Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Where I End & You Begin

Written by: Cathy Petocz
Directed by: Caroline Stacey
The Street Theatre
18 - 26 October 2014
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

What parts of us are originally our own? What idiosyncrasies and traits have we absorbed from past relationships? Who are we, really? Where do I end and where do you begin? Perhaps we will find an answer here, perhaps not.

This play, "Where I End & You Begin", written by Canberran Cathy Petocz, explores these questions. Petocz was inspired to write the play after the unsettling realisation that her laugh had become a replica of her ex-lover's laugh.

Under the guise of a detective investigation, Polly, Hazel, Timothy and the aptly named Whatshisname begin, or perhaps continue, their seemingly timeless quests to find a missing person, and a missing memory, ultimately leading back to themselves, each other and their relationships. It’s as if they are compelled outside of their own volition, to undertake this search and piece it all together.

There were poignant and hard-hitting moments amongst a jumble of emotions, sentences, thoughts and actions. But it took a little while and some personally familiar sentiments and incidences before it was possible to suspend the search for anything complete or linear and just go with the flow.

The characters’ interactions, fuelled by frustration, affection, and infatuation, hurt and hate drift over the audience, who are left to pick out the bits that resonate, as some of it really doesn't seem to make much sense and added to the overall feeling of a disjointed internal monologue.

The ethereal staging saw the actors perform primarily on a raised bed of white fur, with groups of white bags arranged overhead to look like drifting clouds. Director Caroline Stacey made good use of the theatre space, whilst seating the audience on stage, amongst the action. Visually this production was impressive. A spliced, creative and multifaceted soundscape, designed by Kimmo Vennonen effectively filled the space.

The women (Kate Hosking as Polly and Ylaria Rogers as Hazel), had slightly more developed characters and performed with more energy than Raoul Craemer and Dylan van den Berg as Whatshisname and Timothy, respectively. Two stories unfolding concurrently, one set in outerspace, presented a challenge for the actors in the exact timing of lines and matching up of movements but overall this was well done. Kabu-Okai Davies played Emmanuel, a Morgan Freeman-esque overseer, presumably to somehow link the stories together although the reason for his involvement is not entirely clear.

The last ten minutes of the performance literally brought it back down to earth, and could have been omitted so as the play ended on a more surreal and visually dramatic note.

“Where I End & You Begin” could leave you analysing your own nuances, missing a lover, reminiscing on self and relationships and how we are never completely insulated from our interactions with each other or it may leave you wondering what on earth (or in space) you’ve just seen.

KOSTROMA - Russian Dance Spectacular

Presented by Grand International Concert

Canberra Theatre Centre – 24th October 2014

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

 Since the early 1960’s, when Eric Edgley began importing Russian dance shows, Australia has been treated to some of the finest dance ensembles available in Russia. However,none have been more impressive than “Kostroma” which is currently coming to the end of its world-wind Australian tour before moving on to New Zealand.

 Though this is its first Australian tour, “Kostroma”, which was founded in the early 1990’s, has already carved out an enviable reputation on the International touring circuit for its superb dancers and stunning production values. The founders of the company, Elena and Yuri Tsarenko, tour with the company, together with their two children, Ivan Tsarenko, (one of the lead dancers and stunt coach), and Maria Veshkina, (who’s responsible for the touring and public relations arrangements).

 The whole company is very family orientated. 80% of the 50 elite dancers who make up the troupe are married couples, and they tour with 10 tons of costumes and scenery which includes 600 exquisite costumes and 300 props, among them Tatar bells, medieval spears, shields, banners and flags.

What sets this handsome company apart from similar dance shows is it’s attention to detail, the imaginative staging of its performances, and the precision and skill of its dancers. The various dance numbers are arranged as a history of Russia told through a seamless series of cleverly staged sequences. The beautifully designed costumes eschew authenticity in favour of artistic theatrical representations of those worn in the various regions represented. Similarly the impressive  silver filigree setting, which includes a huge screen on which an ever-changing montage of beautiful images, some abstract, others realistic, are projected to enchant and inform.


The stage is constantly awash with action, whether by superbly trained dancers in exquisitely detailed costumes, eyes downcast and faces serene, gliding around the stage executing unbelievably intricate manoeuvres, or by the exciting hordes of bold Georgian warriors, or drum-beating Caucasians, catapulting around the stage performing eye-popping stunts. There is delightful fun as a dancing horse intrudes into a charming Russian Tea Shop scene.

 Especially impressive, given the gruelling tour schedule, is the attention to detail. Each dancer is impeccably turned-out, not a hair out of place, nor a hand or foot. The choreography is precisely executed, and the costumes are superbly presented, not a crease or crinkle to be seen.


This is a top quality show. Should it come your way, do yourself a favour and don’t miss it. Oh ! and take the kids, they’ll be just as enchanted.


                                    This review appears in Australian Arts Review


Written by: Cathy Petocz 

Director: Caroline Stacey

Designer: Imogen Keen

Sound Design: Kimmo Vennonen

Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab

Street Theatre Canberra - 18 - 26 October 2014

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Cathy Petocz surreal play, "Where I End & You Begin" is an attempt to investigate notions of self. It has been developed through The Street’s “The Hive” and “First Seen” programs over a period of four years. The work was shortlisted for Playwriting Australia’s National Script Workshop 2013, and this premiere season at The Street received Arts ACT project funding.

Set in a multi-sensory double universe and filled to the brim with doppelgangers, impersonators and monstrous stand-ins, the play concerns two private detectives who are investigating missing person cases, light years apart. Or at least that’s what the program description promises.

The main characters are a young man, Timothy (Dylan van den Berg) who has been experiencing blanks since he met Hazel, (Yalaria Rogers), the young woman of his dreams. He seeks help from Polly (Kate Hosking), who appears to occupy another time-zone, and is being tracked by a character from outer space with the unlikely name of Whathisname (Raoul Cramer). A fifth character called Emmanuel (Kabu-Okai Davies) wanders in an out of the proceedings like an escapee from “Pippin”.

The characters spend a lot of time enquiring of each other “Who are you?”, “Why are you here?”, “Are you alright?” and answer with lines like “I am who I remind you of” or something similarly quasi-existentialist phrases. Occasionally the dialogue rewinds, or stops mid-sentence, conjuring up thoughts of “Waiting for Godot” or even “Alice in Wonderland”, particularly when one character disappears down a rabbit-hole.

The actors do their best to make something of the characters, but as the proceedings drag on, it’s difficult to engage with characters who exhibit neither  depth or purpose, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that the play is going nowhere, slowly.

Despite this, the production itself is impressive. Caroline Stacey has pulled out every ace from her capacious bag of directorial tricks to support the text. An experienced cast - an imaginative setting, which has the audience seated on the stage and which encompasses the entire Street Theatre auditorium - a booming soundscape and flashy lighting effects - even face masks for the audience to wear at one point. However, by the final scene, when Hazel and Timothy, trampling precariously over the auditorium chairs, again asked each other “Who Are You?”, “Why are you here?”, many left the theatre pondering the same questions. 

                                  This review appears in Australian Arts Review

Sunday, October 26, 2014


QL2 Dance
Choreographed by Ruth Osborne, Jamie Winbank, Jake Kuzma, Alison Plevey
Theatre 3, 17-18 October 2014

Review by Len Power 18 October 2014

47 dancers aged 8 – 18 from Canberra and surrounding areas came together last week to perform ‘For The Win’, the 2014 QL2 project for young dancers.  This year’s work, according to Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne:

‘explored the ideas of winning and competition; looking at what qualities are evident in being a winner and whether winning is the aim anyway.  The project gives young dancers an introduction to working with a choreographer and moving beyond “just learning the steps”.  It includes thinking about concepts and emotions, creating new movement through improvisation and tasks, selecting and refining the most effective movement ideas and rehearsing until it all flows’.

There were seven items on the program that segued cleverly from one to the next.  Four of the items were choreographed individually while another had two choreographers and the large opening and closing items were realized by all four choreographers, Ruth Osborne, Jamie Winbank, Jake Kuzma and Alison Plevey.

The clarity of the purpose of each item was impressive.  The opening item was exciting with all 47 dancers onstage together.  The shift of focus from one grouping to another was well handled and the dancing was precise and joyful.  Smaller groups performed the next five items which were a good showcase for the individual choreographers.  Jamie Winbank’s choreography for, ‘A winner is someone who wins’ was very clear in its intent with an atmospheric use of voice overs to accompany the dance.  ‘All aboard the loser express’, choreographed by Jake Kuzma produced a strong sense of melancholy and the choice of music to accompany the dance was excellent.  ‘Mind Games’ by Alison Plevey was probably the most difficult concept to put across but her creativity and clear purpose made this a particularly memorable item.  The next item, ‘A win for the girls’, choreographed by Alison Plevey and Jamie Winbank, was outstanding – a clever concept around empowerment for women and it was imaginatively staged.  ‘Wintendo’, choreographed by Jake Kuzma, was inventive and humorous with a clever and creative use of hand-held lights to enhance the action.  The finale, ‘The Finish Line’, was a rousing climax for the whole performance.

The confident young dancers displayed an enormously infectious enthusiasm.  In the big items, it was exciting see all 47 performers onstage together moving with precision and looking like they’re enjoying every minute of it.  I can imagine some parents going along dutifully to see their child perform and coming away delighted that they have seen something very special!

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 26 October 2014 from 5pm.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Presented by Wonder Productions 

Canberra Theatre

23-24th October 2014.

 Reviewed by Bill Stephens


Max Gillies finally comes out. After years of hiding behind wigs, make-up and prosthetics to dazzle us with his impersonations of contemporary political leaders, we finally see the man behind the mask.

 In his new show “Once Were Leaders”, Gillies eschews the theatrical accoutrements of his trade, to pay tribute to his script writers by revisiting some of his own personal favourite scripts to illustrate their brilliance. Writers like Don Watson, who wrote his Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser scripts, Guy Rundle, who wrote the Graham (Richo) Richardson scripts, Patrick Cook and Heathcote Williams, are all represented.

 The presentation style is simplicity itself. The stage is set with just a lectern, with a projector screen behind, on which film of Gillies in some of his most famous impersonations is projected at various intervals. Entering stage-right, he commenced the show by dedicating this performance to the memory of Gough Whitlam, who died during the week, and which tactfully was the only mention of Gough during the show.

 Gough’s colleagues were not so fortunate as Gillies shared his own views on contemporary politicians and leaders “who talk to us in short slogans..repeated ad infinitum..who don’t deserve satire”. He also shared insights into how he approached the creation of his various subjects illustrating each by performing a favourite script for each character.

 Billy McMahon (Tiberius with a telephone), Bob Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, Andrew Peacock, Bob Hawke (of course ), Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, Kevin Rudd and Graham (Richo) Richardson and finally John Howard all make the cut.

 The scripts of course are wonderful, and still stand up for their erudite and funny content, and the large audience chortled and guffawed their appreciation through-out. But the scripts are just words. It is what Gillies does with those words, and his uncanny knack of capturing the idiosyncratic gestures and unique vocal inflections of each, that is the real magic.

 “Once were Leaders” provides the opportunity to observe a great character actor at work. Decades of refining and practising his art allows Gillies to instantly disappear into the core of his subject, who then inhabits the room before your very eyes. That his subjects prove so entertaining has much to do with the brilliance of the script-writers, but it is Gillies artistry and superb acting skills which brings them to life.

                       This review appears on the Australian Arts Review website.