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Tag Archives: Melbourne

Holding the Man

holding the manTimothy Conigrave’s autobiographical story of his love for John Caleo has turned into one of the finest Australian films ever produced. In fact, I should strike the Australian from that sentence, as it’s really one of the finest films ever produced in the world, but having seen it, I’m rather more proud to be an Australian than I was yesterday, so it’s staying.

Adapted for the stage (and subsequently the screen) by Queanbeyan playwright Tommy Murphy, Holding the Man follows the story of Tim and John from when they meet in high school and Tim pursues John. The story follows their love through homophobia, infidelity (of sorts), moderate success and finally AIDS. The characters are portrayed skilfully by Ryan Corr as Tim, and Craig Stott as John. Despite a strange, forced accent from Corr (he insists on pronouncing every T as if he were dining with the queen and it annoyed me throughout), their performances are truly impeccable.

The film matters in a sociological sense because it is set against the backdrop of the changing Australia of the late seventies through early nineties, which was when the bulk of social attitudes about the rainbow community shifted. And yet, despite the significance of these political shifts, this story is firmly grounded in the experience of the two men at the heart of this tragedy. And therein lies its greatest strength.

If you really hate spoilers, you might want to stop reading now, but really, the ending is clear from the very opening moments of the film, anyway. It is rare, I think, that this tactic works, but this is certainly one of the circumstances in which it serves well for keeping the story on track and focused. One of the benefits of knowing that John dies is that as the film delves into some very dark places the audience doesn’t question whether he will pull through. And because we know he is going to die, we are able to concentrate on the way in which the characters deal with their circumstances. It really is very strategic storytelling, and shows a master of the art was at work.

Despite the darkness of this story, this film is, at its heart, a celebration of love. It truly demonstrates a spectacular skill on the part of Tommy Murphy, to delve into such dark plotlines with such pathos and not lose sight of the heart of the story, which was the love between the two protagonists. Few writers can manage this with such dexterity.

I simply cannot recommend this film highly enough. Get it. Watch it. Share it.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 in Australian Film, Film, Goalpost Pictures

 

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The Ballad of Backbone Joe

This, believe it or not, was my first experience of cabaret. Well, at least my first experience of cabaret with the name ‘cabaret’ plastered all over the place. I’ve experienced cabaret before, it seems; I just wasn’t quite sure it was cabaret. This cabaret performance, however, was deemed to be cabaret by the people who run the Cabaret Festival in the capital city of the Festival State. Being quite unaware of what technically constitutes cabaret, I think these are the people to trust. And the experiment was worthwhile.

The Suitcase Royale, creators of The Ballad of Backbone Joe, are a tidy little Rag’n’Bone trio from Melbourne who’ve played at a range of festivals and events around Australia, the UK, US, Ireland and Germany. For a taste of their sound, have a listen to this. Their music is right up my street, and given the nature of cabaret, that’s the best feature. I could have forgone the story of Backbone Joe, who I never really came to care about (or possibly even understand), and I would have enjoyed listening to a little more of the music these guys created with such incredible vim! I would have enjoyed just as much some more of their humour, which was impeccably timed.

But seriously, I don’t see myself becoming a big fan of cabaret. Anyone who’s read more than one post on this blog knows that for me the holy grail of theatre lies somewhere between plot and character, so cabaret is always going to leave me a little cold. Nonetheless, the convivial nature of the form redeems it. In musical theatre, I often feel that when character and plot are too thin, a production just seems disingenuous; I don’t care about the story, I don’t care about the characters, and I have no reason to care about the performers unless I know them personally. Cabaret doesn’t suffer the same problem, because the performer connects with the audience regardless of the depth of connection I feel with the plot or character.

I’ll be watching out for more of The Suitcase Royale; mainly for their great music, but also because if this is cabaret, I like cabaret.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 15 June 2012 in Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Theatre, Cabaret, Theatre

 

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Do Not Go Gentle

Seeing Do Not Go Gentle was an experience. Not just because it’s a great show, but because I got the opportunity to meet Patricia Cornelius, the play’s writer, before the show opened. That, and the fact that fortyfivedownstairs is a fantastic venue with more character than a Shakespearean king.

Equally admirable were the performances of a fantastic cast, admirably lead by Rhys McConnochie, all bringing their characters to life in a way that should connect with audiences of all ages.

Freezing my way through a show is not normally my idea of fun, but it’s highly appropriate for Do Not Go Gentle, which focuses on Scott’s unsuccessful attempt to plant an Australian flag at the South Pole before the Norwegians got theirs there. And while fortyfivedownstairs may have been a bit of a cold place on the night, the lives of its characters are just as cold, but with a warmth that makes it all worthwhile.

The thing I enjoyed most about this play was its insistence that life is for living, a thesis well worth remembering on a cold Winter’s night in Melbourne.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 18 August 2010 in fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne Theatre, Pure Theatre, Theatre

 

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