Saturday, October 29, 2022


Photography | Brian Rope


CCAS Manuka | 20 Oct 2022 - 30 Oct 2022

If the exhibitor is not a photographer, but the accompanying text is by someone else who is, what’s the story here? Well, the explanation is what this exhibition is about - and it is an intriguing story. 

Emma Dowden and Esther Carlin became good friends at university when Dowden was studying sculpture. After graduating they each went their separate ways, to separate cities, but remained friends and in contact via Zoom.

During those fabulous lockdown days, they commenced a project which led to this exhibition. Dowden’s friend taught her about photography as they connected with each other on screens. Conversation and friendship created Even When I’m Sleeping - just six photographic prints but accompanied by a delightful audio track that can be listened to through provided headphones or, better still, on your smart phone as you stand before each image. The audio can also be listened to again later as you contemplate the story you have seen and heard.

The text by Carlin is excellent and is best read whilst visiting the show - and reread later. Just pick up a copy on the gallery counter. Let me share just some snippets here.

Emma holds up the camera to the screen. Prints curling on the wall behind her. There’s a video of the birds on my desktop, the baby falcons before they have learnt to fly.

I am teaching her how to use a camera. Our lessons take place on Sunday afternoons on Zoom. In the beginning Emma professes to hate photography…..she is interested… it feels to take a photograph. I think ahh. We are getting somewhere.

I set exercises: tone, texture, colour, light, form. I think I don’t know much about photography, but I do. First love…..The exercises are a structure for looking. Emma is uncertain and that uncertainty is there in the images.

The photographs depict Dowden’s immediate environment, taken over a period of five weeks during lockdown. They are observations of the house she spent lockdown in, things that drew her attention on walks around the neighbourhood and self-portraits. The photographs are arranged in five groups, corresponding to the weeks of the project, so presenting a loose chronology. The text and audio annotate the images.

The audio reflects on Dowden’s relationship to the photographs and their subjects, and her explorations in photography during lockdown. Two other people come into the gallery whilst we are speaking. Sadly, they only look at the photographic prints. They do not listen to the audio, nor do they pick up copies of the text to read. They miss key elements of the exhibition.


Emma Dowden – Tree, 2021-2022

Emma Dowden – Duck, 2021-2022(The back story is on the audio track at 0.52 min)

Living at her parents’ house, Dowden begins to see the familiar surroundings in new ways. She sees her father sitting on the edge of his bed looking at his phone. She turns the lights off in her room and dad is in the frame of his bedroom door. The light on his bedside table illuminates him. It also spills out into the hallway revealing some colours and textures. He remains engrossed in what he is looking at whilst his daughter looks and sees and captures the moment.

Emma Dowden – Hallway, 2021-2022(The back story is on the audio track at 1.14 min)

Dowden was indeed fortunate to have a good friend teach her some of the key things about photography – particularly about the importance of looking. Looking and seeing tones and textures, colours and light and form.

Dowden told me she still does not think of herself as a photographer but confessed that she probably will do more photography in the future. I hope so. I hope we have the opportunity to see and hear something of that journey in the future.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times here. It is also available on the author's blog here.

Collected Stories


Collected Stories by Donald Margulies.  Chaika Theatre at Act Hub, Kingston (Canberra) October 27 – November 12, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening Night October 28

Director - Luke Rogers
Assistant Director - Caitlin Baker
Stage Manager - Sophia Carlton
Lighting Designer - Stephen Still
Sound Designer - Neville Pye
Production Manager - Sebastian Winter
Production Photography - Jane Duong
Promotional Photography - Sebastian Winter

Performed by Karen Vickery and Natasha Vickery

Karen Vickery as Professor Ruth Steiner and Natasha Vickery as her student Lisa Morrison
in Collected Stories by Donald Margulies
Chaika Theatre
Photo: Jane Duong

Collected Stories is a Pygmalion play in which “Ruth Steiner is a teacher and respected short story writer. Her student and protégée is Lisa Morrison. Over the course of six years, Lisa journeys from insecure student to successful writer. After publishing a well-received collection of short stories, Lisa writes a novel based on Ruth's affair with the poet Delmore Schwartz. The women deal with the moral dilemma of whether a person's life events are suitable for another to use in their own creative process.” [ ]

Professor Ruth Steiner is a lot like Professor Henry Higgins in personality: essentially self-centred and an ‘instructor’ rather than empathetic teacher.  Lisa Morrison has a similar determination to succeed and find her own way as does Eliza Doolittle.  Henry succeeds in teaching his pupil how to speak, but he is forced to let Eliza go in the end, now she is equal to and independent from her teacher/mentor.

Ruth succeeds in teaching her pupil to write, but angrily forces Lisa to go in the end, now she is equal and independent from her teacher/mentor. Ruth is angry, accusing Lisa of ‘stealing my story’ but in writing her fiction novel, based on the story  – which Ruth intended not to make public – of her affair at “a young 22” with an older man, Lisa did no more than Ruth had taught her.  Any good story is grist to a writer’s mill.

In both plays the end shows up the underlying insecurity of the teacher-instructor.  Henry Higgins laughs as Eliza goes, but we know how lost he feels.  Ruth Steiner sinks into despair as it seems her age is catching up with her.  We know how lost she feels.  Yet we are left not able to offer all our sympathy, because both of these Professors have brought their endings upon themselves, at least in part.

Now to the performances by mother and daughter, Karen and Natasha Vickery.  

For me to criticise would be an embarrassment after spending most of two hours sitting right next to Professor Steiner’s writing desk in her comfortable 1990s lounge room.  I could easily have picked up her phone for her when it kept on ringing as she slumped in depression when the final lights and jazz music faded.  I looked at her protégée Lisa and felt her sadness, yet understood her need to leave the room and the relationship with this woman who had become almost a mother for her.  She was now the teenager who had grown up.  It was time to go.

It goes without saying that their performances demanded, and they achieved, a high degree of professional skill individually and as an acting partnership.

Credit, of course, must also go to Luke Rogers and Caitlin Baker as director and assistant director for their detailed work with the actors, and for the layout of the action in this very much in-the-round staging which works so well in The Hub; as well as for such thoughtful design of the lighting by Stephen Still, and especially for Neville Pye’s choices of the integrated sound of modern jazz with all its blue notes which belonged to that period of social history.

Chaika Theatre is proving to be a well-worthwhile venture indeed.

Natasha Vickery as successful novelist Lisa Morrison and Karen Vickery as Professor Ruth Steiner
in Collected Stories by Donald Margulies
Chaika Theatre
Photo: Jane Duong






Written by Donald Margulies

Directed by Luke Rogers

Chaika Theatre at the ACTHub, Kingston to 12 November


Reviewed by Len Power 28 October 2022


When is a person's life events suitable for another to use in their own creative process?  That is the question posed in Donald Margulies’ play, ‘Collected Stories’.  It is also an unflinching look at honour, trust, friendship, perceived betrayal and plagiarism set in the literary world of New York in the early 90s.

Lisa Morrison, a student played by Natasha Vickery, attends a tutorial in 1992 in the home of Ruth, her lecturer and respected short story writer, played by Karen Vickery.  Very aware initially of Ruth’s reputation, Lisa strikes up a close teacher-mentor-friend relationship with Ruth which is viewed over the next six years.  In that time, Ruth tells of a long-ago love affair which Lisa uses, without telling Ruth, as the basis of her first novel.

Unlike in the movie, ‘All About Eve’, there is no overt treachery here.  Lisa retains her friendship and respect for Ruth and believes she has a right to use the deeply personal story Ruth has told her in an unguarded moment.  Lisa cannot understand that she has caused Ruth a deep and lasting hurt.

A brilliant character study of these two women, it delves deep into the relationship of teacher and student, looking at friendship and whether confidences shared are fair game in the literary world.  It poses the ethical question – is a story told still owned by the teller?

This two-handed play offers great roles for two women.  At the start of the play, we see Ruth in control as the teacher - tough, worldly-wise and intimidating to a student in awe of her literary achievements.  Lisa, the student is nervous and unsure of herself and eager to please.  They couldn’t be more different.  As the years progress, Ruth drops her guard.  Lisa becomes more confident, publishing a set of short stories and thinking about moving on to writing a novel.

Karen Vickery as Ruth

As Ruth, Karen Vickery gives a performance of great skill – tough, intelligent, with moments of unexpected warmth, hints of loneliness and past regrets.  There is never a moment when she does not convince.  Natasha Vickery as Lisa, also gives a very strong performance.  She has the challenge of introducing subtle changes as Lisa matures over the years, hinting at past emotional damage and she is completely successful.  Both women live their characters to a very realistic degree.

Natasha Vickery as Lisa

Very well-directed by Luke Rogers, on a set that convincingly evokes New York and Ruth’s literary life-style, the story is compelling and told with humour as well as being dramatic.

Watching these two top performers playing it is a treat in itself.


Photos by Jane Duong

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, October 28, 2022




Collected Stories by Donald Margulies. 

Directed by Luke Rogers. Chaika Theatre Company. ACTHUB ay yhe Old Causeway Hall  Spinifex Street Kingston. October 27 – November 12. Bookings:

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

There is something evocative about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  Softly seductive, beguilingly entrancing the jazz arrangement draws you in to the New York apartment of famous writer and teacher, Ruth Steiner. In what one might expect from a Neil Simon Comedy, Steiner played by the remarkable Karen Vickery is leaning out of her window to throw the key down to her student Lisa (Natasha Vickery) on the street below. The buzzer doesn’t work, the window is jammed and Steiner hurls her key to the ground below while shouting instructions to Lisa. It is a comical start to a play that seamlessly  unfolds to probe the complex relationship between  teacher and student, authoritative mentor and devoted mentee. Donald Margulies ‘text is a masterclass in playwrighting. The performances by both actors provide a mesmerising master class in acting. 

Natasha Vickery as Lisa in Collected Stories
I become totally absorbed in the evolving relationship as impressionable, vulnerable and obsessed Lisa dotes on every word, every critical comment, every piece of advice from her idol’s lips. With insightful skill director Luke Rogers charts a carefully orchestrated and deliberately timed air of ups and downs and twists and turns as two intriguing personalities test the waters of a shift in their relationship. The dynamic between the two women turns and  the relationship shifts from teacher and student to assistant and employer, colleagues and friends before Margulies introduces the crisis that will tear the relationship apart.  Margulies’s insight into the aspirations and frustrations of a writer’s life where the fading star of regret is bitterly outshone by her young protégé’s flaming comet of success is a theatrical tour de force that places Chaika Theatre Company at the pinnacle of Canberra’s professional theatre scene. The audience is lured into a world where writer and actor merge in a performance that is rivetingly true, infuriatingly complicated by the conflicting emotions of mutual admiration on the one hand and destructive misconception on the other. What price success when scarred by insecurity, self doubt and distrust? What hope salvation when confronted by ravaging age and betrayal? What hope of restitution when inspiration is condemned as plagiarism and friendship is discarded as crumpled torn manuscript pages upon the apartment floor. Fragility thy name is ego.

Karen Vickery as Ruth Steiner
Collected Stories unsettles as we see the destructive nature of vulnerability take hold of both women, one past her prime and the other on the precarious precipice of success and adulation. Is Lisa’s purloining of Steiner’s life experience the collected stories that foretell  her fate? Is this the future that every artist faces?

Suffice to say that Collected Stories will allow no passive engagement. The direction is perfectly executed , the writing inescapably real, incisively  observant  and so powerfully encapsulated in the flawless performances of the real life mother and daughter on stage. The chemistry is palpable, the timing instinctively precise and the emotional connection so authentic that we watch each moment unfold as though it is happening in the instant before our very eyes.

Collected Stories is no All About Eve.  Steiner is no Margo Channing  and Lisa no Eve Harrington. Margulies’s dramatic skill is far more nuanced than that. This is a tragic tale of declining years and youthful obsession. And through it all courses the spectre of fear. Karen Vickery’s Steiner is a study of time’s approaching inevitability. Natasha Vickery’s Lisa a puzzling paradox of confused intention. Judge for yourself the true intention of her action. The mirror held to Nature in Collected Stories may not emit the true reflection.

Following on from the earlier inaugural production of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Chaika Theatre Company proves itself to be another shining beacon of hope for the emergence of professional theatre at ACT HUB and Karen Vickery and Natasha Vickery shining lights on a professional  Canberra stage. Support local professional and independent theatre and buy a ticket today. Collected Stories is must see theatre.

 . Photos by Jane Duong


Power of photography to see and to suggest

David Hempenstall, Untitled, 2015.

Photography / “The Corner of My Eye” by David Hempenstall and Mark Van Veen. At M16 Artspace until November 6. Reviewed by CON BOEKEL.

THE exhibition title hints at the shared intent – to provide viewers a glimpse and then to invite them to imagine beyond that glimpse.

Hempenstall deploys a sophisticated visual vocabulary. Many of the individual images have an incomplete feel about them. How does this happen?

Children are caught in mid-action or in half shade, half sunlight. They are often cropped either by being partly hidden by other elements in the picture or because of the cropping of the image itself. There are truncated feet and legs. Some images feature motion blur or light painting blur. The children, when given a participatory voice, seem to delight in perplexing the viewer.

Shapes, lines, shade and light may start at almost random edges of the print and disappear off the opposing edge.

There is a paradox to the incompleteness. There are connections within and between the prints that close the imaginative circle. There are patterns in the choice of subjects: children, legs, urban furniture, suburban houses, light poles, fences, conifers and palms.

The curation is superb. Subjects, shapes, shadows and patches of light recur, echo and reverberate along the hanging. The pace varies from the abrupt to the minutely gradual.

Another connecting element is the overt photographer’s presence. Here, the viewer sees the photographer’s shadow superimposed on a child. There, the photographer’s arm reaches out to steady a child’s swing. Even the shadow of his camera gets a look in.

Hempenstall’s work amply illustrates Friedlanders’ view, quoted in the exhibition notes, “Photography is a generous medium”.

Mark Van Veen, “Transparent Horizon”, 2020, “Both Sides of the Sky”, 2020 and “Hard Grey Star”, 2020.

Van Veen focuses on headstones, graves and, at times, their immediate surroundings. There are tensions between close viewpoint and apparent distance, as well as between the materiality of the marble and the ethereal nature of the reflected skyscapes. Moisture on the graves sometimes allows a view of the marble underneath and sometimes reflects light and even, at times, both.

As with Hempenstall, there is a starting point of incompleteness. The powerful verticals, horizontals and diagonals generate planes that move beyond the edges, off to infinity.

It is not always immediately clear whether we are looking down at a grave or looking horizontally at a grave stone. Are we looking at our feet or into the distance?

The materiality of the grain in the marble is, in some images, complemented by hyper-real renditions of lichen, leaves of grass, oak leaves and pine needles. By way of contrast, the reflected branches lack sharpness and the reflected skies are amorphous. The visual and emotional range moves, therefore, from the immediately tactile to beyond the horizon. Again, a paradox. None of the images features a “real” horizon.

The generally serious intent is leavened by humour. Hempenstall’s “white pooch” is a visual reference to Friedlander’s Beau Jack peeing on a fence. Van Veen riffs off the graveyard meme by naming one of his prints “Leaves Here Branches There”.

Part of the pleasure of viewing this exhibition is comparing the way in which the two artists have used different printing styles to deploy sharp detail and nebulous shapes. Some of Hempenstall’s toned silver gelatin prints are beautifully austere; some of Van Veen’s digital colour prints, printed by Rob Little, feature voluptuous colour.

The exhibition is personal rather than political. For example, the environmental cues are nearly all introduced: palms, conifers and deciduous trees. The sole Australian magpie is lost in flight.

The exhibition is about the power of photography to see and to suggest. It is not an easy exhibition. It requires work by the viewer. It carries the viewer from the corner of the eye to the mind’s eye.

Thursday, October 27, 2022



Selby & Friends

Llewellyn Hall October 26

Reviewed by Len Power

In their final concert of the year, “Selby & Friends” revealed the inspirations of three composers whose music pays tribute or legacy to other remarkable artistic figures.

The players had a formidable list of credits between them.  Natsuko Yoshimoto, violin, has won many prizes in international competitions and has appeared with many world-renowned orchestras.  Richard Narroway, cello, enjoys an international career as a sought-after performer, recording artist and teacher.  Kathryn Selby, piano, is the Artistic Director of “Selby & Friends” and has won prizes in numerous competitions and performed nationally and internationally.

Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, with an arrangement for piano trio by Matt van Brink, is a memorial work thought to evoke the spirit of composer, François Couperin.  Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer (or in one case, two brothers) who had died fighting in World War I.  The last movement is dedicated to the husband of Marguerite Long who first played it in 1919.  The highlight of this work was the third movement whose beautiful melody was played with particularly great feeling.

Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor followed.  Mendelssohn was a great admirer of the music of J.S.Bach.  In four movements, it was the short, eerie third movement that clearly evoked the fairy world and led into the finale, which was grand and uplifting and the highlight of the work.

Composed in 1847, Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor is in three movements.  Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann’s wife, a composer herself, declared it her favourite.  It was lush and romantic and the performers gave it a superb performance.  The highlight of the work was the third movement, a poignant, lonely lament that was especially well- played.

The musicians each spoke at length about the works, adding another dimension to the concert.  It is one of the things that distinguishes a “Selby & Friends” concert and makes it even more approachable and enjoyable.


This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of October 27.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2022


 Co-Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe

Musical Direction by Phillip Scott – Lighting Design by Matt Cox

Video Design by Todd Abbott – Costume design by Hazel and Scott Fisher.

Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Phillip Scott, Drew Forsythe and Mandy Bishop

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, 25th October to 5th November.

Premiere performance reviewed by Bill Stephens

Phillip Scott - Mandy Bishop - Jonathan Biggins - Drew Forsythe
as Greens Wiggles in "Looking for Albanese"

The change of government has provided the impetus for the brilliant Wharf Revue team to press the “refresh” button and introduce a whole new cast of characters for  their newest revue, “Looking for Albanese”, which premiered in the Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse prior to its season at the Seymour Centre in Sydney.

The writing is as sharp, incisive and cheeky as ever, but as always, so much of the fun is recognising familiar identities among the clever impersonations offered by this quartet of masters of the art of political satire. 

“Looking for Albanese” opens  with Biggins, Scott, Forsythe and Bishop, in the guise of four open-mouthed fairground clowns singing, “Happy Days are Here Again” to welcome the change of government. They quickly transform into a troupe of Greens Wiggles, during which they identified each other. “How else would you know who we are?”

Mandy Bishop as Katy Gallagher in "Looking for Albanese"

This was a neat way of introducing some of the lesser known politicians about to feel the sting of their barbs. Among the first was Lidia Thorpe introduced to the tune of “Hot Potato”.  Other newbies included Katy Gallagher, brilliantly portrayed by chameleon, Mandy Bishop who delivered Gallagher’s monologue on financial matters in Shakespearean verse. Later Bishop scored again with her turn as Allegra Spender, glamorous in a Carla Zampatti suit, performing a knowing “Big Spender”.

Phillip Scott delighted a Boris Johnson performing a jaunty Corona Virus Song, and Jonathan Biggins scored firstly as a crusading Peta Credlin, then later as King Charles, while Drew Forsythe charmed with his turn as Joe Biden in lounge-singer mode.

Phillip Scott (Craig Kelly) - Jonathan Biggins (Clive Palmer) - Mandy Bishop (Albo as Alice)
"Albo in Wonderland"

However, as the title suggests, it is the newly crowned Prime Minister who enjoyed the most attention. In “Albo in Wonderland” Mandy Bishop plays the Prime Minister, while Biggins and Scott interpret Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer as Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum, and Drew Forsythe becomes the Mad Katter. Later Forsythe portrays Albanese projected into 2050, having won 6 elections, refusing to recognise the Grim Reaper played by Biggins.

Drew Forsythe as Pauline Hanson in "Looking for Albanese"

Joyfully many of the familiar favourites return including Forsythe’s marvellous Pauline Hanson spouting a whole new lexicon of malapropisms, and Bishop’s Jackie Lambie discovering the Tamworth Music Festival.

Mandy Bishop (Julia Gillard) - Jonathan Biggins (Paul Keating) - Phillip Scott (Kevin Rudd)
"Looking for Albanese"

Among many highlights is a scene in which the three Labor Prime Ministers portrayed by Biggins (Paul Keating), Bishop (Julia Gilliard) and Scott (Kevin Rudd) meet at the National conference to trade insults; and the almost traditional musical finale , “Inner West Side Story” which commences with “When You’re in Debt”.

A song in which Drew Forsythe, as a ghostly veteran returning from the Afghanistan war, sings of the effects on the participants of such wars provides a thoughtful moment among all the hilarity.   

Throughout, excellent costuming and hilarious interpolated video segments based around “You Can’t Ask That”, compliment the outstanding performances, ensuring that “Looking for Albanese” will take its place as another unmissable Wharf Revue classic.  


                                           Images by Vishal Pandey

  This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.


The Wharf Revue 2022


The Wharf Revue 2022: Looking for Albanese.  Presented by Soft Tread Enterprises and Canberra Theatre Centre, at The Playhouse October 25 – November 5, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening Night

Writers: Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott
Co-Directors: Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe
Musical Director: Philip Scott
Lighting Designer: Matt Cox
Video Designer: Todd Abbott
Costume Designers: Hazel and Scott Fisher
Photos by Vishal Pandey

 Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott

 Keeping the bastards honest since 2000.

As Covid and fear of impending Alzheimer’s has glued me to crosswords, one answer stands out time after time. Éclat.  The clue?  The brilliance of success.

Nothing else describes better this year’s Wharf Revue.  All the scenes from the open-mouthed clowns to King Charles III, from Albo in Wonderland (Queensland!) to when he faces Death in a nursing home in 2050 (after 6 terms, passing on the Prime Ministership to Jacqui Lambie) make up a crossword full of Éclats.  

But there is one very special scene where the brilliance of satire is set aside.  Channeling Fred Smith and his singing of Lee Kernaghan’s song Dust of Uruzgan, a returned soldier sings of Australia’s longest war, and simply asks the question “Why?”.  The dazzling wit of all the other scenes becomes highlighted in the contrast of their brilliance against the dark depth of feeling in that quietly sung question.  Our critical satirical laughter at politics needs the silence of the reality of the decision to go to war.  

Go to for the words of Dust of Oruzgan, including
Yeah, there's nothing about the province, that's remotely fair or just
But worse than the corruption is the endless bloody dust

and seek out Fred Smith’s CD.

That this amazingly skilled team could provide us with both the laughter and the silence is a measure of the value and importance of their work.  We need the Wharf Revue.  

We need to see Jacqui Lambie at her downright best (and join her Network); Katy Gallagher, the determined woman in charge of finance (even though the charming Chalmers gets the credit); the three previous Labor PMs, Julia, Paul and Kevin, enjoying a pleasant moment together; and the Wharf’s famous Pauline whose use of language this year even more subtly undermines her intentions than usual; – among a plethora of extraordinary political characterisations/assassinations.

Watching The Wharf Revue 2022 is literally exciting – both of our imaginations and our responses from unstoppable laughter to that quiet recognition of the truth.  Two decades of writing have honed the team’s scripting skills to a fine point, matched – this year especially by the range and depth of characterisation, quality of voice and movement by Amanda Bishop – in their musicianship, rapid-change costuming, makeup and hairdos.  All backed on screen by the Losers answering You Can’t Ask That questions – like John Howard unable to remember who was the longest serving Prime Minister!  I almost felt sad for him, recognising the onset of Alzheimer’s.

And do they find Albanese?   Yes, I think they do.  Pointed satire can be destructive, but this year’s Wharf Revue is a productive, even positive review of our world of politics – except of the Supreme Court of the United States, in a scene which I hope will be seen on Youtube by Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  Their response might be of the ‘Stop Laughing – This is Serious’ kind, though.

Don’t miss The Wharf Revue 2022.  

Julia Gillard, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd
in The Wharf Revue 2022

Jackie Lambie shirt-fronts the real Barnaby Joyce
Amanda Bishop in The Wharf Revue 2022

Pauline Hanson as the Red Queen of Hearts in Wonderland (Queensland)
Drew Forsythe in The Wharf Revue 2022

Albo meets the United Australia Party in Wonderland (Queensland)
in the Wharf Revue 2022

The cast of clowns
in The Wharf Revue 2022






Written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott

Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe

Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Soft Tread Enterprises

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 5 November


Reviewed by Len Power 25 October 2022


It’s time again for the annual Wharf Revue and what a beauty it is!  The same team of Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott is back and there was plenty going on in the world this year to take a shot at.  It’s slickly done right from the start until the close 90 minutes later.

From the opening number with the cast as those clowns with their mouths open at an amusement park, singing to ‘Happy Days’, one good sketch after another tumbles out at breath-taking speed.

The parade of significant people here and around the world is done very well.  There isn’t space here to name everybody skewered and part of the fun of ‘The Wharf Revue’ is the surprise factor anyway.

Inflation, rising interest rates, conflict in Ukraine, climate disaster, culture wars, Covid and a looming World War Three – nothing is sacred.

The full cast of 'The Wharf Revue'

Without giving too much away, the highlights were ‘The Greens’, suspiciously reminiscent of ‘The Wiggles’, ‘Albo In Wonderland’, ‘Oh What a Culture’ with tunes from ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ and sharp sketches on Anthony Albanese, Jim Chalmers, Boris Johnson, Peta Credlin and King Charles III.

Many of the old favourites keep making news, unfortunately, and the Wharf Revue is merciless about them.  Drew Forsyth is hysterical as Pauline Hanson, Mandy Bishop is superb as Jacqui Lambe, Phillip Scott is a brilliant Kevin Rudd and Jonathan Biggins brings out his Paul Keating again to devastating effect.  So many people are on offer, it’s all a bit of a blur afterwards.

Mandy Bishop as Julia Gillard, Jonathan Biggins as Paul Keating and Phillip Scott as Kevin Rudd

Production design is minimal but it’s been thought out very well.  The focus is on the people being satirised.  Lighting Designs by Matt Cox, costumes designed by Hazel and Scott Fisher, music by Phillip Scott and video design by Todd Abbott are all excellent. The endless succession of costumes and wigs in this show is extraordinary as are the endless whirl of quick changes.  It must be frantic backstage.

 ‘The Wharf Revue’ has become an annual institution.  Maybe someone should be satirising them, too?

Photos by Vishal Pandey

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


Monday, October 24, 2022



HMS Pinafore. Music by Arthur Sullivan Libretto by W.S. Gilbert

Directors: Jude Colquhoun. Musical Director: Matt Greenwood. Assistant Musical Director: Trevor Mobbs Choreographer: Belinda Hassall. Assistant Choreographer:  Christina Philipp Set Design: Jude Colquhoun. Costume Design: Janetta McRae. Properties Master / Milliner: Helen McIntyre Lighting Design: Jacob Aquilina - Eclipse Lighting and Sound.  Sound Design: Nick Cossart – Eclipse Lighting and Sound. Production Manager: Kay Liddiard. Stage Manager: Matt Lewer. Queanbeyan Players. The Q Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. October 14 – 23 2020.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

I can still recall when G and S ruled the Australian Musical stage. Across the nation in country institutes, school halls and city theatres Gilbert and Sullivan Musical Societies and school students delighted audiences with their exuberant productions of Princess Ida, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Iolanthe, Ruddigore and HMS Pinafore. From the Fifties to the Seventies audiences would flock to see a G and S Favourite. As the audience clapped wildly at the close of the final performance of the Queanbeyan Players’ bright and bouncy production of HMS Pinafore, it was easy to see why. Jude Colquhoun’s  purposeful direction, Matt Greenwood’s rousing musical direction and  Belinda Hassall and Christina Phillip’s lively and effective choreography showed this amateur company in top form with excellent performances from the principals and enthusiastic support from the choruses.  From the moment the nautically clad male chorus in Janetta McRae’s Regency sailor suits launched into We Sail The Ocean Blue, it was obvious that this was going to be a rollicking romp. And Queanbeyan Players made sure that its final full house was not disappointed

Josephoine (Katrina Wiseman), Ralph (Andrew Finegan)
Cousin Hebe (Dale Reynolds) and Chorus in HMS Pinafore

Vintage G and S sets the scene for a satirical storm with gales of laughter, slapstick business and the silliest of storylines.  It’s all very simple really. Captain Corcoran (a whip-cracking Adam Best ) wants to marry off his daughter Josephine ( a sylph voiced Katrina Wiseman) to the First Lord of the Navy, Sir Joseph Porter KGB. Lowly tar (Ralph (Raif) Rackstraw (an appealingly gauche Andrew Finegan ) is passionately in love with the Captain’s daughter, but holds little hope of success because of his lowly station. Josephine too is enamoured of Ralph, but bound to obey her father like every good girl of her class. The thought of marriage to Lord of the Admiralty Sir Joseph (a dazzle-dazzle dimwit David Cannell) is more than a good girl can bear so plans are afoot to escape, only to be foiled by Dick Dead Eye  (snitching salty sailor  Paul Sweeney) It’s enough to throw true love overboard in a sudden swell. But love will triumph in true G and S style when sweet little Buttercup (Veronica Thwaites-Brown with the voice of nectar) reveals her hidden secret to the world and all discover what O joy and O rapture unforeseen it is to be born not a resident of Queanbeyan but a proper upright Englishman.

Captain Corcoran (Adam Best ), Josephine (Katrina Wiseman)
Sir Joseph (David Cannell) in HMS Pinafore

Gilbert and Sullivan are yesteryear’s The Wharf Revue, milking the sacred cows of establishment for all they’re worth. The class system, the woe-betide naval forces, politics and birthright all get a proper dunking from Queanbeyan Players in a production that owes its success to the conventional observances of Victorian music hall and satirical revue. Traditional updating is a matter of course and Cannell’s rendition of Sir Joseph’s signature song When I Was a Lad makes the most of contemporary jibes at the blundering French submarine deal, Covid, Tony Abbott’s knighthood fumble and Scott Morrison’s Hawaian jaunt while Bushfires burnt. Cannell makes the most of ridiculous Malapropisms (Captain Corona virus). Cannell’s Sir Joseph deserves a place in the Pantheon of Gilbert and Sullivan comic characters alongside The Mikado’s Lord High Executioner, The Pirates of Penzance’s Modern Major General and the Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song from Iolanthe. Cannell’s performance is dazzling, a triumph of comic timing,  a shining comet of comedic brilliance. A strong cast of principals, supported by a finely rehearsed ensemble chorus keep the production moving at a fast and hilarious pace with the occasional moment of loving tenderness to soften the mayhem (Ralph’s A Maiden Fair To See).

Eliot Cleaves as Carpenter, Wally Allington as Bosum, Josephine, Ralph ,
Cousin Hebe and  Chorus in Queanbeyan Players' HMS Pinafore

Queanbeyan Players have served up an entertaining revival of a Gilbert and Sullivan classic in the D’oyly Carte tradition. If nothing else, a cheering, clapping, foot tapping laughing full house on a wet Sunday afternoon proves that composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and librettist William Schwenck Gilbert still hold a place in people’s hearts if the production is true to that tradition of audience entertainment and participation and the art of lampoonery can prove the delight of any generation.

Queanbeyan Players’ production of HMS Pinafore has sailed into the sunset, proudly having ridden the waves on the high seas of popular entertainment.