Featured in The Age's Treading the Boards column on 06.01.2015
See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age. Year in review: Melbourne theatre companies reveal stage culture in all its complexity Melbourne was in the grip of festival fever during a bustling year on the theatre…
See article in its original context here by John Bailey for The Age.
Real life disappearing man inspires thrilling venture
In 2009 Aaron Orzech had the kind of encounter you’d expect to find in a Pinter play or an early Ian McEwan novel. The Melbourne actor and his girlfriend were backpacking through a Romanian village when they fell in with an older man who claimed the name of Victor Bergman. Within a day the mercurial and charismatic gent had formed a fast connection with the pair, and within two he had married them in a hastily arranged ceremony. On the third day he vanished. Orzech was left wondering what Bergman had really wanted from the young Australians, and what, in turn, they got from him.
“He was extremely charismatic,” says Orzech. “We’ve got a whole bunch of photos of him and one of the first things that we remarked on was that he does almost look like a different person in every photo. He had these catchphrases that he would use, and he told me a lot of stories that would all end with this line: ‘I never want to see you again’.”
Bergman had an amazing facility with languages, says Orzech. He spoke English fluently with little trace of an accent. “And he was really great fun to be around. With everyone in the village and everyone we met, he would get people on side really quickly. He convinced a whole bunch of people to lend us things for the wedding. He convinced a guy he had never met to lend him a three-piece suit and a stereo.”
See article in its original context here by Richard Watts ArtsHub.
Blood, sweat and fears: establishing an independent theatre company
Plans, personnel, the right project – a number of ingredients are required when setting up a new theatre company.
Running an independent theatre company can be exhausting, heartbreaking work. Conversely, it can also offer theatre-makers enormous freedom, allowing artistic vision to flourish unhindered from commercial imperatives – albeit usually on the smell of an oily rag.
Together with collaborator and designer Romanie Harper, Aaron Orzech has formed Melbourne’s newest independent theatre company, The Family; their debut production, The Collected Works of Victor Bergman, opens at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs in early December.
‘We’d both worked with a bunch of different independent companies, Romanie as a designer and me as a performer, and we really wanted to break out on our own and have some more creative control over our own products. The company came out of a desire to do that,’ Orzech said.
Melbourne has dozens of independent companies, some of which are created to present a specific work before dissolving; others with longer term goals. The Family’s identity and aims are, at this early stage, still in flux.
See article in its original context here by Andrew Fuhrmann for the Australian Book Review.
Anne (Helen Morse) is in her sixties, a grandmother, still doing piece work to support herself while babysitting for her daughter. She begins a relationship with Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe), a much younger man of a different race, an immigrant who is out of work and still finding his feet in his new home. An old white woman and a young coloured man – what will the community think?
Dreamers is an Australian première and marks the first collaboration between playwright Daniel Keene and director Ariette Taylor in more than a decade. Between 1997 and 2002, the two led the Keene/Taylor Theatre Project, a small ensemble which presented more than forty-seven shows and influenced a generation of theatre artists. Back then, they focused on the lives of the urban underclasses and on characters on the margins of society. Here, in a one-off collaboration, they turn to intolerance and fear in a testing but ultimately uplifting drama that stands love on the uncertain ground between faith and despair. Majid and Anne’s relationship inspires resentment and disgust in the local community; what starts out as nasty gossip and offended sniping soon escalates to violent confrontation.
Peter Green is in France and couldn’t attend the opening night of Dreamers at fortyfivedownstairs. But had been looking forward to it so much he arranged for two women to go in his place – one in her 70s (that’s me, Marysia Green) and one in her early 20s (Charlotte Righetti). With orders to forward him our impressions right away and share them with 3MBS listeners. So here they are.
A sense of anticipation was palpable when we entered the pleasantly distressed former warehouse that is fortyfivedownstairs. The collaboration of writer Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor , whose joint Project about a decade ago created theatre pieces still talked about with admiration, was about to be renewed. The set, by Adrian Chisholm, was both beautiful and intriguing – a neat bed-sit, a cafe, work spaces, all hinted at in a free-flowing arrangement across the large performing space. A pianola player pumped the beast to give us renderings of Frank Sinatra songs. Aussie characters gathered round and sang and the audience joined in, unbidden. Who were these people? What was going happen between them?
See article in its original context here by Anne-Marie Peard for the Aussie Theatre.
I wasn’t in Melbourne when the Keene/Taylor project was the darling of this city’s independent theatre scene (1997–2002), so it’s a joy to see Mary Lou Jelbart’s fortyfivedownstairs brings writer Daniel Keene and director Ariette Taylor back together with Dreamers.
Originally written by Keene for French company Tabula Rasa (Keene is loved in France), Dreamers is about loneliness and the hope that can be found even when the isolation seems impenetrable.
Set in a low-income block of flats in any city, widow Anne (Helen Morse) lives alone and earns her living from sewing consignment garments. She’s rarely interrupted, except when she catches the bus to babysit her grandson. At the bus stop she meets fellow residents including building foreman (Marco Chiappi), a former bus driver now ticket inspector (Paul English) and younger new-comer to the city Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe) who’s looking for work.
Majid knows that people ignore him and move away because he’s black, but Anne doesn’t and when he’s turned away at their local cafe by the waiter (Jonathan Taylor), she buys him a coffee. When their friendship develops, locals (Natasha Herbert and Nicholas Bell) are disgusted and her daughter (Brigid Gallacher) doesn’t understand.
While it’s a clear reflection on the many ways people hate each other for no reason, Taylor’s direction – and an impeccable cast – never forgets that everyone is a likeable and loved person in their own way. With songs around a pianola and dances around garbage bins, the gentle humour makes it easy to see how hate can surface in the most everyday of places and in the most unsuspecting people.
See article in its original context here by Cheryl Threadgold for the Melbourne Observer.
Writer Daniel Keene and director Ariette Taylor’s latest collaborative work, Dreamers, can be enjoyed at fortyfivedownstairs until November 30.
Keene aptly describes his contemporary play as dealing with the struggle against intolerance. Widowed grandmother Anne’s (Helen Morse) relationshipwith young Muslim refugee Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe) attracts ugly, bigoted community condemnation.
However, positive messages of love, strength, cultural adaptability and ability to move on in life regardless of age, reassuringly shine through racist, ageist and social isolation issues and the couple’s realistic self-questioning.
See article in its original context here by Harry Hughes for The Music.
Though set in our complicated modern world, some the characters in Dreamers reflect the attitudes of a much older society. These rather unappealing secondary players cannot fathom the intimate relationship of the protagonists, an elderly white widower and a much younger immigrant who can barely find work in this country, and they make it their business to make life as difficult as possible for the pair.
See article in its original context here by Myron My for Theatre Press.
Romance reveals racism
Originally commissioned for French theatre company Tabula Rasa, the English-language premiere of Dreamers presented by fortyfivedownstairs could easily be a narrative born straight out of current Australian politics and newspapers. The story follows a young Muslim refugee, Majid, who seeks work and acceptance from a community that eyes him with suspicion, disdain and aggression.
Majid (the impressive Yomal Rajasinghe) is waiting for the bus where he meets the lonely and much older Anne (Helen Morse). Through a second chance encounter their friendship deepens into a romantic relationship, much to the outrage of the town’s residents.
Daniel Keene’s story is a slow-burn but utterly absorbing tale of a world of casual bigotry and racial discrimination, where at one point, a resident ranks Majid’s “darkness” on a scale of 1 to 10. The scenes involving the various townspeople (Nicholas Bell, Jonathan Taylor, Paul English, Natasha Herbert and Marco Chiappi) whilst uncomfortable to watch and hear, are a stark reminder of the attitudes that are still held by many in Australia.
Age-discrimination, poverty and gender roles are also explored in Dreamers, but with Keene’s infusion of light-hearted or comedic moments and interludes, he never makes you feel overwhelmed by the issues but allows them to enter your thoughts and rest there.
See article in its original context here by Rebecca Harkins-Cross for The Age.
Dreamers showcases hope in stunning cast led by Helen Morse
A reflective panel hangs at the rear of the stage, casting the real against its warped mirror image. Perceptions of Anne (Helen Morse) and Majid’s (Yomal Rajasinghe) relationship are distorted, too. The apparent transgression of older white woman taking up with a younger black man – both similarly isolated – becomes the focus for a community’s prejudice. Alienated subjects transpose their ennui into hatred.
Dreamers begins where Douglas Sirk’s melodrama, All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s reinterpretation, Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974), finished. This take isn’t anchored in a specific time or place, stressing continuity with these precursors but taking some sting out of the social critique.
Where those films dealt with class and race, respectively, here they coalesce. The poor man who is content regardless undermines the bourgeois existence, despised just as bitterly as the black other.
Playwright Daniel Keene creates an interplay between melodramatic and poetic modes that’s mirrored in Ariette Taylor’s direction. His observation is shrewd and funny yet has didactic proclivities, which Taylor counters with moments of levity.
See article in its original context here by Kate Herbert for The Herald Sun.
IT IS more than 10 years since the last Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor theatrical collaboration so Dreamers, their new production, was awaited with eager anticipation.
Dreamers has some of the hallmarks of those much-loved, early Keene/Taylor Theatre Project works: pressing contemporary social issues, championing of underdogs and outsiders, an impeccable cast, unexpected choreography and sparse design (Adrienne Chisholm).
Anne (Helen Morse), a lonely widow struggling to make a living from sewing piecework, begins an unexpected love affair with Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe), an equally isolated but much younger man who is a recent immigrant.
Because Majid is not only young but also dark-skinned, their relationship initially raises eyebrows and silent disapproval, but this simmering intolerance and antagonism soon escalates into unbridled racism and abuse.
Their neighbours — the banal and the bigoted — target difference and disadvantage, creating a non-existent enemy that these hypocrites can blame for their own malaise and sense of dispossession.
Morse is one of Melbourne’s most accomplished and admired actors and her portrayal of the reserved and dignified Anne is delicate, intimate and nuanced.
See article in its original context here by Arts Review.
Who is Helen Morse?
A player of many parts.
What would you do differently to what you do now?
Devote more time to furthering my own projects. Join the Tivoli Lovelies tap class.
Who inspires you and why?
Malala Yousefzai. Shot in the face when she was fifteen by a Taliban assassin who boarded her school bus, she survived and continues to speak out for the education of girls and the rights of all children – including the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists. The writer Helen Garner for the rigour of her thought and her ability to reveal the truth of our lives.
DREAMERS is featured on page 12 of mX today!
See article in its original context here by Andrew Fuhrmann for The Daily Review.
Keene/Taylor Project back in the saddle
For anyone who first started seeing independent theatre in Melbourne in the mid 2000s, the names Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor loomed large. Even half a decade after their last collaboration, people were still talking. The Keene/Taylor Theatre Project, a small ensemble established in 1997, was the default comparison for those who knew. It was a template for what independent theatre should feel like, the aura it should create: audiences thrilled by the discovery of a hidden artistic world outside the usual institutions. It gave us, the ones who weren’t there, something to look for, a feeling intimate and direct.
And when we made our own discoveries — in warehouses in Northcote, above bars on Smith Street, or wherever — what we felt was not only a sense of excitement and community but, too, a sense of continuity with the past. The scene was larger and more alive and more significant for the recognition. It felt more like a real culture.
See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
Daniel Keene’s French play on racism, Dreamers, translates perfectly to Australian dialect
The European is an apt venue for coffee with Daniel Keene. He’s one of the two contemporary Australian playwrights (the other is Joanna-Murray Smith) best known overseas, and has an established reputation in France. That’s where Dreamers, which opens at fortyfivedownstairs this week, was originally commissioned. And that’s where it was first performed, by Toulouse-based company Tabula Rasa, in 2011.
This production will be its English-language premiere, and marks a one-off resurrection of Keene’s creative partnership with Ariette Taylor. Together, they started The Keene/Taylor Theatre Project, an independent theatre powerhouse that produced an impressive 47 productions over 17 seasons from 1997-2002 and has attained the quality of legend in the development of Melbourne’s indie theatre scene.
See article in its original context here by Theatre Alive.
DANIEL KEENE AND ARIETTE TAYLOR REUNITE FOR DREAMERS
fortyfivedownstairs are thrilled to bring together the extraordinary creative team of Ariette Taylor and Daniel Keene for the first time in over a decade. Previously collaborating in the highly successful and ground breaking Keene Taylor Theatre Project, which ran from 1997 until 2002, together they have presented seventeen seasons of works; a total of 47 productions, including full length and short plays.
Their latest work explores a young man’s experience trying to establish himself in a new country, amid growing fear and animosity as he begins a relationship with an older woman.
Dreamers deals with questions at the heart of contemporary life – the struggle against intolerance, the fear of difference and a love that is perceived as inappropriate.
We chatted with Ariette Taylor in the lead-up to the season…
This reunion with Daniel has been a long time coming. How does a 10 year break impact on the creative partnership and process?
After a very exciting six years of working together, it seemed right to give it a break. Daniel went to work in France and is enjoying a successful career, and me coming home to grandchildren, travel and various art projects.
It’s wonderful to be working with his words again. His work has grown deeper, funnier and become more complex. A great challenge for all of us!
Do you think theatre can help to break down intolerance?
Theatre can do all kinds of things; most of all communicate love, humanity, mystery and delight, but it needs people to come to share it.
See article in its original context here by Caroline Tung for ArtsHub.
A winning writer-director partnership will debut a production of an unconventional social more on the Australian stage.
Acclaimed Australian playwright Daniel Keene and director Ariette Taylor will collaborate with designer Adrienne Chisolm to bring a new production ofDreamers to Melbourne arts venue fortyfivedownstairs.
A first for Australian audiences, the play portrays struggles against intolerance, racism and exclusion through its central character Anne, a 60-year-old woman who begins a relationship with a much younger man of a different race.
The original play was performed in French by the Tabula Rasa theatre company.
The Australian premiere will be performed in English, with no specific setting.
Artistic director Mary Lou Jelbart calls this theatre partnership ‘a gift to Australia’, praising Keene’s consistent approach in creating powerful plays.
See article in its original context here by Samsara Dunston for Melbourne. Arts. Fashion.
Dreamers – Keene & Taylor together again
For the first time in over a decade, fortyfivedownstairs is delighted to bring together again this extraordinary creative team – writer Daniel Keene and director Ariette Taylor with designer Adrienne Chisholm – to present the Australian premiere of Dreamers at fortyfivedownstairs from 6 – 30 November 2014.
Mary Lou Jelbart, fortyfivedownstairs founder and artistic director, said it’s difficult to express just how exciting it is that Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor are again working together to present Dreamers in Australia, “The collaboration between these two talented artists produced some of the most unforgettable theatre I have ever seen.”
See review in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
There’s an extraordinary real life story behind The Sound of Waves. The one-woman show is inspired by the experiences of profoundly deaf actor Jodie Harris, who midway through training at the VCA, received a cochlear implant and had to learn to negotiate a whole new stage of sound.
Playwright Gareth Ellis dives into Harris’s emotional landscape – or seascape, actually – through whimsical submarine allegory.
Harris adopts an alter-ego, a girl called Shelley whose primary school teacher, Mrs Black, has some sort of hideous personality disorder and is constantly threatening to kill off her students in gruesome ways. The caricature of this horrible teacher might be reason enough to daydream, but Shelley’s flights of fancy are unusually surreal and immersive.
See article in its original context here by John Bailey for The Age. First chance to see Kemp's Last Dance It's been more than 30 years since the great theatre maverick Lindsay Kemp toured Australia, long enough that even those who…
See article in its original context here by the Arts Review.
On the Couch with Naomi Edwards
Who is Naomi Edwards?
A theatre and opera director. A lover of music and science and coffee.
What would you do differently to what you do now?
I would worry less, play more. Be in the moment and in the next.
Who inspires you and why?
Children inspire me with their wonder at the world, their fresh insights and ancient wisdom. Political protesters inspire me with their effort and passion for change. Refugees with their courage and humility. My collaborators with their energy, smarts and rigor.
What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I hope for an Australia that is more empathetic, more imaginative and capable of greater critical thinking. Theatre can develop and exercise these capacities simultaneously, and I try to do it on and through the kind of shows I work on.
See article in its original context here by Raymond Gill for Daily Review.
Before Kate Durham (pictured right) became an activist for refugees’ rights she was an artist.
In the 1980s her extravagant, bejewelled, and jumbled glass and plaster jewellery, head-pieces, drawings, paintings, sculptures, busts, mirrors, frames and even furniture, were in stark contrast to the dark minimalism creeping into every area of art, design and architecture.
Durham’s anti-fashion fashion with its shards, scraps, remnants and rubbish created a sort of urban tribalism. In the case of her jewellery, which she exhibited from Tokyo to New York to London, it seemed to demand a certain confidence, defiance or even contrariness of its wearer.
Since the late 1990s when she met the human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside (now her husband), she has been an activist for the rights of refugees attempting asylum in Australia. That too requires a confidence, defiance and contrariness as she (and he) front the apathy of many Australians and the chest-thumping fear mongering of conservative media and politicians.
After many years Durham has returned to jewellery making in an exhibition of 140 works titled “The Decorated Self” at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs gallery from tomorrow until October 11.
See review in its original context here by Coral Drouyn for Stage Whispers.
In one remarkable night of theatre last week we cried, were horrified, grew angry and outraged, had our hearts broken, marvelled and finally stood and cheered to toast the birth of a new theatre company – The Collective – and its remarkable gift to us all – Jason Robert Brown’s and Alfred Uhry’s sensational multi award (including Tonys for book and score) winning Parade. A critical success but a box office failure (one can imagine how Americans hated to see their bigotry “paraded” on stage), Parade is having its professional Australian debut here in Melbourne – and how blessed we are. Could musical theatre possibly get any better than this?
The true story of a quiet and dignified Jewish businessman, accused of an horrific crime he didn’t commit, and the travesty of a trial that follows, hardly seems the material for a musical…but then neither does Next to Normalor Spring Awakening. To be treated, as an audience, like thinking, caring, and compassionate human beings is a rarity. Yes it’s a harrowing show, but the rewards are enormous, the music is glorious and, in this case, the production and cast are so outstanding that you feel privileged to be allowed to participate in some small way.
See review in its original context here by Reuben Liversidge for ArtsHub.
One of those rare occasions where creative team, cast and performance space combine in perfect symbiosis to present a fantastic piece of theatre.
Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade is pretty much as dark as music theatre gets. The plot details the real life case of the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Jemma Plunkett) and the criminal trial and subsequent conviction of prime suspect Leo Frank (Luigi Lucente) in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. Frank was a Brooklyn native of Jewish descent who married Southern woman Lucille Selig (Laura Fitzpatrick) and he was Mary’s boss at the pencil factory where she was employed. The events caused a national sensation while highlighting the corrupt nature of the judicial system and the anti-Semitic underbelly of the community. A lynch mob hanged Frank after his sentence was reduced to life in prison following a lengthy appeal process.
See review in its original context here by Chris Hughes for Theatre People.
Parade tells the story of Leo Frank, a factory manager who in 1913 was accused of raping and murdering a thirteen year old girl. The book by Alfred Uhry and music by Broadway legend Jason Robert Brown sets a rather ugly story against a truly beautiful score. It’s a heavy piece with only an occasional smattering of dark comedy. It’s a lot to get through. New kids on the block, The Collective theatre company, have taken a bold approach to a challenging piece and have delivered a show that audiences will adore.
See review in its original context here by Standing (inn)Ovation.
THE COLLECTIVE’S PARADE – REIMAGINING THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE
When Parade opened on Broadway back in 1998, it unfortunately didn’t resonate with audiences closing only 89 performances later. In their current production of Parade, The Collective have completely reimagined the theatrical experience and found what the original Broadway production was missing to create an incredibly moving and involving piece of immersive theatre.
Parade dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank who was accused and convicted of murdering a thirteen-year-old girl. Confronting media sensationalism and anti-Semitism in the southern states of America, this musical broaches some pretty difficult topics complemented by an incredibly varied score by the every underappreciated Jason Robert Brown.
See review in its original context here by Simon Parris his blog Man in Chair.
The Australian professional premiere of harrowing musical drama Parade is blessed with ingenious staging and compelling performances from its superb cast.
Revered for Jason Robert Brown’s Tony Award-winning score, Parade has been a favourite of music theatre enthusiasts since its all too brief Broadway season in 1999. This production uses the streamlined cast and reduced orchestrations of the 2008 Donmar Warehouse version. Besides being a most welcome premiere from a brand new company, the production is set apart by its canny use of fortyfive downstairs to create an intimate staging that is all the more riveting for its immersive design.
A true “concept” musical, on par with Cabaret and Company, Parade is an unflinching examination of the variable forces that govern human nature. Alfred Uhry’s book presents society’s role in Leo Frank’s brutally unjust downfall as unthinkable and yet inevitable. A clever contrast in the two acts shows how bad news spreads like wildfire whereas truth and justice are a much slower burn.
See review in its original context here by Bradley Storer for Theatre Press.
See review in its original context here by Erin James for Aussie Theatre.
Australian Professional Premiere of Parade opens in Melbourne
Melbourne’s newest professional theatre company The Collective are making waves in the independent music theatre scene this week, with the opening of their debut production Parade, by Jason Robert Brown.
Staged at the little space that could, fortyfivedownstairs, this production features some of Australia’s brightest music theatre talent in a cast led by Rob Guest Endowment finalist Luigi Lucente and Melbourne independent theatre darling Laura Fitzpatrick.
Playing until September 28, Parade tells the controversial yet true story of the 1913 murder trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank in Atlanta, Georgia. The show’s title refers to the annual parade held on Confederate Memorial Day, for it was on that day in 1913 that the murder took place. The parade (which is seen at the start, middle and end of the musical to mark the passing of years) was a rallying point for proud Southerners still affected by their defeat in the Civil War.
See review in its original context here by Rebecca Harkins-Cross for The Age.
The Collective’s Parade explores the unsettling case of Leo Frank
While greats like Stephen Sondheim have repeatedly demonstrated that the musical is not only a place for lightness and frippery, Parade explores a particularly dark chapter of American history: the death in 1915 of Leo Frank, a Jew persecuted and lynched for a murder he didn’t commit.
There’s something rightly unsettling about a crowd of rosy-cheeked patriots singing about the former glory of Georgia beneath a Confederate Flag, and not only because that zeal will soon turn savage. The tone never quite befits the grave subject matter.
James Cutler has directed a very watchable production, delivered by a vigorous ensemble, but the play itself niggles somewhat. The audience is positioned like onlookers in the courtroom, but we’re never given the true drama of that theatre. The bible-waving publisher (David Price) baying for blood is a cartoonish bad guy, goading the ambitious prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Tod Strike) and flaming small-town hysteria.
See article in its original context here for Beat Magazine.
The Sound Of Waves Coming To fortyfivedownstairs
fortyfivedownstairs will present Gareth Ellis’ The Sound of Waves for a run of shows this October.
The Sound Of Waves focuses on Shelly, a normal girl who unexpectedly finds herself becoming more fish-like everyday until she decides to take refuge in the sea. One day, finding that the sea is not enough, she now must search for a way to walk on land again.
Some six years in the making, the allegorical play tells the tale of performer/creator Jodie Harris losing her hearing, receiving a cochlear implant and the impact that had on her life. She worked closely with writer Gareth Ellis and director Naomi Edwards on the piece.
PARADE is featured on page 4 of mX today!