Monday, July 29, 2013


Directed by Jordan Best
Written by William Shakespeare
The Q Theatre, Queanbeyan July 24 - August 3, 2013

Review by Len Power July 24, 2013
If you could do with a warming burst of summer on one of these cold mid-winter nights, get yourself out of the house and go and see the Q Theatre’s delightful new production of Shakespeare’s, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.  You’ll come home glowing.

William Shakespeare’s comedy is one of his most popular plays.  It concerns the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta, including the very funny adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors, who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.

The large cast of twenty give generally strong performances.  Everyone in the cast has their big moment and they don’t waste it.  Especially memorable were Dave Evans as the mischievous fairy, Puck, Cam Thomas as Bottom, Tim Sekuless as Oberon, Brendan Kelly as Flute and Lachlan Tiberius Ruffy as Snug.  Towering above them all, though, was Jenna Roberts in a fiendishly funny performance as one of the confused lovers, Helena.  She gives a wonderful contemporary reading of the role but still respects the Shakespearian text.

The production is enhanced by the combination of Wayne Shepherd’s clever woodland setting, lighting design by Owen Horton, some great sound effects and original music by Peter Best.  Miriam Miley-Read, Emma Sekuless and Cate Ruth have collaborated on the gorgeous and imaginative costumes with some especially striking 1920s gowns for some of the women in the cast.  The wing designs for the fairies, by Mia Ching and Ann McMahon are beautiful and, if you have good eyesight, you’ll see a nod to Walter Burley Griffin in their work.

Director, Jordan Best’s production gives a very clear and easily understandable reading of the text.  The pace of the show keeps us interested and involved as it moves swiftly from one scene to another.  The knockabout comedy playing between the group of actors is very well done and the graceful movements of the fairies adds another charming dimension.

With the combination of fairies and acting troupes and young lovers, many directors have been known to take great licence with this play, sometimes successfully, sometimes indulgently.  In the program, Jordan Best says that she did not want to try to put her stamp on the show.  She wanted to do Shakespeare’s version, not Jordan Best’s version.  Well, either way, this production has the stamp of excellence on it.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 28 July 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Critics’ Circle embarks on “conversations”

Paul Knobloch makes a point
The Canberra Critics’ Circle has embarked on a long-planned series of talks this winter at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, who have kindly offered us space for these informal meetings between critics and arts professionals.

The “………in conversation with the Canberra Critics’ Circle” sessions are hour-long informal chats held in one of the smaller Museum and Gallery rooms. Initially, the  idea is to “inform the critics” and to provide a more cordial atmosphere to exchange views than is usual.

They are not planned as full-blown symposia, though the Critics’ Circle has agreed to stage a symposium on Splinters Theatre of Spectacle later in the year to coincide with the Canberra Museum and Gallery’s Splinters exhibition.

Our first guest, on July 23, was professional dancer Paul Knobloch, presently a dancer and choreographer at Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco, but previously a member of the Bejart Ballet Lausanne. Paul was born and educated in Canberra and  trained at The Canberra Dance Development Centre and the Australian Ballet School. Among the many subjects raised was the question of ageing productively as a dancer.

Twelve members of the circle took part in this inaugural “conversation.”

The second session, held on July 25, was a conversation with the leading figures in the coming Free Rain Theatre production of “The Phantom of the Opera”— Michael Cormick, who plays The Phantom, Julie Lea Goodwin, who plays Christine, producer Anne Somes and director David Harmon.
Michael Cormick

Michael has performed in Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals on the West End and in Australia and can be considered a veteran of the Australian musical there. Julie is a classically-trained opera singer who has played Christine in the Phantom and Maria in “West Side Story”. Anne is the director of Free Rain Theatre and David, a recent graduate of NIDA, has worked on several productions with Opera Australia.

For this session, the critics packed out the CMAG boardroom. A well as our guests from “Phantom”, the circle invited the Canberra Theatre’s programming manager Gill Hugonnet to join in. As the sessions develop, it is hoped to extend more such invitations to professionals in the  arts.

At the end of a frank and entertaining conversation, both Julie and the director David commented that meeting critics informally like this was a “first” for them.
Julie Lea Goodwin

Future “in conversation” guests will be digital video artist and theatre practitioner Jack Lloyd, film producer Daniel Sanguineti, pianist and music improviser Elaine Loebenstein and art gallery director Barbara McConchie.
Helen Musa

Friday, July 26, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013


Co-directors: Rosie Dennis, Alicia Talbot
Urban Theatre Projects and the Centenary Of Canberra
The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre 17-27 July, 2013

Review by Len Power 17 July 2013

2013 has given us the opportunity to see some unique works inspired by the Centenary Of Canberra.  ‘Catalogue Of Dreams’ has been specifically devised for the centenary by Urban Theatre Projects.

According to the program, Urban Theatre Projects, a theatre company based at the Bankstown Arts Centre, produces theatre works based on a process of conversation between contemporary theatre practice and diverse communities.  In ‘Catalogue Of Dreams’, the company has developed a performance that highlights issues surrounding child homelessness in Canberra.

Co-directors, Rosie Dennis and Alicia Talbot, have produced a startling and unique look at a confronting urban problem.  The performance space in the Courtyard Studio has been utilized very well and the whole show seems to spring from the clever production design by Imogen Keen and the imaginative lighting design by Daniel McCusker.

This is a production about issues rather than character and story.  There is very little spoken dialogue onstage and long sections of voice over dialogue accompany the onstage activity, creating a dream-like, almost surreal, atmosphere.  The ensemble cast of seven do a fine job performing the various sequences which appear to represent their individual memories.

The staging is quite imaginative, using props and sound to great effect and, surprisingly, the space’s entrance and exit doors.  However, the intention behind the two sequences with music was obscure and some of the voice over dialogue seemed longer than necessary at times.

This is a production to make you think and its strength is in the way it is done.  Its running time might be short but there are a lot of good things here to experience and stretch your imagination.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 21 July 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Written by Edward Albee
 Directed by Tanya Gruber
Something Borrowed Theatre
Smith’s Alternative, July 18 - 20, 2013

Review by Len Power 18 July 2013

‘We should talk.’  That ominous opening line of Edward Albee’s play, ‘At Home At The Zoo’, sets the scene for a mild-mannered young husband’s two very unsettling conversations, first with his wife at home and then a short time later with a strange fellow he meets while reading on a park bench.  The play is a disturbing study of alienation, loneliness and miscommunication with flashes of black humour here and there.

Fifty years on, Edward Albee added a first act to his 1958 one-act play, ‘Zoo Story’.  The new act gives an added depth to the themes running through the play.  This is Canberra’s new Something Borrowed Theatre’s first production at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, an intimate space which worked well for this small-cast play.

John Lombard, who plays the central character of the husband, gives a believably understated, controlled and ultimately very moving performance.  Kate Blackhurst, as his wife, strongly plays every facet of a woman who says one thing but means another and Graham August is outstanding in his portrayal of an initially quirky young man with an increasingly dark underside.  The actors’ sense of timing and their non-verbal interactions with each other are especially notable.

Director, Tanya Gruber, has provided her cast with very well-paced direction and wisely keeps movement on the small stage by the characters to a bare minimum.  However, the decision not to use American accents was questionable given the strongly American sensibility of the characters.  Nevertheless, this is an electrifying and very satisfying production.

Originally published in Canberra City News digital edition 19 July 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Bangarra Dance Company,

Canberra Theatre 11th to 13th July 2013 

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Even after nearly 25 years as Australia’s vanguard indigenous dance company Bangarra Dance Theatre still manages to surprise, move and inform. Its latest work “Blak”, combining the choreographic skills and imaginations of Stephens Page and Daniel Riley McKinley is a cohesive, visually arresting and superbly danced creation. 

Hunter Page-Lochard and male ensemble
Photo: Greg Barrett
Presented in one act divided into three sections, the first section “Scar”, choreographed by Riley McKinley, commences with a group of young men dancing in a circle.  A corroboree or an urban bon fire?   Among screaming sirens, glaring headlights and cleverly stylised fights, they smear themselves with white paint and exchange T-shirts which they carry in their mouths like ceremonial regalia. Brilliant lighting, a driving, evocative soundscape and the clever use of contemporary and traditional movement are brilliantly fused by Riley McKinley to blur time-lines and suggest the timelessness of the testosterone fuelled behaviour of young men searching for identity.

Yolande Brown, Deborah Brown, Nicola Sabatino
Photo: Greg Barrett
No less affecting is the gentler second section, “Yearning”, superbly choreographed by Stephen Page, in which the women of the company dance a series of vignettes illustrating a  grandmother’s  grief over a young girl’s suicide, the loss of native language, domestic violence and the search for self-identity. For this section the costumes of Luke Ede are particularly beautiful.

For the final section, “Keepers”, the company, and the choreographers, combine for a spectacular ceremonial which begins around a huge rock belching smoke and cleansing water. Brilliant dancing from the entire company, a stunning soundscape and magnificent set and costume design combine in this powerful sequence which ends with a spectacular curtain of sand, perhaps signifying the timelessness of the struggle for indigenous identity.
Beau Dean Riley Smith  and Bangarra ensemble
Photo: Greg Barrett

Despite the seriousness of some of the topics, “Blak” is a spectacular and celebratory work in which the dance and production skills of Bangarra Dance Theatre have seldom been better showcased.

Deborah Brown, Daniel Riley McKinley
Photo: Greg Barrett
      This review first published in the digital edition of  CITY NEWS on Friday 12th July 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Director, Repetiteur, Conductor And Piano: Colin Forbes
Co-Director, Vocal Coach and Producer: Patricia Whitbread
Music By W.A. Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
English translation by W.A. Auden and Chester Kallman
Presented by the Canberra Academy of Music and Related Arts (CAMRA)
St. Phillips's Church, O'Connor 4 July - 13 July, 2013

Review by Len Power 4 July 2013
While sitting in a church pew, it’s rather unusual to be given a warning from the altar that you’re about to hear a racy story about a man with loose morals.

‘Don Giovanni’, Mozart’s popular opera, has been given a simple production in the limited space of a church altar by CAMRA, the Canberra Academy of Music and Related Arts.  It works rather well.  Directed by the team of Colin Forbes and Patricia Whitbread and presented in English rather than the original Italian, the show is performed by a mix of local and interstate singers who make fine music together in the good acoustic of St. Philip’s Church in O’Connor.

The music is conducted and played on piano only by Colin Forbes and the arrangements are so lush that you don’t miss a full orchestra for a minute.  Amongst the singers, standouts were Judith Swanson, singing the role of Donna Elvira with fiery passion, Peter Smith as Leporello, servant to Don Giovanni, Charles Hudson as Don Ottavio and Rosemary Lohmann as the peasant, Zerlina.  There will be some alternate cast members as the season progresses.  When the major ensemble pieces are sung, the roof nearly comes off the church and it’s thrilling to hear.

Peter Laurence was a handsome and young Don Giovanni and sang the long and difficult role quite well, technically.  However, stronger acting skills would have provided the necessary depth of character missing from his performance.  Some other cast members seemed to treat the linking dialogue as just a necessary evil to be got through as soon as possible.  The acting skills are there when they sing, but they must act with the same conviction when not singing.  The spirited small chorus did a fine job, providing some unexpected and nicely timed flashes of humour here and there.

While clearly a production with a very limited budget, the costumes would have benefited from more overall supervision to achieve a consistency in style.  The set of Italienate columns and arches was quite substantial and pleasing to the eye but seemed under-used in an essentially modern dress production.

Productions such as this one presented by CAMRA give important experience to young and upcoming performers and deserve to be supported.  Even when you’ve seen a number of other, more lavish productions of ‘Don Giovanni’, it’s refreshing to see and hear it performed simply in an intimate setting.  You hear things in the score that you’ve never picked up on before.

In addition, CAMRA looks after its audience with great liquid refreshments and a selection of wickedly sweet things to eat at very low prices.  All this and an evening of fine music!

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 7 July 2013