Doing a show in Canberra after a long time away: what’s that even like?

And this week, the strange but kinda delightful feeling of being back in the Street Theatre in Canberra, presenting a Boho show. The Street Theatre is one of the places where I got my start, doing Boho and Opiate shows there back as far as 2002, and it has a lot of memories for me. It’s also rad to be bringing Best Festival Ever here, the first Australian season after three years of development and performances overseas.

In case you’ve not spoken with me for the past couple of years, Best Festival Ever is the latest production from Boho, the science-theatre ensemble I run along with Jack Lloyd, Mick Bailey and David Shaw. David (well, Muttley) and I have been working on BFE since 2011 with three members of Sydney ensemble Applespiel: Nikki Kennedy, Nathan Harrison and Rachel Roberts, as well as UK director Tassos Stevens and designer Gary Campbell.

Best Festival Ever is an interactive performance that takes place around a table, in which a playing audience of around 30 people program and manage their own music festival. The show draws on a lot of ideas from climate and systems science, and functions as a bit of a primer to some key concepts from complex systems science: ideas such as interconnectivity, feedback loops, the tragedy of the commons, tipping points and resilience.

I had a grand conversation with Richard Watts from Artshub about the work, and he circled in on some of the core ideas and themes of the show – well worth a glance if you’re curious.

Even after three years we haven’t come up with a good, simple way to describe it: ‘part theatre show, part performance lecture and part massive boardgame’ is how we’ve framed it for the Street Theatre season. But as complex as it sounds, it’s actually one of the most intuitive shows I’ve ever worked on – we’ve spent years working out the details, but the broad aesthetic shape we settled on within a few weeks of getting to grips with it during our residency at University College London’s Environment Institute in 2012.

After presenting it in a host of different spaces across London and Stockholm last year (I think 21 performances in 14 venues?), it’s a total luxury to be doing it in the Street Theatre, with lighting and additional design by Gills Schwab and sound design by Nick McCorriston. I feel kinda guilty because everyone this season is working harder than me – Nikki, Nathan and Rachel are performing every night, and Muttley has done a beautiful job fixing heaps of the props. With the script and marketing stuff all out of the way, my only job has been facilitating the post-show conversations with the scientists.

And this has been the loveliest part of this whole season. Being in Canberra, we’ve been able to assemble a lineup of some of our all-time favourite scientists, old collaborators and new, and conclude each show with a conversation / informal Q&A about the science content of the show.

Last week we had Will Steffen (Climate Council), who talked about planetary boundaries and global tipping points, Brian Walker, who discussed resilience and thresholds in systems such as the Goulburn-Broken catchment, rioting crowds and the human body, Nicky Grigg, who talked about modelling human behaviour and the Australia 2050 project, Joanne Daly, who talked about food security and dealing with invasive species, and Ellie Malbon, who talked about Canberra as a system and the issue of health inequality.

This week we’ll be joined by Steve Cork, John Finnigan and Bob Costanza, and Muttley and I are doing a talk of our own on behalf of the company after the Saturday matinee.

pic by the canberra times photographer Jamila Toderas

It’s been a really lovely experience – the audiences have been great, we’ve sold out the season and had to add additional shows, and we’re all really happy with where the show is at. The big question for me is, where do we take this work next? We really haven’t made any huge effort to line up an Australian tour for the show. That hasn’t really bothered me until now, because I’ve been focused on connecting in with some of our international peers, but right now I’m starting to see how lovely it would be to bring the show to more Australian audiences.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on this front, let me know, yo.

The Palawan EPs

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Now this is a really nice thing that happened and I’m delighted to get to talk about it.

After the Karnabal Festival in Manila, Jordan Prosser and I headed to the island of Palawan in the western Philippines to spend a few days being tourists and generally skulking about. I was a bit of a wreck by that point, unfortunately, a little too ragged and wrung out after the chaos of May. Jordan generously organised all the logistics, and I did nothing except fall asleep on his shoulder in the plane to El Nido.

While we were spending the week sea kayaking, snorkelling and gathering our heads, we recorded a cluster of new spoken word pieces. Again, all at Jordan’s prompting – I was a total passenger in this regard, just scribbling my pieces and mumbling them into the recorder while Jordan recorded, edited and gathered a collection of found sounds.

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In the end, we had a body of material that was too much for one release, and rather than overload it with words, we made the decision to break it up into two EPs, which allowed Jordan to space out the poetry with a selection of field recordings.

The next phase was that I went through my folders and pulled out a whole bunch of unreleased Fossil Rabbit material from a few years ago. The advantage of being Chris Finnigan’s brother is that I get access to a whole heap of his recordings that no-one else has heard, and so we snagged Chris’ permission to use some songs from his unreleased 2010 demo EP.

Jordan stitched the two EPs together, and the result ended up being unexpectedly lovely. What I realised listening to them is that in order to digest spoken word, you need room – which Jordan allowed. And so you don’t feel like you’re being bombarded, you can actually take the words on board when they come.

The centrepiece of the first EP is The Comfort of Facts, a poem which Jordan half-wrote then invited me to collaborate on. It’s a really nice piece about the vastness of the world (and how little that really matters to any of us) and when we finally recorded it (in Kuala Lumpur airport just before he sprinted off to catch his flight to Melbourne) it felt like the perfect keystone for that collection. My love letter Hey Sam Hey Georgie (to the other half of Too Many Weapons) is a messy but well-meaning piece, and Jordan’s Mid-Air Collision and Devil’s Canyon poems are both beautiful and eerie as hell.

The second EP features a song that Jordan wrote and recorded entitled Softly Softly (because he’s a goddamn triple-threat, thank christ he can’t dance), and MH370, the poem he wrote in response to the vanished Malaysian airlines flight, has a strange Picnic at Hanging Rock vibe. The centrepiece on this EP was my What Are The Things That You Think, which is a piece I don’t remember writing, but which I infer was scribbled down at 4am one night last winter. I don’t know any more than that, but it’s a pretty accurate cross-section of the stuff that passes through my brain most days and nights.

Finally, to close the second EP, Jordan suggested we draw out a recording he had from the Karnabal Festival International Platform showing, where Japanese playwright and theatre-maker Natsuki Ishigami was speaking about her collaboration with Andrew Cruz and Anino Shadowplay. So that beautiful sample (‘I’m lucky… I’m honoured…’) closes the record, accompanied by Chris’ track Lakeside.

I don’t know if these pieces will be in any way your jam, I just felt like here we came close to getting something right, you know?

All the videos yuu can eat

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Recently, Too Many Weapons gathered in Sydney for a couple of days at the ABC Studios in Ultimo (nicely timed to take place during the ABC lockdown, bless) and while in Sydney, we recorded a new iteration of the ongoing Rizal Fountain Raps series.

That brings the total entries in the Rizal Raps series up to nearly 30 videos, including a bunch of guest appearances by friends and collaborators in Quezon City in 2013.

The Rizal Fountain Raps started in 2012 when we were in Manila, recording a cluster of short spoken word performances at the fountain in Rizal Park in Intramuros. Following that round, Sam, Georgie, Jordan and myself have kept up the tradition of recording a new spoken word performance at every touring destination we visit.

I decided I’d like a place to host all that content on this website, and so I’ve created a new page just for videos, where I’ve gathered a bundle of documentation from the last seven or eight years. There’s Boho plays, Finnigan and Brother clips, and spoken word performances. Basically it’s a glut of my terrible beardy face and you should make up your mind whether that’s something you need in your life before clicking on the link.

Pulling it together, I realised how many of the clips were down to the efforts of just a few people. So huge thanks and much gratefulness to Sam Burns-Warr, Shane Parsons, Erica Hurrell and Jordan Prosser: you guys make it real.

And now to give you something worth staying on this page for, here are the clips from the most recent Rizal Fountain Raps edition, recorded earlier this year in the Melbourne Docklands:

Camiguin Sonnets: It’s A Free Concert From Now On

This is an opportunity to update you on what I’ve been up to, which is always murky as hell and who really knows? Planning. Procrastinating. Panicking. In roughly equal measure. But this is my professional website (ha) and so I try to minimise the amount that I talk about my hours staring helplessly at my notebook or yelling at myself in my own head for how little I’ve done / am doing / will ever do. Instead I try to keep the focus on things I’ve actually done.

So! Some things I’ve actually done!

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While we were in the Philippines, myself and the rest of Everything is Everywhere – the redoubtable Ira Gamerman, Siobhan O’Loughlin and Jess Bellamy – took some time to record what we euphemistically called Sonnets. In this instance, a sonnet is a performance to camera, not dissimilar to Too Many Weapons’ Rizal Fountain Raps series.

We wrote and performed them at Camiguin Action Geckoes Lodge, in northern Mindanao, and they turned out pretty charmingly, if I do say so myself. Jess’ piece hews closest to being an actual sonnet, while also being a charming meditation on the value of a good piece of ass. Siobhan’s is a breathless ode to a Japanese apartment, which is also a love letter, which is also lovely. And Ira’s is a song called Come Again Camiguin, an example of Gamerman’s ability to throw out a gorgeous pop hook in any circumstances, performed topless.

Mine is called It’s A Free Concert From Now On, because fuck it why not, and I kinda like it. And maybe you might as well? And so here it is for you, complete with a cameo by Ms O’Loughlin herself, and a gorgeous lizard on the roof, and the sentiment, I stand behind.

this is an open letter to the prime minister of australia
anna breslaw who wrote one of the better cosmopolitan sealed sections I’ve ever read
karl hyde water on stone water on sand
the bolt comments twitter feed
ryzza mae, ryzza mae, and everyone on the ryzza mae show
my name’s david finnigan and

there are addicts everywhere
under every bed
behind every car windshield
there are addicts in your place of work
they are driving your taxis
running your childcare centres
building your bridges
and crouching behind your eyeballs right now listening in

but rather than trying to squash that part of you I say
good luck and hold on to the stuff you’re hooked on
if you’ve got enough cash to start a recreational drug habit
dive right in
get in a loop
don’t back away from the things that you need

I mean like ice
I mean like red wine
I mean like ketamine
I mean like nights on the island checking your phone waiting for a dealer to text back
dragged slowly towards the edge

I mean if you need it
if you can’t function without it
if you find yourself waking in the night panicking unless it’s right there
then do what your heart says and run to it

I mean like sex with people who are no good for you
I mean like travel to places that don’t need you
I mean like diving deep down til your ears are gonna burst and the light dims down and there’s just sharks down there
I mean like running away from things as soon as they start to get hard
I mean like being in your own head because your own head scares you
I mean like taking years off your life with every poor decision and pushing the boat out to sea as the wind picks up and the sun goes down

I mean like let’s not pretend that anyone loves you as much as drugs love you
as much as power loves you
as much as ambition, stupid sex and lighting fires loves you
as much as making promises you can’t keep to people who need you more than you need them loves you
yes!
as much as your aching back your tired eyes from staring at the laptop too long your bank account when was the last time you checked your bank account when are you going to take a real step forward instead of all these goddamn steps back loves you
I mean real talk who knows you as well as your own paranoia and neuroses?
who’s been with you all the way through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the heat and the energy, apart from your weird problems?

I mean I love you, everyone here loves you, ira siobhan and jess love you, it’s a free concert from now on
but the one major thing you need to remember tonight before you go back up into the woods to go to sleep or if you stay here
is that the scorched mess of fear and pain and jealousy and anger in your head is your first lover
it’s been there for you and you’ve given it the whole world
and wherever you go in this lifetime until finally the thoughts wink out for good
that horror in your mind is closer to you than your own shadow
so love it

and you damn well better remember that because if you don’t we blow the whole thing
but we’ve got it, right here

so to the prime minister, the honourable speaker for warringah
to noynoy aquino, the kids in bieber’s entourage
all the charming boys and girls nervously expressing to their partner their desire to try a little analingus tonight pls
to the sweet hetero boy you brought home tonight who doesn’t have a clue
to the nervous straight girl who invited you back to hers who doesn’t know how to ask for what she wants
to the theatre kids, the sipat lawin ensemble
the ones ruining their futures to make something that means something even though they don’t know what that fucking means and fair enough
to the trike drivers playing checkers on malingap street at 2am
and the staff of shakeys on matalino
to the camiguin kids playing in the surf
kuya rat, yuki the lizards on the bamboo roof, all the starfish in the sea
ira, jess, siobhan everything is everywhere all the time
and all the fucking creatures holding it together by the thinnest of threads and yet presenting such a pretty face to the world
good luck and don’t dare give up

you are such beautiful fuck ups

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All the shows I did in Manila in May 2015

So so so so so so so, Karnabal Festival in Manila. As well as helping Sipat Lawin produce the International Exchange platform for the festival, I was involved in four productions that took place as part of the festival.

Previous experience (particularly with the first You Are Here fest) had taught me that being an artist in a festival you’re producing is possible, but not ideal. A little bit of performance is fine – as per the Teen Makeouts shows in YAH 2012 and 2013 – but trying to do a big full-length new show is not. Trying to do four separate shows is ridiculous.

In the end, all four shows happened and worked, more or less, but I am left with the stinging feeling that I could have done better, in every instance, if I’d had more focus.

Anyway – this is what happened:

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Gobyerno

Total hubris here – when we ran Gobyerno in Korea with Creative VaQi, we were doing our best to pack everything into the two hour slot we’d been given. Here at Karnabal we had two two hour slots again, and we had way more material we wanted to test. Our solution was to break the shows in half and do two completely different performances, with totally different material. Effectively, we ended up presenting two completely different shows over the two nights.

On the first night we did the State of the Nation address, where the participants created their own ideal speech from a leader, discussing the issues they felt most strongly about. The first half of the show is the audience discussing and debating their ideas for the country’s new direction – the second is them preparing and then filming the leader’s speech, complete with journalists, cheering crowds, angry protestors and full orchestration. Brandon had proposed doing a long trick shot for this scene, which I thought was completely ridiculous, but ended up being utterly brilliant. The whole show was a crazy ride, and it felt like everything landed really nicely.

The second night we did Urban Planning – in which participants designed and debated their ideal city, creating a massive floor map of it. In the second half of the show they create a filmic journey through the city. This was lovely, but the audience this night was way bigger – up to 60 from 35 the previous night. With only four artist/facilitators, the structure of managing the crowds started to buckle and sway, and when we brought the whole crowd together, it almost completely fell over.

This show is a pretty exciting proposition on so many levels, but also a powerful challenge, because of JK’s basic desire that it is an interactive participatory work that happens at scale. He wants at least 150 participants in the final version. I think that’s an incredibly hard task. Which is part of why I’m involved.

gob_adrian begoniagobyerno. image by adrian begonia

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gob02_jpgobyerno. images by jordan prosser

Appropriate Kissing For All Occasions

This was a nice one, maybe the easiest of the bunch. Isab Martinez and I had already collaborated on this back in 2013, and this was a reboot with some edits and additions. It was incredibly satisfying to see it up close and personal – Isab is a really sharp comic actor, totally able to hold a crowd, and totally owns the arrogant TED-speaker with the gaping emotional wounds at her centre character. And her criticism of people’s kisses was outstanding. This was just a joy to watch, really.

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Relationship Anatomy

This was a little newer and a little scarier. Isab and I collaborated on a new work which took the form of a group therapy session. Essentially, Isab’s character was seeking advice from strangers about her relationship, which is slightly shaky and on the rocks. The guts of the work are a facilitated conversation with the audience around their opinions on relationships, what are the key elements, when is it time to call it quits, etc. This is pretty delicate territory, and we were unsure of whether we had something that quite worked.

We presented the show three times. The first time, it sort of worked, if you squinted hard enough. The second time it completely crashed and burned. The third time, it landed beautifully. Three different audiences – different ages, different backgrounds, different numbers, different attitudes, different settings – as an experiment it was ideal. We learned a lot. It was fascinating to see what different groups decided. And there was one really satisfying theatrical moment, where if the audience decide that the relationship is dead in the water, Isab calls the guy up then and there and dumps him over the phone.

My favourite moment, though, was when Isab asks each audience member to describe their ideal partner as an object, and why. Some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever heard stemmed from this moment. A book with the covers torn off. A forest. A circle. Yes.

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Everything is Everywhere

The joint work of myself, Jess Bellamy, Siobhan O’Loughlin and Ira Gamerman. We joined forces after spending a fortnight together in New York last year, and out of that stemmed this project. Over three weeks up to and during Karnabal, we produced a whole raft of new stories, scenes and monologues, and wrapped them together in a framework in which the four of us competed to take over the Philippines.

The basic breakdown had to do with our specific makeup as a company – two men / two women, two Americans / two Australians, two Jews / two Irish Catholic atheists. The resulting show saw us play against each other in three rounds, trying to score points by convincing the Philippines that we were uniquely qualified to understand and engage with them.

In the end, Jess won the contest (because of her UNBELIEVABLE score in our bonus round) and became leader of the Philippines, delivering this acceptance speech (courtesy of Ness Roque):

“Mabuhay! Hindi ko alam ang sinasabi ko. Ako ay isang puting papet. Tingnan niyo ako! Nagsasalita ako pero wala akong alam kung anong sinasabi ko! Ang saya saya! Kekembot ako. Sasayaw ako. Pinagtripan lang kami ng Sipat Lawin. Kekembot ako. Sasayaw ako. Mukha na ba akong tanga? Pero hindi ko alam kung bakit. Maraming salamat po! Maraming salamat po! Mahal ko ang Pilipinas!”

Mahal ko ang Pilipinas indeed.

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eise04_adrian begonia#EisE. images by adrian begonia

Okay so that was my artistic input into the festival, which, again, probably shouldn’t have been there. But I think I can say, I’m grateful it happened?

I’m grateful to everyone who lets me make art.

Hectic, beautiful, fucked: Karnabal 2015

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I’m writing this in Sydney, in the late autumn chill (as chilly as it gets in this town) and I’m already withdrawing from the heat and humidity of Filipino summer. Landed in Australia on Sunday after two and a bit months in Manila, and I’m suffering some of the ‘reverse culture shock’ they talked about at the Asialink orientation session (‘You may find upon your return to english speaking countries that things seem too drab, quiet, orderly, sleepy and safe’). So I’m going to do my best to talk about what I was doing over there before it all gets too far away from me.

I’ve been in Manila working with the Sipat Lawin Ensemble, beloved collaborators and dear friends, and for whom I am a kind of ridiculous white sidekick. There were two major parts to this collaboration. The first was devising and presenting the first seasons of Gobyerno, a massive participatory performance in which the audience construct their own documentary of their ideal society. We (me, JK Anicoche, Ness Roque and Brandon Relucio) kicked off Gobyerno in Korea with collaborators Creative VaQi in April, and then brought it to Manila for a first season there. Secondly, I was there to help out on Sipat’s Karnabal Festival.

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Karnabal is Sipat’s curated festival of contemporary performance by Filipino artists from across the spectrum. 2015 was the second outing for the festival, and a huge step up in scale from the original in 2013. This year, as well as a huge program of performances by Filipino artists and ensembles (including some of my favourites like Anino Shadowplay and Issa Lopez), the festival was host to a whole stream of international artists: the International Exchange.

Speaking bluntly, it takes pretty serious vision / ambition / lunacy to program a major international stream into your completely unfunded festival, and it says a lot about Sipat Lawin that they were able to bring on nearly 20 participants from around the world. This is an exciting company to get to work with, an exciting community to be a part of, and people were up for the challenge. Anyway, I was in charge of wrangling the International Exchange component of the festival.

In a nice departure from usual programming models, the duo behind Karnabal (Sarah Salazar and JK Anicoche) didn’t want the international artists to come in and dominate the lineup. They wanted to keep the focus on the local artists and the exciting things happening in Manila right now, while still being part of an international conversation. So with that in mind, the internationals came along not to present their own work (with one or two exceptions) but to attend the festival, participate in talks, events, give workshops, and most importantly, collaborate with local artists on new projects. Each international artist was paired with a local artist, and that duo worked together over the festival to begin the development of a new project, of some kind.

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A lot of my focus throughout the festival was on the international artists, and the crew that came were pretty wonderful. Some of the Whitelegs from Australia returned, there was an awesome trio from Yokohama (Team Japan!), two Baltimorean New Yorker Americans, Creative VaQi from Korea, and visiting artist/producers from Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Tokyo.

We were all scattered around Teachers Village in Quezon City, stumbling between venues (Vargas Museum in on the University of the Philippines campus and Teatro Papet Museo on Mapagkawangawa street), rolling up and down Maginhawa, Malingap and Matalino street, and half of us crammed into the delightful-if-overcrowded Yuj Inn. And it was chaos. That intense white-heat focused madness of festival time combined with that bleary non-stop urgency of Manila, for two weeks. It was sweltering hot, traffic crammed, hectic, beautiful, fucked. I coped. Everyone coped. It was gorgeous. At a point I think I stopped feeling tired no matter what time of day it was. At another point I think I stopped feeling anything.

And there was beautiful art, and amazing shows, and some of the most lovely performances and creations I’ve ever seen, in the midst of the rushing. And I was especially proud because, on the last day of the festival, each of the international exchange participants presented a 15 minute work-in-progress sharing. And it was absolutely amazing, the variety and the energy and the possibility within all of them. And so that was delightful.

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And then the day after the festival, myself and a bunch of others gave a brief workshop as part of Project Banig to some of the kids involved with Project Pearls, a wonderful shambolic experience. And then Jordan and I got on a plane to Palawan, and we had three days of decompression in the weird backpacker purgatory that is El Nido and the beautiful ocean paradise that is El Nido.

In amongst all the rest of that, I presented four shows as part of the festival: aka Too Many Shows. But that is a story for next time. Meantime, here’s a little of what the fest looked like, courtesy of Jordan Prosser:

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Korea things: Festival Bo:m tour diary (kinda)

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2.15pm
It’s 45 minutes before our first Gobyerno show in Korea, and I’ve never quite experienced a process like this before. We (that is me, Ness Roque and JK Anicoche from Sipat Lawin, and Brandon Relucio our masterful filmographer / documentary-maker) spent the day preparing the space. Creative VaQi have been working on their own preparations, translating the text, preparing their lines, running through the show order. Sipat and I are putting props out and trying our best to help them without getting in the way.

Ness and I made a timeline for the workshop (and despite our best efforts, there’s no way that this one can be done inside the time limits without some serious on-the-floor cuts), JK set up the props and has made endless boxes out of brown cardboard. Brandon has been organising the camera equipment. I’ve been stringing up lights and learning how to be a lighting designer (a terrible one), and now I’ve stolen some of JK’s pics from the last few days and I’m scribbling a few stray thoughts.

Now VaQi are playing some luscious Korean rock (3rd Line Butterfly!) and Ness and Brandon and I are dancing around the space, while SooYeon, SooJin, KyungSung and KyungMin gather themselves and focus. We have worked in a mad scramble this last two weeks in Manila, grounding and testing our bag of crazy ideas with Sipat and the wider Sipat family, then the last two days we’ve been running VaQi through it and they’ve been digesting it as best they can.

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3.40pm
We’re in the midst of it and it’s lovely seeing it. How do you describe seeing an experience you’ve helped sculptbeing undertaken by people in a form that you can’t actually understand, but which you can tell/feel is delightful?

KyungMin and SooJin looking after one table, SooYeon and KyungSung taking care of the other. And there’s 20 participants, building cities out of paper and cardboard, negotiating how their leader will speak on camera and preparing their grand entrance. Choosing music – one guy decided that the president should enter to the Clash’s London Calling and the other president arrived to the Jaws theme.

It’s crazy intense being here but totally unable to help, just watching from the sidelines and trying to sense where the conversation is flowing. Exhausting in a whole different way.

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6.07pm
Finished our debrief. VaQi went straight into a really analytical unpicking of some of the rougher elements, but one of the things that they all agreed on was that they should trust their instincts and be more flexible with the time, rather than following too closely the timeline that we’d mapped out. They know what they’re doing, and they don’t need much more guidance from us. They get it, and that’s the best thing.

Working in Seoul has been a beautiful experience, the Festival Bo:m team have taken incredible care of us (thank you Kimoon!), and I’m living in this weird headspace of being a guest at an international arts festival and treated with such generosity and I’m so grateful but also so worried that I’m not doing enough to justify it. But Seoul is beautiful, it’s been such a delightful experience and I don’t know what to say.

More things. Bring it.

how it feels to be in the philippines in april 2015

Got to the Philippines two weeks ago, and it has been a hit the ground running kinda process. Which is maybe exactly what I needed. But also, I feel confused and bewildered about where I am and what I’m doing. But also: happy.

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I’m illustrating this post with JK’s images from the live crucifixion at Pampanga on the weekend. That was a strange and wonderful day, part street theatre, part sacred rite, part cheesy tourist spectacle, part mob-style mania. JK got accidentally whipped by a self-flagellant while he was videoing the crucifix kite on his phone. I bought four glow-in-the-dark crosses with rosary beads and nearly tripped into a puddle of blood in the dusty street. We all got to reenact that moment in Matthew 33:1-8 where bystanders at the crucifixion gave their phone to Roman guards to videotape the crucifixion close-up and then the bystanders thought the Romans had run off with their cell-phones but really they were just taking terrible poorly composed shaky video of Jesus being lowered from the cross and dragged off by paramedics.

My future goal is to get to watch from the scissor-lift erected on Golgotha to the side of the three crosses, with the mayor and the other VIPs. JK’s goal is to get to play Mary Magdalene in the rites. We all have dreams. & isn’t that, after all, the true meaning of christmas?

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In one week we go to Korea for Festival B:om to present the first scratches of Gobyerno. It’s always scary sharing a new piece with an audience who’s not familiar with your work, but this has so many more layers than that. We’re going over to collaborate with Korean theatre ensemble Creative VaQi, who’ll be presenting the work, in Korean. So we’ve created a participatory performance piece which will be done for the first time in Korean, by a Korean company, to an audience whose sensibilities and proclivities are very new to us. There are so many ways that this could go wrong. And that in its own way is kinda great.

Then beyond that, it’s getting to grips with Everything is Everywhere, before Karnabal starts in… one month today. And it’s hot. It’s really hot. There’s a typhoon on its way but I think it just got downgraded to a tropical storm. There’s a rat and a friendly giant spider somewhere in the house tonight. Eisa is practising her host performance, playing a 2009 K-Pop anthem over and over.

Also, Ness has been doing her best to teach me some tagalog words. I don’t have much, pero try-ko. Magiging okay lang. Ang pag-ibig ko sayo ay forever. Nandoon ang pusa. Magke-kembot ako. Minahal kita noon, pero hindi ngayon. Edy wow. Sakto. That’s what I’ve got.

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And watching so much Foreignoy. Where do I start. The current front-runner is a Mormon missionary from Queensland and he’s really good. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even a person, I’m just a vessel that’s waiting to Eat Bulaga.

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And last night JK and I got back in to Manila around 2am, somewhere in the back end of Quezon City. We found a cab to take us to Sikatuna, and suddenly we were driving through Balintawak Markets, a huge warehouse that was cranking at 2am, vegetables and goods from the provinces being unloaded from trucks and people sitting around piles of vegetables on tarpaulins under intense floodlights or in total darkness. And I was happy.

Checking in with some paralysing self-doubt on a Wednesday

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If anyone is curious, this is where I’m at.

It’s Wednesday 11 March 2015, I’m in Sydney, and it’s classic IDM in the headphones.

January and February were fairly manic. Ten days in the Philippines, two days in Korea, then three weeks jumping between developments: Kill Climate Deniers Felicity: The Stage Play to Are We The One? back to Felicity again. More or less seven weeks of back to back project work, followed by this patch of down-time. I’ve spent the last two weeks writing emails, writing reports, booking travel, catching up on admin.

This is four parts good and one part panic.

Weeks like these are great because as well as all the necessary project admin and correspondence, as well as getting the chance to see some fucking lovely theatre, it’s also a rare and pretty vital opportunity to take a look at the bigger picture. As someone who generates most of my projects myself, it’s really valuable to be able to contemplate stuff beyond the next few weeks – where do I want to be in 2016, 2017 etc. These quiet periods are precious as hell and I’m incredibly grateful for them.

Having said that, there’s nothing like a momentary pause to force you to confront the horrifying blankness that lies behind your actions. My whole practice is based on forward motion, and without that, I feel a kind of terror and panic and the sense that it’s all coming apart under me.

Even worse, it confronts me with the question: What do I want.

What do I actually want? And if I say it, if I can even get a grip on it enough to be able to articulate it, is it actually possible? Is there a way from where I am now to where I want to be?

And if not, what am I actually striving for?

I have answers to all these questions, I’m sure you do too. My Churchill Fellowship report was one attempt at answering them, and I think it’s the most accurate formulation of my intent that exists. But no matter what, those answers always feel a little threadbare when you’ve ground to a halt and you need to begin the slow push to get another project moving.

That said, this kind of existential panic is a pretty good reminder of how helpless and small we all are against this massive stumbling world we’re clinging to. Anyone who doesn’t have time for the occasional bout of paralysing self-doubt: I pity you. And anyone who has the time but feels neither confusion nor doubt: I pity and fear you.

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Angst aside, it is now time to get busy again. I am heading to the Philippines next week for two and a half months with the Sipat Lawin Ensemble. There’s a few things on the cards:

I’m working as dramaturge on Sipat’s new large-scale participatory show Gobyerno (Government), in which a playing audience design and film their own original documentary articulating their ideal society. The show is having initial trials in Manila at the end of the month, then we are taking a prototype version to Festival B:om in Seoul, Korea, this April.

Following that, I’m helping out on Sipat’s incredible Karnabal Festival, a huge gathering of theatre and performing artists from the Philippines and internationally. I’m helping manage the International Platform, in which artists from Korea, Japan, the USA and Australia will present their work, and collaborate with local artists on new projects.

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As well as Gobyerno, I’m involved in several shows that are happening at Karnabal. The first is an ongoing collaboration with Isabelle Martinez. Last Karnabal she performed our jointly-written one-woman show Appropriate Kissing For All Occasions, based on our shared fascination with ‘sexy TED talks’ (god help us all). This time, Isab is restaging AKFAO (time to learn to kiss, yo) and we’ll be working on the first staging of a new piece about romance, and forevers.

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And finally, at long last, I’ll be performing as one quarter of AustrAmerican ensemble Everything is Everywhere, with fellow writer/performers Jess Bellamy, Ira Gamerman and Siobhan O’Loughlin. We’re presenting a new work entitled 24 Truths and 12 Lies, and I am fucking jazzed. Ira describes it as ‘three rounds for world domination’, which is pretty much the perfect tagline for any play, ever.

And now that’s enough words; words aren’t even words.

Doing A Stage Adaptation of Felicity Starring Keri Russell

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January and February have been fairly mental, I was in the Philippines for 10 days, Korea for two, then did three weeks hopping between Canberra and Sydney for two developments. The one in Melbourne was at Arts House, working with Keith Armstrong on a new app for Arts House – see my previous blog post.

The one in Canberra, however, was working on a lovely new play with Aspen Island Theatre Company: Kill Climate Deniers Felicity: The Stage Play.

Felicity is a classic 90s teen drama, following the adventures of Felicity Porter (played by Keri Russell) as she travels to New York to attend university. Over two weeks, director Julian Hobba, designer Imogen Keane and performers Clare Moss, Cathy Petocz, Miranda Borman and Eleanor Garran worked with me on fleshing out the script, devising an appropriate performance and playing with dialogue.

One of the most exciting parts of the project is that in the show, when Environment Minister Gwen Malkin Felicity breaks free from the terrorist’s grasp, she heads through Parliament House playing a soundtrack of classic house and techno while taking out terrorists in a series of bombastic fight scenes. In order to bring those to life, musician Reuben Ingall and choreographer Adelina Larsson came on board and contributed phenomenal music and dance to the work.

The centrepiece of the action, of course, hangs from a brutal and chaotic battle set to the tune of Black Box’s 1989 hit Ride On Time. Dig:

(just by the by, I’ve never seen Felicity and I have no idea what a stage play adaptation would entail, other than that I’m probably for it, in principle.)