Monday, October 30, 2023


Ariana Odermatt, harpsichord

Lauren Davis, violin

Ben Hoadley, bassoon & recorder

Clara Teniswood, cello

Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, 29 October


Reviewed By Len Power



Because eight busy hands are required to play these baroque music treasures, “Barocotopus” is certainly an apt and witty name for the ensemble of Ariana Odermatt, harpsichord, Lauren Davis, violin, Ben Hoadley, bassoon and recorder and Clara Teniswood, cello.

The concert offered several works from the baroque period of the 17th and 18th century. There were two works by the prolific Georg Philipp Telemann as well as compositions by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Nicola Porpora, Louis Marchand and Johann Heinrich Schmeltzer.

The concert commenced with de Boismortier’s “Sonata in G minor” for violin, bassoon, cello and continuo. Its pleasing, bright and jaunty opening movement took us directly into the world of the baroque and contrasted very well with the reflective Adagio second movement. It was nicely performed by all four players.

From left: Lauren Davis, Ariana Odermatt, Claire Teniswood and Ben Hoadley

Porpora’s “Sonata in F major” for cello and continuo was next in the program. This melodic work was very well played and the melancholy Adagio was the highlight.

After performing the first two works on bassoon, Ben Hoadley changed to an alto recorder for Telemann’s “Sonata in C major” for recorder and continuo. All four movements were very well played with the melodic first movement and the sensitivity of the third movement being particularly memorable.

Ariana Odermatt then played Marchand’s “Prelude and Allemande from Suite 1 in E minor” for solo harpsichord. This atmospheric work was melodic and reflective and was given a very fine performance by Odermatt.

There were also second works by de Boismortier and Telemann which, with different combinations of instruments, were appealing and played very well.

Schmeltzer’s “Sonata 2”, for violin and continuo, was also played and was notable for the beautiful playing of the violin by Lauren Davis.

As well as their fine playing of the various works, the performers took turns introducing each of them to the audience, giving interesting items of information about the composers.  Their relaxed, easy manner transmitted well to the audience and added another dimension to this fine concert.


Photo by Len Power


This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 30 October 2023.

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


Sunday, October 29, 2023



Arran McKenna (Leon) - Steph Roberts (Sonja) - Jess Waterhouse (Jane)- Robbie Haltiner  (Pete)

Written by Andrew Bovell – Directed by Cate Clelland

Performed by Arran McKenna, Steph Roberts, Robbie Haltiner, Jess Waterhouse.

Presented by Free-Rain Theatre, ACT Hub 25th October to 4th November, 2023.

Performance on 27th November, 2023, reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Arran (Leon) - Steph Roberts (Sonja)

Andrew Bovell’s intriguing AWGIE Award-winning play is given a terrific production at the ACT Hub.

The decision of director, Dr Cate Clelland, to stage this play on a minimalist setting of multi-coloured cubes, focussed full attention on Bovell’s remarkable script, leaving the actors nowhere to hide. Not that this cast needed anywhere to hide, for each of the four actors delivered accomplished, engaging performances.

Bovell’s play examines the effects of infidelity and betrayal within marriage. It follows two couples, Leon and Sonja, played by Arran McKenna and Steph Roberts, and Pete and Jane, played by Robbie Haltiner and Jess Waterhouse who inadvertently exchange partners.

Dissatisfied with their marriages, each decides to explore infidelity, and the play opens with each of the four tentatively engaging with their new partners.  For this scene Bovell has the two sets of partners speaking the same lines together and simultaneously, but with each of the actors re-acting differently to what it being said.

It’s a fascinating ploy, and watching the skill with which actors exploit the possibilities offered by the script to bring unique individual nuance and responses to the lines, both with words and body language, is a mesmerising and enthralling experience, particularly in the intimacy of the ACT hub.

Jess Waterhouse (Valerie) - Robbie Haltiner (Neil) - Steph Roberts (Sarah)

As the play opens out, the audience learns of individual connections between the couples, with the actors interpreting a variety of different characters in the second act,  whose lives have been unwittingly impacted by the actions of the original quartet. Among then a woman stranded on a dark road who accepts a lift from Leon, who becomes a murder suspect when the woman disappears.

As these strands are explored it says much for the skill of the actors, and the clarity of Clelland’s direction, that there is no confusion in following the threads, nor is there any frustration from Bovell’s tantalising decision to leave the various threads unexplained at the end of the play, leaving the audience to reach its own conclusions.

While the clever use of various versions of “The Windmills of Your Mind” threaded through the play, worked well in hinting at the psychological implications of the play, it was a pity that a better solution wasn’t devised to avoid destroying the hard-won mood and breaking audience concentration watching the actors reset the cubes in half-light between each scene.

That reservation apart, this is an excellent production of an important play which will fascinate anyone interested in aspects of the human condition. Try not to miss it.

                                                   Images by Janelle McMenamin

      This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.







Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell. 

Directed by Dr. Cate Clelland. Free Rain Theatre. ACT HUB Spinifex Street Kingston 2604. October 25 – November 4 2023Bookings:ACTHUB.COM.AU

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Jess Waterhouse, Robbie Haltiner, Arran McKenna and Steph Roberts

Andrew Bovell's  Speaking in Tongues

Two couples salsa sensually to the haunting sound of Windmills of Your Mind. Leon (Arran McKenna) and Jane (Jess Waterhouse) have come to a seedy hotel room after meeting in a bar. Pete (Robbie Haltiner) and Sonja (Steph Roberts) have also come to a seedy hotel room after meeting in a bar. The couples share the setting for their illicit affair. 

Arran McKenna as Leo. Steph Roberts as Sonja

And so begins Andrew Bovell’s intriguing play about infidelity, guilt and mystery. Director Cate Clelland has staged a beautifully intricate pattern of unfolding relationships and complex personalities in Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues. In the opening scene overlapping and interspersed dialogue exposes the insecurities and fears of the cheating couples in a never ending ever spinning vortex of guilt and desire. Simple blocks are moved by the actors between scenes to create a new setting as Dusty Springfield’s alluring rendition of Windmills of your Mind heightens the suspense. Bovell is the masterful playwright exciting the curiosity and creating coincidence and confrontation as deception is unravelled and the fault-lines of marriage are painfully revealed in this brilliantly written psychological and sexual thriller.

Bovell keeps his audience on the edge of their seats, not in terror but in fascination with the lives of ordinary people caught in a whirlpool of their own folly or fears and tilting at windmills that spin their lives out of control. In the first act we observe the frailty of human nature and personal responsibility. In the second act we witness the catastrophic consequence of private imaginings and assumption. Clelland directs with purposeful clarity as revelations unfold and connections become clear and astounding.


Arran McKenna as Leo, Jess Waterhouse as Jane

Steph Roberts as Sonja, Robbie Haltiner as Neil

She is abetted in this production’s outstanding success by the first class performances of her cast. Aaron McKenna as the unfaithful detective, Leon, also doubles as the murder suspect Nick. Robbie Haltiner gives a thoroughly convincing performance as the cheating married man and Neil, the tormented husband of the alleged victim, Valerie. There is powerful emotional truth in the performances of all four actors. Jess Waterhouse’s insecure Jane, caught in the web of her own desire and Steph Roberts as Leon’s wife Sonja, emerge as victims, trapped in a web of longing and guilt. Waterhouse also plays Valerie, a clinical psychotherapist besieged by her own paranoia and the windmills of her mind. Roberts doubles as her client Sarah, plagued by her fears and impulse to escape reality. These are four actors who embrace Bovell’s real and insightful text with a searing truthfulness that results in performances that are totally gripping, thoroughly truthful and unforgettable.

ACT HUB has once again shown itself to be the hub of outstanding theatre in the ACT. Free Rain Theatre and Cate Clelland’s production of Andrew Bovell’s ingenious play about human nature, its complexities and its frailties is must see theatre, performed by four brilliant exponents of the actor’s craft. Sadly, the season is much too short, so don’t miss out. Book your tickets now!

Photos by Janelle McMenamin



The Memory of Water


The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson.  Ensemble Theatre, Sydney, October 20 – November 25, 2023.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 28

Director – Rachel Chant
Set & Costume Designer – Veronique Benett; Lighting Designer – Kelsey Lee
Composer & Sound Designer – David Bergman;
Dialect Coach – Linda Nicholls-Gidley
Intimacy, Movement & Fight Director – Nigel Poulton
Stage Manager – Lauren Tulloh; Asst. Stage Manager – Alexis Worthing
Costume Supervisor – Renata Beslik; Wig Stylist – Lauren Proietti
Costume Maker – Margaret Gill
Production Secondment – Lara Kyriazis

Mary – Michala Banas; Teresa – Jo Downing; Catherine – Madeleine Jones
Mike – Johnny Nasser; Frank – Thomas Campbell
Vi – Nicole da Silva

Because I found myself feeling uncomfortable laughing at the dysfunctional behaviour of the three sisters preparing for their mother’s funeral, I have broken my standard rule of not reading other reviews before writing my own, about a play I haven’t previously known about.

So I read Chris Wiegand’s review of the 2021 revival of Shelagh Stephenson’s 1996 The Memory of Water, staged at the same Hampstead Theatre, London, where it had opened originally before becoming famous – at

Wiegand wrote that the sisters’ “transgressions [from a standard Sudden Death Etiquette guide] make Stephenson’s play sound like a farce. But it precariously balances riotous humour with pathos”.

I agreed on this point, which is essentially about the script-writing by Stephenson causing my discomfort.  It’s certainly not about the quality of the actors’ performances, or about the wonderful set design of the old lady’s bedroom full of all the stuff she would never throw away.

Weigand’s next point is also about the script: “However, much of the play’s humour seems frozen in time too, with flat routines about vitamin fads, leaves on railway lines and colonic irrigation. Although dope and whiskey are passed around, the comedy never achieves a true headiness and the sisters’ quips and snipes don’t always sting as they should.”  And like him I felt at the end that “It’s the play’s melancholia that lingers in the memory rather than the comedy.

And yet the author, about “the first stage play I ever wrote” and quoted in her Writer’s Note in Ensemble’s program, says “What I’ve learnt is that the human desire – in fact need – to laugh together, in a darkened theatre, is universal and very strong.

This has made me wonder if I had seen this excellent performance in a conventional darkened theatre, where the action is set at an emotional distance from my seat hidden in the dark, I would have safely laughed at these characters’ unreal behaviour.

But in Hayes Gordon’s intimate in-the-round theatre, we are not safely in the dark.  The beauty of The Ensemble is, it is exactly that: we and the actors are an ensemble together, and we – watching – are not emotionally separated.  We feel we are in the room with the sisters Mary, Teresa and Catherine.  The great moment of truth was when Mike burst through the window out of the snow storm.  We were literally as shocked as the women in our bedroom were.  In a conventional theatre we would have laughed.  In The Ensemble, my wife screamed, grabbed my hand and held on until it became clear that Mike was known to Mary, that the weather outside really was freezing, and that the doorbell wasn’t working.  Only then could we sit back to see what would happen next.

An important aspect of the play is that the sisters’ mother, Vi, though in her coffin, appears to Mary as if she is real.  They argue about Mary’s treatment as a child, and about what happened to the child Mary had, aged fourteen.

In a proscenium style theatre, I could sit back and accept this as a theatrical device to raise such issues.  Their conflict might even seem funny.  

But in The Ensemble, like Mary, we see Vi as real – even if we know that she must be really in Mary’s imagination.  Yet Vi knows things about what happened that Mary didn’t.  At this point, as the play ended, I found myself not wanting to break out into clapping and cheering – though the actors deserved it – because I was suddenly realising that for Mary this play is a tragedy, made worse when Mike makes it clear that he will not leave his wife to marry her.

The question that hung over my mind while I knew I should clap was, Who was the father of Mary’s son Patrick?  With her mother’s insistence that she make herself attractive to men, at 14, was the father a man who had burst into her bedroom like we had seen Mike do?  Was it a man who had taken advantage of Vi’s failure to tell her daughter what she needed to know about sex?  Worst of all, may it have been Mary’s own father?  One of Mary’s jibes at Catherine had been how she found herself stuck with Frank – a man just like their father.

So, discomforted though I may have been seeing The Memory of Water in Ensemble’s intimate setting, on reflection I see the play as more tragedy than comedy.  And perhaps I may have missed that level of empathy if I had seen it in a conventional theatre.

Only your seeing this production of The Memory of Water at The Ensemble will answer that question for you.
Photos by Prudence Upton

The three sisters dressing up in their mother's fancy clothes
in The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson
Ensemble Theatre 2023

Michala Banas, Nicole da Silva
as Mary and her now dead mother Vi
in The Memory of Water
Ensemble Theatre 2023


Mike's entry from the snowstorm




Saturday, October 28, 2023

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”,

Dance / “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Queensland Ballet. At The Canberra Theatre, until October 28. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

This dream begins when the curtains opened to reveal a magical and enchanted set, with fairy lights, a twisted bridge and multi-level pods. Purple lighting and costumes twinkle to life with a flutter of spritely fairies swirling about the forest. A changeling is found, asleep, by the Queen of the Fairies, Titania (Lucy Green), and her King, Oberon (Victor Estevez) is filled with a jealous rage as the lights glow red. The posturing by Titania and Oberon is filled with chemistry and fire. 

Meanwhile, a large group of curious explorers of questionable competency descend upon the forest and set up their tents, bringing with them a love triangle, well square, as the affection directed at Demetrius (Vito Bernasconi) from Helena (Georgia Swan) is unrequited. The lovers Hermia and Lysander (Mia Heathcote and Alexander Idaszak) are watched by Demetrius who also loves Hermia. 

Each character is brilliantly cast, and dances their playful and energetic choreography to perfection, with wonderfully executed comedic timing.

Oberon’s minion, Puck (Kohei Iwamoto) was cheeky and likeable as he sprinkled the dust from a flower (a little underwhelming-looking flower) on various characters, mixing up lovers and causing mayhem. He showcased a nimble adroitness but lacked flexibility on some of the leaps.  

The set, by Tracy Grant Lord, who also designed the costumes, continues to delight and surprise as little sleeping pods open and close, revealing that Titania, less regally costumed than Oberon, is now in love with Bottom (Rian Thompson), who has been transformed from hapless wanderer to a donkey. Thompson’s hitch kicks are some of the most impressive to be seen. Kendall Smith’s fairy lighting subsides until order and propriety (of sorts), is restored to the relationships unfolding in the forest. 

Liam Scarlett who choreographed the Queensland Ballet’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Felix Mendelssohn’s pretty and familiar score, has given each character an accessible and interesting dance vocabulary, with plenty of scope for the ensemble as well as the leads, to explore the humour, energy and beauty in the choreography. The dancers did a remarkable job to navigate the restrictions of a smaller stage given the large set.

A sweet and effortless pas de deux between Hermia and Lysander and an exquisite dance between Oberon and Titania as they reconcile were highlights. 

This sparkling storytelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Queensland Ballet production, in a collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, will be the last to tour to Canberra under artistic director Li Cunxin AO before he leaves the company. 

The curtain fell on one of the prettiest and most enjoyable nights at the theatre in a long time. This is a dream production in every way.

THE WHARF REVUE - Pride in Prejudice.


Drew Forsythe - Jonathan Biggins - David Whitney - Mandy Bishop in "Pride in Prejudice"

Written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott

Co-Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe

Musical Direction by Andrew Worboys – Costumes designed by Hazel and Scott Fisher

Lighting Design by Matt Cox - Video Design by Todd Decker -

Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and David Whitney with Andrew Worboys.

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse 26 October – 5th November 2023.

Opening night performance reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

David Whitney (Peter Dutton) - Drew Forsythe (Stephen Miles) - Mandy Bishop (Tanya Plibersek - Jonathan Biggins (Anthony Albanese)

Over the years The Wharf Revue team have transformed political cabaret into an art form. This latest edition is an excellent example.  Once again their barbs are sharp, skewering their targets with pin-point accuracy. Their impersonations are masterful and their victims immediately recognisable.

The laughs come non-stop, regardless of your political persuasion. This year they commence with the first line of the opening sketch, a re-imagining of “Pride and Prejudice”, for which gender-blind casting is taken to a whole new extreme. Jonathan Biggins plays the dowager, Mrs Bingley, Drew Forsythe and David Whitney are the two sisters, and the remarkable Mandy Bishop is Mr. Darcy. It works a treat, not only because the lines are clever, but because of the finesse the performers bring to theircharacterisations.

Each of the cast is a highly skilled performer with the ability to quickly conjure up the essential characteristics of their targets as deftly as any cartoonist. Whether he’s being King Charles communing with his late mother, Anthony Albanese leading his band of merry men, or “public enema No.1”, Donald Trump, Jonathan Biggins is immediately, hilariously present as his target.

Drew Forsythe (Rudy Guliani) - Jonathan Biggins (Donald Trump)

Similarly Drew Forsythe, whether morphing between a heavenly Queen Elizabeth bemoaning having to meet up with people she hoped never to see again; Rudy Juliani escaping prison and heading for Mar-A-Lago with Biggins’ Donald Trump; a sleepy President Biden conferring with Mandy Bishop’s Caroline Kennedy, or a besotted Gina Rinehart duetting at the bow of Clive Palmer’s sinking Titanic, fascinates with his ability to invest his characters with a hint of Chaplinesque poignancy.

Drew Forsythe (Queen Elizabeth 11) - Jonathan Biggins (King Charles)
Mandy Bishop (Queen Elizabeth 1st)

Woman of a thousand voices, Mandy Bishop continues to amaze with her remarkable dramatic and vocal talents. While her “Ladies who Lunch” in the Sondheim segment, and her classy jazz rendition of “Toughen Up and Fly Right” sung as Sussan Ley in the Basement, would be the envy of any cabaret diva; her extraordinary versatility is showcased in her performances as a coy Princess Di, her Sarah Hanson-Young, and her all singing/dancing AI robot opposite Jonathan Biggins’ Stuart Roberts. But it is her not-so-coy turn as Jackqui Lambie presenting Playschool with David Whitney’s David Pocock that is likely to have ABC executives reaching for the Alka-Seltzer.

Mandy Bishop (Jacqui Lambie) - David Whitney (David Pocock)

In this year’s edition, David Whitney is replacing Phil Scott, who’s on sabbatical. However, Scott was spotted in the first night audience, and even makes a guest appearance via video as a voluble Kevin Rudd.

Whitney fits the team like a glove, especially when portraying Prince Phillip or a Russian General. But it is his turn as a petulant Peter Dutton, who finds himself in the wrong musical as “The Guy who must say No”, that will linger in your memory.

Drew Forsythe (President Biden) - Mandy Bishop (Caroline Kennedy)

Also making an invaluable contribution to this year’s edition is another newbie, Musical Director Andrew Worboys, whose versatility on keyboards allows him to tackle any musical genre with panache.

Brilliant videoed segments by Todd Decker mask the lightning fast costume changes, allowing the show to flow so quickly that there is barely time to catch breathe between segments or to dwell on the fact that the real brilliance of the Wharf Revues lies in their ability to make us laugh about topics which might otherwise cause us to weep.  

                                                       Images by Vishal Pandey

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.




Written by Andrew Bovell

Directed by Cate Clelland

A Free Rain production

ACT HUB theatre, Kingston to 4 November


Reviewed by Len Power 27 October 2023


Two couples planning to betray their spouses, meet up with strangers in a bar. A lover from the past wants to confront a woman to find out why she left him many years before, a neighbour is seen getting rid of a woman’s shoe mysteriously from his car late one night and the husband of a woman who has disappeared feels guilty because he did not answer her increasingly frantic phone messages.

In ‘Speaking In Tongues’, the random meetings of 2 couples set off a chain of events that are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  Incidents related by the characters that seem random eventually fit the overall picture, making it all a compelling and involving study of marital infidelity, guilt, poor communication and the nature of love.  Sadly, strangers are able to confide in other strangers but not with their own husbands and wives.

Australian playwright, Andrew Bovell’s play was first produced in 1996.  The award-winning play has since been produced nationally and internationally and was successfully adapted for the screen as ‘Lantana’.

The four actors playing nine characters artfully bring these people to life. Steph Roberts, Arran McKenna, Jess Waterhouse and Robbie Haltiner all give extraordinarily real performances.  Their vocal delivery and the non-verbal aspects of their characters have been carefully thought out.

Arran McKenna, Steph Roberts, Jess Waterhouse and Robbie Haltiner

Cate Clelland’s production has a simple but practical setting of moveable boxes that depicts the various scenes. While the movement in the play has been carefully staged, the scene changes by the actors themselves in half-light are a distraction from the fine atmosphere that has been carefully built up during the scenes.

Otherwise, the director, Cate Clelland, has obtained impressive, in-depth performances from her highly capable cast. Every moment rings true in this very entertaining and ingenious play.


Photo by Janelle McMenamin

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 27, 2023

Pride in Prejudice


The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice. Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Soft Tread Enterprises, The Playhouse October 24 – November 5, 2023.

Created and Written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott

Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe, David Whitney with Andrew Worboys

Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe
Musical Direction by Andrew Warboys
Lighting Design by Matt Cox, Video Design by Todd Decker
Sound and Video Systems Design by Cameron Smith Costume
Design by Hazel and Scott Fisher
Photography by Ashley de Prazer
Production photos by Vishal Pandey

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 26

This year’s Wharf Revue, Pride in Prejudice, has left me in two minds.  

Entering the theatre, I was – and still am – scared to death about our dark future in the hands of such an array of iniquitous political figures world wide, incapable of reasonable behaviour.  

Leaving the theatre, I am full of joy to see such intelligence, humour and brilliance in performance of such finely-tuned satire that hope for our future shines forth.  

Holding both sets of feelings in mind at once is indescribable.  But knowing that there are such creative and perceptive people on stage, thoroughly appreciated by whole audiences, brightens the darkness of off-stage reality.  Satire is not escapist theatre: in laughing at these exaggerated representations of those in political power, we better understand them.

I have reviewed most of the Wharf Revues since 2010 and once again I have to say this year’s show is their best.  There’s hope indeed for humanity when Jonathan Biggins was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours, following the 2019 Sydney Theatre Awards, when the Wharf Revue team received a special award for ‘services to laughter, satire and sanity above and beyond the call of duty”.

It was in the 18th Century in the time of the French Revolution and Jane Austen novels that satirical political cartooning, led by James Gillray, set the scene for Pride in Prejudice.  Here’s Gillray’s ‘The Plum Pudding in Danger’ showing the British PM Pitt and Napoleon dividing the world.

Every scene in this Wharf Revue is an equivalent cartoon of the highest standard in character acting, singing, dancing, and musicianship – plus quite extraordinary video and sound quality.  

Among so many scenes in 105 minutes, one of the most telling is King Charles’ dream in which Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth I, and Princess Diana make his life a nightmare where he exclaims in horror “Whose dream am I in?”

Queen Elizabeth II expresses some criticisms that perhaps Charles III thought she might have had,
while Queen Elizabeth I listens in, later giving some family management advice.

Starting from arguments in the Bennet family between Elizabeth and her mother about the qualities of Mr Darcy is a brilliant opening move into a startling series of scenes from David Marr meeting an artificially intelligent Darlek who knows she has no empathy, to a powerful but incomprehensible Russian Opera, highlighting Mussorgsky’s music.

David Marr and the AI Darlek

Russian Operatic Generals


But it is the final scene, concerning The Voice, which takes us out of the satiric frame (which earlier had shown us the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton: "Will you always say No?" "Yes") into the true cutting edge where laughter is no longer possible.  Pride in Prejudice is not merely a witty title.  It means what it says.

Mr 'No'


And Mandy Bishop’s voice from Darlek to Sussan Ley as night club singer and to the top in opera is a special treat.



Playschool: Jacquie Lambie and David Pocock demonstrate
the Pillars of Democracy for children's television.


Music by Felix Mendelssohn – arranged by Nigel Taylor 

Choreography by Liam Scarlett – Costumes and Set designed by Tracy Grant Lord. 

Lighting Design by Kendall Smith. Canberra Theatre 25th – 28th October 2023. 

Opening night performance reviewed by BILL STEPHENS. 

There was a certain poignancy surrounding this Canberra season by Queensland Ballet. For having announced his retirement from the role of Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet at the end of this year, due to health problems, it will be the last time Li Cunxin will visit this city in that capacity.

 As an example of what he has achieved during his tenure with the company he could hardly have chosen better.

From the moment the curtain rose on Queensland Ballet’s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the first night audience knew it was in for something very special.

Created for the company by choreographer Liam Scarlett, who at 35, died under tragic circumstances in 2021, as a co-production with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, this production features a magnificent set and costumes by Tracy Grant Lord, evocative lighting by Kendall Smith and performed to a recording of Mendelssohn’s familiar music, which itself was inspired by Shakespeare’s famous play. 

This is not the only ballet inspired by this music. Australian Ballet will perform a version by Frederick Ashton, “The Dream”, in the Sydney Opera House this month, which utilises the same music.

Liam Scarlett’s exquisite version is notable not only for its inventive choreography but for the clarity of its storytelling and even without Shakespeare’s words, his complicated story, set in an enchanted forest inhabited by a fairy king and queen and their entourage of busy fairies intruded upon by quarrelling mortals and hilarious rustics whose problems are exacerbated by a mischievous fairy who wreaks havoc with his fairy dust; is told with perfect clarity.

 Apart from offering scintillating dancing, it is also wonderfully entertaining, exemplified by the peals of laughter from the audience responding as much to the cleverness of the choreography as to situations in which the characters found themselves.

Victor Estevez (Oberon) - Lucy Green (Titania) in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

On opening night the roles of Titania and Oberon were performed by Lucy Green and Victor Estevez, both of whom dazzled with their witty characterisations and exquisite dancing, particularly in their final pas de deux in which the complicated lifts appeared effortless.

Similarly the quarrelling lovers, Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius were brought to vivid life by Mia Heathcote, Alexander Idaszak, Georgia Swan and Vito Bernasconi; each offering unique characterisations to enhance their flawless dancing.

Mia Heathcote (Hermia) - Alexander Idaszak (Lysander) in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Kohei Iwamoto won the hearts of the audience with his cheeky personality and virtuoso dancing as the mischievous Puck, while Rian Thompson, even with his face hidden under a donkey’s head for most of his performance as Bottom, impressed with his sunny personality and comedic skills.

Personality and skill was the hallmark of the whole company, with each of the dancers, including the fairies and rustics, managing to create unique characterisations without compromising their performance of Scarlett’s brilliantly inventive choreography.

In a passionate response to Canberra Theatre Centre Director, Alex Budd’s listing of his achievements as Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin gave an uncharacteristically frank warning that Queensland Ballet would not be able to maintain the progress it had achieved under his leadership, without an increase in Government funding. Hopefully the right people were listening, because the performance just witnessed would have thrilled any audience in the world. Don't miss it !

                                                         Images by Nathan Kelly

              This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 26.10.23