Tuesday, November 19, 2019


THE Canberra Critics Circle judging panel for its 2019 awards was as follows:

Frank McKone . Helen Musa . Rob Kennedy . Tony Magee . John Landt . Meredith Hinchliffe . Bill Stephens . Alanna Maclean . Joe Woodward . Kerry-Anne Cousins . Cris Kennedy . Samara Purnell . Simone Penkethman . Michelle Potter . Arne Sjostedt . Clinton White . Len Power . John Lombard . Phillip Mackenzie . Graham McDonald . Peter Wilkins . Ian McLean . Jane Freebury . Caren Florance 

The full list of 2019 CCC awards citations appears below: 

Ginger Gorman
For Troll Hunting: Inside the world of online hate and its human fallout, published by Hardie Grant Books. For her original, relevant and insightful contribution to the worldwide challenge of cyberhate. Well written and meticulously researched, this debut book takes us to some of the darkest places on the internet in an intense personal journey that explores the issues, motives and impacts around the phenomenon of trolling. 

Kathryn Hind
For Hitch, her breath-taking debut novel that is both tender and tense and wholly original, published by Penguin Random House.

Nigel Featherstone
For Bodies of Men, published by Hachette. The author shows a remarkable capacity to bring characters from the past to life in a compassionate love story that spans the continents from Sydney to Alexandria, while overturning conventional Australian ideas about masculinity.

Historical Fiction
Robert Macklin
For Castaway: The true survival story of Narcisse Pelletier, published by Hachette. The book interleaves the imagined personal story of Narcisse with the factual record of abuses perpetrated on the Aborigines to provide an engrossing, fresh perspective on the rich cultural life of Aboriginal Australia before colonisation and the devastation wreaked upon them.

Moya Pacey and Sandra Renew
For their influential work in exposing Canberra women’s poetry to view through their biannual online journal for women's poetry, Not Very Quiet.
Australian Dance Party
For the company’s production, From The Vault. Choreographed and directed by Alison Plevey in collaboration with dancers Olivia Fyfe, Stephen Gow, Eliza Sanders, Alana Stenning and Ryan Stone and with live music and sound by Alex Voorhoeve and Andy McMillan along with evocative lighting by Mark Dyson, costumes designed by Imogen Keen and dramaturgy by Karla Conway, From The Vault was an outstanding collaborative endeavour. Brilliantly conceived and executed, it was the dance highlight of the year.

Zara Bartley and Daniel Convery of Bravissimo Productions
For their initiative in attracting outstanding national and international dancers to Canberra for a gala production, World Stars of Ballet. The enterprise demonstrated courage and resourcefulness, along with a determination to put Canberra forward as a venue for world-class ballet productions.

Ryan Stone
For his committed performance in Australian Dance Party’s From the Vault. His outstanding dancing, with its freedom and fluidity within the set choreography, displayed a remarkable mastery of how the body moves through and in space, which is at the heart of all dancing. 

Nathan Rutup
For his high-energy choreography in the musical Heathers. Directed by Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg for Dramatic Productions, the dance numbers were so polished and in-tune with the material, it is difficult to imagine these songs done any other way. 

To The Street Theatre
For an imaginative and powerfully expressive interpretation and performance of Metamorphosis, adapted by Steven Berkoff from Franz Kafka’s novella and directed by Adam Broinowski.

To Mockingbird Theatre
For the ambitious and moving production directed by Chris Baldock of The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project Ten Years Later in what was an outstanding example of ensemble acting and the effective power of verbatim theatre.

To Jarrad West
For his expert and imaginative directing of 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose for Everyman Theatre in the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Hall.

To David Atfield
For the writing and direction of Exclusion, presented at The Street Theatre, a genial, sensitive, witty production about sexual politics, set in Canberra. 

To Omar Musa
For his powerful blending of global and domestic narratives in his timely tale, Since Ali Died. Especially noted is Musa's adept and self-deprecating delivery that is at once inclusive and confronting.
To Christopher Samuel Carroll
For consistently excellent and diverse performance work  in Howie the Rookie by Mark O’Rowe at Smith’s Alternative, for performing, writing and directing Icarus at The Street Theatre and for playing Malvolio in Lakespeare’s outdoor Twelfth Night.

To producers Lisa Shaunnessy & Andy Marriott and director Tony D’Aquino
For The Furies, bold genre filmmaking that has drawn strong reviews from its international festivals run, showcased the talent of the Canberra region and used local locations to create a unique new sub-genre, ‘ghost gum horror.’ 

Visual Arts
Julie Ryder
For her deeply researched, beautifully constructed and diverse body of work exploring the contribution of nineteenth-century female citizen scientists to contemporary knowledge of botany, The Hidden Sex at Craft ACT.

Visual Arts
Raquel Ormella
For I hope you get this, a colourful, provocative and contemporary approach to textiles that challenged current political and environmental issues to great effect, at the Drill Hall Gallery.

Visual Arts
Dianne Fogwell
For her major work in the exhibition Paper: cut, stain, fold, and press at Beaver Galleries. The artist’s poignant black and white linocuts, Lost birds, depicted threatened bird species and the accompanying artist’s book, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, was an eloquent and moving memorial to the tenth anniversary of the Canberra bushfires.

Visual Arts
Hiroe Swen
 For her exhibition Fifty Flights of Fancy at the Watson Arts Centre. The artist’s creative spirit is inspiring. Her ceramics works display imagery that is poetic in nature and visually beautiful. Personal in inspiration her work nevertheless reaches out to include us in the conversation. 

Visual Arts
Helen Aitken-Kuhnen and Mio Kuhnen
For their joint exhibition Transfer, at Bilk Gallery. These two artists demonstrated in a series of beautiful jewellery a thoughtful response to the natural world as well as a mastery of complex enamel techniques informed by their recent study tour in Japan. 

Visual Arts
Gilbert Riedelbauch
For his precisely calculated, colourful, folded and curved wall pieces in Form Follows Fold, at Craft ACT, demonstrating his skills as a metalsmith 

Visual Arts
Keiko Amenomori-Schmeisser
For her sophisticated and elegant exhibition Folding Indigo, at Craft ACT. The work showed her eloquent sense of design and her innate knowledge of the art of shibori.

Barbara Jane Gilby
For leading the classical ensemble Canberra Strings with authority and precision, selecting players whom she knows can work together to form a union of the finest musical artistry and for jointly delivering a superbly played, moving and thought-provoking performance of Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night and Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen.

Louise Page and Phillipa Candy.
For their impeccably curated and presented farewell concert, A Celebration, which featured a program in which the music was celebrated, making this a memorable showcase of their extraordinary professionalism and performance careers. 


Michael Dooley
For an outstanding body of new music compositions, encompassing musical styles, from classical through choral to jazz for an array of instrumental and vocal ensembles, enhanced by the release of new recordings and a broad performance schedule.

Christopher Latham
For his work over ten years researching composers and musicians of World War I and his four-year concert project, The Flowers of War, culminating in The Diggers Requiem, in which he commissioned works from six Australian composers, wrote a movement himself, and of which he conducted the world premiere performance at Amiens and the Australian premiere performance in Canberra.

Dan Walker
For quickly making a significant contribution to Canberra’s general choral music culture after moving to Canberra at the end of 2018, and especially for his masterful preparation of the enlarged Canberra Choral Society for their performance of Haydn’s Nelson Mass, and Mozart’s Requiem, creating perfect tonal balance, pitch accuracy, and expression across the circa 200 choristers.

Canberra’s Romanian music band, Super Rats
For their exciting, authentic and thoroughly-researched performances of muzică lăutarească, Romanian and Roma traditional music.

Musical Theatre
Pee Wee Productions
For its ambitious stadium production of the Ben Elton musical, We Will Rock You. Directed by Kelda McManus with musical direction by Andrea Clifford-Jones, this production displayed excellent production values and innovative staging. 

Musical Theatre
Pippin Carroll
For his performance in Everyman Theatre’s production of Assassins as both The Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald. With his fine singing voice, together with the depth of character displayed confidently in two very different and difficult roles, he gave an outstanding performance.

Musical Theatre
Charlotte Gearside.
For exceptional performances in three very different musicals,  Heathers, Beauty and the Beast and Legally Blonde, but most particularly for her leading role in Legally Blonde, which provided her the opportunity to display her wide acting range and exceptional vocal skills.


2019 Artist of the Year
Michael Dooley. Photo: Peter Hislop.

CANBERRA composer Michael Dooley has been named 2019 Canberra Citynews Artist of the Year, it was announced tonight (November 19) at the 29th ACT Arts Awards evening, held in the Canberra Museum & Gallery.
Composer and pianist Michael Dooley was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle judging panel as a composer and pianist whose astonishing year has involved jazz and classical performances, recordings and compositions. These included a work premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival, film scores, a song cycle, a gospel oratorio, works for the Canberra Wind Symphony and his first piano concerto, premiered by the National Capital Orchestra.
Christopher Samuel Carroll, winner of the Helen Tsongas Award
Earlier in the evening, the inaugural Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting was presented by ACT Arts Minister, Gordon Ramsay to Christopher Samuel Carroll, whose many performances in 2018-19 have included roles Icarus and Metamorphosis at The Street Theatre,  Howie the Rookie at Smith’s   and Malvolio in Lakespeare’s outdoor Twelfth Night.
The new award is an initiative of the Tsongas family to keep alive the memory of their daughter and sister, the well-known Canberra actor Helen Tsongas, (Brajkovic) who died in a motorcycle accident with her husband 8 years ago. 
The ACT Arts Awards evening, hosted by the Canberra Critics Circle at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, also featured the circle’s own awards, which went to visual artists Julie Ryder, Raquel Ormella, Dianne Fogwell, Hiroe Swen, Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Mio Kuhnen, Gilbert Riedelbauch and Keiko Amenomori-Schmeisser, writers Ginger Gorman, Kathryn Hind, Robert Macklin, Moya Pacey, Sandra Renew, Nigel Featherstone and Ginger Gorman, dance artists Zara Bartley, Daniel Convery, Nathan Rutup, Ryan Stone and the Australian Dance Party, theatre artists Jarrad West, David Atfield, Omar Musa, Christopher Samuel Carroll, The Street Theatre and Mockingbird Theatre, musical theatre artists Pippin Carroll, Pee Wee Productions and Charlotte Gearside, musicians Barbara Jane Gilby, Louise Page, Phillipa Candy, Michael Dooley, Christopher Latham, Dan Walker and Super Rats, led by Tim Meyen, film producers Lisa Shaunnessy and Andy Marriott and film director Tony D’Aquino.

Cosi by Louis Nowra

The Cast
Cosi by Louis Nowra
Cosi by Louis Nowra.  Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company at Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre, November 1 – December 14, 2019.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 16

Director – Sarah Goodes; Set Designer – Dale Ferguson; Costume Designer – Jonathon Oxlade; Lighting Designer – Niklas Pajanti; Composer & Sound Designer – Chris Williams; Fight Choreographer – Dr Lyndal Grant

Gabriel Fancourt – Zac/Nick                Esther Hannaford – Julie/Lucy
Glenn Hazeldine – Henry                      Bessie Holland – Cherry
Sean Keenan – Lewis                            Robert Menzies – Roy
Rahel Romahn – Doug                         Katherine Tonkin – Ruth
George Zhao – Justin
Photos by Jeff Busby

L-R: Rahel Romahn, Robert Menzies, Sean Keenan and George Zhao
as Doug, Roy, Lewis and Justin in Cosi by Louis Nowra

Rahel Romahn and Sean Keenan
as Doug and Lewis in Cosi by Louis Nowra
 The quality of Louis Nowra’s writing was entirely unconstrained in this wonderful production of Cosi.  Laughter brought us even unto tears as Lewis spoke directly to the audience at the end – in recognition of the achievement of success in the illusion of theatre, and of the reality as he told us of Julie’s death by overdose some years later.

Esther Hannaford as Julie in Cosi by Louis Nowra
 ‘Julie’ of course was just a character in a play; but we felt for her, and for ‘Lewis’, as if they were people we knew well; though we had known them only for the “two hours’ traffic” of the stage.  It was enlightening to be reminded that of all our Australian playwrights, Mark Doyle aka Louis Nowra is the closest to being our Shakespeare.  If The Golden Age is his The Tempest, Cosi is his A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Though ‘mental asylums’ of this kind are now a thing of the past, having flown over the cuckoo’s nest, it struck me as significant that the original production of Cosi – in 1992 – was already looking back 25 years to the days of Vietnam War ‘moratorium’ marches (which I had taken part in), described by the Australian National Museum as meaning ‘a halt to business as usual’.

The Miramax film of 1996 had the subtitle ‘Cosi: A Comedy That’s Not Quite All There’, but Doyle – despite becoming for all intents and purposes his ‘stage’ name Louis Nowra and naming his autobiographical character ‘Lewis’ – was clearly ‘all there’ as far as the seemingly insane politics of 1960s' Prime Ministers Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon were concerned.  As Shakespeare realised, setting his play in ‘another country’ in the past opens up the opportunity for universal meaning.

Presenting the play now, after another 30 years, also opened up for Melbourne Theatre Company opportunities for new thinking about acting, stage design, costuming and technicals.  Sarah Goodes and her team grasped them all with every hand.  Rahel Romahn’s Doug made me seriously wonder if the other bane of Shakespeare’s career – burning down the theatre – might really happen.  While the bane of Doug’s pyromaniac career, Bessie Holland as Cherry, nearly brought the house down.

Bessi Holland and Katherine Tonkin
as Cherry and Ruth
in Cosi by Louis Nowra

So if you can take up the opportunity, make the journey to Sydney Opera House.  December 14 is barely a month away, but I can promise you any trip, like my 300 kilometres from Canberra, is absolutely well worth it.

Robert Menzies, Esther Hannaford, Glenn Hazeldine, Katherine Tonkin and Sean Keenan
as Roy, Julie, Henry, Ruth and Lewis in Cosi by Louis Nowra
performing as characters in Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart


Musica Da Camera concert
Conducted by Rosemary Macphail
Harp Soloist: Rowan Phemister
Holy Covenant Anglican Church, Cook, 16 November

Reviewed by Len Power

There’s something special about a harp in a music concert.  It’s a beautiful looking instrument with the curves of its wooden frame and shining strings.  Even when it’s just one of many instruments being played, its unique sound always soars magically above an orchestra.  Hearing it as the solo instrument in a harp concerto is an opportunity not to be missed.

The Musica Da Camera concert, very well-conducted by Rosemary Macphail, featured two works for the harp with soloist, Rowan Phemister, as well as a Concerto Grosso composed by Piero Castrucci, a work by Jean Sibelius and two other works by Claude Debussy.  The set of known and lesser-known works resulted in a concert of great variety.

Rowan Phemister is a Canberra-based harpist and harp teacher.  He studied the harp with international harpist, Alice Giles, and graduated with a Bachelor of Music from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

The concert commenced with Handel’s well-known Harp Concerto No. 6 in B flat major.  Written as part of the oratorio, “Alexander’s Feast”, it’s a compact work in three distinctive movements.  It was very well-played by Rowan Phemister and the orchestra, especially the Larghetto second movement with its wistful melodies.

The harp concerto was followed by the Concerto Grosso Op 3 No 4 by Piero Castrucci who was one of the virtuoso violinists of his time and the leader of Handel’s opera orchestra for over 22 years.  It’s a work of great beauty with passages for solo violin and cello as well as two solo violins.  Orchestra members, John Dobson on violin, Helen Larmour on cello and Gillian Graham, also on violin, gave fine performances of these parts of the work and were well-supported by the rest of the orchestra.

The concert also included the delicately lovely “Girl With The Flaxen Hair” and the ragtime fun of “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” by Claude Debussy.  They were followed by the three movements of “Suite Champêtre” by Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius.  The three movements were eerily atmospheric and given a fine performance by the orchestra.

Rowan Phemister returned to the stage with the harp for the final work in the concert, “Danse Sacrée and Danse Profane” by Claude Debussy.  A very different work compared to the busy Handel piece played earlier in the concert, this slower, colourful and evocative work was skilfully played by Phemister with great feeling, bringing this fine concert to a satisfying close.

Photo by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 17 November 2019.

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