Thursday, February 6, 2020

Ponydance- Clown? Dance? Or beyond? This essay got lost, but now it’s found.

.Clown Phenomenon – Pony Dance

To my understanding ‘clown’ is like the archetypal ‘fool’ as per the tarot card – an independent wanderer about to step from a precipice into an abyss called home. When you see Pony Dance whether in a theatre, street or club it is, as if, you’ve been welcomed home after a long journey lost in a cynical world.  They are a joy to see while they challenge our preconceptions about dance, clown, acting, theatre and being ‘modern’. 

Again Pony Dance has proved here in Edinburgh that they are pioneering a hybrid form that transcends clown, dance, and theatre. The key ingredient is the director/choreographer/dancer Leonie McDonagh from near Carrick-on-Shannon cum Belfast. The current show is the third that I have seen from Pony Dance and if you ever wondered who took facial expression away from dancers – Pony Dance has put it back. If you ever wondered who are the culprit clown ‘teachers’ that insist clowns just stand still – do nothing – stop their bodies from actual play….. Pony Dance has returned clowning to a full total embodiment. Their embodied way is not just physical it is also intellectual. Many professional clowns are deeply skilled in clown craft, just as many are not actually funny even though as craftsmen they know how to ‘get laughs’. The Pony Dance performers are all funny, genuinely, authentically. The audience roars, cheers and falls earnestly in love with them. Yet the Ponies are pushing the envelope on many levels. They are profoundly Beckettian in that they explore waiting and longing like Vladimir and Estragon with ADHD. They use anything and any way they feel like it. 

They work very hard in the studio and so far all of their shows demand 100% attention and driven vitality from each performer. The audience loves seeing them work hard and loves seeing them play hard.
Their shows all have a direct audience communication as in clown, commedia, and stand-up comedy. Many of their shows have a spanner-in-the-works or wild card in that some of the shows either have the actors amongst the audience or some of the audience amongst the actors. Very hands on stuff. 

Their show “Where Did It All Go Right” (Winner of Best of Fringe – Dance Award 2012 – Adelaide) definitely was a hands-on each night by at least one lucky audience member. That show and their current “Anybody Waitin’?” in Edinburgh’s Silk nightclub (Edinburgh 2012) are site-specific i.e. made to be performed in either a bar, pub, or nightclub. Other shows of theirs are stage/theatre shows. But they also have rocked it on the street and in Womade (Adelaide) they were a hit also on the street. They’ve won various awards, grants, commissions since we first started working together – me as their mentor (officially since 2009 unofficially since 2008).

There have been eight dancers since I have known them and all have outstanding qualities personally and professionally and intellectually. On stage they have all mastered dumber than dumb yet the overall act is extremely stimulating intellectually. Somehow through all their shenanagins  and kitsch veneer they challenge the way the audience thinks about what they are seeing so that the audience clearly becomes involved mind-to-mind with the quick wit and antics of Pony Dance.

Leonie is 100% the driving force yet she is a young master of collaboration on fire. Each of the dancers is a true equal participant in her company. Paula O’Reilly is 100% the muse. She is a queen of funny for sure. She has the stage presence of a divine wicked clownesse. Paula and Leonie bounce ideas and forces both in the office, studio, onstage and as required in schmoozing and having a ball at the festivals. Paula is also very much an Auntie to Leonie’s young son.

Yet, at the same time, each of the dancers (Duane and Ryan in Edinburgh, as well as Deirdre of the recent and next Australian tours, and earlier dancers Neil, Carl, Oona) are given space to be a creative partner with Leonie and is driven by Leonie to go further. To go all the way your own way - may be the catch phrase of this company.  

Leonie McDonagh has something to say and has chosen her own iconoclast path that is a humorous poignant, touching, and kinetic deconstruction of post-modernism. Her soul is both deeply ancient Celt, Irish, and drastically modern. Something in her is aligned with the Irish theatre action towards independence as were Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett. Their movement is our movement, that is, actively learning to cast off ones intellectual shackles and fighting to offer something better. 

Pony Dance release an essence of a pure, spiritual creative fire and Leonie’s work allows that energy to emerge uniquely from each performer in her company.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A GLIMPSE INTO THE AUSTRALIAN CIRCUS FESTIVAL

A GLIMPSE INTO THE AUSTRALIAN CIRCUS FESTIVAL

The Australian Circus Festival has just completed it’s 4th attempt. This was more than twice the dimension of the 3rd attempt in 2017. The brainchild of Jasmine Straga an internationally respected teacher, choreographer, and mentor of solo contortionists and aerialists. She is from an artistic gymnastics background and shifted into circus and performed for ten years in some of Mexico’s largest circuses before returning to Australia and starting JS Creations and founding this festival.

Jasmine has the moral support of numerous circus schools of which there are an abundance throughout Australia. These schools have a hidden precedence. For many decades Australia had more ballet schools per capita than anywhere else in the world. The homebred Aussie dancers were members in leading ballet and dance companies in the Western World. That included the Rockhampton trained Benjamin sisters of the Royal Ballet. Circus schools appear to be superseding or at least matching that history of ballet and dance schools’ popularity here. 

The Australian Circus Festival has appeared along with this zeitgeist as a sign of the times. The World Federation of Circus Festivals includes this new member, particularly as the result of the success of Jasmine’s advanced students who come to her from a variety of nations. The festival follows her breadth of inclusivity with participation welcomed and provided for circus artists from community, social, special needs as well as pre-professional and professional divisions. 

So the festival has a great humanitarian feeling and palpable energy which transcends the performing arts. It has the wow and warmth factors that were the backbone of circus’ ancient and continuing popularity. The festival is as much international as it is interstate. International includes the cousins across the Tasman - Flip n Fly Circus of Auckland, as well as the closer yet islander siblings in Tasmania inclusive of Circ’s Cool Circus school of tiny Launceston. Flip n Fly and Circ’s Cool Circus are both led by highly experienced tent circus touring professionals. 

This brings us to another interesting factor of this contemporary circus festival. This festival is strongly, actively, and practically supported by generations established circus families. Last festival and this festival the Lennon Family provided the tents and all variety of necessary equipment including rigging, winches, seating, lights, as well as employed backstage expert crew who were fully assisted by a plethora of capable volunteers some of whom are experienced in circus and some of whom just had a total immersion working 14 hour days eight days in a row. The festival has the pleasant ‘can-do’ spirit, as well as, ‘I think we might just be able to squeeze it in, so let’s give it a go’ esprit de corps. 

Not to single out individuals as there is no doubt it was a team effort of around 50 or 60 people working long hours including the sleep deprived ensemble as well as Jasmine. She was ably assisted by Claire Reincastle of Circus Akimbo. However, without a number of team leaders and their essential assistants such a homegrown personally financed festival could not eventuate. The Operations Manager was 5th generation circus artist Shane Lennon. He and Nancy Lennon of Hudson’s Circus are total hands on leaders who were often seen lifting, carrying, pulling. Not only pulling up the flying trapeze net but also pulling expresso coffees in the festival canteen. 

Other leaders included 5th generation circus artist Carlo Urban who was born into the Hungarian Urban family. Carlo ran his state-of-art winch for eight different artistic programs which included multiple dozens of aerial acts.  Importantly, also, artistically this festival had one of the most wonderful circus festival directors, from Switzerland, Patrick Rosseel. Patrick worked for Schweizer National Circus Knie for 24 years, as well as a number of the largest European circus festivals including Cirque de Monte Carlo. Jasmine and Shane explained that Patrick also worked tirelessly long hours as full program rehearsals started early in the morning and the working days included two performances per day. The two ‘in-between’ days were dawn through evening rehearsal and technical processes. Further, they noted that Patrick was a highly disciplined ‘captain’ and taskmaster who had a vision that ensured the integrity of the each showcase and the festival as a whole as the Stage and Artistic Director. 

The eight programs included approximately 150 acts from numerous schools including Avion Aerials and Circus Arts, circus families including Ludwig Schukin and his children, and individuals. So please forgive that I can only mention a few within this short narrative, a glimpse. Although the majority of acts were solos and duets, there were also numerous team and large group acts. There were over 300 performers. This included youths who are 7th generation of circus families as well as numerous artistes performing for their first time in a big top tent. 

The Juries were from a pool of about 20 people. That included overseas guests; Valentina Savina of the Moscow Circus School; Zsuzsanna Mata Executive Director of Federation Mondiale du Cirque; Betty Butler - Co-Founder of Circus Juventas; Stacy Clark - Casting Director, Sourcing and Recruitment for Cirque du Soleil; Rongquan Xie Wuqiao International Circus Festival; Bayarsaikhan Odonchimeg of Flip n Fly. There were a variety of Australian Jury members. Several were from long established circus families and those included; Bekki Ashton, Dante Ashton-Harrison; Schantel Kathriner; Craig Bullen, There was also a Jury team comprised of youths including 7th generation Rikki Ashton-Harrison. 

Naturally, there was a huge variety of acts including outstanding artistes of the Fujian Troupe of China, and, one artiste originally from Cirkus Smirkus in the USA. 

More than those who happened to win the variety of prizes it appeared every day that this festival is a winning formula in international and interstate collaboration through participation. Jasmine and Shane explained that their main assistants had to wear multiple hats and jump in when needed, so in a practical way they both said they really each needed three more assistants. In other words, a substantial grant or grants or sponsorship is now required for the next stages of their vision. Also assisting in a variety of ways were Ashton Family members such as Tanya, Bekki, and Jessie who besides being one of the world’s greatest cascadeurs - a clown specialising in acrobatic falls - he was essential to help with the complex lighting that Patrick established.

There were several Lifetime Achievement Awards given to Lorraine Ashton Grant and Gary Grant, Robert and Bernice Perry, Frank Gasser. Another day such an award was given to legendary clown and former tumbler of The Seven Ashtons, Dougie, and Sally Ashton. It happened that in addition to Dougie the other of Australia’s senior most clowns Gary Grant also visited this day. I could not believe that finally after decades of living in Australia I could go and chat with both Dougie and Gary at the same time. Accompanying me was the clown, aerialist, dancer, whip-cracker Amanda-Lyn Pearson of The Crackup Sisters. 

When we got to Dougie, Gary, Sally, over walked Pixi Robinson who was a former risley, trapeze flyer, and musician, who also had been the first Artistic Director of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Pixi has also long been a key admin and publicity person for circuses and this festival. Then as we we all began to chat, Carlo Urban came over, quite shyly to greet Dougie and Sally who he had not seen since he was 9 years old when they were all in Frank Gasser’s Circus Royale. 

In addition to Carlo operating the winch mentioned earlier and running the performances technically on the ground and backstage, he also appeared, as a technician to assist the exceptional clown Walison Muh. Carlo had about 8 quick entrances into Walison’s balloon version of the William Tell Gag. The gag Chaplin does with his lifetime colleague Henry Bergman in a film The Circus of 1928. The timing between Walison and Carlo was utterly impeccable and funny and included perfected ‘real’, authentic comic pratfalls. After congratulating Walison, I then sought Carlo to congratulate him and to find out more about his background. Ever so humbly he answered my curiosity and yes as a child with his family he learned and performed their classic clown routines and as he matured he also was in their Knockabout acrobatic acts. The five generations, that is over 100 years of circus means that he like others of such families, are filled with a deep knowledge, embodied in their bones and spirit. 

Jasmine has mentored a number of her students through related festivals into their first full circus contracts, knows very well, performance awards can help. As she explained professional footage from each showcase is a most excellent tool which the agents and circus owners appreciate i.e. a live performance with audience reactions, in a tent, with professional stage lighting. Yet, everyone at the festival seems to support the altruistic side of circus i.e. ‘let’s put on the best possible show’ under present circumstances. The word ‘circumstances’ my teacher Carlo from Italy pronounced as ‘circus-stanzas’. 

The ‘circus-stanzas’ of the final program titled the Pre-Professional Program had several highlights, here are a few. There happened to be one of the most beautiful, elegant, artistic straps solos I have ever seen. That was by Christopher Frances Bate, a multi-skilled acrobat from Flip N Fly. Also in this final showcase was a superb static trapeze duet by Moira Campbell and Rosilani Mordaunt of Spaghetti Circus. Like Bates’ act this duet was fully ready for an international circus. Another static trapeze duet had a bit of ‘static’ with the timing of their winch. Suddenly in the circus it was a real drama, very real theatre. There was a technical miscue early in the performance. The ‘boss’ artist signalled for the trapeze and duet to be lowered. She walked over calmly, with clarity, and purpose. Truly beyond what we see when aerialists try to ‘act’ or ‘stylise’ clarity and purpose. This was notably different, totally real. She very briefly called the shots to the crew and MC and let them know ‘We’ll start again’. The duet exited. Behind the curtain. The MC announced the act. The curtains opened. The act was flawless and elegant. That duet was Isobel Moore and Jeanli Pelletier.

One more event, also under extenuating ‘circus-stanzas’, also wowed the audience and Jury, but, no viewer knew the back story. It happened to be that I presented their Gold Award. In the duet was a powerful small performer we had seen in previous days in two other outstanding aerial acts, a quartet, then a solo. This static trapeze duet was very advanced technically and artistically and in performance. It was only one of two mixed doubles aerial acts of the festival. The other, a theatrical duo straps act, was one of Juventas outstanding acts they brought to Australia. 

Now with this static trapeze act I asked ‘take me to your leader’ i.e. could I meet your coach. It was Schantel Kathriner of Circ’s Cool. Schantel then informed me of the drama behind this act. The afore mentioned ‘powerful small performer’, Jemaliye Aykiran, had another young male partner for a different aerial duet, but he got injured. So, Jemaliye asked Schantel to help her make another duet. This new duet was created with a wonderful young man, Leuka Robson, who we had seen in another act. However, he and Little Miss Powerful had never worked together although they are both students of Schantel. In just over a week, the three of them put together this outstanding act. Extraordinary. The Jury never knew the story, but was impressed simply with what they saw and awarded this act the Gold Award.  Schantel then introduced me to her 11 year old daughter, Mia Carroll, who in the first showcase of the week performed her own creation. That was an homage to her grandfather, the great circus-man Rene Kathriner who Passed Away one year ago. Mia’s acrobatic act had a background slide show throughout of her Grandfather’s photos from his enormous array of circus acts..

To conclude, in circus the adage is true that ‘everything old is new again’. There is no doubt that the circus evolution is not new even though it is clearly evolving in a variety of directions. There was a vast network of community circus, acrobatic and slapstick classes nationwide in the USA well established by the 1920s. Those circus classes were run at the YMCA’s. That was at the tail end of Vaudeville and during a time when the USA had about 200 touring tent circuses.  

The more broad circus programs going all the way up to flying trapeze and high wire included from 1950 the Wenatchee Youth Circus on the West Coast. On the East Coast there was from 1947 FSU-Flying High Circus; from 1949 the Sarasota Sailor’s Circus. Cirkus Smirkus from 1987. Co-Director of Juventas, Betty, began in the Sailor’s Circus. But the most revolutionary school was the Moscow Circus School established in 1927 and extended to create exemplary schools throughout the Soviet and former Soviet empire. That led to there being 100 circus buildings in the USSR. France’s Annie Fratellini and Pierre Etaix established École Nationale du Cirque in 1975. 

Shane Lennon, and others of the long established circus families are seeing a clear development and growing interest from young adults coming from the various  youth circuses who would like to ‘run away and join the circus’ olde school style in a tent. Part of the dream, fantasy, hope, vision of The Australian Circus Festival according to Jasmine and Shane, is that there can be a meeting ground, a ‘corroboree’ if you will, where the different factions of the hugely varied worlds of circus can come together as a ‘broad church’ community of diversity and share in the common cause of joy and betterment of societies.   

Written by Ira Seidenstein

Official Industry Awards:
Lifetime Achievement Awards:
•Frank Gasser
•Doug & Sally Ashton
Robert Perry and Bernice Perry
•Gary Grant & Lorraine Ashton Grant
Federation Mondale du Cirque (Awarded by Zsuzsanna Mata):
•John LeMare for his contribution to the global circus industry
Australian Circus Federation (Awarded by Pepe Ashton):
•John LeMare for his long-standing contribution to the Australian Circus Industry.
Young Indigenous Circus Artist of 2019:
•Abigale Tinker
Indigenous Circus Artist of 2019
Sabu Award for Advocating Classical Circus with animals:
•Mrs Zelie Bullen
Animal Welfare Award 2019
Kelly Maynard of Circus Eronis.
•Best Contemporary Circus Director 2019: •Natano Fa'anana                                                   Photo is Walison MuhDirector                               
PPH

WRIT

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Synchronistic Shakespeare

On the days that I do yoga in my living room I am surrounded by 8 bookcases. When I do seated asanas I am next to 2 of the bookcases. One of those has my books on Shakespeare, Chaplin, Beckett, Joyce. So I always see titles which tempt me. I almost always give in that temptation and select the book that that catches my interest. Today it was “The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups”. I would say 2/3 of my books I have yet to read. I collect them for future reference or future reading.

I had looked at the book after I first acquired it. Today I delved in from the beginning. The author, Ron Rosenbaum relates that after 30 years of fascination with Shakespeare he finally wants to understand and document this passion. More than that he wants to see if he can explain to readers why Shakespeare is so enthralling. He quotes another scholar, Stephen Booth, who said “What’s all the fuss about”?

Rosenbaum notes that he was triggered by a metaphysical experience while teaching a literature course and at this particular moment was examining how two sonnets by Shakespeare spoke differently one from the other about love. Later he was on a literature pilgrimage in the UK and stopped to see Shakespeare’s birthplace. There were two plays on at the local theatre so he saw both. One was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As it turned out this shattered and recreated his conception of how Shakespeare plays can be produced. In subsequent years of studying that play he would get every printed version and study the notes within. Many versions later one had a particular note about the character’s name Bottom.





The production he saw at Stratford-upon-Avon was what later became known as a landmark production by Peter Brook. A few days ago I saw a new production of that was an homage to Brook’s version. The one I just saw was NT Live to Cinema’s aired Bridge Theatre production produced by Nicolas Hynter. As I have explained in my book Clown Secret in the chapter Shakespeare Bits, too many excellent English speaking actors point too often on particular words and I believe that mechanically these particular gestures on particular words which I list, breaks up the rhythm of the play and playing. The first half of the production, like most, had more than 100 times when actors pointed on those particular words and thus break the dramatic flow. I liked the ‘stuff’ i.e. set construction for the production and I felt that the last part Act 5 had more value.

Notably, Rosenbaum notes that most productions of Shakespeare he had seen have never matched that early Peter Brook production in 1968. Presumably and likely Rosenbaum has seen more than one hundred Shakespeare productions or more between 1968 and 2006 when the book was published. So his book is in part trying to understand what Brook’s production got right and what is missing in most productions. Clown Secrets tells about this in a practical way that could help any actor, director, or production. Coincidently a few weeks ago a book I had written in 1996 was located now in 2019. I never published the book as the online self-publishing was not readily available in 1996. That book has several practical chapters on how to improve Shakespeare performances and productions. I am doing some minimal edits and will publish that book Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare this year or early 2020.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

BREAKING THE DOGMA IN TEACHING ACTING, SHAKESPEARE, CLOWN, COMMEDIA, CIRCUS, PERFORMING ARTS.

Orthodoxy happens in all fields. When new information or better approaches or broader perspectives appear in any field they are called heterodoxy (diverse ideas) and the orthodoxy in the field does everything to prevent new information from reaching the ears and minds of others. The article below documents exactly how this occurs when the researcher discovers something new, based on something old. 

http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/archaeology/book-extract-has-australian-researcher-lynne-kelly-discovered-the-secret-to-stonehenge/news-story/9f8acc3c765b9e64151d3bc5bd5c4f0f

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dame Cecily Courtneidge - female comic acrobat, comedienne. One of Australia's 'first' female 'clowns'

" Cicely Courtneidge was born on April 1, 1893 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia as Esmerelda Cicely Courtneidge. Her father was from England"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYQNfMFs7uA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicely_Courtneidge

She returned to Australia briefly in a comedy musical Under the Counter (1943?).

Her fame arose in tandem with her husband http://laughterlog.com/2009/03/24/performers-cicely-courtneidge-and-jack-hulbert/

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Carlo's Revenge - a project honoring my teacher Carlo Mazzone-Clementi

I am in Italy, the country of Carlo's birth. This project "Commedia Toto" owes much to Carlo and is a transference of his energy. Carlo was complex and I understood early that he was like a fire and if you got too close you might get burned. There are others who could tell drastically more about Carlo than me but that is up to them to write or not to.

Carlo was the person who first told me about Toto the great Italian clown. In Australia around Christmas SBS would show a Toto movie annually. A few years ago for the new generation SBS began to show Roberto Begnini's Pinocchio instead. Carlo was also my initial teacher in Commedia dell'arte.

"Commedia Toto" reflects my own interest in a holistic integration of clown and commedia dell'arte. This is counter to the teaching in theatre about 'styles' in which there are claims that 'clown' is a 'style' and that clown is separate or distinct from 'commedia'. Such distinctions are only one way of understanding theatre.

I have found that teaching categorical separation of 'styles' in theatre is Cartesian (Rene Decartes) in that it separates rather than integrates.

In many ways I use Shakespeare as the ultimate theatre fulcrum. Shakespeare integrated clown, commedia, tragedy and comedy. I disagree with the clear distinctions of Shakespeare's works as tradition maintains it as: tragedy, comedy, history plays. For example Henry V is considered a 'history' play yet it is filled with clowning (comedy). Antony & Cleopatra is sometimes referred to by scholars and directors as a tragedy or a history. Which is it? Or can't it be both? Yet if it is either a tragedy or a history why is it filled with comedy? Then is it a comedy? Again that reflects a Cartesian approach and I feel there are better ways to consider such works.

Commedia dell'arte itself is filled with clowning. Antony & Cleopatra in fact or in my view is also a great commedia dell'arte play. There is a real possibility and maybe even a probability that Shakespeare spent three formative years in Italy. A large percentage of his plays take place in Italy (Venice, Padua, Verona). Some of Shakespeare's plays are partially in or related to Italy - Antony & Cleopatra, The Tempest, and Cymbeline.   

I consider Toto one of the most direct links to commedia dell'arte. He is like a pure cultural lineage. He even explains that his first experience in theatre was with a commedia dell'arte show. Of course the purest romantic form of commedia ended in the 1600s. It had remnants into the 1700s and one of those extended farther as the Price family of pantomime players from England joined forces (and families through marriage) with an Italian commedia family when the two met in Copenhagen around 1810. This tradition continues with the 10th generation Price still involved in Copenhagen's style of commedia in its Tivoli Pantomime. There a Price is the composer and musical director.

Toto, just as Harlequin could, took on a variety of guises. Two of those I am fascinated by. Those two are Toto as Pinocchio and as Otello (both as marionettes). In at least one movie Toto also plays a clown.

Long ago I worked on two plays of Pirandello and was very interested in his use of meta-theatre - the acknowledgement of both the actors and the audience that what we are experiencing is theatre and life and that the life we experience in the theatre is also the only reality. Carlo once said in class while he was giving an inspirational talk "You think I am talking about theatre, but, I am not! I am talking about life!". In this respect Carlo was Pirandellian. So Brecht, Commedia, Clown and above all Shakespeare used meta-theatre at least in each of his prologues, epilogues, asides and perhaps too in his soliloquies as performed by such people as Mark Rylance. Rylance is the embodiment of clown, commedia, capo comico, and tragedian. So too is Toto.

A few years ago I was nearly able to start my "Commedia Toto" project with two actors. That didn't eventuate. But now I am here in Italy and with a wonderful group of actors and colleagues we are creating the play "Commedia Toto" that will be performed at the end of this week. I have asked for two assistants on this project each of whom will also act in the play. My friend and colleague Caspar Schjelbred (Denmark/Sweden) has assisted with the organization and communication and Elena Michielin (of Veneto) has done the textual research I've assigned into Toto texts and Pirandello texts. In our play Elena will play a character named "The Actress" and Caspar's is "Soren Kierkagaard". Kevin Gorczynski is "Toto as Pinocchio". ... to be continued...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reviewing the Reviewers

Prior to becoming a resident then citizen of Australia I worked in an avant-garde world of theatre where, at the time, reviews were largely irrelevant. That was then and now is now. On the few occasions that my shows were reviewed in Helsinki once and Auckland a few times and once I think in San Francisco - in those I survived in good reports.

I was encouraged by four particular people to 'set up shop' in Sydney. They encouraged me to move from New Zealand and to set up my teaching, directing, and performing in Sydney. One of the four was the long time stage manager, assistant, director of Barry Humphries. That was Ian Tasker (R.I.P). The other practical encourager was an 'original' of Circus Oz - Stephen Champion - who had decided (like most of the originals) to leave a somewhat dysfunctional 'family'. In the end only one of the originals who remained, and remained, and remained. The other two who encouraged me to stay in Sydney were Indigenous 'elders' - one was Ted "Gaboo" Thomas who mentored me in certain ways, and the other 'elder' was Norm (?) who had been a tap dancer vaudeville style and was the counsellor at NAISDA.

Reviewers in Sydney became interesting for me as I read two papers each day - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. So on the days that there were theatre or dance reviews I read all of them.

The first show I was in, in Sydney that was reviewed was An Imaginary Life at Belvoir St Theatre. Now to get to my point(s). Perhaps I read various reviewers 50 or 100 times? I read other reviews too from other papers such as The Daily Telegraph, or The Bulletin magazine, or sometimes in other cities. So one could start to see patterns in their thinking. Back in the day - mid to late 1980s there was a big transition away from the 'olde man' Harry Kippax who had a lot of reviewing clout. Bob Evans came in and cleared the air. James Waites. Pamela Payne. and several others ALL did a good job!!! All were truly theatre lovers. Bob and James became more outspoken and were genuinely trying to usher in a new movement in local and national theatre. They were very important. There were some vociferous conflicts between them and some theatres or some theatre practitioners. But the theatre really needed a shakeup even though many aspects of the theatre culture were shifting. David Malouf I think reviewed for The Australian for about one-year. I believe my solo show received his last review.

However, for my show "The Battler" that went thru a few short phases with several colleagues/friends sitting in for one session each... the show developed a bit organically. It had its first full incarnation sponsored by Belvoir St - specifically be Chris who was manager circa 1986+ who was there when I was in "An Imaginary Life" and who was a 'fan' of many of us back in the day. So she invited folks to a one-off Monday night performance of "The Battler" in Upstairs Belvoir with a full house of about 300 or 350 whatever it held. My friend Fred helped with my set change between act 1 and act 2. There were 3 acts. Our friend Theo ran the lights. And both Fred and Theo helped me with talking through my plan of action. We were doing that in my room at the share house in Clovelly on Walker Avenue - seafront. Suddenly a set of dialogue/text in various languages came through me and suddenly act 2 had text!!! That was in the show that night. Some day I will write a description of "The Battler".

I didn't tell anyone, but, although I had a creative impulse to do a trilogy I really held to that form as a test. I had been in Australia long enough to have some insight, a bit, as immigrants need to simply as an act of survival. At any rate, although I had an ever growing (and still is growing) list of Australian theatre practitioners who I admired... I also noted that frequently there could be these extreme opinions one in opposition to the other but each voiced as if the speaker was really the only person in the room who really understood totally. Maybe that is just human nature. But nature had landed me here and here was my concern.

So I knew or suspected with reasonable odds that various theatre practitioners were going to tell me which of the three acts was 'the best' and why, while others would say a different act and would have just as valid a rationalization.

In fact, all three acts were totally unique in clown theatre. Each had a specific quality and aesthetic. So I had a tee-hee-hee experience of seeing exactly how much hubris was dominating the frontal lobes of our theatre practitioners. I argued with no one (those were the days) and just listened to each persons opinion. My teacher Carlo Mazzone-Clementi warned his students not to be sucked in to professionals opinions voiced as expertise.

There is more I will write about reviewers, but, this is a prelude to writing about my most recent collaborative project Antony & Cleopatra.