Culture vulturing ~ theatre notes

Friday, October 12, 2007

Culture vulturing

This beak is not just a prosthetic: over the next few weeks, Ms Alison will be plunging her wits - or what's left of them, anyway - into the beating heart of Melbourne's cultural life. (I'm just hoping that any blood that ensues is not mine). Yes, the Melbourne Festival opened last night. And so did the heavens: foul weather is the rule for the next couple of weeks. Oh, Melbourne.

However, this didn't damp the enthusiasm for the opening shows. While my Esteemed Colleague Mr Boyd was wowed by Barrie Kosky's Poe show, I was at the State Theatre enjoying the total sensory experience of Robert Wilson's spectacular The Temptation of St Anthony. (More of that on Monday: some of my blog reviews will be conditioned by press deadlines). Judging by the rafter-lifting that was going on after the show, it was a winner. If you haven't booked, do so: although I believe that you might have to mug someone for tickets, as I hear it's sold out. As is The Tell-Tale Heart. Always worth a try, though.

Not everyone is so engagée, it must be said. Brightened by Corrie Perkin's mention of his name in a feature on MIAF and, in particular, its suggestion that he has Influence In High Places, Andrew Bolt is ringing the funeral rites on Melbourne culture once again. Our Great City, says Da Bolta in a hollow voice, is in Artistic Decline. Decadence - personified by the likes of Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Barrie Kosky and Merce Cunningham - is rotting the heart of Melbourne.

(You know, it's hard not to think of the National Socialist Society for German Culture and their 1937 exhibition of "Degenerate Art" when you read this crap. That exhibition hosted names like Chagall, Ernst, Kandinsky and the exquisite Franz Marc, and the beauty of their works was no defence against the stormtroopers for Good Clean Artistic Fun. They put labels next to the paintings, remember, indicating the amounts of money laid out by museums which purchased the works, to inflame taxpayers' hatred of these fat-cat Bolshevik modernists.)

Bolta's idea of Art is, by the way, Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical. And we all know what Richard thought of that. Now, that's decadence.

I guess these noises are part of the ritual now: and those full houses suggest that nobody is taking any notice. I rather suspect that Melburnians like their culture.

15 comments:

Chris Boyd said...

Give us the executive summary, Ms A! Did it rock your world? I've seen Temptation on DVD and it's as dull as ditch water... but then that's what the small screen does to even the most ravishing of shows.

What is it about Melbourne Festivals and drought breaking?! (Oh, and the more-than-annual Andrew "Thunder" Bolts!)

Alison Croggon said...

The music is astounding. And it's the usual Wilson exquisiteness, ravishing is the word. I can quite see that it would be dull on DVD, which sucks the life out of this kind of theatre.

Bardassa said...

I swapped my tell Tale Heart ticket for Half Life at the Playhouse. I'd rather watch grass grow than a Kosky show (I feel a song coming on!). It was a beautiful play carefully produced and acted, not up there with Steppenwolf's "Side-Man" but lovely and low key. The audience was moved

Anonymous said...

Half Tix is advertising cheap tickets to Temptation of St. Anthony tonight if anyone's interested. (If they are available today, they may be on subsequent days too but Half Tix only advertises what's available on the day of performance.):


http://www.halftixmelbourne.com/listing.htm

Jana said...

My impression is that ticket sales this year are much stronger than in 2006. Last year I remember buying tickets at the last moment (having seen my first few pre-booked shows I decided to invest into another few), and getting reasonable seats. This year it appears impossible: Glow is sold out, Kosky too.

Perhaps it's a change in the air. Last week Fringe was already 85% over last year's ticket sales, or at least so I'm told. We're all very happy. Thus I suspect Melburnians rather like their culture, fringe or not.

naive theatre goer said...

The tickets to Saint Anthony that Half Tix are advertising are B & C reserve. However there may be better seats still available if you're willing to pay for them. I had A reserve seats last night and there were empty seats around me, e.g., a stretch of 8 in the row right in front of me.

I went to more than a dozen Fringe events and all the ones I went to were well attended, though they weren't all sold out.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for the tips - good news, then. I think I can recommend the Wilson with a fairly robust feeling that it will be uncontroversial. Unlike many shows I enjoy, I find it hard to imagine that anyone would dislike it. (Though one never knows).

Hi NTG: as in the Grand Final, empty seats in A Reserve are very often those of sponsors... How was (I ask with a twinge of guilt) the Fringe? I've heard that Adam Cass's show was marvellous, but that's about it.

naive theatre goer said...

With one possible exception, I liked all of the Fringe things I went to, some of them very much. And even the exception was an interesting idea, it was just that the execution left a bit to be desired. For those looking for something, of the things still going, one lesser-known thing that I'd recommend is "Grandpa Sol and Lily's Grandma Rosie". I also liked "The Rap Canterbury Tales", though that is much better known and you may have trouble getting a ticket at this point. Unfortunately the runs of "In the Shade of the Pear Tree" and the light-but-fun "Private Eye" are over.

Unfortunately I didn't get to Adam Cass. The 10.00 pm time didn't suit me early in the festival and now that it would be OK for me, I'm booked for MIAF stuff. One reason I dislike the overlap of Fringe & MIAF is that I'd like to use the last few days of the Fringe to catch up with good word-of-mouth stuff that I didn't consider early on. But if I do that, I miss early-days MIAF stuff that is only on for 3 or 4 days, e.g., Saint Anthony.

Anonymous said...

I had to remind myself to breathe when I read the Bolton diatribe. I came to your blog to check if anyone else was completely flabbergasted at his rubbish.

Thanks for reminding me to enjoy the art and rise above.

Melbourne Festival is one of my highlights each year and I reckon my head might just explode this year, unable to cope with so much good stuff. Cannae wait.

L

naive theatre goer said...

Just one final Fringe comment: if you're just looking for some comedy, you could do a lot worse than "How to Rig an Election", which as a bonus to the 2 advertised cast members, features a 3rd cast member who ran for the Senate on an Australian Democrat ticket in South Australia.
I also liked Lawrence Mooney's "Where to?"--I would pretty much concur with the review of it in The Age.
I tend to skimp on the comedy stuff at the Fringe since I get enough of it at the Comedy Festival but I did like those two.

ben hjorth said...

i had a fair few lukewarm responses to the wilson tonight, along with a few strong dislikes, from 'theatre people'. looking forward to seeing for myself tomorrow night.

shaun parker was very much worth seeing; some utterly inspired moments (particularly musically and choreographically) alongside some fairly rudimentary and undigested philosophico-moral preaching, and some moments that felt milked to beyond an inch of their lives.

'half life' was nice. deeply inoffensive. exactly what i don't want my theatre to be, but a welcome opportunity to reflect on growing old (a current work-related preoccupation) and to gently let out some tears that have been building up over a long hard week.

Scott Crozier said...

I have loved the Melbourne Festival and plunged in every year since I could remember - then I saw Kitson on his opening night: couldn't understand a word he said; couldn't see him and have no idea what the front 2 rows were laughing about. MIFA you got it terribly, terribly wrong - or his production team did. Saw Tell tale heart last night: 55 minutes of tension meticulously played out.

naive theatre goer said...

Given the MIAF expressed wish to showcase things you can't normally see at other times of the year, I thought Kitson was an odd choice. He's been here for the Comedy Festival on a number of occasions and I've seen him a couple of times there. I thought he was good albeit not someone who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest (good but not any better than a few other high quality acts). Since I've seen him at the Comedy Festival and quite possibly will have a chance to see him there again, I decided to give him a miss at MIAF.

richardwatts said...

Kitson's MIAF show is much different to his comedy routines though, naive theatre goer - apart from being touching, circutuitous and whimsical in equal measure - hmm, actually not that different to his stand-up, but still delightful, I thought (full review coming once I recover from the closing night of Fringe).

Alison Croggon said...

I saw Kitson tonight and liked it very much - definitely theatre and not stand up. I was in a back row and had no trouble hearing him either. Full review on this and Shaun Parker in a coupla days...