Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Jungle Book at King Street Theatre

THE JUNGLE BOOK KING STREET THEATRE JANUARY 2016 Quick. Run, slither, jump , swing or pad and book now if you haven’t already for this sensational production hypnotizing audiences at King Street. It is not ‘just ‘a children’s show (although they love it ) it is for all ages a magnificent finely told production ( note – not the Disney version ). From the dynamic , mysterious opening ( ‘The Power of the Jungle”) one is hooked. Musically impressive and catchy it ranges from pop/rock to hot Latin-American and jazz among other styles. The first thing you notice upon entering is the spectacular jungle ‘set ‘sort of like hidden ruins with various levels of steps, trees , ropes etc. The lighting is tremendous too. A Markus Weber and Michael Summ Production the cast of seven tell the story based on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book clearly, obviously having a whale of a time. It is a story not just about animals and survival in the jungle but also love, friendship and forgiveness , and ” us” vs “ them”( animals vs humans ) and The Outsider ( Mowgli) . As tousle-haired, cheeky man cub Mowgli , bright and energetic, Brayden Sim has great fun , playing and teasing Baloo and learning . A fine performance . Bagheera the black panther, who acts as narrator at times, was terrifically played by Maria del Marco , with dramatic black makeup and a nifty costume .She is one of the leaders of the jungle , far older and wiser than Mowgli and she tries to teach him what he needs for survival . Mowgli’s fun, relaxed and playful side was brought out by Falstaffian Baloo the bear, delightfully played by Mark Power .( I liked the brown makeup and the oversize feet ! ) .He has a great time teasingly teaching Mowgli and seeking sleep and honey and eating ínvisible fleas out of the hair of some of the children in the audience . Glamorous , dangerous Kaa, the exotic python with sunglasses , was slinkily played by Mandy Fung in a stunning gold costume with a veeerrry long train that she uses to trap people. Warning – do not look into her hypnotic eyes! King Louie of the monkeys was lithely, joyously played by Kodie Amos.He wants to be like Mowgli but cannot stop chattering and moving. At one point he kidnaps Mowgli but is forced to release him by the other animals. Colonel Hathi of the Indian Elephant Brigade, with trumpet , was marvellously performed by Kyle Stephens in full grey Indian Army impressive uniform. He is portrayed as slow but solid and dependable , marching left right one two .. The villain of the peice , fierce Shere Kahn the Bengal tiger , bent on revenge was tremendously , strongly played by James Stevenson in a costume including orange striped hair , a black leather jacket and striped ‘paws’. He has a popstar like solo with a microphone full of pride anger and assured dominance ( “Shere Kahn is here , the lord of fear”) . A most wonderful , very moving production that will enchant all ages. Running time 75 minutes (approx.) no interval The Jungle Book runs at King Street Theatre 11 -30 January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

El Anatsui - Carriageworks

EL ANATSUI : FIVE DECADES CARRIAGEWORKS JANUARY 2016 This thrilling exhibition is the first time we have been privileged to have the chance see El Anatsui’s work in Australia. It is a huge exhibition that takes over Carriageworks politely yet persistently. El Anatsui is regarded as one of the most exciting contemporary visual artists of our time. Emerging from the vibrant post-independence art movements of 1960s and ’70s West Africa, he has gone on to receive widespread international acclaim for his sculptural experiments with media, form and tradition. Produced from recycled materials including aluminium printing plates, tin boxes , drink bottle caps and discarded aluminium printing plates , El Anatsui’s works are at once intricate and huge, humble and yet imposing , soft yet solid . Born in Ghana and based in Ghana and Nigeria, his formally complex assemblages explore the histories of colonial post-colonial Africa and issues of consumption, waste and the environment. The exhibition includes works from the 1970s to the present, including paintings, woodcarvings and ceramics as well as his hanging sculptures. One is enticed by the deceptive use of texture (shredded bottle tops and copper wire , for example ,that look soft) contrasted with dynamic use of colour. The wooden sculptures and ceramics examine ideas about an object’s purpose and function (their transformation, destruction and regeneration) in everyday life, and the role of language in deciphering visual symbols. Starting in the main foyer , there are five drawings and a small sculpture on a plinth. We are also greeted by “ Awakened “- a colourful ( mostly red and green ) what could be called a horse’s head ( ? ) on the wall , its ‘mane’ trickling onto the floor. We then move to admire the “Tiled Flower Garden “ ( made of aluminium bottle caps and copper wire ) which in this case has a hard grey mosaic like look in sections, contrasted with a flowing red and gold ‘garden’ and a ‘hard’ black rock or stone like centrepiece . On another wall there is the amazing multi-layered ‘Adinkra Sasa ‘ like many layers of coal yet it is simultaneously soft and rippling. As we move further into the exhibition we next observe some sensational sculptures that look like set designs.” The Womb of Time” is roughly round in shape (a heart ? a planet ?) but with fragile holes – a comment on our disintegrating environment? Then there is the haunting ‘ Waste Paper Bags’ – ash like , as if they are post nuclear holocaust perhaps , they are giant sculptures reusing aluminium printing plates , many of which are obituaries – a tribute to unknown lives. ‘”Opening Market “ – about the street vendors and markets of Nsukka is concerned with the basic activities of life .It features over 1, 700 items ( boxes and suitcases repainted) and is a protest against the influx of foreign products in Africa. There is also “ Blema “ , a large wall hanging , with almost Byzantine use of what seems like gold . ‘”Stressed World ‘’is like a map of the world with holes in it. Trains of Thought is a large sculpture on the floor, swirling and twisted with a crown like section at the end. ‘”Garden Wall”, a huge sprawling piece hanging on the wall yet finishing sprawling on the floor looks deceptively soft. Its geometric patterns and use of concentric circles contrast with soft open passages like nets. One thinks of Monet’s garden paintings . The final large back room , which has some carved sculptures on plinths , including the mysterious, haunting ‘Devotees ‘is dominated by “Drainpipe “ eleven huge slithering creeping oversized glittering gold fingers ( made of tin can lids and copper wire ) with an Ancient Egyptian feel. An exhibition that deserves repeated viewing . El Anatsui : Five Decades runs at Carriageworks 7 January – 6 March 2016

Friday, 8 January 2016

Sydney Festival 2016 Circa - What Will Have Been

CIRCA WHAT WILL HAVE BEEN MAGIC MIRRORS SPEIGELTENT FESTIVAL VILLAGE January 2016 What a wonderful way to open this year’s Festival of Sydney !.Terrific Circa from Brisbane have returned - this time they are in the Magic Mirrors Speigeltent at the Festival Village, bringing us their astonishing production What Will Have Been , which has a small cast – a violinist and three extraordinary , mesmerizing , acrobatic performers . Directed by Yaron Lifschitz, the dynamic trio of acrobats use everything at their disposal – trapeze, aerial ropes, each other’s bodies – to dazzle with their virtuosity and enchant. There was dramatic , atmospheric lighting and the ‘stained glass window’ design of the tent added to this .The soundtrack was eclectic , combining Bach , waltzes , Phillip Glass and electronic works including The Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes . The performance is ‘ In the round’ and there are also special ‘premium ‘ booths ( think cabaret venues / what used to be called The Showroom at The Star.) . While the audience was packed , there was also a feeling of intimacy. What Will Have Been begins with the voice of Robert Oppenheimer ruminating on the first atomic bomb testing, and what follows appears to have at its core the interaction of particles and physical forces: repelling, colliding , attracting Newtonian equal and opposite reactions. Sometimes it feels as if the we are inside a (small) hadron collider, where bodies explode around the stage to collide, creating yet more movement. At others it is as if the cast are stunned , mourning , post nuclear holocaust survivors . The show is mostly tumbling and balancing sequences with amazing trapeze and aerial segments as well. The cast , full of pantherine grace , seem boneless yet made of steel – breathtaking at times with just – caught ( or missed ) leaps , back flips, balances , vaulting feats and bellyflops all performed with split second precison timing .Some of it was perhaps in the style of Australian Dance Theatre’s ‘Held ‘ , full of hurtling, crashing energy. The human body is treated as a sculptural form , precariously flipped, twisted, stretched , entwined , balanced and molded .. Lauren Herley has an amazing extended opening aerialist solo .She is sinuous and mesmerizing , hypnotic like a snake charmer. The mood is elegaic and reflective. At some points in the show she also takes on some heavy lifting work All three acrobats appear to be able to see something only they can see just over the horizon .. The two men (Daniel O’Brien and Lewis West ) wear black pantaloons with white tops ( which they at times remove) . The female performer wears a black leotard and sometimes a pair of tight blue jeans or a slinky black outfit . Rebecca Seymour the violinist wears a sensational blue gown . There are some almost death defying duos for the men – trapeze and tumbling and a sort of wrestling ‘ strap match ‘ with stretchy elastic , balancing on poles , at times arms like hoops for the cast to jump through ...There is a tenderness and attentiveness , as we observe the changing relationships between the two male and one female performer evident throughout the performance . The delicate , fluid alliances in each pairing suggests something darker and of greater depth than the standard girl-comes-between-male-friends plot. The show ended with the three acrobats hugging each other and cheers and wild applause from the most enthusiastic audience Circa’s What Will Have Been runs at the Magic Mirrors Speigeltent at Festival Village 7-16 January 2016 Running time 65 minutes, no interval Created by Yaron Lifschitz with the Circa Ensemble A Norfolk and Norwich Festival and La Teatreria (Mexico) commission. Cast : Lauren Herley, Daniel O’Brien and Lewie West with violinist Rebecca Seymour.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bangarra's Ochres at Carriageworks

This was glorious loved it Here's my Dance Informa review Carriageworks, Sydney. November 2015. Haunting, mesmerizing and incredibly powerful, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Ochres sinuously slithers, stamps and jumps across the stage at Carriageworks. Vividly bold and strong with wonderful lighting by Joseph Mercurio, this was originally premiered 21 years ago in conjunction with The Australian Ballet. It is now regarded as a landmark piece and is appropriately performed in Redfern with its links to the company’s roots. Here at Carriageworks, Jacob Nash’s set is a striking paperbark tree and a curved sandy beach. In the men’s dances of the Black section, spinifex bushes loom and are manipulated, shifted and jumped over. Large shells are used as water, or ochre containers. Bangarra dancers Tara Robertson, Tara Gower and Jasmin Sheppard in ‘Ochres’. Photo by Susannah Wimberley. David Page’s hypnotic, captivating soundtrack is sort of like “lounge music” at times, humming, beeping, throbbing and combining song, hip hop and speech (in both English and Aboriginal language). The dancing is superb. Stephen Page and Bernadette Walong-Sene’s choreography requires a long, stretched, laser-sharp line. It blends contemporary dance styles and traditional Aboriginal dance steps with soft and high jumps. The work is divided into four parts: Yellow, Black, Red and White. It dramatically begins with a land cleaning song by Djakapurra Munyarryun, who is outfitted in traditional Aboriginal white body paint, markings and feathers. It’s a very strong, powerful “aria” featuring clapping sticks. Yellow is the first major segment and is devoted to “women’s business”. Mother Earth is represented by the yellow ochre and women. Some of the lighting is like dappled rock. The women, in long yellow dresses, move in angular, almost alien movements. At one point, they are a writhing group on the beach; at others, they’re like pulsating spiders or perhaps startled lizards. It could be seen as quite steamy, especially with the hypnotic, slithery duo and the plethora of grounded floorwork. Traditional Aboriginal dances (e.g. the kangaroo and a frog-like movement) are incorporated, blending in with the contemporary choreography that demands a very flexible back. After the rain, swimming movements are included, too. Bangarra in ‘Ochres’. Photo by Susannah Wemberley. Next comes Black for the men, full of macho energy and featuring a soundscape of birdcalls and speech. The white ochre they wipe across their forehead is for protection during the hunt. Munyarryun is shown as an elder instructing the younger men in spearfishing (at one point, he almost spears us in the audience!). This is the section with the movable spinifex bushes that are jumped over with lots of whirling turns and very high leaps. There is mock fighting with a martial arts feel, using the spear throwers as well. There are some intriguing, quite difficult lifts and kangaroo poses. Other animal mimicry is also included, as well as a sculptural feline stretch. An abstract phrase of movement – the hand across the mouth – refers to the social dilemma of petrol sniffing, a major ongoing community issue. The Red section looks at relationships. It is quite different in mood at first, with its opening a fun and flirtatious trio. Beau Dean Riley Smith is incredibly smooth. Yet the tense duo ‘’Obsession‘’ follows, danced by Tara Robertson and Luke Currie-Richardson, with fiendishly demanding lifts and partnering, a disturbing comment on domestic violence. “Poison” in orangey/red costumes is then presented to throbbing, pulsating music, which demands a long, sharp line. Elma Kris and Daniel Riley are full of tenderness in “Pain”, which seems to be about an older woman caring for her dying adult son. Bangarra’s Yolanda Lowatta, Luke Currie-Richardson and Kaine Sultan-Babij in ‘Ochres’. Photo by Susannah Wimberley. White, the final section, is possibly a bit reminiscent of Graeme Murphy’s Gallery in parts. There is a marvellous, very striking Yutta (“New Spirits”) trio of three ghosts. They seem to be moon creatures. This section is full of unusual lifts, hops and jumps with an incredible fluid line. There’s also lots of slithery floorwork, and it is also about the observer being observed and the gaze of the performer and audience. The work concludes with a sunset celebration. Overall, Bangarra’s Ochres is a most striking, captivating and mesmerizing performance. By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

Sydney Dance New Breed

Most exciting ! Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide The current season of NEW BREED by THE Sydney Dance Company showcases the choreographic talents of four choreographers whose thematic ideas and experience are quite mixed in a powerful, dramatic programme. DERIVED. Choreography by Bernard Knauer. Dancers Charmene Yap and Daniel Roberts. Pic Peter Greig The opening work Derived by Bernhard Knauer, to music by his father Jurgen Knauer, is a short but startlingly punchy work, riveting and mesmerizing. The dancers are in subtly textured blue costumes. Short futuristic solos (Holly Doyle’s opening one is tremendous) in squares of light are expanded to duos and trios – wonderful sculptural fluidity and enfolding. Knauer’s choreography is magnificent, slinky, angular and intense. There is a pulsating trio at one point. Angular, circular arm movements are favoured with a feeling of vertical fluidity. CONFORM- Choreography by kristina Chan. Dancers Richard Cilli and Petros Treklis. Pic Peter Greig One of the highlights of the evening was Conform, by Kristina Chan, featuring the men of the company in an extremely strong performance. Chan’s stated mission statement was to explore what it meant to be a man in contemporary society. The piece began with all the cast, all in grey casual outfits and sneakers, on stage and featured hazy lighting. At first there appears to be no movement, but in fact there is and it is very subtle – a slight hunch of the shoulders, a change of neck or hand position –they’re disintegrating internally under pressure and no one can escape. In this section there are hints of Butoh and De Quincy’s Bodyweather. It also reminded me of Hofesh Schefter’s Political Mother with its explosive, overwhelming power. This is a piece that looks at the Outsider vs the Group, the notion of being pressured to belong. Are these characters being controlled by an unseen outside force?! There’s quite a bit of floorwork and flurries, and an intimate yet almost wrestling duet. At one point all the dancers are involved in a rolling sequence on the floor, replacing each other like a conveyor belt, in a tender covering phrase of movement. Unsettling strobe lighting is strongly used at one point. There is a ‘dying swan’ like solo at one point and another solo where one cast member is almost flipping himself inside out. Towards the end, with striking back-lighting, there is an ensemble segment for the whole cast featuring sculptural group writhing movements combined with Bob Fosse like moves. This piece felt very open to interpretation- are we seeing a footy team in action? Are we seeing an ancient Egyptian hymn/dance to the sun? Very impressive and striking. SO MUCH DOESN’T MATTER. Choreography by Fiona Jopp. Dancer Juliette Barton. Pic by Peter Greig. In my view, the third work Fiona Jopp’s So Much Doesn’t Matter didn’t really work. It felt disjointed and confusing although the younger members of the audience appeared to enjoy it hugely. Using the tune of Greensleeves (various versions thereof) and incorporating speech, memories of the childhood ice cream van and Shakespeare, Jopp explores luxury, sexual pleasure and fractured history. Childhood games are included and some of the choreography has the feel of a computer game. Whilst superficially it appears rather bubbly and joyous the work has hidden dark sinister undertones. REIGN. Choreography by Daniel Riley. Dancer Janessa Dufty. Pic Peter Greig Daniel Riley’s Reign has an obvious Bangarra/Aboriginal influence as the chorus of ghostly women (are they haunted spirits of the land?), wearing white ochre and wonderfully textured white costumes, eerily capture our attention as they become quite menacing (shades of the Willis in Giselle) and seek to bring down the ‘queen’ (Janessa Dufty). The soundtrack by Prokofiev and Thayer crashed, beeped and hummed. In a strong, powerful performance the Aboriginal link is reinforced with the fabulous strong opening solo, the ’bathing’ in the sand, and the return at the end. Riley’s work attempts to look at how powerful women can be undermined by those around them . A most striking, exciting and challenging programme . Running time 1 hr 50mins (approx.) including interval Sydney Dance Company’s program NEW BREED is playing at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh until Sunday 13th December.

Carlos Acosta at the Royal Ballet

A wonderful new dance book here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide Carlos Acosta is one of the most well known dancers of our times, famous internationally. This book is published to mark Acosta’s farewell season, and is a very exciting retrospective seeking to preserve and capture most of what are regarded as his greatest performances with The Royal Ballet. Released in Australia by Currency Press, the book is a tribute to his popularity and success with international audiences since 1998 . A large, beautiful coffee table book it documents Acosta’s seventeen year career with the Royal Ballet. There are over 150 assorted photos of Acosta on stage and in rehearsal. The photos are spectacular and show him in dynamic, striking poses from his performances, in leading roles, as Basilio in Don Quixote, as Des Grieux in Manon, Romeo in Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Albrecht in Giselle, and Siegfried in Swan Lake in which he danced the principal roles. It also features photographs of Carlos on stage with the world’s leading ballerinas of recent years including Darcey Bussell and Alina Cojocaru as well as shots of Acosta with The Royal Ballet’s current dazzling stars; Sarah Lamb, Marianela Nuñez and Natalia Ospiova. There are lovely passages, one might perhaps call them mini essays, from three artistic directors of the Royal Ballet- Sir Anthony Dowell, Dame Monica Mason, and the current artistic director Kevin O’Hare as well as Associate Director Jeanetta Lawrence. The book also includes plenty of wonderful quotes from his co -stars, designers and conductors with whom Acosta has worked with over the years. The range of roles Acosta has performed in is astonishing : from the ‘classics’ ( such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee) to challenging ultra–contemporary works such as Forsythe’s In The Middle. Being the Royal Ballet, Acosta has performed in many Macmillan ballets. The photos are bold and striking.There is a section of Acosta in rehearsal and some productions have black and white photos of rehearsal interwoven with colour photos of performance. Some capture his incredible flying leaps and soft ballon, others his sinuous, sculptural ‘line’ , huge smile and charismatic presence. There is a helpful table of contents at the front of the various productions, which complements the useful listing of the many roles Acosta has performed as a time line at the back of the book. The time line also lists the photographer credits and the various partners in the photos. This is a captivating, visually stunning book that will delight dance lovers. Title: Carlos Acosta @ The Royal Ballet Author: Royal Ballet. Binding: HardBack ISBN: 9781783198900 Publisher: Oberon Press

Royal Ballet Quadruple Bill here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide Raining roses and with emotional speeches at the end this was a very special screening. Part of the Palace Opera And Ballet season, the Royal Ballet’s Quadruple Bill was filmed at Carlos Acosta’s farewell to the stage. The film’s presenters were Darcy Bussell and Fiona Bruce with interviews before the show and during the intervals. The clean crisp photography translated the show very well from stage to screen. The programme began with Liam Scarlett’s Viscera. A sparse, abstract ballet (think similar to Forsythe or McGregor in style),the rippling, tumultuous score by Lowell Liebermann was replete with very complicated rhythms and juxtaposed melodies. The work had three sections. The middle part, to a slower, more serene section of music, featured an extraordinary pas de deux that was mesmerising. The other two bookend sections were very sharp and spiky, full of striking, unusual and acrobatic lifts and very demanding jumps for the men.The final section had a cool elegant feel to it. At times, the dancers looked like flocks of birds, a little menacing in tone. The male dancers wore long sleeve purple leotards, the women beautifully textures bluish ones. After interval there were two pas de deux. First up was a breathtaking, hypnotic performance by Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntgarov in Robbin’s version of Afternoon of a Faune. The set was a tent like open dance studio with barres; we, the audience, were the mirror. To the lush Debussy score Robbin’s mini masterpiece was revealed. The piece opened with a dreamily handsome Muntgarov stretching and rehearsing. His work was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the blonde, wide eyed and innocent Lamb wearing a pale blue tunic. They rehearse a very difficult pas de deux , not looking at each other but always observing themselves in the mirror. Yes, there were allusions to Nijinsky’s Faune and, at times, Muntagrov was quite feline. The entrancing mood was shattered when he chastely kisses her on the cheek. Disconcerted, she leaves. He returns to his languid pose on the floor alone. Perhaps it was all a dream?! Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, to what was once regarded as ‘lost’ music from Swan Lake) was all dazzling smiles from Steven McCrae and Iana Salenko. There were plenty of technical fireworks on display in this gala party piece. Salenko was in a lovely pale apricot floaty dress whilst McCrae in white with a beige coloured waistcoat. The traditional pas de de deux format was followed – first the couple danced exuberantly together, then their separate variations (McCrae was dazzling) and a fiery, dizzying coda to end with. A highlight was some amazing, dangerous leaps, ‘fish dives’, taken by Salenko into McCrae’s arms. Carlos Acosta’s story/journey is an exceptional one. Acosta escaped the poverty of the streets of Havana to go on to become one of the greatest dancers of his generation, and to become a great role model for the Royal Ballet. During his career, Acosta has revealed a commitment to taking risks including trying authorship, choreography, and impresario work. When he retires from the Royal Ballet next year, Acosta will take his unique experience and talent back to his Cuban homeland by establishing his own contemporary-dance school there. For this concert premiered his version of Carmen. He wanted to give the Royal Ballet a Carmen they could remember and be proud of, being his farewell to this wonderful stage. Sadly his interpretation, which closed the Roayl Ballet programme, just misses the mark. In my view the piece didn’t quite know what it was– opera, straight drama or dance. There was a guitarist and spoken Spanish, a couple of the famous pieces were sung and choreographically it tried to blend Flamenco, classical ballet, Cuban and contemporary in an uneasy mix. Whilst there was clarity in the narrative- as in one striking prison-set role reversing duet for Carmen and Don Jose– choreographically the piece felt rather flat. Visually it was stunning, with the red ring (looking almost of fire, and lowered and reversed with roses towards the end) a dramatic effect . And yes, the idea of the Minotaur like bull as a menacing shadowy figure of death was interesting . The music was a reworked version of the much loved Bizet opera. Sizzling Marianela Nuñez taunted and flaunted with her many would-be suitors in the corps with a Chippendale moment(or should that be Matthew Bourne’s Car Man?) towards the start. A later ensemble set piece with chairs on castors didn’t quite come off. Carlos Acosta as Don Jose was presented as a romantic, morally corrupted by Carmen, who loses everything. Fredrico Bonelli was a strutting , charismatic, captivating Escamillo. Whilst the piece was some bits were impressive overall it lacked cohesion and needed some editing. Acosta fans in particular will enjoy staying to see the special curtain calls and speeches at the end as he made his farewell. Running time 3 hours (approx) including two intervals. The Royal Ballet Quadruple Bill, part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season, is screening at selected Palace cinemas between the 11th and 16th December.

La Scala Gala des Etoiles

Some absolutely amazing dancing here's my Sydney Arts Guide review PALACE OPERA AND BALLET PRESENTS GALA DES ETOILES FROM LA SCALA MILAN Part of this year’s Palace Opera and Ballet season we were very privileged to be able to see this special screening from La Scala, to celebrate the closing of the 2015 Milan World expo, bringing together some of the world’s finest ballet dancers. The Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala played magnificently under the dynamic baton of David Coleman. The complex program blended a mix of American, French, Russian and English choreographic styles. In my view, the ‘English’ school, as represented by the MacmIllan pas de deux, was the least successful of the collection. Traditional Russian ( Le Corsair, Spartacus , Don Quixote) was mixed with neo-classical and ultra contemporary styles. Technically the dancing was brilliant, at times jaw-droppingly so, featuring very demanding leaps, turns, and some exhilarating lifts in yhe pas de deux. The female dancers were presented beautifully. The screening opened with exciting glimpses of the show in rehearsal and marvelous, sweeping overhead shots of the architecture of the theatre and of the city of Milan. The show featured very little set, mostly just a simple cyc background in an appropriate wash of colour, and some giant chandeliers in a couple of the scenes. The first piece was Three Preludes, music by Rachmaninov and choreography by Ben Stevenson with a single piano on stage, played by Roberto Cominati. A feature was the stark, dramatic lighting. The two dancers, wearing grey, were terrific. Stevenson’s very demanding choreography was intensely neo-classical and the first prelude had the atmosphere of Robbin’s Afternoon of A Faune crossed with Balanchine. In the first prelude there was the use of a ballet barre slid/stood upon .The second prelude featured some amazing lifts – Claudio Coviello was wonderful- and Lucia Lacarra showed great control in the adage. There were plenty of swoops and swirls in the choreography for this section, with circular portes des bras. The third prelude featured plenty of sculptural partnering and flurries of movement, showing off the ballerinas. The pas de deux from Macmillan’s Manon was exuberantly performed by Melissa Hamilton and Claudio Coviello, featuring tricky lifts, swoops and scissoring legs. La Rose Malade was an elegiac yearning pas de deux by Petit, to music by Mahler, which began with a voice over of a poem by Petit. Maria Eichwald as the sick rose has a flying , floating entry in the arms of Mick Zeni. Her hair was in a twig like style. This piece featured plenty of arcing, anguished back-bends and angular enfolding and difficult high lifts as well as swoops and passionate emoting, including a ‘broken wrist’ death. The Grand Pas Classique, as choreographed by Gsovsky to music by Auber, was distinctly of the ‘Russian’ school. Leonid Sarafanov, wearing dark blue, starred with some exceptional solos including some blistering brise voles and cabrioles. Alla Somova’s solo in a blue tutu was very Petipa in style. Somova had a very elegant, regal carriage and dazzled with some very tricky footwork, though I didn’t like the distracting blue floaty arm frills. One of the great highlights of the evening was the sizzling sensational selection from Petit’s Carmen as performed by the amazing Roberto Bolle as Don Jose and Polina Semionova as Carmen. Seductive Semionova was slinky, dazzling and hypnotic. Bolle’s solos were powerful and dramatic, including plenty of pirouettes, some ‘moonwalking’ and even a time where he pretends to be a bull in a bull ring. This duo were simply mesmerising. Next came Svetlana Zakharova channeling her inner Pavlova in an exquisite,heartfelt, exquisite rendering of The Dying Swan (choreography Fokine, music St Saens), featuring wonderful bourees and rippling, fluid elegant arms . To take us to interval we saw an extraordinary performance of the famous pas de deux from Don Quixote. Nicoletta Manni, in a white bell like tutu with an unfortunate ruffled neckline, was superbly balanced in her extended balances and amazing backbends. Manni was also suitably flirtatious in her fan solo. Still it was Vasiliev who was jaw droppingly explosive with his tousled hair, intensely passionate eyes, split jumps and other pyrotechnical skills. He was also great as the devoted partner in the supported turns and fish dives. Another Arpino work Light Rain was the first piece after interval. The piece was reminiscent of some of Bejart’s work. The dancers wore revealing, shimmering blue costumes. The work featured an unusual and intense beat and rhythm, demanding a long, sinuous stretched line .There was plenty of sculptural entwining for Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino. Laccarra showed off her amazing angular extensions and backbends and the piece ended with a sense of flying. The balcony pas de deux from Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet was well done though it lacked a sense of theatrical magic and left me a bit cold. The fiendishly difficult choreography was very well performed by Maria Eichwald and Massimo Murru. The pas de deux from Spartacus with Maria Vinogradova as Flavia and Vassiliev as Spartacus was wonderful. The next piece Prototype was in a very different style. A solo for Bolle, this was very contemporary wellnigh futuristic with plenty of computer generated effects. For example , there was one scene where Bolle danced with multiple images of himself, and even at one point fighting these images. Then came a return to the 19th century withPetipa’s scintillating Le Corsair pas de deux, featuring Zakharova and Sarafanov. Zakharova was in a purple and gold tutu and wore a tiara , Sarafanov wore green. Sarafanov channelled his inner Nureyev and was thrilling in his flashy, show stopping solo , featuring amazing split jumps. Zakharova showed off her skills performing many fouettes in her solo. Both dancers wore dazzling smiles. The evening finished with La Danza delle Ore, a series of choreographed curtain calls as the audience cheered on. This was a dazzling night of dance, a grand ‘Gala of stars’ indeed. Running time- 3 hours 20 mins including one interval. The Palace Opera and Ballet screening of the Gala des Etoiles from La Scala, Milan screened at Palace cinemas between the 4th and the 9th December. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Pinchgut L'Amant Jaloux

Musically and vocally glorious : here's my Artshub review Monday 7 December, 2015 Great fun with terrific performances and a rare chance to see this now almost never performed opera. Alexandra Oomens (Isabelle) Jessica Aszodi (Jacinte) and Celeste Lazarenko (Léonore); photo by Prudence Upton. As usual, this enchanting performance by Pinchgut was fabulously sung. Erin Helyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes gave a splendid performance at times lush and sensuous at others light, crisp and delicate. Gretry’s bubbly, light tres Francais score, with its hints of early Mozart (yet written a decade before Mozart began composing) was first performed in 1778/9. With its quite weak plot, the opera is still full of elegant music, some of it quite demanding technically. Mention must be made of the instrumental entr'actes – a delightful mandolin solo for the scene change in-between Act1 and 2 by Stephen Lalor and the extended Baroque flute solo ( by Melissa Farrow) against a very romantic, starry background. There is rather minimalist staging – one set for the entire opera, with a slide out bed, tables, chairs and other hand props, (a ladder, dusters, brooms, fans, extraneous clothes, etc) and detachable curtains on the large window stage right as well as assorted necessary nooks, crannies and doors. The ‘outside courtyard’ for Act 3 is represented by a single ‘tree’, in a wheelbarrow. I also quite liked the use of the blizzard of rose petals in Act 3. The stunning period costumes by Christie Milton are also magnificent and tiny Alexandra Oomens as Isabelle looks like a Dresden shepherdess. The plot is typical of opera of the period, including a series of mistaken identities, lovers tiffs and stormy reconciliations, serenades to the wrong woman, a dominating father and a last minute twist putting all to rights. The small, excellent cast of six have to be trilingual and as the dialogue is spoken in English ​and the arias sung in French (with subtitles). ​This is at first a bit disconcerting. David Greco as Don Lopez was in fine form and splendid, pure yet deep voice as the pompous, self-centered and controlling almost villainous father. Jessica Aszodi as Jacinte was a nosy fusspot making wry comments about her betters and the opening almost sarcastic dialogue between her and her employer Don Lopez was one of the more humorous moments. Celeste Lazarenko, as Léonore was given many reasons to show her pearl like purity of tone, blended with a great vocal control for both coloratura fireworks and soft pianissimo. Ed Lyon as Don Alonze, the eponymous 'jealous lover', piratical in his black and gold bandana, was feverishly passionate with a splendid clean tone – the duets for him and Leonore are particular highlights. Deliciously handsome and French to the hilt, Andrew Goodwin as Florival caught terrifically his magnified sense of honour and his love-struck desperation - the off-stage aria Tandis que tout sommeille at once delicate, ravishing and delightful. Alexandra Oomens as Isabelle is enchanting and her arias were very poignant and touching. Great fun with terrific performances and a rare chance to see this now almost never performed opera. Rating: 3½ stars out of 5 L'amant Jaloux by André Grétry Directed by Chas Rader-Shieber City Recital Hall | 2-12 Angel Place Sydney 3 – 8 December 2015

SHerlock : The Abominable Bride

A wonderful BBC release .Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide SHERLOCK : THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE January 5, 2016 Lynne Lancaster Leave a comment John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch play the master duo. The BBC has given us a fabulous holiday treat with this magnificent one-off screening taking place in cinemas around the world. Sherlockians will rejoice not just at the return of Cumberbatch as Holmes– cold , aloof, detached and enigmatic- but will enjoy picking up the references to various Holmes stories ( ie The Five Orange Pips , A Study in Scarlet…). This particular episode includes time travel to 1895, the period in which the original Holmes stories took place. It also includes references to the Paget illustrations. The Victorian period is lovingly, lavishly recreated in exquisite detail. It is also much fun comparing and contrasting the contemporary and Victorian 221B’s (and yes there is the Persian slipper, the VR bullet holes – and even a moose head with an ear trumpet! ). This is a ghoulish, gothic horror tale of murders, switched corpses, enigmatic, mysterious cults, and exhumations, where precise timing is critical. Straight at the beginning of the show, we see Victorian Holmes and Watson in their momentous first meeting ( ‘’You have been in Afghanistan I perceive’) and the duo are soon off solving mysteries. The game is afoot from the start… The narrative hinges on the following : a blood-spattered bride who has blown her brains out returns as a gun-wielding vampire like ghoul and kills her husband – after which several other husbands die in a chilling fashion. Defying logic, Emilia Ricoletti has apparently overcome death and, Houdini-like, mastered the secret of bilocation (her corpse was in the mortuary at the time of her husband’s killing). Holmes refuses to believe in a supernatural explanation … It is a case that had been unsolved for over a century and which contemporary Sherlock had tried to solve by journeying deep into his “mind palace” which we learn after an imaginary confrontation with his devilish foe Moriarty (chillingly , creepily played by a sinister Andrew Scott), who had shot himself through the mouth and yet lived. The tense confrontation scenes are marvelously played out. Plunging back to reality, Holmes finds himself on the plane into which he’d been unceremoniously bundled at the end of Sherlock series three. He now has a real mystery to solve – the apparent return of Moriarty – but is unable to give up his obsession with the Ricoletti deaths. Spoiler alert ! – Another twist is provided by Holmes as he disrupts and distracts a gathering of the female cultists (vengeful Suffragettes ) behind the Ricoletti killings. The “corpse bride”, he informs us, was created via lookalikes, effective make-up, and drawing room reflection magic. We are provided with another twist as Sherlock unfortunately digs almost too far into his ‘mind palace’ (drug induced ?) and finds himself caught in tense stand-off with Moriarty, at the fateful, iconic Reichenbach Falls. “When it comes to unarmed combat at the edge of a precipice you’re going into the water,” insists Sherlock. However it is mind-palace Watson who intervenes whilst Holmes drags himself out of his mind- palace (dream ?) by following Moriarty hurtling over the edge. Now almost traditional elements of the contemporary Sherlock were included such as Watson’s failed attempts, as they sat waiting for the ghostly bride to appear, to get Sherlock to talk about his feelings. Highlights include the beautiful simplicity of Sherlock’s searching for clues and summing up of his deductions (“Poetry or truth?” “Many people would say they’re the same thing.” “Yes. Idiots.”)…The in-jokes regarding the difficulties of writing people in and out of stories…The deerstalker becoming an expected, acknowledged prop. The script is excellent, the banter between Holmes and Watson terrific, with comic misunderstandings and wry exchanges, at times very barbed and sarcastic and at others quite revealing . “There is a woman in my sitting room – is this intentional?”, “Suicide street theatre, murder by corpse – Lestrade you’re spoiling us”, “It is NEVER twins Watson!” Martin Freeman as Watson is splendid, supportive and energetic. Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes is superb in a definitive performance. It is interesting to note the two different period Mycrofts (Holmes’ brother, who ‘ IS the British government”) as played by Mark Gatiss. In the Victorian era segments he is , as stipulated by Conan Doyle , enormously toad like and fat , in the contemporary segments far slimmer and more refined. I liked the way in the Victorian segments that Mary Watson (delightfully played by Amanda Abbington)was also working for him. And the interactions between the two brothers was great fun. Una Stubbs revels playing Mrs Hudson. I also liked the ‘comic relief’ of Watson’s use of incorrect BSL at the Diogenes club. A new series of Sherlock is scheduled for release in 18 months or so. Holmes had a vision of the challenges to come . “Of course Moriarty is dead,” he said. “And I know exactly what he’s going to do next.” The credits began and we can’t wait for 2017 …. Running time just under two hours as there is a brief introduction and guided tour of the Victorian 221B by Steven Moffatt before the feature and interviews with the cast and ‘the making of ‘ afterwards. SHERLOCK : THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE screened at selected cinemas world wide cinemas last Sunday.

Ming Cho Lee - A Life in Design

This is a superb book .Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide MING CHO LEE : A LIFE IN DESIGN December 30, 2015 Lynne Lancaster Leave a comment Inset Pic- The book cover. Featured pic- Ming Cho Lee receiving his Tony Lifetime Achievement Award. This is a lavish, fascinating, glorious ‘coffee table ‘’ book that celebrates the life and artistry of one of the most important American designers of the 20th century, Ming Cho Lee.The book has won the The 2014 TLA Book Awards’ George Freedley Memorial Award and deservedly so. Sometimes nicknamed the ‘Dean of American stage design ‘, Lee developed his reputation via 300 productions of theatre, opera and dance at venues across the country, and is credited for reshaping the aesthetics of American scenic design. Since 1969, Lee has taught at the Yale School of Drama, where he is currently co-chair of the Design Department. Now in his eighties, Lee was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2002. The over 500 images for the book, which is based on hundreds of hours of interviews, were chosen personally by Lee from thousands of photos, drawing, sketches, renderings and models, all carefully catalogued by Betsy, Lee’s wife and lifelong archivist. Lee’s awards include a Tony Award for best scenic design of a play, an Outer Critics Circle Award, three Drama Desk Awards, a special Tony Award for lifetime achievement and the National Medal of the Arts . Lee, whose father was a Yale University graduate, moved to the United States in 1949 and attended Occidental College. However, it was his mother that encouraged his love of the arts. He first worked on Broadway as a second assistant set designer to Jo Mielziner on The Most Happy Fella in 1956. Lee’s first Broadway play credited as scenic designer was The Moon Besieged in 1962; he went on to design the sets for over 20 Broadway shows, including For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, The Glass Menagerie, King Lear, Mother Courage and The Shadow Box. He has won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design, a Helen Hayes Award, and in 1983 he received a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design for the icy play K2. Lee has also designed sets for the Opera, (including the Met and the Royal Opera at Covent Garden), Ballet, (including the Martha Graham Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Elliott Field in the US and the Cloudgate Dance Theatre in Taiwan) and regional theatres such as Arena Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Guthrie Theatre. Of particular note are his designs for the 1973 production of Boris Godunov for the Metropolitan Opera, and Electra, a 1964 Public Theater production at the Delacorte Theatre. Australian opera devotees might be interested to learn that Lee designed some productions starring Dame Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti as well as others featuring Placido Domingo. Lee designed over 30 productions for Joseph Papp at The Public Theatre, including the original Off-Broadway production of the musical Hair. From 1962 to 1973, Lee was the principal designer for what is today the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park program at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. One of his final designs before officially retiring in 2005 was for a national tour of the musical Annie. Lee is perhaps the only person in Broadway history to have a Tony nomination for a show that opened and closed the same night. It was for Billy, a 1969 musical based on Billy Budd, and the set was as remarkable as the show unfortunately wasn’t. Lee might have set a record of another sort: three of his seven musicals closed on opening night, the other two being Here’s Where I Belong and La Strada. All three within just under two years. As a designer, Lee drew upon his training in Chinese watercolour, the aesthetics of his two major mentors, Jo Mielziner and Boris Aronson, and the post-war developments in German design (especially Brecht) to develop a new approach to stage design that radically changed American stage design. Breaking new ground, Lee blended existing motifs in startling new ways and continued to explore new ideas throughout his entire career. Aronson examines how Lee changed style over his career – Lee first introduced a sculptural style with a sparse, soaring verticality that until then had been largely unknown in American theatre. The painterly image was replaced with a decidedly modern and industrial scenic vocabulary that emphasized stage-as-stage and particularly, at first, a scaffolding look that became almost a trademark effect. The book is divided into sixteen chapters, with a preface by Aronson, is arranged chronologically, and looks at most of the important productions Lee designed in a particular year. It is an analysis of and conversation with Lee. Stunning photos of his designs are beautifully positioned to show how the designs sometimes changed and what the end product was compared to the original doodled idea. Candid commentary by Lee on many of his designs is also included providing fascinating insight into various difficulties with some of the productions, and his thoughts on various productions and collaborations. Aronson attempts to show where Ming Cho Lee is positioned in the history of American theatre design in relation to his predecessors and mentors and also future generations – his many students. Mention is also made of the famous Ming’s Clambake an annual event that grew and grew for two decades until it became overwhelming and was sadly discontinued in 2009. The final chapter is a selection of some of Lee’s stunning watercolour paintings from 1950 to 2007.There is also an excellent time line with a list of each production Lee designed for that year and a comprehensive index . Aronson also talks about the importance of Lee’s work in the cultural landscape. “And his influence goes beyond set design,” Dr. Aronson said. “Costume and lighting designers, playwrights, directors, architects, artists have taken his classes. His aesthetic and ideology have seeped into the very fabric of American theatre.” A visual and intellectual feast, this fascinating book will interest anyone involved in the performing arts and should be in the libraries of our leading arts institutions. Product Identifiers ISBN-10 1559364610 ISBN-13 9781559364614 Key Details Author Arnold Aronson Number Of Pages 336 pages Format Hardcover Publication Date 2014-12-09 Language English Publisher Theatre Communications Group, Incorporated Additional Details Copyright Date 2014 Illustrated Yes

Happy New Year

Hi everyone Best wishes for a great 2016 Lynne