Blog

9 December 4:41 pm

10 Minutes With Julie Lee Goss

We sat down with actress Julie Lee Goss whilst Lighten Up was in rehearsals. 

What are you loving about rehearsing Lighten Up?
Lighten Up is a new Aussie play and we are lucky enough to have the writers, Nick Brown and Sam Mccool in the room for rehearsals. Every day in rehearsals we are making discoveries and the script is constantly evolving as we do. As a company we are working towards telling this story the best way we can. It’s been exciting to be a part of such an organic collaborative rehearsal process.

What are you scared of when it comes to the show?
See above! The lines are FRESH. Like, this morning fresh!! It’s seriously exciting and a teeny bit scary!

What are the messages of the play that resonate with you the strongest and why?
 I think the message that we should embrace our differences as people and that this journey needs to start from within is a universal one. Also that you should be careful when bleaching your bits as it can burn.

Best rehearsal moment?
We have had so many laughs!! Finding my character Merle has been so fun! We have been playing with the idea that she is a little bit magic. Like every ghost should be! Walking through walls, making objects appear, wearing disguises – All in a days work!

What’s your favourite line?
I would like to say it’s John Green’s line when he says “Blood is blood, whether it is mixed or not. And it is red” as it really sums up what the play is about. But my real favorite is when my character Livvy says “Why won’t Dicky do Fanny?” For obvious reasons.

What do you love about your character(s)?
Livvy is a precocious budgie obsessed 10 year old girl and Merle Oberon is a 1940s movie star with a secret past AND a secret mission!! What’s not to love!

Are there any similar qualities you have to your character(s)?
I too am a ghost! BOO! Only joking. My characters are quite funny but I’m not really.

29 November 2:48 pm

10 Minutes with Sam McCool

Griffin’s last indie show for 2016, Lighten Up, is just around the corner. This very funny play by actor Nicholas Brown and comedian Sam McCool tells a universal tale of identity, cultural assimilation and bleaching your bits. This is Sam McCool, writer, performer, and all round funny-guy.

Who is Sam McCool?
Sam McCool, Comedian, World-Traveller and Play-Raita.

Who inspires you and why? 
Robin Williams – one of the best free flow comics of all time, outstanding to watch.
Steve Martin – his transformation from stand up comic to playwright is inspiring.
Nicholas Brown – an inspired friend with true determination to tell his story and bring it to life.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’m working on a book based on my show Emracist to create a movement where we embrace difference rather than fear it and another to inspire people to avoid a mid-life crisis and follow their dreams.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Too many to mention, but Bali is my 2nd home. 

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to?
Sydney Opera House – it’s the ultimate performing arts venue in Australia, everyone should see a show there at least once in a lifetime.  

What are you currently reading? 
The Alchemist. Even the 2nd time around it still conveys valuable life lessons.

What are you currently listening to (or watching)? 
At this very moment, listening to Nach Baliye and watching some Bollywood choreography at rehearsals of our play Lighten Up.

Happiness is? 
Moments of fulfillment immersed in a lifelong sense of contentment. 

What does the future hold for you?
More plays. More stand up shows. And a venture into politics when the old age pension scheme runs out of funds.  

Why do you think a show like Lighten Up is important?
To celebrate diversity, to tell original stories from modern multi-cultural Australia and to Lighten Up and have a laugh at each other and with each other.  

What’s your most memorable performance/production to date?
To watch: my first show at the Sydney Opera House Multiple Personality Distorter in 2012 was a landmark moment in my career, and shows I’ve done overseas have always been a fun challenge. 

Favourite Bollywood move (or movie).
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It means Something Something Happen. I watched it for 3 hours, nothing really happened! 

24 November 1:58 pm

A Note From Lee, 24 November

Greetings from beautiful Brisbane! I have spent time up with our partners Queensland Theatre in development on Michele Lee’s play Rice. We were in the building at the same time as a development of another of their plays for next year My Name Is Jimi. And if there is ever a reason to get on a plane up to Brisbane to see a play, it must be to see Jimi Bani! There was such a feeling of excitement in the building as the company started to gear up for Sam Strong’s first season up there – it is great for Griffin to be a part of it! 

Back inside the Stables, it is our last week of Stephen Carleton’s fierce comedy The Turquoise Elephant. We will miss this extraordinary troupe of actors who have been making us laugh, cringe and think through such a turbulent political time in the world. The impact of this play will be felt for years to come.

And it is not possible to think about the legacy of plays this week without also thinking of the legacy of great performers. We lost an extroardinary actor this week in Russell Kiefel. The last time he was onstage at Griffin was in Tom Holloway’s play And No More Shall We Part, a play about not wanting to let go of those we love. We have to let go of him but we can keep all the memories of his performances always.

Love,
Lee

18 November 2:17 pm

10 minutes with Nicholas Brown from ‘Lighten Up’

Griffin’s last indie show for 2016, Lighten Up, is currently in rehearsal. This very funny play by actor Nicholas Brown and comedian Sam McCool tells a universal tale of identity, cultural assimilation and bleaching your bits. As we move closer to opening night we’d like to introduce you to the amazing creative team. Meet Nicholas Brown, actor, writer & Bollywood leading man… 

Who is Nicholas Brown? 
Nicholas Brown is currently a dog whisperer, an obscure plant enthusiast and an essential oils fiend. I like Myrrh these days. Patchouli be gone.

Who inspires you and why? 
As an artist I’ve always been inspired by Bjork. Her lyrics have struck a chord with me since I was a teenager. I get annoyed when people call her ‘weird’ because I think she writes about very human things, the body (inside and out), the universe, plants, planets, technology. She’s inspirational in every way. I’ve always been inspired by Meera Syal too. I think she’s a terrific actor but has also managed to write and produce her own TV shows and films. She’s an accomplished author as well. Her ability to jump back and forth as a writer and actor is something that I’ve always wanted to do. 

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Being of Indian and British origin, I would do whatever I could to abolish the caste system in India. It’s something that disturbs and upsets me deeply. It’s a hangover from the British rule and is so deeply engrained in the Indian psyche. It makes equality in India nearly impossible. I’d also do whatever I could to raise awareness for Indigenous Australian rights and to promote the preservation of Indigenous culture. 

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I’m obsessed with Iceland but I’ve never been. I went to Tulum in Mexico a few years ago and that was probably my favourite holiday. Tulum is an ancient Mexican town by the water and it has a hypnotic power over its people and the tourists that go there. Ancient Mayan ruins are everywhere and huge lizards walk around overseeing them like gatekeepers. They stand on cliff tops looking out to the ocean as if they know ancient secrets that you might only discover if you drink less tequila and walk barefoot. I had a profound trance-like experience when I went into a temazcal to get blessings from an Aztec shaman in Tulum. It was unforgettable. 

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to?
Either to Newtown or to the Blue Mountains with a stop over at the Norman Lindsay Gallery. Fairy porn is the best. 

What are you currently reading? 
I’m reading The Manual of Psychomagic – The Practice of Shamanic Psychotherapy by the incredible Alejandro Jodorowsky. 

What are you currently listening to (or watching)? 
Owen Pallet’s last album In Conflict. It’s breathtaking. I bought the Young Talent Time cast album from 1987 on LP and have been listening to that on my record player. It’s brilliantly awful. I’ve been trying to watch Mike Leigh’s new film Mr Turner on DVD but I keep falling asleep. Their British accents are so broad, I fear I may need subtitles. Multicultural ambassador fail. 

Happiness is? 
A Labyrinth Masquerade Ball. 

What does the future hold for you?
Truffles. 

Why do you think a show like Lighten Up is important?
Lighten Up is my attempt to make some sort of shift to the Australian psyche – to bring an awareness to the underlying racism we have here that is not always seen and felt. It’s a story about owning and celebrating one’s identity no matter how mixed up it is. Despite being a laugh out loud comedy, it very much has political and spiritual agendas. Much like me. 

What’s your most memorable performance/production to date?
Barry Kosky’s Mourning Becomes Electra. I was nineteen and was completely electrified by the show. I like to be electrified in the theatre. 

Favourite Bollywood move (or movie)
I like to dance my own steps and to create my own Bolly dance moves. I have a signature creation but it’s very hard to describe in writing. It moves through five actions in a few seconds and is sort of the running man with the legs being pulled backwards in the other direction. Hard to explain but take my word for it, it’s totes groovy and cultural at the same time. Favourite Bollywood film is an Aussie Bollywood movie called Lighten up. It hasn’t been made yet but the lizards from Tulum told me it would be soon. 

 

10 November 1:12 pm

A Note from Lee, 10 November

I was onstage with the cast of The Turquoise Elephant doing an audience post-show Q&A last week when the subject of the US election came up. Belinda Giblin, who magnificently plays Olympia, predicted a win for Trump, talking of the world gone crazy. She was still in costume as she was speaking, so her incredibly perceptive words were coming from behind her almost clown-like mask of makeup, but her observations on that night haunt me today.

It is hard not to see the loss of Hillary Clinton as evidence of how much men do not want women to lead. Of course I understand that there are so many other factors in play. So as usual I look to the satirical newspaper The Onion to make some sense of the disaster.

Writers, you must speak to us in ways our journalists cannot. Playwrights you must conjure our best selves to inspire us (Lorena in Ladies Day) and our worst selves to warn us (Olympia in The Turquoise Elephant). Artists you must lead us when it is now so obvious that our politicians will not. You have to give us some hope that one day there will be actual equality, because today equality only exists in our imagined worlds.

Love
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

27 October 2:20 pm

A Note from Lee, 27 October

Hello jacaranda, hello Sydney Festival, and hello to the wonderful production of The Turquoise Elephant. It’s colourful, it’s a restoration, apocalyptic, farce which has been described as a comic kick in the teeth to our political complacency, and it is the perfect end to our 2016 Main Season.

That’s right… it is the last play of a theatrical journey that launched this year with Alana Valentine’s Ladies Day, delved into  Phil Kavanagh’s Replay, giggled through Justin Fleming’s The Literati, fractured into Benedict Andrew’s  Gloria and will finish with the final confronting question posed by Stephen Carleton ‘What are we going to do?’. What an extraordinary year of new plays from courageous playwrights, actors, directors, designers and stage managers who have led us into such different worlds. Where do we go from there? I’m glad you asked…

Into our 2017 season of course! A Strategic Plan is gearing up to take us deep into the horrific heart of bureaucratic comedy. And on Sunday morning at 9am Sheridan Harbridge was in my backyard in a tutu being drenched with blood to make the poster shot for the vampire cabaret Nosferatutu. No, the weirdness never stops. Make sure you subscribe to be a part of the whole 2017 playwriting tornado. Have I suggested yet that a subscription can make a fine Christmas gift… I know that is what I give to my whole family! This is actually a test to see if they are reading my newsletter.

With only one big horse race and one American election to get through, the silly season is nearly upon us.

Come on Summer!

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

13 October 12:57 pm

A Note from Lee, 13 October

A love letter to actors

There are a lot of elaborate costumes in The Turquoise Elephant. There is not a lot of space in the Griffin dressing room. We don’t have assistant stage managers  or dressers. And summer is coming. So thank you in advance to the beautiful Maggie Dence and the glorious Belinda Giblin for all of the ridiculous uncomfortable costume changes you are going to wrestle through in the next few weeks.

Thank you to the marvelous cast of Gloria – all seven of them plus chaperone who huddled back there – quiet, focussed, intense. Marta I don’t know how you did it every night, getting ready to go on, standing there in the toilet waiting for your entrance… It’s the glamour, right? That’s what keeps you going?

Thank you to all the amazing actors on Cleverman who are having more and more hair stuck to them… And summer is coming. It’s the glamour, right?

Across the country our great actors are giving their talents to create new stories. It is not an easy process, it is not glamorous or luxurious and most of the time it doesn’t pay that well. The process is difficult, scary and under resourced: the outcome is uncertain, the personal sacrifice is great. So why do they do it?

I think great actors are up for the challenge of new plays because they care deeply about their audiences – about giving them new experiences that have never been seen before. I think great Australian actors care deeply about giving life to great new Australian plays so that the voices of this generation are recorded. They make their mark on our time with their original work. I see the look of excitement on their faces at the end of a show when the audience has experienced the adventure of a new play through them. There is nothing to beat that feeling, that accomplishment.

So thank you in advance to The Turquoise Elephant actors for the work of the next few weeks. Thank you to all the actors who are already committed to working on new plays next year and all the actors who will come on board. Thank you for your vision, your courage,  your imagination, your pain, your skills, your joy, your patience, your understanding and your love of new Australian plays. You are changing our world for the better, one play at a time.

See, and I didn’t tell you all to subscribe to our 2017 season once!

Love,
Lee

12:50 pm

Griffin Creative Development: Adam Deusien

First up, I have to confess: I’ve invaded the Griffin Studio this year. I am an Arts NSW Regional Artist Fellow for 2016, and my work with the Studio is supported through that program, generously welcomed by Griffin and the five other Studio Artists.  My fellowship this year is focused on research and the practical applications of creating a sustainable professional theatre Directing practice based in Bathurst. Working with the Griffin Studio is part of this strategy. Along with travelling to other regional centers with strong performance practice and a residency overseas in the UK, it is a way of developing a truly local, national and international perspective on the position of my work in regional NSW.

I’m not only finding the Studio to be a great opportunity to immerse myself in a vital metropolitan company, but also leverage it as a unique platform to advocate for the validity of professional regional theatre-making practice.  When I run into friends who work in theatre from Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane, I’m usually met with remarks about still being out in Bathurst or queries about when I’m going to finally move to the city to ‘give it a real go’. I used to get annoyed or defensive, feeling like it was an attack on the professionalism of my work or on the development of my career. These days, as my practice and I have matured, I see these comments as a misunderstanding and a product of the metro-centric attitudes that dominate thinking around art making in this country.

At the Australian Theatre Forum last year I took part in a session for Independent theatre workers and in this forum the facilitator asked us, as a group (and it was a large group), to create a list of all the resources we wish we had access to, as independents, to enable our work. By the end of the session, the group had settled on a list that involved inexpensive rehearsal/performance venues, access to technical equipment and support, an audience hungry for their work, access to varied and diverse types of funding, established industry champions for their work, and more time and a smaller cost of living to provide space in their life to create work.

I remember so clearly sitting in that session, looking at that list, and realising that I had all of that in Bathurst.

It was a galvanizing moment for me: being based in regional Australia was not a hindrance, but an abundant blessing.

 

I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that I was afforded as a young artist, and continue to have, in Bathurst. With my own practice as Co-Artistic Director of Lingua Franca Dance & Physical Theatre, I have been funded for at least two new works each year since 2011 (often more), toured performances nationally and overseas, managed projects funded simultaneously by all three levels of government, have developed a strong and continuing relationship with Local Stages, Bathurst’s nationally recognised regional performance arts development program, collaborated with and been mentored by some of Australia’s leading companies and artists, and have a ‘day-job’ working with tenacious and hungry young artists in my role as Lecturer in Theatre/Media at Charles Sturt University.

And so when friends, family or other members of the industry talk about giving it a real go in the city, I politely talk about one of my next projects, and I get back to work.

There is a reason that most arts funding bodies now have rural and regional Australians as a priority development area, and that is because people are starting to really notice that there is a vibrant and contemporary arts ecology outside the cities that has great capacity to contribute to the nation arts landscape, and there are audiences there that want locally made, nationally competitive work they can have ownership over. I am proud to be a part of that.

I think the key to creating greater visibility for professional regional practice is ensuring that the work we make outside the cities has potential for real national resonation and significance. The biggest work I’m developing this year, in collaboration with a number of regional artists and under the mentorship of Griffin Artistic Director Lee Lewis, is a new adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, currently named JASON.

JASON is an inversion of the Medea story using the myth to explore the epidemic of murder/suicides committed by men against their families in regional Australia. In our version of the narrative, it is Medea that marries into the Corinthian royal family, leaving Jason on the docks with their children, threatened with exile, and inevitably killing his children (and potentially in our version Medea and/or himself as well). By incorporating an examination of how local and national journalists report these crimes by partly exonerating the criminals and blaming the victims, JASON is also an exploration of how communities attempt to make sense of these sudden but frequent events.

The use of a classical text to explore this issue provides an imaginative distance for a regional community, that may not be as familiar with the Medea text, to examine these crimes, and for a  metropolitanaudience, with more access to various productions of the work, the acquired knowledge of the established play has the potential to amplify the resonances with the modern world. I learnt from Lee, when I worked as affiliate director on Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree last year, the value of providing this imaginative landscape for an audience when encountering a very real, traumatic experience. We don’t seem to have a language to help us deal with these atrocities without resorting to silence or hysteria. We saw this in Lockhart in 2014 and last year we saw it in Bathurst.  The metaphorical and symbolic landscapes of theatre can help us approach and confront these difficult conversations in a way that the media cannot.

It’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to share this work in development with the Studio. We read some of the work last month in our weekly meet; just FYI, Catherine Fargher can do a mean CWA-stalwart-as-female-version-of-Creon and Phil Spencer can make anything, even an enraged ancient Greek hero, a bit funny.

We continue to share work with each other in the Studio and it’s a great blessing to part of that. I’m looking forward to seeing what Spring brings for the six of us.

Images: 
1) unsustainable behaviour Lingua Franca, 2015 in Bathurst
2) Rehearsed reading of JASON, 2015, with Zoe McGirr, Hudson Emery, Carolyn Eccles and Mark James Dessaix

29 September 1:08 pm

A Note from Lee, 29 September

The title of this newsletter is THE CONSOLATION OF SUBSCRIPTION. For subscription, my friend, is the only way to avoid missing shows like Gloria and The Literati which sold out early in their runs. In 2017 if you want to make sure you have a ticket to plays you might be interested in please subscribe. There are many benefits that come with subscribing but the greatest one is ‘not missing out’ if we have another hit on our hands in 2017.

Now I know that not every show at Griffin is a ‘hit’, but every play has something to say to us now about who we are and the time we are in. You may not agree with every playwright but you will be engaged in urgent conversations provoked by the best writers in the country. And if you are brave enough to sit in the front row you will be face to face with some of the most talented, passionate actors of our time speaking directly to you. There is nothing like it.

For those of you who have subscribed and are waiting to hear back from us – fear not! Our small team has got even smaller with the funding cuts, so it is taking us a bit longer to get through the subscription paperwork this year, but we will get there! Thank you for your subscriptions – each one we get is a great show of faith in new Australian plays.

There is only one more week left of Gloria and The Turquoise Elephant is waiting in the wings. I cannot believe we are heading into the fourth school term, but I can believe the Swans will win on Saturday! Have a great long weekend.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director 

11:39 am

In Conversation: Stephen Carleton

What led you to write The Turquoise Elephant?
The play was a fairly immediate response to the sense of exasperation I’ve been feeling about our economic and political classes’ ridiculous denialism about climate change.  It’s all a bit desperate, really, and dire – it doesn’t sound like comedy, I know! I actually think that instead of experiencing catharsis and excorcising my demons in the writing of this play, I’ve actually grown more despondent as the rewriting process continues. Not with the play itself, but with our political situation. My psyche has mapped the play’s trajectory over the past 18 months, I reckon. The original ending was quite naïve and optimistic; now the world of the play is more extreme and things are spiralling so erratically out of control, that there’s no real coming back from the brink. In 18 months I’ve gone from being quite certain we can do something to arrest the tilt into chaos, to secretly suspecting that we’re now past the tipping point. It’s all quietly doing my head in, truth be told.  Every time you think things can’t get any more ludicrous, another catastrophe occurs – a longer drought, a bigger bushfire, a wilder super storm cell – and rather than galvanising us into action, we just seem to do more and more nothing. We do nothing on a grander and grander scale. And what, the play asks us, is there to be done? Who should do it? I wrote the first draft of the play in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, spurred on tonally by the malodourous denialism wafting out of the Murdoch press at the time. I was worried that we’d somehow missed the boat by programming the play after the lead-up to that event. Well, another year on, and not only has the urgency not gone away, but now we find ourselves with a federal Senate peppered with conspiracy theorists and anti-climate science nutters running with their whacky ideologies as formal policy! Similar backlashes are occurring in political circles globally. We’re back firmly in the sort of political cycle of illogic, mendacity and chaos that spurred Ionesco and his contemporaries to find Absurdist voice in the first place. Which leads me into your next question…

The play is a black comedy. Who were some of the playwrights and/or works that influenced you when you were writing it?
Catastrophic climate change and the idea of the whole world self-destructing and going down the toilet doesn’t seem obviously hilarious on the surface of things, does it?  And yet… if you don’t lampoon the patently absurd, how else do you cope? It is a black comedy. I do hope audiences laugh and laugh hard and that that somehow helps us all give vent to our incredulity. The play’s also a political satire, and there are elements of theatre of the grotesque at play here – this notion that we’re rapidly cannibalising ourselves and the planet. The grand folly of teetering on the brink – the decadence of that – seems grotesque to me, so those theatrical elements of style seem intuitively apt. The Turquoise Elephant pays obvious homage to Ionesco and his Rhinoceros. Thematically his body of work and his wider legacy underpins the play, I think – subconsciously somehow. He was the first playwright whose work I ever saw performed, and the absurdists were amongst  my favourite writers when I was an undergrad Drama student. He was part of this clique of Paris bohemians – the Collège de Pataphysique – who worshipped Alfred Jarry and Surrealism and supported the demolition of culture (even Surrealism itself) and met and “discussed nothing because we believed – and I still do,” he said in an interview once, “that there is no reason for anything, that everything is meaningless.” They gave each other medallions and accolades, the highest of which was La Gidouille which was a large turd that they pinned on their lapels and wore to each others’ theatre openings and readings. Now, I’m not a nihilist, but some of the characters in this play are, and the leitmotif of waste and shit permeates the play. [Which leads me to another story about completing the play from a Toronto hotel room in the middle of a violent bout of gastro, but I’ll leave that one for another time. Suffice it to say, the experience found its way into Olympia’s narrative…]  Other plays that influenced me while I was writing it were from the absurdist canon. Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists for instance. Plays and even short stories set in asylums or dystopias. I came across Margaret Atwood’s latest novel and collection of short stories right at the end of this process and she inspired me to push the futurism and its connection to the present even further – to make it all feel like it’s almost already happening now. The Heart Goes Last and Stone Mattress. They’re brilliant. She’s stirred the seeds for the next play. I’m feeling a bit like this might be the first in a little cycle of speculative plays looking at the world on the brink… I do feel like we’re teetering over the edge of the abyss on a number of different levels: politically, environmentally, technologically, socially…

What was it like winning the Griffin Award with The Turquoise Elephant last year?
It was miraculous. It really did feel like a miracle that came from nowhere. I was in a deep funk about my writing, about the state of Australian playwriting and its place in theatre programming and the demise of arts funding, about being a middle aged Australian playwright and the futility of that particular condition, and was feeling comprehensively stuck. I wrote the play uncharacteristically quickly, sent it off anonymously, didn’t show it to anyone, didn’t have a clue whether it was any good or not. And then the bolt from the blue. It kind of saved me really.

Tell me about your impressions of the creative team working on The Turquoise Elephant.
Well the godsends and miracles keep rolling! Lee teamed me up with Gale Edwards, whose reputation precedes her on quite a number of fronts. She’s been astonishing – the right director for this play without question. She gets the style of the piece as well as connecting deeply with its politics, and she’s brought this incredible team with her. Having Brian Thompson on design – the guy who designed the original Rocky Horror Picture Show and so many other iconic works. Both Gale and Brian – these two legendary talents and personalities – working in a small venue with a small budget. It could all have gone spectacularly awry, but it’s been wonderful. Impeccable casting. Smart, experienced actors who move the work forward; a production and design team with big, bold imaginations and hearts. Having Ben Winspear and Tim Roseman and Laura Ginters work on the play’s dramaturgical process. A team of people who love the play and love what it’s saying. I feel blessed. Thank you Griffin!!

What do you think the Griffin space will bring to The Turquoise Elephant?
Intimacy and claustrophobia.

We’re all in this together and there’s no looking away, folks…

The Turquoise Elephant runs from 14 October to the 26 November.

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