Tuesday, April 30, 2024

CO_LAB:24 - Australian Dance Party


Melanie Lane - Alison Plevey - Sara Black - Alex Voohoeve (back)

Canberra Theatre Centre Courtyard Studio 29th, 30th April and May 1st 2024.

Premiere performance on 29th April reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Ausdance ACT’s 2024 Australian Dance Week got off to a stimulating start with the premiere performance of Co_Lab:24, an experimental dance exploration work especially commissioned by the Canberra Theatre Centre’s New Works program and Australian Dance Party.

Australian Dance Party leader, Alison Plevey, and ADP member, Sara Black, together with guest dance artist, Melanie Lane joined forces with cellist Alex Voohoeve, Art Music Award winner, Sia Ahmed and visual artist, Nicci Haynes, to create this collaborative experimental work.

The work was performed on a huge rectangular black tarkett dance floor with the audience seated on a single line of chairs arranged around the four walls of the courtyard studio. Musicians, Alex Voohoeve and Sia Ahmed were seated at each end of the floor, with visual artist Nicci Haynes seated to one side, each surrounded by their instruments and paraphernalia.

Alison Plevey - Melanie Lane - Alex Voohoeve in CO_LAB:24.

As the lights dimmed the three dancers took up positions on the floor and when the sounds commenced each began reacting with individual broad athletic movements.

Alex Voohoeve plays both electronic and standard modified cello. Although a trained classical musician he is particularly drawn to exploring the tonal possibilities of these instruments. Similarly Sia Ahmed works with electronic gadgetry and her own vocals to produce her abstract soundscapes.

Working together they spontaneously produced an extraordinary soundscape to which the dancers either responded, or sometimes inspired, either individually or working in pairs or trios.

A third element was introduced with a large rectangle of light projected from above into which Nicci Haynes created a kaleidoscope of colourful images utilising an array of unusual objects. As the dancers moved through these images their bodies became constantly changing mobile artworks.

The work contained no storyline, the sounds no melody, however there was fascination in  watching six accomplished artists sharing their individual skills to push boundaries in an attempt to create a memorable experience for each member of their audience.

Alison Plevey - Alex Voohoeve.

Particularly memorable for this viewer were the final images with Plevey and Voohoeve alone in the spotlight. After responding to the resonant sounds of Voohoeve’s cello, Plevey left him alone in the spotlight. He continued to play on, but as the light slowly faded to blackout, he gradually slumped over his cello, as if signalling exhaustion from the creativity.

                                                           Images by Lorna Sim

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

Monday, April 29, 2024

Exhibition Review: Multimedia | Brian Rope

Trust Me | Toni Hassan

Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka | 24 April – 5 May 2024 (Inclusive of Anzac Day, excluding Mon April 29).

Have you ever wondered what having cancer means? I’ve always thought it would not be possible to know before actually experiencing it. Much is revealed by this moving, multi-media examination of the personal and collective geography of Kamberri/Canberra-based artist Toni Hassan's transformative experience of receiving a cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2023.

Grateful for her cancer remission, Hassan is showcasing artwork inspired by the experience. She uses textiles made from repurposed materials, photographs, video work, paintings, and found-object installations to highlight surreal, psychological, spiritual and physical aspects of her journey, plus the visual culture of medical care. She has done so to reconcile her personal experiences with taboos surrounding cancer in the context of public health. 

This social practice visual artist is a practising Christian, deep thinker, Walkley Award-winning writer and broadcaster, and an adjunct research fellow with the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. She has always been interested in ideas around living well in the spirit, body and mind and has explored the nature of reality. So, it is not surprising that she decided to view her cancer as a visitor or visitant, a physical thing offering a spiritual dimension. Reflecting on this exhibition, Hassan has written that she drew on the writings of Richard Rohr, an American Franciscan priest and writer on spirituality, to find inspiration for practicing defiant joy.

The show’s name reflects the fact that Hassan’s treatment over nine months was a prolonged test of trust in the professionals at Canberra Hospital, trust in known evidence or science, trust in her family to care for her. And trust in what she refers to as “the divine Ground of Being which my illness drew me closer to.”

The room sheet leads visitors clockwise around the room then into its centre. There are acrylics on board, and photographs printed on Hahnemühle rag. The photos are about the hospital setting. Entrance 2023 shows the coldness of the entrance to the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.

Entrance, 2023 - Archival pigment on Hahnemühle photo rag, 53.5 x 63.5 cm. Artist Proof, Unframed.

And there are a variety of other works, including disposable nursing pads embellished with thread, a steel bed base loaded with rocks (and a pillow), and 24 patient identification bands stitched together. The rocks effectively convey how hard it was to lie on a bed receiving chemotherapy for hours at a time, again and again.

Hassan has always been interested in ideas around living well in the spirit, body and mind and has explored the nature of reality. For her, cancer provided the bonus of seeing the body in new ways. Tender is a moving self-portrait about tenderness for what is seen and unseen. 

Tender, 2024 – Acrylic on board. 31 x 31cm

On a trolley, a stereo channel video reveals MRI images of the inside of parts of the artist’s body. The X-ray scans and MRIs provided the artist with a fresh perspective on her physiology. Below the video sits an enteral syringe and band (designed for delivering nutrients and medication directly into the gastrointestinal tract). The area around Hassan’s PEG - the gastro tube directly into her stomach developed an infection, causing prolonged and acute stabbing pain. This exhibit conveys a strong message.

There are two quite wonderful exhibits using hospital gowns – neither readily recognisable as such. Vul-ner-able, 2024 is transformed with fabric and thread, Care economy, 2024 embellished with sequins and vibrant colour. 

Care economy, 2024 (Reclaimed hospital chemo and disposable nursing gowns, and sequins) -
Photo by Caleb Thorson

On the exhibit Care Moment, 2024 Recycled Table there is house paint and pencil, ceramic bowl, mats made of disposable medical plastic tongs, and sugar-coated chocolate buttons. We read instructions which invite us to delight in one of the chocolates, using it to remember someone who cared for us and give thanks, then to write about or draw it.

A late addition to the show has a title which makes a profound statement - I’m still here. Hassan is indeed still here. In remission she knows she will have more time, more adventures, more projects. We can rejoice with her and look forward to more artworks and exhibitions from this artist.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2024

APOCALIPSTIK: REUBEN KAYE - Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse.


Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse performance 28th April 2024 reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

The lights go to black-out and after a loud, largely unintelligible, voice- over, the drums roll, the curtains open, and there, in a blinding spotlight, stands the always remarkable, REUBEN KAYE. His name is in capitals because that’s how he is…LARGER THAN LIFE.

Immaculately coiffed and remarkably costumed by Kingsley Hall and Tristan Seebohm, each costume a work of art in itself, Kaye pauses just long enough to allow the gasps to subside, before launching into tirade of outrageous, wicked and witty pronouncements, daring  his audience to be offended as they collapse into paroxysms of laughter.

Reuben Kaye in full flight.

Luxuriating in his unapologetic campery Kaye deliberately courts controversy. No subject is out of bounds, be it communism, capitalism, planned obsolescence, fashion, marriage, or sexuality… especially sexuality.

A skilled raconteur, Kaye’s script is perfectly crafted, his storytelling masterful and his brilliantly timed asides devastating as he tantalises his audience with outrageous stories about his Jewish family and his childhood upbringing in Melbourne. 

According to Kaye, his father was a painter and sculptor; his mother a dancer and filmmaker; and his grandmother, a Collins Street couturier.

But it is his favourite Uncle Helmut who is the focus for most of Apocalipstik and for whom Kaye reserves his unfettered admiration. It turns out that besides being a musician and clown at children’s parties, Uncle Helmut had a side hustle as a bank robber and pornographer. It was Uncle Helmut, Kaye claims, who inspired Kaye to live a life of unfettered decadence. A lifestyle he enthusiastically recommends to his audience.

Believe what you like, it doesn’t matter, for Kaye has the knack of having the audience hang on his every word,  waiting for his next outrageous utterance.

Featured throughout the show are several clever songs written by Kaye and his musical director Shanon D. Whitelock which allow Kaye to show off his impressive vocals. An excellent quartet consisting of Whitelock on keyboards, Alana Dawes on Bass, John McDermott on Drums and Willow Fearns on Guitar, not only provide excellent accompaniment, but also contribute atmospheric sound effects on cue, and give the impression that they too are as surprised as the audience by Kaye’s off-script remarks.

Also integral to the show is  long-suffering Stage Manager, Moose, who does her best to be invisible while  efficiently clearing the stage of  discarded costuming and props, even rescuing an awkward moment when a  costume malfunction threatened to bring the star undone.

Reluctant to let his audience escape, Kaye greets them in the foyer after the show happy to chat and pose for selfies.

Reuben Kaye is a one of a kind showman who lives to entertain. Apocalipstik captures him at his best.    

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



Friday, April 26, 2024

The Daylight Moon

Exhibition Review: Photography | Brian Rope

The Daylight Moon | Francis Cai

M16 Artspace | 19 April – 12 May 2024

Francis Cai, a fine art photographer and xR (Extended Reality) film director, is 25 years old and based in Sydney. He graduated from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and from the University of Sydney with a Master of Moving Image. After graduating, he co-founded Studio 13 Sydney and extended his practice by participating in residency programs in France and New York City. 

Cai's recent post-pandemic era photographs frequently highlight strange landscapes and growing self-awareness. In the uncertain times he has experienced, he aims to sensitively examine differences in various living environments and cultures. 

The Daylight Moon series artworks exhibited here are intended “to conjure up a spacetime to accommodate unattainable and unchangeable elements in reality.” Thus, it is evident that these pieces of art belong to the hyperrealist movement, which enhances reality in order to produce illusions. Visitors would have trouble telling the difference between reality and a simulation of reality in most of the displayed images. The artist has thus achieved success.

There are seventeen high quality black and white archival framed inkjet prints of various sizes, all on Hahnemühle FineArt paper, plus a single one-minute digital video titled Aphelios I. From the Greek, Aphelios means Away from Helios. Away from the Sun. Little hints about the exhibits contents can be found in this title and the prints' titles. But each visitor's interpretation of each piece of art is essentially their own challenge, and it's likely that many will see different things and take different interpretations.

Certain scenes appear bigger, more significant, better, or worse than they actually are. They have an odd, enigmatic quality that is a little unsettling. For some viewers, emotionally charged thoughts, feelings, memories, and impulses may even be triggered by unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated elements within the images. Our imaginations will run wild, and we will see fantasies. I thought of the frequently tumultuous clamour we witness in our parliaments. Additionally, I was reminded that we frequently hear nowadays about people being misled by dishonest, cunning, manipulative social media users.

And that's precisely what Cai aims to accomplish by utilizing clips and images to create a fantasy world that defies time and space through a non-linear, fractured sequence of visual excerpts that evoke emotional shortcuts. He digitally manipulates black and white film negatives. Aberrant connections have given rise to deceptive states, like those we might imagine or encounter in our dreams. His entire endeavour is an exploration of the tainted connection between subjectivity and documentation.

In the print titled Awakening Moment, I certainly saw part of a feminine face , including an eye and slightly open lips. I expect you would too. But what else do you see? What emotion do you feel? For you, how do documentation and subjectivity connect in this artwork?

Awakening Moment, 2022 © Francis Cai

Likewise, Sunflower clearly includes some petals that shout sunflower. But what are the other elements about, what do they say to your imagination?

Sunflower, 2022 © Francis Cai

Sundial Dreams is a more complex image. There are a considerably greater number of elements within the frame, much detail to examine if you are drawn to do so, sharp areas as well as blurred or soft-focus spaces.

Sundial Dreams, 2022 © Francis Cai

Similarly, Under the Dome, has many elements for our eyes to explore and our imaginations to browse.

Under the Dome, 2023 © Francis Cai

In Time Reflection I saw simplicity. The reflection of something – whatever you want it to be – and the outlined shapes on the reflecting surface are simply that – a reflection and shapes. However, we still can, and should, look beyond this documentation and subjectively seek our own connections to it.

Time Reflection, 2022 © Francis Cai

If unable to visit the exhibition the other works can be viewed here.

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


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

& jULIET - Lyric Theatre, Sydney


Lorrinda May Merrypor (Juliet) - Casey Donovan (Angelique) in "& Juliet"

Music & Lyrics by Max Martin & Friends – Book by David West Read

Directed by Luke Sheppard – Choreographed by Jennifer Weber

Set Design by Soutra Gilmour – Costume Design by Paloma Young

Lighting Design by Howard Hudson – Sound Design by Gareth Owen.

Presented by Michael Cassel Group in association with MTM/Leyline.

Lyric Theatre, Sydney until July 12th 2024.

Performance on April 18th reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

There’s nothing new about musicals based on Shakespeare. “The Boys from Syracuse” (Comedy of Errors), “Kiss Me Kate” (The Taming of the Shrew), Your Own Thing” (Twelfth Night), “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, “Boys Own McBeth” (Macbeth) and of course “West Side Story” (Romeo and Juliet) immediately come to mind.

While “& Juliet” also draws on “Romeo and Juliet” for its inspiration, it also imagines a situation in which Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, unhappy that Shakespeare has allowed Juliet to die at the end of his play tries to persuade him to let her help him rewrite his play to make Juliet less compliant. In Anne's wonderfully woke version, neither Juliet nor Romeo will die.

Against his better judgement, Shakespeare reluctantly agrees to go along with his wife’s suggestions, partly to placate her, but mainly to protect his reputation.

Their resulting effort, is hugely entertaining, even occasionally thought- provoking, with new characters who struggle with gender issues and unexpected situations that force Shakespeare and Anne to re-examine their own marriage and motivations.

All of this is played out in a delightfully boisterous, happy-go-lucky production which conjures up the vibe of a troupe of travelling players while, thanks to Soutra Gilmour’s inventive scenic design, has all the glitz and panache of a major Broadway musical.

Rob Mills and the cast of  "& Juliet"

Unsurprisingly, Rob Mills is surprisingly good as Shakespeare. Mills’ devil-may-care cheekiness and natural charm is completely in tune with the irreverent tone of the show and a delightful foil to Amy Lehpamer’s rather bossy Anne Hathaway. Casey Donovan also shines with an ebullient, crowd-pleasing performance as Juliet’s nurse Angelique in a company alive with fresh new faces; many making their professional debuts.

One of these is Yashith Fernando who plays a new character, Francois, invented by Anne for her version of  the play. Francois finds himself attracted to May, another new non-binary character, charmingly interpreted by Jesse Dutlow, who explains the situation in the song, I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.

Jess Dutlow (May) - Yashith Fernando (Francois) in "& Juliet"

Adding additional spice to this particular performance was the fact that a number leading roles were played by covers. Replacing Lorinda May Merrypor,  Imani Williams offered a confident, no-nonsense Juliet, her powerhouse voice marking her as an artist to watch.

Imani Williams who played Juliet at this performance.

Jordan Koulos, replacing Blake Appelqvist, was a delightfully dorky Romeo, and James Elmore brought appropriate dignity to the role of Lance, normally played Hayden Tee.

A red hot band directed by Michael Azzopardi, made sure every song harvested from Max Martin’s voluminous songbook sounded like a sure-fire hit, while choreographer, Jennifer Webber kept the cast on its toes with funky, idiosyncratic moves, which made Paloma Young’s eccentric ‘a little bit Shakespearean, a little bit steam-punk and a lot like 'wardrobe find; costumes look sensational.

 Okay! It’s not Shakespeare, but is sure is a lot of fun. Go see for yourself.  

The spectacular finale to "& Juliet" 

Images provided.

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.

Monday, April 22, 2024



Presented and performed by PRINNIE STEVENS.

Piano accompaniement by Dave McEvoy – Lighting Design by Darren Hawkins

The Street theatre, Canberra on April 20, 2024.

 Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Prinnie Stevens and Dave McEvoy at The Street Theatre.

Already a seasoned performer when she attracted attention during the first season of the television talent show The Voice, battling her friend Mahalia Barnes, Prinnie Stevens has gone on to establish herself as one of the country’s most accomplished performers.

The veteran of musicals “The Bodyguard”,”RENT”, “HAIR” and “Thriller LIVE”, Stevens has appeared on the West End and in New York beside the likes of Patti La Belle, Chaka Khan, Mary J Blige and John Legend. Remarkably however, given that she grew up in Canberra and still has relatives here, “Lady Sings The Blues Vol 2” is the first time she has appeared in Canberra in her own show.

It’s been worth the wait because judging by the capacity audience’s response to this performance it won’t be the last.

With her accompanist, Dave McEvoy, seated at a shiny grand piano on a beautifully lit stage, Prinnie Stevens made a glamorous entrance, resplendent in an elegant ruby red sequined dress, long white gloves, sky high heels and her hair decorated with white gardenias.

After commencing her program with a sultry rendition of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World (James Brown/ Betty Jean Newsome) she set the tone for the evening by adding “But it’s a woman’s world tonight”.  

"But it's a woman's world tonight" - Dave McEvoy and Prinnie Stevens.

With "Lady Sings the Blues Vol 2" Stevens continues her celebration of female singers, mainly persons of colour in recognition of her own Tongan heritage, who overcame hardship and discrimination to pursue their careers, as did she and her mother.

Acknowledging that Canberra had not yet seen her award winning “Lady Sings The Blues Vol.1”, she commenced this performance by reprising singers featured in that show, in particular Billie Holiday with “Summertime” ( George Gershwin) and Mahalia Jackson with “Amazing Grace” (John Newton).

Then followed a succession of songs, each introduced with an anecdote and represented by a song with which they are associated. Aretha Franklin with “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You” (Ronnie Shannon), Nina Simone with “Feelin’ Good” (Anthony Newleyl Leslie Bricusse), Tina Turner with “I Can’t Stand The Rain Against My Window” (Ann Peebles) and Amy Winehouse with “I’m No Good” (Amy Winehouse).

For each song Stevens adopted vocal and physical mannerism associated with each of the singers, not imitating but rather inhabiting their style. Each was enhanced by superb accompaniments by Dave McEvoy who seemed to breathe with Stevens to accommodate her stylish embellishments.

Towards the end of the program, Stevens quietly discarded her high heels to perform Nala’s song, ”Shadowland” (Elton John/Tim Rice), from the musical “The Lion King”. Then, removing her headdress to let her long hair flow freely, she offered a heartfelt acknowledgement of country, and interpolated gentle traditional dance movements into a captivating rendition of “My Island Home”.

"My Island Home" - Dave McEvoy and Prinnie Stevens.

Her final dedication was to songstress Whitney Houston with “This Song is For You” (Claude Kelly/ Nathaniel Hills/ Marcella Araica) which she directed to her audience, and which  McEvoy embellished with intricate rippling accompaniment.

This was cabaret at its finest with tasteful lighting and excellent sound enhancing an intelligently written and superbly performed program which left its audience informed about the artists being celebrated as well as the artists celebrating them.

The audience certainly recognised this and was reluctant to let the two artists leave the stage. Their enthusiasm was rewarded with a series of stunning encore dedications to Etta James, “At Last” (Etta James), Tina Turner, “Simply the Best” (Holly Knight/Mike Chapman), Carol King, “Natural Woman” (Carol King/Gerry Goffin) and finally to Beyoncé and Diana Ross with a thrilling performance of “Listen” (Beyoncé Knowles/ Henry Krieger/Scott Cutler/Anne Previn).   


                                                       Images by Nathan Smith

        This review first published in the Digital Edition of CITY NEWS on 21.04.2024.

Life in the Old Dog, Yet

Exhibition Review: Photography | Brian Rope

Life in the Old Dog, Yet | Brian Jones

M16 Artspace Gallery | 18 April 2024 – 12 May 2024

Canberra photographer Brian Jones says he is continually fascinated by the world around him, and that is reflected in his diverse and ever-changing photographic interests. He has a Graduate Diploma in Visual Art (Photography and Media Arts) from ANU School of Art. Previous exhibitions include his 2009 ANU Graduate Exhibition (A glass half full: portraits of an age) and 2012 Bowerbird Central at Hugh Davies Gallery.

Jones has written too often, senior citizens are devalued, dehumanised and seen as merely a burden. This is especially true in the aged care context, as examined by the recent Royal Commission, which emphasised the need for dignity and respect for those in care. It is also true more generally, with seniors often seen as just a demographic, with individuals written off as ‘elderly’ or ‘oxygen thieves’ of little intrinsic worth.

Personally, I am aware that some younger folk might not think much about the seniors in their lives. I’m a senior and not aware of anyone considering me to be a burden. For that, I am most grateful. But I do understand that younger folk with their own full lives might rarely think about contacting or visiting their senior family members. I also agree that some people tend to devalue seniors, perhaps considering them to have passed their usefulness. I once had a most interesting chat with my Vietnamese GP about the “responsibilities” of younger family members to care for their parents and grandparents. It highlighted for me the substantial differences between cultures about such matters.

This exhibition encourages viewers of the work to celebrate the humanity, dignity and value of senior citizens. The quality black and white portraits of a substantial group of women and men in their 70s – one is 82 – reveal people who are very much alive. Their expressions convey something of their enjoyment of life. These are real people, happily posing for the artist, enjoying the experience. The images are fresh. The subjects “look sharp”.

Di Cooper, 77, 2023 © Brian Jones

We also learn that the subjects are all highly active. They still contribute to society and enjoy life, notwithstanding the “ravages of time” revealed in lined faces. Apparently, some have had joint replacements, might be living with cancer, or have slowed down in some respects. But they haven’t stopped living. Their contributions include political and environmental activism, volunteering, grand-parenting and providing other family support.

Jill Jones, 74, granny, 2023 © Brian Jones

As well as the portraits already mentioned, there are equally excellent action shots – images showing these people are very much alive. They bushwalk, run, play croquet and tennis, swim, busk, participate in athletic throwing events and work on body building.

Bushwalking mob, Watson’s Crags, 2017 © Brian Jones

Bob Gingold, 72, croquet, 2023 © Brian Jones

Jan Banens, 82, hammer throw, 2024 © Brian Jones

Jones himself is a subject. There is a self-portrait and an action shot of him throwing a discus. For the latter image he set his camera up on a tripod and activated its burst mode. His wife pushed the shutter release to trigger the camera into capturing many shots, from which he selected the one being shown. Of course, the exhibition also reveals that this senior is actively involved in creating photo artworks.

Brian Jones, 75, discus, 2023 © Brian Jones

Jones says the seniors he has photographed accept being ‘old dogs’ and showing a bit of wear and tear, but are certainly not ready to shuffle off quietly into the sunset. He suggests that senior citizens are an under-explored area in contemporary Art. He hopes this exhibition will inspire other artists to explore the space and some other old dogs into action.

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

Sunday, April 21, 2024


Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest, 21 April 2024


Reviewed by Len Power


Promising stormy vocal works by Baroque composers, Apeiron Baroque presented works for voice by Ariosti, Vivaldi, Handel and Hasse. In addition, there were instrumental works of other baroque era composers Biber, Uccellini, Cazzati, Vilsmayr and Bononcini.

The instrumentalists were John Ma, violin, Marie Searles, harpsichord, Lauren Davis, violin, Brad Tam, viola, Clara Teniswood, cello, and Henry South, double bass, with Tobias Cole, countertenor, performing the vocals.

Both John Ma and Tobias Cole gave the audience interesting and often entertaining and funny insights into the works they were about to perform. The works themselves required different combinations of instruments.

Commencing with il Naufragio (the Shipwreck) by Attilio Ariosti, Tobias Cole, countertenor, and the players created an atmosphere of the terror and heartbreak of a shipwreck. The last part of the work, the Largo, was especially memorable with its calmer beauty tinged with regret. It was played and sung with a moving sensitivity.

John Ma, violin. and Marie Searles, harpsichord, followed this with a performance of Marco Uccellini’s Sonata No. 2, la Luciminia Contenta. With its alternating fast and slow passages, it was a charming work played with great feeling.

All of the players with countertenor, Tobias Cole performed Mea Tormento, properate! (My torments hurry) by Johann Adolph Hasse. The dramatic and emotional allegro was followed by a reflective Lento that Tobias Cole performed with notable tenderness.

John Ma (photo by Joris-Jan Bos)

The other instrumental works by Cazzati, Bononcini, Purcell and Handel were given fine performances. The work by Heinrich Biber was especially interesting as the performers all plucked the strings of their instruments, creating a pleasing ambiance for the work.

The Aria and Gigue by Johan Joseph Volsmayr began as a beautiful violin solo by John Ma. Suddenly, unseen violins could be heard off to the side and behind the audience, creating an echo effect that was unexpected and delightful.

The concert finished with Vivaldi’s Cantata, Cessate omai cessate (Cease, now cease) with all of the players and Tobias Cole. This emotionally dramatic work was given a strong, heartfelt performance by Cole, especially the aria, In the Horrid Cavern.

This tour through the baroque era with these composers was a thoughtfully devised and entertaining program. It was given well-earned applause by the near capacity audience.


This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 22 April 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 https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.


Friday, April 19, 2024


Ayşe Göknur Shanal, soprano

Embassy of the Republic of Türkiye, Yarralumla 18 April 2024


Reviewed by Len Power


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

She was accompanied by John Robinson, oud and guitar, Tarik Hüseyin, kanun, and Faruq Bin Buchari, percussion.

In the embassy’s beautiful Lalezar Hall, the seated audience surrounded the performers on all sides, giving the concert, Falasteen in Song, sub-titled “a concert in human solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza”, a strong sense of community.

Ayşe Göknur Shanal and Faruq Bin Buchari, percussion

Shanal sang Palestinian and Turkish songs, both traditional and contemporary. There were laments and songs of homeland and childhood, as well as songs of struggle and loss.

Each song was preceded by translations given by Shanal and her rich soprano voice gave the songs a clarity of emotion that was quite moving.

The atmospheric accompaniment of the Turkish instruments added immeasurably to the effect of the songs.

Joining the instrumentalists on the oboe for the song, Yumma mwein al Hawa, was guest, Laith Ismael, an esteemed woodwind performer who has worked with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. Another guest, Farah Jirf, performed Zahrat al Mada'en in a duet with Shanal.

Many of the songs were known to the audience who joined in the choruses, the warmth in their voices adding further to the moving communal spirit of the evening.


Photo by Len Power

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 19 April 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 https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Billy Elliot - The Musical




Billy Elliot – The Musical.  Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall.  Music by Elton John.
Free Rain at Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre,  April 9 – May 5 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 16

Director: Jarrad West; Asst Director: Jill Young
Musical Directors: Katrina Tang & Caleb Campbell
Choreographer: Michelle Heine
Set Design: Dr Cate Clelland; Costume Design: Tanya Taylor
Lighting Design: Jacob Aquilina; Sound Design: Dillan Willding

Keys 1/Conductor: Caleb Campbell; Keys 2: Vivian Zhu / Katrina Tang
Reed 1: Lara Turner; Reed 2: Caleb Ball
Trumpet: Sam Hutchinson / Elsa Guile
French Horn: Carly Brown / Dianne Tan
Guitar: Dylan Slater / Michael Rushby
Bass: Hayley Manning; Drums: Brandon Reed

Billy Elliot – Fergus Paterson and Mitchell Clement
Michael Caffrey – Charlie Murphy and Blake Wilkins
Jackie Elliot – Joe Dinn; Tony Elliot – Lachlan Elderton
Mrs Wilkinson – Janie Lawson; Mum – Jo Zaharias
Grandma – Alice Ferguson; Mr Braithwaite – James Tolhurst-Close
Debbie – Zahra Zulkapli and Madison Wilmott

David Gambrill, Tim Maher, Thomas Walker
Dave Collins, Sian Harrington, Jordan Dwight

Easington Cast                                  Maltby Cast
Florence Tuli, Addyson Dew             Eleanor Ladewig, Ella Field
Millicent Fitzgerald, Laura Keen       Sophie Kelly, Kaity Hinch-Parr
Rosie Welling, Amber Russell           Mia Veljanovsky, Laney Himpson
Heidi McMullen, Taylor Bollard       Giselle Georges, Ellie Grace de Landre
Caitlin Hunt                                       Bella Henness-Dyer

Ash Syme, James Morgan, Anneliese Soper, Liam Prichard
Cameron Sargeant, Sam Welling, Jackson Dale
Bianca Lawson, Cassie Ramsay

Billy Elliot the Musical is about community.  Not just a coal-mining community in northern England in 1984 where the story is set.

On strike when PM Mrs Thatcher closed the coal mines.

Jarrad West and his huge cast make the evening about celebrating the performing arts in our community right here.

The whole community in Christmas celebrations

The audience in The Q were as energetic and enthusiastic as the onstage dancers, singers and actors in being together.  In community, in action.

It’s the real-life warmth of feeling that flows off the stage that makes this production so enjoyable to see.

The story itself is of a government cruelly destroying a community, and that community is divided even within families, which makes the original movie a tragedy for Billy to fight against.  His need for self-expression and determination to go his own way against the odds makes an engrossing drama.

But watching on a screen, at an emotional distance, means we focus on his individual experience.  In the theatre with a real Billy singing and dancing, real police tap dancing through their duties, and all those young girls showing Billy the way, life is clearly so much more positive – and we are no longer just watching but enjoying with the performers their expression through the art of performing.

And, of course, that’s the other theme of Billy’s success, even at last in his father’s eyes, at least, despite his never really understanding ballet.  The great thing was about seeing (I think on my night) Mitchell Clement as Billy showing exactly what his stage dance teacher Janie Lawson as Mrs Wilkinson sees in him, a potential Royal Ballet School entrant.

Billy ready for audition.  Father still doubtful.

Character acting was also forceful, and engaging at times in less than pleasant situations:

Photos side by side as if
Billy and Grandmother opposed to boxing lessons with Mr Braithwaite and Michael

Billy with his father, brother and dance teacher
Billy Elliot the Musical
Free Rain 2024
Photos supplied

 Overall, a highly successful production of a rather different kind of musical.


Concluding thought:

In closing down the coal mines Mrs Thatcher perhaps ironically foreshadowed our need now to close down as much fossil fuel industry as possible.  We can only hope our government can manage the transition to renewables with fair treatment of the communities involved. 



RBG: Of Many,One


RBG Of Many,One by Suzie Millar.

Directed by Priscilla Jackman and performed by Heather Mitchell. Designer. David Fleischer. Lighting Designer. Alexander Berlage. Composer and Sound Designer Paul Charlier. Assistant Director Sharon Millerchip. Voice and Accent Coach. Jennifer White. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. Bookings:02 62752700 or www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


It is almost two years since I reviewed Sydney Theatre Company’s production of RBG:Of Many, One. (See below) Last night at the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Playhouse, I viewed the touring production through the prism of passing time. Heather Mitchell’s performance remains as monumental as ever. Her embodiment of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s spirit, character and physicality is as though the Supreme Court judge was on stage recounting her life and career to a full house. Her seamless and entirely convincing transitions to other characters in Suzie Millar’s funny, provocative, and moving  play is to be bewitched by the brilliance of a  chameleon of the art of acting. With a change of voice or gesture she presents Presidents Clinton and Obama, her beloved husband Marty, her childhood and younger self and an assortment of characters and colleagues. Director Priscilla Jackman has made this revival as fresh, as alive and as thought provoking as ever. RBG: Of Many, One is as though it is as fresh minted as when I saw the production at STC’s The Wharf Theatre in 2022.

But time passes and world events throw a different light on the production. Ginsberg’s passionate response to gender inequity and the dominant presence of men in positions of power and authority appears more pronounced with the fervent sense of injustice from an intellectual giant. Sadly Ginsberg lived long enough to bear the bitter disappointment of Hillary Clinton’s defeat, but not long enough to witness Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of the much despised Donald Trump. One can only imagine how she would react to a presumption of Trump’s return to the White House. Or the implications behind  Grace Tame’s experience and the Brittany Higgins affair.

Director, actor and writer have given audiences a revival as magnificent as the performance reviewed below and a tribute that continues to pay grateful homage to the remarkable legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But it does more. It reminds us of the ideals that motivated this remarkable woman and that her battles and her achievements are signposts to a better world for all irrespective of race, colour or creed and under the guidance and protection of the law.

Although performed on a different stage in a different city and at a different time, I include here my 2022 review. Last night’s performance was as powerful as I remember and on a second viewing spontaneously brought me to my feet in ovation with the entire audience.


Heather Mitchell’s performance as Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg in STC’s RGB: Of Many, One is pure perfection. Playwright Suzie Miller has crafted a theatrical eulogy as brilliant as Ginsberg’s legal mind. Director Priscilla Jackman’s tight and engagingly fluid production is as sharply staged and as clearly revealing and logical as Ginsberg’s judgements and battle for universal equality for women.

But it is Mitchell’s performance that places her at the very Pantheon of the actor’s craft. In 95 minutes of magnetic and unforgettable acting Mitchell bestrides the Wharf Theatre stage like the legal colossus that Ginsberg  inhabited upon America’s Supreme Court. We discover Ginsberg impatiently waiting for a phone call from President Clinton to confirm her appointment to the Supreme Court. Miller reveals a woman as human and as nervously expectant as anyone who might be awaiting  life changing opportunity. Throughout the performance Miller and Mitchell introduce us to a woman, who, in spite of her position, her indefatigable battles for justice, her courageous will to be true to herself, her profession and her mother’s early advice remains simply human. Her girlish passion and belief in what she knows to be right, her reliance on her mother’s wisdom, her girlish awe in the presence of a president, her victorious delight at every case that she wins and her resolve not to be cowed by defeat or confrontation all reveal an extraordinary woman who believed in what she knew to be right and dedicated her life to creating a better world for both men and women.

Mitchell’s astounding performance traces Ginsberg’s life over her childhood to her last breath in 2020. With only the occasional stage hand to pass her a prop or change a setting, Mitchell, chameleon like transforms from schoolgirl to young wife to feisty defendant, grandmother to the Associate Justice at lunch with Obama, in the court, at the opera or at her exercises. This is a panoramic account of a woman, whose indelible mark on the judicial system and humanitarian cause has left a legacy to inspire generations of lawmakers.

Millar does far more than make audiences aware of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s  professional achievements, her generational contribution to legal reform and her elevated status to cultural icon. First and foremost Millar reminds us that Ginsberg, apart from her achievements in law was a human being. RBG: Of Many, One is a moving and heart -warming love story between Ginsberg and her husband, Marty. It depicts her joy at motherhood and her devotion to her grandchildren and their reciprocal love. We hear her admission of shame and guilt at her outburst against Trump, not because it is the natural reaction of a concerned American, but because of the conflict it exposes between her duty to the law and her professional responsibility to remain detached from the political process. However, Mitchell’s performance leaves one in no doubt. RBG was a compassionate, loving and also vulnerable human being.

Photos by Prudence Upton