A little something about the Standing There Productions trip to Sydney.


Firstly, you know those brain scans they do to trace activity in the brain after certain stimuli? You know? Colour photographs. The brain is this big blue blob with tiny orange spots on it when the person's trying to find their car keys, but then, when the person is trying to find their way out of a maze or something, there's warm orange everywhere.


After Standing There Productions meetings, I am convinced of this, our brains must look like the warm glowing embers of magma.


So. We had a few of those meetings. Some of them involved other people, some of them involved us. Most of them ended with the three of us leaping through the surf screaming at each other that we're all moving to Sydney, our brains turning a deep, happy blue.


We saw five shows at the Sydney Festival. They were all good. Three of them were excellent. I'd say the best shows I've ever seen. They were more experimental, which is perhaps why The Gate Theatre (a beautiful Irish theatre company I've always loved) didn't come off as well as they usually do. They were performing Brian Friel plays (including this one and this one), which were written with that gorgeous precision, but perhaps it was the direction - I felt it would have been just as good to be at a reading.


Stew and I saw Smile Off Your Face, which was theatre that took you out of yourself: you're put in a wheelchair, your wrists are bound, you're blindfolded, and they wheel you away from everyone else to a show you experience mostly in darkness. It's phenomenal. Liberating. It sends you out into the world with a new face on, asking lots of questions of yourself. Also, for a show the majority of which you are blindfolded, some of the images are very striking.


We wriggled into the final three seats of a show called No Dice, which is still my favourite festival show, including the astonishing Lepage show. No Dice was a 4 hour long performance using transcripts from telephone conversations, performed in an almost pantomime style by brilliant performers using physical gesture, repetition, sensual cues (they made the room hot, they made the room cold, they gave you a sandwich and a Dr Pepper, they used sound and dance and screen and voice). For the first half, Rita and I had no idea the script was based on phone conversations, which made its madness even more surreal and which changed the second half of the show for us, making the experience (I think) even better. Speaking of surreal. Their motto? "Putting the W in mellowdrama since 1995". Read more about them. They are brilliant. I hope they take over the world. A world run by them - funny, weird, sincere, suggestive - would indeed be a fine place to live.



We then saw the Robert Lepage show I mentioned above; Lipsynch. The word for that show is: phenomenal. It went for 8.5 hours, had 5 intervals, involved 9 performers but seemed like it had a cast of maybe fifty, used the crew, the astonishing sets, the screen, opera, sound, words, language (everyone was bilingual) and perception to follow an intriguing story that everyone talked about - predicting the ending and all of us getting it wrong - during the intervals. It was like a film, like a novel, like a painting. It showed you its mechanics, too - it reminded you of construct. I won't describe it in my own words. They're not good enough. Robert Lepage is here. He can do it for you.


Other fun things by this year's festival director (for whom, virtually, I ovate) include Play Me I'm Yours (pianos throughout the streets of Sydney - play them if you want to) and, apparently, La Clique, although I didn't see that.

Aaaaanyhoo. Deadlines, now. Lots of them. Read about those shows, see them if you can. I'll have my eye out for them wherever I am in the world, that's for sure.


Now, to the beach.