Adelaide Fringe: Fallot (FÄ-‘LŌ)

Fallot is a circus-infused physical theatre work about the eponymous heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, as experienced by circus artist Marianna Joslin. Company 2 directors Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry produce Fallot, performed by Joslin, Phoebe ArmstrongOlivia PorterCasey Douglas and Jake Silvestro.

The show had a developmental run at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland Festival 2017; I missed Fallot then, so I was glad to catch up on my Bris-circus during Adelaide Fringe. In the intimate Empire Theatre tent, I love that you can see more of the physical work of circus by sheer proximity. There’s a lot of muscle and control in Fallot, perhaps fitting for a show that explores the heart muscle’s control over the function of body and mind.

In this particular run of Fallot, Joslin’s role in the show is limited by a recent injury, so she becomes the narrator and shadow of her own story. Joslin has experienced the physical and emotional trauma of several open-heart surgeries, and Fallot is at its strongest when its performers use their physical strength to show the vulnerability that comes with being at the mercy of doctors, anaesthetists and nurses.

The show has a fantastic, uncanny look: screens turn theatre into operating theatre, with freaky robed surgeons contrasting with beige lace and medical corsetry. White hospital sheets are a recurring motif, used as tissu to climb, rope, or costuming. The female performers each embody aspects of Joslin’s experiences, centred around a black operating table on wheels. A standout scene has Douglas and Silvestro, as doctors, shifting their co-performers on, off and around that table, using subtle versions of Company 2’s signature toss-the-girl manoeuvres to rob them of their agency. Another sees nurses weave hospital sheets around Armstong’s legs before hoisting her to the ceiling to float in the limbo of anaesthesia.

Fallot does struggle to settle on a tone. It plays up moments of classic cabaret between pathos-driven scenes, but there isn’t a clear sense of physical narrative between these – it doesn’t quite flow yet. This is most evident in the final scene, a lip-syncing number complete with heart puppets – its weirdness, though not unwelcome, comes from left field. It’s madcap, but inconsistent. Part of the challenge here is that Fallot’s narrative is held together by actual narration by Joslin – some live, some recorded – often overlong and leaning hard on clichés that wind up more tiresome than heart-warming.

Company 2 works with first-rate physical performers, but Fallot doesn’t trust those artists to show (rather than tell) the story. Fortunately, David Carberry’s musical score is a compelling pulse that resonates with the performers and with the beat of our own hearts.

Fallot runs at the Royal Croquet Club at Adelaide Fringe until 25 February.

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Adelaide Fringe: Séance

I booked very cheap tickets to Adelaide months ago, not even realising we’d be here in time for Fringe. It’s a happy coincidence, so in between eating a lot and looking at myself in the Gallery of South Australia, I’ve been seeing as much theatre as my wallet can handle (not heaps, but still). Why leave my cosy AirBnB bed during daylight hours when I could write scrappy reviews all day and see shows at night?

To a Queenslander, Adelaide Fringe Festival – particularly the Rundle Park venue Garden of Earthly Delights – looks like The Ekka but for actual art. There’s a good bit of dustbowl Carnivàle vibe thrown in, and plenty to stumble across. We were contemplating Sideshow Alley (my beau has never been on a Ferris Wheel?!) when we found Séance.

It makes sense that Séance is near the thrill rides: it kind of serves as the haunted house of Fringe. Séance is, quite literally, a show-in-a-box – it takes place in a shipping crate, in pitch darkness. It’s only 15–20 minutes long, but we decided it was a far better way to sink $20 each than on dodgems. The show (and, presumably, crate) has been transported from Edinburgh Fringe, but is facilitated by newish Melbourne theatre company, Realscape (in association with Darkfield – a collaboration between Glen Neath and David Rosenberg). Their modus operandi is to present “unforgettable theatrical experiences that captivate and inspire even the sixth sense.”

Inside the container is a long table, with old-fashioned red theatre chairs lining either side. We’re asked to put on noise-cancelling headphones before we’re plunged into darkness. Without wanting to give the game away – especially with such a short show – Séance relies on aural illusion. Using binaural audio, the show takes place inside your head, with your brain extrapolating Foley into reality around you. (For those who’ve never encountered the weirdness of ASMR YouTube, binaural microphones record “3D sound”. It’s virtual reality, but via audio.)

Hands+Seance

I’m pleased to read that Darkfield is an ongoing project – using “actors … binaural sound, pitch darkness and movement … in shipping containers to explore fear and anxiety.” What a damn fine project. Séance is the first in this collection of shows, and it proves that binaural audio and light (or lack thereof) are a fantastic way to create a memorable, affecting experience. As well, the show’s transportable nature calls back to the travelling illusionists and snake-oil salesmen of old.

But, for a show that relies on immersion, the team handling the audience is careless. While I understand the importance and complexity of safety warnings for such a show (e.g. to have someone leave partway would destroy the darkness), there was little effort to set the mood and bring us into the Spiritualist world of the séance itself. We were initiated by a dude in green basketball shorts, as chill and casual as any carnie strapping us into a ride. The show ought to have begun outside the container, not once the lights went out. This isn’t the dodgems; this is a dollar-a-minute theatre experience.

Within the audio of the show, as well, a few key clues busted the suspension of my disbelief, despite the Mulderesque fervour with which I wanted to believe. (For example, perhaps the audio could’ve been rerecorded with local accents.) But all in all, I found myself wanting more. While I get that there’s only so long you can lock 20 people in a dark box, another five, 10 or even 15 minutes would’ve allowed the writers to flesh (or perhaps spirit) out a more consistent, impactful narrative.

I loved the innovations used in Séance, and hope this spooky little show encourages more theatre-makers to push on the potential of binaural audio.

Séance plays in The Garden of Earthly Delights throughout Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Three and a half stars.

Web Surfin’ Time

It’s raining poems on the World Wide Web this week (and raining, well, actual rain in Brisbane). This is poor timing for me – our new unit’s NBN is glacial, so we’re struggling to read poems/load gifs while haunted by the smooth white-noise of 1997 modem sounds.

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I’m so glad to have a poem out today with Red Room Company called “Bramble Terrace” – one of my blueprint poems, about a now-demolished house in Red Hill. This was commissioned following the Red Room Poetry Fellowship short-listings, and it’s something I’ve been tinkering with for some time. I seem to have lost most of the the photos I took inside the house, unfortunately, but this was the mosaic in the bathroom:

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#brisbanalia #redhill #mosaic #demolished

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Earlier this week, the Australian Book Review published the Queensland wing of their States of Poetry anthology, now in its second year. Thank you Felicity Plunkett for your deft editing and for bringing us all – Anna Jacobson, Pascalle Burton, me, Sam Wagon Watson, David Stavanger and Liam Ferney – together.

This week, catch poets and writers from all over Australia from the comfort of your own bed at the Digital Writers Festival (if you aren’t reliving ’97 download speeds). Don’t miss Brisbabes Rae White, Rebecca JessenQUT Lit Salon (feat. Emily O’Grady, Rebecca Cheers, Mindy Gill, Annabelle de Paola, and more) – and download yourself a sick new zine while you’re there.

What’re you waiting for? Get On-Line!*

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*It took over an hour to upload these gifs… but Neopets still loads okay. 👌

Queensland Writers Fellowship

I’m writing to you through the gentle fog of a well-earned hangover. I’m still in stunned disbelief, but I have the certificate now, and it says I won a Fellowship at the Queensland Literary Awards.

This is absolutely life-changing stuff. Let’s be real: I’m a postgrad student writing poetry in Australia. Making ends meet and saving energy for creative work is a challenge, especially in what has been a varied and strange year. But through 2017 (I guess I’m allowed to toot my own horn on today of all days?), I feel I’ve been writing bolder, sharper poetry – my best yet – and I’m so, so grateful (and relieved and amazed and flabbergasted) to receive a prize that both legitimises my work and buys me real time to write in 2018.

It’s especially wonderful to be recognised by the Queensland Literary Awards – Brisbane is the most consistent character in my writing. This prize means I’ll actually have the time and means to make the various daft paeans to my city I’ve been desperately wanting to: poetry travel guides to lost and uncanny Brisbanes across zines, collages and digital artefacts. I can finish my second manuscript. And I am going to find that damn Dragoncoaster.

Last night was also the night I felt like I finally “emerged” after several years of occupying a strange grey space between “emerging” and “established” writer. Thank you so much to the QWF judges for thinking of me as a grown-up, and thank you for helping me pay my rent and go to the dentist so I can write in a room of my own, with all my teeth.

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Congratulations to my fellow winners and finalists of this year’s Queensland Literary Awards. I hope you, too, are eating cheese jaffles in bed with your cat this morning. (Pictured above are my co-Fellows, Linda Neil and Mirandi Riwoe.)

Many, many thanks are due. Each of these thanks comes wrapped in a very sparkly ribbon, but if you hold it in your hand it is cool and has weight, like a river-stone:

  • The Queensland Literary Awards and State Library of Queensland;
  • Sarah Holland-Batt and Rohan Wilson, my champions and cheerleaders at QUT;
  • Francis, the best and most precious of all humans, whose voice got me (and gets me) through this year;
  • My loving parents, Kathy and Derek, who put Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants in my young (probably sticky) hands;
  • Tamryn Bennett and the Red Room Poetry Company, who’ve always supported my work;
  • My long-time collaborator and beer pal, composer Timothy Tate – it has been a pleasure to share each success over 15 years of friendship;
  • Woolf Pack‘s Rebecca Cheers, Cordite‘s Kent MacCarter, and my Voiceworks Magazine editors and co-editors;
  • The QUT poetry crew, with special congratulations to my fellow Fellow, Mirandi Riwoe, Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award winner Mindy Gill, and finalists Emily O’Grady and Anna Jacobson (who was also shortlisted in the Emerging Writer Manuscript Award);
  • Sally, for the impromptu writing residency in your home (and perfect NY woods) earlier this year;
  • Kentucky Route Zero and Cardboard Computer, for expanding and challenging the way I think about poetry and space (and working-title inspiration); and
  • Every friend, support person and cat who has believed in me. You keep me afloat.

Here, as a reminder to myself forever, are the judge’s comments:

It was the ambition and design of Zenobia Frost’s proposed poetry collection A Museum of Dwellings that impressed the judges. The collection aims to examine some of the most pressing concerns in our relationship with space and place in the 21st Century, including psychogeography, travel, urban development and displacement, and this with a very Queensland focus. Frost’s poetry is both elegant and philosophically sophisticated and the panel agreed she is likely to produce a work of lasting significance.

Philosophically sophisticated! Me!❣️

Here is a final important gif expressing my feelings today:

scully2bfollows2bher2bdreams

Dream: a blog

It’s several weeks ago now, but Vena Cava’s Dream: A House (Anywhere Festival) is still resonating – in a very dreamlike way. This installation took over the whole of House Conspiracy in West End, a sharehouse-turned-shared-arts space.

Transforming an entire building into an immersive experience is an enduring fantasy of mine. On top of that, exploring uncanny Queenslanders is the theme at the heart of my Master’s thesis. I bought tickets so fast I was just a blur with a credit card.

I haven’t written reviews in a couple of years, so this isn’t really criticism. Technically I could’ve squeezed Dream: A House into my recent lit review but never mind that. :| I’m just glad this show had its moment in Brisbane, and wanted to make a few notes that might help me respond to it more creatively in the near future.

Dream: A House was directed by Sarah Winter, who created A Library for the End of the World a few years ago: an uncanny walking tour of West End (guided by audio on headphones), which led to a tiny library of memories. The show ended by inviting you to record a memory of your own to add to the collection. I remember wanting to stay in that library room forever.

library-end-world

A Library for the End of the World, 2014

This new work operates on the conceit that the show is your night’s sleep, and the rooms of House Conspiracy are a series of dreams. Like A Library for the End of the World, it’s a solo experience, and the Dream team take pains to create a sense of safety and ritual before showing you to the front door. Going into a show alone – especially a walking show – is a wonderful experience: without a fellow audience, you can be vulnerable and react without moderating your feelings and facial expressions.

Sarah Winter, Siobhan Martin (production manager), and Rebekkah Law and Samuel Seagrott (stage management team) have put a great deal of time and love into creating a labyrinth of detailed dreams within House Conspiracy. (That house has a surprising number of rooms! I’ve been trying to map out the space – I’ll have to revisit when it’s functioning normally.)

ANYWHERE-DREAM-A-HOUSE-MAIN-IMAGERY

The show is most successful at its most intimate and sensory. I couldn’t bring myself to miss sniffing a single memory in the smell library (legit a dream I would have, too). In the sand room, I felt safe in the mystic’s intimate, attentive gaze. When I slow-danced with the woman in the flower room, I felt we’d known each other a long time – but only just fallen in love. I probably spent too long on the phone in the kitchen shit-talking the Northern Lights. The spaces and characters invite you to engage deeply – and I only wish I’d had more time to do so (and to scribble my secret missive in the bathtub full of books).

The rooms where the illusion was broken were where the dreamy themes were overwritten or overacted – minor issues easily tweaked. I loved the attention to detail throughout – from taking off my shoes at the beginning to finding them waiting for me in front of a chair under the house, swathed in cloud-like clean sheets on lines, which you unpeg your way through to leave. In hindsight I’d have gladly booked out two spots so I could explore the house for longer.

May news

Everything always picks up in May. I spent my birthday hanging out with this crew:

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I was completely over the moon to be shortlisted for the Red Room Poetry Fellowship this week, alongside this wonderful collection of humans: Elizabeth Allen, Ivy Alvarez, Nandi Chinna, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Stuart Cooke, Michael Farrell, Toby Fitch, Bella Li, and Kent MacCarter. The final announcement is just over a week away!

Cordite launched their No Theme IV issue last week, edited by Judith Beveridge. Here’s one of the poetry “blueprints” I’ve been working on, about the first room I lived in out-of-home, in Toowong. I loved Chloe Wilson’s “The First Four Hours” and Alexis Lateef’s “Procedure”.

As a final treat, I spotted this guy in Noosa:

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My patronus.

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Exercise: windows

April writing exercises on suburban Brisbane windows*

Reading “An Ordinary Evening at Hamilton” (Malouf, 1974): “The garden shifts / indoors, the house lets fall / its lamp light, opens / windows in the earth”.

 

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outside in

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Shrödinger’s verandah
the house seeding its elements
built-in and building out

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everything gone but the fingernails

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after the demolition
just the fingernails

a lightbulb inside
an avocado

I seesaw in the skylight
alien in rust and oil
not waving but wavering

* Except for that bloody “hamburger” window, which was in St Marys, Tasmania, next to a discrete window for “savs”.

Remix: Musée de frisson

Erasure / remixed from an interview with Tricky Walsh in Overland, v. 138.

February 2017

Woolf Pack vol. 8 is out and stuffed full of leafy greens! Rebecca Cheers and Talia Enright produce this beautiful Brizzo femzine, which Rebecca launched this month at Festival of the Photocopier in Melbourne.  I love Rae White‘s butterfly-plague poem , ‘blizzards expected’. My erasure poem/collage is an actual fold-out in the centre, so I guess you could Blu-tak it up on the back of the toilet door? Pick one up at Junky Comics or download a digital copy here.

I also had a few little poems make their way into the world in January, in Forage (UK/USA), Veronica, and Small Packages. I’m keen as heck to begin my MFA next week at QUT, researching the poetics of urbanism and intimate spaces. (It’s all an excuse to talk about Kentucky Route Zero for a year and a half.)

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#KR0

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Zen 101

Want to dip your toes into my words? Here are a few of my favourite poems and performances:

I wrote ‘Auf Wiedersehen Spiegeltent’ in response to Cantina, a circus-cabaret show developed by Strut & Fret for the 2011 Brisbane Festival Spiegeltent. This poem won third prize in the 2011 John Marsden Awards for Young Australian Writers.


auf wiedersehen spiegeltent

1.

the circus is gone
big top
stripped to bone

wide-load giraffe
skeleton canters

in smoke and hammers
collapses collapses
ghosts of their shimmering
crushed into clay

at first light we steal glances
carnies disguised as men
unravel canvas

for one last act
The Great Vanishment

2.

we return
to one-hearted one-steps

preacher calls to his lambs
bowler tumbling downarm
and we come

their suicides unwind
from sky-held ribbons

our strongest men
are not strong enough
our women cannot fly

that man is a tin soldier
he is all moving parts
that woman hovers
en pointe en tightrope
their drunken limbs forget
the ways they should not bend

we swallow whole words

and the lion obeys
with a wink in the glint of its fang

we cannot contort
our mouths
back into grins

they fold back into boxes
like costumes like paper
with string and bells secured to their toes


‘Civic Duty’ was commissioned by The Red Room Company for their 2013 Poetry Object Project.

Civic Duty

Rosalie, Brisbane

Each day’s late fee
is one more day
in business. Walk the aisles
making mantras of titles,
shuffle worn carpet,
thumb static horror
blurbs in Papyrus:
finite options; infinite terror.

Stocked with boxed ways
to avoid going out,
our last local refuge of
streetpress dregs and special
favourite-members’ deals.
We no longer need to flash our card
to revisit films we rented once
or just once more — their covers,
like windows or tombstones.

But one day Civic Video
will close and on that day
there will be nothing:
neon-gone — a glowing
museum set piece.

Whatever killed the dinosaurs
is killing Civics. Already paleozoic,
Blockbuster never saw Rosalie
craft an ark of empty video cases.

A little more home
with each hole punched
in that loyalty card
we never end up
cashing in.


Here’s a performance from the 2014 Queensland Poetry Festival: a visceral poem about a Parisian cemetery exhumed for resources. This poem was published in Ricochet’s Flashback edition.



An oldie, but a goodie: ‘Bathing with Neil Gaiman’, a poem about reading in the bath, included on the 2009 Queensland Poetry Festival Anthology CD.


And, finally, here’s a growing-up-in-Brisbane poem, previously published in Southerly.

 

early rituals 

unfold the box

first day of school holidays
mulberry hair dye at the chemist
$4.95 for six weeks of tinted revolt

the uniform
absurd plastic gloves

rip open
the first juicy tang of chemicals
the tattered robe   skyclad beneath

plum juice   beetroot juice
combed to the roots
your mother wipes red from your ears

you stalk the timer’s tick
inspect the oil slick of scalp
metamorphose into grown up

you can dye your hair  do anything

at last
in the shower dye bruises water

six weeks pass   back at school
brown hair flaunts summer’s last jacaranda
you hope secretly for the detention


Each of these poems is included in Salt and Bone, published by Walleah Press in 2014. A full publication list is available here, with my performance CV here.

Salt and Bone