Friday, May 31, 2024



The Art of Disruption. Directed by Sammy Moynihan and Melissa Gryglewski. Lighting design Jen Wright. Costume design Miranda Young. Captions Chipz Jin. Photographer Andrew Sikorski Auslan Interpretation Brett Olzen. Audio Description Liz Lea Previous creative contributors Frank Molnar and Nikki Watts.` Rebus Theatre. ACT HUB. At Causeway Hall Kingston.  May 30-June 1. 2024. Bookings:

 Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

 On the way to a rehearsal of a new play, Windows on our Community Lisa (Simone Bartram) and Jade (Leanne Schutt) are caught in a traffic jam, caused by the building of a new precinct by huge corporation Megacorp. Jade remarks that everyone is in the same situation.. It could well be a mantra for Canberra’s leading inclusive theatre company.  Rebus Theatre has earned an award winning reputation for the opportunities it provides its diverse community of theatre artists to create productions that reflect the skills of their community of performers with lived experience of disability and mental health challenges in an inclusive and supportive environment. The result is work that is enlightening and theatrically engaging. Their current production. The Art of Disruprion is such a show. Blending the fantasy of children’s theatre with the social commentary on modern society, Rebus Theatre under the direction of Sammy Moynihan and Melissa Gryglewski has produced a work that is funny, heart-warming, satirical and ultimately a moral fable on the true nature of community.

The play opens with Lisa and Kym (Kimberley Adams) wandering through a projected landscape of flowers, mushrooms and butterflies when they are confronted by  a fiery dragon (Shutt and Nicki Maher). Courtenay (Melissa Gryglewski standing in for Lucy Raffaele) intervenes to vanquish the dragon as director (Moynihan) calls out cut and sends everyone home until the morning . When morning comes, Sammy is nowhere to be seen and Roger Stevenson (Josh Rose) Megacorp’s CEO who  is sponsoring the promotional film is forced to take on the direction and spruik the virtues of the great corporation. He faces resistance from Sammy’s loyal cast who rebel against Stevenson’s inept direction and his corporate message. When Lisa explains the resilience of the orangutan to Roger and the cast defend him against the videoed haranguing of the city Mayor ( Janet Preston), Roger experiences the epiphany that awakens him to the true nature of an inclusive community free of the disruptions that divide and marginalize communities., expressed in the impersonal recording of Megacorp’s Middle Connect.

Rebus Theatre’s The Art of Disruption is an endearing work with a subtle and powerful social message. In a final scene of Windows on our Community, actors and dragons unite in communal harmony. Like every fable, the moral opens the way for social change, and The Art of Disruption does this with warmth charm and laughter. There is an excellent lighting design by Jen Wright and sound and video designs, uncredited in the programme, deserve special mention. The performances are committed and lively with some excellent clowning by Nicki Maher. Schutt effectively portrays a variety of roles and Gryglewski lends a birth scene a touch of fine physical comedy supported by other members of the cast. All in all Rebus has produced a thoroughly entertaining one hour of theatre that is both original and instructive. Rebus Theatre occupies an important place in Canberra’s theatrical landscape, and if the season is too short for you to catch this excellent example of Rebus’s work, then do not miss the next opportunity.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

All my memories are mistranslations

Exhibition Review: Mixed Media | Brian Rope

All my memories are mistranslations | Omar Musa

Humble House Gallery, Canberra | 4 May – 2 June 2024

Does this artist need introduction? He is a Bornean-Australian author, visual artist, poet and woodcutter from Queanbeyan, Australia - well-known to many as a rapper. In recent times he has been creating music and visual art in the two very different places he lives between - Malaysian Borneo and Brooklyn, New York City.

Omar Musa has recently been in Australia talking about his latest album which touches on environment, culture, religious identity, and mortality. And to bring us this solo exhibition All my memories are mistranslations - comprising Cyanotypes, Linocuts and Woodcuts on a variety of materials, plus a Cast Glass sculpture. The largest cyanotypes are 70cm x 95cm.

The diverse works tell us much provided we explore them closely and think about the messages Musa is seeking to share. As with the album mentioned above, the artworks look at cultural and environmental matters. And much more. The show’s title reveals a starting point for our explorations – it’s about the artist’s misinterpreted memories. His artist statement says he has found out, years later, that he misheard stories his grandparents told him, that “crucial things were lost in translation.”

The artist goes on to tell us that in this exhibition he wanted “to lean into dissonance, these spaces lacking coherence; find comfort in contradiction.” So, he sought to make a playful, unsettling world inhabited by ghosts.

Musa’s poetry piece with the same title as this show makes other references to ghosts, including one posing the question Am I so different from a hoax ghost photographer of a past age? One artwork, titled Tumbled Dry Brooklyn Ghost Boy, includes Bornean boys sailing across a coin-operated washing machine in Brooklyn.

Tumbled Dry Brooklyn Ghost Boy – Cyanotype, 58cm H x 46cm W © Omar Musa

A huge Woodcut has an equally huge title – The river is a keris / a sacred dagger / cast from meteoric iron & scrapyard bike frame nickel / patterned skin a trillion times folded with rain & song / whetted on white hot sun. Additional words on the artwork read Battle Cry or Requiem? We Buried Our Eyes In a Storm. So much to see, to read, to consider.

The river is a keris / a sacred dagger / cast from meteoric iron & scrapyard bike frame nickel / patterned skin a trillion times folded with rain & song / whetted on white hot sun - Woodcut, ink on blackout cloth, 148.59cm H x 396cm W © Omar Musa

Another smaller Woodcut has a very simple title but again has much to examine, clearly telling us that our memories are not always correct; indeed far more likely to distort over time. Perhaps, like eels, our memories can swim backwards by reversing the direction of the wave?

Bubu – Woodcut, ink on paper, 61cm H x 122cm, 2022 (reprint) © Omar Musa

A simple drawing conveys a familiar message about the way some folk converse with friends in their dreams. The resultant Linocut’s title adds further information.

He Said, “You Need to Relax, Bro” – Linocut, ink on paper 36.5cm H x 34.5cm W © Omar Musa

It is unsurprising that in many artworks, this poet/rapper again uses words. In his Smoke Over Sulu cyanotype there are words which, I believe, relate to Islamic prayer, a Malayic oral poetry form and how speakers of different native languages use a common language to converse. The background scene shows smoke rising. Is it environmental smoke? Was it caused by a terrorist attack? Something else?

Smoke Over Sulu 2 – Cyanotype 58cm H x 46cm W © Omar Musa

Another Cyanotype, Too Hard to Say, has no words on it but, nevertheless, speaks most eloquently.

Too Hard To Say – Cyanotype, 58cm H x 46cm W © Omar Musa

In an introductory statement about the exhibition, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah says “Omar is a cipher. Everything is a signpost for something more, different eyes find different truths.” If you visit this exhibition, your eyes - and your minds I expect - will very likely find different truths to me and to others who have explored it.

This review is also available on the author's blog here. And a shorter version is on the Canberra City News website here.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - Victorian State Ballet


Tynan Wood (Beast) - Elise Jacques (Belle) in Victorian State Ballet's "Beauty and the Beast"

Image by Sasha Kane

Artistic Direction by Martin Sierra - Choreographed by Michelle Sierra

Costumes by Jan Tredrea and Jill Kerr - Lighting Design by Martin Sierra

Music by Mozart, Pugni, Amato, Adenot, Ivanovici and John Lanchberry

Canberra Theatre 24th and 25th May 2024.

Performance on 24th May 2024 reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

The opening ensemble of  "Beauty and the Beast"

Image: Ron Fung

Making its first appearance in Canberra, a young company with big ambitions, The Victorian State Ballet introduced itself with its own full-length production of Beauty and the Beast.

Choreographed by Co-founder, Michelle Sierra, using Russian Vaganova methodology, this vibrant young company of 30 dancers, performing to a judicious mash-up of recorded music by a variety of well-known classical composers, charmed with its youthful exuberance and stylish presentation.

While at her most inventive with the large ensemble dances, choreographer Michelle Sierra kept the action moving along quickly with inventive character dances for her soloists and spectacularly devised group dances for her large ensemble, with her dancers costumed in pretty fairy-tale costumes designed by Jan Tredrea and Jill Kerr.

Adding to the lavish fairy-tale atmosphere of the production were  a succession of handsome backdrops enhanced by Martin Sierra’s moody lighting design and six large  candelabra moved around the stage by dancers at appropriate moments.   

The elegant white and black costumes for the opening scene were particularly lovely, as were the costumes for the swoony waltz in the second act ballroom scene, danced to Ivanovici’s “Waves of the Danube” (perhaps better known as “The Anniversary Waltz”),  that  had the audience swaying in their seats.


Tynan Wood (Prince) - Elise Jacques (Belle)

Leading the large ensemble, Elise Jacques is an accomplished dancer with a vivacious personality, perfectly cast and quite enchanting as the youthful heroine, Belle.

Despite spending most of the ballet disguised under a rather wonderful mask, Tynan Wood managed to win the audience’s sympathy as the Beast, then once unmasked, proved a suitably noble and attentive partner as the Prince.

Tristan Gross offered a stylish characterisation as the comically boastful would-be suitor, Gaston, while the series of cleverly choreographed divertissement in the second act ballroom scene provided opportunity for the company to show off the depth of its dancing talent.

Elise Jacques as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast"

Particularly eye-catching among them were Alexia Simpson as The Rose, Henry Driver as Gaston’s mate, La Fou, and Benjamin Harris as the candelabra, Lumiere. Lucinda Worthing impressed as Wardrobe especially during her lovely solo which involved manipulating scarves thrown into the air, while Courtney Taylor also delighted with her cheeky solo as Feather Duster.

With his exuberant solo as Chip, Rilee Scott proved himself an emerging dancer to watch, while Josh Steinke excelled in the character role as Belle’s father, Maurice.  

Being based on a popular classical fairytale that has regained contemporary prominence through Disney films and musicals, Beauty and the Beast, with its underlying message of true love conquering thoughtless prejudice in a setting of medieval country villages and elaborate palaces reminiscent of the classic Vaganova ballets, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty, V.S.B’s stylish production was an auspicious choice with which to showcase the accomplishments of this company.   

Judging by the enthusiastic audience  response to the carefully rehearsed bows following its opening night performance, Victorian State Ballet has certainly established an appetite for future visits to the National Capital by this impressive company.


        This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www/






Mother and Son by Geoffrey Atherden.

Directed by Michael Weston. Assisted by Garry Robinson. Tempo Theatre. Belconnen Community Theatre. May 24 – June 1 2024. Bookings:

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Nigel Palfreman as Arthur. George Belibassakis as Robert
Cheryl Browne as Maggie. Rina Onorato ans Liz

To celebrate their golden anniversary of providing entertainment for the Canberra community, Tempo Theatre has appropriately chosen to present a comedy about ageing. Devotees of the long-running TV series of Mother and Son will enjoy Geoffrey Atherden’s updated version for the stage.

Director Michael Weston has selected a good cast to bring to life dementia sufferer Maggie (Beare, played with convincing vagueness by Cheryl Browne, her long suffering son, Arthur ( finely played with underdog  acquiescence by Nigel Palfreman) and her self-absorbed son, dentist Robert (a suitably egocentric performance by George Belibassakis). 

The cast of Mother and Son
The support cast also give credible performances. Rina Onorato is the snapping terrier wife Liz, bent on making Robert suffer for his infidelity. Maggie’s typically teenage grandchildren Bronte ()Ireland Pirie) and Jarrod (Leo Richter) strike the right chord in their Facetime conversations with Maggie. Laura Blumer plays Arthur’s sympathetic and understanding lady friend and there are well drawn cameo characterizations from Aged Care assessor Steve (an indifferent and perfunctory Bill Kolentis) and Respite Care inmate Monica (Carole Wallace).

George Belibassakis, Cheryl Browne and Nigel Palfreman in Mother and Son

Atherden has updated his script to include contemporary situations and references.  These include scam phone calls from Mumb-Mentone and constant requests for credit card details. Maggie’s responses show Atherden’s deft command of the comic reaction while illustrating his cautionary warning. It is a credit to Bro0wne’s portrayal that she captures the comedy in her dialogue and reaction. Too often on opening night the pathos of Maggie’s predicament appeared more prevalent than the comical absurdity of setting off her alarm device or the repetition of her memory and her intent to read to children at the local library. Perhaps audiences have become more sensitive to the prevalence of dementia in the community and the increasing need to provide care for the elderly. Perhaps we are less inclined to laugh and more inclined to empathize and recognize the impending reality of dementia suffering.

Actor Henri Szeps, who played Robert in the television series has titled his autobiography It’s All In The Timing. It is the skilful timing that evokes the comedy that allows an audience to laugh and then reflect on their reaction. It is the timing that turns a funny line to laughter and then surprises with the serious consequence. It is timing that keeps the action flowing and continuous. Too often the lack of timing in entrances, exits and cuing caused the energy to fall flat on opening night. One expects that this will improve as the season progresses..

Tempo’s production of Mother and Son is a fitting acknowledgement of the company’s longevity and service to Canberra theatre lovers.  From its 1974 production of Bye Bye Birdie, reflecting the society and teenagers of the 60s to the current production of Mother and Son, Tempo  continues to uphold its mission to provide entertainment for the community and opportunities for young and often inexperienced performers to learn theatre skills.

Tempo’s production of Mother and Son does this and more with natural and entertaining performances by the amateur cast. Audiences may find much to laugh at, but there is much in Atherden’s carefully written play to provoke thought and contemplation.

Monday, May 20, 2024


Anna Fraser, soprano

Hannah Lane, Italian triple harp

Wesley Music Centre, Forrest May 19


Reviewed by Len Power


Artsong Canberra’s latest program, Dolcissimo, explored the flowering of Italian vocal music in a program by composers of the late Renaissance through to the Baroque. There were songs by Luzzaschi, Caccini, Rossi, Frescobaldi and others, played and sung by two eminent Baroque specialists, Anna Fraser, soprano, and Hannah Lane on an Italian Baroque triple harp.

Anna Fraser is a versatile soprano specialising in the interpretation of early and contemporary vocal repertoire. She is a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the New England Conservatory (Boston) and regularly performs with the Bach Akadamie Australia, Cantillation, Australian Haydn Ensemble, Salut! Baroque, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Ensemble Offspring. She also performed as a core ensemble member of the Song Company for over 10 years.

Anna Fraser

Hannah Lane is the leading Australian exponent of the Baroque harp. She studied in Milan, Italy with renowned historical harpist Mara Galassi. Hannah performs with leading ensembles throughout Australia and Europe, appearing at international festivals. She is a regular guest lecturer in historical harp at the University of Melbourne.

Hannah Lane

Both artists gave informative and entertaining explanations of the music and songs they were performing.  Hannah Lane explained that composers of that era were inspired by the virtuosity of the singer’s voice, giving their works an opulent ornamentation and layers of texture, resulting in a unique and fascinating sound.

As well as the songs accompanied by Hannah Lane, she also performed a number of works for harp only. The distinctive sound of the Baroque harp took you time travelling back to that 16th and 17th century period when the music was composed.

Anna Fraser’s singing also captured the period delightfully. The emotions in the songs were conveyed by the intricate ornamentation, creating a fascinating, haunting and often dream-like effect.  Combined with Lane’s playing of the harp, the overall effect was sublime.

While every song and solo harp piece were impressive, two works stood out as highlights. Giulio Caccini’s Dolcissimo Sospiro (sweetest sigh) and Lasciatemi qui solo (Leave me here alone) composed by his daughter, Francesca Caccini. The level of emotion conveyed in these works was extraordinary. This atmospheric concert was unique, entertaining and highly memorable.


Photos by Peter Hislop

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


LUMINARIES - Selby & Friends with the Goldner String Quartet.

Dene Olding AM (V1) - Dimity Hall (V2) - Kathryn Selby AM (P) - Julian Smiles (C) - Irina Morozova (V)

James Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, May 17, 2024

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

As soon as it was announced that the Goldner Quartet had decided to disband, but would be doing a lap of honour farewell tour with pianist, Kathryn Selby, as part of her 2024 Selby & Friends concert series,  it was a given that their Canberra concert would be a sell-out.

The Goldner Quartet is considered Australia’s pre-eminent string quartet, ranking among the best in the world. It is unique in that it has maintained the same four members (two married couples) throughout its 30 years of existence.

Individual members of the quartet have worked with Kathryn Selby in various combinations over several decades, but this is the first time the entire Goldner String Quartet have joined her for this seven concert tour.

Appropriately the repertoire selected for the tour was chosen from works of particular significance to the quartet, which, having a pianist of Selby’s brilliance available to them, took the opportunity to include two favourite piano quintets, Mozart’s own arrangement of his Piano Concerto, No. 12 in A Major, and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.57, which they teamed with Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major

The intimacy of the James Fairfax Theatre provided the perfect ambiance as most of the audience were familiar with the Goldner Quartet and aware of the significance of the occasion, and therefore keen to demonstrate their appreciation for the pleasure derived from the Goldner Quartet’s concerts over the years.

Of course there were others, like this reviewer, who were well aware of the Goldner Quartet’s reputation and accomplishments from their recordings and DVDs, and had even experienced the talent of individual members as a result of their participation in the Selby & Friends concerts, but had not had the opportunity previously to experience the Goldner Quartet live in performance together, and were therefore keen to take advantage of this opportunity to rectify that situation. What a treat the actuality turned out to be.

As is her habit, Kathryn Selby introduced the quartet. Then, after expressing her pleasure at the opportunity of being able to share in their music-making, took her place at the piano and they launched into the Mozart Concerto.

Such was the atmosphere that audience members hardly dared to breathe.  Every member was aware of being privy to the rare opportunity of sharing a special moment with life-long friends who have been making music together for decades luxuriating in one of their last opportunities to revisit favourite works together and share their unique individual musical insights with each other.

The Mozart was perfection in execution, blend and phrasing. It was difficult to imagine how it could be interpreted with more insight or skill.

Similarly with Tchaikovsky’s Accordion Quartet, full of temperament and passion, except in the famous second movement, Andante Cantabile which is based on a Ukrainian folk song and often performed on its own. Dene Olding’s violin could not have sung more sweetly, nor could Dimity Hall (violin), Irina Morozova (Viola) or Julian Smiles (cello) have blended their instruments with more care or insight. Simply exquisite.

The final offering was Shostakovich’s intriguing Piano Quintet in G Minor which, unlike most quintets where the instruments blend, gives each instrument its individual voice. Haunting, sometimes folksy, discordant or melancholy but always unmistakably Russian, each of the musicians revelled in capturing the exact tone and mood of what is arguably Shostakovich’s most famous work.

Responding to the audience applause, the five musicians offered a superb excerpt from Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto as a very welcome encore.

Happily, just in case you’re reading this and fretting because you missed this memorable concert, or would like to relive the experience, you might be interested to learn that Artsound FM recorded this concert for future broadcast by Artsound FM 92.7. The broadcast date will be published on the Artsound website.


                                                          Image by Dalice Trott 

       This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.


Saturday, May 18, 2024


"Alpha Beta"  choreographed by Alisdair Macindoe

Choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell, Alisdair Macindoe, Ruth Osborne OAM

Composed by Luke Smiles, Alisdair Macindoe- Adam Ventoura

Sound by Kimmo Vennonen – Lighting by Antony Hateley

Costume Design by Cate Clelland – Artistic Direction by Ruth Osborne OAM

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, 16th to 18th May 2024

Performance on 16th May reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

The title of this program is particularly significant in that it signals the last production that retiring Artistic Director; Ruth Osborne OAM will produce for QL2 Dance.  Osborne has been Artistic Director of QL2 Dance for the last 25 years and during that time has established the organisation as a leader in innovative youth dance, earning it an international reputation along the way.

Handing over the leadership of the company to incoming Artistic Director, Alice Lee Holland, represents a huge personal change for Osborne, and as has been her practice for her annual Playhouse seasons to set a theme for each program for her choreographers and dancers to explore, it was no surprise that this year’s theme was ‘change in our lives and how we deal with it.

The Quantum Leap ensemble for 2024 consisted of 25 young Canberra-based artists aged 13 to 23, and following her normal practice, Osborne has engaged experienced professional choreographers and composers work with this year’s ensemble to create three works to the chosen theme.

This year the choreographers were Alisdair Macindoe, Gabrielle Nankivell and Ruth Osborne herself.

"Kaleidoscope" choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell

Gabrielle Nankivell’s work Kaleidoscope opened the program. Created to a soundscape composed by Luke Smiles, Kaleidoscope consisted of a series of brief sequences separated by quick black-outs for which groups of dancers took the stage to form intricately choreographed tableaus in which they would resist, adapt and respond to each other as a recorded voiceover intoned comments on the impermanence of the universe.   

Although the impetus for the changes was not always obvious, the tight ensemble patterns demanded intense concentration from each dancer and were executed with an admirable sense of awareness by each dancer.

Alasdair Macondo created his own soundscape for his work Alpha Beta. In which he explored ideas of individualism and collectivism.  Commencing intriguingly with a row of lights being lowered, the dancers formed lines to slowly progress across the stage before suddenly stopping to pose.

Later they would form lines and advance on the audience before again stopping suddenly to touch their faces and exchange meaningful looks. Finally they began to move in circles which progressively got faster and faster as a mirror ball created dazzling patterns until one by one the dancers exited the stage.

"Voyage" choreographed by Ruth Osborne OAM

The final work which concluded the program was Voyage created by Ruth Osborne. In a typically generous Osborne gesture she credited seven young choreographers from QL2 Dance, Akira Byrne, Arshiya Abhishree, Calypso Efkarpidis, Jahna Lugnan, Julia Villaflor, Jemma Farrall and Maya Wille-Bellchambers as collaborators in creating the work.

While it’s not possible to identify the contributions of each of the young choreographers, Voyage contains all the hallmarks of Osborne’s signature choreography.

It’s a spectacular ensemble work involving all twenty-five members of the troupe for whom Cate Clelland designed attractive outfits consisting of brown trousers topped with neat white overshirts. 

As with all the works presented by QL2, there are no principal dancers, and because all the dancers are involved in the creative process, they take ownership of their involvement and perform even the most intricate moves with confidence and accuracy.

Voyage was performed to an emotive soundscape by Osborne’s preferred composer, Adam Ventoura, who has provided a succession of brilliant compositions for her creations over the years.

It was performed in front of spectacular film of the dancers performing against multi-layered images of themselves, created by another of Osborne’s frequent Osborne collaborators, Wildbear Digital.

Finally, there was Osborne’s much-admired signature finale, in which she references each work presented in the program, in a cleverly choreographed, joyously danced, celebratory bow.

With the handover of the Artistic Directorship, QL2 itself will be ‘subject to change’. However, by choosing her successor, Osborne has ensured she is leaving the organisation in safe hands. Therefore while dealing with her own response to change, Ruth Osborne OAM can look back with pride on her own significant dance legacy.


                                         Images by Olivia Wikner, O&J Photography 

      This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.

Friday, May 17, 2024

GASLIGHT - Rodney Rigby, Queensland Theatre, Marriner Group and TEG


Geraldine Hakewill- Kate Fitzpatrick - Toby Schmitz in "Gaslight"

Written by Patrick Hamilton - Adapted by Johnna Wright and Patty Jamieson

Directed by Lee Lewis – Set and Costume Design by Renee Mulder

Lighting Design by Paul Jackson – Original music and Sound Design by Paul Charlier

Canberra Theatre 15th – 19th May 2024.

Performance on 15th May reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

By any measure this is a beautiful production to watch. It’s immediately obvious that a great deal of care and attention has been lavished on every aspect of its preparation. Renee Mulder has designed a magnificent setting to represent the Victorian mansion that Jack Mannering and his wife Bela inhabit.  In fact so imposing and beautifully furnished that at first it’s difficult to imagine why Bela would be so unhappy to live there. 

Mulder’s costumes too are beautiful, particularly Bela’s first act housecoat, in which Geraldine Hakewill, as Bela, looks absolutely exquisite. Among her many talents, Hakewill knows how to wear costumes and in this play she does so magnificently.

The special effects are impressive. Gaslights which come on individually then fade whenever the gas level drops. Sunlight streams through the windows to signal that it’s morning and strange noises rattle unnervingly in the attic in the evenings. There’s unsettling music that warns of foreboding happenings.

The casting also could hardly be more perfect. Toby Schmitz is suitable suave and handsome as Jack Mannering. His clothes are meticulously tailored, his manners just a little too polished, and perhaps he’s just a little too familiar around the insolent young maid, played with flair by Courtney Cavallaro.  

Kate Fitzpatrick and Geraldine Hakewill in "Gaselight".

Kate Fitzpatrick in a welcome return to the stage is suitably efficient and circumspect as the all-seeing housekeeper. Geraldine Hakewill’s insecure Bela confides in her, but can she be trusted? Finally there’s the mysterious Alice Barlow, whom we never see, but whom it is revealed, was murdered in this house.

Everything necessary for a perfect Victorian melodrama is present and by interval the audience was completely hooked.

However on opening night, as the second act progressed, there was a sense that the cast were unsettled. Awkward pauses and revelations that were greeted with laughter rather than gasps, then finally a poorly executed finale which threatened to turn melodrama into slapstick, gave the impression that the play had been under-rehearsed.    

Perhaps it was to do with the writing, as this is an adaptation of Paul Hamilton's original play, or perhaps it has something to do with the subject matter of coercive control which now seems so prevalent as to make it difficult for a modern audience to accept that Bela would not have recognised this behaviour sooner, or having realised what was happening, as she apparently did, would have left herself so exposed.

Whatever the reason, hopefully this can be rectified quickly so that audiences will leave the theatre fulfilled  rather than scratching their heads.  

                                                             Images supplied.

     This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.





Written by Tim Price. Directed by Rufus Norris. Set designer Vicki Mortimer.Costume designer Kinetia Isidore. Lighting designer Paul Constable. Co Choreographers Steven Hoggett and Jess Williams. Composer Will Stuart. Sound designer Donato Wharton. Projection designer Jon Driscoll. A National Theatre of Great Britain production.  Filmed for National Theatre Live and distributed by Sharmill Films. Dendy Canberra. May 16 2024. In cinemas from May 24 2024. 

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

In celebration of its one hundredth NT Live production, the National Theatre presents its extraordinary production of Nye, the story of Aneurin Bevan streamed live from the Olivier Theatre in London. The film opens appropriately in a hospital ward where founder of the National Health, Aneurin Bevan has been operated on for a duodenal ulcer. A cancer has been discovered caused by his years as a miner in Wales. At his bedside his wife Jennie Lee, played by Sharon Small and school friend Archie Lush (Roger Evans) watch over Bevan (Michael Sheen) as doctors and nurses attend to him.

Tim Price’s play takes audiences on a surreal and vividly alive journey through Bevan’s life. Director Rufus Norris injects the action with exciting displays of physical theatre and imaginative use of hospital curtains on tracks to transition between scenes and provide a backdrop. Beds are used as benches, doors and platforms in a production that moves seamlessly through incidents and events that led to Bevan’s passionate belief in social justice and opportunity for the working class. A school scene erupts in insurrection when a sadistic teacher wields the cane on the stuttering Bevan until his loyal friend Lush intervenes. It is a friendship that will last throughout life. 


Sharon Small as Jessie Lee in Nye
Dressed only in red striped pyjamas, Sheen moves as though in a dream from scene to scene. In the library Lush introduces him to the notion of free access to books as  members of the ensemble lift them into the air to reach the imaginary shelves. Although seated in a cinema watching a filmed presentation, we are instantly transported to the live experience at the National Theatre. Norris’s direction and directorial techniques are entirely theatrical. The cameras catch the moment, drawing the actors to us with a sequence of shots that heighten the production’s impact.

In every scene we see a man obsessed with a sense of social justice, a fighter for equality and human rights, a fierce advocate for his people and his constituents, a campaigner against the vested and corporate interests and a Minister for Health in the Atlee Labour government with a vision for a national health that would treat people according to their illness rather than  their ability to pay. It is a vision that brought him into conflict with the British Medical Association, wartime Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and members of his own party. His struggles against the forces of conservativism and the establishment are interspersed with scenes in the hospital where Lee and Lush confront the seriousness of his condition in an atmosphere of mutual antagonism. Price’s portrait of a man who nationalized the British health system and improved the state of the working people of his nation paints a man who is intensely human.

As Nye, Michael Sheen gives a remarkable performance, capable of arousing pity for the bullied schoolboy, struggling to face his father’s illness, bewitched by the acquisition of new knowledge, charmingly playful in his wooing of Jennie and steadfast in his resolve to overcome all opposition and emerge victorious in his lifelong quest for social justice through negotiation and political acumen. Sheen’s Nye dreams of a better world for all and shows the will and determination to make it come true. Sheen, the consummate actor, creates a monumental depiction of Aneurin Bevan. He is assisted by excellent performances from Small and Evans and a versatile ensemble.

Martin Sheen as Aneuring Bevan Minister for Health
Although Nye is an account of one man’s quest to change Britain’s health system and break through the barriers of privilege and the class system, Sheen’s inspirational performance, now immortalized in film, reflects the universality of the human condition. Nye is a film for all peoples. It is a call for reform and a roadmap to a better life. It is a testament to the power of passion and the will to make a dream come true.

During the interval there is a film celebrating the achievements of all involved in bringing NT Live to dozens of countries and millions of people over the past fifteen years since the initiative was introduced. It includes interviews with directors including Norris, directors of camera and film production, clips of past productions from Phaedre to Vanya and interviews with actors including Helen Mirren on Phaedre in 2009 and Ian McKellan in King Lear. Be sure to be back in time for this glimpse of NT Live history.

Photos by Johan Persson