Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

Songs and Detention and Rock’n’Roll [March 5]

On Monday 2 July 2007, Dr. Mohamed Haneef was arrested at Brisbane International Airport for allegedly assisting a terrorist organisation. Detained for 12 days, Haneef made history by becoming the first person detained under the extraordinary provisions of Australia’s new anti-terrorism laws.
Based on the transcripts of the following interrogation, playwright Graham Pitts and director Gorkem Acaroglu have turned Dr Haneef’s interrogation into a two-man play.

I saw the opening night of a short season of ‘Haneef: The Interrogation’ at the Gasworks Theatre in South Melbourne recently. Whilst it was interesting to eavesdrop on the interrogation techniques of an Australian Federal policeman, it didn’t work so well as theatre. The production claims to ‘raise the possibility of the extinction of civil liberties in an increasingly censored society’, a threat which i take very seriously. But this interrogation doesn’t offer strong evidence that such a threat is imminent. The policeman questioning Dr Haneef seemed to me to be simply doing his job, and in the absence of any outrage-provoking interrogation techniques, the writer was forced to create a small chorus of two commentators who try to persuade the audience that what they are watching is indeed outrageous.

The real outrage in the Haneef incident was in the way our conservative federal politicians used the case to provoke fear and xenophobia in the wider community, and how Dr Haneef was eventually deported from the country on the basis of selectively leaked information and innuendo. Now THAT would be an interesting subject for a work of theatre.

It will have another season soon at La Mama theatre in Carlton – decide for yourself.

Over at The Arts Centre, the Melbourne Theatre Company is offering a production of Tom Stoppard’s play Rock’n’Roll. It follows the lives of three generations of one English family caught up in the ideological battles of the Cold War, and of a Czech student who lives through the momentous political changes in Eastern Europe in the last three decades of the 20th century.

The acting is very strong; I’ve never seen Genevieve Picot do better work on the stage. It’s a long play, and at times the pace seems too hurried for the complex content – perhaps the director was worried about our short little spans of attention. But the intellectual and emotional content is fascinating – idealism versus the brutal reality of human political behaviour – Marxist communism versus the Stalinist corruption of that vision – and the anarchic, dionysian pleasures of rock’n’roll (and love) versus the authoritarian impulse to control and limit those pleasures. I came away wanting to read the script, at my own pace, to take it all in.

In the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre you can see ‘Love Song‘, a Seinfeld-meets-Woody-Allen-style American comedy about love and madness. It has a relentless kind of hysteria to it, and yet it’s also deeply sentimental. Funny, exhausting, and in the end not entirely satisfying. But Thomas Wright, who plays a vulnerable young man called Beane, is marvellous. Watch his hands closely, for a lesson in the craft of building up a character with physical idiosyncracies.

Paul Kelly: A to Z – “C” Songs Available For Free Download from March 1st

The rollout continues. On March 1 Paul posted new recordings of 8 songs starting with C and taking down February’s Bs.

A couple of songs released by other artists but not until now by Paul make their
debut – (The) Cake And The Candle first performed by Kate Ceberano and Renee Geyer
as well as Cradle Of Love by Ann Kirkpatrick and Kelly Willis. Coma, a tune
co-written with Professor Ratbaggy, is now a strange klezmerish mutation
with clarinet by Sian Prior. Check out Charlie Owen’s Slide Guitar, a
tribute to a man, and the stark and shivery Change Your Mind.

Click here to collect your free downloads.