All posts by John Pollak

John Pollak did Arts and Law at Sydney uni. He practised Law for a short while and went into business. He made too much money for his own good and today is not so much retired as having little to do. He plays tennis and carries the bags for his wife when she goes overseas. When prompted and badgered he does the occasional review. He goes to Ethiopia every now and then and where, with Professor McGuigan of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, he is bringing the Sodis Program for safer water to the Tigray region. When seen in public he is often hunched over a cup of coffee and a foccacio whilst immersed in a diabolical suduko. Or he is driving his wife to bridge.

THE OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS THREE PARTS MOZART

This Concert was at the City Recital Hall last Thursday at 7.30 pm. For those who have not been there it  is quite an unusual venue. Whereas the Opera House sits grandly on Bennelong Point at night its shells like grand ghost sails rising out of the dark, the Hall is tucked away, almost hidden in the bowels of  the city.

But while the acoustics of the Opera House are somewhat indifferent the acoustics here are superb and plush regal purple seating and wood panelling make this a delightful concert setting.

Now to the Concert.

There were four items. The first by Haydn, the other three by Mozart.

Le Matin, “the morning” by Haydn is the first of two others: Le Midi (noon) and Le Soir (evening). It was lively performance centred in part on a number of  flute vignettes beautifully played by Eric Lamb. Then followed the Clarinet Concerto played at times somewhat breathlessly by Paul Meyer, but nevertheless an exuberant rendering of this the most wonderful of melodic concertos, written by Mozart in the final year of his life. Continue reading THE OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS THREE PARTS MOZART

SYDNEY UNIVERSITY DRAMATIC SOCIETY PRESENTS VAN BADHAM’S ‘BLACK HANDS DEAD SECTION’

Production photography by Clare Hawley.
Production photography by Clare Hawley.

In was in the  late 1960’s that Baader Meinhof Gang in Germany found its roots. Initially they were a student organisation dedicated to , amongst other things, stopping the Vietnam War and toppling oppressive regime of the Shah of Iran . Violence bloodshed and death resulted when the German Police and other Authorities pushed back against its extremist ideology and tactics.

In turn Baader Meinhof became increasingly more violent  in time becoming labelled a terrorist organisation, ultimately hijacking a plane in 1977. During a 10 year period they dominated the West German political and news psyche  by being at the centre of bombings , psychological warfare and murder.

Sound familiar?

This then is the long bow drawn by Van Badham to connect what was happening then to what is happening today in many western countries. There was a desire then toward simplicity of analysis where in fact there were a multiplicity of issues and layers of reality. Van Badham suggests that perhaps we might look at terrorism today in the same light . Continue reading SYDNEY UNIVERSITY DRAMATIC SOCIETY PRESENTS VAN BADHAM’S ‘BLACK HANDS DEAD SECTION’

THE HANSARD MONOLOGUES : AGE OF ENTITLEMENT @ GLEN STREET

Theatre can be interesting sometimes because sometimes it can challenge one’s idea of what actually is theatre. THE HANSARD MONOLOGUES : AGE OF ENTITLEMENT which we saw last night does this. It a recitation of some selected parliamentary speeches in the plush Glen St Theatre in Forestville.

An impressive line-up of actors , headed by John Gaden, presented speeches by Abbott and his two Bishops , Turnbull Shorten and Plibersek and the rest of the gang.  It is stuff we have all heard before. Does it gain anything by being presented in a theatrical context?!

The characters come to a microphone, identified by the name appearing on the screen at the back of the stage. It is a minimalistic set , a large gavel and neatly organised volumes of books on a large table.

None of the actors pretended to be a Turnbull or a Shorten or Bishop… In this sense they didn’t really act.

There is no plot, no suspense, no unfolding drama , no comedic moments, no ending, no beginning. We all listened intently but there was scarce a wet eye or chuckle to be seen or heard.

Tragedy perhaps….listening to them out of their parliamentary  context, you get a sense that it is all senseless and surreal.

But is it theatre?!

You be the judge.

THE HANSARD MONOLOGUES : AGE OF ENTITLEMENT by Katie Pollock and Paul Daley, and directed by Timothy Jones is playing the Glen Street Theatre for a very brief run till July 31.

 

FREEFALL PRESENTS DAVID AUBURN’S PROOF @ NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN

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Production photography by Michael Snow,

This is a marvellous play by David Auburn about courage, doubt, faith, love, and genius. The play has won a Pulitzer prize, the New York Drama Critics award and a Tony award. The current New Theatre production is directed by Derek Walker.

Catherine lived with her father for the last years of his life, as her father, once a famous Mathematician, slides into mental illness and death. She herself is a gifted mathematician who may have inherited at least some of his genius but seems have been wasting her time (and her own genius) away. Or has she?!

This is the central conundrum of the play, and the answer to it unfold steadily to a dramatic conclusion. Continue reading FREEFALL PRESENTS DAVID AUBURN’S PROOF @ NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

Set in England in the late eighteenth century the title of this movie LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP is deliciously ironical because it is about just the opposite. But do not be deterred. This movie is full of wit, epithet and epigram. It is loosely based on a novel by Jane Austen.

Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) who is stylish elegant and most attractive, has been recently widowed and is in dire financial straits. Her attempts to alleviate her predicament leave no stone unturned. Her first point of leverage is her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and she spends some time trying to marry her off to someone fabulously wealthy. Lady Vernon is ever flexible and also explores other options.
Continue reading LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

AUSTRALIA VOTES 2016 : THE POLITICAL YEAR IN REVIEW @ HAROLD PARK HOTEL

Tim and Kevin2

This is a short revue style performance on the first floor of the Harold Park Hotel ..just over an hour.

Nathan Lentern plays a very credible Kevin Rudd, capturing his unique blend of ockerism, condescension and cynicism. He also does that pain Pyne with his cadet corp /high school prefect manner.

Jonas Holt gives a long monologue at the end as Tony Abbott and again he comes to light as a vaguely reptilian political animal, struggling to coordinate the brain with the voice box, his tongue accommodating the interval between thought and word, as he struggles to find the right sentence.
Continue reading AUSTRALIA VOTES 2016 : THE POLITICAL YEAR IN REVIEW @ HAROLD PARK HOTEL

EL CIRCO BLANC @ SLIDE DARLINGHURST

It actually snows inside! EL CIRCO BLANC

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017_ BLANC 04.06.15. Jesse Jaco. W_ low res

Featured photo- Aerial Artistry, Pic by Jesse Jaco. Photos above- 1. It actually snows inside EL CIRCO BLANC. Photo supplied by Slide. 2. Live vocals accompany a romantic aerial act”. Photo credit Petr Sedlacik. 3.  Brioche pastry filled with layers of salmon, mushroom and rice, served with a lemon butter and chive sauce. Photo credit Jesse Jaco.

So where do you go with your special lady, friend or even your wife on a Wednesday night? Or with your mates on a boys’ (or girls’) night out? Somewhere memorable. Unusual. And not too noisy…

You go to SLIDE  at 41 Oxford St Darlinghurst and see El Circo Blanc.  And you eat a five course degustation menu. Slide is a cabaret lounge that used to be a Commonwealth Bank.

The theme of this production is a circus and it is playing every Wednesday night. It is based on a concept by Marc Kuzma, and directed by James Taylor.
Continue reading EL CIRCO BLANC @ SLIDE DARLINGHURST

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD @ GENESIAN THEATRE

 

Genesian-secondProduction photography by Mark Banks.

Tucked away in inner city Kent steet is the Genesian Theatre. With its luxuriant velvet curtain and plush red seats, it is  amongst the most elegant and intimate of Sydney’s theatres. Thomas Hardys’ “Far from the Madding crowd, adapted by Mark Healy, is currently being performed here.

It is a sumptuous, generous play with a large cast and production crew. Hardy wrote it in the late 19th century, at a time when England was transforming from a mercantile, rural society to a  harsher industrial one. Mores too were changing, and the Great Era of Women’s Emancipation glimmered in the distance. The heroine, Bathsheba Everdene (could there ever be a name more grounded, independent  and respectable than that ?!), graciously played by Nicole Harwood, saves the life of Farmer Oak ( solid, working class), played with great gusto by Ben Dewstow. From then on their lives become inextricably entwined.

Hardy never has much time it seems to me, for the upper middle classes. His faith lies with the working class. The upper classes are invariably cheats and ne’er do wells. The lower are the salt of the earth.

The beginning finds Farmer Oak in burgeoning financial circumstances and Bathsheba relatively impecunious. In a twist of fate this is reversed. Bathsheba become wealthy and Farmer Oak becomes poor.  Farmer Oak remains the same but she becomes delicate and vulnerable to being preyed upon by the upper classes.

It is a gripping tale, played across 40 scenes with 12 actors playing multiple roles, in which rural England comes to life amid scenes of song, dance and celebration. it is a stellar cast and for my part, I was particularly drawn to Bathsheba’s maid and rock of support Liddy, played by  Kathryn Hutchins. Her character is another of Hardy’s metaphors for the working class being the solid backbone of England.

The Genesian Theatre has been the provenance of many fine actors, including John Bell, Baz Luhrmann, Bryan Brown and Judi Farr.

The current performance is in the spirit of these great actors.

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, directed by Debbie Smith, is playing the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent street, until the 25th June 2016.

 

FLAME TREES BY WAYNE TUNKS @ DEPOT THEATRE MARRICKVILLE

FlameTreesecond

Above – Isobel Dickson and Rebecca Clay in Wayne Tunks Flame Trees. Production photography by Isobel Markus-Dunworth

”Who needs that sentimental bullshit anyway?” decries the pamphlet that I grabbed before going in to see FLAME TREES at the Depot Theatre in Marrickville last night.

The answer seems to be that we all do. For this play is all about sentiment. And about fire, fires and an old flame.

The Depot is part of the Marrickville Enmore/Newtown burgeoning theatre scene. Vibrant Young and Raw. The play is a reflection of that. Tess Ashley, finely played by Isabel Dickson,  returns to the small town she left many years ago and we all wonder why. The reasons are gradually revealed in this drama which has it all. Love, sacrifice, crime, punishment, betrayal and duplicity. It is also a psycho drama and a whodunnit. Have I left something out?
Continue reading FLAME TREES BY WAYNE TUNKS @ DEPOT THEATRE MARRICKVILLE

ROCKDALE MUSICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS REEFER MADNESS @ THE DEPOT THEATRE, MARRICKVILLE

RMS Reefer Madness ReeferMadness_Press-10Production photos by Chloe Snaith

It was a dark and stormy night when your intrepid theatre critic ventured into the bowels of Marrickville to find The Depot Theatre and to review this musical. We drove into a forlorn precinct in which there were a scattered miscellany of various buildings and there, suddenly a dimly lit sign “The Depot” . An uncertain push, or was it a pull of the door and we were inside and then ushered to our seat amidst a sea of bright earnest young faces.

We were now part of the young Sydney Theatre Scene.               Continue reading ROCKDALE MUSICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS REEFER MADNESS @ THE DEPOT THEATRE, MARRICKVILLE

CANTERBURY THEATRE GUILD PRESENTS AVENUE Q @ BEXLEY RSL CLUB

Avenue Q- second

So I went to the Bexley RSL club on Stony Creek Road Bexley to see this play.

It is on a very busy road. Cars drive along it, some furiously, in a desperate hurry to get nowhere in particular. You cross it at your peril. The club itself  displays a WWII Ordnance QF 25 pound Horwitzer Gun out the front. At least that is what I think it is. Then one mounts and  walks over rather morose orange brown  pavers  to gain entrance and  behold  the club’s rather cavernous carpeted interior.

Inside there is a small segmented area for a theatre space. Continue reading CANTERBURY THEATRE GUILD PRESENTS AVENUE Q @ BEXLEY RSL CLUB