Becoming Poison at the El Rocco Room

Holly Summers-Clarke as Batman’s nemesis Poison Ivy. Pics by Kurt Sneddon at Blueprint Studios

Despite its venomous title, BECOMING POISON is a very gentle experience. Most cabaret shows hit you over the head with a rolled up toe-tapper right at the off. Instead, we are treated to two quiet ballads to ease us into a musical floriade of Jazz, folk, contemporary pop and music theatre.

BECOMING POISON is a concept from the mind of Sydney Fringe favourite, Holly Summers- Clarke. With Rodney Fisher (writer/director) and Joel Jenkins (musical director) as her collaborators, she attempts to rehabilitate that super villain and Batman nemesis, Poison Ivy. In this imagining, Ivy is an eco-warrior rescuing the flora of the earth from its human enemies … one poisonous kiss at a time. Continue reading

High Res Potted Potter-7

Potted Potter

High Res Potted Potter-6

POTTED POTTER, created and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, is on a world tour and it sold out last time they were in Sydney in 2012.

This is a magical experience of course and whatever magic potion these performers take before the show, I want some. They hurl themselves around the stage in a manic 70 minute ‘tour de theatre’ billed as, ”All 7 Harry Potter Books in 70 minutes.” All seven books are definitely there in one form or another. So are the loved characters of this well-thumbed world. Naturally, the un-nameable evil character we love to hate is there too.

Dan arrives in the auditorium without fanfare as Jeff sits on the train at platform 9 3/4 reading book number one. Dan interacts with young and old alike, shaking hands and getting high fives while admiring the many audience costumes. Jeff is engrossed in the book. Dan, who has HP1 emblazoned on his shirt then introduces HP2 (Jeff) as the world’s greatest Harry Potter expert and the boys discuss the show they have got for us. The houselights are still up but the pair have the audience’s rapt attention. Continue reading

Beneath The POTA1

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970)

Beneath The POTA2

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) comes out on both DVD and Blu-ray next month and, if too many monkeys are never enough, 20th Century Fox are also releasing a new box-set entitled (for no entirely clear reason) Caesar’s Warrior Collection, featuring all eight films in the series – Planet Of The Apes (1968), Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970), Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971), Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1972), Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973), Planet Of The Apes (2001), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011) and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) – all in High Definition and specially packaged in a Caesar bust sporting his penetrating simian stare. Hollywood producer Arthur P. Jacobs, the man behind the whole Planet Of The Apes franchise, had purchased the rights to Pierre Boulle‘s novel Monkey Planet back in 1965, mainly because he wanted to remake King Kong (1933) but couldn’t obtain the rights to that particular property.

I was lucky enough to make Arthur’s acquaintance while on the set of his version of Tom Sawyer (1973): “I spent about three-and-a-half years of everyone refusing to make the movie,” he told me. “First, I had sketches made, and went through six sets of artists to get the concept, but none of them were right. Finally, I hit on a seventh one and said ‘That’s how it should look!’ Then I showed the sketches to the studios, and they said ‘No way.’ Then I got Rod Serling to do the screenplay, and went to everybody again – absolute turndown. I went to Rank in England and Samuel Bronston in Spain. Everyone said no. So then I figured, maybe if I got an actor involved, and went to Charlton Heston who, in one hour, said yes. Then Heston suggested Franklin Schaffner as director, and he also said yes. Now I have Heston, Schaffner and a screenplay and all the sketches. I go right back to everybody and they throw me out again!”

Continue reading

Gay Pride Parade



In the time of one of the early waves of AIDS, at a time when millions of manufacturing jobs had been lost in the UK, Maggie Thatcher announced the closure of 20 coal mines. It was March 1984 the start of massive walkouts and a yearlong strike by the National Union of Mineworkers. The Conservative Government became the enemy of middle-aged Welsh coalminers. Coincidentally it was also the enemy of young activist gays in London.

A few in the Gay Pride march recognise this and formed the LGSM (“Lesbians and Gays Support Miners”) to raise money for the strikers. This challenges the miners’ perspectives and divides them on whether, and how to, accept the funds raised. Continue reading




J K Simmons usually gives great support but in WHIPLASH he steps up to the podium with top billing as the flailing formidable force that is Fletcher, a music teacher who unflinchingly raises the tempo of tutelage by instilling terror into his students. This is a percussive performance, peppered with salty expletives and explosive pauses.

Miles Teller is Andrew a budding drummer whose dreams of being a skins supremo are raised when Fletcher takes an interest in him. Fletcher is a manic manipulator, more tormentor than mentor, masking his megalomania under his mission against mediocrity. But Andrew is complicit and compliant, believing Fletcher’s belligerence is in fact benevolent, or at least beneficial to the ascension of his aspirations. Continue reading


Antony Skuse on PLATANOV

The cast in rehearsal for PLATANOV to play the ATYP Studio theatre in November
A talented young cast take on PLATANOV, the Russian master’s first full-length play

I recently had a chat with Anthony Skuse who is adapting and directing the upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s PLATANOV (1878) which is moving into the ATYP Studio theatre in early November.

Skuse spoke of how the great Russian playwight wrote this work, his first full length piece, when he was only 21 years old. The piece was originally untitled and is also known as Fatherlessness and A Play Without A Title.

A sensitive young writer, he had the play locked in his desk drawer for many years, wary of showing it to anyone, in fear of rejection.

“The piece is a bit of a messy, sprawling work. If it was produced in its raw form it would run for about five hours. I have kept the play in its original setting and time period (Russia in 1881) but have cut the play back to a couple of hours and reduced the number of characters from twenty to fifteen, each part played by a different actor.

“PLATANOV is very much a work by a young writer. Chekhov puts everything into it. His love of theatre comes through very clearly. The themes espoused in the play are themes that Chekhov would explore throughout his career.”

The play follows a group of intense young people, led by the main character Platanov at a very touchy point in their lives. In their twenties, they are seeing the passion and idealism of youth become more and more tempered by the coldness and harshness of life experience. This has led them to feel disillusioned, even more to the point angry, that life isn’t turning out they want it to.

“I expect that audiences will have quite a strong and personal reaction to this production. I want it to be an intimate production. How I want people to experience the show is that it will be like they are seeing these young people’s lives, relationships and where things go wrong played out in front of them,

“Last year we workshopped the piece and one of the women who saw it said, “Oh my God, I feel like I am seeing my life before me.”

Skuse says that rehearsals are going really well, and that there has been a great atmosphere in the room working with some of the finest young acting talent in Sydney. The cast includes actors of the calibre of Charlie Garber, Geraldine Hakewill, Matilda Ridgway, Terry Karabelas and Sam Trotmen

Stage and screen actor Garber plays the title role, a character who sounds very intriguing. He is a laid back provincial school teacher who women are irresistibly drawn to even though he is not exactly single. Included amongst his female admirers are a widowed landowner, her younger stepdaughter, and an earnest chemistry student.

In an interesting aside, Skuse told me that he was happy to be able to put on the show now before the Sydney Theatre Company produce their own mainstream production of PLATANOV, in a new adaptation by STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton titled THE PRESENT, in August next year, starring Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett.

Put this show in your diary. It looks like it will be worth seeing. A Cat Nip and Mophead production, Anthony Skuse’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s PLATANOV is playing at the ATYP Studio Theatre, previewing on the 5th and 6th November, opening on the 7th and then playing until the 22nd November. Performances are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm and Sunday matinees at 5pm.

The Guide has two double passes to give away, if you can make either of the two preview nights. Be one of the first to email the editor on:-editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com.


Willoughby Theatre Company - Jesus Christ Superstar - PerfectImages Photography


Jesus Christ sits down to his Last Supper. Pic Perfect Images Photography
Jesus Christ sits down to his Last Supper. Pic Perfect Images Photography

This is a dazzling, superb version of Lloyd Webber and Rice’s rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR that takes one’s breath away.

Willoughby Theatre Company‘s (WTC) revival, directed by Stig Bell is a contemporary reworking of the now classic 1970’s musical that burns , including contemporary choreography,slang and ironic allusions to modern day life that make it as fresh as if it was written yesterday .

In a strong ,powerful piece of theatre , Lloyd Webber and Rice take us through the last week of Jesus’ life and ministry,as based on the Gospels . This includes Palm Sunday ,the Last Supper and end with the events of Good Friday and Mary Magdalene sobbing over Jesus’ inert body.

The cast is excellent featuring magnificent leads and a large, terrific ensemble.  Continue reading


Live at Lunch: Strauss, Ravel , Canteloube

Flautist supremo, amongst many things, Jane Rutter
Flautist supremo, amongst many talents, Jane Rutter. Above pic star soprano Taryn Fiebig

The latest splendid LIVE AT LUNCH concert was entitled ’ Strauss, Ravel Canteloube’‘ and featured curator Jane Rutter on flute (and assorted other instruments), Vincent Colagiuri on piano and quadruple threat ( yes quadruple threat) and Opera Australia star soprano Taryn Fiebig both singing and playing the cello (who knew that she had majored in cello at WAPPA?! ).

The roughly ¾ audience in the stalls consisted mostly of those over 55 although there were a few younger.

Rutter was stunning in a long sleeveless flowing green gown while Fiebig wore an intriguing, rather odd, possibly futuristic in style black bolero top and a horizontally quilted grey long skirt rather unflattering and stiff. Handsome pianist Vincent Colagiuri was dapper in a tuxedo. Continue reading


Bell Shakespeare’s HENRY V

Second Pic
Teenagers, trapped in a bunker in London during the 1941 Blitz, decide to tackle some classic Shakespeare. Pics by Michele Mossop

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” The very familiar rousing speech is a powerful and emotive call to the troops. Shakespeare’s HENRY V sees the English forces taking the battle to the French.

In the current Bell Shakespeare production there are no overt references to current struggles in the Middle East or recent actions in Iraq or Afghanistan but one doubts if there any motivational speeches as rousing as the St Crispin’s Day speech or : “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” the famous speech from the siege of Harfleur.

Director Damien Ryan’s restaging of HENRY V is inspired by a true story. In 1941, for 57 consecutive nights during the London Blitz, a group of boys trapped in a bunker rehearsed a new play each week and would then perform it for others in the shelter.

This world is captured with a wonderful set by Anna Gardiner that looks like wartime England and is quickly and almost continuously adapted by the actors into different manifestations. By moving chairs and bookcases they create a church, a royal court, a ship, a tavern and a battle scene.

Sian James-Holland’s lighting and Steve Francis’ sound assist in defining the different locations as well as adding the sounds, lights and atmosphere of London caught in wartime.

The rehearsals and productions of the earlier related plays Richard II and Henry IV are quickly dealt with and Henry V becomes the main focus of the evening.

One of the highlights of the performance is the beautiful singing of the talented young cast. Sublime harmonies create different atmospheres relating to events on stage. Gregorian chants, rousing patriotic songs and songs with a French flavour all add to the production. Inspirational drumming is used extensively to evoke the battle scenes.

The play within a play structure results in all actors performing numerous roles. They also switch from playing members of the English court to members of the French court.

The young and enthusiastic cast capture the intensity, humour and emotion of Shakespeare’s play however could be improved with better voice projection and delivery.

Keith Agius’ performance is more subdued than the younger members of the cast but his measured delivery is excellent.

The cast included Michael Sheasby, Matthew Backer, Drew Livingston, Damien Strouthos, Gabriel Fancourt, Eloise Winestock, Williams Danielle King, Darcy Brown and Ildiko Susany.

In a pleasing reversal of the original historical performances there are females playing male roles.

This is a bright and entertaining production and is well worth seeing.

Bell Shakespeare’s HENRY 5 is playing at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in High Street Penrith until Saturday18th October.

The production  then moves moves on to the Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House where it opens on Thursday 23rd October and is playing until until Sunday 16th November.

hector and the search for happiness

Hector and the search for happiness

Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike at the top of their art
Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike  at the top of their craft

In the fabulous forthcoming book WHAT I LIKE ABOUT MOVIES, published by Faber & Faber, editor David Jenkins writes, “Simon Pegg is the very definition of the kind of bloke you’d want to go down to the pub with.”

In his latest film, HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS, the Peggster reteams with his World’s End co-star, Rosamund Pike and instead of doing a pub crawl, embarks on a continent hop, in pursuit of contentment.

Pegg plays Hector, a London psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. He tells his girlfriend, Clara, played by Pike, that he feels like a fraud: he hasn’t really tasted life, and yet he’s offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his deluded and routine driven life. He embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. Continue reading


Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed


No, it’s not Beatles trivia time, but the title of this cracking little Spanish movie set in Franco’s Spain in the 60s, and what a film it is.

Antonio (Javier Camara) is teaching his kids English using Beatles lyrics and makes a pilgrimage to Almeria, the Spanish town where they’re shooting ‘How I Won The War’ to meet John Lennon (which is apparently based on a true story – Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields in Spain).

On the way he picks up Belen, a young pregnant girl who is escaping a nunnery, and Juanjo, who’s run away from home and his autocratic cop father who doesn’t like his Beatles haircut. They stop in a one-donkey town while they plot their next moves and learn a little more about themselves. Continue reading

Checklist for an Armed Robber - Stooged Theatre

Checklist for an Armed Robber – Stooged Theatre

Angie Diaz and Callan Purcell in Checklist for an Armed Robber - Stooged Theatre
Angie Diaz and Callan Purcell in  CHECKLIST FOR AN ARMED ROBBERY- Stooged Theatre

Terrorism – the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. This highly emotive noun evokes strong responses in our current political climate and Stooged Theatre’s production of Vanessa Bates CHECKLIST FOR AN ARMED ROBBER resonates with the passions and desperate thinking that hurtles individuals and groups into extreme acts of aggression. What does it take to motivate individuals and groups to perform acts of terror involving innocent and unwilling victims?

Set in October 2002, the script was inspired by newspaper stories: one, known as the Nord-Orst siege, where an Islamist Chechen group took over 800 theatre patrons at the Debrovka theatre in Moscow for 3 days, demanding Russian troops leave Chechnya and end the war. The other was an attempted robbery of a single young female shop assistant in a bookshop in Newcastle. Continue reading


Bodies of Thought

Kirsty Ayr in FLOW. Pic by Artur Radeki
A pic from a production of Gideon Obarzanek’s early work, GLOW. Pic by Artur Radeki. A pic taken from Gary Stewart’s work DEVOLUTION

BODIES OF THOUGHT:- Twelve Australian Choreographers- Edited by Erin Brannigan and Virginia Baxter

Beautifully presented , lavishly illustrated with lots of glorious photos, BODIES OF THOUGHT looks at twelve award winning Australian  choreographers who have international reputations and have created influential legacies. The choreographers featured are : Kate Champion, Rosalind Crisp , Tess De Quincey ,Russell Dumas, Lucy Guerin, Sue Healey, Helen Herbertson, Gideon Obarzanek , Stephen Page , Gary Stewart , Meryl Tankard and Ros Warby .

It is interesting to note that in this case women outnumber men and that almost if not all the choreographers have held the position of Artistic Director, often of their own company. Continue reading

force majeure

Force Majeure


The sheer force of the mountain of masculinity cops a scouring in the scathing Swedish film FORCE MAJEURE.

When a controlled avalanche looks like it’s going to wipe out a resort in a tsunami of snow, the father of a family flees leaving the mother to fend for herself and their two children.

When the ice mist settles and it’s apparent that any danger was perceived rather than real, all are relieved that nobody perished, but the pall of abandonment and cowardice pervades the couple’s relationship. Continue reading


Calibre Prize Now Open

The Australian Book Review, Australia’s oldest and premiere literary publication, welcomes entries in the ninth Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay, Australia’s premier prize for a non-fiction essay.

All essayists writing in English are eligible, regardless of where they live. Entrants are encouraged to use the publications’ online entry system.

Essays must be between 3,000 and 7,000 words and must be written in English.

Judges: Delia Falconer and Peter Rose

Deadline for entries is 19 January 2015

First Prize: $5,000 and publication in Australian Book Review

Visit the Australian Book Review’s website on http://www.australianbookreview.com.au for more details.

Editor Peter Rose has requested that  writers read the Frequently Asked Questions page carefully before submitting their entry.


Featured Image

Planet Of The Apes (1968)

Charlton Heston takes on the apes in the legendary movie series
Charlton Heston takes on the apes in the legendary movie series

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) comes out on both DVD and Blu-ray next month and, if too many monkeys are never enough, 20th Century Fox are also releasing a new box-set entitled (for no entirely clear reason) Caesar’s Warrior Collection, featuring all eight films in the series – Planet Of The Apes (1968), Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970), Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971), Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1972), Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973), Planet Of The Apes (2001), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011) and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) – all in High Definition and specially packaged in a Caesar bust sporting his penetrating simian stare.

Superficially childish, but in many ways very grown-up, was the original Planet Of The Apes (1968), one of the two commercial American-made science fiction blockbusters that year, the other being Charly (1968) starring Cliff Robertson. The French had a hand in this as well, for it was based on Monkey Planet, a rather ordinary satirical novel by the popular French novelist Pierre Boulle, author of Bridge On The River Kwai (1957).

The director, Franklin J. Schaffner, probably had no real affinity with science fiction, though he later made another science fiction movie, The Boys From Brazil.

Continue reading

Matrix photo 1

Retro Review- The Matrix

Lawrence Fishburne and above Keanu Reeves in THE MATRIX
Lawrence Fishburne and above Keanu Reeves in THE MATRIX

Every month the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace at 380 Military Road Cremorne) holds ‘I ♥ Retro’ sessions featuring some of the best blockbusters of the last several decades.

At 7pm on Friday the 24th of October, the Hayden Orpheum intends to blow our minds with THE MATRIX (1999), an American-Australian science fiction action film that walked away with four Oscars, two BAFTAs and two Saturn Awards.

It has become increasingly popular to bemoan the path of progress, a path that has fallen short of the glorious expectations of post-WWII Popular Science magazines and the like, which predicted a future in which commuters would fly to work using jet packs or tele-operate lunar bulldozers from the comfort of their robot-cleaned homes. Continue reading

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Paul Dawson as Rock Hudson and Mark Taylor as Marc Christian. Pic Ann Marie Calihanna
Paul Dawson as Rock Hudson and Mark Taylor as Marc Christian. Pic Ann Marie Calihanna

A new Australian play depicts the mystery and controversy surrounding the final years of cinematic icon Rock Hudson.

One of America’s most popular movie stars throughout the fifties and sixties, Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985, making world headlines as the first celebrity to publicly succumb to the disease.

“PLAYING ROCK HUDSON is not another celebrity biography, but rather a close look at the final days of Rock Hudson’s life, the events that followed his death, and the impact they had on his image and society in general,” says playwright and co-director Cameron Lukey. Continue reading

(left ti right) Fiona Press, Madeleine Benson, Susan Prior, Nat Randall, Genevieve Giuffre. Pic Brett Boardman

Is This Thing On?

Susan Prior as one of five Brianna's in Is This Thing On? Pic Brett Boardman
Susan Prior as one of five Brianna’s in Is This Thing On? Pic above The five versions of Brianna- from left to right Fiona Press, Madeleine Benson, Susan Prior, Nat Randall, Genevieve Giuffre

Aged between 15 and 50, five women share the stage at Belvoir Downstairs at the moment. No, that’s not quite right. Five performers share the stage as one woman. No, that’s not quite right either. They are all the one character. And they don’t really share the stage, they coexist on it. Actually, there’s a lot of beer in this production, I may be confused.

IS THIS THING ON, directed by Kit Brookman & Zoë Coombs Marr, is the story of Brianna. Misnamed by a long gone mother for the song ‘Rhiannon’, she has a misplaced drive to make people laugh. We meet her 15 year old self at her first stand up gig: a misfit staring into the spotlight. Things don’t improve much as we meet her at about 20, 30 and 40. Or when we encounter her 50ish self, trying to make a comeback after a spectacular implosion. This a convoluted and time shifted production with these 5 Briannas co-existing and interacting with each other. Continue reading


SITCO to leave Old Fitz

In happier days- Garry Pasfield (middle), the proprietor of the Old Fitzroy Hotel, with Co-Artistic Directors of the Old Fitz theatre, David Jeffrey and Julie Baz. Pic Emily Watson
Happier times- Garry Pasfield (middle), the proprietor of the Old Fitzroy Hotel, with Co-Artistic Directors of the Sydney Independent Theatre Company, David Jeffrey and Julie Baz. Pic Emily Watson

Co-Artistic Directors of the Sydney Independent Theatre Company (SITCO), David Jeffrey and Julie Baz, have announced that they will be ending their residency at the Old Fitzroy Theatre at the end of this year.

On the announcement on their Facebook page they thanked Robert Allan, SITCO’s Artistic Associate for his contributions, along with the many independent theatre practitioners who they have worked in tandem with to program and stage over 30 productions.

Their thanks also extends to the many staff and locals at the Old Fitz who they have been so helpful including Kristine and Mike Ballard, Cherilyn Price, Richard Hilliar, Katy Green Loughrey, Larry Kelly, Dino Dimitriadis and the Arts Platform.

Most importantly, they thank the many theatregoers around Sydney who have come to see one or indeed many of the shows performed at the theatre.

Theatregoers still have the opportunity to visit the venue till the end of the year.

Currently playing is Red Line Productions, in association with Strange Duck Productions’, HOWIE THE ROOKIE by Mark O’Rowe- (review on the site by Richard Cotter). HOWIE THE ROOKIE is followed by Fly on the Wall Theatre’s production of Alex Broun’s NOVEMBER SPAWNED A MONSTER and Copanirvana Theatre Co’s V.D. by Pete Malicki.

The final production of the year will be a SITCO production, in association with Talk Faster Productions and Harlos Production’s, Kieran Carroll and Angelika Fremd’s THE LES ROBINSON STORY & BELLE OF THE CROSS.

SITCO is keen to grow on the experience gained at the Old Fitz and is looking in to setting up a new independent theatre venue, something which the Sydney theatre scene could well do with.Here’s hoping!

Performing Arts, Literary Arts and Visual Arts Reviews