Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ensemble Conversations

Ben Wood in his upcoming role as Kenny
Ensemble Theatre Conversations

Media Contact: Susanne Briggs 0412 268 320 or

Commentary by Frank McKone
May 28

Led by Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry, each week people can tune in on Facebook for Ensemble Theatre’s latest news and a glimpse behind the scenes.

Ensemble Conversations features interviews with actors and creatives, exclusive scene reads, interactive Q&A sessions and more. Ensemble Ambassadors Georgie Parker, Todd McKenney, Kate Raison and Brian Meegan, writer Melanie Tait, director Priscilla Jackman and actor Ben Wood were the first to start the brand new series answering questions about the world of theatre and television
followed so far by actor Sharon Millerchip, writer Joanna Murray-Smith, director Kate Champion and this year’s Sydney Festival director, proud Noonuccal Nuugi man, Wesley Enoch.

Georgie Parker
Mark Kilmurry, Ben Smith
Melanie Tait, Priscilla Jackson

Kate Raison, Brian Meegan

Todd McKenney

Mark Kilmurry, Sharon Millerchip

Mark Kilmurry, Kate Champion
Joanna Murray-Smith appeared on a separate screen
While theatres are unable to stage shows for full-audience live performances, many like The Street, in Canberra, and Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir and others in Sydney, are presenting live-streaming events.  Ensemble’s Conversations are not performances, in the ordinary sense, so this is not a formal review, and I admit my bias here.

Ensemble Theatre, “Australia's longest continuously running professional theatre group, having given its first performance in Cammeray Children's Library on 11 May 1958. ... was founded by Hayes Gordon AO OBE along with the Ensemble Studios acting school, which introduced Stanislavsky-influenced method acting to Australia” has always been a place where I have felt personally connected – including having a nephew who trained there, a student who teched there in the 1980s, and one-time student, now actor/writer/director Steve Rodgers who performed in The Odd Couple at the Ensemble last November and is currently adapting for stage the Jacobson Brothers’ Kenny, in rehearsal now but delayed by coronavirus.

Though I was never directly involved in the company, in the late 1960s I took students to see Hayes Gordon directing in rehearsal, and sat on a NSW Department of Education panel chaired by Sandra Bates (to whom Hayes later passed on the role of artistic director) to design the state’s first high school drama teaching studios.  This experience helped inform my work in the 1970s setting up and teaching drama in Canberra; while more recently as a reviewer I have followed David Williamson’s productions at the Ensemble which has become his favoured small theatre especially since Sandra directed Face to Face in 2000.  (

So I am happy, and certainly not surprised, to watch the current artistic director, Mark Kilmurry, having such personal family-like conversations with actors, writers and directors.  The atmosphere of friendly cooperation among practical people putting on plays, without being pedantic or seeking fame, is my Ensemble – yet these conversations are anything but mere theatre gossip.

Mark is an interviewer to the extent that he has in mind a series of similar questions for each conversation, but because he has often acted with, directed or worked with each of his colleagues, the questions are put in the context of a particular production,  rehearsal or development process.

For viewers with little if any backstage experience, the conversations are thoroughly enjoyable while also providing a new insight into what writers, actors and directors of live stage works actually do to create quality theatre.

Especially important, I think, is to show how much brainwork is involved in playing roles, knowing the boundaries between role-playing and non-acting states, and in creatively playing with social cues expressed in words and movement.  Georgie Parker emphasises the process of researching a character, for instance, and also spoke about the differences between acting on camera for television or film compared with being on stage with an audience, and explained how she finds stage more satisfying.  Ben Wood talks of how good writers give the actor words with a rhythm and timing which create the moments when a feeling ‘lands’ and spreads throughout the audience, sometimes in laughter, sometimes in silence.  Either is as satisfying for the actor, whether it be written by Shakespeare, David Williamson or for his recent role as Henry VIII in The Last Wife by Kate Hennig (reviewed here September 2019).

Today, May 28, Wesley Enoch – in isolation during Reconciliation Week – says: “I miss being close to people, telling their stories.”  For this, he explains, we need live theatre rather than screens.

The series of Ensemble Conversations continues while Convid-19 rages.

Mark Kilmurry, Wesley Enoch

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Selby and Friends Online: Let’s Get Personal, May 2020

Haveron, Selby and Clerici

Reviewed by  Jennifer Gall

ONE of the strange ironies of the current Covid situation is that a Chamber Music concert presented online can be an extraordinarily intimate experience for a very small number of people, perhaps more closely reflecting the composer’s original intent – except for that one all important fact – the music in our homes is mediated by a machine and the internet.

Kathy Selby has seized the challenge of presenting her 2020 series in a world without concert halls and created an impressive musical experience for her subscribers. The concert, Let’s Get Personal, was recorded at Sydney Grammar School with a very quick turnaround time. It is a skilful production because it combines the familiarity of Kathy’s spoken introduction with an uninterrupted concert performance, supported by a delightful, informative conversation between the three performers: Kathy Selby, piano, Andrew Haveron, violin and Umberto Clerici, cello. As listeners, we had the best of all worlds by hearing beautiful performances, then the immediacy of hearing an animated and spontaneous interrogation of the program by the musicians themselves. The filming was unobtrusive and panned smoothly between single musicians and the ensemble, just as the eye would move in a more traditional concert.

With the joyous opening Mozart Piano Trio No 3 in B flat major, K502, there was an immediate lifting of the spirits. Composed in 1786, an important and eventful year for Mozart in his career trajectory, the Trio balances youthful exuberance with the confidence of a composer who consummately provides each instrument with an assertive voice in the musical conversation. The three movements, Allegro, Larghetto, Allegretto are neatly contrasted to offer ample time for anticipation, contemplation and resolution. In this performance there was unmistakable warmth in the combined sound of three friends conversing. In the Larghetto, the instruments interwove three distinctive sinuous and lovely melodic threads, the tempo perfectly calculated to offer a slow - but not too slow – unfolding of the thematic ideas. The final, delicate Allegretto was a perfect conclusion of this sparkling work.

In listening to Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E flat major, Op.1 No. I was mindful of Umberto Clerici’s observation that Beethoven wrote to challenge the established forms of his era, always composing music for the audiences of the future, anticipating an era wherein dramatic changes of thematic and dynamic direction would be the spice that listeners were expecting in a concert. Beethoven’s Op.1 fitted very well with the earlier work by Mozart, and one could imagine that both composers would have enjoyed hearing their music played in this sequence. I enjoyed the sparring of violin and cello – the particular tone of these two venerable instruments speaking to each other was proof that the musicians were emotionally and technically invested in producing such fine music.

Dvořák’s PianoTrio No 4 in E minor, Op. 90, the ‘Dumky’, is a familiar work to many Chamber Music lovers. Andrew Haveron explained it as the composition into which Dvořák poured his complete devotion to the language, traditional music and cultural history of the Czech people. The form incorporates 6 ‘dances’ with variations, leading the audience through a kaleidoscope of passionate musical sound, creating rich pictures for the imagination as a heart-piercing violin melodiy is next enfolded in a tender, soaring cello melody, with the piano providing the underlying pulsing heartbeat.

We are indeed lucky at this time to hear the performance presented by Kathy Selby. She has grasped the technology possibilities available and created a lifeline to connect audiences with chamber music until we are able to meet again in more traditional concert venues.

Monday, May 18, 2020

“Let’s Get Personal”, Selby and Friends online concert, May 14.

Reviewed by Tony Magee

Pianist Kathryn Selby has inventively and most professionally countered the COVID-19 live concert lockdown, by recording Tour 2 of this year’s subscription season privately at Sydney Grammar School. In this case, we are seeing and hearing what should have taken place in Llewellyn Hall on Thursday 7th May: “Let’s Get Personal” - Mozart, Beethoven and Dvorak.

Pianist Kathryn Selby

To be fair to the artists and to be able to give my readers as accurate an impression as possible of the quality of the music played, I’ve been able to dispense with the tiny computer speakers and instead run a line-out through a Sansui AU-717 amplifier and a pair of exquisite Rogers BBC Studio 1 Monitor speakers.

Kathryn Selby is joined by Andrew Haveron, principal violin and concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Umberto Clerici, co-principal cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Mozart’s “Piano Trio No. 3 in B flat major, K.502” opened the program. Immediately, one is struck by the clarity of tone from the piano, as well as the excellent balance between it, the violin and cello. Phrasing is crisp and clear, quite structured and precise, in keeping with the fashion of the classical era, with just enough elasticity to keep the music flowing with energy and emotion.

The microphones were able to capture the wide dynamic range of the players. Forte passages came across with intensity, quieter passages were delivered with style and grace.

Intonation within the trio was superb. One of the most “in-tune” and intelligent performances of any work I’ve heard in a long time.

Selby plays her Mozart with a relaxed technique, extracting a singing tone from the piano. Cadence points were all executed with a suitable flourish from all three players. The performance was one of authority and precision, with the slow movement allowing for some contrasting rubato and gentleness, played with great feeling, almost verging on Romanticism.

The third movement revealed a return to strict classical structure and precision. Mozart’s intense compositional style here requiring a great deal of technique and ensemble playing from the trio, something they delivered with conviction and purpose.

The “Piano Trio in E flat major, Op.1 No.1” by Beethoven followed and revealed an even more beautiful singing tone from the piano. One of the hallmarks of Selby’s style is her ability to make every note count with extreme clarity, even in fast passages, where it can be easy to gloss over details. All her ornamentation is precise and clipped. Phrases and cadence points all end with a suitable crescendo.

Violin and piano exchanged melodic riffs almost in a conversational manner. Later in the first movement, the cello switched from a supporting role, creating a fascinating three way musical dialogue, definitely not an argument, rather an animated, creative and very enthusiastic discussion about something tremendous and exciting.

The slow movement was a showcase for the violin and cello to speak with each other in alternating musical phrases, the piano dropping back into an accompanying role. Both Haveron on violin and Clerici on Cello delivered tone production of beauty and depth.

The fourth and final movement revealed intense and thrilling passages of allegro and vivace, played with precision timing and phrasing by the trio. It was an electric performance.

Dvorak’s “Piano Trio No.4 in E minor, Op.90, subtitled ‘Dumky’, closed the concert. The plural form of the Slavic / Ukrainian ‘Dumka’, it is a term referring to epic ballads, in this case, a brooding, introspective composition with cheerful sections interspersed within. A complex work, there are five movements, but these are then divided into no less than thirteen musical sections.

Piano and cello together open with a dramatic, mournful, melancholy introduction before being taken over by a heart-wrenching melody from the violin. Then suddenly, a contrasting “cheerful phrase” bursts forth, which descends into a black, depressive mood. The three musicians very successfully created an atmosphere of a person or persons, struggling with a myriad of mixed emotions, lurching from sadness to despair, with moments of joy and hope, dashed by what ever ghastly circumstances have befallen them, only to rise up again defiantly. And so life goes on.

The myriad of dynamics and musical shadings created by the trio were of a magnitude that ranged from the sublime and delicate to massive, thunderous, almost torturous climaxes.

To quote the psychiatrist from an episode of “Fawlty Towers”, “there’s enough material here for an entire conference”.

Dvorak’s ‘Dumky’ trio is surely one of the greatest musical works of the late 19th century. It portrays every possible human emotion and feeling, all wrapped up into a complex, mind-blowing experience. In the hands of Kathryn Selby, Andrew Haveron and Umberto Clerici, this all came across with incredible conviction and seriousness. It was as though they lived the piece. I, the listener, did the same. I can only begin to imagine what the effect must be like to hear this piece live.

Review first published in an edited format in Canberra City News Digital Edition, May 15, 2020

Saturday, May 9, 2020


Truganini – Journey through the apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus.  Allen & Unwin, 2020.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Maps by Guy Holt
By permission of the publishers.

“Cassandra Pybus is an award-winning author and a distinguished historian.  She is the author of twelve books and has held research professorships at the University of Sydney, Georgetown University in Washington DC, the University of Texas and Kings College, London.  She is descended from the colonist who received the largest free land grant on Truganini’s traditional country of Bruny Island.”  (Title Page)
Tasmania: South-east Nation - Nuenonne Clan on Bruny Island
Map: Guy Holt

 “Staring out over the mudflats [from near Oyster Cove] to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel at what had once been my family’s land on North Bruny Island, my emotions were in havoc….  I opened the gate [of the faded turquoise cottage, where] my uncle Ken welcomed me as if I had never been away.  Over a cup of tea, he told me that the place was getting too much for him, so I arranged to buy it from him, then and there.

"For the past thirty-four years the place I call home has been that cottage on the old station road in the country of the Nuenonne."  Page 268.


Reading between the time in 1828 when Richard Pybus was settled on his 500 acres land grant, when Truganini was probably about 16, to the time she died on 4 May 1876, Cassandra Pybus’ story-telling gave me that feeling – as if I had never been away.  Knowing, too, that her research is absolutely meticulous left me also with my emotions ‘in havoc’ as she goes on to describe them – “nothing as intimate and corrosive as guilt, just a powerful sense of complicity in the dispossession, destruction and denial that this dismal place represented”.

Truganini – Journey through the apocalypse is essential reading for all Australians; indeed for all people the world over.  I should start with my own experience.

My English parents migrated to Australia in 1955, when I was 14.  My Geography text book had taught me, in one distant black and white photo, that Australian Aborigines lived in a desert and wore almost no clothes.  Big city newspapers I read at Australia House in London headlined murders seemingly every day.  Dangerous?  Well…my father had taught me how to avoid the Teddy Boys in London, population 10 million - equal to that of the whole of Australia at that time.

If Aboriginal people appeared, they were cartoon characters who apparently lived in deserts with few clothes on.  In other words my understanding on arrival was no different from that of James Cook on his third voyage, except that he actually met the people at Adventure Bay, on the seaward side of Bruny Island, 29 January 1777.  Truganini’s father, Manganerer, was there.

The Captain Cook Society website at 
records that John Henry Martin, seaman on the Discovery, described the natives. "They have few, or no wants, & seemed perfectly Happy, if one might judge from their behaviour, for they frequently wou'd burst out, into the most immoderate fits of Laughter & when one Laughed every one followed his example Emediately."

But, as Pybus explains, “Cook was unaware that these people believed they were meeting their own dead returning as pale shadows of their former selves.  Being treated as some kind of kin, rather than as trespassing aliens, Cook and his officers were not to witness the fierce territorial attachment of the Nuenonne to their country.”

Of course, I immediately thought of what happened in Hawaii only two years later, when Cook was killed on 14 February 1779.  I think the brief mention at   
by Irene Wanner of the book by Glyn Williams: “The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade” will lead you into that story of misunderstanding.

I began to realise that I was going to learn far more than I thought I knew already by reading on – about what happened to the daughter of the man with childhood memories of Captain Cook.  Usually, I write reviews of live theatre, where I am responding to immediate experience.  The Convid-19 virus has put paid – or rather, unpaid – to that.  Cassandra Pybus may be a distinguished historian, but she is also a powerful creative writer, adept at creating drama.

A paragraph chosen at random, 97 pages in:  Stopping to rest about a quarter of a mile inland from the mouth of the Boobyalla River, Truganini made an unsettling discovery.  While gathering swan’s eggs for Wooredy to eat, she became curious about a deep indentation in the ground, and after digging further into the hole she uncovered an old wooden chest that contained a jumble of human bones.  Days later, at the mouth of the Tomahawk River, she saw two bleached male skeletons lying a few hundred yards apart that no one had tried to hide.  Awful though it was, Truganini had seem similar sights before – the beaches and inlets of the north-east corner were repositories of many human bones, invariably male and often shattered by a musket ball.

This is not the stuff of romantic or ‘horror’ fiction.  This is true history.  The word that comes to mind for Pybus’ writing is honesty.

This quality is especially significant in her dealing with the extensive, thoroughly detailed diaries, or log books, kept by the man officially credited by the colonial government for the removal of the last Aboriginal people from Tasmania – George Augustus Robinson.  His first land grant was adjacent to the Pybus grant in Nuenonne country.

The timeline provided in the book after Truganini’s story has been told is an excellent reminder of important dates and episodes.  It begins in 1804 with the establishment of the penal settlement on the Derwent River, later named Hobart.  By the time of Truganini’s likely birth in 1812 “the Nuenonne clan was diminished and traumatised” and “no longer ‘without jealousy of strangers’; they no longer saw the ghost men as their kin.”

It is best, I found, to leave reading the timeline until after allowing the experience of becoming immersed in the story to seep through beyond your consciousness of historical detail to your emotional state in response.  This is why when reviewing a stage play, I prefer not to read the program or interview the director or cast beforehand.  It is the immediacy of my thoughts and feelings that I need to express.

George Augustus Robinson saw himself as a good man who wanted to save the original people at first from themselves and then from the inevitable ravages of the invading colonists.  To “lift them from their state of savage ignorance” required them to “put their trust in God, he told them, and, by extension, in him, George Augustus Robinson: the good father sent to save them from obliteration.”  As in a good play, it is not so much in the plot, but in the characters and their relationships that the drama unfolds of the decade-long story of how Truganini played her part from Robinson’s first noticing her in 1829, “impressed with this young woman’s obvious intelligence and grasp of English”, to the transporting of people from all the clans in Tasmania to Flinders Island by 1835, and how Robinson’s attempt to move them finally to the Australian mainland at Port Phillip (Melbourne) failed by 1841.

The final chapter is the denouement after that climactic point, simply titled The Way the World Ends, taking us through to the point where Truganini becomes famous as ‘the last Tasmanian Aboriginal’.  If you were taught, as I was, that this was true, you will think again, about the cast of all the people in Truganini’s life from her Nuenonne father Manganerer, of the South-east Nation, through to all those others from the many clans within the South-west, Oyster Bay, North Midland, North-east, Ben Lomond, North, North-west and Big River Nations.  Their individual biographies take up an extra 30 pages of absorbing reading.
Tasmania: Indigenous Nations' Boundaries
Map: Guy Holt
“Driven to distraction by rising hysteria” the farming ‘settlers’ attempted, finally with official support authorised by Governor George Arthur by proclaiming martial law in 1828 and the Black Line of 1830, to remove the original owners by out-and-out murder.  G A Robinson believed, with the help of the Nuenonne clan, he could walk all around and across Van Dieman’s Land and persuade personally everyone still living on country to accept him as their saviour, accept his command, and go with him to places of safety – which in the end would mean on an island off-shore away from the temptation to return.
See The Black Line in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), 1830 by Lyndall Ryan to whom Cassandra Pybus has dedicated this book.
Tasmania: Van Diemen's Land Locations
February - October 1830 
Truganini and Dray led G A Robinson walking from Recherche Bay
to Port Davey, Bathurst Harbour, past Macquarie Harbour,
across the Pieman River and Arthur River
to Cape Grimm, then east to Launceston
600 miles

Map: Guy Holt

My migrating to Australia (Sydney and the Blue Mountains) introduced me to bushwalking.  This is very different from ‘rambling’ in England, ‘hiking’ in America or ‘tramping’ in New Zealand.  It meant navigating through ‘scrub’ often with no tracks (and certainly no National Park signposts until quite recent times).  My wife and I know what it means to face the special features of Tasmanian bush: ‘horizontal scrub’, seemingly impenetrable tangled vegetation, and mud so deep, thick and clinging, just as Robinson describes, that I had great difficulty on one occasion extracting my right shoe after extracting myself from such a mudhole on the Overland Track. 

Escaping convicts died from starvation and exposure trying to cross Van Dieman’s Land from the Sarah Island prison in Macquarie Harbour in the hopes of reaching Hobart – except for Alexander Pearce: Alexander Pearce (1790 – 19 July 1824) was an Irish convict who was transported to the penal colony in Van Diemen's Land (the modern day state of Tasmania), Australia for seven years for theft. He escaped from prison several times. During one of these escapes he allegedly became a cannibal, murdering his companions one by one. In another escape, with one companion, he allegedly killed him and ate him in pieces. He was eventually captured and was hanged and dissected in Hobart for murder.

This episode not only shows how degenerated was the white society of Van Diemen’s Land, but makes even more amazing the physique and cultural adaptation of Truganini’s people who lived so successfully in this seriously rugged landscape in such a climate 40+ degrees latitude south.  Truganini, a diver for abalone and shellfish of all kinds, and swimmer of great strength, endurance and skill, saved Robinson twice from certain drowning in the flooded Arthur River on the infamous West Coast where the Roaring Forties hold sway all year round; while her husband Wooredy could maintain their meat supply hunting kangaroos and wallabies in areas which had been carefully managed by fire farming, as Robinson noted – for thousands of years more than he could have imagined.

The following photos show the nature of the country Truganini and her friend Dray, a young woman from the Lowreenne clan of the South-west Nation, led Robinson through to find people, such as the Tarkiner clan of the North-west Nation.  They met up on the banks of the Arthur River.  “The dominant man in the group was a very tall Tarkiner warrior in his forties named Wyne….As evening fell, the whole group walked back to a camp in the forest, with Robinson carrying Wyne’s youngest daughter on his shoulders….A secret warning was conveyed to Peevay [of Robinson’s group] that he should keep watch that night because the Tarkiner intended to kill Robinson and any of his guides who were not their kin, with the exception of Truganini, whom they wanted to keep for themselves….”

This was one occasion when Truganini saved the desperate George Augustus Robinson’s life.

Photos: Meg McKone Feb (summer) 2019

Roaring Forties weather coming in, near Arthur River.

                                             West Coast Hut Depression near Arthur River
Aboriginal huts - large beehive shaped structures composed of wood and bark that could accommodate between 6 -14 people.

The unique beehive shape was specifically designed to withstand the harsh weather conditions of Tasmania’s coastal environments, particularly along the west coast where they are more commonly found.

Midden including abalone shells, behind Four Mile Beach south of Pieman River.

Dense rainforest inland near Montezuma Falls between Macquarie Harbour and Pieman River.

From Friendly Mission 1829-1831, the story takes us on through Extirpation and Exile 1831-1838, when everyone was believed to have been found and moved to Flinders Island in Bass Strait.

Map: Guy Holt
The situation at Wybalenna was simply dreadful, and so Robinson – in competition with the infamous John Batman, who made entirely spurious agreements with the Kulin people on the mainland to establish what became Melbourne – won the day, and became Chief Protector of Aborigines there with the intention of taking all the Van Dieman’s Land people across Bass Strait.  That story In Kulin Country 1839-1841 reveals a new level of misunderstanding. 

The mainland was administered from Sydney, so bringing Van Diemen’s Land people to Port Phillip was never going to be acceptable to the official superintendent, Charles La Trobe.  And, of course completely outside Robinson’s understanding, the Tasmanian nations had had no connection with the Australian mainland for some 10,000 years, since Bass Strait was flooded after the last Ice Age ended.  The idea that these people would naturally get on with any Aboriginal people whose country they were put into, just because they were all Aboriginals, was completely out of touch.  But Truganini with her diplomatic and language skills did her best. 

In Chapter 8, by 1839, “Confronted with the magnitude of the suffering in Port Phillip, the chief protector had no idea what he was supposed to do for so many afflicted and desperate people” – the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wadawurrung, Djadjawurrung and Taungurong clans of the Kulin Nation.  When Robinson organised a feast for more than five hundred, in the hopes of building trust as he could personally distribute food, “It fell to Truganini, Wooredy and Peevay to dispel suspicions that the feast was a trap to get the clans corralled together in one place where they could be shot.  Eventually, the offer of fresh meat was too enticing for the Kulin to stay away and the feast went off without incident….

But the tragic end of Chapter 9 is just too awful to contemplate.

When considering the idea that Truganini was the last Tasmanian, though, the story of one figure, Lacklay from the Punnilerpanner clan of the North Nation, who spoke the same language as Peevay, may be of interest.  He apparently disappeared from Port Phillip, presumably drowned in a boat that was wrecked – except that it did not capsize in Westernport Bay as people then believed.

He possibly worked in the whaling industry based in New Zealand, with an Oyster Bay Nation man known as Ned Tomlins, who married a Maori woman (Hipora) and had a son (Edward).  Perhaps Lacklay’s story turned out like Ned’s: he was young and could well have had a family of his own.  And there are surely many others: Wikipedia quotes “Contemporary figures (2016) for the number of people of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent vary according to the criteria used to determine this identity, ranging from 6,000 to over 23,000.”

Including lawyer, activist  and currently chair of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, Michael Mansell.

The final scene in Truganini’s life, at the end of Chapter 10, is told with simple dignity and respect for this remarkable woman.  Though we cannot undo the past, surely we can improve the future.  Truganini – Journey through the apocalypse is not a book to make immigrants like me feel guilty for the dreadful treatment of our Aboriginal peoples that the colonisation of Australia has caused.

I am angry, though, when, as Cassandra Pybus puts it in her Afterword, “From all points in the southern sky, leaders of the First Nations of Australia came together in 2017 to produce the Uluru Statement from the Heart [and] they proposed a Makarrata, which is a word [from the far northern Kakadu region – so distant from Truganini’s Nuenonne country on Bruny Island in the far south] in the Yolgnu language meaning a coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs done, and living again in peace”; angry because the Australian Prime Minister of the day dismissed out of hand enshrining these people and Makarrata in our country’s Constitution – a law, by the way, passed on 5 July 1900 by the British Parliament, given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria on 9 July and proclaimed on 1 January 1901, which effectively ignored the presence of the original owners of the land!

On our behalf, Cassandra Pybus has faced the facts and the wrongs done, even alongside her own family’s history since 1828.  Surely now it is well past the time, as the Uluru Statement asks, for ‘a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood’.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Theatre Network Australia Bulletin

Posted by Frank McKone

*The acronym ASSITEJ comes from the original French:
Association Internationale de Theatre pour les Enfants et le Jeunesse
[TNA is the Australian National Centre for ASSITEJ. We support Sue Giles in her role as Australian Representative and Vice President of ASSITEJ global, and work in collaboration with Sue and the wider sector on key advocacy priorities and activities.]

Dear ASSITEJ Network Colleagues,
I hope that this bulletin finds you healthy, safe and at home.
We find ourselves in such a different landscape right now. Working from home, access to free childcare and mass home schooling in 2020 all have a huge impact on the lives of children, young people and families across Australia.
I hope that among the difficulties, this could also be a time to envisage a new kind of future with the young people of Australia who are dreaming from their bedrooms, lounge rooms and backyards. A kind of imagination that can see past this into a new future.
Please read on for updates on from ASSITEJ around the world, news of solidarity across the Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth Arts sector and some inspiration from kids around the globe.
Tessa Leong (with Nicole, Simone, Rani, Yuhui and Jamie)
Theatre Network Australia

A consortium of companies in the performing arts sector, led by Theatre Network Australia in partnership with Creative Partnerships Australia, are currently working on a fundraising campaign to provide equity bursaries to independent artists who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and who do not have a financial safety net.TNA are actively seeking companies who will endorse the campaign and get the word out to potential donors as well as struggling artists. Get in touch if you'd like to join the list of fabulous companies getting behind it here
The other essential part of this campaign is to get some generous donors in touch with independent artists. If you have a stable job and love the arts you can DONATE HERE.

Media Contact for the complete Bulletin:  
"Tessa Leong"

“The Best Festival We Never Had”

Roland Peelman launches the 2020 Canberra International “Virtual” Music Festival on line.

by Tony Magee

From a Paddington laneway, behind the historic home of Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, now a residency and performance space for emerging Australian composers, Canberra International Music Festival artistic director Roland Peelman presented his address, launching their cleverly and hastily devised “virtual festival”, which had an “official” launch time of 2pm, Friday 1st May, although it was not actually a live stream.

CIMF artistic director, Roland Peelman

“Artists are the people who generate ideas - new ideas - and new ideas are probably what we need more than anything else in these times”, said Peelman in his opening remarks.

“We may not rate music as ‘essential services’ - I’m thinking of our nurses, doctors and teachers at the moment - but in times of crisis when everything is closed down or locked up, music actually opens the mind. It raises our hopes for what is to come”.

“Peggy Glanville-Hicks, like many female composers of her generation, had to face her share of challenges. But she was tenacious and really showed extraordinary resilience. I would say that all the artists in this year’s festival have resilience written in their DNA and I hope you enjoy their work and find ways of supporting them”.

“Together, we will be stronger and together we can all get through this”.

During the Second World War in Britain, pianists Dame Myra Hess and Moura Lympany joined forces to organise daily lunchtime concerts at The National Art Gallery in central London, to raise British morale. 

Dame Myra Hess - Wartime concerts at the National Art Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Winston Churchill had ordered all artworks in the gallery be removed and relocated to underground safety bunkers for preservation. In addition, all evening concert halls were blacked out at night to avoid being targeted by German bombers, including the two most prominent venues - Wigmore Hall and Royal Albert hall. 

Hess’ lunchtime concerts, numbering 1,968 over a period of six years, were presented on Monday to Friday without fail. 

Every artist was paid five guineas no matter who they were.

Hess personally played in 150 of the concerts.

Included in the virtual festival launch, was an improvisation for violin and didgeridoo played by Veronique Serret and William Barton, filmed April 30 in the Peggy Glanville-Hicks residency.

Veronique Serret and William Barton performing in  the Glanville-Hicks residency,

A piece of intense emotion and feeling, the players took both instruments to extremes. The didgeridoo bass drone foundation was interspersed with percussive, haunting and ancient sounds - showcasing the skills of William Barton and bedazzling the listener with his endless variety of guttural, primal, and evocative shades of colour and depth

Serret on violin, formerly with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and now leader of the Darwin Symphony, complimented Walton’s playing with searing and evocative sounds, sometimes melodic, sometimes percussive. 

Both players inspired each other and reacted to each other, creating a piece of unknown destination, and unknown territory before dwindling into a surreal, mystical, mist.

A final inclusion in today’s online activities, came from The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, who shared a link to their YouTube playlist of the repertoire they would have delivered live during the 2020 festival. 

Highlights include “Haydn’s Creation”, in a performance by the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Christopher Hogwood, Handel’s “Water Music Suite” from the London 2012 Proms and “Les éléments” by Jean-Féry Rebel, performed by The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.

Check back to the CIMF Facebook page and website ( every day now through to May 10, where news and video uploads from some of the festival artists will be available for viewing and listening - just a glimpse of ‘The Best Festival We Never Had".

Article first published in Canberra City News Digital Edition, May 2, 2020