Sunday, April 30, 2023




Wild Thing 

Written by Suzanne Hawley. Directed by Kim Hardwick. Set design Tom Bannerman. Costume design Robert Bayliss. Lighting design Martin Kinnane. Sound design Patrick Howard. Composer Leonardo Bosi. Di Smith in association with Arts On Tour. The Q. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. April 28-29 2023.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Di Smith plays Jackie in her touring production of Suzanne
Hawley's play Wild Thing

The pre-show sound track to Di Smith’s production of Wild Thing by Suzanne Hawley gives little indication of the serious issue about to unfold on the Q Theatre stage. Cindi Lauper’s rowdy rendition of Girls Just Want to have Fun and Bobby Rydell’s version of Volare suggest a time of  youthful celebration and soaring dreams. The lights come up on four teenage schoolgirls on an art excursion to draw a landscape scene on the banks of a river. The year is 1956. It is a time of innocence and hopeful visions of a future life. Jackie (Di Smith) is the class rebel, a free spirit with a talent for art and a desire to become an artist. Lizzie (Helen O’Connor) dreams of becoming asecretary. After all this is the Fifties and Hawley reminds us that the opportunities for women were limited and the expectations constrained.  Frances  (Katrina Foster) echoes the choice with her  wish to pursue a career in nursing while Susan (Di Adams) dreams of marriage and children.

Di Smith, Di Adams,Katrina Foster,Lewis Fitzgerald and Helen O'Connor

Together they are The Musketeers, inspired by Alexander Dumas’ tales of adventure and bravery in the spirit of one for all and all for one. Theirs is a special friendship that has endured throughout their lives. Hawley propels her characters through time to when they are in their Sixties and we learn that Jackie has been diagnosed with Alzheimers.  It is a cruel twist of fate and the Musketeers are confronted with the need to protect and help their friend. As we journey through Hawley’s flashback scenes to the glorious overseas pilgrimage, the successful careers, the marriages and divorces, the trials and the tribulations and the love story of Jackie and Marco (Tony Poli) we are faced with the same dilemma that Jackie’s friends face, “What would we do in this situation?”

Hawley’s play assumes a significance that is far more revealing than a glimpse at Life’s  time altered tapestry. Jackie’s successful exhibitions gain a poignancy as she descends into the dark abyss of her disease. Susan’s fervent faith is tested when she has an affair. Lizzie questions the literary virtue of her novels and Frances shakes off the shackles of an unhappy marriage and finds happiness with Jackie’s neighbour Geoff (Lewis Fitzgerald) . And yet through it all the women’s friendship not only survives but rises to the challenge of”all for one”.

Di Adams,Katrina Foster, Di Smith, Helen O'Connor in Wild Thing

Smith captures the pain and the pathos of the Alzheimer sufferer perfectly. The fog of confusion and disorientation strikes a chord that arouses empathy. Director Kim Hardwick keeps the stage action fluid as actors move between scenes and back and forth through time and events. Poli is authentic as Marco, Jackie’s husband in the flashbacks and as her son Michael, distraught at his mother’s condition. Fitzgerald convincingly plays a variety of roles including an unsympathetic attendant at the nursing home for dementia sufferers. It is a distiurbing portrayal that resonates with anybody who has witnessed the brusque treatment of helpless patients.

The tightly knitted ensemble carefully charts Hawley’s final dilemma. What is a friend’s responsibility if an Alzheimer patient seeks to end their life. How would one confront this dilemma if it were a personal conflict? Hawley’s writing bravely presents this conundrum. The notion of assisted suicide and humane euthanasia may be abhorrent to some and an act of love to others. Is the quality of mercy strained?

Di Adams as Susan and Helen O'Connor as Elizabeth  in Wild Thing

This is a dilemma that needs to be played with utmost sensitivity and a deep regard for truthful respect. Producer Smith’s touring company have created an excellent ensemble piece that deserved a much larger audience than attended the Q on a wet and windy Autumn night in Queanbeyan. What Hawley and the company have achieved is an insight into Alzheimer’s scourge of  fractured dreams and lost memories of the happy and the sad times, the joys and the triumphs, the failures and the successes, that is the individual experience of Life. Wild Thing is an important piece of theatre that speaks not only to our hearts and minds but to our time.



Written By Suzanne Hawley

Directed by Kim Hardwick

Di Smith In Association With Arts On Tour production

Q Theatre, Queanbeyan 28-29 April


Reviewed by Len Power 29 April 2023


If the rain kept people away from the short season of ‘Wild Thing’, it’s a pity because it was a very enjoyable and moving play and the audience clearly had a good time.

Suzanne Hawley’s play ‘Wild Thing’ concerns a group of four Australian women born in the early 1940s who form a lasting friendship that endures for many years.  We first see them at school aged about 13 in 1956 when the most they have to look forward to is a typing job and, with luck, a good marriage.

As the years pass, ‘The Four Musketeers’, as they call themselves, experience very different lives from their early expectations as Australia changes with them.  Sex, drugs and rock and roll play their part as do the social and cultural changes happening in the world in the 60s and 70s.  Through all of this, one thing remains constant – their friendship.

On a deceptively simple set designed by Tom Bannerman, episodes from the girls’ lives play out rather like a jumble of memories from various times.  The men they meet and form attachments with appear along the way but the focus is firmly on the group of four women.

Director, Kim Hardwick, has opted for a simple, well-paced staging with minimal props and strong character work from her cast of four women and two men.

As the women, Di Smith, Katrina Foster, Di Adams and Helen O’Connor give excellent performances that become truly endearing as the years progress.  They all bring their different characters alive with a notable intensity.  By the time of the finale, we feel a celebration too as they celebrate their long lives with each other.

The men in the cast, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and Tony Poli, play multiple roles of teachers, lovers and husbands, moving in and out of the girls’ lives as the years go on.  Both give deeply etched characterizations that matter to the girls’ stories.

This was a play as much about the culture of Australia and the times as about the women and men whose lives we observed over a large number of decades.  For many of us, there was the added pleasure of close identification with the times and the characters.


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

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Whether World & From the Series ‘Light Jelly Sweet’

Animation, paintings, and photographs: Brian Rope

Moving image work: Whether World by Susan Bruce & From the Series ‘Light Jelly Sweet’ by Henry Hu

M16 Artspace | 14 April – 7 May2023

Whether World is by Susan Bruce, a moving image artist who describes the exhibition as a moving image work which considers whether the natural world (including trees, fungi, and aquatic life) communicates with humans and how humans communicate with the natural world. She questions how weather is experienced by our bodies and how we are changing everything through our activity.

Bruce is exhibiting in Canberra for the first time, so I turned to her website for background. Her practice also includes experimental short films, collage, drawings, prints and artist books. She is inspired by the textural qualities of film and the interrelationship between digital and analogue media.

Susan Bruce, Whether World (detail), 2022. Image still. Image courtesy of the artist

Writing about this show, Bruce shares “I am between two worlds. In one, I can see humans are crawling on the brown earth, butterflies are communicating with humans. Seeds are growing above the ground as well as underground. To me, trees are more valuable than diamonds. In my world, I float amongst the clouds, smell flowers, and swim underwater like a squid. I am free, and I am not ‘earth bound’.” Those charming words were a most useful backdrop to my viewing of her artwork.

Susan Bruce, Whether World (detail), 2022. Image still. Image courtesy of the artist

Without those words I would have seen fish, birds, gorillas and, yes, humans. I’d have seen the earth, underwater scenes and trees. I’d have noticed the drawings on her collages. But the backdrop helps us appreciate how Bruce sees people communicating with flowers and bees, and them communicating right back. She sees pigs in all their size and pinkness walking around us. She is saying to us that humans and non-humans co-exist, that humans are no longer at the top of the chain.

Susan Bruce, Whether World (detail), 2022. Image still. Image courtesy of the artist

Serendipitously, I viewed this exhibition the day after seeing the new documentary movie Giants, which is about some giants of Tasmanian ecological activism – former Greens leader Bob Brown and tall trees. Two days running, I found myself considering the same questions – how do we humans co-exist with all other forms of life on this planet? Where do we fit in the great scheme of living things? Have we any right to impact on the places where other life forms reside? That movie and this exhibition both successfully examine such questions.

From the Series ‘Light Jelly Sweet’, is new work by Henry Hu. Again, not previously familiar with this artist’s work, I went to his website. He began his practice using modern technological tools and easily accessible digital software creating artwork that engaged aspects of digital art and graphic design.

Later, Hu worked to incorporate digital creations into tangible forms. This delivered mixed-media paintings, lens-based works and computer-generated animation. What we see here are “testaments of existence as imagined, invented, remembered, and observed.” 

The artist has limited his tonal palette within each pleasing photograph and each mixed-media work - combining a multi-layered technique of paint pours with sand, gravel, twig, leaf, grass and wood. He describes this as a delicate manipulation of material that traces the ambiguity of nostalgia.

Henry Hu, the flint #38, 2022. pigment inkjet on cotton rag.38 x 26 cm Image courtesy of the Artist

There also are two pieces of abstract computer-generated animation conceived as an extension and companion to the static work. Sadly they’re displayed on small tablets with soundtracks accessed through tiny headphones. Turning on the tablets and locating the animations may defeat some.

Henry Hu, Velvet Fall (still image), 2023. Image courtesy of the Artist (1)
Henry Hu, Velvet Fall (still image), 2023. Image courtesy of the Artist (2)

I would have liked Hu’s excellent text about the series Light Jelly Sweet - on his website at – to be displayed in the gallery. Here’s a taste: “Burning sun. Open air. Nature. The fields. The woods. A birch. A pine. An oak. Shades. Shadows. Clouds overhead. Streams beneath. They are gifts for a child. How unguarded we were, the early days.” (The full text is available in printed form at the front desk next to the room sheets.)

This review was first published by The Canberra Times on page 10 of Panorama and online on 29/4/23 here. It is also available on the author's blog here.




Crimes of the Heart

Written by Beth Hanley. Directed by Karen Vickery. Assistant director Liz de Totth. Theatre 3. Canberra Repertory Society. April 28 to May 13 2023. Bookings: or 02 6257 1950

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Carmen King as Lenny, Meaghan Stewart as Meg,Ella Buckley as Babe

Under Karen Vickery’s sharply intuitive direction, Canberra Rep has staged a finely observed and utterly absorbing production of Beth Henley’s bitter sweet drama Crimes of the Heart”. Set in the small Mississippi town of Hazlehurst , Crimes of the Heart tells the story of the three Magrath sisters, Lenny (Carmen King), Babe (Ella Buckley) and Meg (Meaghan Stewart) The play opens with Lenny alone on stage plaintively blowing out a candle to celebrate her 30th birthday. Vickery directs the action as a moment of clowning by the sad clown, creating a sense of isolation and pathos. It is typical of the moments of comic absurdity that permeate the lives of the three sisters. The sisters’ granddaddy, who has looked after the sisters since their father left home and their mother suicided has suffered a stroke and the women have gathered at the family home. Each bears the burden of their private demons. Lenny is unable to bear children. Meg’s singing career has faltered and Babe is out on bail after having shot her abusive husband in the stomach and is facing a term behind bars.

Kathleen Dawe as Chiki Doyle and Carmen King as Lenny

On the surface, it could appear that this is a drama about a dysfunctional Southern family, but Vickery, assisted by Liz de Totth, and her excellent cast extract every ounce of empathy as we realize that they are the victims of circumstance, confronted by private torment and yet reaching out for comfort and consolation from each other. What may be regarded as frailty by their judgemental neighbour Chiki Doyle (Kathleen Dawe) assumes the poignant reality of the human condition. Lenny battles her insecurity and longing for a relationship. Babe struggles to come to terms with her actions while Meg fabricates an alternative reality to battle the grim spectre of failure. And yet in spite of the differences, in spite of the arguments and in spite of the obstacles from outside forces, Lenny and Babe and Meg are bound by the bonds of sisterhood, so that Henley’s play is ultimately a vision of hope and an affirmation of family. 

Ty McKenzie as Barnette. Ella Buckley as Babe

The play lasts for more than two hours plus an interval, but every moment of this drama is absorbing, sometimes funny sometimes sad, occasionally tragic, always realistic and often  turning the mirror upon our own lives. It is also heartwarming. In spite of their weaknesses we feel for the characters. Although minor supporting roles, we have compassion for Robbie Haltiner’s Doc, the one time lover of Meg and now married with two kids and lacking the drive to realize his dream to pursue a medical career. Even lawyer. Barnette Lloyd, played with understated authenticity by Rep newcomer Tye McKenzie is consumed by a personal vendetta. We laugh at Dawes’ portrayal of the unlikeable and opinionated Doyle, marred only by the occasional incomprehensible  upstage delivery of her heavily  pronounced Southern accent. The success of this production of Crimes of the Heart is that we are compelled to care. Henley’s play is a cornucopia of issues and it is to the credit of cast and creatives that the audience becomes immersed in the lives of each and every character.

Robbie Haltiner as Doc, Meaghan Stewart as Meg

Vickery asks of her actors truthful performance and depth of insight into the complex lives of their characters. Her cast deliver with a keen sense of individuality that defines the differences that set them apart  and the similarities that bring them together. One has the sense that Henley’s first professionally produced play is in part autobiographical or at least inspired by her keen observation of human experience. It is this that Vickery and her actors so effectively capture in Rep’s production.

Rep has produced a highly polished and entertaining production of Crimes of the Heart. Vickery and her cast capture the conflicts, nuances and ultimate bond of love that affirm the solidarity of family and sisterhood. Rep’s usual highly professional production values are again evident in Michael Sparks’s detailed set design, constructed under Russell Brown’s experienced guidance,Cate Clelland’s costumes, Neville Pye’s sound design, Mike Moloney’s lighting and Simon Tolhurst’s production management, all achieved with the assistance of a committed and capable team.

All in all, this is a production that does Rep proud and attests to the important role that Rep plays in the cultural life of the capital. The dedicated team that has brought Crimes of the Heart to the Rep stage may be amateur in title but thoroughly professional in execution. Don’t miss this outstanding production of Beth Henley’s bitter sweet family saga.

Photos by Karina Hudson




Written By Beth Henley

Directed by Karen Vickery

Canberra REP production

Canberra REP Theatre, Acton to 13 May


Reviewed by Len Power 28 April 2023


Having a stroke is no laughing matter, but in Beth Henley’s play, ‘Crimes Of The Heart’, one of the funniest and most effective scenes has three sisters laughing uncontrollably because they have just been told their old Granddaddy has had another stroke and might die.

Everyone is together because one of them, Babe, has just shot and injured her husband.  Meg, a failed singer, has returned from Hollywood, California to support Babe, and Lenny admits to being lonely and afraid, having stayed home looking after Granddaddy, who is now in hospital.

As the play progresses, the sisters remember old rivalries and past resentments in a family with more than their share of past troubles.  Significantly, some time ago, their mother had mysteriously killed her cat and then herself.

Beth Henley’s tragicomedy won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and had a good run on Broadway.  Set in the small city of Hazlehurst, Mississippi in 1974, it’s a family character study focussed on the three sisters.

On an attractively detailed living room and kitchen setting by Michael Sparks, Karen Vickery, the director, has obtained good performances from her entire cast.

Carmen King, plays Lenny, the sister who stayed in the family home.  King gives a strong performance with considerable depth as the no-nonsense sister who seems capable on the surface but is fearfully facing loneliness.

Ella Buckley as Babe, who has shot her husband, gives a very real study of a woman unable to understand the seriousness of the predicament she has found herself in.

Meaghan Stewart is their sister, Meg, the failed singer, who is loud and annoyingly self-centred.  Stewart is quite effective in her quieter moments when she reveals her character’s vulnerabilities but the loudness of her character becomes wearing.  More light and shade is needed for her performance of this aspect of her character.

The rest of the cast in smaller roles do very well with nicely judged performances of some depth.

The cast did their best with the difficult southern American accents but they were a bit uneven at times.

Karen Vickery has given this long show a good pace and clear character definition.  It’s a challenging show to stage and get the black comedy levels right.  This production does achieve that and it’s continually entertaining.


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 28, 2023

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA - Daramalan Theatre Company.


Lily Steinman (Nestor) - Oscar Lee (Diomedes)  - Jennifer Noveski (Agamemnon)
 Lachlan Faella (Ajax) - Diarmid McArdle (Achilles)

By William Shakespeare.

Produced, Directed and Designed by Joe Woodward

Adapted by Tony Allan – Music composer Jo Philp

McCowage Hall, Daramalan College – 21st to 29th April.

Performance on 27th April reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Lily Steinman (Priam) - Zachary Olsen (Hector) -Patrick Edwards (Troilus)
"Troilus and Cressida"

It seemed a brave choice by the Daramalan Theatre Company to tackle “Troilus and Cressida” because this play is generally regarded as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays.

The play is steeped in the mythology of ancient Greece and the Iliad, and set in the later years of the Trojan War. But as most of the characters are heroes, warriors, Gods or Goddesses, mostly around the ages of the young actors portraying them, the play provides the actors with compelling reasons to steep themselves in research of all things Greek.

Also, the plot revolves around a young Trojan couple engaged in a doomed love affair, therefore a Greek romcom no less. What could be more fun?

But best of all, because it is a “problem” play, “Troilus and Cressida” is rarely produced so very few of the audience would have seen it before, and therefore come along with no fixed idea of what is going to happen or how it should be presented.  

Fortunately for both the actors and the audience, the production is in the hands of a very experienced director, Joe Woodward, who has come up with a remarkable concept which works a treat. 

The play itself is presented on a raised circular stage, with some of the audience seated, cabaret style around three sides of the stage. A ramp is positioned at the back for the actors to enter and exit. At the back of the stage canvases painted with abstract designs and a large television screen help provide atmosphere.

The actors wear striking costumes, some in steam punk style, the Greeks, others more conventionally, the Trojans. Each costume is individually designed, making it easy to differentiate the Greeks from the Trojans and to recognise each individual character as the play progresses.  

While there is not a lot of on-stage action in the play, Woodward makes excellent use of the set and costumes to create a series of striking stage pictures with his actors, ensuring that the production is  at all times visually engaging.

The play contains many long speeches, and it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into the delivery of these speeches. In this regard, Diarmid McArdle is outstanding as Achilles. His every word is crystal clear, and his phrasing exemplary, making his performance a stand-out. Harrison Labouchardiere, as the conniving Aeneas, also impressed with his diction and characterisation.

As the title characters, Patrick Edwards was excellently cast as the hero, Troilus. Movie star looks, dignified bearing and excellent vocal delivery stamps him as an actor to watch.

Kathleen Dunkerley (C) (Cressida) and members of the company in "Troilus and Cressida"

 Similarly Kathleen Dunkerley, who offered a compelling portrayal as the mentally tortured Cressida, fascinated with her ability to express the characters inner-torment. Their long scene together, which climaxes the first act, when they begin to realise their feelings for each other, is beautifully realised.

Among the rest of the cast of thoroughly engaged, well-drilled performers, Jennifer Noveski, for her fiercely powerful Agamemnon, Lachlan Faella as Ajax and Jack Curry, quite masterly as Pandarus, all offer stand-out performances.

Particularly interesting aspects of this production are the atmospheric soundscape by Jo Philp and the witty  script adaptation and narration by Tony Allan which makes it considerably easier to follow the action, while solving quite a deal of the ‘problem’.

The narration was given by Lucy O’Neill, who also plays a character called Thersites. O’Neill commences the show unexpectedly with a loaded, bluesy version of the Nina Simone song “Feeling Good”, then wanders nonchalantly through the play, commenting on the action, explaining what is going on, and even arguing with some of the characters.

O’Neill is excellent in the role, but should work to overcome her tendency to speak too quickly, and drop the ends of her lines. This would ensure that more of the narration is heard.

“Troilus and Cressida” ends with a master-stroke. Referencing the opening moments, Jack Curry as Pandarus closes the show with an ironic saxophone reprise of the song, “Feeling Good”.

If you’ve never seen this play before, this imaginatively devised and presented production of “Troilus and Cressida” offers a rare opportunity to mark this seldom produced Shakespeare play off your bucket list.  


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES - State Theatre, Sydney


Paul Capsis (Albin) - Michael Cormick (Georges) in "La Cage aux Folles"

Book: Harvey Fierstein – Music and Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Director: Riley Spadaro – Musical Director: Craig Renshaw

Choreography: Veronica Beattie George – Costume Design & Associate: Josef Koda

Set Design: Grace Deacon – Sound Design: Anthony Lorenz

Produced by David M. Hawkins – Showtune Productions.

State Theatre Sydney:  20th – 24th April. 2023

Opening night 20th April 2023 reviewed by BILL STEPHENS .

Les Cagelles in Davod M.Hawkins production of "La Cafe aux Folles"

The terrifying costs involved in producing a musical these days have condemned this delightful production to short, sharp seasons. Seasons too short for the show to gain any real traction with audiences, because by the time they hear about it, it’s already closed.

This is certainly the case with this production. By the time word got out about how good it was, it’s short premiere season at the Concourse in Chatswood had already finished. So to satisfy the pleas of those who missed out first time around, the producer, David M.Hawkins mounted this second season in the splendid, though cavernous, State Theatre in Sydney.

The choice of the right theatre can often be the difference between success and failure of a production. This modest production worked so well in the much smaller Concourse Theatre in Chatswood. Would it be swamped by the chandeliered magnificence of the State Theatre?   

This was the question that made a revisit irresistible. .

Premiered on Broadway in 1983, “La Cage aux Folles” was first seen in Australia in 1985 in a lavish production starring Keith Michell as Georges, and Jon Ewing as Albin. Surprisingly this is the first professional production mounted in Sydney since then.

Surprising, not only because it contains one of Jerry Herman’s most memorable scores, a succession of hit tunes including “A Little More Mascara”, “Song on the Sand”, “Look Over There”, “The Best of Times”, and of course, the song that has become a gay anthem, “I Am What I Am”, all given terrific treatment by Craig Renshaw and his superb band,  but also because of the subject matter which still feels as fresh, funny and heartfelt  as it did  back in 1985.

Georges and Albin are a homosexual couple who live as a family with their son Jean-Michel in an apartment above their gay nightclub, La Cage aux Folles.

Chloe Malek (Anne Dindon) - Noah Mullins (Jean-Michel) - Paul Capsis (Albin)
Zoe Ventoura (Marie Dindon) - Peter Phelps (Edouard Dindon).

Jean-Michel is the product of an exploratory one-night stand between Georges and a showgirl.  When Jean-Michelle announces that he has become engaged to a girl, both Georges and Albin are shocked, but particularly Albin, who regards himself as Jean-Michel’s mother. Albin's reaction at the news is “Oh Georges, where did we go wrong?”

Jean-Michel’s choice, it turns out, is not just any girl, but the daughter of a well-known, fiercely right-wing politician, Edouard Dindon.  Jean-Michelle is keen for Georges to meet his fiancé and her family  so when he requests that Albin  absent himself from the occasion, in favour of Georges inviting Jean-Michelle’s birth-mother so as to present ‘a normal family’ to the Dindons, Albin is outraged and refuses to co-operate.

Their attempts to solve this impasse result in the show dissolving into a hilarious French farce as Albin, Georges and Jean-Michelle struggle to resolve the endless complications resulting from their situation.   

Right, but how does Showtune’s modest production survive in the State Theatre?

Well, judging on the response of the first-night audience, surprisingly well.

For one thing, much of the show is set in a night club, so, Grace Deacon’s use of velvet drapes for much of her setting, merges very well with the opulence of the State Theatre. Her stripped back solutions for the scenes in the apartment, dressing room and backstage however look a bit sparse. Compensations however are provided by Josef Koda’s splendid costumes, and the thrilling dance routines devised by Veronica Beattie George and brilliantly performed by Les Cagelles. The opening number, and another in which Les Cagelles manipulate pink feather fans to suggest ostriches, are especially memorable.

Director, Riley Spadaro has taken advantage of the opportunities offered by some minor cast changes to revise and sharpen his direction. But it is the impressive casting which makes this show fly, led by two of Australia’s most accomplished and experienced musical theatre performers for whom huge theatres hold no terrors.

Michael Cormick as Georges in "La Cafe aux Folles"

Handsome, suave and in superb voice, Michael Cormick is perfectly cast as Georges, the Manager and Master of Ceremonies at La Cage aux Folles.  Costumed in a succession of glittering tuxedos, oozing confidence and savoir faire, his authoritative performances of some of Jerry Herman’s loveliest melodies are a particular joy.

Paul Capsis (Albin) singing "I Am What I Am" in "La Cage aux Folles"

Similarly, Paul Capsis brings additional nuance and warmth to his already distinctive interpretation of Albin creating a brittle, highly combustible, funny and ultimately very moving characterisation that lights up the stage on his every entrance and makes it impossible to take your eyes off him. It’s a star performance that deserves to be seen widely.

An all-star cast fill the supporting roles. Both, Anthony Brandon Wong as the cheeky maid/butler, Jacob, and Lucia Matrantone as both the hassled stage-manager, Francis, and the over-friendly restauranteur, Jacqueline, delight with their outrageous comedic performances.

Noah Mullins and Chloe Malik charm with their affecting youthful naivety as Jean-Michel and his twirly-whirly fiancée, Anne. Zoe Ventoura delights with her funny, classy performance as Anne’s stitched up mother bursting to kick up her heels, and Peter Phelps revels in his turn as the pompous politician, Edouard Dindon.

The enthusiastic reception given by the first-night audience provided tacit  justification of the success of the production no matter the size of the theatre, so hopefully, if negotiations presently in train to tour the production widely come to fruition, it might even come your way.  If it does, try not to miss it. 

Les Cagelles in "La Cage aux Folles"

Images by John McRae.

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.


Sunday, April 23, 2023


Ayşe Göknur Shanal, soprano

John Martin, piano

Orana Steiner School, Weston April 22


Reviewed by Len Power


It was an evening of highly affecting songs about Gallipoli, presented by the Turkish-Australian soprano, Ayşe Göknur Shanal, and pianist, John Martin.

Ayşe Göknur Shanal has won many prestigious awards and scholarships here in Australia and overseas. She has performed widely in the USA, UK, Europe and Asia including Opera Australia, Turkish State Opera and Opera Queensland.

The audience was taken on an emotional journey of folk songs, diary entries and letters of Australian, Turkish and New Zealand soldiers, set to music by composers Diana Blom, John Wayne Dixon, Eric Bogle and Henri Duparc.

The program commenced with “Hey Onbeşli”, a traditional Turkish song with words that are a tribute to the many 15 year-old youths who were enlisted when Turkey entered WW1 and who died at Gallipoli.  Shanal sang it with such beauty that the emotion in the song was clearly felt and understood.

“Two Songs For The Anzac Centenary – 1918 and 1945” by John Wayne Dixon followed. These songs about a mother’s grief for a child lost in war were sung with great sensitivity and warmth and John Martin gave them an expert accompaniment on piano.

John Martin and Ayşe Göknur Shanal

A.B. Patterson’s poem, “The Last Parade”, set to music by John Martin, was melodic and memorable, being beautifully sung and played.

The next item in the program was Henri Duparc’s exquisite “Au pays ou se fait le guerre” (To the Country Where War is Waged), sung by a woman whose lover has gone to war and she nervously waits for his return. The restrained emotion in this song was superbly captured by Shanal.

“Çanakkale Türküsü”, a Turkish folksong followed. This unaccompanied song of a young soldier lost in the war singing to his mother from beyond the grave was given a haunting rendition full of sentiment and longing.

Diana Blom’s “Remembrances Four” has words taken from letters and other communications of actual soldiers on both sides, collected by Harvey Broadbent. These affecting memories of enlisting, the landing in Gallipoli, the morning star seen from the trenches and the quiet end of the battle were sung with passion, drama and  simplicity.

The final song on the program, Eric Bogle’s “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, written in 1972 at the height of the anti-war movement, proved to be the most affecting. The quiet, delicate singing of this highly emotive work was the perfect end to a remarkable concert by these excellent performers. 


Photo by Len Power

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


Saturday, April 22, 2023



Winston Ruddle - Founder/Producer/ Director/Performer and Papa Africa

Produced and Directed by Winston Ruddle,

Canberra Theatre 18th April 2023.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

The brainchild of Zimbabwean born German Citizen, Winston Ruddle, also known as Papa Africa, “Cirque Mother Africa” is unique in that it is the showcase for the graduates of the Dar Es Salaam Institution in Magomeni, a poor neighbourhood of Tanzania’s business capital.

Known as Hakuna Matata (‘no worries’ in Swahili) the circus school attracts young hopefuls from all over Africa. However, only the most accomplished find their way into one of Ruddle’s productions of “Cirque Mother Africa” which constantly tour the world demonstrating the colour and richness of African culture through highly sophisticated presentations highlighting the extraordinary circus skills of their all-African casts.

Baraka Ferouz (Unicycle) - Martin Kibosha (drums)

Many of the acts are circus staples, but unicyclist,  Baraka Ferouz, still managed to amaze with his juggling skills while balancing on a ridiculously high unicycle, or compressing his whole body onto an impossibly tiny two-wheeler.

Kahindi Iha and Franco Baya

Kenyan father and son act, Icarian, ( Kahindi Iha and Frano Baya) stunned with their dangerous-looking foot-juggling act in which the younger was tossed into the air by his father while the audience count aloud the number of consecutive revolutions the pair would achieve. The ambition was 20, but 25 was achieved at this performance.

Pengo amazed with his skills on the wobbly Rola Rolas. Another, Yusuphu Fuku, performed risky balances atop of a towering stack of chairs surrounded by a troupe of muscular Maasai warriors.

A feature of all the solo acts was the stylish presentation lavished on each. Sometimes it was colourfully costumed singers and dancers who performed energetic versions of traditional African songs.  For others, drummers filled the auditorium with driving rhythms. Beautiful South African singer, Pretty, not only lived up to her name, but complimented other performers with unique vocalisations of traditional African melodies. The stage was never left unoccupied in this fast-moving show.

The Ramadhani Brothers -Ibrahim and Fadhili 

Particularly memorable in the current troupe are the Ramadhari Brothers, Ibrahim and Fadhili, who many recognised from their 2022 appearances on the television series “Australia’s Got Talent”. They take head balancing to whole new levels.

Handsome young contortionist, Geofrey Mogela, drew audible gasps from the audience with his remarkable, some might say disturbing, flexibility.

Contortionist: Geofrey Mogela

Then there was the moment when the audience felt it could hardly draw breath when the tension mounted as another mesmerising performer named Benard Lungwa, added bone-like components to an extraordinarily fragile structure he was constructing. Following well-earned applause on completion of his task, Ben surprised everyone by collapsing his handiwork when he removed just one tiny feather-like component.

It wasn’t all gasps of wonderment though. There were plenty of giggles too whenever Papa Africa (Winston Ruddle himself) took the stage to captivate the audience with his easy charm and banter.

This relaxed charm was evident throughout the whole troupe, who had obviously learned their stagecraft well from the master. There was a distinct sense of pride permeating the whole ensemble in which members who were not involved in a particular act, cheerfully acted as stage- hands, quickly and efficiently clearing props and set pieces, and thereby enhancing the impressive skill and professionalism being displayed by their colleagues.

“Cirque Mother Africa” is currently undertaking an ambitious tour of regional Australia. Watch out for it when it comes your way.  


                                                              Images supplied

    This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www,

Friday, April 21, 2023

Troilus & Cressida


 Troilus & Cressida by William Shakespeare.  Adapted by Tony Allan; directed by Joe Woodward; original music by Jo Philp.  Daramalan College Theatre Company, at McCowage Hall, Dickson, Canberra.  April 22-29 2023.

Commentary by Frank McKone

In the best theatre education tradition, these senior secondary students are established as a complete company, covering front of house, backstage and onstage – with input from professionals on occasion.

There are times in the learning process when facing up to a challenge beyond expectations is a valuable exercise.  Staging Troilus & Cressida fits the bill.  The Daramalan group are not the first to find Shakespeare’s 1602 play a bit of a mystery.

As Wikipedia records “Troilus And Cressida; Or, Truth Found Too Late is a 1679 tragedy by the English writer John Dryden. It was first staged by the Duke's Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre in London. It was a reworking of William Shakespeare's 1602 play Troilus and Cressida, set during the Trojan Wars. In acknowledgement of this Dryden has the prologue spoken by Shakespeare's ghost, defending the alterations made to the play.”  It has been categorised as a Shakespeare ‘problem play’, and this may have been the first attempt after, it appears, only one performance in 1602/3.

But in more recent times “it has become increasingly popular. Peter Holland of Cambridge University attributes this to the work's relevance at times of impending war: William Poel's 1912 production served as a warning as the Great Powers of Europe armed themselves for conflict and Michael Macowan's modern dress production of 1938 at the Westminster Theatre coincided with the Munich crisis. In the international production at the Swan Theatre, Stratford, of August 2012, the depiction of Thersites as a wounded war veteran, and the manner in which the Myrmidons killed Hector, "resonat[ed] with […] the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."  

Today, considering Russia’s attempt to take control of Ukraine and other examples of warfare, Troilus & Cressida, with its combination of the politics which ended with the killing Hector by Achilles and the frustrated love story of the Trojan prince Troilus and the Trojan Cressida – whose father (Calchas) defects to the Greeks – is highly relevant.  Calchas persuades the Greeks to exchange the captured Trojan commander Antenor, for his daughter, so that he might be reunited with her. Troilus sees her at a distance, appearing to break her promise that even in the Greek camp, she will remain true to him.  In fact the man Troilus sees has engineered  the situation against her wishes; but Troilus is left believing an untruth, and never sees Cressida again.

In politics and in this personal romance, trust, faith in promises, and truth are the central issues of the play.  Much of the time the action is delayed, while characters argue about these issues in Shakespeare’s often philosophical and poetic language, based on Homer’s The Iliad – until finally Achilles does kill Hector.

Though this made the pacing of the student’s production slow, the success is not so much to be compared with what a fully professional company might do, as to be seen in the clear sense of achievement with which the cast were justifiably satisfied in the preview performance I observed.  And I have no doubt the experience and the learning about performing and social relationships will continue to grow over the five days of the show’s run.

For further study, read
Shakespeare’s Iliad: Homeric Themes In Troilus And Cressida
John L. Penwill
Text of the H.W. Allen Memorial Lecture
Ormond College, 19 September 2006

Available at







Her Majesty’s Secret Circus. 

Performed by Brent and Maya McCoy. Canberra Circus Festival. Chifley Community Oval. McLaurin Cres. Chifley. Presented by Warehouse Circus. April 18-23 Bookings and full festival programme:

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


I returned with grandsons in tow to see comedy circus duo Brent and Maya McCoy perform their extended show at the Canberra Circus Festival. Billed Her Majesty’s Secret Circus, this spoof show  in which James Bond meets or perhaps collides into Get Smart comes from the USA with the usual circus acts, including juggling seven juggling clubs, Maya juggling knives while on Brent’s shoulders, Brent scoring a plunger arrow to a toilet seat cover while balancing on a seven foot unicycle and spinning a diabolo yo yo on string with feats of amazing dexterity.

The show is also interspersed with audience interaction, climbing over seats while on their secret mission, selecting an innocent audience member to support the act and then co-opting a delightfully precocious seven year old to hand the knives to Maya way up on the unicycle. Wisely, they asked the permission of the young girls’ grandparents.

All of this is performed with elan and a sense of fun that seemed to sweep past in this forty five minute show. Circus is by its very nature a risky business. Imagine a slip of the wrist that could send a knife flying into the wrong place, or a juggling club flying into the astonished face, not to mention the ever present danger of dropping the club. There’s little chance of that except for the intentional heart stopping bungle. Her Majesty’s Secret Circus are much too skilled to put themselves or their audience stooges in danger.

When I asked the grandsons the obligatory question “What was your favourite bit?” they were relatively impartial and came out with the usual response “We liked all of it.” Fair enough. That’s what one would hope.” For forty five minutes they sat there in the front row glued to the action apart from the momentary glance at the shared popcorn to make sure the brothers weren’t getting the bulk of the container. They laughed constantly, keeping silent as Maya drew the bow from the audience and aimed it right at Brent’s toilet seat. A couple of misses and bullseye! She hit the target.

I was disappointed that the firestick juggling that they performed at the Gala Opening was not included in the afternoon show. Apparently it will be included in their open air act, so do get along to see this very funny and skilled duo keep you glued to the stage during a show that certainly accomplished its mission.

Photos by Luke Awtry