Happy winter listeners! We hope this finds you well and rugged up. This month we discuss Pony Cam’s Grand Theft Theatre and the shows that have left an indelible mark on us. Intermission chatter plugs the HBO show Barry (better than Succession? you decide!) and the Music Viva International Chamber Music Championship. Our second act is the Australian Ballet’s double bill Identity. An odd pairing we couldn’t wrap our brains around. Our Coming Soon recommendations are This is Living, An Uprising of Dreams, the Women’s World Cup and hyper local video store documentary Rainbow Video.
- Produced and recorded by Carla Donnelly and Philip Thiel
- Theme composition Mark Barrage
- Sound editing by Shackwest
- Cover image Daniel Boud
Carla: Hello and welcome to Across the Aisle, your favourite Australian Arts and Culture podcast. We are broadcasting from the chilly depths of winter in Victoria into your ears. I hope you’re rugged up somewhere with a lovely warm drink and ready for our piping hot takes. This month we’re going to get a little personal. We’ll talk the show identity and what it means to us, but also Grand Theft Theatre and how the experience of show going has shaped us. It’s all going to get very meta today, and I can’t wait. I am your host, Carla Donnelly, and I am joined by my monastic cold showerer Phillip Thiel. Hi Phil.
Philip: Happy Winter.
Carla: Happy Winter. We’ve just had the solstice. This feels like the culmination of all that has come before it. Let’s dive in. Phil, please intro Grand Theft Theatre.
Philip: Delighted. Grand Theft Theatre is a work by the Melbourne based theatre collective Pony Cam, collaborating with writer and creator David Williams, and they describe it thus “Six performers recreate the 12 moments of theatre that changed their lives in painstaking detail. We perform a remarkably informal, undeniably queer and unpredictably messy resurrection of those moments for the here and now. What arises is an autobiographical, highly physical and probingly funny performance that transforms a community space into a theatre, a gallery, a nightclub, a coliseum, and the room above a pub”. And importantly, this was the work that received the theatre prize at last year’s Melbourne Fringe, where I saw it and really loved it and advocated for it very strongly, trying to get as many people as I could to get along. And likewise, this time I was so thrilled that there was a restaging because I had been so moved to encounter this work the first time around. Pony Cam is a bunch of people who never seem to age beyond about 21 years old. I now follow them on Instagram and try to catch everything they make before they inevitably sell out there. A really exciting group of makers who invest a lot of their own stories and energy and curiosity into what they make. So, I just wanted to thank essentially Claire, Ava, William, Dominic and Hugo for what they are doing and risking with the kind of theatrical productions that they have been making. I mean, recently I’ve been to one that was a cooking show, sort of ironically made for TV. Another was a really thoughtful work about ageing, where they collaborated with older performers to think, think about together, what it means to be old and young.
Philip: But in this work, essentially, we are welcomed into a space, a church hall style environment or town hall style environment where there are pretzels being baked and Chianti for sale, which itself is quite odd. We’re asked to put stickers on our chests with the name of a theatre show that really moved us. As an invitation to really be talking about remembering and listening to other people talk about the kinds of theatrical experiences that have really made them who they are. And I think that’s at the heart of why I and people like me love this show because it makes a space where we can actually look back and try to find a way of re-experiencing what theatre has done to us. It’s a real testament to how complex theatre can be as an experience and a memory. And for some of us, a real sight for self-definition and revelation. And I think we’ve all had the experience of going to a show with somebody who just doesn’t get the show. Like we get it. Like we’re sitting next to somebody who can be quite close to us, but just has a completely different night when we are having our hearts transformed. And that’s what this show is attempting to evoke. I think it’s a real space for all of that recollection and reconnection and like it’s not straight forward. Some of the material that they re-enact or talk about includes a lot of self-deprecating humour. Like one of them really wants to collaborate with Nicola Gunn, and they all kind of mock him for that desire as he sort of redoes the duck from the, you know, show with a duck in it.
Philip: Also, the fact that there are pretzels and G&T’s for sale is because one of them went to a show, I think in Germany where that was the only thing on the menu, and the show went for eight hours and she got really drunk. And the one that keeps coming back to me is actually a story from childhood where one of the performers went to see Chicago, the film, has basically forgotten Chicago, the film, but remembers leaving the cinema with her sister and singing one of the songs as they sort of ran up and down the streets together. So, it’s as much about those kinds of ephemeral emotional responses as the content of these works of theatre themselves. It’s really about trying to put into the bodies of the performers what it literally feels like to have seen something and to try to, I guess, sort of move our way back into those formations and shapes and gestures. So even when a response to a work might have been one of bewilderment or even disgust. They want to bring that back and think it through and enact it in this kind of environment. I was going to say safe environment, but yeah, but there is not for me, there are no indeed, there are sort of risks inherent to any such practice. So yeah, that was the show and I’d love to hear from you. Carla about how you found it. Yeah.
Carla: First of all, I find that really fascinating about this kind of reverse engineering of the body remembers. So, if you try to like, put your body through the paces of something that it will sort of connect those mind, body, brain, emotion things to kind of bring it out. And mine is quite, quite opposite, which we’ll talk about later in terms of my shows that I remember because they have imprinted on me because they kind of mirrored exactly how I was feeling in that moment in time when I was like actually quite distressed and it and it kind of enclosed me. So, I had to leave the show like within about three minutes of it starting. And so, this will ironically be remembered, this show will ironically be remembered by me as the show that I had my first autistic meltdown at. And there was so many things that I had to unpack around that. So first of all, for I think it’s like 90% of autistic people have some kind of sensory. Well, it’s not a malfunction, but it’s a hypersensitivity or a hypersensitivity or a combination of both for many different kinds of sensors. But with hypersensitivity, it’s mainly primarily around the inability to extinguish external noises, sounds, smells, whatever. So, if something’s happening that’s kind of like in the background, most neurotypical people can block it out.
Carla: They can just concentrate on what’s in front of them and it doesn’t bother them. But for neurodiverse people or autistic people, it actually gets louder and louder and louder. So, the first thing that happened was there was food being prepared in the space. I absolutely can’t stand the smell of food outside of the times of when I’m eating food. So that was like. Really knocked me for six, even though it’s a smell of bread, which I don’t necessarily find too overwhelming. I was just like, what is this? And it kind of like really put me on edge. And then there was no rhyme or reason to the seating. And I’m like, okay, that’s fine. But it’s what made me really panic later. And then there was this flashing open sign for the food that was being served, and I was like, it was really irritating me, but I was like, they’ll turn it off when they go to start the show. And when they went and when the show started and the person behind the sign started coming in to be in the play, that’s when I absolutely freaked out because I was like, there is just no way that I will be able to sit here and watch the show with that burning my eyes.
Carla: And so, I tried to like get out as quietly as possible, but because all the chairs were kind of piled together, it was incredibly difficult for me to leave, which made me hyperventilate and start crying essentially. And then I just had to, like leave the building. At first I was like trying to just hang out in the back thinking, what can I do to kind of salvage this situation? Is there any way that I could stay? But I could have stayed with the food. I could have stayed with the chaotic seating. I could have stayed with it because it was also very verbally overwhelming. They were all talking over the top of each other. Yeah. Wasn’t quite sure how long that was going to go for. I could have probably stayed through all of that, but it was the fact that the sign was never going to be turned off, and I kind of got tipped over to the point of no return with trying to just get out of my seat without falling over people that I had to leave. So that was it was very intense. It’s the first time it’s ever happened to me in a show, ever.
Philip: It sounds awful.
Carla: It was horrible. Yeah, I was really overwhelmed. But then as I texted you the next day, I was like, I just like really ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s like it’s the only show I’ve ever been to with a flash, with a nonstop flashing neon sign that’s like in the space. So, I can kind of be like, okay, that’s a really bizarre anomaly. And I can kind of like. Sweep that under the rug but yeah.
Philip: Or yeah, get info about some of those details for future environments or performances. Yeah. And like food being prepared.
Carla: In the space, that’s never happened unless it’s been, I have been to that cooking show one where you and then I’m like, okay, I can prepare and I can be like, I can walk into the space and be like, okay, if I need to leave, I can map it out, you know? So like I had the information to be able to keep myself safe kind of thing. So yeah, so there was a lot of and I know that this is the reason why. There’s such an innovative company and people also like a really kind of receptive to this kind of environment. But yeah, I think more detail about this kind of stuff on the website will be really helpful in the future.
Philip: Hmm. But I would.
Carla: Love to talk about our favourite shows. Or did you have a question?
Philip: No, no, no. I was just also going to propose that we transition to how we’ve decided to tackle this complexity, which is to offer our own most recalled or meaningful theatrical experiences from our own past and sort of in a way, make a contribution that is invited to the history of Pony Cam.
Philip: Because I think like by asking everyone to put a sticker on there, essentially saying have a chat, tell the stories about the theatre that has most moved you. So we’re shifting into that kind of mode. Um, first, I mean, not first, but now. So do you want to? Yeah, tell us a story.
Carla: I mean, obviously I’ve seen, you know, maybe thousands of shows at this point in my life and. I’ve thought about shows that were like technically amazing shows that had like absolutely unbelievable performances, but really, like, if I think about this prompt of like, body memory, emotion, things that, you know, have just like, completely shaped me. I was in love with this woman for a very long time. And it was a very tumultuous relationship. And it was a disaster, like an absolute disaster. And I remember one time I was meeting for a drink in Degraves just before I was going to a show, and we kind of like had a really tense meeting. Oh, this is in reverse. Sorry. This is this is how memories work. Okay, so the first time was we broke up. I went to New York the next day and I spent two weeks walking around New York crying, just like it was like a Wes Anderson film. Like I’d be sitting on a bus seat crying. Being in a pool of sprinkles at the Museum of Ice Cream. Crying, you know, like I just walked around New York crying for weeks. And then I came back and we had and we met up and had a drink in Degraves.
Carla: And it kind of just sort of sealed the deal and everything. I sort of maybe had like a tiny bit of hope that, you know, it would work out. Then I went to see Orlando, The Rabbles Orlando at the Malthouse, and I’m crying like I was walking from Degraves to the Malthouse crying, get to the theatre going, well, this is good. I can go and see a great queer play on my own and cry in the theatre on my own, in the dark. But there was people that I knew when I got there and I was just like, devastated that I had to, like, talk to these people while like with bright red face, like anyway. And then I was able to go in and sit on my own and watch Orlando and the Rabbles production of Orlando was one of the most life changing things that has ever happened to me. Did you ever did you see it, Phil? It had like the stage was white milk in a in like a boundary. So, they were just walking around in white milk the whole time.
Carla: It was like…
Philip: Oh, I did see that heavenly recall. It only now that you say the milk.
Carla: The white milk. Yeah. And it was just, I don’t know, it was just so queer and weird and sculptural and textural and it was what my little queer, broken-hearted heart needed at that moment.
Philip: And it was upstairs in the.
Carla: It was in the Tower.
Philip: Yes. Thank you for bringing that back to mind for me. I’m glad we had this talk. Yeah.
Carla: And then the bookend for this is, is like, I don’t know, five years later, I went back to New York for the next time I went back to New York and I was in a really good relationship. Well, no, we were kind of on the rock step, too, and but I was happy. I was more successful and that I went and saw Fun Home. And it was the original Broadway production of Fun Home. It was like the last week that it was on and I went to this musical. I’m not really a musical guy, but you know, there’s certain ones that I like. But anyway, I love Alison Bechdel. And there’s I mean, the whole thing is incredible, but there’s this song in it. There’s this moment like the I Wish Moment song for this little girl and where she sings a song about seeing a butch lesbian for the first time. She’s maybe like 9 or 10 years old. And I sobbed like I have never felt so seen and heard and healed and hugged and loved by the world that this thing existed. And it’s like so taboo to talk about children and sexuality. But we all know we all had that moment where we first visibly queer person that we could recognize out in the world. And I was like, there’s the world. I don’t know. I am. I am here. I am loved. I exist. So they’re my bookend moments of Orlando and oh.
Philip: Chill’s, queer little chills.
Carla: I know tears. I know.
Philip: Oh, I’m so happy. Um, I’ll. I’ll just quickly recall the 1998 Bell Shakespeare production of King Lear, directed by Barrie Kosky at the Athenaeum Theatre. I was with some school mates, possibly including friend of the podcast Jasmine, I think. Oh, Blackburn High kids in the city. If it was 98, as the website suggests, I was in year 11, way too young for Barrie Kosky’s or just the right age for Barrie Kosky’s sort of hyper violent, weird clowning. But the moment that stuck with me was just before Interval in the play by Shakespeare. The old Man Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out on stage by these sort of demonic daughters of King Lear, and in this production they do so with their mouths. They bite the eyes out of this old man’s face. While Barrie Kosky himself up on the balcony, is like wrecking a piano.
Carla: That is incredible.
Philip: And the two women turn with sort of gore dripping from their mouths and face the audience as the curtains sort of slowly drops to the floor, saying lines that are indeed in the play about the vile jelly of woe, the eyes, woe. And so I was just stuck to my seat. I think I was only in about the fourth or fifth row, just like what the actual like, is this what theatre is? If so, I’m deeply and darkly into it forever. So there was a sort of satanic quality to the whole thing. And then the other one that I’ll mention is Deanne Smith, the Canadian comedian.
Carla: Canadian, Yeah.
Philip: Who makes jokes about looking like Justin Bieber. She’s also, like, full of fabulous lesbian energy. The reason I remember her show is that she trolled my dad.
Carla: Oh, what?
Philip: At a show from the stage. And his responses were so clenched that it just got worse and worse for him and more and more tempting for her and kind of delightful in a dark way, in a Freudian way for me, of course. And so I was I was I mean, there’s a little bit of a connection here to the, you know, spotting of the dyke figure in your musical experience, because I was, in a way, seen as the child of a well, exactly as the child of somebody who is not queer and needed this caustic wit of the lesbian comedian to openly mock my dad in public. And it happened. And it was so therapeutic.
Carla: What a gift.
Philip: So, yes, exactly. I’m deeply thankful to Diane. And that’s what that’s what theatre can do when it’s so personal and so accidental. And these moments just don’t ever leave you. They really imprint. Why?
Carla: I do have to know why you took your dad to a DeAnne Smith show.
Philip: Well, if you’re in Melbourne during Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Carla: Come to a show.
Philip: Well, I think my parents are starting to learn to not take my advice and either buy the tickets in advance for the whole family or just, you know, meet for a film at Acmi and then an ice cream to follow. Like we’re sort of diminishing and containing our experiences. But look, the Pony Cam Collective have sponsored this conversation. I’m thankful to them for making the show that they made. And I’m really sorry about your experience at the show.
Carla: Yeah, it’s a shame.
Philip: But look forward to seeing what they do next and how they shape their future productions.
Carla: Yeah, for sure. Thank you. All right, Intermission. It’s school holidays, which is kind of like an intermission.
Philip: It really is.
Carla: You’ve been on school holidays. Teach. What have you been doing?
Philip: Yeah, I like the. I like the July break in Melbourne. It’s. It’s a time when lots of people seem to visit the city. Lots of families getting lost in the CBD. The footy’s on. This year I have been at the once every four years. Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.
Carla: Oh my god, I love the tweets. Oh, the stories. The stories.
Philip: Yes. Yes. Well, it’s like I’m into the tennis in January only because the Australian Open is on.
Philip: I go, well, I’m always into chamber music, but I go sort of deeply into the idea of spending literally hours every day listening to it once every four years.
Philip: And so that’s been fantastic. And. It’s one of those sort of fringy events that Melbourne is often host to that only a subculture knows about.
Carla: Is it hosted over the world like different locations, or is this just Melbourne?
Philip: So this one is just Melbourne and has been going for 30 years. Oh is now run by Musica Viva, which is a local chamber music organisation but has a string quartet and a piano trio stream. And the main thing is that you just have to be a young ensemble to compete.
Carla: Okay, that’s cool.
Philip: And so the diversity of performances is part of the sort of Olympics style mood of it all. Like you’ve got people dressing differently and playing in different styles, even if they perform the same works as each other. In fact, one of the real strengths of the competition is that they commissioned two compositions from local musicians that are then performed by every group. So, the seven string quartets all played the same work by this local composer and likewise on the piano trio side. So not everyone would be down for this. But for me, listening to the same little dynamic piece of new music seven times differently is actually thrilling entertainment.
Carla: So that’s really cool, especially about the new composition. And that’s like a leveller, isn’t it? Because like, you know, everybody hasn’t has they don’t have a relationship with it. They haven’t overthought it.
Philip: Exactly. Yeah.
Carla: That’s cool.
Philip: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So in 2028 or 2027, whenever the next one is, I recommend to Melburnians that especially if you’re a teacher, because they always schedule it conveniently for music teachers during the July break. Join me. I’ll be the guy who doesn’t leave the fourth row. But what about you? What if your winter cultural or non-cultural thing’s been?
Carla: Not a lot of culture, to be honest. I just went on a holiday with my family for the first time, which was nice. I do have a TV recommendation because like in the, you know, in the brouhaha of Succession, finishing the Succession finale didn’t do another show that I actually think is better, one of the best shows I think in the last probably ten years had their finale in the same week, but it kind of just got just it just got lost. And so it’s like justice for Barry. So it’s this TV show called Barry. It’s by HBO. Bill Hader is the star. He’s also like basically the showrunner, writes a lot, directs a lot of the show. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s about a it’s really like the two sides of the same coin of, you know, America’s largest exports is war and the entertainment industry, right? So it follows Barry, who is a war vet now contract killer, who goes to L.A. to kill someone who’s an actor but gets the acting but gets the acting bug instead.
Carla: And so hilarity ensues. It’s a very dark comedy. It’s just absolutely extraordinary. There’s only four seasons. I can just cannot recommend it enough. It’s so smart. Very silly, very funny. Very shrewd. Um. Yeah. And very, very, very black humour. Yeah.
Philip: Fantastic. And how interesting. No. So I was going to say, that’s the thing. Like, I know enough about Succession by not having watched it to be able to sustain a whole dinner parties worth of conversation pretending that I have. Well, you know, I’m just saying there’s saturation.
Carla: It’s like the football.
Philip: Yeah. Whereas with so much television, it’d be it’d be nice to surface some of these, these other works. So Barry sounds compelling and I love that you like openly called it better than Succession. Omg yeah, hot take.
Carla: Look. You know it’s a tight four seasons and it has it has a lot to say about the machinations of the world. I think more than Succession like Succession is sort of more Shakespearean whereas this is I don’t even know what this is. This is very meta and global in its message. So yeah.
Carla: Oh, did you, did you have a little monastic retreat as well?
Philip: Thank you for reminding me. Yeah. I went up to a little hut in the mountains by myself and hung out with a lyrebird.
Carla: Oh cool.
Philip: And as recently reading a text about the tarot where there was a beautiful sentence about how no insight can occur without silence.
Philip: And I, I, I had some really severe until the lyrebird woke up silence during that retreat and returned really refreshed and changed.
Carla: Yeah, well, that’s kind of cultural consumption because it’s clearing the palate, isn’t it? It’s clearing the mind. It’s clearing the space.
Philip: Yeah. Preparing for 18 concerts of Beethoven and Schubert. Exactly. Exactly.
Carla: My face. Remember that? Like, we went to a, we went to, like, a cello. A cello guy. I don’t even know what it’s called. A little concert. A little duet. And my face was, like, humming for, like, days after it. I can’t imagine it’s a drug. Yeah, Yeah.
Philip: It’s a it’s a serious drug.
Carla: Speaking of bells, we’ve got to go.
Philip: Speaking of drugs.
Carla: Yeah. So my pick for this month or this episode was Identity. So every year the Australian Ballet does a contemporary work. It’s usually like something from somewhere else and something new that’s been choreographed. Sometimes it’s a triple feature. This time it was a double feature. It was also a part of the Rising festival program, so I’m not sure whether it was kind of like it influenced the way that they chose the elements for it. But there was two works. One was called The Hum, created by Daniel Riley for the Australian Dance Theatre, and “it’s a dance theatre work centred upon the tangible yet invisible creative connection between performers, orchestra and audience. This work will unite artists of the Australian Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet in a never before seen collaboration. The Hum celebrates a resonance between our musicians, our dancers and the swell of our land, celebrating the idea of the individual artists as part of a broader creative ecosystem of shared knowledge, emotion and energy”. And also the music was by Deborah Cheetham, wasn’t it, Phil? Yeah, the composition. So it was original composition as well. And then the second piece was Paragon. So it’s the diamond anniversary of the Australian Ballet, and Alice Topp, who’s the resident choreographer. I’ll read the blurb “To commemorate the Australian Ballet’s rich history of artistic vibrancy, thirst for creativity, unique home-grown accent and the artists that have shaped ballet in Australia. This new work comes welcomes some of our company’s most iconic forms former dancers back to the stage alongside current contemporary dancers, in an emotional tribute that honours the company’s 60 year history”. Phil, what do you want to do? Do you want to do both together or we’ll just do one like one separately?
Philip: Well, I think they’re really different, aren’t they?
Carla: They’re so different. Yeah. Let’s do The Hum. Yeah, let’s do The Hum first. So I. Don’t usually read a lot about things before I go. And so I was pretty confused by this. For the first like 10 or 15 minutes, I was like, Wow, what is this? It’s like there’s a big screen with like a projection of sort of this kind of almost stenographer. No, like a sonogram kind of image that you can’t really tell whether it’s a heart or a foetus or something like that kind of in and out. And there’s like big theatrical stage and like, moving props and the scenery kind of moves around and stuff, and the costumes weren’t very dancy. So it I found it very confusing for the first film and I’m like, Oh, this must this is like theatre almost, right? And then obviously there was lots of indigenous elements into it. Clapping sticks in the choreography alerted to me that, you know, probably the choreography was I mean, not the choreography. The composition was custom or original for the work. It was. Very interpretive. I think like a lot of these things are. There was a lot of kind of. Birth death imagery for me, particularly with those visuals, the digital visuals, but then also about, I don’t know, it kind of felt like it was. I think this is all going to be very subjective. You’ll probably have a very different version, but to me it kind of felt like the birth of like the birth of creation or the birth of creativity and how it is generative through community. It’s passed on through generations, passed around each other. Men and women have different relationships to it and different roles within this production around it. It kind of just washed over me once. I kind of let go of trying to understand or find a narrative or see a through line. I just really let these cool visuals kind of flow over me and just take each image as it comes and sit with that. So how did you find it Phil?
Philip: Yeah. No, very similarly. And the sense of human connection, I think is at the heart of this, that passing on that you mention was a big feature of how I experienced the performance. A lot of the sound included amplified breathing by the performers, and they would sort of rhythmically exhale and inhale together, almost as if to draw attention to the physicality of dance, but also to ground that possibility of making sound with sticks and bodies and breathing in connection with each other in a kind of rehearsed, choreographed way. There was a lot going on, too, about contemporary dance and ballet, having a kind of intersection and meeting and exchanging different viewpoints and expertise’s and maybe some possibility of that being a framework for cultural connection or reconciliation as well. I agree with you that the state theatre is just gigantic and hard for something attempting some kind of subtlety along these lines which might have been behind the decision to have sort of giant fluoro things being dropped down and lifted again, which I don’t think added too much to the core material of the work. And I actually would like to revisit this if it is done in a sort of smaller setting or maybe an outdoor setting or in the round or something. It seemed a little estranged from the sort of grandiose opera style environment in which we found ourselves. But certainly I enjoyed the work and the music by Deborah Cheatham was really rich as all of her works are. There was a sort of lushness to it and a yeah, a, an optimism to the way that the story was told.
Carla: Yeah. That’s interesting that you say that about the staging. Like I did find it quite busy at times and quite confusing. So perhaps it is. I don’t know. Like maybe it’s like two big elements sort of coming together in that sort of still being smoothed out or. I had a really funny sensory thing with this. There’s this like little sort of lightning fluoro thing that sort of floats down. And it sort of made like the big projection look like a sperm meeting, an egg or something like that. But as that little fluoro thing floated down because the stage was very dark as well. Yeah, the stage was almost in complete darkness. I actually felt like the whole theatre was floating upwards and that thing was like stationary. It was like giving me really wild vertigo kind of vibes. Yeah, it was. I can’t say that I loved it, but I love where it’s going. Or maybe just dance theatre’s not really for me. Maybe it’s like I need something a little bit more formally separated, but I definitely appreciated seeing something so different. Just so different to me.
Philip: Yeah. What about. Paragon?
Carla: Paragon. Okay.
Philip: Ballet royalty darling.
Carla: Oh, my God. I love the idea of this. And it was really almost like watching a sort of a museum kind of installation, you know, like. In the way that they sort of presented all of the material. You know, there was this constant kind of background video of like footage from all, you know, the ballet over the years behind the scenes footage. And it had like a very literal progression from the beginning of the ballet to today. I don’t know enough about the Australian Ballet to know who, like a lot of these previous dancers were, but I recognize David McAllister, which I thought was just such a cute and a cool idea to bring these people back. You know, like I don’t I don’t want to sound paternalistic or anything like that. It’s just like. I don’t know. I don’t know why I find that so sweet. But of course, you know, they’re still alive and dancing, you know, and teaching probably and doing lots of other things. But yeah. How did you find it Phil?
Philip: Oh, this was so dorky.
Carla: It was really dorky.
Philip: And I mean, I’m looking back at the marketing for the duo of shows called Identity, and it’s like a new program from two of Australia’s leading choreographers. And then suddenly you’ve got David having a dance and the eccentric Julie Costa coming back to wave her, you know, long black locks around The fact that the Australian Ballet uses a quote from the Sydney Morning Herald that refers to quote unquote ballet royalty shows that they are not even trying to be cool with this. Right? Except that the background visuals that you talked about were sort of like photocopied marketing campaigns out of the Sunday age circa 1995 or whatever, with like dramatically staged tutu poses, which we’ve all seen because we’ve been saturated in the marketing of Australian ballet, on trams, on billboards, even if we don’t go that it was almost like that started becoming the thing itself. Like we’ve had 60 years of fantastic colour marketing that changes style depending on whether Ken Done is in fashion.
Carla: We’re real. We advertise in the paper.
Philip: Yeah, I just don’t think that I don’t know. I don’t think that any other art form would even try to get away with this, which is why I love in italics ballet, because it’s just so uncool.
Carla: Like it’s camp.
Philip: Oh, my God. Like, yes.
Carla: This was like, so unapologetically camp. And then when we talk about, Phil you are hooking me in because I’m like Identity. What does this say about Australian arts, right? And how we see ourselves, right. You know.
Philip: Although I love that in the material you read out before, the home grown accent was a phrase that stood out for me.
Philip: In that…
Philip: In that description of the Australian Ballet. And I think that it is known, including internationally, for having a particular house style, which is, I don’t know, maybe like Australian cinema, not quite as perfectionistic or refined as other examples of world culture, but is loyally loved by a particular local set of fans and that’s delightful. And it was gorgeous to see that celebrated and re-enacted on the stage. So in a way, I’m kind of pleased that this stuff is being done, but I felt like it was really not for me. But then I think that probably 80% of the audience felt like it was, quote unquote, not for them, which then becomes a bit problematic. And the last thing I’ll say is I think that this was actually a fairly badly put together pair of works just because the content in The Hum.
Carla: So strange.
Philip: So evocative, so First Nations oriented, So thinking about the here and now seemingly potentially even informed by the voice to parliament referendum and things like it and then have an interval and then come back and see David McAllister running around like there was something really uncouth about that.
Carla: Yeah, I look and these are strong words for you, Phil, because you’re usually like, you know, very smooth. I agree. Like it was a very strange pairing and that’s why I kind of made that comment about Rising at the top. Like, you know, did it influence the way that they normally programmed this work? I mean, not work, but this space that they hold every year for contemporary work in the calendar, it just felt very off. And like the first piece felt very Rising because it was like dark and stormy and emotional and gripping, you know? But this second piece was just like such a puff piece. And I don’t really want to, you know, denigrate Alice Topp’s work, but it’s just I just don’t get it. Like, is that really how the Australian Ballet sees itself? Because that was an.
Carla: Dinky Di Like?
Philip: It was Eisteddfod.
Carla: Yeah. Cheesy, but yes, right at the end they have this like scene where they, you know, emulate, you know, the, the practice room probably from the first, you know, whatever. Yeah. And they all come on and I was like, oh a little tear. Yeah it was, it got you, it got me, it got me. They fucking got me in the end fuckers. Yeah. It was very. I don’t know who that was for, but I’m not a regular ballet goer. But yeah, I just think, you know, like, look, they had all the imagery from the original Spartacus and all that stuff, but I know that they’ve done lots of. Edgy stuff. Really? Yeah. You know, cool stuff. Really amazing classical stuff. And that was the foot that they. I mean, no pun intended, that was the foot that they put forward. And it just. I just don’t. I just don’t get it.
Philip: Yeah, I think they are a better than how they presented themselves.
Carla: Yeah. Yeah. What a shame. Maybe it’ll. I don’t know. All right.
Philip: Like you, though, I’m sort of glad I witnessed it. That’s sort of an awkward thing to have seen.
Carla: It just felt like a Disneyland installation, you know? Like they were, like little dollies, you know, in a diorama kind of thing. Yeah, like.
Philip: A music box.
Carla: Yeah. And I don’t know. Okay. All right. So that was a very strange piece of programming for Rising and the Australian Ballet. But, you know, sometimes you swing and you miss. So coming soon.
Philip: Coming soon. Yes. What is coming soon? Carla?
Carla: Tell me.
Philip: If Malthouse is still staging This is Living when you hear this. That is written by Ash Flanders and looks funny. Yeah.
Philip: Matthew Lutton is directing. It’s a holiday queer thing about going to Daylesford and like guess things go badly for the for the chosen family up in up in the spa country, also at Arts House in August, there’s an interesting looking show called An Uprising of Dreams by the Nap Ministry. What’s an installation? Yeah, it has one night where there’s a performance of collective rest.
Philip: And for a rare sports endorsement, the Women’s World Cup will be in Melbourne and other parts of Australia and New Zealand at the end of July.
Carla: What sport is that?
Philip: It is football International version, yes.
Philip: Futsal. Yeah. The round ball. The round game.
Carla: Okay. Right. Got it. Oh, that’s cool. Look at you with your sports recommendation, right? Indeed. All right. So yeah, I do have a coming soon. My dear friend Jessie Scott, who I do the other my other podcast Club Soderbergh with, she is doing a PhD on video stores. She’s a video artist and she has a documentary called Rainbow Video coming out. Its premiere is at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, and that’s on the 22nd of July at 630pm.
Philip: So cool.
Carla: I think there’s like only a handful of tickets left. And it’s a history of video stores, mostly in Melbourne, but she has sort of gone further afield in Australia too. I think there’s a guy in Adelaide who actually has a video store, a private video store that he lets people be members of. So there’s lots of cool info in that. So that’s my coming soon for the month.
Philip: Oh that sounds fun.
Carla: Yeah, you should come.
Philip: Yeah. Thank you.
Carla: I think that is that for this episode. Lots of great chats today. Lots of great works, prompting our brains and our hearts. Thanks for listening. If you would like to get in touch. Our handles for Twitter and Instagram are @acrossaisle and our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out our website at www.acrossailse.com, I’ll take off that www at some point, where we have extended show notes and transcripts. Across the Aisle is recorded in Naarm and Djilang on the stolen lands of the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung and Wadawurrung peoples of the Kulin nation, sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to their elders and are so grateful for their custodianship of the land, waterways and skies we enjoy every day. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. And thank you to you, dearest Philip. Till until next time.
Philip: See you next time. Bye.