peter A cross

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Archive for the ‘Peter Cross’ Category

Terminus

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Olwen Fouere (top), Declan Conlan and Catherine Walker

You can say what you like about the Irish and many do but they sure can spin a tale although I’m not sure that the fine city of Dublin would take kindly to the tale told by the fine young cannibals of The Abbey Theatre who in association with The Sydney Theatre Company present Terminus in the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.
Boy that’s a mouthful.
I have to say that I loved it from first spoken word to last drawn breath I was with them every step of the way. Thank you, thank you thank you Abbey Theatre and thank you STC for realising that this is a piece that needs to be performed by the people who created it.
However it’s not enough for, and I use the term loosely, a reviewer to just announce that he or she loved a show or performance. I’ve got to give to you some solid reasons why.
Fair enough.
Terminus isn’t really a play, it’s more a triple monologue woven and connected together with the art of old fashioned fire-side story telling.
From the moment we enter the theatre we become part of the tale, the subliminal beat of the music (Philip Stewart), the fog filling the shattered proscenium frame and then running down across the lip of the stage we all had a prediction, our own pre-set fantasy of what was about to happen.
The beat of the drum louder and louder vibrating through the floor shaking us awake, the lights (Philip Caldwell) suddenly turned up and on us and then blackout. And most of our predictions and fantasies were knocked on their head.
Three actors: A (Olwen Fouéré), B (Catherine Walker) and C (Declan Conlon) stand alone on a fractured stage behind a shattered window/mirror and for 100 minutes they take us on a macabre tour of one night in Dublin. ‘A’, a middle aged woman, sits in her booth at the Samaritan’s counselling service when ‘B’, a young woman, who wants an abortion rings in while ‘C’, a man, picks up a girl in bar to have sex with and then kills her. Each character is connected and no story can exist without the other.
Mark O’Rowe writer /director has constructed a macabre world: demons and angels, lesbians and lovers, mothers and daughters, and using rhyme each tells their story, as one story reaches a climax the next begins and so on and so forth until the whole story is told.
After the initial shock it becomes the kind of night you can close your eyes, slide down in your chair, put your feet up in front of the fire and nursing a pint of whatever takes your fancy while the wind howls outside you let the story unfold around you.
Yes, in places, it’s self indulgent and yes it’s self serving in others but if you pay attention and go with the flow it’s a very satisfying, nourishing exhilarating ride. It is a masterful piece of story telling that is a tribute as much to the writing as in the telling – does that makes sense?
For me it was as glorious as Ginsberg reading Howl or hearing Burton in Under Milk Wood.
Terminus is playing in the Drama Theatre at the Opera House until July 9, 2011.

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You’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Home is…   

It was the summer that we both decided who we would be. Our last year of high school, he was going to university and I was coming here, to Sydney.   

I can still feel the sun tracing its warming finger along the nape of my neck. The clean salt water crashing over our sun-stained shoulders as we dived in through the break like modern Atlantans, we were princes. Warm zephyrs ran freely through our blonded hair, weighed down after a season of salt water. The last of the summer days slid by us as the waves crashed onto the shore that had been our home for the last few months.   

Sunrise


How quick it now seems that summer passed and yet how slow it was at the time.   

We raced to make our escape from those last lingering traces of boyhood; to leave our mark in a world that was indifferent. We longed for it to be over but yet we yearned to make it last forever. Neither of us willing to say goodbye, both knowing that beyond that horizon where the blue of the sky and the ocean collided, the thunder clouds of our futures were gathering and there was nothing he or I could do about it.   

Each day we met, always at the same place on the pebble hot beach, our boyish banter tapering off to the comfortable silence of easy familiarity.   

Rising as one, we walked slowly, then faster, finally running over the stones as the heat seared the soles of our feet toward the water, diving through the waves – finally breaking free, laughing. All that mattered was here and now, all that was important was that we were home together.   

We had no secrets that summer; nothing was hidden from the other. Lying on that beach as the sun-dried and left the crystallised salt on our bodies, we both talked about how we felt, our dreams, our desires, our bond and our unspoken but acknowledged love.   

Days moved into nights.   

Sultry nights with the sickly sweet scent of Freesias drifting on the breeze as it scurried across the grass and hid inside my bedroom; we lay there together, quietly – squeezed tight in the gentle embrace of the yellow glow of the old bakelite radio that serenaded us to sleep. And then in the morning as dawn crept above the Norfolk Pines that line the Marine Parade, he would slide, silently, from my bed. Brushing the hair from my eyes he would smile and then slip secretly back to his own home.   

Finally the day came when we faced each other one last time. He knew – I knew – that what we had felt and experienced, what we had come to mean to each other would be the thread that tied us together, no matter where the rest of our lives took us.   

He was the first to go, driven south by his parents towards Wellington and university leaving me alone. A week later I flew from Napier to Auckland and then on to Sydney.   

It was today, it was yesterday suddenly it was forty years ago.   

Ten years ago on a wet night in June, we were both back in Napier for our class reunion. We hadn’t seen each other since that day all those years ago.   

We escaped the anniversary for dinner and for one brief shining moment on that cold night, we were back in the ocean swimming free, Princes of Atlantis again, cresting the waves of our youth in that long forgotten summer of 1976, boys again with everything before us.   

Across the dinner table we talked about what we had done and achieved; the regrets that we both shared. Our hands touched and lingered, we smiled, so easily comfortable again with each other.   

We walked along the beach and stood looking out at the darkness, straining to see the ocean that we had shared that long ago summer. Home again; each carrying the scars of our travels but finally home together again even if just for the night.   

He showed me his family, his wife and three children: two daughters and a son, and I saw in the face of his son the image of boy I had loved. I raised my hand and stroked the side of his face, he leaned into the caress and brushing the hair from my eyes he smiled, turned and silently made his way back to his hotel.   

Home is… here.

Written by peteracross

February 15, 2011 at 16:41

Not enough variety in this Variations

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If only they had wheeled him out and left him out

 

There is so much to get excited about in Sydney over summer: the beach, outdoor cinema, long lazy days relaxing watching cricket, Eddie Perfect, iOTA, yes there certainly are a lot of exciting things in Sydney during the Sydney Festival, unfortunately John Malkovich  in The Giacomo Variations  was not one of them. 

For three hours on the Concert Hall stage at the Opera House, in front of a packed house, the Sydney Symphony and John Malkovich try to bring to life one of the great lovers of history, Casanova

The plot: Casanova is nearing the end of his life and is busily trying to finish his memoirs while trying to seduce his Irish maid. Through the artifice of flashback we glimpse the once great lover in his prime as he seduces his way into the history books. Rutting, first with a woman who then gives birth, unknown to him, to his daughter, who he then falls in love with and after some debate gets her pregnant to give birth to his son who is actually her brother. 

 It’s worthy of an episode of Desperate Housewives. 

Using the music of Mozart and the lyrics of Da Ponte, director Michael Sturminger tries to give us a glimpse of what made this man, pardon my French, so ‘fuck-able’, how could this one man have possibly made love to the thousands of women he claims to have bedded? Why was he so damned attractive? What power did he have over not only women but men? You would expect that Malkovich, probably most famous for his role in “Dangerous Liaisons” would have found this part a stroll in Green Park, however, his lacklustre, energy less, old and excruciating performance had the audience on opening night booing and after interval a large number of empty seats magically appeared in the theatre. 

The set (not the Concert Hall)

The Set - but not at the Concert Hall

 

And it wasn’t just Malkovich that let this ill-conceived, misdirected, badly produced production drag those of us who were silly enough to stay for the second act into a deep well of depression. 

The sound design was appalling, microphones not turned on or up; the set or what there was of it, although very pretty was lost on the cavernous Concert Hall stage. House lights that came and then went down – I assume to allow Malkovich to break the third wall and talk direct to the audience. God help those who were sitting just behind the stage – all they would have seen was a blur of moving fabric every now and then and the backs of the actors head. 

Wrong show, wrong venue – wrong cast. 

Still it is a festival and not every show can or should be a hit, some shows should be there simply to provoke you, to make you think, to expand your mind. This aberration did none of that. 

‘The Giacomo Variations’ closed on Friday 21 January 2011.

Written by peteracross

January 23, 2011 at 16:41

Equus

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One night in the early 1970s a disturbed, repressed teenager blinded several horses at a country English stable. When playwright, Peter Shaffer (Amadeus, Lettice and Lovage), heard about this he was inspired to write what he thought were the events that would cause the young man to perform such an act of cruelty. Equus was born.

Martin Dysart (Barry French) is a child psychiatrist who is cajoled by the local Magistrate to take on the case of Alan Strang (Luke Rogers) the troubled youth. Overworked, disillusioned and in a loveless, boring marriage Dysart attempts to piece together the disparate events that led Strang to blind the horses in his care. As he “treats” Strang, Dysart is forced to confront his own inadequacies.

This a play more about the man than the boy. Dysart sees in Strang a soul that is allowed to worship his god in the most personal way – he feels his god beneath him, on him and in him, he lives his life full of passion, his religion is visceral while Dysart’s life is passionless, lived through books and pre-planned, pre-paid holidays every year visiting the sites of ancient Greece. Strang becomes the vehicle that Dysart uses to try to reclaim his own passion (worship). Shaffer has given to Dysart some of the great monologues of modern theatre, monologues that allow even encourage him to revel and luxuriate in the language, creating vivid images with his words, and to Strang he has given him some of the great moments, physical images of such raw ecstasy and agony; the burgeoning eroticism of a youth riding his first horse, his abject devotion to his god Equus and his final rejection of his god/tormenter.

Shaffer asks us what are we prepared to sacrifice for normality; or more correctly what does society expect us to sacrifice for normality.

Luke Rogers is almost up to the task and this is not meant as a put down; we miss at the start of the play the angry, resentful and repressed young man but by the third act Rogers has grown in to his character and perhaps because he knows that in a few minutes he will have to bare not only his soul but his body, he is prepared to let the character have free rein, then his Strang takes off and he doesn’t hold back giving a really strong emotive performance.

Barry French, at least on the night I saw the show, is not yet comfortable in the role and my fear is that the nuances of Dysart’s character will avoid him. Too often during the performance French stumbles over his lines, missing the natural rhythms of the text; he seems nervous, unsure; not the humorous, bitter and angry man the text offers.

I get the feeling that with a stronger Dysart then Rogers would have something more to play against in the first act.

Jan Langford-Penny (Hesther Saloman) and Alice Livingstone (Dora Strang) are stand outs in the supporting roles.

Adam Chantler’s set design and Brendan Maclean and Rhys Webb’s score combine to underscore the production, adding to the whole experience.  Matina Moutzouris’s horse’s heads pay homage to the design in the original London production.

Full credit must go to the director Helen Tonkin, for achieving what will be one of the highlights of this season at the New Theatre.

Finally, I wonder if anyone would be reviving this show if a certain boy wizard had not got his kit off in London and then again in New York.

Equus plays at the New Theatre, Newtown from Oct. 2 through to Oct. 23

Written by peteracross

October 3, 2010 at 16:41

Oh what a… week(ly)

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It’s been a peculiar week – well for me it has, for others I guess it has been rather normal.    

I’m in pre-production, (I just love saying that – pre-production), for a short I wrote ages ago.    

My little "fillum"

A production company and a director have all expressed their faith in the project, I naturally think it’s a pity vote because they all look at me and go “Aww poor guy he’s had a really shit year let’s make his little filum that no one will see and he’ll feel a bit better about himself” – but that’s just me. Locations have been found and funds have been raised so it seems to be really and truly happening – weird. Most of us writers, especially in our latter days spend years just writing ‘stuff’ but for it to actually get made is very strange and humbling thing. Me… humble!  

My week has been filled with pre-production meetings (sorry had to sneak it in one more time), exam supervision and theatre.    

Oh didn’t I mention that I’ve been doing exam supervision again at a well known but nameless “Girls School”, indeed it is that time of year again. Which, of course, only reminds me that this time last year I was lying flat on my scrawny back in the recovery room at St Vincent’s Hospital having just had the roof of my mouth removed and replaced with the hairy part of my arm; the wonders of modern medicine.    

So that’s been a year – and the hairs are STILL growing inside my mouth and that’s a really peculiar feeling.    

Where was I… oh yes pre-production.    

On Wednesday night I was off to the Sydney Theatre Company rooms at Walsh Bay to see Kafka’s “The Trial” and that was a treat. On a thundery Sydney night in mid-spring to sit inside a dark theatre and watch a man in his underwear go mad on a revolve tis very… what’s the word I am searching for… Kafka-esque.    

Thursday was the monthly meeting of the group of writers I belong to where we rip apart (constructively) someone’s offerings and hopefully give them positive feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their scribblings. It’s a really supportive group and we have been together in one way or another for almost four years now, so we are able to put aside ego (mostly) and get right into the gritty stuff.    

Friday (tonight as I type) I’m off to the Comedy Store to see Moshe Kasher and three others. I’ve always been fascinated by Stand-Up comedians, how brave they must be to get up on that platform, all alone, and try to make people laugh? I’ve never even had the courage to venture out at night to a “comedy store”, I’m actually excited, even if it is way past my bedtime.    

The Birthday "Boy" from Oz

Saturday is THE DAY Richard my long suffering co-dependant housemate is celebrating – if that’s the right word, maybe it should be suffering in sullen silence – his sixty *cough* third birthday. How did he get to be SO old… more importantly how did I get to be so old? It’s a mystery.  

Anyway back to the event; we are off to Grover’s Corner cleverly disguised as the Opera (soon to renamed Oprah) House for the opening night of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”    

It seems to be a season of Pulitzer Prize winning plays for the STC – some productions more successful (in my mind) than others.    

From Kafka to comedy to Wilder – it’s a trip.    

And then just to round off the weekend a… wait for it… patience… here it comes… a pre-production meeting on Sunday afternoon. Sorry I couldn’t resist – not that I tried.    

So there you have it my week – not Pulitzer Prize winning but “wadda ya gunna do.”

Written by peteracross

September 17, 2010 at 16:41

How I learned to kiss girls

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As it happened my mother, Marie, and her best friend, Hazel, both became pregnant at about the same time, they had been working at The Criterion Hotel together and I guess there must have been a party and one thing lead to another as it inevitably does and babies were suddenly very much a part of their future. I never asked.         

Was this the night of the conception? 1956

   

As luck would have it they both went in to labour on the same day in June, a Saturday, and they ended up in the McHardy Maternity Home in neighbouring beds puffing and panting, preparing to bring forth their issue, one with a husband the other without.           

I think, but I’m not sure that I was born first and Stephen, Hazel’s boy, just a few minutes later, although this is disputed.           

Best friends with two newborn baby boys – the beginning of what we now call “a mother’s group”.           

Hazel and my mother remained friends for the rest of their lives; every Friday night, right up until Mum’s death, no matter what, they would meet for tea, usually fish and chips, at our house and there they would gossip, smoke cigarettes and consume copious cups of Choysa Tea, leaf not bag, never bag.           

So it wasn’t surprising that Stephen and I became best friends as well.           

We grew up together, learned to crawl and walk together then started at Maraenui Primary School  together; two peas in a pod.           

Stephen ( #2-2nd row from the top), Me (end of the second row) 1966

   

I lived almost directly across the road from the school so each day Stephen and I would escape to my place for lunch and illicit cigarettes, we were young probably eight or nine.           

We were both ‘sports equipment monitors’ in charge of setting out the rugby, soccer or cricket balls; whatever was required on any particular day and then making sure that everything was returned safely to the sport’s shed after.           

One day, just as we were finishing putting away the cricket equipment, Stephen asked me, “Do you know how to pash a girl?”           

“No”, I answered honestly. In fact the thought had never entered my mind. Girls were not on my radar.           

I’ll teach you” he said.           

Well that seemed to make sense, I mean who wouldn’t want to learn a new skill and being the older child it seemed unfair to be left without this life changing knowledge.           

Stephen pulled the door to the sport’s shed closed and in the warm, musty, half-light of that summer’s day we sat on the gym mats facing each other. He leaned in and as I closed my eyes he kissed me, long and hard. I can still remember how quiet everything became and how fast my heart was beating as we pashed.            

Everything was still.           

Suddenly I was floating away and beginning to feel the stirrings of a desire that would become the driving force for most of the rest of my life. I can still smell the hay from the mats and taste the sweat as it ran down the side of my face and across my lips while we kissed.           

What are you doing? Ewww yuck, that’s not right.”            

Stephen pushed me away and wiped a hand across his mouth as if he had been forced to take a bite from a rotten plum.           

“What are you doing? You don’t use your tongue!”           

I wasn’t, I didn’t know. You never told me” I protested feeling the flush of embarrassment beginning to redden my cheeks, fighting back the desire to run crying from the shed, wanting to get as far away as possible from him, the shed and the clumsy, pre-pubescent attempt at kissing.           

Do it again but don’t stick your tongue in my mouth” he said.           

And we did, and I didn’t and it was good, very good, I mean REALLY good.           

For the next five years even though we both eventually went to different schools, him to Wycliffe Intermediate and me to Marist Brothers, we grabbed every opportunity to explore each other in every possible way.           

As we got older and, to borrow a line from “The Boy from Oz”, bolder and as our teenage hormones kicked in our exploration became less naïve; we knew what we were doing was not “normal” but that never stopped us. Although we were secretive we never felt guilty or ashamed of our, now six-year long, relationship and as we moved from the sport’s shed to my bedroom and, on one memorable occasion, from the bedroom to a Li-Lo while we floated down the Esk River during a family picnic. Unfortunately we floated passed Hazel and her husband – nothing was said, perhaps they practiced selective blindness.           

As with most things at that age there came a time when we drifted apart for one reason or another. Our lives took slightly different directions; Stephen discovered girls and I discovered that going to an all boy’s school was just too good a chance to be missed.           

It doesn’t take much for me to close my eyes and be transported back; I can hear the clink of tea cups, the muffled sounds of Mum and Hazel gossiping in the kitchen and smell the fish and chips with too much tomato sauce  while Stephen and I are in my room lying between the flannelette sheets under the covers on my bed, I can smell and feel him           

The last I heard of Stephen, he was married, with two daughters, and happy – I wonder if he ever thinks of those years, if he even remembers them at all, as fondly as I do?

Written by peteracross

September 4, 2010 at 16:41

To spend or not to spend?

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I’m in a quandary, I’m betwixt and between, I’m stuck in the middle and I’m not sure exactly just what I should do.   

Let’s talk hypothetically and as we all know a hypothetical is just another way of saying “plausible deniability.” Hypothetically I’ve been left a sum of money by a friend who has passed away. I didn’t know about it before, the inheritance that is, and was seriously shocked when I found out; in fact I was so shocked I have no clear memory of how much I was left.   

I know, normally, apart from the friend passing, this is good news; my dilemma is “what do I do with it?”   

The “good squirrel” in me says to invest the cash and make provision for the long, lean wintry years ahead. Good advice and since when have I ever taken notice of “good advice.”   

The back-story to my dilemma is that twice before I have had a decent windfall and twice that windfall has turned into a “flatulent zephyr.” In 1987 my mother died and I inhaled most of that inheritance; I’m not denying I had a great year – New York, first class, new friends, and parties almost every day; in fact I never saw the daylight of a Sunday for a year. Seventy thousand in twelve months must be some kind of a record.   

The scene of the crime

 

Then in 1997(?) another forty thousand in compensation after being hit by a taxi, (and no I wasn’t drunk or drugged), but this time I invested wisely in the share market; buying low selling high, doing all the right things. Building that nest egg, planning for an uncertain, unknown future, then wham bang thank you ma’am, oral cancer, ( Cancer and the angry gemini), and even with private health care all of that nest egg, cracked, discarded the shell and flew the coop within six months.   

So I was back to square one, in fact slightly behind because I had borrowed ten thousand.   

So you see no matter what I do I end up back where I started.   

Now, remembering that this is a hypothetical, once again I’m, (possibly), about to get my greasy hands on yet more “found money.”   

There are two schools of thought, cleverly disguised as Justin Bieber look-a-likes, sitting on each shoulder, “good Peter” and “spendthrift Peter”, each whispering in my ear. One saying “Spend, spend, spend. You’ve had cancer – four times – your chances aren’t great anyway. Do you really think you will be here in ten years? Might as well enjoy the money, go on buy, buy, buy.”   

The other, “good Peter”, not so much whispering as screaming, “Are you mad, you did this in 1988, you thought you would be dead by 1998, you’re still here. Invest the money, you’re fifty three, you have no superannuation. What quality of life do you want to have as you get older? Buy, buy, buy… shares.”   

So what am I to do?   

It is found money; pardon the crudeness, found money is gravy. Found money, to quote Thornton Wilder via Dolly Levi, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”   

I want a new car, I want to go overseas, I want a Rolex watch that wasn’t bought at a second-hand shop in Melbourne with a strap that doesn’t fit; I want … I want my tongue and mouth back to normal.   

However, hypothetically of course, what about my future; how will I take care of myself as I grow older? I can’t rely on my friends dropping off the twig and leaving me bags of swag on a regular basis.   

So there it is, all my venal thoughts, laid out, hypothetically, for all to see.   

What would you do? How would you justify blowing the money… give me solid reasons to either save it or spend it.   

(p.s. I’m not talking about a huge amount, just a decent amount, bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a flat in Altona.)

Written by peteracross

August 21, 2010 at 16:41