Doublespeak – Anywhere and Everywhere – A Review.

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On Thursday night, I attended Doublespeak, an event of the Anywhere Festival in Frankston by The Dig Collective who will be performing each night until September 6th. at 7pm.

This experimental physical performance about wordplay, the power of words, their use and misuse, their relevance and irrelevance, the rewriting of history, propaganda and the power of silence.

It keeps you engaged and cemented to your seat – just as well they provide soft cushions as an added extra because the wonder and excitement of the Anywhere Festival is most performances can be performed everywhere (with a little adaptation). This festival, I’ve been in a barber shop and a yoga school!

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The audience meets at Fresh Start Organic Cafe (scroll down their page to see a newspaper review of Doublespeak) before being escorted to a secret location (an ‘abandoned’ shop a short walk away). Warmly welcomed by Alex and Tim we were invited to partake in a glass of wine or water.

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Alex Talamo and Tim Sneddon

The warm welcome figuratively and literally an important aspect of this festival because Melbourne’s winter has been long and the nights cold, which may account for low audience numbers. Also the two-actor performance begins ‘on the beach’, the antics of the actors making me smile as I sat defrosting!

doublespeak (noun) deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language.
“the art of political doublespeak”

Or as the well-known fount of all knowledge Wikipedia suggests:

Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs, “servicing the target” for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”).

In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language…

The Dig Collective living up to their reputation as experimental and innovative, present an entertaining show – tightly scripted and acted. ‘Scene’ changes smooth and intriguing; minimum fuss with ingenious and simple props. The speech patterns and movement deliberate but fluid, especially when Dana uses mime. Both Michael and Dana comfortable with each other and the performance space, their timing excellent and ensures the audience keeps up with some segments that move very quickly indeed.

Doublespeak is currently in development to be presented as a full-length performance for the 2015 Melbourne Fringe. The Collective advises:

To speak and not to speak about anything at all is nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a politician…

Working from case studies about people who have attempted difficult conversations at great self-risk, the project draws on the work of Sophie Calle’s Exquisite Pain to explore the form of personal mythology and unspoken cultural practices.

To speak of the unspeakable is a political act – and a dangerous one in the current national climate.

Michael Fee and Dana McMillan
Michael Fee and Dana McMillan

They have been conversing with people in the street during the day and asking for reflections on the question “When have you most felt Australia was an island?” Responses are incorporated in the act and updated to reflect the local conversations.

The welcome scene to get you in the mood for the performance!
The welcome scene to get you in the mood for the performance!

Sound is an important part of the performance and Tim does a magnificent job with this.  To regularly incorporate responses into the show ensures the experimental work remains organic and keeps everyone on their toes. Anyone who’d like to respond is requested to do so. A voicemail to record  reflections has been set up and if you would like to leave your own, please call 0451 051 681.

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Audiences to Doublespeak don’t suffer, but there is a challenge to consider how you use your voice, how you perceive what others say, do you listen but not hear, and do you confront our political leaders and the media when they use weasel words or disseminate misinformation? What about the verbal abuse some of our sports representatives are now famous for? How do you speak to your friends and family? How do government representatives speak to citizens? What do you think of the language of official forms?

orwell on political lies The mood of the play relies heavily on the background sound – the news report when a US Airways passenger plane safely crash landed in the Hudson River six years ago. The intermittent beeps, a bit like a heart monitor, the media ‘pulse’, voices sometimes clear, other times indistinct. Meanwhile, a large blade representing the plane turns in the background throughout the evening, slowly, almost silently, .

As a background prop the turning blade creatively simple and effective
As a background prop the turning blade creatively simple and effective

There have been more recent plane crashes with tragic outcomes reported in sensational ways, but can anyone say what the ‘truth’ is? Dana recalls being an eight-year-old and her father bringing the family together to try and explain 9/11.

How do our leaders explain and use the narratives of public/global tragedies, and crises? What words do the media use? Why do some feel migrant, refugee, asylum seeker and illegal immigrant are interchangeable?

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The performers prompt other challenging conversations we need to have or at least consider. What happened in Australia to enable Tony Abbott, a prime example of a politician well-versed in  doublespeak, to become our Prime Minister? The irony of Bronwyn Bishop’s sojourn as Speaker.

The Anywhere Festival allows you to chat with the performers and producers directly. The Doublespeak cast appreciate you are more than a number on a ticket. Give them a call   – do you feel isolated or are you glad Australia is an island? Have you ever given a thought to the first peoples? Are you a migrant? A refugee? A tourist? What do you know of Australia’s history?

Those who  stay home during this festival miss events guaranteed to give enough food for thought to have real and meaningful conversations with family or friends, around the dinner table, at the pub or in a cafe.

Book for Doublespeak: September 6 @ 7.00pm I guarantee you’ll value words and their meaning, perhaps even think before you speak!

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Plunge – Contemporary Dance Theatre – a Review

On Saturday night, I went to another fabulous event of Frankston’s Anywhere Festival. The advertising blurb intrigued me as well as the venue, Yoga-MeStudios specialising in Yoga, Pilates and Barre.

What better place to view storytelling through contemporary dance!

Buddha's profile through the window of Yoga-Me Studio Frankston
Buddha’s profile through the window of Yoga-Me Studio Frankston

Yoga’s physical activities and movements can be challenging for many physiques, but it promotes a balance between mind and body with exercises geared to the individual.  I wondered how the artists would use the venue and if it would have a bearing on the work.

I soon discovered that the movements expertly performed by Joel Fenton and Jean Goodwin in Plunge are more than challenging to any ordinary person – the flexibility and control they demonstrated truly awe-inspiring. The polished boards and spartan lines of the studio perfect to showcase their performance!

I was green with envy – not just for their youth, but their talent.

A striking pose from Joel & Jean
A striking pose from Joel & Jean

The promise of the promotional advertising blurb:

“Playing out the many possibilities of the single moment when eyes meet, desires peak and you make a move, ‘Plunge’ examines the short and long term impacts of romantic advances that are reciprocated, rejected or unrequited.”

Intrigued, to say the least – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Warmly welcomed at the door, I joined a small group and listened while Darren Vizer, Director/choreographer of Devize Co introduced the show.  He requested members of the audience stay behind and give feedback to the performers and share their opinion about the show. This is one of the pluses of arts in the community – artists and audience conversing, discussing, sharing ideas and opinions – the constructed barriers of being ‘in the audience’ of a traditional theatre non-existent. Instead, up close and personal, genuine rapport can grow.

‘Plunge’ , developed from a workshop at La Mama where performers were given two words: sex and bullying and asked to develop an original piece of theatre merging contemporary dance with narrative. The result, a  story told through movement and words exploring attraction, lust, love, pleasurable and unpleasant and/or unwanted touch.

Darren explained there were several variations on what we would see, the work organic and continually developing.  The performers would be featured at the up-and-coming Fringe Festival, therefore our feedback welcomed.

The show began with appropriate mood music and for the next 45 minutes we watched two young adults (Joel and Jean) enter the uncertain world of romance the way most of us do – an initial physical attraction or desire.

We stayed engaged as Joel and Jean put on a riveting performance with a seamless action replay showing different reactions to a young man’s attempt to ‘hook up’ with a girl.  The first scenario showed acceptance of the advance, then switching stage position, we saw the rejection. The prop switch a clever way of making the audience change the physical focus as well as the alternate scenario.

Joel Fenton (Australia’s Got Talent, Grand Finalist 2012) revealed his acrobatic as well as dance abilities with some moves breathtaking. Without words he illustrated a range of emotions from shyness, reluctance, fear of rejection, joy, frustration and desire, anger, sorrow, despair, defeat and pride. At times almost flying across the floor or letting his upper body and facial expressions display whatever emotion or attitude Joel wanted.

Actor Jean Goodwin (ANZACs Victoria’s road to remembrance) the perfect companion, believable as the willing partner and stunning as the angry long-suffering woman dealing with body image issues and unwanted male attention. For many women it begins in adolescence, continues through womanhood and can result in damaged self-esteem, injury and even death. Jean manages to evoke the full gamut of emotions, moving her body with flexibility and ease.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Domestic Violence and a spate of high profile rapes and murders has focused attention on inappropriate male behaviour: from minor harassment, through to stalking, violence, and persistent misogyny. The home and workplace dangerous places for women, as well as jogging through the park, or walking home late at night. In fact women  can be targeted anywhere!

Plunge dives into the many realities of  sexual attraction, declarations of love or desire, ‘hooking up,’ fleeting or permanent romantic encounters, appreciating and enjoying time with that special someone, and how quickly the ugly flip side appears to become an abuse of power.  The body language and timing of Joel and Jean exceptional, evocative, explicit, entertaining.

We are told so much without words and it’s impressive, especially for someone like me who deals in words. Writers know all about the senses, the sensual, and also the importance of silence, but dance, like film, expresses all of this instantly and effectively!

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Different interpretations or motivations shown right at the beginning. Is Joel, the shy suitor or obsessed stalker penning a note declaring his admiration and dropping it into Jean’s handbag. She sits absorbed, unaware reading her kindle or is she really unaware of her attraction, and of Joel’s attention?

This opening scene interesting – what does the digital age mean for relationships juxtaposed with the handwritten note and traditional ‘rules’ about boy/girl approaches?

Physical attraction or revulsion? Devotion or obsession? Bargaining love or lust?When does no mean no?  Some of the story subtle; your interpretation, emotional engagement determined perhaps by life experience or prejudice. A man can be just as devastated and hurt as a woman, have similar body image issues.

Unwanted advances can take some effort to reject, a tirade of abuse or a physical attack can explode from either the giver or the recipient.

When Jean must cope with unwanted advances: hand on shoulder, hand on hand, attempt at footsies, hand on knee, too close a hug… the shrugs, the pushing away, the attempt to walk away, the grabbing and escalating violence of unnerving embrace… movements so aesthetically calculated and cleverly executed they pack a punch.

A heartfelt confession of dissatisfaction because of body image issues and how it can damn both males and females into a spiral of self-hate and unsatisfactory relationships or loneliness is a very powerful ending.

Plunge a memorable performance doing what all good art does – touching an emotional core, confronting important issues, provoking deep thought and leaving the audience in awe at the talent of the artists!

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I sincerely hope they get the audiences and adulation they deserve for the remainder of the festival and at The Melbourne Fringe.

And to think the innovative exploration was sparked by two words: Sex and Bullying. Two words with traumatic implications regarding relationships.

Yoga-Me, Frankston host to Plunge
Other guests leaving Yoga-Me, Frankston after experiencing Plunge – a bright spot in a dark and dreary night!

Go along to Yoga-MeStudios, Crn Beach Street & Olsen Street, Frankston – and catch a performance of  Plunge and see how great Joel and Jean are for yourself:

Sept 3-5 at 7:00pm.

You won’t be disappointed – and remember they welcome feedback – young artists honing their talent and craft. Fabulous!

A Sunburnt History, Savages – a Review

Nick Waxman and ukulele
Nick Waxman and his ukulele!

In June, I clicked on a link and discovered the Anywhere Festival has been making arts a bigger part of everyday lives since 2011 with performances anywhere but a theatre and for the second year there would be events in Frankston.

The festival will run from 21 August to 6 September with “100 comedy, music and drama acts – and a few hard to describe – in the nooks and crannies of Frankston.” The organisers, Paul Osuch and Alex McTavish asked for photographers and reviewers and yours truly obliged.

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Lord & Master Barber Shop 116 Nepean Hwy Seaford

Last night, I sat in a Barber Shop in Seaford and an hour disappeared as Nick Waxman entertained the audience with a fast-paced history lesson; the facts explained with rhyming wordplay, songs, mini sketches, mimicry, and a non-stop energy that must be seen to be believed.

With an ever-present smile, Nick put his show Savages in context. From day one of the European colonisation of our ‘Sunburnt Country’ we must question who were/are the primitive and uncivilised people in Australia’s history!

As historical truths are revealed, occasionally like all good satirical comedy, the laughter becomes a little uncomfortable because yes, the truth can hurt. However, when delivered by Nick, in a convivial atmosphere and a drink in hand, the ‘inconvenient truths’ of social commentary can be noted to mull over later.  Even if some of the information is shocking, Nick doesn’t let anything spoil this thoroughly entertaining evening.

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The sheer breadth of his knowledge is stunning. A self-confessed ‘drama teacher with a passion for history‘ his memory and flawless delivery mesmerising as  he weaves  Australia’s history from the time of mega fauna and arrival of the first people, into modern day facts, encompassing big philosophical and political issues such as racism, democracy, the rights of indigenous people, women, and homosexuals, along with the myths around war and peace. Along the way we learn of the importance of community’s knowing and understanding their history …

Anywhere Festival provides a way for independent artists to present work that removes the burden of theatre expenses and allows for the creation of works in amazing spaces anywhere but a theatre.

The relaxed and cosy venue suited the show. It’s amazing how a rearranging of barber chairs and an old comfortable leather lounge suite with some plastic chairs sandwiched between, creates a mini theatre. A portable projector screen with laptop controlled slideshow completed the ‘props’ along with Nick’s ukulele, of course. A makeshift bar in the back of the shop ensured a convivial atmosphere indeed as patrons chose champagne, wine or Gippsland Gold beer!

Malcolm Blair from Lord & Master Barber our host and just as he promotes his traditional business during the day, ‘a relaxed welcoming environment’ greeted each guest on arrival. For a business that started only a year ago Malcolm and his staff have built a loyal local following.

They offer a range of services not seen for many years, including Face and Head Shaves, Beard Design, which includes shaving and shaping the outline of the beard and also traditional and modern cuts. Their client base varies from kids through to seniors with servicing the 20 – 40 age group the majority of their work.

Malcolm’s mantra is to keep the prices as low as possible so clients return more regularly to keep their style sharp, but also build personal relationships with a local business. Community is very important  – shopping and buying local keeps places alive, encourages community spirit. He offers the Lords Exceptional Cut, which includes a complimentary beer – the same Gippsland Gold on offer last night. I can testify this is a tasty drink!

The Anywhere Festival promises “performances right where people live, work and play to make stronger, more vibrant communities.”


Nick Waxman’s show Savages at Malcolm Blair’s Lord & Master Barber Shop a fantastic fulfilment of these expectations. The venue easily accessible by public transport with Seaford Station an easy 4 minute walk away.

You can see Nick’s show on the following dates – it would be a shame to miss it:

  • Saturday, 29 Aug  at 7.30pm
    Thursday, sept 3 at 7.30pm
    Friday Sept 4, at 7.30pm
    Saturday  Sept 5 at 7.30pm

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it! Savages chronicles the all-too-many moments in our shared history that seem very much like a broken record. The foolish, fool hearty and fooled fill this fast-paced fifty five minute frenzy of facts, figures and forget-me-nots (fingers crossed)! Savages can be found everywhere… after all, it was such a primitive time.”

Presented by Flak Productions

Me as an unashamed groupie congratulating Nick after the show
Me as an unashamed groupie congratulating Nick after the show