Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Focus: Australian government photographers

Exhibition Review: Photography | Brian Rope

Focus: Australian government photographers | Multiple Artists

National Archives of Australia (National Office, Canberra) | 17 November 2023 to 10 June 2024

Supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program

Focus: Australian government photographers brings Australia's government photographers (who were public servants) out of the dark (of the records) into the spotlight provided by this public showing of their work. Between 1939 and 1996, dozens of such photographers were employed by agencies to capture Australian life. The agencies were the Department of Information, the Australian News and Information Bureau and the Australian Information Service. This exhibition explores the lives and work of various talented individuals who helped to preserve our rich visual heritage from that nearly six decades period.

The 200 works selected from the huge collection of 10 million photographs is a diverse selection which includes intimate nature photography, striking architectural shots and images that capture everyday memories from Australia's past. 

Some names will be familiar, especially to people with a keen interest in photography. I’m sure many of the names - Wolfgang Sievers, Athol Shmith, John Cato, Max Dupain and Mervyn Bishop (the latter being the first Indigenous Australian government photographer) would be known to most if not all photography enthusiasts. Other names may not be known to you at all.

People who lived in Canberra during some of the years covered may well have attended and, perhaps, photographed some of the events shown. For example, there is a Norman Plant image of dancers at the 1987 Canberra Festival.

Dancers perform at the Canberra Festival 1987 – Norman Plant, NAA: A6135, K13/4/87/25

 And a Bill Pedersen image of prayer time at a Yarralumla mosque.

Prayer time at a Yarralumla mosque, Canberra 1966 – Bill Pedersen. NAA: A1200, L54250

And if they attended the Australian Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Canberra Theatre in 1978, they’d certainly be interested in a John Crowther image of ballerina Marilyn Rowe preparing to perform.

Marilyn Rowe prepares to perform as Odette in the Australian Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan lake at the Canberra Theatre, Canberra 1978 – John Crowther, NAA: A6135, K16/6/78/4

There are photos taken at some favourite coastal retreats of Canberrans, including Narooma and Merimbula.

Coastline near Merimbula, New South Wales 1995 – Tim Acker, A6135, K27/2/95/73

And, regardless of where they live, exhibition visitors may well have been to other depicted locations – such as Mount Isa, Bell Bay and Falls Creek.

Snow bunnies at Falls Creek, Victoria 1965 – Keith Byron, NAA: A1200, L52260

Have you noticed that every photographer I have mentioned so far is male? That’s sad, but not surprising for those times. However, the work of Jocelyn Burt, one of few women then employed as a government photographer, is showcased in the exhibition. Burt spent a great deal of time visiting rural areas, and wrote stories about, as well as photographing, what she saw.

Taking an outback safari break on the edge of Sturt Stony Desert, near the borders of South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales 1971 – Jocelyn Burt, NAA: A6135, K22/10/71/1

There are shots taken in capital cities – including the North Sydney Olympic pool, Sydney Harbour Bridge toll booths and Melbourne’s Moomba Festival. John Tanner has a 1956 image showing workers at the BHP Steelworks in Port Kembla, which would have been taken very close to where I worked my first full time job at Australian Iron and Steel over the summer of 1958-9.

Workers at the BHP Steelworks, Port Kembla, New South Wales 1956 – John Tanner, NAA: A1200, L21338

Bill Payne is represented with an image of young people straining as they hoist the sails of the Young Endeavour off the coast of NSW in 1991. That also brought back particular memories for me as I had the opportunity in late 1988 to photograph a group of young Canberrans with disabilities aboard that yacht myself.

At least females are portrayed in many images. If you are a woman who ever sold raffle tickets for the Canberra Pensioners Club or played lawn bowls you might see a John Houldsworth photo of yourself. Others visiting the show might see themselves making purchases in a pharmacy or using a travelator - with the Embassy Fruit Market in the background.

Visit the exhibition – it’s free and is open every day - and experience the power of photography to shape perceptions, ignite conversation and preserve memories. Guided tours are available every Sunday - 11 to 11:30 am. Bookings are required – online here.

This review is also available on the author's blog here.


Friday, December 22, 2023

CABARET AT SEA

 

A moment in "Musicology" Directed and choreographed by William Forsythe.

Presented by Grayboy Entertainment – 11th – 15th December 2023.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

A gift of a four-day cruise on the P & O liner, Pacific Adventure, provided this cruise virgin with the opportunity to sample entertainment at sea.

Being such a short cruise, expectations as to what on-board entertainment might be on offer were not particularly high. Therefore the discovery of fewer than three production shows scheduled over the four nights, along with other entertainment options, was much welcomed.

Faced with this entertainment smorgasbord, a show called “Sideshow Alley” scheduled for the first night at sea was a no-brainer.  

*Sideshow Alley" -Directed and choreographed by Mandy Liddell.

 
Happily ensconced in the cavernous, if oddly named, Marquee theatre, it took only a few minutes to recognise that the show we were enjoying was remarkable. Not only was its clever concept outstanding, but also its excellent production values and extraordinary choreography being  performed with flair and precision by its attractive, talented ensemble cast  consisting of four lead singer/dancers and eight specialist dancers portraying a variety of carnival characters, put it in a class of its own.    

The choreography and direction, I learned later, was by London based choreographer, Mandy Liddell. It was athletic, inventive and enthusiastically performed by a cast so cleverly ensemble that it was often difficult to distinguish the singers from the dancers because all performed with fastidiously drilled precision with obvious attention to technique, detail and execution.

Imaginative steam-punk style costumes, cleverly designed by Nigel Shaw for lightning- fast changes, allowed the numbers to flow without interruption. Any information necessary was contained in song lyrics, voice-overs or on the brilliantly designed, ever-changing LED screens surrounding the performers.

The songlist consisted of a witty mixture of well-known and less familiar songs chosen to fit the concept, sung live to excellent pre-recorded backing tapes. Memorable among them was  Bricusse/Newley’s “Pure Imagination”, David Clayton Thomas’ “Spinning Wheel”, Johnny Young’s “The Real Thing” and Jerry Herman’s “We Are What We Are”,  all imaginatively re-arranged to enhance the concept by musical director David Pritchard-Blunt.

Remarkably for this style of show, there was no time-wasting audience participation or padding, just 40 minutes of non-stop, brilliantly concepted and performed entertainment.

Finale of "One" Directed and Choreographed by Kelley Abbey


For the second night, the show was entitled simply, “One”.  Co-written, directed and choreographed by legendary  Australian choreographer, Kelley Abbey, with amazing costumes designed by Paula Ryan, “One”  proved to be a subtle, brilliantly delivered message about climate change, plastics and global warming, all wrapped up in 40 minutes of enticing theatrical razzle dazzle.   

Again the same brilliant cast now performing Kelley Abbey’s demanding choreography with style and panache, with a clever selection of mostly familiar songs chosen because their lyrics contained previously unsuspected climate references. Among many highlights in this regard being sassy arrangements of Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot”, Hal David/Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now” and Andy Grammar’s “Good to Be Alive”. A   particularly memorable example involved a vocalist, glamorously costumed in waste plastic, interacting with a whale.

A memorable moment in "ONE" Directed and choreographed by Kelley Abbey


Even though there was still one more show scheduled for the final night of the cruise, completely intrigued by the quality of the shows, and frustrated by the lack of on-board information about the creatives and performers involved, your cruise virgin felt impelled to indulge in some research.

This led to the discovery that all three shows had been created by Grayboy Entertainment, a production house created by Graeme Gillies, who also co-wrote both “Sideshow Alley” and “One”.  Grayboy Entertainment has its headquarters at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, and specialises in creating original concepts for resorts, casinos and cruise ships in Australia and abroad.  

General Manager, Scott Ogier, who also designed the brilliant settings for all three on-board Grayboy shows, organised a meeting for me with Henry Kirk, the Cast Manager, charged with maintaining all three shows, as well as appearing in each as a dancer.   

Henry informed me that he, and all the current cast, were recruited through general auditions in London, before coming to Grayboy’s headquarters at Burleigh Heads to learn and rehearse the shows.   

In addition to Henry, the current highly skilled performers appearing in these three shows are dancers, Kassandra Barker, Clara Jackson, Georgina Gardner, Ciara Farelly, Charles Wilson, Liam Kelly and Oliver Kirk and lead vocalists are Georgia Brebner, Oliver Lapthorn, Amy Brockway and William O’Donnell.


Dancers in "Musicology" Directed and choreographed by William Forsythe

The final show was “Musicology”, presented on the last night at sea, and remarkably, even more spectacular than those which went before.  Co-written, directed and choreographed by William Forsythe, “Musicology” was conceived to celebrate the many genres of contemporary popular music including Pop, Disco, Motown, Soul and Rock.

As expected by now, it was performed by the same twelve virtuoso performers who had performed the other shows, but this time augmented by a quartet of musicians who were revealed midway through the show on a lift containing a pianist playing a grand piano appeared out of the stage to the accompaniment of a pre-recorded soundtrack of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. 

The featured singers with choir in "Musicology" directed and choreographed by William Forsythe.

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Again the singers demonstrated their impeccable harmonies and ability to sing in any style, transforming into Aretha Franklin for “Natural Woman”, Sam Smith for “How Will I Know”, Prince for “Purple Rain”, Tina Turner for “Proud Mary” or, thanks to the magic of LED screens, backed by a huge gospel choir for “Ain’t No Mountain”, all under the awe-inspiring musical direction of Phillip Filo, who was also responsible for the musical direction of “One”.

Once more the dancers out-did themselves executing William Forsythe’s dazzling choreography with astonishing care and precision.  Nigel Shaw’s eye-popping costumes matched the inventiveness of his costumes for “Sideshow Alley”, while Scott Ogier’s masterful use of LED screens, lifts and flys, once again left the audience gasping at the effects achieved.  

No wonder that the rousing finale, “Don’t Stop Me Now” involving the whole cast, inspired a standing ovation from the packed theatre. The audience too recognised that they had just enjoyed an entertainment experience which will remain long among their most memorable.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a P & O Cruise boasting shows by Grayboy Entertainment, strap yourself in for an exciting experience. They don’t come any better.  


These photographs were provided by Grayboy Entertainment and are all original cast photos and although the productions are the same the artists pictured are not the cast experienced by the writer. 


This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au



A Christmas Carol - staged by Shake&Stir

 

 

 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Shake&Stir.  At Canberra Theatre, December 19-24, 2023.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
December 20

Adaptor Nelle Lee
Director Michael Futcher
Designer Josh McIntosh
Composer Salliana Campbell
Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright
Video Designer Craig Wilkinson
Sound Designer Guy Webster
Creative Producer Ross Balbuziente

Featuring Will Carseldine, Eugene Gilfedder, Nick James, Nelle Lee, Mia Milnes, Bryan Probets, Tabea Sitte, Nick Skubij, and Lucas Stibbard.



What a great joy and surprise it is to celebrate Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol with terrific modern technology creating such warmth of feeling.  By making the drama focus on Ebenezer’s experience with empathy for his mental turmoil, we no longer simply condemn him for being a scrooge.  

We find we can identify with him as he, by understanding his past, sees his present in a new light, as he imagines his future as it would be – unless he makes a change for the better: for others.  This is the Christmas Gift of Shake&Stir’s A Christmas Carol.


 According to Study.com, at the end of the novel, Scrooge “gives money to the poor, spends Christmas with his nephew and his family, and then gives Bob Cratchit a raise. Scrooge lives the rest of his life with the joy of Christmas in his heart.”  

When you read this, you might take it with a grain of salt, thinking that Dickens was being a bit na├»ve, or too idealistic; or worse, being satirical.  This is because what you read is description of the Scrooge character from an outside perspective.

What Shake&Stir have done is to take you inside.  Like Ebenezer – through the powerful use of an amazing set design, lights, sound and hologram projections – you feel afraid, then defiant with sarcastic humour; but finally as you realise what your self-centred attitude has cost you, and what it has done to others, you find relief in making the change, from taking to giving.  Giving to others is better for yourself as well as for them.  Giving, in all sorts of ways, is good for us all.  

In the final moments of the play, we feel with Ebenezer Scrooge because we know now he is not against us – even though we know from his experience, and our own, that we will have to work in practical ways to make the good happen, and keep happening.

If that’s an ideal, then so be it.  In facing up to the world we see around us, I thank Shake&Stir for their sincerity, and the power of their art.

A Christmas Carol hologram image
Shake&Stir, 2023

Still from the trailer A Christmas Carol
Shake&Stir, 2023



 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Nucleo

Photography Book Review | Brian Rope

Title: Nucleo

Author: Wouter Van de Voorde

Publisher: AREA Books (Paris)

Format: 240 pages (all with foldout), 32 x 23.5 cm, softcover (with dustjacket)

ISBN: 978-2-4935-0911-6

Having become aware of Wouter Van de Voorde’s photography, Laure-Anne Kayser of AREA Books (Paris) approached him to do a book. Like his previous sold-out book Death is not here (published by Void, another European company), sales of Nucleo have been excellent since it was first launched on 8 November 2023 in Paris at an Art Book Fair. 

The Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson named Nucleo as a Book of the Month for December 2023, saying “Like the fantasized nuclear family to which the book’s title refers, the photographer’s family watches the forest burn, plays in the water and stirs up dust. Bureau Kayser’s ingenious layout delicately crystallizes a tale of family self-sufficiency and autarky.”

At the Canberra launch of the book National Gallery of Australia Photography Curator Anne O’Hehir was effusive in her praise for the book, describing it as having a great sense of “isolation being separate” and suggesting that life seems random and chaotic - a series of events only connected by our experiencing them. The word success comes to mind!

C and F at Lightning Ridge, Wouter Van de Voorde, 2019

F throwing sand in the air, Wouter Van de Voorde, 2023

Announcing the book’s publication, Area Books described it as an “emotionally charged photobook, this work encapsulates a decade of artistic evolution, exploration, and the essence of family life set against the backdrop of the Australian landscape.” As I explored the book I found myself very much agreeing with the description. It reveals so much of the artist’s journey and, simultaneously, his family’s life experiences whilst his art has changed and evolved.

Originally a painter in his Belgian homeland, after moving to Australia in 2008 Van de Voorde found his creative sanctuary in photography – which he has suggested provides the advantage of speed over painting. The artist considers his adopted home country through his camera lenses. The photobook is a visual odyssey tracing the life of his family, starting from the birth of his son, Felix, and continuing to their most recent moments captured during a twilight walk on Cooleman Ridge, a nature reserve close to home. It reveals 10 years of the family’s shared experiences, organized chronologically.

C, F and F on Cooleman Ridge at Sunset, Wouter Van de Voorde, 2023

It is certainly not a traditional family photo album though. Members of the family have been photographed exploring parts of the land on which they live or are visiting for some reason. There are images where their faces are not visible, images taken in an ordinary backyard and others where family members might be seen as exploring a nondescript place. There are no photographs of the artist himself. Rather, his presence is evoked through his observations. Exploring the pages I sometimes wondered what I was looking at, or what the children were doing. All of this adds to the intrigue. His wife’s family lives at a considerable distance, his family on the other side of the world. The book reveals his immediate family’s shared moments in Australia.

A Ngunnawal elder explained to Van de Voorde how the land looks after people who live on or even just pass through it. He now has a clear understanding of how the land provides solace, nourishment, and a deep sense of belonging. The artist poetically explores this relationship, drawing parallels between a trig point’s archetypal house shape and the skeletal remnants of a house. He sees this as a metaphor for his family’s life - being inside a house without walls but feeling protected and cared for by the landscape.

C and F on Mount Arawang, Wouter Van de Voorde, 2023

The book’s design utilizes a horizontal layout folded in two. Opening the book at the central fold subverts the typical chronological flow, instead delivering a most Japanese approach to layout. I first saw the latest image, from September 2023, then read in reverse order. This folding technique enables juxtaposition of visual and natural patterns whilst challenging the conventional concept of time. You can get a great feel for the book at https://area-books.com/en/nucleo. As a bonus for purchasers, each copy of the book has a numbered print signed by the artist slipped into the front cover. And just look at this image showing something of the wonderful structure of the book:

At the local launch, O’Hehir suggested Nucleo is, a legacy for the artist’s children. She is right. This artist has assembled and shared a very successful portrait of his art and his family’s life.


This review is also available on the author's blog here.







Sunday, December 17, 2023

ON COURSE - QL2 Dance

 

"Held in Flesh" - Choreographed by Rory Warne

Project Director:  Ruth Osborne – Mentor: Alison Plevey

Produced by Emma Batchelor and Natalie Wade

Lighting Design: Guy Harding.

Choreographers: Cassidy Thomson, Christopher Wade, Leyla Boz, Liam Berg, Magnus Meagher, Mia Canton, Rory Warne, Ruby Ballantyne.

QL2 Theatre, 16th and 17th December, 2023.

Performance on 16th December reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

Returning after a hiatus of three years due to the dreaded Covid pandemic, “On Course” is a choreographic project initiated by QL2 Dance to provide QL2 alumni undertaking full-time tertiary studies at universities around Australia, with the facilities necessary to create, in two weeks, an original short dance work for presentation in front of a paying audience.

Those facilities include dancers, rehearsal space and professional mentorship, with no restrictions as to topic or style. For the aspiring choreographers it offers a rare opportunity to try their creative wings in a supportive environment. For the audience, an opportunity to see what influences those choreographers have absorbed since leaving the creative hotbed of QL2 Dance.  

Three choreographers, who were unable to return to Canberra, presented their works on film. Cassidy Thomson, a Quantum Leaper from 2016 to 2022, currently studying at VAC, explored notions of ‘ephemerality’ with her cleverly edited film “We Live This Very Ephemeral Life” in which her own filmed movements were intercut with intriguing images.


Meya Canton and Leyla Boz in their film "Warped Reality".



Mia Canton and Leyla Boz also both studying dance at VCA, drew on film of themselves performing mostly unison movement in and around a bright yellow sculpture to produce a visually engaging work entitled “Warped Reality”.

A Quantum Leaper from 2016 – 2022, Magnus Meagher is currently studying Screen and Media at RMIT in Melbourne. Meagher took the opportunity to create, and introduce, a veritable love-letter to the Canberra of his childhood, with his diverting film, “ Run Point” for which he filmed dancers, Christopher Wade, Jahna Lugnan and Sam Tonna, all of whom performed in other works during the evening, dashing blissfully, Parkour-like, through various dreamy photogenic locations around Canberra.

The first of the live presentations, all of which were introduced in person by their choreographer, was introduced by one of the dancers featured in “Run Point”, Christopher Wade.


"The Space Between" choreographed by Christopher Wade


Having just completed his Master of Dance at VCA, Wade joined dancers Liam Berg, Rory Warne, Maya Willie-Bellchambers and Julia Villaflor to perform his own work “The space Between” for which he drew on personal experience to create a fascinating exploration of various life styles utilising unison movement, unusual lifts and groupings.


Christopher Wade and Liam Berg in "Therapy" choreographed by Liam Berg


Liam Berg also completed his MA in Dance at VCA, after training at Australian Ballet School and John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart. Berg drew on his interest in therapeutic movement to create a joyous, tongue-in-cheek duet, which he performed with Christopher Wade, to music by Dianna Ross and Boy Harsher, deftly transforming repetitive rhythmic movement and facial exercises into delightfully entertaining dance.

Perhaps the most ambitious work of the evening was created by Rory Warne, a graduate of Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-professional year (2021) and VAC (2023).  Performed by Liam Berg, Jahna Lugnan, Julia Villaflor, Arshiya Abhishree, Maya Wille-Bellchambers and Sam Tonna to an original composition by Ethan Oppy, “Held in Flesh” explored a particularly dancerly topic - the body as an archive and vessel of potential – for which the dancers performed complicated self-absorbed groupings, sometimes resembling shop mannequins until finally, one-by-one, exiting the stage.


Ruby Ballantyne performing her work "Diary of a teenage 23 year old"


However it was a solo, “Diary of a teenage 23 year old”, performed by Ruby Ballantyne, a Quantum Leaper for 5 years who describes herself as a contemporary dancer, actor, painter, rug maker and starry-eyed dreamer, who completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) at WAAPA in 2022, before participating in professional dance and performance workshops in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, and who will commence acting studies at NIDA in 2024, that was the most original offering of the evening.

Responding to a compelling pre-recorded stream-of-consciousness voice-over recording of her own voice, Ballantyne performed a mesmerising, virtuosic mime-show exposing her insecurities about aging (at 23 ?), angsting over missing out on new life-experiences by spending too much time cherishing past experiences, until, finally collapsing in a panic attack.

With “Diary of a teenage 23 year old” Ballantyne has created a remarkable showcase for her toolbox of unique acting and dancing skills which should hold her in good stead for a successful career as a performing artist.

Following a series of well-staged bows, the choreographers and dancers joined the audience for a Q & A about their creations and process.

 

                                            Images by O & J Wikner Photography



     This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au

ON COURSE - QL2 DANCE


Choreography by Cassidy Thomson,

Christopher Wade, Leyla Boz,

Liam Berg, Magnus Meagher

Mia Canton, Rory Warne

and Ruby Ballantyne

Artistic Director: Ruth Osborne

QL2 Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon to 17 December

 

Reviewed by Len Power 16 December 2023

 

“On Course” is the annual welcoming back of QL2 alumni and friends from full-time study at universities around Australia to choreograph, collaborate and perform new short works.

This year, seven works were on offer. Four live performances were developed, rehearsed and polished over the past two weeks and there were 3 films from alumni in Melbourne who were unable to present a live performance.

The program commenced with the three films. “We Live This Very Ephemeral Life” by choreographer and performer, Cassidy Thomson, focussed on fleeting moments that can stay with you for the rest of your life. “Warped Reality”, danced and choreographed by Mia Canton and Leyla Boz, looked at the physical manipulation of reality. “Run Point” by choreographer, Magnus Meagher, was an exploration of overcoming obstacles and working together as a team.

Mia Canton and Leyla Boz in the film "Warped Reality"

While all three films had merit, “Warped Reality” was particularly successful in its sharp film editing, use of location, choice of music and appealing choreography.

The live performances commenced with Christopher Wade’s “The Space Between” which explored how the world is perceived by an introverted person. Five dancers, including Wade, performed his vision and it was notable for the clear depiction of his theme. Finely detailed group movements, a sense of threat and a feeling of optimism in a perceptive final speech, made this an effective and enjoyable work.

“Diary Of A Teenage 23 Year Old”, choreographed and danced by Ruby Ballantyne, was a very personal work that displayed the mind of an over thinker with too many thoughts and voices for her to keep up with. Her energetic dancing with a nicely displayed nervous energy, clearly showed the state of mind of this person. It was danced with skill and humour, also showing Ballantyne’s strong and charismatic acting ability.

Ruby Ballantyne

Liam Berg’s “Therapy” followed and explored the realms of therapeutic actions that bring joy to the performer. Danced by Christopher Wade and Berg himself, this was a clever and enjoyable work with clearly defined therapeutic themes, fine dancing by Wade and Berg and a humorous ending that worked well.

Christopher Wade and Liam Berg

The final work was “Held In Flesh” by Rory Warne. His work focussed on the body as an archive – a living tapestry of intertwined lineages. Six dancers performed this demanding abstract work with skill. There were especially fine groupings and fluid movements in his choreography that clearly conveyed his theme to the audience.

This year’s “On Course” was an effective and enjoyable showcase for these QL2 alumni. They were nicely assisted by the skilled dancing of their works by senior members of the QL2 dancers.


Photos by O&J Wikner Photography 

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 https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.

 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

CHRISTMAS CLASSICS


Luminescence Chamber Singers and guests

Luminescence Children’s Choir

Samuel Giddy, organ

Valdas Cameron, percussion

Directed by Roland Peelman

Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 15 December

 

Reviewed by Len Power

 

It was a time-travelling evening of Christmas music from Medieval carols to classic Yuletide songs and traditional Nativity hymns.

Directed by Roland Peelman, the combined forces of Luminescence Chamber Singers and guest artists, the Luminescence Children’s Choir, organist, Samuel Giddy and Valdas Cameron on percussion made this a memorable evening of familiar and not so well-known Christmas music.

The concert commenced dramatically with the Chamber Singers as they entered singing down the aisle of the church, led by Roland Peelman and Valdas Cameron on drums, while Samuel Giddy provided deep resonant tones on the organ. In the gallery above and behind the audience, the Children’s Choir added their voices, producing a sound that galvanised the audience immediately.

Luminescence Children's Choir

They had begun with a 14th century anonymous Spanish song, “Stella Splendens”. It was followed by another song from the same era “Qui creavit celum – Song Of the Nuns Of Chester”, a quietly haunting work beautifully sung, and “Eya Jhesus Hodie” with a 15th century text and music composed in the musical idioms of the 14th century by David Yardley in 2020. Another rousing 14th century song followed, the Bavarian “Verbum Patris humanatur”. It was given a fine performance by the choirs.

The large program of songs included a 16th century work by William Byrd, “Lulla Lullaby”, an arrangement by Ruth McCall of two melodies for “Away In A Manger”, “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Harold Darke from 1911 and “Gabriella’s Song” by Stefan Nilsson from 2004, amongst others.

Roland Peelman and the Luminescence Chamber Singers and guests

Samuel Giddy’s organ performance of “Swiss Carol” by Louis-Claude Daquin from the 18th century was one of the highlights of the concert.

Other highlights included “The Song Of the Birds”, a traditional Catalan song arranged by Roland Peelman, which was hauntingly sung, and the uplifting “Gabriella’s Song” was sung with great feeling by soprano, Rachel Mink.

Rachel Mink

The concert concluded with the classic carols, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night”. The audience was invited to sing with the choirs and the result was an intense feeling of community as the huge sound filled the church, bringing this often spectacular and enjoyable evening of Christmas music to a close.

 

Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 16 December 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 https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.

 

Friday, December 15, 2023

People You May Know - Lucid Theatre Company

 

People You May Know by Lucid Theatre Company, at Canberra Theatre Centre, Courtyard Studio, December 14-16 2023.

A group of our 2022 Emerge Company, Ashleigh Butler, Jessi Gooding, Quinn Goodwin and Thea Jade, are putting what they learned into practice, redeveloping the material they devised back then to form the basis of their debut production. They've enlisted a crop of fellow-emerging artists from the Canberra Youth Theatre community, including Emerge Company 2023's Matt White, who will be making his directorial debut!

And if you're 18–25 and want to follow in their footsteps, enrolments are open for Emerge Company 2024... ­čśÄ
https://canberrayouththeatre.com.au/emerging/emerge/
________________________________________________________________________________

People You May Know is like democracy – as Abraham Lincoln might have said, it’s a play of these (20 year-old) people, by these (20 year-old) people, and for the 20 year-old people who nearly filled the Courtyard Studio on opening night.  

It is also a kind of satirical comedy about which Winston Churchill would have unfairly said, like democracy, it’s terribly messy and seems to be the worst form of theatre except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Being surrounded by all these 1-score people, you perhaps can imagine my trepidation at 4-score years and 3 (that's my Shakespeare reference), pretending I can critically evaluate a play from an online world, where all social communication since birth requires the internet.  When the internet crashes, this is disaster.  Mostly for me a confusing disaster; while being very funny and clearly deserving the huge celebratory curtain call from everybody else for this brand-new Lucid Theatre Company's inaugural production.

Though it seemed as if it had been created along the lines that I might have used in teaching drama through large-group improvisation, it came together enough to open up some serious experiential learning.  The class instruction might have been “you have 90 minutes for this workshop; you begin with a party and end with a party a week or two later – start improvising when I click my fingers”.

Looking back to when I was 20 at university like these characters, communication was immediately personal, or by tentative telephone calls to the person you might be falling in love with, and by letters with anxious time-gaps waiting for replies.  The failure of the internet in this play, meaning the inability to have immediate communications, and the lacking in experience of how to manage without knowing what was happening (and not being able to submit your essay on time) still left these characters with the apprehensions and misapprehensions, the same fantasies, and the same possibilities for jealousy as for me 60 years ago.

But the over-excitement and instant judgemental responses which today’s social media generates as TikTok is flooded with photos and videos, sent with or without permissions and consent, is really the serious point of this play.  Life at 20 was never meant to be easy, as even Shakespeare wrote 400 years ago; but at least in my day it happened at a slower and perhaps more manageable pace.

So People You May Know – or maybe don’t know as well as you thought – is an interesting piece of what I would call exploratory social drama, and bodes well for the future of Lucid Theatre.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Terra: (un)becoming

Exhibition Review: Photography | Brian Rope

Terra: (un)becoming | Multiple Artists

Photo Access | 7 – 20 December 2023

Terra: (un)becoming is the outcome of Photo Access’ annual “Concept to…” workshop series. After nine months of mentorship from local photographers Sari Sutton, Mark Mohell and Gabrielle Hall-Lomax, participants were to create new bodies of work. 

The exhibition is described as reflecting on “the urgent need for the community to reassess connections with each other and the environment under the threat of climate crisis and complex global challenges.” The idea of becoming/unbecoming is defined as seeking “to challenge the expectation that we, as humans, must keep striving to become something or someone.” 

The 26 participating artists are Annette Fisher, Zoe Haynes-Smith, Saskia Haalebos, Toni Hicks, Adam Henry, Nathan Hughes, Joanne Hutchinson, Natalie Finney, Lynne Flemons, Alison Ford, Yasmin Idriss, Leanne Joyce, Diana Pearce, Fernanda Pedroso, Julia Platt, Caroline Lemerle, Margi Martin, Peter Murphy, Helena Romaniuk, Corin Rossouw, Christina Seccombe, Roger Skinner, Martin Skrydstrup, Sari Sutton, Ed Telfer, and Ruby Wilde. 

There are, in my view, too many diverse artists showing too many diverse artworks. Whilst there are some worthwhile pieces to examine, too many competing pieces does not always help. The title of one piece by Natalie Finney is another word that might be used to describe the problem.

Discord, 2023 - © Natalie Finney

I confess to being surprised that the works of all three workshop groups were being exhibited since only one workshop was actually styled as Concept to Exhibition. The other two were Concept to Portfolio and Concept to Photobook. Whilst it would be good to somehow also publicly share the results achieved by participants in those two groups, perhaps the works exhibited here should have only been those by the Concept to Exhibition participants.

Amongst the 63 works, there is considerable variety - silver gelatin and inkjet prints and “darkroom fragments” (some in boxes, others in a white lacquer tray), mixed media and collage, “photographic paper” on cardboard, commercially printed and handmade photobooks, a 3-drawer black box containing prints and a field diary, and even a screenprint displayed in negative sleeves. Exploring it all properly takes considerable time. 

Ed Telfer’s small handmade photobook maquettes are a delight to hold and look through. Lynne Flemons’ mixed media and collage on paper and Julia Platt’s print on cotton voile embellished with embroidery threads and glass beads are both pleasing. Alison Ford’s “photographic paper on cardboard” works are different and interesting. Corin Rossouw’s prints of minimalist images are pleasing. Fernanda Pedroso’s inkjet prints are high quality. Nathan Hughes has created a colourful collage.

IT DOESN’T SOUND RIGHT, 2023 by Fernanda Pedroso – installation shot


Profiterol├ę of Doom, 2023 by Nathan Hughes – installation shot

Caroline Lemerle’s set of inkjet prints Transient – At the end there’s always a beginning, 2022 (made before the workshop?) successfully shows her concept. I was able to discuss the works with her on site and learn about her thought processes. That emphasised for me the lack of detailed information available to viewers about each exhibitor’s concept – at least some accompanying words about what the artists were “unbecoming” would add to the experience.

Roger Skinner’s A Box of Nudes, 2023 challenged me to ask why images of nudes are sometimes hidden away - here inside wooden boxes (but visible). I understand he had more boxes, some plastic, that were not exhibited. I don’t know whether other artists also had works not included, but it is puzzling. In contrast, Adam Henry has 10 inkjet prints in his displayed series Remnant: A Photographic Journey of the What is Left Behind, 2023.

Another exhibit utilising a box is Martin Skrydstrup’s The Black Box of Climate Science, 2023. The most interesting item in the 3-compartment black box is a field diary but, as with various other works in the show, I wanted to know more about it than just its contents.

Yasmin Idriss has 8 works displayed. One is a photobook of flower images from her 2022 solo exhibition of the same name - “Delicate Delights” - at Strathnairn Homestead Gallery. Another Idriss photobook - “Journal” - is of considerably more interest because of the subject matter.

Ruby Wilde’s zine is the work I most appreciated. Exposure Therapy Vol. 1, 2023, authentically portrays the artist and her ways of interacting with the world in what, clearly, was a most therapeutic way for the artist. We should all have the courage to use our art in such a way.

Exposure Therapy Vol. 1, 2023 - Installation shot

Annette Fisher’s handmade photobooks are complex and not easy to explore because of the way they are displayed. Margi Martin’s “darkroom fragments” were somehow more interesting for me than her whole prints.

Catch the show if you can and take the necessary time to explore it all.

This review is also available on the author's blog here.