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MASTER CLASS: Theatre Press – review

  • August 23, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Bradley Storer for Theatre Press.

Intimate and involving theatre

Terrence McNally’s Master Class, a play about the life of Greek opera singer Maria Callas whose artistry and career revolutionised the landscape of 20th century opera, comes to fortyfivedownstairs with the brilliant Maria Mercedes as the tragic diva.

The intimate theatre space at fortyfivedownstairs is perfect for the play set as a masterclass in the twilight of Callas’s career, the era signalled effectively by the 70’s fashion worn by the cast. Mercedes enters the room with an air of quiet authority, an iron fist wrapped in silk, taking charge of the stage and the accompanist (Cameron Thomas) in short order. Mercedes is the embodiment of the word ‘diva’ – narcissistic, commanding and uncompromising but with such charisma and a depth of artistic integrity that it is easier to see how this figure still fascinates today. Mercedes manages to find the undercurrents of charm, self-deprecation and kindness in the character which also make her surprisingly likeable.

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MASTER CLASS: Australian Stage – review

  • August 23, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Lee Bemrose for Australian Stage.

Initially, I confused Maria Callas with Diamanda Galas. The latter, I thought, would be a great subject for a play. When I realised my mistake I was a little disappointed because although Maria Callas did indeed lead an eventful life and was obviously worthy of celebrating in the form of a play, I don’t really like opera. And after reading the press release properly, Master Class was going to contain some singing. Oh Dear. I wasn’t sure about this. I mean, opera, really?

Right from the start, however, this play cast a spell. It’s a loving tribute to La Divina, very funny, warm, and gives great insight into what it takes to be a great performer, to really excel at any creative vocation. I loved the writing, the acting, the structure of the story and – get this – the singing. Not ever having been to a live opera performance I have no idea why I thought I didn’t like opera. The power of this kind of singing is extraordinary, and I do believe I’ll be following up on this epiphany.

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MASTER CLASS: Limelight Magazine – Review

  • August 23, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Sascha Kelly for Limelight Magazine.

A private invitation into the mind of the world’s most influential diva.

A reimagining of a diva in her twilight years, Masterclass is a play based on the renowned 1970s masterclasses given by Maria Callas at the Julliard School. Callas enters, still possessing the towering presence that crowned her ‘La Divina’. Over the two-hour production, Masterclass offers a real-time snapshot of Callas as she works with three very different students. In turn, each incites the tempestuous Callas to recall private memories of her own past.

Maria Mercedes has obviously spent much time studying the gestures and idiosyncratic accent of the singer, as she is eerily reminiscent of the late diva.  The stage is bare save for a grand piano and a cushionless stool. The houselights remained on as Callas warmly greeted the audience as witness to the afternoon’s masterclass. She urged no one to applaud, but reveled in the attention. Callas’ banter was quicksilver and turbulent, striking a stunned silence at one moment, and eliciting a rolling laugh in the very next breath. Cameron Thomas was warm and likeable as the obliging accompanist Manny Weinstock.

The glue of this performance was the very palpable chemistry between Maria Mercedes and the three young singers (in order of appearance), Georgia Wilkinson (playing Sophie De Palma), Robert Barbaro (Tony Condolino) and Anna Louise Cole (Sharon Graham).  All three have developing, but charming voices. One by one they came ready to work, but one by one Callas found them lacking. Each possessed individual faults found universally in young singers. Most of all, Callas probes them to connect with the emotional lifeblood of their operatic counterparts, a skill that Callas was peerless in achieving herself. In her eagerness to demonstrate this submersion in a role, Callas hallucinates scenes from her own past.

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Simon Parris reviews MASTER CLASS

  • August 21, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Simon Parris.

The planets have aligned for an extraordinarily synergistic match of artist and material, as Maria Mercedes channels the very essence of Maria Callas in this riveting presentation of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class.

Produced on a modest budget, the passion and skill involved eclipse many a main stage production. What fortyfivedownstairs lacks in similarity to the Juillard School setting it makes up for in atmosphere and intimacy. The textured windows and walls of the space take on ghostly shadows as Callas is haunted by her past demons. This is a very rare chance to hear this play unamplified, and the effect is electrifying. The combination of McNally’s ear for natural dialogue, Mercedes’ utter immersion in the role and the intimate setting creates a presentation so real that it is very hard to forget we are not at an actual master class.

Director Daniel Lammin has used the minimal staging elements as an asset to allow full focus on the text. Blessed with a highly talented company of five (plus associate director Cameron Lukey as the surly stagehand), Lammin has meticulously brought out rich nuances of vocal and physical expression. Best of all, Lammin plays the humour completely straight, thus expertly maximising its impact; some laughs were so good they received applause.

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THE SEAFARER: TimeOut Melbourne – review

  • August 11, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Tim Byrne for TimeOut Melbourne.

Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, the acclaimed play arrives in Melbourne with its wicked Irish doom-and-gloom charm – just in time for the wintriest months

fortyfivedownstairs has been experiencing some luck of the Irish recently, with the triumph of Martin McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy followed hard upon by this flinty play by Conor McPherson. While not quite in the same league as McDonagh, The Seafarer still puts forward a convincing argument for the current strength of Irish playwriting.

The play opens on Christmas Eve and James ‘Sharky’ Harkin [Barry Mitchell] is two days into his sobriety, a tough gig given he is staying with his alcoholic brother Richard [Geoff Hickey] in a house that is constantly set upon by drunken mates. One of them, Ivan [Adam Rafferty], is already there, having slept on the bathroom floor after a massive drinking session the night before.

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MASTER CLASS: The Age/Sydney Morning Herald

  • August 9, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Sonia Harford for The Age/Sydney Morning Herald.

Mercedes does Callas in a masterclass

Actress Maria Mercedes poses for a photo at the Hellenic Museum

Actress Maria Mercedes poses for a photo at the Hellenic Museum

When does an actor ever stop performing? Even off-stage, Maria Mercedes is an instinctive storyteller.

Leaning forward, eyes alight, hoop earrings swinging, she’ll set the scene. Places hold meaning and memory for her. She’ll tell you about the spot down the road in the inner north where her father once had a milk bar. Or the time she demanded her cats accompany her on a national tour of the musical Chicago.

“I had it in my contract … so in Paddington, Sydney, I had the three cats living with me at the apartment. They were lounging by the pool every day. The guests loved them!”

Lively raconteur she may be, but you can also sense the emotional depths she’ll draw on for her next stage role. Terrence McNally’s 1995 play Master Class portrays opera legend Maria Callas towards the end of her career. The setting is a Juilliard School class in which the imperious singer collides with her past – young students on the brink of success who know little of the sacrifices Callas made for her art.

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THE SEAFARER: Tinteán Magazine – REVIEW

  • August 7, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Renée Leen Huish for Tinteán Magazine.

A trio of males gathered together in a North Dublin basement, celebrate Christmas the only way they know how, by playing cards and getting drunk. Conor McPherson’s  The Seafarer is a brilliant script that is hugely entertaining, engaging and funny. Conor McPherson is no stranger to alcoholism having spent much of his life fighting this demon and knowing first hand the pain of searching for meaning and drinking to dull this pain. Blindness, loss, condemnation, forgiveness and redemption are all knitted seamlessly into the tight uplifting script that deservedly won The Seafarer many awards. The theme of loss and blindness is all pervading suggesting that ‘there are none so blind as those who will not see’. Drunkenness is not the only demon in the play as is evident in the stakes in the card game.

It is obvious that Director Wayne Pearn is at home with this script and he displays a familiarity with, and an obvious admiration for McPherson’s work, and he has chosen a stellar cast and forged them into a tight ensemble. Fortyfivedownstairs (theatre) is the perfect setting for The Seafarer, immediately drawing the audience into the intimacy of the performing space. George Tranter’s set was well suited to the performance space and kept the intimacy between players and audience throughout. It was evident from the start that the décor was devoid of a woman’s hand, and the pub souvenirs added to the overall ambience.

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THE SEAFARER: Stage Whispers – review

  • August 5, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Michael Brindley for Stage Whispers.

10.30am on the day before Christmas.  A crummy basement flat in a Dublin suburb.  James ‘Sharkey’ Hardin has finished (or was he fired?) a job as a chauffeur down south.  He’s come ‘home’ to look after his now blind older brother, the irascible, aggressive and none-too-clean Richard.  As Sharkey’s past comes out, he’s revealed as a sad but angry and violent loser and even a murderer long ago.  An alcoholic, he’s trying to stay on the wagon – an enterprise his brother regards with skeptical contempt.  As he would.  Richard is pretty much an alcoholic too – as are the other characters here.  A central theme of the play is the deleterious effect of alcohol, symptom of a wider malaise.  Blotting out the world and one’s own insignificance in it is understandable given this world and these characters.

Richard and Sharkey’s friend, Ivan, has stayed overnight, too drunk to go home.  Now he’s head-splittingly hung-over, can’t find his glasses and worries that his wife is going to kill him.  Sharkey, already derided and much put-upon, discovers that Richard has invited one Nicky Glblin over for some Christmas cheer.  Nicky’s living with Sharkey’s ex and driving Sharkey’s car – and there’s not a thing Sharkey can do about that or the impending visit.  But first the trio must get a taxi into town to stock up on the Christmas cheer.  The shopping list is almost entirely made up of alcohol.

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THE SEAFARER: Theatre People – Review

  • August 5, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Stephanie Cochrane for Theatre People.

“I’m the son of the morning, Sharky. I’m the snake in the garden. I’ve come here for your soul this Christmas, and I’ve been looking for you all f**king day!”

On the coldest day of the year in Melbourne, the scene was well and truly set for Conor McPherson’s supernatural drama meets modern-day Dublin black comedy “The Seafarer”. Presented by Hoy Polloy theatre company, the play takes place on an ostensibly unexceptional Christmas Eve in Baldoyle, a coastal suburb north of Dublin. As a raffish, hard-drinking bevy of old “friends” gather for a game of poker, it soon becomes clear that they’re not just playing for money this time. Like the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, the real game McPherson is alluding to is the game of life, and the blundering choices we make that can render us, in some cases perpetually, lost at sea.

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THE SEAFARER: Melbourne.Arts.Fashion – review

  • August 3, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Lisa Romeo for Melbourne.Arts.Fashion.

5 stars

The Seafarer was written by Dublin born Conor McPherson in 2006.  He has been described as ‘one of the finest playwrights of his generation’ with his plays having been performed internationally (notably in the West End and on Broadway). Director Wayne Pearn has worked as an actor, director and producer for thirty years and brings to perfect fruition McPherson’s award winning story.

The Seafarer is set in the disheveled home of hard drinking Irish man Richard, (played by Geoff Hickey), who presumably has lost his eyesight at work.  His brother James ‘Sharky’ Harkin, (played by Barry Mitchell) having just given up the drink after battling alcoholism returns to live with his elderly, demanding brother.

It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and the lounge room is covered with empty beer cans, half eaten food and old newspapers. Richard is found asleep on the floor and Ivan (played by Adam Rafferty), a goofy looking mate of the brothers, staggers downstairs, too drunk to make it home last night.

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THE SEAFARER- Simon Parris: Man in Chair (review)

  • August 2, 2014
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See review in its original context here by Simon Parris.

Melbourne turned on a suitably blustery, rainy night for the opening of Hoy Polloy Theatre’s The Seafarer, with the howling from the weather and the sound effects being indistinguishable at times.

In the intimate space of fortyfivedownstairs, the audience feels like a sixth player at the table with the motley clutch of Irishmen spending Christmas Eve drinking, cussing and playing poker with deadly stakes.

Acclaimed Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s 2006 work is the star attraction here, its script a mixture of comic blarney and raw drama, with a touch of supernatural magic for good measure. McPherson’s skill at sketching characters, both those on the stage and those in the wider story, is uncanny, and his keen observation of the foibles human nature guarantees that viewers will find plenty to recognise and identify with in the play.

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Arts Review: On the Couch with Wayne Pearn

  • August 1, 2014
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See article in its original context here by the Arts Review.

Who is Wayne Pearn?
Inner city dweller, co ‘parent’ of two dogs, Leo, director, actor, producer.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Absolutely nothing. Wouldn’t change a thing!

Who inspires you and why?
I have to say my Mum, Gaynor. She is just a tremendous life force who instills you with self-belief. She may not have always agreed with decisions I’ve made but once made she gives you nothing but 100% support.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Try to be better today than what I was yesterday.

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5 minutes with the Artist: Michael Prideaux

  • July 29, 2014
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Photographer Michael Prideaux in front of his work 'Total Solar Eclipse'.

Michael Prideaux has been photographing Port Phillip Bay for over 40 years and uses a variety of digital cameras to produce images that he minimally manipulates to enhance tone and colour. His exhibition Sea & Sky runs from 22 July till 2 August 2014.

What is the inspiration behind your current body of work? The inspiration behind my current work which is photographs of Port Phillip Bay is partly the opportunity to observe the bay in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions as I live close to it.  A coule of the photos were taken while I was walking my dogs,one of whom makes a cameo appearance in one of the photos.

How do you create these works, what is your process? The works were created with a variety of digital cameras and post processed fairly minimally in Photoshop.  Polarising filters were used in the daytime shots to increase cloud contrast and a small aperture (F11 or greater) was used to increase depth of field. The photos were printed by me on Museo Silver Rag paper using an Epson Pro 4800 printer.

What is your background, education, experience or how did you evolve into being an artist? I have had a lifelong interest in photography but have had no formal training.  Over a decade ago I switched from film to digital at about the same time that I retired from practice as a barrister.  Both were positive moves.

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5 minutes with the Artist: David Frazer

  • July 29, 2014
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Artist David Frazer signing the book 'Little Aches & Pains' he collaborated on with Paul Kelly

David Frazer is an artist who uses linocut, wood engraving, painting and letterpress to create his detailed and frank iconic Aussie works. His exhibition HUG is in our large gallery from 22 July – 2 August 2014. View his works here:

What is the inspiration behind your current body of work? As well as the artist book the main themes of my work is the exploration and glorification of confused, bewildered and discontented men.  Dreams and yearning for love and stability matched to the desire to run away and escape, to be somewhere more exciting and to be someone more exciting.

How do you create these works, what is your process? I listen to music, come up with ideas and titles and go from there.  I think of my work like a songwriter would produce an album.

What is your background, education, experience or how did you evolve into being an artist? I was good at art at school and had really good art teachers.  I wanted the life of an artist.  After high school I went straight to art school and pretty much wasted my time.  After art school I gave away art to pursue a life in showbiz which proved ridiculous and delusional.  Luckily I saw sense in my latye 20’s and went back to art school to do an honours year in printmaking.  I now had a subject, failed ambition etc and the discovery of printmaking really suited my desire for narrative.

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Printmaker creates romantic line of work

  • July 29, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Penny Webb for The Age.

Fortyfivedownstairs, city, until August 2

A self-described romantic, printmaker David Frazer says he has one story to tell and it’s his own. Certainly, his likeness appears in works in this show. See, for example, the wonderfully named wood engraving, Shitfaced, of 2012.

Frazer was introduced to wood engraving by Tim Jones in the mid-1990s, having returned to art school after dreams of a career in show biz ended with his singing karaoke in a gorilla suit in a country town. It makes a good story: you may have heard it before.

He found that the exacting, repetitive nature of engraving suited his nature and his propensity for line work and patterning.

Is the limited-edition artist’s book a natural format for a printmaker? Frazer thinks so and, since 1996, has published 10 of them. Passing Through the Old World, 2006, an outsider’s view of European culture, remains as aesthetically powerful as it is poignant.

Certainly, gazing at an open book in your hands  promotes an intimate engagement with its contents. Frazer’s latest, comprised of wood engravings with letterpress captions and with a linocut image on the cover, bound by George Matoulas, is co-signed by singer song-writer Paul Kelly.

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Arts Review: The Seafarer

  • July 26, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Arts Review.

A supernatural drama that combines the folksy sensibilities of an Irish ghost story with the streetwise dialogue of modern day Dublin, Hoy Polloy presents the Victorian premiere of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer at fortyfivedownstairs for a limited season from 30 July.

Hoy Polloy founder and artistic director, Wayne Pearn, describes The Seafarer as “a really intimate observation of male dereliction – it’s about us needing darkness in our lives so we are able to grasp the light.”

Set in Baldoyle, a suburb on the coast north of Dublin on Christmas Eve, James ‘Sharky’ Harkin is battling alcoholism and has returned to live with his hard drinking older blind brother Richard.

As the night rolls on and the storm clouds gather the brothers are joined by an assortment of friends – one of whom brings an unfamiliar guest insisting on a game of poker. With two demons at play on this night – one of which is ‘the drink’ – the stakes in this card game could not come any higher.

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Stage Whispers: My Life in the Nude – Review

  • July 22, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Suzanne Sandow for Stage Whispers.

Wicked?  Goddess?

Whatever – Maude Davey is a legend!

This rich, curious, beguiling, camp and fun show is a memorable night of Melbourne Theatre history.  Don’t hesitate to book a ticket because you think you might feel awkward – everyone is probably thinking the same thing.  Davies unites the house by confidently asserting some ground rules, most particularly, she is to be the only one getting her gear off.  And with the disarming intimacy of her nudity, keen sensitivity and performed sincerity, bonds of shared experience are formed amongst the audience.  You can comfortably leave all prudery at home, relax and enjoy being thought-provokingly entertained.

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Aussie Theatre: My Life in the Nude

  • July 21, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Bethany Simons for Aussie Theatre.

Gear off, Brave face on – Maude Davey on ‘My Life in the Nude’

Maude Davey is a theatre maker and performance artist whose body is as recognisable as her face. This week Davey will once again perform her hit solo show My Life in the Nude as part of ENCORE – a new creative partnership between Melbourne’s La Mama theatre and fortyfivedownstairs.

Aussie Theatre’s Bethany Simons took some time out with Davey and La Mama’s long-standing Artistic Director, Liz Jones, to talk about success, courage and nudity.

A new creative partnership between La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs, ENCORE will give audiences a chance to see some of La Mama’s finest 2013 productions for a return season at fortyfivedownstairs this July. One of these productions is Maude Davey’s burlesque dissection of her un-clothed career – My Life in the Nude. With nearly as many people turned away as were squeezed in during the original season, La Mama theatre is thrilled that this production will be given another life.

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Theatre People: The Seafarer

  • July 21, 2014
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See article in its original context here by K.E Weber for Theatre People.

Barry Mitchell Cruises On The Seafarer

Hoy Polloy presents the Victorian premiere of  Conor McPherson’s Olivier and Tony Award nominated play The Seafarer – A Christmas fable of despair and redemption where a drink is never far away for the five drunks inhabiting this shaky  world on a  Christmas Eve in Dublin.

Barry Mitchell plays  James “Sharky” Harkin, an alcoholic who has recently returned to live with his blind, aging brother, Richard Harkin and tension between the brothers is evident from the start. As Sharky attempts to stay off the bottle during the holidays, he contends with the hard-drinking, irascible Richard and his own haunted conscience.

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Limelight: Masterclass

  • July 21, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Ben Nielsen for Limelight Magazine.

Maria Callas brought to life in Master Class

In a role of a lifetime, Australian actress Maria Mercedes will portray the famous soprano in Terrence McNally’s award-winning play.

Maria Mercedes is no stranger to the Australian stage. She performed Norma Desmond in the original production of Sunset Boulevard, Luisa Contini in Nine, and most recently, Madame Giry in Love Never Dies. Considering her impressive career, it’s a wonder why Mercedes resumed the role of student at a master class held earlier this year.

The master class, which was instructed by Elizabeth Kemp of the esteemed Actors Studio in New York, required participants to devise and present a character-based performance. Mercedes chose soprano Maria Callas, and received overwhelming praise for her portrayal. Fast-forward several months, and Mercedes has been asked to play Callas again, this time in Terrence McNally’s Master Class.

“It was almost a life-changing experience working with Elizabeth Kemp and to really delve so deeply into Maria’s shadows, and my own shadows as a human being,” said Mercedes. “What came out of it was an extreme understanding, but also a deep respect for Maria and what she had achieved in her time. At the end of it, Elizabeth Kemp said to me ‘you must do Master Class’.”

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The Australian: My Life in the Nude – review

  • July 18, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Chris Boyd for The Australian.

Shock of the nude: Maude Davey’s mature body of work still awes audience

“FEMINISTS,” academic and art historian Anne Marsh wrote in 1994, “are lining up as either anti- or pro-pornography.”

Marsh’s art­icle on the “sex war” debate in the premiere edition of World Art magazine in March that year triggered a debate in inner-city Melbourne three months later. There, academics and artists politely slugged it out in front of a tiny audience.

When it was Maude Davey’s turn to speak, the 30-year-old performer moved her chair to a point midway between the panel and the audience and declared: “I’m not a pornographer, I’m an artist.”

After a pregnant pause, she told us she wasn’t wearing any undies and impishly flicked up her flouncy black skirt to prove it.

She then delivered an impassioned defence of the explicit and, simultaneously, demonstrated how she liked to masturbate.

For close to 25 years, Davey has managed to balance sex and discourse, mind and body. She aims to shock the intellect rather than merely shock our sensibilities. Remarkably, her performances have never degenerated into sideshow acts. They’re never lurid or tawdry or fake. On that score, she’s more Karen Finley than Annie Sprinkle.

My Life in the Nude is a retrospective of Davey’s most significant and most notorious routines, including the oft-performed My C … and the rarely revived act that earned her the Strawberry Girl moniker in 1991 (let’s just say that product placement is key in that particular routine).

The one significant omission from the line-up is the 1994 lecture-demonstration.

My Life in the Nude is an excellent introduction to the artist, and a delightful reminder of just how sustained, powerful and smart Davey’s work has been for those who have followed her career.

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Aussie Theatre: My Life in the Nude – Review

  • July 17, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Karla Dondio for Aussie Theatre.

Twenty-five years is a long time to spend naked on a stage. It’s also a sufficient amount of time to reflect on what it means and, more precisely, how it feels to perform naked in front of a crowd. My Life in the Nude is a wonderful celebration of Maude Davey’s ‘nude works’ and, to some degree, it’s a lamentation – though triumphant – on what it is to age as a woman, especially when your body is your livelihood.

I’ve been privy to Davey’s burlesque acts a number of times in Finucane & Smith’s The Burlesque Hour and, quite frankly, I would have left the show grinning from ear to ear if this was all the show comprised of. Nonetheless, what makes this show so powerful is Davey’s acute introspection on the naked form and our collective ideals around appearance.

Perhaps her introspection derives from the fact that, despite making a career out of it, Davey feels insecure about her naked body on stage, especially now that she’s turned 50. As a woman in her 40s, I certainly understand the scrutiny and grief that accompanies one’s declining physicality – and that’s without people seeing me naked.

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Neoskosmos: Master Class

  • July 17, 2014
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See article in its original context here by  Neoskosmos.

While Hollywood is waiting for Meryl Streep to take on the role of a famous soprano in the new HBO series, celebrated Greek Australian performer Maria Mercedes will be taking on the role of a lifetime as the legendary Greek American opera singer Maria Callas.

With leading roles in the Australian premieres of Nine, Sunset Boulevard and Love Never Dies, as well as films such as Head On and Dreams for Life, Maria Mercedes takes on one of the greatest challenges of her career in a new production of Terrence McNally’s Tony award-winning play Master Class.

“Maria Callas is my dream role,” says Mercedes, “and I couldn’t be more thrilled to honour the life of a woman I admire not only for her incredible artistry and passion, but for the daring, honest way she lived her life.”

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Melbourne.Arts.Fashion: My Life in the Nude – review

  • July 17, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Samsara Dunston for Melbourne.Arts.Fashion.


The atmosphere of the audience as they entered the theatre for this show was one of eagerness and excitement.  This season of My Life in the Nude is an encore, by popular demand, of the original La Mamma production in 2013.  The show was a sell out success then, and will undoubtedly be one again at fortyfivedownstairs.

fortyfivedownstairs can often feel like a chasmic space, but for the season of My Life in the Nude, the room has been cordoned off and, as a result, a great sense of intimacy is created.  The lush red velvet curtains and cabaret tables set around the stage make the room warm and inviting and bring to mind cabaret venues of old.

The stage is a simple thrust catwalk but the attention to detail is wonderful, including glitter on the edges of the stairs; an aura of plush decadence has been created.  Maude points out the resemblance of the stage curtains to female genitalia at one point in the performance. Isaac Lummis’s design is breathtaking, yet simple and works to support all aspects of the show.  The costumes are also outstanding – my personal favourite being the gorilla suit with booby tassles.

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5 minutes with the Artist: Marie-Angela Paino

  • July 16, 2014
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Mary Lou (left) and photography artist Marie-Angela Paino (right)

Marie-Angela Paino is based in Melbourne Australia with her camera, creating images that move and inspire. She is the curator, organiser and co-exhibitor in our current exhibition A Life Beyond Waiting; a selection of photographs  created to raise awareness of the low rates of organ donation in Australia, and the possibility of generosity among human beings.

What is the inspiration behind your current body of work?

In our society today thousands of hours are spent waiting. Waiting for a friend, waiting for a meeting to start, a bus/train, a text/phone call.  We are always waiting another and it is now almost a norm.  I noticed this on the streets of Melbourne and started shooting it instinctively.  I soon realized there are many people waiting for something more important and for whom these photographs will make a difference.

How do you create these works, what is your process?

Being a street photographer takes determination, something I’m still learning.  It’s different to other forms of photography or art where you can create something from a blank canvas, adding elements to a page or staging a shoot.   It takes constantly looking and always having something to capture it, then being able to select from many the images you’ve captured knowing how they fit into a series. 

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Artist borrows the lyrics of Paul Kelly to etch a man's soul

  • July 15, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Linda Morris for The Age.

After graduating from art school, sometime in his mid-20s, David Frazer tried emulating the revered balladeer Paul Kelly.

Frazer wanted to write the kind of songs that would make people cry, and win public adulation as a rock star idol along the way.

It turns out Frazer was too impatient for songwriting, and he couldn’t find subjects he cared enough about to write the kind of poetry that would bend an audience to his will.

Frazer instead became a karaoke act, and then moved on to acting, but didn’t find much success there either beyond a few bit parts in films and commercials.

”I was really bad at showbiz,” says Frazer. ”My last gig was as a gorilla spruiking customers outside a cafe in Sale, and I thought, ‘I can’t get any lower than this’, and that’s when I retired and thought, ‘maybe art is something I’m best at’.”

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Arts Review: Mein Kampf

  • July 11, 2014
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See article in its original context here by Tim Byrne for Arts Review.

Central to George Tabori’s extraordinary play Mein Kampf is the notion that laughter is the only sane response to unspeakable horror. It’s certainly a refutation of the famous line by Theodor Adorno that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’. Humour, black as burnt coal, is here seen as humanity’s only weapon against unsurpassed brutality.

Set in Vienna in a hostel for the homeless, the play tells the tale of Shlomo Herzl [Steve Gome], who with the help of his friend Lobkowitz [David Kambouris], is attempting to write his memoir. They have just come up with the title of Mein Kampf when a short, irritable Austrian [Glenn van Oosterom] turns up, determined to apply the next day for a place in the Vienna Academy of Art.

It doesn’t take us long to realise we are at a pivotal moment in history, the rejection from Art school that supposedly set Adolf Hitler on a path of genocidal destruction and hate. What makes the play so disturbing is the unwitting but undeniable facilitation that Shlomo gives Hitler, the sense that Jewish kindness and amelioration lends succour to the future mass-murderer of the Jewish people. The moment when Shlomo washes Hitler’s feet is one of the most chilling in recent memory.

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Melbourne.Arts.Fashion: The Seafarer

See article in its original context here by Melynda von Wayward for Melbourne.Arts.Fashion.

The Seafarer by Conor McPherson

Hoy Polloy presents the Victorian premiere of The Seafarer by Conor McPherson, directed by Wayne Pearn and featuring Barry Mitchell, Geoff Hickey, Adam Rafferty, David Passmore and Michael F Cahill at fortyfivedownstairs from Wednesday, 30 July to Sunday, 10 August 2014.
Hoy Polloy founder and artistic director, Wayne Pearn, describes The Seafarer as “a really intimate observation of male dereliction – it’s about us needing darkness in our lives so we are able to grasp the light.” 

The Seafarer is set in Baldoyle a suburb on the coast north of Dublin on Christmas Eve James ‘Sharky’ Harkin is battling alcoholism and has returned to live with his hard drinking older blind brother Richard.

As the night rolls on and the storm clouds gather the brothers are joined by an assortment of friends – one of whom brings an unfamiliar guest insisting on a game of poker.

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Arts Review: On the Couch with Maude Davey

See interview in its original context here by Arts Review.

Who is Maude Davey?
I’m an actor and a director. I work in the theatre, that pretty much sums me up. It’s what I love most.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I think about this quite a lot. I have achieved pretty much everything I set out to achieve. So when I think back and imagine what I might do differently, it is simply this. I would aim higher. You get what you are able to imagine for yourself, or you become what you are able to imagine yourself being. I wish I’d wanted more, imagined more for myself.

Who inspires you and why?
Hmmm. I’m inspired by people around me more than by international celebrities or movie stars. People who have kept going with dignity and courage and purpose, through the bad bits as well as the good. Ponch Hawkes. John Romeril. Jenny Kemp.

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ArtsHub: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by Robert Chuter for ArtsHub.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

Expert direction, dynamic performances, dazzling writing and design create a biting, clever and inspiring comedy.

Ever been stuck with a nightmare roommate who harbours delusions of grandeur? Most of us have a few horror stories about those we’ve lived with in the past. Imagine that situation multiplied to the point where the setting is Vienna and the nightmare roommate in question is a young enthusiastic art student (or applicant anyway) named Adolf Hitler… and his closest ‘friend’ is a Jewish hawker! Throw in God (or his nearest equivalent), a Catholic lover and even Mrs. Death and we have the extraordinary black comedy Mein Kampf. In this zesty, hilarious, and disturbing encore season by 15 Minutes from Anywhere this time at fortyfivedownstairs, talented director Beng Oh has crafted a sharp and multi-faceted production that combines farce and satire with a great ‘what if?

Writtenby Hungarian writer George Tabori, the play was a sensation at its premiere in 1987 and achieved the near-impossible task of making the Germans laugh at the Nazis. It is still a riot, taking pot shots at the Führer and his ideology with the accuracy of a sniper. (Tabori’s family were killed at Auschwitz, with his mother the sole survivor).

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Stage Whispers: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by Michael Brindley for Stage Whispers.

By George (György) Tabori. Presented by La Mama and forty-five downstairs. Production Team: 15 Minutes from Anywhere (Beng Oh & Jane Miller). At fortyfivedownstairs (Melbourne). 2-13 July 2014.

On first meeting the poor would-be art student, Adolf Hitler, in a Jewish flophouse, Bible peddler and would-be writer, Schlomo Herzl, remarks, ‘Strange, you don’t look at all Jewish.’  The line got a laugh at the play’s premiere and has done so in numerous productions and many languages ever since.  Mein Kampf is a very black comedy, a mixture of farce, insight, erudition, slapstick, crude jokes (both sexual and scatological), real wit and devastating ironies.  When Hitler is rejected by the Vienna art school, it is Jewish Schlomo who advises him to go into politics – and helpfully trims his ridiculous moustache to the familiar ‘toothbrush’.

Can we laugh at Adolf Hitler?  How about Hitler’s victims?  George Tabori, who believed that the joke was the most perfect literary form, says ‘yes’. Laughter is necessary – or anyway, better than tears in order to understand and bring perspective to life’s tragedies.  Tabori was, after all, an admirer, translator and director of Bertolt Brecht.

Mein Kampf (also the title of course of Hitler’s autobiography) was first performed at the Vienna Akadamietheater in 1987.  The play gave permission, as it were, finally to laugh at Hitler – without saying that he was anything less than a monster, but one who was also ridiculous.

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Theatre Alive: Monday Musings with Mary Lou Jelbart

See interview in its original context here by Theatre Alive.

La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs have joined forces in an exciting new venture, aptly titled ENCORE, and are working together to bring two of La Mama’s most popular 2013 seasons to fortyfivedownstairs in 2014.

Through the program, these two well-known and highly respected arts venues highlight a commitment to delivering must-see theatre, and extending the lives of some of our most outstanding productions.

We talked with fortyfivedownstairs Artistic Director Mary Lou Jelbart about the reason for the season, the shows involved, and future plans.

Tell us a bit about ENCORE and how it came about?

I’ve always loved La Mama, and in fact the very first show at fortyfivedownstairs in 2002 was a La Mama production; Sailing on a Sea of Tears. It was my original dream that popular shows from La Mama should have another season and extend their audience here, but it has been difficult to plan.

This year I thought “now or never!” and Liz Jones was wonderfully supportive of the idea.

How did you choose the two shows that were to be a part of the inaugural season?

Last year I’d been unable to get a seat for Mein Kampf, and only just managed one for My Life in the Nude as both shows totally sold out, turning away audiences.

Malcolm Robertson, the theatre guru who sees everything in Melbourne, said that Mein Kampf was his top pick for 2013.

I fell in love with Maude Davey’s performance, and everything fell into place.

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Aussie Theatre: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by James Jackson for Aussie Theatre.

Mein Kampf, written by Hungarian playwright George Tabori in 1987, examines a moment in history, namely, the existential calm before the onslaught of the Nazi regime – the calm before the storm.

Set in a flophouse in Vienna, it’s the story of Shlomo Herzel, a Jew attempting to write his magnum opus, called Mein Kampf, and quietly trying to survive. Chaos ensues when a young artist attempting to enrol in Vienna’s renowned fine art academy enters; his name is Hitler.

Mein Kampf deals with compassion. It parallels innate humanism with the obsessive and opportunistic features that have come to characterise the figure of Hitler. The work prefigures the historical events to come and maintains a skilled balance between the comic and the tragic. This is achieved through the audience’s insight. We all know what’s going to happen; nonetheless, we laugh at the childlike features of the young Hitler and cry at the compassion and endless optimism of Shlomo.

Between chaos and order, Mein Kampf shifts at times into allegory, a representation of the inability to ‘represent’ the horrors of these moments in history, or perhaps the inability to come to terms with our historical baggage. The space of fortyfive downstairs gives the piece a site-specific feel and merges perfectly with the simplistic set.

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The Sydney Morning Herald: The Seafarer

  • June 25, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Sonia Harford for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Soul searching: The drink flows in The Seafarer, but the prize for the winning hand is greater than any normal card game when a new face turns up at the table.

A mysterious stranger is the wildcard in many a play or film, usually amping up our sense of unease.

Menacing or benign, the new player at the poker table arrives to upset the status quo, portending any number of cathartic events.

In theatre, Irish writers have long staked a claim on such atmospheric drama. Poetic stories seem to ferment in their peat bogs.

Conor McPherson is one of a modern breed of acclaimed Irish playwrights, along with The Leenane Trilogy writer Martin McDonagh. Mythic and supernatural themes characterise McPherson’s early works such as The Seafarer, soon to be staged by Melbourne’s Hoy Polloy ensemble.

‘‘The Seafarer is the most out-and-out religious play I’ve written,’’ McPherson acknowledges, on the phone from Ireland. ‘‘It sits very comfortably in the Christian myth. But it is is also very much a pagan play, harking back to very primal fundamental forces. The play takes place on Christmas Eve but also the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year – in this part of the world anyway. It’s about darkness and light, inner darkness and being delivered from that and trying to transcend that.’’

The Seafarer positions its late-night visitors around a poker game in a Dublin house. They arrive to join two brothers, one an alcoholic, one blind. Lingering, drinking, the men in this marooned group reveal their natures, the working-class idiom belying grander forces at stake. Cue an expensively dressed stranger.

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