Monday, September 30, 2019


Emily Pogson (Nancy) - Willum Hollier-Smith (Oliver)
in Queanbeyan Players production of "Oliver"

Directed and co-musical directed by Jude Colquhoun - Co-musical direction by Jenna Hinton
Choreographed by Jodi Hammond - Costume design by Janetta McRae
Set design by Jude  Colquhoun - Lighting design by Jacob Aquilina
Presented by Queanbeyan Players
The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre until 6th October 2019.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

There is a particular pleasure derived from Queanbeyan Players productions in watching members of the community stepping out of their comfort zone to entertain. Few have any acting ambitions beyond delivering their lines accurately, singing in tune, and interpreting the direction to the best of their ability.

The Lionel Bart musical, “Oliver”, is a perfect choice for such a company. Based on the Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist”,   the show is set in Victorian England, and follows the adventures of an orphan from a workhouse, who in an effort to escape an apprenticeship to an undertaker, runs off to London, only to find himself taken in by a group of thieves and pickpockets.

Despite the darkness of the storyline, the show is packed full of tuneful songs, with plenty of meaty character roles providing opportunities for director Jude Colquhoun to indulge in judicious type-casting to highlight the various talents of her large cast.

Focusing her production towards school holiday entertainment, Colquhoun has deliberately downplayed the darker Dickensian aspects of the musical, and designed a flexible, uncluttered setting, which although providing little sense of time or place, when combined with Janetta McRae’s colourful costumes and Jodi Hammond’s resourceful large scale choreography, provided a series of attractive stage pictures and allowed the show to flow smoothly.

It would be hard to find a more ideal Oliver than Willum Hollier-Smith. Looking younger than his 11 years, with his cherubic face and silvery voice, Willum melted hearts and practically stopped the show with his lovely rendition of “Where is Love”. He also proved an intuitive actor, totally aware of, and participating in, the events which were taking place around him.

Emily Pogson is also beautifully cast as Nancy, bringing a convincing sincerity to her performance of “As Long As He Needs Me” as she attempts to justify her relationship with the abusive Bill Sikes, strongly played by Michael Jordan. Anthony Swadling offers a sympathetic portrayal of Fagin, underplaying the dark undertones of the role, and Joss Kent is an appropriately cheeky Artful Dodger. Chris Bennie and Tina Robinson as Mr Bumble and Widow Corney, and Sarah Powell and John Potter and Mr and Mrs Sowberry, are stand-outs among the many character roles and all receive strong, attentive support from the large ensemble.

Though taking a little while to settle on opening night, Jen Hinton’s large orchestra provided lush accompaniment throughout, with a particularly impressive violin solo by Bronwyn Potter accompanied Fagin’s “Reviewing the Situation”. Good sound and lighting design added enhancement to the production, with special mention for the attractively designed programs which provide an essential souvenir of a well-drilled, entertaining production.

                                            Photo: Holly Treadaway
 This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 28th September 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019


Canberra Sinfonia
Violin/Leader: Harry Ward
Sonnet Reader: Charles Hudson
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 28 September

Reviewed by Len Power
One of the most recognizable classical music works, ‘The Four Seasons’ by Antonio Vivaldi, was written around 1716–1717 and published in 1725.  The work consists of four violin concerti, each of which musically illustrates a season of the year.

At the time of writing, they were considered to be revolutionary – music with a narrative element or program music.  Vivaldi’s music evokes landscapes, elements of changing weather, birds and animals as well as human behaviour and responses.  Unusually, the concerti were published with accompanying sonnets that may have been written by the composer himself.  These poems describe the spirit of each season that his music was intended to invoke.

Canberra Sinfonia’s decision to include a recitation by Charles Hudson of the relevant sonnets before each section of music added another dimension to the musical experience.

Harry Ward

The Sinfonia was led by violinist, Harry Ward, who has performed as soloist, concertmaster and chamber musician throughout Australia and internationally.  He is currently training in Melbourne with Dr Robin Wilson at the Australian National Academy of Music.

Canberra Sinfonia

The performance of the work by the Canberra Sinfonia was dynamic and passionate from beginning to end.  Harry Ward’s solo passages were played with great feeling and accuracy.  There were so many highlights during the performance.  Amongst these, the second movement of ‘Spring’, evoking a sleeping goatherd and his dog, the dramatic third movement’s storm in ‘Summer’, Ariana Odermatt’s sensitive harpsichord playing in the ‘Autumn’ concerto and the atmospheric opening of ‘Winter’ and its rousing finale were especially memorable.

The major melodies in the concerti are well-known almost to the point of cliché.  We’ve heard them playing in shopping malls, in TV commercials and as underscoring in documentaries.  However, to hear the concerti played live in concert and to really listen to them in depth is an enlightening experience.  It was an opportunity not to be missed.

Photos by Peter Hislop

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019



Oliver. Book, songs and lyrics by Lionel Bart. Based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 

Director and co-director Jude Colquhoun Assistant director Christina Philipp. Co-Musical director Jenna Hinton. Repetiteur Trevor Hobbs.Choreographer Jodi Hammond. Queanbeyan Platers. The Q Theatre Queanbeyan. September 27 – October 6. or 62856290

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Willum Hollier-Smith as Oliver in Lionel Barts's OLIVER

Musicals have changed since Oliver was all the rage in school productions,  staged unmiked in draughty country and city school halls. Nostalgia and sweet sentiment swept over me as I watched Queanbeyan Players’ superb revival of Lionel Barts’s classic musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.

In the comfort of the Q Theatre and in a cleverly staged, miked version of Oliver, Barts’s musical explodes with life, vitality and talent in a joyous celebration of Dickens’s dark and desperate tale of Victorian England and Barts’s  catchy, contagious and evocative songs and lyrics. Older members of the audience may remember the tale of young Oliver (Willum Hollier-Smith), sent to the Workhouse, sold to an undertaker, only to escape and end up in the clutches of pickpocket master, Fagin (Anthony Swadling) and his tribe of pickpockets, under the tutelage of the Artful Dodger (Joss Kent). They will recall the ominous presence of the notoriously brutal and evil Bill Sikes (Michael Jordan) and the sad fate of his sweetheart Nancy (Emily Pogson), when she attempts to rescue Oliver from Fagin’s clutches.

A lesser production might be tempted to play this period piece for melodrama, inviting an audience to hiss the villain Sikes, sigh with the heroine Nancy and cheer the hero Mr Brownlow ( David Leigh). Director and co-musical director, Jude Colquhoun has avoided melodrama for authenticity. Janetta McRae and her team have paid careful attention to costuming the period and Jodi Hammond’s choreography captures the simple dance steps of the time, ideally suited to the company of players. The production exudes the spirit of Victorian England as well as its gloomy poverty, social misery  and class distinction. Dickens provides Oliver Twist with a happy ending, but we are constantly conscious of the pit of poverty and social disadvantage.  
Fagin's Gang of Pickpockets in OLIVER

Colquhoun’s musical direction with Jenna Hinton and a 15 strong orchestra swept me away with the majestic orchestration of the opening workshouse number Food Glorious Food. The young cast of children dance, sing and act with such gusto and veracity that Queanbeyan Platers’ production asserts such promise and professionalism from the very outset. As Workhouse Kids and Fagin’s Gang, the young performers set the bar high for principals and chorus alike. And to the man, woman and child they rise to the mark with a splendid performance of Barts’s evergreen classic.

Michael Jordan as Bill Sikes,Anthony Swadling as Fagin
Emily Pogson as Nancy and Joss Kent as Artful Dodger
in Queanbeyan Players’ production of Lionel Barts’s OLIVER
There is not a single number in this show that doesn’t have the feet tapping, the hands clapping, the laughter ringing or the tears streaming. Emily Pogson’s heart rending performance of As Long As He Needs Me sends goosebumps down the spine. The company’s Oom-Pah- Pah led by Nancy and Bet (Alyssa Anderson) is a rollicking pub song in The Three Cripples. The heart reaches out to Willum Hollier-Smith’s soulful rendition of Where is Love and it is difficult to hold onto a hard heart  as Anthony Swadling deliberates I Am Reviewing The Situation.

There is not a performance or a performer that does not impress with talent, dedication and enthusiastic commitment to every moment of this excellent production. It is not possible to mention all by name, but every scene, every song, every dramatic moment held the packed matinee house in the palm of its hand. Not even a short evacuation after a fire alarm could interrupt the production’s impact. Unfortunately, I could not say the same about the crinkling of potato crisp packets!

Most impressive of all is Queanbeyan Players’ ability to gather such an outstanding cast together and lift them to such a very high standard of performance, aided by imaginative direction, outstanding orchestration and musical direction. At the risk of singling out a particular performer, I do want to state how incredibly fortunate Queanbeyan Players’ is to discover young Hollier-Smith to play the role of Oliver. If he chooses, he holds the promise of a very bright future. As for this outstanding , joyous and absorbing production, all that is left to say is “Please Queanbeyan Players, can I have some more!”


Book, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart
Directed by Jude Colquhoun
A Queanbeyan Players Inc production
The Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 6 October

Reviewed by Len Power 27 September 2019

Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver!’ has been a phenomenal success internationally ever since it first opened on stage in London in 1960.  The popular film version in 1968 won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Based on the 19th century novel, ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens, the musical follows the story of an innocent child, Oliver, who was born in a work house for the poor in England and, after escaping to London, is taken in by the Jew, Fagin, and his gang of young thieves.  Oliver’s ultimate escape from this life of squalor involves murder and mayhem but all ends happily for the boy.

The strength of Queanbeyan Players’ production is in the fine singing and dancing by the large cast of the well-known songs, ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’, ‘Who Will Buy?’ and ‘You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two’.  The large orchestra, conducted by Jen Hinton, plays the score very well and sound balance between singers and orchestra is fine.

Costumes by Janetta McRae are nicely in period and the choreography by Jodi Hammond illustrates the intention of the songs very well and is scaled to the right level for her dancers’ abilities.  The enthusiasm in the performances by the large ensemble makes these songs very entertaining.

With atmospheric character names like Sowerberry, Widow Corney, Mr Bumble and Dr Grimwig, there is a great opportunity for detailed character work by the actors.  Many of the performers in this production delivered performances of little depth.  However, Tina Robinson as the Widow Corney and Chris Bennie as Mr Bumble, the Beadle, gave nicely drawn Dickensian characters with their performances.

Willum Hollier-Smith was a fine Oliver.  His singing of ‘Where Is Love?’ was excellent and his acting was confident and convincing throughout the show.  There was also generally good work by Anthony Swadling as Fagin, Emily Pogson as Nancy, Joss Kent as the Artful Dodger and Michael Jordan as Bill Sikes.

The set, designed by the director and consisting of moveable screens, was practical given the number of scene changes required, but lacked atmosphere.  There was no sense of the period in London at all.

‘Oliver!’ is always an entertaining show.  Audiences will have a good time with this, especially the big musical numbers.  With stronger characterizations and a more interesting set design, it could have been even better.

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

Friday, September 27, 2019


Spencer by Katy Warner. Directed by Sharon Davis.  Lab Kelpie. The Q, Queanbeyan. Oct. 19-21

Spencer is a sort of soapish four letter word laden domestic Aussie Rules brawl of a play out of which emerges a bit of comedy and some serious themes.

At first it’s chaos.  In fact it stays chaos.

Larger than life matriarch Marilyn (Jane Clifton) presides over three adult children. In the case of Ben (Lyall Brooks) there’s very little of the adult. He coaches junior football but does not seem to do much else other than sprawl about and be a loud mouth. His brother Scott (Jamieson Caldwell) has, on the other hand, a promising AFL career but seems to be troubled by the imminent arrival of Spencer, the infant son he did not know he had from a relationship he does not seem to remember too well.

Daughter Jules (Fiona Harris) arrives, jobless and restless, and unwillingly back in the family home. Then the long absent father of the family, Ian (Roger Oakley) turns up unexpectedly, having fallen out with his current love and family and needing, like Jules, somewhere to stay. Or somewhere to be. Meanwhile mother Marilyn prepares for the arrival of the unexpected grandchild Spencer with an orgy of gift buying, decorations and the making of sausage rolls.

This can all feel a bit off putting, particularly given what feels like the repetitive poverty of the characters’ language.  But out of this emerges some interesting character development, especially after the arrival of Oakley’s very laid back, vulnerable but manipulative dad. Jules reveals something of what it has been like for her as the only daughter in some nicely careful work from Harris.  Even Clifton’s Marilyn displays a well played moment of care for her.

The tensions surrounding Scott seem to swing to and fro and the ending is a bit of a deus ex machina but Caldwell makes us care somewhat about the young footballer’s dilemmas. Only Ben among the siblings remains a lost soul who knows he’s lost but can’t summon the energy for a course of action, like moving out and moving on.

It’s really a collection of minor tragedies, compounded by various kinds of inertia, in an Australian lounge room that increasingly mirrors inner turmoils.  Funny, well done and ultimately depressing.

Alanna Maclean