So first of all, thanks so much to everyone who’s taken part in You Are Here so far. Because, man, I was not expecting this. I’ve been warning the artists and Festival Coordinators that they might just be performing for each other... Anyway, it turns out I was wrong. The response to the first four days of the program (I’m writing on Sunday March 13) has been huge: attendance numbers beyond our wildest predictions, and the audiences themselves are excited, switched on and engaged with the work they’re seeing.
I’m not trying to predict success for You Are Here prematurely, or suggest that this week will be the same as last week. I have no idea whether the second half of this program will work, whether people will enjoy or engage with it. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN. All I’m saying is that the last few days have been exciting and they’ve got me excited about what’s to come.
Which is what? What’s happening from now until You Are Here closes shop on Sunday? Well, this:
From Thursday, the Bally Circus Tent will be planted in front of the merry-go-round in Petrie Plaza. The Bally will host a range of events for You Are Here, including Canberra Dance Theatre’s showcase celebrating the Centenary of International Women’s Day, Canberra Youth Theatre’s physical theatre performance Six Billion Love and kids and adults circus shows by the Gadjo Family. The Gadjo Family will be on site in Petrie Plaza 24 hours a day, presenting performances for passersby at any hour of the day or night.
Over the same period, our visual arts hub The Mall will feature the Re-Loved Creations Pop-Up Shop and an incendiary showcase of stand up by Comedy ACT at the Red Herring on Friday night. But truthfully, the thing I’m most hyped about is the theatre. Every evening, SmithDick is home to a double or triple bill of short theatre works by local and interstate artists, ranging from The Landlords’ savagely funny guide to extinction for the citizens of the drowning nation of Tuvalu in Bringing Some Gum To A Knife-Fight , to UK artist Phil Spencer’s autobiographical comedy , based on his experiences protesting the Iraq War at the same time as his father fought in it. There’s a new selection of shows on at SmithDick every evening, and I reckon you should check your program and catch them all. I’m really excited to have this line-up of artists in the same city and on the same bill – I think if you’re at all interested in contemporary performance, you should take an hour out and experience a free sample. Oh, and everything’s free, by the way, if that tips your decision.
Hope you have a rad week no matter what you do, and thanks again for being the best.
Framed not with a bang but with a pared back approach, the 55 finalists of The National Photographic Portrait Prize, 2011, delivered a nuanced view of their subject, which left a lasting impression on the judging panel – consisting of curator Dr Sarah Engledow, Dr Christopher Chapman, NPG Director Louise Doyle and Dr Domenico de Clario, Director of Adelaide’s Experimental Art Foundation.
In its fourth year the prize is unified by the value of being caught in the moment. This is most apparent in Jacqueline Mitelman’s winning piece, Miss Alesandra , 2010, where the subject’s unwavering gaze spills over into the viewer’s space.
Mitelman, the first female winner in the history of the competition, echoes the dusty tones and clotted red splashes of the Dutch masters, yet entirely escapes seventeenth century archetypes of the image of woman. The subject is not inert, but statuesque with a shrewd gaze.
Skillfully the works escape the didactic feeling of previous years; at their best the images hold back what they want us to know. Consider Charles McKean’s Blind Harriet , 2010 – Harriet lies in ecstasy, mouth ajar, limbs reaching, held static in the artist’s frame. Synapses at full blaze she experiences joy and sensory delight, tickled pink in the wet green grass, ‘seeing’ beyond colour.
The finalists were not those that chose shocking imagery or blasted issues of identity, but those who showed that if “truth is not relative [then] being is no construct”, said Engledow.
In Sean Fennessy’s work Father and Son , 2010, Ken and Andrew Hodges splice the opaque blue water of a swimming pool. Their mint skin adds a delicacy to the tender scene. Andrew is buoyed by his father, recalling the religious narratives of long forgotten altars. After a brain injury at 15 Andrew’s exercise routine is an important and nurturing act that his parents perform.
This year’s Portrait Prize is a teasing yet highly enjoyable courtship. Get face to face with the show before it leaves Canberra and The National Portrait Gallery for a regional tour on Tuesday April 26. It may help you get to know the strangers in the room, not only those on the walls.
What is “LIGHTS! LIGHTS! LIGHTS!”? Being a festival coordinator for the You Are Here Festival, you’d probably assume I know the answer to that question. You’d be wrong. I am merely a mortal, I can hardly comprehend the awesomeness of this event, so I decided to ask the Hon DJ Alistair to give me a better understanding of the mind-boggling event.
“ Lights! Lights! Lights! is a free performance by some amazing hip-hop DJs and MCs, with the overriding awesome of having Garema Place turned into a block party for the night. You should come along because you have been watching television and seen video clips of communal gatherings in public places that look like everyone is going bananas with joy as funky fresh beats get laid down and a community gets both down and up in unison to music. You should come along because the covers band at your local club will be playing Copperhead Road next week, but Lights! Lights! Lights! will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for awesome. You should come because you probably haven’t heard me play since last November, and what’s better than getting down to radcore in the chess pit?”
But Alistair, I’m a pretty boring kind of human; I prefer cheese and tea and quiet evenings, will my needs be attended to?
“ You know, I don’t drink tea (caffeine allergy), but always loved Darjeeling when I was a kid... This totally isn’t some herbal tea tip... leave your chamomile for when you get home... leave your anti-oxidants for the morning after. This is more of a fizzy drink type of celebration. Cool lemonade. Lemon Squash. If you are rocking hot drinks at a block party, you are doing it wrong. But cheese we can do, a massive wheel of some triple cream Tasmanian soft cheese... Luxurious, tasty, rich, satisfactory with every morsel... and the longer you leave it out, the more it goes off.”
Well I’m pretty excited – are you excited? What are you excited about?
“ I love love love playing to Canberrans. Canberrans actually dance. It’s really refreshing compared to the usual Sydney thing of people turning up to say they were there and stand as still as possible no matter how amazing the performance of the person on stage. It’s as though its uncouth to show that music is moving you... In Canberra, there aren’t the same hang ups amongst the audience, and as a performer, it’s so much easier to feed off, and as a person in the crowd, so much more enjoyable to be part of.”
You’ve convinced me. I’ll listen to the music that the “kids” like, I will throw my tea down the drain for an evening and dance till morning.
I encourage you all do do the same.
Lights! Lights! Lights! will take place at the Chess Pit in Garema Place from 10pm on Friday March 18. Entry is free.
Selling Ice to the Remains of the Eskimos is a show about climate change. Are you an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to the future of the earth?
In the future, the earth itself will be fine, but I am deeply pessimistic about anything trying to live on the surface of it. From all the books I've been reading, the future is likely to contain a hell of a lot of extinctions, leaving us with a much smaller variety of animals, and far fewer humans – just the great-grandchildren of the very rich, living in armed compounds in Siberia, Alaska, New Zealand and Patagonia (having killed off the current residents). Life will go on, but behind high walls with plenty of razor wire. Civilisation as we know it will be a baffling memory.
How did you come to be interested in climate change?
Well, spending years living in leaky sharehouses with hippies and environmental science students sure didn't make me interested in it! Hanging out on the fringes of enviro-activist scenes made me aware of climate change, but not hugely excited about it – it seemed important, but boring, abstract, too earnest. Watching An Inconvenient Truth helped, a lot. Writing a play called Hitlerhoff and finding out a lot about the Nazi Holocaust changed my thinking; it made me start thinking of climate change as our generation's Holocaust, both slower-moving and more devastating than anything the world has ever seen.
And then in 2009 my friend Steve Mushin suggested we do some bad taste climate change comedy skits. We dressed up in black garbage bags with Green Bag undies – sentient “Skull Bags”, the future of humanity.
What are the aesthetic possibilities offered by human challenges such as climate change?
The aesthetic possibilities of climate change? Gosh, I'm used to thinking of the aesthetic challenges! Okay – the possibilities are almost endless, because the subject encompasses almost every aspect of human behaviour. You can explore everyday lifestyle choices (consumption, shopping, Green Bags, Flying On Planes); you can look at human interest / documentary / personal narratives (my friend who almost got burned to death in the Marysville fires, my friend who lost both her parents in the fires, my brother in Queensland with a garage full of flood-sludge, docos like The Age of Stupid); you can think about what myths and stories already exist in popular culture that now seem like they might be about climate change, and retrofit them with weird climate change resonances (like The Road); you can experiment with public art / land art … I'd love to make sculptural images to represent climate change, like a giant block of dark red ice, frozen in the shape of Uluru, left to melt in the desert just by Alice Springs – and a bunch of people sitting around in deckchairs watching it happen, letting off party poppers. I'd like to make little frozen ice-penguins and leave them at beaches in Bondi, St Kilda, places like that.
What are the challenges of working with ice?
Ice is hard, cold (especially if you put in down your pants), the refrigeration process is expensive, ice-melt is dangerous. In this Canberra iteration of Selling Ice to the Remains of the Eskimos, I wanted to build an igloo out of servo icebags, and have the igloo collapse over the course of the show – beautiful image, no? - but it would short out all the electrics in SmithDick, set the place on fire, that would be great for the show but quite bad for the audience and the festival and the venue. And the environment.
And big ideas with ice (like a bloody Uluru) are very expensive, beyond my budgets, for now at least.
What are the challenges of doing a one-man show?
It's hard to do “theatre” in a one-man show – you can't do dialogue (unless you change characters really quickly), and you can't get that electric sense of interpersonal conflict going onstage. To hold the audience's attention, you have to be doing something all the time, or find ways of filling the pauses (music, fart noises, spandex bodysuits) – or make the kind of pauses that audiences can settle into and enjoy. Which is increasingly rare these days. What the one-man show format encourages, is a direct address to the audience, and this leads towards storytelling, speech-making, observational stand-up comedy – or all three.
I saw your reading of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia at Crack last year, and this show is partly inspired by the same book. What is it about that work that is, for you, so fascinating?
Spalding Gray is a fucking genius. He is just so great, Swimming to Cambodia is so many kinds of wonderful … I think it is a perfect illustration of some of the fundamental rules of writing: write what you know, in your own voice – and be an phenomenally interesting person. This is something that doesn't get stressed enough in creative writing classes – write what you know, sure, but only show it to other people if your life is interesting. Swimming to Cambodia also manages to move from the intensely personal, all the way across the spectrum to the big “P” political, and back again, with astonishing dexterity and grace. Spalding's New York eccentricities sit right up against Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Year Zero, and the effect is startling. One moment, Spalding is saying shit like “every time I'm in a country where the marijuana is supposed to be really good, I've always felt that I should try it”, the next he's talking about the killing fields, human livers on sticks, fifteen year-old soldiers “tearing apart little children like fresh bread in front of their mothers”.
Spalding manages to connect the personal and the political, he manages to find a personal lens through which we can see the almost unimaginable horrors of the Cambodian genocide.
Part of the problem with climate change is that it's not personal (yet) – it's too big, too slow, too far away, it's not happening to us yet, it's only happening to other people, the Bangladeshis, sure they're drowning now, but Bangladesh has always been fucked, we only hear about it when disaster strikes. So Swimming to Cambodia is a huge inspiration in terms of a successful example of breathing life, heart, immediacy into an otherwise abstract situation.
And I guess Swimming to Cambodia is also about one guy's journey, from not knowing or caring about something (Cambodia), to knowing and caring a huge amount, and telling the world about it. You've gotta remember that when Spalding started doing his show, the Khmer Rouge were still in power, still getting arms from the US government and aid from Red Cross – so it was a pretty powerful political statement at the time too. And a fun one! A statement bursting with pleasure!
Just on Swimming to Cambodia, I wanted to ask you at the time: what kind of prep did you do to get ready to read aloud for that long? Was it a bigger task than you initially envisioned?
It was actually easier than I was expecting. I knew it used to take Spalding 2 nights, and 4 hours in total, but when I got to halfway, I didn't want to stop! The narrative had me, it was much easier to keep going than to stop, I would've wandered around stuck in that world. I'm keen to do some longer readings soon, short awesome novels like A Clockwork Orange, Heart of Darkness, because people seem to like being read to – indirect forms of storytelling seem to activate the imagination more than emptily total experiences like Avatar 3D, and I like that.
Reading about your show Hitlerhoff, I was struck by your aim to use ‘“irresponsible” comedy to act as a potent catalyst for “responsible”, ethically engaged discussions.’ How important do you think it is that art engages with ethical or moral problems of this world? How do you go about making a show that poses ethical dilemmas without being preachy or episode-of-the-week-ish?
Ah, responsibility, that old hoary chestnut! Well I wrote Hitlerhoff as part of an MA on Creative Writing, so partly I had to write a bunch of theory to justify to the academy why the hell I was on a postgrad scholarship, mashing up David Hasselhoff with Adolf Hitler when I should've been, I don't know, writing about the postcolonial homoerotic subtexts in Harry Potter's Big Black Broomstick. Me and my supervisor were pretty anxious that I'd get a shit mark, because the project wasn't “serious” enough. So there's the anxiety that comedy isn't “serious”, I sometimes feel that – but when I did research on Hitler comedies, all the analysis was so dry, and by focusing on the “serious” content and intention, it totally missed the point – comedy is fun! It gives you pleasure, it feels good to laugh! And that's sometimes an end in itself, you know, with things like Buster Keaton or The Mighty Boosh or Zoolander or whatever you think is great comedy.
It gets tricky when you try to be silly and serious at the same time – or one right after the other. The joking/not joking/joking/not joking form creates tension, as well as relieving it. With “political comedies” or “black comedies” like Borat, Brecht, Dr Strangelove, these artworks don't tell you what to think – but they tell you what to think about. They set agendas, but hopefully leave the conclusion a bit open. That, hopefully, is how you pose ethical dilemnas without boring people to tears. And yes I do think it's important for art to engage with serious ethical and moral issues. I think it's absurd for art to presume to solve these problems – if you could solve the problem in a play or song or whatever, surely you could solve it in the world as well? But things aren't that simple.
With climate change, a huge part of the problem right now is that people just aren't thinking about it – it feels like old news, already. But unfortunately it's not like a flood in Pakistan or a war in Afghanistan, it's not going away any time soon. We need to find ways to get interested, and stay interested. Really we all need to quit our day jobs and go back to uni and study climate science, study agriculture, dedicate our lives to changing the world, so we don't end up in a bunker in Tasmania fighting off Queenslanders and complaining about the carbon tax.
And how do you feel about art for art's sake - is that concept dead?
Art for art's sake is alive and well – how else do you explain Charlie Sheen? (oh yeah, coke psychosis). Personally, I would like it if the concept was dead – because I'm obsessed with climate change – but people just LOVE art about art. And it's much easier to make clever art about clever art about clever art about (… Chekhov), because there's so much to draw on. Making art about “real-world” issues is hard, cold, expensive and dangerous (hang on, that's ice) – it's very hard to do well. Issues-art, activist-art, it just puts so many people off, myself included. If someone lectures at me, and even I agree with their point of view, if their argument isn't perfect I'll start disagreeing, out of principle, because bad arguments hurt your brain. And sometimes it's great to escape into art world, film world, theatre world, TV world … I actually think part of the reason that social media like Twitter and Facebook are so huge right now is because they are a nice safe cyber-haven from reality – they are a sweet little world where you can control the parameters of what you think about, and that's similar to art-for-arts-sake. If you logged into Facebook and you had to be friends with 65 million drowning Bangladeshis, it wouldn't be so much fun. But luckily the Bangladeshis only have dial-up.
Why the spandex bodysuit?
Isn't spandex its own answer? I think spandex is its own reward. I might not believe in art-for-art's-sake, but I do believe in spandex for spandex's sake.
Given the show, and the times, I may as well ask this question: what are your thoughts on the carbon tax?
Bring on the carbon tax! The whole world needs one, Australia needs one, it's criminal that we don't have one. Burning carbon is actually is a crime against humanity – it didn't used to be at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but it is now. All human behaviour needs to be priced according to how much damage it does to the atmosphere, and lots of behaviours need to be banned. That sounds pretty extreme, and I guess it is, but I actually think we need to be entertaining much more extreme measures than just a carbon tax, which is disastrously cautious – that’s why I created the Apocalypse Now Party before last year’s election, to make the Greens look conservative (it didn’t do very well). But that doesn’t change the facts – recreational plane travel is no longer justifiable. Eating meat that isn't kangaroo – delicious, nutritious, unjustifiable. I don't know how the hell any of us are going to explain our behaviour to our grandkids –
“Yes Billy, we knew flying on planes was causing the icecaps to melt and was triggering runaway warming that turned this planet into a bad Kevin Costner film, but – I really felt like going to Thailand, again. And Tony Abbott told me it was okay for 'ordinary Australians' to want things like that.”
Billy: “Fuck you, granddad. Tony Abbott was a dangerous idiot, every 6 year-old knows that. If he hadn't been lynched back in 2015 I'd tie him to a 737 by his beefy neck and fly him straight to Phuket, business class.”
So, that's why I'm cycling to Canberra, not flying. I really wish I could fly – I love flying on planes, it's one of my favourite things in the whole world – but I need to put my money where my mouth is. It's not as easy, or as quick, but it's actually not that hard – and luckily I enjoy cycling. I just hope it doesn't rain, because there have been some pretty crazy floods this year, and something tells me it's not over ...
Tom Doig’s Selling Ice to the Remains of the Eskimos is playing as part of You Are Here Festival. Wed March 16 to Friday March 18, various times. For details head to the You Are Here website: http://youareherecanberra.com.au.
TOMMY TIERNAN must have very chapped lips. It is world renowned that kissing the Blarney Stone endows the ‘smacker’ with the gift of the gab, and Tiernan sure has a very effective gob. Based on ticket sales alone, the infamous Irish comedian is second only in his homeland to a little known Dublin four-piece by the name of U2 – not too shabby for a foul mouthed scofflaw from Inishowen.
Tommy isn ’t afraid to stir up a little controversy wherever he goes; I would go as far to say that he is famous for it. Subjects like Down syndrome, homosexual astronauts and 9/11 have all found their way into his stand up routines over the years, something the cheeky Irishman isn’t too troubled with.
“ I live in it for the sake of laughter and ‘controversial’ is just the name of somebody else’s dog that keeps barking at me,” says Tommy. “I don’t recognise the creature but I know that if he hangs around my table long enough he is bound to pick up a few crumbs, but like I said, I don’t own him or trust him. He’s devious.”
Normal society teaches us that there are certain topics we can laugh at and certain no go zones emblazoned with a 50 foot high flashing stop sign. Tommy tends to ignore the obvious and decides instead to live his professional life on both sides of the moral highway. “All views are skewed,” he says. “Some are just more entertaining than others. Maybe humour is a sign of enlightenment but I doubt it. In fact, I doubt everything.”
His most famous stoush was with the entire Jewish race – an off the cuff remark regarding the holocaust, blurted out during a casual back and forth with an audience back in 2009, resulted in a backlash which led to a series of dates being cancelled on his tour of America. That being said, Tommy doesn’t have anything against religion, ironically having played a priest in an episode of beloved UK comedy series Father Ted
“ A priest that was hearing my confession once asked me to pause while he asked his friends to come around and listen too , but I took it as a compliment.”
As they say, any publicity is good publicity, and Tiernan has certainly made the most of his career. As well as his amazing comedy career, Tommy has also delved into TV and radio, although he still hasn ’t made his mind up about where he wants to be in ten years. “I haven’t actually decided to become a comedian yet. I’m just killing time until I know exactly what it is I want to do with myself,” he says. “I don’t even have a list, I would just like to make it to the end of the day without exploding.”
Tommy returns to our barren brown land with a bubbling cauldron of offensive one liners . “I talk and they laugh,” he says. “Hopefully.”
See Tommy Tiernan perform live at the Canberra Theatre Centre on Saturday April 2. Tickets are $49.90 and can be purchased through the venue’s website.
NATHALIE NATIEMBE is not your run of the mill musician – the African singer/songwriter creates a blend of rock, funk and traditional music from her home country, La Reunion (a French island located in the Indian Ocean, with a large African population), that defies genre and language boundaries to wow her audiences.
iving on our shores for the WOMAdelaide festival this week, Nathalie has been busy preparing for the trip. When I speak to her, she is organising her luggage for the journey. “I’m in La Reunion, packing and getting ready,” she tells me. “I’m flying out on Thursday [in a week], and I’m still finishing my costumes for the stage!”
Nathalie’s performances are full of colour and vibrancy, influenced heavily by her culture and the traditional music of her people. A large part of that is the language she uses – most of Nathalie’s songs are sung in Creole, the language used most frequently in La R eunion, as well as some French.
Nathalie doesn’t feel that singing in a different language affects her performances overseas, though. “When I play in France and sing in Creole, people don’t understand the language either, so being in a different country doesn’t make much difference,” she explains. “The reason why people enjoy my music isn’t just about understanding it, it’s about the sound of the music, and my voice, and how they get mixed together.”
She has managed to find a way around the language barrier, however. “Before I start a song, I give a summary of the story of the lyrics, so people know what it’s about.” This is what makes Nathalie’s shows part gig, part theatre in a way, as the audience is invited into her stories and inspirations, and are then able to see them come to life through music.
With the vast array of musical genres that Nathalie dabbles in, it would be expected that she would have a favo urite. In fact, Nathalie loves all music equally. “There’s no specific style of music that I enjoy more than the other, I just play depending on what inspires me. Right now, I’m really into soul and blues music from the 1930s and that’s what my next album will be focusing on,” Nathalie says.
Her fourth album will hopefully be released later this year, and has a distinctly different vibe to her previous three. “The reason why my music is changing is that I recently lost a parent, and it’s making me think about things differently,” she explains. “But of course, I will still play some funk and rock music!”
With her complex style, her vibrant live sets and, let’s face it, her stunning personality, it’s hard not to get excited about Nathalie’s visit. Luckily, she feels the same way. “I’m really looking forward to coming back to Australia! I have a bit of a flutter in my tummy, I’m so excited!”
Nathalie Natiembe will perform live at The Street Theatre on Friday March 18. Entry is free, but bookings are essential. More details are available on the venue’s website.
Other People’s Problems Written by Sarah Quinn, DeAnne Smith and Samuel Booth
The Street Theatre
Friday February 18
Well, I never need to see a motivational speaker. Other People’s Problems blows a loud raspberry at the whole profession, though watch it too closely and you’ll leave with affirmations to become a better person.
A one woman show made up of three short plays, Other People’s Problems showcases actor Sarah Quinn’s range. Transforming voice, physicality, costume and even her hair, she presents three very distinct main characters, plus a supporting cast.
It’s a well structured show, throwing the audience right into things at the beginning with a high energy American self-help guru, armed with jargon, Powerpoint and call and response mantras that had all audience members participating. It was side-splittingly hilarious and of course, the energetic, clichéd façade was soon stripped away, revealing an angry, increasingly desperate woman who needs all the help she can get.
In a change of pace, we meet teen video blogger, Casey. This piece, written by Quinn, explores the concept of YouTube sponsored fame. When Casey is approached by advertisers wanting in on her popular advice videos, she thinks she’s made the big time. But where does her responsibility to her viewers end? How much influence does she really have? Despite providing us with laughs, this play also asks the serious questions, anchoring the show, and was in fact the idea it was built on.
My favourite piece was the last. Authentic and moving (and awkward and funny), it told the tale of a lonely woman communing with a lost love via a self-help tape. Writer Samuel Booth gave us an ending that was unpredictable and highly satisfying and Quinn’s performance had me crying at the end.
A great concept, turned into a clever, well put together and thoroughly enjoyable show.
How much do you love Skyfire? Do you eagerly hang out each year for those 20 minutes of fireworks bliss when the colourful crackers dance and explode over the lake, like showgirls from the Moulin Rouge, in perfect synchrony with the cheesy hits of the FM104.7 soundtrack, filling the sky with their intensity, majesty and exuberance? And as the last glow of colour fades, the last spark drops to the ground and Lake Burley Griffin returns to darkness, do you find yourself still pumped with energy and wanting more?
Or are you one of those few Canberrans that just don’t quite get what all the Skyfire fuss is about? Maybe you enjoyed it when you were ten but just haven’t been able to recreate the magic since. Or you simply never got it but understand that this is too shameful, and frankly un-Canberran, to admit to? Either way, this year, the folk from the You Are Here Festival are coming to the rescue with an event they’re calling FRIENDLYFIRE, CeaseFire, MisFire, SkyHigher, amongst other names.
Two of the event’s organisers, Reuben Ingall and Nick McCorriston (aka DJ Volume), admit that having multiple names for an event “makes branding difficult” but there is no such confusion about what FriendlyFire is about. “Think of it as either the seamless continuation of Skyfire, without the fireworks or the lake, or an exciting alternative,” they explain.
Describing their vision for FriendlyFire, Reuben and Nick go on to talk about “capturing the energy of Skyfire” (and the music) and using it to fuel a pumping dance party behind the merry-go-round in Petrie Plaza. “In previous years Skyfire has attracted up to 180,000 spectators – that’s a lot of Canberra excitement to harness into a party,” explains Reuben. So from 8.30pm till midnight on Skyfire night, local and interstate DJs including Dead DJ Joke, Black Samurai and DJ Volume will mix, remix, chop and add a bit of filler to the tunes from the Skyfire broadcast for you to let off your own dancing fireworks to. Because, as Nick astutely points out, “30 minutes of Skyfire broadcast simply isn’t enough!”
So either drop by the merry-go-round after Skyfire and relive your memories again and again and again, or embrace FriendlyFire as your Skyfire alternative and discover a new way to appreciate this seminal Canberra event. Reuben and Nick promise that “FriendlyFire will have something for everybody.” And with cheesy hits, great DJs, amazing dancers and circus performers it certainly has all the ingredients for a great party. The fireworks may fade too soon but FriendlyFire will keep on going.
Let off your dancing fireworks at FriendlyFire, held from 8.30pm until midnight, behind the merry-go-round in Petrie Plaza on Saturday March 19, aka Skyfire night.
Our collective nerd identity is preparing to be indulged. Some hide their bespectacled anaemic in the darkest depths of their unconscious. Others, like Charlie Ross, use their power to enchant. “I’m more of a member of the Nation of Nerds than the League of Thespians,” admits Ross, whose chaotic performances of ONE MAN LORD OF THE RINGS have wowed audiences across this liddle earth. Pardon. I couldn’t help but share my own nerdish squint with Ross – it’s best to be honest. “Any true geek can tell the difference between a fellow dork and some actor pretending to be one… as much as I may poke fun at the films, I love them with all my geeky being. I make people laugh at me nerding out.”
Not seen Ross’s previous fun-sized incarnation One Man Star Wars Trilogy ? Then google and be stunned. He almost busts a larynx morphing from Wookie to Star Destroyer in one flailing mess. Ross’ alacrity and dexterity as he condenses these famously epic stories with no props is astounding. How in khazad-dum does he do it? “I merely wrote a script from what I could recall off the top of my noggin. The logic being that whatever I could remember should (in theory) be what the average person could. I’m extremely OCD, and as such have no need for palm cards – that is, unless I become compulsive about palm cards for some reason. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Thankfully, Ross isn’t obsessed with the meticulous recreation of many life-long fantasies. “As for me making mistakes, I have to say that a show without mistakes is like a sauce without spice. What would be the point? The more ‘mistakes’ the more alive the show becomes.” The Dark One knows how he keeps up the pace for a whole hour, but he doesn’t have time to ensure no one walks away saying ‘it jushht washhn’t true to the booksh… mwa-hey, glavin!” Instead, you’re in stitches from his treasonous self mockery.
As much as I gawk at his elven-like prowess, it’s refreshing as lembas to hear Ross isn’t meritorious about his work. “It doesn’t take Yoda to figure out that my shows capitalise upon the success of established works. If I didn’t have these works to exploit, I’d be still be somewhere in Canada, probably slinging coffee for a living. In a nutshell: I am one lucky man.”
And so are we, the Nation of Nerds and Realm of Men alike. If you’re still not convinced, or looking to level-up, why not try a drinking game during the show? Charlie’s tip – “How about every time Aragorn whispers a line? Or every time Samwise says ‘Frooodooo’? Or alternatively, when Eomer looks pissed off, constipated, or a combination of both.”
See OMLOTR performed live at The Playhouse on Saturday March 19. Tickets are $57 and are available from the Canberra Theatre Centre website.