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Vale Naoné Carrel

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Naoné Carrel and Elaine Noon in Calendar Girls, along with that amazing smile

My Facebook feed is awash this morning with tributes to the very deserving Naoné Carrel. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing her as well as most of these friends did, but hers has been one of the faces that I have associated most closely with great nights in foyers and great moments in auditoria.

I met Naoné when she was President of Canberra Rep, and I had turned up early to a meeting of the Network of Amateur Theatre Organisations feeling rather like a very small fish in a very big pond. Her face beamed as she welcomed me and suddenly I felt like the pond was much smaller.

I had seen her on stage, of course, much earlier than that. I first saw her last century in The Dresser. And also while I was an undergrad I recall being enthralled with her performance in Death of a Salesman at the ANU Arts Centre.

The theatre community here is the richer for having had not only a performer of her calibre, but also an individual whose smile would light up the room. She will be missed.

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Naoné Carrel and Raoul Craemer in a promo shot from To Silence

For the big picture, here’s a sampling of reviews of Naoné’s shows:

 

 
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Posted by on Friday, 7 March 2014 in Canberra Theatre

 

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12 Years a Slave

12 years a slave12 Years a Slave is one of the more interesting examples of films to take slavery as its theme in the last couple of decades. There is a preponderance of films about the American Civil War, but the era that went before it and the circumstances leading to the war are not so well documented.

12 Years a Slave certainly redresses this. As the story of a free black man from New York set in the antebellum of the American Civil War who is enslaved in the south for twelve years (ta-da!), it clearly demonstrates a cause for the United States to grapple with the question of slavery in the 1860s, and in so doing fills a void in the dramatic canon on the subject.

The film is beautifully shot, and though it oversentimentalises in the way most American films do, and occasionally glosses over the plot in favour of a clever turn of phrase, I can almost excuse these ills given the nature of the subject matter and the skill of the screenwright and director.

The performances of the many well-known white actors in this film are likewise worthy of praise. Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Paul Giamatti in particular provide a splendid bed for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s chilling performance as Solomon Northrup, and the equally empathic Patsey played by Lupita Nyong’o.

But what I am most fascinated by is the persistence of the recent obsession of Hollywood with slavery. The theme is certainly relevant, with slavery continuing in many parts of the world today, and slavery bears some comparison with other social justice issues, but that doesn’t seem to be the motivation and I don’t quite know what to make of it.

What seems most interesting about this modern slew of films about the American slave trade is that it stands alone, seemingly as a purely historical fascination, these films being almost entirely backward-looking. No allegories seem to be being made to more modern struggles like feminism or marriage equality, though they’d be easy references to make. The filmmakers seem to be ignoring the more recent practice of slavery, which continued well into the twentieth century even where it was ostensibly banned (for instance, Queensland and the British outposts in southern Africa), and more oddly in those places where slavery has continued into the twenty-first century.

These films don’t seem to be making much of a stand against modern slavery or against any modern societal ill in the way that stories such as The Crucible clearly denounced the persecution of Communists in the 1950s. They seem to sit merely as a historical account, and although they reinforce the anti-slavery position of the United Nations, they seem to be have little point beyond this, so I am surprised at the continuation of the theme.

Regardless of the reasons for these films, their quality is stunning. I just hope they find a purpose if they’re going to keep making them.

 

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 15 February 2014 in American Film, Film, Regency Enterprises

 

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Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela

Ram-LeelaOkay, I might have a reason to like Ram-Leela that gives me a bit of a bias, but I simply haven’t enjoyed a film this much in ages. Colourful, engaging, and full of life, this film captures the attention and the heart.

Bollywood has not been high on my list of priorities, but this film could well change that. Their energy and obsession with colour has always fascinated me, but the plots can be pretty ordinary. Since Ram-Leela borrows the bulk of its plot from England’s foremost dramatist, it can hardly be said to suffer from this illness. 

Based roughly on Romeo and Juliet, Ram-Leela begins with the familiar style of Bollywood. It is not long, however before it delves deeper into the characters and their backstory than is customary, and the challenge becomes to recognise Shakespeare’s characters in those in front of us.

This is not, however, a straightforward transliteration. In transplanting the story to India, the plot required some major reconstructive surgery. It takes some interesting turns that are not quite what I was expecting, and in the second act I was beginning to think the plot had diverted completely from Shakespeare’s when it finally resolved back into the familiar run.

This is where I really found myself fascinated. Some of my readers may be aware that some years ago I was involved in writing and directing a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet in which the lovers live and rather than finding a happily ever after they find they don’t really like each other quite as much as they thought they did. Ram-Leela looked for a while like it might head down a similar path, but it didn’t, and I breathed a sigh of relief in a way.

I can’t think of a more interesting experience than seeing this film in the heady mix of cultures I am experiencing here in Timor-Leste. It just sits beautifully in this eclectic place and should not be missed.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 1 December 2013 in Film

 

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Filth

filthI’ve been a big fan of films that play hard and fast with psychosis over the years, and Filth is, I think, one of the best. It keeps you on your toes trying to figure put the difference between reality and the subject’s experiences, but it doesn’t do this at the expense of character and plot.

The protagonist here, Bruce (James McAvoy), is brilliantly portrayed with incredible pathos and drive. Apart from an unfortunate lull in the third quarter, which many films suffer from, he drives the plot forward brilliantly.

The super-plot is both straightforward and innovative. Frank is in line for promotion, but so are several other detectives in his Edinburgh unit. By setting them up, he manages to move himself up the ladder, building the likelihood of promotion by a steady process of elimination. His plan goes well until his own psychosis gets the better of him.

McAvoy is supported, though, by a cast of well-developed characters, all of whom are brilliantly relatable and portrayed by great actors.

The spectre of Trainspotting is heavy in the air with this film. There are familiar sequences and phrasing, but the whole is a unique and engaging story that warrants a second look.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 25 November 2013 in British Film, Film, Steel Mill Pictures

 

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Virginia and Some of Her Friends

virginiaLa Mama’s Explorations series is a season of new and often experimental works that challenge theatrical boundaries and process and explore new ideas.

Virginia and Some of Her Friends is one of this year’s offerings, and while it is not especially innovative in style, it does combine theatrical techniques that are not often seen in harmony.

This piece sits somewhere between the musical and the play with music. Like a musical, the songs deliver a substantial component of the character and some plot. But like the play with music, the songs jar, altering the flow of action and realigning the audience’s attention not unlike Brecht’s verfremdungseffekt.

As for plot, there is little…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

 
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Posted by on Monday, 11 November 2013 in La Mama, Melbourne Theatre, Theatre

 

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The Fridge

fridge_covThe latest instalment from Made In Canberra, The Fridge is an amusing piece of work that manages to avoid the worst of predictability but doesn’t quite distinguish itself with dialogue that encourages the suspension of disbelief. With characters that all seem to say exactly what they mean all the time, there is not a lot of room for the cast to perform. The words take over, and even the best one liners fall flat.
The program and advertising makes reference to Monty Python repeatedly, and attempts to position the play as a continuation of this tradition. This may go some way to explaining the lack of subtext. Python was certainly capable of developing great characters with little or no subtext, but here it…
The rest of this post is published over on Australian Stage.
 

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The Book of Everything

book of everythingLet me just say this up front: there is nothing funny about domestic violence. However, if you don’t laugh all the way through this play, there’s something wrong with you! I would guess the only people not laughing would be abusers themselves, so maybe we should keep one eye on the auditorium during performances!

Canberra Repertory’s whimsical production of The Book of Everything is a magical piece of theatre that could transport someone of any age back to their childhood. The simple, very human joy of simply telling a story is not lost in the dark themes that emerge…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 13 September 2013 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre

 

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