Drumroll…… crash! Kim Carpenter has brought us a marvellous show about the life and times of controversial, larger than life famous Australian artist Brett Whiteley .I was fortunate enough to catch the last performance of the Riverside season . Brett was the bad boy genius of Australian art, Wendy his muse and wife. Together they dominated Sydney’s art world for over two decades.
They were charismatic, convivial yet fractured and damaged. A Whiteley painting can fetch millions at auction but his life ended sadly in a cheap motel on the south coast.The pair’s legacy lives on in Brett’s work, his studio, and Wendy’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay. Whiteley would have celebrated his 80th birthday this year .This theatre piece is part of the retrospective, in conjunction with Brett Whiteley: Drawing is Everything, a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.
The show depicts their tumultuous relationship. Whiteley was just 17 when he first met Wendy Julius, then 15, the woman who would become his inspiration, wife, and the mother of their only child. Arkie Later in life she also became for a time his enemy when divorce , drugs and infidelity shattered their relationship. After Brett’s death, Wendy again emerged as his stalwart champion, honouring his creative genius and keeping his memory alive. Continue reading BRETT AND WENDY : A LOVE STORY BOUND BY ART→
This adaptation by William Zappa after Homer, has been 7 years in the making. Zappa has researched 17 translations, travelled far and wide, testing the work. He always knew Homer came from a tradition of professional guilds of storytelling, the words were meant to be heard. So now with the start originally a commissioned radio drama, the four actors devote themselves to the storytelling with their voice their primary instrument but delivered as if a staged reading with script in hand, moving in and out of the central sand circle.
I must immediately acknowledge only a limited visit to Homer as a student of literature. It is the oldest western writing surviving, attributed to Homer (mostly – but that is the debate around many very old writers Shakespeare included). 3000 years old. Written in the mid eighth century BCE. Earlier than the festivals of Greek Tragedy with which we might be a little more familiar. So it sits, Epic, it is after all still 24 books told in 3 parts and 9 hours. But Zappa has allowed intentionally in his direction (supported by Sport for Jove and specifically Damian Ryan) to become a resonance of our very modern world. Attempting to make the world of Homer’s Iliad, at once, an Australian Soap Opera, an HBO series with recaps and reminders, and I thought inconsistently, a colloquialism that ‘played’ with his characters; be they kings, princes or indeed gods. Continue reading THE ILIAD – OUT LOUD…PARTS ONE, TWO AND THREE→
COUNTING & CRACKING is a Sri Lankan story made into a powerful stage play about a family’s journey to remain united across countries, and across generations following a long-term civil war that claimed the lives of over 100,000 people.
It is an emotional tale about a family torn apart by the war, going back and forth in time to tell this story using an international cast of 16 actors from 6 countries playing four generations of a family. The play is performed in six languages and translated simultaneously.
Director Eamon Flack took up the challenge to work with playwright Shakthi Shakthidharan over a period of 5 years to make this production possible.
Shakthi researched the story of his Sri Lankan great grandfather and went to great pains to discover the truth about what really happened there over time. He eventually found out what brought his family to Australia and gradually began to grasp his own history in the making. The information was invaluable in piecing-together his roots, and developing this into a realistic story about coming together, and breaking apart. Continue reading COUNTING AND CRACKING @ SYDNEY TOWN HALL→
One of the major highlights of this year’s Festival of Sydney, this stunning show is a hypnotic, cross-cultural music and dance collaboration, where the audience are also performers. ONE INFINITY blends traditional Chinese music and contemporary dance, the audience an essential part of the performance, in an intricate, mirroring dialogue.
It started with the music: Australian recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey working with Chinese guqin master Wang Peng, and later English composer Max de Wardener and the Jun Tian Fang Music Ensemble.
Eventually they decided their work required a sense of theatre and engaged Gideon Obarzanek as choreographer and director who brought together 10 dancers from Townsville-based Dancenorth and the Beijing Dance Theatre.
When we enter we discover that the audience is divided into two sides and the assorted musical instruments are on stage. There is a glossy reflective covering on the floor like a dividing river.
As director-choreographer Gideon Obarzanek informs us at the start of the performance, the audience does not just watch ONE INFINITY but is an integral part of the work. We are briefed to copy the gestures made by two dancers (Amber Haines and Gao Jing) when they are spotlit throughout the show. Continue reading ONE INFINITY @ CARRIAGEWORKS→
Lucibela has a powerful but mellow voice and used it to great effect in her Sydney Festival show at City Recital Hall. Lucibela is from Cape Verde, an island country off the coast of Africa and a former Portuguese colony. In the tradition of the great Cape Verde singer Cesaria Evora. Lucibela started her career singing Cesaria Evora, Titina and Bana songs for tourists in the hotels of Cape Verde and has taken that background into her own concerts at festivals and venues around the world.
She was joined on stage by a marvellous band featuring drums, an electric guitar, a seven string bass and a cavaquinho. A cavaquinho is a small four stringed instrument from the guitar family. The band was very skilled, passionate and played in a variety of styles. Continue reading LUCIBELA @ CITY RECITAL HALL→
Directed by Simon McBurney and James Yeatman this is a co production between Complicite and SCHAUBÜHNE BERLIN . It is an astonishing bravura ensemble piece. It is one of the major Sydney Festival events and has a short season only playing n Sydney.
Based on Austrian Stefan Zweig’s 1939 novel, BEWARE OF PITY follows the misadventures of Anton Hofmiller, a young cavalry officer who falls in love with Edith, the partially paralysed daughter of a local landowner, but goes on to break her heart. Overwhelmed by guilt when the girl takes her own life, Anton enacts a well-meaning but tragically ill headed plot to put things right. It is a story of guilt, pity, trying to do the right thing and how unreceived messages can cause tragedy. The play is set in 1937, looking back at the tumult and horrors of World War 1, and not long before the onslaught of World War 11.
All is presented in non naturalistic mode with sensational lighting by Paul Anderson. Much is made of the symbolism of the bloodied jacket that is preserved in the museum that Franz Ferdinand wore when he was assassinated (Anton changes into a similar military jacket.) There is also the visual symbolism of the white dress that Edith wears and the constantly moving table on which Edith is whisked around the stage. Eerily sometimes just the dress itself is moved. Edith’s instability is indicated at times by the use of two actors lip synching her words.There are some tables and chairs in a sparse set, and the actors speak into on-stage microphones. The action is at times frenetic, at others frozen in tableaux. Continue reading BEWARE OF PITY @ ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE→
From his dramatic entry from the rear of the Magic Mirror Spiegeltent to his closing with a singalong version of Whitney Houston’s HOW WILL I KNOW, Le Chateau Chocolat comes up with a fantastic show. Admittedly, in the singalong he didn’t think the Sydney audience was up to reaching the high notes so he said that he would take it from there. This and similar asides during the concert were performed with charm and humour.
He performs a variety of songs from his musical heroes and links them with stories about his life. Madonna is his number one icon but he also plays loving tributes to various disco artists, David Bowie, Meatloaf, Pavarotti and a few fairly eclectic performers. His interpretations are heartfelt, innovative and make full use of his wide ranging powerful voice.
Le Gateau Chocolat entertains us with his soundtrack from when he completed the London marathon. When the audience laughs at his finishing time he takes them to task, explaining what a herculean task it was and the similarities he now has with Usain Bolt! Continue reading LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT ‘ICONS’ : A FANTASTIC SHOW→
Treading gently with ancient feet or eagerly wandering on a day trip to the Blue Mountains, Australians all, we know that sound. Memory calls as the audio and projected images take us into bush outside the town. The ghost gums tower and the senses twitch with the recalled smell of eucalypts and the shimmer of heat on the skin. Thus begins the bonding, empathetic and emotional journey into the pain and generational despair of our First Nations brothers and sisters. A sharing in performance, a production resonating with resilience and love in the face of loss.
MAN WITH THE IRON NECK is an obsession for Ash who has suffered a loss far too common. The former was a stuntman who risked, for the entertainment of others, leaping with a rope around his neck and Ash is working at survival just as The Great Peters laboured to endure each trick. We meet his girlfriend Evelyn and her twin brother Bear who are living on the edge of town with aspirations and abilities to get them away from there despite their evident strength in family, personified in Mum Rose. Continue reading MAN WITH THE IRON NECK. A COMMUNING OF SADNESS AND RESILIENCE→
Performing in the spectacular Spiegeltent, Julia Holter’s ambitious post-rock music reflects on the turmoil and disharmony of a post truth world. There are moments of extraordinary beauty in her and the band’s performance but she is quick to subvert the melody and introduce tension and discordance. The overall sound is an intriguing mixture of pop, classical and dissonant music.
Her ethereal voice is employed as another instrument and often soars with Dina Maccabee’s violin and Sarah Belle Reid’s trumpet or flugelhorn. Her voice is at times reminiscent of Regina Spektor, Nico or Kate Bush but she has her own style and is quite happy to let her vocals blend in with the other instruments to achieve the sound she is creating.
Julia’s music has been described as melding influences from classical music and baroque to post-rock, 70s pop and folk, and found sound, all held together by her electronic keyboard and delicate vocals. There are also Eastern European folk influences, especially when Tashi Wada is playing the bagpipes. Continue reading JULIA HOLTER @ THE SPIEGELTENT→
Blending a piano rendition of Tchaikovky’s romantic melodies with 35,000 digital images and a live ballerina THE NUTCRACKER AND I produces a purely enjoyable and magical creation. Having both a world renowned concert pianist and ballerina performing against constantly changing colourful backgrounds and characters is a sublime and enchanting experience.
The production of THE NUTCRACKER AND I is quite beautiful but an unusual format. Images are projected onto a see-through black gauze screen at the front of the stage. Pianist Alexandra Dariescu and ballerina Désirée Ballantyne are illuminated behind the screen. The images tell the classical Nutcracker story. Snow is falling as the Silberhaus family decorates their Christmas tree. The magician and toymaker Drosselmeyer arrives. Presents are exchanged including a nutcracker. Clara’s dream that night includes the nutcracker fighting with the Mouse King before being transformed into a prince. The familiar story continues with matching images, both static and dynamic, on screen. Continue reading THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE→
Shakira Clanton is outstanding In Henrietta Baird’s harrowing one-woman play, THE WEEKEND. She dances, swears, laughs and cries as she tells Lara’s story of her search, in various pockets of Redfern, for her wayward husband. She embodies the voices of a variety of women, men and children. These various characters are full of personality and contrasts. Drug use is prevalent in this community and Shakira captures the different levels of degradation apparent in their voices as she searches through some decrepit drug dens in the towers of Redfern. Her performance as Lara captures her humanity, foibles, humour and determination of this wonderfully written character.
This play focuses on the conflicts of a mother who loves her children and goes interstate for three weeks work so that she can provide for them. She leaves them in the care of her partner Simon, the children’s father, but his drug addiction leads him to abandoning the children. She has seen many admirable aspects of Simon but as she discovers the drug houses he frequents and the women he has relationships with she begins to realise more about the situation and about herself. Continue reading THE WEEKEND @ CARRIAGEWORKS→
Seeing as much independent theatre as I do, I often encounter the rage of all women balled into a tight little fist and raised above head height. Wrathfully expleted over 90 minutes, DEER WOMAN is the female fury, sudden or protracted, that all women feel at sometime in their lives.
But this morning’s distance gives pause. What… what… if genders were swapped? What would we feel? Would we allow? We sit and are horrified as the themes and events creep into view, as the story the protagonist weaves becomes whole cloth. Personally confronted, I reeled blinking into the heat with conflicting emotions and a conflict of intellectual response. And a need to reach out to my best friend, my female best friend.
THE CHAT. As the audience enters the theatre space we are directed to our seats by the performers, a mix of ex-offenders and actors, who chat amongst us till the sound of a shredding machine signifies the start of the show. Les Wiggins has breached parole and a paper copy of his criminal history is shredded as he is to be given an opportunity to show who he truly is and gain his freedom.
In this devised work led by theatre maker and former parole officer, J R Brennan, with writer-performer David Woods, performer Ashley Dye and input from former prisoners, questions around the justice system are raised. Who and how are decisions made around which offenders should be given parole, what happens if it goes wrong, how does a newly released inmate survive and go on to live a productive life and what supports are needed, are some of the areas considered. Continue reading THE CHAT. QUESTIONING THE SYSTEM→
Not so such much a runaway hit as a stay-in-the-neighbourhood hit, IN THE HEIGHTS as directed by Luke Joslin brings a Washington Heights alive in a vibrant, energetic production with the closeness of community at its heart. No mean feat on a stage as wide as the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. We love our House and audiences always have a sense of occasion in the iconic building but this was beyond expectations. A night to bring the whole audience to their feet after a show that vibrates the barrio with brio onstage and brass behind.
The show was conceived, and has music and lyrics, by Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Joslin directed the show at Hayes Theatre last year. This production has many cast in common and shares musical direction from Lucy Bermingham and choreography from Amy Campbell. It was a bona-fide hit then. And will be now. Continue reading IN THE HEIGHTS. DANCIN’ SINGIN’ CELEBRATIN’→
Sure to be one of the big hits of the Sydney Festival, SHANGHAI MIMI is a lush, well- conceptualised production. It has terrific attention to detail in the creation of the space and artists of considerable skill and charisma. If I wasn’t the best audience for the work, it’s apparent that the show has wide appeal and the power to draw a diverse viewership. The cast introduces themselves at one stage and they are certainly from all over. And I think the lady of Asian descent who was sobbing with recognition as we left the auditorium, would take me to task for my lack of appreciation. What this lady understood was the importance of this work in reclamation of a period of time and the presentation of it to a new audience. Continue reading SHANGHAI MIMI. LUSH PRODUCTION AT RIVERSIDE PARRAMATTA FOR THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL→
With garbage cans and fruit crates, mirror balls galore and a popping neon sign, PIGALLE, playing at the Spiegeltent for the Sydney Festival, is a magnificent seat boppin’ reminder of why disco lives. Heartbeats pound in rhythm with the bliss of remembering and re-living. It was always going to be a crowd pleaser with this talent line-up but what we are treated to is a memorable night of variety, excellence and smart direction that leaves you wanting more as you tumble out with ‘Disco Inferno’ firmly earwormed.
As the crowd excitably buzzes waiting for the show to start, there’s a terrific music mix to begin that physical electricity that beloved music pulses in the veins. The cast appear as ‘Street Life’ struts and frets upon the catwalk stage and feet begin the unstoppable tap. Costumed with a period flair that keeps on coming, these artists thrill with sexy poses and sashayed peacockery. Continue reading PIGALLE – FUNK ME IT’S A GREAT NIGHT→
The 2019 Sydney Festival has started with a bang and one of the major events is the Australian premiere of La Passion de Simone . Written by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, with a libretto in French by Amin Maaloufit it is presented at Carriageworks by Sydney Chamber Opera in association with The Song Company.
Musically and visually superb, it is a powerful and hypnotic production.Directed by Imara Savage it looks at the life of Simone Weil , who was an intellectual, Marxist and pacifist, philosopher, political activist and mystic whose despair at the course of world events led her to starve herself and pass away in 1943 aged just 34. Weil died of tuberculosis after weakening herself by fasting in sympathy with the starving people of France, having spent the preceding decade travelling through Nazi Germany and revolutionary Spain in an attempt to understand the causes and nature of oppressive régimes.
After involvement in the Spanish Civil War, Weil, a secular Jew, converted to Christianity, fleeing France with her family during World War II and working with the French Resistance from London.
The show is based in the Passion Play tradition with episodes of Weil’s life linked to the Stations of the Cross. One scene includes how she worked for a while in a factory among the oppressed workers then rejected the robotic, virtually forced labour. Continue reading LA PASSION DE SIMONE @ CARRIAGEWORKS→
This Australian premiere production is a co-production involving Quiptake, Pandemic Theatre and the Theatre Centre, Canada. DAUGHTER, written and performed by Adam Lazarus and directed by Ann-Marie Kerr, is a collaboration uniting the three organisations’ shared values of complex, challenging and aesthetically driven critical performance to provoke and hold space for civil discourse.
So here we are. In the middle of #metoo and mens whiny #methree, cos they don’t want to miss out. Because really they don’t understand. Adam Lazarus in developing this piece of theatre with his training and background in the ‘buffon king’ and hailed as Toronto’s favourite nasty clown; has taken us down a very ugly nasty road upon which he declares we have all travelled – or indeed travel still. The Bouffon, or clown, the fool of Shakespeare’s Lear, are all a little too blunt and too honest and too real. Too real to be believed. Yet Lazarus takes us on this inane and simple journey of real truths. His truths. Credible and funny and relatable. Then he gives a little slap or a digging in the ribs hard nudge. Too hard and too fast. No that is not “us”, we would never, could never. No don’t do that, don’t say that – we gasp and wince and scrunch our faces in distaste. One man near the front leaves. The two women in front of me whisper and give each other looks, then they too exit.
So yes, the subject matter is intense. Grotesqueries and extraordinary experiences are Adam’s themes of choice. Yet he relay’s them in such a way, teasing his audience along. “You’ve done that? You know exactly what I mean?” Then quickly singling out someone with a deliberate finger point or a look and making it clear we are all in on it. Been there done that. But we haven’t. I haven’t. I can’t even stomach the ideas. Who near me can? I wonder. Fleetingly. Inside I ‘know’ this is theatre but Adam is telling a real story isn’t he. His story. I think. I don’t like it. I don’t like him. Continue reading DAUGHTER : CONFRONTING THEATRE AT ITS SHARPEST→
Last night’s audience certainly loved it. ROCK BANG is sure to be a huge hit during the Sydney Festival. Circus pings all the pleasure spots and nothing pleases like Circus Oz who have been leaping flying tumbling innovators for over 40 years. This time though they have enlisted the high energy of Otto & Astrid from Die Roten Punkte and created a boisterous, rockin show which definitely needs categorising under not-as-we-know-it-circus!
Opening with a thumping rock number live and an aerial ring swing over the front rows, the show hits momentum quickly. The characters of Otto and Astrid are funny and silly and very, very dark as they share their origin story. German brother and sister to all intents, let’s just gloss over the Flowers in the Attic-ness, they will tell a sad tale of loss (bus or lion) then success as a punk band. Kick ass drums and squealing guitar! And stowaways to Australia in a Circus Oz trunk. Continue reading ROCK BANG – THUMPIN’ GOOD ROCK CIRCUS→
A bell tolls and Camille O’Sullivan steps from the audience onto the stage of the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in a shimmering self-made midnight blue/black cat suit topped with a black cape. From that moment this consummate performer holds the audience in her hand as she present, what she describes as a love letter to two of her heroes of music Leonard Cohen and David Bowie with added material from a variety of artists such as Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Jacques Brel. The show itself is named after one of Bowie’s final singles.
In this 80 minute show O’Sullivan an Irish/French singer and storyteller-in-song, and her highly talented three piece supporting band of Feargal Colm Murray on piano, Paul John Byrne on drums and Steven Fraser on guitar, ask “Where are We Now”, in this turbulent, changing world in distress. Her strong, clear and passionate voice consumes the cabaret type space of the Spiegeltent as she turns each song into a theatrical performance. Continue reading CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN – WHERE ARE WE NOW ?→
A GHOST IN MY SUITCASE is soul food for the spirit … whatever age you find yourself to be. From the opening projection of a red koi and with a whoosh and a tinkle of bells, audiences are captivated by this splendid production. The story begins, the worldbuilding begins and the watchers, whether they have read the book or no, are transported to a place of enlightenment, joy and self-knowledge.
Celeste has lost her loved mother and is bringing the ashes back to China for ritual scattering. For the first time she will meet her maternal grandmother, Por Por who is feisty and powerful. This little woman is a ghost hunter, a skill often passed down in the female line and Celeste will need to confront her own doubting demons before she can see clearly enough to know if she is possessed of the art too. Por Por also has a ward living with her, a serious and defensive Ting Ting who is not keen to share Por Por’s precious mentoring time. Continue reading A GHOST IN MY SUITCASE – SPIRITS SOAR IN THIS DELIGHTFUL SHOW→
HOME is the bastard child of Buster Keaton, Shin Lim and Corey Worthington. A two storey residence is magic-ed onto stage. The residents of it, over its lifetime, cling to it and make it home and they also fill it with people they don’t know in a pretty loose invite.
The residents and guests will build stories, paper their stories with emotion and, what I was unprepared for, sometimes simply reflect. It is the meditative quality of HOME that I enjoyed most. The beauty, craft and humour of the work are rich and everpresent but the moments of muse pulled us forward in our seats in a communal reach for how we grasp our small place in a big world. Continue reading HOME. A MEDITATION ON HEARTH AND HEART→
On waves of enjoyment the highly entertained audience responds and relates to Omar Musa during his show SINCE ALI DIED. His gift as a performer is to put people at ease, to allow an audience a space in which to understand and empathise and to feel comfortable to respectfully disagree if required. But if we have all been down to the servo on a hot day or done a bomb off the 3 metre board, each of us who meet in this space have arrived by different paths. His path is what he shares in his exciting and engaging show, a crafted show with the power to gently educate without rancour or aggro.
Using poetry, first and third person storytelling and songs Musa will give an insight into growing up as a brown boy in Queanbeyan … his poetic homage to the river absolutely delightful. Lyrical and warm yet beautifully expressed with a sadness for its loss of greatness. For, this is a boy who understands greatness. His idol is a black man who speaks his mind, who speaks of achieving and who was once lyrical and floating. It’s an honest love as Musa bookends his work in a Styxian boat speaking to The Greatest. Continue reading SINCE ALI DIED. SOME EXPERIENCES UNITE US→
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