Friday, May 25, 2018


Out of the tangled ancient
History of humanity,
With my distant ancestors
And your distant ancestors
Here we are,
Me and you,
Here in this modern place.

We talk of the days
And the days,
And the days
of mundane things,
And eventually we talk
Of the meaningful things.

The things that are really important
To us.
Right now.

Did you read that poem?
Did read that short story by that guy
who's is my favourite writer?
Did you see that movie?
Did you write that story
Did you write that poem?
Did you do that thing?

Did I mention,
How much I like talking to you?
And listening to you,
You with your distant ancestors,
And me with my distant ancestors,
Here and now,
In this modern place.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Today In The Cafe... You Never Regret Kindness

Today in the cafe... An older couple came into the cafe just after the kitchen had technically closed. They wanted some hot food. They liked the look of the soup. Sometimes you get a feeling about people, they just need some soup and a warm and quiet place to sit. I said yeah, sure, of course we're still open. The husband thanked me and apologised, saying they would have been here three hours earlier, but they had been stuck in St Vincent's Hospital. They loved the soup. I don't know their story, but I do know they needed that soup and that time out in a quiet and warm place more than I needed to go home.
Short time later, a paramedic walks in, clearly ready to walk back out again because clearly, we are closed.
Are you closed? she asks.
Yes we are closed, I tell her, but what were you after?
Just a couple of coffees...
An imploring look.
Of course I can do you a couple of coffees.
She was so grateful because, she told me, she had had such a busy day and had been trying to get coffee for most of the day but just didn't get the chance.
A paramedic's busy day isn't quite the same as a barista's busy day.
I was happy to end the day on two acts of kindness, because as a friend just pointed out, you never regret kindness.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Almost Face To Face, Stephen House At Butterfly Club, Review

Almost Face To Face

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

It's difficult to determine who the real star is in this piece; the exquisite writing, or the equally perfect performance. That both are the work of the same person... truly impressive stuff.

Almost Face To Face is a one hour dramatic monologue – just one raw man on a bare stage - by master of the form Stephen House. It recounts his stories of his time in Dublin, living with an overweight prostitute/landlord. Don't be mistaken, these are stories of fringe-dwellers, the truly down and out, the broken ones we see on the periphery of our comfortable lives. Prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, sex with strangers... it's all here, and it all feels so very, unflinchingly real.

Using the word exquisite when dealing with such subject matter might seem odd, but the writing of these gritty stories is absolutely exquisite. At times the monologues actually morph into poetry, a form I suspect Stephen House enjoys quite a lot. There is tenderness at times in the words, sometimes sadness, often anger.

And the delivery is equally well-executed. As a performer, Mr House has an impressive range. He can be a gentle soul, a weary soul, a broken soul and an angry soul all in a very short time. Sometimes as he prowls the tiny stage at The Butterfly club, so real is his passion that you may find yourself in goosebumps.

There is an authenticity to Stephen's work that makes them important works we should pay attention to. In a review of another of his pieces (Appalling Behaviour, which is referenced in this piece), I think I said he gives a voice to those fringe dwellers we never really interact with. The fact that he has lived much of his material and is so eloquently able to share such gritty stories with us – and indeed that he is so willing to do so – is theatrically and personally impressive. If you're open to this kind of thing, you'll find yourself in a gentle state of awe, and you'll probably feel a sense of gratitude.

Not all is gutter and grime. There is actually much humour, in these stories of these broken humans. There are a few chuckle-out-loud moments, but there are many other moments where something is so tragically fucked up and kind of funny that rather than laugh, your heart melts. It's so funny, you'll think, but so fucking sad.

If you get out of your comfortable home for just one performance this week, make it this one. I promise, you will feel enriched.

At The Butterfly Club until 12th May 2018. Touring to other capitals afterwards.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Writing, Frustration & Solitude

Why wanting/needing to write - or indulge in any other creative endeavour - is frustrating...

You work a long week, 50 hours or more dealing with people and people and people, when you are a poster-boy introvert. But you cope and if you're good at it, no one really knows just how much you crave solitude. You enjoy the interaction, when you enjoy it, and you love some of the humans and want to look after the broken ones, but through it all you look forward to some solitude and reflection.

But the weekend comes and someone has a thing, let's catch up for a thing, some drinks, a meal, a barbecue in the backyard or a party in the bush. And you like these things, but you don't get the chance to be solitary and reflective during the working week, and you certainly can't do it when you're socialising, so when? You're tired at the end of a 10 hour day, you're tired at the end of a fifty hour week, and you're accused of being antisocial if you don't want to catch up with friends on the weekend. Catching up with friends is what they do for their not-working time. At the end of a long working week filled with humans and their wonder and their weirdness, some of us want to be alone and just write a poem.

But we have to catch up. Must catch up. We must socialise and socialise and socialise and talk about things.

Leaving no time for reflection and imagination.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Almost Alone

All the good ones leave,
They are travellers
And adventurers
And just the most
Beautiful souls,
Who by their nature,
And drift

They always leave,
They always leave,
And he is left
Almost alone.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Finnish, First Reading

So. I wrote a play, and here we are, me between two talented theatre people who apparently liked the script enough to want to help out, and in front of a few friends who were curious enough to come along to the cafe to hear the thing. I was only reading because the guy organised to read couldn't make it and I had no time to find someone else. Was I nervous? I've never read a damned thing of mine in public, so yes, I was a little bit nervous, especially as I've seen and reviewed the stage performances of the two people either side of me, and as performers, they are a little bit awesome. Pretty fucking awesome, actually.

It was quite a strange experience. The two words I kept repeating as my mantra when writing were Personal, Universal.

Meaning that I want it to feel so very personal, which it is. But I want it to have universal appeal, which I think it does. There is much truth and honesty in the subject matter, but also some fiction. It's three dialogues between three people, none of which ever happened. The essence though, the essence of the dialogues, is so very real.

It was strange that I ended up doing the reading. I know I wasn't of the calibre of Dayna and Steph, but I think I did okay. There was a funny moment for me... my character reads a very short story to another character, and I was so focused on the lines I was reading at the moment that I forgot about this part. This short story, Love You, See You Soon, it always fucks with me emotionally. Oh no, I thought, this story is coming up...

My character got to the story, and he let go. I let go. I read one of my most emotional short stories to a small audience with enough feeling to bring tears to the eyes of some of those listening, but without tearing up myself. I don't know what happened there, but I was relieved. A little bit of magic happened.

What happens next with the play? I don't know. I've entered it into a thing and it would be nice if it won that thing, but I have to be realistic and think about what to do if it doesn't do well in the thing.

Yesterday morning I woke up anxious and depressed and thought fuck it, we did the reading and that was fun, I'm done with this play. Then I watched the recording a friend had made of it, and I was back. In the recording, there was more laughter than I remembered, because I was focused on the reading. I think the drama works too. Watching Steph when she was not reading, her face and her giggles were like a barometer of what was going on in the play.

I don't know what happens next. Other than I know I have to start writing the next play.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Q & A With Tilly Legge, Lightning Jar's Venus In Fur


By Lee Bemrose

Lightning Jar Theatre is a newish independent theatre company based in Melbourne.  Their current production is Venus In Fur by American playwright David Ives. It’s a play within a play, based on an apparently fictional novella from the late 19th Century, which as it turned out was more autobiographical than author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch might have wanted readers to believe, as well as giving us the word masochism. Australian Stage caught up with Lightning Jar’s Tilly Legge as she takes on the commanding and demanding role of Vanda.

How long has Lightning Jar Theatre been around and how did it come into being?
Lightning Jar Theatre was formed in 2016 by Hannah Greenwood, Dylan Watson and myself. We wanted to create more of the sort of theatre that we want to see. It had kinda been on the cards for the three of us for some time, it was just a matter of waiting for the right play to present itself.

I understand lightning jars are a vessel for preserving fruit... how did this become the company name?
It’s a subtle reference to a line in The Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley. The lead character Donna is trying to explain the emotions she feels raging inside her; she says to her ex-boyfriend, “There’s lightning screwed in a jar in here!”. We thought the image was great and represents what we love seeing on stage! It’s also an homage to how Dylan and Hannah met; they worked together on this play for an acting masterclass back in 2012.

What is your role at Lightning Jar?
We’re all the co-artistic directors. It’s a very collaborative effort. All responsibilities are shared between the three of us.

What's Lightning Jar's mission statement or ethos?
We want to create theatre that is exciting, fresh, moving & entertaining.
We want to celebrate writers, new & old.
We want to make you feel, make you forget, make you shift uncomfortably in your seat, make you laugh.
We want to be the reason people see more theatre.

How many plays have you produced so far?
This is our second show, following Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird in 2017.

Stupid Fucking Bird was a wonderfully engaging production. What aspects of that play attracted you to it.
We loved its irreverence and at the same time deep respect for the source material - The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. It was a modern look at a classic, brimming with humour and pathos but also full of heart. It also had quite a lot of direct address to the audience which really brought the audience into the world of the characters. The metatheatrical elements of the play meant we could get away with some things that we may not have been able to with a more conventional script, especially from a budgeting perspective! We were honestly so surprised no-one had done it in Australia yet. It had so many successful runs in the US and we just felt we’d hit a gold mine when we came across it. It’s really one of those plays where an audience will have a good laugh and then WHAM! Hit right in the feels.

And the new production Venus In... actually, before we get to that, Venus In Fur or Venus In Furs? I'm confused. Please unconfuse me.
Venus in Fur (2010) by David Ives is about a playwright/director who’s adapted the book Venus in Fur (1870) Leopold von Sacher-Masoch for the stage. There’s a bit of translation debate about whether the title to the original book is plural or singular. Our version is plural but the one they talk about is the play is singular. Go figure!

Right. So Venus In Fur – what drew Lightning Jar to this particular play?
It’s pretty simple really; Venus in Fur is a great script. There’s a reason it was the most performed play in America in 2012/2013 - It’s an absolute cracker! It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s incredibly topical. The three of us are actors but we don’t want to choose plays just because there’s a role in it we want to play. It’s got to be a great story that deserves an audience.

Is the play simply fun or is it deep and making a statement?
It’s a bit of both really. Ives’ plays are always so whip-smart and he writes great dialogue; we joke that he’s (Aaron) Sorkin on Stage. It’s certainly entertaining but it does take the audience to a place they didn’t expect. Not only have all our audiences so far stayed seated for a few minutes after curtain to absorb what’s happened, they’re often then rushing out together to have prolonged discussions about what takes place. It’s great to make the audience think like that and want to discuss the play’s themes long into the night. We were heading out after a show one night last week and ran into a group of audience members at a bar that were doing just that!

I can't help thinking about the subject matter of the play and the current climate of sex and power play in Hollywood and indeed politics and culture generally. Is the play an observation or comment of what's going on now?
Well... it is, but it really is coincidental. The play was written in 2010 so not as a direct response to recent developments in the industry, although certainly it seems influenced by what many people knew occurred in the business but didn’t want to discuss. There have been jokes about the “casting couch” and what that implies that we’ve all heard, but as they say, there’s truth to every joke. Clearly Ives had his finger on the pulse! What’s occurred to us during rehearsals is how different a production of Venus may have looked like back when it was written compared to what we’re creating here. There has to be a certain amount of attention paid to themes that may not have been 8 years ago.

Leading up to opening night, what was the vibe like at rehearsals?
So nervous and excited! Previews were such a great way for us to warm to having an audience. We feel we’re in a great place to have some packed houses!

How do Tilly and Vanda get along with each other? What does each of you think of the other?
Vanda is an absolute firecracker - great fun at a party. Just don’t make her mad! What does she think of me? Well hopefully she thinks I’m doing her justice!

We should come and see Venus In Fur because...
You’ll be thoroughly entertained – by the end of the play, once you get over the initial dumbstruck stupor that most people seem to experience, you’ll be busting to grab a drink and discuss what you just saw. “So does that mean that she-?” And “So was it really…?”

Season runs at 45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne until March 24.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Marciano & Ananas

Yet again, another friend and kindred spirit leaves me. I love this human. I enjoyed our brief time together so much. Marciano is sunshine. Every minute spent with her, it was a pretty perfect minute. There just weren't enough of them.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

One By One

Today's happy thought: We are all going to die. But not all together. Our deaths will happen slowly and sadly, one by one.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Outside Visiting Hours

Those late night demons,
Those 4am demons
Those 4am demon voices
That wake you,
And keep you awake
With their all-knowing Truth,
With their relentless
Telling you
And telling you
And telling you
And judging you...

Those late night, 4am demons,
They are manageable
During visiting hours.
But when you start to notice them,
And hear them,
And listen to them
During your wide-awake hours,
After your visiting hours.

And they keep telling you
And telling you
And telling you things
And judging you
In a voice louder than
The voices in the visiting hours...

When this happens,
There is no escape.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Specks In This Cosmic Storm Of Chance

This is us, New Year's Day 2018. The Dreaded One and me, we made it through a struggle of a year. I don't really know how I made it. The urge for non-existence was strong early in the year. That urge never really leaves. It has always been part of me. It gets close, and it fades away.

But the survivor in me has never given into that urge. Partly because I know moments like this are possible in the future. Grumpy and The Dreaded One, they seem to be making each other happy again. When we're good, we totally fucking rock. After all this time, we still make each other laugh, and we still hold hands.  Humans and that freakish chance encounter thing... The Dreaded One was born three days after me in San Francisco. I was born three days before her in Sydney. What are the chances of us bumping into each other years later? What are the chances of us liking each other enough to eventually love each other for all these years? We're all just specks in a cosmic storm of chance.

And Marciano on my right in this picture is a perfect demonstration. She wrote the perfect job application for the position of working with me in the cafe. Perfect because it spoke to me. As with a previous co-worker, April, I kind of knew from those words on the page that something was there. Some beautiful connection. I was right both times. Both have become treasured friends.

Today was Marciano's last day. I have enjoyed every minute of her company.  We share a gentle, quirky sense of humour. We have made each other happy. We have hugged a couple of times a day, but today's last hug was a long and tight one, and I don't mind telling you that when she said into my shoulder, "Lee... my big brother"... well I might have teared up a bit.

What are the chances? What are the chances that a person born in Uruguay 25 years before a person born in Sydney will bump into each other in Melbourne one day and share such a silly sense of humour and become such close friends? What are the chances, in this cosmic storm of chance?