Monday, January 22, 2007

9/11 Conspiracy: The Musical

click on the above headline for a short film from the Short & Sweet site.

really, it's a very little film and, three (3) minutes in, it's all me talking about my new short play
"9/11 Conspiracy: The Musical"
c'mon man,
a durrie takes less time...

article - White Cabin (Sydney Festival)

(This is an unedited version of an article that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on the 19/1/07. I must say, out of curiosity I saw the opening of this production and it was without doubt one of the most impressive nights of theatre I have ever seen: a bizarre and debauched blancmange of drunken dark clowning, or something like that. It's hard to explain, as you'll see.)

by Benito Di Fonzo

“What’s the angle?” I said to the editor. One very big angle,” she said, “would be their ability to explain a very visual, very sensory and apparently very unnerving show in broken English to you on the telephone from Russia.” She was right.

Before ringing Maxim Isaev, Artistic Director of Akhe Russian Engineering Theatre, I watch a short clip on the Sydney Festival website. The extract shows an ominously silent black clown on stilts walking through what looks like a mental asylum full of catatonics, before coming to a door that opens on to a forest where, in slow motion, he hits a man with a bunch of red flowers. I am none the wiser.

It’s 10am in St. Petersburg and Maxim seems surprised: he wasn’t expecting our call and this is no doubt an early hour for a conceptual artist in a Russian winter. I decide to start simply, with the Company’s name: ‘Akhe’ (pronounced like ‘Ikea’ said very quickly.)

“It’s for no reason,” says Maxim in a thick Russian brogue. “In language no mean anything, but now it means our company.”

Okay. Maxim is one of the founders of the five member theatre group, which began by doing street performances during the cultural upheavals of Gorbachev’s Perestroika.

“It was real artistic performance: very long, very conceptual, probably very boring.”


“If you watch from beginning to end, four or five hours, it was so boring.”

Quite the salesman our Maxim, but I guess this is why “White Cabin,” the show they are bringing to Sydney Festival, is only an hour long.

“Ya, now is only one hour is not boring at all.”

What actually happens?

“It’s difficult to explain in words because we are making an unusual piece. What we are doing [has] connected pictures, images, how one image transitions into another image and so on. Nevertheless it’s a production about how pictures are influenced by the person who’s watching, how the watcher transforms it. Yah, and also normal human relations, for example man fall in love with woman but woman does not love him.”

The Guardian’s review says “This is, I think, a show about death.” Is it?

“Yes, because the show has many images it is impossible to explain, one woman after show said for sure it was first part the soul preparing for death, second part is like soul just adventure after death.”

Despite this Maxim assures me “There is some funny moments.”

A kind of dark clowning?

“Journalists call it ‘intellectual clown.’”

Which means?

“I do not know I was just reading the newspaper. Just paradoxical situations, for me it’s more close to Dada.”

Akhe are known for their dislike of theatrical ‘tricks’ and use of real elements and stunts. Will “White Cabin” be dangerous?

“In this show no explosions, just open fire,” Maxim reassures me.

“Our conception is to give not character but just ourselves in special situations which are prepared by ourselves. We call ourselves not actors but creators, with real objects that are substantial, the emotions also real. We use real water, real whisky, real beer, real wine, because smell is also very important to us, for the audience smelling whisky or wine.”

The show’s pyrotechnics got Maxim in trouble in 2004 when Albuquerque Airport went into Orange Alarm after sniffer dogs smelt explosives on the four battered old suitcases Akhe carry their show around the world in.

“They thought we are transporting bomb,” says Maxim. “It was quite terrible, so serious. Agent from FBI and so on. We were in prison, but after one day they realise it was mistake. They took my prints, they think I Russian mafia.”

Assuming they make it through Mascot Maxim promises a bizarre and untraditional piece of avant-garde theatre.

“It’s another way of doing theatre, not like way of dramaturgy, it’s way of the imagination of the artist, the production looks like a live picture, also the audience is really very important to us to be a creative cooperative production, because we push audience to create [their] own show.”

It’s interactive then?

“Not really, but the audience have a little bit to work to understand it.”

They have to work?


Now I’m frightened.


(700 words)

Benito Di Fonzo

“White Cabin”

Akhe Russian Engineering Theatre.

Playhouse, Sydney Opera House.

January 22 – 26. $25.

Bookings 9250 7777

Monday, January 08, 2007

9/11 Conspiracy: The Musical

Learn how shape-shifting lizards, neo-cons and other religious nutters orchestrated 9/11 under the tutelage of Jesus H. Enron Mo-Hubbard. See the unknown knowns now!

that's right kids,

"9/11 Conspiracy: The Musical" is finally here

so any lovers of fine art, theatre, satire
should get down to The Seymour Centre
(cnr City Rd. & Cleveland Sts Sydney)
and catch my new short

"9/11 Conspiracy: The Musical."

It has it all;
shape-shifting lizards,
sexually charged scenes at the United Nations featuring Johnny Howard, and of course

the great Phil Roberts pulling it all together on piano

plus at no extra charge

the deity to end all deities

Jesus H. Enron Mo-Hubbard

It's on as part of Short & Sweet 2007,
the world's biggest short play festival

My god,
it's so good
I can't believe it's not Buddha!

it's on

downstairs at The Seymour Centre
Wed 24 - Sat 27 January
(excluding Australia Day for some reason,
obviously a conspiracy.)

Learn how shape-shifting lizards, neo-cons and other religious nutters orchestrated 9/11 under the tutelage of Jesus H. Enron Mo-Hubbard. See the unknown knowns now!

online bookings at
or call the Seymour Centre on 02 9351 7940

support your local drunken failed poet and conspiracy theorist today for not much more than a lobster (that's $20)

hope to see ya there,

Benito Di Fonzo.

(for more info on The Shape Shifting Lizards who apparently secretly rule the world see
and why not?)

article - Apocalypto (Dean Semler interview)

Dances with mad Mel

No, Rudy Youngblood (left) doesn't understand the plot, either.

Latest related coverage

By Benito Di Fonzo
January 5, 2007. Metro, Sydney Morning Herald,

"I think this is a combination of Dances With Wolves and Mad Max," says Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler of Apocalypto, the film he shot for Mel Gibson in the rainforest of Mexico's La Jungla region.

Post-nuclear road movie meets Native American epic, then?

"It has the kinetic energy and the wild rawness of Mad Max yet some of the epic qualities of [Dances With Wolves]."

The South Australian-born Semler should know. Included on his CV of more than 50 films are Mad Max II, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Dances With Wolves, for which he won an Oscar.

Like The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto, written by Gibson and Farhad Safinia, is told in the protagonist's native tongue: this time Yukatec Maya. It relies largely on Semler's visuals to carry the coming-of-age story of Jaguar Paw (singer-dancer Rudy Youngblood in his big-screen debut).

Following the enslavement and sacrificial murder of members of his tribe by populist Mayan priests, Youngblood escapes to save his wife (Dalia Hernandez), pursued through the jungle by hunters led by Raoul Trujillo (Black Robe).

"I was showing it to some people and they said, 'We don't need the subtitles we could follow the story pretty well,' " Semler says.

An allegory of the downward spiral of an American culture corrupted by consumerism, superstition and war, it first strikes as a fast-paced action adventure.

"We pulled out every trick in the book from all of Mel's experience," Semler says. "Mad Max [II] taught us both a hell of a lot, with George Miller out there doing it with bits of string. We didn't have any fancy equipment. Mel wanted to go down and dirty."

Fancy equipment is one thing they did have on Apocalypto, including new Genesis digital cameras, with Variety calling it "the best-looking big-budget film yet shot digitally".

"[The Genesis cameras] gave me the ability to shoot in the jungle where it was very dark," Semler says. "We got an extra two hours a day shooting. It's very light, the actors could run wherever they wanted to in the jungle, they had a hell of a good time with it."

For realism Gibson cast many Native American unknowns, including traditional Mayan storytellers, often acting out scenes for the crew.

"[Gibson] basically acted out the story for me on the front lawn of Panavision in 45 minutes or so and it was phenomenal," Semler says. "Right off I had to be part of it."

And did Semler and Mel hit the tequila down in Mexico? "Shit no!"

Apocalypto opens with a tapir being chased through the jungle, setting the pace for the next two hours and reminiscent of Semler's work on Razorback, which had a cult following among some bikers.

"They were Hell's Angels. They were first and second AD on Young Guns. They said, 'You shot Razorback, that's our favourite film! We're going to have a screening.' So we had a screening and lots of beer and then I went to my car and put my hand in my bag and there was something wet and fleshy in there: it was a pig's head. They said, 'We just wanted to show our appreciation, we would have put it in your bed but we thought your wife wouldn't like it.'"

Semler finds fans, and non-fans, in the strangest places.

"[This cop] was writing a ticket for me and he said, 'What other films did you do?' I said Dead Calm and Road Warrior [Mad Max II]. He said, 'You did Road Warrior?' I said yeah. He said, 'OK, just sign here,' and I said, 'No, you have to sign it.' He said, 'No, I want your autograph.' So he let me off.

"[However] I was picked up [speeding] when I was working with Mel on We Were Soldiers. It was north of LA and this guy was real mean. He didn't say shit.

"I said, 'I'm working on a movie down there, you know?' Nothing. 'You know, the one with Mel Gibson?' Nothing. I said, 'In fact, I've done several films with him right back to Road Warrior.'

"He said, 'Here's your ticket buddy.' "

Director Mel Gibson Stars Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo
Rated R. Opens January 11.