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26 April 11:45 am

A Sharehouse Like No Other
A Note From Phil Spencer

For those of you not familiar with Griffin’s Admin Head Quarters—it is, for want of an exact phrase, a ‘sharehouse’.

A six-bedroom, one-bathroom, half-a-kitchen sharehouse—what a clean-shaven real estate agent would call ‘a burgeoning micro-garden with huge botanical potential’, aka a back deck with three dead pot plants and a bin.

The Griffin sharehouse, or ‘Craig’ as it is known, is much-loved and much-occupied by team Griff. As with all communal living quarters, Craig has its own unique domestic eco-system. We have rules of course. Some rules are decreed in biro upon the back of an electricity bill on the fridge door – like “if you eat the last biscuit, you buy the next biscuit.” And some rules are unspoken but well-known—like “Strictly no April Fools jokes, not after the last time guys.”

Every Thursday morning around 10am a game show buzzer goes off and we have a flat meeting. There is weak tea and gluten-free day-cake and a pile of passive-aggressive post-it notes to talk through.

I make my way down the stairs, past the sign that Lee Lewis made in red texta that reads “All flatmates are equal. But some flatmates are more equal than others.” I step over the semi-permanent hallway parcel addressed to Sam Strong (an ex-flatmate who for some reason still gets all his ASOS packages sent here and luckily, we’re the same shoe size— thanks Sam). I arrive in the front room which is stuffed full of bleary-eyed arty types clutching keep cups.

The flatmate roll call here at Craig reads like a list of names of people who were on the “I’m sorry, but we cannot offer you a place this time round” list for the NIDA acting course circa 2001.

And this meeting starts the way every weekly flatmate meeting begins in every house the world over—self-elected boss lady Karen Rogers (who I strongly suspect of stealing loo roll (in bulk)) starts the meeting by holding up an A4 laminated sign that simply reads “Wash your dishes people! I am not your mum!”

From there we tick off the agenda items with the zesty enthusiasm of a group of people who’ve been forced by circumstance and a love of the theatre to share close confines and one unpredictable lavatory:

Item One: For those in favour of ‘Vegan Tuesdays’ raise your hand.
Item Two:  For those interested in going on the ‘VR, the death of theatre and life as we know it’ one-day intensive course over at AFTRS sign here.
Item Three: Under no circumstances eat the cookies baked by the last intern. They are, and I quote, ‘dubious’.
Item Four: Despite what he says, Elliott is not the landlord, so if you’ve given him any cash in the last month please request it is returned—granted he has been here an eternity and I for one have never seen him pay any rent—but two wrongs don’t make you a landlord.
Item Five: Despite wide spread rumours Ang did not die with a falafel in her hand, she went on holiday and will return next week.
Item Six: Any other business…

 

Phil Spencer
Artistic Associate

12 April 2:33 pm

A Note from Lee, 12 April

First ever BATCH is awesome! 

The first-ever Batch Festival started last night with the best wordsmith in Australia, Omar Musa, live on the Stables stage for his solo show Since Ali DiedSomeone give me the money to commission a play from this incredible voice! The Australia Council was hosting a group of international visitors as part of their Future Leaders program—they chose to bring that group to Griffin last night and I was so happy that Omar’s work was front and centre for them. You have to see him.

And once you have, stay a bit longer and buy another ticket to see Cassie Workman‘s new piece GiantessDelicate, moving, funny, confronting and questioning…about as intimate as a piece of theatre can get. And once you’ve shared the same air as her, stay up a bit later and buy a ticket to see Club Mama

So while we are sad to say goodbye to our gorgeous Kill Climate Deniers team, there is a blast of fresh talent and exciting work to thrill you. There is a huge three-week program of work by independent artists curated by Griffin’s Phil Spencer and Nicole La Bianca for your enjoyment and inspiration—plus some great beer from the serendipitously named Batch Brewing Co, who we were so happy to have come on board. 

If you’re feeling like a bit of an adventure, come on over to the Stables and see the future of Australian theatre! 

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

29 March 12:22 pm

A Note from Lee, 29 March

There are moments in time when plays talk directly to each other. When the smallest theatre in town and the biggest theatre in the country are telling the same story in vastly different ways. When the playwrights zero in on an idea and the plays manifested are joined at the political hip, regardless of the budget of the productions.

There are two performances onstage in Sydney that you must see if you want a 2018 snapshot of political leadership seen through the eyes of Australian playwrights. The first is Rebecca Massey as Gwen Malkin, Minister for the Environment in David Finnigan’s Kill Climate Deniers. The second is Hugo Weaving as Arturo Ui in Tom Wright’s translation of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui down at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Both are virtuosic performances. Both actors have created frighteningly real portraits of power in this age. One is a clown, one is a tyrant. Neither offers comfort as we face an uncertain future. One is written by a young, passionate activist playwright used to making provocative works on the fringes, the other is from Brecht by one of our most established adaptor/translators who works in the heart of our biggest companies. Together, they exemplify the strength and range of new Australian writing.

You have one more week to see Rebecca Massey. You have one month to see Hugo Weaving. It’s not a competition between companies, it’s a conversation. But can Hugo Weaving pole dance? That’s all I’m saying…

Eat a lot of chocolate this weekend and I’ll see you at the gym next week.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

23 March 1:39 pm

Joint statement: Shared commitment to cultural change in the theatre sector

We pay our respects to the First Nations people of this land that we’re meeting on.

Gathering on Wurundjeri land within the Kulin nation, the inaugural Safe Theatres Forum took place last weekend bringing together representatives from all areas of the not for profit spectrum of the performing arts industry. This historic and unprecedented forum is the culmination of over a year’s work and was initiated by artists.

The 47 participants of the forum included culturally and gender diverse artists, LGBTIQA+ artists, First Nation artists, artists with disabilities, Artistic Directors and Executive Directors of major, small to medium and independent theatre companies, arts advocacy groups, funding bodies and representatives from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, to initiate a national conversation and combine our collective effort in driving lasting cultural change to eliminate sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the sector.

The participants of the forum have agreed to be the custodians of change. They have made a long-term combined commitment to create workplaces free of harassment and bullying; workplaces that are safe, where policies and procedures are clearly communicated and understood, where avenues for complaint and redress are available which respect the rights of all parties involved.

The forum discussed the success of the theatre sector in changing the culture around the management of physical workplace health and safety and agreed that the lessons of this change provide confidence that a similar shift can be affected in the prevention of unwanted behaviours in the theatrical workplace. As with all successful programs of cultural change, multiple initiatives will be required over the coming years, from strong and appropriate legislative frameworks; to a comprehensive, transparent and effectively utilised backbone of policy and procedure; to peer-to-peer campaigns that promote respect, inclusivity and responsibility and make these the accepted norms amongst theatre workers.

The participants have agreed to pool resources to galvanise the industry to establish safe workplaces free of harassment, bullying and discrimination. The participants will lead by example but are committed to sharing their resources, policies and knowledge to others working in live theatre. The participants have agreed to several future steps which will shape a plan of work towards achieving safe theatre workplaces.

● The 12 theatre companies present at the forum will seek to harmonise their policies and procedures to create a common framework which can be adopted throughout the industry.
● All participants in the forum will make a commitment to the Live Performance Australia code of practice once it is finalised.
● Toolkits and resources for independent artists will be created so they understand their rights and avenues for action.
● Artistic Directors and Associates of the companies in attendance commit to undertake intimacy training to build skills in this area of creative practice.

The participants will make contact with other institutions within the sector to propose contributions that they might be able to make to ensure a coordinated program of action.

The participants will make a detailed statement about specific actions the groups will take in the near future.

The participants will hold state-based forums in the next three months, to share actions and commitments and to hear feedback from arts workers across the country.

The participants will reconvene in 12 months to report back on progress.

All participants agree the forum was a valuable opportunity to open new channels of communication, and lasting cultural change will need to be a managed process over time, but share a resolve to address harassment, discrimination and bullying in Australian theatres.

#safetheatres

Taking part in the Safe Theatres Forum were (in alphabetical order): Zoe Angus (MEAA), Robyn Arthur (MEAA Equity), Michala Banas, Nicole Beyer (Theatre Network Australia), Annie Bourke (Malthouse Theatre), Loretta Busby (Ensemble Theatre), Elena Carapetis (State Theatre Company South Australia), Shareena Clanton, Elaine Crombie, Chloe Dallimore (MEAA Equity), Lisette Drew, Sue Donnelly (Belvoir), Peter Evans (Bell Shakespeare), Sharna Galvin, Jodi Glass (State Theatre Company South Australia), Ming-Zhu Hii, Kate Hood, Katherine Hoepper (La Boite), Ann Johnson (Sydney Theatre Company), Amanda Jolly (Queensland Theatre), Sapidah Kian, Lee Lewis (Griffin Theatre Company), Eryn Jean Norvill (Safe Theatres Australia), Virginia Lovett (Melbourne Theatre Company), Sarah Neal (Malthouse Theatre), Annette Madden (Australia Council for the Arts), Patrick McIntyre (Sydney Theatre Company), Sarah McKenzie (MEAA Equity), Bruce Meagher (Griffin Theatre Company), Daniel Monks, Claire Nesbitt-Hawes (Ensemble Theatre), Lou Oppenheim (Circus Oz), Gill Perkins (Bell Shakespeare), Paige Rattray (Queensland Theatre), Karen Rodgers (Griffin Theatre Company), Sophie Ross (Safe Theatres Australia), Shari Sebbens, Brett Sheehy (Melbourne Theatre Company), Dan Spielman, Sam Strong (Queensland Theatre), Pearl Tan, Eva Tandy, Rob Tannion (Circus Oz), Anna Tregloan, Emma Valente, Clare Watson (Black Swan Theatre Company), Kip Williams (Sydney Theatre Company) 

 

The Safe Theatres Forum was held in Melbourne on March 17 and 18, 2018
Joint statement: Shared commitment to cultural change in the theatre sector

15 March 2:54 pm

A Note from Lee, 15 March

It’s autumn! Batch Festival is just around the corner (so hurry up and book your tickets!), the days are getting shorter, all the chocolate in the supermarket is egg-shaped and the light is changing. The light has changed inside the Stables Theatre as well. The Girgensohn Foundation supported an upgrade to our technical equipment and boy, will you see and feel a difference when you come and see Kill Climate Deniers… which is going off! Snap up tickets now if you haven’t already, because nights are filling up fast. Rebecca Massey and Sheridan Harbridge are the funniest buddy cop comedy duo you will see all year, and the whole cast are amazing as they bring slapstick together with melodrama, documentary, techno music, action films, real science, awesome lighting and killer sound design to boot—thanks to our new equipment and the ridiculous talent of the design team.

At the other end of the new play spectrum, the 2018 Lysicrates Prize was won by Travis Cotton. Thank you to everyone who came to the Opera House on Sunday afternoon to vote for the play they wanted to see more of. If you’re in the mood to catch more plays in their early stages, check out the National Play Festival next week down at the Eternity.

And if you really want to see into the mind of a great playwright, check out Alana Valentine’s new book Bowerbird, which is being launched by Currency Press next week.

It’s not quite time to get the doona out and there may be a few more weeks of swims at the beach left, but the year is flying by and there is some great theatre happening. Thank you for being a part of it.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

2 March 1:32 pm

Kill Climate Deniers reference material

If you’re interested in delving deeper into some of the ideas and topics presented in Kill Climate Deniers, here’s some quick reference material for you courtesy of the playwright David Finnigan.


Geoengineering 
The research and discussions around Solar Radiation Management are real, and happening right now. Clive Hamilton and Tim Flannery both wrote articles for The Conversation in 2015 which provide two quick glimpses at different perspectives on this debate.

Geoengineering might work in a rational world… sadly we don’t live in one
By Clive Hamilton

There’s another way to combat climate change… but let’s not call it geoengineering
By Tim Flannery


Climate Change Commentary
There are a lot of great commentators on climate change at the moment, but one that I’ve found very helpful in the last couple of years is Jonathan Rowson from the UK Royal Society. His Seven Dimensions of Climate Change report is well worth a look, a quick summary exists on The Guardian.

Also check out Anna Krien’s Quarterly Essay from 2017, a brilliant summary of climate politics in Australia.

 

Taking Action
If you’re looking for any kind of quick action you can take, now and today, throw some money to the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council. They’re currently fighting a native title claim for the Galilee Basin in Queensland, the prospective site for the new Adani mine.

11:54 am

Kill Climate Deniers Feedback

If you’ve seen the play, we would love to hear your thoughts on Kill Climate Deniers. To keep the conversation flowing, we’ll be posting any considered feedback and comments we receive onto our blog.

To join the discussion simply email your observations to info@griffintheatre.com.au

 

As someone who works for a climate organisation, the show and its themes resonated deeply with me and I thought you did an excellent job at portraying such a complex subject in an entertaining manner. The acting was sublime and loved how the plot line was used as a vehicle for broader political commentary. So clever.  Also, the section where all the emails from the climate deniers was just so spot on. I felt like you could be reading out our own info@ email account at times!  Thanks for backing such a bold and contentious play. 

– Bek

 

Tonight’s play, Kill Climate Deniers, was a preview before the opening and hence a little rusty with sound equipment but energetic and already controversial. The title had elicited lots of hostility from those self-appointed Conservatives who were happy to “kill” Julia Gillard but who willingly took offence at a play they had not read and had not seen. Cue here to Andrew Bolt and friends.

Those criticisms were built into the play and the “playwright” kept a running commentary within the play, offering alternate realities, scenarios and providing a constant communication with the audience. This was not a play where you can forget you are watching a play. The scaffolding of the theatrical experience was laid bare.

While didactic and self-consciously so it was also a Surrealist theatre of the Absurd. It was a high octane energetic farce played at speed with many of the cast playing multiple roles. In the sights of this play were politicians, their media advisers, the media and, well, yes, us, for we are too comfortable to see that real climate policies would truly, fundamentally change the way we live.

I wish the show well. It’s brave theatre. It’s great to see risk. It’s great that the Griffin Theatre takes those risks. It is a truly special place!

–Brian

 

Having attended the behind-the-scenes session at Sydney Uni, I was excited to see how Lee finally wrangled the ‘script’ into submission. The final production exceeded my wildest dreams. It was awesomely good…so good at times that I had tears in my eyes from the sheer brilliance of it all. Fast-paced, funny, technically superb. Loved it so much I might even go again if I can get a ticket. PS. I don’t use ‘awesome’ lightly

– Trish

 

It was absolutely amazing!!! The use of the small space was inspiring, and the contrast of style – from melodrama to realism – was done so well! The fight sequences had me at the edge of my seat. Overall it was the best piece of theatre I have ever seen. 
– Sophie 

 

The bottom line is, this would never convince anyone who did not already believe in climate change, so what is the point?

–Ian 

 

My guests had a fabulous time and thoroughly enjoyed the play. It was particularly timely because one of them worked on the ABC radio program Science Report and had listened to the broadcast earlier that day with Robin Williams regarding a climate conference in the United States. Her partner, Paul Davies AM is an internationally recognised astrobiology as among other things and is very much into climate science. Both are professors at ASU.

– Jonathan

 

I wanted to say a massive thank you for my tickets last night. I took my mum and we roared with laughter and absolutely loved the play. I will be telling all of my friends. You have revived my enthusiasm to get back out and see more plays, thanks again.

–Jackie

 

This has prompted political backlash… The threat to kill in these words even in jest and if said at an airport as a joke would lead to a prison sentence and it is incitement… I think this has caused big issues in the media… There are mad people out there and I am a speaker for Al Gore in Climate Reality and  a green campaigner for many years the last thing we need is negative publicity, from the majority of people who will not see your play and will attribute this kind of attitude to people like me.

–Susie

 

I wanted to say, after attending Kill Client Deniers tonight, how much we all enjoyed it. Brilliant piece of theatre – funny writing, challenging topic, brilliant performances and top marks to Lee for the direction. Kill Climate Deniers rates as one of the best plays at the Griffin for ages, and wonderful to see such clever and witty Australian writing. The only complaint we could have is that there is so much going on, between the stage and the screens, that we feel it needs a repeat visit just to appreciate how much there is in it! Congratulations to all involved – on stage and back stage, and thank you for keeping Australian theatre alive and developing. I am spreading the word to friends about this play.

–Ian

 

It dealt with the major issue of the environment but the approach of using the education minister and having her back story made the piece so much more relatable, as well as confronting. Although the hostage situation may have seemed a bit over-dramatic, it confronted the audience (or at least me) because it made me think this is really what we are going to have to come to if the government keeps ignoring the problem of the environment. Overall I thought it was an amazing piece and the whole cast and crew should be very proud of themselves because I would go back and watch it again every day if I could.

– Pip

1 March 12:46 pm

A Note from Lee, 1 March

The first play of the 2018 Griffin Season is opening tonight!

Kill Climate Deniers is a wild ride of a theatrical experience. Playwright David Finnigan is offering a vision of the world that is thrilling, frightening and funny.

The production is filled with great Australian talent, made by some of Australia’s best young designers and laced with outrageous politics and passions.

If I told you the references for making the show were Die Hard (1 & 3), The Thick of It, Magic Mike, The Terminator and Mission Impossible 3, would you be excited or scared?

This is the kind of play that Griffin is made for—the plays that cannot and should not start at a State Theatre Company but absolutely must be on an Australian stage.

So put your adventure hat on and grab your tickets for a show like no other.

See you in the foyer!

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

15 February 1:18 pm

A Note from Lee, 15 Feb

Every week during rehearsals, we have a production meeting where everyone working on the show updates the team on their progress towards getting into the theatre. The meetings are usually early in the morning.

Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, we had a production meeting for Kill Climate Deniers, which goes into the theatre next week. This was the report given by our Audiovisual Designer, Toby Knyvett:

Roses are red, just like beef jerky
I’ve got 5 out of 6 projectors and screens working

Roses are red, carnations are dapper
I just need a HDMI over CAT5 transmitter and a dual link DVI adapter
(Which Kirby already brought so that one is off the radar)

Roses are red, romance or sex?
Waiting on the video capture box to be delivered by Startrack Express

Roses are red, I love Outkast’s ‘HEY YA’
At the office they should expect a delivery in my name from Videoguys Austral-ya

>if delivery is done

(Roses are red, oh yeah booyah
Thanks for letting me know, what a fast courier)

Roses are red, pasta is al-dent
By the end of today we’ll have some content

Roses are red, I could go a ke-bab
I’ve started to create a master showfile for Khym to trigger in QLAB

Roses are red, the tech week is loomin’
With that QLAB file I need to work closely on cue points with Steve Toulmin

Roses are red, I hate roller derby
That’s all to report, back to you Kirby…

Hands down my favourite moment in a production meeting, ever! We preview next Friday – grab your tickets and get ready for a wild ride.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

1 February 2:11 pm

In Conversation: David Finnigan

Bombastic, sharp, and urgent, Kill Climate Deniers is our first Main Season production of 2018. We sat down with playwright David Finnigan to chat about his many influences and what went into the writing of this audacious script.


Image by Sarah Walker

A play is a night out. It’s an evening of entertainment for people who could just as easily be at home. When I’m writing something I’m always asking myself, why would people want to be at your play rather than living it large in their house?

I think, what would make me want to come along for a night at the theatre?

The answer is usually some combination of: good music played loud, explosions, great costumes, some kind of story, dancing, knife fights, more music, and friendship. And you structure it the way you’d structure a party. It starts with a lot of talking, it builds until the dance-floor is heaving and euphoric, and it ends in a chaotic, exhausted mess.

People talk about playscripts like they’re a kind of literature. And some plays are!

My scripts tend to be more like a heated letter to the director, designer and actors, instructing them what to make, prodding and provoking them with challenges and obstacles, and distracting them with lists, asides, comments and questions.

Most of my playwriting influences are people I collaborated and experimented with—Chrism Lloyd, Adam Hadley, Nick McCorriston. Later on people like Jess Bellamy, Declan Greene and Nakkiah Lui for their melt-it-all-down approach to genre.

 

I was reading a lot of Anne Boyer while writing Kill Climate Deniers (and before, and after—always read Anne Boyer). She’s a US poet, one of the wellsprings, a voice I keep turning back to in my writing. I was so conscious of how her poetry is constantly contaminated by politics, how her politics is constantly contaminated by poetry, how she turns this scorching but compassionate awareness on the world and especially her own self, and I want to think some of that aesthetic made its way into my script. Or maybe I just want to tell you to go read Garments Against Women.

But I really learned to write, once you tally it all up, from Jeff Noon. When I was a teenager I devoured his sci-fi novels, then later his experiments in form—Mappalujo and Cobralingus—even (especially) his few essays on writing process, his playlists of songs that he listened to in the writing of various works.

It was Noon that laid out how you might go about applying the tools and techniques of electronic music to making a written work. How you might sample, mix and remix a piece of work into being the way a DJ would lay out a live set.

In one piece of writing, Noon broke down a minimal techno record (Decks, EFX and 909 by Richie Hawtin) and showed how you could craft a written work using the same format:

“The CD consists of 38 pieces of music, with two or three records being played simultaneously. Hawtin includes a diagram on the CD’s sleeve, which depicts where each record begins and ends.

The DJ also employs the other two devices mentioned in the title, a special effects processor, and a Roland 909 drum machine. With these various elements, Hawtin produces a coherent musical narrative. I use the word “narrative” without compromise. Anybody who has enjoyed a good DJ set in a nightclub will attest to this sense of a story being unfolded through the music.

With this in mind, we could use Richie Hawtin’s CD as the template for a novel. We need to create 38 stories, which then blend into each other using the CD’s diagram as a guide. As one story comes to an end, another story, or two other stories, are mixed into it. These new stories are then carried on, until further stories are added to the mix.

Hawtin will return to the same record twice, or to a different remix of the record; we can use this technique to allow our various stories to reappear at different places in the narrative. The special effects and the drum machine elements can be interpreted in their own ways, according to the individual imagination. There are no rules, only opportunities. Above all, imagine the pleasure gained from following the various stories through the mix.”

Maybe a playscript is really actually a mixtape, a recipe for a dancefloor trip with just enough story to contextualise the heat / the energy. And Kill Climate Deniers especially is wired straight from those late-80s / early-90s House and Techno tracks where snippets of movie dialogue or spoken word are sampled and dropped in to shape the mood.

This was such a focus in the development of the script that it led to DJ/producer Reuben Ingall and myself producing a Kill Climate Deniers album for Clan Analogue. The record is straight techno bangers in the vein of classic rave circa 1988-92, overlaid with samples from the play. (Listen to the record on Spotify if you like, or try Music to Shoot Climate Activists To for a taster.)


Image by Sarah Walker

So: take the overloaded-night-out-party aesthetic, blurt out years of fury and despair at the absurd collision between climate science and Australian federal politics, and weave it together like it’s a DJ set from 1992: that’s the script.

But that’s just the start. Then Lee and the other creatives take that script and a playlist of outstanding dance music into the rehearsal room, and burn the whole thing down until it’s a live experience. I don’t know how they’re going to do it but I’m excited, worried, charged with that nervous euphoria rush.

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