NEON - The Independent Buzz

— 18th March 2013 —

Thrilled to have been asked to cover Melbourne Theatre Company's exciting announcement on Aussie Theatre this week. NEON is a new festival designed by Artistic Director Brett Sheehy to validate the work of dynamic independent theatre makers in Melbourne between May and July 2013.

Featuring five ten-day seasons of new works in the Lawler Studio by leading Melbourne-based independent companies The Hayloft Project, THE RABBLE, Sisters Grimm, Fraught Outfit and Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, this diverse program promises to be thrilling, confronting and entertaining.

Along with the NEON theatre season, MTC has also announced NEON EXTRA - a program of diverse activities to actively engage both audiences and arts industry practitioners. Everyone is invited to attend the forums, workshops, networking events and mentoring opportunities with industry commentators and leading creatives such as Wesley Enoch, Andrew Upton, Lally Katz and Ralph Myers. These free events are designed to tackle themes that will get the creative juices flowing.

Very excited about all of this. The sense of validation and belief that this announcement from MTC brings is a huge nod to the hard work that occurs in the independent world.

I caught up with seasoned independent theatre makers Emma Valente of THE RABBLE, and Benedict Hardie of The Hayloft Project to chat about what this news means for them and other Melbourne independents.

Read the full Aussie Theatre article here.

Adelaide Festival Interview

— 12th March 2013 —

Loved chatting with Pauline Kalker, co-founder of Dutch theatre company Hotel Modern last week. I was in Melbourne, she was in Rotterdam. Very modern!

Hotel Modern are touring to Australia for the first time to perform at the Adelaide Festival with their internationally acclaimed production, Kamp - a retelling of the holocaust inspired by the life of Kalker's grandfather who died in Auschwitz. Featuring their signature style of puppetry, film and live performance, this sounds like a truly incredible theatrical experience for anyone willing to sit through it...

Read the full Aussie Theatre article here.

Hey Mona

— 4th March 2013 —

I'd read about it, heard about it, thought about it and imagined it - but now I can say I've experienced it first hand. MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), located in a stunning spot on the outskirts of Hobart, hosts the private collection of David Walsh - or, as his car park suggests, 'GOD'. Driving up to the museum we passed vineyards, modern buildings tucked in behind Australian natives, chickens on the loose and a smashed up car wedged in between two walls of concrete. Got it.

We lined up on the rooftop tennis court and purchased very reasonably priced tickets to the museum before making our way into the depths of the MONA world. First impression - stunning, fresh and theatrical. Even the bathrooms are dramatic, with red lights outside each door and soundtracks inside each cubicle.

The art itself is displayed so artistically - the emphasis seems to be on experiencing, interacting and reacting to the art. For example, a wall of ancient masks is displayed in a room cloaked in darkness. Only as a spotlight comes up on each mask do you see what is in the room.

The app that has been designed for the museum is revolutionary, and really is at the heart of the experience. It is a choice to not have any information on any of the artworks. Instead, the visitor hits refresh on their app to find 'nearby artworks' and then proceeds to read through a series of ideas that inspired the artist, listen to artist interviews and music, read the rationale (aka 'Art Wank') and hit the 'love' or 'hate' artwork button.

Some of the pieces are very confronting, some are shocking, some are stunning, funny, weird, clever, classic, or plain disgusting. That's the point. This collection makes you feel something. And though it may have been difficult to get my brain out of the MONA-set for a couple of days (you start seeing the world differently!), it was exciting to find that I felt very connected to the human experience after my visit. There were such varied and challenging ideas and stories being expressed in one space.

The strange thing is, there is no pretention here. Yes, there is a poo machine that is claiming to be art. But, I loved the fact that you are allowed to react in any way you like. You may stand around holding your nose and chatting to the people around you about getting out of there, you may nod and 'hmm' about the deep meaning of waste and process, or simply marvel at the mechanics involved in making this thing do its business every day at 2pm on the dot.

Above the dark and dramatic world of the museum, the grounds of MONA are stunning. Surrounded by deep blue water, hills, rust-coloured walls and green grass, this really is a world-class space that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. No excuses. Our flight from Melbourne cost $36 for goodness sake. (If you're going to brave MONA, why not throw in a Tiger Airways experience as well?)

We spent 7 hours at the museum on Friday and then came back to laze around on beanbags drinking wine and cider on Sunday afternoon. The sun was beating down, the strains of the blues band filled the fresh Tasmanian air, and David Walsh moved around the crowd. True to form, he appears to be omnipresent...