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The Audience and Other Psychopaths

Nigel Kellaway

Year: 2008, 19 mins
Code: NK-Audience

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Part of a set of excerpts from ten major works by Nigel Kellaway (1994 - 2004), assembled and edited by Kellaway and his long-time associate, video artist Peter Oldham.

Premiered in February 2004 at Performance Space, Sydney

Witness a live movie shoot each evening – and watch it all turn hysterically awry.

Truffaut, Cassavetes, Wertmuller and Hitchcock – all blurred in a comic fantasy of daring and queer persuasions! In the hands of director Nigel Kellaway, opera is here outrageously over-the-top, and all the world’s a stage for divas, drag queens and miscellaneous megalomaniacs.

Within the confines of a dilapidated film set, three remarkable performers each approach the thriller genre from a very different bent.

Soprano Karen Cummings, prominent Australian contemporary music exponent, plays the diva who refuses to appear on stage, jilted in “un-nameable” love, bitter, and seeking revenge on all in her sights.

Katia Molino, the thinking wo/man’s ‘mind and body of contemporary performance practice’, revels in all the vanity of an Italian B grade film auteur, as she herds the extras around the set of her deadly melodrama.

Nigel Kellaway surrenders his better known megalomaniacal roles to flirt as the sadly irrelevant drag-queen movie extra, gradually confuses his neurosis with disturbing psychopathy.

As ever, with The opera Project, it’s an extravagantly larger than life experience, under Kellaway’s baroque direction, all exquisitely framed by the writings of legendary performance poet Amanda Stewart (of Machine for Making Sense) and composer Stephen Adams and captured/projected live each night by Peter Oldham’s camera under the blaze of Simon Wise’s lighting.

With each new work The opera Project has brought radical surprises to delight its audiences, and The Audience and Other Psychopaths pursues that notoriety for the outrageously unexpected.

The Audience and Other Psychopaths is primarily and wildly comic. Kellaway is at his funniest in the recorded scene in which, looming against the Sydney Opera House, he catches the ferry and then clumsily pedals a bicycle to the Lane Cove murder site. Elsewhere he has the right kind of droll obtuseness that echoes Robert Walker’s villain in Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”, both funny and frightening. The moment when he cracks with a shriek is chilling, pushing past melodrama. Katia Molina is the whirlwind director, issuing orders in a flood of Italian and English, performing mourning, outrage and death in her own film in an endless rush of hilarious and inexplicable costume changes.

The Audience and Other Psychopaths is a wild ride … endearingly lunatic, a fantasia of inversions, reversals and, as always with The opera Project, assaults on the artforms and genres we love but must not let rest. The play of light and projected image is particularly potent here, cutting across forms to yield a convincing cinematic theatricality with some eerie, memorable images conjured with the flick of a cigarette lighter or the alternation of screen and scrim.

Other performances from Nigel Kellaway's Works 1994-2004:
This Most Wicked Body (17'50'')
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (4'30'')
The Berlioz: Our Vampires Ourselves (14'55'')
The Terror of Tosca (22'15'')
Tristan (11'30'')
Little George (17'20'')
El Inocente (7'10'')
Entertaining Paradise (16')
Another Night: Medea (14'05'')

More from Kellaway / The oPera Project Inc - DVD & Streaming:
Nigel Kellaway in Sleepers wake! wachet auf!
The Rameau Project
Brief Synopsis

NIGEL KELLAWAY - Artistic Director of The opera Project Inc.

In a career embracing his skills as an actor, director, dancer, musician and contemporary performance maker, Nigel Kellaway's initial professional performance training was in music, majoring in piano and composition at the universities of Melbourne and Adelaide.

He was the first Australian actor to train with Tadashi Suzuki and his Suzuki Company Of Toga (1984-85) and also worked with butoh artist Min Tanaka in Tokyo. Over 35 years, he has more than seventy full length theatre, dance and music works with companies including The One Extra Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Entr'acte, Terrapin Puppet Theatre, Sidetrack Performance Group, Legs on the Wall, Ihos Contemporary Opera, the Australian Dance Theatre, Stalker, Calculated Risks Opera Productions, the Song Company, Splinters Theatre of Spectacle, Urban Theatre Projects and Stopera and for venues including Performance Space (NSW), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (WA) and The Royal Court Theatre (UK).

He was a co-founder, in 1987, of the performance ensemble The Sydney Front (of which a large selection of the performances are available on both DVD & Streaming), with major productions including THE PORNOGRAPHY OF PERFORMANCE (1988), PHOTOCOPIES OF GOD (1989), DON JUAN (1991), FIRST AND LAST WARNING (1992) and PASSION (1993). The Sydney Front toured extensively within Australia and Europe, to the UK and Hong Kong. Solo performance works include PERFORMER (1977), GIVE ME A ROSE TO SHOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE (1986), THE NUREMBERG RECITAL (1989) and THIS MOST WICKED BODY (1994), a ten day, 240 hour performance marathon with percussionist David Montgomery, video artist Peter Oldham and restaurateur Gay Bilson, which toured to the 1998 Telstra Adelaide Festival with pianist Gerard Willems and Gay Bilson.

Over the past fifteen years a major focus of his work has been in contemporary music theatre. In 1997 he directed the Colin Bright/Amanda Stewart opera THE SINKING OF THE RAINBOW WARRIOR with the Song Company and Australysis for the Sydney Festival on Sydney Harbour, and in 2001 co-devised and directed LITTLE GEORGE, again with the Song Company. His collaborations with Canberra based Stopera have been dISTRESSING THE DIVA in 1998 and the Clérambault/Rameau derived CANTATA in 2003.

In 1997 he co-founded with Annette Tesoriero The opera Project Inc., a loose ensemble of actors, musicians and physical performers dedicated to the mission of reassessing "opera" (and its accoutrement) as a contemporary performance practice. Major works by the company have been THE BERLIOZ - our vampires ourselves (1997, toured nationally in 2001), THE TERROR OF TOSCA (1998), TRISTAN (1999), EL INOCENTE (2001), ENTERTAINING PARADISE (2002), ANOTHER NIGHT: MEDEA (2003), THE AUDIENCE AND OTHER PSYCHOPATHS (2004), SLEEPERS WAKE! WACHET AUF! (2007) and THE RAMEAU PROJECT (2009).

He served on the dance committee of the Australia Council from 1993-96 and in 1997 was awarded the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts. Kellaway has been a leader in the development of avant-garde and hybrid performance practices in Australia over the past three decades, and in 2004 was awarded a senior artist's Fellowship by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council to devote two years to his continuing research into theatrical, operatic and contemporary performance practices.

"While an intense engagement with music is familiar territory for Kellaway’s productions, improvisation as a major element is a new departure and an inspired addition. What improvisation can so successfully do, in the face of the other very structured and often technically demanding performance elements (piano playing, opera singing, text-based theatre), is to undo them. It can rewrite and overwrite – it adds the dash of danger, the unexpected swerve, to performances which otherwise have their set paths to follow from beginning to end. And then there is also, simply, the pleasure of watching the performers create as they go, the thrill of the instant response to the immediacy of their situation.
Clever, unexpected, provocative and captivatingly performed by all, and Kellaway and Heilmann are – as always – riveting performers."
Laura Ginters, RealTime, June-July, 2002

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