• I Love Todd Sampson

    Wondering how to cure a deep-seated love for an ABC TV personality? Check out Michelle St Anne’s haunting public dedication.

    The vulnerability of the human psyche is on display for 12 special performances of Michelle St Anne’s installation theatre piece I Love Todd Sampson, which opens Thursday February 28 at Pier 2/3 on Hickson Road. This multidisciplinary theatre work is revolutionising how theatre makers combine architecture, installation art, light, music, film and performance.

    This moving tale follows Laura, a lonely (and somewhat schizophrenic) middle-aged woman coping with day-to-day life through the support of the ‘friends’ who live inside her. Searching for comfort beyond the figments of her imagination, Laura begins obsessing about Todd Sampson (CEO of Leo Burnett Australia, co-creator of the Earth Hour initiative and commentator on The Gruen Transfer and The Project).

    The charming Canadian ad-man’s voice is consistently heard throughout the piece, as the audience becomes an important, visceral component in the show: “[The audience] enter rooms…to explore and discover images, atmospheric sounds and repeated moments,” says St Anne. “And yes, Todd Sampson does know about it.”

    The Living Room Theatre, the registered not-for-profit performance company founded in 2000 by St Anne herself, claims to “explore the subtext of everyday life”. The company has produced 10 original works, including two pieces inspired by the legendary Australian novelist Tim Winton.

    St Anne is dedicated to increasing community awareness, creating ...Read more

  • I Love Todd Sampson

    You’d have to be desperate to be in love with Todd Sampson, given that he is already happily married with a couple of kids. And middle-aged Laura, the ‘I’ in the play’s title, is desperate, to the point of despair.

    The performance of I LOVE TODD SAMPSON, written by Michelle St Anne, begins with the audience being shepherded outside the foyer and bar then along the wharf, and entering sliding doors that reveal one woman dressed in black labouriously hauling another along on a rope.

    Looking along to the right of the rough-hewn old wharf shed, various shapes, colours and lights tail off into the distance and it’s obvious we’ll be walking down there; but not at all obvious then that we will also be going upstairs. To Everest.

    Meanwhile, behind us is a boxed-in suburban-style lounge complete with venetian blinds, which is where the action moves to next and where the empty, haunted face of Laura (played by Gabrielle Quinn) is painful to watch.

    To detail what happens over the following 80 minutes or so would spoil the experience, which is what this play most enthrallingly is. The play is a gripping journey through one woman’s craziness, her troubled mindscape evocatively realised by the many sets created by the play’s architects (they are described as such in the credits).

    And what of Todd? The stubbly, T-shirt ...Read more

  • I Love Todd Sampson

    There is an exercise you can do try to understand the experience of schizophrenia. You put on headphones (and sometimes goggles) that scream loud abuse in your ears. You try to act like normal. And you fail.

    I Love Todd Sampson is a gentler version of this sort of thing. The play takes you into the head of Laura (an energetic Gabrielle Quin), who is skating along the edges of a nervous breakdown. Her mind is exploded across Pier 2/3, her grief dissected and pinned to the walls, like the atomised belly of an open frog. Along with her fragmented experience of mind, Laura has become obsessed with Gruen Transfer-ing ad man Todd Sampson, who makes a virtual cameo in her fantasies and in the play itself.

    The audience is on its feet for most of this striking hour and a half of theatre, though there are some chairs scattered along the way. Laura, responsible for the death of a pedestrian in a traffic accident some years before, suffers a breakdown seemingly triggered by the death of her father. Hallucinations torment her, played by the rest of the cast.

    You follow her and her visions along the full length of the play’s cavernous venue. They throw themselves from one set to the next as furiously as OK Go rush between Heath Robinson machines. The sets ...Read more

  • I Love Todd Sampson – Architecture Exhibition

    Tonight I went along to the launch of the architects, artists, performer collaboration based on a theatre work created by Michelle St Anne and the central character performed by Gabrielle Quin while the artistic intention was developed by Michaela Gleave.

    The production invites us into the world or mind of the protagonist Laura, a much-abused now middle-aged woman with an obsession with Todd Sampson.  The story is a lonely tale of mistreatment, hiding techniques, searching for love and violence that even your friends cannot help you with.

    The group of architects brought together as Livingroom Theatre are continuing a theatrical tradition of artists and architects working with the set design for theatre from Cocteau to Sidney Nolan and Utzon artists and architects have created spaces for theatre.  This contemporary engagement with the architecture of the lonely and the vulnerable allows the architects to create works within a brief that engages every sense and more.

    The models, video works, posters and design works give one a unique insight into their understandings of a space through both text of the production and the material forms they can create.

    As we leaned across the long tables displaying working models someone near me asked ‘do you think they will sell these when the show is over?’  All I could reply is ‘I hope so’. Some of the ...Read more

  • The Living Room Theatre’s motto is “take time to look at things differently”. So when artistic director Michelle St Anne jokingly warns of the all­female production of A Little Room, “Don’t come expecting Chekov with pillow fighting”, we’re intrigued.

    “It’s about women coping with loss at different stages,” she elaborates, fresh from a season in Sydney. “A Little Room came from my experience coping when my girlfriend died from cancer. It was really quick. Only nine months. I was traumatised. She exposed me to so many things, the finer things in life. After she died, I used to catch the train to Katoomba and sit at the Carrington Hotel. I used to watch an old lady that was there and in dealing with my trauma I ended up creating and attributing a story to her and it developed from there.

    “I find it hard when people ask what it’s about, as it’s all about moments.

    When I think about Jill, it’s about when I sat with her; the phone conversations; when I ate with her. That’s how I remember her – by a string of moments. But of course it’s a distorted memory. Grief distorts and we endow the memories. We do that with romantic love, too. Because really they’re always arseholes but years on, you know, it’s like Casablanca. And in grief you have that blurring of reality. In ...Read more

  • Man 40 seeks Woman with Good Legs & Billie

    ‘Content may disturb’ ‘Partial nudity’

    As the audience file expectantly downstairs to the theatre beneath the art gallery that is fortyfivedownstairs, these words can be read on the walls. These warnings are not to be taken lightly. Expect to be disturbed, aroused, disgusted and awed by these performances. This is no Jersey Boys.

    ‘Man 40…’ 

    The first performance is an exploration of human relationships. It covers the spectrum from lovers, to mates, to parents and children and the competition between women for men. The action is electric, with charged performances from all 7 actors. The audience is swept along by the raw emotion of the piece that is at times confronting and disturbing, as you find yourself being able to relate to aspects of the relationships being played out in front of you.

    This is enhanced by the set up of the stage and seating area. There is no traditional, raised and centralised stage at fortyfivedownstairs. It is, rather, reminiscent of a large warehouse, with the audience seated along one length of it on the same level as the actors. The performance occurs in all areas of this vast stage. The effect is one of immersion in the action to the extent that at times I felt uncomfortable due to the close proximity of the players.

    The lighting is low, supporting the highly ...Read more

  • Billie is an evocative and atmospheric solo performance by Michelle St. Anne. In the intimate space of La Mama, St. Anne reprises this work she created when completing post-graduate study at the School of Drama at VCA.

    It has no linear narrative, but is constructed from physical and visual images and snatches of text inspired by Tim Winton’s novel, The Riders.

    In a series of vignettes the actor (St. Anne), as a young woman or as a child, is dressed in turn in white singlet and underpants or a blue satin gown and red high heels. We see her in snapshots of her life. Fluid images flutter on the upstage screens. As the images and text unfold, our understanding of this woman expands. We watch as the child plays on a garden rope swing. The swing, finally, becomes the vehicle for the sexual abuse of the child. On the white screens the woman, dressed in gown and heels and carrying a birdcage, repeatedly walks along a wall as if departing over and over again. The child imitates the movements and dress of the mother, as if trying to fill the shoes of the mature woman.

    St. Anne is a charming and engaging performer. She explores the fusion of image and voice.

    Intrinsic to this show are a sparse sound design by Soncha Iacono and simple but dramatic lighting by ...Read more

  • The Intimacies of Women

    “Still lonely despite the sexy frocks”.

    In her program note for this satisfying performance, the writer, director and designer Michelle St. Anne quotes a number of wide ranging influences on the work. The name that leaps out is Federico Fellini, which is possibly inevitable when the work features six young women in dead sexy black cocktail frocks and matching shoes, situated in a stylish cafe with white table cloths and oodles of classy, understated eroticism. It’s very Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, complete with one token hunky bloke and some nicely graphic conversation about sexual experience. The women are caught between the public world of outward appearance and the smaller private terrain of the hidden and domestic.

    Absence is important – a vocal motif runs, “I sit, sip on my tea, wearing warm slippers, thinking of you” – as is the symbolism of simple domestic objects. Most memorable perhaps is a woman wrapped in an electric blanket, an icon of artificial warmth searching for a socket to plug herself into.

    The audience is videoed and projected in close-up on a side wall, complete with breathy comment about the location of any males – “second row, two o’clock”. Yet there’s a loneliness and distance in the midst of this welter of intimacies, a reminder that having a stylish cocktail frock and a sexy attitude do ...Read more