Reviews

One-man spoken word or theatre? Black T-Shirt Collection

Is the one-man show an example of theatre or spoken word? Is it both? Does the question even matter? Even if it doesn’t matter, I always find myself asking these perhaps insular questions, like last night when poet Inua Ellams opened Black T-Shirt Collection at The Arts Centre Melbourne. He essentially tells a story of two Nigerian brothers who set up an international designer t-shirt business, and the complications with leaving their home. Themes of identity and sexuality shine through. The story is compelling enough, the delivery provokes something more in the audience.

He is a lone actor (or poet) on stage. Minimal set. One box he sometimes holds or moves around, and a subtle soundscape with intermittent sound effects. The most haunting sounds are what you think is a predatory bird flapping its wings.

But the rhythm and cadence of his voice make me think he’s essentially performing one very long narrative poem. It’s a testament to his delivery that he can hold our attention for that long, the important details sticking in. All the important details are in his words, in his speaking, never fully acted out on stage, except for a couple of mimed actions. There are singular lines that stand as poetic. I found myself reacting those, but I couldn’t click in a theatre! I suppose those lines shine through in all kinds of writing, be it poetry, prose, theatre, even film. If I closed my eyes for the whole show, would I still understand it all? I suspect I would’ve without discounting the effectiveness of his minor movements.

Is that the difference between theatre and poetry? Theatre tries to recreate the physical sides of the story, the dialogue augmenting it and part of that recreation whereas the poet uses words and images to describe something somewhere else.

The show, the poetry, his delivery is all effective, evokes an investment in the characters over that hour or hour and a half.

I’ve seen sho

Review: Roshelle Fong's Virtual Reality Show

When I think of going to a spoken word event, what usually pops to mind is a mic, a voice, and some floral poetic language. This usually culminates in either an inspiring and uplifting call to action or a realisation of how insignificant human life really is at times. I also often imagine low lights, generally a spot, and a single, mystical looking figure dressed in black speaking at me (usually at me, sometimes to me, depending on the poet I guess). 

What I don’t imagine, is VR headsets, partial nudity and witnessing the uncomfortable yet strangely sexual act of someone forcibly deep throating a print out of the entirety of the Wikipedia on China. Welcome to Roshelle Fong. I have seen this woman perform three times now and each time has left me with a strange and yet wonderful feeling that all is somehow complete fucked and simultaneously perfect in this world. Roshelle’s performance for Girls on Key was no different. 

When I first arrived, I was disappointed to notice there was a cinema/bar happening in the room next door and we were squished into a tiny back room, enhancing my feelings that spoken word is often not given the stage it deserves in society. However, in honesty (and to the dismay of my ever eager critic), the sound didn’t overlap and the intimacy of that tiny room only worked to enhance the disturbing and yet alluring sensations I was about to experience.

Before Roshelle, Carmen Main shared a piece she had originally prepared for the Biscuits series set up by Ruckus. It set the tone up well with features such as the use of voice-over and props, in some way preparing us for what was to come. Carmen had mentioned it was something very different for her to try and I truly commend and respect her for stepping up and pushing boundaries into the world of performance art, and hope she continues to play with it further. 

After a break, we were back for Roshelle’s set. Something Roshelle does absolutely as

Review: Koraly's I say the wrong things all the time

Cyprus, that island in the eastern Mediterranean about which most of us know nothing. No time or space for a history lesson now. It’s complicated and stretches back several millennia with multiple invasions, occupations and division, the latest being between the Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots after the British cleared out in the mid-C20th.

Yet many of us do know something of Aphrodite and Adonis and Pygmalion from ancient Greek mythology, and they are all purported to have been born on Cyprus.

Koraly Dimitriadis is a Melbourne-based performer and writer from the Greek-Cypriot immigrant community who has written and devised a challenging and often confronting show based on the experiences and predicaments of her own life so far.

She is an artist and a woman who has been driven to break out of the ‘good Greek girl’ stereotype of being a homebound wife and mother. It is this painful, singular and turbulent journey to express her real life passions, and to establish her creative credentials, that forms the basis of this self-revelatory production.

Koraly Dimitriadis offers up her all, her heart, mind, body, soul, faith and family history during an 80-minute procession of scenes that expose the raw reality of opting to make a new life for oneself. This is a moving and particularly personal performance which exerts a demand for empathetic attention to be shared between the performer and the audience.

This show succeeds because it doesn’t set out to answer the wider question that it poses to which we can all relate, put simply ‘What is my life all about?” How often does any of us get to really ask such a question of ourselves?

Koraly Dimitriadis deftly switches scenes that portray the overlapping and often clashing roles in her life as a daughter, grand-daughter, mother, divorcee, lover, writer and, above all, as a woman determined to rise above the confines of her background. In each of

Review: The Silences by Robbie Coburn & Amanda Anastasi

We live in a loud world, full of endless distractions and social media feeds clamouring for our attention. In their joint poetry collection, The Silences (Eaglemont Press), Robbie Coburn and Amanda Anastasi explore the idea of silence in all its forms. It is a meditation. Reading through the poems is an exercise in quiet reflection; a chance to journey into an interior world, by way of Robbie’s haunting (and haunted) rural landscapes and Amanda’s domestic surrealism.

The publisher Ian McBryde (himself a poet of merit) has allowed white space around each poem, that forces the reader to sit for a moment with the after image of each work; a perfect embodiment of the theme. Robbie’s cover design of a lone figure leaning into a dense fog is moody and abstract. It is reflective of his poem, Autumn Proverb:

I recalled your ghost, transparent in the open paddock, a thin veil of fog beginning to leak into the frame.

The Owl and Cat was close to the best choice of venue for a book from Shelton Lea’s publisher, Eaglemont Press (now fronted by Ian McBryde). It has a bohemian, dive-bar feeling. The only other obvious choice would have been a pub. Perhaps Shelton would have heckled from his grave if it was in one. There were few antics. The smoking and rabble rousing was outside. But inside Amanda and Robbie had people queuing to sign their books.

The crowd was far from silent. More seating had to be brought in and the crowd had a contingent of westies, still in a celebratory mood after the Bulldogs win.

Hopefully there will come a time when the binary idea of two separate factions fades away. Both Robbie Coburn and Amanda Anastasi are regular readers on stages. They certainly don’t represent the idea of authors locked away in towers and emerging, shading their eyes from that dreaded sunlight. But neither are they the type of poets to flail their arms about and blow their own trumpet in order to win a contest of words.

Aman

People of the Sun: A Protest For Life

People of the Sun is an intimate collaboration between spoken word poet Joel McKerrow and playwright Anna McGahan. It is a multifaceted poetic and theatrical exploration of the theme of lightness and darkness, and all the shades between.

At the surface layer, it imagines a post-apocalyptic world where the sun has long disappeared. It traces the lives of two central characters – Joel and Anna – as they struggle with the darkness that permeates Fluoro city and yearn to see more.

The lighting and timing of space are an immersive and powerful reminder of theme. To enter, the audience must first give up their deepest secret. Characters slowly emerge from the seams of darkness, offering clues to the fate that has befallen the city. The story then unfolds through a series of narrative pieces performed by McGahan and McKerrow. It is only after light has been revealed that some of these secrets are shared; the grip of their darkness thus broken.

Those familiar with McKerrow’s work will recognise the roaring crescendo that pierces through each of the narrative pieces. The sense of hope is there, as is the invitation for people to be and join something larger than themselves.

What is different is the duality in voice as the reigns of poetic creativity are now seamlessly held by two. The initial poetic narrations were developed by McGahan, with each scene subsequently improvised, devised, and revised by McGahan and McKerrow together.

The end outcome of this process is as evocative as it is haunting; a testament to the mastery of the show’s creators of their respective disciplines. A delicate urgency and beautiful fragility permeates every word, action and sound. Although light and dark, seen and unseen, are repeated often, each utterance reveals a fresh, alternate concept for the audience to explore, react and attach meaning to.

This is the real brilliance of People of the Sun; to take the stories and experiences of two

Tiny Drum and Eltham Courthouse Appearance - Brendan Bonsack delivers the full tour

I know Brendan Bonsack first as a photographer. He is a familiar sight at spoken word events in his black on black uniform, camera poised, a reticent presence but his slight smile always at the ready. His black and white specials are beloved profile photos by performing poets. I knew from seeing him perform “A Rough Guide,” at the 2015 Melbourne Spoken Word prize that he could also be a wry and entertaining story teller. I knew from the multiple books and albums featured on his website that he was prodigious and multi-talented. But he doesn’t perform so often on the open mic “circuit,” so I was excited when I discovered that he would be featuring at the Eltham Courthouse in August.

The high ceilings and historical feel of the courthouse turned out to be a lovely backdrop for the performance. Mr Bonsack stepped up to the witness stand with his guitar and quietly introduced his performance by suggesting we needn’t clap between pieces. This was followed by roughly half an hour of sung and spoken poetry. It was like being given a brief tour of a weathered, much-loved and deeply storied house. Each room or setting was beautiful on its own, but it was the house as a whole that revealed the heart and artistry of the set.

I also got the accompanying chapbook that was offered on the night, “Tiny Drum” which turned out to be like liner notes to a favoured album. This article is a joint to Brendan’s performance at the Eltham Courthouse and his chapbook “Tiny Drum” that started off as a memory aid but is slowly beginning to supplant my memory of the night.

Moving effortlessly between song and poetry, Brendan ushered us into the house. With his first short piece,

“I once knew a doctor a doctor of the mind

it was my first time” — from “A Doctor”

we were humorously welcomed into the parlour, given a hint of so much more, then deftly moved on.

Some doors opened onto intense memories: