Saturday, October 31, 2020



Photography and Art | Brian Rope

Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer | FACETS…
M16 Artspace Gallery 1 | Until 1 November 2020

Undertaking a lengthy Australian journey, Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer aimed to experience and bring home their impressions of the diverse landscapes they saw. The exhibition is a celebration of that journey.

Van Gorsel is a photographer who uses an extensive range of techniques and approaches to create diverse and interesting imagery. She has a background in environmental sciences and scientific photography, and she loves the outdoors, traveling and hiking. Describing her approach, she says “photography makes me focus on all the beautiful things that exist - in the tiny detail or the grand landscapes. I'd like to capture some of this beauty and share it and maybe it can even help us as a society to better understand and appreciate the environment we live in.”

So, her works are not documentary but are interpretations of, and connection to, nature. They are shaped by her vision. One technique used is to combine her own images, satellite imagery and textures. The major end product is archival inkjet pigment prints. There is also a book of 100 postcards.

Useless Loop © Eva van Gorsel

Walking around the gallery, we view the results of van Gorsel’s investigation into how colour palette and geometric features defined the landscapes for her; revealing how life, climate and earth movements have shaped those forms and colours. We also see how she has played with the colours, the shapes, and the perspectives.

Broome © Eva van Gorsel

The works are arranged in groups revealing elements; most particularly, the facets, colours and textures seen in various places. In the Woomera area the colours are muted. Around Coober Pedy and the Breakaways, they are stronger. At the Devils Marbles they have become bold. Kakadu National Park reveals softer tones, including beautiful gentle greens. Each location has its own colours. Sometimes the colours of particular elements have been modified, emphasising those seen as consistently being part of the particular landscape.

Ningaloo © Eva van Gorsel

Amongst the most interesting works are those where van Gorsel has introduced other elements to a landscape. For example, floating in the skies over a Coober Pedy landscape we see an opal. At Fowlers Bay, the shape of a whale seen at the Nullarbor Roadhouse has been added.

Coober Pedy © Eva van Gorsel 

Use of Google Earth imagery of the area being explored, adjusting the colours to create new images, use of the contour lines feature in Photoshop – all are techniques employed to create excellent works.

Fowlers Bay © Eva van Gorsel

I visited this exhibition knowing I would see good images by van Gorsel, whose work I have always admired, but knowing nothing of Pfeiffer’s work. The gallery’s Website promotion of the exhibition features just one of van Gorsel’s works and nothing of his. It only refers to them as artists and I confess to being surprised to learn that he is a visual artist of another kind.

Pfeiffer is a painter who uses an extensive range of materials, including acrylics, pencils, charcoals and much more. His works here are acrylics and mixed media on canvas. He takes inspiration from what he describes as “the ubiquitous beauty of the world surrounding us – from the coast, over the hills to the outback – and from the ‘music’ which is inherent in every place, in everything like a rock or a tree, a waterfall or a dune.”

Nullarbor © Manuel Pfeiffer - picture supplied 

His works complement van Gorsel’s perfectly, revealing the same range of facets. His colours, shapes and perspectives again explore and reveal.

Pilbara © Manuel Pfeiffer - picture supplied

Together van Gorsel and Pfeiffer have produced a fine exhibition showing, as intended, many facets of Australia.

This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 31.10.20 here. It has also been published on the author's own blog here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

NORMAL - Canberra Youth Theatre


Electra Spencer and  Holly Ross in NORMAL 

Written by Katie Pollock – Directed by Luke Rogers

Set and lighting designed by Gillian Schwab – Sound designed by Kimmo Vennonen

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, 22nd to  24th October, 2020.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Katie Pollock’s AWGIE nominated play, “Normal”, deals with the plight of Poppy, a young woman stricken with a Tourette’s-like condition, who struggles for understanding and acceptance from those with whom she comes in contact in her daily life.

The play traces Poppy’s experience from the moment her best friend notices a tell-tale symptom. As her symptoms become increasingly severe, those surrounding Poppy begin to isolate her, withdrawing support and even accusing her of faking her symptoms to gain attention.

Canberra Youth Theatre has given the play a polished, stripped back production, firmly and imaginatively directed by Luke Rogers.

Gillian Schwab’s, sparse, sophisticated setting with its central raked stage and large suspended overhead screen, provided a starkly clinical atmosphere, which was emphasised by her moody lighting, and complimented by Kimmo Vennonen’s evocative sound design.

However, though attractive, the absence of furniture or props to provide clues to time and place meant that the actors were totally exposed.

Holly Ross as Poppy in NORMAL 

As Poppy, Holly Ross was riveting in a role that required her to be on stage for almost the entire performance, portraying the distressing tic and wide range of emotions with convincing sincerity.   

Jemma Collins, McKenzie Battye-Smith, and Electra Spencer, shared all the  other roles,  among them, Holly’s mother, her friend and her friend’ mother, a psychiatrist, a school councillor, a television reporter and a shop assistant. 

The task of portraying a wide range of different characters demanded significant emotional range and acting technique from the young actors, and while all three gave commendably strong, committed performances, they were not always up to these demands.

McKenzie Battye-Smith - Electra Spencer - Holly Ross -Jemma Collins

Therefore as the severity of   Holly’s symptoms increased, and her reactions began to isolate her from her worried mother, her friends and health professionals, provided with only minimalistic changes of costume to differentiate characters, it became difficult to follow the thread of the storyline, and maintain connection with the characters, because so much essential information was lost through insufficient vocal projection and imprecise articulation. Therefore when the final denouement was reached, with all characters exhibiting Poppy’s symptoms, apparently confirming accusations that her condition was more mental than physical, it was both puzzling and shocking.

                                               All photos by Images Instantly.

This review also appears in Australian Arts Review -

Monday, October 26, 2020



Sarahlouise Owens, soprano

Natalia Tkachenko, piano

Wesley Music Centre, Forrest October 25


Reviewed by Len Power


An inspired idea for a program of art songs, Sarahlouise Owens, soprano, and Natalia Tkachenko, pianist, presented a set of songs by Australian composers.

Canberra composer, Michael Dooley, was represented with songs of well-known poems by John Keats.  There were also two Hebrew songs by Linda Phillips and a set of romantic songs by Phyllis Batchelor.  Songs by Carl Vine and Horace Keats were also included.

Sarahlouise Owens has worked extensively in Europe and is a graduate of the ANU School of Music and Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.  She has established herself as a busy concert artist and recitalist of Art Song since her return to Australia.

Her accompanist, Natalia Tkachenko, graduated with honours from the Moscow State Institute of Music and worked extensively in Moscow, France, Germany and South Korea before residing and working with the ANU School of Music in Canberra.


Natalia Tkachenko and Sarahlouise Owens


The concert commenced with three poems by John Keats with music by Canberra composer, Michael Dooley.  These descriptive poems were given highly visual music, enabling Sarahlouise Owens to show the wide range of her voice as well as her dramatic presentation abilities.  ‘To Autumn’ and the final part of ‘Ode On A Grecian Urn’ were the highlights of this set.  Natalia Tkachenko gave an especially sensitive accompaniment on piano for ‘To Autumn’.

Both Linda Phillips and Phyllis Batchelor were prominent in Australia’s music scene in the last century and their compositions should be better known.  The two songs by Linda Phillips in this concert – ‘Ash Trees’ and ‘The Golden Bird’ were colourful with positive sentiments that were sung with brightness and joy by Owens.

The set of romantic songs by Phyllis Batchelor were given a heart-felt performance by Owens.  ‘Jacaranda tree’ was especially tenderly sung and given a fine accompaniment by Tkachenko.

Carl Vine’s confidently romantic declaration, ‘Love Me Sweet’, was a nice contrast to the sweeter Batchelor songs and the set of songs by Horace Keats created a fine atmosphere of quiet and reflective emotion.  ‘The Point Of Noon’ was the highlight of this set.

The program finished with a return to the poems of John Keats with Michael Dooley’s composition to ‘Ode To A Nightingale’.  This lengthy song covers the full range of emotions, giving the singer great opportunities to display their skills.  Owens gave a moving performance of this work that proved to be the highlight of the whole 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




The Song Company: Close-Up

Roberta Diamond, soprano

Hannah Lane, baroque triple harp

Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 23 October


Reviewed by Len Power


“Esperar, Sentir, Morir” (to hope, to feel, to die) are the words of the song giving this concert its title.  The program explored music of the Iberian Peninsula and its influence throughout Europe.  Many were romantic works exploring the many emotions associated with the joy of love and the pain of its loss.

Traditional melodies from the Sephardic diaspora were intertwined with theatre music from the Spanish Golden Age and popular compositions that travelled around the world.

Soprano, Roberta Diamond, specialises in the interpretation of medieval, renaissance and baroque music and has enjoyed a busy international career.  Hannah Lane, on baroque triple harp, performs regularly with many leading ensembles throughout Australia and Europe.  The combination of these two artists produced a sublime evening of memorable music.

The concert commenced with Roberta Diamond singing a capella off stage before making her entrance.  The sweetness and clarity of her voice was astounding as she sang this haunting 13th century love song by Martim Codax.

Roberta Diamond and Hannah Lane

She and Hannah Lane then presented a large program of songs from across the centuries by many composers as well as traditional Sephardic melodies of great beauty.  That most of these were unfamiliar works simply added to the enjoyment.

Hannah Lane also performed several works solo on the baroque triple harp.  The harp has three parallel rows of strings instead of the more common single row.  The pensiveness of “Ancor che col partire” (Even with leaving) by Antonio de Cabezón from the 16th Century was especially beautiful.

Amongst the highlights of the songs sung by Roberta Diamond and accompanied by Hannah Lane were “Sé que me muero” (I know I’m dying) by Jean-Baptiste Lully and the haunting “Aura tiema, amorosa” (Tender, loving breeze) by Juan Francisco Gòmez, both from the 17th Century.

The performers spoke to the audience at length about the works they were performing but the acoustic in the church made it very difficult to hear what they were saying.  A microphone would have helped.  Hannah Lane re-tuning the harp while Roberta Diamond was speaking made it even more challenging to hear what was being said.

Nevertheless, it was the music that was the focus and the audience was clearly charmed by these superb artists and their excellent program.


Photo by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 24 October 2020.

 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


Sunday, October 25, 2020

INTIMACY - Belco Arts

Noa Rotem and Adam Deusien in "Intimacy" 

Created and performed by Adam Deusien, Jazida and Noa Rotem, 

Belconnen Arts Centre – 22nd and 23rd October, 2020.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.  

“Intimacy” is the third production in a series of small shows produced by Belco Arts to introduce its superb new performing space by exploring various human responses utilising variety of performing disciplines. Risk was the focus of “L’Entreprise de Risque” which drew on circus skills to investigate its topic. Elements of Butoh were incorporated into “Mess” to explore Isolation.

For “Intimacy”, three multi-disciplinary performers, Adam Deusien, Noa Rotem, and Jazida, were teamed with designer, Tiffany Abbott, and tasked with producing a show, during a intensive six-day rehearsal period, exploring the subject of intimacy.

The result is a tantalising 45 minutes of seemingly unrelated and often intriguing collection incidents, which, while entertaining and well executed, often leave the audience guessing as to their relevance to the stated topic.

For “Intimacy”, a large stage occupies one corner of the room. The audience is seated at cabaret tables on two sides. Tiffany Abbott has created an attractive, shadowy, back-stage setting, with angled mirrors in the corner, and racks of gaudy costumes. When the audience enters they become aware of a performer, dressing gown covering her costume, warming up and perfecting moves on one side. Another can be noticed upstage in the gloom, examining her make-up in mirrors. The third sits motionless on a large table, centre stage, each seemingly oblivious of the other.

The sound of a performance happening on the imaginary stage beyond, can be heard, and as the show begins, the first performer doffs her dressing gown and makes her entrance, leaving the other two, preparing for their own entrances. It’s a clever set-up, which neatly establishes each of the performers as theatricals, opening the way for them to perform a series of set-pieces, shoe-horned into the theme, while mimicking the real-life situation of three individuals drawn together to present an entertainment.

Deusin establishes his character as a drag performer, launching into an overwrought mimed performance of “Maybe This Time”, then strengthening that impression with a monologue revealing that his only really intimate relationship has been with his mother.A duologue with Rotem, in which a couple seek intimacy by asking permission to explore each other’s responses, confuses this impression.

Type-cast as a burlesque performer, Jazida performed several polished burlesque routines during the course of the show, including one rather alarming and messy routine involving a lettuce and all three performers, and a spectacular fan-dance in which the angled mirrors created multiple images. A reprise of the duologue, with Jazida replacing Deusin, in asking the permissions, confirmed her strong dramatic presence. 

Rotem’s dramatic abilities were also on display in another amusing duologue in which she described an uncomfortable sexual experience, while Deusien described a completely different experience.

As with the previous shows in this series, the technical support was excellent. Abbott’s appropriately tacky theatrical costumes supported the backstage milieu she had created with her set design. Linda Buck’s lighting was again excellent, as was Kyle Sheedy’s sound. But while there were moments when the three worked together in some rather under-rehearsed choreographed movement, a stronger directorial presence might have strengthened the show by clarifing the significance of some of the episodes to the remit. 

                   This review first published in CITY NEWS on 24th October 2020.



Normal by Katie Pollock. 

Directed by Luke Rogers. Canberra Youth Theatre. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. October 22-24 2020

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Holly Ross as Poppy in Katie Pollock's Notmal

The title of Katie Pollock’s play Normal begs the question “What is normal?” In a bold and impressive move, Canberra Youth Theatre’s Artistic Director Luke Rogers has brought Pollock’s probing question from company’s customary intimate theatre space at Ainslie Gorman Arts centre to the expansive and fully professional stage of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Playhouse.  It is a challenge that the company and Youth Theatre’s four young actresses embrace with vigour and assurance in a performance that is confident, authentic and at times profoundly moving. 

Holly Ross as Poppy. Elektra Spencer as Skye
 Central character, Poppy  (Holly Ross) has developed  impulsive and uncontrollable vocal and physical reflexes  that offer no medical or scientific explanation.  Pollock constructs an intriguing investigation of the impact of Poppy’s disorder in short scenes that examine Poppy’s relationships with her friends, her mother , her friends’ mothers,  a shop attendant, a psychiatrist, a school counsellor and a television reporter.  The three other female actors double up as Poppy’s school friends and the adults in Pollock’s  exploration of the condition’s causes and the attitudes of the characters as Poppy’s best friend, Sky (Elektra Spencer) gradually distances herself for fear of contracting the ”disease” . Accusations fly from Sasha’s frightened mother Ms Holt (Jemma Collins) and Poppy’s mother (McKenzie Battye-Smith) desperately struggles to maintain normality as her world appears to crumble about her and she is powerless to find a solution to the situation. Professionals, psychiatrist Sheila and school counsellor Lucy cling to a pragmatic explanation that offers some hope of a cure for this abnormal affliction.

 McKenzie Battye-Smith as Heather
 Questions demand answers as Poppy’s condition becomes more and more acute. In a puzzling turn of events the questions become even more significant as Poppy’s friends develop the same mysterious “illness” and Pollock’s scenario turns into an absorbing detective investigation that poses more questions and eludes any confirmed closure to the case. Rogers’ direction is methodical, eliciting excellent and thoroughly convincing performances from his ensemble cast, while ensuring that the pace and impact of the work keeps the audience on tenterhooks in the quest for some satisfying explanation. Gillian Schwab’s setting and lighting design offer opportunity for clear deduction , complemented by Kimmo Vennonen’s punctuated sound design. And so the questions continue. Is Poppy’s condition the consequence of teenage anxiety and fears, of doubts and conflicting perceptions of friendship and peer pressure?  Has fear and confusion distorted body and mind connection and balance? Or is it Psychological Conversion Disorder as the psychiatrist would have us believe? Or could it be a contagious disease, spreading with human contact? Maybe it is the toxic waste that now seeps to attack the students at one particular school. Or is it a manifestation of a troubled mind?

The answers are elusive, but what is clear in this excellent vehicle for these young actors and their audience  is the trouble and the torment that young people  on the brink of adolescence face in their daily lives, both the imaginary and the real.  The harmful impact of  social media and the terrifying exposure to trolling play their part in this sobering account of the terrors that confront Poppy and her peers.

Jessical Collins as Shop Girl

At an uncertain time of a Covid new normal, the uncertainty that underpins Pollock’s play is powerfully relevant, but we are left to find our answers, which remains slightly unsettling in a professionally staged production with excellent performances from four young actors. Or maybe it is a purposeful ploy to compel us not to judge but to understand.  In a final moment of the play the four girls erupt into an Abigail moment like the girls in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible break into chilling accusatory unison before the court.  

I don’t know, but what I do know is the Canberra Youth Theatre production of Normal and the performances of four fine and highly promising  actors will compel me to think and search for answers, which is what a piece of outstanding theatre is meant to do.