Thursday, October 30, 2008

Camille Is In The Spiegeltent

Long interfering work-days, they are poo. They get in the way of the real stuff. But I saw Camille at The Spiegeltent a couple of nights ago, and that was the real stuff. So far I think it is my favourite performance of the year. Perfect performance for that venue. I'd be happy to twattle on for a bit but I think the link I've given you perfectly captures the vibe of the show. The clip is, I think, a Nick Cave Song... although I thought at the time, based on the writing, that it was Tom Waits. I don't think I've heard the original. I think she handles it really well... catch the perfectly timed glints in the eye. Hard to believe she's a trained architect and not a trained singer. She's a total natural onstage.

As downbeat as this moment was in the show, there were plenty of upbeat ones as well, and some really funny sections where she played the crowd wonderfully. I loved this show and I loved that I saw it in the Spielgeltent. I almost don't want to go back and see any other performances because this was just such a perfect one. Also check her out and listen to some more here.

I have what I call Big Night moments. Years ago I was at the cinema watching a movie called The Big Night. It was about am Italian restaurant struggling to survive. The owners, a couple of brothers, were food purists sticking by their guns while restaurants all around them used gimmicks to pull business. These guys were passionate about their food and hoped that the quality of the food would be enough. Somehow a big star, a singer, I think, was due to eat at their restaurant and they knew that if word got out, this could swing business so they set about creating an extraordinary dinner.

There was a moment in the film that I realised it had sucker-punched me and I was really moved. I was moved by what was going on in the movie - there was lots of love, passion and celebration - but I was also moved by the look of the movie. Some of the shots were just gorgeous and I knew that a lot of passion had gone on behind the camera too. I'd been moved before by sad stuff in movies, but that was the first time I realised that I could be moved by someone really throwing themselves into something to create a thing of shining beauty.

So yeah, experiencing Camille in The Spiegeltent, I had several Big Night moments.

Hmm. I appear to have twattled on anyway.

And if there are tickets left I think I'm going to go along again tonight.

PS: Okay so I've heard the original now because it's there on the scrolly bit on the bottom of the youtube screen. Definitely Nick Cave but very Tom Waits too. Now go back to the scrolly bit and check out Camille doing Not In These Shoes. Brilliant.

Monday, October 27, 2008


The other night at a function at The Big Pointy Building, a sweet old lady wandered over to the kitchen area and asked for the way out. It's not the public exit, but there is a back way out and as she was here I gave her directions. But you need a pass and just to make sure she'd get out okay I said I'd take her down in the elevator and show her the way. She was a lovely old lady with amazingly polished speech. Very gracious. All manners. All charm. I took her down and showed her out and went back up to work, thinking I probably just did the wrong thing because there are bad fuckers about and you should trust no one. People, they ain't no good.

Then yesterday, I'm wandering around the Dank Street Festival, being amazed by so much great design. I love looking at a thing and seeing that someone has spent time creating this thing... a chair or a light that is so much more special than just a chair or a light. A person has applied themselves to thinking about this object and making it exceptional. People, they can be pretty good.

At one point I'm walking past the Dumbo Feather stand, a magazine I admire because it presents the best qualities of really good, creative people. I found this magazine when in Byron at a time I needed it and I read parts of it through tears (Viking tears, you understand). One of our suppliers was featured in that particular issue and a whole life other than Food Supplier opened up. Business owner, film maker, refugee with years stolen from her life. I was amazed.

Anyway, in the seconds I'm standing there looking at the stand and thinking about what a good magazine this is, a guy comes up and asks the woman at the stall if he can take her picture. She is the publisher and editor. The guy tells her he is a big fan. She smiles and looks slightly embarrassed by the attention. I carry a big, inner smile around for the rest of the day. People, they can be bloody brilliant.

Later on in an art gallery, surrounded by jewelry and metal installations, this woman behind the counter says she sees me and The Dreaded One all the time at trance gigs. She doesn't look like a doofer but we know who she is. She has a particular kind of dance. We start talking and it's the first time we've talked and I think again about how many of us want to get to know each other away from parties. Turns out she's into theatre in a big way, loves cabaret, has been to so many of the same shows I've been to.

Although we haven't spoken before, she asks if we know someone she knows, a girl with a guy's name. I know the person, have spoken to her once. A lovely person who exudes fun and goodness. She's sick. She's too young to be this sick, but that's how it is. She's doing as well as can be expected and she's even working at the next doof. I'm not sure why this person has mentioned this other person but it has affected me because too often at these parties, contact is fleeting. Maybe that's changing. Maybe I've been in the scene for long enough now that I want to know these party people. We spend time together, we dance together and we share loads of laughs, but there is other stuff to find out, other things to say to people, other things to share with them.

We say goodbye and walk away and I feel I should get this person's number. But we rely on the fact that we'll see them at the next party or the one after that. Given what we have just talked about, why should I feel so confident about that? People, they're so fleeting. You have to hold on to the good ones.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A View Of Concrete

Fun day today. I got a buzz out of stuff.

Started off the day doing a phoner with Damian Walshe-Howling, the guy pictured who played Benji in the hugely successful crime thriller mini series Underbelly. Chat went well, I think, and the story should be good. He came across as a bit like Brendan Cowell - no bullshit kind of person , articulate and intelligent and passionate about story-telling. I like this kind of people. I wish there were more of them.

I also think I've got tix to The Burlesque Hour at The Spiegeltent, currently on the forecourt of The Big Pointy Building. I am excited about this. I thought I'd missed out. I'm happy and grateful that I haven't.

And after doing a cocktail function for about 500 people tonight, I came home feeling tired and a bit bleh but a movie came on called Morvern Callar. Holy crap, what a totally good movie. I really enjoyed it. The shots... the storyline... the most realistic portyal of the state of mind you can be in when in a nightclub... just a really fucking good movie.

Also sent my short story Leaving Ruben Jane off today. Hope that one sees print some day.

Right. It's just about snowing here which is ridiculous. The wind is howling and it's freezing... what is going on?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Killer Joe Review


Talking to director Iain Sinclair recently about his production of Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe, I confess to being a bit worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. A good storyline that the Coen brothers could do juicy things with on film, sure. But crowding the already cosy Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir with a live blues band as well as the cast? Not sure.

On Sunday afternoon in a full house I was bitch-slapped and told I was wrong. This was near perfect theatre.

Set in a trailer in Texas, the story follows drug dealer son who gets shafted and hatches a plan to kill his mother for her life insurance. The mother found his stash and sold it to fix the car putting the son on the wrong side of his dealer, so his plan to kill her seems reasonable enough to him. Other family members think it’s a great idea. Enter the local sheriff, Killer Joe, gun for hire and all round evil bastard. Everything turns to shit. These people are wrong. They are fucked up and feral, lacking in morals and prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. And they are very real. Real like scabs are real.

There are disturbing scenes in this play. It’s raw. It’s brutal. A few bums squirmed on seats, especially as the tension builds and things get nastier and nastier. On occasion it’s pretty damned funny too. There is a lot more humour (of the bleakest kind) than I was expecting. We laugh at how hopeless these people are, at how shallow they are. Underneath the laughter, however, is the uneasy knowledge that people like the Smith family do exist.

This was very well cast - Maeve Dermody was luminous as the young and apparently naïve Dottie and Robin Goldsworthy as the cunning and stupid Chris stood out, which is impressive given that the entire cast was utterly convincing.

I wasn’t sure how well a live band was going to meld with the play, but it worked. The Snowdroppers provided a break from the grim dealings unfolding and somehow gave the play more scope. Without the music, I think this would be a very claustrophobic piece; with the music it opened up and became something larger – a morality story, perhaps, rather than simply a story.

The play's director made a comparison between The Snowdroppers and Nick Cave, at least in their on-stage intensity, and yeah, there was an actual resemblance between the lead singer and Nick Cave. It was physical, to a slight degree, and it was there in the delivery, like when he was belting out some seriously good songs, he wasn't on stage but somewhere else, somewhere deep in the song. I want to see this band live again soon at a proper gig. They are very good.

I came away from Killer Joe feeling like I’d seen something special. Tough writing, brave performances and bold direction, sound and set design that takes you to another place. This is what theatre is all about.

At Belvoir Street Downstairs Theatre until 2 November.


A shorter, tidier version of this review should be out in the current issue of Drum, but this is the kind of theatre I think no one should miss out on, so if you don't read Drum but you are in Sydney and you want some seriously good theatre you have been told: do not miss Killer Joe. Miss it and I will hunt you down and mess you up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Are Like The Weather

I am not a morning person, at least not a work morning person. This is an established fact. Put me in a forest and I am very much a morning person. But work? Forget it.

A new work person for whom English is a second language observes this.

"What is wrong?" she asks as I button up my faux chef jacket.

"Nothing is wrong," I tell her, faux smiling the weariness from my tone.

"Hmm," she ponders back. "I think..."

She frowns, struggling to find the right words while I think oh God make this conversation end because at this time of the morning there are no right words.

"I think," she goes mercilessly on, "That you are... ah... you are like the weather." Accompanied by a hand waved in the direction of the day outside.

I look outside. It is a gloomy day. Bitch has just made me smile.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Horse Dreaming

I have a post coming soon about band riders (that wish list of stuff they have delivered to their changeroom). But first, this...

Weird dreams lately. Last night I had this really vivid one of someone coming to the front door of my house (not my real house now, but it was my house in the dream) riding a horse. The door was open and the horse wanted to come in, which it did minus the rider. It was a bit restless and stompy and agitated but I took it and calmed it and lead it from one end of the house to the other. It was surreal and strangely cute. So weird to have such a large animal inside the house. It seemed happy and curious. We got to the back door and I lead it up some stairs and back onto the road outside where the horse's rider ran up and climbed back on. I was left feeling amused by it all.

Just a few minutes ago I looked up dream symbols and found this about horses: "The Horse is a very strong dream symbol. It represents death."

Just like that. Way to give me the willies, dream people.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dragon Dreaming Memories

Couple of shots from a memorable weekend. Top is me with a lovely person. Middle is me being puff-cheeked about something worth getting all puff-cheeked about ("It's all gone to shit!"). Why do I look so Grumpy when I was up to my neck in a totally gorgeous weekend? Last two are a couple of random shots that kind of capture the vibe of the weekend.

It will be interesting to see if New Person and I do become friends. You ever get that thing where you're sitting with a bunch of people and something just sparks between you? And you know you both get it? We sat and talked after the others left and then we wandered and talked and laughed and danced and we just got along brilliantly. But was it real and lasting or a fleeting thing due to the vibe of the weekend? Who knows. Doesn't really matter in the end because the afternoon and late into night were filled with laughs and it was just part of a very cool weekend.

I want to be back in the forest being silly.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Had such extended, vivid dreaming last night. Could understand where some of it came from, didn't get some of it but just felt it meant something. There was a feeling of portent and fear. Something ain't right.

Still, what do you do? Sent off what I feel is one of my best short stories to a mag overseas (it's a dark love story... will I ever stop writing about love?) and have started compiling some funny stuff to approach agents and publishers with.

Meantime, I read about wishies while reading Isabelle's blog. I like the idea of something called a wishie.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Verbal Snapshots From Dragon Dreaming

Still a bit tired and sunburned to blog properly. Had an awesome weekend but it took it out of me a bit. Still, here are a few favourite quotes from the weekend...

Shouted smilingly at The Dreaded One and myself on the open-air dancefloor: "I never see you two trashed!"
This struck me as particularly amusing. Like, seriously.

Said by many people over the weekend: "So I hear you guys are DJing at the next party."
This was supposed to be a secret. Grumpy & Stompy still have our trainer wheels on.

Said by The Dreaded One (AKA Stompy) to me after a particularly delicious and goofy day talking shit and meeting new people: "I knew you were a gonner as soon as I heard her accent."
Me too. Didn't help that New Person and her partner were as lovely as her accent... which was really lovely.

Said to me by New Person after she asked me to pour her a vodka whilst she was swinging back and forth in our hammock back at our camp: "I knew there was a reason I wanted to talk to you more than talking to all the others."

Said to New Person immediately after the above quote and me pouring and serving requested vodka: "And why was that? You thought I would be your minion?"
She replied, "No, far from it." Which was lovely. Absolutely lovely. Said with a totally lovely accent.

Said to me about Dreaded One by New Person while wandering aimlessly: "She's gorgeous. You must feel pretty good having someone like her hanging on your arm."

Said by me in reply: "Absolutely."

Said by me repeatedly: "It's all gone to shit."
This after observing that the interior of our tent appeared to have sustained extensive damage after several large clothing bombs had been detonated.

This really was a good party. The music was great and all the right people were there. The DJing level intimidated the fuck out of us and we are going to have to get really serious very soon. But such a good party. I had been a little reluctant to go, but nup. These gatherings... these days they feel like my version of family. A family gathering in the forest with so many smiles and hugs... aw shit I love it. My favourite thing.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dragon Dreaming, Canberra 2008

A doof, this weekend, just out of Canberra. It's called Dragon Dreaming. The weather has turned warm and there will be outdoor dancing and loads of friends. And the soft luminous blue interior of our tent. Like returning to a warm and soft and blue snuggly womb.

And a return to something earthy. Hugs. Laughs. What was your name again? And typically, friends who say they want to one day experience the outdoor party scene do not fllow through. Limp dicks that they are.

Today was pretty crap. Love the hard work and really like the good team at The Big Pointy Building... with one exception.

Ooh... gossip? Not from me.

Am looking forward to this party. Need some mental re-adjustment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Killer Joe by Pullitzer Winner Tracy Letts at Belvoir Street Downstairs

My review of Killer Joe here.

I read up about Killer Joe and listened to some of the music by featured band The Snowdroppers, and because I didn't really connect with the music I didn't think I was going to enjoy doing this story. But once I got the director, Iain Sinclair, on the phone it was one of the most enjoyable phone interviews I've done in quite a while. Really bummed I only had a quarter of a page allocated. I think I'll try to check out this play after all.

(The following is my original draft for my own reference. I'm just a little bemused by the sub-editing. My mistakes weren't caught and weird changes were made. Me no understand).



Catching up with theatre director Iain Sinclair over the phone turned out to be a bit tricky. He’s a busy man, currently working on two productions. One is The Convicts Opera for Sydney Theatre, the other is Killer Joe which will be staged at Belvoir Downstairs. Both productions are gritty, both feature music, but while Convicts Opera is very Australian, Killer Joe is as American as apple pie... albeit a morally empty apple pie with a bad-ass attitude and a loaded Smith & Wesson.

Set in a Texan trailer park, Killer Joe follows the story of white trash Smith family. When the mother sells her dealer son’s drug stash, the son comes up with a plan to kill the mother to collect her life insurance. His sister thinks this is a sweet idea, and so they enlist the help of the corrupt local sheriff.

Written by recent Tony and Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts, I wonder if the play could have been adapted and set in an Australian caravan park, but the director feels there are some fundamental differences between America and Australia and that such an adaptation would be wrong for this particular play.

“The play is all about Texan values. The whole world has been living under Texan values for some time with our friends in the Republican party over there. This is like a boiled down version of that kind of thinking.

“Trailer park culture in America is a very different thing to trailer park culture here. There’s also the fact that Tracy Letts is an Oklahoman, which is just the next state along. The way that he’s written this is so much in the rhythm and style of southern American thinking. Texas is a very specific kind of place. Cormac McCarthy in No Country For Old Men said something like there’s something about Texas, something in the soil that seems to be able to soak up cruelty and dish it back out at the same time.”

At the heart of Killer Joe is the decay of values. It’s an examination of what happens to people living in social and moral vacuum, and while we have our version of idle lives and emptiness of both space and values here, Sinclair feels that it’s just intrinsically different in The States. He paraphrases Robert Hughes here in saying that the great difference between America and Australia is that because America started out as a Utopian society they’ve got nowhere to go but down, and because Australia started out as the trash can of Europe we’ve go nowhere to go but up.

Certainly the characters portrayed in Killer Joe are down. And dirty. Other words that pepper the conversation about the play are fierce, tough, strong and (when describing Tracy Letts’ writing style) muscular.

“It’s such a fiercely dramatic piece,” Sinclair says, clearly a long-time admirer of the writer. “And the reason for that is he’s a Steppenwolf [Theatre Company] guy and they have a reputation for putting on tight, hard, lean and smart theatre.”

For this production, the director has invited tight, hard, lean grimy blues band The Snowdroppers to play live on stage throughout the play.

“There’s something about those guys that I haven’t seen on stage for a long time in a rock band – even though they have a 1930’s depression blues aesthetic going on. For me it felt the same way as when I was a young kid I saw Nick Cave on stage for the first time. They manage to carry on this theatrical intensity which matches exactly the tone of this play.”

The Snowdroppers play gritty music, but it’s kind of upbeat as well, even if the things they sing about are not. Sinclair says this also ties in well because Killer Joe is savage, but with moments of surprising tenderness and humour throughout.

WHAT: Killer Joe
WHEN & WHERE: 10 October – 2 November at Belvoir Street Downstairs Theatre.