Thursday, 17 January 2013

Murder at the Seymour Centre

A very strange and chilling show , part of the Sydney Festival
Here's my artshub review

‘How shall I kill thee? Let me count the ways.’

Presented by Erth, the marvellous company that has previously staged I, Bunyip and Dinosaur Petting Zoo, this violent puppet show show is definitely not for children. Very strange, very dark, it’s a bizarre Surrealist nightmare, a confronting but engaging rhapsody on death.

Employing songs by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds songs as a foundation, the production asks: are we really more ‘civilised’ than our ancestors who packed the Coliseum in ancient Rome? Or the crowds at medieval public executions? Given our own current media’s hyping of serial killers via popular ‘real crime’ TV series, how far has our society progressed from those periods where thousands were killed annually in the name of entertainment?

Violent computer games, Ivan Milat, and the Strathfield murders are referenced in Murder, and the distinction between illusion and reality is deliberately blurred. Do we accept and allow what is depicted in computer games because we know it is a ‘game’ and not real, the production seems to ask? The work also features some graphic, troubling sex scenes that lead to yet more deaths; women are shown as objects to be raped, bashed, tortured and killed as all the while the men in their lives protest their ‘love’. Another scene depicts a mother sadly and lovingly smothering her very ill child.

The main villain is a puppet character called Stagger Lee, as in the song. Erth present him as an amoral mobster dressed in a red coat and fedora with an artificial, oversized grin. (At one point he is represented by just a grinning set of teeth.)

Erth’s puppetry, with the use of the Japanese-style ‘koken’ (puppeteers who are fully visible to the audience but dressed in black in order to be ‘hidden’ from view) is sensational. In some parts the work is reminiscent of French master Philippe Genty. The puppets themselves range from small to life size and include a faceless small child and a voluptuous woman in a red dress, among others.

Our excellent narrator, ‘real live’ actor Graeme Rhodes, is also manipulated by the koken as if a puppet. He has some brilliant, chilling monologues. Is Rhodes’ character as narrator also a murderer, hiding bodies in suitcases under the bed? Are the scenes towards the end featuring him talking to a small child actually him talking to his younger, frightened self?  

The set design, again by the Erth team, appears heavy and solid but is quite fluid and flexible. There is a fridge, a stove, a bed, a large table – all of which vanish, slide in and out and return. Rhodes has a spectacular entrance through the fridge. There are also floating panels that are used as projection screens. (Some of the red landscape photography is stunning and I also liked the forest drawings.) Flickering strobe lighting is used as well as dry ice ‘fog’.

The work’s astonishing puppetry, excellent live acting and computer effects were successfully blended in a rather over the top, Grand Guignol way, to shock and disturb any would–be complacent viewer with its confronting message. A macabre, challenging, and blistering indictment of our current society’s morals.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Inspired by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads
Concept and Direction: Scott Wright
Writer: Raimondo Cortese
Design: Steve Howarth and the Erth team
Sound and Lighting: Phil Downing
Choreography: Kate Champion (courtesy Force Majeure)
Puppetry Director: Rod Primrose
Lighting Consultant: Neil Simpson
Performers: Graeme Rhodes, Rod Primrose, Michelle Robin Anderson, Gavin Clarke and Katina Olsen
Musicians: Eileen Hodgkins, Chas Glover, Ivan Jordan and Phil Downing

The Reginald, Seymour Centre
5 – 19 January

Sydney Festival 2013
5 – 27 January

Belvoir Peter Pan

a marvellous performance what a great start to this year's season

Geraldine Hakewill, Megan Holloway, Harriet Dyer, John Leary, Paula Arundell, Jimi Bani & Gareth Davies. Photo by Brett Boardman.
This new production of the much loved JM Barrie classic is being performed to packed houses and a rapturous reception at Belvoir St’s upstairs theatre. The now traditional plot and storyline have been kept, but the story has been marvellously updated and transposed to the Australian suburbs of the 1980’s.

Playwright Tommy Murphy has adapted Barrie’s original 1904 pantomime; his script also draws upon the 1911 novella Peter and Wendy and the moving epilogue, When Wendy Grows Up, and wonderfully captures the story’s air of childlike innocence, enchantment, and imagination.

The production is in some ways low tech (except for the special lighting effects) and it is performed in the style of the previous Belvoir/Theatre of Image collaboration, The Book of Everything. Robert Cousins’ set, a cluttered children’s bedroom, fluidly transforms with the simplest of props to become everything from dangerous rocks to a pirate ship, a lagoon, rolling seas and lolling mermaids with scuba flipper fins. Wonderful fun.

It is also funny towards the end when the Lost Boys arrive at the Darlings like a line of washing hanging out the window .The ‘flying’ is joyously handled, using our imagination. Much fun is also had with the use of percussion, bells and lighting; pitched battles and Tinker Bell are each brought to life in this way.

The children behind me absolutely loved it and there was lots of laughter from all in the audience throughout. There is fine ensemble acting by all, and the cast have a marvellous time, joyously playing assorted children, Lost Boys and pirates. There is a running sight gag with the ‘twins’, while special mention must be made of John Leary as both the paper-hat wearing Smee and Nana, as well as Megan Holloway as Michael and Tiger Lily. Paula Arundell is terrific as the loving Mrs Darling, and also in her other roles.

The terribly handsome Charlie Garber has a wonderful time as the sternly loving and put-upon Mr Darling, and hogs the limelight as the delightfully wicked Captain Hook. Magnificent! His plaintive monologue, lamenting that no children want to play him as they all want to play Peter, is rather sad and gains our sympathy. He also has an exquisite and lyrical description of the definition of the word ‘Mother’.

As Wendy, the tallest, oldest, rather bossy child, who is adopted by the Lost Boys as their ‘mother’, Geraldine Hakewill is terrific, with rather prim elocution.

Meyne Wyatt as Peter is outstanding. He is confident and mischievous (‘Oh the cleverness of me!’), a rather strange loner who never wants to grow up. There is a feeling of alienation and otherworldly-ness in his portrayal. (His entrance via the window is tremendous). Gareth Davies has great fun as Peter’s shadow and is delightful as Slightly.   

On one level, the play can be read as a search for one’s lost mother – even the hardened adults like Hook desperately want one. So, given this is Australia of the 1980’s, could the Lost Boys be part of the Stolen Generation? It is also all about the fragile innocence of childhood – Peter doesn’t want to go to school; he just wants to be a boy and have fun all the time.

Children will tap into this production because of the emphasis on imagination and play. For those of us now unable to fly because of adult cares, Peter Pan can provide a poignant revisiting of our long vanished childhood. If you haven’t already treated yourself, book now.

‘And so it will go on, as long as children are young, innocent and heartless...’

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Peter Pan
By J.M. Barrie
Adapted by Tommy Murphy
Director: Ralph Myers
Set Designer: Robert Cousins
Costume Designer: Alice Babidge
Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper
Composer & Sound Designer: Stefan Gregory
Assistant Director: Isaac Drandic
Fight Director: Scott Witt
Choreographer: Sara Black
Cast: Paula Arundell, Jimi Bani, Gareth Davies, Harriet Dyer, Charlie Garber, Geraldine Hakewill, Megan Holloway, John Leary and Meyne Wyatt

Belvoir St, Surry Hills
5 January – 10 February


a very strange way to start the year and the Sydney Festival !
Here's my thoughts for artshub

Sacre - The Rite of Spring. Photo: Rosa Frank.
There have been many versions of Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s groundbreaking Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) since its tumultuous premiere one hundred years ago – Macmillan, Bausch, Massine, Prelcolaj and Tankard’s versions spring to mind instantly, to name just a few. Given this is the production’s centenary year, it is great to see another version of this towering work – one that is striking and original – presented as part of the Sydney Festival.

Created in 2004, this is the Australian premiere of German writer turned choreographer Raimund Hoghe’s Sacre – The Rite of Spring. Extremely intense, sparse and minimalistic, it opens with a 1963 voiceover of Stravinsky recalling the riotous opening night of Le Sacre du Printemps in 1913, and closes with another voiceover, describing his return to the rooms where he wrote the famous score.

Hoghe, a portrait artist, performer, dramaturg and writer, worked for years with the legendary Pina Bausch. He has created several original group works across his career as well as re-workings of seminal dance works such as Bolero and Swan Lake. Hoghe is of slight build, middle aged and a hunchback. In his version of Sacre, his distinct physicality is contrasted with the tall, young and athletic Lorenzo De Brabandere .The completely different ways their bodies move adds yet another aspect to this work.

Hoghe is clad in formal theatrical black, de Brabandere in casual t-shirt and track pants. The same goes for the pianists – are the meant to be alter-egos for the dancers or vice-versa? Much attention is paid to the mathematics, counts and rhythms behind the score, which drives Hoghe’s choreography. Sometimes the dancers go ‘against’, it but mostly they are immersed inside it.   

The live soundtrack for the work is the two piano score version; Guy Vandromme and Alain Franco play Stravinsky’s liquid yet spiky, relentless, fiendishly complicated and driving score superbly, from two pianos placed at the rear of the stage, which is otherwise bare save for a small plastic container of water and a small potted shrub.
Choreographically, Sacre opens quietly, the two dancers lying in an ‘l’ shape and subtly raising their legs. As the work progresses, Hoghe’s choreography is sometimes circular. A limping shuffle is contrasted with powerful, explosive runs and jumps. Intimate frozen leaning sculptural tableaux are also featured. There is also a strange ritualistic, repetitive feel to the work, including prostration and prayer. In various sections the performers intently observe and mirror and/or echo each other.

The piece also features the use of water (the water of life?) used almost baptismally; at another point there is an intimate – but here not really emotionally moving – manipulation of a ‘dead’ body. Some of the choreography is possibly reminiscent of Rafael Bonachela’s early work for Rambert.

At one point it is as if the artists are like heavy trees in spring; another section features a difficult, upside-down lift. There are also yoga influences. Are we meant to read anything into the symbolism of the clock/metronome-like movement (time?) and the square of red cloth? (An allusion to the red dress in Bausch’s version?)

Despite all this, there is no sense of interaction with the audience; all is coolly neutral and impassive. Often, the dance and the music had the feeling of being two separate parts rather than joining together, and the choreography, with its basic, simplistic, repetitive mirroring didn’t really go anywhere or inspire. For a work such as Sacre the production needs to be gripping, compelling and huge, and this wasn’t. The various elements, while interesting in and of themselves, didn’t gel – the result, overall, was rather alienating.

As one of the major opening works of this year’s Sydney Festival, Sacre – The Rite of Spring was somewhat of a disappointment. Some academic dance theorists might love it, but there were walkouts, with some audience members ranting in disbelief in the foyer at the show’s conclusion. While I was disappointed, I would be very interested to see some of Hoghe’s later works.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Sacre – The Rite of Spring
Concept: Raimund Hoghe
Choreography and dance: Raimund Hoghe, Lorenzo De Brabandere
Artistic collaboration: Luca Giacomo Schulte
Piano: Guy Vandromme, Alain Franco
Stage and light: Raimund Hoghe
Technical director: Johannes Sundrup
Carriageworks, Eveleigh
5 – 8 January

Sydney Festival 2013
5 – 27 January

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Royal Ballet's Swan Lake

I saw this just before Christmas it was excellent
Here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide

The grandeur of the Royal Ballet

Filmed at the Royal Opera House in London, this is part of the thrilling Palace Opera and Ballet season and is a terrific recording of the current Royal Ballet version of that most romantic of ballets SWAN LAKE.

This is the version I saw several times when I lived in London. The photography is terrific and it transfers very effectively from stage to screen.

The production is opulent and spectacular with the lavish multi layered and textured sets designed by Yolanda Sonnabend .The palace and some of the eerie, atmospheric drop curtains are fascinating and I was also impressed by the use of the giant mirror in the background for Act 3.

The show is a very traditional version, with some of the choreography reworked by Ashton and Bintley. The Ashton style is obvious in his Neapolitan dance in Act 3 , also the fiddly fleet footwork elsewhere, and for example the use of ribbons similar to his LA FILLE MA GARDEE. There is a reworking of Act 4, particularly with the use of music. The orchestra, under the dynamic, imposing leadership of Boris Gruzin is excellent. Act 2 with the ‘White Swan’ pas de deux, maintains the traditional Petipa/Ivanov choreography and there is also quite a bit of mime retained.

This version fortunately does not have jesters but does have Siegfried’s tutor who is gently mocked in Act 1.

It seems to be set in the late nineteenth century and there are no major changes to the familiar plot. Prince Siegfried falls in love with a princess turned into a swan by an evil magician, mistakenly swears to marry a lookalike black swan, and then attempts reconciliation. There is a reunion which in this production seems to be after death.

The Royal Ballet’s corps de ballet is magnificent, very well drilled and beautiful in unison work. The haunted flock of swans in the ‘white’ acts is tremendous with rippling arms, at times, like dangerous reeds. In some ways the corps is the character that glues the narrative of the show together.

I disagree with some of my colleagues and enjoyed the long feathery ’romantic ‘ flowing tutus for the corps (and of course the other costumes for when they are courtiers or in the national dances...). They have great fun being boisterous peasants celebrating in Act 1, almost knocking mugs over and grinning delightedly – some of the soldiers should possibly be returned to the barracks!

As Prince Siegfried, Nehemiah Kish is brilliant . Definitely a very handsome prince he is a superb dancer .He has excellent elevation and a very elegant ‘line’ and seems to be a tremendous partner in the pas de deux. His solos in Act 1 and 3 in particular are jaw dropping. He also is strong and believable in the Act 4 fight with von Rothbart.

Zenaida Yanowksy as Odette/Odile is superb, absolutely ravishing. A very tall, glorious dancer she gives Odette a regal yet fragile feel and is dazzling as the bewitching Odile, with huge flashing eyes, in Act 3.

She has an incredible long ‘line’ and wonderful rippling arms as Odette. Her control in the languid adagio sections is amazing – a beautiful slow developpe could seemingly go on forever. As Odile,  we see how one can indeed ‘smile, smile and be a villain’.

As the evil spirit a.k.a Von Rothbart , Gary Avis is a bit hampered by the black Gothicky shoulder pad ‘wings ‘ he wears as the owl/evil spirit and although he has fantastic makeup isn’t that scary. In Act 3 , with a Mohawk like hairdo and Beardsley like black and silver malicious retinue (with masked malevolent dwarves ) he gate-crashes the Prince’s party and manipulates everything to his own ends – Siegfried’s destruction.

As the princess, Siegfried’s mother, Elizabeth McGorian, is  regally stunning in a glorious gold and red dress for the ball in Act 3 .This is a glorious, mesmerizing production definitely worth seeing.

SWAN LAKE by the Royal Ballet was filmed at the Royal Opera House in London. The running time was 3 hours and 15 minutes including an interval and ‘extras’, short documentaries about the rehearsals process…backstage, the corps de ballet,  the principals approach to their roles…   This production of SWAN LAKE is part of the Palace Opera and Ballet Season and runs between  December 21 and 24 at selected Palace cinemas.

© Lynne Lancaster

23RD December, 2012

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- SWAN LAKE, Royal National Ballet, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster


You Move's tenofus

here's what I wrote for Sydney Arts Guide


Five short, sharp, challenging and exciting works combine to make the latest program for You Move.

The first work, ‘Compact Homosapien’, choreographed by Anton and performed by Anna Healey , was gripping and intense . Healey,  in a white short sleeved costume at first was like an alien being or a just hatched insect drying its wings in the sun. The costume emphasised the skeletal backbone and was sort of like a carapace. Healey was trapped in a square of light .At first there was a hesitant but determined exploration of space with angular, twisted arms and stretched fingers. Eventually, with stretches and lunges, Healey’s creature stands and further examines the space. There is some fluid floor-work and incredible use of a very flexible back. The vivid, winged creature is caught and cannot escape. Marvelous.

The second work , ‘Ephemera ‘, choreographed by Narelle Benjamin and performed by Jayne Field, had a mysterious, captivation atmosphere and an Asian influence. Field wore a lacy white top and black  trousers that looked like a divided skirt. A large fan ,the percussive snap of which became part of the score , was a crucial prop. The opening began with a wonderful use of rippling arms and there were isolation movements for the shoulders. At one point there was a Pavlova- like ‘Dying Swan’ moment – or in this case, should that be ‘Madame Butterfly’?! Incredibly arched, pointed feet were used, in one section as a sculptural fan support. There was rolling floor-work and in one part a repeated use of beautifully stretched develope and rondes des jambes.  For the finale there is a repeated use of isolation movements of the arms and torso and Field appears to go to sleep – then vanishes into the darkness.

‘Palimpest ‘ by Tony Osborne and performed by Imogen Cranna was very strange and yet most exciting and impressive. It was as if Cranna, in a short sleeveless green dress with a pleated skirt, descended into Giselle or Ophelia’s madness. The opening , with Cranna twisted into a foetal like sculptural position , with a foot then a leg or arm gradually untangling , was brilliant. Eventually Cranna slowly rose to a standing position .There were insect like movements to centre stage and some very strange almost Butoh like work with Cranna’s marvelous long hair completely covering her face. Weird fragments of speech and certain repeated words were included and there was a particular repeated use of a phrase of hand movement at the end (almost like Lady M’s hand washing in her madness in the Scottish play).

This was followed by  ‘Table For One’ , by Vicki van Hout , performed by Melinda Tyquin. For me , while this featured a great performance by Tyquin , it was the least successful work of the evening . Purporting to be about ‘ extreme misrepresentation and fixated obsession’ the forming of online relationships and the way our society has become taken over by computers , Tyquin comes across as a sluttish , untidy private eye (note the use of the magnifying glass , hint hint ) and there was a voice over about various cases . Tyquin has a hot and steamy solo ( to ‘Love to love you baby’) and a sequence where she is a heavily pregnant smoking mum to be ( the pillow used turns into the baby) .Interesting but inconclusive.

The last work, ‘At What Price?’, choreographed and performed by Angela French , was about the preservation of water and saving the environment. French’s performance was terrific.  At first , in a plain black top and shorts ,she was a sea creature gasping for air ( and/or water ) down to the last drop. This was the contrasted with her in a stunning gold sparkly dress , dripping umpteen ropes of pearls , hooked up to and twisting away from two blue long lines ( a glittering sea creature caught in a net ?) .At the end there is a Pina Bausch like moment where the sea creature ‘dies’ , gasping for air and water among a cloud of empty , squashed water bottles.

A thought provoking, most exciting program, with excellent performances. You Move’s TENOFUS, with a running time of about 90 minutes without interval, played at the Sidetrack Theatre between the 21st and 24th November, 2012.

(C) Lynne Lancaster

26th November, 2012

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- TENOFUS, YOU MOVE Dance Company, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

An Introduction to the Ballet

I wrote this for Ausdance



Lynne Lancaster |  14 November 2012

Part of the excellent Australian Ballet education programme, a fascinated and entranced audience mostly of huge groups of delighted school children followed the daily life of a professional dancer from class to performance.
As we entered we were able to watch class on stage. (At times I wondered how the dancers could hear the piano with the noise from the audience!). From first warming up plie to flying jetes at the end we saw the daily class and work a dancer needs to do to keep in top form. Eagle-eyed David McCallister, the artistic director, in stage manager black, gave the class. About half of the company were packed onto the stage, some of the dancers using the set as a barre. (The other half of the company was doing class in another studio). The dancers had to be very quick to pick up the given enchainment’s in ballet French and often ‘marked’ them with their hands first .Sometimes McCallister gave a quiet individual correction/suggestion , at others a general comment ( e.g. on a particular balance or holding a line for example) . The dancers were in a motley assortment of comfortable gear, most of the women wearing short floaty skirts of some sort. During the barre work some dancers stretched or repeated a particular bit of enchainment individually .In both the barre and centre work one observed an individual use of portes des bras (arms).  
At about 1130, after the barre work had finished there was a very short break while the barres were shifted and most of the women changed into their pointe shoes .Colin Easley our MC introduced himself, explained about ballet history coming from France and class being a daily part of life for a dancer and then disappeared into the wings while class finished with the centre work developing to allegro, pirouettes and flying jumps especially for the men.
After class Mr Mcallister was reintroduced and Peasley had him demonstrate the five basic positions of ballet and talk a little about the daily life of a dancer and getting into the Australian Ballet and the Australian Ballet School and what he looks for in a dancer to join the company (fine technique, musicality and being a good team player for example). As well it was stressed that ballet is extremely athletic.
While the performance of Beyond Twelve was frantically being prepared backstage, Peasley interviewed first Eloise Fryer and Jake Mangakahia about their roles in the ballet and the story of the work. He then briefly interviewed Nicolette Frailon and Brian Cousins with regards to the musical side of things and what a conductor’s role in the work is. Also mention was made that for this particular performance of ‘Beyond Twelve’ we had the two piano versions of the score, not with full orchestra as would usually occur.
Graeme Murphy the choreographer and Janet Vernon his wife and artistic assistant snuck in to the audience just before curtain up and we were treated to an exquisite rendering of his ‘Beyond Twelve’ that delighted the audience who laughed repeatedly and applauded enthusiastically ( sometimes in possibly the wrong parts ). But his awesome amazing choreography, with hints of his ’After Venice’ and ‘Daphnis and Chloe’ in particular poses won massive applause at certain moments. The Tapperinas were much fun .The pas de deux for the girl (Vivienne Wong) and the Beyond 30 (Jarryd Madden) was beautiful and the lyrical, extremely moving trio for all three selves (beyond 12, 18 and 30) in the lead up to the finale and Beyond 30 solo was marvellous. 
A wonderful way to introduce audiences to dance.    
The Australian ballet in an introduction to the Ballet Sydney Opera House 14 November 2012   
Running time 90 mins (approx)

The Bolshoi Ballet's La Sylphide
Bolshoi Ballet's LA SYLPHIDE-Reviewer Lynne Lancaster

The brilliant Bolshoi Ballet. Pic Damir Yusupov

The distilled essence of Romantic ballet ,this is a 2008 version of  LA SYLPHIDE, adapted from the Bournonville by Johan Kobborg with the  1836 music by Lovenskiold  .It is very similar to the 2005  version he did for the Royal Ballet in London.     Being the world renowned Bolshoi, the dancing is outstanding. There’s fine ensemble work throughout and some amazing solos. The Bournonville style demands soft ballon, very precise technique and plenty of jumps and petit batterie, especially for the men.

There are some wonderful show off solos for Vyacheslav Lopatin as James and Denis Savin as Gurn .Their entrechats are stunning ! Coming from the 1830’s, there is a particular use of delicate soft rounded arms for the women as sylphs, as in the lithographs of the era. The jumps, arabesques of today are higher and the pointe shoes of today much harder and stronger. (This ballet is famous as one of the first ballets that introduced pointe work in the original performances by Taglioni. It extended the dancer’s ‘line’ and made the female dancer – in this case the sylph- appear far lighter and more elusive.) It also incorporated the Romantic ideal of the woman as other-worldy and unobtainable.

In this production we see a blend of the Vaganova and Bournonville  styles. As this is set in misty Scotland in Act 1 there is some marvellous exuberant dancing as in the  pre wedding celebrations, finely performed and demanding incredibly precise footwork.  Lovenskiold’s lilting tuneful music was excellently performed by the orchestra of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia under the dynamic baton of Pavel Klinichev.

The opening tableaux brings to life the famous lithograph with James asleep in a large chair, the sylph beside him. There is a huge baronial hall with a giant staircase for Act1 and plenty of tartan. Queen Victoria would have loved it! Act 2’s set in the ‘woodland glade’ where James has followed the sylph to, and this is beautifully realised.

As the Sylph, Ekaterina Krysanova is exquisite, ethereal and floats lightly in and out of James’ vision. She is elusive and tantalising. Is she a vision or real? Why can only James see her ?

Her costumes were delicately pretty, with incredible attention to detail (for example, the rose in her bodice and the flowers in the underskirt). She is a romantic dream. Her other-worldiness is emphasised in Act 1 in the scene where she disappears up a chimney and in Act 2 where she offers James birds’ nests. Her death in Act 2 is very fragile and moving.  You can see how this work led to, for example, GISELLE, created a decade later, especially with the lines of the sylphs.

Vyacheslav Lopatin as James is wondeful. He is an ordinary mortal swept up in other-worldy events beyond his control . His dancing is superb, jaw dropping at times with amazing jumps and immaculate control. Bravo!

Effie , James’ fiancee was sweetly ,prettily danced by Anna Rebetskaya in fine form .As already mentioned James ’ rival Gurn was excellently performed by Denis Savin .

I was however disappointed in red haired Madge the witch ( Irina Zibrova ). In this version she is much younger and far more beautiful than usual . She looks like an escapee from  MANON or  LES MIS and generally is not threatening or evil at all . The ending, however, is chilling. Having had her revenge, has she actually killed James or does she leave him there unconscious, having lost everything?!

This was a wonderful treat for ballet lovers, and I am very much looking forward to next year’s performances of this work by the Australian Ballet .        

The Bolshoi Ballet’s production of LA SYLPHIDE screened at arthouse cinemas on the weekend of the 10th and 11th November, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

14th November, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- LA  SYLPHIDE, Bolshoi Ballet, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

Alexander the Great 2000 Years of Treasures

Aplogies but I am reposting all the posts I made on 27 November 2012 as the format was very strange
so here goes - here is my Alexander exhibition review

Astonishing artefacts feature in the Exhibition

This is a huge jaw dropping, enthralling exhibition you could spend days in .There are so many exquisite items and fascinating facts. The exhibition is direct from the State Hermitage in Russia. Brought to us by a team of twenty nine curators there are over 400 items. Beautifully presented with helpful timelines, you move through the enormous exhibition chronologically, beginning with Alexander’s childhood, moving to his famous battles, travels to India, death and legacy to this day.

The exhibition explores the question just who was Alexander ’The Great’ of Macedon? (King, god, tactician, terrorist, liberator, conqueror, tyrant, genius, alcoholic   - depending on who you are talking to ). Was he a man or a myth? Alexander III of Macedon (356–323 BCE) owes his epithet ‘the Great’ to the enormous territory that he dominated: from Greece in the west to the river Indus in the east, resulting in, at the time, the largest empire in antiquity. His father was Philip of Macedon and both he and Alexander claimed divine descent.

Female rulers such as Queen Christina of Sweden and Catherine the Great of Russia were fascinated  by him as was the Emperor Napoleon and Louis Xiv the ‘Sun King’ . His legacy continues to this day with his military tactics still being taught in defence academies and novels, movies and computer games based on his life .

The artefacts in the exhibition are astonishing .There are tiny coins and fragile jewellery is included .There is armour, horse straps, magnificent sculpture, tapestries, books, paintings and ceramics. With some of the coins there are enlarged photos via modern technology so you can examine them more easily.

The timelines , quotes and explanations are excellent and for some of the major battles ( eg the Siege  of   Tyre in 332BC there are short touch screen videos and other interactive elements covering it in great detail) .

We get a feel for his life and times and more of an understanding as to why he was called ‘The Great’.  We learn of his friends and his horse Buchephalus.  

There are so many ravishing highlights of the exhibition but I will mention just four:-

The first being the extraordinary gold Mantle Clock: The vigil of Alexander the Great Russia, St Petersburg (?), 1830s - 1840s almost at the end of the exhibition. This clock, made by Russian artists in bronze, is based on a well-known work, Mars, by the French master Pierre-Philippe Thomire. Instead of Mars, however, the Hermitage piece portrays the military leader and conqueror Alexander the Great (with a round shield). Having cultivated strength of will and diligence during his studies, the young Alexander would prevent himself falling asleep by holding a ball in his hand: as soon as he felt sleepy and his hand relaxed, the ball would fall into a copper cup with a crash, waking Alexander up.

Then there is the breathtakingly beautiful statue of Cleopatra V11 regarded as one of the masterpieces in the Hermitage's Ancient Egyptian collection is a black basalt statue of a Ptolemaic queen. It represents a striding woman in a long tight-fitting dress, wearing a long tripartite wig with three uraei (royal snakes) and holding a horn of plenty in her left hand and the ankh, the hieroglyph of life, in her lowered right hand. The inlayed eyes and the headdress (probably a solar disc between cow's horns) have been lost. The statue is completely finished as its surface is splendidly polished, but it is not inscribed which made dating and identification of the person represented a particular problem that was resolved in the late 1990's when further research was undertaken .

Then there is the large Tapestry: Alexander the Great and the family of Darius From the series The Story of Alexander the Great, from the paintings by Charles Le Brun; Flanders, Brussels, workshop of Jan Frans van den Hecke,(1661-1695 ) which is of wool, silk, silver thread and has both the Brussels weaver mark and the Russian coat-of-arms, woven at the St Petersburg Imperial Tapestry Factory, 1745.

And the quite large and unique Gonzago Cameo The Gonzaga Cameo portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II Alexandria, 3rd century BCE Triple-layered sardonyx; . An anonymous carver portrayed the deified royal couple at the moment of their 'sacred marriage'. The celebrated Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens called the cameo the finest of all European double-portrait gems. The characters are carved with virtuoso skill into the three layers of the stone: their faces are cut from the central white layer, the helmet, hair and aegis in the upper brown layer. The unevenness of the positioning and colour of the layers of stone discovered by the engraver during his work enabled him to avoid any monotony in the rendering of the faces and armour.

His skill is also observed in the variety of polishing and the richness of the relief's gradations, emphasising the three-dimensional nature of the depiction and giving it a painterly quality. Mention should be made not only of the unique dimensions and artistic qualities of the piece, but also of its history, for it has passed through the hands of many famous collectors and celebrated European rulers. The 'Gonzaga Cameo' was so named after its first known owners, the rulers of Mantua. In the 17th century the cameo was part of the collection of the queen Christina of Sweden. After Christina's death the cameo passed through the hands of numerous celebrated owners, spending time in the collection of the Odescalchi in Rome and in the Vatican. In the 19th century it was not far from Paris, at Malmaison, residence of the Empress Josephine, ex-wife of Napoleon. After the capture of Paris in 1814 she presented the gem to Alexander 1, who was a frequent visitor to Malmaison. In the autumn of that year the cameo found a permanent home in St Petersburg .

Alexander The Great 2000 Years of Treasures is at the Australian Museum conquering Sydney from 24 November. © Lynne Lancaster

24th November, 2012

Tags: Sydney Exhibitions- ALEXANDER THE GREAT- 2000 YEARS OF TREASURES, The Australian Museum, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

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