Blog

5 July 10:52 am

A Note from Lee, 5 July

It’s freezing! But tucked away in the basement of Sydney Uni we are rehearsing Kendall Feaver‘s hot new play The Almighty Sometimes. Bad joke, great play. There is nothing more exhilarating than feeling a new Australian work come to life in the hands of amazing actors. It is in weeks like this that I know I have the best job in the country.

Kendall has created a rich and complex play about mothers and daughters and independence and getting older and the decisions we make for the people we love, and I have the most beautiful cast with which to explore the stories hived in her language. I can’t wait to share it with you.

But before I do, you have to come along to Hannie Rayson‘s Hello, Beautiful! next week. Seriously, how often do you get to spend an hour watching one of our most beloved playwrights tell stories from their life? Only eight shows, so get in while you can. 

Finally, thank you to all the people who contributed to our end of financial year campaign. You are making it possible for us to continue making great Australian plays in the SBW Stables theatre. Without you, Griffin would not survive. And Australian playwrights would lose the promise that there will always be a theatre dedicated to making their plays. And Australia would lose its voice. And as we put together the 2019 season it is clear—that voice is loud, insistent and not content with the status quo…watch this space.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

3 July 3:11 pm

‘Hello, Beautiful!’—5 Questions With Hannie Rayson

Playwright and author Hannie Rayson brings her sublimely comedic one-woman show, Hello, Beautiful! to Griffin this July. To find out more, we asked Hannie some questions about life, family and touring a solo show around Australia.

 

1. What’s been your most memorable performance to date?

My tour manager and I arrived on a Saturday afternoon at Lake Charm. The paddocks were shimmering with emptiness. There was a shop and petrol pump, but they were closed.

And yes, it did occur to me that we might have driven 298 km to the NSW border for the edification of three men and a kelpie.

But OH YE OF LITTLE FAITH.

Before long, an army of farmers’ wives arrived at the Lake Charm Hall. The jolliest, friendliest women on the planet, who laid out a fabulous spread of asparagus rolls, cream puffs, club sangers and every type of slice you can imagine. And when the historic curtain rolled up on the hall’s perfect little stage, the auditorium was bursting at the seams. There were even people bussed in from Cohuna!

Boort, Elmore and Heathcote were also contenders. I especially liked the day the sound desk caught fire. 

2. What are you currently reading?

Australian playwright Alana Valentine’s Bowerbird – The art of making theatre from life. I’m loving this book. I feel so buoyed by it. Being a playwright is a tough gig. And yet…what a life we lead. I am so happy to be reading about hers.

3. You’re a frequent visitor to Sydney. What would be your ideal day here?

I have fabulous cousins who live in Sydney. Regardless of season or weather, they meet on the beach at Bondi at 6am and swim between the headlands.  Then the swimmers decamp to a coffee shop for breakfast. 

After that, I would take off on the Bondi to Coogee walk.

I would then drop by Performing Lines and have lunch with them. This is my touring company and I love them. They make lunch for each other, most days. 

Then at night I would go to Griffin to see a play.

4. How was the adaptation process for the show? How did you choose which stories in the book would make it to the stage?

There are forty-three stories in my memoir and only eight of them make it to the stage. After my book was first published, I spent a year on the literary circuit, sort of “performing myself” to audiences from Perth to Cairns. I started to get an idea of what worked. That said, I’ve been a playwright for 35 years. So I do know a bit about making theatre. I surprised myself!

5. What’s your next adventure?

I’m meeting my son in Greece. You expect your kids to have different tastes to you, but when my son said his favourite place in the whole world is Greece, I jumped for joy. It’s mine too. I’m writing a film script set on a Greek island. So naturally I have to go there.

21 June 12:55 pm

A Note from Phil, 21 June

It’s been a big week here. Ooft. I feel like I say that a lot between tired gasps and sips of tea. But it really has been.

Firstly, you know you’ve had an excellent week in the theatre when meeting* the British acting legend and real-life Doctor Who Richard E. Grant in the Griffin foyer was perhaps only the third most exciting thing that happened. 

This weekend we waved goodbye to Brooke Robinson’s unflinching and darkly comic Good. Cook. Friendly. Clean.yet I am still house hunting. Quick note: never go and see a rental property that uses the phrase “boutique and humble living space.” You’re a cruel mistress, Sydney.

If you missed last Friday’s UP LATE… then you missed it. Move on. Life is too short to dwell on these things. But it was a classy hour of songs and stories and possibly too many jokes about Perth. Our next UP LATE is on August 17 so make sure you pop that one in your diary! They’re very fun.

We also bought a new 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle for the office as a team bonding exercise (don’t you dare laugh)! The jigsaw is called “The 2019 Griffin Season” and the image it will make is the entire staff doing a daggy victory dance once we’ve locked in a stellar program for next year. With so many pieces, it’s a difficult job. But we’ll get there. Only another 6,482 pieces to go. Actually, has anyone seen a big blue puzzle piece with one pointy bit on the side? We might need that.

Okay, that’s enough from me, other than to say that I cannot wait for Hello, Beautiful! to arrive, and that we start rehearsals for The Almighty Sometimes next week. Another big week. Ooft. (He says, popping the kettle on).

*When I say I met him, I mean I stood a respectable distance away and smiled and resisted the urge to list my top five Withnail and I quotes at his face as he politely sipped his soda water. “I feel like a pig shat in my head.”

7 June 11:48 am

A Note from Phil, 7 June

I’m not absolutely certain which philosopher it was who said “Mo Money, Mo Problems”—it was either Soren Kierkegaard or The Notorious B.I.G.  

Of course, they were right.

Because is there anything more frustrating than being on your doorstep trying to find your house keys but all the spare cash that’s floating loose in your backpack keeps getting in the way—so you give up looking, hop in a cab to the city, stay in a hotel room for the night, clear out the mini bar and eat the world’s most expensive KitKat?!

But fear not, we are here to help dear friends. Donate some of your hard-earned moolah to us and we will do all sorts of magnificent things with it!

Last weekend was an example of the magnificent things we do here at Griffin. We opened up the theatre on Sunday, brewed some tea and spent the afternoon watching a gang of Sydney’s finest actors perform excerpts of the five shortlisted 2018 Griffin Award plays by Will O’Mahony, Jane Bodie, Kirk Dodd, Vernon Sik Chuan Pua and this year’s winner Suzie Miller, with her enchanting and menacing new play On the Face Of It.

A heads up that we have just opened submissions for the Martin Lysicrates Prize—so if you’re a playwright working on the first act of a brand new play for children aged 11-14, then oh boy do we want to hear from you!

Actually, while I have you, you also have until next week to see Brooke Robinson’s captivating drama Good Cook. Friendly. Clean., we’re doing a musical special UP LATE on Friday 15 June and I’m looking for a three bedder in Summer Hill to rent, so if you have any leads, send them my way.

Cheers,
Phil

Phil Spencer
Artistic Associate

25 May 12:14 pm

In Conversation With Brooke Robinson

Brooke Robinson is the playwright of Griffin’s second Main Season production for 2018, Good Cook. Friendly. Clean.. The play is darkly comic and sees a middle-aged woman spiral out of control as she desperately attempts to make herself marketable to the cruel world of millennial sharehouse living in Sydney.

2016. I am living in Kilburn, North West London. A year earlier, just as I was about to leave Sydney, I’d read Zadie Smith’s new novel NW set in this area, the place where she grew up, and thought “Well, if it’s good enough for her…”.

I get a letter in the mail from a production company who are turning NW into a TV series for the BBC, and they would like to film the façade of my house. A little while later I’m on the bus and overhear two women complain about the ‘relentless’ requests from production companies wanting to film the outside of their houses for movies and TV shows. I move to Crouch End, further north in London, and one Sunday find my local supermarket closed because Benedict Cumberbatch is in there filming an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel for the BBC. I’m thrilled that I’m about to see Benedict Cumberbatch walk down my bread aisle on TV, but it’s nothing special for Londoners who get to see their own city on TV, in movie theatres and on stages every day. This is apropos of nothing really, but as an Australian, I am fascinated with what it must be like to grow up in a place where you turn on the TV and you expect to see your city because your story, your accent, your local landmarks are the dominant, rather than the niche.

I started writing Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. in early-to-mid 2016 and I was (still am), on average, seeing four plays a week— that’s almost 200 a year, from fringe productions to West End shows—not to mention the old play scripts I read in the British Library on my days off work. Theatre was the reason I’d moved to the UK, and so I was determined to make the most of it. I became worried that this intense theatre-watching was crippling. How would I ever hope to write anything original when everything in every style had already been done, just out of sheer volume? I thought I might begin to only appreciate really experimental works that were often just about doing something new for the sake of it.

Brooke Robinson in rehearsal for Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. Pic by Brett Boardman.

But in fact the opposite happened, and the more plays I saw, the more I began to appreciate the old masters. London has changed my tastes a great deal. I would not have predicted that my ideal thing to do on a Saturday night would become going into the West End to see yet another costume drama set during the London blitz. My new favourite playwright became Terence Rattigan, one of Britain’s leading dramatists around the mid-20th Century who, happily for me, has been enjoying a renaissance in the UK in recent years, with many of his works being revived. One of these productions I saw (twice) was The Deep Blue Sea at the National Theatre with Helen McCrory (who like me, you might know from Peaky Blinders). This play features what a lot of British critics describe as “the greatest female role in contemporary drama.” I agree, and if you don’t know the play, I’d urge you to read it.

Also around the time of writing Good Cook., I went to the British Film Institute to see a Martin Scorsese retrospective. Taxi Driver and Raging Bull have long been two of my favourite films, so I chose a Scorsese I’d never seen before, but which also features Robert De Niro: The King of Comedy. This film was an absolute revelation for me. I loved it. It’s a masterclass in black comedy. I had never attempted, nor had an inclination to write anything remotely comedic before, but this film made me understand that comedy’s purpose is to make the story more excruciating, more painful, more moving.

Robert De Niro in The King Of Comedy

I saw another play at the Royal Court which also has forever changed my attitude to comedy. Cyprus Avenue is a play set in contemporary Northern Ireland about a middle-class man—an Ulster Unionist—who is so consumed by his hate for Irish Catholics that he becomes convinced that his new born baby granddaughter is Gerry Adams, so he kills her—and very violently so. On stage. You probably can’t tell from this brief synopsis that this is the absolute funniest, most hilarious piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. And before you think I’m a psychopath, yes, it’s also one of the most shocking and disturbing plays I’ve seen, and that is its genius—one feeds off the other.

Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue

Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. is the start of what I think may be a long fascination on my part with dark comedy. At the moment, I’m reading a book called The Humor Code, an investigation by two American social scientists into why humans laugh, and in it, a psychologist says that humour acts as a buffer against depression and hopelessness.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: “The secret source of humour itself is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humour in heaven.”

24 May 3:04 pm

A Note from Lee, 24 May

Sydney is filled to the brim with great Australian plays at the moment.

Good Cook is leading the charge and once you have seen that, make sure you head over to Belvoir for Alana Valentine‘s The Sugar House and then Nakkiah Lui‘s Blackie Blackie Brown at STC. Huge stories, great talents, nights in the theatre to talk about as winter heads our way. 

I am writing this on the train back back to Melbourne from Geelong after the opening night of The Bleeding Tree at Geelong Performing Arts Centre. It’s late, the train is pretty empty and I am once again overwhelmed by the language of Angus Cerini. The journey of this play has been extraordinary. Seeing audiences in Canberra, Melbourne and Geelong thrill to the terrifying, hilarious, gruesome, gorgeous, contradictory, epic, human, awful world of this play has been pure pleasure. But being in Melbourne has touched it all with a certain sadness—I am sorry Malcolm Robertson didn’t get to see the fruits of his support for Angus’s writing. Through his foundation he supported the first production at Griffin—and happily he got to see that—but I think he would have been thrilled to welcome the work to Melbourne. I didn’t know him well but I enjoyed the few conversations we had and was inspired by his commitment to emerging artists, his love of Australian plays and his patience. We need more of this kind of Malcolm! I know a lot of people have supported The Bleeding Tree and Griffin, but I couldn’t help it, I sat in the audience tonight and wished he could have been there. His foundation continues to support playwrights and projects at Griffin. We hope to continue making him proud.

The next newsletter will be cheerier because Phil Spencer will write it while I’m away in Melbourne directing MTC’s production of Gloria. And in the next newsletter we will be able to announce the winner of the Griffin Award! But for now, goodnight from the empty train carriage with the city lights of Melbourne in the distance…wow…the LED Ferris wheel!

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

10 May 2:25 pm

A Note from Karen, 10 May

In the Griffin office this week we can’t wait for you to…

See Good Cook. Friendly. Clean.

Brooke Robinson’s new play Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. opened last night to much acclaim. It has been fantastic to receive audience feedback throughout the previews as the team have transported Brooke’s gut-wrenching play from the rehearsal room to our intimate Stables stage. It’s terrific to have Marion Potts back with us directing this intricate work. The last time Marion was here was with Peta Brady‘s Ugly Mugs—and I know you will find this work just as daring and provocative. Book your tickets now for Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. (we are selling quickly!) and come and experience the amazing stage chemistry between these three fine actors. Worth it just to see Tara Morice back at Griffin!

Experience the rest of 2018!

It’s not too late to subscribe to the 2018 Season. A Griffin subscription is great value for money and the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on what’s in store for the rest of the year. Plus, one of the subscriber benefits is half-price drinks at the Stables Bar…what’s not to be happy about there?

Celebrate the national tour of The Bleeding Tree

Angus Cerini’s beautifully rich play The Bleeding Tree opened at Canberra Theatre Centre last night.  We are thrilled to be touring this Helpmann award-winning production to Canberra, Melbourne and Geelong. If you haven’t seen this deeply heartfelt work and are near any of those towns, get along. It is a production not to be missed.

Hope to see you at the Stables soon!

Cheers,
Karen

Karen Rodgers
General Manager

26 April 4:26 pm

Celebrating ‘Good Cook. Friendly. Clean.’
Sharehouse Horror Stories

Brooke Robinson‘s Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. follows Sandra (played by Tara Morice) as she spirals down a rabbit hole of ridiculous sharehouse interviews in the daunting midst of the Sydney housing crisis.

In anticipation of the show’s opening, we asked you to send in your own personal experiences with horrible housemates. Follow this blog post as we add stories and tidbits ranging from the hilarious to the truly heinous–and if you’ve got your own, there’s still time to submit! Email marketing@griffintheatre.com.au and you might see your story published on the Griffin website!

Dairy Dilemma

“I lived with a woman in Glebe called Sam. Sam had a penchant for leaving refrigerated items out on the kitchen bench for ridiculous lengths of time. The record was a two-litre carton of milk, which was left on the bench long enough to swell to almost double in size, and turn to a festering green colour. Yummy.”

Boozy Bedfellows

“I had a flatmate who would routinely come home drunk in the early hours of the morning and leave the front door wide open.  The best night was when I came downstairs to find the contents of her handbag distributed along the path leading to the front door – sunglasses, make-up, lipstick etc.  She’d managed to get the door open, left it open, and then promptly dropped her keys, wallet and the bag itself in the hall before going to bed. 

This was only topped by the night she climbed into my bed at 3am, declaring that she wanted to sleep there.  I thought the best course of action was to go and sleep in hers – only to be confronted by her in the morning, demanding to know what I was doing in her bed.”

Chicken Feet Friends

“I moved to a new city and ended up in a house full of creative artists. It wasn’t rare to walk out of my bedroom in the morning to find strangers filming music videos in the lounge room, strangers drilling holes into slime covered dildos on the kitchen floor, or finding mannequins dressed as 16th-century witches, complete with necklaces of dried chicken feet opposite my bedroom door.”

Shower Showdown

“I moved into student accommodation and my roommate had hair about three feet long that used to block up the drain. One day the shower was so clogged that by the time I got out, there was about half a foot of water in there. Not wanting to pull HER hair out of the drain, I got out and left it – only to come home that evening to find a passive-aggressive note addressed to me, asking me to drain the shower after I use it.

On the day I moved in, I asked if there was a rubbish bin in the kitchen and she looked at me like I was crazy and just shrugged. And she once left hard boiled eggs sitting on the kitchen table going bad for a whole week.”

Meat & Greet

“My partner lived with a guy called Stu who was from country Victoria. About once a month, Stu would go home for a visit and when he returned on the Sunday night, he brought with him a cow’s carcass. The carcass was never completely dried out, so he hung it under the stairs inside the house until all the blood drained out of it… once dried (some time later), he proceeded to cut the carcass into steaks for the household for the next month.”

Smells Fishy

“In first year uni I lived with a girl who only cooked smoked cod with white sauce or macaroni cheese. That was it. Week days was smoked cod and she had the macaroni cheese for a treat on weekends. Our whole house smelt like a mix of a bad fish shop and some cheap fromagerie! At the end of first year she moved on to Kraft cheese on toast and mandarins which was much easier for the rest of us to live with!”

Coital Conundrum

“I was running late one morning and couldn’t find my bike lock. Noticing that my housemate’s door was open, I thought “ah, *name redacted* is up, I’ll ask if I can borrow his” and walked into his room, to the harrowing sight of he and his girlfriend mid-coitus. With the door WIDE OPEN.”

Itchy & Scratchy

“During a 6-month university exchange in the States I shared a tiny dorm room with a girl who didn’t wash her sheets in 6 months, had a chronic skin condition (we had bunk beds and I’d awaken early in the morning to hear her scratching in the bed above me, the flakes of her skin drifting down like snowflakes in the early morning light) and who woke me every few days at the crack of dawn blow drying her hair an inch away from my face. Our room was literally next door to the enormous women’s bathroom for our entire floor, but she didn’t want to use it because she was “scared of being electrocuted.” I’d come back to our room some nights to find her and her friends lying in my bed—literally under my doona—watching a movie on her laptop and eating takeaway from the Thai restaurant down the hill. Some mornings I’d wake and have to shake rice and bean sprouts out of my hair. The hilarious thing is that even though she was a bit of a nightmare to live with, on our last day I still gave her a little present and a ‘goodbye, good luck, all the best’ type card. She did not give me anything.”

Book Worm

“In a sharehouse in Harbord, I once borrowed a book that was placed on bookshelf in the living room area. It was a can’t-put-downer, and I finished it in one weekend. I RAVED about how good it was to my flatmates over dinner, because it was. Later that same evening I received a text message from one of the flatmates. Let’s call her Lisa, because that was her name. At the time of texting, Lisa was in the bedroom next to mine. Her message informed me that that book was a present to her and NOT mine to read until she had read it first. My taking it from the shelf was impertinent and selfish and I should have known better. Now I am scared to go near bookshelves.”

Only Girl (In The World)

“I lived with a girl called Marielle who played Rihanna’s ‘Only Girl (In The World)’ every single day for a year and whenever I hear it now my left eye twitches uncontrollably. In that same house was a Parisian called Charles who read Nietzsche obsessively, never shared any of the cheese his family sent him and didn’t speak to me for a month because he thought I broke his lamp. (I didn’t).”

Oh, Those Belgians

“My housemate put her room on AirBnb, and an eccentric Belgian took it. Early on, he looked at my phone lock screen, which was a cute, obviously romantic photo of me and my boyfriend, and asked optimistically ‘Eez zat your….brother?’ This remark was put into context when, two days later, I caught a glimpse of the contents of his washbag in the bathroom. It contained nothing but approximately 200 condoms.”

Not So Secret Diary

“My friend kept a secret Tumblr called ‘Confessions of a Terrible Housemate’ where he detailed, unknown to his housemates, all the things he had done in the house. Highlights included ‘I used your wooden spoons to tie-dye my underwear and now all the spoons are red’ and ‘I stole your wine and drank it sitting down in the shower.’ When he moved out he sent it to them.”

Sour Note

“I had a housemate who fell in love with me and then when I rejected him, he moved out in the middle of the night and we only found out by a tiny note he left us.”

 

12:57 pm

A Note from Lee, 26 April

In all the excitement of our first Batch Festival I forgot to tell you about The Bleeding Tree! It is going on the road! Next Monday I go back into rehearsal with the magnificent Paula Arundell. Two new actors, Sophie Ross and Brenna Harding, have come on board to play her daughters. It is a real pleasure to be working on that play again – as tough as the story is, we all feel really lucky to have it on a stage once more.

People often ask me why our works don’t tour more. Truth is, in Australia it is a really expensive, difficult thing to do well, and it takes time, cash and a huge effort to remount and tour a play – these are resources we don’t necessarily have at Griffin. We choose to stay focused on producing new work. But every so often, there is such demand from other cities to see a particular play that we just have to make it work. If you saw The Bleeding Tree at Griffin and Sydney Theatre Company you will understand why Canberra, Melbourne and Geelong want the chance to see it for themselves. So tell your friends and families down south to book tickets – then you can finally talk about the play with them!

In the meantime, this is the last week of Batch, and then next week, Good Cook. Friendly. Clean. is in the Stables. I snuck into the rehearsal room last week and was thrilled by what I saw. It is funny and disturbing and moving and a really exciting debut from new playwright Brooke Robinson. I think you will really like it! 

See you at the Stables!

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

11:45 am

A Sharehouse Like No Other
A Note From Phil Spencer

For those of you not familiar with Griffin’s Admin Head Quarters—it is, for want of an exact phrase, a ‘sharehouse’.

A six-bedroom, one-bathroom, half-a-kitchen sharehouse—what a clean-shaven real estate agent would call ‘a burgeoning micro-garden with huge botanical potential’, aka a back deck with three dead pot plants and a bin.

The Griffin sharehouse, or ‘Craig’ as it is known, is much-loved and much-occupied by team Griff. As with all communal living quarters, Craig has its own unique domestic eco-system. We have rules of course. Some rules are decreed in biro upon the back of an electricity bill on the fridge door – like “if you eat the last biscuit, you buy the next biscuit.” And some rules are unspoken but well-known—like “Strictly no April Fools jokes, not after the last time guys.”

Every Thursday morning around 10am a game show buzzer goes off and we have a flat meeting. There is weak tea and gluten-free day-cake and a pile of passive-aggressive post-it notes to talk through.

I make my way down the stairs, past the sign that Lee Lewis made in red texta that reads “All flatmates are equal. But some flatmates are more equal than others.” I step over the semi-permanent hallway parcel addressed to Sam Strong (an ex-flatmate who for some reason still gets all his ASOS packages sent here and luckily, we’re the same shoe size— thanks Sam). I arrive in the front room which is stuffed full of bleary-eyed arty types clutching keep cups.

The flatmate roll call here at Craig reads like a list of names of people who were on the “I’m sorry, but we cannot offer you a place this time round” list for the NIDA acting course circa 2001.

And this meeting starts the way every weekly flatmate meeting begins in every house the world over—self-elected boss lady Karen Rogers (who I strongly suspect of stealing loo roll (in bulk)) starts the meeting by holding up an A4 laminated sign that simply reads “Wash your dishes people! I am not your mum!”

From there we tick off the agenda items with the zesty enthusiasm of a group of people who’ve been forced by circumstance and a love of the theatre to share close confines and one unpredictable lavatory:

Item One: For those in favour of ‘Vegan Tuesdays’ raise your hand.
Item Two:  For those interested in going on the ‘VR, the death of theatre and life as we know it’ one-day intensive course over at AFTRS sign here.
Item Three: Under no circumstances eat the cookies baked by the last intern. They are, and I quote, ‘dubious’.
Item Four: Despite what he says, Elliott is not the landlord, so if you’ve given him any cash in the last month please request it is returned—granted he has been here an eternity and I for one have never seen him pay any rent—but two wrongs don’t make you a landlord.
Item Five: Despite wide spread rumours Ang did not die with a falafel in her hand, she went on holiday and will return next week.
Item Six: Any other business…

 

Phil Spencer
Artistic Associate

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