Thursday, September 22, 2011

Appalling Behaviour, La Mama, Review

Appalling Behaviour

Written and performed by Stephen House

Directed by Justin McGuinness

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

I once heard about a play that was performed in an elevator. It was at one of those arty fringe festivals. Appalling Behaviour took place on a stage much more intimate. Seriously, I think this was the tiniest stage I have ever seen. Did it work in this shrunken version of La Mama? Hell yeah. This is a case where intimacy really works.

Stephen House wrote this play and could sit back happy that he has done a good job of writing it. It's one of those scripts (it's a monologue) that makes you want to read the words on the page as you watch the performance. It's lyrical. It's savage. It gives eloquence to people most of us ignore.

Story? There's a guy on the streets of Paris. He's broken and lost but clinging to the hookers and the dealers and the schemers who get him through each day, either in reality or the hallucinations and memories he needs to survive. You live in a big city, you see them each day. But you ignore them. You never enter their world. But you wonder, don't you. You wonder how they got there. You wonder what their life was like before they became grimy and fucked up and forgotten.

Acting? There's not one minute of this 75 minute performance that isn't convincing. This guy just a metre or so away in his shitty clothing with his bag of drugs and his tales of sorrow and his yearning for admiration and love and for things to be the way they should have been... he's like the forgotten ones we all see on the streets but step over or close our ears to. This homeless human that Stephen House has created gives a voice to these people. They are human. They have feelings. They have a past. Sometimes they are even tragically funny, just like the rest of us.

This is a big performance on a small stage that was hugely impressive.

Addendum: I was lucky enough to have an accidental post-show chat with Stephen House. Apparently the La Mama stage was so small due to the 6.30 performance of Blackbox 149, which explained the mysterious curtain at the rear of the stage that didn't do anything; it was not a prop in this show. House said that he was intimidated by the diminutive size of the stage and initially didn't think he could do it. He was used to performing Appalling Behaviour in bigger spaces and had to pull back his performance. On hearing this, most of us were surprised because this very intimacy enhanced the performance. You could feel the energy, the anger, the frustration, the sadness and longing.

There was a young kid in the audience who was from time to time disinterested and occupied herself by playing with her rubber ball. But even for her, as distant from this broken character's life as she was, she was frequently engaged, the toy falling still in her lap. House has indeed taken this performance to schools as well as theatres for us worldly grown-ups. However he said the most nervous he has ever been was when performing for homeless people. Understandable, because this was the acid test. Seems he got it right; Appalling Behaviour went down well with the very characters he was portaying. That's how good this performance is. That's how real it is.

As to why the story was set in France? House has spoken to many homeless people who have said that they feel they are speaking a different language, such is society's deafness to them; they feel like aliens even in their home country. He also likes the contradiction between the impression we have of a place like Paris and the reality. Indeed, spend a bit of time in, say, Pigalle, and you'll understand what he means. It's a short walk between vomit in the gutters and the shiniest shopping Paris has to offer.

At La Mama

205 Farraday Street

Carlton, Melbourne

September 21 – October 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pod Of Friends, Collins Street, Sept 20 2011. A Memorable Moment For No One.

Walking along Collins Street today happily off in my bubble, I eventually notice that the street seems a lot more crowded than usual. Why is everyone packed in so closely and talking so much? I look around and realise I'd simply wandered into a pod of friends dawdling along talking to each other. They all look a bit the same. They talk in groups of two or three or more, sometimes one conversation spilling over into another. Outside the pod, the street is normal. Normal pace, normal space. I've been inside the pod for at least five minutes. I think about staying longer but decide it's time to go.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life In Northcote Update, And Kimbra's Plain Gold Ring

When I heard the Gotye track Somebody I Used To Know for the first time, I recognised Wally's vocals but when Kimbra came in I thought who the fuck is this? I saw the film clip and was amazed again. I've since read up, have since heard much of her music and whoa, how good is she? This track is my favourite. I like her other stuff too, but man, I watched this one this morning and just melted. She's 21 years old and clearly headed for big things. The track itself, originally performed by Nina Simone, is a wonderfully sad story of unrequited love. Nick Cave did a typically cool version of it. Kimbra's version... I think it's the kind of song you really have to feel to pull off. Watching her perform here, she is totally immersed in the song. Love it.

I was going to give an update on what's been happening in my life but I don't know if I'm in the mood. I am Limbo Man. I need a change. I need a good thing. I need a new adventure.

Yeah, a new adventure sounds nice.

Focused now on the 2012 World Trip Of Parties. Ozora, Boom, Ibiza, maybe Burning Man. This time next year we'd be heading back to Australia for Dragon Dreaming. I think we will work on making this happen. Living adventures like that, it's what it's all about.

For now though, things are not as bad as they were when we landed back in reality in Melbourne. I've gotten through the troubles, mostly. I think only The Dreaded One and Kat know what I'm talking about. Not good times even though I managed to pull out the smiles and laughs. Feel like I'm through a storm, shaken but okay. No one suspected a thing.

Fun times ahead. I really can't express how much... two things save my head. Writing silly stuff and hearing good music. I watched the Kimbra clip with tears in my eyes because I love how much she is getting into it. It's an amazing thing.

Oh there other things that save my head. The friends I know will hug me at the next doof. The new friends in this new city who are actual friends. The observations of The Buddha. The sight at Flinders station of a group of total wreckheads with tattoos on their necks, trashed clothing and one girl with a black-eye... seeing them enjoy taking time out from the life of carnage I know they live to enjoy a simple pleasure like buying icecreams on a sunny day. I passed by and took in all the information and it was a sad and happy picture. The girl with the black eye, she probably wondered why it can't always be like this. The guy with the tattooed neck she was passing the icecream to, he probably wondered the same. No doubt it would all fall apart hours later, but seeing these wrecks enjoying this moment of innocent enjoyment and being nice to each other for a while, it was nice. If sad. Why can't it always be nice?

Things are okay here. We like Northcote. We like Melbourne.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grumpy And The Doughnut Of Love

The new Grumpy column which will be out in the next issue of Tsunami mag. Unlike the mag version, you get to listen to a soundtrack as you read this tale of misguided romance.


Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose (, and he has a problem, only it's not what he thinks it is.

Addiction can be a horrible thing. It makes you a slave. It makes a level-headed person change their habits and do things they wouldn't otherwise do. Addiction can ruin lives.

My name is Grumpy, and I'm a Bahn Mi-aholic. I love my Vietnamese pork roll. I love the crispy crust on the outside, the fluffy soft bread inside, the seismic crunch of cucumber and shallot and coriander stalk all so wonderfully juxtaposed with the cream-smooth pâté . I love the incendiary explosion of fresh chilli, the deft balance of salty soy with two-tone pork products. OMG, it's gotta be Bahn Mi for me.

Problem is, you start calling into the same place everyday to get your fix and strange things can happen.

It all started innocently enough. I saw that a local place in my new neighbourhood served Vietnamese pork rolls and remembered that I quite liked them. I'd had a bit of a thing for them before, so on a whim I decided I try these ones out. Ah yes, the memories came flooding back. So began my first steps on the road to ruin.

Soon the girl behind the counter started to recognise me as not just another random walk- in but as a regular customer deserving special treatment. Soon there were smiles and how are yous as our transaction got underway. Soon the thin spread of pâté seemed to become more generous – no mere scrape for this loyal customer; I, it seemed, was worthy of a luscious, thick spread that made my heart pound in anticipation. Likewise, the rest of this symphony for the mouth grew in quantity until surely I was getting the Mac Daddy of all Bahn Mi. I could feel the eyes of other Bahn Mi addicts on me, wondering why I was getting such royal treatment when they were receiving their pedestrian efforts.

I tried to restrict myself to one indulgence every second day but it was no good. I was hooked, and hooked good. Some days I almost made it past the bakery, only to be lured inside at the last moment. My Bahn Mistress' smile of greeting turned to a flirtatious giggle, her cheeks blushing as she set about professionally assembling my daily fix.

I knew things were spiralling out of control when one day, as we came to the dirty part of the deal, when I paid my $4 for her services, ever so softly, gently and I swear in slow motion, the tips of our fingers touched...And I don't know if you're an illusion, Don't know if I see it true, but you're something that I must believe in, and you're there when I reach out for you... Love is in the air, every sight and every sound...

But it got worse. How could it possibly get worse, you wonder? Like this: Lure, giggle, blush, Bahn Mi assemblage, payment, slow motion fingertip caress, cheesey 70s music followed by, “One moment. Something for you.”

Bahn Mistress has deposited a mystery item into a paper bag and slid it blushingly across the counter. I thank her and we smile blushingly and shyly, then I make my way through the thought balloons of the other customers (“Oh right – so not only does he get better pork rolls than us but now he gets mystery gifts as well.” “What's so good about him?” “What the hell is going on here?” “Where is that cheesy 70s music coming from?”).

Outside, curiosity piqued, I peek inside the bag: a doughnut. But given the circumstances, it's not just any doughnut but a Doughnut Of Love. And it might have been manageable if she had given me any other pastry (there were lamingtons and cookies and caramel slices and chocolate eclairs to choose from) but the symbolism of this Doughnut Of Love was unmistakable; she was clearly telling me she wanted to put a gold wedding ring on my finger.

This latest development happened just yesterday. I am due to be lured inside in a few short hours. I have no choice – I have to tell this Bahn Minx that I already have a Dreaded One. Perhaps I should let her down gently by making light of it and telling her that it's not her, it's Mi... no, that won't work. How oh how do we get ourselves into these things?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Daheen's Being Green Album Review

Being Green
REGEN Records

Being Green is the latest release from Sydney psytrance producer Daheen (aka Dave Le Breton). It's an album with an environmental message, for sure, but the music is as fun as the message is, well, green. The tracks – a motley collection of proven favourites from Daheen's live sets – as often exist simply to smile and dance to as they do to remind us of the precarious situation we have gotten ourselves into environmentally.

Tracks such as Pirates Ahoy, Horsin' Around, Pink Panther and Master Yoda use often hilarious samples to get you smiling while you stomp. Who would ever have guessed that the likes of Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore's classic comic duo Derek and Clive would make an appearance on a trance dancefloor?

The real beauty in this album though is the music from nature. The natural rhythm of a frog's ribbit and cricket's chirrup (are they the technical terms?) provide the perfect base for the wonderfully fat title track. And lest you get caught up in the dark coolness of this track, who should make an appearance but the green one himself, Kermit The Frog. The following track draws on the symphony of sounds the great grey beast the elephant communicates with; it's an intricate track of shimmering beauty, dancefloor friendly but equally one of those tracks to close your eyes and think beautiful things to.

Printed and packaged in eco friendly materials, the album comes with a short story connecting the variety of characters who make an appearance on the album as our frog hero Neehad (where did Daheen come up with such a name?) embarks on a voyage to get to the bottom of the mystery of the disturbing shrinking world frog population. Whimsical, silly and with a whole lot of heart, it's exactly the kind of thing you could read to your kids at bedtime... just fast forward through the Derek and Clive section.

Daheen may have a message, but he knows the dancefloor is for dancing. As the Hopi Indian saying goes, “To watch us dance is to hear our hearts sing.” Dance to Being Green and hear your heart sing.

The Melbourne launch of Being Green happened at The Mothership Part 4, My Aeon, Friday September 9.

Lee Bemrose