More on the 2015 STC Season, The Mule Gets Festival Screenings, The Key Man Finally Gets US Release

New articles and images continue to appear in the wake of Sydney Theatre Company’s announcement of what might be its most ambitious season yet for 2 Possibly the most appealing is a new set of photos by James Croucher for The Australian, one of which was posted/published with an article about the announcement. STC artistic director Andrew Upton posed with Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Susie Porter ans Jacqueline Mckenzie for a series of delightful images. You can see the full set at Newspix (and I’ll share cleaned version to the Hugonuts PhotoBucket Archive and on Twitter as I find time). The print version of the Australian piece follows the first couple.

L to R: Cate Blanchette, Hugo Weaving, Andrew Upton, Susie Porter and Jacqueline Mckenzie  Photo: James Croucher/The Australian/Newspix.

Photo: James Croucher/The Australian/Newspix

(WordPress viewers: To see enlarged images/scans, right-click, then click on “view in a new tab” )

The most attention-getting play in a chock-full forthcoming season has so far been Geoffrey Rush’s return to STC after a 2-decade absence to play King Lear. (He’s been more active at Belvoir– and gone to NYC twice with their productions.) His nude cover story in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum hasn’t hurt either. (Online version of the interview here.) 😉  Cate Blanchett’s reteaming with Richard Roxburgh for another go-round of Chekhov in The Present has also naturally drawn its share of enthusiasm and curiosity, though a few pretensions whingers have opined that the play is “inferior Chekhov”.  Honestly, after the spectacular results this creative team got with Uncle Vanya– possibly the finest night of theatre I’ve experienced, which is saying one helluva lot– I’d be up for watching them interpret Chekhov’s accounting notebooks. 😉

There have also been complaints to the effect that STC is repeating itself with successive productions of Beckett, Chekhov and Shakespeare– which seems small-minded to me. Endgame is rarely mounted– at least in the US, over the past 20 years– and Andrew Upton is radically reworking the Chekhov play to create The Present, so in a way it should be a wholly new experience. While I’d understand the complaints if they repeated tired productions of the SAME play year after year– the way the Met has with operas in fallow years– I love the notion of a single actor exploring the great playwrights bodies of work, both connecting one play to another and finding the contrasts.  This is usually accepted with Shakespeare’s work (some actors and theatre groups have focused exclusively on the Bard, to great effect) so why not explore the concept elsewhere. Why should plays be mounted JUST because they’re obscure, Australian or popular with a specific audience demographic (to note three of the most common complaints)?  The STC isn’t perfect, and can be guilty of elitism in that they seem to be offended when people ask them to film plays (or have more captioned performances), but they mount a broad spectrum of works every year, including many I’m not personally familiar with, many that are Australian, and that are work by up and coming playwrights. I can’t name a local American company that’s producing a season that combines artistic vigor with populism to the success STC has in its current line-up: most companies are too fixated on pleasing either a tiny, pointy-headed critical elite (especially in New York) or what they perceive to be “The Masses” (typically demonstrated by programming multiple door-slamming farces and jukebox musicals). The most infuriating criticism has been over the casting of “famous actors”, as if appearing in Hollywood productions or winning Oscars has somehow sullied the purity of Blanchett, Weaving and Rush. All three started out as theatre actors and all three have continually returned to the theatre throughout their careers because they believe doing so improves their acting in a general sense. This isn’t a case of casting has-been soap actors in the latest revival of Grease to boost ticket sales– this is the forum where these actors became great in the first place, and often still achieve their most breathtaking results.

I bring this up to greater explain some comments on Twitter, which were misinterpreted. I was in a rush yesterday morning and made a poorly-worded joke which could have been implied to support the very kind of elitism I’m railing against here, and I regret that. I’d read a bunch of annoying elitist pieces by Australia’s equivalent of New Yorker critics (ie effete snobs) on the one hand, and a FilmInk piece suggesting Australian movies AND plays should be more local and box- office driven. I’m heartily grateful STC is ignoring BOTH kinds of thinking. I do think theatre should be challenging, intelligent and adventurous, but I don’t think it should be exclusive. Filming and simulcasting would be one way of making productions less exclusive, and could raise revenue and give STC (and theatre in general) a more populist image. Yes, the ephemerality of sitting in a crowded theatre on a given night and experiencing a distinct performance is thrilling, and I will continue to patronize any production STC elects to tour if it’s financially possible. But I can’t fly to Australia for each of Hugo or Cate’s plays– I wish I could, but most people simply can’t afford to. Even in Australia, many can’t afford tickets or get tickets to sold-out plays. I know I sound like a broken record on this subject, but I won’t quit until something is done. It gets on my nerve to see Hugo Weaving lead exactly the sort of career I’ve wanted him to lead but have to deal with the existential despair of knowing that I may never see some of his greatest work. I have always said I’d rather he star in productions I CAN’T see than in productions I WON’T see… and that’s still true. But the thought of missing his Macbeth, Valmont or Hamm does bring on a certain existential despair.

Anyhow, back to the News Content… and again, I’m sorry if my poorly-thought-out tweets upset anyone.

You can read more about the 2015 STC season (and differing opinions about what their most “highly-anticipated” production will be) at Manuscript Daily, Limelight, The Age, ABC Arts,  and Time Out Sydney. Sydney Theatre Company also posted a retrospective of Geoffrey Rush’s work for them; the piece doesn’t mention his teaming with Hugo Weaving in The Alchemist (which was for Belvoir–then known as Nimrod) but demonstrates how they’ve both played several of the same classic roles over the years… and it mentions Rush’s tenure as Hugo Weaving’s clowning instructor at NIDA, which Hugo humorously discussed in this 2009 radio interview. (“It was terrifying… I vaguely remember bursting into the room [for my improv exercise] and no one laughed. I remember crawling around on my hands and knees being a tortoise or something, and I remember seeing Geoffrey shaking his head and throwing a phone book at me…”) And STC posted a selection of 2015 Announcement Event pics to their Facebook page. While Hugo did pose for the publicity images I mentioned at the beginning of the post, he wasn’t at the live event, either because he was busy with Macbeth, or because he wanted to share attention with the other actors on hand– Rush and Blanchett were there, and are included in the photo set.   But you can see him in the photo below:

Andrew Upton discusses the 2015 production of Endgame, starring Hugo Weaving  Photo: STC Facebook

The Mule Festival Screenings

Hugo’s next film to be released– the crime comedy The Mule– is currently being showcased (and receiving a generally positive response, though no full-length reviews yet) at Fantasy Film Fest in Berlin and other German cities. Its next major showcase will be the BFI London Film Festival on October 9, 12 and 18. To buy tickets (and view a new gallery of stills, including the ones below) go here.

The film is scheduled for general release (no pun intended) in Australia on 30 October and in the US sometime this fall, with other countries’ opening dates TBD. It has already had successful engagements at SXSW and The New Zealand International Film Festival.

The Key Man To Finally Be Released On DVD

Jokingly referred to as Hugo Weaving’s “lost film” by Hugo’s longterm fans (who read about its 2006 filming in North Carolina, handful of SXSW screenings in 2011 and subsequent disappearance without a trace (except for a brief release–mostly via streaming– to a handful of obscure markets, mostly in Eastern Europe and North Africa), The Key Man has finally secured DVD rights in the US. Deadline and Screen Daily shared the news that Screen Media recently acquired the US distribution rights to the black comedy (costarring Jack Davenport, Judy Greer and Brian Cox) and  “…will distribute the film on iTunes and across all VOD platforms and DVD in the first quarter of 2015.” So while I don’t begrudge those lucky audiences who’ve been able to see the film up to this point, I am mightily relieved it’s finally going to be legally available to a wide audience, and on a permanent home-viewing format. For the record, I was often tempted to view bootleg copies advertised online, but in the end never gave in, fearing viruses and wanting to see the film as it was meant to be seen, at proper resolution. (I also think independent films face enough challenges without the threat of piracy cutting into their often-already-limited revenues.)  So it’s nice to see good behavior rewarded. 😉 I’m not expecting brilliance from this film, but hope it features some wry comic turns and appealing nastiness from character actors who cvan have fun with it. Plus, honestly, how can any film with THIS scene be entirely bad? 😉

Hugo Weaving and Brian Cox in The Key Man  Screencap: Zakharvlad1 via Flickr

Mystery Road UK Release

Hugo’s 2013 film (and festival favorite) is slated to appear on US and British DVD in weeks to come (via Well Go USA and Axiom Film, respectively) but Axiom have given the film a decent arthouse release in Britain first, and critical response has been very positive. I’ll share a selection of brief quotes below:

Mark Kermode, The Guardian: “[A] stylish Aussie thriller that rises above pulpy cliche… Hugo Weaving is quietly threatening as Johnno, a line-crossing cop whose “good boy, Jay-boy” mantra drips with significantly canine-inflected racism, but whose true motivations remain unclear… In the end, though, this is Pedersen’s movie, and he excels as the archetypally conflicted antihero, a latterday embodiment of the historical turncoat whose troubled brow seems creased by the weight of both personal and national history.”

You can also watch Kermode discuss the film in this video review:

Kermode and Mayo via YouTube

Geoffrey MacNab, The Independent:  “Ivan Sen’s slow-burning but very powerful Aussie western is one of those films in which the main character walks as if he has a ball and chain attached to his feet… [W]here Mystery Road registers most strongly is in its brooding and oppressive mood… Shooting in widescreen, Sen makes excellent use of his remote locations and slowly cranks up the tension before throwing in a strangely ritualised final reel shootout.”

George Byrne, The Irish Independent: “[A] complex thriller that offers several interesting takes on contemporary Australia… the closing shot is worth the price of admission alone… Aaron Pendersen is thoroughly believable as the conflicted Jay and the blasted landscape is photographed so well you’ll be sweating and swatting the flies away from your own face after 10 mins.”

Anton Bitel, Little White Lies: “This sand-blasted Aussie murder mystery tinkers with genre convention while managing to remain sincere and thrilling… This does not just show off to good effect the wide open spaces of Australia’s dusty outback, but also gives visual form to the immense, perhaps unbridgeable divide that exists between the rock and the hard place of Australia’s ongoing culture wars… Yet while it may look like a genre film, and feel like a genre film, Mystery Road is also entirely of a piece with Sen’s earlier Beneath Clouds and Toomelah in its thematic preoccupation with indigenous issues, colonial injustice and uprooted identity.”

Alexa Dalby, Dog and Wolf: ” Huge skies, low horizons, glowing orange sunsets and a depiction of a culture and environment we rarely see in genre mystery movies make Mystery Road an unusual and thought-provoking film.”

Film Reviews and News: “Aaron Pendersen gives a superb lead performance as Jay Swan and the movie’s graced with some impressive characters that make it complete – Jack Charles, the community elder with a knowing wink and a nod, veteran Jack Thompson as Mr Charlie Murray holding a clue to Mystery Road, Sergeant Tony Barry, Jay’s commanding officer and Hugo Weaving who plays Johnno, a fellow cop who maybe on the wrong side in this web of lies and deceit… A powerful, intelligent and masterful modern-day take on the Western genre, with strong social and political commentary. A great watch.”

lgileskeddie: “The film’s slow-burn pace brilliantly mirrors then reflects the building frustrations of its protagonist in trying to get leads, a tedious process but one that does not deter Swan. Hence, there are some exciting dynamics at play because of Swan’s exclusion from his own community – who don’t fully trust him, especially after his absence – and the White folk who dominate the local landscape and surrounding farms. The film speaks volumes about the plight of Aborigine deprivation and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots…  5 Stars”

Tara Bradley, Irish Times: “Writer-director Ivan Sen’s compelling, award-winning police procedural is characterised by dark secrets and the relentless glare of the sun. At first glance, it’s Walkabout reworked as noir. On closer inspection Aaron Petersen’s subtle commanding performance signals that we are, in fact, watching a displaced western, replete with a wild frontier, dangerous hicks, an air of lawlessness and a charismatic hero in a hat… Hugo Weaving’s turn as a problematic copper is equally accomplished: the actor twitches with menace and charm in a way that recalls his Elrond and Agent Smith in equal measures. You’ll never guess until the final reel.”

According to Tongil Tours‘ Twiiter account, Mystery Road will screen at the Pyongyang International Film Festival later this months (dates not announced) with director Ivan Sen in attendance. Yes, THAT Pyongyang. I’d be very interested to hear how it’s received.

Archive Updates

I’ve slowly begun organizing my decades’ worth of Hugo Weaving photos at the Hugonuts Photo Archive over at Photobucket; it’s a lengthy process because I won’t public-share any photos without proper annotation (ie photographer credit, context, etc) and have often stored photos under haphazard titles at best over the years, though I’ve usually posted pics with proper contextual info here. (In the early days, I was as guilty as any hormonal newbie fan of explosive outbursts of photo reposting absent ANY context, so some of my earliest finds I’m having to track down the details for via extensive websearches.) Anyhow I’ll share links to new galleries (and Flickr Archive updates) here, and plan on storing new photos properly to begn with.  Here are the galleries ready so far:

The Key Man Stills and Caps (2006)
Peter Brew-Bevan Photo Shoot (2005) Whence cometh The Tongue Pic 😉
Mystery Road Behind The Scenes (2013)
Mystery Road Stills and Caps (2013)
STC 2014 Season Launch (2013)
Waiting For Godot Publicity Photos (2013)
Dan Himbrechts Promotional Portraits for The Turning (2013)
Daniel Boud Hugo Weaving Macbeth Portraits (2014)
Healing Promotional Pics (2014)
Rene Nowytarger Macbeth Promotional Portraits (2014)
STC 2015 Season Announcement (2014)
STC Endgame Promotional Portraits (2014)
STC Macbeth Production Photos (2014)
STC Macbeth Promotional Images (2014)
STC Macbeth Reherarsals (2014)
The Mule Stills and Caps (2014)
Tim Winton’s The Turning at Berlinale (2014)

Remember that this is very much a work in progress, and that some galleries are incomplete. I appreciate your patience.

Also, a new addition to the Flickr Article Archive: a 2002 SundayHerald Sun Hugo Weaving cover story/interview and accompanying piece on The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers from December 2002. I’ve long craved this piece for my collection (having read some scans on the now-defunct Web Weaving fansite) and am thrilled to finally be able to share this definitive interview.

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