Monday, April 24, 2017

Today In The Cafe 24/4/2017

Today in the cafe... I love watching our customers. Not in a creepy way, I just love watching their interactions with each other. There is comedy and drama each day.

Today I watched these two friends. They walked back to their table with the fluffy giraffe, their table I.D. They fell into conversation, these two friends. The conversation was deep. He seemed a little distressed. They talked some more. Beautifully - so fucking beautifully - she leaned across the table and hugged him. The hug lingered and was so very heartfelt. I cleared their table and smiled at their very human murmured thank yous of friendship.

These customers, these friends, they talked in confiding tones about things and things and things, and eventually she left.

Weirdly, this is when he had a reaction. Now, as she left, this is when he teared up. This is when the full appreciation of her friendship hit him. Suddenly when she left, he was overwhelmed with thank you, you awesome dude. Dudette? No actually, just dude. Just friend.

And that's the end of that story.  Probably not the end of that friendship, as far as I could tell as an observer, but the end of that episode in that cafe on that day.

Shortly after that beautiful encounter, my schizophrenic friend Jeff Collins came into the cafe. I think his name is Jeff Collins. I feel for this guy. I've become part of his crazy mixed up world. I've given him sandwiches and coins and some of my time. And today in the cafe he thanked me for the 20 years of being kind to him and his father and told me that he appreciated my 20 years of attention. It's been two years max. It's all so sad and crazy. But hey, what do you do?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Three Little Words, Melbourne Theatre Company, Review

Three Little Words
By Joanna Murray Smith

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Upon the audience's entry, the vast stage in The Sumner is already richly detailed and fully lit. The cast sit in the dining room of a well furnished home. Husband and wife Tess (Catherine McClemments) and Curtis (Peter Houghton) and their close friends Annie (Kate Atkinson) and Bonnie (Katherine Tonkin) – also partners – are engaged in apparently convivial conversation. It appears we are about to embark on a very mainstream, commercial play aimed at a very mainstream audience. The pop music being played would also indicate that this is so.

And so it is. And when that big shiny stage starts spinning, the whole thing feels very much like one of those cheesy TV comedy-dramas so popular with nice urban families. This feeling of watching an affable TV show never quite left thanks to that spinning stage and the loud pop music interludes... it was like a commercial break, time to get up and get a cup of Milo or something. I found these interludes truly distracting and annoying and could not see what they achieved at all. I mean, yeah, it's kind of impressive, but over and over again... just annoying.

The story is about the repercussions when Tess and Curtis announce to their good friends that their relationship is over. After 20 years, Tess wants to find out what it's like to be her own person. She wants to fulfil her yearnings. In the beginning, Tess and Cutis still seem kind of in love and certainly full of respect for each other, it's just that Tess want find out what else there is and Curtis agrees that if that's what she wants, so be it. Annie and Bonnie are shell-shocked. What follows is indeed an affable comedy-drama examining the repercussions of the breakdown of a relationship that is seemingly rock solid, the ripple effect that breakdown has, and what individuals want and expect from their relationship. The original civility between Tess and Curtis deteriorates, and the relationship between all four – all quite different in nature – is tested.

For the first 30 minutes or so, I just wasn't getting it. The humour seemed a little contrived and over acted and I just didn't get why it was getting such a good response from the audience. The lines or the physical humour – though impeccably timed and delivered – just didn't seem deserving of the LOLs. Perhaps I was alone in the audience, but I just wasn't feeling it.

However there was a point (not sure exactly when) when the humour gave way to a little more drama, and I started to feel it. I think what happened is that at a certain point, Tess, Curtis, Annie and Bonnie felt less like characters and more like real people. There was something happening on stage that started to feel very real. A rawness seeps in and you start to feel for Tess and Curtis the way we feel when our real life friends break up. When the good ones - the relationships you've thought were solid - go through hard times you want them to get through it because if they can't make it work, what does anything mean? Maybe there really isn't anything in this idea of being a couple.

There is still plenty of humour throughout all this, and either it got better or something was happening to me, because I had crossed over to the dark side and was, on occasion, laughing out loud. There was quite a nice balance between drama and humour. There's a unique bitterness when a relationship devolves from love to hate, and if you can portray that unique, personal viciousness so accurately and manage to get some laughs in there, you're doing something right. The cashed-up, mainstream audience Joanna Murray Smith's latest play is aimed at is probably going to love it, and with good reason.

At Southbank Theatre, The Sumner until May 27

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Heads Or Tails

Production shot of a sensational new drama by Melbourne Theatre Company titled Zed Is All Ears. It's a Romcom featuring a smart-arse talking cat and the ups-and-downs of a modern Melbourne share household.

Actually, just some current friends. Good people. And a cat we might have adopted.

This was a good day.
Good days,
Bad days,
Like the flip of a coin,
And in a flash
No will to live.
Must remember to remember
The good days
In the no will to live times.

Friday, April 14, 2017

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit Review

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Dear Nassim Soleimanpour,

It was a pleasure to meet you last night via your inventive theatrical experience, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. I did as you asked and refrained from reading reviews prior to seeing your play. I also avoided reading a detailed synopsis. I knew the barest detail of the concept: a play by an Iranian writer prohibited from leaving his home country because of his political beliefs; no director; a different actor each night; the actor does not see the script until he/she opens the envelope containing it as the performance commences.

Who could not find all of this intriguing?

You'll be happy to know, Nassim, that the performer on this opening night at The Arts Centre in Melbourne, April 2017, was the talented Eddie Perfect, and he did a splendid job. He appeared to enjoy the experience, and the audience enjoyed this enjoyment. There were many, many laughs. Eddie Perfect generally leans towards comedy but likes a bit of social commentary in his work. This might explain why he enjoyed this experience so much, because as well as some absurdist comedy, your play has a lot to say. With White Rabbit, Read Rabbit, you convey some very important messages, deftly coupling humour with seriousness. I hope someone has sent you some photos of Eddie (and indeed some of the audience members who found themselves on stage as part of the performance) in action during the show. Oh and very good of you to allow us to leave our phones on and encourage us to take photos during the show – just one of the many surprising elements of your experiment.

The set design was minimal. Just a couple of household items and some things borrowed from the audience. This is all that's needed, because really, the magic is in the writing and the concept of the work.

The big irony, Mr Soleimanpour, is that while your show has a lot to say, I'm guessing that even in a review, you would like the writer to refrain from saying too much about the show itself. This is a big ask, but I will respect your wishes post-show as much as I did pre-show.

I would like you to know that everyone in the room thoroughly enjoyed this piece. You would have enjoyed it. You would have enjoyed our enjoyment. And strangely, in spite of your absence, you actually felt very present. Your humour, your wit, your deep understanding of how society and systems and individuals work... all of this was palpable, and you may as well have been sitting in that chair kept vacant for you. I don't think I was alone in feeling that I met you last night. It was a real pleasure to have met someone with such a sharp sense of humour, with such deft story-telling ability... oh yeah, another thing: I was aware of the experimental nature of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and thus wondered if I would find it satisfying. I wondered if it might be a bit gimmicky for someone who goes to the theatre to be told a cracking good story. I needn't have worried. I found this a deeply rich and satisfying theatrical experience indeed.

So there you have it. I'm pleased to have met you, even though we've never met. I'm grateful that you have shared some of yourself with us. The memory of your play feels real and important, like the memory of a friend.

Wishing you all the best my friend,

Lee Bemrose.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Work In Progress

I've neglected the play for a week now. Today, I got a little bit scared about that. What if the momentum has gone? What if this is yet another of my ideas that comes to nothing? What if these characters I've been calling down from The Forever have moved on?

I was about to leave the cafe today but thought no, I have to find out if these characters are still there, so I sat down in my quiet and empty cafe, and I called out to them.



And silence.

And then, eventually, they were there.

The first thing they said to me was, Where the fuck have you been for the past week?
I told them I was sorry and that I have missed them. They said they had missed me too. Then we got to work, and they said dramatic and witty things to each other, and I took dictation, and all was good in my world.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Saudade, I Think.

I love the concept of melancholy. There's another word, saudade. I thought they were different but it seems they are kind of the same. I thought saudade meant a longing for something or someone that never was.

The longing for someone that never was. Wanting to be in a place or a time or be with someone that never was. You have never been there. You have never been then. You have never known them.

But your heart aches. You miss this place you have never been to, you miss this time that was your time but not your time, you miss this soul you have never known.

I was overwhelmed by this feeling tonight. It's happened before, but tonight, these long moments of longing overwhelmed me.

I am a recluse. I am solitary man, with wonderful friends, but I really missed someone who doesn't exist. I hadn't realised it, but I envy The Dreaded One for calling her mother each week and just chatting to her. Their relationship has been typical of a mother daughter relationship with its ups and downs, but it's a really beautiful thing to hear them talking now. I think they both enjoy these weekly catch ups.

And I just found myself feeling kinda weird thinking how cool would it be to pick up the phone and say, Hey Dad, how are you?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Funny Because It's True

Recently someone said to me, You call yourself Grumpy, but you're not really grumpy, are you.

No, I replied, I'm not grumpy so much as... perpetually, deeply sad.

And they laughed and laughed as though I had made a joke.