Sunday, June 30, 2013


Directed by Cate Clelland
Musical Direction by James Court
Canberra Repertory at Theatre 3
21 June - 6 July, 2013

Review by Len Power 21 June 2013

There’s something new in the fourth edition of Canberra Repertory’s, ‘Jazz Garters’ – an underlying theme!  Cate Clelland, the director, wisely uses the Canberra Centenary to bind this production together.

There was some fine singing from the large cast in the group numbers, most notably in ‘Be My Friend’.  Ian Croker and the company performed an entertaining ‘Too Darn Hot’ by Cole Porter and Pamela Jansson, Bronte Forrester and Evan Kirby gave us a strong ‘Getting Married Today’, the fiendish Stephen Sondheim tongue-twister.

Amongst the solo numbers, Janelle McMenamin was a standout as ‘The Girl In 14G’, mixing opera and jazz apparently effortlessly.  Dick Goldberg was delightful performing ‘I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana’ and topping that later in the show with the hysterical, ‘Model Of A Labour Politician’.  Evan Kirby’s fine voice was displayed in his thoughtful version of ‘Lost In the Wilderness’ by Stephen Schwartz. Charles Oliver was fun as Lady Denman but was a bit wasted as a peripheral character.  With more to do, she could have been a major asset in the show.

The band, led by James Court, played the large variety of music very well.  The set, designed by Andrew Kay, works very well for the large numbers but some of the solos staged towards the back of the set lost impact as a result.  Costumes designed by Helen Drum and co-ordinated by Jeanette Brown were eye-catching and effective.  The choreography by Lisa Buckley was imaginative, especially in the ‘Hot Air Song’ and the well-drilled cast performed the dances with energy and confidence.

As with all variety shows, some numbers work better than others.  The longer numbers, regardless of how well done they were, did sag a bit.  ‘Cell Block Tango’ seemed to be in the show only for the one-joke idea of having a male cast member, Lachlan Ruffy, play one of the girls, but with nothing especially amusing to do anyway.

Some items just seemed out of place in the show because there was no continuity ‘hook’ for them.  For example, ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’, a beautiful song, nicely sung by Pamela Jansson, would have worked better if somehow related to what came before and after.  Also a problem in past editions, this lack of continuity between some numbers is particularly noticeable in this edition where a lot of numbers are successfully linked to the Canberra Centenary theme.

Cate Clelland’s direction keeps the show running smoothly at a fine pace.  ‘Jazz Garters’ has always been fun, but it is the Canberra Centenary focus that makes this one a standout.

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 30 June 2013.
A shorter version was first published in ‘City News’ digital edition on Saturday 22 June 2013.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Written and Directed by Bruce Hoogendoorn
 The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre
June 19 -29, 2013

Review by Len Power 19 June 2013

Now here's a clever idea for a play that pleases from start to finish.  Bruce Hoogendoorn's snappy new comedy proposes that the economy would be in better shape if rich tax avoiders were identified and quietly blackmailed into going out and shopping, even if they don't want to.  Like in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice', it all works far too well and soon they have a nightmare on their hands.

The director has assembled an ideal cast for this show.  Brendan Kelly gets right under the skin of a self-centred, dishonest young man who, at the start of the play, deserves to be blackmailed.  With his skilful playing, he reverses the audience’s attitude towards him as the play progresses.  The beautiful Kimberley Balaga plays a deliciously funny girlfriend who may, or may not, be sincere.  Rob de Fries, an expert comedy player is a master at showing you what he’s really thinking while saying something completely different.  His sense of timing and physical comedy provides many of the big laughs in this production.

The character of the shop assistant, played by Elaine Noon, was not as well-realized as the other characters in the show.  No matter how sorely tested, surely a shop assistant would not be so openly angry and aggressive at a customer?  Still, with arms flapping, Elaine Noon is very funny.

The author, Bruce Hoogendoorn, has also directed for the first time.  His staging is straight forward and generally well-paced.  A more experienced director would have ensured the scene changes were smoother and cleaned up little jarring details.  For example, a character going to a door in a dressing gown, having supposedly just got out of bed after a night of passion, would not still be wearing trousers and shoes from the previous scene.

Wayne Shepherd’s clever set design provides an appropriate eyeful of in-your-face advertising.  He also wrote the appealing incidental music for the show.  Kelly McGannon’s lighting design complemented the set and the action very well and Miriam Miley-Read chose the right costumes from sub-KMart to drop-dead gorgeous for the characters.

Bruce Hoogendoorn, a local writer now having success beyond Canberra, shows with ‘The Reluctant Shopper’ that he can write clever comedy as well as good drama.  Wayne Swan, our embattled Treasurer, could learn something from this show!

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 23 June 2013.
A shorter version was first published in ‘Canberra City News’ digital edition on Thursday 20 June 2013.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Urban Theatre Coming Up

Catalogue of Dreams – devised theatre for the Canberra Centenary 2013 by Urban Theatre Projects, based in Sydney.  Co-Directors: Rosie Dennis and Alicia Talbot.

Performances at Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre.
Previews: Saturday July 13 and Tuesday July 16, 8:15pm
Opening: Wednesday July 17, 8:15pm
Season: Thursdays – Saturdays July 18-27, 8:15pm

Preview by Frank McKone
June 21

The history of Urban Theatre Projects can be seen at
where the group’s 30 years of work explains why Centenary Director Robyn Archer approached Alicia Talbot more than two years ago for a theatre piece from Sydney, as part of the program of works representing a wide range of Australian local communities for the celebration of Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Rosie Dennis tells me that Catalogue of Dreams is ‘contemporary theatre’, collaborative and ‘devised’ – different from the standard convention of an audience watching a performance through a 'fourth wall'.  The audience in the Courtyard Studio will find themselves integrated in the acting space as if they are in the Family Court with the young Canberra people who find themselves in difficult circumstances there.

Though for many theatre-goers in Canberra the tradition of this form of theatre – going back to at least Carol Woodrow’s company Fool’s Gallery in the 1970s – will not be a surprise, the keyword for this production is the Dreams of the title.  As a Centenary piece, there are two aspects which make it clearly ‘different’.

First, instead of showing off something that represents the community where the theatre company resides, such as we saw in the Northern Territory’s contribution, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui by Jason De Santis, Talbot and Dennis have worked here for some 12 months with local performers starting from issues that face young people dealing with bureaucracy and the law.

The result is a scripted work, now in solid rehearsal as I write, largely written up by Dennis, which is entirely appropriate in the Canberra context – raising concerns for us about the centre of government 100 years on – while also being relevant to audiences around the country.  Anyone who has ever had to explain again and again to, say, Centrelink officers, to police officers, to lawyers or in court hearings who they are, what has happened to them, what they did and why, will appreciate this show.

But rather than this becoming another kind of ‘reality’ show, what Catalogue of Dreams reveals is the disjunct between the playful dreamlike fantasy world which is natural to teenagers, still naive and childlike in so many ways, and the formal situations demanded by the system of laws and rules of behaviour which constitute the ‘adult’ world.  Here is a universal theme, applicable to any human society as Wulamanayuwi showed us in the Tiwi Islands.  For anyone caught up in fraught circumstances, the experience is surreal – as it will be for the audience in the Courtyard space when this drama opens on 17th July.

In performance, the work is essentially image-driven – not so much in the form of multi-media presentations but rather through creating images in the minds of those observing through text and story, voice-over and devices such as masks.  In this sense, it seems to me, this Urban Theatre project is not so different from the long tradition of street theatre going back to the commedia dell’arte of centuries ago, with its combination of humour and absurdity, now in a modern context.

Though personally I’ll be travelling – perhaps following my own fantasies – while Catalogue of Dreams is on stage, I feel disappointed to miss what should be a fascinating and significant production.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Richard Tognetti, Director and Violin
Daniel Mueller-Schott, Cello
Timo-Veikko Valve, Cello

Presented by the Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director
Llewellyn Hall, Saturday 15 June 2013
Review by Len Power

Sounding like a chemical formula, AcO2 is part of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Emerging Artists Program.  It aims to embolden and empower promising young artists to bridge the gap between student and professional life through individual lessons and performing with Australian Chamber Orchestra members.

At Saturday night’s concert in the Llewellyn Hall, Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra presented ten members of this program led by Richard Tognetti himself and cellists, Daniel Mueller-Schott and Timo-Veikko Valve, in an evening of fine music.

Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s 1952 composition, ‘The Fiddlers’, was an atmospheric and haunting start to the program.   The first highlight of the evening was the opportunity to hear two Vivaldi concertos for cello.  First, Daniel Mueller-Schott and Timo-Veikko Valve were the soloists for the Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor.  The positive electricity between these two players was palpable in this excellent performance.  After a light and melodic Stravinsky Concerto in D major, Daniel Mueller-Schott gave an emotional but beautifully controlled performance of Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in G major with the orchestra.

Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A major, No. 11 was a rousing and well-played start to the second half of the program.  This was followed by Ernest Bloch’s, ‘From Jewish Life’, a highly emotional piece played to perfection by Daniel Mueller-Schott and the orchestra.  This was the unexpected highlight of the whole evening and the strong reaction of the audience and orchestra members to Daniel Mueller-Schott’s masterly performance was richly deserved.  Bartok’s Divertimento was the final item listed on the program and was well played.  For an encore we were given Daniel Mueller-Schott and the orchestra playing the final movement of Hayden’s C major Cello Concerto which deservedly won a huge round of applause from the audience.

As well as being an excellent concert with well-chosen music, it was impressive to see these emerging artists performing with such ability and assurance.  A nice touch at the start of the evening had Richard Tognetti introducing each individual to the audience and encouraging them to talk about themselves.  They sounded so normal and looked so young, I couldn’t help wondering what I had achieved by the time I had reached their age.  I chose not to answer my question….

AcO2 is an excellent initiative for emerging performers.  We’ll be seeing more of them in the future, I’m sure.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 16 June 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggall in "Opal Vapour

By Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal in collaboration with Paula van Beek and Ria Soemardjo

Street Theatre, June 14th and 15th.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

In a recent radio interview Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal stated that "Opal Vapour" was inspired by her interest in water conservation, the colour of the opal stone as a metaphor for the rainbow, and her wish to explore the evolution of the Javanese Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet theatre).

While these inspirations may not be easily recognisable, what has emerged is an intriguing fusion of traditional and contemporary skills and sensibilities to produce a beautifully paced, satisfying and graceful dance work for which the viewer does not require any knowledge of Javanese culture to quickly fall under the spell of this exquisitely conceived and performed presentation.

Ria  Soemardjo (foreground) Jade Dewis Tyas Tunggal (background) 
It begins with a ritualistic opening sequence, to the sound of tinkling bells and softly sung incantations, in which textured fabrics are slowly removed, one after another, from what appeared to be a pile of fishnets to reveal a dancer lying on a raised sun-lit dais. The dancer performs her graceful dance on the dais during which she kicks sand into the air at various intervals. She then draws batik-like patterns in the sand, which are videoed from above and projected on to a screen behind her. Later she lies on the dais, now lit from underneath with a soft blue/green light. The resulting graceful videoed images suggest an underwater scene performed by a beautiful shadow puppet mermaid. Finally in full view of the audience she changes her robes to perform her final dance.

Jade Dewi Tyas Tungal in "Opal Vapour:
Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal is a mesmerising performer.  She understands the power of stillness and ritual. Her training in classical Javanese dance, with its graceful use of arms, hands, fingers and eyes, and her strong contemporary dance technique, allow her to bring a unique perspective to her performance which is both fascinating and satisfying.  

Ria Soemardjo in "Opal Vapour"
Integral to the work is the graceful presence and performance of Ria Soemardjo, who acts as a kind of handmaiden to the dancer, quietly and gracefully providing and removing garments and props throughout the performance, while also providing the bewitching sound scape, some of which is recorded and some of she performs live, as she moves in and out of Paula van Becks moody and dramatic lighting.  

“Opal Vapour” is a gorgeous creation which provides a deeply satisfying, almost hypnotic experience for the viewer. A totally unique concept which is superbly executed by both the performers who bring to it unique and complementary skills, enhanced by superbly realised lighting and sound design to a creation which is as beautiful as it is intriguing and entertaining.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Opal Vapour

Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal
The Street Theatre
June 14 2013
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

To summarise Opal Vapour in a few words, it was beautiful, hypnotic and aurally satisfying. And given a few more – the production by Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal is a well-crafted, multi-faceted and powerful piece of theatre that deserves a bigger audience than it had.

This texturally rich performance is based in Tunggal ‘s Javanese heritage, incorporating elements of traditional shadow puppetry and utilizing fabrics, light, shadow and projection.

Add to that the warm, pure vocals of Ria Soemardjo and her viola and gamelan music. Her singing was beautifully soothing and meditative and paired especially well with Tunggal (who performs on a lightbox) when she appears to float slowly through water, perhaps drowning, perhaps peacefully floating in a mother’s womb. The movement was projected with blue lights, through the well-crafted lighting design and operation by Paula van Beek, and skilfully manipulated to draw the eye between dancer and projection.

Flowing movements pushing sand across the lightbox creating images reminiscent of indigenous art were followed by strong traditional dance moves. Elements of earth and water felt integral as was a sense of watching sacred rituals and the timelessness of death, birth, duty and discovery.

Transitions would have been better made utilizing Soemardjo’s music as a focus. At one stage she is surely the recipient of copious amounts of flying sand.

Tunggal’s hand gestures at times lack the flexibility and nuances that dancers spend years perfecting and the performance lost a little momentum at the end, following the strength of earlier movements but her muscular body and Soemardjo’s presence create a strong synergy and sustain a feminine energy throughout.

An edited version of this review will appear in The CityNews hardcopy and online