Sunday, July 31, 2022


Songs by Slim De Grey and Ray Tullipan

Directed by Christopher Latham

Narrated by Neil Pigot

The Street Theatre, 28 July


Reviewed by Len Power


The name Changi is synonymous with the suffering of Australian prisoners of the Japanese during the Second World War.  Those incarcerated proved to be resourceful in many ways, including creating shows to lift the spirits of the men.  While suffering from hunger and other privations, a highlight of a POW’s week were the shows produced and performed by the AIF Changi Concert Party.

Slim De Grey and Ray Tullipan wrote many songs for these shows and, after the war, 24 of the most popular songs were made available in the “Changi Songbook”. Copies of these books were sold to the POWs and were so beloved by them that they are difficult to buy to this day.

As part of the “Flowers For Peace” project, the director, Christopher Latham has arranged for all 24 of the songs to be recorded for the first time.  For one performance only, the singers and musicians involved in the recording presented an informal concert evening of these songs at the Street Theatre.

The narrator, Neil Pigot, spent an enormous amount of time with members of the concert party in the 1990s learning their performance style and recording half of the songs with them.  He was joined in singing them by Andrew Goodwin, tenor and Tobias Cole, baritone.

From left: Bill Risby, piano, Miroslav Bukovsky, trumpet, Bill Mackey, saxophone, James Luke, bass, Neil Pigot, Tobias Cole, Col Hoorweg, drums, Andrew Goodwin

The band accompanying them were Bill Risby, piano, Col Hoorweg, drums, James Luke, bass, Miroslav Bukovsky, trumpet, John Mackey, saxophone and Christopher Latham, violin.

Between the songs, Neil Pigot presented background information about the concert party members and life in Changi.  While there were humorous stories and jokes, there were also many sobering stories of the difficulties faced by POWs in the prison.

The songs, with titles such as “Swingaroo”, “A Tea Cup Romance” and “Just A Bungalow Called Home”, are classic examples of light-hearted, romantic songs of the war era.  There were some nicely catchy tunes and the singers clearly enjoyed performing them.  The audience responded with spirited applause at the end of the show.

Following this recording project, nine of the songs will be featured in the “POW Requiem”, part of the “Flowers Of Peace” project, which will be performed on 29 October.

Photo by Peter Hislop 

This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 29 July 2022.

 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



Kathryn Selby, piano

Dimity Hall, violin

Julian Smiles, cello

Llewellyn Hall, 21 July


Reviewed by Len Power


It was unfortunate that violinist, Natalie Chee, due to play in the Selby & Friends concert at Llewellyn Hall, had become yet another victim of Covid this week.  Luckily, violinist, Dimity Hall, was able to replace her and join Kathryn Selby and Julian Smiles for this Canberra concert.

The concert commenced with Australian composer, Miriam Hyde’s Fantasy Trio in b minor, Op. 26.  Composed in London in 1933 when Hyde was aged 20, this is a short but beautiful work full of emotion and reflection.  It was beautifully played by the trio.

The second item was to have been a work by Anton Arensky but, because of the artist change, it was replaced with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 5 in D Major, Op. 102, no. 2.  Kathryn Selby and Julian Smiles performed it.

The performance of this work was outstanding.  Julian Smiles’ cello playing of the quietly emotional second movement was clearly heartfelt and both he and Selby gave the impression that they were sharing something profound.  They also clearly enjoyed playing the jaunty and bright third movement.

After interval, the trio played the concert’s showcase work, the Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97, "Archduke", composed in 1810-11.  It was dedicated to Beethoven’s patron and friend, Archduke Rudolph of Austria.

 Both the first movement, with its familiar romantic melody and the contrasting light-hearted second movement were skilfully played.  The third movement, with its ethereal quality was played with great feeling and was the highlight of this work.  The boisterous and fun fourth movement brought the concert to a satisfying close.

Dimity Hall

Dimity Hall is well known to national and international audiences as a member of both the Goldner String Quartet and the Australia Ensemble at the University of New South Wales.

Julian Smiles

Julian Smiles has been a central figure in cello performance and teaching in Australia for over 25 years.  He grew up in Canberra, studying with Nelson Cooke at the Canberra School of Music.

Kathryn Selby is the Artistic Director and founder of the popular nationally touring Selby & Friends concert series.  Studying at the Sydney Conservatorium and in the USA, she has been a driving force in the Australian classical music industry since 1989.


This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 22 July 2022.

 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



HAND To GOD by Robert Askins.

Directed by Jarrad West. Stage Manager/Sound designer. Nikki Fitzgerald. Lighting designer. Nathan Sciberras. {Production Manager Marya Glyn-Danial. Production design. Arran McKenna. Happy Dance Creative. Puppet construction. Emma Rowland. Set piece construction Isaac Reilly. Promotional photography Emma Schroeder. Photography Janelle McMenamin/Michael Moore. Social Media Creative Pippin Carroll. Marketing Director ACT HUB Louiza Blomfield.  ACT HUB. July 27 – August 13. 2022. Bookings.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Michael Cooper as Jason with Tyrone

 Depending on your sense of humour Everyman Theatre’s production of Hand to God will either have you laughing until you cry or crying until you burst into uncontrollable laughter. It’s a blasphemous devilishly outrageous black comedy.  The guffawer will split his, her or their sides at the rude retorts of the rebellious puppet Tyrone. The giggler will find the sexual antics of mother Margery and yobbo Tim hilariously ribald. But the more restrained subtle smiler will simply smirk with secret delight  at the absurd members of the local church ministry puppet club. If however, you are prone to shock and indignation, then this wonderfully clever, and an absurdly Pandora’s box of all your private fascinations is certainly the place to revel in your unabashed catharsis.

Jason (Michael Cooper) and Jessica (Holly Ross)

Under Jarrad West’s sure fire direction, an outstanding cast crash their way through the mayhem and madness created by renegade Tyrone, a puppet with a penchant for splurting out the subconscious devilish thoughts in meek and mild Jason’s head. What ensues is a full on battle of will between Jason (Michael Cooper) and the thoroughly uncontrollable Tyrone.  Jason's mother Margery (Stephanie Roberts) battles her own demons and repressed instincts after the death of her husband.  That is until her wild demons are unleashed in a fit of sexual abandonment by yobbo Tim (Josh Wiseman) much to the blushing embarrassment of sweet Jessical (Holly Ross) and the envious disgust of Pastor Greg (Arran McKenna)

Steph Roberts as Margery. Josh Wiseman as Tim

Id and ego explode in Everyman’s riotously staged production of Robert Askin’s volcano of irreverence. The Devil is in the detail and he is playing havoc with faith, morality and suppressed self-deception. It is time for the truth to be revealed and Tyrone is no gilded lily under the puppeter’s control.  In an eruption of subconscious revelation, hypocrisy and hysteria  let fly in a flood of crudity and instinctive honesty. West is the master puppeteer of the business, playing the strings with wizardly directorial skill. There are so many moments of sheer hilarity as Jason unwittingly unleashes his truth weapon, Tyrone. The inexpressible attraction between the innocent Jessica and the shy Jason is just one of the magical moments in West’s production as Tyrone and Jessica’s Joelle turn the Karma Sutra into a diplay of gymnastic athleticism and Margery unbottles her dispensary of erotic seduction.  Pastor Greg’s attempts at exorcism prove as laughably futile as sticking a pin into a brick wall. By the time the production ends, any guffawer will be drained by the endless paroxysms of laughter. And for those who merely smile, admit it. You wish that you could have let your personal Tyrone loose at times – lots of times!

Michael Cooper (Jason) and Arran McKenna (Pastor Greg)

West’s cast handles the pace, the timing and the business with expert applomb. ACT HUB is forging a reputation for providing the very best in first class theatre and Everyman’s Hand to God is no exception.  In a cast that works so well together and handles the play’s Southern accents with authenticity, it is worth singling out Michael Cooper’s performance as Jason and Tyrone. His brilliantly orchestrated shift from Jason’s meek voice to the rumbling, threatening growl of Tyrone is a master class in dual characterization. It is obviously recognized by a tightly woven cast that acknowledges Cooper’s singled out bow at the curtain call.

Playwright Askins reminds us of the complexity of human nature and the peril of blind acceptance, false idols and painful suppression. The comedy may be black but the moral is gleaming white thanks to Tyrone, whose manner may be brash but at least you know on which hand you stand.

 Everyman Theatre’s Hand to God is a night out that you would be sorry to miss. This is the most outrageously  funny and discerningly honest play that you are likely to see this year. Let your Tyrone loose and hand it to God. You’ll be glad you did!.

Saturday, July 30, 2022




Choreographed by Frances Rings Artistic Director -Elect. Composer. David Page (1961-2016). Set designer. Jacob Nash. Lighting designer. Karen Norris. Rehearsal director. Daniel Roberts,. Cultural consultant. Arabunna Elder Reginald Dodds.  Retiring Artistic Director. Stephen Page.  The Company: Courteney Radford, Rikki Mason, Ryan Pearson. Daniel Mateo,  Jesse Murray, Kiarn Doyle, Kallum Goolagong, James Boyd, Gusta Mara, Glory Tuohy-Daniall, Lillian Banks, Maddison Palich, Emily Flannery, Janaya Lamb, Chantelle Lee Lockhart,Bangarra Dance Theatre. Canberra Theatre.  July 28 – 30. 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


To witness Bangarra Dance Theatre is to enter a world of spirits, mystery, wonderment and the wisdom and knowledge of an ancient civilization. It is to appreciate and embrace the notion of Country and our relationship to the land, water and sky. It is to understand our connection to Nature and the responsibility we share to nurture the planet we inhabit. This is the gift that Bangarra has given us for thirty years,

In 2012, Frances Rings, a dancer and choreographer with Bangarra and the recently appointed successor to founding Artistic Director, Stephen Page, was inspired by the landscape of Lake Eyre (Kathi Tanda in the language of the Arabunna people), the world’s largest inland sea, located in northern South Australia. Ten years after its premiere season, Terrain has been revived for a national tour, including Canberra.

This hauntingly beautiful and evocatively exquisite work is presented in nine movements. I use the term movements, because Terrain washes over me like a musical composition, transforming the spirit and arousing heart and mind. Each “state of experience “ as Rings calls them depict particular features of the lake through  dance, design, music and costuming.

Red Brick looks beyond the urbanscape to the ancestral calling to country.  Dancers Rikki Mason, Danioel Mateo, Ryan Pearson and Jesse Murray with their feet firmly connected to the land lift Courtney Radford towards the sky and the calling. This contrasted with a powerfully choreographed Shields, recalling the warriors who have struggled against invasion and occupation to battle the oppression that through the centuries of settlement has denied them land rights, native title and the recognition of First Nation People. In the light of current political developments this state of experience holds a special significance in the dance. Reborn illuminates the tradition of lineage as customs and knowledge ar passed down from generation to generation. . Spinifex is danced by the women of the company, who represent the spirit women suspended in time. The vast salt expanse conjures the people’s connection to an ancient power in SALT. SCAR is an indictment of the abuse of land and people and the destruction by man of Nature’s delicate balance. In LANDFORM  the power of healing is depicted through the promise of regeneration. In a mesmerising and spiritually uplifting REFLECT, Lillian Banks and Ryan Pearson weave a magical dance that transcends to a sacred realm where earth and sky meet. In a final ensemble of colour and movement, the company fills the stage with the flow of waters to the lake in DELUGE. It is the symbol of regeneration and transformation promising the gift of life’s wondrous cycle. It is the dance of hope and promise, as significant and as optimistic as it was when Rings conceived the work a decade ago.

As I watch the familiar patterns of the dancers’ embrace of classical and contemporary choreography, I am filled with a hope that reconciliation and the righting of the wrongs may be realized in a foreseeable future. The enshrining of a First Nations Voice in the Constitution is an important step in that process and Bangarra Dance Theatre ‘s mission plays an important part in that process through their magnificent performances

Ten years on Terrain retains a simplicity, a fluid and expressive ebb and flow combining classical technique with contemporary dynamism and thrilling choreography. Recent works by Bangarra such as Wudjang- Not the Past are layered with a sophisticated collaboration that denotes the company’s growth and development.  I make this as an observation, not a comparison, and Terrain in its artistry and execution is a visual, aural and emotive delight to savour and reflect on. Terrain is a timely and portentious work of great artistry and significant purpose.

To see Terrain is to experience respect for the past and hope for the future. As with all of Bangarra’s work over the past thirty years, Terrain is a gift to the Nation.



Terrain by Bangarra Dance Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre July 28-30, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 30

Choreographer – Frances Rings; Composer – David Page
Set Designer – Jacob Nash; Costume Designer – Jennifer Irwin
Lighting Designer – Karen Norris
Cultural Consultant – Arabunna Elder Reginald Dodd
Rehearsal Director – Daniel Roberts; Remount Consultant – Deborah Brown

Bangarra Dancers
Beau Dean Riley Smith; Rikki Mason; Glory Tuohy-Daniell; Ryan Pearson
Lillian Banks; Courtney Radford; Kallum Goolagong; Gusta Mara; Kiarn Doyle
Emily Flannery; Maddison Paluch; Daniel Mateo; Janaya Lamb; James Boyd
Chantelle Lee Lockhart

For the first 1 minute of 60 minutes, the stage backdrop is ghastly, bright, flat, white light: the last 234 years.  Fade to black for more than 60,000 years: a small circle of sunlight begins to reveal the First People.  Their story says ‘Always Here; Always Will Be’.  Terrain is from the heart.

A friend said he would have liked it to begin with an aerial photo of “Lake Eyre – Kati Thanda – [which] is one of the largest lakes in the southern hemisphere.  The monsoonal rains off the coast of Queensland travel down through the Channel Country spilling into South Australia’s Lake Eyre basin which is 9,500 square kms.  Uncle Reg Dodd, an Arabunna elder, told me to tell the story of Country from our urban perspective.” (Frances Rings Reflects on Terrain).  

But I know, as the backdrop changes with the development of the people, that this art is not a romance needing a pretty picture to begin.  We who are not First People need to know the truth of these blank white years.

In that very Channel Country “The careful time-honoured ecological balance was drastically disrupted by the arrival of large cattle herds, which crowded around and polluted accessible waterholes and billabongs.  The Kalkadoons raided the pioneer stations, spearing cattle and retreating into the rugged hills.  When stockmen and miners [at Cloncurry] were killed, the Native Police were called in.  The first punitive expedition was carried out in 1879 [101 years after the invasion began] in response to the killing of a stockman called Molvo.  But the low-level conflict continued, accompanied by persistent demands from cattlemen and the townspeople in Cloncurry for further police action….

“Their opportunity to take revenge came when the Kalkadoons killed the well-known station owner JW Powell…. ‘For every one of [his] poor bones / A Kalkadoon shall die’…. The punitive campaign ended in September 1884, when the troopers caught up with a Kalkadoon band on a rugged hill that came to be known as Battle Mountain…. [It is estimated] that in the punitive expeditions between 1878 and 1884 at least 500 Kalkadoons died and the toll may have been as high as 900.” (Henry Reynolds: Forgotten War, page 204-5, revised edition 2022).

It’s now ten years since I saw the original performance of Terrain, (reviewed on this blog September 13, 2012).  I didn’t note the white beginning then, but Reynolds’ updating of his 2013 history has changed my ‘urban perspective’.  Reynolds ends his book with “ When considering war overseas, Australians are admonished to remember forever those who did not return.  ‘Lest We Forget’ is not so much a phrase as a sacred incantation.  It provides the guiding spirit for the miscellany of monuments at the eastern end of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin in and adjacent to the Australian War Memorial….  On the other side of the lake Reconciliation Place manifests a very different attitude to Australia’s own wars.  The guiding phrase there is not ‘Lest We Forget’ but rather ‘Best we forget the conquest’.”

I wrote very positively in 2012: “David Page and Frances Rings, speaking at the pre-show forum, said that dance is its own language, so it is difficult to explain in words.  The best I can do is to describe Terrain as a symphonic poem in nine movements, however trite, old-fashioned and European that sounds” and compared the quality of the art  of Rings and Page with that of greats like Brahms, T.S.Eliot and Jackson Pollack.

The international recognition of Terrain since then, and the performance I saw today, fully justifies such comparisons.  But what an ‘urban perspective’ that was.  Today I sadly felt the absence of David Page, whose passing still haunts me, especially when absorbing the sound he created with Frances as she choreographed this artwork for and by the oldest continuing culture on earth.  

For Frances Rings, soon taking on her role as Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre from David’s brother Stephen as he retires, opening with Terrain is a triumph.  It will surely play its part in changing Reynolds’ concluding fear that “The process of reconciliation may have brought some people closer together, but white history and black history are as far apart as ever.”  

Voice, treaty and truth is the future.  









Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

 Co-directed by Kelly Roberts and Christopher  Zuber.   Canberra Repertory Theatre. July 28-August 13 2022. Booking 6258 1950.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins.

There is much to commend in Kelly Roberts’ and Christopher Zuber’s co-production of Romeo and Juliet for Canberra Rep.  It bursts with the vitality of the streets of Verona.  A contemporary rock score pulses with the drama of the action from the gang brawls between the Montagues and the Capulets on the streets of Verona to the ominous portent of impending doom. Christopher Zuber’s set design of moving arches and a revolving wall suggests the interchanging construct of residence and streetscape that keeps the action flowing. Richard Manning on guitar provides the atmospheric  interludes of the wandering minstrel in the Elizabethan tradition.

There is an obvious attempt by the directors to imbue the tragedy of the star-crossed lovers with a universal reality. Jennie Norberry’s costuming suggests a twentieth century combination of Carnaby Row flair and Camden Market casual. It is a mismatch but it does lend characters a certain individuality although I found Friar Laurence’s cassock, Juliet’s slip and Abram’s ambiguous costuming overall unsettling.

The tenor of the production can best be described as pre interval and post interval. Shakespeare’s comedy is accentuated in the first half. Ryan Street’s Friar is played as a buffoon, Shakespeare’s clown, who assumes the severity of fateful responsibility when the tragic consequences are revealed. So too does Tracy Noble’s Nurse shift from a rather flustery, dithery character to a hapless victim of conspiracy. Richard Manning’s Capulet appears as a bon vivant lord of dubious character to a domineering paternal tyrant as circumstances confound his bon vivant demeanour. Crystal Mahon’s socialite mistress of the house in her flamboyant red outfit discovers the futility of her assertive will in the presence of her wilul teen.

Roberts and Zuber have woven a tight ensemble of distinctive characters. Anneka van der Velde jolts expectation with her tomboyish larrikin interpretation of the free spirited and quick tempered Mercutio. She handles the difficult and challenging Queen Mab speech with an intelligent understanding of its shifting tempo and nightmarish crescendo, which illuminates Mercutio’s personality rather than the sense of the speech. Queen Mab is a fanciful trickster and many an actor is tricked by Shakespeare’s playful and foreboding imagery. Maybe this is why the directors have decided that Mercutio should not be slain because Romeo comes between Mercutio and a very Italianate Francis Shanahan as Tybalt, but because Mercutio impulsively kisses Romeo during the fight, thus suggesting that Mercutio, not Romeo is responsible for her death.


Pippin Carroll as Romeo. Annabelle Hansen as Juliet
The success or failure of Romeo and Juliet hinges on the performances of the two lovers. Pippin Carroll as Romeo and Annabelle Hansen as Juliet are well cast. Hansen emanates the 13 year old on the precipice of puberty, wilful, defiant, and smitten by Cupid’s arrow and lovestruck fancies. Carroll’s Romeo is the fickle adolescent, mercurial in his affections, quick to discard fair Rosalind for the innocently bewitching Juliet. Impulse and infatuation are the messengers of doom as reason and family rivalry intervene to turn the comedy of love to the tragedy of destiny. It is a journey reasonably well charted by Hansen and Carroll, who are well matched and pleasing to watch. Although the set design overcomes some of the problems of location and allows the freedom of the open stage, it diminishes the moments of intimacy in the balcony scene and the bedroom scenes.  More carefully focused lighting may have softened the tone to give the actors a greater sense of intimacy.

In her advice to the actor of Shakespeare’s work, Dame Judi Dench says “Obey the metre and remember that this is a play, not reality. Start the scene and earn the pauses.” It is advice that can help actor and audience to understand the language and the character. Too often the more inexperienced in the cast will lose the metre and the breathing necessary to find the rhythm of the language. There is no need to shout in the intimate space. The characters have been clearly and carefully created. All that is now needed in certain instances is to heed Hamlet’s advice and  “ Speak the speech trippingly on the tongue  and suit the word to the action and the action to the word. “

Ultimately, this production of the classic favourite is fresh and imaginative and a pleasurable “two hours traffic upon the stage”. Above all, it is a contemporary interpretation that gives Shakespeare’s play relevance today. The conflicts between families and tribes persist and Shakespeare’s plea for the power of love and tolerance is as meaningful today as evidenced in Rep’s well and imaginatively expressed production of Shakespeare’s immortal drama.

William Shakespeare's

Romeo and Juliet

Directors Kelly Roberts and Chris Zuber

28 July - 13 August 2022
Season: Wed - Sat, 8pm 
Matinees: 6, 7, 13 August, 2pm



Pippin Carrol


Annabelle Hansen


Richard Manning

Lady Capulet

Crystal Mahon

Nurse/Lady Montague

Tracy Noble


Francis Shanahan


Marcel Cole


Grayson Woodham

Friar Lawrence/ Prince

Ryan Street


Anneka Van Der Velde


Lachlan Herring


Blue Hyslop


Mischa Rippon

A Montogue/Apothocary

Tasman Griffiths