Tag Archives: Michael Dean


15 May

Zeroville is fascinating theatre, presented in the Glass Pavilion, Justice Precinct as part of the Anywhere Festival Parramatta.

It’s a wonderfully engaging mix of genres – the hardboiled detective genre meets dystopian speculative fiction.

In many ways it’s a natural marriage.

Both genres have similar tropes. Both pit logic against some other element of human experience.

In the detective genre, the D uses logic, but not the scientific clarity of Sherlock Holmes. It’s logic tainted with world weariness and informed by pessimism.

In speculative fiction, scientific logic creates extraordinary worlds, but increasingly this genre suggests such brave new worlds are dystopian. And their flaws are due to logic itself. It’s logic that encourages faith in an all-encompassing-but-closed knowledge system, and it’s logic that creates the technology that can enforce control on a societal level.

Considering it’s written by the ensemble and director, Zeroville has an almost unbelievable coherence.

Director Michael Dean and designer Hugh O’Connor make brilliant use of the space. For all its simplicity, it’s a visual joy. And Benjamin Garrard and Jasper Garner Gore fill that space with an eerie evocative soundscape.

Photo by Sasha Cohen

Photo by Sasha Cohen

Amy Scott-Smith gives a tremendous performance as Godard, the tough talking detective who enters the mysterious Zeroville in search of Bacall, a lost colleague. Bacall is played by Katrina Rautenberg and it’s a perfect portrait of a woman fighting an ominous seduction. Will she and Godard eventually succumb and become like the smiling passionless zombies of Zeroville? These people-cum-automatons are played with delightfully disturbing humour by the rest of the company. They’re ranked by number and Godard is keen to meet 001. Instead she must endure frightening cat-and-mouse conversations with the deeply unsettling 002 (played beautifully by Danielle Baynes) And who, or what, exactly is the ubiquitous A.N.N.A? (played with sinister charm by Sinead Curry)

Genre work is always intriguing, because it raises two questions. The tropes being obvious, one is clearly being asked whether the assumptions underlining these tropes are valid.

Consider one example: In the world of our experience, do outside forces attempt to control our emotional lives?

The simple answer is yes: Corporations stimulate desire through advertising. Governments stimulate fear through targeting marginalized groups.

Of course, in dystopian fiction, this control is exaggerated.

Perhaps hyperbole is in the nature of all fiction, but the exaggeration can raise another question: is it indicative of a desire to believe we are being controlled?

What would be the appeal of such a belief?

The eternal tussles are not simply between good and evil, but also between aspects of good. Freedom and responsibility are two such aspects of good which battle it out in our culture. The belief that we’re in danger of being controlled supports the ascendancy of the first of these aspects.

Veronica Kaye

Zeroville by Lies, Lies and Propaganda

Glass Pavilion, Justice Precinct, Parramatta til 16 May



22 Jul

This is a brilliant production.

I’ve made no bones about the fact I don’t like the Greeks. (Not the current ones. The ones who died about 2,500 years ago.  And, no, the bones comment wasn’t an intentional pun.)

The great Greek dramatists explored ‘universals’, or at least that’s what we’re tempted to think. Distance has lent them a grandeur. But they wrote in a society every bit as fractured and filled with contention as ours, and much of what we have raised to the status of classics were in their day part of a hard fought cultural war.

In Greek society one of the great divides was that between the philosophy of rationality and the theatre of fate and deep dark forces. Socrates and Euripides were contemporaries.

When I see current productions of the ancient Greeks, I ask ‘Why are we interested in their myths?’

From a purely personal perspective, I’m suspicious of any view that sees the world as ruled by fate and irrationality. It seems like just one more way of disempowering ourselves, of trying to mask the fact that we enjoy lives of extraordinary privilege, and hence of unprecedented responsibility. If the Furies were to drag me off today and I was to die horribly, blind and in exile, it would not override the fact that up until this point I’ve lived 49 years without ever being hungry except through choice.

Photo by Sasha Cohen

Photo by Sasha Cohen

But I started by suggesting that Michael Dean’s production of Euripides’ play is brilliant. And it is. It’s extraordinarily inventive and a visual treat. The cast are marvellous. The individualised characters (Danielle Baynes as Phaedra, Melissa Brownlow as the Nurse, Richard Hilliar as Hippolytus and Katrina Rautenberg as Theseus) are played with a beautiful strength, which powerfully highlights the tragedy of the conclusion. The Chorus (Sinead Curry, Cheyne Fynn, Nathaniel Scotcher and Jennifer White) is wonderfully mischievous, both fun and foreboding. The use of pop music is frighteningly effective, suggesting the hidden menace lying behind our seemingly harmless daydreams and fantasies.

Phaedra is a reworking of Euripides’ Hippolytus. It’s a myth of the power of sexual desire. In the ancient Greek world, humans are the playthings of the gods. Phaedra’s passion is a divine punishment.

So what’s our modern myth of sexuality? A sort of flat biological reductionism. The consequence of our decidedly anti-existential myth is that sexuality is robbed of both its magic and danger. And where did our dull unhelpful myth come from? From the victory of the rational viewpoint. So perhaps the Greeks are worth a revisit.

Veronica Kaye


Phaedra (based on Hippolytus by Euripides)

TAP Gallery til 26th July



Love Field

29 Oct

Billed as ‘a flight of fantasy’, this is a theatrical confection, a fascinating non-typical Australian play.

It’s a conversation between Lyndon Johnson and Jackie Kennedy, set only hours after JFK’s assassination.

Despite being peppered with historical allusion, Ron Elisha’s play is not an attempt to present a truthful account. But it’s certainly engaging, thought provoking theatre.

Photo by Tessa Tran, Breathing Light Photography

Photo by Tessa Tran, Breathing Light Photography

Director Michael Dean elicits eminently watchable performances from both Ben Wood and Lizzie Schebesta.

And Nick Plummer and Susan Millar have done a wonderful job of transforming the simple downstairs TAP white box theatre into the interior of AirForce One.

With two famous people and their milieu presented the play becomes, if not hagiography, then certainly an exhibition of icons. Johnson and Kennedy as political royalty? This is a fascinating tension. America is a democracy, isn’t it? And aren’t we?

The play is an exploration of the connection between the personal and the political.

It can be tempting to believe that our politics (and our morality) are something we attempt to live up to, a guide for our behavior. But a piece that looks at the personal lives of the politically powerful can draw attention to the possibility that our politics are often simply self serving.

And, of course, we’re all politically powerful.

And it’s self serving to assume we are not.

Veronica Kaye

Love Field by Ron Elisha

Downstairs TAP til Nov 2