From Theatre to Film; from Film to Theatre [September 22]
What a year for Australian film. I saw ‘Blessed’ this week, the film version of a Melbourne Workers Theatre production called ‘Who’s Afraid of the Working Class’ which i vividly remember seeing at the Trades Hall in Carlton about a decade ago. Director Ana Kokkinos and writer Andrew Bovell have done a remarkable job of sewing together four different short plays into one complex, layered and deeply affecting screenplay. And as with the original theatre production, the film invites us to look more closely – and more sympathetically – at the lives of people who have very little control over those lives. Single mothers struggling with loneliness and dependency, guilt and anger, fear and poverty, and with their own children – simultaneously bewildered and resourceful, defenceless and resilient, full of hate and full of love. These are three dimensional characters performed – in the main – by actors with an astonishing array of emotional tools at their disposal. And like those other stand-out Australian films of 2009 – ‘Samson and Delilah’, ‘Mary and Max’ and ‘Balibo’ – this film makes us feel the vulnerability of youth as keenly as we felt our own vulnerability when we were young – perhaps even more so. Take a hankie, in fact take a bag full of hankies, but take yourself to the cinema to see ‘Blessed’.
And speaking of children in peril, at the Malthouse Theatre last week I saw ‘One Night The Moon‘, a theatre adaptation of a musical film made for ABC TV about nine years ago. Directed by Wesley Enoch, the musical play tells the story of a young girl who wanders away from her parent’s farmhouse in search of the man in the moon and, as a result of racial prejudice, is lost forever. Based on the true story of indigenous ‘blacktracker’ Tracker Riley who was prevented from searching for a lost child by the child’s racist grandfather, the theatre adaptation swerves wildly between the sublime and the prosaic. The opening moments of the show are the best ten minutes i’ve spent in a Melbourne theatre for at least a year, thanks to some superbly imaginative multimedia design, and the members of the musical ensemble who perform on stage throughout the show are wonderfully multi-talented. At times, though, the dialogue and the lyrics descend into a kind of kitchen-sink drama that drags the whole thing down. I would still recommend you see this production, because most of the songs are great and Mark Seymour (who plays the white farmer) gives a powerful performance as a man mentally and physically locked up by his own fear and ignorance. But once again, if Tiny Tots in Trouble Tend To Tug aT your hearT-sTrings, don’t forget the hankies.
On October 1st I’ll be hosting the Ian Potter Foundation Music Commissions awards night at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Two new Fellowships will be awarded to Australian composers, and there’ll be a special recital from musicians Michael Kieran-Harvey, Merlyn Quaife and Vanessa Tomlinson of works by previous award-winners.
On Saturday October 17th i’ll be a guest speaker on a panel addressing ideas about ‘memory’ for the Meanjin journal. The discussion is part of the World Matters Festival 2009, being held at Edendale Community Farm, Gastons Lane, Eltham. Bookings: (03) 9439 8700