Monday, September 28, 2020


Eleanor Lyons and Vladimir Fanshil at Wesley Music Centre – 26th September 2020

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

To paraphrase the familiar proverb “It’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good”. In this case it was Canberra music lovers who benefited, as a direct result of Covid-19, from two sold-out performances by soprano Eleanor Lyons and pianist, Vladimir Fanshil.

Though both are Australians, the husband and wife now live in Vienna, where they are forging International careers; hers in opera and his as a conductor.

Earlier this year, together with their small daughter, they travelled to Australia for Lyons to fulfil a long-held ambition to make her Opera Australia debut in the Sydney Opera House, as Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni”. As well as her highly acclaimed operatic performances , Lyons also  performed 13 concerts for Opera Australia, completing these just weeks before Covid-19 struck.

Fanshil had returned to Europe, ahead of his wife, to fulfil an engagement to conduct a concert for the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Turkey, and prepare for the launch of the Odessa Festival Orchestra, which he founded in 2019, at the inaugural 2020 Beethoven Festival in Odessa.

Lyons had planned to join him, with their daughter, as soon as her Opera Australia commitments were completed, as she also had a string of important engagements in Europe to undertake.

As the pandemic began to take hold in Europe, opera houses and theatres closed resulting in cancelled engagements for both artists, and when the Beethoven Festival was cancelled, Fanshil made the decision to return to Australia to be with his wife and daughter, and the  young family founded itself stranded in Sydney.

But rather than being daunted by their predicament, Lyons and Fanshil, taking inspiration from such illustrious predecessors as Melba, Sutherland and Bronhill, who took their music to the people, hit on the idea of presenting intimate micro-concerts in private homes reminiscent of salon concerts of old, and as news spread, found themselves on tour with concerts scheduled in homes and venues in Sydney, Canberra, Armidale, Yass, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Merimbula and Orange.

Their program, as presented in the Wesley Music Centre, offers an eclectic mix of operatic arias and rarely heard art songs, presented with an engaging lack of formality, with the artists taking turns introducing each item.

Wearing a glamorous full length silver sequin gown, Lyons immediately captured the attention of the audience, entering from the back of the room, with a sparkling rendition of Musetta’s Waltz from “La Boheme”, for which Fanshil obligingly contributed some short tenor passages. She continued with two lovely pieces by an obscure Russian composer, Reinhold Gliere, which Fanshil assured the audience were the best moments of a rather long obscure opera.

As the concert progressed it became obvious that Fanshil, in addition to his obvious keyboard talents, was also an engaging raconteur, as well as a poet, affectingly setting the mood for each of the arresting five Grieg songs, which concluded the program, with a short poem.

Demonstrating enviable acting skills as well as vocal artistry, Lyons offered a carefully nuanced interpretation of Puccini’s over-familiar “O Mio babbino caro”, followed by a lush wordless composition, specially written for the pair by Elena Kats-Chernin, which gave the recital its title, “Wandering Hearts”, before treating the audience to another aria, this time Francesco Cilia’s lesser known “lo son l’umile ancella” from his opera “Adriana Lecouvreur”.

Having already demonstrated his skills as an attentive accompanist, Fanshil delighted with his solo, a thoughtfully shaped interpretation of the demanding Rachmaninoff “Elegie", op.3”, following which Lyons re-joined him for a delightfully effervescent rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Spring Waters”.

A sublime “Morgen, op 27 no. 4”, by Richard Strauss, preceded the afore-mentioned five Grieg songs which brought the recital to a very satisfying conclusion. But wait there’s more – the encore - for which Lyons, as if expressing her defiance of Covid-19, electrified the audience by unleashing the full power of her voice in a thrilling rendition of Verdi’s “Sempre Libera” (Always Free) from “La Traviata”.

This opportunity to see two world class artists, at the peak of their careers, in such intimate surroundings was something that few, who were lucky enough to experience it, are likely to forget.  


 This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 27th September 2020.









Monologues at the Q Theatre

Craig Alexander, videographer

Eclipse Lighting & Sound

Streaming on demand on the Q’s website and on YouTube


Reviewed by Len Power 24 September 2020


The Q Theatre in Queanbeyan has, for the past 7 weeks, been streaming a new monologue each Wednesday.  The program is called ‘Stripped’ and it features local actors on a bare, dimly-lit stage in a telling moment from a series of very different plays.


It started with Jarrad West who performed his monologue from ‘The Normal Heart’ by Larry Kramer, a largely autobiographical play that focuses on the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.  Jarrad performed the role memorably in a production of the play here in 2016.  His playing of the monologue was just as strong and passionate as it was in 2016.


Karen Vickery gave us Portia’s ‘I Pray You Tarry’ monologue from Act 3 Scene 2 of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.  Her quiet, measured performance cleverly showed the powerful emotions simmering underneath the words.  It was very well done.


Chris Zuber, a versatile actor/director here in Canberra, performed a monologue from Andrew Bovell’s ‘Things I Know to Be True’.  This moment of discovery about the love of a son for his father was movingly performed at a nice pace and with just the right level of emotion.


Next up was Joanna Richards who performed a piece from the 2006 play ‘Rabbit’ by Nina Raine.  She gave us an immediate sense of a birthday girl seemingly brimming with confidence but actually hiding behind a facade.  It was an impressive performance showing both sides of this young woman.


Recently on stage at Canberra REP in Joe Orton’s ;What The Butler Saw’, Lainie Hart showed us, with her monologue from ‘Survival’ by Allee Richards, why she is so sought after for leading roles in this town.  Her ability to get inside a character and live it is very much on display here in her portrayal of this troubled young woman swinging between bravado and pain.


Jordan Best performed a monologue by the character Blanche Dubois from Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.  Her performance was compelling and made me wish I had seen her in the play when she performed it here some years ago.


In the final monologue of the series, Jim Adamik gave us the ‘Love’ monologue by Benedick from Act 2 Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.  He gave a memorable performance in this role in a Canberra REP production back in 2015 and is just as powerful here working skilfully to the camera.


I would have preferred that the monologues were filmed with one camera instead of two.  The constant changing of angles worked against the performances.  Nevertheless it’s pleasing to see that a recording has been made of these fine actors’ work.


All of the monologues can still be seen through the Q’s website or on YouTube.


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


‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Pub Rock

Photography: Pub Rock - Various Artists

National Portrait Gallery | Until 14 February 2021

Reviewed by Brian Rope

A backstage pass to 70s and 80s pub rock sounds and scenes, this exhibition features works from the National Portrait Gallery collection alongside images by leading Australian music photographers. We are invited to celebrate pub rock and its enduring impact on our identity.

I suspect many of those who visit will be more interested in the subjects than in the quality of the images. They may also be more interested in the performance shots and the atmosphere portrayed, than in the staged portraits and publicity shots. Be that as it may.

The photographers include Peter Brew-Bevan, Wendy McDougall, and Rennie Ellis, whose work I have long admired. Brew-Bevan’s portraits of famous Australians, such as Julia Gillard, Jane Campion, and Gough Whitlam, are fine works in the NPG collection. One on display here is an equally good study of Paul Kelly.

Ellis is also represented in the NPG collection with diverse images, some of which are on show here. They include his instantly recognised shot of Angus Young of AC/DC on stage in Los Angeles. For me, his monochrome portrait of Young with Bon Scott in an Atlanta, Georgia dressing room is a more interesting image.

Angus Young, AC/DC, LA 1978 © Rennie Ellis
type C photograph on paper
Collection: National Portrait Gallery Purchased 2006

Bon Scott and Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia 1979 by Rennie Ellis

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Purchased 2010 
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive 

McDougall’s image of The Church is simply great. So too her image of Doc Neeson of the Angels. He is posing dramatically for her camera – or was he performing for her – in a corner.

Another exhibitor whose work I did not know so well is Bleddyn Butcher. This artist brings us an excellent image of Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party).

Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party) 1983 by Bleddyn Butcher

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Gift of the artist 2002 
© Bleddyn Butcher

And there is a fine portrait of Archie Roach, by Bill McAuley.

Archie Roach 1992 (printed 2010) © Bill McAuley
type C photograph on paper
Collection: National Portrait Gallery Purchased 2010

Perhaps the best-known shot is Lewis Morley’s of the nude Sherbet, from 1974.

Sherbet 1974 (printed 2002) ©Lewis Morley
gelatin silver photograph on paper
Collection: National Portrait Gallery Gift of the artist 2002

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Or maybe it is Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel, by Grant Matthews.

Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 1984 © Grant Matthews
type C photograph on paper
Collection: National Portrait Gallery Gift of John McLean 2008

Or possibly the already mentioned Renee Ellis shot of Angus Young. Or Chrissy Amphlett in Sydney in 1988, by Stuart Spence? Many will recognise lots of the images.

Untitled#15 from Tour of Duty series (Kylie Minogue performs at Tour of Duty concert at Dili Stadium, East Timor, 21 December 1999) 1999-2000 © Matthew Sleeth
type C photograph on paper
Collection: National Portrait Gallery Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2010

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

There are also portraits of rockers who were big outside of the 70s and 80s. For example, Johnny O’Keefe who amazed me in a capacity crowd at the Odeon Theatre in Goulburn in the late 50s. Sadly, that architectural and cultural treasure was demolished 40 years ago. But all present that night would have memories of the dust clouds raised when The Wild One scared us by intentionally “collapsing” and then laying prone on the floor for some minutes during his frantic performance.

Then there is an image of Col Joye taken in 1957 by Ern McQuillan - of interest to me as I recall seeing Joye perform in Queanbeyan around that time.

But, perhaps, the most interesting part of the exhibition for locals is Capital Cool - featuring a group of works by ‘pling, the late Canberra performance photographer, Kevin Prideaux. These include excellent portraits of Annalisse Morrow of The Numbers at the ANU Refectory, and Sharon O'Neill at the Hellenic Club.

The Numbers, Annalisse Morrow (bass, vocals), ANU Refectory, 18 September 1979, © ‘pling

Sharon O’Neill, Hellenic Club, Woden, 27 August 1980, © ‘pling

We can enjoy and reminisce about acts seen in other venues - the Captain Cook Uni Bar, The Jam Factory, the ANU Union, Kingston’s Boot and Flogger, the Ainslie Rex, CCAE, and the Kingo. From the punk energy of The Young Docteurs to the indie sound of The Lighthouse Keepers, and many others in between – The Saints, Ramones, Men at Work, INXS – ’pling was there capturing the performances, and the community that rapturously supported them.

As well as photographs, some prints and paintings, there are eighteen video clips on show, and you can listen to all the artists on Spotify whilst browsing the exhibition. Entry is free, but timed bookings are essential via

This review originally in the Canberra Times of 26/9/20 here.

It has also been published on the author's own blog here.

Friday, September 25, 2020



Reflection: Music for introspection and remembrance

Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 20 September

Reviewed by Len Power




Polifemy’s concert showed without a doubt why it’s an entirely different experience listening to music live rather than from a recording.

It was stated in the program that ‘the concert comprises music for quiet reflection in a year of disruption and loss’.  It could also add that it was music to make your heart soar.

Polifemy is a small female ensemble established in 2008 to explore music written and performed by nuns in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Directed by Robyn Mellor, the singers, including Mellor, demonstrated in this concert that they are supreme vocal artists, able to sing this early music a capella, accurately and with great feeling.

The concert commenced with the music of Cristóbal de Morales of the 16th century.  His ‘Office of the Dead’ is a prayer cycle for the repose of lost souls and the group of singers set a high standard right from the start with their accurate and disciplined singing.

It was followed by ‘Hostias et preces tibi Domine’ (We Offer Thee, O Lord) by Luigi Antonio Sabbatini from the 18th century, a haunting work full of intricate harmonies.  It was performed with clarity and delicacy.

Works by the 15th century composers, Orlando de Lassus and Giovanni Palestrina, were next.  The chant ‘Requiem aeternam’ by Palestrina was sung by the four sopranos only.  Their beautiful singing of this piece was one of the highlights of the concert.

William Byrd’s ‘Mass for 3 voices’ was written in the 16th century while Byrd, a Catholic convert, was a member of the court of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I.  It was a dangerous position for a Catholic to be in and the compositions were sung in secret under threat of death if discovered.  The singers gave an excellent performance of this work with the Sanctus and Agnus Dei especially memorable.

The conclusion to the Requiem Mass, ‘In Paradisum’ was a perfectly chosen and uplifting finale for the concert.

Photo 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.

‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

RECOGNISE - Ngunnawal Youth Dance Company


National Portrait Gallery - 13th September 2020

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Canberra audiences were treated to the first performances by the fledgling Ngunnawal Youth Dance Company over the weekend with performances in Garema Place and The National Portrait Gallery.

       Tammi Gissell - Krista Clarke - Natasha Lee Rogers - Emma Laverty

                                            Photo: Andrew Sikorski. 

Recognising the important role that dance has played in the spirituality of Indigenous Australian tribes, the Ngunnawal Youth Council, under the guidance and support of Roslyn Brown and the Ngunnawal Elders Council, in a masterful stroke, has enlisted 2017 City News Artist-of-the-Year, Liz Lea, to assist with the formation of a Ngunnawal Youth Dance Company as a means of sharing aspects of culture with non-indigenous and indigenous audiences.

An accomplished professional dancer and dance maker, Lea has a strong interest in indigenous dance from various cultures, having trained in Indian dance in India, and created works for companies as diverse as Darpana in India, Maya Dance Theatre in Singapore, The Flatfoot Dance Company in South Africa and the Small Miracles Company in Mackay.

 I caught up with “Recognise” at the second performance at the National Portrait Gallery, which commenced with a group work, co-choreographed and performed by indigenous dancers, Tammi Gissell, Krista Clarke, Natasha Lee Rogers and Emma Laverty, drawing on their collective knowledge of their different cultural dances, particularly Krista Clarke’s recollections of Ngunnawal dance as taught to her by her parents.

Performed to a haunting accompaniment, played live by Michael Liu on amplified violin, the dancers carried gum-leaf twigs which became integral in creating an ambience to transport the audience back in time to a much less formal performing space.

In contrast, Tammi Gissell drew on her striking presence and strong technique to transform traditional indigenous dance movements into sophisticated contemporary dance imagery for her electrifying solo.

Liz Lea costumed in dazzling white, utilised two large white feather fans, to conjure up images of mischievous white cockatoos with her witty solo. Both solos were danced to evocative electronic soundscapes by Adam Ventura.  

Gissell then re-joined Krista Clarke, Natasha Lee Rogers, Emma Laverty and musician, Michael Liu to perform a final group piece returning to more traditional indigenous dance movement, to round off a program which provided a tantalising glimpse of the intriguing  possibilities facing Canberra newest dance company.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Exuberant playing in strings concert

“Schubert’s String Quintet in C”

Canberra Strings, directed by Barbara Jane Gilby

Wesley Music Centre, September 13, 2020 

Reviewed by Tony Magee

CANBERRA STRINGS last performed in September 2019 and one could feel the exuberance and see it in the faces of the musicians, as they prepared to play “live” again, after such a long break.

Schubert’s “String Quintet in C” is notable on many fronts.

Firstly it was written only six weeks before Schubert died - his last chamber work. 

Also, it was published posthumously some 25 years after his death.

Thirdly, it is the only piece in the quintet repertoire which calls for two cellos.

Finally, there is no existing hand-written original score. The work has been drafted and pieced together by many different publishers and music scholars over the years. 

Canberra Strings at Wesley. Photo: Peter Hislop

Gilby and her compatriots have spent months comparing different published versions of the piece and for this concert came up with what they consider to be an authentic musical account of Schubert’s intentions.

Beginning with beautifully synchronised dynamic swells and excellent intonation, the piece sprang to life convincingly, the first movement showcasing melodic and flowing duet passages from the two cellists, Samuel Payne and Julia Janiszewski.

Later in the movement Lucy Carrigy-Ryan on viola played complex triplet work, taken over by beautiful duet passages where she was joined by second cellist Payne.

The second movement opened with pizzicato work from first cellist, later alternating in question-answer format with first violin, also playing pizzicato.

Both the second and third movements revealed sudden musical mood changes, ranging from lively, engaging and joyful playing in a major key, to sudden dark, slow, almost menacing motives and phrases in the minor.

The viola combined with second violin played beautifully by Pip Thompson, contributed significantly to the mysterious sounds emanating from the quintet by playing on the off-beat.

L-R: Violinists Barbara Jane Gilby and Pip Thompson. Photo: Peter Hislop

All these unusual, sometimes perplexing and unpredictable characteristics have been summarised by many over the years to reflect Schubert’s own despair at what he considered his nearing and impending death.

Certainly, Canberra Strings captured the conflict of confusion and sadness interspersed with joy and happiness superbly. One could feel the human emotions of drama, struggle and particularly the uncomfortable, perhaps frightening prospect of the unknown from their playing.

The final movement bounced into life - yes “life” - with an almost Hungarian dance style of writing and playing, featuring the two cellos both in unison and fifths, adding a wonderful, solid bass foundation, supporting the exciting and exuberant playing of the viola and the two violins.

Throughout the performance, Barbara Jane Gilby on first violin led her ensemble with discreet precision, and bold projection, resulting in ensemble playing of great feeling, emotion and unity.

First published in City News Digital Edition, September 14, 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020



Written by Joe Orton

Directed by Liz Bradley

Canberra REP production at Theatre, Acton to 26 September


Reviewed by Len Power 10 September 2020


Don’t think that because Joe Orton’s ‘What the Butler Saw’ was written in the 1960s it must be hopelessly out-dated.  The manners, morals and authority figures that Orton targets in this ferociously satirical play still need skewering fifty years after the play was written.  Back then people were more open about their beliefs and ‘standards’.  In these supposedly more enlightened days, we just make sure what we say is politically correct instead.

‘What The Butler Saw’ was first performed in London in 1968.  The playwright, Joe Orton, was already dead, having been murdered by his gay partner a couple of months previously.  Although he wrote only a small number of plays during the 1960s, including ‘Entertaining Mr Sloan’ and ‘Loot’, the impact of his work was considerable and highly influential on later writing.

Orton’s play is critical of the society of the time, especially attitudes to sex, double standards, the medical profession, privilege, authority and power.  His writing shocked and offended audiences at the time.  These days we’re not so much shocked as surprised at how many of the same issues are still around.  We don’t seem to have come very far at all.

In the play, a psychiatrist, Dr. Prentice, is seen interviewing a young woman, Geraldine Barclay, for a position as his secretary.  His interview methods are highly inappropriate and, with the unexpected arrival of his wife, he needs to hide the girl, now naked, from view, leading to a succession of farcical situations.  Every character in the play has secrets which add further complexity to the situation.

Director, Liz Bradley, has given us a strong production with fine performances from her cast of six.  While she has it moving at break-neck speed, Bradley ensures that the line delivery is carefully considered and spoken by her actors.  While you can enjoy the show just as a typical farce, the physicality of the production is secondary to Orton’s ideas.

Peter Holland and David Cannell

David Cannell gives a fine performance as Dr. Prentice whose world is suddenly crumbling around him and Zoe Swan is a delightfully innocent Geraldine Barclay, the prospective secretary.  Lainie Hart, as the bustling, formidable Mrs Prentice, who has secrets of her own, is very funny and Peter Holland gives a well-judged frenzied performance of towering insanity as Dr Rance, an official sent by the Government to investigate Dr. Prentice’s methods.  Glenn Brighenti brings a youthful and confident cheekiness to his role as the blackmailing hotel bell-hop and Thomas Hyslop nicely combines the surface cliché of the policeman, Sergeant Match, with a seething decadence underneath.

Left to Right: Thomas Hyslop, Zoe Swan, David Cannell and Glenn Brighenti


Quentin Mitchell has designed a fine set for the show with some fun surprises and Anna Senior’s costume designs are just right for the characters.

This is a fine production that gets every element right as well as being highly entertaining

Photos supplied by the production.

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

‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at