theatARGH

thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

Archive for Richard Vabre

Review of Apocalypse Bear Trilogy, MTC

Young people characters in popular culture tend to suffer one of two fates. The first, which we’ve seen since the fifties and perpetuated into the new millennium by the Disney Channel and High School Musical, is the glowing, effervescent, mostly-white, asexual charmer whose smile is so severe it threatens to pierce their unfathomably rosy cheeks. Even amidst all their adventures, troubles and strife, said youth is always looking out for their friends, and for that which is ‘right’ in face of ‘evil’ and the temptations of the ‘wrong’. Because, naturally, innocence is something that needs to be contained. The other is the youth turned more troubled and tortured, impossible and unrelenting, on the cusp of their pubescent explosion. The bigness of emotion and the fires of injustice and rage begin to surface; think Degrassi High or even the bitchy backstabbing and Machiavellian manipulation of The Babysitter’s Club. Sweetness is replaced with blots of sadness – suddenly the world is a far more complicated and dissatisfying place – and nobody, nobody, understands. How often, though, do we see youth characters which flit between these boundaries; which avoid the stereotypes of the angst-ridden teen and somehow deal with the fantastical and magical naivety, and wonder, of childhood that they are leaving behind, but which we know never really leaves us? Young people are, after all, a strange and mystifying bunch – their hopes, fears and insecurities are amplified and expressed in the most confusing ways – which somehow makes their contradictions and complexities all the more difficult to navigate. It is easy to see them one way or the other – to simplify them as separate from adults, and in their own chrysalises, waiting to discover their new bodies and emerge as mature men and women of the world. But to wrap flesh around their uncertain bones and to explore the darkness, the dreams and the chaos within – to really look at them, and see them for all that they are as youth – is so much richer, and also so very human, regardless of what we may find. Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Wretch, La Mama Theatre

Friday marked ten years to the day that Sarah Kane committed suicide in the bathroom of her King’s College hospital room. To commemorate the decade since her passing, BBC Radio 1 aired Blasted: The Life and Times of Sarah Kane, a short documentary by the University of London’s Dan Rebellato about her work, its impact and its legacy in contemporary British theatre, which is available for streaming until the 26th of February. One of the points that it raised was that the posthumous mythologising of Kane as a morbid, tortured Queen of Darkness was to sell her short; to miss the implicit humanity and humour in both her character and her short body of works. Her friend Vincent O’Connel, in addressing what he calls the “authorised version” of Kane, stated: “As well as listening to Joy Division, she’d be equally likely to be dancing to George Michael or playing Miles Davis tunes on her trumpet. She liked dark humour, for sure, but she’d also laugh herself silly at Laurel Hardy or Fawlty Towers.” Critics were all too quick, particularly in the UK, to attribute Kane’s use of theatrical violence to the emergence and popularity of the in-yer-face playwrights: Ravenhill, McDonagh, Butterworth and so forth, which is debatable in itself. But as that movement has largely dissipated, it is interesting, and timely, to think how Kane’s influence and impact on theatre writing is now felt; whether a new generation of writers will consider, or reject, her approaches to the craft. Angus Cerini’s Wretch is certainly a case in study, and a uniquely Australian one at that.

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