Tag Archives: The Key Man

STC Endgame: A Night With The Actors Transcript & New Photos; Performance Photos & Reviews

Once again, our Sydney Correspondent Yvette has some through, providing notes for this complete transcript of the 13 April Night With The Actors event. Actors Hugo Weaving, Bruce Spence, Tom Budge and Sarah Peirse sat for a Q & A session following that evening’s performance of Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Endgame. Yvette and some other lucky audience members in attendance took some great photos of the event, which I’ll also embed. While I’ve done my best to ensure accuracy, please bear in mind that this is my transcript of another person’s notes, so transcribing errors along the way are always possible.  If you were at this event and have any corrections to offer, do let us know. As always, my undying thanks to Yvette for her kindness in letting those of us not able to make it to Sydney (or to that specific performance) experience it vicariously.


Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton     Photo: Yvette/@LyridsMC via Instagram

[Note: Andrew Upton’s introduction and initial remarks weren’t copied and are thus abbreviated, as are some audience questions. Other remarks are edited for clarity and because, in some instances, they weren’t heard properly. All such alterations are clearly noted. Again, apologies. 😉  ]

Andrew Upton: We tried to be true to the text… Inside the play, there’s supposed to be a really precise sense of space and time. So that was the process we used on Waiting for Godot. And then in talking to Hugo [about the current season],  we decided we’d like to revisit  the “Beckett Experience” . And it really is quite a distinct experience. The language is so strong, the imagery so rich, and the emotional side is so deep and rewarding. I know  it appears quite bleak from the outside or as you glance off it as a reader or as an audience, but [from a creative standpoint] it’s incredibly generous. Incredibly generous language, and constructions and scenarios. So when you’re talking about having what we’ve tried to say in it, which is, just follow the directions. They are illuminating and liberating. They’re very, very scripted on the surface, and yet once you get inside them, there’s 150 emotions being unpent. And with that liberation…Once you face all of it, there’s a lot of philosophy, a lot of cross-referencing, there’s a lot of deep– [whistle from the audience] There’s a cricket! [laughter]… there’s a lot of detail… that I could not link link any poem to to myself. So we… and just followed the instructions.

Moderator: I imagine that being too literal with Beckett would suck he magic out of it.

AU: Yes…

Moderator: I wonder how much you need to know to create the play, and how much depth, obviously… deciding that Hamm had polio at 13 [for example] and that’s why his legs don’t work might not fit [Beckett’s directives], but how much real-world stuff did you need to hold on to, and how much could you do without …?

AU: Well, that’s a fascinating question, actually. Because that is the great misunderstanding– other than there being no humor– around Beckett, is that it’s obtuse and unrealistic. And actually it’s as it’s as realistic and any Chekhov .. it’s as naturalistic as any piece of Gorky or Ibsen. It’s not crazy, jazzed up … It’s a really, really realistic piece. And this realism inside that needs to be honored quite rigorously by the actors and the director. They can’t bend the directions. Because [narrative] “answers” like polio or schizophrenia or depression aren’t really enjoyable, and aren’t answers that allow you to resonate. So you avoid such prosaic [choices], but they play remains very real about our sense of the apocalypse. About the story of how much Hamm tells, how much that’s true. How much truth lies inside. Is it the story of how Hamm has failed, how all of us fail.


L to R: Bruce Spence, Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving, Andrew Upton and moderator Sarah Goodes. Photo: Amber Gokken via Twitter/Instagram

[Upton introduces the cast– Hugo Weaving, Sarah Peirse, Tom Budge and Bruce Spence–who take their seats onstage]

Moderator: As actors, do you come from the outside in or  do you work from the inside out, and how much truth do you need to pin down [your characters]?

Hugo Weaving: I tend to work from the outside in, I think, because the truth is not apparent immediately. I take [character cues] from the text’s architecture in, from observing [the play’s] form and structure, and then try and maintain that form, and then slowly illuminate for ourselves something about the internal journey to doom of these of these characters.

Moderator: Sarah, did you find, in the bin–

Sarah Peirse: It was HOT in the bin [laughs]. Yeah, he’s right… the architecture of the writing informs the way in which you start to understand rhythms that are within it. And you’re definitely surfing some fairly usual territory… [At the beginning of rehearsals] I was reasonably unsure about how it would proceed, but then, actually, if you just keep reading, and keep participating in the process of doing the lines out loud, and listening, in fact, the journey sort of makes itself apparent. That was an interesting experience.

Hugo Weaving: For any of you that play music.. I’m not a musician, but I would think it would be quite similar to being in an orchestra, or being in a small group, and working through a piece of music for the first time. You read music and you observe the score and meter, and the intervals and pauses– you observe the structure of it, and then, after while, the more you play that, the more you hear that, the more… the reasons you find for it being in the first place start to become apparent to you, and I think that’s very true of Beckett.

Moderator: What process did you need to find in the rehearsal room to bring the humor alive, or was the humor something that just bubbled up of its own accord?

Andrew Upton: It’s pretty impressive… it’s got some of the funniest lines hidden in it, but I do fear that if you read the outside world that is depicted too heavily, [the humor] is easy to lose sight of… “Oh god, it’s the end of the world, I’m a goner and there are all of these poor people in bins” [Laughter] But if you’re just IN there, a line like ‘What’s to keep me from going’ [

Hugo Weaving: Even though it’s the end of the world, and [the population is] down to four people…and they certainly think about it [being] very hard…Even if you were in that place, you would have to assume… they still have to resist… they can’t think about it 24/7, otherwise they’d just go mad. Well, they probably ARE mad [laughter]. They have to pass the time, and disappear into flights of fantasy, I suppose, in order to relieve the terrible boredom and despair. Therefore, it’s humorous. It becomes funny, despite… well, it’s both. It’s a deeply serious play, but it is funny. And I think, [in the worst of it],  the relationships seem to be they key to finding humor. The pairings, and the way those two groups interact with each other. And I think a lot of the initial humor seems to come from that.

Moderator: Tom, what was your experience in the rehearsal room?

Tom Budge: Um… difficult. [Laughs] At first. I found the language– to read– it’s real exciting and lovely. But I found it really hard to push it into a flow. And it took quite a lot out of me to get the highs and lows of what we had to do. I’m still figuring things out [Laughs]. It’s really interesting– you do have a moment, sometimes, I’m back in my little cave back there, I’m thinking about what we’ve just done, or something, and I’m thinking that’s the truest version of that interaction or something, and then I’ll turn that around in my brain [the next time we have to do the play] and think, ‘Oh, no! That wasn’t it!’ It’s still evolving, for me, still changing in small ways.

Andrew Upton: It’s very, very alive drama.


Night with The Actors photo: Sienna W via Twitter

Moderator: And Bruce?

Bruce Spence: It’s my first play in a bin [Laughs] Look, I’ve found it a superb journey. Mainly, to be really honest,  It was… the text… it’s always in the text. That’s where Beckett is.  And I’m sure that if you go and see another production of Endgame, it’ll be totally different to this one and so on. They’re all different, because it’s the human contribution that’s made. Particularly I think Andrew really has coached lots of textual and dramatic stuff out of us too, so I really give him a lot of credit for that. I’ve found it a wonderful journey. The comedy, or should I say the humor, just comes out of the moment, out of the language. You don’t consciously look for it.  Although Beckett did love vaudevillians, he loved sort of raw comedy, et cetera, you can see that in his sort of logic. But also, I just wanted to make a point: I think Beckett,  Endgame, Godot, et cetera,is part of a long legacy of writers like this. Especially from when the absurdists started writing, people like Beckett, Joyce and Pirandello and a million others. Then you had the logic of The Goon Show. And if you remember The Goon Show, there’s this sort of distorted logic in that that’s very similar to this, and then on and on, and even to Monty Python, etc, and I think a lot of people, a lot of writers even now owe a lot to Beckett, and that sort of way that he saw the world. That sort of jagged, distorted way.

Moderator: One final question for Hugo and Andrew, before we take questions from the audience: What was the evolution of working together, going from Waiting For Godot [in 2013] to Endgame? Did you develop a shorthand, or did you have to free-fall into it as a whole sort of experience?

Hugo Weaving: Let me answer: working on Godot was very, very difficult. Really the hardest thing that I had ever done, and I think that’s true for Richard [Roxburgh] as well. And it was pretty difficult for Andrew. So it was a very, very difficult play, but an incredibly rewarding play, and it was the most extraordinary experience. I really loved working on that, I loved working with Andrew on it, I think Andrew sensed that it was– I really think Andrew kind of gets Beckett in a great way. So once we picked into that seam, we were talking about perhaps doing another Beckett, and then Andrew suggested we do Endgame. So it really been a logical progression for us.

Andrew Upton: Yeah, I think we took the harder [play first]… it’s hard to describe. It is so plain and simple, Beckett’s work,  and that’s really hard to get. It’s hard to play, as actors, it’s hard to get it right, hard to get at the dialogue when you’re doing so much action,  it’s very, very difficult to hold in your hand, very mercurial. And I think all of those terrifying lessons– those rehearsals, battered as we were, we couldn’t…

Hugo Weaving: It was an emotional release, our first weeks.

Andrew Upton: Beckett is demanding.  I think audiences know that, and they weren’t expecting tea. It was a very free flowing experience.

Hugo Weaving: The first thing I think I learned doing Godot, that I brought into this [Endgame], was the technical demands of the piece are so acute. And yet also– you have to observe the structure– but you need to to be entirely present. And open every second of the play.  And I think that’s probably true  with every play, but with Beckett, somehow, much more extremely true than any other playwright. And I think it as a wonderful thing to discover, to bring to this [play.]

Moderator: It sounds like a real leap of faith.

Andrew Upton: Yeah, it’s a leap of faith, all right [laughter].


“Watched “Lord Elrond”- Hugo Weaving’s play #Endgame . Marvellous performance! Panel was impressive too.” Sienna W via Twitter

Moderator: It sounds like a real emotional tumble. You were talking about music earlier [Hugo]…  that at some point you have to let go.

Hugo Weaving: Well, Tamas Ascher, not Andy, was going to direct Waiting for Godot, and he couldn’t come for the first week. He was indisposed, so Andrew took over rehearsals for the first week, and we weren’t missing him anyway, because Tamas is Hungarian, so everything has to go through a translator, so we thought maybe we’ll make the most of this because we’ll have a talk alone about Beckett because [Tamas] couldn’t immediately come [to Sydney]. And then he didn’t come… and it became very clear during the second week of rehearsals that he WASN’T coming. [Laughs].

Andrew Upton: Not at all.

Tom Budge: How appropriate! [Laughs] Because it’s CALLED…

Hugo Weaving: And so Andrew took over… and it was a challenge going forward, [though] it’s not hard for me have faith in Andrew, that’s very easy. That was a very good side effect. But it was suddenly a very different experience and a great experience, doing this play. A very exciting [rehearsal] room. A very open room.


“Happy birthday Samuel Beckett! What an evening at SydneyTheatreCo #Endgame #HugoWeaving #TomBudge #AndrewUpton” Valerie L via Twitter

Question #1 from the audience: Could you describe the role of silence in the play? The silences and pauses seem so ‘active’. Was that a conscious choice?

Hugo Weaving: Well, there are pauses that Beckett had, and a Beckett pause probably lasts between three and five ‘beats’, I suppose, then there are long pauses, and then there are silences that we have. So there are a couple of moments where we observe a sort of full stupid, or dumb silence where nothing is happening at all, almost, I suppose, it’s anti-theatrical in a way, but it’s a quite interesting place to play… There’s a lot going on inside [these characters], but it’s when the death…the nature of where they are fills them, that nothing can be said and nothing can happen, so actually, in a way, that can provide desperate, empty silences from the point of view of the characters. But they’re full of a lot of internal [reflection].

Bruce Spence: It’s like records of music, really. It’s the language, it’s the dramatic action that’s happened before,  the silence, and the dramatic action that might follow the silence. But there are silences and SILENCES. We had… when we were doing rehearsal at one stage, we paused at every pause, and it went on and on and on, and then we realized, ‘hang on, that silence is that long, and THAT silence is THAT long, and that silence is THAT long.’ [Laughs] That pause is that long. You need to sort of play that out. In all drama, whether it’s Beckett or whoever. It’s an organic thing. The factor that really determines a lot of that are the individuals that you’re working opposite. And so, with the four of us, we sort of combine and create an energy, and that’s what creates that music.

Sarah Peirse: But also, essentially, it’s the transaction that the performers have with the audience that actually forms the silence… the performers introduce the silence, and the audience is where the silence is met.


Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton. Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

Question #2: Do you think the dramatic impact of the play has changed in the decades since the play was originally written? Beckett once said, “There are a heap of words, but no drama.” Is this still true?

Andrew Upton: I think there’s a great deal of drama in Endgame, actually. It’s got a gruesome drive inside it that’s quite relentless. Made– only made riveting by this feeling I’ve sort of whipped into them. [Laughs]

Hugo Weaving: He described it… He said ‘Godot is this long play about these awful people’ [Laughs]…. He said, ‘God help me, I can do no other’. [Laughs]

Andrew Upton: [Paraphrased] There is no highly-composed, staged ‘drama’ in the classical sense, but inherent drama created by the interaction of the characters.

Hugo Weaving: And even in the telling of the story, like Hamm’s preposterously long story, is sort of told in four or five voices, so there’s drama inside that, there’s the storyteller himself, he’s kind of acting the storyteller role, and then he’s telling the story from a couple of individuals’ points of view, and then there’s… you’ve also got a cricket getting comedy gone… that’s dark…  there is quite a lot of human turmoil in that drama, if you can only find one.  Beckett was probably saying to all the rest of us not to expect, you know, damsels getting run over by a train [or other stock plot devices.] There’s an enormous amount of human turmoil and drama in ALL of Beckett’s work, fantastic self-censorship, fantastic celebration of failure, and not knowing, and not being able to carry on. But carrying on anyway.


Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton. Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

Question #3: It struck me that Hugo didn’t move his feet for the duration of the performance. There was no fidgeting. How did Hugo and Tom go about developing the different physical aspects of their characters? Was it intuitive, text-based, individual or mutual approach?

Tom Budge: Beckett states specific things about Clov [in his stage directions, such as his] stiff, staggering walk. And so for the first week [of rehearsals] I had one  fused leg, and moved the other one, so I kind of walked around like that. On the Friday night of the first week, I was back in my hotel room. I was limping. [Laughs] I couldn’t bend my leg. So I thought, aw, that’s probably going to ruin everything. [Laughs] So I kind of read a lot into his– Clov’s final speech, where he says now that he’s so bowed, and I loved the idea that the world is just crushing him. So that when he does fall, he will be fully pushed to the ground.  So I liked the idea of a bent back pushing him down. And that is also symmetrical, so I’m mindful of the physio of it. [Laughs]. That’s the idea of of it. So that’s why I kind of ended up on that foot.

Hugo Weaving: Again, Beckett [specifies that] Hamm can’t walk and is blind. So I decided… he’s sitting in a chair, and can’t lie down and can’t, you know [stand]… that his feet were probably swollen. So we got these very thick knitted socks. My feet do go to sleep. But they’re not… I do occasinally find it difficult in the curtain call to walk. [Laughs] But the hardest thing for me was the… not being able to see. And in rehearsal trying to work out whether it was best for me to literally not be able to see, or to be able to see a little bit through the glasses. And.. [the lenses are] painted, so it’s like looking at the back of a white wall very close to my eyes. But with little flecks I can see through, which I thought was important, because I couldn’t– It’s fiunny. I found it very hard to reference.. I found it very hard to speak. I couldn’t reference the visual. I found it very hard to judge logically in [telling] that long story. I found it very hard without any visual references to do. So that was a big challenge for me.


Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twittter

Question #4: Just coming off that physicality question, my question is for Bruce Spence: You’re a prolific voiceover artist as well as a film and stage actor with a distinctive voice. What are the differences between voice acting and fully embodied roles? How do you approach creating a character with no physical presence?

Bruce Spence: Well, it was hard doing the bin. [Laughs] Obviously I had to thnk about that. Especially in rehearsal it was real hard. This one’s much easier. It’s the trext that really helps me. It must sound boring to say that, but I don’t really, consciously think up a voice. I just look at the script, and also listen to the music of the other actors too. I just work off the text.  And it’s it’s just [how]  the character that sort enters the situation at the turn of the vocal cues. When you’re doing animation [or voice roles where no other actors are present], you’re often given a character breakdown. So the character breakdown will often help you find the voice anyway. Once you know the character’s journey, et cetera, that will help you find the character’s sort of vocal psyche, level et cetera.

Hugo Weaving: The other thing is, in animation, the animators these days actually film actors during the recording, because they want to see the actor’s face. They use the actor’s face to animate the character. So whatever you’re doing, they absolutely… now,  they get try and the actors together to record, or they have you go back and re-record [lines in post-production as changes are made.] But the animators increasingly really want to see the actor’s face.  And they get all the actors to do physical stuff, whether you’re doing… whatever you’re being, whatever creature it is that you’re animating. The animators love that.

Bruce Spence: They’ll also provide you the drawings too, of your character, to kind of help you with your characterization.


Photo: Sydney Theatre Co via Twitter/Instagram

Question #5: What was Sarah’s experience of being the only woman in an ostensibly very ‘masculine’ play?

Sarah Peirse: I didn’t feel particularly… I guess in some respects Nell is not… everybody’s representative of beyond themselves,  of beyond their particular character. I didn’t feel particularly that the lack… other than the lack of potential of exploring Nell anyway. But she’s also… she’s the first one to die of these four, so I think that the read became, rather than a gender exploration, it became a journey of her limited returns. So really it was an experience of that rather than anything I think I felt particularly [about her gender.] Other than being conscious that this [relationship between Nagg and Nell] is a long marriage, so there were the rhythms of the marriage that it placed. The sort of irritations and the affection and the companionship and the longevity. And then at times the sort of.. we’re ourselves by Hamm being my son, so all of a sudden you’re playing or existing between two males, and I felt that that was a… for an older, dying woman whose husband and son were present, they were elements that I was conscious of. But that was not.. I wasn’t particularly thinking in gender terms.

Hugo Weaving: It’s interesting that you say that too, because I often think of these characters as being of indeterminate gender, unaware, and I think that Hamm overreacts at his mother, being the character of Hamm. So I sense very strongly his relationship to his mother, and also to his father, in his downfall…


Photo: Valerie L via Twitter

Question #6: Can you comment on the set design?

Hugo Weaving: Nick [Schlieper]’s not here… Nick did design the set and the lighting. I know initially he was looking at a lot of pictures of big water towers, and he was thinking of the play as a vertical play rather than a horizontal one.  His set for Godot was a fantastic, open landscape– for the proscenium, but with a great sense of space. And he was kind of interested in the claustrophobia, the nature of a set like this. Also, I think there was a [person] that used to take refuge in a tower up in the hills just outside Lebanon, just the walls, and I suppose he had that in the back of his mind as well.

Andrew Upton: We had a lot of chats about setting up a peopled space [creatively approaching Beckett’s stark set specifications]

Hugo Weaving: Basically he just says ‘Two windows. A door. A chair. Two bins. Grey light’. That’s really not much. So as long as you have those, don’t add too much onto it. Just don’t.  You can’t stick anything on Beckett, it won’t stay. It won’t work.

Moderator: That’s all we have time for. Thanks to our cast


“Rakish, intelligent and modest as always.” Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

***

Here are excerpts from the latest review of STC Endgame, with a few new production photos (by Lisa Tomasetti) originally posted to STC Facebook. STC recently posted a gallery of 13 of Tomasetti’s performance stills, though not the full range of photos that have appeared in reviews and elsewhere.. so there remains hope we still haven’t seen them all.  As always, the full reviews at sites of origin are well worth a look, so just follow the links.


Tom Budge as Clov and Hugo Weaving as Hamm  Photo (all 3 performance photos): Lisa Tomasetti

David Kary, Sydney Arts Guide: “A Samuel Beckett night at the theatre is like no other. One is just taken over by his bold, raw take on life. Even after all these years, one is still gobsmacked, stunned, by what one is taking place on stage. The experience is like being set upon by the coldest, bleakest wind….

One of our finest actors, Hugo Weaving, delivers one of his most memorable performances as one of Beckett’s most cruel, cantankerous characters, the blind tyrant, Hamm… The performances by Tom Budge as Clov, just brilliant, and Sarah Peirse and Bruce Spence, as his incarcerated parents are perfectly judged…

Summing up, this is the kind of play that gives one the creeps. I saw ENDGAME over a week a go, and I am still haunted by it. Hamm’s deeply sadistic nature…Clov endlessly running after him…hunchbacked…climbing up and down ladders…reporting back to him that he has seen nothing….All I can say is…be prepared!”

Maire Sheehan, AltMedia: “Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame makes what might seem tedious mesmerising as the players’ every gesture, word, and expression evoke a range of responses from the tragic to the ludicrous…

Hugo Weaving is mesmerising.  He is strapped into a chair and wears glasses that block out his sight.  He is the one in control, or is he?  He issues orders but he cannot move. The sparse stage setting and directions make Weaving’s smallest gesture highly visible and open to interpretation…

With a limited set and brilliant performances, STC’s production of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece is not to be missed. ”

Syke On Stage (Facebook): “After Godot, I suppose, Endgame, a one-act play with just four characters, probably stands as SB’s tour de force and director, Andrew Upton, has milked it for everything it’s worth, with his actors displaying the very keenest sense of comic timing…

While the performances that surround Weaving’s are robust, it’s Hugo’s production: suddenly and singularly, his idiosyncrasies and particularities—his Hugoisms—are optimally exploited; his deliberation in diction, declamatory disposition and facial contortions are all exceptionally well-utilised here, making for (at the obvious risk of alliteration) a charismatic, colourful and completely compelling characterisation…

Upton and team have encapsulated Endgame as precisely and evocatively as I can envisage being achieved. This, for mine, is definitive Beckett, the kind of Beckett which Beckett would’ve heartily endorsed. The man whose parents had high hopes of entering their quantity surveying enterprise didn’t disappoint, having become a surveyor of the human condition: marking it up, measuring, calibrating and calculating, so that we might build a chillingly accurate picture of ourselves; our foibles and follies. Upton has dusted it off and made it vibrant, even in its dinginess, all over again.”


“Having a chat with #HugoWeaving post #Endgame #play at #STC #theatre . Great #Actor…” Amber Gokken via Twitter/Instagram

Diana Simonds, Stage Noise: “In 2013, the cast of STC’s Waiting For Godot  waited in vain for fabled Hungarian director Tamas Ascher to arrive and take charge of rehearsals. He was unwell and, at the last minute withdrew, giving STC’s artistic director Andrew Upton approximately ten minutes’ notice to take over. The result was a triumph for him and actors Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins and Philip Quast… There were some churlish types however who whispered that Upton was somehow merely the beneficiary of Ascher’s phoned in instructions via associate Anna Lengyel: that the production surely wasn’t really  his work…was it? The doubters should now be eating a large serving of humble pie if they were at the first night of Upton’s latest adventures in BeckettWorld…

Fascinating then that the production reunites Upton and Weaving: two men whose great friendship has recently been celebrated in print in the weekend papers. They seem, on the face of it, to embody opposing qualities: Weaving – all grounded gravitas and Upton – all impish flightiness. Yet appearances are deceiving and, of course, the superficial is exactly that. From their close collaboration on Endgame  it might be said that each brings out the opposite in the other, so Weaving’s old man Hamm is as capricious as Ariel even though he is confined to a chair and by his blindness. And Upton’s overall vision of Samuel Beckett’s one hour-50 minutes of waiting for the end of the world is at once as terrifying and hilarious as that unthinkable but logically likely event might really be… They are aided and abetted in the enterprise by a superb team whose expertise is exhilarating in its creativity and attention to detail…

Budge and Weaving bicker relentlessly but the weight of their miserable discontent is leavened by the ability of both actors to feel and extract every drop of humour from a word, a pause, a look, an intonation. The continuing ripples of laughter and outbreaks of chuckles and chortles coming from an audience in attendance at almost two hours of the end of the world is a tribute to the actors and their director in realising the play’s craftily concealed possibilities…

Like the moment in chess when it becomes clear all is lost, Endgame  is not easy, but like chess, if surrender is inevitable that’s when something else happens. In Beckett’s play that something is a play that rewards the capitulation of both audience and actors alike: give yourself up to it and the prize is intoxicating and life-enhancing. The end of the world may possibly be quite similar… Endgame  will sell out and no extension is possible as Upton and Weaving will be leaving for the Barbican Theatre for the restaging there of STC’s Waiting For Godot. Miraculously the original cast has been reassembled (Luke Mullins is currently playing Clov in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s own Endgame!) and I hope to be reporting on it from London. Meanwhile: this Endgame  is a brilliant production and not to be missed.”


A behind-the-scenes look at Endgame’s trailer, via STC Instagram

Cassie Tongue, Aussie Theatre: “Last year, Weaving and director Kip Williams turned the Roslyn Packer Theatre (formerly the Sydney Theatre) inside out, and Weaving’s Macbeth filled the gaping auditorium, filling the extraordinarily large space with his tormented Scottish King. This year, as Beckett’s Hamm, Weaving is confined to a chair onstage, and still he fills the room and draws the eye consistently, and he does it with a marriage of harshness, weariness, and a pinprick or two of vulnerability that melts into the darkness, leaving with a mess that lingers. It’s thrilling…

It’s an astonishing performance because of its exhaustive complexity; Weaving’s own brilliance allows him to create a Hamm that radiates authenticity; not quite a broad-strokes tyrant or distant cipher, but someone who dances on the edge of sympathetic before pulling back and ordering instead a cruel command…

Upton and Weaving work well together; in Upton’s Waiting for Godot, which will tour London’s Barbican Theatre later this year, Weaving’s Vladimir was disarmingly good. Here, in Endgame, which Weaving has associate directed, together they creates the tiniest sensations that tend to take a corner of the brain and refuse to be forgotten…

Upton’s directorial touch is never light, it’s too decisive to be light, but between Weaving’s mastery from his chair and Budge’s bent-double pottering, occasionally with one battered bunny slipper and one boot on, and the cracked-white faces of Nell and Nagg peeping and huddling, and the softest sounds of dripping water,  it becomes easy to think he’s not there at all, that this play has stood in its place at the Roslyn Packer for a hundred years, that these four have lived here too long, long before and after Upton showed his hand and shaped this one hundred or so minutes’ worth, and that’s perhaps the greatest compliment it can be given.”

***

You can hear Bruce Spence’s ABC Radio interview about Endgame and his film career here.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

The Key Man is now available to stream on Netflix in the US.

The Dressmaker is set to complete post-production by the end of June. an early cut is being shown to potential buyers at the Cannes Film Festival this month; according to Inside Film, the distribution right for 18 countries have already been snapped up, and the film will be screened for potential US buyers on 30 April. The film opens in Australia on 22 October and might possibly have its international premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Healing has been awarded the ADG Finders Award by the Australian Directors Guild, according to Inside Film. The award is given to the most accomplished submitted film which has yet to receive US distribution. Director Craig Monahan “will accompany the film when it’s screened later in the year for distributors, managers and agents in LA and NY.” Ideally this will help the film get deserved theatrical distribution, and might spur Anchor Bay into rehinking its appalling treatment of the DVD release and its laughably inaccurate cover art, which I respect the cast and filmmakers too much to display here. Suffice to say that apart from a poorly color-enhanced image featuring Don Hany and the eagle (a more artistic version of which served as the film’s Australian poster art and home release art) NOTHING depicted on Anchor Bay’s imaginary cover actually appears in the film. I thought this sort of insulting treatment of foreign films in US home release died out in the VHS era, but alas, no. Let’s hope it’s not too late to change Anchor Bay’s mind. If they release the DVD with that cover, I certainly won’t be wasting my money on it… I have already bought the Aussie version. Most of all I’d like to see Healing in the cinema setting it richly deserves.

Advertisements

New Hugo Weaving Interview, Endgame Previews, More Pics From Sundance, The Key Man on DVD

Hugo Weaving and the cast of Sydney Theatre Co’s Endgame are currently deep into rehearsals, with a scheduled first performance of the production March 31. (Official “Opening Night”, which will be when most reviewers start seeing the play, is 8 April; my experience is that the best time to catch a play with a run of a month ore more is either during previews or the final week. The actors are at their sharpest, either fresh out of rehearsals or getting that second wind that comes when the run is winding down. I’ve never seen a major mistake during previews from an actor of Hugo’s caliber (or, frankly, any actor at all in a major stage production. Occasionally the staging is still being tweaked, but, especially in the case of Beckett, the settings aren’t the reason you’re seeing the play.) 😉 Obviously mistakes or unforeseen incidents can happen at any time in a play’s run– I remember a major prop failure with one of Cate Blanchett’s guns during the NY run of Hedda Gabler, but she’s such a pro only people who’d seen earlier performances probably knew anything was amiss. And no, fortunately it wasn’t during the final scene. Just wanted to make the point that previews are a unsung bargain and often some of the best performances.   AND you can form your own opinion without being swayed by the critics’ takes that come later. 😉

Sorry if I’m too chatty. I should probably get straight to the news. Limelight have more than delivered with their new Hugo Weaving interview on STC’s Endgame and Hugo’s love of Samuel Beckett in general. The interview is expansive and refreshingly on-topic, allowing Hugo time to discuss his interests and goals in theatrical acting (and, now, directing) with a depth most entertainment press features  can’t achieve. There are also some lovely promo photos by James Green and photos from the 2013 production of Waiting For Godot by Lisa Tomasetti. The text and intriguing questions are by Clive Paget. Alas, there’s no online version available (at least not yet– I’ll post links if that changes) so here are the magazine scans. Limelight also mentioned Hugo flatteringly in this month’s Editor’s Letter and previewed the April issue in a brief video.  You can buy print or digital copies of the April issue here.

Interesting to hear Hugo bring up Desert Island Discs again… the program was also referenced in 2003 promotion for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (at STC) because it was a plot point in that play. Gotta say I find it fascinating and wonderfully counter-intuitive that Hugo would list Beckett as his Desert Island reading choice… most people opt for nostalgia or escapism of some sort. Of course, others (myself included) would find a desert island (or even a resort island) a somewhat hellish experience, so Beckett would be oddly comforting. 😉 I think the older one gets, the more Beckett becomes comedy rather than horror or tragedy, and the more human, relatable aspects shine through. Certainly I’d bring Beckett before Samuel Pepys… Pepys is interesting from a historical perspective but didn’t like Shakespeare, so there was clearly something wrong with him. 😉 *

Anyhow,

The Key Man Finally Released On DVD

My review of The Key Man film and DVD (contains minor spoilers)

The Key Man, jokingly referred to by some longterm fans as Hugo’s “lost film”, has finally been released on North American DVD by Screen Media. The release is disappointingly stripped down, with no bonus features, deleted scenes or even subtitles, not even captions for the hearing impaired. The film is only about 80 minutes long and seems oddly incomplete (or poorly-edited), almost like someone took a hatchet to an intriguing 12-part series and cobbled together only the minimal part necessary to understand the plot. Well, sort of. As a result, the characters seem underdeveloped and there are several transitions that seem to come out of nowhere out of plot convenience, or possibly because most of the character moments that didn’t directly impact the plot were sheared away in post.


Hugo Weaving and Jack Davenport in the film’s first scene. All images: My screencaps from the first 20 minutes of the DVD

I’m going to assume anyone delving this deep into the three leads’ resumes already knows the basic plot: that the film is about a luckless insurance salesman named Bobby Scheinman (Jack Davenport) who’s lured into an insurance scam by an aging gangster (Brian Cox’s Irving) and a shady business heir with a sideline in acting (Hugo Weaving’s Vincent.) Bobby’s ostensible motive is to buy a house for his wife (Judy Greer) and young children, but his growing fascination with these criminal criminals and their opulent lifestyle causes him to ignore what should be obvious warnings that he’s putting himself and his family at great risk, and might become complicit in murder. I see I’ve gone out of my way to avoid certain spoiler content… I do hope to talk with other fans about this without needing to be so elliptical in the future, but I only received my DVD, and know others are still waiting, and I won’t play the spoiler-monkey. For those who like to know the absolute bare minimum about any film (and find even trailers spoilery)… you should wait until you see the film to read the rest of this. 😉


Brian Cox and Hugo Weaving in The Key Man

I’m giving a lot of benefit of doubt on the point of editing (ie missing scenes) because there’s a montage near the end that features a lot of footage that doesn’t appear anywhere else in the film, including what would appear to be establishing scenes between Jack Davenport and Hugo Weaving’s characters. If they existed, such scenes could give both characters– particularly Davenport’s protagonist, needed depth and complexity. As things are, Bobby seems like a more mannered, suburban variant on James Brolin’s character in No Country for old Men, ie a greed-driven empty vessel who puts others in dangers despite multiple warnings. The film’s unexpected post-script (which I won’t disclose) seems to belie this, suggesting there was a lot more going on in Bobby’s head, but this conflicted motivation should have bee woven throughout the plot. I have to believe a production this bare-bones must have started with a unique original script to draw actors of Weaving, Cox and davenport’s caliber. But it seems like the distributors didn’t know what to make of the finished film, and thus chopped it down to a rote thriller that follows a lot of the now-stale conventions of 70s film rather than jauntily reinventing them. Hugo and Brian Cox have some magnificent acting moments, but key connective tissue about their characters seems missing, which makes these great scenes seem to come out of nowhere. Vincent’s acting, for example, is barely mentioned before it suddenly becomes all-important, and Irving (Cox) goes from a murderous thug to a soulful, regretful pacifist with almost no transition.

The film is full of often-pretentious nods to 70s techniques like split-screen; often the directorial tricks seem more like showing off than devices in service of the plot and characters. Some scenes– mostly exteriors– appear grainy. At first I thought this was part of the film’s retro theme (a la Grindhouse), but other scenes are perfectly crisp, so I’m wondering if the grain is a side-effect of the low budget. The film is ostensibly set in the suburbs of Boston, but was obviously (to a New England resident) shot nowhere near there. I suppose I should be grateful there are clumsy Pick-up Shots Of Boston Landmarks crammed between scenes to distract us that the film was in fact shot in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The central scam of the film– that Vincent is buying a fraudulent insurance policy to help finance buying interest in the Boston Red Sox– would only seem plausible to someone who DIDN’T live in Boston in the 1970s… basically the proposal is akin to that of buying partial interest in the Brooklyn Bridge for pennies on the dollar. Bobby should instantly see such a ruse for what it is– or at least do some basic research. 😉 If more character-establishing scenes existed to explain why he doesn’t, and why he’s so easily drawn into Vincent’s scheme despite multiple warnings, the film might work. As it is, it seems like Bobby is naive in addition to henpecked into action to please his wife (Judy Greer) with a new house. Since Greer plays her underwritten character with her usual degree of understatement and charm (she has an amazing scene with Hugo late in the game), the latter motive doesn’t really wash.

I mentioned 70s tropes being reinforced rather than challenged or reinvented– the depiction of gay and female characters is another unfortunate side effect of possible editing or writing. The only two female characters– played by Greer and Carol Kane, who’s wasted in two minimal appearances as Bobby’s secretary– fall into types due to a lack of screentime. An early montage suggests the spark is going out of Bobby’s marriage, but this isn’t really explained or developed so much as played for uncomfortable laughter (a Johnny Carson clip from at least a decade after the film’s 1975 setting is thrown in as a punchline). And Greer’s portrayal is almost entirely sympathetic. It’s also suggested Bobby is falling behind in sales at work, which Vincent and Irving think will make him easy pickings for their scam. But this is also underwritten, particular when, late in the film, a colleague of Bobby’s reveals Vincent has unsuccessfully tried to lure others at the same insurance office. Wouldn’t that have become general knowledge at the firm, or at least gossip?

A major gay relationship between two characters is a major revelation, and seems played for shock value or prurient titillation, the way gay or cross-dressing characters (who were invariably villains) usually were in actual 70s film. One participant is the affair is barely sketched out, though he seems critically important to the proceedings and the insurance scam, so the audience is given nothing to work with regarding how to feel about him. The other participant– a main character– is depicted as flamboyant and even quasi-rapey at one point, but is also treated so fetishistically by the camera that one wonders if the creative team actually meant for the character to come across negatively. Again, here’s an area where additional scenes or greater nuance in existing scenes might add more complexity. The film’s ending, which ventures in a direction no rote 70s thriller would, suggests there was supposed to be more going on, and that there was a nascent love triangle somewhere in the film’s machinations. Maybe I’m reading too much into things. (I don’t usually try to add slashy plot elements where none were intended– or straight romantic elements for that matter. I don’t watch films primarily for the shipping potential.)

I’m going on so long because the film does have some great moments and intriguing subtexts amid the choppy editing and rote plot elements. So I have to think there was initially more to this. As it is, fans of Hugo Weaving and Brian Cox should see the film regardless, as these actors have some transcendent moments that hint these characters could each be spun into a very good series with the right creative team. (I can’t help but think of what Vince Gilligan has done with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, both stocked with miscreant characters given unexpected depth and relatability through the right alchemical mixture of acting, script and direction.) The Key Man’s writer/director, Peter Himmelstein, had never made a feature before this one. Reading Hugo’s thoughts on what an experienced actor can add to a newbie director’s work, I’d love to hear what he (or Brian Cox) initially saw in the script and what they might have though should be added. (Or, indeed, if some stuff was subtracted.) Hugo’s tendency to be both generous and unabashedly honest would make hearing his thoughts on this film very interesting.

A few other random thoughts: I probably will watch this again to make sure I’m being fair to it. I’ve actually seen The Tender Hook three times (in total, Hugo’s scenes more often) and this is definitely a better period caper than that dreary pile of genre cliches. Hugo’s Vincent could be said to be a weird transitional character between Hook’s McHeath and The Mule’s Croft, though each character has some unique traits. (I’m pretty sure Croft would find Vincent and McHeath’s penchant for Shakespeare-quoting and other refinements a bit dodgy. Well, he’d probably put things in less politically correct terms.) 😉 The Mule movie is leagues above either The Key Man OR The Tender Hook, and shows how challenging it is to get period genre films right. It’s probably not right to call The Key Man a “caper”, really, as it’s almost entirely devoid of humor. If anything, it could use a bit of leavening, and a less draggy “lite-jazz” soundtrack. But the camera loves Hugo and he steals every scene he’s in effortlessly. None of he actors disappoints, though Davenport is stuck with a purely reactive character, and for someone with decidedly-above-Keanu-Reeves level chops, this is frustrating. 😉

Re fan  service: Yes, there are sauna scenes for all three protagonists, though no full nudity. There’s a hint of sex treated very glancingly (no nudity), though some fans will go heavy on the pause, zoom, and rewind. I’m not spoiling any aspect of that.  Nothing makes me quite as furious as people who post such scenes (or stills from them) out of context without spoiler warnings before most fans can see the film as a whole. Since a lot of these indie fans are somewhat obscure, new fans in any given year should have the opportunity to see them without having major plot points spoiled in advance in the name of “fan service”, so such images should be posted via links with spoiler warnings. Just my opinion. Yes, I do draw a certain amount of titillation from Hugo’s sexier roles, but treating his work primarily as softcore porn is a bit disrespectful and juvenile. Hugo always emphasizes script and “character illumination” as his primary motive in choosing roles, so we should at least try to watch the films with that in mind the first time or two through. Fan service can follow for those into that, with the proper content advisories. Because, in all honesty, there’s no reason to watch The Right Hand Man more than one or two times except for the Hugo Nudity. 😉 The sauna scene featuring Hugo and Brian Cox gets a pass because it was in the trailer, though I was annoyed that some fan in Eastern Europe posted giant caps out of context years before the film was widely released. It should be noted that that scene contains no sexual activity or hint of sex between those characters. No Viggo-Mortensen-style nude knife-fights (Eastern Promises) either, alas. 😉

Odd trivia: The film’s opening credits (and a dream sequence that follows)  give away key plot points, though in a veiled manner. I’d have preferred starting from the beginning of the actual story and dispensing with the arty spoilers, which might’ve allowed time for possibly-deleted character building scenes. Also, the DVD cover art image of a bloodied, bullet-riddled car windshield and bag of  money are a completely fabricated scene that doesn’t happen anywhere in the film. 😉 And I am going to have to re-read Troilus and Cressida again after this. In some ways I can relate to Vincent’s feelings about the play, as my one experience seeing it in performance was an unfortunate experimental production. My primary memory is of one particular cast member wearing leather bondage gear spitting all over us amid his over-enunciating… 😉

A Few More Sundance Pics

Some nice images of Hugo Weaving with Joseph Fiennes, taken 24 January 2015 at Sundance during Strangerland promotion. Both photos by Jay L Clendenin/LA Times/Contour/Getty Images

The Dressmaker

Finally, novel author Rosalie Ham has shared another production diary post recounting her experiences working as an extra on the set of The Dressmaker. this time Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth and Judy Davis are casually name-dropped (I would to if I wrote a novel these actors starred in the film adaptation…) but Hugo is still referred to as “Segreant Farrat”. Could it be she doesn’t know his real name, or is just just particularly besotted with that character (or Hugo’s deptction of him)? An interesting read either way. The film opens October 1 in Australian, with international distribution to be announced. Here’s a short excerpt from Ham’s piece, and a set photo of the day described.

“Kate Winslet, dressed in startling red couture, walks across the Jung footy oval, her complexion very British in the Dungatar glare and the Australian bush green. Behind her, Judy Davis, small and magnetic, watches. Before her, Sergeant Farrat waits…     The actors and their attentive entourage return. We watch the tall, lovely, leading man (Liam Hemsworth) play skilled, choreographed footy, the stunties hovering… ”


Kate Winslet and Judy Davis filimg The Dressmaker

A Few More Hugo Weaving Pics From Sundance; The Key Man Finally Released on DVD, VOD; Endgame

A few quick items to report while we wait for Hugo’s next big project, his role in Sydney Theatre Co’s Endgame (now in rehearsal) to appear in the online media.

First, my suspicion that photographers may have been olding back some of their best images from Sundance continues to be proved right: these stunning portraits by LA Times photographer  Jay L. Clendenin (posted to Contour by Getty Images) were just posted recently, though they were taken on 24 January. They’ve already become very popular in the fandom for good reason.


All five photos:  Jay L. Clendenin/Contour/Getty Images

Victoria Will’s tintype-style portrait has also been widely posted, now in larger formats without the watermark:


Victoria Will, via Yahoo News

The Key Man Finally Available On DVD

Longtime Hugo fans were excited when the DVD/VOD release of Hugo’s long-stalled US indie film The Key Man (costarring Brian Cox, Jack Davenport and Judy Greer) was finally announced. The project was filmed on location in North Carolina and Virginia in late 2006 (though it’s set in Massachusetts) and was in post-production limbo for many years before finally screening to mixed reviews at SXSW in February 2011. Then fans had to wait still longer for a proper distribution deal to take place; Screen Media finally acquired the rights last year. The DVD popped up unheralded on Amazon this week; US viewers can stream the or purchase the VOD version of the film in Standard or High Definition. VUDU also has the film available. So far Netflix is only offering the eventual DVD rental; the DVD comes out 17 March, with Amazon and other sites taking pre-orders.

We also finally have a trailer for the film, which I’ll embed below, followed by a few still images.


PopcornFlix Too via YouTube

You can also watch the film’s opening credits free on VUDU.


All screencaps are mine, from the film’s trailer.

i may take additional screencaps once I’ve had time to watch the film, but I probably won’t post an abundance of those out of context until the DVD is officially out and fans have had a chance to watch it. I do get annoyed when people post screencaps (especially those containing spoilers or salacious content) from a film I haven’t had as chance to see yet or that isn’t widely available to fans, so I won’t be a hypocrite. I know a lot of fans watched this film in bootleg form, but I’ve held out for a proper release.  I have no idea yet whether it was worth the wait, but I do think I owe Hugo and the other actors involved and the filmmakers they chose to work with that amount of respect. I’m not an absolutist on this front: I am resigned to the fact that some of Hugo’s early TV work will never be properly released on home-viewing formats, particularly since even a landmark miniseries like Bodyline couldn’t get a DVD release without chainsaw editing that removed most of the nuances from Hugo’s character. 😉  So I do own a “unofficial” release of the unedited Bodyline (I bought the official version too) and a few other 90s TV rarities. I don’t blame other fans for doing so, or even for despairing that The Key Man would ever see the light of day in a proper global release. But I do hope fans always purchase the legal versions of Hugo’s films (or rent them, or– best of all– see them in cinemas) when they do become available, because the independent filmmakers Hugo prefers to work with need and deserve this support.


The Key Man’s US DVD box art

If I do elect to take screencaps I’ll post them to the Photobucket archive, so fans who’ve already seejn the film can have a look. Again, I’m only stating my own policies and opinions here… if you happen to like ogling revealing screencaps out of context, I’m not about to stop you. 😉 In some cases (The Right Hand springs to mind) it beats sitting through the film. I’m hoping The Key Man defies expectation and is a lost gem. And that as a Red Sox fan I don’t have to post a lot of corrections after viewing it. (Yes, you probably could’ve sold the Sox cheap circa 1975. But even then, Fenway was much more majestic than that puny ballpark in the trailer.) 😉

Endgame


STC promo banner for Endgame, including Hugo Weaving portrait by James Green

As I mentioned at the top of the update, Hugo Weaving is now in rehearsals for Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, which will debut at STC at the end of March. (They’ll almost certainly share rehearsal photos and other promo material before then.)  According to Broadway World, Tom Budge has replaced Robert Menzies in the role of Clov (the son of Hugo’s character Hamm). Menzies costarred with Hugo in last season’s Macbeth, and had to drop out due to illness. We wish him a speedy recovery.

The Guardian previewed STC’s production alongside a rival version being mounted by Melbourne Theatre Co.this year. Ironically,  MTC’s staging costars Luke Mullins, who played Lucky in STC’s 2013 adaptation of Waiting For Godot starring Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh, which will be revived at London’s Barbican this June. (Tickets are still available for both Endgame and Godot.) STC News confirmed that Artistic Director Andrew Upton (who’s directing STC’s Endgame as well) will step down at the end of his current term. News reports (including those in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Daily Review and Variety) include Hugo’s name among fantasy successors, but last time this issue came up in 2011, Hugo said he absolutely wasn’t interested. Most insiders suggest the post will go to a director rather than an actor. Upton and his family (including his wife, whom you may have heard of) are supposedly moving to the US, though I hope Cate will still focus on theatre and decent indie roles, as Hollywood has no clue about what to do with her and most other actresses over 40. (No, “wicked stepmother” roles don’t cut it.) Upton apparently wants to direct TV… since US TV is often far superior to US moviemaking, this might prove interesting providing he steers clear of the “reality” genre. Also good news: he’s writing a play for the Mrs. 😉

You can read factoids about playwright Samuel Beckett at STC’s blog. You can read Upton’s thoughts on Endgame at Real Time Arts. Upton’s STC is highlighted (with photos from many productions Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett costarred in) at STC’s blog.


Andrew Upton and Hugo Weaving portrait by James Green (via STC News)


Hugo Weaving and Jeremy Sims in Andrew Upton’s 2007 play Riflemind, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Photo: Brett Boardman/STC Blog

Technical Difficulties

Finally, I apologise for continued technical issues I’m having with Twitter and Photobucket. In the case of the former, I haven’t been able to access more than a few hours of timeline for weeks, and at times am not being notified by the site about DMs and other messages I’d prefer to answer quickly. As of today the latter problem seems mostly resolved, but the former does not. And I continue to find photos not showing properly in archived entries, a problem caused by Photobucket, where I archive most of my Hugo photos. I had though the site finally corrected the problem a few weeks ago, but still find some entries with incorrect notifications that I’ve moved or deleted photos, which I NEVER do upon completion of Hugonuts posts. I’m trying to correct these issues as I find them, but do let me know if you find these errors in old posts. I’ve about had it with Photobucket technical issues but have so many years of photos stored there, it would take months to relocate, and months more to re-embed photos in all my Hugonuts posts from a new location. 😉 So apologies again, and I hope you’ll bear with me as I continue making corrections and moving my archived Hugonuts posts to the “new” WordPress and Hugonuts News sites. My current plan is to eventually have the complete archive 2011-present with a selection of important older posts.  

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: filmgaze.com: “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.

New Video Featurette For The Turning; Mystery Road Added to London, Busan Film Fests

Hugo Weaving’s two major films for Autumn 2013 (spring for Australians) continue to accrue positive reviews and word-of-mouth in advance of wide release, and Mystery Road continues to be a popular selection at a variety of worldwide film festivals, suggesting it might not be as slighted in international distribution as many of Hugo’s Australian films have been.

The most exciting new item this week has been a three-minute featurette from Madman Films in which many of the stars and directors of Tim Winton’s The Turning discuss the author’s influence. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham are both featured prominently, discussing their short “Commission”… and there’s also the revelation that Hugo appears both with and without a beard in the film, which should please the full spectrum of fans. 😉 (Though if the anti-beard faction hasn’t figured out that the beard is Hugo’s personal preference by now…) Not sure if this means Hugo’s character Bob Lang is depicted at two different ages, or if he shaves for plot reasons I’ll avoid divulging. (The plot involves Lang being sought out by his estranged son Vic after a long absence.) A younger version of Bob Lang, portrayed by other actors, appears in at least two other segments of the film.

I have finally started reading Tim Winton’s book after multiple indications by reviewers that viewers might be slightly lost without it. I haven’t yet reached “Commission”, though I’d read the first couple of pages earlier to glean clues about Hugo’s possible character. Though some advance publicity for the film makes the book sound imposing, overly arty or so Australian that it might confuse non-Aussies… none of these things are remotely true. It’s a page-turner and profoundly moving from the get-go, and the characters, while quintessentially Australian, have universally-recognizable human traits. It covers a span of about 30 years, but does so in mostly chronological order. It isn’t remotely hard to follow or prone to meta/lit-major discursions and in-jokes like, say, Cloud Atlas. 😉 The major challenge the book would present to film adaptation is that most of the stories are first-person or third-person-limited recollections, which are often difficult to translate without resorting to a lot of voiceover narration. But Last Ride demonstrated that there are visual ways of working around this without excessive VO, and most early reviews suggest that all of the film’s directors found creative solutions. Also, it might not be a great idea to try reading the book in a crowded public location like, say, an auto repair shop if you don’t particularly enjoy weeping openly in front of others. Yes, the book gets its hooks in you at the earliest opportunity.

Here are a few screencaps I took of the featurette, including a humorous exchange between Wenham and Weaving that I’d love to hear the audio for:

I’d mentioned earlier that it looked unlikely that Hugo would attend the Toronto International Film Festival screenings of Mystery Road later this week– now I know why. And it’s a very good reason. Hugo and David Wenham, along with producer Robert Connolly, are scheduled to introduce The Turning at its official Sydney premiere on 11 September at 7.15 pm at the Hayden Orpheum. It’s typical (and very endearing) of Hugo to opt for promoting a landmark Australian film at home rather than choosing the glitzier, high-profile international promo gig. (Also, I’ve heard Ivan Sen is busy making a film in China, and is thus also unavailable to go to Toronto, and Hugo has repeatedly shown his preference that Sen and star Aaaron Pedersen get the primary attention for Mystery Road.) Hugo might also have work-related reasons for staying close to home, but those are unknown at the moment. While it’s probably too early for Waiting for Godot to be in rehearsals, he is probably at least doing early prep work for that role as well.

The two-week special release of The Turning is selling out quickly, so Australian viewers should book tickets now while they still can. No international distribution info has yet been announced. While it’s probably too much to hope for the loving treatment the film has received at home in international release, I do believe the film will find an audience worldwide, and it deserves a wide international release in its original cut.

You can read more about The Turning at The Age, The Australian and in a blog by Finnian Williamson about his work on the project.

Some recent reviews:

Shaun Heenan, Popcorn Taxi: “The 17 segments were filmed separately, with completely different crews, and cover a multitude of styles…

Several of Australia’s big-name actors make appearances, and they’re uniformly impressive. Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett’s performances both consist, largely, of long, unbroken shots, allowing them to craft believable characters quickly. Rose Byrne gives a true stand-out performance as Rae, in Claire McCarthy’s titular segment The Turning, which appears around the half-way mark….

While the A-list actors have many of the showier parts, the lesser-known cast keeps up with them handily. There really isn’t a weak link in this collection; each short is directed well and shot beautifully. While several shorts stand out—Aquifer, Reunion, Defender—not a single one falters. It’s something of a miracle that so many directors, casts and crews can all work separately and still produce a film that feels so cohesive. This is cinematic ambition fulfilled on the grandest scale.”

Simon Miraudo, Quickflix: “The magical thing about Tim Winton’s The Turning is how consistently good it is. That it occasionally touches greatness makes it miraculous…

Though every episode has its own flavour, different casts, and little in common, stylistically, with any other, nine of them revolve around the same characters: the troubled Vic Lang, his anxious wife Gail, ailing mother Carol, and estranged father Bob. The best come from this batch. The filmmakers aren’t much concerned with keeping Vic’s timeline consistent. His age and race fluctuates, none of his stories are presented in chronological order, and, in the penultimate passage, he’s depicted in a wordless modern dance routine. It gives The Turning an ‘ebb and flow’ kind of feeling; matched by the tide of the ocean so often glimpsed in these coastal West Australian tales.

Among those highlights: Anthony Lucas’ visually inventive Damaged Goods sees Gail (Libby Tanner) rummaging through Vic’s high school memory box, uncovering his obsession with the port-wine stained Strawberry Alison (Taylor Ferguson). Ashlee Page’s On Her Knees is a tender tale of compassion and morality, and stars Susie Porter as Carol, a stubbornly ethical housekeeper unjustly fired from her job. Simon Stone’s Reunion showcases the stage talents of Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, and Robyn Nevin, who enjoy A Very Lang Christmas in three lengthy, single takes. Finally, there’s Wenham’s sparse, evocative Commission, wherein Vic (Josh McConville) seeks out the alcoholic Bob (Hugo Weaving), who has exiled himself to the bush. Though he faces stern competition, Weaving steals the whole show with his thoughtful, contemplative, haunted performance…

Tim Winton’s The Turning requires a big investment from viewers. Not all entries will resonate, and some will flat out frustrate and challenge. Nonetheless, this is indeed a special event: an unprecedented gathering of homegrown talent, both on screen and behind the camera. Enough amuse, many astound, and all intrigue. They succeed in holding you within their story; tricking you into thinking for their brief runtime that you’re actually watching a feature-length picture. When a segment abruptly cuts to black, part of you wishes we weren’t moving on, even though the promise of something better lies ahead. Yet, each still feels whole. That’s a success.” (Four stars)

Shayne Travis Grieve, This Is Film: “Typically a compiled work of this magnitude has the propensity to fall flat under the weight of its own bold aspirations, but for the most part, The Turning avoids this fate. While the sprawling 3-hour run time asks much of the viewer, each shortly lived chapter is assigned to a single director from various arenas of the Australian Arts scene. Connolly’s choice to divide and designate in this fashion gives the film the much needed diversity and creative energy to maintain interest and momentum throughout…

The rich and culturally diverse ensemble cast is truly outstanding and is headlined by some of our most respected and revered performers including Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto and Hugo Weaving. Amongst all that Australian royalty, the standout performances belong to Byrne and Weaving. Both depict gritty and bleak characters that are shattered and broken by abuse. Both fervent portrayals are absolutely captivating and demand your utmost attention…

The Turning’s ambition must be recognised and applauded. Though theatrically this film will struggle to find its audience, I’m certain these works will garner far greater attention and admiration over the following years, as a watershed moment for collaborative Australian filmmaking. For the time-being, The Turning should also break the underlining cynicism that many feel towards the overall mismanagement of the Australian Film Industry. Despite its missteps, this stunningly original concept provides even further evidence that our industry can deliver bold and passionate artistic works when given its chance. ”

Mystery Road

I made every effort to attend the Toronto Film Fest screenings of Mystery Road despite the advance knowledge that Hugo wouldn’t be participating, but was undone by a variety of highly annoying, somewhat trivial obstacles. (One involved the car repairs previously alluded to, the other was the government’s utter inability to turn around passport renewals without an applicant in effect offering a bribe.) 😉 I do have two tickets to the September 9 screening if anyone wants one last-minute. The September 7 premiere is sold out. I should also mention that the TIFF ticketing system– including not making single tickets available until a week before the festival, and the “virtual waiting room” where one languishes for hours waiting for an alleged ticketing window as a clock winds down, only to have the clock arbitrarily, repeatedly reset itself just as the buyer reaches the 30-second mark– is a boondoggle which could provide Franz Kafka with plenty of story fodder if he were alive and writing today. 😉 I understand the interest in selling premium packages to wealthy patrons, etc, but one shouldn’t have to invest hundreds of dollars to have more than a week to plan a trip. I’ve never had this issue with any other film festival, or with obtaining theater tickets. Yes, there are always membership privileges and early access, but the general public can still get  decent tickets well in advance.

I am glad, however, that Mystery Road’s TIFF screenings have been so popular in advance, and hope they lead to proper North American distribution early next year.

Mystery Road added a couple of new festival berths in the past week: it will be showcased at the “Thrill Gala” in the BFI London Film Festival on 10 October, with additional screenings on the 11th and 19th. You can buy tickets and read more at LFF’s website. Mystery Road will also screen at the Busan International Film Festival in Korea, where Oranges and Sunshine had its world premiere in 2010. Specific dates and times have not yet been announced, but you can read more here.  The Busan festival runs October 3-12. I hope some of you British and Korean fans are able to go. More on both festivals at Screen Australia’s website (Busan) and Screen Daily (LFF).

Healing

There have been a couple of recent posts on Healing’s Facebook page recently after a quiet summer. There was a photo posted of director Craig Monahan and crew working hard on post-production/editing, and a notice that the film has already won the 2013 Queensland Literary Award for Best Feature Film Script.  So it sounds like the stretch of quality Hugo Weaving films will continue into next year. (Healing premieres in Australia in early 2014, with international distribution TBD.)

The Key Man

Though this obscure film– shot in 2006 and completed in 2011– remains in an infuriating wide release limbo, and has only been seen in a handful of countries seemingly selected at random (the Middle East, Eastern Europe and New Zealand among them) a small amount of quality footage was shared by one of the film’s cinematographers Tarin Anderson on Vimeo. Though there’s a frustrating lack of audio, this very much whets the appetite for the rest of the film, as we see plenty of Hugo’s charming rogue Victor, who looks to be much more fun than the similar McHeath character (in The Tender Hook). And the obvious 70s cinema homage techniques are also on display, especial in that woozy circular dolly shot. 😉 I really hope that Occupant Films gets its act together and releases the film properly. Fans have been waiting too long to see it.


Thanks to Elisa at RS for the YouTube embed… as usual, LJ flakes out on most non-YouTube video posts. 😉

I’ll be back on the 11th to cover the Sydney premiere of Mystery Road, and ideally to share any new photos and video available then.