Thinking through festival time

It's always difficult, at least for me, to think too hard for too long through a Sydney summer. Too much heat and humidity seems to turn my brain to mush. So its somewhat of a relief that there are others out there doing some thinking on my behalf. Perhaps they have ongoing access to air-conditioning.

First up, Nick Pickard is, somewhat insanely, blogging his way through the entire Sydney Festival. I know, pick something more ambitious next time lazy man! His blog on the Daily Telegraph site is updated several times daily, and is well worth dropping into regularly.

Over at the website of Urban Theatre Projects, whose new production The Last Highway opens as part of the Sydney Festival next Wednesday, there's a fascinating update to the ongoing 'Critical Dialogue' section, an exchange between director Deborah Pollard and writer Paschal Berry about cross-cultural artistic experiences in Indonesia and the Philippines. Deeply thought provoking stuff about the nature of collaboration, cultural identity, and the function of art in different cultural contexts. This exchange formed part of the research dialogue for UTP's The Folding Wife, one of my theatre highlights of 2007. Rumour has it that there may be a tour of this work on the cards for late 2008, and if it travels near you, I urge you to attend.

Lastly on the thinking stakes, at least for this week, the annual Rex Cramphorn lecture will be held this Sunday 13th January, with Scott Rankin of big hART presenting a lecture provocatively entitled DIY Virtuosity vs Professional Mediocrity. The lecture will be held at The Mint, 10 Macquarie St, Sydney, from 1-3pm. Admission is free.

In other festive things, my personal Sydney Festival kicked off on Tuesday, attending the opening night of Force Majeure's fascinating The Age I'm In. Being the start of the major Festival focus on Australian contemporary dance titled 'Movers and Shakers', supported by a $200,000 initiative from the Dance Board of the Australia Council, it was perhaps inevitable that there was a high-powered drinkies session afterwards in the Utzon Room. I managed to sneak in, and in between gossiping and scoffing finger food, listened to speeches from Kathy Keele, Fergus Linehan, Frances Rings, and the new Minister for the Arts Peter Garrett. Lots of nice words, nice catering, and nice wine, so I can report that a good time was had by all. The night continued on with yet more drinks at the Opera Bar, followed by a cab full of drunken inner west-dwelling artists debating vociferously the merits and flaws of the show, much to the bemusement of the taxi driver. (And no, he didn't say "Are you talking to me?")

I'm planning on taking a second look at The Age I'm In tomorrow, and will blog a response after that. Tonight is the National Theatre of Scotland's Blackwatch, and Sunday night Tanja Liedtke's Construct. Beyond that there's still The Last Highway, Aalst, Mortal Engine, Aether, Insert the name of the person you love, and This show is about people to look forward to...

Luckily, all of these theatres have aircon, so perhaps I will be able to engage in some thinking after all! Stranger things have happened...


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