FRANK WOODLEY: POSSESSED

When Luscious and I were in Adelaide recently, we had the fabulous opportunity to get out and catch some theatre, something we’d been unable to do for far too long. Frank Woodley’s new solo show Possessed was on, and I was keen, but Lyn professed to being not a great fan of Lano & Woodley, so we passed. Instead, we bought tickets to a show that was cancelled ten minutes before we were due to take our seats when a crew member electrocuted themselves and blew out every fuse in the hotel where the show was being staged. So it goes.

Tuesday night, thanks to the miracles of teen babysitter and free tickets from my work’s social club, we got a second chance. And this time, we went.

Woodley’s always been a fantastic performer, combining an amazing physical elasticity with a talent for drawing pathos and sympathy from an audience with subtle changes in stance. And yet, and yet….

Possessed is the story of Louie, a lonely borderline agarophobe who spends his days collecting sailing ship memorabilia and building model ships to hang around his tiny basement apartment. When he is possessed by the ghost of Phoebe O’Leary, an Irish girl who drowned whilst stowing away on the ship whose model he is currently building, it leads them both to question their relationship, their choices, and whether to stay locked up within their own personal purgatories or take the chance on actions that may liberate or damn them.

And much like the Jim Carrey movie The Cable Guy, what could (should?) have been a startlingly good example of one type of story (in the case of the movie, a black comedy. In the case of the play, a heartbreaking and ultimately sweet and hopeful love story) is cut off at the knees by the need to insert ‘signature’ aspects of the main performers style of comedy. Put more bluntly, there was far too much falling down stairs and not enough character in this one-person tour de force for it to be successful.

Don’t get me wrong: Woodley still is, and will remain for some time, a masterful physical performer. But he’s not so capable of character acting that I ever quite believed in his ability to transform from male to female mannerisms. His turns as Phoebe feel like just that: comic turns, a chance to mince and flap in a burlesque manner, rather than the assumption of a true alter ego. And, ultimately, the story of Phoebe’s fate, and the journey she must take, are so well written and genuinely sad that they outweigh the bulk of the performace: Woodley’s stock-in-trade physical buffoonery as the cross-lobed Louie is at odds with the tragedy that unfolds behind him. The end result is neither wholly one thing or another, and left me wondering what the play could have been if performed by a genuine character actor, played straight, or at least, with a greater balance between the sadness and a gentler form of melancholy humour.

OOOOOOOOOOOH-LAAAAAAAAAAAAA

It came, we went, we were blown away.

Luscious and I headed to the Burswood dome on Saturday night to view the multi-million-dollar-multi-media-lots-of-singing-stars-and-orchestra-and-rock-band-and-bloody-enormous-video-screen-and-how-damn-cool-is-the-30-metre-high-Martian-fighting-machine-attacking-the-audience-with-lights-and-smoke musical spectacular War of The Worlds, and lets me tells ‘ee, we were not disappointed. Indeedy not. We wuz, um, appointed?

Lyn fell in love with Justin Hayward all over again because, well, he’s good looking and has a great voice and long hair and wears all white, I think. I fell in love with the giant tripod because, well, I don’t wanna talk about it….

The music was blood-stirring, the vocal performances were outstanding, and we were carried along by the thunderous narrative as if it was the first time we’d heard it. The original album is one of my favourites- I’ve owned it in three different formats, and to be honest, I half-expected to witness a simple recreation of the musical score. Instead, we were presented with an updated work, modified to accompany a theatrical performance, taking into account the characters who appeared live (as opposed to those who appeared via the multi-media portion of the performance). Rather than a simple re-telling, this was a re-imagining, bringing what was a purely aural experience into three dimensions with an aggressive bombast perfectly suited to the big arena in which it was played. It was vibrant, and fresh, and a magnificent theatrical experience.

Works such as this have always fired my imagination. I’ve always loved theatrical-style concepts albums: sure, there are some terrible examples of the form, but albums such as WotW and Alice Cooper’s The Last Temptation show what can be done if the vision is strong enough, and those involved keep a firm idea of their artistic goals.

I’ve always been attracted to works that carry from one form to another in that way, and recent advances in technology have made such interweaving of media accessible in so many more ways than in days past— Walking with Dinsoaurs Live; the Battlestar Galactica ‘Webisodes’; the interactive Dr Who Invasion of the Graske episode…. and of course, there are countless other examples, both highly commercial and otherwise.

But as a creator, with an urge to flex my creative muscles, it’s inspiring. And as a geeky little fanboy with an inner ten year old who lurks thiiiiiiiisss close to the skin, who could ask for more than the total immersion such things offer?

Anyway: watched it, experienced it, loved it. What else can I say?

A teensy camera, a fair way away. But come on: how frigging

cool is that fighting machine?

MY WIFE IS SCOTLAND

There’s an old (and sadly, accurate) joke about the Scottish football team always arriving home from the World Cup before their postcards.

Guess what arrived in the mail today? The Valentine’s Day present Luscious sent me from Brisbane 🙂

Mind you, it was damn well worth waiting for. I wish I’d been in the shop when she explained that she was buying a book called The Sociopath Next Door for her husband for Valentine’s……

AS CLOSE AS I’LL EVER GET

Walking With Dinosaurs: The Live Experience was un-be-lievable. Beautifully realised, engaging, astonishing in its scope and prentation, just a magical and awe-inspiring evening that made me want to weep in dino-geekboy rapture. I’d post some pictures, but right now picture-posting is still one of the things I need to reintroduce to my hard drive. Soon.

But what does it say about the human psyche, or at least, about the way we allow ourselves to be trained, that several thousand people issued a loving awwwwwwwwww at the sight of a ‘baby’ brachiosaur tall enough to look the upper rows of the stadium in the eye, and that so many of us cheered when the T-Rex made its appearance. Cheered. As in Here comes the Hero!

And yes, I was one of them.

The show was as close as I can ever expect to seeing a live dinosaur. And whilst I’m a grown-up, rational man on the outside, there’s a large part of me that wants to meet aliens, dinosaurs, and Gandalf in the flesh, just once, just to believe in real magic. For a couple of hours, at least, I could close down that rational part of my brain that saw the wires and animatronics and puppeteers no matter how well-hidden they were, and revel in the magic-wielding side of my imagination. What a rush.