Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shadowboxing by James Gaddas, Review


Written by British actor/writer James Gaddas, Shadowboxing is a one man play coming in at about one muscular hour. I was warned by director John Bishop before entering that “It's no Mary Poppins.” I'm not sure what it was about my appearance that warranted such a warning... I put it down to the sweetness of my tutu wearing, fluro dreaded partner The Dreaded One.

Certainly, Shadowboxing is no Mary Poppins. Nor was it the most gut-wrenching piece of theatre I've seen, as I may have started to expect after the Mary Poppins jibe, nor the most depressing. But it is tough. It's lean. And if I were the kind of reviewer to deploy lame themed descriptions, I might be tempted to say it pulled no punches.

Ron Kofler plays boxer Flynn. He's alone on stage with a punching bag, a bench, some weights and skipping rope. For the entire hour or so he slugs it out, lifts, skips, generally gives himself a thorough workout while sometimes narrating his story, sometimes acting it out. Rehearsal for this part clearly involves as much working-out as delivering his lines. It's a demanding part handled in this case, flawlessly.

And the story? Flynn has issues. He has issues with his father, also a boxer (not present in adult Flynn's life). There are flashbacks to young Flynn apparently traumatised at seeing his father take a beating in the ring which has a lasting effect on the course of Flynn's life, namely his determination to win. Young Flynn also has issues with bullies, all of this by way of background to give us some idea of what drives the adult Flynn.

Flynn also has issues with women, with ego, with his all-consuming determination to be the champ, with the very nature of boxing.

Overriding all these issues, however, is the big one that doesn't reveal itself until perhaps three quarters through the play. It comes as a bit of a surprise, even though, by this time, you realise the clues were perhaps there all along.

Flynn's world starts to fall apart and, embittered, he sets out to prove a point and in doing so makes things a whole lot worse for himself in a pretty disturbing climax.

It was during these final scenes that I started to wonder what the point was. Don't we live in more enlightened times? What we're seeing here – is this such an issue? But then this is elite sport and you only have to thinks of the appalling behaviour of some footballers in recent times to realise that no, many of these guys are far from enlightened. Still, as gripping as the story was, I still wondered about its relevance.

And then a beautiful touch right at the end. The back of the stage lit up with grainy photos of a couple of boxers from the 60s, their story silently told as the gentle optimism of Somewhere Over The Rainbow played, and it all fell into place. While Shadowboxing isn't a re-telling of this 60s story, it does seem to draw heavily on key elements, making Flynn's story very real and – given the nature of boxing as entertainment – very relevant. This haunting coda will leave you feeling quite moved.

It's a brave production company that would take this piece on, given that the script is very good and that it requires a very strong performer to do it justice under these conditions. And it's a good production company that can pull it off. Swampfox Productions is one such company. Well cast, well acted, and technical direction by Dietmar Brisker subtle enough to let this raw performance shine.

Worth the journey to Melbourne's far Eastern suburbs? Definitely. Well maybe not if you live in, say Manhattan, but you know what I mean.

Lee Bemrose

At The Bakery at 1812 Theatre, Rose St, Upper Fern Tree Gully on selected nights until May 14th. Check for details.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deya Dova Remixed: Interview With Deya Dova


Currently residing in far Northern New South Wales, Deya Dova is a dynamic live performer who, with her full live band, is a popular fixture on the festival circuit. In 2009 she released the stunning album Burst which has now been remixed by local luminaries and international heavyweights for the album Deya Dova Remixed. The roll-call putting their spin on the Burst tracks includes Juno Reactor, James Monro, An-ten-nae, Antix, Tijuana Cartel and more, with musical styles as diverse as the artists themselves.


Burst was such a good album in its own right – why bother with a remix album?

Wicked, thanks Lee. Burst was the product of a lock down in my studio for 12 months. It was a big learning curve for me being my first self-produced album, teaching myself the gear and software and developing my production techniques as I went. Although I was really happy with the result, I was still fascinated by the idea of hearing how an established producer would interpret my music. Also being inspired by so many styles of electronic production, I was keen to hear how the Burst songs would translate in different genres.

It's an eclectic mix of producers. How did it all come about? Why/how these particular artists?

I randomly started contacting producers online whose music inspired me for one reason or another. I introduced myself and my then new album Burst. The response was so overwhelming. Naturally some of them didn’t go for it, but most did and I simply followed the leads I had and allowed it to grow organically.

Did you feel nervous at all, waiting to hear the end results of the remixes?

Oh yeah, it’s been a wild process. Thankfully the mixes have all been fantastic and each producer has really captured the vibe of what I am doing, interpreting it through their own lens.

Is it the entire Burst album that's been remixed or just selected tracks?

It’s a selection of tracks. Some of the popular songs like Kyio and Burst got a few different remixes in different genres. For example Kyio got a super juicy tech house doing by New Zealand underground duo, Antix and then a sexy chill/ambient mix by global headliner James Monro.

How was it decided who got which tracks to remix?

I was keen for each producer to pick a track from Burst they most vibed with, so they could really have some fun with it. I made a few suggestions, in terms of particular tracks suiting particular genres, but mostly left it to the artists.

Which tracks are you most happy with?

Ohhh wow. Each track is a gem in its own right. I am a big progressive house/minimal tech listener so I got really excited by the moody, bass-heavy dance remix of Burst by Switchbox. I also love the fresh, European springtime feel of Nyquist’s Burst dance mix and of course the lush, building tech vibe of the Antix remix.

Which were the biggest surprises for you?

Juno Reactor’s rewrite of Hyperglider blew me away. I was naturally expecting a very Juno-esque track, something cinematic in line with his work in movies like The Matrix etc – but the sheer epic-ness of the journey through electronic, tribal and rock textures got me. As a visual artist the track fills me with wicked pictures of sci–fi speed chases, primal ceremonies and expansive landscapes.

I was also surprised by Tijuana Cartel’s remix of Petal – I really dig what they did with the vox at the top.

Did you have any creative input or did you simply put your trust in the remixers?

It was such a pleasure to work with all the international producers. There was a lot of trust, some delivered their tracks final, but most, which I hugely appreciated, were open to my input and feedback. Some tracks where very collaborative, shooting sound bytes back and forth through cyberspace.

It must have felt strange to hand over such personal creations to others. Do you have any feelings at all that anyone got it even a little bit wrong? (You don't have to name names).

I went into it with the attitude that there is no wrong, just different ways of seeing and hearing things. As a very particular and “detailsy” type artist, it was a great experience for me to let my work go out to other labs. I learnt a great deal about producing and writing, but also about what genres are more compatible with my voice and style. Having said that there was a couple of tracks I initially went “What!” but hey, at the end of the day I was into offering something across the board, not just for me.

I see amongst the diverse styles there is some dubstep, one of my least favourite styles of music. Who is responsible for this and what can you tell us about that track?

I was really keen to have dubstep represented on the album. In my own productions I love to flirt with favourite elements across the electronic genres. Although the metal darkness of dubstep doesn’t turn me on, the bass exploration of it does. I was stoked with the elative and super phat tribal mix San Fransisco’s DJ/producer An-ten-nae did of So Happy. And also with the more intricate and worldly dubstep mix Sydney based artist Kalya Scintilla conjured up for Toonmowi Tree.

My favourite tracks from Burst are Twinkle and Move U. What can you tell us about the remixes of these tracks?

Twinkle, inspired by the desert, is also a fave of mine. Aptly, Desert Dwellers have done a stunning down-tempo journey into Twinkle, and also a wicked IDM mix which I think Tipper is going to master in the near future. Adham Shaik tapped into his Indian ancestry and went wild with a West Coast breaks remix of Move U, which he’s told me is rockin' the dancefloor over there.

And another highlight, Bad Day. Can you tell us about this remix?

Quite a few artist took on Bad Day, not the easiest song to turn into a dance track. Dave Basek has served up a cheeky prog house/nu disco remix, I dig the quirky and hooky tweaked out vocal repeating “Ew”. I’m also looking forward to Dick Trevor’s remix of Bad Day which will be a follow up release to Deya Dova Remixed.

Bad Day is a gorgeous clip. Any more on the way? And any planned for the new album?

We had a blast making that clip! And thankfully got such great support from the stations – Rage, and Channel 10’s Landed Music. I'm really keen to do more music videos, a few fun ideas are floating around. Running the Reflekta label independently doesn’t leave much play money, so any sugar daddies of the music video kind out there, or any film makers and animators who are keen to collaborate - FB me :)

You keep yourself pretty busy on the live circuit. Are you also busy in the studio on new work?

Over the past year I’ve been devoted to developing the live show. Performing the material from Burst with the full band is such a high energy party, and I tend to go all out with new mixes, visuals and costumes, I love it. Between that and co-ordinating the Deya Dova Remixed album I’ve only had a chance to do a bit of vocal demo-ing and am looking forward to working with producers on the new material. Now with the release of the remix album I’m keen to get more time in the studio and put all I’ve learnt about song writing, production and dance music with some big phat bass.

Deya Dova Remixed is out now on the Reflekta label. Listen to samples and purchase the album at

A different version of this interview will appear in a forthcoming issue of Tsunami. Album review to follow soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grumpy And The Little Voice

Back from four days partying in the bush. Drove to Braidwood just out of Canberra and had a lovely time. Compared to the last doof we went to (our first in Melbourne that wasn't Rainbow), we knew so many people. It was really good to be at a party with so many friendly faces again... well the faces at Maitreya were friendly, we just didn't know any of them. This, on the other hand, was a real gathering and much fun was had. It was really good to get a solid hit of bush, barefeet and beats.

Needless to say, the apartment looks like a bomb went off. Clothes everywhere and we're trying to dry two tents out on our small balcony (it rained on the last morning we were there).

I've spent the day trying to get the tents and a hammock dry, washing clothes and writing. Had to write the Grumpy column below as well as editing a Q&A from Deya Dova for her new album of remixes and writing up a 550 word story from 1200 words. I haven't done that in ages and I still enjoy it.

I'll post the Deya Dova stuff shortly. For now, here's some Grumpy...


Another long weekend, another road trip to another festival. This one's an interstate one involving quite a long drive so we decide to break the trip up and stay somewhere overnight.

“Where do you want to stay?”I ask.

“Don't know,” The Dreaded One replies vaguely, packing her bag days before we are due to leave. I, on the other hand, am Last Minute Man. The fact that she is planning so far ahead and I leave everything to the last minute makes things all the more ironic.

I look at the map and pick a couple of places that appear to be halfway. I suggest these halfway places. The Dreaded One is more interested in whether she should pack one corset or two, which tutu goes best with the chosen corset.

“Why don't we just wing it?” she suggests. “Just head off and stop somewhere on the way.”

“What – not book a room?”

“We'll find somewhere.”

I'm not sure about this. “But it's a long weekend. These places, they're halfway places. They're very popular stopping points. What if we get there and everything is booked out?”

“You worry too much. I'm sure we'll find something. Worst comes to worse we can always set up the tent.”

I make a thinky face as I watch her pack her big stompy fluffy boots. She is being completely delusional about using the tent in transit because although we always say this, we have never done it. Setting up the tent once in a long weekend provides quite enough friction; twice is simply out of the question.

“Okay,” I shrug casually. “Fine. Cool. We'll wing it and see what happens.” I am not convinced that this is a good idea.

And sure enough, we cruise through the first halfway place after several hours of driving and the entire town appears to be made of No Vacancy signs. Parking lots are full of cars while weary travellers enjoy cold beer in the pub, settling in for a night of pizza and telly. We don't say anything to each other as I gun it out of town heading for the next halfway place. I wanted to avoid night driving but it's looking like that isn't going to happen.

Two more halfway places, both full. Nothing is available and now it's fully dark.

“Why did we do this?” I lament. “These towns – they're where everyone stays halfway along. People probably booked their cosy hotel rooms days ago. We could have done the same. And if they weren't booked, people have already pulled over and taken the last available rooms. Why oh why didn't I listen to the little voice?”

“The little voice?”

“The little voice! The one that knows things. I should always listen to the little voice. The little voice is always right about everything.”

“How is it,” the little voice asks, “that you can so readily admit that I'm always right, yet you constantly choose to ignore me?”

“You stay out of this,” I blurt.

“What?” The Dreaded One asks.

“I was talking to the little voice.”

In the end we drive for almost an hour inland to a much larger town where there is more chance of finding accommodation because these shitty little towns along the main route are, well, shitty little towns. This town turns out to be a shitty big town, but it's late and at least there is a hotel room, beer, pizza and telly.

Will I listen to the little voice next time? Probably not.

Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( He suspects he will never learn.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - Movie Versus Story

I saw The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button for the first time last night. I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories, ones looking back over lives already lived. Throw in some poignant love stuff and I'm in there. I was pretty blown away by how well this movie was done. It took its time to tell this strange story and let the consequences of the situation manifest at an unrushed pace, drawing the viewer into this strange life. Brad Pitt was - as he so often is - brilliant. It was possibly one of his best performances. Good to see him using the restraint this roll called for. Cate Blanchet and Tilda Swinton were equally superb.

Not knowing where the story came from, I Googled during an ad break and was surprised that it was based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story from the 1920s. Another yawning gap in my knowledge. It just seemed like such a weird story for Fitzgerald to have written.

In further reading it turns out to have been inspired by a quote by Mark Twain, observing that it's such a waste that life is not lived backwards, that the best parts happen at the beginning of life and the worst at the end.

Reading on I found that the plot for the movie is very tenuously based on the book. Effectively the main character's name and the fact that as he grows in years he gets younger and younger are really the only things they have in common.

I really enjoyed the movie, in spite of it reminding me too often of Forest Gump. I had to read the story.

What a difference. The beginning feels overly dramatic and really not very well written. I find most of the story quite clunky. It feels forced and doesn't have the poetry of the movie, and I had expected the story to be saturated in that very unhurried poetry that made the movie so memorable and affecting. The story just feels like bad writing.

Until the end as Benjamin Button nears his strange demise, and here is simple language capturing the innocence of the way Button views the world in his final years, days, minutes. So sad and beautiful.

I'll read the story again, but I think this is one of those rare cases wher the movie version is better than the written version. The movie nailed it.

On a side note, I posted how much I enjoyed the movie on Facebook. A psytrance producer friend who is playing at a festival in Malta alongside Infected Mushroom said that he loved it too and that it had made him cry. I jokingly called him a softcock before admitting that, ahem, it had made me cry too.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Like A Doctor's Waiting Room In Here... or What Would Hiro Protagonist Do In A Situation Like This?

A couple of random shots of our new Melbourne home. The top one is our all new Coffee Table Of Adventures. Each compartment contains a memento with a story behind it... although one or two of them, the story seems to have been forgotten. We're, like, what was the story behind the sweets again? I dunno - I thought that was one of yours.

Anyway, all settled in. Feels like home. And the sunsets from this place... seriously, on a clear day (and there have been many) they are just stunning.

Below is the next Grumpy column for Tsunami.


I had to go to the eye specialist recently. I arrived at 9.30am thinking cool, I must have the first appointment. However there were already four patients waiting. Not so cool.

Worse was that when I checked my bag I realised I had forgotten the book I am writing as well as the one I am reading. I'm reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Action sci-fi goodness with lines like, "When the Deliverator puts the hammer down, shit happens." The Deliverator – AKA Hiro Protagonist – is a kick arse dude who wields a meaner Samurai sword than Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.

Noticing the lack of magazines on offer (I guess they thought there was no point offering reading material to a waiting room full of the vision-impaired), I pulled out the only reading material I had, which was a local theatre season guide, which I dragged out for 10 minutes, thinking, it's like a waiting room in here.

In that 10 minutes, the waiting room filled. People with eye problems slowly filed in and I realised they simply book everyone in at 9.30 and work through us one at a time.

And these people were old. I remembered this from the last time I was at an eye specialist... I was the youngest person in the room, and I didn't feel good about it.

I really wanted to be reading about the metaverse and Hiro Protagonist and Y.T and The Rat Thing and The Raven and... this was going to be painful.

The old dear sitting next to me piped up and said something about the thing the woman opposite was knitting. She was knitting a cardigan for her granddaughter.

"It's a lovely pattern. And a lovely colour. Where did you get the wool?"

Oh God.

"Bendigo Knitting Mill."

Spare me.

"Ooh I get my wool from Bendigo Knitting Mill!"

What would Hiro Protagonist do in a situation like this?

"Wish I'd brought my knitting," says one of the others. "Help pass the time."

So would suicide.

"Is she your only granddaughter?"

The knitter is amused by this. "No. I have seven granddaughters..."

The others are impressed.

"And 13 grandsons."

Suddenly the room is filled with talk of offspring and knitting patterns and the exact shades of the wool and where everyone originally came from (the Australian accents are way out-numbered) and suddenly the weirdest thing happens. I find myself thinking to hell with my sci-fi novel - this is fucking beautiful. The other men in the room sit silently through it all, while I sit there smirking in appreciation. It's actually, really, very cool. It is making me feel warm and fuzzy.

I'm there for a couple of hours, in and out of rooms for various tests, occasionally having to wait again and everyone just seems to have gotten to know each other better with each passing minute. Some of them, as they leave, they say goodbye to these people who were strangers just a short time ago. They're on first name basis now as they wave goodbye on their way to the next specialist's appointment, and I'm just a bit blown away by how nice everyone is to each other, how all these lives from far-flung places have come together and bothered to get to know each other in this shitty little waiting room in this corner of planet Earth.

I don't know. Sometimes nice is just, well, nice, I think as I walk home with my smile and my squint and my stupidly dilated pupils. I even think Hiro Protagonist would have got the warm and fuzzies.

Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( He quite likes that stuff they put in your eyes to make the pupils go big.