Thursday, March 31, 2016

MY LEONARD COHEN - Stewart D'Arrietta

The Famous Spiegeltent – 11 March 2016

Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Stewart D'Arrietta

Having been intrigued and entranced by a previous Stewart D’Arrietta show, “Tom Waits For No Man”, experienced late one night at an Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the possibility a second helping of D’Arrietta, this time exploring the songbook of Leonard Cohen, was an irresistible temptation.

It was hard to avoid the impression that The Famous Spiegeltent at 6.30 on a hot Canberra autumn day was not the natural habitat of this extraordinary singer/songwriter, or of his excellent band. They all looked as if they would be much more at home in some smoky environment in the wee small hours of the morning. But once the music started, it was obvious that this show was all about the songs, and therefore would have been just as arresting had it been performed in the middle of Hyde Park, or the local church hall.

Stewart D'Arrietta and band performing in The Famous Spiegeltent 

Hunched over a keyboard, centre stage, facing his audience, D’Arrietta presents a compelling persona. His voice is frayed and shredded, and he sings as if every note will be his last. But he hits all the right notes, with often idiosyncratic phrasing of Cohen’s lyrics to  expose exactly the nuance D’Arrietta wants you to relish and consider.

Between songs he provides a good-natured context. Sometimes with some facts about Cohen, or the story behind the writing of the song, or even just some apparently random thought which sets the mood. Never too much information, just the right amount. D’Arrietta knows how to connect with his audience, everyone is his friend.

The intensity of his delivery is fascinating, with his excellent band completely in tune with his interpretation, especially Michael Klooger with his sensitive accordion interpolations, and Sonny Amoreena with her unobtrusive backing vocals.

All of Leonard Cohen’s best known songs are included in the generous selection, including “Suzanne”, “Everybody Knows”, So Long Marianne”, “I’m your Man” and of course, “Chelsea Hotel”. There’s the rabble-rousing “First We Take Manhattan” and an intense version of “Hallelujah”. The introduction of an unusual instrument called a Keytar, a birthday gift from John Waters, and played by D’Arrietta, added additional texture to the performance.

“My Leonard Cohen” is touring widely and certainly worth your time especially if you enjoy the music of Leonard Cohen, but particularly for the opportunity to experience the remarkable Stewart D’Arrietta in live performance.

Stewart D'Arrietta and band performing "My Leonard Cohen" in the Famous Spiegeltent 

This review also appears in "Australian Arts Review"

Titjikala Project

Subject: Final Appeal for Unwanted Musical Instruments for Remote Indigenous Community !!From: Nick Shimmin
Reply-To: Nick Shimmin
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2016

An urgent plea from the People's Republic,

if you have any unwanted (even damaged) musical instruments,

especially saxophones, keyboards or anything else, please reply to this email letting me know where to collect them.  We especially encourage anyone connected with schools, who often have surplus or old instruments taking up space.

These will get a new lease of life with an important new long term project to support the community of Titjikala, about 100 km from Alice Springs. 

Patricia and Sid, below, are two leading community figures
who will help implement the project.
For more information about the Titjikala Project, see below the photos.
Gabriella Smart, one of Australia's most acclaimed concert pianists and festival organisers, has initiated the Titjikala Project, and she writes " The Titjikala Community project will address crucial concerns and key future aspirations of this remote Aboriginal community by implementing the principles of arts for health, with a special focus on music: Participatory learning, cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary music making and subsequent touring. The Project’s vision is to develop a culture of self-determination and dignity through artistic engagement and enrichment with the Titjikala community. It is a leading Central Australian community seeking to overcome social and cultural difficulties such as chronic ill health, poor education outcomes, and high unemployment. The Community endorses this Project, seeing in it opportunities for its young people to gain experience and confidence, and for the wider community to participate in cultural exchange.
Titjikala Community has recently been awarded 4 star tourism status by the NT government, a vital first building block in creating community sustainability through the benefits of tourism: Vocational training, employment, and support of local business (bush tours, the Art Centre and local store)
I envisage empowerment of the Titjikala Community, spanning a generation or more, through engagement with the arts that reflects the spiritual beliefs and aspirations of the community. This transformation is not limited to the education, creation, performance and touring of music. It will develop the infrastructure of the community to create employment opportunities through tourism and audience development. It will allow members of the community to engage with the outside world on their own terms, with the confidence that comes of education and practical advocacy; to have cultural engagement with others that places their own culture at the centre; and to put Titjikala on the map. The outside world will know the community through their rich culture, creativity, success and strength.

Copyright © 2016 People's Republic of Australasia, All rights reserved.
Thanks for supporting new music in Australia

Our mailing address is:
People's Republic of Australasia
A Home Address
Camperdown, Nsw 2050
Posted by Frank McKone

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Daughter

Review by Jane Freebury

A forest of tall timbers. Valleys strewn with mist. How readily a Henrik Ibsen classic has been transposed to the wilds of Tasmania, to lend it a Nordic gloom.

Inspired by Ibsen's The Wild Duck, and from local theatre director, actor, writer and now very talented new recruit to the film industry, Simon Stone, The Daughter is domestic melodrama at its uncompromising best. It shows, as other dramas have shown, how well a dark strain of European drama adapts to the Australian landscape.

Here we have Hedvig (Odessa Young), a teenager with the good fortune of having loving parents who want to be together. The family represents a microcosm of happiness within a community depressed at the closure of its timber mill. Hedvig has a boyfriend, but is especially close to her grandfather whose main occupation, significantly, is rescuing injured wildlife and giving them a second chance. Walter (Sam Neill) is the good patriarch compared to the bastard of a mill owner, Henry (Geoffrey Rush), who lives up the hill.

At first, family joy and harmony course warmly through this chilly drama. Miranda Otto and Ewen Leslie as Charlotte and Oliver, Hedvig's parents, contribute marvellous natural performances, that are only matched by Young herself. Everything revolves around Hedwig, nature's child in pink-tipped hair and ripped jeans.

Old Henry, a lugubrious and mannered Rush, is getting married again. The nuptials have lured his estranged son Christian (Paul Schneider) home from overseas, however he is unimpressed that his father's bride is a much younger woman, formerly the housekeeper. Christian's temper is made even worse when his own wife informs him via skype from the US that she is leaving him, and he quickly descends into a malevolent force. From this point on, his restraint drops away as he sets about wrecking things, starting with a revelation to Oliver, his childhood friend and mate from university days.

'You do not need to be scared of the truth'. Christian tries to justify his actions by cloaking them in matters of honesty and principle. And surely rattling an old skeleton in the closet shouldn't unseat such happiness. Unfortunately for everyone, the immensity of possible collateral damage is no restraint on Christian.

Were it not for the glory of vast exterior locations, the intensity of the enveloping catastrophe would have a dreadful inevitability. After scenes of weaving hand-held inside Henry's manor, it is great to be able to step outdoors to take in some chilly mountain air. Tension between characters contrasts with the timeless stillness outside, captured time and again in stately location shot. In the editing department, the flourishes of deliberately mismatched image to dialogue is so elegantly done.

And one of the many strengths of this accomplished film is the exquisite naturalism of the interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal exchanges are so entirely believable, Leslie is exceptional here, except for those with Rush's Henry, who seems to inhabit another film altogether.
The Daughter confirms the promise Odessa Young showed recently in Looking for Grace. The camera has simply to settle on her face to register how much is going on within. A few spare piano notes fill in the rest.

Ultimately, however, the sudden melodramatic turn in events veers away from some, in my view, interesting territory, and what Ibsen was talking about. Had Christian been seen as more the man of principle, however warped, than simply the villain he is here, something closer to the original issue of 'living a lie' would have got more of an airing. There was still some conversation here left to run.

3.5 Stars

Also published at and the Film Critics Circle of Australia

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Henry Lawson, Mary Gilmore, William Lane and "the little Utopias"

By Esteban Bedoya

The Canberra Critics’ Circle is pleased to publish a reflection by novelist and short story writer Esteban Bedoya, the Chargé d'Affaires of Paraguay in Canberra, on the recent upsurge of interest in the connections between Australian writers Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson and William Lane’s failed ‘Utopian’ experiment in Paraguay, the subject of works reviewed by Circle members at and 

Mr Bedoya's book of short stories, La fosa de los osos (2003), has been translated into French as La fosse aux Ours (2005) and the German as Der Bärengraben (2009). His novel Los malqueridos has also been translated into French. His book, The Apocalypse according to Benedict, received the 2010 PEN/Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature. His latest work, "La colección de oregas", was translated into French and Italian.
He is a member of the Paraguayan Society of Writers, the PEN Club del Paraguay, and the Society of Writers of Fribourg, Switzerland.

First shipload of Australian immigrants left Sydney on the Royal Tar in 1893

IN the last two months we have been to two outstanding performances dealing with the story of the Australian colonists who settled in Paraguay at the end of the nineteenth century. In November 2015 the Griffyn Ensemble staged the premiere of a themed recital, The Utopia Experiment, at the National Portrait Gallery. directed by Michael Sollis. In February of this year we saw All My Love, a play by Anne Brooksbank dramatising the close friendship between two icons of Australian literature, Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson. This relationship was never to be consummated because Gilmore set her mind and heart on pursuing her own personal Utopia by joining the band of Australians, led by William Lane, who two years earlier, in 1893, had travelled to Paraguay to establish two socialist colonies and begin a new life.
            Lane and his followers arrived in a far-away country that had recently endured the bloodiest conflict on South American soil: The War of the Triple Alliance, pitting Paraguay against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (1864-70). Paraguay had been considered the country with the most promising future in the region, boasting a passenger railway, ship building for international trade, the first iron foundry in the Southern Cone and an extensive telegraph network. To support this infrastructure, hundreds of European engineers, architects and technicians had been recruited, which contributed to the development of an education system and a program of urban modernization. Consequently, Paraguay was in the process of becoming the most modern and self-reliant country in South America.
            Tragically, Paraguay became the victim of a bloodbath of epic proportions. Why? Historical documentation suggests that the principal reasons were its legitimate claims to independence and its pretensions to develop its own model of social and economic development. Statements by top political and military leaders involved in the war against Paraguay confirm their genocidal intent: "How much time, how many men, how many lives and how many resources are needed to end the war, to turn the Paraguayan population into smoke and dust, to kill even the fetuses in the wombs of the women?"
"The war in Paraguay concluded for the simple reason that we killed all Paraguayans over the age of ten."
            It is a sad memory, but it provides the historical context for the arrival of the hardy Australians who reached Paraguay. William Lane and his comrades found a country in ruins where the surviving women and their children were incapable of raising a smile. But Paraguay needed to be repopulated so the Australians received a warm welcome. Lane, Cameron, Cadogan, Kennedy, Gilmore, Wood and the others were the founders of the colonies of New Australia and Cosme, which in due course bequeathed thousands of descendants —Australian and Paraguayan— as well as a rich cultural legacy that belongs to both of our nations.
            The expedition that set sail on The Royal Tar on 17 July 1893 from Sydney Harbour provides a solid basis for writing the history of Paraguay-Australian bilateral relations. In the words of the historian Marisa González Oleaga, "They have left us a heritage of dignity and pride. Nobody will ever again recreate the experience of New Australia, but people will always envisage the possibility of new worlds beyond the horizon." Many years have elapsed since that heroic enterprise, but Utopian ideals continue to inspire men and women throughout the world striving to reach the Light on the Hill.
            Today, humanity is facing grave humanitarian crises. Limited resources frustrate endeavours to ameliorate the fate of people in embattled regions. We may draw inspiration from the pilgrims who sailed in The Royal Tar, risking their lives in a quest of a "little Utopia" in a distant land. It is significant that two works about this extraordinary adventure should be staged in Australia at the same time. The message conveyed by Gilmore, Lane and Lawson continues to resonate in the works of talented contemporary Australian artists and writers who remember the idealism and courage of their forebears. And by some mysterious telepathy, the saga of these intrepid settlers has also inspired an Argentinian movie director, Cristian Pauls, to tell their story. In collaboration with Paraguayan partners, the movie is currently in production on the other side of the Pacific.
            This efflorescence of interest in the shared history of Australia and Paraguay is not mere coincidence. It is an urgent reminder that we should both work together to keep alive our historical memory. Our artists, poets and writers are telling us that it is our joint responsibility.