Archive | February, 2014

Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna

21 Feb

It’s an unlikely claim.

Wayne Tunks shares with us some of his family history and a lot of his love life.

Spliced into his monologue are Madonna lyrics (which made me aware of how few of her songs I know.)

I’m not exactly sure what Tunks has learned from Madonna. But his tale is engaging; funny at times, and at other times offering insight into the challenges of navigating romance and expressing sexual identity.

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

The “Everything I Know I Learnt From….” aspect of the title is cheekily appropriated, and suggests much about the tone of this show: confessional and playful.

Does everyone have mentors? Perhaps. Mine are Simone Weil and Catherine of Siena. (I’m guessing Tunks doesn’t know any of their songs either.)

Years ago I was doing a tour of the Whyalla steel works. (Remember, mentor Simone Weil). We met the guide in a lunch room that was adorned with a single safety poster. “Smart People Learn” it said. I laughed. And have been thinking about it ever since.

What have I learnt? And how do I learn? These questions must be asked. They’re the path to wisdom and happiness. The unexamined life is not worth living, says Socrates. Though not as amusingly as Wayne Tunks.

Veronica Kaye


Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna 

written and performed by Wayne Tunks

Old Fitzroy Theatre until 22nd Feb


The Dead Ones

21 Feb

A woman stands at a podium. She reads from a script, softly and calmly. To her left is projected a series of family photos.  Margie Fischer shares with us her experience of clearing her family house, once the last of her family are gone.

It’s a wonderfully generous sharing.

Dead Ones Margie 2

And it’s fascinating because it encapsulates two of the fundamental features of our world; our materialism and our sense of lost time. Were anthropologists from another time and place to find this performance, it might be their Rosetta stone. (Another time and place – see how I struggle to disentangle myself?)

As Fischer decides what to keep and what to discard from the now empty family home, she’s only too aware of how objects are imbued with value through their connection with people, and that this stored value will slowly leach away. She realizes there’s little use in keeping much.

As we are shown photos of family members who have passed, I’m reminded of the strangeness of the medium. Do photos capture a moment? Or do they stop time? Stop it like a dam stops a river? Stop the flow of a river, and is it a river anymore?

Our culture is obsessed with movement, with the passing of time, with history. And the trouble with history is that, in it, people go. In every culture people die. In ours, they are gone. And photos, often our most treasured objects, can do only what objects do; they retain value for a while, and then they fade to mere history.

Fischer does not make all the philosophical and cultural generalizations I’m making. Her story is personal, honest and powerful. Powerful like the gentle flow of a river.

Veronica Kaye


The Dead Ones by Margie Fischer

Seymour Centre til 22 Feb

Privates on Parade

17 Feb

Set in British Malaya during the 1948 “Emergency”, this is a story of the birth pains of a new world.

Alice Livingstone’s production is also great fun. Overflowing with humour and playful musical numbers, it’s entirely captivating.

Imperialism? They say, to really understand a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes. What they don’t say, is that in order to do so, the time honoured approach is to first take the man’s shoes from him. (Please excuse the gender specific nature of the language – but it seems appropriate in the context of imperialism.)

Gandhi was fond of saying that imperialism hurt the conquerors just as it hurt the conquered (though not necessarily as much).

Photo by Bob Seary

Photo by Bob Seary

As a British performing military troupe, the men presented in Privates on Parade find themselves in a super heated atmosphere. There’s a troubling juxtaposition between what they do and the military conflict that surrounds them. In this jungle of political intrigue they’re utterly lost, but far from the cloying comfort of home, something begins to grow. Relationships, that for the sake of tidiness would be torn out at the roots in Britain, are allowed to blossom.

Aided by marvelous musical accompaniment, the entire cast does brilliant work. Diana Perini and David Hooley are superb as two lovers, searching for a path through racial prejudice. Jamie Collette and Martin Searles give a moving portrayal of two men in love, painfully aware of the value, and fragility, of their relationship in a closed society. Matt Butcher’s villain is wonderfully (and consciously) pantomime, and achieves both humour and real menace. James Lee gives a show stopping performance as cross dressing Acting Captain Terri Dennis. And Peter Eyers as Major Giles Flack, the local representative of British small mindedness, gives a hilarious portrait of right thinking.

Peter Nichols’ script and Denis King’s music captures a world that needed to change. But the play is also a contemporary call for a more open society. And this production presents it with such life affirming exuberance that you leave the theatre feeling we can make it happen.

Veronica Kaye


Privates on Parade by Peter Nichols. music by Denis King

at New Theatre until 8 March


12 Feb

About twenty minutes into this production I began to cry. They weren’t tears of laughter, though the play is very funny. I wept at the story of injustice.

The play tells the story of Theenie and Axis. They face a society that can hardly acknowledge, let alone accept, their homosexuality. The focus is the custody battle for Theenie’s child, Alabaster.


Alison Lyssa’s play was first presented thirty years ago. It’s witty, poetic and rich with allusion. Like some of Dario Fo’s work, it uses farce to explore serious issues, with an emotional impact that’s unexpected, and all the more powerful for that.

Sarah Vickery’s production is set in an almost cartoon-like early 80’s Sydney (except it’s painfully recognizable; I was there.) The production begins with video footage of some of the casually sexist ads of the time. We like to think we’ve moved on.

Despite some opening night hiccups (it being the first night in front of an audience) the cast do well. John Michael Burdon’s presentation of a range of patriarchal figures is highly amusing, but the pick is his all-too-familiar Kurt, Theenie’s bullying brother. Faran Martin gives a beautifully poignant portrayal of his wife; meek, dutiful and utterly lost.

Ali Aitken and Leo Domingan are Theenie’s parents. Their larger-than-Life presentations of smaller-than-Life lives should be (for all of us who live in our lounge rooms) cause for self examination.

Karoline O’Sullivan plays Theenie and Emma Louise her lover Axis, and they’re the emotional centre of the work. O’Sullivan gives a perfectly pitched journey. Louise’s anger tempered by affection is very watchable, and suggestive of a battle we must all face.

In Theenie’s battle, she must also face the law.

I’m fond of misquoting Shelley: “Dramatists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Being a theatre practitioner myself, I guess I like to do this because it’s all very romantic. And completely self serving. There are REAL legislators, and we elect them, and we must keep them accountable. We MUST make our legal system a just one.

The joy of this play is its wonderfully radical sense that we can shape things. If the play has dated, it’s only because some of us have given up on this ideal. Or, from complacency and privilege, never held it in the first place.

Funny and deeply moving, this is exhilarating theatre. It doesn’t merely say ‘this is what the world is’; it asks ‘what do we want the world to be?’

Veronica Kaye


Pinball by Alison Lyssa

at TAP Gallery until 28 Feb

Reviewing plays I haven’t seen

6 Feb

Recently I received a polite inquiry from a publicist asking whether I intended ever writing a response to her current show.

I replied, politely, I did not.

She asked, more politely, why not?

I replied, dumping the pretense of politeness, that I’d never been invited.

And then I got to thinking, why not write up the show anyway?

My good friend Paul Gilchrist, from subtlenuance, tells me that one of his productions was written up by a reviewer who hadn’t seen the show. (Apparently it was four or five years ago, but it was a slow night at the box office, and that being such a rare occurrence in independent theatre, Paul remembers the evening well.) Two comp tickets were held at the door, but were never claimed. It happens. Hard to believe though it is, sometimes events in people’s lives take precedence over theatre. Paul quietly wished the absent reviewer well, and then forgot all about it. And two days later the review came out. It was entirely positive. And entirely gleaned from other reviews. There seemed little reason to complain.

Now, if other writers can do that, why not me?

Paul not attending a show

Paul not attending a show

After all, the whole business takes time. Firstly, there’s the inconvenience of having to actually go to the theatre. Then you have to sit still, and relatively quietly, for what can seem an age. And then, afterwards, there’s the bothersome process of arranging a series of cliches into a review.

Many reviewers minimise the time cost by composing their responses quickly, say on their iPhones on the way home in the cab. (Not an option for me, because of my professional integrity, and the fact my phone is only one model after the tin can and string.)

For me, writing up a 90 minute play takes longer than 90 minutes. And unfortunately, as I enjoy writing, if something’s gotta give, it’s going to be attendance at the show.

Of course, I could write my response during the show, and hence kill two birds with one stone. (An unintended advantage of this would be that I’d never write spoilers again, as the usher is going to be asking me to leave while I’m still describing the set.)

However, there is a problem that might arise from writing my response during the performance: I like to proofread my work by reading it aloud, and I fear this might adversely affect the audience’s enjoyment of the play, as the comparison is unlikely to be favourable.

So it’s probably best I stay at home.

One benefit of not going to shows before I write is that I’ll no longer be bothered by tiresome and trivial scruples, like accuracy or fairness.

I also won’t be at risk of actually being affected by the production. (There is a limited to how effectively the shield of critical judgement can protect you. From being moved. Or touched. Or challenged. Or confronted. Or accused. Or convicted.)

But perhaps the greatest benefit is that I won’t have to wait for an invitation.

Veronica Kaye


4 Feb

‘Slips’ Cordon is a top bloke. By his own admission.

Some other Australian legends are admitted to the pantheon. But others are not, and these others are quickly dismissed as sniveling pricks and the like.

One of the irresistible charms of Slips Cordon, the great raconteur, is his indubitable judgements. By sheer strength of personality, he inexorably divides the world into the wheat and the chaff.

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

Photo by Katy Green Loughrey

This magnificent teller of tall tales shares with us his part in some of the seemingly seminal events of a very Australian twentieth century. The key aspect of each story is that he’s always the hero.

John Derum’s performance is a true delight. Pat Sheil’s script is comic brilliance.

Lex Marinos’ direction is simple and highly effective – the ambiance of a fire side reminisce, an evening of the gentle look backwards, generates hilarity by the absurdity of the contrast with Slips’ truly outrageous stories.

Like Forest Gump, but without the innocence, Slips seems to have been everywhere. And known everyone: Bradman, Phar Lap, Melba, Errol Flynn, Simpson, his donkey. Everyone. And Slips out shines them all.

So Legend is a satire on the big talker? The wanker?

Perhaps.  It’s difficult not to love Slips for his colossal exuberance.

The night is a roll call of Aussie icons. And Slips’  involvement in their famous lives is invariable. The fun is who’ll be next.

And that’s the point. Why are these people (and assorted members of the equine family) our heroes? And, indeed, why have heroes at all? That these names are so very familiar is indicative of a culture beguiled by the simplicity of judgement, and seduced by the safety of the indulgent backward gaze.

Veronica Kaye

Legend! by Pat Sheil

The Old Fitzroy til 15 Feb