peteg's blog

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

After lunch with Ben and Sofus at Gateway, I rode the nameless CB400 over to Gordons Bay for the first swim in a while. The day was quite hot, well past thirty, but when I got in around 2pm few of the legions of people there were in the water. There was some tree detritus near the shore but otherwise very clear, and dogs are everywhere now. The tropical heat and cloudiness passed mid-afternoon; the temperature tanked by fifteen degrees. A busy day.

NIDA: The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

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Booked on 2017-10-14 for $28.00 + $5.95 booking fee split with The Country Wife. I had my customary dinner at Pinocchio Sushi beforehand. About 50% full. I'd had a busy day and the evening was quadruple booked, which made this piece hard to follow. The set was minimal, the costumes appropriate, some of the acting was great, but the play itself was not well-suited to the strangely shaped Studio Theatre (far better use was made of it in 2012) and it didn't seem to speak to the present day much at all. I wonder why they chose it.

Pankaj Mishra: The Age of Anger: A History of the Present.

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The promise of this book is a diagnosis of the maladies of the present by delving into the flaws in Enlightenment ideals and pointing to other traditions. No attempt is made to spell out a positive agenda; what there is is a muted reflection of Amartya Sen's attempts to broaden the terms of engagement between cultures. I guess this is Mishra's latest gesture at Niall Ferguson. While it's clear he has read a lot, he has little appetite for nuance and suffers from a perspective that strips Adam Smith, Hegel, Marx and co of their power. I am mistrustful of his tendentious wordiness, and that he never (or too rarely) discusses how previous ruptures in history were resolved. I also wonder if the long run doesn't mostly come down to economics and our understanding of it. It would be mimetic of me to speak more of what I did get from his text.

Reviews were legion, and certainly better value than reading the book itself. Richard J Evans. Dennis Altman. Franklin Foer makes a cutting observation: Mishra wants to somehow link the motivations of a radicalised ISIS Jihadi to "theory" (of the Western critical kind; but fine, whatever) while freely admitting that these guys don't even know their Islam. He also misses; people keep trying to cash in the Western promises of mobility and affluence because (as Mishra observes) there is no longer any other culturally-valid objective on offer. Foer's coming A World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech might be worth a read. Stefan Collini.

The Snowman

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Palace Cinemas opened some new theatres recently at Central Park (the old Carlton Brewery) on Broadway, on level 3 of the generic highrise. The theatres are numbered in neon and open directly onto the mezzanine; there was no security as near as I could tell. I got a ticket for the 6:45pm session from the machine for $16.00 + 0.74 credit card fee. The screen was dinky. The seats are huge. I chose C1 but moved to B5 or so when the people sitting next to me started talking after things started, only to find everyone talked throughout.

Unfortunately this is a movie that cannot be ruined; see Manohla Dargis for why. I'd just add that the climactic scene is totally borked, and the short is far better. The best part was a trailer for Sally Hawkins's new effort with Guillermo del Toro: The Shape of Water. The plot looks a bit dire but, and Michael Shannon is better than that.

Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest)

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Tigôn told me that she'd seen this one in the cinema in Hồ Chí Minh City. It's a Spanish mystery thriller whodunwhat in the modern Gone Girl reverseroo style. Totally fine for what it is.

NIDA: The Country Wife by William Wycherly.

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Booked on 2017-10-14 for $28.00 + $5.95 booking fee split with The Changeling, which I'll go to next Monday. These are the some of the end-of-year productions for the second year (?) students; I went to the mid-year ones back in June. As always I took the opportunity to have dinner at the seemingly timeless Pinocchio Sushi beforehand. UNSW was overflowing with students pretending to study.

This was the opening night and they started fifteen minutes late. (They finished up around 10pm, thirty minutes late.) From the map I thought seat D-16 (centre, two rows from the front) would be alright but the eyeline is approximately at the shin level of the players. The set was a moderately sophisticated two-level balcony/staircase construction that effectively evoked the interiors of various residences but not really the mean streets of pivotal action. The acting was uniformly excellent, playfully hamming up what could have been some stodgy raw material; Tom Wright directed his cast brilliantly. They were (listed here because NIDA appears not to):

  • Margery Pinchwife — Emma Kew (made everything of her scenes)
  • Harry Horner — Andrew Fraser (effortless, lethally charismatic; Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire mode)
  • Jack Pinchwife — Joshua Crane (flawless, demonstrating a strong will to be cuckholded)
  • Sparkish — Jack Richardson (skillful; the character is too vapid)
  • Alithea Pinchwife — Chika Ikogwe (a difficult character: she escapes an "honorable" marriage for one with a man who seems quite shallow, though there are some good lines amongst the hand wringing.)
  • Lady Fidget — Laura Jackson (perfectly arch as an honourably randy lady, determined to get in first)
  • Dainty Fidget — Bridie McKim (a completely effective and amusingly ditzy wanton; I wonder how I can see her film work)
  • Mrs Squeamish — Daya Czepanski (fine, a largely auxiliary character)
  • Lucy — Heidi May (an effective too-wise lady-in-waiting)
  • Sir Jasper Fidget — Nyx Calder (solid; I think I saw him earlier in the year)
  • Frank Harcourt — Danen Engelenberg (a bit too quiet somehow; above it all)
  • A Quack/Old Lady Squeamish — Vivienne Awosoga (very good as the doctor; the other character seems completely dispensable)

It deserved a far longer run than it got.

New Theatre: Birdland by Simon Stephens.

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I hadn't been to New Theatre in an age. They're still Bolshie with their $20 Thrifty Thursdays, so I booked a ticket on 2017-10-14. The 7:30pm start inspired a dash after a work meeting drug on past its scheduled 6:50pm stop time; and this after I ran out to get some mediocre Thai from the place on Glebe Point Road. The place was half to two-thirds full; as packed as I can remember seeing it.

At two hours straight through the load on the lead Paul (Graeme McRae) is immense, but he's up to it. (In contrast I started exhausted and had some difficulty focussing throughout.) His rock-and-roll lead man schtick is a bit dated, but perhaps eternal. There is a Magnolia-style interview sequence (where he gets shirtfronted by Charmaine Bingwa, who plays a variety of characters, some gender bent). I found this more effective than the pre/post gig sequences where the emotional states of the artists didn't come over strongly. Some of it is comedic, some perhaps intended to be tragic or perhaps have a gravitas never entirely earnt. Matthew Cheetham is most successful at mastering his multiple roles; his efforts as Paul's manager are funny, and also as a fanboy from Scotland. Airlie Dodds had her Russian accent and cool-eyed looks down pat. The set was a mostly-effective piece of slanted used floorboarding.

Jason Blake talked it up. Kevin Jackson talks up the playwright.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

I set off after lunch at 1.30pm for a paddle at Gordons Bay. Beautiful day for it, and not too many people had the same idea. The tide was out and swell totally absent; getting in was therefore tricky due to some rocks I can usually avoid. The traffic back was horrible, and reminded me why I need to go around 12-noon and get back by 2pm.

MKA + Kings Cross Theatre: Puntila / Matti by Doppelgangster.

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Booked 2017-09-30, $35 + 2.76 booking fee = $37.76. First time at the Kings Cross Theatre, which is upstairs and around the back of the Kings Cross Hotel, opposite the (new) Coke sign. Closing night; about a third full with perhaps ten friends-and-family or other indulgent types.

I went on the basis of the blurb they flung about and Jason Blake's review, both of which I found misleading after the first five minutes. In brief: I found it boring. It felt more undercooked than experimental, and trite with little in the way of set or acting. Trolling and hassling the audience has always struck me as cheap, a cop out for those who cannot unsettle with powerful material or performance. Often the music is too loud to make out what's being said.

The cast: Tobias Manderson-Galvin, manically; Grace Lauer, who honestly does need a better class of gig; Antoinette Barboutis as the stage manager in a quiet, incompetent and totally cliched key. Notionally based on Bertolt Brecht's Mr Puntila and his Man Matti, but mostly incoherent and shotgun. Billed as 85 minutes uninterrupted, I was looking at my phone after the first 30 minutes, and they drug the whole thing out to two hours. I sat too far from the door to walk out. The only way to win was to not be there.

That morning Dave's mate Mona observed that most of Sydney theatre is $50 to see a bloke sitting on a bench, presciently describing something of better value than this.

Blade Runner 2049

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With Dave, Palace Cinemas Norton St, 8:20pm session, $8 each. We almost baled on it due to the Greek Film Festival patrons overflowing the foyer, but after a coffee from downstairs (Moretti) while deliberating a dash to The Ritz, we fronted the hugely inefficient ticket and junk food vending area and squeaked in just as the explanatory text started. This came after my work meeting ran until 7.50pm.

This movie is expansive and I wish I'd seen it on a bigger screen. The music is pure, concussive Hans Zimmer; more Terminator 2 than the Vangelis of the original. Ryan Gosling was totally OK. Harrison Ford didn't have to do much. Dave Bautista is fine. Jared Leto is a long way from decent. I wish Sylvia Hoeks had had more opportunity for character development. Robin Wright leaves me frosty. The plot is mostly adequate, though there are a few holes. (OK, because I can't help myself: if Gosling was who we're led to believe he was, he would have recognised his own DNA sequence in those records.) The aesthetic is generally awesome, except when it gets Mad Max-generic. Unfortunately they blew it in Chinatown, but even so — this is the way to spend your CGI budget.

Anthony Lane. A. O. Scott. Sam Machkovech, like Dave, got caught up in the poem from Vladimir Nabakov's Pale Fire. Dana Stevens. There are three shorts on YouTube on the time in between. Michael Wood.

The Godfather: Part III

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In two sittings with Tigôn. We finished it around lunchtime. This is simply a mashup of the first two and contains nothing new.

Trajectory Ensemble: Afterglow: Home at PACT.

/noise/theatre | Link

A freebie from the UNSW Creative Practice Lab. 7pm, about half full, closing night. I caught the train from St James, where I left Tigôn to do some shopping and meet some relatives. Dinner was a burger at the venerable takeaway near the Rose Hotel (which has been heavily remodelled since I was last there a long time ago). The coffee at PACT was instant and fit-for-purpose.

This ensemble featured nine women, two blokes and another doing the music, all from Newcastle and thereabouts. The stories that stuck in my mind: the bus-riding automata, where the entire cast move about the stage; getting pregnant at uni and not finishing that degree; venues that drinking turns into somewhere else, not crap; the tai chai and broken up voice over; the railing against the boomers, the keenly-felt accusation of being the problem, but not really; being left in Broome by your parents with $53 in your pocket. One girl sang and played the keyboard. A bloke recounted the story of his parents fleeing Cambodia and eventually opening a fish-and-chip shop in Newcastle.

This reminded me a bit of Redlined.

Jason Blake.

The Godfather: Part II

/noise/movies | Link

In two sittings with Tigôn. We finished it in the Termeil Beach day use carpark in the Meroo State Park in the back of Dariusz's car. (A sign said the campground was full; I wonder if that was true. One other bloke had the same idea as us.)