Night Lab 2016!

image.jpegI’m excited because the SA Museum are having another Night Lab event this year and I’ll be volunteering to teach people to use grind stones. Thinking of opening a betting pool on what improbable injuries I get with grinding  the wattleseed!

Keep your eyes out because this event sells out fast and are tremendous fun with night at the museum – that’s me kicking back in a simulated mine shaft from Coober Pedy with last year’s event held in conjunction with Opals exhibit. Watch this space for more adventures!  ~Rose.

Fringe Benefits: Smaller acts doing it for themselves.

imageGreetings, this week seems to be all about the Fringe events for me and I thought I’d talk about two very different plays I saw at The Arch at the Holden Street Theatres, ‘Doctor Who’s Midnight’ performed by Sporadic Productions and Tangram Theatre Company’s ‘The Element in the Room’ (a musical about Marie Curie’s death and life).

Two plays, two very different reviews – let me start by saying I’m a die hard Whovian (old school and new school) and I wore my TARDIS key necklace to Midnight like a huge dork and got photographed with the TARDIS so you’d think I’d be biased. Last year, I did a project on buying and curating a Dalek in my archaeology museum’s unit. Just need $10 000…anyways it seems one of these things was better suited to the Fringe and let me explain why that’s not actually the case at all.

To start with, Tangram’s ‘Element in the Room’ was a simple two man performance (okay, just one man in a dress and a lady dressed as a Frenchman with an accompanying accordion) amd let their acting speak for itself without gimmicks and relied mostly on acting to carry it through the hour. The acting was a combination of the highly physical process of refining radium, introspective and angry moments from Marie Curie. And constantly the fourth wall was broken to engage the audience and being performed to rather than being performed at like with Midnight. In Midnight it felt like the show would go on even if the audience wasn’t there.

The Element in the Room not only aimed to entertain the audience, but also educate them in an amusing series of songs (Aha! Radium!), other character’s interrupting the main actor’s stream-of-consciousness to tell their stories (I liked the ‘fight’ between Curie’s daughters with the little Curies) and some very nifty anecdotes about radium and its dark side such as the radium girls. Seriously don’t look that up. Just saying…Plus Marie Curie’s contributions to other science inventions of the day. There was also interactive game played by the audience with a yarn of radioactive coloured string and I got to be radium and tied up  (every gal needs to feel special!). The thing about Tangram’s show was that in addition to entertaining and educating, the actor truly was of the calibre to carry a quality solo show mixing comedy with tragic crescendos as he painted a very complex picture of Curie, both tortured by the death of her husband and her last words to him, her radical politics regarding the naming of polonium and refusing to patent radium because of a belief  that science should be open source and free for everyone. This is the quirky sort of show I believe Alexis Dubus was talking about being pushed out of main Fringe venues for larger crowd pleasers.

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Now to Doctor Who’s Midnight, I feel like I’m betraying Russell T Davies (author of the episode which appears during the Tenth Doctor’s tenure and fourth season) in saying they this type of science fiction did not translate well to the theatre. There’s a number of reasons why including that science fiction as genre seems to be particularly best in the form of storytelling from books, film and television for starters. The BBC have spent a lot of time and money perfecting Doctor Who’s modern reboot as a franchise and even then at times it was hit-and-miss.

The cast from Sporadic Productions have done an admirable job in trying to translate Doctor Who onto the stage during the Fringe but here is where it becomes problematic for me as a Whovian, it felt like community theatre. Tangram Theatre in the same creative space left me with no doubt I’d just seen a pair of master actors at work.

Hugh O’Connor did an admirable job of trying to portray the Doctor, however in recent years, all of the actors chosen as the Time Lord, have had serious acting chops and extensive theatre experience and he is competing with Tennant at the height of his Whovian popularity. With a few more years and plays under his belt, O’Connor will be a force to be reckoned with.

The standard out star was Samantha Blackmore as Sky Silvestery, her character development on stage was just spooky and you could believe she was inhabitated by a sadistic alien – it would have been difficult for any other actor to go toe to toe with her and this is why we need smaller community productions at the Fringe too, to develop up and comers like O’Connor and find opportunities for talented actresses  like Blackmore to feature in bigger productions and expand her range. She does creepy alien crazy eyes extremely well and kept up the pace with her dialogue with O’Connor in perfect timing. Well down to both of them.

Smaller productions also need audiences for crew, cast, directors and production teams to learn how to operate in bigger spaces and gain bigger audiences. We lose out if we don’t support local artists, actors and creative spaces – there’s both room for the seasoned performer from Brighton and the amateur from Adelaide, I’d like to see us accomodating both because quality acts don’t spring out of thin air.

Rose Santilli

Furious 2016: Sound & Fury

Good morning, it’s dark, 5.30am and sleeping in is apparently only for the cats – all hail the dark lord! Which funnily enough brings me to my exploits once again to Adelaide’s open arts festival, the Fringe and a troupe of actors called Sound and Fury, who have been performing in SA for quite a number of years successfully and all three shows by their members (during different phases of the Fringe), were full house.

imageSo there’s me pictured with the half elven, half dwarf (Patrick Hercamp) from their show ‘Lord of the Thrones’ that I saw at Tandanya a few weeks ago now. Sorry for the late blog boys, Lord of Thrones was a brilliant satire that played on the tropes of high fantasy and swords-and-sorcery genre such as the reluctant hero, a tortured princess and magical objects.

To a geek like me, the mash-up of ‘Game of Thrones’ (GoT) and ‘Lord of the Rings’ (LOTR) felt like I was playing a bad game of Dungeons and Dragons alongside the guys and having a riotously good time. Sound and Fury knew their material enough to play along  and elaborate on it that so those obsessed like me could enjoy a few in-jokes but it was also general enough in content that if you’d seen only either GoT or LOTR, you could still enjoy the parody. A particular aspect of the show I really enjoyed was the deliberate clunkiness caught in the multimedia screens used as a way to convey movement with the maps, the rest of the fellowship and the bad dubbing of the reluctant hero, taking me back to 80s classics like Ladyhawk and Labyrith.

Ultimately what has made all of Sound and Fury’s Lord of the Thrones show and their solo shows so successful, I think,  is that they heavily engage the audience by bringing down the fourth wall in theatre shows. This was frowned upon when I studied drama and English at university (promise there’s a lot I haven’t tried to study) but even Shakespeate himself did it such as in the opening of Much Ado or Romeo and Juliet and Sound and Fury seem to be continuing the bawdy Elizabethan tradition of  trafficking packs of troubadours.

The other element was the ability to improvise and adapt their shows to the conditions around them such as timing (who hasn’t run late!) and use the creative spaces effectively such as Tandanya where they were on a stage and the Producers’ Beer Garden where the space was more intimate. Much of this chemistry comes from the  group’s camaderie from working together for years that you can see, especially during improvised asides such as Patrick fighting with his Gollum character in a stream-of-consciousness thing that Richard implied was a little too improvised (I guess he has read A Song of Ice and Fire?). So I’m going to hazard a guess that when you see a Sound and Fury performance, you are never going to get the same thing twice. And thank goodness for that stratageically placed book!

So on to the boys solo shows, beginning with Half Hour Hamlet, a short play that was written and directed Jeff McLane, starring Patrick Hercamp. Patrick has the speed of a dervish, the delivery of email and the infectious energy of a rapidly spreading a plague of laughter to his audience, even if pulling a smile from them was like pulling teeth from me. He makes it look effortless, kept the energy going with excellent artistic phrasing on the high and low points of the performance and had me convinced to sign up for further tooth extraction (or to grab another drink from the bar). Patrick’s acting ranges from the light and amusing conductor of Half Hour Hamlet, to the creepy dark Gollum parody to an abomination of the fantasy, a red bearded dwelf. I’d actually like to see him do traditional Shakespeare for mere curiosities sake if nothing more because he could play any character  he chose from Mercutio to Puck and as dark as Ariel or Marlow’s Faustus. However these would not bring people to the Fringe and  that’s why Sound and Fury has succeeded for so long – knowing their crowd- and being able to expand to production and solo shows (by knowing their individual strengths). Also he really knows his Shakespeare…

In all seriousness, after spending a few years being spoiled of choice from excellent plays such as playwright Carl Caulfield (‘Shakespeare’s Fools’) and award winning director Michael Ewans, I really was surprised to see an actor of Hercamp’s calibre at the Fringe – which is precisely why we need the festival. Not only does it give artists exposure to perfect their craft in safe creative spaces, it allows audiences who might miss someone that good. As someone who studied ‘Hamlet’, this play was riveting in its brevity (Thanks McLane) and an absolute joy because you don’t need an Englis honours degree to follow along, hopefully inspiring future artists, performers and sustaining creative industries. Please come back next year?

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So Beers About Songs, the solo show by Ryan Wells is not one I can objectively review because though he is funny and sad as another review said, I was sobbing my way through his set. The songs and beers were secondary to a story of abuse and recovery, a journey I’ve made myself. What makes this an important act at the Fringe because it tells the story of someone who has turned pain into beauty and really hits home that broken people are the most dangerous because they know they can survive. And I missed the burlesque …

The full reviews from last night’s will be up and posted soon as I sign out.

 

 

 

Fringe Dweller: thoughts on how big is too big an act.

image.jpegThere is a huge furore going on in Adelaide right now after Fringe artist, Alexis Dubus, publically announced on Facebook he would not be returning to the Adelaide Fringe next year, noting the festival has become a place that has alienated smaller acts and creatives with the bigger acts stealing thunder from the smaller shows that used to be the bread-and-butter of the Fringe. He says this year will be his last since for the first time in eight years of attending the Fringe, he was facing cancelling performances.

There is some truth to that, the bigger acts do draw in sponsors which equals money and bring in the crowds. In theory that should benefit everyone by trickling down to the smaller acts by being in proximity to larger shows reaping the benefits from crowds staying and getting exposure from audiences coming in to see established artists. Dubus suggested these smaller acts are actually being pushed out in 2016 and performed in the smaller venues which aren’t as easy to access and lack the same facilities such as the two biggest “mega” venues, The Royal Croquet Club and the Garden of Earthly Delights.

From the perspective of someone who saw a wide cross-section of acts, the bigger names did draw in bigger crowds at the bigger venues, pushing smaller acts into smaller venues and creating artistic resentment in an open arts festival that has gotten too big or not big enough depending on your view point.  In March , SA annually leads the nation in being the most economically productive state but for the rest of the year, we sit at the bottom of the table. Ironically, over the weekend a Guardian article (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/mar/04/how-adelaide-could-become-australias-most-exciting-city-simply-by-doubling-down-on-culture) suggested we could bring in more income if we support the local tourism and creative culture industries all year round like Sydney and Melbourne. It was noted in The Advertiser today that others have suggested returning to a biannual festival or shifting it to October instead of Mad March to build enthusiasm for the festival (http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/adelaide-fringe/top-adelaide-fringe-acts-slam-big-venues-and-lack-of-audiences-on-facebook/news-story/f9eaa9a25143d682e3d667d1d1c0b551#load-story-comments).

I was in the enviable position over the summer break to finally have the time, inclination and money to indulge in some local tourism and I spent a good deal of my disposable income on visiting the Fringe and eating chicken noodles (mostly because I was exhausted from my Fringe dwelling). I saw a wide range of shows from bigger shows like Aerial to seeing established and recognised act, Sound and Fury’s, Lord of Thrones (that’s me pictured with Ryan from Sound and Fury). I found myself going to see Sound and Fury after meeting Ryan online, apparently word of mouth being one of the ways the smaller acts use to gain audiences.

And I can absolutely see what Dubus is saying about the smaller ‘weirder’ acts being obscured by larger names and he is justly entitled to be compensated for the shows he created. Yet there isn’t all that much money going around with SA being hit hard with losses to our manufacturing and production industries. By chance, waiting to see Sound and Fury, I met with a local play producer from the critically acclaimed ‘Hey! Presto!’ for a random drink and a chat who has started a charity with other like minded creatives to get smaller acts off the ground at the Fringe, so it’s been recognised as a local need that we have to start supporting the smaller shows.

I have a literature degree (yep I love to read) and the social value of art and artists in the creative industries was something I was very mindful of when doing my degree and later writing my thesis, bleakly looking at life post English degree as a writer in a world where publishing is in a similar state to the Fringe. I paid for every book and DVD I used to write it because creating art is not a free enterprise as any artist or creator will tell you. At university, I spent years learning the art of storytelling and the mechanics of human behaviour and history. Then EL James published Twilight fan fiction…

Making things is expensive and often at the expense of the creator which is why I try to support quirky local artisans back over at the Lonely Archaeologist Facebook page. I write here for free but if you wanted me to create something for you, after the student debt I racked up studying, I will deserve compensation for my learning. Yet as artist I’m not entitled to whine about audiences not consuming my work which is some of the backlash Dubus is getting heat for in his critique of “sleepy” Adelaide’s Fringe. What he essentially does have right is that smaller acts need welcoming creative spaces to get started in the culture industries as the Fringe used to be. However the artistic tension created by big shows driving out the smaller performers, this dynamic currently is not sustainable.

During my day trips, I also noticed that many of the smaller quirkier acts were in venues that were not as well facilitated as when I saw popular performances at The Garden or the Royal Croquet Club, like Aerial, Anya Anastacia’s Torte-e-Morte and The Peacock (a luminous curious). I also made sure to see smaller less well known shows I found on social media –  I saw 2 shows out at the Holden Street Theatre – Doctor Who’s Midnight and because I’d been having a pre-show drink, the radiant, The Element in the Room, both quirky dramatic acts. I also saw Sound and Fury’s Lord of the Thrones at Tandanya closer in proximity to a nexus location being located on Grenfell Street.

The differences in the venues was more obvious than mere location, such as the availability of food, ease of catching public transportation vs. taxis and closeness to other ammenties. I do think the observation that the Fringe needs to be more evenly spread across smaller and bigger popular performances at The Garden and Royal Croquet club is a fair one. The operator of Tuxedo Cat says it best “The Fringe has to look very carefully at what it’s trying to be because if the artists stop coming, then they haven’t got a Fringe festival – they’ve just got a beerfest,’’ Ms Tombs said.

In times of financial stress, government money goes into health and education, and it wasn’t until recently that we had even a government portfolio for tourism. Adelaide has long be recognised as an excellent site for tourism such as in sports, food to Eco-tourism, it’s time to start supporting our local artistic, creative and intellectual communities in a sustainstainable environment. Losing the smaller fish in the pond at the world’s third largest Fringe festival is not the solution. I’ll be talking about how to in my next post later this week.

The Holidays are over…

The Lonely Archaeologist blog was an idea that started during a particularly melodramatic part of my life, so much so, it was suggested I’d touched a curséd artefact in 2015. And after earning my epithet Lonely, I literally found myself in a hole at the Cober Pedy replica at the Opals exhibit at the SA Museum. I’ll be doing a retrospective post on all the activities I got up to associated with the exhibit including alarming security at Night Lab 2015 by crawling through that hole in red ballet flats but the ruby slippers carried me away from Kanasas. Okay Plympton. Close enough. I thought my inaugural post should be about why I love archaeology, history and want to become a science communicator. The fact is, if we don’t teach people about what we do in the heritage and culture industries, we are going to lose the skills that these professions have built up over a very long time.

And we will cease to value the past, but I’m often asked what can the past teach us anyway? For me it comes down to basic humanity and knowing that people today had the same needs and wants across space and cultures. And I want to link with those other people who wanted to know why. That’s my personal quest and question.

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Season’s Greeting

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Hello, Lonely Archaeologist is Rose Santilli, a grad student at  university studying a master’s degree in archaeology with a special interest in tourism, gothic archaeology as a study and dark sites. The above was taken at the SA Museum’s Night Lab where the dolphin skeletons seemed to have swam from Hades and were there to reap souls. Maybe I need to lay off the Hills cider during nights at the museum!

Rose isn’t a qualified archaeologist (yet) but does hold an Honours degree in English (and the really important bit, vampires).  Rose was curséd stereotype last year and fell down a rabbit hole, met Alice (really I met Alice!) and discovered non-traditional archaeology and tourism that appeals to her darker sense of the world. Currently Rose has a Facebook page, The Lonely Archaeology and will be posting in this blog about her adventures when the summer university break is over. She is a huge fan of the SA Museum, the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Doctor Who.