Category Archives: Rant

I Have Returned

For the last year, my blog has been very quiet without any explanation to my subscribers and friends. I’ve posted very little, and very rarely. I wasn’t in any space to give notice or reasons, or to give a ballpark when or if I was going to blog again. This is all going to change right now.

Without going into all the gory details, or naming any names, in October 2017 my life fell apart in every single way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, in just a few moments, everything I was sure of was gone. Just like that.

It’s hard when other people make bad choices. It’s hard not to blame yourself and then come to terms with the fact that you haven’t done anything wrong. Especially when people insert themselves into a situation, thinking they know the truth when they really have no idea. It’s hard when you find out you were lied to and used, for absolutely no reason.
It’s hard when people you thought were your friends, who you would have trusted with your very life, betray you in the worst way. And thanks to social media, escaping it is also next to impossible. My whole identity was brought into question, through no fault of my own.
On top of this, and really because of it, I was battling some serious health issues. Still am, even though I’m a million times better than I was.

I tried to write. But I couldn’t. I was physically incapable of doing it beyond the occasional short review, and I was too afraid to share it around like I normally would.
Writing is something very dependant on mood, emotions, headspace and personal feelings. I don’t know how on earth J.K Rowling wrote the way she did with the kind of pressure she faced.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everything is perfect now. It’s not. I’m still rebuilding the person I want to be. But I feel I’ve reached a point to bring this blog back, and make it better than ever on top of everything else I’m doing.

I am sorry to all my subscribers and friends who’ve missed my work. I’m truly sorry for dropping off the radar like I did.  But I had to take care of myself first and foremost, and I have plans for my blog.

What’s coming….

  1. My Wanderlust recap of my incredible solo trip to Europe will be completed by the end of the year, as I plan my next overseas adventure. Travel blogging is definitely going to be a new venture for me, but obviously the arts are my number one passion and my site will ALWAYS be about them above all.
  2. As I take on new acting projects, you can expect to be kept in the loop and brought behind the scenes.
  3. My first artist interview is coming very soon, something I am hopeful will become a semi-regular occurrence.
  4. Yes, I have many critiques, reviews, lists and analysing blogs in my backlog. And they will be released as I see fit.

It’s great to be back.

 

#metoo

August 2016

The Old Fitz Hotel Theatre, Sydney. My second attempt at watching Low Level Panic. A few weeks previously, my first viewing had ended at intermission when I had suddenly come down with a virus. But here I was again, this time ready to see Act 2. Low Level Panic by Clare McIntyre is a powerful masterpiece of theatre showcasing the subtle ways sexism bleeds into society.
As the first act concluded, I turned to ask my companion if he wanted a drink. Instead, I was greeted with the sight of tears streaming down his face.
“What’s wrong?” I was alarmed at this display of emotion. He was crying so hard I had to lead him outside.
“Have I ever made a woman feel like that? Have I ever made YOU feel like that?” He was nearly hysterical.

~

Every woman knows the feeling. A man who just won’t take no for an answer.  Who lingers, leers, follows, gropes, touches, makes some crude remark, licks his lips, asks how much you are…I could go on. And as always, every single time you get harassed or assaulted, it’s the same questions/statements we’ve heard a million times.
What were you wearing?
You must have led him on.
That’s just how guys are.
Lighten up.
How much were you drinking?
Learn to take a compliment.
Come on, you aren’t going to turn him down are you?
Give him a chance.
You were asking for it.
Well what did you think was going to happen?
You shouldn’t have been there/done that.
You’re lying.
You’re just trying to ruin his life.
Have you thought about what this could mean for him?

Even though I have never been raped, I’ve still heard a number of those things. Like every female who has ever existed past present and future, I’ve been hurt by men. I’ve woken up to sexually explicit messages or pictures from strangers.  The last time I dared look at my Others folder on Facebook, there were countless propositions. I’ve been leered at. I’ve been followed by men, sometimes in pairs. In August this year I had my path blocked by a male who later tracked me down at my day job. Just a few days ago, I was doing a corporate event dressed as Elsa with sleazy middle aged men asking for hugs, for me and my female coworker to come do the housework. Guys have made me their little conquest mission to take my virginity. Men have told me I can’t possibly be the manager at work and is there a man they can speak to instead? I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times men have yelled out “SMILE!”
And of course, I’m an actress/singer. An industry rampant with this sort of behaviour as we’ve seen with Harvey Weinstein and countless other disgusting individuals. Without naming anybody, I did my first professional show at 21. During the callbacks, girls were made to give lap dances to the boys. I am not making that up. I never knew lap dances were the way to tell if you can sing, dance and convincingly portray a character. But apparently, that’s considered appropriate behaviour for directors!

The first time I remember a man making me feel uncomfortable, I was about 5. It was someone I’d never met. He kissed my hand and told me how pretty I was. I didn’t even know how to react but I remember feeling scared and embarrassed.
Since then, it’s happened more times than I can count. But here’s my highlight reel, for lack of a better word.

I’m 9. A boy from school chases me around the McDonald’s playground, pins me down and says he wants to kiss me. I kick him off and get away.

I’m 12. My creepy teacher is always trying to get me alone in the classroom with him. Then he invites me to lean against his chest. I say no.

I’m 14. Walking home from school. A group of about ten boys from my class swarm around me in a tight circle. They ask me what my vagina looks like. About my clitoris. About all the boys I’m supposedly sleeping with. Would I ever sleep with them? I’m a desperately shy virgin. Male teacher laughs and tells the boys not to do that again.

I’m 15. Wearing a school uniform. A middle aged tradie wolf whistles at me while he drives by.

I’m 16. A boy in science class gropes me, then follows me onto the school bus and does it again.

I’m 18. A boy at school slips his hand down my uniform and starts sliding my bra off. When I push him away he replies coyly that he’s “Just keeping his hands warm.”

I’m 19. While working, a group of boys in their early twenties point at me and ask my male coworker “Can you ask that girl to show some breast?”

I’m 20. A man slows his car down and shrieks “I’d f*** you!” at me as I walk down the street.

The boy I’ve been dating for almost eighteen months breaks up with me because “Women need to provide sex for men,” and I wasn’t ready.

I’m at my friend’s 21st birthday party. Her grandfather makes a pass at me. Later on he comes to find me and rubs himself against my body. He laughs. People at the party wave it off as him being a dirty old man.

I’m involved in filming a music video. The producer reaches for my chest asking where my boobs are because I’m the only one on the shoot wearing a high necked top.

I’m 21. The only passenger on the bus. The middle-aged driver doesn’t open the door at my stop. He tells me I’m hot. I have to ask him to let me out.

I’m 23. My 46 year old co-worker asks about my sex life. I ask him to stop. He calls me a bitch. He tells me I need to start having sex to get the dicks out of my brain and into my life. I’m called the perpetrator.

A random stranger comes up to me at the train station while I’m reading a book and hugs me. I have to shove him off. He giggles “I like hugging people”. It’s reported, but never followed up.

I’m 24 and trying on swimwear. An old man walks over and asks if he can take over the fitting. The older sales assistant starts lamenting my generation and how we don’t like “those comments” anymore.

I’m walking around the shopping centre/mall dressed as a Christmas Elf for work. A man slips his hand up my skirt.

The #metoo hashtag is surging on social media right now, but this is far from the first time sexual harassment and assault has come into the public eye in the last two years. There was the Stanford case where Brock Turner was given a ridiculously light sentence for sexual assault because he can swim. Prominent members of the entertainment industry have been exposed for the predators they are, predictably leading to shrieks of “THOSE WOMEN ARE LYING”. America currently has an orange self-proclaimed sexual predator in the White House and he of course has no end of defenders in his conduct towards women. This is a man who openly treats women like objects to be defiled and played with, who bragged about sexual assault in that revolting Access Hollywood tape (his victims were mocked with the hashtag #nextfaketrumpvictim), who dismisses women as gold diggers and still became President of the United States. Remind me again how accusations of sexual misconduct will ruin a man’s career? God help us.
Domestic violence is rampant in Australia. One woman every week is killed by a current or former partner and people just shrug and ask “Why didn’t they just leave?”
And of course, everyday sexism is screaming from all directions. We all saw the ridiculous carry-on when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the first female Dr Who. Female politicians are constantly questioned first and foremost on motherhood and fashion choices. Any woman who dares express an opinion online or try to do a job in a “man’s industry” is met with jokes, threats of rape/death and an order to make sandwiches. I’ll probably get a few for writing this blog.

Women have put up with this since the dawn of time and we’re all over it. Instead of teaching girls to not give men the wrong signals or how to prevent being raped, we should be teaching boys how to respect women. Enough is enough.
And yes I know, #notallmen and all that jazz. But if your reaction to any mention of sexism, rape, violence against women or the concept of mansplaining causes you to go into a foaming rage, maybe it’s time to take a look at yourself and think, “Does this make me sound like a Grade A douchebag?”
Catcalling is not a compliment. It’s not funny. It’s threatening and intimidating and it is NEVER ok.

Ladies, keep talking about this. It’s not acceptable in any situation. It was wrong in the 50s and it’s wrong in 2017. Men, call out your friends and co-workers. Be a man and treat females with respect. Not because you have a mother/sister/daughter, but because we’re all human.

And this may come as a shock to the faceless morons on the Internet, but that includes women.

 

 

America, You’ve Let Us Down.

When Australia woke this morning, we heard the inevitable jokes about being in the future and therefore knowing the election results. We ruefully laughed and carried on about our day. But now, we are going to bed knowing that Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States.

I really believed you were better than this, America. That as a nation, you were past the bigotry and hatred this maniac was spewing. We all did. We all wanted to think that there was no way Trump could win. No way.
But you’ve elected him, as the whole world watched in horror.  And make no mistake, we have watched in horror since day one.

We saw Trump call Mexicans ‘rapists’. We saw him advocate for war crimes in the fight against ISIS. We saw his hateful rhetoric against all who disagreed with him. Muslims. Immigrants. The media. We have seen his never-ending misogyny on full and proud display. We saw him declare ‘America First’, conveniently forgetting that America is not the only country in the world. We saw him vow to build a ridiculous border wall and ban Muslims from entering America. We’ve known him to be a revolting human being all along. A scam artist, a narcissist beyond belief who cares only for himself. As each scandal plagued his campaign, we all thought “Surely now he will be derailed and we can see an actual election,”

But it was not to be. However you may try to explain or justify this choice, America, the cold hard fact is that you have elected a racist, bigoted, sexist, dangerous, unqualified, inexperienced, narcissistic, sexual predator as your next president. A man who accepts the endorsement of white supremacists, who openly brags about sexual assault, who hasn’t got a single plan to rule a line never mind a country. You have chosen him over a woman who actually knows the ins and outs of government and the presidency.

Hillary Clinton is not perfect by any means. Personally, I much preferred Bernie Sanders. But she is more qualified on experience and achievements alone than anyone else who has ever run for President.
In the face of this bully, Hillary Clinton bravely faced up to every attack, as she always has for the last 25 years. While the media and Trump were obsessing over her emails, she kept going. When Trump and his cronies tried to blame Hillary for her husband’s behaviour, (which she is NOT responsible for), she held her head high and focused on the issues. She pushed through while suffering pneumonia. She kept her resolve when Trump tastelessly exploited women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. She prepared endlessly for the debates and absolutely wiped the floor with the idiot who isn’t even fit to stand in the same room as her. This is a woman who has fought for healthcare, women and children, and has dedicated her life to the service of her country, regardless of how you feel about her. Whereas Trump has devoted his life to scamming and cheating his way to the top. He serves nobody but himself and he hasn’t got a clue about politics. At least President Eisenhower had leadership experience under his belt; he stared down Hitler for crying out loud!

“Make America Great Again’ was his slogan, without a single concrete plan on how to do so, except by putting America First in every way. The problem with this nationalist rhetoric is that America is NOT the centre of the universe and it never has been.

Trump is proud of his terrible personality. Proud of his hate and downright dangerous ideology. He claims his business success makes him the best choice for the job. You can’t run a country like you do a business, especially when you’ve managed to bankrupt four casinos. I literally don’t know how that is even humanly possible. How do you do that?

I know what people will say. “You’re Australian, what does it matter?” Well, it does matter. America is a global superpower and what they decide affects us all. If World War 3 breaks out because President Trump gets a little offended by a tweet, nuclear weapons will mean that nowhere is safe. And Australia is far from perfect in terms of politics. We’ve gone through five prime ministers since 2007 because our government keep fighting like preschoolers.

We’re all reeling from the decision you’ve made today, America. Despite all the signs, the clear warnings, the seemingly obvious choice of who should be elected, you’ve done your own Brexit. Instead of going forwards, you’ve gone right back. Instead of thinking about what this means for the world, you’ve chosen a despicable human being to lead your country. Whether this is because you just didn’t get out and vote or you actually wanted Donald Trump to be President, there’s no turning back now.

But to the people who voted against Trump, Australia is very nice this time of year.

The arts will survive

Last week I published an article about the recent cuts to funding for creative courses. When I wrote it, it was mainly to get my anger and frustration out on paper, and maybe inspire some emails to the feedback line. What I did not expect was the reaction my writing had.

Within days, it had gone viral in the arts community, shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook alone. My phone was constantly buzzing with new comments, shares, messages from people who had read it, and requests for interviews from reporters. I could barely keep up and was completely overwhelmed that my writing was resonating with people to this degree.
But I wasn’t done there. At the same time, I was frantically emailing the feedback line, and sending emails to my local member and the Minister for Education himself. It took a few days, but I did hear back from him (or his assistant), and I’d like to share with you what I received.

First, my email.

Dear Senator

I am a 24 year old actress working in all aspects of the industry. in light of your recent announcement to VET fee help cuts for creative courses, I would respectfully request that you do not go ahead with the bill.
To say you only wish to help ‘legitimate’ students is highly insulting to us as a whole. Have you ever enjoyed a film, a television show or seen a live performance? Have you ever marvelled at graphic design, or heard a piece of music you liked? Then you sir, have enjoyed the arts. And if you take away more funding, you will contribute to its continual destruction.
The arts of all descriptions are not a ‘lifestyle choice’ as you have claimed. Technically speaking, all careers are a lifestyle choice including the one you have chosen. By this logic I shouldn’t have to repay my current VET fee help debt for my Diploma in Music Theatre because I was not a ‘legitimate student’. But I know that won’t happen. These continual cuts to the arts by your government is what makes finding work hard. 
The arts is the very fabric of society. We hold a mirror up to the world, cause people to think and dream and in a lot of cases, re-examine themselves and become better people. By taking away VET fee help, you will be removing jobs from educators and taking away opportunities for talented individuals. Under these proposals only the very wealthy will be able to pursue their gifts. How in the world will this ‘encourage study’, as you claim? 
The arts teaches empathy, humanity and acceptance of all. We pour our hearts and souls into our work and we do it with the majority of the world fighting us tooth and nail every step of the way. 
Please take a few minutes to read my blog on the matter. 
I thank you for your consideration and welcome any response.
In response, I received this email. I’ve also attached a screenshot (with personal information blacked out for obvious reasons)
Dear Miss (Name)
Thankyou for your email of 17 October 2016 to Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, concerning the exclusion of the Arts from the eligible course list. I have been asked to reply on the Minister’s behalf.
While I appreciate your concerns, the Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that tax payer’s money is well directed and spent in a way that offers the greatest benefit to the Australian community. To this end, access to VET Student Loans will be restricted to courses that have a high national priority, meet industry needs, contribute to addressing skills shortages and align with strong employment outcomes. This will ensure the Government’s investment in vocational education and training is better targeted and large loan amounts are no longer paid for courses that have limited public good.
The eligible course list is available on the Department of Education and Training’s website at http://www.education.gov.au/vet−student−loans. Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the composition of the eligible course list. 
Feedback must be sent to VETStudentLoansPeducation.gov.au by 23 October 2016 and entitled ‘Feedback on the eligible course list’.
Please bear in mind that any proposals regarding VET Student Loans are subject to the passage through Parliament of the VET Student Loans Bill 2016.
Thank you for taking the time to write to the Minister.
2016-10-23 13.07.18.png
Do you need a minute after reading it? I know I did.
I don’t know how people can make it any plainer to the powers that be. But a few things are clear to me and anyone else with a functioning brain.

1. They have not thought this through.

“Limited public good”. That’s the words they used. That proves that they do not see the arts for what they truly are, and when it’s explained to them, they still do not see the value and probably wouldn’t until there was no art. They seem indifferent to being responsible for the decline of jobs and the value art brings to society.
Imagine a world with no movies, tv shows, radio, paintings, art galleries, designs, jewellery, graphics, musicals, plays, music, anything creative. You can stop imagining now. I know I can’t bear to think of it for more than a few seconds. There’s little doubt in my mind that society would soon cease to function as it does. As I said, without art, life has no meaning.
Imagine for a moment that the government called sports a ‘lifestyle choice’ and referred to it as an illegitimate occupation.

angrymob

Artists impression

There would be a riot. National outcry. Everyone would be disgusted. Because in this country sport is practically a religion. What if everyone in Australia could embrace the arts like they do the football? Or cricket? Or the Olympics? I suspect the country would be a much better place.
Several years ago Australian acting legend Tony Sheldon was up for a Tony Award for his performance in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. An Australian actor. An Australian musical based on a beloved Australian classic. He was up for  a TONY AWARD, the Oscars of theatre, and we did not hear one peep about it from the media.
What if a sports star was up for some award, for throwing pieces of leather around while a stadium screams for blood? We would hear nothing else for weeks.
Tony Sheldon, who I had the honour of meeting briefly during the 2013 run of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, was playing Bernadette Bassenger, a transgender character so rarely seen and definitely in pop culture at that time. When’s the last time one of our own was up for a Tony Award? Why didn’t this honour get any attention? It was a tremendous achievement!

2. They are attempting to do good by attacking the wrong people.

The main reason these cuts are being made is allegedly to stop sub-par courses taking advantage of students. I want to make one thing very clear. I am not against the idea of this. What I am against is the disrespect shown to the arts and the fact that quality courses are inevitably going to get caught in the crossfires here. Places like the Actor’s Centre Australia. Founder Dean Carey has built this college up for nearly 30 years to bring arguably the finest acting course in the nation, as well as part time courses, workshops and drop-in classes for working actors. Hugh Jackman himself graduated from here and is the proud patron.
I do not understand why genuinely good courses are going to be penalised. Furthermore, the people in charge of this decision have not consulted a single person in the industry itself while ultimately deciding the fate of so many. What is wrong with these politicians?

Colleges are going to have to rework their courses and get extra credentials in order to keep going and make the courses affordable. Educators are going to suffer. Students are going to suffer. The industry will suffer.

But we will not fall.

At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, the arts will survive. They survived the Holocaust and Soviet Russia. They survive communism and fascism. They survive indifference and disrespect. They survive budget cuts and limited funding. Because at the end of the day, art is what makes the world a better place.
The bill will likely pass parliament, and we will have to regroup. And we will. We will find a way forward until people see the light. Nothing lasts forever. And as long as artists push ahead with what they do, breaking the barriers and holding a mirror up to society, we will win.

Because

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” – Edgar Degas

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls…The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web,” -Pablo Picasso

“It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection.” – Oscar Wilde

“Layer by layer art strips life bare,” – Robert Musil

I just wonder how much longer it will take for those blind politicians to see art for what it is.

So, we artists are no longer ‘legitimate’.

I haven’t been this furious in a long time, and I’m loathe to use my blog to comment on politics. But not today. With the recent announcement that our fearless leader plans to scrap student loans to creative courses, this might be the angriest blog I will ever write and I am not even sorry.

By all means, if you don’t know about this outrage, click here and feel your blood pressure skyrocket. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Finished?

Now where the hell do I begin?

The Minister for Education and Training says that this is a “lifestyle choice”. Well guess what buddy? ALL CAREERS ARE A LIFESTYLE CHOICE, INCLUDING POLITICS. That’s right kids, follow your dreams, pursue your gifts and talents, but don’t even think about the creative side of life, that’s just a hobby.

The Minister goes on to say that “VET Student Loans will only support legitimate students to undertake worthwhile and value-for-money courses at quality training providers,”

Excuse me while I go throw up.

hadesrage

The gloves are coming off, pal.

So, we artists are not “legitimate students.”
Our profession will not “benefit Australia economically”.
You want to “encourage students to study”….by taking away opportunities for the next Hugh Jackman, Jackie Weaver or Tony Sheldon, to name a few?

First of all, do you have any idea how economically viable the arts are? Of course not, because you’re far more interested in raising your own salaries, spending millions on detention centres and giving the sports industry every cent they crave. You made even MORE cuts to hundreds of art forms recently, in turn GETTING RID OF VALUABLE JOBS and that STILL isn’t enough for you. Now you turn your blowtorch onto students, universities and educators (yeah, remember them?) who are the ones that are going to pay for your disgusting arrogance.
To call us not ‘legitimate students isn’t just offensive. It’s not just insulting. It is an affront to our whole profession. And yes, it IS a profession, despite what the naysayers bray.

By your logic, I don’t need to repay my current student debt for my Diploma of Music Theatre, because in your mind, I wasn’t a real student. That would make my life a hell of a lot easier as I audition in a world of star casting and the never ending cuts to my industry made by you idiots. Sorry, I can’t even be polite about this. They are dragging the very soul of society, because that is exactly what the arts are.
So we aren’t legitimate. We don’t contribute to society, you say?
Tell that to the acting students who spend hours upon hours after classes are done every single day on pieces of theatre which can cause people to re-examine their entire lives.
Tell that to the actors who learn empathy and human behaviour by creating characters. Tell that to the painters who pour their hearts into their artworks. Tell that to the makers of the film Blood Diamond, who used the film medium to draw attention to the issue of the diamond trade and caused a worldwide demand for conflict free diamonds. Tell that to the dancers who work their bodies into oblivion doing pointe work. Tell that to the cruise ship performers who uproot their entire lives for 6-9 months at a time, often relocating to the other side of the world just to bring joy to others. Tell that to the musicians who invest years into their chosen instruments, getting calluses and vocal fatigue so they can perform at your stupid political events, and often for free.

And tell that to me, a 24 year old actress two years out of studying who just completed an eight month contract performing theatre in education in schools around the country. Oh yeah, did you forget? Art teaches people. In this case, I was fighting the bullying epidemic on the front lines. Talk about how ‘illegitimate’ my work is to the children who came up to me after these shows in tears, saying that they now could see that they had the power to stop bullying, or sharing their stories of abuse with me.
But my work is a ‘lifestyle choice’, according to you, Minister for Education. Hilarious how as a minister for education, you are doing everything in your power to prevent it. You honestly think it’s easy, memorising 9, yes, nine different plays to perform on any given day, at any given time, in any possible combination, in any possible location at a moment’s notice? Nobody expects you to memorise every ridiculous speech you give. I’d like to see you political bigwigs educate children through theatre without talking down to them. Let’s watch as you keep your energy at the right level, never let it drop, all the while being focused on the story, your co-actor and the audience. All the while you have to be entertaining so they don’t lose focus, but never let it get out of hand and always, always, always focusing on delivering your message in a way they can interpret and apply to their own lives. And I am able to do this because of the training I received. Which was only possible because of VET fee help.
At the same time, I was constantly away from my home. My family. My partner. My dogs. My world. I put a lot of things in my life on hold because I believed in the message I was being paid to spread. To hear this utter BS about how this is not ‘legitimate’ causes more rage than I can describe.

And what about the other sides of the industry? Like theatre and musical theatre, some of the most underrated arts forms in existence. Why is it that we only ever seem to get the same old revivals of Annie and The Lion King? The masterpiece that is Next to Normal, about mental illness, was pulled just weeks before it was due to premiere in Sydney. It was cast, rehearsed, designed. How many productions will need to get cancelled of Jekyll and Hyde before we finally see it? Why was the Imported Artist Agreement not renewed, taking away opportunities for Australian artists? The current production of Aladdin has two Broadway performers. My Fair Lady brought people from the West End. Other productions like Wicked and Anything Goes cast non-actors in lead roles. Several years ago, while exceptional performers were on call for roles in Rocky Horror, the producers sought to cast people with at least 10,000 Twitter followers. No joke.

Of course, Matilda is doing very well. “Matilda is just what Australian musical theatre needs!” all the reviews crowed. But let’s look a little closer. Matilda, written in 2010, premiered on the West End in 2011. It’s written by the great Tim Minchin. By the way, he’s Australian. It’s based on a beloved book and movie, and was a smash hit in both London and on Broadway.

Why did it take five years to come to Australia?

Seriously, think about it. Tim Minchin is an iconic figure in our ever-shrinking arts industry. Matilda is by Roald Dahl, one of the number 1 children’s authors out there. Nearly every kid has read the book or seen the movie. From a business point of view, there’s pretty much no way in the world it could fail. And leaving the financial side out of it, this is still a fantastic piece.
Nobody in this country outside of our industry seems willing to bring out new and exciting theatre. Or heaven forbid, invest in our OWN pieces. Ever heard of The Hatpin? Or LoveBites? Yes, those are two wonderful contemporary Australian musicals you’ve never heard of.
When a successful Broadway/West End production finally jogs sweatily behind the bandwagon and arrives on our shores years later, it’s normally an exact replica of the original stagings.We’re rarely allowed to direct freely or come up with original designs. Of course we get the odd exception. Like my old nemesis Love Never Dies. Remember that trainwreck of a show? You know, the show Broadway rejected? The one that’s STILL not gone anywhere? The one with a terrible script, and insults the audience and characters every second? Millions of dollars were burned into trying to make that show worth looking at. Hundreds of invited, and non-paying patrons flooded into the Capitol Theatre and patted themselves on the back for supporting the arts, when every waking minute seems bent on destroying the entire industry. And I have just about reached my breaking point.

Of course, we have independent theatre companies like Squabbalogic and Sport for Jove, truly brilliant companies that bring exciting, fresh and innovative theatre. But they struggle for funding.

Where’s the government support for them, if they are so brilliant? It’s nowhere. And it’s independent theatre that’s saving the industry right now.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work and we do it all with the majority of the world patting us condescendingly on the head and saying “Isn’t that cute?”
We do it every day knowing we are setting ourselves up for rejection. We do it knowing that we are being critiqued on our looks and marketability. We do it knowing there is no guarantee of success. We do it knowing our country’s government and culture is fighting us tooth and nail every step of the way. But we do it because that one “yes” makes it all worth it. We do it because we believe in the arts. We do it because we’re courageous and make the hard choices that society needs to keep moving. We do it because we want to make a hat, where there never was a hat. We do it because without the arts, life has no meaning. And you are selling everything we do short.

Before I wrap up, I want to plead with everybody in the industry, and everyone who loves the arts to flood the email feedback line with emails. We have GOT to fight this. Contact the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Don’t take this lying down. It’s time to stand up for the industry because without us, we wouldn’t have one. Click this link (VETStudentLoans@education.gov.au) and let loose at them. We only have until October 23rd.
Let’s begin.

 

Disaster Films: Maleficent

Right now I’m on tour, performing theatre in schools around the country. Touring is a mixed blessing. It’s a great job, but you are away from home a lot. You have to get used to moving constantly and I can’t say living out of a suitcase is the most ideal of clothing situations. But on the plus side, I’m doing what I love, I’m travelling and I’m getting to meet a lot of really incredible kids.

Two weeks ago, while in my motel room, I discovered the joys of Foxtel Disney. So many classics at my fingertips! I watched Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Big Hero 6, Beauty and the Beast….I was in heaven.

And then Maleficent came on.

Maleficent trailer

Don’t be fooled by the smile. This movie is AWFUL.

When I heard about Maleficent, I was entirely indifferent. She was a cool villain but Sleeping Beauty wasn’t my favourite Disney movie and I hadn’t seen it in years. Plus, looking at the trailers it was painfully obvious that they were trying to rip off Wicked. As a result, I didn’t see it.
But last year I re-visited Sleeping Beauty and found myself quite enjoying it. Well, aspects of it anyway. The side characters are great fun, the fairies are wonderful, the climax is one of Disney’s best and Maleficent is a PHENOMENAL villain. She doesn’t have a lot of motivation, but the lengths she’ll go to seek revenge are so high you can’t help but be riveted. She’s given a perfect amount of air time. So why did she need her own film?
Short answer, she didn’t.
Long answer….? Well, I advise you to get comfortable. There’s a fair bit to talk about.

And by the way, there will be spoilers.

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God shoot me. What a waste of celluloid.

In the film, Maleficent is given a backstory that will likely send any fan of the original animated film into a foaming rage. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, apparently as a child Maleficent lived in the forest on the edge of an evil kingdom (why is it evil? Never explained. Does it have any real impact or necessity to the story? Nope). She had wings and fell in love with a young boy named Stefan. Years later, Stefan has become corrupt with ambition (you’re not fooling me, movie. I know he’s going to grow up to be Aurora’s father and I am spoiling that with no shame whatsoever) and Maleficent is the official guardian of the Moors. Stefan is told if he kills Maleficent he will take the throne. Apparently this is all the reason he needs to kill the woman he loved for years, but he can’t bring himself to do it and instead cuts off her wings. This scene is meant to be subtle in its symbolism, but it’s about as subtle as a stab in the eye with a salad fork. Have fun explaining that scene to your kids.
Stefan takes power, and you know what happens next. He doesn’t invite Maleficent to the christening out of spite (strike one in continuity, originally it was just an oversight), she turns up and curses the baby, the three fairies take the baby into hiding, you know it.

The scene at the christening is so rife with idiotic mistakes I can only do one of my lists.

  1. The three fairies were Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Not Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle.
  2. Flora and Fauna gave Aurora the gifts of beauty and song, not whatever they gave her in the remake.
  3. Maleficent curses the baby to DIE when she pricks her finger, not fall asleep
  4. Merryweather was the fairy who softened the curse from death to sleeping until true love’s kiss.
  5. Maleficent’s raven is actually a human? ….What?

That’s just the christening scene. What follows is an affront to art itself.
Apparently Maleficent ALWAYS knows where Aurora is. She follows her around and gains Aurora’s trust. They actually have a friendship. Eventually Maleficent doesn’t want the girl to die and tries to revoke the curse, then cause Prince Phillip to kiss her.
Do I even need to explain why this is beyond stupid?

Maleficent isn’t the only character who got shredded to pieces in this movie. Everyone did. Especially the fairies.

maleficent-fairies

Holy Tinkerbell, Disney. What were you thinking?

In Sleeping Beauty, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are some of the most likeable comedic characters the studio has ever produced. They’re memorable, unique and a lot of fun. They get plenty of laughs, but they also have a lot of intelligence, resourcefulness and bravery.
Here, Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle (ugh!) are dumber than a pile of bricks. They spend most of the film bickering, getting into fistfights and straight up neglecting the kid they’re supposed to be protecting. Because that’s what we all wanted to see, right? The three fairies as idiotic morons with juvenile antics bordering on teenage girl drama. Good grief, this is some of the worst character development I have ever seen. It’s downright insulting to the original film. And there is absolutely no reason for it.

In Sleeping Beauty, King Stefan and King Hubert were really charming. In Maleficent, King Hubert doesn’t even exist and Stefan is just a run of the mill douchebag. To make things worse, actor Sharlto Copley’s performance reminds me of a train wreck at an excruciatingly slow pace.

I’ve never been president of the Princess Aurora Fan Club and the way she’s portrayed here doesn’t help. If anything, I dislike the character more. She keeps having ‘girl talk’ conversations with Maleficent and stupidly believes Maleficent to be her fairy godmother.

comparison

Because that’s totally what I would think too.

Of course, she finds out the truth and runs away in fear, but as soon as she wakes up, she somehow doesn’t care that Maleficent tried to doom her to a fate worse than death. She smiles sweetly and even helps to take down her own father.
Oh, and with the whole ‘true love’s kiss’? Yeah, they try to put a stupid twist on that too. I won’t spoil it here but let’s just say you can see it doing the fan dance from a mile off. It’s also stupid beyond all reason.

This movie, as a whole, is so unnecessary it’s laughable. Like Cars 2, Cars 3, or Monster’s UniversityMaleficent didn’t need to be made. It’s trying to be Wicked without trying anything new or creative. On the contrary, it seems hell bent on extracting anything we liked about these characters to begin with. We don’t need to see a good Maleficent. She’s a wonderful villain. The three fairies were brilliant, they don’t need to be degraded to this point. The kings were fun, why make him the villain?
Wicked worked because it was carefully constructed. It was well written. It had great characters to disguise any flaws in the story. The music was wonderful and to be fair, it was pretty much the first time we’d seen anything like it. Taking a story we thought we knew and giving us a fresh perspective was something that hadn’t really been done before. But it wasn’t trying to change Wizard of Oz. It was paying homage to the imagination and wonder of a classic and it knew exactly where to focus the drama and comedy. Maleficent doesn’t do this. It’s dark, depressing, pretty insulting to the original and overall just trying to cash in on what Wicked did so well.
But what shocked me the most was when the credits started rolling. At first, this was cause for momentary celebration until the writer was named.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the screenwriter for Maleficent was Linda Woolverton, the writer of Beauty and the Beast, arguably Disney’s best animated fairytale, and The Lion King. The Lion King!!!!

alice-face-palm-featured

She also wrote Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. What else is there to say?

How did she sink to this level? She goes from writing Disney’s finest, to sinking below the bottom of the barrel. What happened? How did this script ever get approved without someone saying “Hang on, are we taking a blowtorch to a classic?” I’ll never know. Some mysteries in life are best left unsolved.

I probably hate this movie a lot more than it deserves. I can’t say it’s a bad influence or saying anything morally wrong. I just really can’t stand it when Hollywood comes along and tries to butcher a really great film. Especially when it does well commercially because it just encourages the trend of making worse and worse entertainment.

Sadly, Maleficent’s success at the box office has led to the announcement of a sequel. This means once again, the Mistress of All Evil is going to be whitewashed into a misunderstood antihero. And I’m going to be sitting at home, drinking champagne, watching Sleeping Beauty and seeing Maleficent as she should be portrayed.

And I advise you all to do the same.

CATS

There are some things in life that we as a species will never understand. Why is Family Guy still on? Why are there $2 fees at ATMs? Why do telemarketers always ring during dinner?

For me I will never understand, til the day I die, how on earth CATS ran for 18 years.

It may seem obvious, but I’m not a fan of this show. At all. I don’t think much of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s contribution to musical theatre is anything to scream about, with a few exceptions. I’ll always love Phantom, and Tell Me On A Sunday will remain a beloved part of my personal vocal repertoire.

But CATS, upon its recent return to Australia, having last played in 2014, seemed to reignite the flames of debate, of whether this is a beloved musical theatre classic or deserves to be shot. The casting of pop star Delta Goodrem in the iconic role of Grizabella caused more than a few raised eyebrows in the music theatre community. Once opening night rolled around and reports of a rapping Rum Tum Tugger appeared, the purists emerged from their ivory towers to cry sacrilege on fixing what was never broken.

Sorry, purists. This show is not only broken, it’s shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the four corners of the earth. It’s an unholy mess. It’s one of those musicals where I just shake my head and ask “How?”
How did this show run for 18 years?
How did it sweep the Tony Awards?
How did it win Best Musical? Best BOOK?!?

So, how did CATS all come about?
Well, the entire show is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by the great T.S Eliot. It’s a collection of very creative poems about, what else, cats! It’s nothing phenomenal but it’s good harmless fun. Apparently, as a child, it was one of Webber’s favourites. And just to get this out of the way, there’s nothing wrong with adapting a childhood classic into a musical (Seussical, anyone?). It’s how you do it that makes or breaks it.
No, this is not a review of the current Sydney production. I suffered through this exercise in egomania once and not a lot could entice me to willingly sit through it again.
I’m not going to sit here and claim that CATS is destroying the source material. It’s not. And the poetry does lend itself to the musical theatre medium, but I’ll get to the music later. What I’m doing here is analysing the musical as part of the genre, and why I don’t think it works as a musical, to say the least.

munkustrap.jpg

Here’s your first hint

CATS is a curious case. It’s so awful, it’s actually kind of fascinating. There are times where I wonder whether it can legally be termed a musical, since most musicals have storylines and characters.
CATS does not possess these. See, T.S Eliot’s estate actually forbade the inclusion of a story and this is where things start to go wrong.
You can pretty much summarise the plot of CATS in five words. Weird creatures dance on junkyard. And that concludes our synopsis. I bet we’re going to be in for a wild ride here.
As the show opens, the audience is introduced to the Jellicle tribe. The cats dance around the stage and sing about all the wonderful and pointless things the Jellicle cats can do. And they’re also not kind enough to explain what the heck they are.
Clearly, these cats are not traditional felines, and they aren’t human. So….what are they? Where did they come from? What is their purpose? No? Nothing? Hello, confused audience here? ….Seriously?

Oh, they’ll happily tell you off as an audience for not knowing what they are. I’m dead serious. The following are actual lyrics from the end of the opening number.

There’s a man over there with a look of surprise
As much as to say well now how about that?
Do I actually see with my own very eyes
A man who’s not heard of a jellicle cat?
What’s a jellicle cat?
What’s a jellicle cat? (They repeat this 5 more times)

For a second you think they might actually tell you, but instead they launch into a rather creepy song about how they get their names. I don’t care how you get your names, I want to know what on earth you….things are!
And when they tell you how they get named, they don’t actually single out any cat so they have an identity. No, it’s just a list, a roll call of sorts, and it goes on forever. Actually, all the songs go on forever. WIth no dialogue, no story and nothing to hold your attention, I suppose it’s only fitting that they need to have something to extend the ‘action’ on stage. But there’s extending, and there’s pointless padding, which this musical has in spades. Every single song goes on for well over four minutes. Every. Single. Song. And remember how I said there’s literally no dialogue? I hope you have a comfortable seat, because things get boring fast.

As soon as the estate said a story was not to be included, this SHOULD have been a major red flag. Maybe, just maybe, musical theatre runs best when there is a flowing narrative.
I’ve had some fans try to tell me that the show is a song cycle. NO. Songs for a New World is a song cycle. Edges is a song cycle. CATS is not a song cycle. They’re clearly trying to tell something here, and with the restrictions placed on the production, it’s just not possible to make it the least bit interesting.

cats-cast

Great, you’re dancing again. Now will you please DO SOMETHING?

So there’s no story. Well, maybe the characters can be fun and bring some life to the proceedings? I think you give this show way too much credit. There’s about a much personality in these characters as a rice cake. The general ensemble of cats don’t even get much of a chance at development or identity so they all sort of blend together, and the cats that do get songs are rarely seen again. They aren’t even that important in the grand scheme of things. And you know what? When the show opened on Broadway, the cast was very confused about what they were doing.
When your own cast has no idea what’s going on, you’ve really run into trouble.

Despite being forbidden to have a storyline, there’s still a few laughable attempts at creating some kind of narrative. Macavity shows up occasionally, and for some reason the cats are disgusted by Grizabella’s presence, though neither “plot threads” are ever actually given any motivation or justification.
Macavity is allegedly the antagonist, though a presence is barely established. Don’t try to tell me that the less you see the better. That only works if there’s a build up to the climax, and there’s ZERO build up here. Macavity isn’t even mentioned until he first appears in the shadows with an evil laugh. They never say why Macavity is so evil or what his problem is with everyone else. He isn’t talked about, foreshadowed, and the song about him tells us very little. The most you glean is “he’s not there!”
*sigh* Two things.
1. What kind of criminal hangs around at the crime scene?  Do you honestly expect that?
2. These “crimes” Macavity is committing are little more than harmless pranks. And frankly he doesn’t seem scary to begin with so I have trouble believing he’d be pulling off anything worth worrying about.
The bottom line is, Macavity is a useless antagonist. He never seems a legitimate threat to anyone. So….WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THIS GUY? Just a half baked attempt to put another pointless song in? That’s pretty weak.
Oh, Grizabella. Nice to see you suddenly appear for no reason into the plot. Oh, that’s right. We need to pretend there’s something going on other than dancing. Grizabella is an old grey cat, who was apparently once glamourous, but she isn’t anymore, and for some reason the Jellicle tribe hates her. She only comes on to get ridiculed before singing sadly and leaving. Le sigh. You could take her out of the show and you’d really not have a major difference. But of course, she sings that one song and everyone swoons.
And I’m just going to say this now. Memory can go die. In a fire.

Grizabella

My face throughout the entire show

This is definitely not a case of the music saving a show, like Chess or RENT. The songs for CATS are sub-par at best, even for Andrew Lloyd Webber. There’s song after song after song with no purpose. Pretty much the only thing you can get from these songs is that these are nominees for the Heavyside Layer. Riveting.
Normally I might not mind this. After all, Spring Awakening‘s score comments on the action rather than driving it forward, but like I said before, these cats are rarely seen again. They are not consequential. And from the second Grizabella staggers onto the stage, you know she’s going to be the one chosen.
By the way, what exactly is the Heavyside Layer? Yeah, they aren’t going to tell you that either.
For me, this is the most fascinating thing about CATS. And by fascinating, I mean fascinatingly bad. This show spends the entire running time explaining everything, and never actually manages to explain anything at all. Grizabella and Macavity are one thing, but what about the other questions that are never answered? What’s the Heavyside Layer? What are these things? What is going on? Why should I care? Can I stop watching now, please?

CATS is a marvel. Truly a gift to bad theatre. There’s just nothing here. Nothing to like. Nothing to be interested in. Nothing to care about, nothing to hold your attention.
I will give the cast a huge amount of credit, because to get through this show you need to be a superhuman. And the choreography is impressive, but after about ten minutes the sheen wears off and you crave something more.
The only reason this show won so many awards is because of Webber’s involvement. It was made at the height of his reign as King of Musical Theatre, so audiences were willing to swallow anything regurgitated onto the stage. It’s a dancer’s show, so it was kind of a new idea, and I’ve heard it referred to as the first ‘concept’ musical, though what ‘concept’ it was I would love to know. I can’t even give it the excuse of being style over substance. This isn’t like Love Never Dies, where I can at least understand people being sucked in by pretty visuals. See what you’ve done, CATS? You nearly made me justify Paint Never Dries. Bad kitty.

If you like CATS, fine. Go ahead and like it. And if you think it has a storyline or legitimate answers to any of the questions raised, then please tell me. I am beyond curious. I’m praying for the day the industry finally wakes up and realises that Australia needs and deserves better quality musical theatre, not just endless revivals of the same dull shows that aren’t even that great to begin with. Until then, and possibly after, I’m tossing this kitty litter out into the cold where it belongs.