the imitation game

The Imitation Game

the imitation gameAn entertaining and engrossing portrayal of the life and work of one of Britain’s most extraordinary unsung heroes, Alan Turing, could have been a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but the producers of THE IMITATION GAME have found the key.

A top notch screenplay by Graham Moore, Oscar contending performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, impeccable production design by Maria Djurkovich, and assured direction by Morten Tyldum should ensure box office success and critical kudos. Continue reading


2014 Sydney Arts Guide Stage & Screen Awards

Bell Shakespeare's WINTERS TALE  2014 winner - Best stage production
Bell Shakespeare’s WINTERS TALE  2014 winner – Best stage production


Sydney Arts Guide is a key part of stage and film culture, and exists to celebrate the art of performance, in theatres and cinemas.

2014 was a year of amazing diversity, and our reviewers were spoiled for choice in the quality of the live performances to be experienced in  the City of Sydney, and the suburbs of Sydney.

As the old adage goes, “live theatre is not dead theatre, as there is a different performance to be experienced every night”. Our reviewers each nominated their personal preferences for both theatre and cinema. A small number of movies were nominated out of the hundreds of cinema films that were seen during the last twelve months.

At the end of another outstanding year for the arts in Sydney, on Wednesday 31st December 2014, Sydney Arts Guide announced its 2014 awards in these Stage and Screen categories:-

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Featured Pic- Tosca

TOSCA @ The Joan Sutherland

Inset Pic- Ricardo Massi as Cavradossi and Amanda Echalaz as Tosca. Featured Pic- David Parkin as Angelotti and Ricardo Massi as Cavradossi. Pics by Branco Gaica
Inset Pic- Ricardo Massi as Cavradossi and Amanda Echalaz as Tosca. Featured Pic- David Parkin as Angelotti and Ricardo Massi as Cavradossi. Pics by Branco Gaica

Opera Australia has pulled out all the stops in this thrilling revival of the rather controversial version of Puccini’s TOSCA as directed by John Bell. The production was first seen in 2013.

Musically and vocally, this production is fabulous. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the baton of maestro Andrea Battistoni play superbly.  At a couple of points one could hear hints of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Turandot and La Boheme,– sometimes starkly dramatic, at other times lyrically passionate. Curly haired, dynamic Battistoni conducted energetically yet also with precise attention to the swirling, passionate melodies.

This unsettling, confronting revival sees the narrative transposed to Rome in the 1940’s, with the Nazi occupation in full and deadly swing. Death, guns and violence are everywhere. Continue reading

After Dinner- inset

After Dinner @ The Wharf

After Dinner
Anita Hegh and Rebecca Massey in Andrew Bovell’s AFTER DINNER.Pics Brett Boardman

This new  production of Andrew Bovell’s brilliant debut comedy AFTER DINNER makes a perfect fit  for the wonderful Sydney summer that we are having.

I strongly recommend a  visit to the Wharf, one of Sydney’s finest  theatre venues, enjoying a wine before the show and taking in the lovely view of Sydney harbour from the balcony, and then heading into the theatre to see five of Sydney’s finest thespians playing very well drawn characters and presenting a night at the theatre imbued with humour and pathos.

The time period is the nineteen eighties, the setting is the dining room of an RSL club. The play shifts action between two tables as they wait for the local band to fire up, which only takes place very late in the proceedings. Continue reading

Australian Film Critics Association



The Rover at the LA Premiere
The Rover at the LA Premiere
Australian Film Critics Association (AFCA) is an Australian film critic organisation, based in Melbourne, Victoria.  

(Nominations and Winners are generated through a two-stage voting process involving all AFCA members.)    

More good news for The Rover, with six Australia Film Critics Association (AFCA) Awards nominations. Predestination has five Australia Film Critics Association (AFCA) Awards nominations, including BEST FILM.

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Inset pic- Brett Heath in his quirky one man solo piece EVELYN. Featured pic- A scene from God The Performance Review. Pics by Sylvi Soe

Short and Sweet Theatre Sydney is the largest festival of ten minute plays in the world. Now in its 14th year, the festival takes place over a period of two months starting in January each year, with over 160 brand new scripts by Australian and international writers, are performed during the festival. Ten brand new plays this week:-


Many many years after both Facebook and Youtube became unfashionable, two parents are in conversation with their now thirteen year old child, giving him the ultimate birthday gift, finally showing him his life so far, that all the photos and videos of the child’s whole life have been sold to the internet.

Writer: Brandon Crose

Director: Christine Wykes

Cast: Max Mulvenney (child), Tom Rose (Father), Katherine Babatzanis (Mother)


Brian is 42 and wants to be married to the perfect woman, silent and obedient. He travels far to buy an obedient wife, but has he chosen wisely or unwisely? Unexpected outcomes and twists.

Writer: Joy Roberts

Director: Glen Pead

ITC: Improvising Change

Cast: James Belfrage (Brian), Katharine Marie Richardson (Oksana), Joanna Kedziora (Luba/Katie). Continue reading



This is a darkly disturbing, confronting work that is extremely powerful. It is a piece of verbatim theatre in which the text is derived entirely from interviews with real people, reworked into a usable theatre script.

DV8 Physical Theatre has produced 18 highly acclaimed dance-theatre works and four films for TV to date, gathering over 50 UK and international awards. Previous DV8 works To Be Straight With You and Can We Talk About This? I, for example, collated a mass of voices, but this work focuses on just one voice, that of John.

Portrayed with gentle , calm and quiet poise by Hannes Langolf, John seems to have been chosen as the main subject because of his suffering in his unfortunate life. The pain John has been through, and the depths to which he sank into drugs and criminality, are shown as being the result of a childhood of horrific domestic abuse. Continue reading


Masterclass @ The Old Fitz

Charlie Garber and Gareth Davies in MASTERCLASS. Pic Chris McKeen Newscorp
Charlie Garber and Gareth Davies in MASTERCLASS. Pic Chris McKeen Newscorp

The new custodians of The Old Fitz theatre, Red Line Productions, have invited a fringe favourite, MASTERCLASS, to kick off their inaugural season.

Written and performed by Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber, this entertaining existentialist two hander is an acerbic and absurd examination of celebrity and the deification of thespians.

Peppered with all the pretentions that can pitfall performers, MASTERCLASS tends to pratfall in its pricking, loading up the ludicrous to lethal levels.

The theatrical expressions of “knocking them dead” and “killing the audience” takes on a literalness when it is stated that Gareth’s acting eminence arose from a performance that had showgoers shuffling off their mortal coil. Continue reading


The Tempest @ Balmoral

A perfect Sydney summer's evening- Shakespeare being performed around the Rotunda at Balmoral Beach
A perfect Sydney summer’s evening- Shakespeare being performed around the Rotunda at Balmoral Beach

The setting sun over Balmoral Beach on a warm summer’s evening provided the perfect backdrop for a highly enjoyable night’s entertainment of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST presented by Bard on the Beach.

For 25 years Shakespeare by the Sea was a benchmark for outdoor Shakespeare in Sydney. Founded and curated by David MacSwan, the Company performed some twenty Shakespeare plays at the beach with its closing season in 2011 after MacSwan’s sudden death from a pulmonary embolism  early on in the final summer

Bard on the Beach is a new Shakespeare company created by former actors of Shakespeare by the Sea to fill the gap left by MacSwan’s wonderful pioneering work. Continue reading

The Winslow Boy At The Genesian Theatre

The Winslow Boy @ The Genesian

David Stewart-Hunter as Arthur Winslow, Meg Mooney as Violet, Lois Marsh as Grace Winslow and Tom Massey as Desmond Curry. Pics Mark Banks

The Genesian Theatre continues to display its flair with British period drama via Terence Rattigan’s play THE WINSLOW BOY.

Ratigan’s play, written in 1946, is based on real life events from 1908 where a naval cadet accused of theft is treated badly by the admiralty. A lengthy, public and expensive battle by the family with an infamous barrister of the time involves a strong opposition to the brute strength of the forces and government in pre-war London.

Rattigan creates a juicy family drama which goes above and beyond the simple matter of the theft. The Winslow family is not as comfortable as others financially. Their untrained domestic help is actually a type of foster child. Their intelligent daughter, Catherine, approaching thirty, is unmarried and a suffragette. Their middle child Dickie is at Oxford but struggling academically. Continue reading

long grass- main

Long Grass @ The Everest

Scenes from LONG GRASS. Pics by Jamie Williams
Scenes from LONG GRASS. Pics by Jamie Williams

LONG GRASS tells the story of living rough in Darwin, and mixes traditional Aboriginal mysticism with the harsher realities of indigenous life. The show touches on many issues facing the Aboriginal community there: unemployment, domestic and alcohol abuse, and it is hard to imagine the story being told would be anything but depressing, but the contrary was true: LONG GRASS was charming and captivating at every turn.

The term ‘long grass’ is applied to the Aboriginals who live on the fringe, homeless yet not without a community of their own. The influx of ‘New Australians’ to the top end receive housing, yet the Aboriginals camp out while the police and social services look the other way. Continue reading


Debashish Bhattacharya @ City Recital Hall

Inset pic- Debashish Bhattacharya Featured pic-
Inset pic- Debashish Bhattacharya Featured pic- Debashish’s with his daughter Anandi and Tanmoy Bose

Debashish Bhattacharya transformed the City Recital Hall into an exotic performance space with his modified slide guitars, Tanmoy Bose’s brilliant percussion and Anandi Bhattacharya’s mesmerizing vocals.

Hawaiian guitars were adapted into Indian classical music in the 1960s. Debashish’s teacher and guru, Brij Bhushan Kabra, convinced his father to buy him a Hawaiian guitar by promising to learn to play Indian classical music on it. He modified the guitars and added sympathetic strings to capture the beauty and complexity of Indian music. Debashish Bhattacharya continued this innovation and now travels with a 24 stringed instrument, a 14 stringed instrument and a 4 string lap steel ukulele. Continue reading

Emilie Simon

So Frenchy So Chic @ St John’s

The Do
Inset pic- The Do, the last group to take the stage,impressed with a highly choreographed set. Featured pic- Emilie Simon impressed with her pure, sweet voice.

Sydney Festival 2015 hosted another incarnation of So Frenchy, So Chic in the beautiful grounds of St John’s College, Sydney University. There were five sets performed by various French artists in the glorious Sydney sunshine as the audience consumed French drinks and food. The line up was Franck Monnet, Francois and the Atlas Mountain, Emilie Simon, La Femme and The Dø.

Franck Monnet accompanied himself on guitar and played a very pleasant set. Franck was born in France but now lives in New Zealand and some of the songs reflected this with lyrics about beaches and sunshine and titles such as Waimarama. Continue reading

BIRDMAN see Michael Keaton's Golden Globe winning performance

Michael Keaton’s Star Turn As Birdman

Michael Keaton delivers a great performance as Birdman in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's new film
Michael Keaton delivers a great performance as Birdman

Sixty three year old actor, Michael Keaton delivers an artistic triumph with the best ever performance of his long, long acting career,

BIRDMAN is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that is unique on many levels. No matter what you may or may not subjectively take away each time from watching this film, it is one of the best films of the last twelve months, an honest-to-goodness delight which improves with each viewing. Michael Keaton delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in his best role since starring as Tim Burton’s BATMAN in 1989 and 1992. Continue reading

So Says The Sea- featured

Short and Sweet Top 80 Week 2

Diley Alanca and Lyndsey Fay McNaught in Renee Boyer- Willisson's ENCOUNTER
Inset Pic- Diley Alanca and Lyndsey Fay McNaught in Renee Boyer- Willisson’s ENCOUNTER. Featured Pic- Maddy Stedman, Aleks Mikic, Petrie Porter and Alex Cubis in SO SAYS THE SEA. Pic by Sylvi Soe

One of the most appealing aspects of the Short and Sweet Festival, a celebration of the ten minute play form, is the variety of subjects that the playwrights explore every week, and the different approaches that they take. Some productions are more successful than others, and as theatregoers we are simply able to tune out of the plays that don’t take our fancy, in the confidence that there will at-least be some plays that will strike a chord and bring rewards.

Play 1. The Least Impossible Thing That Happened This Evening

Matthew Friedman displayed some nice touches in his self devised, directed and performed piece exploring a young man’s quest for love and the turbulent emotions surrounding it. Friedman choose a light touch in his exploration. Continue reading


The Girl On The Train

author paula hawkins
Zimbabwe born now London based journalist and author Paula Hawkins. Images courtesy of the author.

They’re touting Paula Hawkins’ debut thriller, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, as this year’s Gone Girl.
It’s pretty darn good.

The girl on the train is Rachel, who does the daily commute from Ashbury to Euston. She has a very fertile imagination but her womb is a barren place where her ex-husband’s seed could not find purchase.

Rachel’s failure to fall pregnant made her tiresome and so her ex-husband, Tom embarked on an affair with Anna, who proved more fecund, and replaced Rachel in the marital home. Which just so happens to back on to the Ashbury to London railway line.

Tom and Anna, however, are not the focus of Rachel’s voyeuristic fantasies. That mantle goes to a couple she has named Jason and Jess, who live at number 15.

Rachel has imagined a whole life around this couple, quite a bit of it quite perceptive, but the fertile imagination goes frighteningly febrile when something she witnesses does not go according to script and “Jess”, real name Megan, disappears. And the real life “Jason”, Megan’s husband, Scott, falls under suspicion.
Paula Hawkins has created a clever crossword/jigsaw puzzle of a novel, playing cat and mouse with a narrative where cat and mouse could well be interchangeable. Continue reading


Bad @ The Old Fitz

Late night Clowning at the Old Fitzroy
Late night clowning at the Old Fitzroy

Take in your piss and let them take the piss. The Old Fitz under the new regime Red Line Productions have ushered in a late show program to follow their main stage offering, beginning with BAD, a delightful piece of clown drollery.

BAD is so good it’s funny.

The lights go down in the bible black, Spartan no-back seating of the space, and the public address welcomes us to this production starring Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.

In darkness visible, time passes, and the regrettable announcement that Geoffrey Rush will not be appearing this evening is made. From centre stage, a light, and a diminutive red nosed character in red shorts and silver cape, tights and boots introduces herself as Cate Blanchett. Her accent is kooky Francaise and the rest of her vocabulary is fluent gibberish. Continue reading

Wot? No Fish!!

Wot? No Fish!! @ The Reginald

Wot? No Fish!!I’m not much of a crier at public events. Occasionally when something has its basis in how I experience the world I will find myself teary. But seriously, what on earth could I have in common with Ab Solomons, a Jewish shoemaker from London’s East End in the 1920s and why was I sniffling? And why were so many of us leaving with balled up tissues in our pockets?!

From 1926 to 1982, Ab drew a little cartoon on his weekly pay-packet for his wife, Celie. Kept in old shoeboxes … naturally… there are 3000 of these drawings. Danny Braverman discovered his great-uncle’s art works and brings them to the life in his one man show WOT? NO FISH!! The beautifully rendered images chronicle the hatched, matched and dispatched of a long life but there is more here.

We see the area where the family lived from the boom times after WW1, through WW2, peace time and the changing times of the 1970s. The themes of the drawings touch on racism, ignorance, divorce, even sex.

Danny Braverman is a self-confessed schlump. This, he assures us, as he hands out fried Gefilte fish, is different to a schmoe or a schmuck. His grand-uncle was also a schlump and so we enter Ab’s world.

The storyteller uses a table camera to project the small wages packets onto the big screen. When we first see them, the big surprise is the quality of the drawing. Initially in pen and ink, the characters are recognizable, the topic relatable and the detail inclusive.

Sometimes Braverman will bring our attention to one of these details and sometimes he will interpret an image or provide the family background. At times he allows us to linger on the artistry or he will foreshadow what we are about to see. Towards the end, he shows us the date on the back of the envelope first. Ab and Celie are failing.

The final drawing is brought forth with such love and care that we miss his family already. This is a life interpreted by someone who knows and we are guided by a wonderfully written presentation, well delivered.

He is funny and charming and spontaneous and his performance is a masterclass in Yiddish storytelling.
Good storytelling leads the listener to the truth in any matter and well-crafted art leads the viewer to the same destination.

In WOT? NO FISH!! we experience both, and Danny and Ab bring emotions to the surface. I doubt you will get tickets to this Sydney Festival event now but there is a display of the pay-packets in the Seymour Centre upper foyer. Take tissues.

WOT? NO FISH!! is playing the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre until January 18th as part of the Sydney Festival.

Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity @ The Playhouse

Verity Hunt-Ballard brilliant as Sweet Charity
Verity Hunt-Ballard brilliant as Sweet Charity

Ask me about live theatre and I will happily talk your ear off. However, after seeing SWEET CHARITY tonight, Mr Dictionary seems to have deserted me. There are no useful words to describe how much I enjoyed this show. I think I will stick to the clichés and say … This show is smashing! With smashing performances that are smashing records and smashing expectations.

SWEET CHARITY began life in the mid-sixties when Bob Fosse conceived of resetting Frederico Fellini’s film, Night of Cabiria, in a Times Square Dance Hall. The original 1966 production took Broadway by storm garnering 9 Tony nominations. The film with Shirley MacLaine , also directed by Fosse, brought the show to a wider audience. Seemingly always in revival somewhere, SWEET CHARITY has an international life and is a favourite for small companies despite the setting and some of the subject matter. Continue reading


Paper Planes

The inspirations for Robert Connolly's film-  James Norton left and  Dylan Parker right
The inspirations for Robert Connolly’s film-James Norton left and Dylan Parker right

Light as a feather, plain sailing and unapologetically old fashioned film fare, PAPER PLANES is an aeronautical origami featuring a central role by Ed Oxenbould and a top billing support slumbering turn by Sam Worthington.

Ed and Sam play son and father, Dylan and Jack, in the aftermath of losing their mother and wife.

The kid is coping better than the severely depressed dad and possesses a keen eye on the local feathered fauna. This ornithological interest transplants itself, osmosis like, in his ability to fold fabulous paper planes.
Such is the intuitive ingenuity of his aerodynamic designs, Dylan secures himself a spot in the national heats to contend for the world paper plane championships in Japan. Continue reading

Alan Cumming 500W

Not My Father’s Son

not my father's son

Devoured in one sitting. That’s how compulsively readable Alan Cumming’s memoir NOT MY FATHER’S SON is.

Like the violent, psychopathic father, Alex, we discover in the book, Cumming’s narrative grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.

From heart achingly tragic to heart stoppingly thrilling, Cumming crafts a searing and compelling story with a vivid and vital vocabulary.

Alex elevated excoriation of his children, Tom and Alan, to the exquisite. Even when they had escaped his sphere, his cruelty, like an emissary of mischief and malevolence, continued to confront and cause conflict to the brothers.

“I think I was about eight or nine. Something transformed in him. He had always been prone to outbursts of rage, but now a darkness descended upon him that meant the glimmers of light between the outbursts disappeared. It was though my father was deeply depressed, and now I think he was. He obviously did not want to be in his marriage, he seemed to be perpetually irritated by the existence of his children, and nothing ever seemed to please him.” writes Alan quite early in the book, as he draws a picture of a mostly bleak and Dickensian man, unbelievably living in the later part of the 20th century.

Already, Alan is trying to understand what motivates and provokes his parent so, his training as an actor coming to the fore to excavate the core character and not simply give him a black hat and hiss the villain single dimensionality.

But when Alan was 45, estranged and seemingly out of the old man’s clutches, the BBC TV series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? announced Alan as its ancestral conduit, and Alex made a devastating and incendiary accusation that Alan was not his issue.

What in Alex’s mind might have been a pre-emptive strike was a presumptive one,– the program was to focus on Alan’s mother, Mary Darling’s side of the family, particularly the mystery surrounding her father who joined the Malaya Police Force after service in World War II rather than come home to his family.

With paternity in doubt, Alan and his brother insisted on doing a DNA test, meanwhile keeping mum about the whole business while he worked with his mum on the TV show.

Revelation after revelation come cascading through these pages at a pulsating rate. So many secrets, intrigues and incidents from paternal, maternal and grandparental streams, tributaries to this colossal tale of victory over victimhood, triumph over tyranny, the accentuation of the positive.

NOT MY FATHER’S SON is not a name dropping showbiz glitz bio but anecdotes from his professional life do make pertinent appearances and add an added layer to the dramatic tapestry of the story.

In keeping with the covenant of the book, his take on his success is forthright and frank. “Being famous is mostly great. I have a really amazing life. I get to do a job I really like and I get paid really well for it…because I am famous I have a voice and I can help effect change. And I get loads of free stuff. But. I am constantly self-conscious. Every day I spend large amounts of time meeting or talking to people I would rather not engage with. I sometimes fear for my personal safety. Let’s leave it at that.”

Talking about performing live, Alan says it is all about the connection. “The rawest, purest connection you can only feel when you let the audience see inside you.”

Alan Cumming has succeeded making that connection in theatre, cabaret, film and television, and now with this big, bold, honest and haunting memoir, he has certainly succeeded in making that connection as a writer.

NOT MY FATHER’S SON by Alan Cumming is published by Canongate, hardbound with photographs, $35.00

For more about not my father’s son, visit

Ray Winstone-featured

Young Winstone

Ray Winstone with his wife Elaine
Ray Winstone and his wife Elaine

Ray Winstone’s cheekily monikered memoir, YOUNG WINSTONE, is a blinder.

A bang up autobiography that is structured more like a cartographer than a star spangled expose of a celebrity, YOUNG WINSTONE charts the first half of this man’s life – he’s 58 in February – in twenty-five chapters each bearing place names as their titles.

Winstone’s sense of place, his East End roots, and the streets and precincts he knocked around in his formative years, inform every sentence in this rollicking yarn of a geezer and his gaff.

Readers have a lot to be grateful for because the book was spurred on by a spurning.

The tossers at the BBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are? rejected Raymond’s family as being too boring. But the research done as a preliminary did enlighten– both branches of Ray’s family came from the East End, traced all the way back to the 1700s, mum’s side from East Ham and dad’s from Hoxton. Continue reading