It’s been a full year since I started touring Bomb Collar, my one-man science fiction cabaret musical. I’ve done the show in a storeroom full of pigeon feathers in Newcastle, in a 100-year-old puppetry theatre in Manila, in a live music venue in Belgrade and in a shipping container decorated in animal heads in a Melbourne park. None of these were as nerve-wracking as doing the show in my home-town.
The Public Theatre is the brainchild of Julian Hobba and his Aspen Island Theatre Company. A two-week outdoor theatre festival staged in a purpose-built temporary theatre space right outside the Canberra Theatre Centre, the whole thing was curated with an aggressive commitment to the experimental. I couldn’t resist the chance to perform there, even though it cut against the militant zero-external-tech approach I’ve taken to Bomb Collar so far.
Of course once I was into it the chance to augment my costume/instrument with full-blown theatrical lighting was wonderful. At this stage the script has become a sort of mental deck of cards that I can slightly reshuffle in the moment, and the festival techs did a miraculous job of improvising cues with me on the fly. I was the ‘after hours’ show on three consecutive nights and fluked some beautifully warm weather. The space, while much bigger than I’ve had for this show before, was still intimate enough for me to zero in on individual crowd members with ease. There was something great about having open sky above me while insisting to the audience that we were deep beneath the sea.
I’ve had a year to monkey with the performance and expositional challenges of the play and I can really see that work starting to pay off. The succinct description of the basic plot in this City News review gave me a huge sense of relief. Talking to people afterwards it seems that the (pretty involved) story world of the play is communicating clearly to people regardless of how many sci-fi reference points they might already have in their head. At least enough for people to be able to comfortably engage with the live character journey. I like to think that improvements in my acting have make as much of a difference to this as tweaks to the script.
Next stop for the show is New Zealand Fringe in February. Now that the story side of the work has leveled up somewhat the production team (Adam Thomas, Paul Heslin and Sam King) and I are keen to push the envelope with the nature of the Bomb Collar itself. If you missed this run don’t sweat it, the longer you take to catch the show the weirder it’ll be!
Photos by Luuuuuuuke McGrath!
I was elated to be asked to participate in the Words On A Wire series being held at the Ainslie & Gorman House Arts Centres. The event involves pairing a writer and a musician to create a twenty minute collaborative work, to be performed live at the Ralph Wilson theatre. It’s inspired by the rise of storytelling podcasts and other mixed-medium formats.
I’ve been paired with musician Digby Tomes. We had not met until onstage last week, where we (and the four other participants in this series) shared a short example of our work. I read a short story I wrote while in Edinburgh, heavily inspired by Lorrie Moore and Richard Brautigan.
The program director also provided each coupling with an image from the Ainslie & Gorman House Arts Centres’ archives, a ‘provocation’ to use as a starting point for the piece. Ours is a still from a 1988 production of The Emperor’s New Clothes, by the Canberra Youth Theatre.
I’ve begun work on an exciting idea, and I’m especially keen to see how it works with Digby’s music.
Oh, and this is the photo I sent them for my writer’s bio…
Behold – Faux Faux Amis’s video for our cover of Stenxh’s You Know.
The track was intended as part of a compilation of acts on Early Music covering each other. That album never eventuated, but we pushed ahead and finished our version earlier this year. Catherine suggested You Know and I loved the idea because it’s so far removed from our typical sound. We take several liberties with the arrangement – in particular, returning to our straight-ahead punk leanings on the coda. Catherine delivers a towering performance on lead vocals; however the true MVP is our multi-talented drummer Darren Atkinson. Not only is this the first recorded piece we have with Darren on the skins, but he also produced the track, arranging and performing most of the instrumentation in the blissed-out second section (and contributing some killer vocals at the end). Plus, he let me loose on the melodica – something few producers have been game to do before! I love the texture the melodica brings, lending an ethereal atmosphere to the song.
A track with such an otherworldly vibe required a matching video. There are very few ways to up your production values without spending any money, but one is to make use of any exotic locales you might come across. So far, I’ve filmed an episode of One Pot Punk Rock in New Zealand, and the Faux Faux Amis’ video Holiday Inn in Brooklyn. For this clip, I took my camera out on our first night in Marrakech, exploring Jemaa el-Fnaa square.
The square is surreal, a swirling carnival of snake-charmers, games of chance, musicians, monkeys, colourful characters, eateries and throngs upon throngs of revellers. Anywhere else would hold an event like this as a yearly festival, but here it happens every day. The camera was a magnet for hustlers and touts, but I just pinballed around all night, swept up in the dazzling and disorienting sights we witnessed. I double-downed on the kaleidoscopic feel by mirroring the footage (also effective at obscuring my shaky camerawork). Between the track and the video, I feel it’s the most psychedelic thing we have done yet.