Friday, September 30, 2016

SRIYAH - The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

The Playhouse Canberra Theatre Centre – 25th September

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Surupa Sen - Bijayini Satpathy
Photo: Nan Melville

Watching the dancers of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble it was impossible not to be reminded of those statues of Indian temple dancers striking exotic poses. Not surprising when you realise that the exquisite dancers you are watching on stage are performing exactly the dances that inspired those poses.

The three dancers with the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy and Pavithra Reddy,  have devoted more than 20 years of their lives to preserving the art of  Odissi dance, and ancient and sensual dance-form on performed in temple courts for kings.  

Pavithra Reddy - Surupa Sen - Bijayini Satpathy

Photo: Nan Melville

Six days a week, twice a day, they rehearse twice a day perfecting the intricate moves which involve the whole body, especially the eyes, feet and legs and of course the beautiful finger movements.
Appearing in Australia for the first time, as part of the ambitious Confluence Festival of India in Australia, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble consists of the three dancers and four musicians. The musicians sit cross-legged on one side of the stage, and play a drum, a violin, a flute and a wood accordion. One of the musicians also sings to accompany some of the dances.

Otherwise the stage is bare, apart from the musicians and a decorated deity figure positioned in a spotlight on the opposite corner to the musicians. Subtle lighting suggests various moods so that the attention of the audience is squarely focussed on the performances of the sumptuously costumed dancers.

This performance commenced with candles being placed before the deity heralding the entrance of each of the dancers to pay homage before launching into a trio for which the three dancers moved in perfect unison and synchronisation. This dance allowed the audience to appreciate the subtleties of the Odissi technique perfected by the dancers over years of devoted practice.

The dancers then performed a succession of exquisite solos, duets and trios. Perhaps the most memorable being a first century prayer for which the solo dancer executed a series of intricate hand, eye and body movements which perfectly interpreting the meaning of each word.

Frustratingly, there were no printed programs to accompany the performance, so that the audience had no way of knowing which dancer was performing which dance, and although some items were preceded by a cultured voice-over announcement, the unfamiliar names were meaningless.
This was an unfortunate oversight, as these dancers and musicians are among the countries most accomplished artists who have devoted their lives to becoming guardians of some of India’s most important cultural history.

On discovering the lack of programs, this reviewer approached an accompanying official to request details, only to be directed to the Confluence website where, the official assured, full details would be found. However, apart from some general information about the company, there are no names of dancers or musicians or of the items performed, on this website.

The names in this review are extracted from the captions on the photographs on the website.

Bijayini Satpathy
Photo: Shalihi Jain

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Written by Daniel Keene
Directed by Matt Scholten
If Theatre & Regional Arts Victoria
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 1 October

Review by Len Power 28 September 2016

‘I might stink but I know me rights’, says Noni Hazlehurst’s character, Christie, in Daniel Keene’s play, ‘Mother’.  Set in a rubbish dump, this one person play is an absorbing study of a lonely woman who has descended to a rock bottom existence.  How and why she got there is the basis for this strong, confronting but entertaining play by Daniel Keene.

Christie’s problems seemed to begin with an unsatisfying marriage and a few drinks with a neighbour.  From there it was a short journey to alcoholism, not providing proper care for her baby son, alienation from her husband and ultimately homelessness, cut off from society.  Daniel Keene’s play presents a vivid portrait of a tragic character most people would avoid contact with.  By the play’s end we really feel for this woman but we’re also left with that uncomfortable sense of how easy it could be to end up the same way.

Daniel Keene has written a play of great depth.  The level of detail in the character of Christie is extraordinary.  The conversations from the past that she relates may be real or imaginary but the writer’s skill makes us believe what she is telling us.  Although the subject matter is confronting, there are flashes of dark humour here and there and even the use of very strong language at times is both funny and shocking.

Noni Hazlehurst plays the role of Christie with an uncompromising conviction but still shows the warmth of a needy human being underneath the tough exterior.  It’s a beautiful and memorable performance.

You’re almost unaware of Matt Scholten’s direction of the play but that is one of its strengths.  It is never theatrical in its approach, allowing the actress to move and perform with great naturalness.  Set, costume and props by Kat Chan, although deceptively simple have obviously been carefully thought out and are very effective. The sound by Darius Kedros is particularly well-designed and atmospheric and it’s all complemented by a nicely shadowy lighting design by Tom Willis.

A good play should give you more than just entertainment.  This one leaves you thinking deeply about life, love and compassion.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound Fm 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9.00am.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mother by Daniel Keene

Mother by Daniel Keene.  Presented by If Theatre and Regional Arts Victoria at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, Tuesday September 27 to Saturday October 1, 2016.

Directed by Matt Scholten; Set, Costume and Props by Kat Chan; Lighting Design by Tom Willis; Sound Design by Darius Kedros.

Performed by Noni Hazlehurst.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
September 27

Noni Hazlehurst in Mother is not to be missed – and what a contrast to her wonderful reputation as arguably the best-remembered and loved presenter of ABC Playschool.

On one level, Daniel Keene’s solo character Christy in Mother took my mind back to the beginning of this Melbourne tradition: Jack Hibberd’s existential Monk O’Neill in A Stretch of the Imagination (at The Pram Factory, 1972, played by another Australian acting icon, Max Gillies).

But there’s a big difference.  Where Monk was a  representation of the Australian misogynist male recalling his memories (a la Samuel Beckett), for whom one can have very little empathetic feeling, Christy is the epitome of sadness.  Her memories may be confused by turps and early onset dementia, but the story of her marriage and the birth and death of her only child, the son she secretly names ‘Beau’, cannot fail to touch our hearts.

We did not care about Monk O’Neill as he approached death, except for its wider meaning that it was time for what we now call sexism to die. 

For Christy we still feel hope as she glories in the fact of her continuing existence in spite of all that life has thrown at her.  Mother is a play of personal experience, and so seemingly less of an iconic drama of national identity, as A Stretch of the Imagination is regarded.  Yet Keene’s play balances Hibberd’s from a woman’s point of view.  Sexism still needs to die in 2016 as it should have done in 1972.

And in performing this woman, Noni Hazlehurst invites us in to Christy’s complex personality with the skills of a great actor.  Bit by bit we find ourselves putting into proper context Christy’s behaviour which ‘normal’people (like us) would think of as unacceptable.  Hazlehurst has such control of the detail of how Christy speaks, how she moves, how she responds to sounds (especially of the birds which have become so significant to her psychological state), and how she thinks, that our understanding grows from a conventional negative first impression to our joining her in celebrating “I’m here!  I’m here!” – even as we recognise the tragedy of her human condition.

Though I think that some parts of Keene’s 70-minute script need tidying up to keep the drama moving along more clearly, this play is a brave piece of writing with a highly significant theme about the experience and treatment of motherhood. 

Vale Klaus Moje, 1936-2016

MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE remembers glass artist Klaus Moje: born Hamburg, October 5, 1936; died Canberra, September 24, 2016

CANBERRA glass is almost synonymous with the name of Klaus Moje.
In 1982, he was was invited by the then director of the Canberra School of Art to establish a course in glass studies, which is still unrivalled in the country. Within five years, the school became known internationally for its work, largely due to Moje’s determination and guidance. His impact in Australia since that time cannot be underestimated.
He arrived with an international reputation as a leading glass artist. His work was – and still is – exhibited all over the world and is in most important international public and private collections. His arrival in Canberra marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of the glass movement in Australia as he brought with him kiln-forming glass techniques and processes. He brought a new level of professionalism and commitment to glass, and he brought an impressive international network of artists working in glass.
Moje’s teaching style was a fusion of Bauhaus methods joined with a broad range of traditional and contemporary teaching philosophies. He gave students exposure to a wide range of techniques and methods of problem solving and the course he established is now considered to be among the top few in the world.
His arrival marked a pivotal point in time for the growth of the glass movement in Australia. His own idiom of kiln-formed mosaic glass, is taught alongside glass blowing, and joined the repertoire of glass-making techniques in Australian studio glass. Many of his former students are now successfully established as practitioners, and a number are at the forefront of the field.
The nature of the Glass Workshop fosters individual potential and creativity. There is a culture of open sharing of ideas and everyone striving for excellence.
In “Australian Studio Glass” (1995), Noris Ioannou writes that “the significance of the establishment of the Canberra Glass Workshop and its education and practical training of glass artists over the past decade, cannot be overstated… the establishment of workshop coincided with the shift in glass activity from functional, limited production work, to emphasise one-off conceptual or ‘glass art’.”
In June, 2000, Moje was awarded the prestigious US Glass Arts Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This is a significant milestone for one of the world’s foremost artists working in the medium of glass,” the president of Glass Arts Society, John Leighton, said.
“Klaus Moje is the first Australian to receive the award and only the 12th individual.” The citation honoured his exceptional contribution to the field of glass, as well as his influence as an artist, teacher and mentor and the humanistic and philosophical values exemplified by his career.
Moje quickly established a scholarship for third-year students to travel to America to study at the Pilchuck Glass School in the state of Washington. He had been a regular guest lecturer there since 1979 and introduced his students to the dynamic focus of the international studio glass program.
An International Master workshop in kiln-formed glass was held in Canberra in 1988 that became a milestone in Australian glass history.
Extraordinarily, this was the first time such a workshop, which brought master glass practitioners in kiln forming together, had been held worldwide.
Half the artists were invited from overseas, while the other half were local. Master craft-artists shared ideas and techniques with local artists and students in practical workshops and discussions. Personal and working relationships were established. Moje joined two threads of his network and they have remained as a permanent part of the international glass scene
Moje’s early technical education was as a glass cutter and grinder in the family workshop. He obtained his journeyman’s certificate and afterwards attended the glass schools of Rheinbach and Hadamar between 1957 and 1959. He studied a diversity of techniques and practices and qualified as a master glass-grinder and etcher.
During the period 1961 to 1965 he and his then wife worked chiefly on the construction of stained-glass windows, often for prominent Bauhaus-trained artists. These commissions were for churches and included a cycle of thirteen meditational windows.
In 1971, they won the Official Prize for Science and Art for the best single item at the Christmas Fair held by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, their first prize. The same year they won the Hesse State Award for Applied Art.
From 1969 to 1973, Moje represented the Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Deutschen Kunsthandwerks at the World Crafts Council. Klaus Moje’s ability to get on with people and to fill craft practitioners and collectors with enthusiasm was important, as were his organisational skills – both attributes he used to benefit the Australian glass scene.
Dale Chihuly invited the Mojes to the Pilchuck Glass School to teach their working methods and techniques, beginning a fruitful and lasting relationship with Klaus Moje and the school, and a strong personal friendship with Chihuly. Following this, Moje was invited to teach at numerous schools in Europe and the United States and as a result he received increasing international recognition.
Before coming to Australia, Moje was a major force in the European art-craft scene and since the 1980s he has had a significant role in the American glass movement.
Klaus Moje demonstrated a remarkable generosity of spirit in sitting on numerous advisory committees of national, state and local status. He brought his extensive international network with professional artists and contacts and introduced his students to this dynamic scene through establishing a scholarship to the Pilchuck Glass School.
His determination and commitment saw the establishment of the Canberra Glassworks 11 years ago.
In exploring the technical qualities of glass, including colours, Moje worked closely with a leading glass manufacturer in the US. In 2005, at a lecture at the National Gallery of Australia, a principal of Bullseye Glass, Lani McGregor, acknowledged the contribution he had made to the development of its products.
She told the audience that without Moje’s interest, knowledge and encouragement, the company would not have achieved the international recognition it has for its products and its support of glass artists.
Moje has more recently worked on larger, flat wall panels with abstract patterns and intense colour fields made from a number of elements arranged in a grid.
In 1995 the National Gallery of Victoria organised a major retrospective exhibition that travelled to Sydney, Canberra, several venues in the US and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.
In acknowledgement of his achievements, Klaus received numerous awards. He received an Australian Creative Fellowship Award for 1995-97, from the Australia Council. He was named “The Canberra Times” artist of the year in 1998 and in 2001 he was selected as one of “The Canberra Times” 75 people who has changed the life of the city. In the same year, he also received an Australia Council Emeritus Award. In 2004 he was honoured with the Urban Glass Lifetime Achievement Award.
In March 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in that same year was named a Living Treasurer: Masters of Australian Craft, a program that  celebrated the achievements of influential and iconic figures.
Klaus Moje is survived by his wife, noted ceramicist Brigitte Enders and their two sons, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.
The artistic world of glass has lost one of its most esteemed members: Canberra has lost a major creative force and we are thankful for the beautiful works of art he left for our enjoyment.
This obituary was first published at on September 25 2016.


Conducted by Leonard Weiss
Soloist: Helena Popovic
Llewellyn Hall 24 September

Reviewed by Len Power

At the Llewellyn Hall, the Canberra Youth Orchestra, under the expert baton of Leonard Weiss, presented an evening of popular works by Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Sibelius.  It was a varied program showcasing these four very different composers.

Three of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances were played first and the orchestra was in fine form from the very first note, giving dynamic performances of the first and seventh dances and, in between, playing the less dramatic sixth dance with great feeling.

Next on the program was a performance of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, with soloist, Helena Popovic.  This popular work is also considered to be technically difficult to play but Popovic gave a beautiful performance bringing out the emotion of the work with great skill.  There was also a fine balance between soloist and orchestra.

This was followed by Alexander Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances From Prince Igor, a sensuous, atmospheric work with melodies that are now well-known, having been used in the musical ‘Kismet’ in 1953.  The orchestra gave a strong performance bringing much light and shade to the work and playing the dramatic passages especially well.

After interval, the orchestra played Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.  First performed in 1902, it was popularly dubbed the "Symphony of Independence", as it was written at a time of Russian sanctions on Finnish language and culture.  The orchestra gave a particularly fine performance of this marvellous work especially in the lively third movement leading to the grand emotive final movement.

Conductor, Leonard Weiss, also announced an exciting program for the orchestra in 2017 with guest artists including Idea Of North and James Morrison.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 25 September 2016.  Len Power's reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7's 'Artcetera' program on Saturdays from 9.00am.