Tag Archives: Mark Pigott

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE

Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr
Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr

Using actual transcripts and wiretaps from the ICAC hearings into Wollongong Council lends THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE a gripping sense of immediacy. The corruption saga had a heady mix of bribes, sex, developers, ICAC impersonators and threats of violence. We are voyeuristically entertained with numerous scenarios from this tawdry media sensation.

This innovative production by Version 1.0 and Merrigong Theatre Company makes use of a wonderful set and video presentations. The audience is greeted by large blocks of colour dominating the rear of the stage and during the play these alternate between actual video footage and cartoon like representations of Wollongong streetscapes, greenfield sites and proposed developments. Sean Bacon’s visuals are quite stunning. The use of large plastic toy blocks is a colourful and clever device.

The actors play various characters and as they are often reciting ICAC transcripts it is very clear who they are portraying. “Mr Vellar, can you explain to the court…..etc”. There are also video screens further explaining who is speaking and in what particular context. Occasionally the actors will address the audience.

There is an opening address by Russell Kiefel explaining that these type of events could only happen in Wollongong, until the other actors, Angela Bauer, Jane Phegan, Kym Vercoe and Arky Michael chime in with “or Port MacQuarie, or (very topically) Ryde, or Randwick, or Burwood.” It is tacitly conceded that corruption in local government is widespread.

The performances are consistently strong and engaging. Kym Vercoe’s performance as Beth Morgan, the town planner who had sexual relations with two of the developers, starts out as confident and enjoying the expensive gifts she receives for assisting with planning applications before deteriorating into a scared and nervous wreck. Arky Michael’s performance as corrupt developer Frank Vellar captures the hubris and confidence of such a colourful character. Russell Kiefel’s Rod Oxley, General Manager of Council, has the audience almost believing that his unlawful practices were really in the best interests of Wollongong.

There are many laughs in this play, mostly from the outrageous behaviour of the main protagonists. At other times the mood is dark and threatening as the criminals exert menace and pressure on the corrupt and vulnerable.

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE runs until July 21 at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose.

 

THE PAST

Asghar Farhadi's brilliant new film, THE PAST
Asghar Farhadi’s brilliant new film, THE PAST

Director and writer Asghar Farhadi has followed up his wonderful film, A SEPARATION, with another outstanding and engaging drama.

Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) has flown to France to finalise his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo, who played Peppy Miller in THE ARTIST). THE PAST explores the complex relationships between Ahmad and Marie, and Marie’s children from a previous marriage, and Marie’s new boyfriend and his son.

There are wonderful performances from the strong cast. Marie’s sixteen year old daughter Lucie, played by Pauline Burlet, displays the indulgent petulance of an uncontrolled teenager, the joy and warmth of a young woman reconnecting with her long absent step-father figure (Ahmad), and the angst of a deeply troubled individual.

Bérénice Bejo captures brilliantly the complex character of Marie. She shows fondness for her ex husband Ahmad but simultaneously some old conflicts re-emerge. Similarly she has the same complex relationship with her daughter Marie, her boyfriend Samir (Tahar Rahim) and his young son Fouad (Elyes Aguis).

Elyes’ performance is unbelievably good as the primary school aged boy dealing with his father’s new girlfriend, his mother in hospital in a coma and the kindly man from Iran who seems to have brought conflict and mayhem with him. Ali Mosaffa, as the kindly Ahmad, plays his part with great dignity.

Asghar Farhadi’s story is worthy of these wonderful performances. No character’s position is all black or all white. At times they behave admirably and on other occasions with reckless disregard for the other characters. Layered upon this nuanced interplay is a narrative with unexpected twists and turns, situations that are easily misinterpreted as a result of incorrect assumptions, and then are instances of characters trying to get away with slight, self-serving deceptions.

Farhadi examines the role of the past in our present. Can we ignore the past and get on with our lives? Is it better to deal with the past, to apologise and seek forgiveness? This delightful film gives us lots of material to ponder. I thoroughly recommend THE PAST.

THE PAST was recently shown at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

BREATHING MONSTER

Myriam Gourfink in BREATHING MONSTER. Pic Nicholas Chaussy
Myriam Gourfink in BREATHING MONSTER. Pic N. Chaussy

BREATHING MONSTER is a joint presentation by Performance Space and National Art School which opened at the Cell Block Theatre on Friday, 14th June.

This performance is a challenging work. It attempts to connect to the audience’s visceral responses through a minimalist visual aesthetic being ruptured by a dissonant soundscape.

The promoters have described BREATHING MONSTER as a performance of abstract and hypnotic movement, set to a soundscape created and manipulated by Kasper Toeplitz on an electric bass. It is part of SWITCHED ON, Performance Space’s new season of four projects that explore our physical and personal relationship to technology.

The performance opened with Myriam Gourfink sitting on the edge of a ten metre catwalk as a soft, deep rumbling bass welled up and engulfed the space. It was as if the fantastic old sandstone walls of the Cell Block Theatre (part of the old Darlinghurst gaol) were releasing intrinsic vibrations. Kasper Poeplitz’s electric bass is processed through a computer to create what he refers to as “data-noise” so what starts as a deep haunting bass tone transformed into a discordant, grating soundscape.

As the sound progressed Myriam Gourfink started her painstakingly slow movements along the catwalk. It was not an orthodox dance performance but more akin to a living sculpture, reminiscent of slow motion yoga or a Pilates exercise. She created some sublime abstract forms with her body that were very human and simultaneously very animalistic, as she deliberately and gracefully folded and unfolded her limbs and contorted and moved her body.

Myriam’s black body suit was highlighted and enhanced by the high overhead lights, four at the rear of the stage and three halfway down each side of the hall. At each end of the catwalk there was a single fluorescent tube, defining the physical performance space and linked to Kasper by uplighting his guitar and computer by a single fluorescent tube on the floor.

BREATHING MONSTER  has a short season, closing Sunday 16th June. Details can be viewed at www.performancespace.com.au

TENDERNESS

Belgian filmmaker Marion Hansel

Director Marion Hänsel’s film TENDERNESS, screening at this years’ Sydney Film Festival, is a funny and tender film.

Ski instructor Jack (Adrien Jolivet) has injured his leg in a snowboarding accident with his girlfriend in the French Alps and needs his long divorced parents, Frans (Olivier Gourmet) and Lisa (Marilyne Canto) to drive from Belgium to collect him and his van.

The film is a lovely character study of two old friends who have progressed beyond the bitterness of their divorce. They irritate each other, in some ways still love each other, and have the interests of their son to bind them.  Marilyne Canto gives a delightful performance as an intelligent independent woman with a pleasant hint of zaniness whilst Olivier Gourmet blends middle aged arrogance with a gruff good nature. A gentle humour suffuses the film. There are many wry comments and observations.

Little actually happens in the film, other than a two day road trip through beautifully filmed European scenery. Cinematographer Jan Vancaillie is to be applauded. The opening scene belongs to him as two tiny figures ski down a magical pristine snow covered mountain in long, slow languid curves.

The parents meet Jack’s sweet and charming girlfriend, Alison (Margaux Chatelier). The four characters have regular conversations, basically friendly with some minor irritations that different generations will encounter. Jack and Alison are deeply in love and, when they cannot be with each other, are constantly texting and calling each other.

Whilst this film does not seem to have great drama and theatricality it does have simple and strong emotions, an intelligent narrative, and, all in all, is richly satisfying.

 

GINGER AND ROSA

ginger-and-rosA

Sally Potter’s GINGER AND ROSA, screened at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival, is a lovely film about two teenage girls on the cusp of growing up and of England’s transfer from its post World War II gloom to the swinging sixties.

England in 1962, still haunted by World War II, had a plausible fear that all human life could be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

Ginger and Rosa have been inseparable friends since their mothers gave birth to them in adjoining beds in a maternity ward in 1945. They played together as children but by 1962 they are more interested in kissing boys, fashion, music and smoking cigarettes. Ginger is also interested in Simone de Beuavoir, T.S.Eliot and nuclear disarmament.

Ginger’s father, Roland, is a charismatic bohemian and a pacifist and an inspiration for Ginger’s developing ideas about activism. Rosa sees Roland as fun and attractive and as someone she believes she has a deep connection with.

These numerous strands of the film make thoughtful observations about the personal and the universal. This is a story about the implosion of individual relationships and potential nuclear explosions brought about by the weapons build-up and the Cuban missile crisis. We are reminded of the dire world political situation via regular radio news broadcasts.

Ginger’s mother Natalie is played by Christina Hendricks of MAD MEN fame. Her emotional performance illuminates the gender inequalities of the time as she struggles to look after her daughter and deal with her freedom loving husband. Roland has a narrow selfish view of freedom, providing a counterpoint to the film’s broader themes.

The exceptional cast responds to Sally Potter’s deft direction with balanced performances that capture the mood and the era seamlessly. Lead actors Elle Fanning and Alice Englert’s fine performance are beautifully supported by Alessandro Nivola (Roland), family friends Timothy Spall (Mark), Oliver Platt (Mark Two), and Annette Bening (Bella); and Jodhi May (Anoushka, Rosa’s mother). The muted greys and browns of Robbie Ryan’s cinematography add to the sense of era and location.

GINGER AND ROSA is an excellent film and hopefully will get a wider release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BETRAYAL

betrayal

Director Kirill Serebrennikov’s film BETRAYAL, seen at the current Sydney Film Festival, is an engrossing and fascinating film.

The film opens in a doctor’s surgery where we meet the two main characters. A doctor, credited as She, and played with haunting detachment by Franziska Petri, examines the heart of He, played with strength and sensitivity by Dejan Lilic. During the examination she tells him that their spouses are having an affair. Unsurprisingly the heart monitor has an intense reaction.

As with many aspects of this film many details are not explained. How he happened to come to this hospital for a check-up and how she made the connection between her patient and her husband’s lover is left to the audience to decide. Nevertheless it turns out that She, the doctor, is an excellent sleuth and shows her disbelieving patient where the lovers meet, the bench they sit on, the hotel they have coffee in and the hotel room where their liaison takes place.

BETRAYAL has a film noir sensibility but it is set in an icy urban Russian landscape. Inexplicable events and Franziska Petri’s disturbing presence also make the film feel like an understated horror movie. Adventurous camera techniques such as extreme off centre framing and frequent use of reflections draws the viewers eyes away from the normal focus points just as your attention is drawn away from the superficial storyline in search of what is really going on in this film. An early fatal car accident has only minimal impact on the central story. It is unclear as to why a policewoman wants He to kiss her. Guna Zarina’s fantastic policewoman’s role hovers between ruthless, brilliant and bureaucratic.

At one level this film is a love story and an examination of betrayal and the responses of the protagonists to their situations but the unsettling mood created and various unexpected and unexplained events make this a very thought provoking film.

Other cast members are the beautiful Albina Dzhanabaeva, and Yakov Levda. The script was written by Natalia Nazarova and Kirill Serebrennikov and there was excellent cinematography by Oleg Lukichev.