Monday, September 26, 2011

Forever Tuesday


Forever Tuesday, a free event at the Film Archive      
The Film Archive presents four evenings of new choreographic works, combining to create an accumulative exhibition of moving image and performance. Curated by Kristian Larsen, Forever Tuesday brings together some of Auckland's finest progressive experimental choreographers including Sean Curham, Brent Harris, Mark Harvey, Alexa Wilson, Cat Ruka, Val Smith, Rachel Ruckstuhl-Mann, and Anna Bate.

This event is free, showings are at 7.30pm on the following dates:

Tuesday October 4 - Sean Curham and Alexa Wilson

Tuesday October 11 - Brent Harris and Anna Bate

Tuesday October 18 - Mark Harvey, and Rachel Ruckstuhl-Mann

Tuesday October 25 - Cat Ruka and Val Smith

Monday, September 05, 2011

Shameless Crowd Pleaser 6th Oct @ Q Theatre

A new self titled work by Shameless Crowd Pleaser featuring (but not limited to) Kristian Larsen, Josh Rutter, Julia Milsom, Georgie Goater, bonehead, Paul Buckton, John's Radford and Bell.

An interdisciplinary cross wash of real time mad fun utilising instruments, bodies, and coitus interruptus

One Night Only 6th October, 10 pm, Q Theatre loft space, $15 and $20





Monday, July 18, 2011

From 'The Man in the Suit'

This writing is a personal reflection on 'community' and some implications of a single review in the light of a recent project I've collaborated on...


On the 10th of July 2011 Jack Gray published his review on theatreview of Sean Curham's latest performance construct 'Are You Scared of Me'. In the thread that followed an unusual polylogue has emerged - unusual in that vitriol is by and large absent from the tone of the arguments, conjecture, and responses. Instead what has accumulated is a deeply engaged, largely informed, honest and generous cluster of communiques. These writings have formed a fluidly mutating context for Sean's latest work, throwing new light, angles, and reflections on the event itself, raising worthwhile questions, and pinging its possible implications. 


Val Smith called for responses to the review and/or the emergent issues raised in the thread from the performers in the show. I'm answering that call on my blog rather than on on theatreview primarily because I am deeply critical of the efficacy of that particular forum as a healthy ecology  to learn in. 


Jack's writing wasn't the thing that really interested me (although I admit to being distracted by the careless omission of both mine and Mike Holland's names from the review). That aside I became very interested in a question thrown out there by Raewyn Whyte in which she expressed coming away from Sean's show wondering "whether this show manages to create for the audience a sense of community that lasts longer than the show itself.." Beautiful question. 


As a performer I see in amongst the audiences I perform for - friends, family, members of the communities to which I purport to belong to, mixed in with a whole bunch of other people I don't actually know. But from my perspective a random grouping of spectators isn't a community, its a gathered crowd. 


A gathered crowd can be a container for commonalities among the individuals its made up of. People are all looking at the same event having varied experiences and thoughts with potentially convergent linkages and divergent breakages with / to the people next to them and the performers themselves. The event itself may have a strong focus on ideas of community, or at least be informed by notions of community as Sean's did. 


But here's the thing, I reckon that the stuff that makes a community function and grow is the socialising. Its a mix of the hanging out together and the shared activities and the conversations that makes the glue. A performance can help activate all of that but its in the opinion of this artist that a theatre or dance performance or an exhibition isn't the most effective place to create community even if it is an interesting place for the choreographer / artist to investigate that very thing. At best it can affirm community and/or excite that community. 


I loved Sean's work and I also feel that it was deeply conventional in the sense that, via its format it could only fail to create a sense of shared community among the groups and individuals that formed its gathered crowds. All that said though, I learned things from reading the thread on Jack's review. What held my attention was the accumulated collective response, the incomplete mosaic of view points enervating further conceptual, imaginative,  and emotional connections. And even though I don't trust the platform named 'theatreview' overall, in this particular thread I perceive a morphing entity of shared meaning fed by individuals with something to say. And that thing may actually be something that is "a sense of community that lasts longer than the show itself.."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

This is a bizarre but common interview on a conservative media TV news channel with 'interpretive dancer' Margie Gillis in which the artist is confronted with, and forced to qualify her funding status over one specific remark (link here)

This is a very difficult performance to watch. There seems to be an overt mismatch of handicaps between the debaters; one one hand a wannabe 'Barbie/Phil O'Reilly' news presenter reducing all argument to a financial bottom line in a tone of moral indignation, and on the other a relatively harmless 'too-nice-to-be-intimidating' interpretive dancer (Margie Gillis) from an easily scorned discipline.
I think the news channel got very lucky finding a guest that they could so easily roast. The interview comes across as a very public beating of a single individual utilising the 'taxpayer dollar' sound byte. That's an easy and cheap button for a conservative media news show to push. 
Although Gillis was introduced at the beginning of the show as a consummate achiever and contributor to dance both in Canada and internationally, it seemed she then walked into a nasty trap.Gillis looked unprepared for the bullying tone that the 'Barbie/O'Reilly' clone took and floundered underneath pleas for compassion and flimsily communicated 'humanitarian' aspects of her work.                                                                                                                                                                  I can't help looking at this event as if I was in Gillis's shoes. I felt sorry for Gillis, bored with the TV presenter, and I silently fumed at yet another pointless scaremongering attack on an individuals  fundamental right to express, contribute, and communicate without retribution.
But like it or not I don't know if I could have done any better in a public debate in which I had to formally justify my work against a corporate argument that takes takes the whole function of art and reduces it to a fiscal narrative. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

"I pay money to be wowed"

Audience participation: a squeamish and risky event that can be seriously disconcerting for audience members.  When performers signal that participation is part of the show most people in the audience feel as if they would rather die than risk the potential humiliation of being included in the performance. However in the Auckland season of Jerome Bel's The Show Must Go On this tendency towards coy diffidence went into convulsions exposing  individual responses ranging from playful dancing, teasing, joyous generosity, stony passive -aggressive silence, multiple walkouts, ugly demands, and even outright hostility.  


As a performance piece Bel's 10 year old work could be a long lost theatrical cousin  of John Cages '4,33' in which silences were used as the compositional materials. Minimal and rigorous, the choreography exposes and deconstructs the banalities and conventions of bourgeois theatre. As a performer the minimal action left me feeling very exposed, however the strict adherence to the tasks in each section was a solid anchor. That anchorage underpinned the camaraderie of the 20 strong cast but it did nothing to prepare us for our audiences.   


The tech-dress was an open rehearsal to which people had been invited, friends of the cast and students mostly. Most were youngish, and all had come to watch for free. As we performed the applause was generously heaped upon us and the laughter was so abundant that I began to suspect that people thought the show was a series of gags and were missing the point. It became very difficult not to play each scene for the laughs. Afterwards I felt a mixture of elation, shock (at the intensity and volume of audience reaction as playful as it was), and a vague trepidation about the official opening night. With tickets prices $32-57 I guessed that other tensions would be activated.    


One of the choreographic assistants who'd recreated The Show on a New Zealand cast confided that he had felt frightened as he sat amongst the opening night crowd. The tone of the rapidly growing murmurs quickly became very patronising.  After the performers entered and performed the 3rd section In the third section a jeeringly sarcastic cat call "REALLY GOOD!" was yelled out by one man who later walked out. At the end of that performance there were people giving us a standing ovation, and others who were boo-ing. In the foyer afterwards I began to hear stories about overheard conversations such as a group of middle aged woman who muttered about writing a letter of complaint to the festival. The following day when I repeated some of the stories to two friends they both refused to believe me. Fair call. As a performer I saw some New Zealand audiences activated in ways and degrees I've never before experienced.  


From side stage on the second night we could hear  the audience talking at cafe volume level,  which they kept up throughout the entire show. Onstage we had no way of gauging positivity or negativity from this. But it felt at one point as if the psychological age of the audience had been collectively lowered to that of a naughty classroom of students happily engaging in consequence free chatter because the teacher wasn't there to tell them off. This was perplexing but they were not hostile.  As I stood front of stage in a line with 20 performers looking out into an audience who were looking back at us the lights brought the audience clearly into view creating an expanded sense of 'us'. Some people began smiling, some put on sunglasses, some waved, one woman shielded her face with a program, but mostly they talked to each other as they have throughout the entire performance. However on the second night they began to stand up intermittently as if rising to some kind of throw down. Then they began dancing, and cheering. Dancing for themselves, each other, us. The Mercury Theatre turned into a kind of gospel church at that point with a community of converts and performers on stage and off. 


Closing night they were quiet, this worried me. However as soon as we stepped on stage three women in the audience began dancing, there were another three who simply got up and left together. Overall this group was quieter than previous nights but still had its fair share of extroverts whose sense of entitlement to be entertained was evident during the show including a comment that has become my personal favourite "I pay money to be wowed". 


‎"At the performances of The Show Must Go On in Paris at Theatre de la Ville there are stage invasions, interventions, slow hand claps. J says he got the message: if you do not dominate this audience, they will try to kill you." (Tim Etchells). 

For me the experience of performing The Show became a bizarre and enjoyable social experiment. Unusual audience dynamics emerged from a provocation of almost nothingness. The piece activated an uncommon register of conversation and behaviour from audience members who seemed surprisingly compelled to amplify their presence and break the unspoken normative conventions of politeness and respectfulness that tend to govern crowd behaviour in a theatre. 





Monday, February 14, 2011

Do You Still Think of Me

Do You Still Think of Me 

A new experimental dance - physical theatre by Maria Dabrowska, Wellington's own uber kinetic movement inventionist, and hyper fluid improvisation savant Kristian Larsen. 
A charismatically mad homeless middle class white male and his asexual bisexual A.D.D. female companion, find themselves in an abandoned cinema without a thought in their heads or a reason to leave. Exposing the indestructible vulnerability of two eccentric characters, Do You Still Think of Me blends highly inventive movement vocabulariy with humorous images of madness, banality, and crass beauty. 

entry by koha


Paramount Cinema, Courtenay Place, Wellington


24 and 25 February at 22:30 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Up and Coming

Nest (nominated for four awards in Tempo Dance Festival 2010) is an original cross-disciplinary collaboration ingeniously mobilising a colourful array of skilled performers from the realms of dance, music/sound, theatre, object manipulation, and comedy.  Nest is a constantly shifting theatrical event embracing the logical and irrational. 
This anomalous ensemble of innovative performers deviously deploy a heady spectrum of skills to create and scribble over images evoking and invoking memory, desire, dreams, and death.  Navigating unexpected collisions, deciphering new physical and sonic theatrical languages, Nest is at once charming, infectious, multi-layered and elusive. Each cast member uniquely contributes to a performance resulting in original imagery, narrative tangents and sonic invention. 

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WHAT I WROTE

Things that Move Me Created and performed by Oliver Connew - NZ Fringe - BEOP Studios , Mt Eden, Auckland - 2017 Dear Olive...