Sunday, 30 April 2017

Audiences and mobiles

Dear fellow audience members !
do you HAVE to be connected to the outside world via your phone every single moment of the day ?!!
Please !
A reminder -

Listen to the announcements and make sure your phone is turned off when you have taken your seat in the auditorium
Do NOT turn your phone back on and use it in the middle of the performance!

a - it is rude to the performers
b- it is distracting to those around you
c - and most importantly perhaps - one of the main reasons theatres make the announcement about not using your phone is it can interfere with the technical production side of the show and bring the performance to a grinding halt !

There are also the copyright issues of recording / photographing the set design etc

I have noticed that recently this situation is getting worse and worse.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Rasputin Affair at the Ensemble


                                     Mulvany's play is a fictional imagining of what happened the night of Rasputin's murder.

The Rasputin Affair
Tom Budge, Zindzi Okenyo, Sean O'Shea, Hamish Michael and John Gaden in The Rasputin Affair. Photograph by Prudence Upton.

Sorry fellow audience members I was most disappointed in this play. Individually the elements were splendid and it has a great cast (Sean O’Shea as Rasputin is superb) but it seems to be two plays – one for Rasputin and one for everyone else.
The Rasputin Affair is an uneasy blend of comedy and ‘what might have happened‘. Scenes become cumbersome as characters unveil their individual dramas and concerns. Mulvany attempts to channel Stoppard or Moliere perhaps but it doesn’t quite work. The play utilises the comic style of farce while not exactly being in that style.There are revelation after revelations of unexpected twists in the plot sand broadly sketched performances.
Mulvany’s play is set in the Moika Palace in Petrograd, on the fateful evening in December, 1916 when Rasputin – the ‘mad monk‘ a self-proclaimed religious healer and confidant of the Tsar and Tsarina – is murdered by a group of Russian nobles. Some of the rumours about his poisoning and subsequent shooting are fairly bizarre. Rasputin’s real character and life is just as mysterious as his death – with little confirmed about his religious practices, early life as a peasant, or his influence over the Romanovs and in Russian politics.
Much of the first act revolves around a pink cupcake, which has been injected with cyanide, and the frantic attempts of the conspirators to allay Rasputin’s (Sean O’Shea) suspicions and convince him to take a bite of the deadly cupcake.
The conspirators are: the unconventional, tense and very highly-strung Prince Felix Yusupov (Tom Budge); the narcissitic, stylish and debonair Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (Hamish Michael) and Vlad (John Gaden) who is loosely based on far-right politician Vladimir Purishkevich. Vlad attempts to document the event with his camera ‘for proof’, and at critical points in the murder attempt, Vlad takes photos and the camera bulb lights up the theatre each time.
The cupcake was made by Felix’s maid Minya (exuberantly played by Zindzi Okenyo). As a maid she has no real social standing in Russia, and it becomes apparent she is not who she appears to be.
Individually the actors are terrifically cast and perform with enormous vibrancy and enthusiasm. John Sheedy the director, with a sure touch establishes and maintains the play’s fast pace. Costumes by Alicia Clements are extravagant and slickly appropriate. The opulent set design (like a room at the Hermitage) is a terrific invocation of late Tsarist Russia, with lots of sliding doors and fake panels and paintings, allowing for fluid exits and entrances and visual comedy as well as people viewing and  commenting on the action downstairs in the room and an extended discussion for Felix and Dimitri. 
Shaun O’Shea as bearded Rasputin in black is incredible, delivering a brilliant, charismatic, imposing and commanding performance. Tom Budge as Felix gives a sharply observed, delightfully comic performance. Hamish Michael has a wonderful time as swaggering, oily Grand Duke Dimitri. With John Gaden delivering a beautifully nuanced, understated performance as Vlad.
Zindzi Okenyo gleefully reveals many layers as the chameleon-like femme fatale Minya, (so far as I am aware, Minya is an entirely fictional character).
The ending is cyclical and rather neatly wraps everything up.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
The Rasputin Affair
Written by Kate Mulvany





Chilling and thrilling an excellent production

here's my thoughts for Artshub

                                     A thrilling, chilling adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic. Shake & stir bring Dracula thrillingly to life.

Dracula by Bram Stoker created and adapted by shake & stir theatre co. Image via shake & stir theatre co.
Shake and stir have brought Bram Stoker’s Gothic thriller of vampires and the supernatural chillingly alive in this magnificent gripping production of Dracula.You will be mesmerized and on the edge of your seat.
Based on Stoker’s book, interwoven with voice-over narration and readings of the diary, sets the scene and follows the progress of time. Under Michael Futcher’s inspired direction, the dark chilling atmosphere is eerily invoked and there is much use of haze, dry ice, torch-lit exploration of the castle – and yes quite a bit of blood – note how it has seeped into the walls.

Jason Glenwright’s lighting is extraordinarily effective, mostly dark and gloomy with lightning flashes and crashes and some pyrotechnical effects too. Josh Mcintosh’s huge set is fabulous, eerie and spectacular with a huge staircase. Much use is made of the revolve, which allows for many fluid scene changes as well as oozing fog and portentous sound design by Guy Webster. The director and designers have allocated set spaces for certain locations such as the Count's castle, Lucy's bedroom, Renfields' cell and so on as well as delineating various other places such as coach or train stations, the ship wreck of the Demeter that runs aground and the cliffs at Whitby. Costumes are the late 1800s – corsets and three peice suits – yet some freedom is allowed in the changes of the Count's costumes and hair to suit the differing climates of England and Europe. The thrilling fight scenes as choreographed by Nigel Poultpn display the frantic frenzy of the duel between the vampire hunters and Dracula's supernatural powers.

Nick Skubij as Count Dracula gives a magnificent, spellbinding performance. He is powerful, chillingly charismatic and hypnotic and wickedly tempting. While pursuing Lucy he has long blonde almost silver hair (think Lucien Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) while after Mina he has far shorter reddish hair but the same seductive manner. He stalks with stately measured grace unless provoked (in which case he moves extremely fast).
Doctor Jack Seward was strongly, delightfully played by Ross Balbuziente. Seward works in a mental asylum and is Lucy's jilted lover and a member of the small team of Vampire hunters that develops from Jack's friend Professor Van Helsing's enlightenment of what is unfolding. Balbuziente skilfully lets us see Jack's enormous range of emotions from his anguished ruminations upon Lucy jilting him, the confused dealings with the mad patient Renfield, and the love that he still bears when he sees Lucy’s suffering.

Jonathan Harker, the young English solicitor who has been sent to Transylvania to deliver settlement papers to the strange spooky Count Dracula was excellently played by Michael Wahr. His cool English manners and polite formality are combined with a gradual awareness of the seriousness of his predicament. We see Harker’s worry at the unsettling developments and also his integrity and honesty especially in his love for his fiancé Mina.
Mina is dark and petite, yet fiery and strong willed. She was given a luscious performance by Nellie Lee. She comes across as more grounded and mature than her vivacious perhaps more frivolous friend Lucy. We see her ‘stiff upper lip’ stoically masking her worries about her lover, worries that later prove to be correct.
Lucy, a slightly taller beautiful brunette was given a fine performance by Adele Querol. Lucy has decided to become involved in a relationship with someone that can offer her title and money instead of her long time love Jack Seward. The scenes where they succumb and become vampire brides are chilling.
David Whitney was tremendous as tall, bald charismatic Van Helsing a strong, worthy opponent of the Count, desperately trying to save Lucy and Mina, introducing the now traditional weapons of garlic and a crucifix. We are catapulted into a chilling dark work of eerie adventure that won't let you go until the final lightning bolt hits. It is perhaps advisable to go with a friend so you are not too scared.
  Rating: 4 stars out of 5
by Bram Stoker
created and adapted by shake & stir theatre co

Warnings: High-level simulated violence & gore. Mid-level sexual & supernatural themes. Use of smoke & haze.
The production will tour all Australian States and Territories, visiting 44 cities and towns:
9 March | Manning Entertainment Centre, Taree
11 March | Capitol Theatre, Tamworth
14 March | Glasshouse Theatre, Port Macquarie
17 March | Newcastle Civic Theatre
21 - 22 March | Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre
23 March | Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre
25 March | Orange Civic Theatre
28 - 29 March | Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford
1 - 4 April | Riverside Parramatta
7 - 8 April | Griffith Regional Theatre
2 May | Shoalhaven Theatre, Nowra
4 - 5 May | Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre
1 June | Albury Entertainment Centre
12 April | Frankston Arts Centre
19 April | Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre
21 April | Riverslinks Venues, Westside PAC Shepparton
9 May | Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
12 May | Mildura Arts Centre
15 May | Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool
18 - 20 May | Geelong Performing Arts Centre
25 May | Hamilton Performing Arts Centre
27 May | Cardinia Cultural Centre
30 May | Esso BHP Billiton Entertainment Centre, Sale
3 June | Burrinja Theatre, Upwey
6 June | Cardinia Cultural Centre
26 - 29 April | Canberra Theatre Centre
10 June | Theatre North at the Princess, Launceston
14- 15 June | Theatre Royal, Hobart
23 June| Bunbury Entertainment Centre
27 - 28 June | Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
30 June | Geraldton Performing Arts Centre
8 July | Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
14 July | Darwin Entertainment Centre
18 July | Mt Isa Civic Centre
21 - 22 July | Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns
27 July | Mackay Entertainment Centre
29 July | Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton
1 August | Brolga Theatre, Maryborough
5 August | Ipswich Civic Centre
8 - 9 August | Gold Coast ArtsCentre
11 August | Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
15 August - 2 September | Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane
6 - 16 September | Adelaide Festival Centre
20 September | Barossa Convention Centre

The Play That Goes Wrong


Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields of London’s Mischief Theatre, THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is a hysterical loving bouquet to the world of amateur theatre and what can go wrong; a succession of missed cues, lost dogs and props, slapstick, the drinking of turps instead of whiskey,pratfalls, ‘drying’, squashed hands, mangled lines, missed cues, revolving doors, fake snow and melodramatic red lighting.
The play’s conceit is based on the attempts of the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society to perform the 1920s murder mystery The Murder at Haversham Manor.
Even before the show officially begins there are problems. On stage, the crew is trying to tape the mantelpiece back to the wall, with help from an audience member.
Lights go up and we discover Charles, heir of a wealthy family, lying ‘dead ‘on the chaise longue. Almost everyone is a suspect: Charles’ passionate fiance, his old school friend, his cantankerous brother, even Perkins the apparently faithful employee.
The show’s set remains a major issue; the doors become dangerous, props take on lives of their own, the top level set slides and the question of solving the whodunit becomes a relatively minor drama.Are the cast able to complete the play alive and in a dignified manner? The climax is a tribute to a scene in Buster Keaton’s film Steamboat Bill,Jr. (1928).
Like Nunsense or The Producers this show has the audience in fits of hysterical laughter. The show is similar in genre to Noises Off, The Real Inspector Hound, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Monty Python. During the show there are also allusions to The Mousetrap and Phantom of the Opera.
What brings underlying tension to the Society’s performance is the actors’ sheer persistence and determination that Murder at Haversham Manor will proceed without any deviations or interruptions. Improvised efforts to cover errors lead to further problems and mistakes. The cast’s inability to pick up correct cues also results in confusion and misunderstandings.
A favourite scene has an almost impossible acrobatic human chain that stretches across the stage from one side to the other so that a character can take a telephone call, and move the action forward, is so exquisitely coordinated it has the audience cheering.
You can’t but admire the incredible energy of the cast or their superb comic timing full of delicious detail. It is rigorously plotted and choreographed and is extremely  demanding.
Nick Simpson-Deeks plays multiple roles. He is Lermontov like in the role of stressed director Chris Bean and excellent in the imposing role of Inspector Carter.
Brooke Satchwell as sultry leading lady Sandra Wilkinson blends posturing with hammy acting, full of languid narcissism. Sandra gives as good as she gets when fighting stage manager Annie for her role in a hilarious catfight.
Luke Joslin, also playing multiple roles, is great as the pompous Robert Groven and as Thomas Collynore, wearing olive green plus fours, a character who spends most of Act II clinging to the sliding wreckage of the set.
Vibrant yet restrained George Kemp as Dennis Tyde is delightful as the turps-dispensing butler Perkins.
As Charles, Darcy Brown has much fun  ‘playing possum’ with hilarious ghost like exits and appearances.
James Marlowe, excellently understatedly playing the dismal actor ,cleverly anchors one of the show’s most farcical set pieces when his Society character Max repeats a line that triggers a what feels like infinite loop.
Adam Dunn as Trevor, the lighting and sound technical guy and huge Duran Duran fan, becomes heavily involved in the action.
Designer Jason Bovaird has marvellously relit the show for its Australian and brings a sumptuous richness to the various aspects of the of the eventually disintegrating Haversham Manor set.
Roberto Surace‘s costume designs delightfully reflect the limited reserves and inventiveness of the Society.
Lurking in Nigel Hook’s set design are multiple hidden tricks that are revealed during the performance.
Silly, daft and exuberantly funny THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is a glorious night out. The show is playing the Roslyn Packer Theatre until April 23 and then continues on its national tour.
Running time 2 hours including interval

New Adventures Lord of the Flies

Yay!  This was dark and rather overwhelming but terrific ..


Dark and disturbing this is a gripping, chilling version of William Golding’s classic novel LORD OF THE FLIES directed by Matthew Bourne.
This is the Australian premiere with a short Melbourne season only and represents the first time that this work has been performed out of the UK.
Bourne’s production is driven, relentless and, at time, explosively violent.
Golding’s book published in 1954 examines the fragile abyss between savagery and civilisation.
Bourne’s work establishes the novel’s key narrative points through movement, exploring themes of human nature and mob rule and the sinister developments that can ensue.
The large cast includes 23 local young men who are involved through a community development process designed to provide access, and a transformative life experience, for these young dancers.
Months of workshops led up to this performance. Ranging in age from 11 to 25, the  dancers absolutely throw themselves into this work with sizzling energy and obvious dedication to the gravitas of the story. All perform with anarchic, rambunctious enthusiasm and work well with the Company’s nine professional dancers.
If you know Bourne’s work and are familiar with its various incarnations you can perhaps pick tiny snippets of choreography from say Oliver, Swan Lake and Spitfire. Interestingly in this production Scott Ambler has been credited as the choreographer.
In this version the boys are stranded in a cavernous, abandoned theatre. Lez Brotherston’s wonderful, eerily atmospheric designs are a major feature of this production.  The theatre is a spooky dark cavernous space, filled with props and masks, and racks of clothes to fire the boys’ wild imaginations.
There are wicker baskets, petrol drums and terraced scaffolding that run diagonally across the stage and crashing metal roller doors.
Paul Groothuis’ sound design, and the atmospheric lighting design by Chris Davey featuring a huge sun and moon, and snappy blackouts, also contribute to the sense of danger, fear and disintegration at the heart of Golding’s timeless tale.
Scott Ambler’s choreography captures the children’s descent from schoolboy to savage. Initially their movement is marching and controlled yet inflected with sporty motifs- there are allusions to soccer.
Terry Davies’ score with its pure choirboy anthems still places the boys in a solid world of rules and timetables, at least to begin with.
The conch shell is here replaced by a drum stick beating an empty petrol drum.
As the boys begin to turn wild ,the music becomes far more percussive and feral with jungle rhythms , howls and beats, and Ambler’s choreography changes into warlike dances, with measured stamping and the use of long poles in a martial arts effect, around which the younger ones tumble and run.
Senior prefect Ralph attempts to keep order but Jack , a large lad hungry for power and hedonism, confronts him and the descent begins with food fights and descends to murder.  Some of the most effective choreography is used in character introspection.
Dominic North is marvellous as the reluctant noble leader Ralph. There is a rather nightmarish scene where Simon (Patrick Weir) imagines the pig’s head coming to life.
Daniel Wright’s ferocious Jack, a playground bully who becomes a stalking commando.
The violence unleashed as the war games become real makes us fear for its victims in particular poor bespectacled asthmatic Piggy, played by Luke Murphy.
There is also a wonderful duo for Samneric (Taylor Scanlan and Shay Debney).
The time-lapse element is cleverly contrived and there is some use of slow motion in the choreography.
Mention must also be made of eerie appearances of the tramp (the ghost of a dead pilot?) who somehow manages to get into the theatre through the shutter door which the boys can’t open. Is he in fact a symbolic representation of Death?
The fire, which in the book is started by focusing the sun’s light through Piggy’s spectacles, is created here using Piggy’s cigarette lighter. This, of course, makes Jack’s wilful theft of the glasses in the second half even more cruel. In this version Jack had no motive to take Piggy’s spectacles, except that he wanted to.
This breathlessly energetic,  all male production graphically brings Golding’s tale to life.  Golding’s dark tale concludes that chaos is inevitable when the thin veneer of human nature’s of civilisation is removed .The audience is confronted with parallels between adult attitudes to modern warfare and the boys descending into malicious bestiality .
Running time just under 2 hours includes interval.
New Adventures production  of LORD OF THE FLIES is playing the Melbourne Arts Centre between 5th and 9th April.

Untitled at Traffic Jam Galleries

The latest exhibition...


UNTITLED, the current exhibition at Traffic Jam Galleries, focuses on guest artists, foreign to the gallery space, featuring a diverse spectrum of themes and mediums.
The aim of this medley of physical and conceptual forms is to promote a culture of diversity and demonstrate that mixed bodies of seemingly disconnected ideas have the ability to strengthen and support each other.
The exhibition is a thrilling visual feast . In no particular order –
Steven Durbach AKA Sid Sledge presents  some unsettling works .What is important is the use of pattern and repetition in an almost pointilist way but in Boundary Hunters, for example, there are holes in the ‘ wire ‘ fence – does this mean a search for freedom?!
Building Blocks encourages us to consider building community, recognising and respecting everyone.
Disruption with its swirling tattoo like patterns comes across as a comment on drug use.
Nigel Sense in his works uses bold dynamic and colourful splashes of vivid colour rather abstract in form. His style also features use of words or quotes ( for example,  Art is Swimming With Dolphins or Art is Beef Pies )
Miriam Innes is represented by a striking series of black and white works, charcoal on primed linen canvas, some quite reminiscent of themes from West Side Story – the diagonal fire escapes,  There are some  wonderful port scenes.
Much is made of ominous atmosphere and strong verticals and diagonals in the compositions, all precisely rendered.  Spheres and Grids musing is, by contrast,  rather futuristic floating steel bubbles on a staircase.
Beric Henderson’s works are soft, delicate and starlit- leaves in a forest , swirling galaxies, underwater effects.Some use acrylic and ink on canvas, some a LED back lit lightbox.
If you look closely you can see in some of them hidden figures, for example in  The Eternal Garden – alluding to the Book of Genesis.
Blake Malone’s works are visually arresting , large and abstract , attempting to express colour composition and music.
Majestic Abyss is calm and cool, and quite mathematical in construction. Bass Hunter and Superfluous Noise, for example, are busy with swirling lines.
Hugh van Schiack’s portraits are gripping and compelling as he seeks to grapple with his father’s cancer. There is a vivid dynamic portrait of his father and also Pain, depicts his father ill in bed having chemo . There are also some very detailed close up drawings of bus tickets and a flavoured milk bottle.
Aleta Lederwasch’s works, gouache and pencil nudes are delicate, dynamic and extremely vivid .Some of the works, for example Woman of the Eucalypt are dreamy in style.
Jessie Pitt’s wonderful, harsh landscapes of snowy mountains, stormy clouds and crashing seascapes are tumultuous and exciting with  a Japanese influence and a striking, dynamic use of composition.
Greg Salter’s three sculptures are dynamic and appear alive. The HUGE, virtually life size camel – made of recycled steel and other materials – is wittily contrasted with the actual title of the work Little Red Bird which cheekily sits on the camel’s back. The goose is just about to chase you and there is an exciting underwater sea creature.
Britt Dunbar’s two landscapes are bold and colourful with strong composition.
Some works by Shiling Wu who is also a trained professional musician, originally from Taiwan, is included with rolling, swirling sculptures of various combined materials, including raku , porcelain and terracotta.
Ember Fairbarn’s large oils on canvas are bright, bold but soft floral landscapes.
This was a very exciting and diverse exhibition.
UNTITLED runs at the Traffic  Jam Galleries until April 20.

The Chancellor's Concert

A delightful concert here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide


This was a thrilling concert in the beautiful , elegant Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The Orchestra under maestro Eduardo Diazmunoz was magnificent. Diazmunoz’s conducting was precise, energetic, refined and mostly restrained, except in the case of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring during which he was jumping around,
After the introduction and welcoming speeches by the Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM ,the opening work was the delightful world premiere of Anne Boyd AM”s Olive Pink’s Garden which requires an absolutely HUGE orchestra,
Boyd’s composition is inspired by the work of anthropologist Olive Muriel Pink, after which a beautiful park in Alice Springs was created,
The piece opened with a strong blare of brass and woodwind fanfare (opening the gates? Dawn?). .It ranged from fragile and delicate, with the  xylophone and flute, to shimmering and pulsating – the garden on a hot summer day?) .
Jungle rhythms were included. In the lyrically volcanic section it felt as if it was absolutely BURSTING with life and swirled and darted , growing – depicting the luscious landscape – and then closing with another fanfare , returning to the full orchestra – (closing the gates? the end of the day? ).
The composer was in the audience, and  was called  up on stage to receive very warm applause.
Gordon Jacob’s Flute Concerto No.1 was given an outstanding recital and featured soloist Breanna Moore  who was a striking figure with braided hair and wearing a long green and purple floral gown.
Moore’s playing, she is the winner of the 2016  Sydney Conservatorium of Music  Concerto Competition, was poised, confident and dazzling.  Jacob’s concerto is in four movements though unusually a few of the movements are played without a pause.
The piece began with fast, rippling strings and the flute soared like a bird in flight. Some of the work was lush, languid and luxurious with shades of Debussy’s L’Apres Midi D’Un Faune  In other parts it was quite dark and operatic.
Most of the concerto featured a dialogue between the flute and orchestra with the flute emphatically leading the conversation. Moore’s playing was superb , enchanting in its crystalline clarity and ravishing in its expressiveness. In another section, toward the end, strident strings were contrasted with the aching darting flute.
jAfter interval we were treated to a bold, vivid ,somewhat overwhelming version of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) which famously caused a riot at its first performance , with Nijinsky’s choreography for the Ballets Russes in 1913.
The orchestra handled Stravinsky’s jagged, pulsating rhythms and fiendishly difficult counts marvellously. Conductor Diazmunoz was extremely energetic and emphatic.
The orchestra was driven and relentless with dark insistent strings and  a pulsating wind section. There was a short tremulous flute section , emphatic percussion and several melodies were repeated in a circular fashion by the orchestra. It was driven by crashing waves of sound at times that lead to a wild, almost violent end that left one breathless.
There was a stunned silence during which both the while both audience and orchestra recovered. There was then screams of Bravo, thunderous applause and several curtain calls
Running time 2 hrs 20 minutes including one interval.
The Chancellor’s Concert. part of the Greenway series, took place at Verbrugghen Hall of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Friday 31 March 2017.


Part of the French Film Festival another dance movie


Dark and at times somewhat disturbing . POLINA marks the directorial debut of renowned French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj and his wife, filmmaker Valérie Müller.
The film is wonderfully, at times moodily photographed, with some glorious landscape shots, including a striking early solo outside in the snow against the backdrop of the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant , and later some enchanting use of mirrors and shadows and unusual angles. and much use of intimate closeup. The interior of the Bolshoi Theatre and school are glowingly portrayed.
The film’s sections of electronic score, by 79D, works well with the shift away from classical music to something more edgy and contemporary.
POLINA is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Bastien Vivès and is about a ballerina and her artistic development.
Veronika Zhovnytska plays Polina as a young
girl, whose supportive hardworking parents encourage her dream of one day dancing for the Bolshoi.
Rehearsal and classroom sequences are interwoven with Polina’s dreary daily life where the loving domestic harmony is disrupted by the menacing threats of her father’s creditors.
We see how the older Polina, as played and danced by Anastasia Shevtsova, of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, is driven by her passion for dance and strives for excellence.
After years of gruelling training, Polina realises her dream when, at the age of 18 she enters the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet.  There her life is dominated by the brusque, relentless, slightly sinister Bojinsky, the teacher and director of the company, played by Aleksei Guskov.
Also at the Bolshoi she falls in love with Adrien, played by the delightful and handsome Niels Schneider, a charming French dancer who drastically changes her life. Adrien awakens her desire for a new and inspired way of expressing herself, eventually leading to them auditioning for, and working in Aix en Provence, France, with the modern dance guru Liria Elsaj, played by Juliette Binoche.
Whilst Polina’s path is full of struggle and hardship, her persistence and inspiring talent lead her on to great things on her chosen path.
Eventually, Polina ends up in Antwerp where she is forced to work at a bar to make ends meet rather than dance, and it is clear something has gone very wrong .She lies to her parents but her father eventually finds out.
Liria is the person who transforms Polina’s vision.  “An artist has to know how to look at the world around them,” she informs her. It is at this point,  the third chapter in Polina’s life begins.
It is in Belgium where she explores the art of improvisation with choreographer Karl (Jérémie Bèlingard, an étoile at the Paris Opera), that she observes how people move as they sit in the bar where she works, or walk at the train station or down the street. It is then that she wants to become a choreographer. We see Polina and Karl work on a duet and the film ends on an inconclusive but hopeful note as they audition  the work for a major arts Festival.
There is much wondrous dance footage in both classical and contemporary, even some hip hop and break dancing  genres.
POLINA is a film about a very talented young woman striving to find her own ‘voice’. it is a film for dance lovers but also for any lovers of stories set around the search for personal fulfilment.
Running time – two hours. The film is in Russian and French with English surtitles.
POLINA is screening as part of this years’ French Film Festival which screens until the 30th March.

The Artist's Garden - American Impressionism

A visually enchanting film


“An artist’s interest in gardening is to produce pictures without brushes.” Anna Lea Merritt
The latest luminous film from Exhibition on Screen is from the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut located at the former boarding house in Connecticut where the artists gathered .
Narrated by Gillian Anderson and directed by Phil Grabsky, with some voice over of artist’s letters of the time, it documents how the American impressionist movement followed its own path, whilst taking heed of leading French impressionists such as Renoir and Cezanne.
It also puts the art movement in context of the development of America at the time with the adoption of Impressionist techniques by US artists and it examines the way the movement interacted with changing attitudes to gardens, as well as the many other upheavals in American society at the time.
The film blends shots of paintings in the exhibition with footage of the places which inspired them, both in America and Europe, some of which have changed little since
Some of the paintings are photographed in extreme closeup so you can analyse every brushstroke and we also see the various rooms of the exhibition and how they were laid out. And,yes there are sumptuous shots of Monet’s garden at Giverney and the stunning Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania.
This documentary is a companion piece, in a way, to the previous documentaries on Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse and I, Claude Monet.  The focus, this time, is on leading American impressionists including  Theodore Robinson, Mary Cassatt, John Henry Twatchtman, Childe Hassam, and Willard Metcalf. Edward Simmons is also mentioned, as well as the work of Jon Leslie Breck who is now regarded as the artist credited with introducing Impressionism to America.
We see how in the late 1800s, America became more focused on discovering its identity through the histories of its very diverse population. This created enormous interest in Europe – acquiring a European education, particularly spending time in Paris, became almost a necessity for the wealthy privileged classes.
The film shows how with Claude Monet’s work dominating the Parisian cultural scene, it was no surprise that Impressionism would make its way across the Atlantic, and we also see how attempts to use its language to say something truly American were where the American Impressionist movement eventually broke away and distinctively transformed into something unique. The natural relationship between this and the American landscape – both cultivated and inherent– is the main content of the exhibition and film.
Florence Griswold’s garden has a major role in the story, which separates the art of painting from the arts of gardening and brings a more instinctive, somewhat different slant to the later. We see how the art of designing the ornamental garden blossomed and the gardens over the various seasons (some glorious Spring /Summer paintings and shots, but also some stunning snowy winter ones). There was also the rise of the City Beautiful movement.
There is less focus on individuals in this film and more on movements as the film talks about the various painters who stayed at Griswold’s retreat. One major section examines the work of female artists and the different ways American painters depicted women, moving away from the muse, the demure, the innocent, to depict women in active roles, women educating themselves and women aware of the restrictions placed on their lives, their struggle to become independent and accepted for their own worth.
The rise of the Landscape Gardener as a career is also examined, It’s no accident that this was also the period when US women achieved the hard won right to exhibit and sell their work on the same basis as men.
By the 1920’s American Impressionism was wilting and the art and world scene changing drastically.
This was a  fascinating film.
Running time allow just under two hours no interval.
EXHIBITION ON SCREEN  : THE ARTIST’S GARDEN : AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISTS is screening at selected arthouse cinemas.

The Unknown Dancer in the Neighbourhood

An incredible solo performance


THE UNKNOWN DANCER IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD was part of the Breaking the Mould event series at The Japan Foundation, Sydney. The series brings emerging, boundary-pushing work from Japan’s art and contemporary theatre scenes to Australia.
This was an astonishingly bravura performance that blended ballet, Butoh , theatre and contemporary dance. The performance was poignant, funny and thought provoking, and a performance which gets us to look at the selfishness of modern society as well as meanings of life and existence and the painfulness of death .
Yamamoto is one of Japan’s hottest theatre makers. His solo theatre project Docu(nt)ment has been established since 2012 and his blending of projected text, movement, photography and moody lighting has won him fans and awards across Asia.
It is unclear who the ‘Unknown Dancer’ really is – perhaps he is the person next to you. Or even the one in the mirror. Who knows?
We discover life in a Japanese suburb on the fringe of a major city, a somewhat unsavoury suburb called Nagai. The entire “non-community” of a city precinct is shown as both intimately knowable yet anonymous. In the daytime the neighbourhood throngs with people who treat each other indifferently; at night, it morphs into a dangerous zone, festering with crime.
The densely crowded urban atmosphere that THE UNKNOWN DANCER IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD creates – with its overload of technological information , use of projections , the recreation of Japanese morning TV, and the use of Twitter is very contemporary . Simultaneously the show also examines Japan’s complex culture and modes of expression.
Wataru Kitao , the solo performer, is amazing. He morphs from being a gorilla at the zoo to numerous other characters – train attendants, ‘Train Boy ‘( a train itself – sort of think Starlight Express), an innocent school girl trampled to death , a the girl’s mother, a TV presenter, a prostitute, her pimp and their unborn child, a lovesick teenage boy, an old grandfather with a boisterous young child … and many more all wonderfully and clearly delineated. Conversations are carried on using both spoken speech and ‘text messages ’ as translated on the back screen.
Kitao is incredibly energetic and charismatic , with his long hair dyed at the ends .He is sinuous with incredible elevation for his jumps. Martial arts like moves are included but ballet is used as a base (Yamamoto favours a wide fourth position and lots of demi plie at times ,and also some use of demi pointe – but it is fractured restructured and reworked Kitao’s jumps and turns are sensational).
Throughout the work Ei has been talking to his mother on his mobile. But it turns out she passed away several years ago ( or did she ? Is Ei also dead ? has he in fact ever existed ?
The main plot of the show follows the aftermath of a traumatic train accident at Nagai station .There is also mention of a horrific hostage crisis at Nagai library .It is gradually revealed that both events took place years ago yet the narrator can’t forget them. Throughout the performance, characters would consistently be questioned by disembodied voices asking why they should even care about the show’s events.
The work also reflects on the value of life and art – towards the end we are confronted by an ‘ artistic terrorist’ in a direct address to the audience challenging our own passive and superficially neutral observation of the play’s events. The audience was accused of being selfish and of selfishly trying to read hope and despair into what they had just seen. So what are we to make of it and what are society’s hopes for the cold, selfish future?!
Running time 90 minutes. Performed in Japanese with English surtitles.
THE UNKNOWN DANCER IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD played the Eternity Playhouse on the 22nd and 23rd March.

Launch at Parramatta of the Western Sydney Youth Orchestra


It was dry if cloudy at this invite only launch held in the undercover courtyard at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta.
Ms Yarmila Alfonzetti, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Youth Orchestras, opened the proceedings, welcoming us and making a speech reminding us that it marks thirty years since the passing of Peter Seymour, the founder of the Sydney Youth Orchestra.
In her speech she spoke of how, ‘Music is about sharing, giving and connecting and that it is very exciting to be part of this launch and founding something new and inspiring  which makes music further accessible to all.”
She also said big ‘thank yous ‘ to the founding partners of the Western Sydney Youth Orchestra including Fort St Capital and Dixon Advisory, as well as the Riverside.
Ms Amanda Chadwick, Administrator, City of Parramatta Council spoke next, mentioning the other VIPS attending and the recent release of Parramatta’s Cultural statement
.She discussed the cultural statement which was about how Parramatta Council is promoting growing and celebrating culture and enthusiastically welcomed the partnership between Sydney Youth Orchestra and Riverside. She spoke of how , ‘Talent comes from every suburb and we are looking at an exciting journey, breaking down barriers and creating new opportunities.”
David Borger, Western Sydney Director of the Sydney Business Chamber spoke next. He reminded us that the Orchestra has given many talented young musicians a chance to rise to the next level, and that it is a training ground for professionals. He said that the Sydney Business Chamber is trying to provide funding to break the tyranny of distance and allow for travel and expansion of cultural programs and events.
Steve Hawkins of Fort Street Advisers said that opportunities for advancement should not be defined by postcode. The launch of the Western Sydney SYO creates a platform for the next great wave of musicians who come from the area.
The final speaker was the Hon Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Western Sydney who excitedly declared that this would be the start of a new chapter in the story of the Sydney Youth Orchestra .
The new Orchestra’s area covers  from Penrith to Sutherland. He is hoping that the Western SYO will draw people from a wide geographical area, and said that this was all about providing high quality education and music for the area. Mr Ayers also referred to the upcoming national and international tours by the Sydney Youth Orchestra.
The launch concluded with a performance of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov ’s Capriccio Espagnol, dynamically conducted by James Pensini and beautifully played by the Orchestra.
Guests then mingles, and further sampled the finger food and drinks on offer.
The first performance by the new Western Sydney Youth Orchestra will be this coming weekend Sunday 26 March at 2 pm

The Royal Ballet in Woolf Works

A fascinating triple bill. Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide  . Fingers crossed I get to Brisbane to set it live!


Ferri and Bonelli in The Waves
Originally created in 2015 this is a welcome return of resident choreographer Wayne McGregor’s three part work based on the life and works of Virginia Woolf.
McGregor’s three acts delve into three of Woolf’s novels, interwoven with images from her own life. The choreography is athletic and extremely demanding at times with death defying leaps and catches in the partnering and laser sharp legs .The Royal Ballet dancers are AMAZING.

The evening begins with the only extant recording of Woolf’s voice (made by the BBC, in 1937), with Woolf reading from her essay On Craftsmanship, regarding the crafting of words and language.
This program is important as it is now a decade since McGregor became resident choreographer for the Royal Ballet. It is also marvellous to see Alessandra Ferri, now 53, reprising the role thrust on her by McGregor, in the opening and closing ballets, with a fluid, dark and charismatic grace and arresting stage presence.
The opening work I now, I then was a dramatically lyrical mood piece based on Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway. Richter’s score was pulsating and lyrical. Cigues’ set designs consisted of rather ominous looming large wooden frames that revolved.
Alessandra Ferri as Mrs Dalloway is marvellous.The piece features her reminiscing about her happier, younger self over the course of a day. Ferri has some fabulous, intense pas de deux with Gary Avis as her husband and as well with Ferderico Bonnelli as shell shocked soldier Septimus.
Francesca Hayward as Sally, with whom Mrs Dalloway had a brief affair, darts through dragon-fly like as a mesmerizing memory and their kiss is remembered with a smile.
Gender fluid identity questioning Becomings, based on Woolf’s Orlando was suitably abstract, and featured  scintillating, bravura dancing.  McGregor’s demanding, almost impossible choreography dazzled.
With its use of haze and laser lighting as directed by Lucy Carter the production is quite futuristic, at times visually reminiscent of a spaceship .The women wear gold caterpillar like eyebrows, which gives them an alien like appearance.
The piece begins with stark flashes of spotlight on fully heavily sixteenth century clothed dancers and concludes with them stripped to skin coloured body suits. The score is driven and relentless. The dancers are sinuous and athletic, at times reptilian, and at other times feline.
The costumes for men and women were interchangeable with ruffs and high unflattering very short tiny tutus in gold and black.
There is a very strong section for six men. Edward Watson has a fabulous slinky, sinuous solo and Eric Underwood in black and gold has a showy solo against a background of red haze.
The third work, Tuesday,  was based on Woolf’s The Waves, along with various of her  letters. The Waves is basically a series monologues, each narrated by a character based on people in Woolf’s circle, including the author herself.
The ballet begins with a voiceover read by Gillian Anderson of Woolf’s farewell letter to her husband with Ferri spotlit and alone under the huge projection panel – the panel features moody black and white projections of waves at the beach. This was a rather abstract ballet, albeit  haunting and hypnotic. The score is simultaneously driven and relentless.
There are some astonishing almost death defying pas de deux for Ferri and Bonnelli with Ferri at times floating, twisting in Bonelli’s arms or in the dangerous runs and catches as she remembers her lost love.
There is a charming scene with children from the Royal Ballet school as children on the beach and Sarah Lamb as a radiant, younger Woolf. At one point rope is used in a Graham-like effect.
The last third of the work was mostly the huge cast as waves, cascading, ebbing, flowing, pulsating around Ferri leading to the poignant ending with Ferri barefoot and alone blending in with the corps of waves until she is alone.
This was a very moving, wonderful program.
The Royal Ballet in WOOLF WORKS is screening as part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season between the 17th and the 22nd March.
Running time allow 3 and ½ hours includes two intervals and behind the scenes snippets and interviews during the intervals
There is also the opportunity to see this show live.The Royal Ballet will be performing WOOLF at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane between the 29th June and the 2nd July.

The Dancer

part of the French Film Festival this was fabulous


Part of the French Film Festival, THE DANCER is exquisitely, lushly photographed with some sensational performances. A feast for the eyes, it is fascinating for those who love dance, even if the film is heavily fictionalised. Some of the film is in English, at other times it is in French with subtitles.
Stéphanie Di Giusto’s film follows the life of avant- garde dancer Loie Fuller (Soko) who was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, lived with her father in the boondocks, and after his sudden tragic death was sent to live with her strict, God fearing mother in New York before becoming a sensation in the world of dance, first in New York and then in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, inspiring artists the like of Toulouse- Lautrec and Rodin and esteemed scientists such as Marie Curie.
The film also tells the story of her relationship and rivalry with Isadora Duncan, a fellow American who at one stage was Fuller’s protégé.
What we see is Fuller’s fierce dedication to her art and how this badly affected her body – the punishing physical regime she forced on herself, the injuries she suffered, and how sometimes she could barely stand – yet alone dance. We also see how incredibly ambitious, creative and intelligent she was. Fuller was way ahead of her time in many ways including in her lighting and stage designs.
Soko as Fuller was luminous, giving an extraordinary, ravishing performance .
We also see, sadly, how she was terribly treated by the men in her life. While in New York she meets ether sniffing, handsome and charismatic French aristocrat, Louis, Comte D”Orsay (Gaspard Ulliel), who eventually becomes her ticket and entrée to work in Paris and establish a meteoric career as the famous Loïe.
We also see performances by her both at the Folies Bergere  (under the direction of manager Marchand and his working partner Gabrielle) and the Paris Opera.
We see how Fuller had a troupe of girls working with her – the Fullerets – and how she trained them, in some ways prefiguring the ‘Isadorables’.
The period atmosphere and visuals with the fabulous costumes was stunning. There were some glorious landscape shots and we see Fuller’s love of nature (as provided by cinematographer Benoît Debie. The recreation of her dancing with the rippling, flowing, billowing silks was enthralling .Duncan’s idiosyncratic rather looser, freer dancing was also depicted.
Duncan is presented by Elfin Depp, who looks like a Botticelli angel, as ambitious, scheming and manipulative. It is interesting to see a movie that depicts a female sexuality both accepting of yet repulsed by men and alternately infatuated with women.There is an extraordinary garden scene between Fuller and Duncan.
As a stunningly photographed film about a dancer’s quest for beauty and perfection in her art, THE DANCER was magnificent .
Running time 108 minutes.
THE DANCER is screening as part of the current French Film Festival.

A Servant of Two Masters


Carlo Goldini’s comedy, THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, presented by Emu Productions and Fool In Progress Theatre Company, features a sparkling translation by Edward J Dent.
The play’s main character, Truffaldino,  is hungry. ALWAYS hungry (claiming his master never feeds him, he dreams of spaghetti). While working for one master, Federigo, he decides to double dip and work for a second master,  Florindo, to satisfy his everlasting hunger.
Meanwhile lovers are betrothed, meet, fight and, more importantly, love. Where there is love, there is food and where there is food there is Truffaldino.

This production is performed with the traditional masks used in the Commedia dell’arte style and is a comedy of quick wits, secrets, cross-dressing, opened letters that shouldn’t be, excellent comic timing and mistaken identities .
Set designs by Emu Arts are bright and colourful – silk flowing banner drapes in yellow, blue and red,  There are some steps and small raised platforms and square blocks of black and white tiles on the floor.
Character masks,  some traditional and some not,  are delicately, meticulously carved and detailed by Antonio Fava.
Costumes are eighteenth century – and ‘traditional’ Commedia dell’arte – Pantelone in red with his slippers , Brighella in white with black detail, the Doctor in black,  elegant outflts for Silvio and Florindo, Clarice is in yellow, and Smeraldina in white with a green bodice.
The standout performance is by Ben-jamin Newham who gives an exciting, entrancing performance as Truffaldino, garbed in traditional, multi-coloured costume and soft red hat. Like Puck he is mischievous, meddling, amusing character.
The famous set-piece of the play, the scene in which the frantic, starving Truffaldino attempts to serve a banquet to the entourages of both his masters without either group becoming aware of the other, whilst desperately trying to satisfy his own hunger at the same time, is performed magnificently. Truffaldino gets hopelessly entangled in the web of lies he weaves but fortunately all ends happily.
The first couple features Silvio, elegantly and stiffly played by David D’Silva, and Calice, Pantelone’s daughter, was virtuously played by Ali Aitken. In one aspect, Clarice is strong and defiant – her love for Silvio.
The second pair of lovers features Florindo Aretusi, terrifically played by darkly handsome Daniel D’Amico, and Beatrice Rasponi, for most of the play in sumptuous disguise as her brother Federigo, was given a feisty performance by Marcella Franco.
Pantelone, Clarice’s father,  was joyously played by Bianca Bonino. His friend, the Falstaff like, rotund Doctor Lombardi, was delightfully played by Mark Power. Pasqualino Arcuri revelled in playing innkeeper Brighella, he of the enormously bushy eyebrows and moustache.
Smeraldina, Clarice’s confidant and maid, (the Columbine figure if one is referring to Commedia), was warmly played by Gianna Di Genua. Her character doesn’t put up with any nonsense, and comments on the going ons with some quite pro-feminist speeches.
All in  all, this show was much silly fun, exactly what one would expect from this classic Goldini comedy.
Running time 2 hours 40 minutes, including one interval
Carlo Goldini’s THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, is playing the King Street Theatre, corner King Street and Bray Streets, Newtown, until 25th March.

The Laden Table

This was fabulous loved it


Dinner is waiting. Come with an open heart and mind to the resplendent, heavily laden table. This production by bAKEHOUSE Theatre company is superb, beautifully crafted, written and acted by a largish, strong cast of twelve and is sensitively directed by Suzanne Millar.
Be warned, this production is quite intense and divisive and features explosive inter-generational and racist remarks and quarrels.
THE LADEN TABLE is set in Sydney, right now, and is extremely timely, making us question our own faiths, principles and beliefs. From ‘both sides’ we  hear a plea for understanding.
Some six authors have been involved in this project/work and it has been through several years in development.
At the two dinners we meet three generations of  two very different families.
For the Fishmans, Abe (Geoff Sirmai), a Holocaust survivor, who refuses to forget, presides over his son, Jacob’s (Donald Sword) and wife, Esti’s (Abi Rayment) meal after Yom Kippur, in the presence of the next generation of adult Jewish children who strongly identify as Australian: their daughter Ruth (Jessica Paterson) – a doctor recently returned from a stint in Israel; Daniella (Justina Ward) and young family friend Nathan Gutman (Doron Chester),  in love with Ruth.
Meanwhile, in the Muslim household, Zainab Ka’adan (Gigi Sawires), who is a survivor of Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian exodus, heads her son’s, Ibrahim Ka’adan (Monroe Reimers) and daughter-in law’s, Nadya’s (Suz Mawer) celebratory meal for Eid, together with the adult children who also regard themselves as Aussie : Mousa Ka’adan (Mansoor Noor) – an engineer, recently returned from working in Haifa, Israel; his younger sister, Yasmina (Sarah Meacham), and a Christian family friend, Zac Thomas (Alex Chalwell).
The two families occupy the same table in director Suzanne Millar’s staging but exist in separate spaces. Benjamin Brockman’s marvellous lighting with the numerous hanging light globes provides dramatic atmosphere for all the play’s fluid scene changes, and adds. Sound design by Will Newnham also adds to the finely nuanced atmosphere, especially when prayers of both faiths are fused in harmony.
With its  vibrant and coherent narrative, THE LADEN TABLE addresses profound issues in a very affecting way.
We gain insights into how laypeople of Muslim and Jewish faiths view their everyday oppression and how this can turn into hateful behaviour and beliefs.  War is happening overseas but in these two Australian households, we catch the aftershocks of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the devastating sense of mortal danger faced by millions is far more than a brief news item.
Both families are trying to make sense and find a way to living within the modern world , with mobile phones ringing at awkward times, whilst still dealing with explosive centuries of religious discord.
In some ways this play can be considered a modern day Romeo and Juliet story, a love affair that crosses social and religious barriers, because Mousa and Ruth met in Haifa, fell in love – and now Ruth is expecting a baby .
THE LADEN TABLE  has no easy answers, still the plays ends on a note of hope-  Esti and Nadja light candles,  and there is talk of,  ‘we will get through this’  and ‘there is a baby!’.
Intense and powerful, this thought provoking play will give rise to much discussion afterwards.
Running time 90 minutes no interval.
THE LADEN TABLE is playing the Kings X Theatre until 25th March.

NT Live Hedda Gabler

An amazing very powerful performance


The NT Live screening of Hedda Gabler brings us a bleak, sparse and shattering version of Ibsen’s classic play, written in 1891.
Under Ivo Van Hove’s assured direction, the play is updated to now, with a crisp, supple translation by Patrick Marber that makes it seem new and vivid .
The set is an almost bare, anonymous apartment in the inner city, in the middle of renovation. There are vertical blinds, a fridge and a security camera at the door. Jan Verswyveld‘s lighting is splendid.
The soundscape features a mix of popular songs including Joni Mitchell’s classic ballad Blue all of which go to depicting a person in crisis.
Ruth Wilson is luminous and riveting in the eponymous title role . We first see her slumped over the piano, in negligee and dressing robe, seemingly oblivious of what is happening around her– but is she really?!
Hedda is full of self loathing, trapped and bored in her already loveless marriage and seeks freedom. At times she is feline, at other times she is ferocious. We discover that she is a skillful manipulator yet simultaneously a victim of social convention.
When she finds out Tessman might not receive his anxiously longed for promotion , Hedda shreds several large bouquets that are in buckets on the floor and uses a staple gun to fix the stems to the wall, in an edgy, angry outbreak. At another point, she flicks and fiddles with the vertical drapes, adjusting the light for something to do as her dreams and hopes have not been realised.
The production features fine details – when Thea and Lovborg refer to their book as ‘their child’ Hedda touches her stomach – announcing she is pregnant?
Her academic husband Tessman was marvellously played by Kyle Soller. Tessman is a mix of enthusiastic ambition and awkwardness. When with him, Hedda is bored and sits beside him like an animated robot, drearily pretending to be the good wife.
Hedda destroys the life and work of her former lover Lovborg, fiercely and intensely played by Chukwudi Iwuji,  who is a  young ambitious lecturer, seeking to make a path in the academic world.
Rafe Spall as Judge Brack comes across as a charming but is a sinister blackmailer who enjoys using power and has no moral scruples.
When Brack attempts to seduce Hedda she dodges him. However, he still has a hold over her as demonstrated by him pinning her against the wall and spraying her with tomato juice, prefiguring her and Lovborg’s deaths.
Delicate Sinead Matthews portrays Thea as a downtrodden mouse almost unable to believe in her own bravery but she is prepared to leave her husband, sacrifice all for her love for Lovborg, and start afresh.
Aunt Juliana, as portrayed by Kate Duchene,
is a really decent, helpful person. It is a dark and shattering production, a show full of pain and doubt . As Brack says at the final tableaux “ People don’t do this ‘ – or do they ?
The NT Live production of Ibsen’s HEDDA GABBLER  screens at selected cinemas from 1 April.
Running time allow 2 hours 45 including interval .There is a short documentary on ‘the making of ‘ and interviews during the interval

NT Live's St Joan

Gemma Atterton is splendid but a bit of a strange mixed production otherwise ... my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide


George Bernard Shaw’s ST JOAN, in a production directed by Josie Rourke at the Donmar, is the latest play in the NT Live screenings.
I had mixed feelings about Rourke’s production. Gemma Arterton as St Joan is superb, and the idea of updating the play to now with computers, mobile phones and rolling screens of financial statistics was intriguing but  didn’t feel like it worked that well.
The dialogues was beautifully spoken it could perhaps be a terrific radio play version. The play is abridged, but much attention is paid to the complicated, convoluted text of Shaw’s play.
Rourke messily mixes the modern with the medieval and abridges Shaw’s cerebral and elegantly wordy retelling of the story of Joan of Arc to show how the voice driven farmer’s daughter inspired the French, led the defeat of the English, and in turn gets captured, tried, burned at the stake – and later – in a strategic institutional volte-face, is venerated by the Church and then achieves sainthood.
Joan is the only woman on stage and the only performer  in fifteenth century costume. The rest of the cast are in contemporary casual clothing, good business suits or ecclesiastical dress.
The production features plenty of allusions to the post Brexit world and technical gadgetry. The idea of updating to The Boardroom, the centre of power, with newsbites is great, but the constant dizzying use of the revolve and the jumping from aerial shots to wide shots to close up is at times dizzying and distracting.
The major themes of Shaw’s play include the right to think independently, the subjugation of women and one woman’s determination to break from free it. There is plenty of talk of “England for the English,”, especially in the scene between the Earl of Warwick (Jo Stone-Fewings) and the heresy-obsessed bishop Cauchon (Elliot Levy).
Gemma Arterton as Joan is magnificent, giving in a luminous performance. Her Joan is strong, handy with horses, and dresses in a manly way. She is driven by her faith, at times feline, and embodies inner resolve.
In the first section of the second Act, Atterton looks stunning in soft brown and looks like a model. She ignores all the warnings her ‘friends ‘ and followers give her. In the second half– which includes the intense courtroom scene – she is scarred and beaten, proud and defiant, true to herself and her Voices. Joan’s impassioned speech against perpetual imprisonment was magnificent.
We see – especially in Act 2 – how Joan is caught and squashed like an unwanted beetle between the warring arms of The Church and the forces of the English and French. The very abridged epilogue is poignantly delivered.
Fisayo Akinade is delightful as a somewhat effete, fey, bullied and belittled Dauphin who eventually becomes crowned as Charles V11 at Rheims.
The heresy trial turns theological dispute into a gripping display of tense, fiery confrontation.
Rory Keenan as the Inquisitor, playing with an American accent, chillingly presents his deceptively soft and measured forensic speech, twisted to blend McCarthyism and trenchant American evangelism .
Summing up, Shaw’s play is a timeless parable of the individual conscience against the establishment, This production doesn’t quite work but is saved by the extraordinary Arterton.
Running time – allow just over three hours including one interval. There is a short introductory documentary beforehand and interviews during the Interval.
The screening was of the production that played the Donmar Theatre  London between the 9th December 2016 and the 18th February 2017.
NT LIVE’s ST JOAN is screening at selected arthouse cinemas between the 11th and the 16th March.