One of my highlights so far is the wild and wicked Carnival of Mysteries at Fortyfive Downstairs. It’s the most extravagant so far of Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith’s explorations of burlesque, which are providing increasingly immersive experiences that they call “intimate spectacle”. I last saw them taking over La Mama with the sensory overload of their Triple Bill of Wild Delight: and what a blast that was. Those who saw that show will have an approximate idea of what to expect in Carnival of Mysteries: extravagantly staged passion, perverse and liberating sensual delight, sly comedy, nudity, and excess, excess and more excess. And dancing.
It’s crazy, camp, kitsch experimentalism. You can shut your eyes to Garçon Gigolo, but he will not stop staring at you no matter how hard you might wish him to stop. Welcome to the uncomfortable weirdness that is the Carnival of Mysteries.
I was always susceptible to liking Mari Lourey’s new play, Bare Witness. What with an interest in areas of conflict; that I’d just re-read Hare & Brent’s Pravda and an equally scathing depiction of journalism in a friend’s new play that is the glorious bastard child of Hare, Brent, Stoppard and Beckett; I was almost certain to be provoked. But where BW differs is that its focus is the corruption of the image, not words. Whereas the latter can be nimble and conjure the trick of “truth” in front of eyes — hearing how it’s done behind the by-line would deflate anyone insistent on objectivity — an image is supposed to be bare A camera is a witness, a machine that doesn’t need to decipher right from wrong. But this is not true either.
The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own. – Susan Sontag
A rare collaboration between two of Melbourne’s most important creative spaces, Mari Lourey’s Bare Witness is a joint presentation by La Mama Theatre and fortyfivedownstairs, in the latter organisation’s bunker-like venue beneath Flinders Lane. The space suits the work admirably, for Bare Witness is an expressionistic exploration of the experiences of a diverse group of photojournalists in three different war zones: Bosnia in the early 1990s, Timor Leste in the dark days before its independence from Indonesia, and contemporary Iraq.
The audience’s introduction to this blood, developing fluid and adrenaline-soaked world is Australian photographer Dani Hill (Daniela Farinacci), who in a short space of time goes from snapping hats and frocks at Flemington race course to photographing corpses and grieving widows in the Balkans. Years later, Dani looks back through her old photographs, recalling the stories behind the 11 most powerful shots; stories which are then played out for the audience, counting down slowly to the traumatic revelation behind the final, heartbreaking photograph.
When you see pictures of the casualties of war on the television news or in the newspapers, do you ever wonder about the person who took them? This special La Mama Theatre presentation in conjunction with fortyfive downstairs is about that person.
Bare Witness is an amazing dramatic collage describing the exhilaration, the horror, the outrage, the anguish and the dread hopelessness of combat-zone photography, fusing a compelling life story, expressive choreography, poetic visual effects, a complex moral dilemma and the best sound design of any production seen in Melbourne this year. It’s written by Mari Lourey and directed by Nadja Kostich, and it’s showing now at Melbourne’s Fortyfivedownstairs.
Without realising I pass into the zone of a dangerous place…
‘…to see truth, to capture it, to wing it home…landing on my doorstep wrapped in newsprint…tripping into the lounge room through the screen…No-one remembers how it works’
(Excerpt from The Aerodynamics of Death, Robyn Rowland)
Bare Witness by Mari Lourey explores this very idea by scrutinising and paying homage to the experiences of a group of photojournalists seen through the eyes of Australian correspondent Dani in the warzones of the Balkans, East Timor and Iraq. The story follows Dani from her beginnings in the field through to the aforementioned countries. She sets out to ‘capture the perfect image’ but it eventually all becomes too much for her and she realises she has to face the humanity staring at her through the lens. As Lourey states in the program notes she found herself asking why these people place themselves in such extraordinary and often dangerous situations for the sake of maybe one published image.
I’m loath to say this, for several reasons, but nevertheless: sometimes you have to point out the obvious. (In Ms TN’s case, pointing out the obvious is my raison d’etre). The City at Red Stitch and La Mama’s Bare Witness at Fortyfivedownstairs are productions which demonstrate that our indie women directors can be as ambitious, imaginative, intelligent, out-there theatrical and aesthetically tough as any man.
….an amazing dramatic collage describing the exhilaration, the horror, the outrage, the anguish and the dread hopelessness of combat-zone photography, fusing a compelling life story, expressive choreography, poetic visual effects, a complex moral dilemma and the best sound design of any production seen in Melbourne this year…..
When my friend Sarah alerted me to this exhibition opening, I just knew I had to go! Normally I wouldn’t be able to do anything on Tuesday nights as we have class at the VCA, but fortyfivedownstairs is literally a 1 minute walk from my office (not even) and it was perfectly convenient to pop into before class.
When I entered the gallery I was greeted by free flowing wine and gorgeous macarons wrapped up in mini cones using pages from the book, The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus. I gobbled mine up pretty quickly! They were absolutely delicious and were made by none other than the master chocolatier from Shocolate, which is my favourite chocolate cafe in Melbourne (conveniently located right near my house!).
As in a flipbook, fragments of a life are animated, moving through the war-zones of Bosnia, East Timor and Iraq. The limits of the space, of this photojournalist’s life, are constructed and dismantled, along with the ethics and moral boundaries of the situations that she is thrust into. Flashes of light explode from cameras, bombs and light-boxes. A chorus of actors bends in and out of liminal spaces, dodging and re-assembling the shrapnel, like snap-shots, telling a multiplicity of stories and possible versions/takes. The live music score (by award winning Jethro Woodward) is relentless, but beautifully so, writing in a phraseology that departs from the single elements of the narrative and deepens the echoes of metaphor.
This piece comes from writer Mari Lourey, who comes to this piece via a music career, various arts projects, critically acclaimed Dirty Angels (La Mama 2003), and award winning The Bridge (Green Room and Vic Health Award, 2003).
THE camera never lies, according to the adage, but of course neither can it tell the whole story, because what is left out of the frame is often just as important as what is left in. This paradox is central to the ethical dilemmas faced by photojournalists working in war zones, who must constantly balance their own moral commitment to the truth with the media industry’s thirst for a graphic picture.
Bare Witness is Mari Lourey’s exploration of these contradictions, the pun in the show’s title drawing attention to how photojournalists can themselves become victims of a conflict, emotionally wounded by the images they ”shoot”.
The cultural influence of photojournalism on the battlefield has resulted in some life-changing images. Some, like the Associated Press’s Nick Ut’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a naked little girl running along a road immediately after a napalm attack during the Vietnam War – are defining images of a generation.
Controversy, too, has challenged the reputation for authenticity of both written and photographic journalism that has emerged from places to which few of us would dare travel – especially given the life and death stakes that exist in constantly unpredictable war zones. Renowned war photographer Robert Capa’s iconic “The Falling Solider” – a photograph of a ‘soldier at the moment of death’ – has long been the subject of controversy, with a Spanish newspaper declaring it a fake in 2009. Capa, who most memorably (and miraculously) photographed World War II’s D-Day Landings in 1944, also once wrote: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Ironically, Capa was killed by a landmine in 1954 while on assignment for Time-Life magazine covering the first Indochina War. He died, it has been reported, “with his camera in his hand”.
Bare Witness, by Mari Lourey, has been in development for many years and is a meticulously researched play. As a work of performance, it is wonderful, employing eloquent and dramatic theatrical devices, multi-media, and some terrific physicality where the actors turn themselves inside out to say the unsay-able. The play creates with authenticity and verve the fraught hyper-reality of the world of the foreign correspondent, often in peril, living an unholy and thrilling existence surrounded by horror, and all the while documenting it. The play gives us to understand how the war journalist is very nearly another sort of human being. Bravery exists in all sorts of guises but very few of us are required to demonstrate the sort of immediate courage required of a photojournalist in a war zone. It’s an extraordinary thing to bring to life in an inner-city theatre space this sort of atmosphere and tension and it is to the credit of the team involved in Bare Witness that it succeeds in this so well. The form of the play itself crosses boundaries; it is, as well as a drama, a work of choreography. The live music score adds to the frequent effect of breathlessness and numerous devices are brought into play to serve the world it is portraying. You can nearly smell tear gas, sweat and blood.
Mari Lourey’s newest play explores the life of the self appointed “eyes and ears” of the world, the photojournalist, writes Prue Bentley.
You could argue that the media is in an ugly place at the moment. Opinion journalism has ascended under the auspices of the 24 hour news cycle. Fact-averse, deadline-hungry news agencies are increasingly enslaved to the easy headline.
So, while words can be moulded to an agenda, there’s still a perception of purity in the undoctored, still image.
Mari Lourey‘s newest play Bare Witness tours the life of the self appointed “eyes and ears” of the world, the photojournalist; curious, disconnected individuals who go from conflict to conflict, seeking truth, justice and the next front page.
This review of Do not go gentle… was written by Trevar Alan Chilver for his blog Foyer Talk See it in it’s original context here. Seeing Do Not Go Gentle was an experience. Not just because it's a great show, but because I got…
This review of Do not go gentle… was written by Anne Marie Peard for her blog Sometimes Melbourne and for AussieTheatre.com. See it in it’s original context here. In 2006 Melbourne playwright Patricia Cornelius won the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award and the…
Submitted by K.E. Weber on Tuesday, 10th Aug 2010
The intention of former arts broadcaster and writer, Mary Lou Jelbart, who is the founder of fortyfivedownstairs, has been successfully realised in a short space of time and obtained a well deserved reputation as creating a venue that produces a varied range of independent theatre and art space. And it was this that created much enthusiasm amongst the packed audience which greeted opening night of Patricia Cornelius’ avant-garde piece “Do not go gentle….” this weekend.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The inspiration for Do Not Go Gentle is Dylan Thomas’ well known poem about the fierce and desperate longing for life that accompanies our last days. Patricia Cornelius has written an examination of the twilight years of five nursing home residents and unexpectedly woven it through the story of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition with surprising success.
The result is a moving piece that draws us into the fractured mind of Scott (Rhys McConnochie), a nursing home resident obsessed with the 1912 expedition to the point of recasting those around him into the roles of R. F. Scott’s party. Each is given the opportunity through this conceit to gradually reveal their afflictions, ranging from deep regret, dislocation and uselessness to a tragic loss of memory from Bowers (Pamela Rabe), a younger woman suffering what seems to be a premature form of dementia.
We fear the unfulfilled life.
In the world as we know it, full of aspiration and glamour, there is something monstrous about coming to our end full of regret.
In Do Not Go Gentle, the latest work from Patricia Cornelius puts a group of ageing characters out on the ice to face their lives, their choices and their challenges. And they do it through the goggles of the ill-fated antarctic explorer Robert Scott.
Do Not Go Gentle
REVIEWED BY MARTIN BALL
August 9, 2010
An extraordinary cast
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
By Patricia Cornelius
45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane. Until August 29.
DYLAN Thomas’s famous poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is a passionate clarion call to live life to its utmost, even into old age. Such a philosophy of not going quietly – spelled out in the poem’s refrain, to ”Rage, rage against the dying of the light” – provides the starting point for Do Not Go Gentle, Patricia Cornelius’s wonderful new play about a group of characters in a nursing home, facing the trials and tribulations of old age.
The genius of Do Not Go Gentle, however, is that the characters double their roles in telling the parallel story of Scott of the Antarctic’s doomed expedition to the south pole and this astounding leap of poetic imagination sets up abundant connections between the image of Scott’s men trudging wearily one foot after another into blinding snow, and the creeping onset of senescence that dims the light for so many of our older folk.
The poetry of age in an uncertain world
- Alison Croggan
- From: The Australian
- August 09, 2010 12:00AM
PATRICIA Cornelius’s award-winning play borrows its title from Dylan Thomas’s poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. Perhaps the most beautiful villanelle written in English, Thomas’s poem celebrates the vivid life of old age, pressed hard up against death: “Old age should burn and rave at close of day”.
Likewise, Do Not Go Gentle . . . explores the flare of vitality that reaches a desperate intensity in the face of death, through seven characters who live in an old people’s home.
The central character, Scott (Rhys McConnochie), is obsessed with the tragic heroism of Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, a race he lost to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and that ultimately cost him his life.
Photo by Jeff Busby: Malcolm Robertson, Pamela Rabe, Terry Norris and Anne Phelan
Dylan Thomas’ famous exhortation that old age should burn and rage at close of day is here filled out with a specific and passionate argument by playwright Patricia Cornelius: the rage against the dying of the light is the rage of memory, of memory projected forward into action, into the renewal or reconsideration of old convictions, into reconciliations, into fresh desires, into affirmations, and into new adventures.
This is the much-anticipated premiere production of 2006’s Patrick White Award winner, Do Not Go Gentle. It’s an unflinching, imaginatively drawn, life-and-death scenario, similar in the directness and ardency of its argument to Cornelius’s work with the Melbourne Worker’s Theatre and related in its arrangement to her contribution to Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?
Written by Liza Dezfouli
Saturday, 07 August 2010 15:20
Left – Terry Norris, Anne Phelan and Rhys McConnochie. Cover – Pamela Rabe and Rhys McConnochie. Photos – Jeff Busby
Inspired by those famous words of Dylan Thomas and the story of Captain Scott’s trek to Antarctica in the early 1900s, Do Not Go Gentle by Patricia Cornelius is a beautifully rendered theatre piece. With a variety of dramatic responses to its themes this play gives a lovely sense of what’s possible on stage: images, music, opera, and simple poetic language; there is much to love about Do Not Go Gentle.
I was, I have to admit, a little worried as I made my way down the familiar set of stairs at 45 Flinders Lane last night.
The idea of an all-male Macbeth, set in a jail, has some cheesy potential. In theory, it could have been cheesier than a deep fried wheel of King Island Blue Brie. But a number of my most trusted carrier pigeons had informed me that this was not the case. And, I’m happy to say, they were right.
The review of Manbeth below is written by Joanna Bowen for Australian Stage Online. See the original review here. Manbeth is a riot of masculinity; within minutes, you can smell the testosterone. This retelling of Macbeth is set in a…
Othello | The Kingsmen
Written by Liza Dezfouli
Thursday, 10 June 2010 11:02
The geometric 90s looking set design tell you immediately that you’re in for something new and different with this production of Othello. The windows of the theatre space at 45 Downstairs are festooned with tapes of black and primary colours, suggesting the bars of a prison, the narrow window openings of a castle, or the timbers of a ship. Lighting is simple and there are few props. The action happens on the bodies of the actors, tightly choreographed into a piece that at times almost veers into dance. The actors tumble and roll; there is clowning and buffoonery a-plenty. The extensive development of a vocabulary of body language provides an original and vivacious aspect to this presentation of Othello’s dark story. The marrying of Shakespeare to physical theatre is an ambitious undertaking with a whole new level of performance to keep track of along with the demands of the language. It does make for a particular effort from the audience and, although the physical aspect is meticulously designed to support the script, the clowning is at times distracting; it may be that the cast hadn’t quite settled into the form and was having to work hard to deliver the story on so many levels.
Review of Open Water by Rebecca Jones, written by Bernadette Alibrando and published on the Walk to Art blog: I’ve decided that I am drawn to drawing and, of late, have been viewing drawing exhibitions and hanging out in drawing…
Review from Arts Hub, written by Shelley Blake:
One of history’s most famous apparent betrayals has been brought to the Melbourne stage in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 1995 production The last days of Judas Iscariot – and it seems quite fitting that a company called Human Sacrifice Theatre would be the ones to bring it home. After all it is a tale about sacrifice and redemption, isn’t it?
The production, now playing at Fortyfive downstairs, is cleverly crafted and set in the court room of “down town” purgatory. The case, God and the kingdom of heaven and earth vs Judas Iscariot, opens with a grasping monologue from Judas’s mother, Henrietta Iscariot (Gail Beker) and as the audience seems settled in their juror’s chairs, the drama begins.
A dialogue driven performance allows the cast to jump back and forth between stories, anecdotes and tales of their time and relationship with the one and only Judas Iscariot. At times, the character’s lack deliverance in their monologues and the persecution sits a little too softly on the surface.
The below review of A Shrine for Orpheus is from Art Blart, written by Marcus Bunyan:
Bees, books, bones… and biding (one’s) time, attaining the receptive state of being needed to contemplate this work. This is a strong, beautiful installation by Pip Stokes at fortyfivedownstairs that rewards such a process.
What is memorable about the work is the physicality, the textures: the sound of the bees; the Beuy-esque yellowness and presence of the beeswax blocks; the liquidness of the honey in the bowl atop the beehives; the incinerated bones, books and personal photographs; the tain-less mirrors, the books dipped in beeswax; the votive offering of poems placed into the beehive re-inscribed by the bees themselves – and above all the luscious, warm smell of beeswax that fills the gallery (echoing Beuys concept of warmth, to extend beyond the material to encompass what he described as ‘spiritual warmth or the beginning of an evolution’).
This alchemical installation asks the viewer to free themselves from themselves – “the moment in which he frees himself of himself and… gives the sacred to itself, to the freedom of its essence…” as Maurice Blanchot put its – a process Carl Jung called individuation, a synthesis of the Self which consists of the union of the unconscious with the conscious. Jung saw alchemy as an early form of psychoanalysis in which the alchemist tried to turn lead into gold, a metaphor for the dissolving of the Self into the prima materia and the emergence of a new Self at the end of the process, changing the mind and spirit of the Alchemist. Here the process is the same. We are invited to let go the eidetic memory of shape and form in order to approach the sacred not through ritual but through the reformation of Self.
Read the review below or on the Oz Baby Boomer’s website.
Review by Prue Bentley:
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by David Myles
Human Sacrifice Theatre | fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne | Until 30 May
Alarm bells start ringing when you discover there’s a cast of 20. They really begin to get going when you find out you’re about to see a cast of 20 play in a small theatre, for THREE hours.
And it really goes all Saint Peter’s on you, after reading that it’s “loosely based on” The Bible.
In normal circumstances this could see the more half-hearted theatre-goer conveniently wimping out, lingering a little too long over their last mojito and waiting for the perfect moment to blush “Oh look at the time!”
But they’d be wrong to.
Reviewer Cameron Woodhead
May 15, 2010
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
By Stephen Adly Guirgis Human Sacrifice Theatre fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, city, until May 30
BETWEEN heaven and hell, there’s courtroom drama. With The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis – a writer for NYPD Blue and The Sopranos – takes us into a theatrical retrial of Jesus’ betrayer.
Human Sacrifice Theatre has assembled a huge cast (the play has more than 20 characters, and there’s no doubling up) to deliver an ambitious, probing and diabolically entertaining production.
Heard in purgatory, the case is presided over by a hanging judge (Bruce Kerr), hearing argument from an unctuous prosecutor (Adam Mattaliano) and an impassioned liberal defence attorney (Holly Shanahan).
Review of The Rabble’s Cageling by Alison Croggon, originally posted on her blog, Theatre Notes:
Few poets write of desire with such passionate delicacy as Federico García Lorca. Lyric, erotic and savage, his poems celebrate the anguish of absence, the bittersweet longing for what cannot be possessed. When he writes of his home city Granada, he imagines an ideal beauty, the “spiritual colour” which Andalusia woke within him. This beauty exists within and beyond the “poor cowardly city”, the “miser’s paradise” that contains “the worst bourgeoisie in all Spain”, of which he wrote bitterly only months before he was shot dead near Granada by Fascists. He saw the real as clearly as the possible.
In Lorca’s poetry, repression squeezes desire into a defiant brilliance. Lorca was gay – some claim that is the reason that he was murdered – and so, in a world of absolute divisions, he existed on the penumbra between both sexes, a fluid creature of the twilight, weaving his poems out of the blinding contrasts between night and day. He made of them paeans to life in which beauty is a measure of mortality: “Like all ideal things,” as he says in a poem about fountains, “they are moving / on the very edge / of death.”
The Rabble’s production of Cageling at fortyfivedownstairs has sold out which is great news for independent theatre in Melbourne (is it me or has there been an unusual number of similar sellout seasons in 2010?) It’s a reimagining of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba with some pretty bold imagery and directorial choices, but for me it was marred for a few reasons I’ll get to eventually.
The great Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca’s most enduring contribution to the arts must surely be his concept of duende, an idea with all the precision and grace you’d expect from a guy known to his friends as Flamenco Feddy. You could say duende is the quality of doing things in italics, Sometimes With Initial Caps, but I had to go back to the books to find a more precise explanation of duende. To save you the same trouble I’ll reprint here an extract from Lorca’s own writings on the subject in “Tears of a Horny Bullfighter”:
Review of Rasa Sayang in The Age by Jordan Beth Vincent: Tony Yap Company, fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, April 24-25, 8pm. BEFORE the show, a bespectacled Tony Yap wanders benignly among his audience, admiring Naomi Ota's visual installations. Inspired by…