All posts by Gemma McDonald

Gemma McDonald is a currently completing a Bachelor of Journalism/Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. As a budding journalist, Gemma frequents many online publications as a reviewer and opinion writer, fuelled by a deep-seeded admiration for good food, literature and art. Presently she works as the sub-editor of Mascara Literary Review and is an intern for the Sydney Airport Companion Magazine. When she’s not writing, Gemma spends much of her time painting, reading books in awkward places and experimenting with eccentric fitness routines.


As an adult chaperoning a small human to a kid’s comedy show, you don’t have high hopes of enjoying yourself. At best, you can hope to receive some second-hand joy watching the ecstatic faces of the children you broughtknowing you have just become their coolest guardian. Alternatively, you can hope the show will encourage you to peg huge boogers at its presenterswhich is precisely how THE LISTIES ‘ICKYPEDIA’ had me spending my Friday night; and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In THE LISTIES ‘ICKYPEDIA’, Richard Higgins and Matthew Kelly (both former adult comedians- turned children) bring their eponymous comedy book to the stagean unfactual encyclopedia of hilarious, entirely made-up (and almost-always-poo-related) compound words. From being ‘fartled’ to accidentally entering ‘nose-go zone’, these new words and their expertly formed definitions finally address some of the Macquarie Dictionary’s shortcomings. Continue reading THE LISTIES ‘ICKYPEDIA’ @ THE MERRIGONG THEATRE


The best part about TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES : OUT OF THE SHADOWS was getting to listen to the theme song in the closing credits; it reminded me of watching the cartoon as a child. The movie suffered overall from poor performances by the main actors, an unimaginative plot, and little to no character development. The saving grace of the film was its great action scenes and the childish humour of the turtles. It’s silly, childish, and only a little bit of fun. TMNT is a movie that will entertain pre-teens and frustrate everybody else.

The acting of the non-CGI characters lacked emotion, and it seemed as though all the actors were doing the bare minimum to get their paycheck; no one seemed truly interested in the film. This makes sense given it is a movie about giant crime-fighting turtles, which – even by comic book standards – is a little ridiculous. But when the best acting in the film comes from CGI characters, the human acting cast should be ashamed. Continue reading TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES : OUT OF THE SHADOWS



Merrigong100MUSIC IN THE MORNING is a Merrigong Theatre initiative that brings a range of musical acts and talented Australian artists, from the stage and screen, to Wollongong Town Hall. For many of these musicians, it is the first – and possibly last – time audiences will have a chance to see them perform before lunch. What’s more, is you don’t even have to be an early riser to make these Monday mornings concerts; each show begins at 11am, preceded by a complimentary morning tea at 10.

Celebrating NSW Senior’s Week, Over There: Great Songs of the War Years, drew a lively crowd of swooning seniors to the hall this Monday. Superbly sung by Roy Best, Jaz Flowers, Alison Jones and Cardine Vercoe, the cast had the whole audience tapping their toes to familiar tunes of the war years.

In the wake of ANZAC Day, the cast has produced an uplifting, positive and witty show to remember those who fought bravely for their homeland. The fully-narrated act featured musical tributes, sing-alongs and readings of hilariously cheeky letters from diggers to their loved ones. At one point, the musicians had the crowd in a full-blown singing battle to It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, a popular anthem amongst the soldiers of WW1.

The hour-and-a-half long production included tributes to a range of iconic musicians with a gorgeous rendition of Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind and generous tributes to wartime songstresses, Dame Vera Lynn and The Angry Sisters. The crowd sang along to British classics, with songs like Keep the Home Fires Burning, Land of Hope and Glory and Goodnight Sweetheart. OVER THERE- GREAT SONGS OF THE WAR YEARS is a moving salute to World War I and II veterans, as well as a special tribute to those who fought in Vietnam War and other international conflicts. It was clearly a nostalgic show for many, if not most, of the audience.

Running from February to June, MUSIC IN THE MORNING is set to be filled with humour, entertainment and classic musical hits. Still to come in this month’s line-up are singer-actress Rachel Beck of the hit sitcom, Hey Dad..!, and the well-known Australian entertainer, Karen Knowles- who will be performing 30 Years of Musical Memories. The shows predominantly draw a senior crowd, but they certainly are a welcoming bunch. Plus, what demographic isn’t inclined to eat cake and listen to music on a late Monday morning?

All of the Merrigong’s MUSIC IN THE MORNING concerts start at 11am and include a scrumptious morning tea from 10am. Book a favourite act for $26 per person, or make it a regular outing and save some dollars, with a three or five show package for just $69 or $100. For the season’s line-up and booking details, visit Merrigong Theatre’s box office or their website:




I bet I can climb that 16-foot ladder with no hands…I dare you to scale to the top of that stack of containers and handstand on the edge…How many people do you think we can fit in that box?

If a contortionist, a strongman, a hand balancer and three other unencumbered circus folk became trapped in a warehouse, I imagine LANDSCAPE WITH MONSTERS is what it would look like.

Each show is an experience unto itself, as the company is a leader in contemporary circus theatre and constantly conceives shows that extend well beyond the bounds of traditional circus practice. Continue reading MERRIGONG THEATRE COMPANY and CIRCA PRESENT ‘LANDSCAPE WITH MONSTERS’ @ IPAC


Sri-Lankan- inset

A SRI LANKAN TAMIL ASYLUM SEEKER’S STORY AS PERFORMED BY AUSTRALIAN ACTORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A SINHALESE DIRECTOR is by far the most absurdly titled play I have ever attended, but it certainly gets to the point.

Produced by the Merrigong Theatre Company, the production is written and directed by Wollongong-based playwright Dhananjaya Karunarathne. The play is as absurd as its name but, for the most part, intends to be so. It is witty and ridiculous, but solemn and profound in content, centred on honouring the integrity of a person’s experience when dealing with – and representing – their stories.

Originally performed some six years ago by Dhananjaya himself through the theatre’s independent artist scheme, the play returned as a full-scale production in September 2015. Under the guidance of their Sinhalese director, actors Adam Booth and Anthony Gooley performed this intimate show at the Bruce Gordon Theatre, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) nightly for two weeks between the 16th and 26th September.

The foundation of the story is simple; it follows a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker who arrives in Australia on an illegal boat, held in a detention centre for months without word of his situation. He soon meets a university student who requests an interview, hungry for academic gain. The student’s ability to empathise is hindered by the immeasurable distance between their experiences, ethics and values. But beyond this side-narrative lies the real story; two, white actors piece the events together in front of the audience, searching for the most meaningful, accurate and authentic way to represent emotions, experiences and characters foreign to them.

Booth and Gooley – in their acting – play the role of actors, aware of their context and the presence of the audience. Creative and theatrical decisions become harder as they piece the story together – a process that is part of a very meta-narrative in play which sees the performers constantly come out of character, grappling with the ethical conundrums that come with conveying lives beyond their experience. The process culminates in an ending that must be done four times before the actors feel they can conclude – scenes are acted, criticised and amended, but never quite right.

It took me a while to fully comprehend the depth of this show. At no point was the intention of the play clear, and there was a constant tension between the solemn portrayals of the experience of an asylum seeker and the awkwardness of the actors. The capacity of the two very-white, seemingly ignorant Australians to re-enact the gut-wrenching experiences of a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker, were limited and superficial at best, with audiences cringing at the attempt. Here, the true talent of the actors transpires and the true premise of the play emerges: no one can ever really tell your story, but you.

The play makes a pertinent comment on the nature of journalism, very appropriate at this time when storytelling is an increasingly accessible pursuit. The decline and faltering relevance of print journalism, along with the emergence of digital news platforms, has seen a considerable increase in the industry’s punch-‘em-out attitude; focus is placed on the level of shock, entertainment or anger a story can produce, not necessarily its integrity.

The meta-narrative deals with the construction and portrayal of stories in theatre, journalism and life. The result is astonishingly pertinent in the current political landscape, and one that will remain so for years to come. The reinvention of A SRI LANKAN TAMIL ASYLUM SEEKER’S STORY AS PERFORMED BY AUSTRALIAN ACTORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A SINHALESE DIRECTOR for this season, made for fresh and poignant theatre. If Dhananjaya returns to the Merrigong next season, it will definitely be worth a look.

The Dancer’s Company @ IPAC

Inset  pic- Cristiano Martino and Benedicte Bemet in Swan Lake. Featured pic- Artists of the Dance Company in Paquita. Pic by Frank Monger
Inset pic- Cristiano Martino and Benedicte Bemet in Swan Lake. Featured pic- Artists of the Dance Company in Paquita. Pic by Frank Monger

THE DANCERS COMPANY ballet drew a crowd of first-timers at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) last weekend. The audience bustled excitedly with aspiring ballerinas, regular IPAC attendees, families, school groups and many first time ballet goers. It wasn’t just the audience either – for many of the cast members, this is their first touring performance.

THE DANCERS COMPANY is an annual show by The Australian Ballet that tours regional New South Wales and Victoria, starring guest artists and graduating students from The Australian Ballet School. This year, the show presents a classical triple-bill of intensely talented dancers that, either by incident or design, seem to be free of the prestige and sense of elitism that is often associated with traditional ballet.   Continue reading The Dancer’s Company @ IPAC


Inset pic- A picture of the brilliant Welsh poet as a young man. Featured pic- Bob Kingdom gives a captivating performance the great poet.
Inset pic- A picture of the brilliant Welsh poet as a young man. Featured pic- Bob Kingdom gives a captivating performance as the great poet.

DYLAN THOMAS: RETURN JOURNEY delves into the melodious, silky lyricism of the 20th century poet, under the accomplished direction of world-renowned Oscar-winner, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Developed as one of the flagship events celebrating the 2014 Centenary of Dylan Thomas’ life, the veracious show is at the start of its Australian leg of a huge world tour.

A lectern and chair complete the set. Bob Kingdom emerges to the mostly naked stage, clad in an ill-fitting suit, bowtie and his best boaties: the attire of Thomas’ last lecture tour. This is more of an encounter, than a performance; a lecture more than a show. The whole time, I couldn’t help but think, thank god I didn’t bring my mother along. DYLAN THOMAS: RETURN JOURNEY is wordy, wistful and subtly witted, but by god is it arduous. Continue reading DYLAN THOMAS: RETURN JOURNEY @ ILLAWARRA PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

Sweet Charity @ The Merrigong


‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, proclaims a massive neon sign above the Merrigong theatre’s stage. Eight scarcely dressed dancers sit astride their chairs, provocatively beguiling audience members as they file into the room. “Come have a dance with me, I’ll show you a good time,” calls one woman, pursing her breasts together and stroking her chair. We are in the seedy Fandango Ballroom of downtown New York – negligées, knee-high boots and sexual innuendo aplenty.

SWEET CHARITY (Book by Neil Simon, Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Coleman) completed the final days of an extensive tour on Saturday at Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre, following a stint of shows at the Sydney Opera House. This is a remounting of the groundbreaking, award winning production that was such a success when it premiered at Darlinghurst’s Hayes Theatre.            

Continue reading Sweet Charity @ The Merrigong

Bathtub Circus @ IPAC


For most people baths hold connotations of childhood, relaxation and pleasure.

For many others, it’s also accompanied by a crippling anxiety and a vivid memory of slippery bathtub accidents. For the talented eight-bodied cast of the globally renowned show, SOAP!, free-standing tubs and large quantities of water are considered a prime foundation for hardcore acrobatics, contortion and contemporary dance.

Continue reading Bathtub Circus @ IPAC

Tubular Bells For Two

Aiden Roberts and Danny Holdsworth perform Mike Oldfield's classic album. Pic Joanne Kee
Aiden Roberts and Danny Holdsworth perform Mike Oldfield’s classic album. Pic Joanne Kee

In 1971, a young Richard Branson borrowed £30,000 from his aunt for the establishment of a recording studio. It was there that he discovered eighteen-year-old Mike Oldfield; and what a glorious discovery that was. From this alliance came a game-changing record of epic proportions, Tubular Bells, and arguably the most remarkable conglomeration of instruments of all time. It was the first to be produced under Branson’s Virgin Records and one that would go on to sell more than 25 million copies.

Tubular Bells for Two, composed and performed by Aiden Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth, is a monumental piece that compiles over 27 instruments played consecutively- and often simultaneously- in one raw and breathtaking rendition of Oldfield’s 1973 recording. With the infusion of a diverse range of sounds, the boys create a multitude of effortlessly merged rhythms, tones, pitches, and harmonies that absolutely submerge the audience. From the moment they begin that chilling refrain, the audience is absolutely engrossed. Continue reading Tubular Bells For Two

Once, Upon A Canvas Wall

Wall with Guercino drawing. Main pic: The Art of Wall Diving
Wall with Guercino drawing. Featured pic: The Art of Wall Diving

Anthony Priddle’s Once, Upon a Canvas Wall is a quirky and eloquent exhibition that hit the Sheffer Gallery in Darlinghurst last week. 28 intricately painted pieces line the walls of this inner city gallery, each seeming to depict their own unique narrative upon the backdrop of the pattern of a beautifully pressed wall that surrounds Priddle’s workspace.

Evocative of landscape paintings, Priddle’s canvases manage to incorporate an exceptionally ephemeral quality to them, with the concept of time a heavily featured theme. Although somewhat figurative, the fluidity of his strokes gives the paint a liquid quality that makes it feel as though it could flow right off the edge of the canvas at any point. Continue reading Once, Upon A Canvas Wall

The Importance Of Being Earnest

Nathan O'Keefe and Nancye Hayes in the State Theatre Company of South Australia's production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Pics Shane Reid
Nathan O’Keefe and Nancye Hayes in the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Pics Shane Reid

Oscar Wilde is a comedic pioneer and genius, whose plays sport eloquence of tremendous proportions.

“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out.”

“Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”

While his plays are many things, earnest is not one of them. Saturated in satire and scandalously silly, Wilde’s beloved comedy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST has hit the Merrigong theatre this month to reanimate the classic play in a hilarious, true-to-form production. Critiquing the prudishness and prestige that festered within the class-driven society of Victorian England, the play makes light of the era’s repressive conventions through the conundrums and mishaps of two young bachelors who take to “Bunburying” to spice up their lives.  Continue reading The Importance Of Being Earnest

Australian Museum Research Unit Launch

AM Director Kim McKay, AM Scientists and Arts Minister Troy Grant
AM Director Kim McKay, AM Scientists and Arts Minister Troy Grant

This week the Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant, announced the official launch of the Australian Museum’s newest directive, the Australian Museum Research Institute. This initiative brings together a team of 70 scientists and over 100 associates who, through scientific research and communication, will work together to increase our ability to understand and respond to challenges facing the planet.

“Through its work, the Research Institute is inspiring a generation of new scientists dedicated to the conservation of our natural environment,” said Mr Grant.

Sandy Ingleby, mammologist showcasing our collections
Sandy Ingleby, mammologist showcasing our collections

The Australian Museum in Sydney’s CBD is well known as one of the country’s leading cultural attractions, with historically rich displays that document the enironmental and cultural archeology of Australia and the Pacific. The museum houses the largest collection of objects in the country with over 18 million artifacts, fossils, minerals and native insect and animal specimens, a collection that underpins its world-class innovative research. Continue reading Australian Museum Research Unit Launch

A Mini Festival of Circa

Third Image

Performing all week without break, seven incredible acrobats from one of Australia’s most acclaimed circus companies are showcasing their talent in A Mini Festival of Circa, hosted by the Merrigong Theatre Company. The performances are an eclectic mix of circus styles that cater for every demographic. 61 Circus Acts in 60 Minutes is a fast-paced, boisterous concoction of acts that makes for a thrilling family show. In Wunderkammer, the performers get a little racyin a hilarious and sexy cabaret-style piece.Then there is S- the feature show.

S is a stunning ensemble piece laced with high-level acrobatics that was inspired predominantly by the letter’s shape, grammatical function and sound. This theme is evident throughout, as bodies ebb and flow together blurring the lines between where one flawlessly sculpted physique begins and another ends. Continue reading A Mini Festival of Circa

Annette Messager at MCA

Annette Messager in front of her work 'Chimeres/Chimaeras (c) Annette Messager
Annette Messager in front of her work ‘Chimeres/Chimaeras (c) Annette Messager

Internationally renowned French artist, Annette Messager, has brought her retrospective exhibition Motion/Emotion to the Museum of Contemporary Art with a compelling and chilling compilation of two and three dimensional installations, epitomising 40 years of her most iconic practice. On display is a sample of her diverse repertoire utilising everyday materials like children’s clothing, badges, black netting, soft toys and badges, which she has transformed into ominous artworks. Haunting and emotionally evocative, the exhibition has a running theme of kinetic manipulation that animates objects and brings the exhibition to life.

Continue reading Annette Messager at MCA


Tim Storrier reading from a satirical statement prepared by Barry Humphries.
Tim Storrier reading from a satirical statement prepared by Barry Humphries. In the background Steve Peters.

WINNING ARTWORK: Tim Storrier, The Member, Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO, 183 x 91.5 cm, acrylic on canvas.

Prolific artist and 2012 Archibald winner, Tim Storrier, has taken out the infamous Packing Room Prize for his comical portrayal of Barry Humphries’s alter ego, Sir Leslie Colin Patterson. Chosen for its accurate resemblance and crude, satirical charm, the piece impressively captures the essence and personality of the rambunctious fictional character. The modest prize, while not quite the Archibald, remains an important tradition at the Art Gallery of NSW, chosen by the gallery staff that unpack and display the pieces. Storrier attributes the prize’s popularity to its democratic nature, being a prize judged by the proletarian.

Head storeman, Steve Peters, is the prize’s veteran and holds 51% of the vote, but claims that there was little debate in the case of The Member, Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO. The portrait’s likeness to its fictitious subject, and Storrier’s unyielding commitment to the associated narrative, is what ultimately swayed the judges. Storrier humorously carried this narrative throughout his artist statement and acceptance speech, citing some of the ‘technical difficulties’ he encountered in his sittings with Sir Les, having had to readjust the lights when his attractive assistant entered the room ‘so his enthusiasm in her presence was not as pronounced.’