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.




If you have seen Florence Foster Jenkins then you must see this movie.

It is quite the opposite. Here the human spirit prevails and one gets a sense of its divine spark, both in a humane and creative sense in this, a true story of one of the legendary mathematicians of the 20th century.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, superbly played by Dev Patel of Marigold Hotel  fame, is a lowly Indian civil servant at the turn of the 19th century in British Colonial India. Continue reading THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY


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If you have faith in the goodness of man and the the nobility of the human spirit do not see this movie. If you want to see some very fine acting by Meryl Streep it is a must see.

This film is set in New York in 1944 in the lead up to Florence Foster Jenkins debut performance at Carnegie Hall. The era is quite fastidiously recreated. The clothes, the cars and the furnishings of the apartments give authenticity to a time when the tide had turned in the War and there was a sense of optimism that the Allies would prevail. Continue reading FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS


One of the advantages of the gig for occasional critic for SAG is to uncover parts of the Sydney Arts Scene one was previously only dimly aware of. Such as the theatre precinct of Enmore Rd in Newtown. Complimenting this are a stack of niche fooderies, such as a Turkish ice cream parlour and a wine bar specialising in cheeses. So going to the Enmore Theatre last night was a lively evening.

We saw Marty Bright there. There are a number of venues in the theatre and this was a small intimate one. There was a warm up act preceding Marty, Kyle Legacy from Manchester in England. Kyle looks like a white Jimi Hendrix. Kyle connected easily with the mainly young audience and there were lots of giggles and hoots for the ten minutes or so as he prepared us for the main event.

Marty Bright is an Australian comedian who has toured the US and Canada as well as starring in Comedy Festivals in Melbourne and Adelaide. Marty Bright is not his real name …it’s a play on it . He is quite handsome. You know those paintings of a bearded hippy Jesus. Think Marty Bright. Marty is one of those comedians that goes through life genuinely interested in the people he meets. Telling us about them, stirring the audience, there were plenty of laughs in this hour long show. And, I almost forgot to mention, Marty’s imitation of Elvis Presley is pretty good too.

Marty Bright is performing his comedy show again tonight – Wednesday – and Thursday night.



ZOOTOPIA – CHIEF BOGO, head of the Zootopia Police Department. A tough cape buffalo with 2,000 lbs of attitude, Bogo is reluctant to add Judy Hopps, Zootopia’s first bunny cop, to his squad of hardened rhinos, elephants and hippos. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
ZOOTOPIA – CHIEF BOGO, head of the Zootopia Police Department. A tough cape buffalo with 2,000 lbs of attitude, Bogo is reluctant to add Judy Hopps, Zootopia’s first bunny cop, to his squad of hardened rhinos, elephants and hippos. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


It was one of those dreary Sunday afternoons with little to do and plenty of time to do it.

“We should take in a  movie” I said to the little boss. ZOOTOPIA.

“Whaat..the one with those funny actors! Forget it! ” she said. She was feeling persnickety.

“No. You are thinking of Zoolander.

In trepidation I took  her to see it.. Hallelujah! There is a god! She loved it.

Indeed it is hard to score this movie, which is a CGI cartoon by Disney at less than 9.5/10. The Boss gave it 10/10.

Take yourself to see it. If your partner is in one of those moods take her.

Take you mother, your grandmother, your son, your daughter, and any child to see it. They will all love it.

It is clever, witty, insightful, in parts pure genius, and just plain funny. The portrayal of the crime czar Mr Big is incomparable. The sloths are hilarious  …especially, especially in the final scenes.

And the story, well it makes sense too. If you are tired, sick of, can’t understand Deadpool , any/all of the superhero movies and want to see a movie that will carry you comfortably to the end, with no jolts, bumps or dumps along the way, see it. On the big screen.

You will always remember it with a smile.



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We saw this movie on the big screen at Bondi Junction recently.

People often say “This is a TV movie, I’ll watch it at home”. Don’t do it. And especially for this film. The cinematography is great, capturing the lush green English countryside and the quirky quiet streets of London , their coziness and sense of neighbourhood. For make no mistake this is a film that is ultimately about the human condition and the sense of caring we all have, albeit an unwilling one , when the situation is foisted upon us. Continue reading THE LADY IN THE VAN


This is a show playing at the Chauvel Theatre until Tuesday. It is part of Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

We arrived somewhat early to see it and serendipitously stumbled across the Paddington Reservoir which is beneath the street adjacent to the Theatre. We were intrigued by its vast rounded caverns and arches, built in brick in the nineteenth century . There was an amazing “tasting” there of various pristine drinking waters sourced  from North  Queensland to Tasmania .

Now to Panti.

Panti is a drag queen from Ireland and she (he) bursts upon the audience in an electric racing green cocktail dress and a dazzling Farah Fawcett style wig. Shapely elegant feminine legs stand in beige pink classic high heel shoes. Panti is a comedian segueing seamlessly over disparate topics from Australian TV coffee and crocodiles to being HIV positive (she is). It is a high energy, high voltage performance very much in keeping with that dress. She works the audience, up around and down the perimeters of the Chauvel, taunting flirting querying, but never rude or a boorish. Her style and ease are consummate , her connection with the audience personal and never aloof. Continue reading PANTI IS ROOTING FOR AUSTRALIA @ THE CHAUVEL PADDINGTON


A scene from Vortex Temporum performed during the 2016 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)
A scene from Vortex Temporum performed during the 2016 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)

We saw this play last night at Carriageworks in Redfern. This multi-platform performing arts centre is a collection of magnificent one hundred year plus industrial buildings where a sense of a bygone era impacts upon one strongly.

This venue is a an appropriate place for a philosophic analysis of time via movement and sound. Time..the present as the interstice, the space between the past and the future…The present as the vortex through which the past moves  to become the future. Time as a consciousness of the present through which we move…in constant transition from memory to anticipation.
A fine Belgium ensemble, conducted by Georges-Elle Octors, played reflective and contemplative music in an acoustically perfect, vast concrete space.
This was not a performance for everyone. The music was atonal, striking, layered…a cacophony of tone and timbre. Dancers moved to it in a rhythm at once provocative and unpredictable, graceful and free flowing.
An English reviewer , Mark Monahan of The Telegraph UK described the performance as “narcoleptic” and described a member of the audience wanting to leave in such a hurry that he almost tripped, giving the impression of throwing himself through the wall in his eagerness to depart.
VORTEX TEMPORIUM is after all a Sydney Festival event, so audiences did expect something out of the ordinary. To the contrary of Mr Monahan’s observation, on this night many members of the audience lingered to give these dedicated dancers and musicians a sustained applause.
This was a joint Belgium /Australian production. It was more introverted than what we are used to.  The production was given a refreshing touch by the work of Australian choreographer, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.
The work at Carriageworks continues to excite our imagination and our sense of space.
This show will challenge your ideas about music and movement.
VORTEX TEMPORIUM will challenge your ideas of time music and movement. This production is playing at Carriageworks until the January 18.


Tucked away in a tiny space in the opera house, in a corner just beneath one of its plunging sails  is an intimate space with a postcard view of the harbour. The Utzon Room. It is a concrete rectangular box with “hear the pin drop” acoustics.

We heard the Australian Haydn Ensemble performing here today- Sunday 20th December, 2015- taking the guise of the Haydn Esterhazy Orchestra as it might have played in the Schloss Esterhazy, Vienna 1761.

The Orchestra performs with a dry, clear sound and the individual instruments seem more clearly articulated than  their modern counterparts. This makes for hearing Haydn in a new light with a sound less sumptuous but clearer than what we are used to. Continue reading THE AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE PRESENTS HAYDN’S ESTERHAZY ORCHESTRA


Inset pic-Tom Conroy and Colin Friels. Featured pic- Tom Conroy and David Valencia in Angela Betzian’s MORTIDO currently playing upstairs at Belvoir Street theatre. Production photography by Brett Boardman.

We saw this play the other night.

Quite a bit of Sydney theatre is basically elegant pap. Or noisy chaotic pap presented as high drama. Or where actor and director are in an embrace of mutual congratulation and admiration, the audience almost irrelevant….mere observers.

One often goes to the theatre like a prospector hoping that at the end of the day there, at the bottom of the pan will be a speck or two of gold or even a nugget. Continue reading ANGELA BETZIAN’S MORTIDO @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

Our Father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven @ Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre

The ambit of this play felt too wide and overly ambitious …

The scenario finds an old man dying and various relatives gather at his bed side to ostensibly pay their respects. In reality they have come to ensure that they wont be forgotten when his estate is distributed.

Slapstick,  comedy, folly and  farce weave themselves through four or five, it could be even more absurd plots and agendas, that take up some ninety minutes of stage time.     Continue reading Our Father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven @ Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre

The Comedy Circuit @ The Lane Cafe/Restaurant/ WineBar

The Comedy Circuit- inset

We saw this last night.

It was brilliant. I could barely remember when I enjoyed comedy as funny and as insightful as this, much of it apparently spontaneous and unlaboured and well paced.

Pacing of course is very important in Comedy. You don’t wan’t  to be banged incessantly on the head. You, as a member of the audience, need space and time to let it sink in dwell on and then laugh at the proposition. 

Gretel Killeen was the MC. Gretel has three great loves in her life.  Her Daughters, Being On Stage, and Men. Clearly in thrall about the first two she was gloomy about Men…she gave up on the last one when he insisted that wombats ate coconuts.

Gretel glittered on stage. She was genuinely interested in her audience and directed the lights to be turned up so that she could engage with us. Mildly megalomaniacal..“I’m Gretel Killeen ..You haven’t heard of me..Where have you been..? Mars..?”.  She was perfect as the MC…Sexy, sparkling, welcoming and mercurial. Continue reading The Comedy Circuit @ The Lane Cafe/Restaurant/ WineBar

The Shapeshifter @ The Factory


THE SHAPESHIFTER is playing at The Factory at 105 Victoria st Marrickville.

The Factory itself is an amazing space. A punk psychedelic industrial minimalist space, harsh and bare yet practical and functional, situated just down the road from Newtown about 20 minutes from Newtown Station.

Josipa Dreisma is a serious actor. She holds an MA in Creative Arts and Theatre Performance. She has studied in both Australia and New York. But in this play she chooses in a number of different scenarios to displays an almost childlike naivety and vulnerability.       

Continue reading The Shapeshifter @ The Factory

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Yes, he’s back. It is a more mollified humane Tom Cruise who once again fights the Syndicate and The Establishment. The Syndicate aims for a new world order by upsetting the status quo using acts of terrorism.  The  Establishment, like all establishments, is in complete denial.

This is a super action packed MISSION. And it has something in it for everyone…

For the woman of today, there is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Fergusen), a double agent thwarted by both her male bosses, -confident, combative and  assertive, an unbelievable bike rider, at times soft and caring, and the very equal of Cruise.

Nerds get a look in with Benjie (Simon Pegg), Cruise’s slightly fumbling yet totally loyal sidekick. The Establishment is ably represented by Alec Baldwin. The ultimate IT expert is an Afro American Luther Strikell, (Ving Rhames) and the Nice Guy is William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). They all up gang up against the Schoolyard Bully, the embodiment of Evil, an Englishman by the name of Soloman Lane (Sean Harris).

Oh, and for good measure Opera Fans get to see a bit of Turandot.

This is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and there are a few laughs on the way. Like all Mission movies the willing suspension of disbelief is required but the audience didn’t seem to mind doing that too much. We all know how a Mission will finish, but this movie has genuine tension and suspense.

It all ends with the heroine driving off in her shiny black BMW convertible, a taut look over her shoulder as she says to Ethan Hunt  “….you know where to find me.”

We saw this movie at the Event cinema in the City, in Atmos Dolby. The sound surround Audio and the slightly curved screen gave the movie great oomph. If you are a Mission devotee or just hanker for some big hearted big deal action cinema go and see it..and see it in Atmos Dolby! And if you are into Rotten Tomatoes the rating is 94%.

The Book Of Kevin @ Gleebooks

Jonas Holt as Tony Abbott browses the eclectic selection of books at Sydney's book haven, Gleebooks.
Inset pic- Jonas Holt as Tony Abbott browses the eclectic selection of books at Sydney’s book haven, Gleebooks. Featured pic- Jonas Holt as Tony Abbott and Nathan Lentern as Kevin Rudd.

It is sometime in the future and to the alarm anathema and angst of the Labour Party Kevin Rudd has decided to return the scene of the crime. At a launch of his book he announces “I’m Kevin and I’m Here to Help”.

It is an extraordinary and an almost oxymoronic proposition and it forms the basis of a one hour political satire. Rudd is played by Nathan Lentern and he does it almost perfectly: Rudd’s sanctimonious expression, and a voice almost querulous as he relives the self  righteous pain of his political assassination. But now he’s moving on. He’s here to help and the audience last night howled with laughter and glee at his predicament at the prospect of his return.

The show is buttressed by an appearance of Bob Carr (again by Nathan Lentern) who advises that his memoirs of a Foreign Minister are better, and his book cheaper that the one written by one “K Rudd”.

Then Mr Abbott himself (Jonas Holt) makes an appearance as he swaggers and struts ape like to the stage, his stature almost bursting his suit. He blinks and lizard like licks his lips as he looks at the audience and characteristically gropes for his words .

The show is admirably held together by an MC (Timothy Hugh Govers).

This is a hilarious performance, and if you are a political aficionado of any shade of pink or blue or grey you will enjoy it.  At the end one is forced to reflect on what a wonderful democracy it is that we live in, that these things can be said and laughed at whichever side of politics you are on.

THE BOOK OF KEVIN played for one night only at Glebebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. There are three further performances between the 22nd and 24th July at the Rocks Markets Merchant House, 43-45 George Street, The Rocks as part of this years’ Rocks Pop Up season. Tickets only $15 and $12 concession.

The Dog/The Cat @ Belvoir Street Downstairs

Production photography by Brett Boardman

This is a comic play and it is excellent.

It  is in two parts: one written by Brendan Cowell (Dog Part) and the other by Lally Katz (Cat Part)

They are both prominent in Australian theatre. Cowell lives in downtown Newtown and Katz is one of Melbourne’s great comedic playwrights. She is also a great actress, though she doesn’t appear in her play.

The play has  three actors and the performance by the two men, Xavier Samuel and Benedict Hardie, deserve the highest superlatives. Andrea Demetriades is also darn good.     Continue reading The Dog/The Cat @ Belvoir Street Downstairs

Woman In Gold

Woman In Gold-inset
Inset pic- Confiscated. The painting was taken from the owners home during World War 2 and turned over to the Austrian Government. Featured pic- Gustav Klim’s 1907 painting ‘Portrait Of Adele Bloch’ (Wikipedia Commons)

In the heart of New York in famous Fifth Avenue is Die Neue Gallerie. It houses a portrait by Gustav Klimt of Adele Bloch Bauer a  beautiful Austrian Jewess.

This movie is about how this, one of Austria’s most famous paintings, came to  America. It was sold by Marie Altman , Bloch Bauer’s niece, to the Gallery for $135m on the condition it be on permanent display. An onerous condition without which she could have got a much higher price. Continue reading Woman In Gold

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max-inset

FURY ROAD, as everyone is aware, is part of the Mad Max /Kennedy Miller franchise.

Miller is a qualified medico from the tiny town of Chinchilla in Queensland. His original surname was Miliotis and his family were Greek post war immigrants to Australia.

Miller is a cinematic genius with a broad oeuvre which includes Babe and Happy Feet . We all remember the original Mad Max, made over 40 years ago, played by a tortured Mel Gibson. The film was a masterpiece and achieved cult status. Miller captured a post apocalyptic surreal world starved of warmth and compassion and populated by zombie humans. Cinema-goers  had never seen anything quite like it. Continue reading Mad Max: Fury Road



This is a great movie. This is one of those rarities whose appeal cuts across all ages. Take your son/grandson  daughter/granddaughter  best mate/ girlfriend to it. You will love it. They will love it. 


Wiil Smith stars in it, with Margot Robbie. She stumbles across him in a bar and joins his merry band of thieves and con men. Robbie is blond and blue eyed and originally from the Gold coast. She is pure sunlight and sparkle in this story. A young Grace Kelly who can act intelligently and with nuance. A bimbo she ain’t. Her American accent is flawless and she brings elegance style and joie de vivre to the part.


Will Smith is her mentor and they fall in love. Only Will Smith doesn’t realize it, or maybe he does and doesn’t want to get involved. He dumps her and they accidentally meet up three years later. Robbie is wearing a drop dead gorgeous red dress with the most incredible hairstyle.

Continue reading Focus