A scrapbook, from 6/8 to 12/8

Monday 6 August was the second of the re-booted Simone’s Boudoir monthly conversations at Dancehouse. This month’s topic was Yvonne Rainer and the artist as activist, with readings from her autobiography among other sources. So many highlights! Here’s a quote from the program note for the 1968 performance of Trio A:

“If my rage at the impoverishment of ideas, narcissism, and disguised sexual exhibitionism of most dancing can be considered puritan moralizing, it is also true that I love the body—its actual weight, mass, and unenhanced physicality.”

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The following review – abridged – was published in the Herald Sun on Tuesday 7 August:

What: Sneakyville, by Christopher Bryant
Where & When: at Fortyfivedownstairs, until August 12

Charles Manson’s death last year hasn’t stopped the public appetite for stories about his drug-fuelled killing spree in the Californian summer of 1969. There’s even a new Quentin Tarantino film on the horizon with

Australia’s own Margot Robbie as his most famous victim, Sharon Tate.
Manson and his cult also inspired Emma Cline’s 2016 brilliant bestseller The Girls (2016). But there’s a lot of rubbish about Manson, too, and Christopher Bryant’s new play, Sneakyville, is grossly overwritten and directed without much verve or imagination by Daniel Lammin.

The play mixes up genres and styles and narrative perspectives in order to convey the strangeness of the late sixties and all the tripped out hippie madness when, as Joan Didion said, everything had the logic of a dream.
We get grisly descriptions of mayhem and slaughter and giddy re-enactments. Endless skeins of explication and biographical detail are thrown over the audience’s heads. Then there are dance interludes and fragmentary interviews with Manson as a man in his eighties still obsessed with his own legend.

All the transitions are awkward and everything seems to plod and clank. There are ponderous soliloquies posing as revelations and long silences of doubtful significance. See-through plastic curtains are sometimes drawn to warn us that messy blood and gore is coming. Then this turns out to be a tease and what we end up with are staid video projections, reminding us that we know Manson only through his media image.

The five ensemble members try hard. Kristina Benton as a former cult follower looking for human connection in the new millennium is a standout. Wil King is suitably wild as Manson, but he lacks that mysterious hellfire behind the eyes and struggles to give the old killer’s words real menace.

If you’re looking for a Manson fix hold out for Tarantino, save it for Robbie.

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Joan Didion on the end of sixties:

“So many encounters in those years were devoid of any logic save that of the dreamwork.”

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James Wood on Emma Cline’s The Girls:

“The sentence fragment is suddenly everywhere in fiction today, and increasingly seems an emblematic unit of the literary age. It is vivid and provisional, inhabits the vital moment, and renders the world in a cascade of tiled perceptions. But it also tends to restrict a novel’s ability to make large connections, larger coherences, the expansion and deepening of its themes. The form of a novel is the accumulation of its sentences; in this case, the tempo of the sentence becomes the stammering tempo of the form.”

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An abridged version of this review was published in the Herald Sun on Friday 10 August:

Carnival of Futures by one step at a time like this
At Arts House until August 19

credit Bryony Jackson

They say the future casts a shadow on the present. How we imagine tomorrow influences the way we behave today, and thus the future is first made in the mind.

In Carnival of Futures, theatre-makers One Step at a Time Like This enlist two professional futurologists – Bridgette Engeler and Jose Ramos – to create an intimate and entertaining live art exploration of how we dream new worlds and make them real in a series of playful but thought-provoking one-on-one encounters.

With a chintzy toga and plastic crown, Engeler plays a tech-savvy Delphic oracle. She’s not keen on prophecy, but will happily discuss the headspace you need to navigate a world of increasing volatility and uncertainty. Meanwhile, Ramos looks forward to a time of shape-shifting, multitasking and increased hybridity.

In another slightly wacko adventure, we are ushered into a small tent on a balcony where, clutching a hot water bottle, we listen to a snippet of post-apocalyptic fiction by Hannah Donnelly.

One Step at a Time Like This specialises in creating drama in off-beat places and in this show they exploit every inch of the North Melbourne Town Hall, moving us dextrously from belfry to basement.

But the best thing about Carnival of Futures is simply the care and artfulness, the tact and sensitivity, with which the whole evening is orchestrated. From the welcoming waiting room with its books and drinks to the design of individual meetings, this show is a winner. Everything works and the seriousness of our hosts never gets pretentious or solemn.
Arts House is committed to socially engaged performance that pushes the boundary of what counts as art. But Carnival of Futures, whatever its novelty, succeeds first because of its committed theatricality, its energy and its attention to detail.

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Current fascination: Rudolf Steiner on Eurythmy.

“No art has ever risen out of human intention intellectually conceived, neither can the principle of imitating nature ever produce an art. On the contrary, true art has always been born out of human hearts able to open themselves to the impulses coming from the spiritual world, human hearts which felt compelled to realise these impulses and to embody them in some way in external matter.”

***

From Kafka’s Diaries:

“[Rudolf Steiner] listened very attentively without apparently looking at me at all, entirely devoted to my words. He nodded from time to time, which he seems to consider an aid to strict concentration. At first a quiet head cold disturbed him, his nose ran, he kept working his handkerchief deep into his nose, one finger in each nostril.”

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