Monday, February 29, 2016

Groupe F - A FLEUR DE PEAU - Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

 A Fleur de Peau-created by Group F

Script, Stage Design, Production by Christophe Berthonneau. Musical Composition by Scott Gibbons. Technical creations. Thomas Nomballais. Video Animation. Thierry Dorval and Yann Loic Lambert. Costumes. Ann Williams and Gitta Heinz-Franquet.. Artistic Colaboration. Dominique Noel. Project Manager, Executive Producer Cedric Moreau. Adelaide Oval. Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016. February 27. 2016

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

A sea of spectators flooded across the bridge that connects the Adelaide Festival centtre with the recently modernized Adelaide Oval, pride of the city’s sporting enthusiasts. However, they were not coming to see the Crows do battle with the rival Melbourne team or soak up the sun at a Test match. No, the twenty six thousand were thronging the Adelaide Oval for the grand spectacle of this year’s festival.

As I nudged my way through the East Gate and onto the covered grassed area of the oval, a beautifully staged smoke ceremony by indigenous dancers was welcoming audiences to witness the pyrotechnic wonder of France’s Groupe F in their performance work, A Fleur de Peau (loosely translated as very sensitive or easily set off).

The countdown begins and the crowd chants in unison. In an instant Scott Gibbons’s musical composition bursts forth in unison with jets of flame that leap upward to the night sky. A silver head emerges slowly from behind the vast video display that waits to explode into a kaleidoscope of rolling patterns. Gradually the shape manifests itself, a silver alien against the background of shadowy trees that brush the night sky. The Adelaide Festival’s grand spectacle has begun and an amazed audience oohs and aahs with each pyrotechnic feat . The solitary figure is soon joined by others, manipulating stick figures of burning metal, human Catherine wheels in a splendid outburst of flame and colour.

Slowly they levitate into the night sky, the crane at times indistinguishable in the darkness, while the swirling sea of colour below changes to reveal the probing eyes of beasts morphing into cars speeding along an underpass and out into the open highway. A Fleur de Peau has astounded the senses, transported us beyond reality to magical illusion. The ancient ritual and the mesmerizing power of Nature’s flames, created by the master of script, stage design and production, Christophe Berthonneau, transports the audience into a world of wonderment. The company that has astounded the masses at two Olympic Ceremonies, illuminated the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day and returned to the spiritual home of spectacle at the Palace of Versailles to reimagine the glory of the Sun King’s reign has gifted the people of Adelaide the breathtaking wonder of their magic.

This brilliantly stage-managed, orchestrated and astonishing spectacle dissolved in swirling clouds of smoke. For one night only Berthonnau brought his magic to the festival city, assisted by Thierry Dorval and Yann Loic Lambert’s video animation and Ann Williams and Gitta Heinz-Franquet’s costumes.

As a woman behind me remarked, “I shall never be able to look at fireworks in the same way again!



Christopher Lincoln Bogg, tenor
Alan Hicks, piano
Art Song Canberra
Wesley Music Centre, Forrest 28 February 2016

Review by Len Power 28 February 2016

Born in Canberra, Christopher Lincoln Bogg has enjoyed a long international singing career in opera, concert and recital.  He explained at the start of his recital for Art Song Canberra that the selected works formed a retrospective that reflected his life’s journey – ‘A Traveller’s Tales’.  It was a good selection of works, some well-known, some unusual, but all forming a well-balanced, enjoyable program.

He commenced with ‘The Ploughboy’ by William Shield, arranged by Benjamin Britten, which showed immediately the power and clarity of his voice.  He followed with three ‘Songs of Travel’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  The second song ‘The infinite shining heavens’ was notable for the great tenderness with which it was sung.  Works by Schubert, Schumann and Ravel followed.  They were well-chosen, contrasting songs, giving him the opportunity to display every aspect of his fine voice.

The second half of the program began with the traditional ‘Song Of The Banana Carriers’.  Knowing only the popular version by Harry Belafonte, I found it to be an interesting choice and it was good to hear it sung so beautifully.  It was followed by two nicely contrasting songs by Arthur Benjamin and three by William Walton.  The third Walton song, ‘Old Sir Faulk’ was a delightfully jazzy piece sung with humour and accuracy.

One of the highlights of the recital was ‘Godfrey In Paradise’ from Lee Gracegirdle’s ‘Shoalhaven Lieder’.  It was cleverly performed, bringing out all of the wit, humour and cheekiness of Clive James’ words.  The music for this piece was sensational and played with great precision and obvious enjoyment by Alan Hicks.  Lee Bracegirdle himself was in the audience, giving the singer and accompanist the thumbs up at the end.

An unexpected delight was a set of theatre songs by Stephen Sondheim which requires acting skills as well as fine singing.  Although normally sung by female characters in the shows they were written for, both ‘Losing My Mind’ and ‘Send in the Clowns’ worked well for a male voice.  ‘Remember’, from ‘A Little Night Music’ was especially enjoyable with Bogg’s sly delivery of the sub-text of this song.  He sang the lyrics with great clarity, an essential requirement when singing Sondheim’s works.

This was an excellent recital of contrasting works that displayed the richness of Christopher Lincoln Bogg’s voice as well as his fine delivery.  Alan Hicks accompanied the singer with great skill with his excellent piano playing.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on ‘Artcetera’ on Artsound FM 92.7 from 9am on Saturdays.

HABITUS - Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016



 Conceived, choreographed and directed by Garry Stewart. Australian Dance Theatre. The Space. Adelaide Festival Centre February 28 – March 5 2016

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Matte Roffe, Thomas Fonua,Michael Ramsay, Thomas Bradley (Back)
Samantha Hines(right middle),Zoe Dunwoodie (right floor)
in ADT's Habitus. Photo: Chis Herzfeld - Camlight Productions

Habitus is the first in a proposed series of works, titled The Nature Series . The first work by Australian Dance Theatre examines our relationship to domestic objects, to the environment and to our relationship to Nature. Inventive, imaginative and expressive in its social commentary, Habitus confronts us with the notion of impermanence. Artistic director, Garry Stewart is concerned with the wanton wastefulness of a consumerist society, with scant regard for the environment and prone to creating a disposable society. “All this will become landfill” a dancer says.
Matte Roffe, Zoe Dunwoodie, Thomas Bradley, Samantha Hines
Kimball Wong in Habitus. Photo by Chris Herzfeld - Camlight Productions

Thematically, Stewart’s choreography is ideally suited to an ensemble, skilled in the physical demands of contemporary dance. Lithe, agile and versatile, the dancers transition with fluid skill from figuration to athletic interaction with sofas, chairs and ironing boards to the grace and elegance of deportment with books on heads and a rhythmic routine that consigns books to a passing routine that has little bearing on their function as sources of knowledge and understanding.

The Australian Dance Theatre’s ensemble embraces the theme with exciting vigour and athleticism. Obscurity is avoided by occasional narrative, explaining the significance of the couches as objects of memory, relics of a life lived and unworthy of being discarded. As objects are neglected and discarded, so too is the natural environment defiled. Dancer Lonii Garnons-Williams appears daubed with green, and despoiled by human neglect and the destruction of Nature.
Michael Ramsay, Zoe Dunwoodie,Samantha Hines,Matte Roffe
in Habitus. Photo: Chris Herzfeld-Camlight Productions

Stewart’s work appeals and the dancers are skilled and striking in their physical strength and contortion. However, the sequences are too long, the choreography repetitive and the theme is sacrificed to impulsive imagination rather than emotional connection with the issue. I couldn’t help feeling that Habitus had the potential to be far more powerful, to challenge dancers to engage more expressively with the serious intent of Stewart’s theme. The festival programme advertised the running time at one hour and ten minutes. The performance ran for an hour and a half.

There were moments that caught my attention. I was impressed by the Butoh-like obsession of Samantha Hines’ contorted struggle. Garnons-Williams’ controlled separation and powerful stillness captured the focus of the moment and compelled attention. Here were dancers committed to the challenges of Stewart’s physically demanding choreography. I would have hoped for a greater appreciation of the emotional consequence of their movement.
Thomas Fonua, Lonii Garnons-Williams,Zoe Dunwoodie
and Michael Ramsay. Phot: Chris Herzfeld.
Visually and technically, Habitus triumphed in the Space.   From the opening blue wash, complemented by the blue costumes to the artistically colour-coordinated objects and the sweeping nature of a cloth created landscape, Habitus is a visual feat. Lighting designer, Damien Cooper makes full use of the Space’s lighting, shifting tone and atmosphere with his carefully plotted design. Composer, Brendan Woithe, smoothly segues from contemporary music to soundscape to classical music, offering Stewart and his dancers the opportunity for shifting moods. Too often the opportunity to extend the range is unfulfilled, and I looked for greater variation in each sequence.

Thomas Bradley, Samatha Hines,Kimball Wong
Zoe Dunwoodie, Thomas Fonua, Michael Ramsay in
Habitus, directed and choreographed by Garry Stewart
Photo by Chris Herzfeld - Camlight Productions
Nonetheless, this is a work, pleasing to the eye, imaginative in concept, talented in its execution, but still in need of tightening. Greater variety in its choreography and intensity of emotional connection with the theme would improve the impact of a performance that contains an important sociological message.. Perhaps this will find balance and focus as the future works are developed.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Theatre criticism - not dying out any time soon

By Helen Musa, convenor of the Canberra Critics Circle.

(This commentary was first printed in the ACT Writers' Centre publication ACTWrite, February 2016, Vol.22, issue 1.)

When Samuel Beckett’s character Vladimir taunts his companion in Waiting for Godot with the pejorative “Cretin!” Estragon hits back with the most insulting word he can think of — “Crritic!”

The insult is one that most theatre critics must learn to bear with equanimity.

What is it that critics do? First and foremost, they criticise. They also analyse, prod and, in long-form reviewing, advocate for the art form, although that can lead to accusations of bias.

Make no mistake about it, reviewing is never a popularity contest. A critic will often be at odds with the public and we are often asked, “What’s it like to be hated by everyone?”

Candidly, if you’re reviewing something awful, it can be a pleasure to say so. One Canberra critic calls it “the taste of blood.” Think about it, people pay to attend performances and criticism serves as advice, so “kindness” does no service to the reader or listener. Even so, criticism is very rarely black and white.

The Canberra Critics Circle is entering its 25th year in 2016. Uniquely in Australia, our circle does not focus just on theatre, dance and opera, but runs the gamut of the arts, through theatre, dance, music, visual arts, books and film, reflecting the fact that ours is a small community that needs dialogue and comment across the full arts spectrum.

Founded after a forum of practising critics in print and radio during Dance Week 1991 which focused on the state of public commentary on the arts in Canberra, the CCC gives out annual awards at the ACT Arts Awards ceremony, which we convene, and also holds winter colloquiums to help develop critical awareness of local arts practice.

Alas, critics, like other journalists in Australia, tend to be ranked very low on the status scale, but we see ourselves as tellers-of-truth, speaking out to the public.

Does criticism matter to artists?

To a visual artist it does, as creating work within a vacuum is a nonsense. Veteran Canberra sculptor Jan Brown once told me, “the only thing worse than a bad review is no review at all”. And theatres still rely on ‘the crits’ to bring in audiences. In the context of super-promotion of big stage musicals, reviews may be an afterthought, but for most plays, the reviews still influence the paying public.

With the emergence of blogs where anyone can have an opinion, the critic’s role art may be under siege, yet it is all the more important in a popular culture swamped with hyperbole to have reliable criticism and some bloggers stand out as trusted commentators.

If your bent is critical – and it is simply not true that anyone can be a critic – there are lots of places to start.

My story in theatre criticism began when I was a first-year student at the University of NSW, the first Australian university to run theatre studies courses. I was assigned by the Uni paper, Tharunka, as its theatre reviewer. My drama professor, an elderly Berliner, told me that I must go to “everything”, good, bad or indifferent, to develop my taste. And I did, while pursuing the academic study of Western and Asian theatre in plays and historical documents.

I firmly believe that critics, whether in theatre, music, art, dance, cinema, should have some expertise in the field. My counterpart, the theatre critic for Sydney University's Honi Soit paper was the formidable Germaine Greer, who took me under her wing and offered me tips on what to look out for.

Some of the handy hints I picked up were, not to retell the plot unless it is a completely new play, to get to the point quickly, (most performance reviews in print, world-wide, run between 250 and 350 words) to avoid listing all the characters, rather focusing on those relevant to your point and, in those days, never to say “I.”

That aversion to the first person has long ago disappeared from the critical lexicon, with the recognition that true objectivity is pretty well nonexistent. Readers now know how to listen to the critic’s voice and learn of his or her predilections. ‘Informed subjective criticism’ is what we now look for.

Many “God-critics”, especially in the larger ponds of New York and London, have made their names as entertaining purveyors of literary invective. But, in a small city like Canberra, that seems ridiculously self-indulgent and I like to think the tradition of the patronisingly pompous critic is passé. I once compared, unfavourably, a production of a Pirandello play to the Maserati parked outside the old Childers Street Theatre and have regretted my tiresome bit of ‘cleverness’ ever since.

A gift for words is essential for a reviewer, but it is my strong view that critical judgement and fearlessness are far more important in conveying to the public an idea of what a production was like. In this respect, theatre, film and book reviewers are different from other arts in that they advise the public on whether to pay money for an artistic experience. It is a position of considerable responsibility.

I judge fearlessness to be the most important attribute for a critic and am unimpressed by assertions that criticism needs to be kind. In theatre that is the (usually paid) job of a dramaturg, not a critic.

Our chief role is to speak to the public, not to the playwright, the novelist or the players and of that the English theatre critic Michael Billington once wrote that the shortest way to professional castration is for a critic is to get to bed with the person he/she is reviewing.

Performing arts criticism differs from some other areas (say books, painting, and sculpture) in having two components — the work and the interpretation. A critic will hardly base a review on a personal dislike of Hamlet but will comment on the actor playing the Prince of Denmark. Likewise, it is a waste of space to recount the story of the world’s most famous play, but the critic will reflect on the acting, the thematic angle of the director, the set, the costumes and the final impression.

A new play is an entirely different matter. Here a theatre critic can be on dangerous ground, for ordinarily he or she will not have read the play, which may change even up to the dress rehearsal. A review of a brand new play might include some recounting of the plot, the structure, and the most common weakness, the ending, Very frequently a play which has not enjoyed in-depth workshopping may have a number of false endings. The astute critic will spot this and possibly suggest the way to a resolution, also acting as a broker between the writer and the audience where an unfamiliar theatrical style is used.

Here is where the theatre critic needs to be fully aware of the theatre arts, for an unready play may be 'dressed up' by clever directors, actor, costumiers and designers to look better than it is.

Without doubt the days of the superior God-critic have gone and it is most unusual for a theatre reviewer to dislike the art form – on the contrary, most critics go into a performance hoping for the very best. And today’s playwrights, many of them theatre-workers themselves, commonly spend time in rehearsals working with directors and actors, so they know the ropes, just like the critics. But they can never see their own play with an impartial eye.

I can’t see theatre criticism dying out any time soon in an art form that is about give and take in real-time, where debate is often as important as the show itself.

But we can, all of us, rise above the assertion that “I don't know much about theatre, [or art or music or film] but I know what I like.”

Helen Musa December 19 2015













GO DOWN, MOSES - Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016

Romeo Castellucci's Go Down, Moses

Text by Claudia Castelluci and Romeo Castelluci. Music. Scott Gibbins.

Cast: Rascia Darwish, Gloria Dorliguzzo,Luca Nava, Stefano Questorio,Sergi Scarlatella.

Extras: Karen Beins, Kim Browne

Societas Raffaello Sanzio. Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016. The Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. February 25-28. 2016

There are many reasons to attend an Adelaide Festival of Arts. One is the opportunity to see acclaimed international works that will be performed nowhere else other than at the festival. Some are narrative dramas such as the brilliantly staged The James Plays trilogy, currently playing in the Festival Theatre, and able to be seen individually over a number of days or all on a single day. Others may be startlingly avant-garde or experimental, challenging the intellect, probing the psyche and transforming the perception of a modern world . Romeo Castellucci’s mind-blowing evocation of the Moses legend, Go Down Moses is such a production.
Castelluci’s art is layered with a multiplicity of meaning. With an ensemble of seven actors, he explores the very depths of the human psyche in a series of revelatory images that expose the frailty and desperation of the universal human condition. A wandering group of contemporary people, like ghosts within an ethereal universe of whiteness confront the power and weakness of the tribe, the oppressor and the oppressed, caught in a cycle of perpetual behavior. A woman bleeds profusely inside a locked toilet cubicle, bearing the eternal pain of her sex during childbirth. The stage, enveloped in fog, emits a deafening roar, subsiding to reveal a dumpster with  sounds of a screaming baby emitting from a plastic garbage bag. An inspector, attended by police and a nurse struggle to discover the motive for the distressed woman’s apparent murder of her child. The woman, drowned in delirium reveals the fate of Moses, abandoned to bring salvation to the human race, by leading them from oppression and into a promised land. An MRI draws the woman towards an ancient world of prehistoric people, huddled as a primeval tribe within the sheltering caves. It is here that Castelluci’s imagination explodes with resonating realism, a living diorama of humanity’s origin. A cavewoman, convulsed by grief, buries her dead child within the earth with a rock for a headstone. In a moment of palpable grief, motherhood is shared and the past screams out to the present in a huge SOS scrawled upon the scrim. The woman enters this primitive landscape and in a final gesture embraces the lovemaking position of the cavewoman, who has given birth to all womankind.
At the close of Go Down,Moses, I am  left with a prophetic foreboding for the salvation of humanity. Castelluci’s vision offers little hope. As he puts it in his programme note, “humanity is exiled from its being”. No Red Sea parts. We are not led from the Egypt of our torment towards God’s Promised Land. And yet, Go Down Moses is not anarchic, or atheistic. It is a revelation of the human psyche and the human spirit, a powerful impulse, baffling in purpose, contentious in belief and disturbing in its prophetic depiction of a dislocated existence,fused in space and time.
Go Down Moses presents a visual feast of symbols and metaphors.Some images, striking though they are, tnd to linger,and would have greater impact if edited. Make of them what you will, for in the imagery exists a powerful comment on existence that should not be ignored. Castelluci’s vision, played out by a brilliantly focused ensemble, demands interpretation. It does not matter if you understand Go Down Moses or not. It does matter that you understand what you understand of a performance, bursting with meaning, exploding with intensity and erupting with prophetic insight.

If you ever have the opportunity to experience the work of Societas Raffaello Sanzio, do whatever is necessary to get a ticket and make of it what you will.
P.S. I notice that a fellow reviewer has damned this production with no faint praise as boring, tedious and self-indulgent. Certainly there are drawn out moments which are pregnant with the meaning that one is prepared to define. Castelluci’s theatrical vision is undeniable and an audience’s commitment to interpretation is their privilege, as it is a reviewer’s, if he or she is prepared to take the journey. My fellow reviewer was obviously not. And that is his privilege.   

All My Love by Anne Brooksbank

All My Love by Anne Brooksbank.  Produced by Christine Harris and HIT Productions; directed by Denny Lawrence; Set Design and Lighting Design by Jacob Battista; Costume Design by Sophie Woodward; Sound Design by Chris Hubbard; Composer – Jack Ellis.

Henry Lawson – Dion Mills
Mary Gilmore – Kim Denman

At The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, February 24-27, 2016.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
February 26

When I landed in Australia in 1955, there were no Aussie Aussies, no “mates” of the modern spurious kind, no ockers, and they weren’t laid back, but were generally good blokes who were still occasionally known as cobbers.  Of course, I was a socialist, so in no time at all I discovered Henry Lawson.  But it wasn’t just the politics I found.  There, in ‘Reedy River’, this 14-year-old heard the song of the bush and life worth living:

Ten miles down Reedy River
    One Sunday afternoon,
I rode with Mary Campbell
     To that broad, bright lagoon;
We left our horses grazing
     Till shadows climbed the peak,
And strolled beneath the sheoaks
      On the banks of Rocky Creek.

I was done for: been a bushwalker ever since and could never get the image of Mary Campbell out of my mind.  But who was the real Mary Campbell?  I may have just found out.

Mary Jean Cameron was born in 1865 and probably met Henry Lawson when he was 23 and she 25.  Her father worked on bush properties around Wagga, Coolamon, Junee and West Wyalong.  She became an assistant teacher at Silverton, near Broken Hill, for the two years before she moved to Sydney to live with her mother – and met Harry Lawson, as she called him.

My fate took me to teach in Broken Hill for my first three years, often driving through those places on my way to and from Sydney.  There has to be a spiritual connection, surely?

Anne Brooksbank published her novel  All My Love, in 1991, about the relationship between  Dame Mary Gilmore, née Cameron, (1865-1962) and Henry Lawson (1867-1922).  In 1983 the ANU’s Australian Dictionary of Biography stated:

“Her relationship with Henry Lawson probably began in 1890: in 1923 she recalled that ‘It was a strange meeting that between young Lawson and me.  I had come down permanently to the city from Silverton’.  Her account of an unofficial engagement and Lawson’s wish to marry her at the time of his brief trip to Western Australia (May-September 1890) could be accurate regarding dates, but there is no corroborative evidence.  There was clearly, however, a close relationship betwen them in 1890-95, but it was broken by his frequent absences from Sydney.  Mary’s later comments on his career were always somewhat proprietorial but the extent of her influence on his literary talents and her contribution to his literary education remain unsubstantiated.”

Though he was two years younger, by 1890 Henry was already well known for published poems such as ‘Faces in the Street’, ‘Andy’s Gone with Cattle’ and ‘The Watch on the Kerb’, and it’s interesting to note that his Dictionary of Biography entry covering the 1890-95 period doesn’t mention Mary Gilmore – but does record the publication of ‘The Drover’s Wife’ in 1892 and the major short story collection While the Billy Boils in 1896, saying “It remains one of the great classics of Australian literature”.

In the writing of the playscript, as described in the synopsis for the production at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, the big question – how much is fiction, and how much fact? – is put to rest:

"At the urging of Henry Lawson’s mother Louisa (a famed early feminist), Henry becomes a guide to the young Mary Gilmore, who arrives in Sydney from the country. What follows is a story of a friendship destined for true love and preparation for a likely marriage. Sadly the partnership is thwarted by a deception.

Henry: And if it wasn’t for the letters...
Mary: Ah yes, the letters.
Henry: You’d have waited for me till I came back?
Mary: I wrote to you that I would.
Henry: And I replied that my lover’s heart leapt so I thought it’d never settle back.
Mary: Do you think your mother kept that letter or threw it away?
Henry: Do you wish you’d seen it?

The theft of their love letters by Henry’s mother is not revealed for years to come, by which time their lives have moved in separate directions. But the love remained and is the essence of their story. Their letters to each other form the heart of the play. These letters are on record and have not been altered (other than shortened) although much of the dialogue contained in the script between the characters is surmise."

This is the central shock in the play, as we realise – at the same moment that Henry and Mary realise  – that while Henry was in WA and Mary had taken a room in his mother’s house – and was doing much of the housekeeping work for the busy suffragette – Louisa must have been reading Mary’s letters before they should have been posted for Henry to pick up when he could get into Albany.  Then when letters from Henry arrived, Louisa kept those addressed to her and, presumably, destroyed those addressed to Mary – after reading them, of course.  The evidence was scant, but Henry’s younger sister, Gert, had seen a letter addressed to Mary, but it could not be found when they had searched the house.

The beauty of the play as directed, designed and acted is that it exemplifies the best in theatre – the simple approach.  There are three modes of presentation: each character speaking aloud their letters to the other; dialogue between them when they could be together (in Sydney, London and Bombay); and when Mary speaks directly to the audience as narrator looking back after Henry has died.  The setting has just a small desk and chair stage right, a settee and small table stage left, and upstage centre a rostrum backed by a screen on which significant black-and-white photos are projected to illustrate a location or event.  The stage is kept dim, with specific soft spotlights as needed.  So simple, but so effective – including off-stage gentle, but again significant, piano music.

After recently seeing such ‘modern’ style productions as STC’s The Golden Age and  Belvoir’s The Blind Giant is Dancing, however  ‘big’ and ‘theatrical’, it was so good to come down to earth in The Q to a deeply felt drama of the lives of these two people, done without fanfare.  The acting by Kim Denman and Dion Mills is superb.

Congratulations to the team at The Q and Christine Harris for bringing this play on tour.  We see our real history, not of Aussie Aussies, not ockers, not laid-backs, but of basically good people, cobbers in their own ways, whose lives came together and diverged.  As Anne Brooksbank’s husband Bob Ellis might say, “And so it goes.”

To conclude, and noting that it was probably unlikely that the Mary Campbell of ‘Reedy River’ was a reference to Mary Cameron, since I think the poem was written before Henry met the real Mary, I would like to suggest that Dame Mary Gilmore, awarded this accolade by King George VI in 1937, was perhaps a more understanding feminist than poor Henry Lawson’s ideologically driven but seemingly terribly jealous mother.  Here is Mary’s poem, which may or may not have been in response to the image of Mary Campbell of ‘Reedy River’.

Eve- Song
by Dame Mary Gilmore

I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the heart of man was a wandering thing
That came and went with little to bring:
Nothing he minded what we made,
As here he loitered, and there he stayed.

I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the more we span the more we found
It wasn't his heart but ours we bound.
For children gathered about our knees:
The thread was a chain that stole our ease.
And one of us learned in our children's eyes
That more than man was love and prize.
But deep in the heart of one of us lay
A root of loss and hidden dismay.

He said he was strong. He had no strength
But that which comes of breadth and length.
He said he was fond. But his fondness proved
The flame of an hour when he was moved.
He said he was true. His truth was but
A door that winds could open and shut.

And yet, and yet, as he came back,
Wandering in from the outward track,
We held our arms, and gave him our breast,
As a pillowing place for his head to rest.

I span and Eve span,
A thread to bind the heart of man!

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Llewellyn Hall 20 FEBRUARY 2016

Review by Len Power

It doesn’t seem 21 years since the CAT awards first commenced but there we were again all dressed up on Saturday night at Llewellyn Hall to celebrate this unique and popular theatrical event.  The Icon ACTEWAGL Canberra Area Theatre Awards honour a wide range of theatre practitioners, both on and off-stage.  School and Youth productions as well as Adult productions are considered for awards.  Many of the awards are sponsored by businesses, individuals and the NSW Government.

The CAT judges are very busy and committed people, travelling far and wide around New South Wales to places such as Albury, Orange, Wollongong and Griffith, as well as Canberra, to assess the quality of productions.  A weighted point system ensures that every production has an equal chance of scoring nominations.  There are almost 50 CAT award categories and many of the categories have several nominations.

This year’s show was tightly directed by Stephen Pike and it was consistently entertaining and moved at a good pace.  The award giving and speeches were well-balanced with performances from some of the region’s shows from 2015.  Well-known Australian actor, John Wood, and Canberra musical director and CAT judge, Ian MacLean, made a great team again as comperes of the evening and the award winners all made mercifully short but interesting speeches.

There were some great moments amongst the entertainment presented between the award announcements, showing the high standard of talent amongst the actors and singers in the region.

This year, Canberra area shows won a number of the major awards.  The ‘Best Production Of A Musical’ award was won by our Free Rain Theatre Company for their production of ‘Mary Poppins’.  Queanbeyan City Council won the ‘Best Production Of A Play’ award for ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’, which had played at the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan.  ‘Best Production Of A Variety Show’ was won by ‘A Taste For Tinseltown’ which was produced by Free Rain Theatre Company.

The ‘IN THE SPIRIT OF THE COMMUNITY AWARD’ went to Justin Watson of
Ickle Pickle, Canberra, for providing opportunities for young people to be involved in theatre.  The SILVER CAT AWARD FOR SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THEATRE OVER MANY YEARS was awarded to Lawrance and Robyn Ryan for the contribution they have made to the Cowra Musical and Dramatic Society over many years.  The much coveted GOLD CAT AWARD was presented to Amy and Peter Copeland for the contribution they made to theatre in Wollongong during 2015 in direction, choreography, puppet direction, set design, production management and technical direction.

CATS founder, Coralie Wood, showed once again that she IS the CAT Awards with her heartfelt speech at the party after the show to celebrate the CATS’ 21st year.   You can see the full list of winners for the CAT awards at the CATS website at

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on ‘Artcetera’ on Artsound FM 92.7 from 9am on Saturdays.