Never Did Me Any Harm

Parenting sure is a hot topic right now. With the success of The Slap, the Sydney Theatre Company and contemporary dance company Force Majeure have joined forces for the first time to create Never Did Me Any Harm. It’s a physical theatre work inspired by the book and deals with parenting – the challenges, the contentment, and the misunderstandings. Melding theatre with the physical, it elegantly segways between the two forms to create a physical theatre work that people really understand, says performer Vincent Crowley.

“The Slap hit a real chord,” he says, as everyone can relate to the issues of family and childhood. From mothers sharing in the woes of parenting to a couple worrying about how to discipline their child, this production does away with the lofty themes usually associated with physical theatre, and brings it down to the every-day. The work even uses words taken from real-life interviews with mothers, fathers and children. “The verbatim immediately puts it in a voice and tone that we understand”, says Crowley. If you’ve never seen physical theatre, there’s never been a better time to try.

6 Jan-12 Feb, The Wharf, Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, $35 – $75, 9250 1777, sydneytheatre.com.au

Cardboard Manila: Within / Without

Published 11 June 2011 – City Hub, Sydney

Only a few years ago, the Phillipines had their own Arnold Schwarzenegger moment, electing their highest rating film star to President of the country. A few years before that, they were living under the draconian dictatorship of martial law. Such are the highs and lows of the country’s long history, making it a fascinating subject for artists and historians alike.

A new theatre installation at Blacktown Arts Centre called Within/Without explores just that, through a recreation of the city’s capital. The best thing is, it’s made entirely out of cardboard boxes. Deb Pollard, the co-creator, says the idea came about by accident. They wondered, “how about if we physically build the city of Manila? The materials happened to come from a recycle bin that was nearby and it ended up being our cardboard city.”

Visitors take a walking tour through the maze-like city to see re-enactments of important historical moments, the poverty of some of its citizens, and even meet the flashy Ms Phillipines. “They even get a bowl of food,” she says. “There’s a cook in our city as well.”

If you’ve been thinking about going from a drive out to Blacktown Arts Centre, there’s never been a better time.

Jun 22-Jul 2, Blacktown Arts Centre, 78 Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown, $20-30, artscentre.blacktown.nsw.gov.au

Missing Persons: The Disappearances Project

Each year 1,600 people are listed as long-term missing persons. Some might walk to the store, go out for a drink, or leave for work as usual, and simply never return. For their family and friends, this can mark the beginning of years of hellish uncertainty.

Theatre company Version 1.0’s new production The Disappearances Project captures the crushing limbo for those left not knowing. “It focuses on the experience of those left behind in long-term missing persons cases,” says co-deviser and performer Yana Taylor. “We are channeling the voices of people’s accounts and experiences of… losing someone mysteriously.”

Real-life statements are woven from police reports, documents, interviews with family and communities around the cases to form a snapshot of their pain and frustration. “The worst thing,” says one family member, “is not knowing.” A chilling soundscape from Paul Prestipino combines with video imagery to form an immersive and haunting mosaic of this dark state of suspension.

May 3-7, Track 8, Performance Space, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh, free, performancespace.com.au

Bougainville Photoplay Project: Documentary Theatre

Published 15 November 2010 – City Hub, Sydney

Documentary meets theatre in this innovative production about the conflict in Bougainville, a son’s search for the truth about his father, and the power of healing.

A middle-aged man wanders tentatively to the stage and introduces himself as Dr Paul Dwyer – Academic, ethnographer and adventurer. Part personal essay and part endearingly simple multimedia project, it charts the real-life story of Dwyer’s travels to Bouganville in the footsteps of his father, the first orthopaedic surgeon to visit the island in the 1960s.

Old family photographs, documentary footage and confronting images of massacres intertwine to form a fascinating lecture series stroke family slide-show about the tragic civil war and its many victims. Fresh from wild reviews at the Old Fitzroy Theatre last year, political theatre company Version 1.0 now bring the production to the Upstairs Theatre at Belvoir Street. A must see.

9-28 Nov, Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, $35-57, (02) 9699 3444, belvoir.com.au

Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet

Deep in the bowels of a Paris Opera Ballet rehearsal studio, a young Principal Ballerina goes effortlessly through her steps. Her elegance and poise are mesmerising, and one marvels at the fluidity of the human body. Her grey-haired instructor, however, clearly has other ideas. “Arms higher, Angelique!” he yells, “Back straight!” and then, shaking his head, “Stop! Stop! No, can’t you get it right?!”.

Such is the life of a ballerina in the Paris Opera Ballet, and director Frederick Wiseman’s documentary Le Danse captures the every-day workings of the most prestigious ballet company in the world. His previous films Highschool and Public Housing are fly-on-the-wall insights into the banalities of an organisation and he is doing the same again here. As the loudly snoring individual in the cinema next to me would attest, the uncompromisingly cinema verite style (including long, uncut scenes of rehearsal rooms and performances) will sustain only the most avid dance devotees.

For the rest of us, it is the all-too-rare glimpses into the workings of this infamously traditional institution that captivate – the company’s Artistic Director discussing what to do with those demanding American benefactors, the tens of sweaty costume designers gluing every sequin and stitching every elaborate tutu, and dance instructors mourning the death of ballet as a true craft.