Oct 13

THEATRE – 12 Angry Men – HST – 5K

By Peter Maddern

It’s late afternoon at the end of a long trial on a stinking hot day in New York. Twelve men have retired to consider their verdict on whether a 16 year old boy has killed his father. The jury is comprised, as it ought, with a cross section of society; the baseball nut, the stock broker, the retiree and the architect (– male society as least.)

Faced with a complete and seemingly implacable dash to convict, Juror 8 (David Grybowski) dares to question the others’ wisdom. Bit by bit he starts to tease out the threads of their tightly woven ball of dogma and, one by one, others see a greater context than the mere words spoken previously to them from the witness box.

What makes Matt Byrne’s production work is the inspired use of traverse (both sides) seating. Instead of the audience watching actors go about their work, the stage becomes the venue for a contest of players, like a basketball court in a big arena, where jurors diddle and daddle with the evidence and take, both calculated and indiscriminate, 3 point pot shots at each other.

Byrne as the hot headed Juror 3 dominates proceedings in a terrific show of internalised anger, James Withrow’s Juror 10’s unhappiness compliments him; both with compelling monologues in the second half. But the rock in the room is Grybowski who skilfully straddles the courage of being the one who stands alone with the grace to expose the shortcomings of much of his fellow jurors’ thinking without bringing more opprobrium down on his head . John Sabine’s Juror 9 is an excellent exposition of the value of age and wisdom while James Black’s knuckle headed baseball bum is a delight.

Byrne also deserves credit for his skilful direction keeping his cast moving about without it appearing staged or distracting. The value from his twenty plus years of directing is on full show here.

This simply is perhaps the best theatre you will see all year – it certainly has been for this reviewer – with an experienced and talented cast at the top of their games.

Kryztoff Rating  5K

Oct 07

THEATRE – The Effect – UATG – Little Theatre – 4K



By Peter Maddern

A quick scour of old and new media reveals there are nearly unlimited opportunities to sign up as human guinea pigs for clinical trials of new medicines and approaches, all for the allure of $50 or similar. Advances in medicine require it and as consumers we are protected from snake oil salespeople by the quality of this work. (In this regard, think of the ‘claims’ made by Suisse Pharmaceuticals.)

Lucy Prebble’s The Effect takes a look at this world, challenging her audiences with a topic that requires some cerebral effort. It is Megan Dansie’s direction that makes this production enjoyable both for its performances and its tone.

Connie (Bronwyn Palmer) and Tristan (David Salter) are two volunteers for a new anti-depressant drug trial run by aspiring medical go-getter Toby Sealey (Gary George) and managed in the clinic by Lorna James (Cate Rogers.) But the drug seems to work better than expected, or does it, as Connie and Tristan use their isolation from the rest of the world to get frisky.

Both the multi-talented Palmer and the versatile Slater excel in their roles as, respectively, the coy educated woman wondering about what use to put her remaining years of fertility and he the arrogant bogan for whom sanity is dictated below the belt line and not above it. Cate Rogers’ James is also successful as a torn figure, rigorous to the protocols of science but deeply sceptical of the merits of the drug trial she is conducting – her unravelling is compelling.

Dansie’s simple staging and Erik Strauts’ excellent projections keep the audience very much in a similar world James occupies – somewhere between scientific frontier and suburban drudgery. While The Effect is by no means a text book on how medical trials are actually conducted, the impacts on the participants and their various and very separate motivations keep the emotions of the audience engaged.

This is an excellent production and well worth a visit.

Kryztoff Rating    4K

Oct 02

THEATRE – OZ ASIA – Skin – Maj Gallery – 4.5K

skin-terryandthecuz-2000x640By Peter Maddern

Unplanned refugee migration is a global issue and it seems no self-respecting arts festival can look its patrons in the eye without tackling the issue – albeit usually by ramming some ‘correct’ position down their throats.

Malaysia’s TerryandtheCuz is the force behind OzAsia’s contribution, drawing on the people smuggling aspects of their own country where refugees are treated the same under the law as illegal immigrants, thus making them vulnerable to sub-human exploitation.

This immersive and participatory theatre starts for patrons with demands on them to sign documents, waive rights and give up their chattels. Interrogation follows where people are separated, it seems, on the basis of whether they are ‘lifters or leaners’(my language), the latter then subjected to further humiliations before all are herded into a packing container to witness a dance movement. To provide more detail may constitute spoiling the experience for the future but one feels it necessary to say that the spectre of the Jewish holocaust at this juncture is enough to send a shiver up the spines of any smart arse attendee.

ozasia-2016-900x600To describe this as superb and moving theatre is to perhaps understate its potential impact. To leave the lifters in the dark about their whereabouts of their fellow travellers while enjoying the fruits of being ‘the carers who can make a difference’ (their language) is as unsettling a way to finish a performance as any I have been to.

Brave, (no doubt mighty expensive to stage), but highly rewarding, Skin embraces what it means to reach the boundary of our existence. Surely, the highlight of this year’s OzAsia.


Kryztoff Rating  4.5K

Oct 01

THEATRE – OZ ASIA – God Bless Baseball – Space Theatre – 3.5K

ozasia-2016-900x600By Peter Maddern

There is something deeply arcane about baseball that it can both captivate and bore people. It is described as America’s national past time and those in its swoon, in much the same way test cricket used to, can be hard to decipher even when speaking the same language.

Toshiki Okada’s God Bless Baseball presents three such souls – a middle aged man knowledgeable about the game but possessed of haunting playing memories and how it came to define his father’s relationship – and two women, totally clueless about the basics and mechanics of the game but nonetheless caught up in the impact it has on those around them; their local towns and stars of the game in the media. Amongst them arrives a pseudo Ichiro Suzuki, a former Japanese star of the American big leagues, who both enchants and challenges them to see beyond the game.

A part of that greater picture is the relationship of baseball between Japan, Korea and Taiwan on the one hand and the United States on the other – is baseball, like their countries, something their own or they just in thrall of a super power? Okada’s play poses these questions with some impact in the last 20 minutes, his characters drawn out of their coy and bashful modes and asked to make some determinations of where these things stand. Though, it must be said that the torn emotions they generate may seem foreign to Australian ears and eyes.

Nonetheless, the language of Japanese of theatre shown here is, like Miss Revolutionary – Idol Berserker last year, bold and exciting, taking audiences to places they would rarely otherwise inhabit for an evening. In Berserker patrons were covered in food; here a fire hose makes its debut in the Space.

God Bless Baseball is an engaging opportunity to be immersed in the twin and overlapping worlds of East Asia countries and the game itself.

Kryztoff Rating    3.5K

Sep 28

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Split Flow & Holistic Strata – Hiroaki Umeda – Dunstan Playhouse – 4K

By Tom Eckert


Hiroaki Umeda’s two performances Split Flow, and Holistic Strata are in essence dance of the modern age.

Split Flow is a dance piece that challenges traditional conceptions of the media. Hiroaki Umeda’s movements relentlessly shift between the organically graceful and violently mechanical, but nothing that could be described as either traditional nor entirely human.

Holistic Strata, on the other hand whilst still centered on dance is more of a visual spectacle, clearly more concerned with the visual impression it creates than focussing on the movement itself.

Manipulating space, framing and light in a way that compliments, highlights and conflicts with his movements, Hiroaki Umeda creates a sensory assaults on the audience that manipulates perception. This has the novel effect of simultaneously engaging the viewer whilst also enforcing a certain degree of emotional detachment.

Hiroaki Umeda’s musical accompaniment can really only be described as digital noise and only adds to the audiences’ distance.

With a steadfast resistance to creating something emotive or narrative Hiroaki Umeda’s Split Flow, and Holistic Strata make an audience reconsider the role of dance as an expressive form as he blurs the line betwen performing arts and audiovisual.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

Sep 24

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Bunny – Daniel Kok & Luke George – Nexus Arts – 5K

By Tom Eckert


Daniel Kok and Luke George break down traditional theatre formats to create a space more involved with connecting disparate audience from each side of a square than to create a one way relationship between performer and audience.

With a penchant for pop art colors and audiovisual techniques influenced heavily by club scenes the performers demonstrate a command of Shigari and rope bondage techniques, the performers manipulate objectification, by making mundane objects captivatingly novel novel and reducing audience members to submissive objects.

Exploring themes ranging from the disruption of conventional sexual hierarchies and the aesthetics of niche sexual practices to mindfulness and groupthink.

The whole piece could be considered a metaphorical exploration of how we are unaware of our freedom due to our feelings of being limited by the things that bind us, and that with acceptance these same limitations can be adapted to, and made beautiful in spite of these self same limitations.

With meticulous stage craft, pacing and attention to detail Kok and George are able to create a safe and trusting environment where inhibitions can be broken down in those will to engage with the process.

A sublime and uplifiting experience, do not come with an intent to remain detached from what is going on. If you participate earnestly and with abandon, you will be rewarded handsomely.

Kryztoff Rating: 5K



Sep 23

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Election – Johnnie To – Mercury Cinema – 4K

By Tom Eckert


Johnnie To has created a fast paced thrilling insight into the dynamics of Hong Kong mobsters in Election. The setting was perfect in depicting the underground transactions and businesses run by the tribes – the juxtaposition between raw brutality and loyalty to a family would not have worked as well anywhere else in the world. Similarities to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs must be mentioned as To brilliantly uses wide single shot takes to encapsulate the audience in the room as the Uncles of the tribe discussed plans or just chatted.


A highlight was during the election itself and vital decisions can be put on hold for a tea ceremony. Steeped in tradition this gangster movie is like no other. Loyalty and respect ties the men together as they are bound in a thousand year old tradition, the only difference in their operation is now they have phones. To utilises the modernity of phones as humour as high tension scenes were broken by nothing else than a phone call. Interesting to note that no weapons were used, apart from a knife here and there, but the tribe relied on hand to hand combat and brute force. It was almost refreshing not to see heavy gun fights. The combat scenes were entertaining and quite realistic.


To used the characters well, although there wasn’t any formal character development the two protagonists had a perfect dichotomy between them – hothead and brash ‘Big D’ and the calm and collected Lok. The film is entertaining and the constant twists and high stakes will keep every audience member on their toes.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

Sep 22

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Under Electric Clouds – Aleksey German – The Mercury Cinema4K

By Tom Eckert


Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds is a sprawling narrative deeply metaphorical and richly referential to the long cultural and political history of Russia it is an intimate examination of the Russian condition on a grand scale.

This two-and-a-half hour epic follows the stories of seven characters seemingly unrelated but proven to be united by a single element in the end. A failed building project of a gargantuan tower abandoned as a mere central framework after its oligarch of an owner passes away, leaving adult children to inherit his fortune and six other individuals profoundly impacted by the fallout, a fallout that could be considered a representation of a failed economic drive and the resultant collapse both morally and fiscally.

Set in 2017, notably 100 years after the Communist lead Russian Revolution, the world is suggested to be on the brink of another cataclysmic war and so life takes on a different quality.

German’s settings are exquisite with vast expanses implied with seemingly endless plains of snow and monolithic industrial ruins, the scenes are made to feel isolate and almost claustrophobic by the ever present ceiling of impenetrable muted clouds and an imposing mist leaving the main course of the action in vignetted contrast with the background. The environments themselves are deeply symbolic with a recurrent setting that ultimately brings the disparate threads together being an abandoned field full or decaying statues of Russia’s past; of Lenin and Stalin and other leaders of the revolution. Another places a Ph.D museum tour guide in full Hussar dress in conflict with the mechanical diggers of the forces of redevelopment in an effort to save the historical site that his life’s work is dedicated to.
German’s palette is consistent throughout with prominent concrete and neutral browns and blacks grey, these are often dusted with light pinks and contrasted with fluorescent glare.

Under Electric Skies pits the proud and unique stoic romanticism of Russia’s history against the forces for progress, capitalism and political corruption.

Kryztoff rating 4K


Sep 22

THEATRE – OZ ASIA – The Record – Space Theatre – 3K

ozasia-2016-900x600By Peter Maddern

A girl in her school uniform appears on the stage – a large plywood floor illuminated by diffuse light from above. Accompanied by a barely audible crackle – maybe it’s rain on a tin roof – she assumes a pose, part theatrical, part athletic. After what is an extraordinarily long opportunity for the audience to focus, others appear. They too are dressed as they would in their everyday lives – a young lad ready for the gym, teachers ready for class – and they too assume positions on stage whether by walking or by running.

This is 600 Highwaymen’s Record, a 60 minute performance from, in total, 45 local people. It is, they say, about “what happens when one group of people watches another – a focus on the primal elements of the place, the people, the time.”

the-record-2000x640While there was something engrossing about it all, even the restless seven year old in front of me seemed after ten minutes or so to start taking it all in (or maybe she fell asleep), most of the interest was spurred in no small part by Brandon Wolcott’s synthesised accompaniment to Emil Abramyan’s cello that together reached great heights of drive and compulsion. But just whether the objectives of the Highwaymen were achieved is probably for each patron to judge. Just whether this was theatre or dance is another question for individual taste.

Interesting, worth the trip from home, but not sure I would want to pay to see it again.

Kryztoff Rating  3K

Sep 19

Oz Asia Festival – 2016 – Cinema Program

By Tom Eckert



One thing that the 2016 OzAsia festival’s Cinema program can be proud of is its diversity, in many facets.

The program respects a wide range of geographical locations from subcontinental India in Psycho Raman, to the mountains of Tibet in Paths of the Soul and the metropolises of Korea in Train to Busan.

This diversity is especially admirable in the context of the modern geopolitical climate. The aforementioned Paths of the Soul notably juxtaposes traditional Tibetan Script with the seal of approval from the China’s State Administration of Press, Film and Television. As well as this there is the fiercely traditional Kazakh film Stranger, critical of past Soviet actions within the country with Russia’s own Under Electric Clouds.

The scale too varies widely. The Chinese Mayor seeks to portray the rise of China into the global powerhouse it is today compared with the microcosm of River (GTSNGBO) which examines Chinese Tibetan rural groups through the eyes of a young girl.

Finally it is also good to see an array of producers from a celebration of the acclaimed Johnnie To, who is even visiting to present a masterclass, to a celebration of up-and-comers both from here and abroad as will be seen in Freshwave where a collection of Hong Kong film makers will bring their work to an international audience. As well as directors from our very own Flinders University students in Continental Shift.

This program at it’s very heart provides ample volumes of what this festival should be about. The celebration of diversity in Australia.


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