Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A Climate For Denial

A fabulous book which should be required reading for most people



‘This thought provoking book shines a light on a range of reasons why people don’t appreciate the urgency of the changes required.’ – John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute.
This is a deceptively small and light book that asks huge questions about climate change and helps if necessary in opening considered discussions about this extremely important issue.
The book asks why is it that despite overwhelming evidence and fundamental scientific principles, some people still don’t accept that climate change is real and that human activity is contributing to it?!
Perhaps it is because the science is not being understood? Or is it because it is difficult to accept that humans are capable of affecting and changing the climate? Is there a link between climate change scepticism and ideology? Is there a link between the belief in science and belief in God?
A CLIMATE FOR DENIAL gives a summary of the reasons your friend is a sceptic who challenges the science of climate change – or completely denies it’s happening at all – and attempts to explain why.
A CLIMATE FOR DENIAL is written by Arek Sinanian, an environmental engineer, who was one of Australia’s earliest practitioners in greenhouse gas management and climate change risk assessment.
In 2005, Sinanian was accepted into the international roster of experts for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and became the only Australian voted on the prestigious six person Accreditation Panel of UNFCCC’s Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee.
The book is clearly and thoughtfully written, easy to understand, and attempts to impartially analyse both sides of the debate. Graphs and illustrations are included.
The book is handily divided into three sections – the first part looks at the background and history, a quick summary of the major evidence, the middle part looks at the various reasons for denial, examining the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of climate change denial; the groups people fall into and why the say climate change isn’t happening , how people dislike the solution rather than not accepting the science of climate change, and then the final part looks at where to now and what might possibly happen ..
Both negative and positive aspects are examined. What can we do as an individual ? As a first world country ? Globally ? How can we as an individual help reduce our carbon footprint ? What about the use of solar panels (for instance) and better recycling and more use of renewable energy ? and the changes in technology for transport?
In the main, middle section mention is made of the way we as humans need to belong to particular groups, the Dunning -Kruger effect (‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’), cause and effect, how ideology and religion affects us and whether age and ethnicity affect acceptance and belief in climate change (among other things). The book also asks why the tiny minority of sceptics has so much control.
While yes there is an excellent table of contents at the front, what I would have liked is an index at the back and also more about what we here in Australia (rather than just citing excellent European or Asian examples) can do to deal with this globally important issue.
An important book for all concerned about our planet .
EAN: 9781684188789
ISBN: 1684188784
Publisher: Longueville Media

Sondheim's Assassins at the Hayes

A fabulous if chilling performance .Here's what I said for Artshub



Assassins is a carousel inhabited by the killers and would-be killers of American presidents.
Image: Kate Cole and Bobby Fox in ASSASSINS. Photograph (c) Phil Erbacher.
We enter the rather bleak and surreal world of Sondheim’s Assassins. In a dilapidated fairground shooting gallery an uneasy group of misfits gather. They are quite a diverse ensemble, including one dressed in a 19th century frock coat, another as a department store Santa. Each has an obsession or problem they need to solve and each has found the answer – they must shoot the President of the United States!
Assassins is a carousel inhabited by the killers and would-be killers of American presidents. 
Over the course of the show we learn of the many varied and unusual ways that each has committed (or attempted to commit) the dastardly crime. Their motivations and their desire to be recognised for their actions in a world where they are mostly ignored and dismissed and treated as invisible.
David Campbell as John Wilkes Booth stalks the stage magnificently and gives an intensely charismatic performance.  Booth wants to provide his version of events: he did what he did for his country, slaying a tyrant – like Brutus in ancient Rome. Booth is in effect the anchor of the show in partnership with the Balladeer, linking the sparkling song and dance episodes and storytelling.
Bobby Fox as Charles Guitea is a frustrated office seeker who expressed his anger by shooting dead President James A. Garfield in 1881. Fox was handsome, lithe and dapper bringing the house down with his rendition of 'The Ballad of Guiteau (I am Going to the Lordy)'.
Maxwell Simon gives a terrific performance doubling as The Balladeer with his guitar for most of the show. He  introduces and comments on the other various characters (eg The Ballad of Booth).
Samuel Byck, an out-of-work tyre salesman attempted to assassinate President Richard Nixon by hijacking a plane and intending it to crash into the White House in 1974. Byck's character was excellently played  by Justin Smith. Byck has a monologue of a speech he records on tape that he wants to send to Leonard Bernstein and then a mad rant to President Nixon.
Martin Crewes was Giuseppe Zangara. Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt but shot Mayor Cermak of Chicago instead. (He shot at FDR because he had stomach pains and blamed Hoover for them, but it was too cold to go where Hoover was). Crewes gave a powerful, fierce and hypnotic performance.
John Hinckley Jnr (superficially ‘nice’ but underneath eerie and menacing as played by Connor Crawford) would be someone many of us remember for his obsession with Jodie Foster and his attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan in 1981. There is a splendid duet for Hinckley Jnr and Lynette Fromme 'I Am Unworthy of Your Love'. Hinckley sings to a photo of Foster while Fromme sings to a memento of her lover Charles Manson.
Fromme as played by Hannah Frederickson has huge intense eyes and uses them to effect.
Image: Connor Crawford and Hannah Fredericksen. Photograph (c) Phil Erbacher.
Sara Jane Moore, a five-times married FBI informer who tried to kill President Ford in 1975 to re-establish her radical credentials, was impressively played by Kate Cole. Moore and Fromme have a bitingly brilliant double act at one point.
Leon Czoglgosz (Jason Kos), a glass factory worker who regarded President William McKinley as the embodiment of wealth inequality. He was an anarchist under the spell of radical activist Emma Goldman (tall, imposing rather severe Laura Bunting). The Balladeer tells us his eventual fate in 'The Ballad of Czolgosz.
The music reflects the popular music of the various eras depicted and is excellently played by the hidden band led by Andrew Worboys.
In tandem with Ross Graham’s lighting the designs are extraordinarily effective. Alicia Clements crowds the stage with tawdry fairground remnants – WIN! as the neon light letters say –  and trucked pieces (a jukebox, a pinball table, a dodgem car) as well as various poster/photos of the assorted Presidents as changed by The Proprietor (Rob McDougall).
The stage itself is shiny and reflective and one notices the design of the rifle cross-hairs falling centre stage. The costume design – both modern and nineteenth century –  are also sensational. In tandem with Ross Graham’s lighting the designs are extraordinarily effective.  
Many performances have already sold out. Book now if you haven’t already. Dare I say kill for a ticket?
Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5

Book: John Weidman
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Director: Dean Bryant
Cast: Laura Bunting, David Campbell, Connor Crawford, Martin Crewes, Kate Cole, Bobby Fox, Hannah Fredericksen, Jason Kos, Rob McDougall, Maxwell Simon, Justin Smith  
Hayes Theatre 15 September  – 22 October 2017 

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Mozart, Haydn and Friends

A glorious concert . Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide



In this latest terrific concert by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO), the program for the evening consisted of four works, concentrating on the Classical period.
The concert began with a rarely heard Sinfonia by Mozart’s friend Christian Cannabich, who led  the renowned Mannheim court orchestra  which was to the 18th century what the Berlin Philharmonic is to today. Then there were two works by Mozart, and a Haydn cello concerto, superbly played by ABO principal Jamie Hey.
The Orchestra had as many composers as players in their ensemble and it set the standard for others to follow, increasing the orchestral range and nuance by their introduction of innovative bowing techniques and the use of rhythm and ascending climaxes which became known as the “Mannheim Rocket”.
The entire ABO was in fine, golden form as energetically led by the very enthusiastic Paul Dyer who was close to dancing whilst conducting on fortepiano.
The concert began with the rarely heard Sinfonia in E-Flat major by Cannabich that gave the concert a brisk, emphatic, sprightly start.
Then came Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIb:1 with ABO soloist Jamie Hey on period cello playing with great articulateness and polish.
Hey is regarded as one of, if not the leading, Australian Baroque cellists. Hey on the cello with its golden tone had an authoritative voice that shimmered gracefully, was at times lyrical and heartfelt at other times tempestuous, The encore, the prelude from the first Bach cello suite, was also rapturously received, with umpteen curtain calls, much cheering and tumultuous applause.
After interval one of the highlights was an octet, co-led by clarinetist Craig Hill and oboist Emma Black, vibrantly performing excerpts from Mozart’s opera Abduction from the Seraglio. Their performance was bright and boisterous, pulsating with its underlying melodies. At times, the music was lilting and soaring. and creeping. The final section opened blisteringly fast. There were cheers and whistles and ecstatic applause at the end which was very richly deserved.
The final listed work was Mozart’s Concerto for Horn No. 4 in E flat major K495 with special guest soloist internationally renowned Belgian Bart Aerbeydt. who performed with elegant panache and aplomb and at times amazing speed on the very tricky, valveless Baroque horn where the slightest off note is extremely obvious. (In discussion with Dyer before the performance we learnt that all Aerbeydt had to work with was the deft use of his fist in the horn’s bell to get the chromatic “bent” notes, quickly altering mouth positions and a very fit and athletic diaphragm to produce his thrilling playing.
The first movement began sprightly and was rather filigree and delicate, the second movement was slower and more thoughtful with the horn dominant with the rest of the Orchestra hushed and supportive, the third movement with surging strings galloped breathlessly with a showy solo for Aerbeydt that led to the joyous, rather frenetic finale .  
For an encore we heard Anton Reicha’s flowing, teasing Canon No. 3from 24 Horn Trios – Op 82 with Aerbeydt accompanied by Darryl Poulson and Doree Dixon of the ABO.
Running time roughly 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Haydn Mozart and Friends played at the City Recital Hall and in Melbourne on various dates between the  13th and the 23rd September 2017.
Cannabich Sinfonia in E-Flat major
Haydn Cello Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIb:1
Mozart Harmoniemusik of Die Entführung aus dem Serail 
Mozart Concerto for Horn No. 4 in E flat major K495

Russian National Ballet Romeo and Juliet

Hmm. Sorry readers I was disappointed
here's what I said for Dance Informa


State Theatre, Sydney.
20 September, 2017.
Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed in the Russian National Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet. It is a touring production, so, yes, there were some great flat sets and such (the Rensiassance tapestry designs were terrific, however, and I loved the design for Friar Lawrence’s church), but it was rather rushed and abridged, ruthlessly streamlining the narrative. The colours favoured were a dramatic red and black. And it used a recorded version of the much loved Prokofiev score.  
There was no Duke of Verona, Paris does not get killed by Romeo in the tomb scene, there was no bridal morning dance for Juliet’s friends (or the alternative “mandolin dance”), and in the market scenes no acrobats dance/tumblers or procession. In this version, Juliet dances with Tybalt, not Paris, at the ball. And there was no actual balcony for the balcony scene; rather, it was a grounded yet passionate pas de deux. 
Russian National Ballet in 'Romeo and Juliet'. Photo by Xu Daqing.
Russian National Ballet in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Photo by Xu Daqing.
Evgeny Amosov’s choreography at times was very stylised (the opening was rather striking) but was mostly a blend of allusions to the MacMillan and/or Cranko versions and possibly the Lavrosky. There were lots of high, difficult lifts in the various pas de deux. Some of it was most effective, though. The wedding pas de deux, in which Romeo and Juliet are a pulsating, entwined sculpture, was terrific. The “knights dance” (a.k.a. the “cushion dance”) at the ball was very formal and imposing, in russet colours, with the ladies fluttering their handkerchiefs.   
There were many different textures and layers in the props and costumes — lots of heavy brocade and so on, yet Juliet’s outfits were simple, elegant and flattering. The tightly choreographed sword fighting was slithery, intense and dangerous.
Mercutio was splendidly danced by Savin Alexey. He was small and lithe, a darting, teasing mischievous feline with great ballon.
Tybalt was played by tall, broad shouldered Moskalets Mykyta, who danced splendidly. He was portrayed as a laughing, arrogant and cold two-dimensional pantomime villain, toasting Mercutio’s death.
Our hero, Romeo, was thrillingly danced by tall blonde Parkhachev Filipp, who conveyed the starstruck passion wonderfully. In his jumps and turns, he was terrific, and he is a splendid partner, handling the difficult high lifts fluidly. He had a noble, princely bearing – one could imagine him as, say, Siegfried or Albrecht, for example. 
Juliet was delightfully danced by Iuliia Nepomnishchaia. She was strong and determined, strangely rather rude to poor Paris with her refusal of his proposal of marriage. Her potion drinking scene was quite dramatic. She was splendid in the demanding pas de deux. She has a graceful “singing” line and exquisite bourées. The wedding night pas de deux was very athletic and demanding. Juliet does the famous “Ulanova run” to Friar Lawrence, but why does Romeo suddenly appear in the middle of her journey?
An interesting but rather uneven version that, while I admired the dancing, left me unmoved.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

Blue Love by Shaun Parker

Interesting . Very well done but I wouldn't rave . Here's what I said for Dance Informa


Seymour Centre, Sydney.
23 August 2017.
Shaun Parker’s Blue Love was at the Seymour Centre for one performance only. Sorry, readers, but I was rather disappointed in this. Individual elements were excellent, and the idea behind it (a biting social comment on romantic love and relationships) was great. However, I found it an OTT camp parody that tried to combine too many different genres. It was an uneasy mix of dance, opera, film, theatre, physical theatre, a take-off of TV shows and pop art. It wasn’t quite sure what it was. I must say, though, that most of the audience absolutely loved it, and there was tumultuous applause and umpteen curtain calls at the end. The show was originally premiered in 2005, and has now been performed internationally, including at festivals in Germany, New Zealand and Singapore, and has also toured widely around Australia. (This Seymour Centre performance is part of a current national tour.)
Shaun Parker and Lucia Mastrantone in 'Blue Love'. Photo by David James McCarthy.
Shaun Parker and Lucia Mastrantone in ‘Blue Love’. Photo by David James McCarthy.
Before Blue Love started, there were speeches in the foyer and an excellent performance of an excerpt from The Yard.
The set (by Genevieve Dugard) is perhaps an allusion to the iconic Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? by Richard Hamilton (1956). There is a circular living area with tables and mats, while some of the space is curved and white. A body is outlined on the floor. Some extra large red roses are prominent. The chaise lounge is an abstract white draped plinth, clearly labelled “chaise lounge”, and the stage left door is labelled “To Bedroom”. Costumes were ever so evocative of the 1970s. Lucia Mastrantone as Rhonda Flune wore a blue mini-length dress and thigh-high boots, Parker a badly tailored brown suit. Then there were the hairstyles of that period, flowers in the hair, the draped fox fur wrap.
The show opens with free beer and popcorn being provided to the audience by Parker and Mastrantone in character as Glenn and Rhonda Flune. As Parker says, “Our characters, Glenn and Rhonda, believe that they are the perfect couple, and in believing so become the tenuous, sometimes fabricated, sometimes real storytellers of Blue Love. They and their living room become the canvas for our story as they reference film, dance, text and song in playing out their relationship.” We then learn that the show, hosted in their living room, is divided into three “acts” as we follow their voyage through some of the many aspects of love. In Act One, as in a romantic movie, Glenn Flune meets and falls in love with Rhonda. They eventually marry, and in Act Two we follow the relationship going through the many stages of courtship, marriage, career, children and the inevitable cliché of his having an affair and the eventual breakdown of the relationship. (As in a film noir, she shoots him – or does she?) Act Three is entitled “Love is a Battlefield” and concludes with a witty spoken medley of snatches of pop songs ranging from Gaynor to KISS and from McCartney and Lennon to Carly Simon. (“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden … I was made for loving you baby.”)… The songs snappily worked, and there is use of repetition and the aforementioned huge flowers.
Shaun Parker in 'Blue Love'. Photo by Simon Wachter.
Shaun Parker in ‘Blue Love’. Photo by Simon Wachter.
Choreographically, Blue Love was extremely demanding and blended several styles, including classical ballet, very acrobatic MacMillan-like contemporary ballet with fiendishly difficult partnering, rolling floorwork, Latin-American ballroom (the tango especially) and a witty blend of funky popular dance. And not forgetting simulated synchronised swimming!
Throughout the work, Parker and Mastrantone interact with the audience, asking questions of and making comments to them. There is a nude scene between the Flunes with a chair masking assorted delicate areas. Glenn’s only covering (apart from shoes and socks) was a strategically placed bunch of grapes – and he asks, “Would you like a grape?” Rhonda furiously breaks some off and scatters them.
The films included wonderful sequences of Latin-American dancing – one segment is mostly a close-up of just the legs. There were also allusions to French arthouse films (and perhaps Baz Lurhman’s Red Curtain trilogy). One section (an allusion to Tommy?) is an analysis of Glenn and Rhonda’s marriage  –  in stylized choreography, she treats him like an ashtray and then irons him out. Musically, it ranged from classical opera to a juke box radio blend of recent hits. Parker is not just a great choreographer and dancer but also an impressive counter tenor, and there is sweeping lushly turbulent Romantic music as well (from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni).
Quirky and challenging, Blue Love is also satirical, thought-provoking and at times outrageous, and is an intriguing blend of various theatrical styles. 
By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

Prelude in Tea : Sonus Piano Quartet at the Independent

A terrific passionate concert



As part of the very popular Prelude In Tea series at the Independent Theatre. this was an intense passionate concert strikingly played by the Sonus Piano Quartet. This quartet takes its name from sonus, the Latin word derived from the Greek “tonos” that means “noise, sound”.
Formed in late 2011 by Brenda Jones, the Sonus Piano Quartet celebrates the art of sound production in their performances.  The Quintet features four master musicians : Australian Chamber Orchestra violinist, Aiko Goto, violinist Jacqui Cronin, Sydney Symphony Orchestra cellist, Timothy Nankervis and pianist, Brenda Jones.
The concert began with  Saint-Saëns Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 41 with its elegant swoops on the violin. Jones’ playing on the piano was assertive, and Nankervis’ cello paying was intense.
The second movement heard Jones on piano off to a spiky, emphatic start followed later by some flourishes.  There were some tango like dance rhythms,  and a vibrant discussion between the quartet led to a fiery, turbulent conclusion.
The third movement, a scherzo in rondo form, had an edgy start, and featured fast, scurrying playing on the viola and violin. The music pulsated – the piano had a fast, anxious mini solo, whilst the other instruments  commented. The music delicately evaporated to a pianissimo at the end.
The fourth, final movement was swirling and passionate, including many skillful contrapuntal effects, with a furious, breathless beginning, each member of the quartet stating the melody and passing it on to the other players. The movement featured a very Romantic sweeping, soaring passage leading to a fiery conclusion.
Ross Edward’s Emerald Crossing was next in the program. Edwards is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost composers. Emerald Crossingwas composed for piano quartet in 1999 and is among his typically nationalistic depictions of the Australian bush. Here we are asked to imagine a serene passacaglia, “haunted by an image of a canoe propelled slowly across calm green water.” The piece was pulsating and intense, like the build up to a major storm, with stormy rumblings on the piano that later fractured and shimmered.
The third and final piece was a richly textured performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat major, Op. 47. The first movement began slowly and languidly with the piano jewel like and the strings yearning.
The second, fluid and nimble movement was very fast and the piano had striking almost jazz like rhythms.
The third movement was thoughtful and song like. Nankervis on cello had an achingly beautiful solo at one point, and he was  then  joined by the other string players.
The final movement began in an explosive, emphatic fashion with breathless scurries and flourishes.  The playing was passionate and dynamic.
This very pleasurable concert took place at the Independent Theatre, Miller Street Theatre, North Sydney on the afternoon of Sunday 24th October. Running time 1 hour and twenty minutes.

Traffic Jam Galleries : Black and White /Works on Paper

A most exciting exhibition



It is a mix of works previously seen and new works by some of the favourite artists from the gallery’s stable..I will be concentrating on the new works rather than ones I have already reviewed. The set theme for the exhibition is Black and White and/or works on paper. There is a great variation in size , some taking up almost an entire wall ( eg Miriam Innes with her New York Meandering , full of incredible detail and thrusting diagonal lines of the staircases).
Carole Foster with her wonderful landscapes (framed acrylic paintings ) provides swirling textured clouds on the beach and other moody seascapes with large expressive brushstrokes and a vivid use of line and composition . Lost in the Mountains depicts an ominous snowstorm.
Danielle McManus enchants with her wonderful drawings .There is a striking portrait of a barn owl and we see her concern with how people ( with her distinctive depiction of people with large soulful eyes) interact with nature ( eg Fidget the Magpie , The Greeting ).
Among Elizabeth Green’s works included is Nature of the Undoing a strong vertical composition of trees being blown in a tropical storm – you can feel the wind.
Jenny Green has some striking geometric sculptures showing (Connections 1 & 2 for example) .
Julie Hutchings charcoal works are quite atmospheric.( eg Waterfall Chambigne )
Clair Kirkup’s rather Pop-art Saturday Afternoon boldly takes up most of another wall and is full of contrasting shapes patterns and textures.
Kathryn McGovern’s delightful Dog Show series features as well.
Rebecca Pierce’s The Motion of Transition 1 and 2 that I recently reviewed has transferred to this group exhibition.
Two of Josephine Josephsen’s rather large and thrilling works are included – Riding Chock and Windlass, two enticing works that look like sepia coloured movie stills based on The Cape Don , a ship moored at Waverton’s Coal Loader site. It was the first-built, and now the only surviving vessel, of the three Cape class ships commissioned at the NSW State Dockyard in Newcastle in 1963 for the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service to service the many navigational aids and support the manned lighthouses around the Australian coastline.’
Edgar Schilter’s amazingly detailed architectural works and thought provoking bell jar series returns to the gallery as part of this exhibition.
Michael Williamson’s exotic bright and colourful rather surrealist ceramics are also included .
A most exciting exhibition.
Black and White/On Paper runs at the Traffic Jam Galleries 3-27 September 2017