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Tag Archives: New South Wales

Toomelah

Toomelah is a particularly interesting film, if not especially engaging. Writer and Director Ivan Sen went into the New South Welsh township of Toomelah, which began life as an Aboriginal mission, and filmed this story with the local community performing the roles. As characters and performers, they offer a lot. They are, in a sense, playing themselves, and although the story is fictitious, the setting and the circumstances of life in Toomelah is very real.

After the screening at Arc, Sen described the experience of making the film in this community. He went alone, with no film crew, in order to get unhindered access to the community, and to allow the performers more scope to ignore the camera. The effect is remarkable; these characters come to life, despite having just about the thinnest plot I’ve ever seen. There was one point while watching the film when I wondered whether the story was actually just Sen following Daniel Connors around and filming his real life.

The reality, though, is that this is a fictitious story about a real community, played by the people of the community. The slowness of life in this community is, presumably, captured faithfully, but unfortunately I don’t think this verisimilitude does the film any favours. It asks a lot of the audience to keep watching, and while I think this is often acceptable, it is more effective when the story is more engaging.

I think it is particularly important that we tell the story of diverse Aboriginal communities, but I still think these stories need to be told in the dominant storytelling form of our society. While Toomelah is a film worthy of our attention, I doubt it will get much. With a plot arc this slow, it takes pre-established empathy with the characters for an audient to sit through it.

So I find it sad that I don’t think Toomelah will get much attention. It is worthy of every Australian’s attention, but its interest lies in the way it was made and what it offers as a picture of life in this community, rather than being intrinsic to the film.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 29 October 2011 in Australian Film, Film

 

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Manly Mates

Sir Robert Askin was the longest-serving premier of New South Wales in the twentieth century… as long as you don’t count little Bobby Carr, who served eight months longer, but whose term unfortunately stretched into the twenty-first century. It will not be news to many that such petty distinctions actually matter to the ruling class. It certainly wasn’t to me; which is why, when Frank Hatherley’s play Manly Mates landed on my desk, I was keen to see it produced in Canberra.

A fictitious story based on posthumous accusations levelled at Askin, Hatherley’s play plonks the jovial premier into a hotbed of gambling, womanising and crime (sometimes consecutive, other times concurrent). Joined by stoners, journalists, cops and shonky American poker machine salesmen, the scene in the private Octopus Room at the Manly Hotel is all too reminiscent of more recent rumblings of the political machinery behind closed doors in both New South Welsh and federal politics.

For this production, which later came to be declared the last of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, I handed the reins to James Stevens, who has done a great job with an unwieldy script and a large cast on Tuggeranong’s small stage. The show rolls along from one laugh to the next, and on opening night, despite a slow start, they developed a full head of steam for the hilarious finale.

It is great to see Michael Miller, who has performed in many of Canberra Dramatics’ shows, reprise the role of Askin in the company’s final production; he has a swagger befitting any crooked premier, and is ably supported by Rebecca Nicholson, another veteran of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, as the enthusiastic Pat. Don Wilkinson also returned for this production, as did Robbie Matthews, and these friends were joined by a number of performers who had not performed with Canberra Dramatics before, most notably among them Margie Sainsbury who landed the enviable role of Lady Molly Askin, and lends her an air of forced grace.

Although I haven’t had a lot to do with this last production, it has been a pleasure to see some of the journey this cast and crew have taken. They struck me from the beginning as a very cohesive group, and I am especially glad that James Stevens took on the task of directing them. Cerri Davis, who has worked in a number of different capacities with Canberra Dramatics over the years, also did a fine job in her first role as Production Manager.

In all, it was a great pleasure to see this hilarious play staged in Canberra, and it is a great finale to five years of productions.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 27 January 2011 in Canberra Dramatics, Canberra Theatre, Pure Theatre, Theatre

 

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Faces in the Street

Henry Lawson’s legacy is not an easy one to identify. It is wrapped up in the mystery of the Australian identity, which is now, as it was in Lawson’s day, straddled across the divides between urban and rural, between civilised and free, and of course between global and local. Max Cullen’s play, Faces in the Street, somehow manages to explore these weighty notions while remaining firmly grounded in the story of Lawson’s life…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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