Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Decadence runs at the Old 505 Theatre from December 4-7 2013. By Steven Berkoff, directed by Serhat Caradee.

Decadence is one of Berkoff’s least performed plays, perhaps because it is hella difficult. Written largely in pseudo-Shakespearean verse, it is an immense undertaking for two actors. On stage the whole time, they must play two different couples: one, a wealthy, upper-class pair of adulterous lovers, and the other, a working class pair with murderous and revolutionary tendencies (or so they say). It is so, so tough – but happily, this production from A Priori Projects is a great one. Searing, scintillating, this is Berkoff done so, so well.

This particular production has a bit of a history. It began life at the Sydney Fringe Festival this year, where it took home an award in the theatre category. (I didn’t see it then, as I was overseas, but if it was as good then as it is now, then that award is well-deserved.) In March, it will tour to the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It’s playing a limited season at the Old 505 now as a fundraiser for that tour. I’m not sure if tickets are still available, but if you can’t get to the Adelaide Fringe, then you should do your absolute best to get to this in its short run. It’s worth it.

Decadence is, like so much of Berkoff’s work, preoccupied with questions of class. It lambasts the wealthy upper classes: Helen and Steve, our rich couple here, have everything. They are so consumed by their ennui all that they can do is consume more and more, grinding the faces of the poor. They tell each other stories of their decadent adventures, whether hunting or fucking or generally exploiting. They are so bored they almost seem to forget they are having a love affair: even the frisson of excitement that comes from their adultery cannot penetrate their boredom. All that is left is for them to suck more and more into their (figurative) gaping maws, as brilliantly literalised by the scene towards the end where they go to a high class restaurant and gorge themselves on food and champagne until they are sick.

Our innate sense of narrative structure makes us feel like they should be punished, but they never are. The working class couple, Les and Sybil, plot Steve’s demise, but they never actually do anything about it. Les is all bark, no bite: he certainly talks a good revolutionary game, and he is full of ideas of how to knock Steve off, from the relatively realistic through to the absolutely ridiculous, but he is nothing more than that – talk. Unlike Helen and Steve, these two fuck – all the time – but it is more out of the excitement over what they plan to do than anything else. When their plans prove to be impotent, so too quickly fades their sex lives. This is not the moral poor common in so many other works, who are exploited and downtrodden by a demonised rich, but a poor who are uncomfortably complicit in their oppression: the rich are useless, and yet the working class don’t do anything about. “I am not yet a desperate man,” Les declaims, making us wonder what a truly desperate man would look like.

This is a scorching satire of capitalism: not just the external trappings, but the internalisation of it. The team behind this production have clearly understood this and have delivered a sharp, incisive production. Serhat Caradee’s direction is deceptively simple and very effective, and Rowan McDonald and Katherine Shearer both deliver outstanding performances. (The only criticism I have is that sometimes when Shearer goes into her upper vocal registers it is hard to understand what she is saying, but this is a relatively easy fix.) This is really biting theatre, deeply political and disquieting. A Priori have put together a great production, and I hope their tour to Adelaide goes swimmingly. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Jedward played the Regal Theatre in Perth on November 23, the Palais Theatre in Melbourne on November 30, and the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on 1 December 2013. And they are JEPIC.

I did not go to this show with the intention of reviewing it. I was certainly not there in my Important Official Reviewer Capacity™ and I have absolutely no idea of how to review music. But as there were nowhere near enough people at this show as it deserved, I feel like I have to write something about it as a public service. Because if you haven’t heard Jedward, you are missing out on something. Listening to their music is like being exploded out of a volcano of joy and excitement and surfing down a wave of sparkly lava.

The sparkles are important. Watch this. I’ll wait.


If you are one of the uninitiated and are like, “um, what is this Jedward of which you speak?” I am here to help. Jedward are John and Edward Grimes, identical twins from Ireland with very tall hair. They started out when they were only 17 on Britain’s version of The X Factor, on which Simon Cowell described them as “not very good and incredibly annoying”. (To which I say, um, Simon Cowell? How about NO? How about SHUT UP? How about WHY DO YOU HATE HAPPINESS, SIMON COWELL?) They finished sixth, got picked up by a record label, and since then have released three albums: Planet Jedward, an album of covers, and Victory and Young Love, which are their own stuff.

And if you’re like, “hmmm, these guys look familiar, but I don’t watch British X Factor in account of, you know, being in Australia and all”, then you probably saw them in the Eurovision Song Contest, where they represented Ireland in 2011 and 2012. AND THEY WERE ROBBED BOTH YEARS OMG. (I heard a rumour that if they’d won selection for 2013, they would have sung Happens in the Dark. It would have been way more awesome than the bullshit entry Ireland put up this year. Silly people.)


Eurovision was where I first encountered Jedward. If you don’t know me personally, then you might not know that Eurovision is my favourite televisual event of the year, to the extent that I lock myself away for three days, sans Internet, so no one spoils the results for me. I fell in love instantly when I saw Jedward. They are everything Eurovision should be – crazy costumes, crazy hair, and incredible enthusiasm, with wacky special effects and key changes. AND SERIOUSLY THEY ARE SO HAPPY HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE THEM. I defy anyone to listen to Waterline and not be cheered up at least fifty percent.


That is why I still love them. I don’t make a practice of going around listening to the back catalogues of Eurovision entrants unless they’re pretty damned spectacular, but Jedward are. (The other entrant I love outside of Eurovision now? Cezar the Voice, who represented Romania this year. Check him out.) Jedward’s music is like a happiness explosion. Whenever I’m in a tough spot with my thesis or I need cheering up in general, I either hit the eighties music or I crank up Jedward. They have never once failed me. Even their songs about sad things like breaking up are still incredibly cheerful – I mean, check out their latest single, Can’t Forget You. (I’m not sure if it’s actually a “single” or “song they’ve most recently made a video clip to”, but whatever.)


Perhaps unsurprisingly, while listening to Jedward is one of the best ways to lift your mood ever, actually going to one of their concerts is ELEVENTY BAZILLION TIMES BETTER. I saw them with my sister at the Enmore Theatre, and it was pathetically empty. But it was fine, because there was all the more room to dance. And dance I did. I am writing this the next day sprawled over my couch because I’m in pain from dancing too hard. All you people of Sydney that were doing things like “not being at Jedward” on Sunday night MISSED OUT, because there’s no way your evening was as fun as mine.
And you also missed out on touching their famous hair, too. (Then they brought out a can of hairspray and fixed their coiffes on stage, and it was the most gorgeous thing ever.)

Jedward played the Enmore like it was a packed out stadium. There were no support acts – just two and a half hours of these boys leaping about and doing cartwheels and belting out tunes of such spectacular cheerfulness I’m going to be smiling for at least a week. When they ran off to change costumes, they played little videos of themselves and their adventures that just... awww... bless their hearts. I adore them so much. (I would like it noted that I got 100% in the quiz in the Jedward trivia video, because who do you think you're dealing with here?) I've never seen anyone deal more good-naturedly with stage invaders, either. And one of them – I think it was Edward, but it’s hard to tell these things – was, like, totally singing to me in one of the choruses of Luminous. OMG.


Jedward’s original songs are about one third about girls, one third about being famous, and one third about outer space – sometimes about all three at the same time, sprinkled liberally with mentions of social media. They played a good mix of all three, mixed in with a bunch of covers. If there was one complaint I had, it’s that they played a few too many covers, when they could have been playing some of their INCREDIBLY PSYCHED original material, but that said, they have good taste in covers. They opened up with Icona Pop’s I Love It and it was perf. And then they launched straight into my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE of their songs, What’s Your Number?, and I knew it was going to be a great night.


Hey girl, what’s your name? what’s your number?

Do you have a boyfriend? You look like you need one

Hey girl, it’s okay, it’s okay

Just make him your ex, then – I can be your next one!


What’s your number, girl?

LYRICAL GENIUS. This song is my ringtone. No regrets.

The crowd was about 40% teenage and tweenage girls, 40% their parents, 10% hipster dudes, and 10% Eurovision fans. (Arguably, my sister and I fit into the last category, but I would put us in the separate category of TRUE DEVOTED JEDHEADS.) And everyone had an absolute blast, perhaps no one more so than the Jedward boys themselves. They mixed up the faster numbers with slower ones – probably to give themselves a bit of a breather more than anything else, because they are energetic dancers, yo. And they played a few acoustic numbers where John pulled out his guitar, including quite a lovely rendition of Delilah, and... who am I kidding. Even their slower numbers are incredibly psyched.


Jedward will be releasing another album soon-ish, which they’re hoping will be their massive global breakthrough. Personally, I don’t know why they aren’t already huuuuuuuuuge, because their music is the most incredibly cheerful thing in the entire world. When they come back to Australia – and I’m sure they will, bless their hearts – you are a fool if you don’t go. They are hella excellent performers, the most enthusiastic dancers ever, and they have the best collection of sparkly jackets in the entire world. AND JUST LISTEN TO THEIR MUSIC IT IS SO CATCHY AND HAPPY.


Five million out of ten, boys.