Test Fest Adelaide

Friday the 11th the Victoria Theatre transformed into a pop-up cinema for Adelaide’s new film festival, Test-Fest. 2019 is the first year of this festival which allows filmmakers to come and receive feedback on their works-in-progress. 

The Victoria Theatre is a mixture between a haunted Gothic setting and a dystopian hideout. Cold concrete floors were decorated with small tables and chairs, with wooden bleachers and wooden seats off to the side. Roof scaffolding lay open to the elements. Dim lights hanging from a single cord. 

Free food. Music. A pop up bar. Film. All the ingredients for a good night. 

People milled about, drinking, talking, watching. Children ran around the open space, flopping down on beanbags becoming distracted by short films playing on two large flat screen televisions in the corner of the theatre.

All of these shorts have been entered in film festivals and showcase the talent Australia has on offer. Test-Fest provided the opportunity for the average Adelaidean to see what’s been created over the past couple of years. Everything from animation about a nine-year-old girl who enters the world of sumo wrestling, a claymation adaptation of Frankenstein, and an examination of lost love with the recurring motif of rock, paper, scissors.    

Sitting in a beanbag as gracefully as one can sit on a beanbag, I watched Australian short after short, marvelling at the sheer talent and creativity we have. Now I can say I have officially cried in three movies: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Les Miserables and The Sandpit, by Matt Pearson, a seven-minute film about a girl finding rocks in a sandpit. 

On the main screen films which are still being workshopped were played. They were broken up by twenty- minute intervals to allow the audience the opportunity to give feedback through a short answer survey. Volunteers in high-vis vests walked around handing out clipboards and pens. As someone who is well versed in literary metaphors and techniques, visual and filmic techniques are a challenge for me to wrap my head around. Although this didn’t matter when getting feedback. Directors guided their viewers with the questions surrounding what they were most concerned about asking about everything from ‘was the music distracting’ to ‘what do you think about my main character?’

It was like an extended focus group, a chance for attendees to voice their views and for filmmakers to test their work. A safe space to show friends and family what they have been working on.

Test-Fest gave burgeoning filmmakers a chance to hear from their audiences, with the aim of “demystifying the filmmaking process” before the final product is revealed. It’s peering back to the curtain and having a peek into the inner workings of an artist’s mind, seeing the role of the director and their filmmaking process, to witness the work that goes into the creation of film. 

The suburban Gothic film, Carrie is Great by Bryce Kraehenbuehl, Alex Salkicevic and Lauren Koopowitz and the Cormac McCarthy-esque, and On The Road to Old Man’s Town by Andrew Ilicic are definitely some new Australian projects that are worth keeping an eye out for. 

Attending Test-Fest opened my eyes to the amount of local, South Australian talent there is, and allowed attendees to have an opportunity to give opinions and gain an insight into the often confusing and mystifying filmmaking process. It was definitely a night to remember and a showcase of our best talent.

 


For more information on Test Fest and to keep up with any future events check out their website or follow them via Facebook.

Review by Georgina Banfield

Header image: Test Fest Adelaide

Heather Taylor Johnson and the #metoo Movement

Earlier this year, Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, and Miriam Sved produced the anthology #metoo, an anthology of essays and poetry by Australian writers on the subject of the #metoo movement. The Tulpa team has recently been in contact with writer Heather Taylor Johnson to discuss her involvement in the anthology and the importance of #metoo as a political movement.

Why is the #metoo anthology so timely?

Feminism has always been inevitable (it existed long before a man named Charles Fourierit so generously named it for us) and it will forever be a force. The #metoo movement is another phase of history’s (herstory’s) feminist wave and so it follows that the #metoo anthology is a document of its time. Look around at what’s happening now with the rise of populism and the eerie what-if of The Handmaid’s Tale. This is where we are and it’s scary times. Toxic masculinity is killing women at regular and alarming rates through domestic violence, killing hoards of people through mass shootings, encouraging rape cultures in universities and rugby clubs, forcing women to be compliant if they want to keep their jobs. At this point in feminism, I’d say most of the women are on board. Here is where we gather the men. In my opinion this anthology is about educating ourselves, women and men – especially men – so that we can responsibly raise the next generation of boys. Here is where we make a radical cultural change.

How does the #metoo movement in Australia differ from its American counterpart?

I don’t see the two as separate, maybe because I’m American Australian. I left America as a fiery twenty-five year old woman who thought she could do anything so long as no man ever kicked in her front door to touch her while she’s sleeping again. Now an angry forty-five year old woman baffled that a man at the gym thought he was complimenting me by saying he was glad to be sparing with me and not the man in the corner because that man ‘boxes like a girl’. Nothing has changed in the nearly 14,000 kilometres I’ve travelled and nothing has changed in the last twenty years. I’m sure the movements, as geographical entities, have been influenced by and will continue to influence each other, but I see #metoo as universal – that’s what Twitter is meant to do for political issues today. That a 280-word story can be broadcast to the world and that the world can respond through a love heart or a retweet or a shared hashtag proves that this movement is community-making, and that’s what ‘global’ should mean.

Where do you see the future of the #metoo movement in Australia?

I think it’ll keep pushing the boundaries of intersectionality. Just as with Trump’s brand of popular sexism, I think, too, his overt racism – indeed the racism we’re becoming so accustomed to seeing all over the world and in shocking regularity in our own country – encourages more outspokenness among racial minorities, and people seem eager to listen. I see this in the publishing industry now where publishers are actively pursuing stories by people of colour and suddenly literature is opening up. I think the confluence of women’s stories and minority stories is where the movement is at now (and thankfully where the anthology is situated) and where it will continue to go. ‘Minority’ can mean race, it can mean disability, it can mean sexuality or gender, and these stories are enlivening the #metoo movement. There’s more discussion. There’s more room for empathy. This can only mean growth.

What does the #metoo movement mean to you and why did you decide to get involved with the anthology?

It’s not any small coincidence that the #metoo movement gained momentum during Trump’s first year as president. Women were angry, unwilling to quietly accept that someone can get elected President of the United States after saying “When you’re a star, they let you do it, grab ’em by the pussy, you can do anything”. I’m an American Australian, still struggling with what Trump means to me as a displaced citizen and still ANGRY as a woman whose body seems to be fodder for legislative decisions. Seriously? We’re still arguing about the right to have an abortion? The best I can do as an artist is to work harder, so I’m trying to focus on issues that matter to me. The poem I sent into the anthology is about a lifetime of innate fear and low expectations due to gender, and how I’d like things to be different for my daughter, and how I get the feeling that they won’t be. I didn’t know until I’d finished the poem that I was writing it for my daughter, and that’s sort of what we’re all doing: trying to make change for our daughters.

How does poetry compare to the essay as a means to discuss issues surrounding the movement?

Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was the beginning of a new type of political awareness for me in terms of my art. I’ve written dozens of poems calling out sexism since then and not because I want to be didactic or self-righteous, but because I simply need to get this anger out (apologies I keep bringing him up but he certainly has a lot to answer for). I write poetry and I write essays – I also write novels – and the choice to use one form over the other is often process-driven. When I need to explore questions and ideas, I write novels. When I need to rip apart incongruities and find commonalities, I write essays. When I need to release intense emotion, I write poetry. Poetry is the quickest, most satisfying way for me to dig into something I’m feeling too much and violently regurgitate it. Then I can move on. The fact that I’m still writing the poems calling out sexism means there’s a lot more for me to discharge, plenty more word-vomiting to come. I’m envisaging a collection that does just that through imagery and testimony, and the poem in the #metoo anthology is one of them.

 

You can read more about the #metoo Anthology here and the book is available for purchase online and from all good bookstores.

 


Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

 

 

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

Edited by Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved
Picador Australia


In the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved have pulled together a collection of poetry, fiction and essays placing issues of sexual violence and harassment in an Australian context. This incredibly timely and hard-hitting collection is a must-read for Australians of every sex and gender. While many of the personal stories in this anthology can be confronting and visceral in their discussions of sexual harassment and abuse, they serve as a vital testament to the importance of opening up nuanced and often hard-to-have conversations about the issues facing women, non-binary and transgender people in Australia.

One of the things this anthology does best is its ability to bring together works from a diverse range of voices, providing a truly intersectional perspective on sexual violence and harassment in Australia. This includes stories from women of colour, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ people and women with disabilities. This intersectionality is made all the more important when you consider the often over-bearing whiteness of mainstream feminism. For many women of marginalised backgrounds the ability to speak out, to share a #MeToo story must be weighed up against the risks of financial, social and personal repercussions.

With this in mind, some absolute must-read pieces in this collection are: Eugenia Flynn’s discussion of Aboriginal women and gendered violence, Carly Findlay’s piece on sexual harassment and accountability within disability and activist communities, Rebecca Lim’s ‘#MeToo and the Marginalised’ and Kaya Wilson’s piece about the transgender perspective of gendered violence and  harassment.

Something many of these stories have in common is the complexities involved in speaking out when you belong to a marginalised group. As Eugenia Flynn notes, ‘It is the #MeToo movement not hearing all the times that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not speak out, for fear of further stereotyping our men’. Multi-layered identities, in which women belong to multiple groups facing unique issues, make navigating the #MeToo movement much harder.

What the stories in this anthology do is remind us all of the voices left out of movements like #MeToo and the need for all of us to listen to, and support, the women and people whose voices cannot be as readily shared without an awareness and understanding of intersectionality. It’s for this reason that this book is so vital, and why I recommend it to all adult readers. We all have a lot to learn about one another and about gendered violence and harassment. This book is an important step forward for these discussions.

 

5/5 stars

#MeToo is available to purchase here and through any good book store.


Words by Lisandra Linde

A Guide to the Australian Government

So, there’s a federal election campaign taking place at the moment. While many people know the structure of the Australian Government and how it works, there are others who don’t.
If you’re one of those who don’t know, read on, because I’m going to explain it to you. It will be useful for you to know for when you vote.

The Constitution

The Australian Constitution, written during the 1890s and passed in 1900, is the most fundamental law in the country. Like all other constitutions, it sets out the basic rules for the government.
Chapter One of the Constitution confers legislative power (the power to make laws) onto the Parliament, Chapter Two confers executive power (the power to administer laws and conduct the government’s business) onto the Executive Government, and Chapter Three confers judicial power (the power to determine legal disputes conclusively) onto the Judicature (otherwise called the ‘judiciary’).

The Executive Government

Head of State

Because Australia is a constitutional monarchy, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is our head of state. But because she lives in the UK, her powers and duties are exercised by a “representative” here, known as the Governor-General.
Governors-General are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Constitution does not impose any term limits on Governors-General, though the unofficial length of a single term is five years. So far, no Governor-General has served more than one five-year term.
Governors-General open new sessions of federal Parliament; give new laws Royal Assent (the method used by a monarch to officially approve new laws); swear in government officials; represent Australia at big events; appoint new federal judges; and are the Commanders-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. He/she also has the power to fire government ministers (so far, this has only happened once, when Governor-General Sir John Kerr gave 21st Prime Minister Gough Whitlam the flick in 1975). They also have to receive foreign leaders, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners who visit Australia.
Because the Governor-General is an important role, it comes with a few perks. Governors-General have their own jet and fleet of cars to travel in, a mansion to live in, and even a holiday house. They also get a decent salary ($425,000), which can’t be changed during their time in office.

The Prime Minister

The role of Prime Minister isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, according to Kevin Rudd, “it is as large an office, or as small an office, as you choose to make it”.
Despite this, the Prime Minister is the official head of government. He or she appoints members of their political party to ministerial positions. They also decide when elections are to take place, and is also the public face of the government. Prime Ministers earn a very attractive salary as well ($527,852 a year).
But there are also restraints on Prime Ministers. For example, they need to maintain support from their colleagues. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull all lost the support of their colleagues, and so were ousted as Prime Minister.
No-one actually votes for Prime Ministers during elections. We vote for political parties instead. A party becomes the ruling party when they gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and the leader of the party then becomes Prime Minister. A person can only become the leader of a party by being elected by party members.

The Federal Executive Council

The Federal Executive Council meets every two weeks. Its official purpose is to “advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth”. The Council consists of all senior federal government ministers. The Governor-General is President of the Council and presides at meetings. According to the Parliament of Australia website, ‘the matters dealt with at each meeting are recommendations by Ministers, for the approval of the Governor-General in Council, that something be done – for example, that a regulation be made, a treaty be ratified, or a person be appointed to a position’.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet, made up of senior government ministers, makes all the important decisions of the government. The Cabinet is chaired by the Prime Minister, who is also responsible for appointing ministers to serve on it.
The Cabinet isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but it has been ratified by the Executive Council, therefore granting it legal effect.
Cabinet ministers earn $350,000 a year.

Ministers and Members of Parliament

The Prime Minister selects all government ministers. There can only be up to 30 ministers at a time under current legislation. Some senior ministers are in charge of major departments, while others administer specific areas within each department.
Members of Parliament (MPs) are the official representatives of the Australian people, all elected to office. The income of a backbench MP is currently $203,020 a year.

 

Parliament

The Parliament of Australia is bicameral (which means it consists of two chambers), and is modelled on the United States Congress. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. All bills of law have to pass both the House and the Senate, and be signed by the Governor-General on the Queen’s behalf, in order to take effect.

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives currently consists of 150 members, each of whom represents an electoral division. There will be 151 divisions at this year’s election.
They’re elected by preferential voting (people vote for candidates in order of preference), and serve three-year terms.

The Senate

The Constitution states that each state shall have an equal number of Senators, regardless of population. This is different to the allocation system in the House of Representatives.
There currently 76 Senators. Each state has twelve senators, and the territories only have two. The twelve Senators are elected to six-year terms, while the remaining Senators have to retire after three years due to a system of rotation.

The Judicature

The Constitution states that judicial power is to be vested in the High Court of Australia. Its roles include, but are not limited to: interpreting the Constitution; and reviewing laws passed by Parliament (this is called judicial review).
The High Court is headed by a Chief Justice. The current Chief Justice is the Honourable Susan Kiefal. She’s the first woman to hold the position.
There can be no less than two justices on the High Court at a time.
There’s no set term length for justices, though it’s compulsory for them to retire at seventy years of age.

 


Words by Callum J Jones

 

Quilty, Art Gallery of South Australia

The intense stare and bearded jawline of the artist, both as self-portrait and ‘hero shot’ photograph, features extensively in the publicity for AGSA’s Quilty exhibition. This is hardly surprising given Ben Quilty’s high profile, with his combination of down to earth interview style, progressive politics and bravura technique helping generate his regular media presence.

Quilty is best-known for his emotive, vigorous oil paintings. These dominate the present exhibition, although examples of his sculpture and ceramics also feature. Confronted with the frequently aggressive character of his paintings, with slashings of paint and violent distortion and fragmentation of forms, it seems perhaps ironic that his socially-engaged artistic practice began with works critiquing the destructive characteristics of youthful masculine identity. Quilty’s highly painterly style, with its connotations of combat, domination or competitive displays of physical prowess, could be read as a testosterone-driven performance of machismo, vis-à-vis Abstract Expressionism.

Similarly, Quilty’s expressive style suggests an outpouring of passionate emotions. This approach is typically used by artists to convey their angst or anguish, which can sometimes come across as egotistical and self-absorbed. However, the dominant themes of Quilty’s art suggest that he is primarily harnessing his feelings out of compassion for others, directing his aggression towards political and historical injustices which have caused unnecessary suffering.

Besides toxic masculinity, issues addressed in Quilty’s art include the intergenerational trauma (and guilt) stemming from colonisation, post-traumatic stress disorder and the current refugee crisis. Given the combination of weighty themes and Quilty’s meteoric art world acclaim, I approached this survey exhibition with a certain disquiet. It concerned me that by assuming the role of celebrity-artist-as-social-justice-warrior Quilty was effectively capitalising on the suffering of others for the advancement of his own career. However, this exhibition has convinced me that he is sincere in his convictions.

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Quilty featuring Irin Irinji and Fairy Bower Rorschach, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2019; photo: Grant Handcock.

Particularly moving is the group of twelve canvases depicting levitating orange life jackets. Like the relics of martyred saints, they serve as stand-ins and memorials for the asylum seekers who wore – and in many cases died – in such life jackets during perilous sea crossings. Adding a further emotional punch, each work is named after a refugee who committed suicide while held in detention. These are powerful statements about protection sought and denied, counterfeit life vests which sink rather than float serving as a potent metaphor for Australia’s border security policies.

In two of the works Quilty has sought to invoke the exiles’ agony more explicitly through the surreal addition of a screaming mouth or mournful eye. However, this is just as strongly conveyed through the seething impasto of his painted surfaces. The global refugee crisis is an issue most viewers have only encountered through media representations, but the sheer physicality of Quilty’s paintings helps invest the topic with a forceful immediacy. We are compelled to recognise that these are real flesh-and-blood people, not just statistics or fleeting images on a television screen.

In some works, when Quilty’s highly-textured paint surfaces butt up against areas of unpainted canvas, the stark contrast feels like an act of violence. In Captain S after Afghanistan (2012) the writhing soldier’s torso becomes devoid of volume when presented as an expanse of plain white. Thus, his physical strength is rendered useless as a defence against his mental torment.

The most technically and compositionally sophisticated works in the exhibition are Quilty’s recent series titled The Last Supper. Despite admiring their virtuosity, I found these paintings both overly melodramatic and too strongly reminiscent of earlier artists, such as André Masson.

By contrast, I considered Quilty’s Rorschach paintings more memorable and satisfying. In these works views of tranquil Australian landscapes have been doubled as mirror images, resembling the eponymous psychologist’s inkblots. Adding further depth and poignancy, some of the locations depicted were the sites of colonial massacres of local Aboriginal communities. These paintings deliver an immediate, stark visual impact, before gradually divulging more menacing undertones. They succeed in being simultaneously dramatic and understated. For me they were the most haunting works in the show.

This is a powerful exhibition, but the perpetual visual and emotional intensity of Quilty’s paintings can quickly become exhausting. Consequently, it was only after leaving the gallery that I felt able to properly contemplate many of these thought-provoking works. At its best, Quilty’s art makes a compelling impression, both in the direct physical encounter and in its after-effect.

 


Words by Ralph Body

Ralph Body is an art historian, researcher and reviewer.

Title Image: Ben Quilty; photo: Daniel Boud

When Female Footballers Take the Field

In Australia it is difficult to pin-point our national identity. We don’t have a great or resolved history; heck, a lot of us don’t take any pride in our history at all.  Many of us don’t have faith in our politicians. We are without an overarching religion that strongly unites our nation. We have a few successful artists, but I doubt we are defined by them.

As we are about to write off hope for a national identity, we remember our sporting culture. For many, sport is a way of learning the power of compassion, acceptance, and unity. Sport grants us with important life lessons and our most valuable friendships. For some, sport is a way of conceptualising and resolving the dark corners of our history and a way of grasping our political matters; for others, sport serves as both religion and entertainment.

In recent history, we have made every attempt to use sport as a peace-keeper, and on successful occasions it has transcended prejudice and discrimination. We hold our sporting pride close and are fiercely protective of it. From where I am standing, AFL as our national game is the centre of our sports governed moral compass. I must say that the AFL is in no way blemish free: for a long time, the AFL, with all its societal influence, exclusively represented the traditional white male identity, which is the catalyst for a plethora of issues. But now, in our developing society, we have moved past this limited representation. When male footballers speak of illness, mental health, racism or equality our nation listens. And when female footballers take the field, people flock by the thousands to show their support.

On the 31st of March 2019, the AFLW Grand Final saw us redefine our Australian sporting culture, translating to a progression in our national identity.

The 50,000 plus fans elevated these female athletes to a status above a ‘pre-game’ special. There was no lesser version of the game – as critics like to call it – to be seen that day: these women displayed skill, cohesion, ball movement and strength that silenced those who constantly sit back and only compare our game to that of children. As records were broken and tears were shed, this larger than life spectacle brought triumphs by the tonne, if only measured by the sheer amount of people packed into Adelaide Oval.

I would like to make a comment about leadership within our game. There isn’t a more concrete display of masculinity than what is seen in the role of a traditional football captain: leadership in itself is masculine, but in a space dominated by lad culture, where aggression is at its core, masculinity can be heightened to the point of toxicity. We may expect our female captains to lead in the same way, however, recent discussions about a woman’s approach to leadership have questioned if they should endeavour to lead with the same masculine approach or whether it is more effective to bring feminine qualities to the position – looking at Jacinda Ardern as a role-model.

Here our co-captains, Chelsea Randall and Erin Phillips in their guernseys and football shorts, display everything that our game has kept at arm’s length:

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As leaders, Randall and Phillips embodied the femininity society assigned to them as women and gifted it to the world of football: it is a gift the AFL never knew it needed. These captains owned emotion and sensitivity, while simultaneously displaying veracious strength. They took time to celebrate vulnerability and the individual. They offered difference in leadership, a difference that was not deficient, lacking or sub-par, but equally as powerful and equally as impacting.

These leaders brought together the qualities that are traditionally separated into categories of masculine or feminine and generated a new sense of humanity in this sport. They, and the teams that follow their lead, revolutionised our national game, opening doors, building bridges and welcoming in people who have never wanted to be a part of football. They set an example, showing that there is now more than one way to lead a football team, there is more than one way to define strength in the Australian identity.

Simply, these women chose to lead as women.

When we are old and grey, we will tell our grandchildren that we were there on that day. We were there to see a group of individuals love the game in all its authenticity and cherish the opportunity they were given to play it. We were there to see them break records on a stage they so rightfully deserve. We were there to see our nation embrace football – and consequently the women who play it – in its new and equal form.

I hope that every AFLW player knows that they are adored. I hope they know that they are part of something bigger than themselves, that they are inspiring change and triggering movement in a sport and society that has stood steadfast in its ways for most of its history. I hope they know their actions have allowed every female with a connection to the football world, from spectators to grassroots players to team managers, to feel a new sense of safety, respect and belonging in Australian culture.

The greatest part of all this? It’s only the beginning.

 


Words by Michelle Wakim

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Bin Laden: The One Man Show

Every year during the Fringe, Holden Street Theatres house a range of high quality and often compelling pieces of theatre. This year is no exception, particularly when it comes to Knaïve Theatre’s one-man show Bin Laden.

Any piece of art centered around such timely and delicate subject matter – terrorism, and more specifically the attack of the Twin Towers – can either help or hinder the way we perceive wider issues. There is always a risk when discussing such themes, but Bin Laden gets the biscuit. Sam Redway, who plays Osama Bin Laden, and Tyrell Jones, the co-creator and director, do a marvelous job in portraying the life of the West’s most infamous enemy. The depth, nuance, and delivery of this work are of the highest standard. I guarantee that this production sits outside any expectations you form prior to seeing it.

Bin Laden will move you in a variety of ways. In the same scene, you will laugh and be overcome with a unique kind of sadness – one that is slightly removed but still vivid. References to our pop culture icons such as Aladdin, Harry Potter, and Braveheart draw us in, allowing us to feel a true familiarity with the production, even though Bin Laden’s world is far from what we know. Redway’s engaging interaction with the audience makes the character of Bin Laden appear personable, and the use of cliché American victory music – the patriotic kind that is used to romanticise the idea of war and war-torn victory – when Bin Laden is triumphant confuses our pre-set alliances and understandings of good and evil.

The casting is initially the most surprising aspect of this piece of theatre. The role of Bin Laden is filled by Redway, a very fair Anglo-Saxon man: this instantly distances us for our stereotypical profiling of the ‘terrorist’ character. This casting decision dissolves some resistance Western audiences may have in receiving and properly processing Bin Laden’s story; even though we may not like to acknowledge it, the casting made the subject matter more comfortable, allowing us to feel ‘ok’ about sympathising with the character of Bin Laden. Redway’s spectacular performance in this role makes us painfully aware of our assumptions and perspectives, particularly towards physical profiling, and how this influences our reception of a story.

The play was structured so that Bin Laden is giving the audience a lecture on his life, almost like a seminar for success. The set was familiar, as it was simply a white man standing in a suit, with a board and markers to his right, and a tea and coffee station to his left. This space was non-threatening, though the props and costumes that appeared as the production progressed – such as a gun or a headscarf – served as key symbols that draw on the West’s indicators of terror, slowly transporting audiences away from the safety of the seminar space.

It is important to note that this production is written with immense sensitivity and with the aid of thorough research. This work does not support Bin Laden’s actions, nor does it condone his extremist viewpoints: it simply provides a platform for us to see Bin Laden as a complete human – as a student, a husband, a father, a freedom fighter and a terrorist. This encourages us to acknowledge that rebellions and extremist viewpoints are not born from nothing, but are a reaction, and not always the correct one, to tensions and experiences.

Bin Laden provides an exploration that is complex and stimulating. The fact that audiences can sympathise with Bin Laden’s character, and then walk away from this production without feeling judgment, offense or anger proves the quality and balance in this show.

At the show’s conclusion, when the lights come up, and Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly With Me’ starts playing in the background, you realise that this exquisite and intelligent piece of theatre subtly worked its way under your skin, leaving you with chills and a deeper understanding of the world we live in.

5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

You can catch Bin Laden: The One Man Show at Holden Street Theatres from the 12th-17th of March. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Promoting Diversity in Comedy

“Hey Mum, I want to quit medicine and follow my passion for stand-up comedy.”

With a tone of disapproval, mixed in with unconditional love, my mother replied, “you da very funny man!”

As a son of Vietnamese refugees, my duty as a son of migrants was to “study hard, get a good job and start a family”. My parents escaped war-torn Vietnam in search for a better life and freedom. They left Vietnam on a tiny, wooden fishing boat with 250 other people, including my older brother who was only one month old.

What would compel my parents to take such a journey and risk not only their own lives but that of their first-born son?  What would compel me to risk my professional reputation and job security, for the laughs and adulation of an anonymous audience at the local open mic night?  My own leap towards artistic freedom and self-expression can never match the danger my parents made from Vietnam to Australia.

I can understand my parent’s strategy to put me on the path of higher education and job security. However, the wider Australian audience have progressed far quicker and further than that of the Asian community. The local Adelaide comedy circuit has been very supportive of me since day one, but I feel as though the Asian community are still behind when it comes to supporting the local arts.

Historically, the Asian community simply do not appreciate paying for the arts, let alone comedy. Only since I’ve become an artist, do I now understand that a $15 entry fee to a local show does not feed me physically, however, it does feed my soul (and my hunger to perform).

In Asian culture, comedians are normally portrayed as buffoons with buck teeth, or the village idiot. Humour and laughing at oneself is seen as a vector of shame, dishonour and loss of face to your family. Entry into medicine, law or engineering are seen as respectable tickets towards success. However, I know countless Asian doctors, lawyers and engineers who are dissatisfied with their life choice in their chosen fields. Many have found my story of breaking the mould, inspiring. It is hard as a person of Asian descent to find the courage to resist the wave of expectation of not only your parents and family, but your community.

Truthfully, as a minority grouping, finding our place in society, we need to be open to other occupations, especially in the arts. We can start changing our narrative, by coming out to support artists not only Asian artists at Oz Asia festivals and Lunar New Year, but the arts regardless. Only through bums on seats in the comedy rooms and pubs around the city, will this translate to bums in arts courses.

Gerard Matte in the Australian Journal of Comedy highlighted, “If comedy is a way of saying the forbidden, if it is, in Freudian terms a way of disobeying the internalised parent – the internalised authority system, then multicultural comedy in Australia has evolved to deal with two separate authority systems. One authority system is the culture of the country of origin; the other is that imposed by the local culture. The ethnic comedian has, in effect, two sets of parents, two political imperatives. One imperative is the pressure to respect and conform to the culture of the natural parents, the other is the pressure imposed by the wider culture to reject the natural parents and become part of a wider more homogenised society.”

Last year, I produced and promoted a comedy show dubbed “Pho Real”, featuring a line-up of all-Vietnamese stand-up comedians. It was an experiment to see if there was an audience from within the local Vietnamese community. To my delight, many of my Vietnamese friends and family came out to show support and enjoyed the night. I felt even more validated, that there was a row of Caucasian audience members who came because they simply loved comedy, regardless of the race orientated theme of the night.

If you would like to support local and interstate Asian comedy acts in the upcoming Adelaide Fringe here are my top three picks.

 

MJ Wong: In the Wong Family

MJ Wong was born into the w(r)ong family, then he fell in love and got married to the w(r)ong woman.
Will he ever belong, will two w(r)ongs ever make a right?

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/mj-wong-in-the-wong-family-af2019

I have a show! Come see me!

Patrick Golamco is a regular on the Sydney open mic scene, performs improv comedy, and studies sketch comedy and scriptwriting. He has been a finalist in several U.S. scriptwriting competitions that recognised his knack for capturing the absurd!

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/i-have-a-show-come-see-me-af2019

If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art

Fresh from Point Blank Music School (London) Loc Tran presents ‘If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art’, part comedy show, part DJ performance incorporating such hits as:

https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/if-you-laugh-it-s-comedy-and-if-you-don-t-laugh-it-s-art-af2019

 


Words by Dr Kim Le

Dr Kim Le is an Adelaide based psychiatrist, TEDx speaker and stand-up comedian. He will be performing with Adelaide Comedy’s Next Generation show, featuring a diverse line-up of Adelaide’s best up and coming stand-up comedians. His parents will be at his show.

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent
S.J Morgan
Midnight Sun 2018


S.J Morgan’s Heaven Sent is a fun, easy-to-read Young Adult debut. Following Evie, an Australian sixteen-year-old with a crooked spine, the novel examines the complications of separated parents, new love, and mental illness.

This novel is home to some strong, if inconsistent, writing and I ripped through it in a matter of hours. The prologue, in particular, struck me as both vivid and wistful. There are some pacing issues that are distracting – the immediacy with which Evie trusts the boy, Gabriel, who crashed through her bedroom wall one night, feels rushed and a little bit at odds with the girl’s naturally suspicious nature. Additionally, this feels like a book deciding what it wants to be as it goes – the beginning feels like it could be a supernatural romance, but the ending is definitely an action-thriller. Morgan’s writing is capable of being both tight and engaging in either genre, but toying with both is disorientating.

However, Morgan seems to have a thumb at the pulse of the friendships of teenage girls. Evie and her best friend, Paige, demonstrate the simultaneously emotionally manipulative and caring behaviour of teenage girls, who are still determining the best way to navigate the world. Indeed, Morgan is gifted at creating some rich characters. Gabriel’s erratic and earnest attempts at ‘watching over’ Evie create a chilling atmosphere and a creeping sense of concern. Seb, Evie’s mother’s much younger boyfriend, was perfectly cast as a slimy, pathetic loser. Even Evie’s house, broken and tarp-covered, feels like an oppressive character, and the eventual move she and her mother make is a satisfying thematic event.

Evie suffers from scoliosis – a condition that warps the spine into a ‘S’. She is in the final stages of wearing a brace designed to straighten her spine. Scoliosis is an incredibly painful condition and Morgan’s depiction of it feels a little simple and easy. The brace is removed in the first half of the novel and though Evie often complains about having to wear it, there’s no complexity to the physicality of both the condition and the treatment. It feels as though the brace is removed before it can be an imposition, or narrative object.

That said, Morgan has produced a novel with a lot of heart. Heaven Sent will appeal to its teenage demographic, its pacing faults aside. To me, Morgan is an author with a considerable amount of potential and her next work will be something to keep an eye on.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell