Saturday, August 29, 2020

Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

 Photography: Brian Rope

Thirteen Artists: Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

Gallery of Small Things: Until 6 September 2020

Also online at


The Gallery of Small Things (GOST) is the tiniest gallery in Canberra. Visitors usually see a variety of artworks in a space less than 6 metres square which, in the 1960s, was an outside laundry!

GOST conducts an annual group show showcasing a different visual arts sector. This year it is photography and the exhibition has been worked up in collaboration with Photo Access which invited proposals responding to the theme of 20/20 vision with artworks 20 x 20 cm in size, in the year 2020. Applications were assessed by a panel, comprised of GOST and PhotoAccess staff.

In total, the thirteen selected artists created 50 small works, which makes for a rather crowded gallery - despite a few not being displayed in it. Gallery owner and operator, Anne Masters, had a challenging choice to make when curating this show.

Rowena Yates has four images framed in deep set black boxes. There is much to see in each of these works if we spend adequate time looking into them. Yates says “This series explores the political and environmental consequences of climate change for farming families of the Ungarie district ... and seeks to complicate stereotyping of primary producers as stoic ‘battlers’, particularly as these play out in popular constructions of national identity ...’.

Brian MacAlister has created five works titled ‘not known to self’. In each work there are fascinating juxtapositions. He has used a combination of digital photography and photographic collage to give these works a contemporary edge. 

Not known to self #2, inkjet prints, combination of digital photography
and photographic collage © Brian MacAlister

Yvette Perine has created I-Type Polaroids documenting bushfire smoke, affected land, and regrowth. Appropriately, they are displayed close to Ian Skinner’s images of the bushfire aftermath at Cadgee. I was pleased to see a print of an image that was a finalist for Skinner in the recent Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize – albeit a small cropped version.

Tessa Ivison has created lovely digital images on glass in a series titled “Liminal landscapes”, reflecting her view that 2020 has been a liminal year of despair and hope.

 Liminal Landscapes – Sonder, digital image on glass © Tessa Iveson

Jason McDonald’s contribution is three exquisite works in solid oak box frames. The subject matter first seen is wildflowers, but closer inspection reveals small creatures, such as geckos, lizards, frogs, and hoverflies, among the flowers.


Bluebells, Golden Weather Grass, Lizards & Grass Hoppers,

photograph on cotton rag paper, solid oak box frame with Ultra Vue glass

© Jason McDonald 2020

Sammy Hawker contributes some wonderful art with a set of Multigrade FB prints, made from 120 film developed with XTol and ocean water collected on site at Broulee. They each show great textures and details. I loved “Broulee detail 1”.

Thomas Edmondson is showing works created using medium format colour negative film. They show us varied observed urban subjects within 100km of his home.

Emily Bull pays homage to the acclaimed American photographer Vivian Maier’s self-portraits, with two inkjet prints reflecting a search for inner clarity.

 Reflection (after Vivian Maier), 2020, Inkjet on cotton rag, framed © Emily Bull

David Lindesay’s Polaroid titled “Corrupted Touch” very much conveys a sense of touch despite his having altered and deformed his image by applying heat to the film.

Corrupted Touch, 2020, Polaroids, © David Lindsey

Sari Sutton has a series of framed digital inkjet prints. One of them “Orbital (brain)storm” is a great representation of what my brain must be like during times when my thoughts are all over the place.


Blankistan, framed digital Inkjet print on fine art cotton rag paper © Sari Sutton

Damien Laing contributes five digital prints of flying foxes. They are amusingly displayed directly above Sinead Alison’s five images documenting cats through windows. She is ‘inspired by Lee Friedlander’s ‘Mannequin’ and Herbert List’s ‘Monograph’. This body of work has allowed her to explore the light and play with reflection in all conditions ... to capture a unique composition of these subjects in a surrealist yet documentary manner.

The cat pondered if it was inside or outside, May 2020, 35mm film negative hand developed and hand printed on Pearl Lustre Photo paper, crafted wooden glass frame  © Sinead Allison

This review was also published on 29 August 2020 by the Canberra Times (initially under Ron Cerabona’s name, but later corrected to my name): and on my personal blog:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

New Australian works premiered alongside revival of neglected ones

“Australian  Song”

Sarahlouise Owens soprano

Natalia Tkachenko piano

Wesley Music Centre, August 23. 

Reviewed by Tony Magee

IN COMPILING this fascinating and diverse program of Australian song, soprano Sarahlouise Owens and pianist Phillipa Candy spent months researching through archives, discovering two forgotten female composers whose musical output included pieces of substance and quality that somehow slipped through the net.

Owens paid tribute to Candy’s enormous contribution to this recital.  Alas due to ill health, she was unable to accompany on the day and the amazing and extremely talented Natalia Tkachenko took her place, with six days notice, providing piano accompaniments of sensitivity and beauty throughout the performance.

Soprano Sarahlouise Owens. Photo: Peter Hislop

The highlight of the concert was the premiere of the song cycle “Truth and Beauty” by Canberra composer Michael Dooley, using three poems by John Keats as his texts and later in the program, finishing with Keat’s most famous “Ode to a Nightingale”, the opening text reading thus:

My heart aches

And a drowsy numbness pains my sense

As though of Hemlock I had drunk

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

Hearing it again brought back chuckling memories of my first encounter with that poem, in 1972, where The Pythons had some fun translating it into a more basic format:

Ode to A Nightwatchman

My heart goes ping!

And a lousy numbness pains my sense

As though of Guinness I had drunk

Or thrown up all over your carpet

MICHAEL DOOLEY stands tall as a gifted modern composer, having established a composing style that is clearly unique and which he can call his own.

He has a special gift for melody, supported by beautiful, flowing, almost cloud-like cushioning support from the piano.

Owens sang the Dooley cycle with lyrical phrasing, beautiful pitch, diction and dynamics which captivated the socially distanced capacity audience of just 34 - such are the times in which we live.

I have it on good authority, that this program will be repeated as a dual session before the year is out. 

“Two Hebrew Songs” by Linda Phillips (1899 - 2002) and selections from “Collected Songs Vol. 1” by Phyllis Batchelor (1915 - 1999) followed, both female Australian composers who have been unjustifiably ignored. Phillips’ “Ash Trees” and “The Golden Bird” showcased her bold and dynamic composing style, repertoire that was once sung by Joan Sutherland in her youth and then largely forgotten, until this rectal brought them back to life.

Batchelor’s “The Wind” demanded extreme vocal power and emotion from Owens who delivered the goods with aplomb and assurance, aided by Tkachenko’s equally demanding and powerful accompaniments.

Carl Vine’s “Love Me Sweet” presented a gentle and romantic contrast, using the musical technique known as “tierce de picardi”, where the key centre changes from minor to major at cadence points.

Selections from Horace Keats’ “Brennan Songs” was the only disappointment for me during this recital. His composing style is unoriginal, predictable and repetitive. The performers did the best they could with it, but I think the program would have been better off with this section omitted.

It was certainly very refreshing to hear new Australian works premiered alongside revivals of neglected ones, all presented by these two talented artists with panache and style, in yet another of the first, tiny steps we take back into the world of live performance.

First published in a slightly edited format in Canberra City News Digital Edition, August 24, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Room Made of Leaves



 A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville.  Jacket image by Lisla/Shutterstock.  Text Publishing, Melbourne, July 2020.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Each of the three novels, Hamnet, Truganini and A Room Made of Leaves, respectively by Maggie O'Farrell, Cassandra Pybus and Kate Grenville, focusses our attention on a woman – significant in history but unknown to us as a real person.

In each case her “disappearance” is because of a man in her life who shines in the limelight of history.  Agnes, or Anne, was the wife of William Shakespeare; Truganini was the guide assisting George Augustus Robinson; Elizabeth was the wife of John Macarthur.  We appreciate Shakespeare for his playwriting; Robinson for trying to save Tasmania’s original people, according to his own lights; and Macarthur for establishing Australia’s wool industry.

Each of the three women authors starts from the premise that these men lived in highly personal relationships with these women.  Without coming to know those lives as lived by the women, are we seeing only one side of the history we are taught and have come to accept as sufficient?  Might not the women’s stories, experienced by us imaginatively from within, reveal another view of history?

The answer by each author in her own way, is Yes – indeed!

Myths grow on men in history like lichen on ancient rocks; women of all ages have to live in a different moving reality.  These works are novels, drawing on the authors’ knowledge as women; and their historical research – though remarkably extensive in each case – has to be presented as if it is fiction, since their characters’ actual personal records have disappeared.

It is in the creation of the characters of Agnes, Truganini and Elizabeth that we come to understand them as people first.  Then, in their roles as wife or guide, we see through the men’s auras, scraping away the patina, to see a new kind of truth.

I reviewed Truganini first (8 May 2020), fascinated by this First Nations woman of such self-determination, strength of character and cross-cultural diplomatic sensibility.  I knew of Hamnet only as William Shakespeare’s son, who died aged 11.  I had no preconception of his mother who made her life her own, including in her mid-twenties marrying an 18-year-old Latin tutor.  Nor how she and her often away from home husband came to terms with Hamnet’s death. (Reviewed here 19 June 2020)

And now, just published in July,  as if by magic, I’m led to believe that Elizabeth née Veale had been born and brought up in Devonshire, not far from my own favourite haunts as a child, though pigs happened to be more in my purview than sheep.  And so I was under way, with a touch of Jane Austen, into the life of this young woman needing to marry into some kind of regular income.

And what a woman, who, with all her wits about her when she has reached about three score years and twenty, living in Australia, just like me now, writes up her life and leaves her story hidden in Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta.  I don’t have her wits, but I’m sure that Kate Grenville does.  The “transcriber and editor”, as Grenville describes herself, writes of Elizabeth Macarthur: “In these private papers, written near the end of her life, she steps out from behind the bland documents that were her public face.  They’re a series of hot outpourings, pellets of memory lit by passionate feeling.  With sometimes shocking frankness, they invite us to see right through into her heart.”

Some readers may find it hard to accept Grenville’s subterfuge.  But, in effect, this apparently advertorial “quote” lays out her intention in this novel.  I believe she achieves her aim most powerfully.  Not only do we experience what surely must have been the reality of Elizabeth Macarthur’s life from a child taught so much by her sheep-farming grandfather to a woman without whom the development of the Australian Merino wool industry would never have happened, but we come to understand, as her character grows, the awful contrast between the emotional ineptness of a man like John Macarthur and the emotional maturity and subtlety needed to be learnt by a woman in the position of such a man’s wife.

It is in this understanding that Grenville’s work matches the creation of the characters of Agnes by O’Farrell and of Truganini by Pybus.  William Shakespeare and George Augustus Robinson are quite different men from John Macarthur and each other, of course.  Each of the three authors cleverly reveal the nature of those particular men, through each woman’s eyes, but each of the women have the same basic issue to deal with.

As, surely, all women do.  Agnes, Truganini and Elizabeth are wonderful models of real people in history – women from whom men can learn, as I hope I have myself.  Each of them are different, too.  From Agnes I think of her originality of approach; from Truganini her vivacity in youth and dignity in old age; from Elizabeth her growing self-awareness.

From all three it is the importance of women’s self-determination that stands out.  Disappearing from history should be no woman’s fate.  

In this sense, all three books are political – A Room Made of Leaves perhaps more overtly, in Grenville’s characterisation of Elizabeth Macarthur who seems to have been so much more deliberately written out of the record, in favour of the scoundrel, John Macarthur.  Many surprises await you in this novel approach to what really happened in the penal colony, according to this "truly incredible and strangely little-known story: How Elizabeth Macarthur's long-lost secret memoirs were discovered."

Frank McKone's reviews are collected at




Saturday, August 15, 2020

Split, Abberation and Ghost Light


Photomedia Review: Brian Rope

Three Artists: Split, Abberation and Ghost Light

Photo Access: Until 29 August 2020

Also online at

Staying at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, Chris Bowes turned his attention to live streams from CCTV cameras. Using footage sourced from a surveillance device in New York’s Times Square, he created Split, an imagined narrative.

It is a virtual certainty that those of us who have visited Times Square in New York City have seen the Naked Cowboy, one of many colourful characters who frequent the area daily entertaining the cheering crowds. I saw him in 2013. Bowes shows him walking the empty streets at the same time each day, always the same moves. He is stuck in a loop, playing guitar for pigeons, seemingly oblivious to the changed world - with no crowds of tourists smiling, laughing, capturing photos. He stills wears little – white cowboy hat and boots, and white briefs with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity. And now a white face mask! The street is strangely empty beneath the billboards, in its own lockdown but revealing all the lines of road markings. Is the cowboy performing for us?

The Cowboy, 2020, Still from Split video installation - © Chris Bowes

Jacinta Giles’ work, Abberation, also emerged during lockdown’s departure from normal. It came about partly as a result of consuming large amounts of media broadcasts about the coronavirus, despite her previously being an avid non-watcher.

Giles’ process explores how we store and recollect memories. She recorded many broadcasts then applied “memory-based processes” to create images and, for the moving image part, montaged many of them together. A photo of blue tape marking a spot for social distancing in a supermarket is used throughout as a means of holding the montage.

Aberration 1, 2020, Still from video installation, © Jacinta Giles

She also shows us four large stand-alone images, printed on an adhesive polyester fabric which can be removed and reused multiple times without any alteration or damage to the surface.

Left to Right: Concealed, Evidence, Spectre, Teetering, 2020,

photographic archival pigment prints, each 84.1 cm x 118.9 cm – © Jacinta Giles

Our third exhibitor is Victoria Wareham. She contributes Ghost Light, a two-channel video installation. Wareham and Giles have worked alongside each other for the past three years. In a recorded conversation between them on the Photo Access website, we hear them agree there are synergies in the way they approach the screen-based image as a trace.

Ghost Light is a two-channel, screen-based work that uses digitally altered 16mm film footage to highlight the relationship between touch and the screen-based image. Much of the time, we flick through screen images by swiping and scrolling, only lingering over a few. This work attempts to draw us in and communicate with us as images move across our screens.

Wareham’s own audio introduction to her work on the website is well worth listening to. She notes that, over the past few months, most of us have been living through our screens. She suggests there is a screen space just slightly out of time from our world. She is aware of that as an invisible zone between our world and the image world, seeing the screen-based image as a type of ghost. She seeks to bring the ghosts to the surface and encourage them to reach out and touch back. She digitally applied a blue overlay to elevate and draw attention to the screen itself, to highlight its presence as an invisible barrier and a forgotten horizon between the viewer and the screen-based image.

Ghost Light, 2019, Still from two-channel video installation - © Victoria Wareham

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times: and on my personal blog:

Where I Stand


Photography Review: Brian Rope

Six Artists: Where I Stand

Exhibition Avenue, ANU: Until 31 October 2020

Exhibition Avenue is an exciting new initiative of Kambri at ANU, intended to provide an ever-changing ‘walk of art’ featuring indigenous artists, streets artists and emerging artists.

This initial, visually stunning exhibition, Where I Stand, is a selection from six iconic Australian photographers – Michael Cook, Dr. Judith Nangala Crispin, Sarah Ducker, Murray Fredericks, Aunty Barbara McGrady, and Michael Jalaru Torres. The images can be viewed at any time as they are lit throughout the night.

Each artist (most of them indigenous) shows four huge prints on the sides of steel cubes, each strengthened internally with water tanks. Twenty-four visual tales, each captured simply but powerfully, in single frames, connecting us to people, place and culture.

Cook is an award-winning photographer driven by a desire to explore issues of identity; his own life affected by adoption. He brings together the historical with the imaginary, and the political with the personal - referencing the Stolen Generation and his own adoption. We are shown images of an Aboriginal mother always alone, her baby absent, to interpret for ourselves. I appreciated the images for themselves, but also for the challenge of the messages in them.

Crispin is a local, Wamboin-based, visual artist. Her work includes themes of displacement and identity loss, a reflection on her own lost Aboriginal ancestry, but is primarily centred on the connection with Country. Here she has created beautiful portraits from images of roadkill. Her process involves exposing dark room paper to light, using chemicals to create detail, and glass painting – with layers of various materials to etch on any final details. They are exceptional artworks.

© Judith Nangala Crispin

Ducker’s creative life has moved through various media, before finding its current fluent and persuasive expression in photography. Every one of her images reveals the lyricism of the poetic in nature. Her first photographic exhibition captured small moments of life on the ground and natural world things of short-lived beauty, a theme that has become the core motif of her work. Here, she finds the tiny pulses of new life in growth from previously dormant buds on trees devastated by fire. I particularly enjoyed viewing these burnt landscapes against a background of living trees on the campus.


© Sarah Ducker

Traveling in the Middle East and the Himalayas provided the basis for Fredericks’ essentially self-taught photography. He views culture as something that cannot be wholly accounted for through social construct; his images attempt to represent the experience when we temporarily allow our minds to suspend our thoughts and face other things. His images here can only be described as spectacular. An image of fire and salt is one of the standouts in this exhibition.


© Murray Fredericks

McGrady is a passionate advocate for telling the true stories of contemporary Aboriginal life, documenting her mob’s achievements, humanity, and beauty through a unique black lens. She has previously documented the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportspeople with great care and perseverance. Her exceptional imagery clearly defines the implications of the disconnect in her dual roles as observer and protagonist. Here she shows us Aboriginal dancers and smoking ceremonies in urban settings.


© Barbara McGrady

Torres is an indigenous fine art photographer who draws on his personal history and explores contemporary social and political issues facing indigenous people. Much of his work involves conceptual portraiture and abstract landscapes. He wants to encourage us to seek out more truth in our own ways, whilst encouraging us to feel connected to country. Here he gives us closeups of heads, embraces and a seaside baptism. The richness of the colours in these images is striking, almost mesmerising.

© Michael Jalaru Torres

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times: and on my personal blog:

Thursday, August 13, 2020

KRISTIAN FREDRIKSON Designer by Michelle Potter


Book Review by Bill Stephens

By the time he died on 10th November, 2005, New Zealand born, Australian stage designer, Kristian Fredrickson, had become one of Australia’s most experienced and sought after designers. His design skills ranged over drama, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, musical theatre, film and television, and his work was much admired for its sumptuous, jewel-like quality, and its sensuous level of detail.

Notoriously private but prodigiously productive, Fredrikson was working on three separate major productions at the time of his death. “I was willing to die for my work” Fredrikson once said, and he did. He never got to see his fifth and final iteration of “Swan Lake” which he was designing for Houston Ballet at the time of his death.

Having been inspired by a long interview she recorded with Fredrikson in 1993, for the Esso Performing Arts and Oral History Program at the National Library of Australia, dance critic, writer, curator and historian, Michelle Potter, spent a further nine years researching Fredrikson’s life and work,   travelling widely to interview friends and associates and spending hours trawling through reviews and newspaper articles. The result is a compelling, meticulously researched, and very readable, account of Fredrikson’s career, and a fascinating insight into the inspiration and process which drove this extraordinarily creative individual.

Examining his life, from his birth in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1940, where he was born Frederick John Sams, Potter, with surgical precision, traces the genealogy  of his family, to debunk the popular myth that Fredrikson was descended from a Danish seaman. She reveals how, over time, Fred Sams morphed into Kristian Fredrikson, and how, after commencing his career as a journalist, and  theatre and music critic, Fredrikson soon began channelling his talents into becoming a pre-eminent designer.

With authority and insight, Potter explores the influence of his mentors and collaborators, the first being New Zealand Director, Harry Baker. Baker offered Fredrikson his first design commission, at age 22; to design around 100 costumes for a production of “A Night in Venice” for a Wellington based amateur company which brought him into contact with the young, Allan Lees, who would also become a significant designer.  

Although Baker provided Fredrikson with a series of challenging commissions which allowed him to develop his already impressive design talent, they were not enough to sustain Fredrikson, who  quickly recognised that he would need to move to Australia if he were to satisfy his ambition of  become a full-time designer.

In Australia he flourished,  securing  work with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, where his talent was quickly recognised by Dame Peggy van Praag, at that time, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, who offered him his first significant Australian commission, the opportunity to design a production of Aurora’s Wedding for the Australian Ballet.

Other important collaborations followed. Potter charts each in fascinating detail, particularly those with George Ogilvie and the Melbourne Theatre Company, for which Fredrikson designed forty works between 1965 and 1977, and with Graeme Murphy and the fledgling Sydney Dance Company. Throughout, she allows Fredrikson to speak for himself, including numerous quotations from her own interview with him, as well as his interviews with others, and from his own previously unpublished writings.

                     Kristian Fredrikson design for "Tivoli" choreographed by Graeme Murphy

                                                                    Photo: Jeff Busby

Lavishly illustrated, the book is awash with gorgeous images. Designs, some complete with swatches and Fredrickson’s scrawled instructions still visible, and stunning production images, all fastidiously chosen and carefully notated by Potter, drawn from the archives of the National Library of Australia, the Performing Arts collection of the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australian Ballet, The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Houston Ballet, Opera Australia, The Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies, and the Sydney Dance Company among them. It’s a pity though, that some of these are spread across two pages resulting in some tantalising loss of detail.

Although he is best known for his theatre work, Fredrikson also designed extensively for film, and Potter devotes a whole chapter to his work in this area. Fredrikson was obsessed with the ballet “Swan Lake” which he described in a letter as “not only one of the greatest ballets but also a designer’s pinnacle”. Potter devotes the final chapter to exploring this obsession, and analysing each of the five productions he designed.

Substantial, carefully numbered research notes support the writing, and a complete list of every production on which Fredrikson worked, as well as an index, complete this handsome, definitive publication which is destined to become an essential inclusion in the library of anyone interested in Australian theatre history, and particularly, Australian theatre design.

KRISTIAN FREDRIKSON Designer by Michelle Potter. Foreword by Maina Gielgud AO. Published by Melbourne Books. ( RRP: AUD $59.95.   

                       This review first published in CITY NEWS on 12th August 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020



Bojana Kos  , Dene Kermond, Duncan Driver and Christopher Stollery in Rockspeare Richard lll  Photo by PassOut Media

Rockspeare  Richard lll, by William Shakespeare. 

From Live in Ya Lounge. Directed by Lexi Sekuless. Music composed and directed by Jay Cameron. Costumes by Fiona Victoria Hopkins.Lakespeare and Co. in association with Event Audio Visual Services and RAMADA Canberra. Where You Are Festival.  Streamed Live from the Mallee Pavilion EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra ) Until August 8. Bookings

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

As the saying goes, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. It is advice that Shakespeare would have agreed with in his history play about Richard lll. Readers of Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time and avid followers of findings resulting from the alleged discovery of the two princes’ bones and Richard’s skeleton under concrete in a Lancaster car park might question the authenticity of Shakespeare’s political thriller. But then Richard was a Plantagenet and Queen Elizabeth was descended from Henry Vll, a Lancastrian, and we know where Shakespeare’s loyalty lay. Lakespeare’s electrifying live streamed production of Richard lll from Live in Ya Lounge at EPIC  brings a chilling and thrilling stream-lined Rockspeare version production of Shakespeare’s Machiavellian inspired royal villain.

From the opening jig it is evident that Lakespeare’s Richard lll promises a pulsating version of the play, highlighted by Jay Cameron’s brilliantly inspired composition and costumed once again in Fiona Hopkins’s highly imaginative and creative costumes. Who would have thought to costumes Christopher Stollery's murderous Tyrell in a kilt, tweed jacket and a high hat? It is the kind of imaginative, experiemntal interpretation that characterizes the entire production. Bathed in rock concert lighting and choreographed with forceful imagination, the dance is fired with the spirit of the time. Wars and conflicts, intrigues and betrayal, murder and ruthless ambition lay open the drama in this engrossing online production. I confess that I longed to be in the Mallee Pavilion at EPIC, witnessing live this explosion of energy and feeling Cameron’s music course through my body. But this is the time of Covid, and as well as introducing the company to the viewer, it also effectively evokes the character of the drama and the Time.

Adele Querol as Buckingham
Director Lexi Sekuless has pared back Shakespeare’s drama, eliminating certain characters, such as the viperous Queen Margaret, distributing characters between the eight actors and gender switching, casting women as Buckingham (Adele Querol), Catesby (Bojana Kos) and Hastings (Heidi Silberman). We view gender through the prism of human behaviour and universal human truths. Action is at the core of Sekuless’s production, carefully selecting the scenes that drive the drama forward just as the music of a rock concert may thrust the energy of a concert towards its climactic moment. 
Lexi Sekuless as Anne. Dene Kermond as Richard lll.
What evolves is a series of highlights that will punctuate the story and illustrate Richard’s intuitive and guileful plots to seize the crown. Sekuless and her cast lead us deliberately and with purposeful clarity through the passage of Richard’s villainous intent. The wooing scene between Richard (Deane Kermond) and Anne (Lexi Sekuless), whose husband, slain by Richard, lies in state beside them, continues to leave one amazed by Richard’s power of persuasion or is it Anne’s only hope of survival to marry her loathed suitor. Duncan Driver  gives an effective performance as Richard’s naïve and trusting brother,  the Duke of Clarence. Richard’s devious amorality is skilfully played   in the scene between  Kermond’s Richard and  his sister in law Queen Elizabeth ( a sensitive performance by Lainie Hart) after the death of his brother  KingEdward (Christopher Stollery). The final scene to mark Richard’s deception and betrayal of loyalty is between Kermond and Querol’s Buckingham, who defects to the forces of the invading Lancastrian Richmond and future Henry Vll.  In the first half we see Richard’s ascent to the throne after the death of Edward. In Rockspeare’s version, the second half gathers apace to the final battle on the field of Bosworth where justice holds sway and after an encapsulating scene in which the ghosts of the slain condemn Richard and promise victory to Richmond, Richard is slain screaming that immortal line, “My horse. My horse. My Kingdom for a horse.” Justice is dealt, order is restored and Damon Baudin’s dtug infused high Rock Star Richmond restores unity to the Plantagenets and the Lancastrians to serve the House of Tudor. 

Lainie Hart, Dene Kermond and Bojana Kos  Photo: Pass Out Media

Lakespeare’s liberties with text and characters have resulted in an exciting and dynamic telling of this historical tale. As a live theatre performance it may appear a little sparse at times and speed too swiftly towards its denouement, but as a live streamed performance of Shakespeare it is superbly compact, constantly engaging and thoroughly accessible. Central to this engagement is Dene Kermond’s performance of Richard. His villainous intent comes as no surprise. It is espoused in his opening prologue. However evil has many expressions and Kermond combines self-righteous malevolence with invidious guile, animal instinct and rhetorical persuasion .  Kermond’s absorbing, energy-charged and at times chilling performance presents a  complex and intriguing character who can make the unbelievable believable. 

Lakespeare’s reputation is already affirmed with its Summer Season of Shakespeare. Its first live streamed Winter production is again proof of the company’s ability to provide excellent professional performances of the Bard’s plays. My hope is that the company will be adequately supported financially to present first rate Shakespearian productions and return to live theatre once the pandemic has passed and Rockspeare’s Richard lll can be reprised on a Canberra stage.

First Response


Photography, Film, Video | Review by Brian Rope

Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia | First Response

Tuggeranong Arts Centre | Until 19 September

First Response comprises four works commissioned to document Canberra’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This review looks at the three photography, film and video works in the exhibition. The fourth work was a live dance response choreographed by Shannon Hanrahan, seeking to explore the way that dance artists can work around, and even be inspired, by spatial limitations.

Photographer Martin Ollman is a freelancer based in Canberra. He has had more than 2000 of his images published around the world and has been awarded two national photographic awards. During the initial stages of Canberra’s pandemic response, he was granted access to frontline health services, political figures, and major institutions, including the Australian parliamentary Senate inquiry into it.

Ollman’s work in the exhibition, Plagued, comprises eight large monochrome digital prints on aluminium and a huge digital print on vinyl. The latter is the first thing to attract attention when you walk into the gallery. It is a collage of many images, including portraits of health workers, members of the arts and tertiary education communities and politicians, and it fills two walls. Whilst having impact for its sheer size and vibrant colours, I enjoyed his other works more. Seven of the eight are traditional portraits. Of those, the image of Nigel McRae and Beth Tully revealed something of the importance of companionship, whilst one of Peter Barclay spoke about mateship.

Nigel and Beth, Smith's Alternative © Martin Ollman, 2020

Peter Barclay © Martin Ollman, 2020

The eighth print portrays several frontline health workers by showing some of their personal protective equipment hanging on hooks with their names.


First Response, 2020 © Martin Ollman, 2020

Marissa McDowell is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English ancestry who has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography, and writing.

McDowell’s work here, Isolation, is a short documentary film exploring the COVID-19 experience of Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including their unique fears and hopes for the community’s future.

The film features personal accounts from a broad range of community members, including Elders Aunty Matilda House and Uncle Warren Daley, artists Brenda Croft and Dale Huddleston, and local students, offering insights into how they felt about these new and unfamiliar circumstances, how it has affected their families, businesses and education and their thoughts about the future.

The audio can be listened to through headphones, but I found it better to read the captions across the bottom of the video screen. The film is well made and very interesting. I was particularly struck by the fact that many of the issues identified by the indigenous community members were the same as I have heard identified by others, myself included.

Anna Georgia completed a Bachelor of Arts (History, Philosophy, Film Studies), then pursued a Masters of Visual Anthropology in the Granada Centre of Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. This quasi-artistic field values the contributions that audio-visual mediums have to offer in the ethnographic description of human experience.

Georgia’s work here, Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue), draws on her training in ethnographic filmmaking and investigates many aspects of the lives of individuals during the restrictions and the economic downturn; including everyday circumstances and states of mind, digital engagement, and material spaces.

This film is, for me, the highlight of the overall show. Sitting watching the material on two side by side monitors I was drawn into the story being told and by the high-quality imagery I was viewing. The soundtrack did not appeal as much, perhaps because I found the volume unnecessarily loud. Indeed, it was why I found it easier to read the captions on Isolation which is showing in the same gallery space.

Still from Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue) © Anna Georgia

This review was also published in The Canberra Times at

and on my personal blog at, both on 8 August 2020.