Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sexual Perversity In Chicago, The Wilde, Review

Sexual Perversity In Chicago

Lee Bemrose

The question has to be asked: can a play written and set in the early 70s that deals with gender conflict possibly be relevant in 2013? It just doesn't seem possible. Surely we are more enlightened now than we were back then. Surely there is no such thing as conflict based on gender any more. Surely we respect each other as equals regardless of gender... don't we?

Alas, this play, given the current state of Australian politics, football sexual predators and our appalling parole system, is depressingly relevant.

Brief and punchy, the play is a conversation between four characters. Bernie (Sam Burns Warr) is a bit of an Alpha male pig (is there any other kind of Alpha male?); Dan (Jordan Fraser- Trumble) is his confused co-worker and drinking buddy; Deb (Steph Lee) is the feisty chick Dan hooks up with; Joan (Carly Jacobs) is Deb's femmo friend who doesn't think very highly of Deb's choice of partner. Deb and Dan get it on and move in together but soon realise that a relationship based on great sex isn't that much of a solid thing. We watch their version of love briefly blossom, then wilt.

It sounds pretty flimsy really, but this production by Mellow Yellow is utterly engaging from beginning to end. The characters, in lesser hands, could be caricatures, and basically they are stereotypes, but the actors here go all out whilst still managing to pull off some subtlety that makes them human. That thing about a story not working because the characters are not likeable? I don't know about that in this case. I didn't particularly care about any of these characters, but I recognised their humanity. I guess that's the genius of Mamet's script, matched perfectly in this case with the talent on this small stage.

And the space is intimate, as I think it needs to be given the personal nature of this play. Staged in the function room at The Wilde on Gertrude Street, patrons were sometimes confused about whether they should sit on the couch in case the couch was part of the set. Everyone wisely decided not to take the couch (though there was discussion), and the cast flowed in with the last of the stragglers, took the couch and the action started. There was noise from downstairs (it's a popular pub with a DJ) but such was the strength of the story and its delivery, it didn't matter.

In this world, the characters do the sex and relationship thing but end up being victims of their gender. It's actually quite confronting and pretty fucking sad (expletives, get used to them, as well as some pretty graphic sex talk) that after all these years we haven't gotten our shit together. Oh sure, maybe some have, but why is there still so much sexism? Why do so many of us judge each other based on gender? Will it never end?

These, I think, are the questions David Mamet's tight little play asks. It's my favourite kind of theatre; it's genuinely funny, but with an after taste of something very real.

Until June 29 at The Wilde, 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. $15.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Writing, life etc etc etc.

For a long time there I could put up with doing shitty jobs with the knowledge that I could say I am also a performance arts writer, theatre reviewer and humour columnist. And while I can still say the former, the mag/website that published the column folded, so I could no longer say the latter. It was just a cool little thing... how many people can say they have their own humour column? And that little thing had been going for almost 10 years and survived five or so editorial changes. Not only did writing the column frequently bring me out of dark moods, it gave my pathetic self confidence a bit of a boost, just by existing.

And then it was gone.

However, I recently sent a couple of samples out - without the usual cover letter telling them about interviews with Bill Bailey, Laurie Anderson, Warren Ellis et al, the usual brag stuff. I basically just said I like to write funny stuff, what do you think of this?

Within days one pretty cool website got back to me telling me how much they liked my stuff and that they wanted to use it. They had my first column up within a week of reading it. Then another website - this one's contributors all, as far as I can tell, being stand up comedians - accepted another piece, with equally enthusiastic feedback.

Then the first website wrote to say they had also posted the second piece I sent to them, a bit of a situation because it was the same piece I had sent to the second website. So I sent another piece to the second website, hoping I hadn't pissed them off by pulling the first piece, and they said they loved this one as well. The editor made a couple of suggestions to improve it but said it was perfectly fine to leave it as is if I felt that way and that she would still run it. The suggestions were spot on. She is an excellent editor and I hope we have a lot of contact to look forward to.

So it's back to looking for some kind of work. A grind because I have no qualifications and no specialist skills. But at least I am a theatre reviewer, performing arts writer AND humour writer.

None of which are particularly lucrative (biggest understatement ever?).

I think when I'm gone, if they write about me they'll read my funny stuff and say, "Hey - he really was pretty good at the funny stuff. Bummer he was stuck doing shitty jobs and died broke."

Oh the life of the unrecognised artist. Oh the pain and tragedy and the woe of it all...