Thursday, February 29, 2024


Written by William Ivory

Directed by Oliver Palmer

Transmission Films

In cinemas from March 7


Previewed by Len Power


“The Great Escaper” is a sensitive and touching drama based on a true story.  In 2014, pensioner, Bernard Jordan, escaped from his care home in Hove, England to attend an event in France marking the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. The story of his escape made the national news at the time.

Michael Caine gives a finely detailed performance as Bernard, a man whose quiet, unassuming manner hides a steely determination underneath. The details of his escape are amusing, but his playing of a scene where he meets with German veterans attending the same event in France is subtle and electrifying. When he visits the grave of a comrade who died on D-Day, his quiet but emotional performance is devastating.

Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson plays his wife, Irene, who battles with the care home staff, and covers for Bernard’s absence.  She brings a fierce intensity to the part, but also shows that there is a warmly human person underneath.

John Stride gives fine support as an aged fellow veteran, Arthur, who befriends Bernard during his journey. He’s another performer who has had a long career in British films.

John Stride and Michael Caine

It’s the emotional story of two elderly people, played by Caine and Jackson, that is at the heart of the film and the director, Oliver Palmer, wisely focuses on it.  Towards the end of the film, when Irene and Bernard are re-united, the remarkable skill of these two veteran actors is displayed in an intense scene that is quietly sensitive. You’ll remember this scene long after the film is finished.

Glenda Jackson died after making this film and Michael Caine announced his retirement. It’s a memorable film for these two superb performers to go out on.


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




Curated and produced by Charlie Wan – Light/Sound production by Craig Dear

Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre Feb. 16th, 2024  


Charlie Wan welcomes the audience to "Beneath the Dragon Moon"

Established in 2022 by local diversity mover and shaker, Charlie Wan, Monkey King Cabaret is an annual celebration of what it is to be Asian.

Curated, produced and compered by Charlie Wan, an accomplished gender-fluid  burlesque performer and proprietor of the performing arts school,  Subsdance Dance Studio,  “Monkey King Cabaret” aims to provide a showcase for queer, Asian-identifying artists whose talents sit outside the theatrical mainstream.

Performers from the Canberra Prosperous Mountain Dragon & Lion Dance Troupe.

For the 2024 edition, Wan, had  assembled an eclectic collection of artists among them poets, pole dancers , strippers , vocalists as well as the extraordinary Canberra Prosperous Mountain Dragon & Lion Dance Association which commenced the program with a spectacular display featuring two huge Chinese Lions .  

Ravi Oli performing his snake dance.

Well-known Canberra Drag King, Ravi Oli then took the stage to perform an interpretive dance celebrating the fact that he was born in the year of the snake. Sydney entertainer, ASAP Merc drew gasps from the audience demonstrating  her athletic pole-dancing skills.

ASAP Merc demonstrating her pole dancing skills

Canberra poetry slam afficiondo, Andrew Cox  offered 3 poems questioning identity; after which Wan,spectacularly costumed in red, delivered a long meandering monologue explaining her background asexual politics, before launching into a polished strip routine.

Charlie Wan during "Beneath the Dragon Moon" 

Poet Alexander Cox 

After interval Wan again took the stage again, this time in Drag King mode as her alter-ego Charlie Chapstick,  to introduce non-binary artist, Minh Thanh Van who read a long poem before accompanying himself on ukulele for a gentle rendition of pretty song entitled, “Lena”.

Minh Thanh Van performing "Lena". 

Then following an amusing strip-routine by Trey Frenchie, who describes himself as a Doctor Stripper, classically-trained dancer, Kate Tieu performed a gentle flowing dance which allowed her to display her artistry at gracefully manipulating silk fans. 

Kate Tieu 

Escha and Wiz 

Effectively contrasting with this item, an exotically costumed couple, Escha and Wiz, performed an energetic apache-style dance before Wan, unrecognisable  as another alter-ego, Daddy Charles, encouraged the cast back onto the stage for the finale, bringing to  a close a program, which despite its haphazard presentation, offered an intriguing insight into the depth and range of Asian queer theatre in Canberra.


Charlie Wan as Daddy Charles

Particularly interesting with this performance was the thoughtful inclusion of language signer, Lauren Napper- Ferrari who gracefully and good-humouredly signed every performance therefore insuring that hearing-impaired members of the audience were able to enjoy every element of the performance.

Lauren Napper-Ferrari and Charlie Wan. 

                                                                Images by Buda.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

With Nature

Exhibition Review: Visual Art | Brian Rope

With Nature | Bridget Baskerville, Megan Cope, Wendy Dawes, Marley Dawson, Sammy Hawker, Annika Romeyn (curated by Alexander Boynes)

CCAS Lakeside | 10 February - 6 April 2024

With Nature is about environmental changes happening because of us. Six contemporary Australian artists address the issues, aligning the materials they employ in their studios to convey their messages.

The landscape has influenced their work outcomes, revealing our impacts on Earth’s transformation. Humans have the ability to collaborate, but we need to explore our frequent failure to do so with respect to nature. These artists, working in photography, drawing, sculpture and textiles, ask “how can we collaborate with our natural environment to better understand how to live a sustainable future on this planet?”

Kamberri/Canberra-based Sammy Hawker is showing a number of her marvellous salt works here. These photographs (created across the Yuin Nation on Walbunja & Djiringanj Country) explore repeated motifs presented by salt in the ocean. Her experimental technique challenges traditional approaches to film development and cultivates a deeper connection between art and nature. She allows the environment to shape the outcome saying, “the crosses and fractals feel like signs of sentience, marks of the deeper frequency” and “Earth’s oceans were created from forms of water that came from outer space - a combination of icy comets and grains of solar dust. It feels the oceans hold material memory of this interstellar resonance.”

Murramarang NP #1, 2020 – Pigment inkjet print 110 x 110 cm © Sammy Hawker

Emerging artist Bridget Baskerville has previously explored the effect of extractive industries on waterways around her Kandos hometown. Dead River (2023) shown here originated from a 2023 residency in Queenstown, Lutruwita/Tasmania when she explored how the Queen River, one of Australia's most polluted waterways, interacted with immersed copper plates. A 2-channel video shows her work in progress, and a superb set of corroded copper plates created by an etching process in the water, reveal bright orange rust patterns. The plates indicate the impact of extractive industries on water systems.

Dead River, (detail) 2023, corroded copper plates,
2 channel video, dimensions variable © Bridget Baskerville

 Annika Romeyn, another Kamberri/Canberra-based artist contributes more corrosion/rust in a very different artwork. This artist combines watercolour, drawing and printmaking processes to create intricate and immersive works on paper looking to convey a restorative experience of being in nature, focussing on the threshold of rock and water. Wana Karnu (2024) is a spectacular multi-panel rust and ink drawing which captures her experience of walking gravelly ridges in Mutawintji National Park at sunset. The work reveals rich colours of iron oxide and 'rock rust' formed when iron, oxygen and water interact.

Wana Karnu (detail) - rust and ink, 2024 on Rives BFK 300gsm paper
© Annika Romeyn

Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, from Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island, is known for her site-specific sculptural installations, public art, and paintings. She blended art and conservation with Indigenous history and practice in her impressive large-scale midden installation Whispers at the entrance to the Sydney Opera House in 2023. Comprising a 14m wall and 200 timber Kinyingarra Guwinyanba poles covered in Kinyingarra (oyster) shells, it emphasised the resilience, and historic erasure, of First Nations custodianship, culture and Country at the world-renowned site. Here again we are asked to consider the role of art in bringing about cultural and ecological change. A single channel video reveals the landscape of country. It is well worth watching. It clearly reveals what we all should be looking for and seeing wherever in this land we live or visit.

'Kinyingarra Guwinyanba' 2022, Burogari (Cyprus Pine), Kinyinyarra (Sydney Rock Oyster) shell and stainless-steel trace wire Photo by Cian Sanders © Megan Cope

Wendy Dawes has created a remarkable perpetual motion machine, using an overhead projector with a deconstructed monitor to show, on a screen, permanent marker drawings on transparency film. A meter measuring power consumption during the exhibition acknowledges the artist's personal use of resources and highlights the need for more renewable energy sources.

'Perpetual Motion Machine' (work in progress), 2024 © Wendy Dawes

Using chemistry, mechanics and construction techniques, Marley Dawson creates sculptures and installations that highlight some outlandish aspects of our world and ourselves. He is dedicated to pushing the limits of what is considered to be art and encouraging dialogue about the wonders of our environment and ourselves. One of his contributions to this exhibition is a stunning and high-quality artwork constructed from brass, steel and timber and utilising electrics to produce a mesmerising hum from brass pieces vibrating against each other.

Hum (Louis + Morris), 2022, brass, steel, timber, electrics, 184 x 71 x 6cm – Marley Dawson

Concluding his curator’s essay, Alexander Boynes writes “Together, these six artists demonstrate art's ability to prompt introspection, foster conversation, and inspire action in addressing environmental challenges.”

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

Monday, February 26, 2024

BRIEFS: DIRTY LAUNDRY - Sydney Spiegeltent, Entertainment Centre, Moore Park.

Dylan Rodriguez (Serenity) - Thomas Worrell - Brett Rosengreen - Dale Woodbridge-Brown - Luke Hubbard (Nastia) during a bubble fantasy in "BRIEFS: Dirty Laundry "

Conceived and directed by Fez Faanana

Performed by Fez Faanana, Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill, Thomas Worrell, Dylan Rodriguez, Luke Hubbard, Brett Rosengreen, Rowan Thomas and Dale Woodbridge-Brown.

Sydney Spiegeltent, Entertainment Centre, Moore Park until March 15th 2024.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Mark Winmill - Rowan Thomas - Fez Faanana - Dylan Rodriguez - Thomas Worrell
- Brett Rosengreen - Dale Woodbridge-Brown - Luke Hubbard.

The gender-bending boys of Briefs Factory certainly take their dirty laundry seriously. This Brisbane based acrobatic troupe has been touring its unique style of spectacular burlesque circus around Australia and Internationally for more than a decade. Their current production “Briefs: Dirty Laundry” is currently ensconced in the Sydney Spiegeltent in Moore Park as a headline Mardi Gras attraction, and they couldn’t be more at home.

The cheeky opening number, cleverly choreographed around a couple of washing machines, introduced the eight performers and set the tone for the evening.  Eye-popping costumes that reveal plenty of well-toned flesh; creative presentation and breath-taking specialty acts performed by a cast of handsome, buffed and a highly skilled performers who happily participate, tongue-in-cheek, in outrageous sketches and glamorous production numbers that give the show its creative edge.


Fez Faanana in full flight.


As the host of the show, Fez Faanana, draped in a constant parade of eye-popping creations, stars in the production numbers and keeps the audience in a party mood with his risqué commentary.  He also reveals another meaning for the show’s title by requesting audience members to unpack their own dirty laundry by contributing an anonymous note revealing a dirty little secret. This strategy allows the entire cast to hilariously demonstrate hitherto unsuspected ‘artistic merit’ later in the show.   

Of this cast, Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill, Luke Hubbard (Nastia), and Dylan Rodriguez (Serenity) a trio of glamorous clowns who teeter alarmingly on skyscraper platform shoes, keep the audience in fits of laughter with their antics, before stunning  them later with the virtuosity of their acrobatic skills.

Luke Hubbard (Nastia) - Dylan Rodriguez (Serenity - Mark "Captain Kid" Winmill
in "Briefs:Dirty Laundry"

Who would have imagined you could strip off all your clothes while manipulating a Cyr wheel?  Rowan Thomas can, and very stylishly too. However muscular Brett Rosengreen required a bubble fantasy and an entourage of male beauties to achieve a similar manoeuvre. 


Rohan Thomas and Cyr Wheel in "Briefs: Dirty Laundry"

Thomas Worrell’s gasp-inducing aerial hoop routine leaves no doubt as to why he is Australia’s Acrobatic Hoop Champion, while Dale Woodbridge-Brown demonstrated some stomach-churning tricks with a balloon that you may not have thought about before.

“Brief: Dirty Laundry” is a world class, all-male, burlesque show which ends as it began, with a stylish costume parade. If burlesque is your thing or you’re tempted to find out what it’s all about, you’d be mad to miss this opportunity.

"Briefs: Dirty Laundry" - Finale.
Dylan Rodriguez - Brett Rosengreen - Rohan Thomas - Dale Woodbridge-Brown - Fez Faanana
Luke Hubbard - Mark "Captain Kidd" Winmill - Thomas Worrell

All images by Belinda Rolland

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.



Christina Wilson, mezzo soprano

Sonia Anfiloff, soprano

AJ America, mezzo soprano

Louise Page, soprano

Alan Hicks, piano

Philippa Candy, piano

Roland Peelman, harpsichord

Art Song Canberra

Wesley Music Centre, Forrest 25 February


Reviewed by Len Power


For Oliver Raymond, the retiring President of Art Song Canberra, a tribute concert performed by an outstanding group of singers and their accompanists became an extraordinary celebration.

Oliver Raymond has been President of Art Song Canberra continuously since 1995. Under his stewardship, the company has become one of Australia’s leading organisations devoted to the regular performance and wide appreciation of art song.

Also retiring and being honoured at the concert was his wife, Helen Raymond, who has been Art Song’s long serving Secretary.

Helen and Oliver Raymond

The list of performers, all of whom have close ties, past and present, to Art Song Canberra, were representative of the high standard that the company’s audiences have come to enjoy over the years.

Mezzo soprano, Christina Wilson, with Alan Hicks at the piano, presented a wide-ranging group of songs by composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Grainger and Fauré. All were superbly sung with the highlights being To Music by Franz Schubert and the haunting How Sweet The Moonlight Sleeps by Michael Head.

Wilson was then joined by soprano, Sonia Anfiloff for two songs – The Night by Ernest Chausson and the famous Barcarole by Jacques Offenbach.  Their blend of voices, particularly in the Barcarole, was one of the high points of the concert.

From left: Alan Hicks, Christina Wilson, Philippa Candy, Helen Raymond, Oliver Raymond, Louise Page, Sonia Anfiloff and AJ America

After interval, the mezzo soprano, AJ America, with Roland Peelman accompanying on harpsichord, performed two songs by Monteverdi, one celebrating the joy of love and the other about unrequited love. America skilfully and beautifully brought out the emotions in both songs.

Soprano, Sonia Anfiloff, with Alan Hicks on piano then performed songs by Henri Duparc, Samuel Barber, Michael Head and Robert Schumann. The power of her voice and her sensitive delivery of the emotions in the songs were outstanding. The highlight of her performance was Barber’s Sure On This Shining Night.

The last performer was soprano, Louise Page. Long associated with Art Song Canberra, she returned from retirement just for this concert. She was accompanied by Philippa Candy on piano and they performed five songs by Monique Carole-Smith, Fernando Obradors and Richard Strauss.

Page’s voice and ability to delivery emotion and meaning in the songs were as remarkable as ever and it was wonderful to hear her voice again. Carole-Smith’s War Song and Strauss’s The Night and Dedication were the highlights of her performance.

The concert finished with a call to the stage for Oliver and Helen Raymond. Surrounded by the performers who then sang Strauss’s Dedication to the couple, the full-house of audience members gave them a long and much-deserved standing ovation.


Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 26 February 2024.

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, February 25, 2024




Henry V

Written by William Shakespeare. Directed and produced by TW Gibbings. Co-director and Stage Manager Sophia Carlton. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Cheerleading sequence Kate Loynd Costumes by TW Gibbings and Cerri Murphy. Lakespeare production team: TW Gibbings, Paul Leverenz, Denise Carlton, Sophia Carlton, Cerri Murphy, Cathy Day and Jonty Redman.

 Cast: Jake Fryer-Hornsby, Anneka van der Velde, Max Gambale, Annabelle Hansen, Alexandra Pelvin, Marni Mount, Tyler Berrigan, John Lombard, Jacob Church, Hannah Cornelia. Lakespeare. Tuggeranong Town Park Friday February 23rd at 6.30 p.m.  Bookings:


Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


 As if by royal command, the midday storm that lashed Canberra abated. A clear twilight sky looked down on Tuggeranong Town Park where a large crowd gathered on blankets, rugs and chairs on the grass to watch Lakespeare’s free open air production of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

In place of swords and armour, Lakespeare has set the scene as a football contest between the two rival teams of France and England. The language remains true to Shakespeare’s text carefully coached by Dr. Duncan Driver in this intelligible and captivating production of Shakespeare’s highly patriotic history play.   Director TW Gibbings’ concept of presenting the war between the two great European powers in 1415 as a modern-day rugby clash serves as a contemporary metaphor for the bitter enmity. It’s a bit of a stretch to compare a World Cup rugby match to the blood and gore of the Battle of Agincourt but for the audience seated around the open air staging, Gibbings’ metaphor was instantly recognizable. Lakespeare’s production was highly entertaining, while Shakespeare’s text lost none of its import in the telling. As the Chorus, Max Gambale’s Referee filled the space with excitement, action and the power of storytelling. His voice soared over the transfixed audience drawing them into the history and adventure of Shakespeare’s chronicle. The audience was divided into supporters of the British and French teams and supplied with flags to wave and taught to cheer for their team. T shirts. in the colours of the country and with names of each character and their team number emblazoned on the back each character and their various roles were easily distinguished. Only the editing  and sometime removal of scenes led to some confusion for an audience unfamiliar with the play or perplexity by some who may have a greater knowledge of the text, but Gambale’s clear narration and the excellent performances and abounding energy of the young cast paid due homage to the story and the themes of Henry V.

Jake Fryer-Hornsby as Henry V

As Henry V, Jake Fryer-Hornsby gives a sterling performance as the reformed Prince Hal from Henry lV Part 2. He is in every sense a king, wilful, wily, courageous, compassionate and the epitomy of an ideal monarch in contrast to Gambale’s waspish Charles Vl of France and  Anneke van der Velde’s arrogant Dauphin. From his valiant cry of “Once more unto the breach dear friends to his rallying “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" or his awkward wooing of Princess Kate, Fryer-Hornsby can be counted amongst the very best of the Henry Vs I have seen on stage and screen. The battle scenes may not have the violence and brutality of the battle of Agincourt, but the football match serves well enough to express the challenges of the combat and the sacrifices in the quest for conquest. Shakespeare and Lakespeare have highlighted the virtue of inspired leadership, the futility of war and the reward for virtuous valour. Fryer-Hornsby is thrilling to watch as he breathes fire and brimstone and gentle humanity into this complex human being.

Max Gambale as the Chorus (Referee) in Henry V

The scene between Princess Kate (Marni Mount) and Alice (Annabelle Hansen), spoken largely in French and broken English is a sheer delight. Both Hansen and Mount deliver charm and innocence in equal measure in their scene together as well as in the wooing with Henry that breaks any tension with delightful humour and natural ease.

Gibbings’ concept lends itself to a humour that underpins irony, cynicism and human folly. Even the inclusion of sponsors’ names in the text provides a ready source for laughter from the groundlings who revel in the production under an almost full moon.  This production is a perfect fit for Lakespeare and the company’s mission to present open air performances of Shakespeare’s plays to the Canberra community.

Annabelle Hansen as the French Herald Montjoy

In 1599 Shakespeare wrote the play to open the new Globe on Southbank.  In 1997 I watched Mark Rylance play the king in traditional dress as the first all-male production at Sam Wanamaker’s new Globe. Gibbings’ production is Lakespeare’s first history play and its fifth Shakespeare production. It may be unconventional but it has the power to excite and stir the heart and remind us of the virtue of true leadership. Henry V is a wonderful story, fabulously told by a cast bursting with energy and passion. There are no more open air performances sadly, but lovers of Shakespeare and aficionados of good theatre can still catch the final Down at the Pub performance at Verity Lane on Tuesday February 27th at 6.30. If you have seen it in the park, then it will be worth seeing this again in the intimacy of a Pub. It is your last chance to see “a little touch of Harry in the night.”

Photos by Martin Ollman

IDOMENEO - Opera Australia and Victorian Opera

Michael Schade as Idomeneo 


Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Librettist: Abbe Giambattista Varesco

Conductor: Johannes Fritzsch – Director: Lindy Hume

Set Designer: Michael Yeargan – Set Design Consultant: Richard Roberts

Costume Designer: Anna Cordingley – Costume Design Consultant: Mel Sergeant

Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson – Video Designer: David Bergman

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House Feb.20th to March 15 2024.


Celeste Lazarenko (Ilia) - Michael Schade (Idomeneo) - Caitlin Hulcup (Idamante) and the Opera Australia chorus in "Idomeneo"

Having rashly promised the God, Neptune, that in appreciation for saving him from a storm at sea he would sacrifice the first living creature he met, Cretan King Idomeneo is horrified when he discovers that that person is his beloved son and heir, Idamante.

To complicate matters further, Idamante has his own problems. He’s in love with Ilia, the daughter of the defeated Trojan King Priam. However, Elettra, the daughter of the Greek King Agamemnon, has her sights set on becoming Queen of Crete. To achieve her aims she must marry Idamante, and she’s not about let Ilia get in her way.

It’s a juicy story fit for its own television series, but Mozart got there first, and in 1781 chose it as the subject of his first serious opera, composing some of his most luscious music for it.

In 1979 the then Australian Opera premiered a production of Idomeneo at the Sydney Opera House conducted by Richard Bonynge with Dame Joan Sutherland in the role of Elettra. This production was hired from the Victorian State Opera.

In a neat twist, for her final production as Guest Creative Director of Opera Australia’s 2024 Sydney Summer season, Lindy Hume has chosen her own production of Idomeneo which she directed in a co-production for Victorian Opera and Opera Australia and which premiered in Melbourne in July 2023.  

In a stunning coup de theatre, Hume has utilised the same Michael Yeargan setting originally designed for a 1989 production of Massenet’s Werther, and re-purposed for Opera Australia’s current production of The Magic Flute.

For her production Hume has enhanced this elegant white setting with stunning video images filmed in Tasmania by Catherine Pettman brilliantly mixed with animated inkblot images digitally reworked, colour-enhanced, timed, mapped and synchronised to Mozart’s score by David Bergman. The resultant images form incredible visual representations of each character’s mood.

In addition, she’s added a stage revolve, a collection of stark white chairs, then taken advantage of the possibilities offered by the superb Opera Australia chorus, strikingly costumed in muted tones by Anna Cordingley, as well as Verity Hampson’s prodigious lighting skills, to create a succession of stunning stage pictures to keep the eyes engaged while the singers enchant the ears with superb vocals. 

Making his first Sydney Opera House appearances, Canadian-German tenor Michael Schade is a commanding figure in the central role of Idomeneo. Whether strutting the stage in a black rooster-feather trimmed cloak, or swathed in blood-red satin, his stentorian tenor negotiates the complexities of Mozart’s arias with apparent ease, evidenced early during his rendition of “Fuor del mar” (Out of the Sea) in which Idomeneo thanks Neptune for sparing his life. 

In the pants role, as Idomeneo’s son Idamante, Caitlin Hulcup is not only vocally and visually striking, but also successful in investing her characterisation with a touching depth, particularly when Idamante expresses his anguish at his father’s rejection in the aria “Il padre adorato” (My beloved father).  

Celeste Lazarenko as Ilia in "Idomeneo"

Celeste Lazarenko, as Ilia, the object of Idamante’s  affections, immediately impresses with her unenviable task of opening the show with a  superb rendition of a long aria, “Padre, germani, addio” (Father, brothers, farewell), while Emma Pearson literally dazzles as the fiery Elettra,  especially with her aria, “D’Oreste, d’Ajace” (I feel Orestes’s and Ajax’s torments in my heart”) in which she leaves no doubts to her feelings when Idomeneo anoints Idamante and Ilia as his successors.

Emma Pearson (Elettra) and the Opera Australia Chorus in "Idomeneo"

However it is in the sublime rendition of the “Death Quartet” when these four soloists blend voices with the Opera Australia orchestra under the baton of Maestro Johannes Fritzsch that the hairs on the back of the neck begin to rise.

John Longmuir (Arbace) and Michael Schade (Idomeneo)

And if that were not enough, both Kanen Breen as the High Priest, and John Longmuir as Idomeneo’s confidant offer striking, well-sung performances.

Lindy Hume’s Sydney Opera House Summer Season has been a triumph in demonstrating possible new directions and collaborations for Opera Australia. The forthcoming Sydney Winter season, the first curated by incoming Artistic Director, Jo Davies, is an enticing selection offering no fewer than three Australian operas.

Hopefully though, in its efforts to embrace a more parochial approach to its repertoire, Opera Australia will be careful not to risk jeopardising its hard won International reputation as the country’s flagship opera company.


                                                     Images by Keith Saunders

   This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.



Saturday, February 24, 2024

Last of the Red Hot Lovers


Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon.  Canberra REP February 22- March 9, 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Feb 23 Opening Night

Director: Anne Somes; Associate Director: Cate Clelland
Stage Manager: David Goodbody; Asst Stage Manager: Bede Doherty
Set Design: Cate Clelland; Set Cooridnator: Russell Brown OAM
Lighting Designer: Mike Moloney; Sound Designer: Neville Pye
Set Dressing: Cate Clelland, Anna Senior OAM; Rosemary Gibbons
Costume Designer: Fiona Leach
Production Manager: Anne Gallen

Wikipedia records: The play opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 28, 1969, and closed on September 4, 1971, after 706 performances and six previews.

And also under the heading Reception: Clive Barnes, in his review in The New York Times, wrote: "He is as witty as ever...but he is now controlling that special verbal razzle-dazzle that has at times seemed mechanically chill... There is the dimension of humanity to its humor so that you can love it as well as laugh at it."

Eugene O’Neill???  Somehow these characters in the sad comedy of the failure of sexual anything-goes a la 1969 seem somewhat out of place in a theatre dedicated to that great playwright so deeply critical of his own American culture.  

OK, I don’t mean Desire Under the Elms or Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  Just The Hairy Ape.  There’s a dimension of humanity to its humour way beyond Neil Simon.

But hey!  What should we expect in 1969?  The year in which David Williamson set his Don’s Party (which opened in August 1971 – a month before Last of the Red Hot Lovers closed). “To the party come Mal, Don's university mentor, and his bitter wife Jenny, sex-obsessed Cooley and his latest girlfriend, nineteen-year-old Susan, Evan, a dentist, and his beautiful artist wife Kerry.”

In other words don’t expect such inventive satire from Last of the Red Hot Lovers, the plot neatly summarised, again by Wikipedia:

Barney Cashman, a middle-aged, married nebbish wants to join the sexual revolution before it is too late. A gentle soul with no experience in adultery, he fails in each of three seductions:
Elaine Navazio, a sexpot who likes cigarettes, whiskey, and other women's husbands;
Bobbi Michele, an actress friend whom he discovers is madder than a hatter; and
Jeannette Fisher, his wife's best friend, a staunch moralist.

If you don’t know what a ‘nebbish’ is, the word is American Yiddish for “One who is fearful and timid, especially in making decisions and plans, in discussions, debates, arguments, and confrontations, and in taking responsibility.”  David Cannell does an excellent job of making us laugh at his character; but does Neil Simon intend, when Barney’s final phone call to his apparently loyal wife apparently fails to inspire her to join him, for us to laugh along with a sense of ironic comedy?  

Or should we empathise with Barney, with his head in his hands as the lights fade, and feel sorry for this 23-years married, 47 year-old, after he has attempted to explore breaking out of tedium with the sexpot, mad actress and his wife’s best friend, each played brilliantly by Victoria Tyrell Dixon, Stephanie Bailey and Janie Lawson respectively?

I have difficulty agreeing with that first review by Clive Barnes.  Despite the play’s success, and being filmed in 1972, I think Neil Simon’s early plays, The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, are much better because they were much more original in concept.  

On the other hand, though to me the character and life of Barney is not interesting enough, even to make decent satire, the deliberately over-the-top characters of the three women make the play – and this production – quite fascinating to watch.

And to think about, when you consider the superficiality of Simon’s picture of the new open sexuality – the Sexual Revolution – as he pictures it in 1969.  Could one write such characters, and see them as laughable, today?  

That’s a question which makes the production of the Last of the Red Hot Lovers as REP has done it – strictly reproducing the American accents, style and settings of 1970 – very worthwhile.

David Cannell as Barnie, with
Victoria Tyrell Dixon as Elaine Navazio
Stephanie Bailey as Bobbi Michele and Janie Lawson as Jeanette Fisher
in Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon
Canberra REP, 2024






Written by Neil Simon

Directed by Anne Somes

A Canberra REP production

Canberra REP Theatre, Acton to 9 March


Reviewed by Len Power 23 February 2024


Neil Simon’s 1969 play, ‘Last Of The Red Hot Lovers’, coincided with a time of change in the USA. There was the flower power of the hippy movement, the sexual revolution, the increasing dominance of rock music and the debate over the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

In the play, fish restaurant owner, Barney Cashman, is aware of the changes around him and worried that at age 47 he is missing out on the sexual revolution. Although married to his childhood sweetheart, he decides to do something about his frustrations. Using his mother’s apartment on afternoons when she is absent, he attempts seductions of three very different women.

The huge role of Barney Cashman is played very well by David Cannell. His excellent comic timing gets all of the laughs in the right places. The depth of his characterisation clearly and, at times poignantly, shows the good man underneath even though he is making feeble attempts at adultery.

As Elaine Navazio, the first woman invited to the apartment, Victoria Tyrrell Dixon gives a subtle, nicely detailed performance of a brittle woman who happily enjoys extramarital sexual encounters but has no patience with Barney’s need for a more romantic start.

Stephanie Bailey as Bobbi Michele is colourful and amusing as a not very self-aware young woman who is ill at ease with herself under the surface. Bailey captures every aspect of this character very well.

The third woman, Jeanette Fisher, is married to Barney’s best friend. Played by Janie Lawson, this nervous and guilty character is given an excellent characterisation.  Lawson also has great comic timing, making every laugh line count.

The full width of the Canberra REP theatre’s stage is used by set designer, Cate Clelland. It looks like Barney’s mother has a New York penthouse, rather than a smaller apartment typical of that city. It’s nicely designed but its spaciousness may have led to the distracting lighting decision to highlight moments when the characters spend time together on a sofa. Music cues often seem awkward as well.

Overall, Anne Somes has given us an enjoyable, well-paced production with a strong cast that brings out all of the humour and pathos in Neil Simon’s play.


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