Archive | March, 2014

Seven Kilometres North-East

11 Mar

What is the purpose of Art? To remind the miserable that there is happiness, and the happy that there is misery.

Kym Vercoe’s self devised piece does just that. There are moments that are charming and beautiful, and others that are confronting and disconcerting.

Vercoe narrates her multiple trips to Bosnia, and her growing understanding of the region’s very troubled history. Her stage presence is confident, strong, yet vulnerable – a mix that powerfully evokes the magnitude of the historical events and offers a truly human response.

Seven Kilometres North East is a deeply moving and thought provoking piece.

Photo by Heidrun Lohr

Photo by Heidrun Lohr


One of the most unnerving moments occurs when Vercoe realizes that the men responsible for the most shocking of war crimes are probably still living in the town she has repeatedly visited. An acquaintance attempts to calm her, “Don’t worry. They won’t rape or shoot you. It’s not the 90’s.”

In the 90’s,  safely in Australia, I lost friends to arguments about what was happening in the former Yugoslavia. One friend, of Serbian background, went from simply shaking her head and moaning “They’re all crazy” to an intense and painful partisanship. Another friend, defended the NATO air strikes on Belgrade with a fearsome logic: “But we’re the good guys.”

Has theatre the ability to deal with this sort of political and historical complexity? Does it need to? Vercoe’s focus is moral, and she does not offer analysis; she offers judgement. This is not a criticism, though many might think it is. In navigating the human experience empathy gets you further than explanation.

But the piece is far from simplistic. In fact, it’s provocatively self aware. Vercoe refers to thano-tourism; that is, the touring of sites of genocide and mass death. What is the perverse attraction? And we’re forced to ask, is this what Vercoe has succumbed to? After all, why does she need to tell this story? She wasn’t there at the time. Neither were any of her relatives. It’s not her story. (Unless, of course, you subscribe to the idea that we’re all brothers and sisters. As an idea it’s dreadfully unfashionable, and absolutely vital.)

Veronica Kaye


Seven Kilometres North-East by Kym Vercoe

Seymour Centre til 22 March



Waiting for Godot

4 Mar

Waiting for Godot is a seminal theatrical text for many reasons, not the least being that it has inspired two of my favourite critical quips:

“a play in which nothing happens, twice” wrote Vivian Mercer.

And, from a critic I haven’t been able to trace, “Waiting for Godot is a play that would be vastly improved by the addition, on page 2, of the stage direction Enter Godot.

It could be suggested that the play does not so much assert that Life is dull and meaningless as against actively make it so.

Photo by Petros Ktenas

Photo by Petros Ktenas

Because precious little happens in the play, critics have often searched overly long for meaning.

I think it’s just a mood piece. Perhaps that mood could be described as a type of playful pessimism.

And such a mood clearly speaks to many, many people. Directly in front of me in the audience was a young woman wearing a Year 12 jersey. The caption printed on the back?  ‘Bored’ – with the ‘o’ replaced by a smiley face.

And this production by the Riverside Lyric Ensemble is certainly good fun. With a quality cast, director Cameron Malcher presents an entertaining show. Errol Henderson and David Attrill play Estragon and Vladimir with humour and just the right touch of poignancy. Pozzo (Erica Brennan) and Lucky (Clive Hobson) are utterly engaging. Brennan has great fun with Pozzo’s imperious nature. And Hobson makes Lucky’s monologue the show stealer it’s meant to be.

The staging is simple and beautiful. The play has powerful imagery (the tree, the boots, Pozzo’s rope – or is it Lucky’s?) and this imagery is allowed to do its magic.

When first produced, Waiting for Godot was seen as something very new, and for this reason it’s been considered ground breaking. And, theatrically, it is.

But in many ways, it’s one of the final gasps of a dying world view. The play’s sense that Life is depressingly without meaning is strangely quaint, based on the assumption that Life should come with its purpose pre-packaged.

Old gods die hard. 🙂

Veronica Kaye

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Riverside Parramatta until 7 March