Two tales of performers at fortyfivedownstairs 1: Max Gillies In 2017, Max came to us with a proposal to perform in our theatre. Eventually we whittled the wishlist down to one of the greatest 20th century classics, Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s…
Greetings from Arts HQ in Flinders Lane! We’re still here, but have tried not to bombard you with too many messages as we continue to work towards reopening our beautiful gallery and theatre. At the moment there’s a bit of…
We’re still around, and still working on the survival and regeneration plan for gallery and theatre! Thank you to all the friends who have contributed so generously to our appeal for help in opening our doors as soon as social…
Hello to friends of fortyfivedownstairs, written from the bunker! Thank you to all those who have donated to Drive to Survive. Actually, it’s not quite a bunker in a corner of the theatre, it’s a very unbusinesslike corner of the…
If you’ve enjoyed an experience at fortyfivedownstairs, chances are you understand the enormous value the arts bring to our quality of life. You’re probably also well aware that our industry is in crisis. Thanks to the support of our staff,…
Tuesday 21 April 2020 In the first terrible days of the pandemic, the fate of the Arts (and particularly the artists) seemed to be forgotten, and their importance to our well-being overlooked. This week their significance has been eloquently expressed…
The intimacy of our theatre space has meant we've had some stunning solo performances over the years. One such performance was by New Zealand actor, Te Kohe Tuhaka, in the 2012 Taki Rua production of John Broughton’s Michael James Manaia.…
fortyfivedownstairs COVID-19 UPDATE April 2020 Thanks to the immediate and generous response of our landlords, fortyfivedownstairs is still in residence, but we’re paddling very hard beneath the surface to stay in a position to re-open when the current health crisis…
EP 3 ASSASSINS & COMPANY from WATCH THIS on Vimeo. A flashback to last decade and the seasons of Assassins (2013) and Company (2015) presented by the Sondheim specialist musical company Watch This at fortyfivedownstairs. This video is part…
The 37th Green Room Awards for Theatre were announced last night via an online presentation, thanks to some clever reshuffling by the Green Room Awards Association. Although we couldn’t be there in person to whoop and cheer the winners and…
Thoughts on Flight from Silence
Lisa Sewards and Anna Taylor
I begin with the title Flight from Silence, rich with associations emblematic of the themes that flow between these two bodies of work.
Sewards has suspended several small drop parachutes from the ceiling, juxtaposed on the left with atmospheric prints of the forest and on the right with an enormous diptych of paintings that depict both parachutes and birds falling through the night. We pause in the silence of a parachute drifting down between trees, generally a symbol of hope, bringing supplies of food, mail and medicine or occasionally a cylinder containing a carrier pigeon that would then be fitted with a new message and set to fly home to its loft.
The silence of the pigeons delivering their crucial messages; their inability to communicate their experience of the treacherous skies of wartime (or our inability to hear it) resonates with the layers of silence born by peoples on all sides of conflict. Absolute silence of course, rests with the dead, but Taylor and Sewards concern themselves with restorative commemoration in the more fluid space of the living.
See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age. Stephen Sondheim show in fine Company at fortyfivedownstairs Home-grown music theatre company Watch This has only been around for a handful of years but in that time has…
See article in its original context here by Nisha Joseph for BUZZCUTS.
Project Series: Young & Jackson the Play, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2015
The year is 1945 and in a bid to defend Chloe against an American serviceman and his glass of beer, Jimmy and Keith step in, all bravado and drunk excitement. The two energetic, newly recruited sailors are itching to get their feet wet and finally be part of the war effort. As the play progresses, we are shown the stark reality of wartime in the form of Les – a more experienced sailor suffering from PTSD – and Lorna. Lorna is shrouded in mystery for the young men; she is a force of nature and a fierce dose of feminism in all the right places.
See article in its original context here by Arts Review.
On the Couch with Jacob Machin
I am a Melbourne-based actor, who spends a vast majority of my time either mucking around on various instruments, eating far more than a single human being ever should or reading literally anything that is within arm’s reach. It’s a tough life.
What would you do differently to what you do now?
Consume more. Not food. Information. I have a thirst for knowledge- whether it be from Dr Karl, Stephen Fry, a book, a film, or my father’s amazing retentive brain. I eat all that interesting trivia up. Just like a tasty snack for my brain. I could actually go for a snack. MnMs. Or Skittles! Or an unhealthy combination of the two. I’m hungry.
Who inspires you and why?
British actors. Oldman, Day-Lewis, Cumberbatch, McAvoy, Hopkins. They have a magnificent theatricality that, through some mysterious alchemy, shines through their eyes. They lace every role with compassion. They listen, they are generous and they are humble. To me they are collectively the epitome of great acting.
See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
Young & Jackson – the pub opposite the clocks at Flinders Street Station – is a Melbourne icon. It celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, and as the setting for Don Reid’s play of the same name, every attempt has been made to recreate the atmosphere, right down to a replica of the famous nude painting in Chloe’s Bar. The audience is seated at tables laden with jugs of lemon squash and longnecks of Melbourne Bitter.
A prequel of sorts to the successful Codgers, the play resurrects the febrile days of World War II. Two teenage mates have enlisted in the navy, and are billeted at the hotel before they’re sent off to fight the Japanese.
There’s Jimmy (Jacon Machin) – a hot-tempered larrikin with an eye for the ladies – and the more gentlemanly, good-natured Keith (Charlie Cousins) sharing a room at the pub. That’s not all they end up sharing with the arrival of Lorna (Gabrielle Scawthorn), an independent-minded woman whose beau was killed in action and who feels compelled to offer company and comfort to the boys going off to war.
The charm and delicacy of the acting in the first half can’t be overstated. Machin and Cousins bring to life not just the period lingo of the script, but a whole lost aspect of Aussie male intimacy.
You don’t see male acting as sharp, or humour as well-tuned as this very often, and it’s a pleasure to watch.
See article in its original context here by Michael Brindley for Stage Whispers.
It’s early 1945 and the war’s not over yet. Two Royal Australian Navy lads, Keith and Jimmy, only seventeen, are in training. Any day now they may be sent ‘up north’ to join the fighting. They don’t know what to expect – although Jimmy thinks he does. The play depicts a series of their weekend leaves. The lads stay at Young & Jackson’s Hotel, having pulled a bit of a swifty to get in there. They get pissed, get into fights with the ‘septics’ (Yanks), rehearse their smutty cabaret skits – all about poofters – and keep an eye out for girls. Then they meet Lorna, eating alone in a Chinese restaurant. She comes back to the lads’ room. She’s got a broken heart and she needs to forget… Meanwhile, Keith’s best mate Les has already been ‘up north’ and he’s in a psychiatric hospital, wracked by visions of what he witnessed.
For interstate readers, Young & Jackson’s is a famous hotel on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets in Melbourne, opposite the iconic Flinders Street Station and almost as iconic itself. It’s famous not least for the near life size nude, ‘Chloe’, that has hung over the bar since 1909. As a history of the hotel says, Chloe may well have been the first naked female a lot of young blokes saw before they went off to die in either war.
See article in its original context here by John Bailey The Age.
Young & Jacksons: A tribute to a Melbourne pub celebrating 140 years
Wayne Harrison is no stranger to the world stage. He’s directed the closing ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the New Year’s Eve Celebrations on Sydney Harbour, and these days when he’s not at home in London he’s jetting across the US directing the Spiegelworld productions in New York and Las Vegas.
It puts him in good stead to comment on the changes his youthful stomping ground of Melbourne has undergone over the decades.
“In Vegas everything has a shelf life of 25 years and in Sydney they managed to destroy all the Victorian and Edwardian theatres, whereas Melbourne very sensibly kept them,” he says. “I think that distinguishes Melbourne. But I have to say that the city I come back to now and enjoy immensely is very different to the one that I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s been completely transformed.”
One of his Spiegelworld outings, Absinthe, opens at Crown this month, but he’s really here to direct a play centred on a Melbourne institution that would spur riots were it ever to be torn down for redevelopment. Young & Jackson Hotel celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, and Harrison is at the helm of the world premiere of a new work named after the venerated old pub.
The show tracks the fortunes of three sailors in the closing days of World War II and a mysterious woman who arrives in their lives. No, she’s not Chloe, though the painting indelibly associated with the hotel’s history of course makes an appearance.
“It seems to me a very Melbourne story,” says Harrison. “Lots of nitty-gritty details from the period are used as the argot of the play.”
There’s far more to it than nostalgia. “The great motivator is what war does to people. It disrupts their lives and then forces them to make choices about their futures. Sometimes they don’t actually know that they’re making those choices, but that’s what happens when they come to Melbourne.”
See article in its original context here by Theatre Alive.
MONDAY MUSINGS WITH CHARLIE COUSINS
A graduate of the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts, Helpmann Award winner and all-round nice guy, Charlie Cousins is probably best known at the moment for his work as Charlie Davis in ABC’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Taking a time out from TV, he’s now about to tread the boards in the world premiere season of Young and Jackson at fortyfivedownstairs. We chatted with him in the lead-up!
Young and Jackson is about these four young adults coming to terms with what it means to truly live on their own terms in a time of great unrest and major change. The Second World War has raged for six long years and has forever left a mark on everyone involved, near and far.
For Jimmy and Keith it is a chance to see the world, have a great adventure and experience life to the full. For Lorna it is the potential to change the rules of how women are seen and the opportunities they are given. For Les, it is the challenge of how to reintegrate back into civilian life after living through the horrors of war.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the piece?
The play is full of so much life; youthful joy and exuberance, sexual awakenings, comedy of errors, missed opportunities, misunderstandings and meaningful connections.
There’s something so special about seeing these four lives being thrust out of that simpler time into a newer, more complicated and frenetic world.
What’s more we get to see how the identity of the nation has changed as we revisit the beautiful and nostalgic period of the 40’s.
It’s going to be a really lovely immersive theatre experience, time travelling back into that world.
See article in its original context here by John Bailey for The Age. Codgers sequel raises the bar The late Don Reid was a stalwart of theatre, film and television. A founding member of Ensemble Theatre, Australia's longest continually running theatre company, and…
See article in its original context here by Kit Vane Tempest for Theatre People.
‘You can’t not be political. It’s like asking if I consider myself a human being.’
Oh, the things I would do for a story. I’m a sophisticated, man-of-the-theatrical-world; I have witnessed wonders and beheld all manner of trickery but seeing a storyteller use only their skill to form characters and their imagination to forge worlds is something that enchants my primitive soul. Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas is a monologue written by Dario Fo, this version is translated by Mario Pirovano, and it is embellished and performed, shared, gifted to us by Steve Gome with the direction of Wayne Pearn. This bardic supergroup presents storytelling with vitality and relevance as Steve Gome took the audience along on this epic adventure.
Dario Fo is a Nobel prize winning playwright who wrote Johan Padan as a response to the celebrations of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. Columbus was an awful person who didn’t discover America but this isn’t the narrative that some people share; some people celebrate this genocidal zealot as noble explorer. Fo, a satirist and practitioner of agitprop theatre, reacted to this by telling the story of the important voyage through the working class voice of Johan Padan who witnesses first-hand the pride, ignorance, and cruelty that makes up the great man. The monologue is written, with space for improvisation, with energy and humour. Pirovano’s translation captures that same level of political vitriol told with a charming smile and occasional buffoonery; an actor’s trick to lessen the sting. These words are powerful and subversive.
See article in its original context here by Andrew Fuhrmann for Daily Review.
The conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo, a veteran of the conquest of Aztec Mexico, was no doubt sincere when he praised Cortés more for spreading the Catholic faith than winning new riches for Spain.
It was the age of maximum strength for Catholicism, a time of ruthless intolerance, of the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. According to Díaz’s, whenever Cortés wasn’t bartering for gold, he was spreading the good news of Jesus Christ — either by remonstrance or the sword.
But not every Catholic was such a zealot.
In Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, Italian Nobel Prize-winning writer Dario Fo satirises Catholic orthodoxy by pointing up its near resemblance in this age of discovery to a religion of death.
It’s a one-man show about a young Italian pantologist — whose own faith is sketchy at best – dodging fanaticism and persecution in both Europe and the New World, from Venice to Florida.
Forced to join the crew of Christopher Columbus on his fourth and final voyage to the Americas, Johan becomes enamoured of the region’s gentle and generous indigenous peoples – even the cannibals. This fondness is matched by his disgust at the sanguinary behaviour of his fellow Christians. Eventually, one lucky break after another, he finds himself leading a large tribe of natives and teaching them his own version of the Christian doctrine, along with how to make fireworks and break a stallion by its testes.
Johan is an irreverent jester, and the humour is consistently bawdy, but also hearty and vigorous: rude in all senses of the word. For example, he’s endlessly fascinated by the nakedness of the natives, especially the women, their tits and buttocks to lucky wind. And still, there’s something delicate in performer Steve Gome’s manner, with his prancing, skipping movements across the stage and the earnestness in his vagrant Italian accent, which points always to Johan’s sensitivity and essential goodness.
The story of Johan and his tribe is introduced in a prologue as an example of the sort of improvised tall tale popular in northern Italy, but it’s also an inspired spoof on the legend of Prester John and his fantastic kingdom in the Orient, full of monsters, marvels and riches: an Earthly Paradise.
See article in its original context here by Rebecca Harkins-Cross for The Age.
Swashbuckling jester shines despite ageing script
When Dario Fo was commissioned to write a play commemorating Christopher Columbus’ exploration of the Americas in 1992, the notoriously irreverent Italian playwright chose a “no-tagonist” stowaway as his narrator, whose epic monologue showed up the brutality and ignorance of the colonial encounter.
Here agitprop takes the form of rollicking lampoonery, performed in the giullare style that Fo revived – a medieval form of jestering grounded in improvisation and oral tradition. At two hours, it’s a feat not only of memory but of physical endurance for any performer, demanding vigorous clowning to play a cast of thousands.
This is a masterful performance from Steve Gome. Under Wayne Pearn’s fine direction, Gome keeps the audience captivated without theatrical aids. He brings an impish spirit and anarchic energy to the wily fugitive, raconteur, fabulist and lothario. This swashbuckling picaresque sees him acting out auto-da-fe, cannibal ceremonies, riding an amorous pig, and copulating in a hammock.
See article in its original context here by Tim Byrne for Johan Padan & the Discovery of the Americas.
Pigs float, if not fly, in this wacky tale of discovery and adventure
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo is not as widely performed in Australia as he should be. One of the world’s leading exponents of agitprop, he has rankled the establishment in Italy for decades, lampooning the Church and ridiculing those in power. Perhaps Fo’s relevance has diminished as his targets have fallen into humiliations of their own making. Nowadays, no one believes the emperor is wearing clothes.
Fo’s response to the quincentennial celebrations of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas,Johan Padan is a highly resonant and action-packed monologue, originally performed by Fo himself but here given life by Steve Gome under strong direction by Wayne Pearn.
Padan is a wily and resourceful narrator; an escapee from the Spanish Inquisition, he hitches a ride to the New World on one of Columbus’s ships. Surviving a shipwreck on the back of a floating pig, he eventually befriends, after narrowly avoiding being eaten by, a tribe of native Americans. With a bit of trickery and a hell of a lot of luck, he manages to become their holy man, and leads them to victory in a battle with the Spanish conquistadors in Florida.
See article in its original context here by Theatre Alive.
Monday Musings with Steve Gome
Steve Gome is a seasoned actor and director, and was most recently seen on Melbourne stages in the role of Schlomo Herzl in George Tabori’s Mein Kampf. Now about to step out onto the stage at fortyfivedownstairs in his latest season of Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, we nabbed some time with him to talk about Dario Fo, one man shows, and“Doc” Neeson…
Tell us a bit about the show. What’s your role within it all?
The play is a fantastical tale. On the one hand it is loosely based on a historical characters and places, on the other it can move into territory like Gulliver’s Travels.
There are all sorts of characters in the play; kings and queens, judges, sailors, priests, a shaman and a couple of chiefs, as well as pigs, parrots, turkeys, monkeys and iguanas?!
As a monologue, my role is to bring all of the characters to life and to bring the audience with me on the adventure.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
My introduction to Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas was seeing Mario Pirovano perform it at the Melbourne Festival in 2003. It made a deep and lasting impression on me. The play was with me for the ten years leading up to me first performing it myself. and it is still very much alive in me now.
My hope is that the audiences will take away their own memories of having been transported to a particular place, having laughed at a truth unexpectedly revealed, and having a sense of having enjoyed an encounter with the beguiling simplicity of story-telling.
See article in its original context here by Kathy Evans for The Age.
Dario Fo’s rollicking satire on New World encounters conveys a timely message about people power
Take Christopher Columbus, sailing the ocean blue and making friends with the natives amid a lush tropical setting. Six centuries later he’s embalmed as a hero of the Western World with his own national holiday, but Italian dramatist Dario Fo’s subversive play, Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, casts him in an altogether much greyer light.
Using vivid wordscapes, the Nobel prize-winning satirist and playwright paints the New World as a place of ostracism, brutality and oppression where conquering Spaniards enslave, maim and kill the local “savages” with relish. They, in turn, think white man, with his God-fearing ways and suppressed desires, is much more interesting as a mouth-watering breakfast.
“It’s a big story, so hard to put into a nutshell,” says Melbourne actor Steve Gome, who is performing the one-man play with a cast of thousands for independent theatre company, Hoy Polloy at fortyfivedownstairs.
Gome first fell in love with Fo’s controversial play over a decade ago when he saw it performed at the Melbourne International Festival. “The colour, sounds and tastes are so evocative and I just became fascinated by it,” he recalls. An industrial officer at United Voice by day and actor by night, he spent many an evening poring over translations of the script, committing sections at a time to memory.
Johan Padan and the Discovery of The Amercias is featured on page 29 of The Australian today!
See article in its original context here by Tim Hunter for TimeOut Melbourne. ★★★★★ Take a trip back to the '80s with the forever young Michael Griffiths and a grand piano Michael Griffiths has performed two shows at fortyfivedownstairs before:Sweet…
See article in its original context here by Sofia Monkiewicz for ArtsHub.
Charming and sincere, Michael Griffiths has put together a sweet little show that certainly makes for a fun night out.
There is no doubt that Michael Griffiths is a talented guy.
With a string of successful performances behind him, including Jersey Boys,Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and several cabaret festival acts across the country, Griffiths has now taken the opportunity to finally put on a show that steers away from the glitz and over-the-top glamour of musical theatre, and focuses on his own life. While this may be considered quite a mature step to take for an experienced performer like Griffiths, his latest creation attempts to debate that exact sentiment; he may have recently turned 40 but he has certainly not grown up.
See article in its original context here by K.E. Weber for Theatre People.
Wayne Pearn Traverses The New World With Johan Padan
Sublime, funny and irreverent – thus sums up the fantastical journey of Johan Padan to the New World. Leftist playwright Dario Fo brings his incisive political slant to this little gem of a play which informs us that the discovery of the Americas is well…not quite what we think.
The play is, in fact, an ‘epic monologue with a cast of thousands’ all performed by one man. Actor, Steve Gome is that man.
Director Wayne Pearn (Artistic Director of Hoy Polloy) and Gome have wanted to work with each other for sometime so – some would say – the planets aligned!
Says Gome of Padan: “He has such an energetic, passionate and cheeky spirit. Johan Padan is a delight. For me, it’s not so much a question of finding the character as keeping up with him.”
Pearn has always been a big fan of Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame – so much so that he studied them and their work at Uni thus planting the seed of serendipity all those years ago.
“It was at La Trobe that a group of us formed a theatre company, Frontline, and we staged a ripping production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist in a derelict church (no pun intended),” says Pearn. ” Fast forward almost 30 years and the opportunity arose to do JP with Steve Gome.”
See article in its original context here by Rebecca Harkins-Cross for The Age. ADOLESCENT ★★★☆ Michael Griffiths "Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved," sings musical theatre performer Michael Griffiths, flashing the audience a cheeky grin. Apparently a career…
See article in its original context here by Suzanne Tate for Theatre People.
I felt a sense of Déjà vu while I waited for Michael Griffith’s Cabaret Adolescent to start. It was almost a year ago that I came to see Griffiths in Sweet Dreams at the same venue, FortyFive Downstairs. The weather was just as hot, and I probably had to battle through the tennis traffic then too, although I don’t remember that. It must have been a fraction cooler this year, as Griffiths didn’t feel the need to apologise to the audience this year as he turned off the large (and noisy) fans that were keeping us all relatively cool. What had not changed was the caliber of the performance, or the enjoyment of the audience.
Rather than focusing on the lives of music idols, as in the previous show, Adolescent focuses on Griffiths’ reflections of his own life and his ongoing refusal to ‘grow up’, despite recently celebrating ‘the Big 40’.
Griffiths opens with an Annie Lennox song, ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’, and continues with a series of 80s hits, as he remembers his actual adolescence. The set is structured as a medley, interspersed with amusing anecdotes from his teen years. Griffiths quickly develops an easy rapport with the audience, and they are as keen to hear his wit as they are to listen to him sing, so the mix works well. Truncating the 80s songs down and stringing them together keeps the mix fresh, and allows us to take a longer work down memory lane than we would have had time for if the whole song was sung. The medley includes songs by Spandau ballet, A-ha, Duran Duran, Howard Jones, and Culture Club.
See article in its original context here by Standing (inn)Ovation.
RIDERS ON THE KALEIDOSCOPE STORM
Rock music changed the day that Jim Morrison stepped out on stage as the front man for The Doors. Widely hailed as the prototypical rock star, his scandalous behaviour, drug-inspired creativity and leather pants would long influence the rock stereotype. And now Luigi Lucente is bringing him back to life in Jim Morrison: Kaleidoscope.
Luigi Lucente has to be Australia’s next great leading man of the theatre. He has appeared in Guys and Dolls, Jersey Boys, Wicked, The Last Five Years, Assassins and Rocky Horror while receiving stellar acclaim for his leading roles in Parade and Pippin in Melbourne last year. And his performance inKaleidoscope only further proves his immense talent.
See article in its original context here by Coral Drouyn for Stage Whispers.
It’s Midummer and Midsumma in Melbourne and that means all kinds of marvellous entertainment. Australian performers do cabaret so well (they have to diversify to keep working) that it’s no surprise to discover that Michael Griffiths’ new show, Adolescent, is a little gem.
Griffiths is in the mode of Michael Feinstein….with an easy laid back charm, marvellous rapport with his audience, a lovely lilting voice and considerable talent at the piano as his own accompanist.
See article in its original context here by Nick Pilgrim for Theatre People.
Formed in 1965 and based in Los Angeles, California, The Doors are remembered as one of America’s foremost, ground-breaking rock groups. The band was fronted by Jim Morrison on vocals, with Ray Manzarek on keyboard, Robby Krieger on guitar, and John Densmore on drums. Tapping into a growing generational rift between restless teenagers and authoritarian adults, the quartet’s rise in status and popularity with young people was dramatic. Morrison in particular, was viewed by fans and peers as a philosophical and poetic anti – hero.
See article in its original context here by Coral Drouyn for Stage Whispers.
The subject is Jim Morrison – eclectic, and some would say tragic, lead singer of The Doors who died in 1971 of a drug overdose. But it’s not the history of Morrison’s life that interests Lucente; this is an introspective rather than a retrospective. Lucente, himself charismatic, intense, with brooding good looks, get inside Morrison’s mind to give us insights into what was going on internally in one of rock’s most iconic “Gods” – The Lizard King.
Superbly accompanying himself on piano…sometimes crashing, angry and threatening, at others, soft and vulnerable, his voice no more than a whisper to the tinkling of bell-like notes, we can almost feel the drug filled haze around the tortured Morrison’s life.