Friday, March 5, 2021


Robyn Nevin as Brunhilde Pomsel in A German Life
Photo by James Green

.Written by Christopher Hampton Starring Robyn Nevin.   Catherine Finnis on cello. Directed by Neil Armfield  Associate Director Chris Parker Composer Alan John Set & Costume Designer Dale Ferguson Lighting Designer Nigel Levings  Sound Designer Jane Rossetto  Co-produced by Adelaide Festival and The Gordon Frost Organisation. The Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival . February 19 – March 14  2021

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

The audience enters to the soulful sound of the cello. Cellist Catherine Finnis sits at the side of the stage apart from the small room in a Munich nursing home. It is clean and modest. A small number of reproductions hang on the white walls with white curtains. A tea trolley stands at the edge of the room and a table with a chair indicates the barest necessity. The sound of the cello wafts away as an old lady enters the room. She moves slowly to the table, carefully inserting her dentures and taking her cup of tea to the chair. Brunhilde Pomsel’s story begins.

A German Life Photo by Andrew Beveridge

As the eldest child and only girl in a family of five siblings, Pomsel learnt at an early age the demand s of responsibility and the injustice of blame. They were lessons that would carry throughout her life as a secretary with an exceptional talent for shorthand and would eventually secure her a position as a secretary in the office of Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels. Writer and translator Christopher  Hampton’s  enquiry posits the popular questions “ What would a person in this position have known and what responsibility would that person have had to declare and declaim the atrocities that were being carried out during the Nazi regime? Could this seemingly frail old woman have concealed or blinded herself to the horrific consequences of Goebbel’s position within the party. At one stage Brunhilde describes her astonishment at Goebbel’s manic transformation from a pleasant and good looking boss in the office to a ranting propagandist at the enormous rallies. And, naturally, there is the denial of knowledge of the existence of the gas chambers. It is only when she is imprisoned by the Soviets and showers in the very cubicles where gas was sent through the showerheads that she was sickened by the terrible truth of the “Jewish re-education camps”

Brunhilde’s frail and defenceless appearance in the nursing home belies her spirit and fuels the inquisition. And yet her account of her life and times belies any complicity in the evils of Hitler’s rise to power. She grieves the death of her dear friend Ulrike in the extermination camp or the monstrous poisoning of Goering’s children. Does she assume her deep sense of responsibility for these evil acts, or does she recognize that like the young Brunhilde, she must take the blame? When Brunhilde Pomsell died at the age of 106, ironically just days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, there was no such admission and there was possibly no need of an admission, but the intriguing aspect of Hampton’s play is not what we know from Brunhilde’s story, but what we cannot define as innocent or guilty, aware or ignorant, honest or deceitful. Brunhilde, like every citizen is entitled to a presumption of innocence.

Passion flares in Pomsel’s  final comment and her utterance of damnation has a chilling effect. “There is no such thing as justice. There is only evil.” Her prophetic words are as much a reflection on a long life as a warning to the future. Their resonance in modern times has a profound impact. In the light of recent events in different parts of the world, Froml’s final comment, delivered with such force by Nevin reminds me of my history lecturer’s comments to a packed lecture theatre while reminiscing on his time in Belsen - “We must never forget.”

Catherine Finnis on cello. Photo Andrew Beveridge

Robyn Nevin’s performance of Brunhilde Pomsel  is magnificent, not that I expected anything less from a doyenne of Australian theatre. She completely inhabits the character with the ordinariness of a simple soul who lived through extraordinary and terrifying times. Under Neil Armfield’s astute and sensitive direction, Nevin’s timing is impeccable as Brunhilde reminisces, recollects, and judges with the acquired wisdom of hindsight, old age and long experience. She commands the enormous challenge of the ninety minute monologue with assurance, pausing only to reflect during painful moments of reflection and during the projected footage of the time accompanied by Finnis’s evocative playing of Alan John’s composition. Nevin is Brunhilde Pomsel and for the entire time that she is on the stage, her audience is rapt as much in her remarkably natural performance as in the content of her narrative and the disturbing moving images across the wall of Dale Ferguson’s compact and authentic set design.

Nevin and Armfield are an invincible tour de force of the theatre.  Christopher Hampton’s intriguing and probing investigation of a simple soul confronted by extraordinary experience provides the inspiration.  A superb production team brings Pomsel’s humble contemporary environment to life.  Nigel Levings’ lighting and Catherine Finnis’s artistry on the cello sway the emotions.  And through it all the archival videos, carefully selected to show the living manifestation of evil and its consequence provide a chilling backdrop to Nevin’s unforgettable performance of Brunhilde Pomsel and her German life.   




Emily Goddard as Kathleen, Darcy Kent as Patrick and Brigid Gallacher as Annie

Lamb by Janie Brodie, Music and Lyrics by Mark Seymour.  Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre (Melbourne) and Critical Stages Touring at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, March 4-6 2021.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 4

Directed by Julian Meyrick

Music and Lyrics: Mark Seymour and the Undertow, Hunters and Collectors
Dramaturgs: Ella Caldwell and Iain Sinclair
Set and Costume Designer: Greg Clarke
Lighting Designer: Efterpi Soropos
Assistant Lighting Designer: Jacob Shears
Sound and AV Designer: Justin Gardam

Cast: (in order of appearance)
Darcy Kent – Patrick / Frank
Brigid Gallacher – Annie / Mary
Emily Goddard - Kathleen

This is a play about coming, going, and staying, not necessarily always in that order, from one generation to the next.  

Mary and Frank have three children: Patrick, Annie and Kathleen.  The structure of the plot in time-shifted scenes is intriguing.  Like the characters, as they work out what they understand to be truths past and present, we find ourselves putting the pieces of their puzzle together – and unexpectedly picturing the parallel puzzles in our own lives.  Lamb, for us, is like going on an uncharted bushwalk without a map or compass (and certainly no GPS).  Yet, mysteriously, we manage in the end to reach a place where we no longer feel lost.

On stage everything seems small scale, yet the implications about how relationships start, how children are born, and how families form are of great importance.  This play, including especially the songs, is an original work of art – Australian in attitude to life; universal in empathetic understanding.

The performances are outstanding.  Emily Goddard’s representation of Kathleen’s mental disability calls upon our sympathies but keeps our sentimentality at bay.  Brigid Gallacher’s Annie is clearly Mary’s daughter, not just in her recognition of her agency as a woman but as much in her rationality and common sense.  And she sings like her father had.  While Darcy Kent shows the subtle development from a father whose emotional sensitivity is his strength, yet leads to incapacity to cope; to a son who successfully finds his way by drawing upon both his mother and his father – even though he can never quite sing as well as Frank had.

The quality of performance is, of course, also an indication of the clarity of Julian Meyrick’s direction, and is supported by strong designs of lighting, sound, set and costumes.  

The presentation of such original Australian work, local and on tour, has long been a feature of The Q – a tradition that those of us in “the big smoke” of Canberra next door thoroughly appreciate.  Even the Lonsdale Street vegans who would feel sick at the smell of cooking lamb.  See the play if you possibly can in this very short season, and you’ll understand my meaning.


Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice

Music by Bob Gaudio, Lyrics by Bob Crewe

Musical Director: Caleb Campbell

Choreographer: Madelyn White

Director: Jim McMullen

Canberra Philharmonic Society

Erindale Theatre to 20 March

Reviewed by Len Power 4 March 2021

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, ‘The Four Seasons’ singing group were a phenomenon.  Radio stations played their songs constantly and the words of the songs were forever imprinted on our minds.  Our parents hated them, of course, which only made them more fascinating.  ‘He sounds like a girl’, I remember my father dismissively saying of lead singer, Frankie Valli.

We didn’t know the story behind The Four Seasons back then, but in telling their story, the musical, ‘Jersey Boys’, doesn’t flinch from the raw, tough background in New Jersey that these four singers came from.  Each member of the group tells the story from his own perspective, giving an added depth to this tune-filled ‘jukebox’ musical.  The show ran for over 4,000 performances on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2006.

Performers playing The Four Seasons have to be able sound like the originals vocally but they also have the formidable job of acting these colourful and uncompromising characters with depth and believability.  Jared Newall, Dave Smith, Jonathan Rush and Zach Johnson all give excellent performances in the roles.

The guys are given strong support by a large ensemble of performers playing the various characters encountered along the way.  The distinctive New Jersey accent has been achieved by everyone and they display a strong sense of the period in which the action takes place.

Set design for this show with its constantly changing scenes is a challenge which Ian Croker has successfully managed.  The projected scenic art adds considerably to the action onstage.  The director keeps the action moving swiftly from one scene to the next with great skill.

The lighting of this show is particularly well done.  Designed by Joe Cox, there is a distinct difference between the spectacular look of the concert scenes and the gritty real-life scenes.  The follow spot operators did especially fine and accurate work on opening night.

Sound design by James McPherson enabled everyone to be heard clearly and the sound balance on the musical numbers was just right.  Choreography by Madelyn White was nicely reminiscent of the 1960s period and performed well by the large cast.

Musical director, Caleb Campbell, has achieved a spectacular result with the distinctive sound of The Four Seasons as well as the high standard of singing by the rest of the cast and the playing by his orchestra.

Director, Jim McMullen, has produced a highly polished show that shines in every aspect, giving the audience a truly memorable experience.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.

‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at





Thursday, March 4, 2021



FANGIRLS. Book, Music & Lyrics by Yve Blake

Directed by Paige Rattray. Designer David Fleischer Original Music Director / Vocal Arranger Alice Chance Music Producer / Sound Designer David Muratore Co-production with Belvoir, Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival, in association with Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) Adelaide Festival. Ridley Centre, Adelaide Showground Thu 27 Feb – 14 Mar 2021 

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins  

“Why?” I asked myself. Why would a company with the esteemed reputation for producing serious works stage a glossy, Dolly magazine musical fantasy about a pubescent teenager with an obsessive passion for a teenybopper pop star? The answer becomes clear as Fangirls unfolds before a packed audience at the Ridley Theatre at Adelaide’s Wayville Showgrounds. 

The story of Edna (Karis Oka ) an only child of a single parent Caroline (Sharon Millerchip) is the stuff of “That’s me theatre”. Any teenage girl or woman who has been and experienced the agony of love-struck obsession will identify with girls like Edna, Brie (Shubshri Kandiah ) tormented by body image or Jules (Chika Icogwe( ) with a weight complex or Edna’s friend Saltypringl (James Majoos ), coming to terms with being gay. Gay or straight, guy or girl Fangirls will strike a chord. There is nothing new about the plights of these teenagers, nor their fears, dreams, and desires. Last century they swooned at Sinatra, melted at Presley, threw knickers at Tom Jones and screamed at the Beatles. Then came Justin Bieber and One Direction. It was ever thus.  Only the times are a changing and with it the obsession with social media and smart phones that play a central role in the characters’ lives. Everything is faster, slicker, quicker, louder and Belvoir’s production of Fangirls is a fantasy teenchick saga of an old condition in a new age.

Photo by Brett Boardman

Belvoir’s excellent cast burst with the vitality of youth to the blaring sound of Yve Blake’s pop,bebop and hiphop music under Paige Rattray’s tight direction and Leonard Mickelo’s snappy choreography. Fangirl’s highly professional production values with David Fleischer’s set, video content and costume design all serve to deck the show with today’s reality that hides the private fantasy.  So why yet another musical play about teenagers’ complex and fragile human condition? Perhaps the answer lies in Edna’s defiant  Just You Wait and See. It leads her into a drastic fantasy world, obsessed with the notion that   real life singerAYDAN’s character,pop star Harry’s hit song Nobody Loves You Like Me is being meant for her and only her.  Fangirls is more than a fairy floss candy tale of teenage angst, parental confusion, fickle friendship and rite of passage. 

AYDAN in Fangirls Photo Brett Boardman
There is a little bit of everyone and a lot of some in this 21st century take on age old themes . Composer and librettist Blake has intertwined the dilemma of loving single Mum Caroline, struggling to help her scholarship, clever and intelligent daughter, caught in a vortex of change. Cause and consequence drive the action and the play’s moral purpose and, love it or not, it would do Fangirls an injustice to dismiss it merely as just another high school musical.

Cliches and stereotypes abound and implausibility shakes the willing suspension of disbelief. But this is life and Fangirls makes no apology for holding one of Life’s most precious mirrors up to Nature. Created with high school students in mind, Fangirls is sure to be the Bye Bye Birdie, Grease or High School Musical of the future and when amateur rights are released on many school production wish lists. And that’s no fantasy. 

Fangirls will open  at the Canberra Theatre  on March 24.





The Pulse.

Gravity and Other Myths and Aurora (ADELAIDE YOUNG VOICES).

Director Darcy Grant Set and Lighting Designer Geoff Cobham Composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix Conductor Christie Anderson Costume Designer Renate Henschke Company Producers Jascha Boyce, Jacob Randell, Darcy Grant Executive Producer Torben Brookman Sound System Design Mik LaVageProduction Manager Belinda Murphy Technical Director Marko Respondec.k.

Her Majesty’s Theatre. Adelaide Festival  February 25 – March 3 2021

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Photo by Hamish McCormick

Absolutely phenomenal! There is no other word to describe the exhilaration and sheer awe and amazement inspired by The Pulse.  In a remarkable collaboration of talent and skill and body and voice, Gravity and Other Myths with the Young Adelaide Voices of Christie Anderson’s Aurora have redefined the art of acrobatics, not just as a display of balance and tumbling but as a well-spring of the human spirit, soaring to the heights of their art form and transporting the audience into a magical realm of wonder and amazement. Because of Lockdown and the inability of the three core ensembles of Gravity and Other Myths to undertake their international tours, the company of young performers combined with the thrilling Aurora singers to present a performance to blow the mind and scale the very heights of athleticism and gymnastic artistry.

Photo by Darcy Grant

It is not just the balancing acts, trust falls and body throws that captivate with astonishing suspense and heart-stopping gasps the audience transfixed by a performance that transcends the customary expectations of physical theatre and Newton’s  very laws of Physics . The Pulse transports the audience to a new horizon of wonderment. It begins with anticipation as the curtain slowly rises to reveal an empty stage except for the occasional pieces of gym equipment dotted about the back of the stage and illuminated by shafts of arrows designed by lighting maestro Geoff Cobham. A solitary figure dressed in black enters the stage. Another dressed in white appears and the song begins to the count of the warm-up chant 1121123211234321 as the choir assembles and the members of Gravity and other Myths pattern their walks about and through the stage, falling on impulse, rising and reclining, tracing one way then another. Anticipation heightens in an air of curious expectation. Like Sirens of the stage, Aurora, conducted by Christie Anderson lure the acrobats to their destiny, thrusting them back and forth and into a woven web of physical intertwining, constructing and dismantling physical constructions.

Photo by Darcy Grant

Like the building chant, the bodies form towers of three that then collapse or slide smoothly to the ground, a fluid passage of grace and control. It is the dance of the acrobat, mesmerizing and uplifting. Gradually the pattern emerges as a tantalizing orchestration of Anderson’s ethereal vocal soundscape and the performer’s somersaults, backflips and break dance movements. Anderson is the sorceress , singing her song of sorcery. It becomes difficult to distinguish between the acrobat dictating the song or the singer the physical response of the performer. They are in perfect symbiosis

.“I feel something dangerous is about to happen” a voice can be heard from the stage. It is the voice of anticipation as two towers face each other while Anderson conducts the chorus of voices that build the suspense. Nothing does. The Pulse is more than a well-rehearsed demonstration of amazing physical skills. It is a salute to the Ensemble, a testament to the power of trust and a moving expression of love. The performer brought to the ground from the towering height that she has scale, acknowledges with a smile, a word a touch the support and love of her companions. The performer who scales the mountain of bodies in a running leap and lands safely on the other side thanks  those whose support he knows he can rely on. 

Director Darcy Grant has embraced the risks, the challenges, the dangers and the flights of the imagination and has entered a new world that redefines physical theatre as an artform that with the harmonies and rhythms of Aurora and composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix’s music reaches deep into the human psyche and spirit. What The Pulse inspires in us is hope and a faith in the human spirit to reach out and survive. If these young performers, talented as they are beyond our expectations can instruct us in the power of hope, then the audience lucky enough to witness their amazing, groundbreaking show can be confident of a brighter future. The Pulse doesn’t miss a beat and keeps the human heart alive.  


Wednesday, March 3, 2021



A Midsummer Night’s Dream An Opera in Three Acts 

Music by Benjamin Britten Libretto adapted from Shakespeare by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Conductor Paul Kildea Director Neil Armfield Set and Costume Designer Dale Ferguson Associate Director and Choreographer Denni Sayers Lighting Designer Damien Cooper Associate Conductor Brett Weymark ADELAIDE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA YOUNG ADELAIDE VOICES Director Christie Anderson Repetiteurs Michael Ierace and Jamie Cock Fight Director Nino Pilla Assistant to the Director Eugene Lynch   Performed in English with English surtitles.  Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival. February 26 – March 3. 2021

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

There is no need to forgive Puck(Mark Coles Smith ) for any offence that his shadows may have given in Benjamin Britten’s and Peter Tears’ luminescent adaptation of Shakespeare’s mystical magical comedy.  We are only too eager to give this elegant production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream our friendly hands. From the opening chorus by the fairies of the ASO’s YOUNG ADELAIDE VOICES with their cupid wings and pure enraptured song we are seduced into Shakespeare’s dreamscape, Benjamin Britten’s incandescent composition and Neil Armfield’s theatrical imagination.

Photo by Felix Sanchez

The seduction is all around – in designer Dale Ferguson’s cascading backdrop of green material, painted with trees and a billowing canopy hovering above the stage and rising and falling like a sea of green. There is the hypnotic sway of the suspended platform on which Oberon (Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen ) stands holding domain over his otherworldly fairy kingdom. Casting a countertenor in the role of Oberon adds to the seduction as we are lured into an alternative world, where the sprites and spirits dwell in the realm of dreams. Shakespeare’s revelatory insight into the human condition is echoed in Britten’s diverse and surprising orchestration. Under the exciting baton of conductor Paul Kildea the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra infuses the opera with the vitality, panache and sheer bravura and changing moods of Britten’s composition. As an opera, Shakespeare’s comedy is transformed to reveal the foibles, desires, ambitions and struggles of the human condition. The glorious voices of the singers lend credence to Oberon’s mysterious power, Tytania’s assertive dominance, subjected to Oberon’s devious will, the lovers’ confusion blinded by Puck’s mistakes and love’s incongruity, and the simple, likeable foolishness of the Mechanicals and their play within the play. Britten’s genius lies in his ability to subtly sway our senses with his arrangements. His orchestral ingenuity conjures the fairy world and the lover’s desperate plight in their confusion, the eroticism of desire and the hilarity of Bottom’s posturing and the art of coarse acting in the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. Britten’s composition is not only remarkable for its musical imagination, but also for its power of emotive persuasion. It is again the essence of the seductive nature of this adaptation.

Photo by Felix Sanchez

Above all, Armfield’s production which has had performances in America and Europe salutes the art of collaboration. Britten has pared back the play to highlight the narrative, the battle between Oberon and Tytania (Rachelle Durkin) over the stolen changeling boy, the lovers’ dilemma at the hands of Puck the mischief maker, and at the same time the hilarity we feel as Helena (Leanne Kenneally) and Hermia (Sally-Anne Russell) and Lysander (Andrew Goodwin) and Demetrius (James Clayton) fall victims to their own innocence and emotions. At the same time, Britten and Armfield ensure that we view them with a certain amused empathy. Composer, director and conductor work in harmony to reveal Shakespeare’s phenomenal wisdom and humanity.

Clarity and character are at the very heart of this uncluttered and illuminating production. Not only is the singing superb, but the acting is highly commendable from Cohen’s Oberon and Durkin’s Tytania, the four lovers and the simple rustics and most notably Warwick Fyfe as Shakepeare’s clown. There is strong support from Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Theseus and Fiona Campbell as Hippolyta The story’s the thing, free of the opening expository scene and much text that does not advance the plot.  Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream simply tells a good story, while losing none of the magic of Shakespeare’s text. Armfield’s theatrical invention is seen in his business and sweeping use of the large stage and Ferguson’s fluid setting, including, contrary to the advice of WC Fields, a dog on stage, providing the fairies with slingshots to protect their queen, staging fight director Nino Pilla’s battle between the lovers and presenting a truly funny parody on amateur acting in the play within the play. Armfield’s  theatrical sensitivity permeates the production, complementing the musical themes, infusing the singers with clear and expressive action and imbuing the production with Shakespeare’s magic.  Coles Smith’s lithe and nimble Puck is a speaking role, played with energetic fun-filled panache and athleticism.

Photo by Dan Rest

In the recent tradition of Festival opera offerings, Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a joyous successor to Barrie Kosky’s productions of Handel’s Saul and Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Armfield and Brett Dean’s  Hamlet. Seductive and magical it delights and enchants capable of raising the spirits of groundlings and inspiring devotees of opera and the works of Shakespeare.  This dream lingers long after you awaken from its charm.

Monday, March 1, 2021


 Original French Title: Les choses qu'on dit, les choses qu'on fait (The things we say, the things we do)

Written and directed by Emmanuel Mouret

Coming to the Alliance French Film Festival March 4 to 31

Previewed by Len Power

French film makers are masters of the romantic comedy/drama and “Love Affair(s)” is a new film that reinforces that view.

Writer and director, Emmanuel Mouret, is known for “The Art Of Love”. “Another Life” and “Lady J”.  In “Love Affair(s)”, a pregnant young woman, Daphné, has been left alone in the French countryside by her boyfriend, François, while he is away working.  François arranges for his cousin, Maxime, to stay with Daphné for company.  Maxime is a young man heart-broken due to a recent failed love affair.  Thrown together, Daphné and Maxime spend the time telling each other the stories of their relationships, little realizing that the intimacies they are sharing are drawing them closer together emotionally.

In Emmanuel Mouret’s screenplay, love, desire and relationships are put under the microscope in a way that we can all relate to.  What seem to be simple love affairs on the surface surprise us with their complexities, with twists and turns and connections that are as suspenseful as a thriller.  We can’t wait to see what will happen next.  We expect that the two main characters will be drawn together right from the start but the journey they take is fascinating from beginning to end.

Much of the emotion of this film is conveyed by the actors’ silent reactions to the situations they find themselves in.  The two leading actors, Camélia Jordana as Daphné and Niels Schneider as Maxime, give very real and appealing performances.  They have strong support from Vincent Macaigne as the boyfriend of Daphné, François, Émilie Dequenne as François’s ex-wife, Louise and the other performers in the film.

Beautifully photographed in the French countryside by Laurent Desmet, this is a memorable film with a lot to say about the complexities of modern love.  Just like life, it’s funny, surprising and then unexpectedly moving.  It’s an enjoyably emotional journey from start to finish.


“Love Affair(s)” is one of 37 films that will be shown at this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival that will run from the 4th to 31st of March at the Palace Cinemas.  The full program can be found at Alliance Française French Film Festival website.


Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.


‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at