Saturday, April 30, 2022

SIX The Musical


SIX The Musical - book, lyrics and music by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Originally Produced by Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, and George Stiles.
Produced in Australia by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewick.
Canberra Theatre Centre, April 23 – May 15, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 29

Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage;
Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille.
Set Design by Emma Bailey; Costume Design by Gabriella Slade;
Lighting Design by Tim Deiling; Sound Design by Paul Gatehouse.
Orchestrator: Tom Curran; Musical Supervisor: Joe Beighton

Performers (April 29):
Catherine of Aragon - Phoenix Jackson Mendoza.
Anne Boleyn - Kala Gare
Jane Seymour - Shannen Alyce Quan (Swing performing tonight in place of Loren Hunter)
Anna of Cleves - Chiara Assetta (Swing performing tonight in place of Kiana Daniele)
Katherine Howard - Chelsea Dawson
Catherine Parr - Vidya Makan
SIX band Ladies in Waiting, Music Director / Keys Claire Healey, Kathryn Stammers on Drums, Debbie Yap on Guitar and Jessica Dunn on Bass
SIX The Musical is more subtle than it first appears.  It’s an entertainment full of subterfuge – that is ‘deceit used in order to achieve one's goal.’

For those with an interest in etymology, the word ‘subterfuge’ arrived in England in the 16th century, about the end of King Henry VIII’s reign, from French, or from the late Latin subterfugium, from Latin subterfugere ‘to escape secretly’, from subter- ‘beneath’ + fugere ‘to flee’.

The deceit in SIX The Musical is in two parts.  The opening number is just so amazing for the set design, the music, the singing, acting and choreography – receiving whoops and whistles time and again from a full house in the main theatre – that ENTERTAINMENT PLUS seemed to be the purpose of SIX.  Watching those six gutsy 29 April 2022 women acting out those six 28 January 1547 ex-wives (that’s when Henry died) was incredible FUN – LoL, as one character exclaimed.

Having won their 'Canberra' audience over (they kept calling us that to show us how terrific we are), they set us up with the second-level deceit.  “How would you like to decide who was the best queen? Yes?”  How could we stop clapping and say “No”?  Who would dare kill the fun?

Would we vote for (as the producers’ notes describe them) the sassy Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza); the rule-breaking second wife Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare); Shannen Alyce Quan’s loyal third wife Jane Seymour; the independent Anna of Cleves (Chiara Assetta); Chelsea Dawson’s playful fifth wife, Katherine Howard; or Vidya Makan’s empowering Catherine Parr?

This is clever writing – my academic etymological beginning is a hidden reference to the originators of SIX The Musical at Cambridge University which was founded in 1209, in competition with the even older Oxford University founded in 1096.  In the 21st Century Cambridge is still well ahead, at least in comedy.  

Have a read of David Stubbs’ article in The Guardian 2009 ( ) titled Cambridge's Footlights has long been a fast track to comedy riches for a background to this show’s “early days as a student production in a 100-seat room at Sweet Venue during the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival”, only to “become a global phenomenon.”  I’m sure half our Canberra audience knew the songs by heart from the “Studio Album [which] has achieved in excess of 450 million streams across all platforms worldwide, over 3 billion views on TikTok and has recently reached Gold status”.  

Being a pre-boomer, of course I had no idea what to expect.  Though I felt genuinely affected by Quan’s sad rendition of Jane Seymour’s love for Henry, despite his bad temper, I have to say I was really pleased to have Catherine Parr, played absolutely straight by Makan, announce that “I can’t go on”.  Here was the revelation of the deceit.  Here was the modern woman saying it is not funny to compete with other women about who had the most miscarriages or who should win the competition for having their heads chopped off.  She even made us believe, at first, in strict Brechtian theatrical distancing form, that she, Vidya Makan, would not go on playing the role.  What a subterfuge!  What a woman!  We were fooled – but for the right purpose.

In the finale the goal of using deceit became absolutely and empoweringly clear, when the six ex-wives of Henry VIII, the most famous case of domestic violence in history (though certainly not the only case) – when the Six women sang “We are One”.  Then when they – young determined 21st Century women –  confidently brought the show to its proper conclusion, singing “We are Six” and had the whole audience on our feet, we knew “Six” women meant all women.

SIX The Musical is a lesson, justifiably a global phenomenon to be learned and put into practice by men and women all around the world.  When you look around at the moment from Russia to Myanmar, and many countries in between, the prospects are not good.  But keep singing the songs of the Dictator’s Six Wives of nearly five centuries ago, because the tune is changing with the times.


As a final personal encouragement, I should record the historical irony that despite Henry VIII’s insistence on a son to inherit his power, that son, Edward VI – whose mother Jane Seymour died only four days after his birth, perhaps of post-natal puerperal fever or perhaps of some other cause ( see Alison Weir at ) – Edward reigned only from the age of 10 to 16.  He died in 1553, to be succeeded by a woman –  first Queen Mary I, and then Queen Elizabeth I, whose fame as a monarch far surpassed her father’s, and has been matched only by two other women (in British history, at least), Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

The personal touch for me is that my school in England (state school, not private) – Enfield Grammar School – was founded in 1558 with the motto ‘Tant Que Je Puis’, Old French for ‘As much as I can’.

Enfield Grammar School (EGS) was officially (that is legally) founded in 1558 on the 25th May during the reign of Mary I (Mary Tudor otherwise known as 'Bloody Mary'). The year before in 1557 the princess, later Queen Elizabeth, had spent some days in Enfield in Edward VI's palace near to Enfield; with 'great pomp' she came to hunt in Enfield Chace, at that point well stocked with deer…[and] from 1558 a schoolmaster began teaching the children of Enfield's poor Latin and English 'according to the trade and use of grammar schools'.

I remain proud of that motto and the tradition of education for all which Henry VIII’s daughters encouraged – though even more ironically in a school which is still only for boys!

May The Six continue to sing as One.



Written by Hannie Rayson

Directed by Alexandra Pelvin

Canberra REP to May 14


Reviewed by Len Power 29 April 2022


Now considered an Australian classic, Hannie Rayson’s ‘Hotel Sorrento’ was first performed in Melbourne in 1990.  It is studied in schools and universities and was filmed in 1995.

The play focuses on three sisters who grew up in the quiet seaside resort of Sorrento, Victoria.  Hilary has stayed home to care for their elderly father and her son while Pippa has been living in New York and Meg has moved to London.  A new book written by Meg has been short-listed for the Booker Prize.  The autobiographical elements of the story create friction amongst the sisters when they are reunited in Sorrento, setting off wider issues of loyalty, rivalry, national identity and culture.

Rayson’s play presents a challenge for both director and production designer with its cinematic structure of numerous small scenes played in several locations.  In addition, the first half of the play takes its time slowly building on character and relationships.  A previous touring production was unable to solve these aspects satisfactorily.

This new Canberra REP production has overcome the play’s problems with a well-designed and functional set by Michael Sparks and fine in-depth direction of a highly capable cast by Alexandra Pelvin.

Victoria Tyrrell Dixon gives a beautiful performance as the sister, Hilary, a quietly capable woman whose family is her priority.  As Pippa, the sister recently returned from New York, Jess Waterhouse gives a sharply etched performance of a woman of strength and drive.  The third sister and author, Meg, is well-played by Rachel Howard, clearly showing the character’s doubts and frustrations in her relationship with her sisters and her British husband as well as unresolved issues from her past.  All three performers are subtly convincing as sisters.

The rest of the cast, Elaine Noon, Ryan Erlandsen, Saban Lloyd Berrell, Peter Holland and Nick Dyball all give truthful, in-depth performances of recognizable characters.

Michael Sparks’ set design makes excellent use of the wide and deep Canberra REP stage, solving the problem of the cinematic structure of the play’s multiple short scenes.  The separate acting areas are colourfully evocative of their locations and the excellent lighting and sound designs add considerably to the atmosphere.  The director has ensured the transitions between scenes are smooth and not distracting.

It was great to see a fine production of a play I had not thought highly of in the past.  I could now see why the play is considered an Australian classic.  This well-staged production succeeds in all aspects, resulting in an enjoyable and thought-provoking night in the theatre.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at


Friday, April 29, 2022



SIX The Musical  

 Book, lyrics and music by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Directed by Lucy Moss and JamieArmitage. Choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. Set Design by Emma Bailey. Costume Design by Gabriella Slade, Lighting Design is by Tim Deiling and Sound Design is by Paul Gatehouse. The Orchestrator is Tom Curran and Musical Supervisor is Joe Beighton. Originally Produced by Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, and George Stiles Produced in Australia by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewic. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. April 27 - May 15 2022. Bookings: or 62435711.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


And the Canberra Theatre went wild!   Musical Theatre  sensation Six has come to town to give us a  turbo charged lesson in history. Creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have resurrected the six wives of Henry Vlll in a show that will rock your socks off. If only Henry's hapless wives had the sheer chutzpa of SIX's  cast of six, Herstory would have made History history. 

Greensleeves is given an electronic variation as the six futuristic Pop divas strut onto the stage against a backdrop of coloured LED lights. It's Spice Girls meet Cell Block Tango as the six performers introduce the audience to each of Henry's divorced, beheaded and live wives. The question is, "Who suffered the most?" Who would win a competition for the title of Henry's most unfortunate and wronged wife? First comes Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza ) who No Way  is going to lose her cool but after giving birth to Mary does lose Henry through divorce. Her father told Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare) Don't Lose Your Head and what did she do? She would say that by giving birth to Elizabeth 1st. she changed history. Soft hearted Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter) gave Henry a son and then died. If only she'd had a Heart of Stone. Widower Henry then turned to Germany and the House of Holbein to seek a wife but Anne of Cleves (Chiara Assetta) couldn't live up to her portrait. Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) thought that she could control Henry and tell him to Get Down You Dirty Rascal,  because all you want to do is touch and feel me but noone tells the king what to do unless you want to visit the chopping block. We will never know if Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan) would have survived if Henry had not died leaving her free to marry her lover, Thomas Seymour, brother to Jane Seymour. It's a strange world. And suddenly Makan breaks the fourth wall. Is this a competition that celebrates the abuse of women and the patriarchal dominance of misogyny?  Isn't it time to realize that We Don't Need Your Love.

SIX rocks with the force of new age freedom of choice. The all female band launches into the powerhouse final number with a triumphant reprise of  rebellious affirmation. Six is the clarion call of our time. It makes a stand that cannot be defied. It is a tide that can't be turned.  Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss's musical is a pop/rock sensation, forging the way for the new age musical theatre. Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage's tight direction along with Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's electrifying choreography charge the performances with explosive energy, slick, snappy, and sassy . 

Six is a history lesson on steroids. It not only teaches us the past but points the way to the future. Six is seventy five minutes of full throttled fun with an unexpected twist. If only we could turn back time. Highly recommended. 

Photos by James D Morgan-Getty Images



Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical

Written by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Directed by Jarrad West. Associate Director Steph Roberts Musical Director Alexander Unikowski. Choreographer Michelle Heine Lighting Design Phillip Goodwin. Sound Design Nick Cossart. Set Design RJames Entertainment. Costume Design Fiona Leach. April 26 – May 22. 2022. Bookings: 62856290.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Photo by Janelle McMenamin

Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive keeps running through my mind. And that is what Free Rain Theatre has done with its latest  fabulous  production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical .In spite of Covid and lockdowns Anne Somes’ production with direction by Jarrad West, musical directions by Alexander Unikowski, and choreography by Michelle Heine dug deep to survive and came up gold. This is a show to raise the spirits, gladden the heart, strike a sympathetic chord and have audiences tapping their feet, clapping their hands and cheering the hugely talented cast and creatives.

  Most people will know the story of three drag queens who jump into a bus called Priscilla to travel through the red heart from Sydney to perform at a concert organized by Tick’s ex wife Marion (Jessica Marchant) in Alice Springs.  What Tick aka Mitzi (Joe Dinn) doesn’t tell his two companions, former Les Girls performer Bernadette (Jarrad West) and Adam aka Felicia (Garret Kelly) that he has a son Benji ( a lively performance from Zavier Martin) whom he wants to see. Old rivalries fester and erupt. Mitzi struggles to restore peace. Redneck homophobia sees Priscilla crudely graffitied and Felicia beaten up before being rescued by mechanic Bob, who tags along for the ride. Eventually they arrive in The Alice where Tick meets Benji, Bernadette and Bob realize that there is a fine romance and all three discover that they belong. Together they face their futures proudly confident with whom they are and finally accepted by those who care.  

Garret Kelly as Adam (Felicia)

From the opening number It’s raining men  sung by Divas Janie Lawson, Hannah Lance and Chelsea Heaney and a powerhouse Ensemble, it’s obvious that this show is raining glitz, glamour and dynamite energy, By the sixth number Go West, Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical is on full throttle driven along by Michelle’ Heine’s exuberant choreography, and blowing gaskets with Musical director Alexander Unikowski’s  band and pit singers Michelle Klemke, Maureen Read, Jo Zaharias and Nikki Fitzgerald. The leads and the Ensemble give full gusto force to a show that burns energy in  this  thrilling production by award winning Free Rain Theatre.

But Priscilla Queen of the Desrt The Musical is much more than a collection of foot tapping, heart pumping and iconic musical numbers. It is about accepting difference and recognizing the humanity common to all whatever the outward appearance or sexual identity. What is so very impressive about Jarrad West’s direction is the quality of the performances from principals and ensemble alike.  Dinn’s Mitzi sensitively embodies the longing for a father to be reunited with his son. West’s Bernadette tremors with the fragility of the aging quean whose beauty and appeal is fading and grief at the recent death of his young lover is a moving reminder of life’s fragility. Kelley’s Felicia is the epitome of gay youthfulness, eager to live his life to the brim of hedonistic pleasure, ignorant of consequence. The casting is superb and the entire company rises to the occasion with performances that take one from the dizzying heights of musical entertainment to the poignant moments of tender empathy. To bring this reviewer to that leaking tear in the corner of the eye is a testimony to a performance that finds its way to a person’s heart. Kara Sellars is a natural comedienne who makes the most of her hilarious moments in the outback pub  Stereotypical prejudice is violently captured in Michael Burdeu’s Frank. The stereotype is effectively challenged by Pat Gallagher’s natural and non-judgemental performance of Bob. 

Jarrad West as Bernadette. Garrett Kelly as Felicia

Special credit is due to the dedicated and talented team of creatives who have vividly brought the production to life. There is magical lighting from Phil Goodwin, accompanied by clever video projections from Pixelwise Media. Fiona Leach’s brilliant costume designs explode with colour and novelty and the stage construction team under designer R James Entertainment ingeniously  bring Priscilla to life. The proof of this production’s excellence is in the detail and nothing has been overlooked to bring first class, uplifting and life affirming entertainment to audiences at the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan. 

Finally, the audience leapt to their feet and some rocked on in their seats to Ce Ce Peniston’s Finally not as a farewell but in the secret hope that Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical would just keep on bussing along. Join the ride. This is one journey you’d be sorry to miss!

 The Band:

Keyboard 1 - Alexander Unikowski

Keyboard 2 - John Yoon

Reeds            Callum Richens

Trumpet -       Sam Hutchinson

Trombone -     Dominic Harvey-Taylor

Guitar        -    Jeremy Tsuei

Bass -             Steven O'Mara

Drums -            Brandon Reed

Percussion -     Jen Hinton/Tim Cole

Photos by Janelle McMenamin



Written by Stephen Elliott and Allan Scott

Directed by Jarrad West

Free Rain Theatre

The Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 22 May


Reviewed by Len Power 28 April 2022


A surprise movie hit in 1994, ‘The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of the Desert’ became a successful jukebox Australian and international stage musical in 2006.

Two drag queens and a trans woman travel from Sydney in a bus to Alice Springs where they are contracted to perform in a drag show at a resort.  Along the way, they encounter prejudice from various colourful Australian characters but also gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

Jarrod West gives a heart-felt performance as Bernadette, especially in the character’s serious moments.  Joe Dinn as drag queen Tick (or Mitzi), brings a lot of depth to his role and is a fine singer.  Garrett Kelly as the other drag queen, Adam (or Felicia), convinces as a bitchy, irresponsible but ultimately caring young man still learning about himself.

Joe Dinn (Tick/Mitzi), Jarrod West (Bernadette) and Garrett Kelly (Adam/Felicia)

The three Divas, Janie Lawson, Hannah Lance and Chelsea Haney are all great singers and have a lot of fun with their Greek chorus-type roles.

Pat Gallagher as Bob, the mechanic who helps the ‘girls’ when their bus breaks down and then forms a growing attachment to Bernadette, gives a perfectly judged laconic performance of great depth.  On opening night, young Zavier Martin was very believable as Tick’s son, Benji.  His duet with his father late in the show was one of the highlights.

Amongst other highlights, Dave Collins brings confidence and sass to club drag queen, Miss Understanding, Jessica Marshall is hysterically funny as the ping pong ball popping Filipino, Cynthia and Don Christopher delights as Jimmy, the worldly Aboriginal man pandering to tourists.  Steph Maclaine as the opera soloist sings a fine Sempre Libra.  The rest of the enthusiastic and energetic cast are clearly having a great time.

Musical director, Alexander Unikowski has done excellent work with the music. Michelle Heine’s choreography suits the skill levels of the performers and lighting and sound designs give the show the right ambience.

Costume designer, Fiona Leech has done an amazing job with dozens of quirky costumes, many of them seen only fleetingly.  The set design by R James Entertainment was problematic.  While the bus worked fine, the stairs and the bridge took up a lot of stage space and seemed under-utilized for such a large set piece.

The musical is, unfortunately, starting to show its age.  It’s close to 30 years since the movie was written and there is now a greater understanding and acceptance of members of the LGBTQ+ community.  Many attitudes displayed by characters in the musical now seem, thankfully, rather dated.

Nevertheless, director, Jarrad West and his cast and crew have given us a rollicking night of tuneful, colourful and wicked fun in the theatre.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at


Thursday, April 28, 2022



Book, Music and Lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss

Directed by Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage

Australian Associate Director: Sharon Millerchip

Originally Produced by Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, and George Stiles

Produced in Australia by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewick

Canberra Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre to 15 May


Reviewed by Len Power 27 April 2022


It’s a good thing when a show that’s been given so much pre-season hype actually delivers what it promised.  Six, the musical, is a bright, sassy, colourful show with good singing, a powerful production design and attractive, skilful performers.

This is not a serious history lesson.  The stories of the six wives of England’s King Henry The Eighth are given a very modern, light-hearted treatment.  You can see the influence of Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ and Baz Luhrman movies like ‘Moulin Rouge’ on the show.

In a rock concert format, the performers sing and talk directly to the audience with witty asides to each other.  You can’t always hear the lyrics clearly and there’s an awkward attempt at an empowerment message at the end, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s the overall effect that entertains here.

The six performers quickly endear themselves to the audience and look like they’re having the best time up there on stage.  That feeling spills over into the audience who were quickly rocking along rapturously with the cast.

From left: Phoenix Jackson Mendoza, Kala Gare, Loren Hunter, Kiana Daniele, Chelsea Dawson and Vidya Makan

The performers are a great playing ensemble and each of them are extraordinary singers.  They also have complex choreography to perform while singing and they never miss a beat of it.  They make it all look spontaneous and easy.

The colourful set design of Emma Bailey and the highly complex lighting design by Tim Deiling work together to create a sense of the period but in a modern, abstract way with all the elements you’d expect in a high-energy rock concert.

The musicians are onstage behind the cast and play the rock score very well.  There was nothing particularly distinctive about the music but it served the production well.  The high volume sound design by Paul Gatehouse adds another pleasing dimension and was well-balanced between the singers and musicians.

The costumes worn by the cast were delightfully witty and attractive.  With a nod to the 16th century period of the story, the space-age clothes complemented the individual performers and their characters in a modern sense as well.

The whole producing team have done excellent work, delivering a show calculated to meet a modern audience’s expectations.  It’s great fun!

Photo by James D. Morgan 

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at

White Pearl


White Pearl by Anchuli Felicia King. A Sydney Theatre Company and
Riverside’s National Theatre Of Parramatta production at Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, April 27-30, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 27

Director - Priscilla Jackman; Designer - Jeremy Allen
Lighting Designer - Damien Cooper
Composer & Sound Designer - Michael Toisuta
Composer & Associate Sound Designer - Me-Lee Hay
Projection Designer - Anchuli Felicia King
Dramaturg - Courtney Stewart
Voice & Text Coach - Leith McPherson

Soo-Jin Park - Deborah An
Priya Singh - Manali Datar
Sunny Lee - Melissa Gan
Marcel Benoit - Stephen Madsen
Ruki Minami - Kaori Maeda-Judge
Built Suttikul - Nicole Milinkovic
Xiao Chen - Shirong Wu
Understudy - Jenny Wu

Photos - Philip Erbacher

I’m glad I don’t live in the modern world.  

The idea that everyone should only converse in one-line assertions makes Twitter an abomination.  But there you go – I’ve just done it myself.

It’s the million comments of this kind about the White Pearl company’s attempt at a humorous television advertisement for its facial skin whitener, aimed at Asian women, which form the focus in this play.  It became literally black humour when it went wrong – as a joke in the ad – and the woman’s face turned black instead of white.  In the ad she is suitably horrified.  After all, who would ever want a black face?  Eh?

There is only one man in this play – very French, of course, with a commercial interest in face make-up and aromatic products – and others for a few other unmentionable parts of the body: his body.  He leaked the ad video on Twitter with no regard for copyright law – just for fun.

All the other roles are the women high-flyin’ team who have made White Pearl a global sensation.  This is despite realising, when a newcomer starts to think about why selling White Pearl cream works universally, that women hate the way they look but are afraid to admit it.  So the Singapore company calls itself Clearday Cosmetics so women don’t have to admit to themselves that they really want to be white.  Only the Pearl is White – as a pearl should be.

The dark side of this theme is cleverly kept in the dark by turning the scenes of this over-the-top competitive group of creative money-makers into a kind of edgy satire of this world in which, I’m glad to say again, I don’t live.  The humour is blacker by dint of the fact that these are all go-getting women, rather than the more usual patriarchal men, who naturally deserve to be satirised.

The set is literally high-powered in audio and visuals – I had to take one hearing aid off  completely – as the million hits and many of the vicious Twitters flashed up between scenes, and numbers explosively clicked up and up.  I think they reached 400 million as the whole cast fell apart mentally and socially, as profit-taking defeated feminism.  We were still laughing at the final blackout.

On the serious side, on reflection, White Pearl raises real issues about the status of women, including among themselves in the workplace; about the overbearing nature of male sleazy sexual demands; about the commercial need to cover up the dangers of popular products (in parallel, I thought, with the tobacco industry: in this case the  dangerous chemicals are over-used to make darker-coloured skin go white); and racism – in this case between different Asian cultures, including skin colour as well as attitudes based on nationality. 

For comparison, I was reminded of Nakkiah Lui’s play Black is the New White (reviewed on this blog in March 2018), though her humour is far gentler, more generous in tone.  I could live in Nakkiah Lui’s world, if a little uncomfortably as I must face critical questioning.  But I really don’t have a place in Anchuli Felicia King’s world.  See what you think for yourself.

Clearday Cosmetics' 'modern' office at work in Singapore
The cast of White Pearl, excluding the man,
Sydney Theatre Co / Riverside production

Sunday, April 24, 2022



Scott’s BMX Bike Trick Show.

 Scott Hone. Canberra Circus Festival. Produced by Tom Davis and Warehouse Circus. The May Wirth Big Top. Lyons Youth Haven. Kambah Pool Road. April 19-23 2022.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Scott’s BMX Bike Tricks is a lesson in pursuing a passion, sheer perseverance and unimaginable possibilities. For thirty five of his forty seven years Hone has been delighting audiences from Forty Second Street to Moscow, from Melbourne to Morocco and across the entire world. Today he is performing his show in the May Wirth Big Top at the Canberra Circus Festival. It’s fair to say that he is no longer the youth who stunned the circus folk at his audition and it’s understandable that he could run out of puff, but nothing would stop his phenomenal display of riding prowess on his beloved BMX bike..

It’s hard enough riding a bike around on the small square stage, but Hone is a pro and years spent on his marvellous mode of transport have helped him to adapt to every situation. First comes the perseverance as a warm up demonstration which delights the young audience as he falls off on the first try, gets himself up , dusts himself down and starts all over again, and again, and again, and again until to therapturous  cheers of the children he is on the bike and wheeling his way around the stage..

But curiosity is his eager companion. Is there another way he asks the audience after going doing wheelies for a while? And so begins his demonstration of imaginative prowess. With each time he asks “Is there another way”, and demonstrates, the responses come thick and fast – backwards while going forwards, forwards while going backwards, from the handlebars to the seat, backwards and forwards at the same time and then to absolute amazement and admiration , upside down. His lesson in lateral thinking compliments the kids with “I like the way you think.” And the audience loves the way he rides his BMX.

Then, just as I was wondering how much longer he can keep the kids entertained with the bike, Hone forsakes the bike for small clear plastic juggling balls to mesmerize his audience with the most adroit  finger juggling. The balls slide between his fingers and up his arm and around his back like mercury in a barometer. But wait there’s more. Then come out the juggling clubs which he throws behind and around, first the three, then the four, then the five. But wait, there’s more. Out come the juggling blocks. Is there no end to this man’s talent? He’s like a big kid, full of joyful youthfulness and bursting exuberance. His fun is contagious, his acts captivating and his audience goes on the circus ride with him all the way with claps and cheers .

And then there’s more. One final act, the grand finale. Six eager volunteers are chosen from the audience. Each is given a helmet and shown where to stand on the bike for the pyramid ride. Two step on the struts on either front wheel. Two on the struts on the back wheel. One on his shoulders and the smallest on his lap between him and the handlebars. The suspense mounts and off he goes around the stage with all hanging on in a final act of daring BMX bravado..

“ That was the best” my grandsons said of Scott’s BMX Bike Trick Show. Parents watch out when next you take your kids to the local skate park. Maybe an oval would be safer. And as Hopne says, “ I like the way you think.” There’s always another way. His mix of education and entertainment makes for  a perfect act at the Canberra Circus Festival.


The Trojan Women

 The Trojan Women by Euripides, adapted by Daramalan Theatre Company (DTC), Canberra, April 23-30, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 23

Producer/Director – Joe Woodward; Dramaturg – Wynter Grainger;
Lighting & Technical Director – Joey Gardiner; Assistant – Maggie Wilson;
Costumes – Angela Dunn and Gabrielle Adamov;
Music Composer – Jo Philp; Song “A Child Cried” – Tilly Watson.

Initial Research, Scripting & Processing – Amy Goedecke; Assistant – Lilia Bank.
Acting Consultants – Jack Curry & Mel Tsimbas; Special Guidance – Michael Castrission & Ayaz Pazhohish.

Andromache – Lucy O’Neill; Athena – Wynter Grainger; Bearer – Daniel Baraniecki; Cassandra – Amy Goedecke; Hecuba 1 – Rose Thiele; Hecuba 2 – Jen Noveski; Hecuba 3 – Lilia Bank; Helen – Vivien Murray; Menelaus – Benjamin Philp; Poseidon – Jack Curry; Talthybius 1 & Podcaster – Brodie Campbell; Talthybius 2 – Ethan Gumbrell; Talthybius 3 – Lachlan Faella; Woman 1 – Mia Burton; Woman 2 – Tilly Watson; Women on Beach – Lilia Bank, Wynter Grainger, Georgie Wiley and Katie Woodward.

Joe Woodward in his Director’s Note provides us with the context for this adaptation of The Trojan Women, using – I am guessing – the Gilbert Murray translation into an archaic form of English verse (1905).  Woodward refers to the prejudices of a long-ago school principal against racial equality and political activism who set the boundaries, saying “Joe, you and I can discuss these issues but you can’t expect seventeen year olds….”  Woodward explains then how “The semantics of ‘free speech’ and developing ‘critical and creative thinking’ become weapons to disguise and hide the real powers and structures that aim to do just the opposite.”

“Euripides knew these same things over two thousand years ago.  A Year 11 student from last year…suggested we put on ‘The Trojan Women’ as a wake-up call.  So here it is. With students doing all their own interpreting, research and adapting to today’s world and seeking comparisons in the play’s content with the situation in Afghanistan, the production exhibits an organic response that theatre creation rarely sees.”

That student, Amy Goedecke, writes in her Purpose statement “The Trojan Women, as a text, has allowed us to truly see that women in our own world, in times of both war and peace experience the same disgusting disregard for human decency that women experienced in the ancient world.”

Their production combines a kind of ritualised live performance, with videoed scenes on the sea shore (representing where the Greek ships were delayed by the gods’ onshore wind from leaving Troy after its destruction), and scenes from television news of the plight of women under Taliban control in Afghanistan, all presented by a male recording a podcast.

The staging, for a limited audience in a studio setting, without full-scale theatre facilities, was necessarily compromised in terms of sight-lines and the need for more complex lighting, for example.

I have to say that the students took on a Herculean task in learning Gilbert Murray’s arcane lines.  I’m not surprised that the meaning and even the storyline was often difficult to grasp.  Here’s Poseidon setting the scene with Pallas Athene:

The groves are empty and the sanctuaries
Run red with blood. Unburied Priam lies
By his own hearth, on God's high altar-stair,
And Phrygian gold goes forth and raiment rare
To the Argive ships; and weary soldiers roam
Waiting the wind that blows at last for home,
For wives and children, left long years away,
Beyond the seed's tenth fullness and decay,
To work this land's undoing.
                                            And for me,
Since Argive Hera conquereth, and she
Who wrought with Hera to the Phrygians' woe,
Pallas, behold, I bow mine head and go
Forth from great Ilion and mine altars old.
[  ]

However, the essential point of the production was to prove that these “seventeen year olds” could indeed come to grips with the issues that one-time principal said they couldn’t – or more significantly said they shouldn’t.  These young women were perfectly capable of appreciating the “disgusting disregard for human decency” that women still experience around the world, and I am sure understand the importance of role models such as Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame.

In re-enacting Euripides’ cry for such understanding – even just in learning by heart what he wrote and expressing what the Trojan Women felt on stage – they have consolidated their learning through the drama.  I trust the male figures, including the podcaster, have absorbed that cry in real life, against the cruelty of their characters in the play.

These students, I hope – and others who see the production – will take up political activism.  The eighteen year olds, I trust, are registering to vote right now, ready for May 21st.

Further reading for those who have not yet discovered Pat Barker are her two novels about the Trojan War: The Silence of the Girls (Penguin 2018) and The Women of Troy (Penguin 2021).  Much better written for modern times than Gilbert Murray; and filling in the gaps in Euripides from a woman’s point of view.






Saturday, April 23, 2022



Tricky Nick Magician and Idiot.

 May Wirth Big Top. Canberra Circus Festival produced by Tom Davis and Warehouse Circus. Lyons Youth Haven. Kambah Pool Road. Kambah. April 19-23 2022.

Reviewed by peter Wilkins

My grandsons didn’t stop giggling  from the start to finish of Tricky Nick’s  magical show for all the family. Billing himself as a magician and idiot, Nick lived up to his reputation and had the audience in the palm of his hand as he delighted the young audience and their parents with slapstick, toilet humour and skilfully executed sleight of hand. Tricky Nick aka Nicholas J Johnson is a magician extraordinaire but he is no idiot. He’s a master of tomfoolery who uses the art of feigned confusion to bewilder and amaze the kids and keep the adults guessing. The more he fake fumbles the more his audience erupt into delighted  instruction. It’s an old clown’s trick to play dumb, but Tricky Nick’s timing is spot on. He knows when to milk the house and when to hit the high point and move on.

In a series of tricks Tricky Nick turned out the familiar and the favourite. Coins appear from a young volunteer’s nose and ears. A magic wand shows that it has a mind of its own. Cards appear and disappear and change suits. Rope tricks always keep alert eyes wide open to see how two pieces magically become one. Eggs, looking like ping pong balls keep popping out of the mouth and eight year old willing helper Aisla gasps in amazement when two separate rings become linked and then three are linked and separated before disbelieving eyes.

 Circus fans may be familiar with many of the tricks, but for the kids, Tricky Nick’s show is a wonderworld of magic. He is the consummate performer of the slick trick and establishes an immediate silly and relaxed rapport with his wide-eyed, laughing, cheering and clapping fans. . Nothing is too drawn out or confusing and for an entertaining hour the audience is rapt.

Every act needs a good finale, something that nobody expects and everybody will remember. Card tricks and magic rings or a wobbly wand are all well and good, but escapology is something nobody would have expected. It’s not Houdini but Tricky Nick invites an adult to help him be put into a strait jacket and then bound with a very long chain. The giggles stop and you could hear a pin drop and the magician built the suspense in this “death-defying” act and began to work his magic to escape from the chained up strait jacket. And presto, he not only manages to climb out of the orange strait jacket and shed the chains but he offers a balloon dog that he has made while struggling to a kid in the front row of the May Wirth Big Top.

 And the best tricks? That was something my grandsons couldn’t say. They liked it all. There was no trick where they could say “I know how that’s done” or “That was boring”. Tricky Nick’s fun, foolishness and  and first rate magic skills made every act a hit with the boys and the rest of his very happy audience. Keep an eye out for Tricky Nick’s book of magic. It’s full of party tricks that you can practise at home and then amaze your friends. That’s what Tricky Nick did at the Canberra Circus Festival.