Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers .Best wishes for a great Christmas and a terrific 2014 Lynne

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Star Child at the Genesian

Here's what I said for artshub A brand new exciting musical by Gimblett and Coombs based on Oscar Wilde’s very moral story for children. Featuring some great stage effects including an Evil Magician, tap dancing rabbits and bumbling Beefeaters, The Star Child proves to be delightful Christmas family fare. Narrated by the Beggar Woman and Leper, which are excellently played and sung by Elizabeth Macgregor and Robert Green, the show begins strongly with the opening scene featuring blizzard sound and lighting effects (Michael Schell) and a great starry backdrop (Owen Gimblett). The orchestra is hidden away at the side of the stage but under the terrific leadership of Timothy M Cater they don’t go unnoticed. There are about twenty songs in total including big show stopping numbers and also ‘popular musical’ numbers, which feel like Les Mis or West Side Story in style. Other songs range from jazz to pop/contemporary and soft ballads. Songs include ‘Trendsetter’, when The Star Child is at his most obnoxious and arrogant, ‘The Transformation’, describing the ‘magical’ times when the Star Child is morphed into another state, and a big whole company number simply called ‘The Star Child’. As the beggar woman Macgregor also has some haunting solos. Ben Bennett (The Voice) as the Star Child is great and leads the show magnificently. A young, blonde Justin Bieber he tremendously conveys his character’s very steep learning curve and suffering. He appears cold and narcissistic at first with his sycophantic gang and coldly tells the beggar woman to go away. Eventually the changes and suffering he undergoes at the hands of the Evil Magician sees him learn humility. Tall Robert Wells as the Evil Magician has great fun hamming it up, panto –style, with his smelly, silly assistant Pongo (Greg Thornton in a terrific wig and costume). Dominic Scarf as the all-singing all tap dancing cheeky rabbit (with the Playboy bunny Rabettes ) was much fun and Debbie Smith’s snazzy showbiz choreography incorporated the assorted skill levels in the cast to great effect. Martin Searles and Amber Wilcox as the good-hearted woodcutter and his wife also were terrific. The show features plenty of one liners – Wilde himself was famous for them – while some of them worked well others were too obvious and heavily telegraphed. There were also allusions to Gilbert and Sullivan - more ‘The Mikado’ than ‘ Yeoman of the Guard'. With this world premiere production Gimblett and Edwards have added their version of The Star Child to the long list of works by Wilde that have been adapted for the stage in various genres over the years. 3.5 Stars Running time 2 hours Oscar Wilde’s The Star Child runs at the Genesian 23 November- 14 December 2013 Directors Roger Gimblett and Stephen Lloyd Coombs

Danse (3) sans spectacle

A strange, interesting somewhat disappointing performance .Here is what I said for artshub–-sans-spectacle-197522 This 'dance without spectacle' is part of Performance space's You're History season, celebrating 30 years. Image supplied. Part of Performance Space’s ‘You’re History!’ season at Carriageworks, which is celebrating 30 years of performances, was Danse sans spectacle – dance without spectacle. This strange, challenging performance by Australian choreographer Rosalind Crisp was dance stripped back to basics; reinforcing her work at the cutting edge of contemporary dance. There were no sets or props or costumes. The three barefoot dancers (Crisp, Debyser and Fossati) wore casual rehearsal gear in the form of grey hooded tracksuits. The dance was performed in silence, with atmospheric gloomy lighting. The work had started before we entered and the audience was divided into three sections and perched uncomfortably on awkward cushions. Although at times the dancers danced almost in the audience there was no real emotional interaction between dancers and observers. When the three performers were dancing beside /behind the audience it was a difficult decision to work out who to focus on. It was an analysis of pure movement. Small phrases of everyday activities were repeated. In some ways it was similar to Cunningham’s style and there was also a use of the deep Graham plie. Some of the movements emphasised the long line of the body in arabesque, others were twisted and distorted or shaky. There was slithering floor work - rolling with a solid, sculptural feel. The three barefoot performers mostly concentrate on doing their own thing and had small featured solos; only very occasionally and briefly were there duos and no actual touching or partnering. Crisp used ballet as a base but melded with contemporary dance – strict classical ballet turn out one second, parallel first the next. Generally the three dancers seemed to be enclosed in their own invisible vertical box space. Lunges, tai chi, bent elbows and long, gracefully stretched arms, a flip of the hand and ‘broken’ wrists were all included. The work finished with a meditative darkness and silence, three shadowy figures looming ominously from the walls. 3.5 stars Running time 40 mins (approx) no interval Danse (3) sans spectacle was at Carriageworks November 30 and Dec 1 2013 for 4 performances only Rosalind Crisp/Omeo Dance Assisted by Andrew Morrish Lighting design Marco Wehrspann Peformers : Rosalind Crisp , Celine Debyser and Max Fossati

Pinchgut's Giasone

Like wow.this was fabulous .Here is my rave for Artshub Opera rarely this musically superb. Pinchgut and director Chas Rader-Shieber have pulled out all the stops with this sensational staging of Cavalli’s Giasone. Under the musical direction of Erin Helyard, Pinchgut have cut and adjusted the score a little and with magnificent playing by the Orchestra of the Antipodes and a cast of skilled singers, the overall result was sublime. Helyard conducted energetically from the keyboard of the small upright organ. This production required two harpsichords and a theorbo among other period instruments, leading to the production of a rich, elegant sound. Based on the story of Jason (the eponymous Giasone) and the Golden Fleece and his bewitchment by Medea, the show includes some lowbrow humour, plus high drama and tension, a bit of magic and a complicated love tangle/triangle. It has deceptively simple staging – a few chairs, layers of curtains, a couple of doors and included some witty sight gags. But the simplicity of the staging is offset by the attention grabbing sailors. The Golden Fleece and its collection and the Argonauts are, in this version, in effect tangential to the story and there are no children to Medea mentioned. First performed in 1649 in Venice, Cavalli’s opera was the sell-out popular opera ticket of the 17th century and no wonder if it was staged as the equivalent of this. Fabulous counter tenor David Hansen as Giasone (Jason ) has an entrance to remember, both visually and vocally, wearing nothing but his golden plumed helmet and strategically placed bubbles in the bath. And what a glorious voice - an absolutely splendid performance throughout this long, demanding show. Tall, dark and handsome, no wonder he has the women swooning. He oozes confidence throughout. However, Giasone is actually a far from admirable character and doesn’t gain the Fleece through his own powers. He instead uses Medea's summoning of the supernatural. There is some wonderfully effective staging and lighting at this point. Hansen has an almost impossibly high countertenor, which is brightly burnished and pours out like melted chocolate. So he manages to command our empathy, even though his treatment of both Queens is horrid, and he is very moving in Giasone’s 11th-hour change of heart towards the end. Sopranos Celeste Lazarenko (Medea) and Miriam Allan (Isifile) are a riveting pair of catlike enemies, here representing lust vs faithfulness. Medea (soprano Celeste Lazarenko) was tall, elegant and commanding in a slinky red ruffled dress. She gave an impassioned performance; powerful and hypnotic. The duets with Giasone were exquisite and her ‘sleep’ aria glorious, her demon summoning imposing. Egeo, in love with Medea, was achingly sung by Andrew Goodwin in a passionate, magnificent performance of hidden inner radiance and smoothness nobly sung. Christopher Saunders was marvellous in the ‘comic’ role of limping, stuttering Demo, Egeo’s servant. Poor, wronged Isisfile was exquisitely sung by Miriam Allan , with prominent clarity and focus. Her Act 1 lament was superb as was her aria in Act 2 expecting death. Adrian McEniery makes a charmingly frumpy cross-dressing ‘nurse’/companion Delfa (including matching handbag and hairy legs) and sings wonderfully. Nicholas Dinopoulos as Ercole (Hercules) was tremendous, flirting with Alinda, and gets to deliver the line that he only kills one queen a day. A most exciting production staged brilliantly and ravishingly sung. Next year Pinchgut are doing two productions, not just one, for the first time – book now. 4.5 Stars Giasone by Francesco Cavalli City Recital Hall Angel Place 5- 9 December 2013

Merily We Roll Along

A sensational sceeen version .Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide and musical theatre fans rejoice! And stampede now to the box office to catch this more than splendid production. This is the first in a series of HD productions, WEST END THEATRE SERIES, direct from London, brought to us by Cinema Live and Digital theatre. Following a sold out run at the Mernier Chocolate Factory, this was filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre during the production’s final performances. Transferring magnificently from stage to screen, we are taken on a shattering emotional roller coaster ride as we follow the relationships between the three close friends Mary , Charley and Franklin ( Frank) . It travels backwards in time over thirty years ( 1970s to 1950s) in the entertainment business to analyse what happened and the show features some of Sondheim’s classics including ‘Not A Day Goes By’ , “Good Thing Going’ and ‘Old Friends ‘. It looks at life , love, courage and shattered illusions with a rueful sense of the compromised choices , wrong decisions and collapsed dreams of its characters .Sondheim’s at times spiky , difficult music is played magnificently and there are lyrical and joyous passages too . The original Broadway production opened in 1981 to mixed reviews and closed after 16 performances and the show is often regarded as a ‘problem’ Sondheim piece .This Freidman production, however , sold out and garnered absolute raves from London critics . Maria Friedman , triple Olivier award winner, makes a triumphant directorial debut with this huge full scale production led by Mark Umbers ( Franklin) , Jenna Russell ( Mary ) and Damian Humbley ( Charley) . The nifty choreography by Tim Jackson is Fosse inspired. The first scenes, where we meet the main characters in middle age, are set in the Seventies. Gradually, scene by scene, we travel back in time, finally arriving in 1957, when the three first meet and became devoted friends, full of exuberant hope for the future. “We’re the movers and we’re the shapers,” they sing, “We’re the names in tomorrow’s papers”. They hope… As a piece of theatrical craft MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG more than dazzles, from the opening vividly depicted embarrassing Hollywood party, when the characters’ dreams and friendship have more than soured , to the poignant joyous hope of their first meeting , on sighting a Sputnik (‘It’s a miracle!’). The score ranges from the touchingly emotional to the brilliantly comic, often with a jazzy swing to the music that hints at something darker beneath. Soutra Gilmour’s snazzy designs neatly encapsulate the changing times and fashions. Famous composer-turned-film producer Frank Shepherd apparently has it all. Music is his life, his passion. When opportunities occur to become rich and famous , he takes them. However the terribly handsome Umbers hauntingly reveals the gaping vacuum of unhappiness at the core of his life with the brooding, introspective longing of a man who now recognises he has taken some wrong turns and is now living with forever tarnished regrets. As his one-time best friend, lyricist and playwright Charley Kringas, Humbley wonderfully portrays his bitter disappointment in his friend, and his own cruel betrayal of him in a meltdown live on tv in a show stopping theatrical tour-de-force number,’ Franklin Shepherd Inc.’ brings the house down and leads to their irreparable rift . Mary, their writer friend ( best seller author) whose unrequited , hidden love for Frank end up shaping and defining her life, is played magnificently by Russell. She ends up in an alcoholic decline , giving a searing ,very powerful performance in the first scenes , very moving later ( earlier) .Frank however is oblivious and we meet the trio of the women that Frank has romantic entanglements with - his first and second wives Beth and Gussie, and his mistress Meg – Clare Foster, Josefina Gabrielle and Zizi Strallen in sensational performances . Foster is heartbreaking in Act1 in the middle of the acrimonious divorce and ‘Not A Day Goes By’.. Gabrielle is a show-stopping revelation ( in Act 2 the sexy ‘Cabaret’- style ‘Musical Husbands’ finale is just one example) in the seemingly effortless but affected , shallow sophistication of a Broadway star who has clawed her way to the top from being a producer’s secretary to his wife, and then dumps him for Frank. Has a running time of 2 hours 45 minutes including one interval. The film has received the endorsement of Sondheim himself who has said of the production,-‘Merrily We Roll Along’ is not only the best I’ve seen, but one of those rare instances where casting, direction and show come together in perfect combination, resulting in the classic ideal of the sum being greater than the parts.” Hear hear! MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG which screens at selected theatres this November.

ACO Clarinet concerto

aaah this was bliss .Angels paused to listen I think .Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide This was a superb concert, the audience particularly going into raptures over the Mozart clarinet concerto, with an unusual, challenging program beforehand. A strong Nordic connection was emphasised by the ACO’s Assistant Leader Satu Vänskä leading the ensemble on this occasion, and also introducing the works. Swedish virtuoso clarinettist Martin Frost, guest star in this concert, has an international profile, and next year will be artistic director of the Winterfest in Sweden. Frost also holds the post of Artistic Director of the International Chamber Music Festival in Stavanger, Norway. First was RAUTAVAARA‘s ‘A Finnish Myth’, with ominous undertones and possibly a hint of Britten? The energetic playing of the Orchestra emphasised the sharp, spiky strings and discordant themes which were at certain points contrasted with more lyrical, evocative ones. Thunderous cellos and violas created a disturbing atmosphere. The Myth segued straight into the Denisov, a far gentler violin showcase for Vanska, quite dancelike, with fast, fiddly fingers demanded in the Paganini style. The most striking work of the program was the Australian premiere of Goran Frost’s’ Dtangled’, featuring his brother Martin on clarinet. ‘DTangled,’ we were informed, began with improvisation. The question was asked ‘Isn’t all music quotes?” “And, indeed, who are we? Wearing tap shoes and a distinctive slinky black suit with white piping detail , Martin Frost is tall , elegant and blonde and conducted keeping time through stamping his feet , clicking his fingers and dancing. The dancing was almost Michael Jackson in style , but also at times ‘Petrushka’ like with Frost as the marionette. Sometimes it was semi robotic and included jumps and breakdancing. The clarinet was magnificently played to convey an eerie, spooky atmosphere while at other times it was spiky, sharp and percussive. For one section there was unusual use of bowing on the soundboard for the tumultuous cello. For this work in particular there was dramatic lighting. The Mozart Symphony No 21 in A K 134 that followed had sumptuous, elegant playing and was given a brisk, pulsating performance. The first movement had a lush, rich, vibrant sound. The second movement saw a theme stated then taken and developed with emphasis on the flutes and horns. The third movement had a jaunty dance like opening but became lyrical and flowing with a use of pizzicato. The final fourth movement had surging violins, all of which are ‘typical’ of the ACO ‘house style’ After interval came Broadstocks’ shimmering, haunting ‘Never truly lost’, commissioned by the family of the late Paddy Pallin, swirling and spiky with a pulsating cello. In the composer’s own words, this is, “a journey through an imaginary landscape and (an) imaginary bushwalk”. Vanska’s violin playing was sparse yet exquisite, the finale having the feel of the creation of stars, with a sonar pulse sound. At the end of this piece there was a stunned silence then tumultuous applause. Then came the big finale that we had all been waiting for, the Mozart clarinet concerto. Frost’s playing on his Bassett clarinet was sublime, ravishing, in his extraordinary dialogue with the orchestra. The second movement was lyrical, with fluid virtuosic ripples from the clarinet. The third movement had a jaunty opening and Frost had great fun with the tricky, bright flourishes. Frost did not move about as for ‘DTangled’ but rather swayed a little and breathed the music. Sheer bliss and it was given a rapturous reception. The encore was a sizzling rendition of one of Brahm’s Hungarian dances that still left the audience wanting more. Running time 2 hours (approx) including interval Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Mozart Clarinet Concerto concert was performed between the 14th and 24th November at two venues, the Angel Place Recital Hall and the Sydney Opera House. Program:- RAUTAVAARA- A Finnish Myth DENISOV- Paganini Caprice No.9 G FRÖST- DTangled (Australian Premiere) MOZART- Symphony No.21 in A, K.134 BROADSTOCK- Never Truly Lost (World Premiere)* MOZART- Clarinet Concerto in A, K.622

Australian Museum - Tyranosaurs a stunning exhibition at the Australian Museum - here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide What has hollow bones, lays eggs and a wishbone? Answer – A dinosaur. This and other fascinating questions are answered at the Australian Museum’s sensational TYRANNOSAURS- MEET THE FAMILY exhibition. This latest exhibition at the Museum is enthralling with a highlight being the exciting interactive sections. It contains the most up to date research, for inquisitive adults, and delightful interactive segments, together with some outstanding animation to stimulate the imagination of schoolchildren. There is a wonderful section showing various dinosaurs walking around from Circular Quay to the Opera House Information is clear and prominently displayed in black and yellow borders. The skeletons and casts on display are fabulous. The exhibition is designed to provide a snapshot of dinosaur life and show how this group became the world’s top predators with their massive skulls, powerful jawlines and bone-crunching teeth. Current scientific research is causing the image of the world’s most popular dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex, to be re-evaluated. Though one of the first tyrannosaurs to be discovered, T. rex – the swift, flesh-eating apex predator – was actually the last in a long dinosaur dynasty that appeared 165 million years ago and perished some 100 million years later. The exhibition also details a revised tyrannosaur family tree. During the past five years, paleontologists have discovered T. rex’s smaller ancestors. One of these, Guanlong wucaii, is among the most primitive tyrannosaurs known, hunting 90 million years before T. rex. Discoveries like these are changing the story of the evolution of tyrannosaurs, and this fossil helps make the case that feathers originated in dinosaurs before they became used for flight in birds. In small, flightless dinosaurs like Guanlong wucaii, feathers may have evolved as an essential piece of equipment for staying warm. The latest dinosaur finds by Chinese paleontologist Xing Xu and his team were discovered together in Northwestern China preserved in layers of shale, mudstone and volcanic ash. Shedding light on what life was like 160 million years ago for this group of dinosaurs, these discoveries have cemented the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds. Even with mass extinction events 65 million years ago, some dinosaurs survived and continued to evolve into the modern birds we live with today. With a name meaning ‘crown dragon’, Guanlong wucaii lived 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, its eponymous spectacular head crest running along its snout from nostril to eye socket. Fragile, hollow and made from fused nasal bones, the crest may have been used to attract a mate. Not a typical tyrannosaur, Guanlong wucaii had long arms and three-fingered hands for grabbing and ripping. But the shape of its teeth, skull and pelvis all link it to the tyrannosaur group. The diminutive dinosaur stood 1.1 metres tall at the hip, and measured 3 metres in length. Were dinosaurs good parents? We learn about their hatching habits and gaze at fossilized eggs. There was a section where you can check ten things that help identify a dinosaur and for example check how strong your ‘bite punch’ is compared to a T –Rex’s (help! I wouldn’t have a hope! ) Fascinating information is also presented about a dinosaur’s brain – how did a dinosaur think /eat / hear?, as well as a wonderful dial twister cabinet which shows you where and when in the ancient world particular dinosaurs lived. The exhibition also asks, what killed the dinosaurs? Is the conjecture right that it was a meteor collision? To complement the stunning exhibition, the Australian Museum has organised a large array of public events for members and visitors of all ages, from children’s activities such as museum sleepovers, torchlight tours, dinosaur-themed museum hunts as well as a lecture series and After-5 program for adults. And there are lots of exciting merchandise to splurge on in the shop after viewing the exhibition. The exhibition TYRANNOSAURS- MEET THE FAMILY opened at the Australian Museum on Saturday 23November and is running until Sunday 27 July, 2014. For more information:-

Les Vepres Sicilliennes

A long but thrilling capturing of the Royal Opera version here's what i said for Sydney Arts Guide Death or liberty! As big as ‘Ben Hur’ or ‘Les Miserables’ , huge , sprawling ,long and epic, volcanically powerful, dramatic and passionate this is a magnificent version of this rarely seen Verdi opera , part of the Royal Opera House’s celebrations of the Verdi bicentenary and the first time the Royal Opera House has staged it .It was the first of the two operas that Verdi was to write, with a French text, for the Paris Opéra. Composed between ‘La Traviata’ and the first version of ‘Simon Boccanegra’ it was first performed in 1855, and therefore was after his earlier successes with “Rigoletto”, “La Traviata” and “Il Trovatore” ,and yet it points the way to later major works such as “Aida”, “Otello” and “Falstaff”. It demands a huge corps de ballet and two choruses on top of the usual soloists and a big pit orchestra – a marvellous example of the French ‘Grand opera ‘style indeed. The orchestra is superb and the singing ravishing . Director Stefan Herheim has updated the action from the French occupation of Sicily in the 13th century, and a Sicilian revolt that massacred 3,000 French in 1282, to an opera house in 19th-century Paris.The prologue back- story is condensed into the overture and we see de Montfort terrorise and rape one of the dancers . The introduction of setting of an opera house within an opera house allowed Herheim and the Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano to cram the largest possible chorus on to the Covent Garden stage. One chorus, at main stage level, portrays the Sicilian peasants,in folk costume , while another chorus of French soldiers in wonderful uniforms and socialites in glorious posh evening gowns occupy the loge and balconies of the stage-set opera house.Fürhofer’s sets provide spectacular reflecting cross-sections of auditorium and stage, with intriguing use of mirrors and reflection their geometry ( an opera within an opera) always changing . The story of the uprising of the Sicilians against their French oppressors is therefore developed to become something more complex and more intricately layered, both a study of the tension between the people and the military and an exploration of how artists are exploited by the society that creates them. André De Jong’s choreography blends easily with it , the dancers seeming to come from the Degas period at times ( very Giselle /La Sylphide of the romantic era ) but there are also dark hints of the evil underside of the occupation etc with the use of dancers in black tutus - a dark ‘Swan Lake’ . The choreography is a great mix of contemporary and the style of the period. Visually there are many arresting images with hints of EA Poe’s ‘The Red Death’ with the use of masks and emphasis on skulls etc and also possibly Beardsley? And the lighting by Andres Poll is starkly dramatic at times with a Caravaggio like effect. Another major theme of the opera is father/son relationships. The duet in Act3 between our tenor hero Henri,( deftly, excellently sung by Volle) who thinks himself to be a Sicilian of low birth but fiery, patriotic and full of anti-French fervour, and the man that a letter from his dead mother testifies is in fact his missing father – none other than Guy de Montfort, the villain of the piece , the hated commander of the French occupying forces stops the show . This gives the emotional impact that makes Verdi operas so human, especially as sung here by Hymel and Michael Volle as the French occupation chief who insists the young rebel now call him “father” in order to save the woman he loves. Volle’s brooding ‘Mon Fil ’ is superb , at times wistful and delicate , joyous and hopeful , at other times cold and proudly demanding – a highlight of the evening . Hymel , torn yet defiant as Henri is also magnificent . Helene was terrifically sung by Helene LIanna Haroutounuian.Her black mourning dress in Act1 is superb but what a grisly, bizarre entrance with the head of her murdered brother! Her opening aria (Viens à nous, Dieu tutélaire / “Pray, O mighty God, calm with thy smile both sky and sea”), was splendid and ends with a rallying-cry (Courage!…du courage!) to the Sicilians to rebel against the occupiers .She was also inspirational in Les Jeunes Amies” (The Young Friends), which is the most famous tune from the work and here part of the joyous wedding celebrations .The duet between Helene and Henri revealing their love in Act 4 when facing death is also another highlight. Erwin Schrott, as the rebel leader and passionate patriot Jean Procida, here shown as a limping ballet master , was magnificent .For starters his Et toi, Palerme / “O thou Palermo, adored land …”. in Act1 is breathtaking and stops the show. Bravo! A long but thrilling and chilling night at the Royal Opera House. This was filmed at the Royal Opera House London November 4 2013.Running time four and a half hours (approx) including two intervals Verdi’s Les Vepres Siciliennes runs at selected cinemas for a few dates only

David Tennant in Richard 11

A fabulous version , direct from London This is a stunning, beautifully – almost magically – designed production, a feast for both the eyes and ears. Gregory Doran’s production is magnificently orchestrated from the opening funeral in a soaring Gothic cathedral with angelic sopranos and musicians to Richard’s abdication which turns into a dangerous tug-of-war over the golden crown with Bolingbroke. As is to be expected from the marvellous RSC it is a lucid, clear and very moving production packed with excellent , striking performances from the entire cast . It preserves the soaring lyrical poetry of the main famous set speeches yet seems written yesterday. It is the first in a new cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays. The bustle and business of a court is enjoyably present in a production that features wimples, trumpets and armour, and rough singing (plus soaring sublime sections of music and verse) . We see a corrupt England, an examination of dynasty and decay. The production has many sycophants and asset-strippers, men who are ripping off the state’s assets. The minute John of Gaunt passes away they dash to grab his coffers and lug them across the stage. The opening scene especially, with Nigel Lindsay’s bluff tough Bolingbroke challenging Antony Byrne’s aggrieved Mowbray – each accusing the other of treason – is developed slowly and methodically .They both eventually appear in full heavy, gleaming armour -extremely impressive . David Tennant as Richard 11, with his long flowing hair and glorious gold embroidered robes gives an extraordinary, mesmerizing performance. He is chameleon like with his huge , very expressive sad eyes, and great vocal control. He brings to life the poetry of the famous speeches (for example his washed –up arrival back in England, and the deposition scene). Presented very sympathetically he is proud and regal , pale and seemingly frail yet also possibly slightly effeminate ( observe closely his relationship with Aumerle). At times ( eg again his return , with the ‘here let us sit ,and tell sad stories of the death of kings) he could be slightly mad . In that speech he moves in a strange sort of spider like way. His parting from the Queen is extremely moving and the tense ,dramatic Deposition scene , angrily confronting Bolingbroke, is thrillingly done .It is a piteous thing to see the downfall of a king and his murder and I liked the idea of his ‘ghost’ returning to haunt Bolingbroke at the end. In the deposition scene he is in white again, defiant and almost John the Baptist like to a degree. Tennant reveals with wily precision the corruption of a man in thrall to his own vanity, seduced by his anointed position and intelligent enough to be aware of this. The self-pitying plaintive monologues are delivered with hints of irony for the most part, shot through with tiny surrenders to momentary abject panic – as though he were at once sufferer and observer of the tragic process whereby, when the royal persona shatters and the naked, insecure person underneath is revealed. As his role becomes increasingly challenging and he is challenged by the pitiless Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay), Richard’s hidden doubts about his fitness to rule seep as if from invisible wounds whilst the sub-textual debates – pragmatist v aesthete, philistine v artist – are unspoken . Nigel Lindsay’s Bolingbroke in major contrast is shown as a close cropped ,plain-speaking man who has returned from exile simply to claim his rightful inheritance – though there’s a suggestion in his hooded watchfulness and the ghastly brutality with which he dispatches Richard’s sycophantic followers that he in fact has a long-term nefarious strategy. Bolingbroke plays his cards close to his chest and is at various points embarrassed by Richard, whose upstaging antics leave him having to force face-saving laughter in front of his followers. Deathbed infirmity is ignored by lush, passionate eloquence in Michael Pennington’s magnificent portrayal of John of Gaunt, in a fine, restrained performance and Oliver Ford Davies brings a fine edge of curmudgeonly comedy to the Duke of York’s conscience-stricken flustered appeals. Oliver Rix as Aumerle , moved to tears at Richard’s abdication, is excellent too . Jane Lapotaire as the widowed Duchess of Gloucester, bent and hit with unconfined grief, is tremendous as well . Emma Hamilton brings a lovely grace to the rather small part of Richard’s strong and sensitive Queen . The RSC’s Richard 11 with David Tennant in the title role was at Stratford-upon-Avon from 17 October to 16 November 2013 (previews from 10 October) before transferring to the Barbican Theatre in London on 9 December for a 7 week run and screened at selected cinemas early December 2013 . Running time 200 minutes includes one interval and also has behind the scenes interviews and historical background info to the ‘Wars of the Roses’. Links worth visiting include,-,,

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Nature of Australia By 2

Most exciting - a friend's exibition coming up ‘The Nature of Australia by 2’ Artists – Marta Lett & Vino Nukaiya Special Opening Night Event – Saturday 23rd November 2013, 6-9pm This exhibition is collaboration between two friends, showcasing vastly different visions of the nature of Australia in paintings on canvas and paper. Vino’s paintings are journeys in storytelling of actual events and places through landscapes, portraiture, still life and vibrant native wild flowers. Vino was born in Fiji, a fifth generation Southern Indian and English Fijian. He has been a working artist from the age of seven, helping to support his family, then as a young man bringing his natural talent to Australia. Marta’s intricate & vibrant paintings feature Celtic patterns and calligraphy interlaced with native plants, birds & insects. Her environmental themes speak of our human interconnection with the natural world and express the artist’s sense of place and heritage. Marta has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions for over 20 years. Visit to view a selection of Marta’s paintings. Opening night: 23rd November 6-9pm Exhibition dates: 24th November 2013 to 12th January 2014 Venue: Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar, 86 Abercrombie street, Chippendale For inquiries contact Marta on 0423 947 472 or email at

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Australian Ballet in La Sylphide and Paquita

Here's my thoughts for artshub Technically the Australian Ballet is in top, sizzling form and this double bill will greatly delight dance purists. The main work is a revival of the Bournonville/Bruhn ‘La Sylphide’, the iconic Romantic ballet which was given a dazzling performance. It tells the story of a Scottish farmer who falls in love with a Sylph - a woodland sprite. Ty King -Wall was magnificent as James, the man caught between two women and worlds. His elevation and batterie were superb and he was sensational in his showy solos. He seemed genuinely in love with his fiancée Effie but is driven slightly mad in his search for the elusive Sylph (the ideal, unobtainable woman) and loses everything in the end. The mysterious Sylph, the epitome of Romanticism, was exquisitely danced by Lana Jones. Generally she was fluttering and teasing, seemingly as light as thistledown, delicate and otherworldly, ghostlike and mysterious, with soft big ballon and a regal line in arabesque penchee. A powerful, magnificent performance that showed the precise batterie, fragile rounded delicacy of the upper body, an emphasis on the upward trajectory in jumps, the softest of landings and clear mime as demanded by Bournonville. The ensemble of sylphs in Act 2 was beautifully presented and you can see the hints of ‘Giselle’ to come in the fine unison work. Some of the poses looked straight out of the original lithographs. Gurn his cousin was terrifically danced by Brett Simon and Effie his fiancée enchantingly danced by Natasha Kusen. Tall Matthew Donnelly played the witch Madge and I was perhaps a little disappointed. For me, he gave a quite satisfactory performance but it was rather two dimensional, played for laughs and not scary. The ensemble was terrific in the huge displays of showy Scottish celebratory dancing in Act 1 (lots of plaids and tartan everywhere). Which brings us to ‘Paquita’, or rather the distillation of the wedding celebrations act from this Petipa ballet, which opens the programme. It is a shining example of the traditional 19th century Russian ballet (1881) and superbly danced. Technically it was well done but the choreography at certain points was very obviously repetitive. There was a feel of it being almost neo-classical abstract dance - you could see how it influenced Balanchine for example - as for this extended divertissement there was no real plot or narrative as such, just ‘dance’ as spectacle, a diamond bright illustration of the form. There was extremely simple staging, with two huge chandeliers against a starry backdrop and some black tabs. Hugh Coleman’s heavily detailed lavish costumes were in mustard yellow and black except for the ‘bridal couple’ in white. Particular mention needs to be made of Laura Tong in the first solo with harp and flute in a mesmerising, hypnotic display. The two leads ( in this performance Daniel Gaudello and Leanne Stojmenov) were excellent and in the showy male solos you could see how this work prefigured the later ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Stojmenov was toothily regal and coolly elegant, an enchanting princess. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the dynamic leadership of guest maestro Paul Murphy (from the Birmingham Royal Ballet) was tremendous. From the very first darkly dramatic notes we were in a mysterious other world and the Lovenskjold score was shaped delightfully. A most impressive performance, a wonderful glimpse of a major Romantic ballet superbly danced 4 stars 8 November 2013 Running time - 2 & ½ hours (approx) two intervals The Australian Ballet’s La Sylphide and Paquita runs at the Opera House until November 25

Rapture Blister Burn at the Ensemble

Here's what I said over at Artshub about this tremendous show’s script is punchy, witty and challenging. At times it is hilarious with some terrific one liners. Four women from three generations critique and analyse feminism, love, friendship and loneliness in this thought provoking play. What do women want? Can a woman have both a career and a fulfilling home life? Has anything really changed since the 1960s? Dark beauty Georgie Parker is magnificent as Catherine, giving a superb performance as the dutiful returning daughter. The questioning yet vulnerable feminist agent provocateur makes challenging connections between porn and pop culture in her books. With virtually rock star status as a now famous academic, how does she define feminism? And does she really ‘have it all’? Throughout the play Catherine’s loneliness is a recurring theme. She will need support once her mother has passed away, and the steadfastness of love and friendship. The summer course that Catherine leads has the women vehemently discussing the debate between ‘second wave’ feminist leader Betty Friedan and anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly, with Schlafly surprisingly seeming to have the upper hand at certain times. Anne Tenney gives a terrific performance as Gwen, Catherine’s ex-roommate who snaffled Don (Glenn Hazeldine) away from her a decade ago. She is lonely and dispirited, seemingly trapped in her unhappy marriage to Don and has become a mousey stay at home housewife. She is always moaning about how she wishes she could escape, complete her university course, travel and change places with Catherine, but always shies away from the chance for change. Young Chloe Baylis as Avery is exuberant and opinionated and at times inattentive to the feelings of others when asking very blunt personal questions and uses lots of coarse language. Her views on feminism cause heated discussion and she goes through heartbreak herself. We are meant to see her as the ‘new’, futuristic’ voice of feminism. Graham Maclean’s beautiful set design is in pale wood and soft blue with delightful large windows.The changing of the blinds, and blackouts, are a nice touch which indicate the passing of time over the summer. A top cast give sizzling performances in this very topical play that recognises that life is infinitely messier than theory and examines how women, and men, find happiness and conquer disappointment. Running time 2 hours 30 (approx ) including one interval 4 stars 6 November 2013 Rapture Blister Burn runs at the Ensemble Theatre until 7 December 2013 Rapture Blister Burn by Gina Gionfriddo

America: Painting A Nation

This huge ewxhibition has just opened at the Art Gallery of NSW Well worth repeated visits Here's my Sydney Arts Guide review AMERICA: PAINTING A NATION is the most expansive survey of American painting ever presented in Australia. With over 80 works ranging from 1750 to 1966, this summer blockbuster exhibition examines more than 200 years of American art, history and experience. The works have come from four major institutions in the USA: the Terra Foundation, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ( The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has lent its major work, Edward Hopper’s ‘ House at dusk ‘ 1935.) The huge , at times rather overwhelming ,exhibition , beautifully presented , features works by major artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, James McNeil Whistler, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent. Most of the works have never been seen in Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the only Australian venue for this exhibition. The exhibition is part of the Sydney International Art Series, bringing the world’s outstanding exhibitions to Australia. It has been made possible with the support of the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Over its eight rooms, and quoting from Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson among others where appropriate, the exhibition guides the observer on a course from New England to the Western frontier, from the Grand Canyon to the burlesque theatres of New York, from the aristocratic elegance of colonial society to the gritty realism of the modern metropolis. One of the very first paintings we see is of No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa chief 1832–33 by Heny Inman contrasted with the white European style dandy Edward Shippen IV By Robert Feke We also see a glorious landscape by Gifford ‘October in the Catskills’ thrilling, glowing and golden (1880) which has a huge, ornate frame. Moving along slightly, a stunning ‘Portrait of Misses Mary and Emily McEuen’ by Thomas Sully (1823) is found among rather stilted ,very formal other ones of the period . This is a fascinating indication of changes in fashion too – look at the incredible detail in the collar of the portrait of the Fields and the very tight curled ringlets in the portrait of Ms Clarissa Cook . A room called ‘The Nursery of Patriotism ‘ , darkly lit , features huge landscapes .Thomas Moran’s ‘ Grand Canyon’ dominates the room and there are breathtaking pictures of the Hot Springs at Yellowstone and also the Yosemite Valley . In the room , ‘Chronicles of National Life’, there are ‘genre’ scenes capturing what were already lost traditions of huntsmen et c ( eg Remington’s ‘The Herd Boy ‘, or Homer’s ‘Huntsman and Dogs’ – which has a fabulous swirling energy and great use of line and composition . ) You can also perhaps see the precursors of abstract expressionism with the unusual ‘Rack Picture ‘ by Peto. The ‘ Gilded Age’ of American painting , with elegant Sargents, luscious luminous Cassatts ,starkly dramatic Whistlers etc is then featured as are some incredible Victorian era still lifes of flowers etc. Also daily life, with travel on the Boston ferry depicted and Hassan’s ‘Rainy Midnight. Late’. Some are photographic realist in style, others far more Impressionist. Chases’ ‘Mother and Child’ is starkly dark and dramatic, in some ways similar to Whistler’s ‘Arrangement in Black’. They are such a contrast to the glorious ‘Tannis’ by Daniel Garber, with the stunning light and trees. When you enter the next room there is a definite change to Modernism with the development of modern art for modern cities and the development of abstractionism ,Cubism etc .as well as yet more sensational landscapes . Shinn’s ‘Theatre Scene’ reveals a possible Toulouse -Lautrec influence. This room features the major work by Edward Hopper’ House at Dusk’ , as well as looking at the diversity of San Francisco art in the 1920’s. It also features a Georgia O’Keefe ( ‘Red and orange streak ‘) where the colour sings vibrantly. ‘The American Scene’ room challenges the national narrative and we see depictions of slaves and First Peoples. Khun’s ‘Clown With Drum’ is very powerful,( quite ‘Paglicacci ‘ish )and there is O’Keefe’s sort of almost abstract , quite erotic in a way lily painting . Jackson Pollock is also included. In the final room, ‘The sublime is now’, taking us through to the rise of Abstract Expressionism , I was immediately drawn to the superb Robert Irwin untitled work using light and shadow. There was also the explosive powerful paintwork of Gotlieb’s ‘Penumbra’. There is a fascinating, detailed timeline on the wall of the corridor as you exit and head for the shop. AMERICA: PAINTING A NATION runs at the Art Gallery of NSW 8 November 2013- 9 February 2014. For further information,-

Sydney Indpendent Opera's Don Giovanni

This was excellent here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide It’s a great shame that there were only two performances of this excellent production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ by Sydney Independent Opera. Sung in English – generally a very good translation – musically and vocally under the energetic , expressive yet controlled direction of Steven Stanke, the show featured marvelous playing by the rather small but excellent orchestra and an interesting use of the delicate harpsichord during the ‘recitatives’. It is interesting to note that this production was based on the 1777 Prague version. It was a ‘semi staged’ theatre using the heavy proscenium arch and the rolling acoustic panels at the back as the set with swirling cloaks and small handprops, where appropriate, augmented by excellent costumes and lighting. The sparse staging allows the audience to concentrate on the music, plot and characters. There was hot and steamy lust and passion, and the darkness, cruelty and depravity of the story was also acknowledged. The narrative is a morality story cloaked in heavenly music,- all of the characters are damaged in some way , and Don Giovanni ends up being dragged down to Hell ( ‘The punishment of the libertine’). Rakish ,debonair Don Giovanni was excellently sung by Randall Stewart in magnificent voice in a most impressive performance .He is presented as a Mafia Don with guns , knives etc and in a very expensive looking suit and waistcoat . His seductive aria /duet ‘Là ci darem la mano’ or here in English ‘There will my arms enfold you’ with Zerlina was lyrical and melting .No wonder she was almost swooning! We first see Donna Anna (Qestra Mulqueeny ) in a pink shirt making wild passionate love to Don Giovanni and then oddly smiling as her father is killed, –is this a Surrealist Brechtian nightmare? Mulqueeny is then later revealed as an ultra-elegant, almost Valkyrie, with blond upswept hair and stunning black dresses , with a very strong voice, particularly in her showy arias . As naughty , saucy , downtrodden yet stylishly dressed , cynical Leporello, driven to distraction by his master’s bedhopping hijinks and lack of concern, Paul Smith was excellent .His ‘catalogue aria’ in Act1 that cruelly informs Donna Elvira of the overwhelming number of his master’s conquests was excellent . Donna Elvira (Salina Bussien ), passionately obsessed and in love with Don Giovanni, is presented as tall, imposing ,pale and in Gothicky black with the initials DG tattooed on her breast as revealed by the slit in her costume. Bussien is a marvellous,very strong actress who gave a terrific performance. As the Commendatore Iain Fisher gave a tremendous, chilling performance particularly in the terrifying denouement of the second act that sent chills down the spine. Bravo. Zerlina and Masetto , the young bride and groom whose relationship and wedding day Don Giovanni almost destroys ,were wonderfully played and sung by Maia Andrews and Joshua Salter . Zerlina’s ‘Batti batti or as here in English ‘beat me beat me ‘ stopped the show . A most enjoyable production that was quite dramatic and seductive. Running time 2hours 45mins (approx) including one interval DON GIOVANNI, by the Sydney Independent Opera, had two performances – 1 & 3 November 2013- at the Independent Theatre

Michael Philp

Here's what I said for my Sydney Arts Guide review There are twenty five medium to large sized works very well displayed in this gallery tucked away in a side street in Paddington. It is a vivid, bold exhibition, quite abstract essentially, incorporating a marvelous eye for colour and composition that captures the imagination. For Michael Philp, of the Bundjalung people, home is the Caldera – the land that stretches from beneath Wollumbin following the Tweed River down from Murwillumbah to Cudgen, Chinderah, Fingal and Duranbah and out to the ocean.The path of the river maps the home of his people. This latest, very autobiographical series of paintings is an intimate personal history, representing Philp’s loving relationship with home and country. The exhibition focuses on questions of identity in a fractured community and changed landscape. Son to a white fisherman and a Murri woman, Michael grew up in the Caldera indigenous community and landscape. Recollections of family ,childhood and Catholic schooling are blended with the Midjinbil waterways and coast of Northern New South Wales in a singularly intimate and personal statement about history and place . Both nostalgic and damaged, the paintings are a triumph of healing, reconciliation and optimism. The memories depicted in the series occur roughly between the seventies and eighties, a time when the area we know as the Tweed,Wollumbin, Cudgen, Chinderah, Fingal and also the Gold Coast to the North were going through massive change and development Philp has been in several exhibitions, both group and solo , and received a commendation in the New South Wales Premier Art Prize. His painting ‘The Warrior’ was accepted into a traveling exhibition of the Regional Galleries of New South Wales. The coast, the saltwater sections , rivers and ocean all feature in the paintings , as an actual working part of identity, personal and collective. The series is as much ‘portrait’ as it is ‘landscape and environment’ . The simplicity of application together with bold expanses of pigment, reach a raw cadence of potent symbolism. The exhibition could also be entitled ‘Blue series’ or ‘Water’ as the colour blue (many different shades of it !) dominate the exhibition. Aboriginal dot painting style is used for some representations of water and also for some of the fishing nets etc . A lot of the paintings are of crayfishing, oystering , ‘pippying’ at night and the hard work involved in fishing . Looming block like silhouettes of human beings are mostly represented as being dominated by the landscape but there are a couple of paintings where the emotional impact is huge and they are instead large blocklike almost paper cutout like figures (for example ‘My Father’s Embrace’ , and possibly ‘Calming Times’ . ) A delightful , fascinating exhibition. Michael Philp: My Saltwater Murris is exhibiting at Mary Place Gallery ,29 October to 10 November, 2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

Aakash Odedra in Rising at Parramatta

like wow this was superb here's my rave for artshub A compelling and beautiful performance by a rising star of the international dance scene, Aakash Odedra. Aakash Odedra is one of the major up and coming – if not already stellar – younger Kathak/contemporary dancer-choreographers in the UK, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Akram Khan. Direct from the Brisbane Festival, Rising was presented in Sydney for two performances only as part of Parramasala. Regarded as a rising star of the international dance scene, Odedra spent 2011 working with internationally acclaimed choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Khan and Russell Maliphant, who each created a short solo for this show, which also features a solo created by Odedra himself. All draw on Odedra’s extensive training in the Indian styles of Kathak and Bharatanatyam, blended with ‘contemporary’ dance forms in a mesmerizing, bravura display. The opening work, Nritta, is choreographed by Odedra himself. It begins with dramatic lighting and swirls of dry ice. Odedra has his back to us. Tall and thin, he wears a dark blue/greyish suit and has large expressive eyes. Musically the work has an insistent Kathak beat, and choreographically this particular solo is the most classically Kathak-based. Odedra has a very erect regal bearing but very flexible torso and arms. In one section Odedra performs the very fast rhythmic Kathak footwork and beats but with no ankle bells. Martial arts and whirling movements are included as well as difficult turns on the knees, and startling, flashing, gazelle-like leaps and bounds. Odedra is like an elegant liquid sculpture transfixing us in his gaze. In total contrast was The Shadow of Man, choreographed by Akram Khan. Far more abstract, in this work Odedra is topless, in grey tracksuit pants. It begins with a primal scream. Again there is dramatic, moody lighting which here emphasises the isolated use of the shoulders in the first section – they seem almost dislocated, possibly broken wings – as Odedra slowly, painfully rises from his hunched position. Angular, irregular gestures and strange simian movements are also included in this sombre, rather tormented piece, as well as sliding floorwork and whirling arms. The pulsating lights add to the eerie atmosphere. After interval came Cut, choreographed by Russell Maliphant and opening with a crash of cymbals and then the sound of waves against the shore as part of the pulsating electronic soundtrack. It again showcased Odedra’s graceful fluidity. There was a blurring of light and movement, sinuous rippling and some birdlike movements. A lot of the work was focused on just a tiny strip of light, atmospheric drifting dry ice and Odedra’s floating hands; a raised hand apparently beckoning us. Towards the end there is a ‘staircase’ of light, whirling turns with arms outstretched and strobe like lighting. The final work was Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Constellation, which had Odedra floating dreamlike amongst light globes. He catches one and it glows and pulses as do the other lights, to various degrees and hypnotic effect. Four solos of various moods and styles that showcase Odedra’s astonishing, breathtaking talent , his rippling grace and power. The spontaneous standing ovation at the end was richly deserved. Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5 Rising Aakash Odedra Company Running time: one hour 15 mins (approx) including interval Nritta Choreography and music arranged by Aakash Odedra In the Shadow of Man Choreography: Akram Khan Lighting: Michael Hulls Music: Jocelyn Pook Cut Choreography: Russell Maliphant Lighting: Michael Hulls Music: Andy Cowton Constellation Choreography: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Lighting: Willy Cessa Music: Olga Wojcieowska Lennox Theatre, Parramatta Riverside 5-6 October

The STC's Romeo and Juliet

Here's what I thought for artshubPrint Lead by Eryn Jean Norvill and Dylan Young as the star-crossed lovers, this is a striking and contemporary adaptation. Directed by Kip Williams for the STC, this is a striking and unusual version of Shakespeare’s familiar tale of ‘star crossed’ lovers, lead by Eryn Jean Norvill and Dylan Young and perfect viewing for all young lovers, or those young at heart. The cast is reduced to ten in number, and there are some cuts, conflation and abridgement; it is updated to a contemporary setting and the predominantly younger audience (roughly under 35-ish) absolutely loved it. There is no Duke of Verona shown (although he is mentioned) and the age old duelling and crisis between the two warring houses, while certainly important, is not emphasised. There is no Lady Tybalt either, nor Peter or Friar John, among others. Nor do we meet Romeo’s parents. The production concentrates far more on Romeo and Juliet themselves. Speech patterns and rhythms are of today. In this breathless, fast paced production the generation gap is highlighted – parents don’t understand! – and when love hits, it hits powerfully and for real. Here, Juliet opens and closes the show (with a very tense twist at the end) to great dramatic effect. It is her show; she is the driving force of the narrative come what may. Beautiful Eryn Jean Norvill possibly seems more about 18 rather than the sweet, innocent 14 as indicated in the text, but gives a luminous, enchanting performance. In the ballroom scene she is dizzy with the delight of falling in love; later we see how she faces unexpected responsibilities and events that spiral out of control. The ‘gallop apace you fiery steeds’ speech was tremendously done and the wedding night beautifully, tastefully shown. Juliet knows what she wants and goes and gets it. Romeo becomes her world, but then it tragically implodes... Our hero Romeo was marvellously played by Dylan Young. Passionate and impetuous, everything changes in an instant when he espies Juliet at the ball. The glorious poetry he speaks seems to flow naturally. He is indeed, unfortunately, ‘fortunes fool’ when things go catastrophically wrong. Our star-crossed lovers are an excellently well-matched pair who light up the stage together in two glorious performances. Lady Capulet, Juliet’s mother (Anna Lise Phillips) is here presented as a trophy wife; a tall blonde plastic Barbie doll teetering on high heels. She has an incredible, Evita-like entrance in an astonishing haute couture, over the top, feathery pink evening gown. She is cold, shrill, a busy socialite who expects Juliet to know her place and behave. It is not every day in a production of Romeo and Juliet that you see a hot and sweaty Lord Capulet playing a game of squash with Paris, but that is how we first glimpse Colin Moody as Juliet’s father. He is all power and politics, very concerned with the family name; he dominates and controls Juliet’s life. He has a scary, volcanic temper when Juliet defies him by refusing to marry Paris – this production concentrates on the fight between father and daughter. Paris (Alexander England) is shown as a young, rich, up and coming nobleman/successful businessman. He is energetic, courteous and gentlemanly, as befits his station, and can’t believe his luck when the marriage with Juliet is arranged. He tries to be a gentle, understanding and loving fiancée. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out, and the consequences are fatal. Juliet’s relationship with her nurse (delightfully played by Julie Forsyth) is warm and tender, perhaps far more loving than that with her mother, Lady Capulet. Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt (Josh McConville) is played as a slightly sinister and hot tempered young man, like a football lout out for vengeance against imagined slights. Special mention must also be made of Eamon Farren’s excellent Mercutio and Akos Armont as Benvolio, Romeo’s friends. Young, hot-headed, brash and exuberant brilliant performances bring out the characters’ teasing wildness. Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ speech in particular is excellently done. The drinks and smokes flow easily. Mercutio’s death is shattering and unexpected, yet light work for Tybalt on a sunny afternoon. Trendy, hip Friar Laurence, younger and cooler than usually portrayed, was given a most excellent performance by Mitchell Butel. He tries to help and advise the young lovers and is caught up in a whirlwind of events beyond his control. Particularly in the second half there is bare minimalist staging – a ‘black box’ set, but with very dramatic and effective use of lighting. This contrasted with the more elaborate staging of Act 1 (especially, for example, the Ballroom/Party scene). The first act also features extensive use of the revolve for swift, cinematic scene changes. (The use of the revolve at times can almost make one ill, but you eventually get used to it.) There is no real balcony for Romeo to climb up, and the usually huge market scenes are very sparsely staged. The crypt for Juliet’s burial is indicated by an almost dreamlike flotilla of mattresses and pillows – most effective. An inspired, passionately, excellently performed production. Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5 Romeo and Juliet By William Shakespeare A Sydney Theatre Company production Director: Kip Williams Designer: David Fleischer Lighting Designer: Nicholas Rayment Composer/Sound Designer: Alan John Associate Sound Designer: Nate Edmondson Cast: Akos Armont, Mitchell Butel, Alexander England, Eamon Farren, Colin Moody, Julie Forsyth, Josh McConville, Eryn Jean Norvill, Anna Lise Phillips, Dylan Young Running time: 3 hours (approx) including one interval Sydney Opera House 21 September – 2 November

NT Live's Macbeth

I am a giant Kenneth Branagh fan , this screening of him and Alex Kingston in the Macbeth at Manchester was eagerly awaited. Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide Thrilling, chilling and gripping this is a bold, vivid, magnificently powerful production co-directed by Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston. Tickets to the live season in Manchester as part of the Festival sold out in 9 minutes and it will be touring to New York next year. Here in Sydney we are lucky to see it as part of the NT Live season screenings. The production is set and performed in a deconsecrated church and is full of mud, blood and a very effective use of a huge banks of candles. It is a production that questions faith and belief and belief in the supernatural. There’s a strong stench of corruption in the play and few characters emerge unsullied either metaphorically or literally. The audience sits in the church pews on either side of the long, thin playing space in the middle. Tension is palpable throughout the production which is all about evil and the choices people make, unconsciously or not. Here the Macbeths are presented very much as a loving couple in it together, – at least at first. The Weird Sisters appearance is frightening,- their first appearance makes you jump. (The organ loft above has been converted to a dirty wall, doors slamming) .They are sort of chilling ,blank ,zombie mud spattered creatures that seek to control everything and encourage Macbeth’s downfall . The strident cackles of the demonic trio interrupts the gentle procession of chanting monks below. The Weird sisters plummet us right into the centre of a raging battle in the pouring rain and mud as the play gets off to a whirlwind start. Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth is superb. For a lot of the play it seems as if she is the driving, ambitious force behind it all. Her sleepwalking, well nigh mad scene , played up on the top of the set with a single candle, is chilling and magnificently performed, revealing the nightmares below the glittering surface of the horrendous price she has had to pay in her delirium. Macbeth as played by Branagh has a sense of entitlement and is taking what he regards as his right , as a tested Thane ,with near contempt for untried young men such as Malcolm. His monologues are an internal stream of consciousness of someone who has already made up his mind and is assessing the implications. Branagh’s Macbeth is a spiritually isolated individual lacking spiritual commitment who really believes only in himself. It is this nihilism and inability to connect to others that allows the thane/king to commit atrocities. He is at first full of amicable disbelief at the witches prophecy , then paces alone in anxious thought, hesitates before the ultimate act of betrayal, – here bloodily shown on the altar itself, blotting out surrounding candles – and becomes more explosive and barely sane as events are set in unstoppable motion. Duncan is presented as somewhat younger and stronger than is usually seen, a burly man , a fine, strong performance by John Shrapnel . In this version we see him being awakened, in a trusting gesture, before his grisly murder by Macbeth. Malcolm is presented as Machiavelli like and bearded smooth- faced Alexander Vlahos looks like a Renaissance miniature. Ray Fearon as Macduff gives a magnificent performance, mostly a cold, dangerous warrior, bold and vigorous, but also a loving husband and father. His performance when he crumbles, and is demented with grief and shock at the murder of his wife and family, is heartbreaking. A tense and enthralling version showcasing magnificent acting, NTLive’s production of MACBETH will screen at selected arthouse cinemas on Macbeth starring Kenneth Branagh will screen at selected cinemas on the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd November, 2013. The running time is just on 2 hours 30 minutes without interval.

NT Live - Othello

This was amazing and gripping here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide This most excellent, enthralling, powerful version of Othello by the National Theatre (NT) is superb. Part of the NT Live series celebrating 50 years of the National Theatre in London this production is bleak, brutal and shattering. Under Nicholas Hytner’s stunning, sharp direction the play has been updated to the present and the play reset to two main locations, a large city corporate office and an army barracks. In this version the usual idea that this Shakespeare’s play is dominated by racism is glossed over, rather Hytner heavily concentrates instead on military details and hidden ironies. The set design has wonderful, coldly effective sliding platforms/doors to frame various scenes, a violent arena in which even the scene changes have an aggressive feel. The harsh flood lit sets of concrete and barbed wire slide out from the back of the stage, moving towards the audience like tanks. Staccato bursts of music pump them along, pushing one scene into the next with the sliding/revolving. Helicopters whirr overhead. So central did Hytner consider the military context that he hired Jonathan Shaw, who served in the army for more than 30 years, as an adviser. Hytner is blessed with a tremendous cast especially in the two very strong male leads of Othello and Iago. Adrian Lester gives a towering, magnificent performance as a splendid Othello. Lester was last seen at the National in the title role of Nicholas Hytner’s production of “Henry V.” His screen work includes five series of the BBC’s “Hustle.” His theatre work also includes “Red Velvet” (2012 Critics’ Circle Best Actor Award), “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Company” (Olivier Award), the title role in Peter Brook’s production of “Hamlet” and Rosalind in Cheek by Jowl’s “As You Like It.” . At the beginning he is a well loved top general , a great military man. We see how his trust, and being caught in Iago’s devilish web of machinations, represents his downfall .Charismatic and dignified his speech, his first entrance is sunny and orotund. Men would follow him with his golden voice anywhere. As he murders Desdemona and suicides his eloquence is marvellous and almost terrifying .His jealousy is so intense it makes him vomit. When he succumbs to jealousy he seethes with the sort of fury that causes him to flip a table with a single flick of his wrist…punch holes in the wall. Rory Kinnear as ‘honest’ Iago is also superb, giving a cold, malevolent performance as Othello’s nemesis . Kinnear’s film and TV work includes “Southcliffe,” “Black Mirror: The National Anthem,” and “Skyfall, Quantum of Solace.” His work for the National includes “The Last of the Haussmans” with Julie Walters and the title role in “Hamlet” (Evening Standard Best Actor Award), both of which were broadcast by National Theatre Live. Kinnear’s Iago is ambitious and manipulative with a deadly ,cynical intelligence wearing a false, charming social mask until just before the very end. Kinnear surprises by shocking the audience into laughing at his bitter ingenuity, rather like Richard 111 ,with the monologues drawing us in with even great clarity .Iago air-punches and victory dances when he gets one up on the object of his scorn and hate, plants his feet aggressively apart and helps himself to the water he ‘offered’ Othello when Othello collapses. Iago tries to control his obsessive hate but in the end his hate controls him. Innocent,wronged Desdemona was enchantingly played by Olivia Vinall. In this version she is shown as young, blonde, pretty and determined to have her way as she is desperately in love with Othello. But their two worlds are quite separate – will their marriage survive? She is frail and tiny, chaste and rather out of place in the harsh world of the barracks. Emilia, Iago’s wife (Lyndsey Marshal), is here shown as more Desdemona’s friend rather than her maid. Generally she is rather quiet but, forceful and angry towards the end when protesting Desdemona’s innocence. When Emilia discovers the depths of Iago’s deception and betrayal she becomes a passionate mouse that roars. Jonathan Bailey (recently seen in ITV’s Broadchurch) plays Cassio as very charming but with a deep hidden flaw that Iago exploits, and Tom Robertson’s Roderigo is a believable handsome, elegant dandy. Also of interest is the short film screened at interval on the pressures of army life and the importance of trust between comrades that sheds light on why Othello so wholly believed Iago’s claims against Desdemona. For once, Othello’s credulity is convincing and Iago’s hatred whilst not having a justification does have a possible cause. The tension between the two leads is terrifically calibrated. A stirring, chilling and thrilling production that transfers wonderfully from stage to screen. OTHELLO, part of the NTLive series screened at selected cinemas on the weekend of the 12th and 13th October, 2013. Running time 3 hours and 40 minutes without interval. For more information visit,

Epicentre's Calendar Girls at the Zenith

Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide Epicentre Theatre Company in their current production CALENDAR GIRLS explode onto the stage in a very funny, yet extremely moving production. Belinda Clark the director has a very strong cast and they all give very strong performances. The script is witty and incisive and the story told with great poignancy and humour. Readers might have seen the film version or the stage version at the Theatre Royal in 2010.The plot, if you don’t know already, is developed from real life events: the making of a ‘nude’ calendar by members of a Yorkshire Women’s Institute which became a huge seller in 1999 and raised – and continues to raise, in part thanks to this play – truckloads of money for cancer research and the local hospital . There is much discussion about ‘Nude’ vs ‘Naked’ and is It Art ? ( ‘‘ Naked’ involves detail whereas ‘nudity’ rather suggests ‘). Some of the other issues raised in the play include aging, feminism , love, loss and friendship , and also that of selling oneself short for commercialization , albeit for an extremely good cause – how far do/should you go ? As retired school teacher Jessie ( Sandy Velini) says ‘ the worst thing about age is what you think age expects of you’ and ‘ I have never had a problem with age, my dear, it has had a problem with me’. A mixed group of women – who we learn are variously retired, lonely frustrated, bored searching and all bonded by their dislike for their snobby chairwoman Marie – rally around the grieving Annie (Annabel Cotton), who has lost her husband to leukaemia. Characterization throughout is terrific .There are some very witty one liners , lots of laughs and some excellent , at times rather startling monologues . For the Easter section Melanie Robinson as Ruth dressed as the Easter Bunny is very funny . Chris, the rather outgoing ringleader seduced by media attention and succumbing to the commercialisation is wonderfully played by Wendy Morton . She is great friends with Annie (Annabel Cotton ) . We see their major spat in Act 2 yet their friendship is reforged by the end of the show .Ruth ( Melanie Robinson) is generally rather quiet but turns once she discover the confidence to confront the make up girl Elaine who had an affair with her husband. Celia is a stunning long legged ‘ hot ‘party animal brazenly, lusciously performed by Donna Sizer in a sizzling, magnetic performance . ( what a naughty, stunning Santa’s helper! ) The actual photo shoot at the end of Act 1 , somewhat abridged , is hilarious and very well done , dressing gowns coyly discarded among the tea cakes, iced buns, flowers and vegetables . While claiming to be outrageous the women still manage to be cautious yet flirtatious . Changing is done very discreetly behind photographic light shields and/or drapes and the posing is dramatically, tastefully done . Laughing Dona Sizer as Celia delectably juggles her appendages behind the iced buns with cherry nipples. Christine Firkin as Cora at the piano discreetly gives us an upper torso rear view while Melanie Robinson’s nervous,breathless yet determined Ruth lies enchantingly among a large tub of oranges. The audience absolutely loved it. The climatic speech that opens the second half – the appeal to the WI – is very well done , and we are the WI audience. There are some cameo appearances by Carol Keeble as frightfully elegant ,delightfully snobbish Lady Carvenshire and Mark O’Connor is excellent as Lawrence the photographer in Act 1 . As John, Annie’s husband who has leukaemia, Nick Bolton gives a very powerful and moving performance beautifully , rather gently fading away .Liam in Act 2 is given a fine performance by almost unrecognizable Bolton and Tim Bate is very supportive as Rod . The action is mostly located in the church functioning as a WI hall ( also used as a scouts hall , badminton court etc ) with some wonderful use of projections ( eg for the outdoor tai chi classes and the sunflower remembrance montage at the end ) . There are some other great theatrically inspiring moments – for instance the sudden overhead fluttering arrival of the deluge of letters of support and encouragement . Also the use of the theme of the sunflowers and the huge sunflower field at the end. In Act 2 we see the unexpected stiff battles between the friends at the Women’s Institute and wonder how they cope with their sudden , unexpected fame.Or in fact do they handle it well ? A wickedly warm , inspirational and yet poignant show . 2014 Calendars are being sold to raise money for the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation . Running time 2 hours 30 (approx) including interval CALENDAR GIRLS runs at the Zenith Theatre 11-196 October 2013

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Way of All Fish

Another exciting Fringe show I saw ... here's what I said for artshub Lynne Lancaster Friday 20 September, 2013 Two very strong performances feature in this caustic battle of wills by Elaine May, presented as part of the Sydney Fringe. Two very strong performances feature in this caustic battle of wills by Elaine May, presented at the Old Fitz as part of this year’s Sydney Fringe. The Way of All Fish imagines a drunken Friday night ‘quiet dinner’ between a dominating, nitpicking boss from Hell, Ms Margaret Asquith (Sarah Farmer) and her underpaid, possibly psychotic secretary, Miss Joan Riverton (Hailey McQueen), and uses black humour to reveal strange happenings in a modern day office. What begins with a minor request about an exercise elastic becomes a catalyst for a surprising sparring match. It is a man’s world, as Margaret bemoans; soon we learn about the sex lives of fish who change gender in order to survive. The two women circle each other warily, snapping like sharks. Small objects such as a nail file become potentially lethal weapons. Impressions of a posh penthouse office (in this Sydney version, in Martin Place) are artfully conveyed with flexible use of interchangeable white cubes and a large white desk. The soundtrack is very eclectic. Farmer and McQueen give delicious, excellent performances. As Margaret, Farmer opens the show, displaying her strength and agility as she exercise. Later she appears elegantly dressed in an orange top with lace and a black and gold jacket. We then see her dominating personality as she ticks off Joan, her secretary, for a minor misdemeanour. Unexpected cancelations of events lead to them ordering food and having a ‘night in’. Over the course of the evening, as both of them put away lots of wine, Margaret confesses she is blinkered, only seeing what is right in front of her and how awkward this can be. Educated in Switzerland, she is ambitious and somewhat self centred and it sounds as if she is caught in a cold, unhappy marriage. Joan, her secretary, disparages her boss’s personal trainer and exercise routine. We learn that Joan is from Wagga Wagga and surprisingly knowledgeable about wine, but claims not to know who Dostoevsky is. But the big themes of the play are developed in Joan’s drunken confessions about her younger self wanting to be famous and her fascination – almost obsession – with murder and how one murders to become famous. Joan’s thoughts are chillingly portrayed – is she in fact slightly mad? Does she poison Margaret with the wine? Do both of them survive? The Way of All Fish explores the appearance of strength and power – how many boxes of office files can Joan (or Margaret) lift? How many push-ups can each do? How much power does each woman really wield over the other? May’s script is witty, biting and sarcastic, and features some great one liners. The packed audience really enjoyed this show and laughed in all the right places. But on your way out, please do not feed the fish. Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5 The Way of All Fish By Elaine May Presented by Lumi Theatre and SITC Director: Kylie Bonaccorso Stage Manager: Neridah Morris Cast: Sarah Farmer and Hailey McQueen Running time: one hour (approx) no interval The Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo 17-21 September Sydney Fringe Festival 6-29 September

Twisted Element's Gothica

This was brilliant ! part of the Sydney Fringe Lynne Lancaster Monday 30 September, 2013 An abstract exploration through dance of humanity’s journey of spirit during a time of emergence from the dark into the light. For one night only, those of us lucky enough to attend were treated to this great show, a world premiere as part of the Sydney Fringe. Directed and choreographed by Angela Hamilton Hill, who also performed in the work, Twisted Element Dance Company’s Gothica claims to be a ‘contemporary dance theatre work incorporating dynamic, physical choreography within a dreamy collage of the Medieval/Renaissance period’. I would have said, however, that it seemed to be set more in the 19th century, when the Romantic themes of vampires were in vogue. The work, which attempts to explore human drives, relationships, emotions, their passions and desires in all their complexity and beauty, begins in a rather traditional way with a lovely young lady discovering and beginning to read a book. But the book is a collection of spells and nightmare visions... There was no real plot as such – other than the young maiden opening and reading the book – rather a series of short vignettes and a dreamlike, haunted mood, at times lyrical, sometimes chilling. The ensemble consisted of very strong performers, made up with vampire-like eyes. The women wore black tops with beautifully designed, specially cut skirts that had a peplum/bustle like effect at the back, but which flowed wonderfully. Hamilton Hills’ choreography was unusual and very demanding. Were there hints of Graeme Murphy in a couple of tiny phrases of movement? It was ballet based but contemporary in style, with a twist. There was lots of rolling floorwork, at certain points undulating yet angular arms, a martial arts-like segment and a use of the deep Graham plie. Some of the lifts were quite challenging. One scene was possibly a harsh quarrel between lovers – or was it that he was being poisoned? In another brief scene, a doll-like female dancer is being manipulated and controlled – this leads to a pas de quatre with most intriguing lifts and balances. Some sections featured a mysterious, rather ominous and threatening atmosphere; at one point it was as if the dancers were celebrating a dark ritual. In another scene, one of the women was tethered to a long, stretchy piece of material and unsuccessfully trying to escape, but was guarded and reined in by one of the men. In another short scene the three men (all topless, in black leggings) performed a very strong athletic trio, showing off their strength and agility. Gothica was performed with minimal staging; no real sets as such, just black drapes/flats, combined with very effective, dramatic and atmospheric lighting that ranged from a golden glow to blood red. The end result was a compelling, mesmerizing work; a mix of athletic pas de deux and ominous swirling forms, an abstract exploration of humanity’s journey of spirit during a time of emergence from the dark into the light. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Gothica Twisted Element Dance Company Director/choreographer: Angela Hamilton Hill Dancers: Angela Hamilton Hill, Courtney Horton, Aimee O’Conner, Kate Vane-Tempest, Cameron Forwood, Cassandra Crone, Natasha Newling, Wayde Gee and Jodie Toogood Running time an hour (approx) no interval The Forum, Leichhardt 22 September Sydney Fringe 6-29 September

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Slutterati a great show here's my thoughts for artshub Part of the Sydney Fringe, SLUTTERATI by Michael Gottsche has been developed with the assistance of the New Theatre where it is currently being performed. Under Louise Fischer’s sure direction, the excellent cast bring to life the biting, satirical script (which – warning – has lots of strong language) .The narrative is told clearly and the plot structure is quite strong. SLUTTERATI lampoons the narcissistic obsessiveness of the age of ‘celebrity’ and with a dark twist reveals a delicate personal story hidden underneath the superficial world of vanity and ambition. Who (if anyone) can you really trust? It is about the continual rise of gossip as ‘news’ and its insidious omnipresence in today’s society, how ‘news’ is not simple reportage of major events but in synch with commercial sponsorship. The set is quite sparse, – a sofa, several TVs, a desk and chairs. The scene changes, and there are lots of quick scene changes, are handled very smoothly, and in a quite cinematic way. Very handsome Matt Charleston gives a strong performance as Dan Paul Newman, a TV presenter who is caught in a world of rather inane TV programs, B Grade celebrity colleagues and boring parties. In the lead up to the Olympics, Newman wants to remind people he once was a top Olympic swimmer. But in a wave of a series of embarrassing scandals he discovers how quickly and easily his reputation can be smashed and his career crashes badly. It is all about ‘face’ and manipulation of the media as organised through Clark, his manager. Can the situation be saved? There is a sharp, almost Brechtian ‘nightmare’ scene, very well presented, where everything in Newman’s world comes crashing down. Stephen Wilkinson as Clark, Newman’s likable yet seedy, quite shady manager with a criminal background, gives the play some of its tensest moments. He brings a feeling of urgency to the story and makes us believe that the stakes are very high. Others in the cast include Rebecca Clay who plays Talia-Jayne, an early-evening commercial television presenter colleague of Newman’s, who regards herself as a serious journalist. With a toothy smile she certainly confidently looks the part, yet underneath is constantly aware of her superficiality .Her elegant, blow-waved, narcissistic self importance is underlined with a hint of caring phoniness. As Angela, his harassed first agent, Jorjia Gillis was terrific. The cleaner, Lily, who gets to know Dan Paul quite intimately, yet at the same time not at all, was well played by Kate Skinner. The theoretical division between Personal and Professional lives and confidentiality was stressed .And Amy Fisher was terrific as Amy Dunn, whose kiss and tell TV interview, sparks a crisis. A timely, very cutting analysis and critique of current media issues. Running time 75 minutes straight through. Michel Gottsche’s SLUTTERATI ran at the New Theatre, King Street, Newtown between September 19 and 23, 2013.

Madame Butterfly

This was part of the Sydney Fringe here's what I said on artshub Monday 16 September, 2013 Choreographers Martin and Michelle Sierra present an intriguing and original take on the famous story for Sydney Fringe. Sydney audiences were privileged to see Melbourne Dance Theatre’s version of Madame Butterfly as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. The production, which premiered at the Adelaide Fringe, is not your traditional ‘pretty pretty’ version by any means; rather, it claims to be a fusion of contemporary and neo-expressionist dance. Taking the story of John Luther Long’s book, made famous by the Puccini opera, this production tells the story in a pared down, almost abstract way, with minimal but very effective staging, impressive lighting, and a small cast. It is performed to a recorded soundtrack featuring the steady buzz of insects, rhythmic Japanese works and harsh, insistent drumming, and includes variations on two of the famous pieces from the Puccini opera: the humming chorus and ‘Un Bel Di’, as well as the Mendelsohn wedding march. The cast is excellent and technically the dancing is terrific. However, there is little real character development. Sierra’s choreography is ballet-based to a degree (no pointe work though) yet there is a major ‘contemporary’ influence too. Influenced by the German Expressionist Dance background in a style they call ‘Ausdrucktanz’, it’s a mix of intricate partnering, fluid classical ballet and contemporary dance fusion, with lots of unusual acrobatic lifts in the pas de deux , some quite ‘Bolshoi’ in style, with sometimes gymnastic contortions in leg and upper body extensions and lots of rolling floor work. In the lifts there was an emphasis on the long sizzling line of the extended leg. Some of the choreography, however, was stilted and repetitive. The ensemble unison work was excellent and performed with great energy and commitment. Visually the main theme was red. There was a very dramatic opening against a red floor and backcloth by Josh Twee – a powerful solo that included martial arts and breakdancing – and at Butterfly’s death she became a column of red, the cloth folded around her, Kabuki-like: visually, most exciting. Cho Cho San (Butterfly) was exquisitely danced in a dynamic performance by Yuiko Masukawa. Pinkerton, clad in a blinding naval white uniform, was terrifically danced by Michael Pappalardo. Their duets were intriguing with some quite difficult lifts. Kristina Bettinotti as Suzuki was caring and supportive. The ensemble of the Corps were also fine performers in their multiple roles. However , I found the final ‘Metamorphosis’ section, with all of the cast clad suddenly in black leotards with short white semi-transparent jackets, one moment performing cutting edge contemporary phrases of movement in the style of Lucy Guerin, and the next barefoot ballet in a cross between Giselle and La Bayadere a bit confusing and unsatisfactory. Were they all meant to be Butterfly’s spirit? This aside, Melbourne Dance Theatre’s production was an intriguing, very different take on the famous story. Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5 Melbourne Dance Theatre presents Madame Butterfly Concept and direction: Martin Sierra Choreography: Martin Sierra and Michelle Sierra Stage and Technical: Elizabeth Tori Cast: Yuiko Masukawa, Michael Pappalardo, Ashley Braybrook, Kristina Bettinotti, Martin Sierra, Elizabeth Tori, Emma Fildes, Olivia Montebello , Jocelyn Yee and Josh Twee Running time: One hour (approx) no interval The Forum, Leichardt 14-15 September Sydney Fringe Festival 6-29 September

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Andris Toppe and Leo Schofield

A great talk as organsied by the wonderful Friends of the Australian Ballet Lucky Friends of the Australian Ballet were very privileged to hear two great men of Australian theatre give a talk on a delightful evening at the excellent Waterfront restaurant. Stunning Harbour views provided a glorious backdrop for the talk in the Trawler and Heritage rooms .Delicious canapés were served ranging from hot and spicy mini salads to mini pies, rice balls and spinach and cheese puffs amongst other things. The wine flowed freely. Dapper Chairman of the Friends Greg Khoury introduced both speakers to an appreciative audience. Andris Toppe Andris Toppe is a multitalented dancer, choreographer and teacher, a Renaissance man of the theatre, who declared that colour and movement has been his life. His talk was entitled, ‘Variations on a Career in Dance’. He has travelled the world in a career encompassing classical ballet, contemporary dance, cabaret films, opera, puppetry, television, theatre and ice skating. Andris has performed with Ballet Victoria and both the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company amongst others as well as Les Grands Ballets Canadians including three seasons of their hit ‘Tommy’. He was the personal coach of Torvill and Dean, working on all their world tours between 1985 and 1998, –yes Andris can skate – and Ballet Master and Company Manager for various ballet companies including the Sydney Dance Company for many years and also the tour of the Paris Opera Ballet earlier this year. Using an excellent Powerpoint presentation, we learnt about his Latvian background, saw photos of Fonteyn and Nureyev when they were with the Australian Ballet … and the way Nureyev’s explosion onto the scene changed everything for male dancers. Andris talked about lots of the tours he has been on with the various companies he has worked for, his encounters with snow (Having to dig his way into his home after performances in Montreal, Canada when performing with Les Grandes Ballets Canadians ) he mentioned Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov who he worked with ( especially in their ‘Giselle’) : we saw photos of Andris in various productions of ‘The Nutcracker’ for assorted companies ( both traditional and non , and especially Graeme Murphy’s for the Australian Ballet ), and also saw him in ‘Glimpses’ , ‘Sequenza’ ,’Poppy’ and ‘Shades of Grey’ for Sydney Dance. There were wonderful rehearsal and performance photos of Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon. Also we saw his work with the Queensland Ballet (Asenbach in ‘Death in Venice’) , various works he has choreographed ( eg ‘Suite for a Lonely Child’), his touring with Julie Anthony , his trip to Darwin with Kookaburra Pond ( an Australianised version of’ Swan Lake’. He has also played Madge the witch in ‘La Sylphide’. He also talked about working with the Cuban National Ballet and Alicia Alonso in ‘Giselle ‘.We also briefly heard about the Japanese tour of ‘Swan Lake’ by the Australian Ballet .Andris then briefly talked about his work with the Hamburg Opera and Ballet, the Bolshoi recent tour and the recent Paris Opera Ballet tour and other things including meeting Bette Midler. Finally he mentioned his work at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne where he is Duty Manager. Busy isn’t the word! Leo Schofield Leo Schofield, who is renowned as one of the great arts practitioners in this country, gave a jovial ‘off the cuff ‘ ‘talk entitled, ‘How I got over Opera and learned to love Dance’. Leo was born in a small country town called Brewarrina, literally the ‘back of Bourke’. The first live theatre he ever saw was a production of Princess Ida at the old Theatre Royal and Leo was hooked. To him, opera and ballet are ‘acts of faith’. Although he saw performances by the Borovansky Ballet, (in particular, he remembers Borovansky as the Magician in a version of ‘Petroushka ‘) Opera was his major passion, but gradually he came to appreciate dance too. As he moved on from Verdi to Wagner and Strauss he also moved from the occasional Royal Ballet performance (most notably Bronislavia Nijinska’s re-staging of Les Biches, which he regards as one of the definitive performances of his life) to a deeper involvement presenting some of the great companies for the first time in Australia. Leo talked about the Royal Ballet performances and New York City Ballet dancers he had seen including Jacques D’Amboise and Allegra Kent. Leo has co produced the first tours to Australia by The Paris Opera Ballet, The National Ballet of Cuba, the Hamburg Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra, and the first full tour by the Bolshoi Ballet. He has just announced the first ever tour to Australia by American Ballet Theatre to Brisbane’s QPAC. Leo has been director of Festivals across Australia including the Melbourne Festival and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Mention was made of when he was director of the Melbourne Festival (in which he said he has been regarded in three phases, – villain, hero and traitor. He concluded with a long , convoluted story about how, after many years of trying, he was finally able to bring the Paris Opera Ballet to Australia. Both mentioned Ian Mcrae in their dealings with the Paris Opera Ballet in particular and both spoke with great personal passion. Proceedings were officially concluded with Leo drawing the various raffle prizes and there was time for talk afterwards. This Friends of the Australian Ballet talk by Andris Toppe and Leo Schofield was a special one off dinner event held at the Waterfront Restaurant, 27 Circular Quay West, The Rocks on Wednesday 18 Sept 2013.

Iolanthe at the Zenith

a very good show here's my thought as on Sydney Arts Guide Once upon a time, at a theatre near you, (be quiet, frogs!) the Savoy Arts Company presented a joyous production of IOLANTHE… First performed in 1882 , IOLANTHE is not as often performed as the ‘Big three’ of the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire ( ‘The Pirates of Penzance ‘,’ HMS Pinafore’ ,’ The Mikado’) and has a rather silly plot of fairies , peers of the realm, broken Fairy law and long lost love, amongst other things. There is also a Shakespearean like revelation scene towards the end but overall a somewhat Pantomime feel to this production which also exemplified the Romantic ideals of the day. It can be read as a deep political satire commenting on British government and law, power politics and corruption. (And was updated with Australian political comments too in the performance) . Director Janette Herok has guided the production with a light, sure touch. There is bare, minimalist staging, – incorporating just a low small raised set of steps /platform and some drapes. The production begins as a story told by the Fairy Queen ( very ballet class like in style ) and there is a fun prologue to the overture , that includes some very young fairies and some little silver and pink scooters . Under the excellent, enthusiastic direction of Stephen Malloch the orchestra played Sullivan’s delicious music well. The orchestra was quite squashed in the pit , the timpani spilling out stage left .Overall vocally and musically it was tremendous ,although there were a couple of points where the singers were temporarily drowned out by the music. If you listen carefully ,you can pick tiny musical phrases very similar to ones from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ ,’ The Mikado ‘,’ HMS Pinafore ‘, ‘Yeomen of the Guard’ and ‘The Gondoliers’ in Sullivan’s score , which is to be expected from the of the fourteen operas Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on . Beauteous blonde Brigitte Martin as Iolanthe is stunning and sings superbly. She is captivating, sparkling and enchanting (no wonder the Lord Chancellor was enthralled). Generally she is joyously light and airy as befits a Fairy (she wears a wonderful green costume) and her pleading solo towards the end of Act2 ( My Lord ,a suppliant at your feet ) is quite sad, dark and heartrending . Bravo Our Fairy Queen, Anna McDougall, was tall and imposing , darkly commanding She wore an elegant long white gown with long flowing sleeves and silver makeup including on her eyelashes, and her outfit included a silver fish scale like corset front .At one point she wears a horned silver and white helmet like a Valkyrie. Her solo in Act 2 ‘O Foolish Fay’ was very moving . As the Lord Chancellor, Dean Sinclair is superb, a magnificent performance in the style of a Dennis Olsen or Christopher Hamilton. Sinclair is very elegant and ultra refined in his imposing black costume and wig. Yes he is lovesick (supposedly) but he is also very prim and proper. There are hints of Pooh Bah from The Mikado , especially in his ‘When I Went to the Bar’ in Act 1. His ‘Nightmare song’ in Act 2 was brilliantly done, quite tormented. And the trio “If you go in you’re sure to win” in Act 2, with Lords Lord Tolloller and Mountararat, stops the show uproariously. Our young, dark glowing heroine Phyllis was well sung and acted by Jessica Di Bartolo. A vision of loveliness, she was exquisite in her floral outfits. Strephon our hero was delightfully sung by handsome Anthony Mason in fine voice. He deals with the awkward fairy double entrendes very well. His light and clear yet strong tenor is perfect for the role and his solos and ensembles are terrifically performed. Lord Tolloller and Mountarat are wonderfully sung by Gordon Costello and Michel Handy in fine, showy performances. ‘Beefeater ‘Private Willis was excellently sung by Michael Bond (noteworthy for his solo opening Act 2 ‘”When all night long a chap remains “ ) and helping to provide the happy ending . The Fairy chorus was delightful and very well handled by Glenda Percival. The men’s chorus of assorted peers was in thrilling voice and very lavishly costumed (Their appearance in full Parliamentary regalia in Act 2 is hilarious). This was a most enchanting production. The running time was 2 hours and 40 minutes including one interval. IOLANTHE runs at the Zenith Theatre, Corner Mcintosh and Railway Streets, Chatswood until September 14, 2013.

Happy As Larry

Here's what I said on artshub Print Email  Email to a friend Your email Please enter a valid email Your name Please enter your name Friend's email Please enter a valid email Friend's name Please enter your friend's name Add a message Hi, I thought you might be interested in this Please enter your message Close Related Articles The Graduate Freeze Frame Love in the Key of Britpop Run Girl Run Monday 16 September, 2013 Shaun Parker's choreographed response to one of life's big questions - what is happiness? - returned to Sydney for a short season. Happiness: how do you define it, and how do different people respond to it in varying degrees? How is it achieved? These are big questions and Shaun Parker perhaps has a few answers, based rather loosely on the ‘Enneagram’, Claudio Naranjo’s personality classification system which identifies nine types of people: the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Performer, the Tragic Romantic, the Observer, the Devil’s Advocate, the Optimist, the Boss, and the Mediator. Originally commissioned by the Australian Major Festivals Initiative, Parker’s Happy as Larry has toured to multiple festivals, and also visited 11 cities across France and the UK (including a sold out season on London’s West End) since its Sydney Festival debut in 2010. A sense of darkness lurks around the edges of this seemingly joyous work, which in this 2013 version begins with dancer Timothy Ohl with his back to us, drawing – on one part of a black wall stretching across the stage – a symmetrical square of stick figures, above which he then writes ‘You’ and an arrow pointing down, then a lone figure, and ‘Me’. An arc of balloons suddenly rises behind the wall, contrasting joyfully with the wall’s sombre darkness. Ohl presses a chalk switch he has drawn and voila! the stage lights come up and the rest of the cast enter. He presses another chalk switch and Nick Wales and Bree van Reyk’s soundtrack begins. They have developed a continuously morphing electronic score which features strong use of strings, quite lyrical in parts, as well as electronic booms, beeps and whistles, and finally a most exciting ‘beat’ number. Choreographically, Happy as Larry combines a free-flowing mix of classical ballet (its base), ordinary everyday movements, parkour, jazz, roller-skating, breakdancing, hip hop, acrobatics and highly physical contemporary dance which at times seems actually quite dangerous. The ensemble of dancers are very talented and also a diverse range of race, gender and body types, combining superb dancing and theatrical ability with a common joyous exuberance. The co-operative feats of counter point, balance, strength and dramatic interaction are agilely performed and most impressive. Jana Castillo as ‘The Performer’, after some breezy and scintillating demonstrations of ballet technique, suddenly finds her legs crumple beneath her; a similar event occurs to the athletic Joshua Thomson, who collapses after entertaining his colleagues (and the audience) with spectacular handstands, backflips, balances and turns. Roller-skater Lewis Rankin has some somewhat alarming crashes to the floor, but later a delighted high speed circling of the stage, and some good fun on pointe. Parker’s choreography includes a rich variety of styles, and the dancers respond with their acute rhythmic and dramatic sense, moving fluidly and easily through the work. There’s tenderness, too – in particular in a sequence where Ohl traces on the wall around the arms, head and body of Sophia Ndaba with his chalk as she entwines herself around him. And the male duets are sensational. Lyrical exuberance, of which there’s plenty, is contrasted with subtle melancholy. For example a girl dances happily while Ohl completes a big gold star on the wall. Thrilled, she jumps up and down against it, but then on turning discovers she has smudged it all with her hair. Pushed halfway back on the stage the double-sided revolving wall (designed by Adam Gardnir) is shifted around to change scenes, climbed up, leapt from, sat on top of, skated around, hung off and gradually filled with chalk drawings and words, graffiti like, on one side. Lighting Designer Luiz Pampolha has devised a complex design that highlights the lyricism and tension of this energetic performance. Joy is coagulated with fear in this work, and an ominous mood of foreboding pervades – fear of other people, fear of risks, of ageing, of revealing vulnerabilities, of being rejected. The cast sometimes struggle to relate to one another, depicting in a series of interactions and encounters the theme that the obstacle to happiness is often deep within ourselves. There is a serious message to this work – life is not all joy. We are on Earth and are sometimes injured. Happy as Larry is serious, tense, light-hearted, playful funny and chameleon-like, and advises us to continue in life’s journey. With our friends. Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5 Happy As Larry Director/Choreographer Shaun Parker Production Manager Guy Harding Music: Nick Wales and Bree van Reyk Dancers: Craig Barry, Jana Castillo, Toby Derrick, Josh Mu, Libby Zyrel Montilla, Sophia Ndaba, Timothy Ohl, Marnie Palomares, Lewis Rankin, Joshua Thomson Running time: 1 hour 20 (approx) no interval Seymour Centre, Chippendale 10-14 September