Operatic in its emotions , searingly intense , this is a gripping intimate production of Richard Benyon’s play that under Kim Hardwick’s direction glows. THE SHIFTING HEART is set in Collingwood in Melbourne at Christmas time 1956, and while it could be regarded as a period piece is still extremely relevant today . It is an analysis of racism and its victims , of how migrants/refugees are viewed as ‘other ‘ .There is the haunting sense of displacement yet also a longing to belong and be accepted.
Hardwick’s production is compelling and dynamic and she has a strong , splendid cast .
The play’s narrative follows the Bianchi family, who are first-generation Italian- Australians living in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. They are both accepted and discriminated against equally, which causes stress sometimes internalised within individuals. The action takes place on the Bianchis’ backyard verandah, crowded by Anglo-Aussie neighbours on either side. The dilapidated Bianchi’s house ( as designed by Isabel Hudson ) is richly detailed and in need of renovation and a repaint. There is a functional kitchen and areas upstairs through which some of the characters lean out the window and carry on conversations with people downstairs/outside.There is also a folding bed with a dingy mattress outside on the verandah.
The unseen, unnamed neighbours to the Bianchis’ right are hostile, regularly tossing rotten garbage into the Bianchi’s back yard, and topping their fence with barbed wire.
On their left , however ,are the Pratts a middle-aged couple, constantly fighting between themselves with some vicious internal spats. But they are welcoming and friendly to the Bianchis. Bitterly caustic housewife Leila Pratt ( Di Smith) often slips through a gap in the dilapidated fence to visit them for a chat , a cuppa and a smoke, and even her alcoholic abusive husband Donny ( menacingly played by Laurence Coy) appears to be friendly with them.
One of the major themes of the play is how the Bianchis deal with the various slights they receive. Momma Bianchi ( Dina Panozzo )is volatile and wants seeks to block the spiteful neighbours’ sewage pipes, while Poppa Bianchi (Tony Poli) is more cautious and urges a truce. But Poppa Bianchi explodes over how his wife accepts the way the local Anglo butcher they buy from refers to them as “Momma Macaroni” and “Poppa Spaghetti”. To increase the tension, their darkly handsome mercurial son Gino ( David Soncin) has taken to becoming involved in fights with Anglo boys at the local dance hall since ‘new Australians’ are no longer allowed. Gino is extremely annoyed by the discrimination he faces , despite having grown up in Australia.
The conflict is also exemplified by the relationship between the Bianchi’s heavily pregnant daughter Maria (Ariadne Sgouros) and her Aussie husband Clarry Fowler ( Lucas Linehan ) . Superfically , all seems well : Clarry appears to be accepting and progressive , marrying Maria and hiring her younger brother Gino to work for him .But there are cracks beneath the surface – Clarry apparently spends more time with the Bianchis than his parents and seems reluctant to boost Gino’s career . We also see Clarry’s hot temper. Is Clarry’s hesitation considered thoughtfulness to protect the Bianchis from further racism or rather revealing of Clarry’s own hidden personal prejudices ?
The major shattering turning point of the play creates a lot of the show’s intense dramatic impact so I won’t go further into plot spoilers …..
Dina Panozzo and Tony Poli as Momma and Poppa Bianchi are in splendid form bringing great warmth and compassion to their roles. David Soncin gives a fine performance as ardent, affable Gino Bianchi, attempting to balance on a tightrope between two worlds and striving to be accepted for himself.
Lucas Linehan as pithy yet loquacious Clarry, gives a stalwart performance , trying to resolve his tumultuous conflicting motivations and instincts . Apple cheeked Ariadne Sgouros gives a secure glowing performance as heavily pregnant Maria.
Di Smith gives a wonderous, beautifully nuanced performance as sardonic , poignant yet astringent Mrs Pratt the concerned neighbour who while needing help herself , helps the Bianchis. Laurence Coy is splendid doubling as the drunk, abusive and menacing Donny Pratt and the somewhat indifferent, yet threatening nattily dressed Detective Sergeant Lukie .
The note of hope at the end is pierced with sadness. This splendid production makes us think about how things have changed here in Australia since it was written – or have they really just stayed exactly the same?
Poppa Bianchi: Tony Poli
Momma Bianchi: Dina Panozzo
Gino Bianchi: David Soncin
Maria Fowler: Ariadne Sgouros
Clarry Fowler: Lucas Linehan
Leila Pratt: Di Smith
Donny Pratt: Laurence Coy
Detective-Sergeant Lukie: Laurence Coy
Director: Kim Hardwick
Set and Costume Designer: Isabel Hudson
Lighting Designer: Martin Kinnane
Sound Designer: Julian Starr
The Mormons have arrived! It is rare for a musical to open with such high expectations and it lives up to the hype . Created and directed by the team behind South Park – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – there are many layers of meaning . There is lots of strong language , some of it is rude, lewd and could offend but it is a darkly humorous and satirical examination and critique of our contemporary world brilliantly staged with a tremendous cast.
THE BOOK OF MORMON lambastes our society and beliefs, insisting we can do better, and raises issues such as religion’s inescapably oppressive and at times inflexible structure, and the severe problem of poverty in developing countries.
To very simply sum up the plot – Directly after their training, two young Mormon men , Elders Price and Cunningham , are dispatched from Salt Lake City in America to Uganda, to spread the word of their Mormon church.
Once in Uganda it immediately becomes clear that their mission will be more difficult than they’d thought — the village they’re delegated to is controlled by a menacing warlord, and almost everyone has AIDS.
Elder Price ( Canadian Ryan Bondy ) is presented as a luminous example of preppy ,polite ,squeaky clean, edgy yet narcissistic Mormonism. Devoted to the Bible , great things are expected of this Mormon golden boy. In contrast lying, tubby Elder Cunningham ( American A .J .Holmes ) is dorky, clumsy,, bumbling ,ornery and somewhat a loner, seeking a friend. He is always optimistic. It’s another take on the odd couple /fish out of water/opposites story.
Both characters change greatly over the show; Price learning to think more about others and realising Cunningham ‘can do something incredible’ .Price’s nightmare (Spooky Mormon Hell Dream)with its devils , Satan with a sizzling electric guitar etc is actually rather scary and extremely well done. Cunningham meanwhile grows in confidence and falls in love with Nabulungi.
The leader of the mission in Uganda Elder McKinley is deliciously played by Rowan Witt as a closeted, flamboyant homosexual who has much fun stealing the show with a Gershwin tribute style number “Turn It Off’. ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ with a whole lot of tap dancing elders as if for a Mardi Gras float.
Important Village elder Mafala is imposingly played by Bert Labonte. .His much loved daughter Nabulungi is wonderfully played by Zahra Newman who has an incredible voice both for sweet ballads and stronger when necessary. Nabulungi’s and Elder Cunningham’s blossoming relationship (lots of double entendres in Baptise Me ) is the closest this musical comes to a standard stage romance and Newman is endearing and appealing with her wide eyed innocence especially given the squalor of the village.
Musical theatre fans will enjoy the nods to Les Miserables, The Lion King ,The Sound of Music, The King and I and other Broadway shows. The show also features Star Wars ,Star Trek and Lord of the Rings sly allusions/references.
From a feminist perspective , the show is presented from a WASP point of view focusing on Price and Cunningham. Woman (as exemplified by the strong , feisty Nabulungi) is seen as ‘exotic’ and ‘other’.
The large, mostly Australian, ensemble as led by the imported leads for Price and Cunningham who were magnificent and polished , exuberantly full of energy.
Choreography by Casey Nicholaw and Graham Bowen was a tight, dazzling, nifty mix of MTV , Michael Jackson and boy bands, Broadway, Graham and tap wonderfully performed.
The staging of THE BOOK OF MORMON is slick and magnificent. Scott Pask’s set designs are glorious , moving fluidly from Salt Lake City, to Orlando , to an airport and Uganda for instance. One noticed the many layers and different textures of the village in Uganda. Anne Roth’s costume designs range from angels, devils and 18th century outfits to portraying the poverty of the Ugandan villagers who are clad in assorted mismatched items that seem to have been salvaged from charity bins. Brian MacDevitt’s lighting was an excellent compliment to this.
The orchestra as led by David Young was splendid. Crisply , lavishly staged this will polarise audiences and give rise to much discussion about faith and world issues . It will inspire you to try and do good and make the world a better place – at least for the time being.
The current exhibition at Traffic Jam Galleries , UNTITLED, focuses on guest artists new to the Traffic Jam gallery space , namely Oliver Ashworth-Martin, Andrea McCuaig, Beth Radford, Annabel Scanlen, Loribelle Spirovski, Wade Taylor, Murat Urlali andKareena Zerefos.
UNTITLED features works by local and interstate practitioners with artists at varying stages of their artistic journeys. Most of the artists would predominantly be considered ‘emerging’. The works of this group may challenge , inspire , amuse or thrill, but diversity is also a key factor, reflected through the various artists’ approaches , subject matter, response and medium.
Oliver Ashworth-Martin is deeply inspired by the natural landscape and is represented by some stunning sculptures and very detailed drawings . The sculptures use a sense of space carved out of the particular work and also feature some amazing textures in parts . There are also both a coloured and black and white version of a very detailed larger than life drawing of a banksia.
Murat Urlali a Turkish-born Australian artist who strives to create a bridge connecting idealised Western imagery with spiritual symbolism of the Islamic world . His work is represented by a series of decadent , opulent Baroque inspired tondos with glittering tiny mirrors , coy cherubs and/or angels that also show Turkish influence and two turquoise vertical rectangular canvas panels that use floral and geometric shapes in repeated patterns similar to a carpet or tiles.
Beth Radford ‘s work is extremely ordered patterned and geometric, coolly abstract yet full of surging flowing lines .There is a clinical use of symmetry and sequence , pattern and progression, repetition and replication in some ways perhaps similar to the ‘Op Art’ of Bridget Riley .The surface of the painting seems to shimmer, ripple and fold hypnotically.
Loribelle Spirovski is represented by three urgent , vibrant works. Portrait of No One 3 is a portrait of a young handsome man , full of energy.But look closer Spirovskihas almost crossed out most of the work with defiant black lines .While the face is still visible there is a sense of movement . Portrait of No One 1 is a vivid portrait of a (perhaps) older man in animated conversation caught in profile with a prominent nose. Homme 11 is a strange rather Surrealist work of a faceless person swirling as if in a mirror. There is also perhaps a Japanese influence with the composition and use of line.
Wade Taylorfrom Perth W.A. explores issues about Australian identity and landscape linking in to his common themes including notions of suburbia, nostalgia, the everyday, and cultural artefacts all with a sense of observing hidden suburban domestic details not normally painted and an ironic sense of humour.
Kareena Zerefos works across an assorted range of fields including painting, illustration, art direction and design. For this exhibition there are two wonderful incredibly detailed botanical drawings – Morphology1 & 11 , and two dreamlike delicate fantasy paintings of a haunting child’s face emerging from a banksia .
Andrea McCuaig‘s bold ,swirling abstract works ( as seen in the Curving Isolations and /or the Gesture, Shape Colour series ) revealing the texture of the brushstrokes reveal her interest in and long term study of kinaesthetic relationships between embodied motion in dance and how these can be re-enacted to generate gestural abstraction in painting.
Annabel Scanlen in this exhibition provides delicate drawings of graphite pencil, ink and watercolours that hauntingly depict desert and/or the urban settings , details of houses and structures looming softly , emphasising her concern for the environment.
A most impressive version of this much loved musical now regarded as a classic.
While FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is now over 50 years old and its story set in a Jewish community in pre-revolutionary Russia, the issues it raises of racism, displacement and refugees are still more than relevant today.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF , with is main character of Tevye the village milkman, looks at both the happy and dark sides of life – love ( the weddings , Now I have everything ) and happiness are contrasted with poverty and persecution ( the rumours of pogroms, the interruption and destruction of the wedding and all the people being driven from the village.)
New ideas as proposed by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein are emerging and the world as Tevye knows it it , overshadowed by chaos and war , is completely changing. Can Tevye and his family adjust ? Tevye is also shown as questioning his faith and being cold and implacable when he disowns his daughter Chava for marrying a gentile.
The orchestra under the baton of maestro Peter Sampson was in fine form .
Under Colin Peet’s strong direction with great panache it is a well though nicely paced and quite moving production with a large dynamic ensemble and great leads. The rather long Act I contains some of the shows best-known songs including the exuberant Tradition, three of the daughter’s Matchmaker, the show stopping If I Were a Rich Man and the haunting Sunrise, Sunset. In the shorter Act II the mood darkens noticeably and the community we have joined is unwillingly dispersed . Musically at times the show could be regarded as operatic, at other times liturgical ( eg the beautiful celebration of the Sabbath prayer) and there are also perhaps hints of Sondheim ( listen to Anatevka).
The staging is minimalist but effective with Tevye’s house on one side and on the other separate windows and a space for Tevye’s milk cart . There is inspired use of projections for several scenes (eg inside the tavern , the snow scene at the train station for Tevye and Hodel , various places around the village etc ).Costumes are appropriately of the era. Chris Bamford’s choreography was tight and exuberantly performed. It included circle dances, some Russian folk dance steps , traditional Jewish dances and social dances of the period and some showbiz/Broadway style moments.
Adam Scicluna has a terrific time as Tevye the milkman, who acts as Everyman and narrator .He is charismatic and in scene stealing excellent form and terrific voice , performing with great gusto. His deliciously daydreaming If I Were A Rich Man stops the show. A leader of the community he is a kind but strict husband and father, a humble yet honourable man caught up in enforced changes beyond his control. He also has a special relationship with his God,talking to Him and at times questioning his ( Tevye’s) faith.
As Tevye’s wife Golde Charmaine Gibbs was a splendid,caring matriarch giving a strong performance and in terrific voice.
Adrian Espulso was delightful as Motel, the mild-mannered tailor who introduces a sewing machine to the village and has the thrilled Miracle of Miracles to sing.
Veronica Clavijo (Tzeitel), Emilie Davila (Hodel) and Isabella McIntosh (Chava) were solid and impressive throughout, enormously supportive, with Davila determinedly vibrant in Far From the Home I Love. As the prosperous town butcher Lazar Wolfe who hopes to make a perfect match Paul Adderley was splendid. Cathy Boyle as Yente the village matchmaker gave a dynamic performance.
Tradition, tradition …. A most stirring revival of this much loved show.
Director Colin Peet
Musical Director Peter Sampson
Choreographer Chris Bamford
TEVYE Adam Scicluna
GOLDE Charmaine Gibbs
YENTE Cathy Boyle
TZEITEL Veronica Clavijo
HODEL Emilie Davila
CHAVA Isabella McIntosh*
SHPRINTZE Alyssa Bishara
BIELKE Aashlyn Myers
MOTEL KAMZOIL Adrian Espulso
PERCHIK Tim Wotherspoon FYEDKA Oliver Becroft
LAZAR WOLF Paul Adderley
GRANDMA TZEITEL Ana Lawford
FRUMA-SARAH Taylor Carlson
SHANDEL Cheryl O'Brien
MORDCHA Greg Werner
RABBI Malcolm Gregory
CONSTABLE Neil Litchfield
AVRAM Alan Rosengarten
YUSSEL Ray Dubber
NAHUM David Joseph
HORSE Dean McGrath
MULE Michael Norris
MENDEL Daniel Simpson
FIDDLER Mia Fernandez
SASHA Daniel Rae
COMMISAR/TENOR John Morrison
PRIEST Harald Strtzenberger
SOLDIER 1 Oliver Becroft
SOLDIER 2 Charles Brammall
DAUGHTER 7 Georgia Stanton
DAUGHTER 8 Jade Schofeild**
DAUGHTER 9 Mia Fernandez
Book Joseph Stein
Music Jerry Bock
Lyrics Sheldon Harnick
Licensed exclusively by Music Theatre International (Australasia)
All performance materials supplied by Hal Leonard Australia
Lush ,lavish and opulent this is a superb revival of the glorious 1994 production by Elijah Moshinksy and there was great excitement as it marked Nicole Car’s debut in the role of Violetta.
Shocking and scandalous at the time of its 1853 premiere, the now classic tale of poor Violetta and Alfredo, of Consumption and thwarted true love is based on a Dumas novel. Moshinsky , Yearganand Hall set it in 1877 – so think bustles rather than crinolines and the start of the ‘Belle Epoque’. Yeargan’s designs are themed around the seasons.
Act1 with its wonderful centrepiece chandelier is softly sumptuous and glowing with hints of Chinoiserie . Act 2 has a grey /green and wintery look with the cold garden and bare trees . And Act 3 ,with its wonderful use of Vermeer like – lighting and sense of space with the large windows was also impressive.
Nicole Car – now usually based in Paris – as Violetta is superb. Car’s international career has taken off like a rocket and Australian audiences have been privileged to see her for example as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin , Mimi in La Boheme , Marguerite in Faust and the title role in Thaïs among others with Opera Australia .
In glorious voice in Act1 in the Brindisi (drinking song) she is all bright and bubbly like the champagne she is praising then questioning and amazed when she realises she is falling in love with Alfredo ( ‘Ah, fors’è lui’ – “Ah, perhaps he is the one”). In Act2 she is at first deliciously happy then, with the intense scenes with Alfredo’s father, noble , determined and heartbroken –
Her act2 Dite alla giovine sì bella e pura, – Tell the young girl, so beautiful and pure</em was strong yet delicate and moving and then Car was luminously fragile in Act 3. Her Sempre Libre was joyously determined to overcome her illness . Her strong lyric soprano voice, deftly jumping across its entire range, has a vibrant sombre lower register and is distinctive and opalescent at the top with dazzling coloratura and soaring vocal lines . Car is also a consummate actress and Act 3 is especially heartbreaking as she tries to will her self to live given Alfredo’s unexpected return.
Ji-Min Park as Alfredo is tremendous with an engaging , polished lyrical tenor voice . Audiences might remember him as Rodolfo in La Boheme. When LA TRAVIATA begins he is already in love with Violetta but thunderstruck when he meets her again at Flora’s. He is perhaps a bit awkward at first but this adds to his charm. His volcanic anger in Act2 is menacing .His singing increases in passion as the opera continues and the duets between Alfredo and Violetta in Act3 are rapturous and heartbreaking.
As Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, Vitaliy Bilyy is at first cold , patrician and implacable with a gravelly menacing voice but ( too late! ) we see his understanding and remorse at demanding Alfredo separate from Violetta.
The minor characters are also excellently delineated . As Flora , Anna Dowsley scintillates . Adrian Tamburini is impressive as the superficially charming but very disagreeable Baron Douphol, Violetta’s suspicious protector, the same applies for Tom Hamiltonas Flora’s deceitful Marquis, and John Longmuir as Alfredo’s faithful friend Gastone. As Annina , Violetta’s loyal and devoted maid , Natalie Aroyan is terrific and Gennadi Dubinsky is a gracious ,compassionate Doctor Grenvil .
The Opera Australia chorus is in fine form .The ensemble in the big numbers at Flora’s is tightly knit and each has a distinctly defined character. The chorus has a delightful time in Act 1 as guests at Violetta’s party and in Act2 Sc2 as ‘gypsies ‘ and ‘matadors’ – much fun , with delightful allusions to ‘Strictly Ballroom’.
Musically under the baton of maestro Andrea Licata the Orchestra is in impressive form and give a finely nuanced performance of Verdi’s swirling,passionate music.
A major night for opera fans there were roars and cheers of approval and a huge standing ovation at the conclusion,richly deserved .
Running time 3 hours (approx) including 2 intervals . Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre. Sydney Opera House in rep various dates between March 1 – 27 2018
From DK books we have a new edition of this book, which is of medium size ,weight and thickness and is beautifully , clearly presented and lavishly illustrated. It is a detailed analysis and examination of various major paintings that have ruffled the art world through the centuries and across continents.
The timeline of the works considered ranges from the11th century to contemporary times – works by Rubens, El Greco , Van Gogh , Raphael , Botticelli , Degas ,Picasso , Dali and Frida Kahlo are discussed among others .The book is divided into six chapters and includes a handy glossary and a clear ,useful index at the back.
This book takes you on your own personal gallery tour of over 60 of the world’s best-loved paintings. The museum where each work is displayed is listed and it is also fascinating to check the size scale indicator.
The meanings and symbolism behind each painting is explored, with over 700 photographs to bring the pictures to life. We are given a ‘visual tour ‘ of each work highlighting all the important details. In sideboxes there is a brief biography of each artist, with quotes by and about the artist and the chosen painting is placed in context . Depending on the artist there is also a sidebox analysing composition and/or the techniques used.
What is interesting is that there are only three women included – Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo and Bridget Riley.
GREAT PAINTINGS is a beautiful guide to the paintings, both new and much loved, that have challenged, startled and possibly changed the world. An excellent starter reference book for libraries and anyone curious about art history and paintings .
From DK books we have a large,heavy coffee table book lavishly and exquisitely illustrated. It includes a foreword by Andrew Graham-Dixon. From Giotto and Botticelli to Bacon, Pollock and Murakamiit is a celebration of more than 80 great artists, from the Early Renaissance to the present day. It concentrates specifically on painting and sculpture and is clearly presented and painstakingly researched .The book is divided chronologically into seven sections from before the 15th century through to modern times.
The stories behind the world’s most famous masterpieces and their creators are told, with the book examining the artist’s influences, development, assorted influences, friendships, loves, and sometimes bitter rivalries. We learn of the often stormy lives of iconic artists including Kahlo, Kiefer, Hogarth, Magritte, O’Keeffe, Raphael ,van Gogh and Warhol .Caravaggio’s riotous reactions to a badly-cooked artichoke are mentioned as well as following his rather sinister and dangerous life .Also mentioned are for example Holbein’s matchmaking portraits for Henry VIII ( which led to his unhappy marriage with Anne of Cleves) and the many romantic affairs of Picasso.
There is a comprehensive ‘general’ index and a separate index of the artworks featured . The entry for each artist is peppered with bountiful illustrations of their works. Most of the major artists are allocated two to four pages some like Leonardo , Michaelangelo and Rembrandt are allowed six. A timeline of key moments is included in most entries and usually quotes by and about the artist and their work. Sidebars place the artist’s life in context ( eg for Picasso the box is entitled ‘ war and peace’) and their favourite styles and subjects are discussed. Often a separate box entitled ‘technique’ included ( eg when discussing Raphael , tapestry cartoons, or Gaugin’s sculptures ). A ‘directory’ section at the end of each of the seven divisions briefly lists other important artists and their works of the same era.
It is interesting to note that only ONE Australian is included – Sir Sidney Nolan with no mention of Brett Whitely, Russell Drysdale , Geoffrey Smart , Arthur Streeton , Tom Roberts , Ian Fairweatheror John Olsen to name jut a few . ( It is fascinating to see who is and isn’t included throughout the book ).
A minority of women are included ( Frida Kahlo , who is featured on the cover of the book , Elisabeth Vigee- Lebrun, Artemesia Gentileschi ) but they are mostly briefly mentioned in the Directory at the end of the appropriate section , which is where we find Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot , Kathe Kolwitz,,Judy Chicago and Maria Abramovic ,Mona Hatoum and Louise Bourgeois . ( No mention of Judy Cassab, CamilleClaudel , Barbara Hepworth, Hilda Rix Nicholas , Margaret Preston, Tracy Moffatt , Grace Cossington Smith or Joan Brassil for example).
A fascinating read for art lovers , a very handy quick reference book for libraries and art teachers and a terrific book to present as a gift.