staging and set design was thoughtfully done, keeping in mind Shaw’s stage instructions yet working very well in the limited space available on the Belconnen Community Centre’s stage.  And the thunder and lightning which begins the play were appropriately realistic.

Only being able to offer a one-week run is perhaps inevitable for an amateur company, but I must say the standard of this production makes me wish it could go on longer.










 

 

 

 

 

WE BLEED THE SAME

 Photography, Documentary & Installations | Brian Rope

WE BLEED THE SAME | TIM BAUER & LIZ DEEP-JONES

Research School of Social Sciences, ANU | Until September/October 2022

Whilst reporting on conflicts, acclaimed journalist Liz Deep-Jones, was deeply disturbed that they unfolded in the name of religion or racism.  Inspired by a community-led, grassroots initiative ‘Racism Not Welcome’, Deep-Jones joined forces with portrait photographer, Tim Bauer, to present this exhibition ‘We Bleed The Same’.

Deep-Jones grew up in a Lebanese, Arabic-speaking household trying to figure out how she belonged in Australian society where she experienced bigotry. She says the exhibition is “about you, me, humanity!” Bauer is the child of a refugee European father and an Australian mother who taught him to love and respect all human beings.

Thirty-nine women and men from varied backgrounds, religion and race feature in Bauer’s images. And in an accompanying documentary produced by Deep-Jones, they share personal and emotional stories about their diverse cultures and experiences with dangerous and demoralising racism. Like them, we should all be seeking to defeat racism.

As he is a pre-eminent Australian portrait photographer, it is no surprise that Bauer’s diverse images here are simply superb. The people he has wonderfully portrayed include former Race Commissioner Tim Soutphommassane, First Nations Elder Leetona Dungay (whose son David died in custody) and refugee Marcella Kaspar.


Tim Soutphommasane © Tim Bauer


Leetona Dungay © Tim Bauer


Marcella Kaspar © Tim Bauer

Lovemore N'dou, one of the other incredible people featured, had a successful early career in boxing but, due to South Africa’s apartheid policies, was not allowed to compete internationally. He migrated to Australia and continued his boxing career before becoming a lawyer.

 


Lovemore Ndou © Tim Bauer

There is Australian-born Uyghur woman Subhi Bora, indigenous Torres Strait Islander author and union official Thomas Mayor, and Filipino migrant Brenda Gaddi. Also South Sudanese refugee Deng Adut, proud Australian Muslim woman Maryam El-Kiki, and human rights advocate and refugee activist Thanush Selvarasa.

 


Maryam El-Kiki © Tim Bauer


Thanush Selvarasa © Tim Bauer

Accompanying each wonderful Bauer portrait are the subjects’ deeply personal stories in words assembled by Deep-Jones - explaining who they are, what their personal racism experiences have been, and how they are involved with seeking to combat bigotry. Those words take the already powerful images even further - they are profoundly moving. It is highly probable that studying the images and reading the words will make most viewers quite emotional.

From Mayor, we learn “Indigenous people experience racism in this country every day. Racism makes me feel less than human, insignificant, like I’m not even there but we need to stand up and be proud of who we are. We are on our country and that can’t be ignored.”

The exhibition also features various installations - including the interactive Kizuna (Japanese  - meaning ties or bonds) in which family photographs submitted by the local community are being hung from a red Hills Hoist using red strings. The threads of photos represent the connectedness between Australians whilst reflecting our diversity. Deep-Jones hopes this exhibition that she has produced will convey that message and spark visitors into ongoing conversations about racism in Australia.

Another installation comprises vials of fake red blood, each labelled with a name of a portrait subject and, so, symbolising them and shouting, ‘We Bleed The Same.’

There are opportunities for visitors to share their personal experiences of, and views about, racism by writing in red alongside images of a “blood-soaked arm.” And a Cedar Tree of Lebanon installation, inspired by Deep-Jones’ family roots, seeks to touch our souls and ignite our hearts to inspire positive action for humanity.

Deep-Jones expects the exhibition will continue until at least September 2022. It is in the foyer and also the first floor of the RSSS building at the ANU. I urge everyone who can to see this important presentation.

For a great interview with Deep-Jones check here.

This review was published by the Canberra Times on 28/05/22. It is also available on the author's blog here.

BECOME THE ONE

 



Become The One by Adam Fawcett.

  Directed by Lyall Brooks. Compositions and sound design by Tom Backhaus. Performers Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski. Lab Kelpie in association with Belco Arts. Belconnen Arts Centre. May 26-27 2022.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” No truer word was every writ than in the case of the gay love of ace footballer Tom Bardy (Chris Asimos) than that for his cleaner Noah (Mason Gasowski.) Playwright Adam Fawcett’s  Become the One poses a probing conundrum. Why is it that no AFL player has yet come out? The recent coming out of American sportsman Carl Nassib and Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo is an act of considerable courage in a climate of entrenched heterosexuality in the sporting domain. And yet the testosterone charged world of elite football inhibits the freedom of its players to reveal their true sexuality. Fawcett’s play  under the power-charged direction of Lyall Brooks attempts to find an answer to the conundrum. Deeply personal and startlingly honest, Become The One reveals the true cause of silence and fear in admitting to the love that still harbours a lie more than a century after Oscar Wilde spoke of “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Chris Asimos as Tom. Mason Gasowski as Noah

In Asimos and Gasowski Brooks has cast the perfect actors to play out the struggle for an elite sportsman to admit to himself, his family and friends and a nation of fans his true feelings and natural sexuality. Asimos captures the athleticism and toned physicality of the professional football player, while Gasowski emanates the fragility and vulnerability of a self esteem, disparagingly  assaulted by prejudice. What is cleverly captured by Fawcett’s text is the changing status in the relationship of the two men. Tom’s struggle to reconcile his professional and personal persona with the expectation placed on him is contrasted by Noah’s growing assertiveness. Tom’s denial is challenged by Noah’s honesty. “I am not gay.” He cries. “I am not bisexual.” It is a cry that is forced to admit to the truth as Tom desperately seeks a solution to his anguish. It is the journey to resolve and find a resolution that drives Fawcett’s powerfully moving drama.

Asimos and Gasowski inhabit the roles with absolute conviction and intelligence. Asimos perfectly creates Tom’s fa├žade and then proceeds to dismantle the deception to arrive at acceptance. Gasowski’s Noah bears the burden of the outcast. His is such a sensitive and moving performance. Brooks directs with the keen eye of empathy and the heart of compassion. Tom Backhaus’s composition and sound design is riveting, building the tension and underscoring the pain and anguish of Tom’s struggle and Noah’s desperate desire for true love. If lust be the messenger of love then it is ultimately love that must hold full sway in a sea of honesty and trust.

Fawcett’s rollercoaster of emotion and conundrum is played with forceful commitment to its theme. Two men from very different worlds but with a shared love come together to discover and admit to their true selves. Although Become The One is ultimately a queer story, its lessons are universal as it lifts the veil of dishonesty and confusion to reveal a truth that cannot be denied.

At the last performance of its national tour, this very tight production of Become The One continues to be played with vital force and gripping conviction and although we do not learn of Tom’s final decision we are left with the feeling that it is only a matter of time before it will no longer  be a shame to admit to the love that has a proud and loving name.