King Lear

November and the stage blood keeps flowing! Geoffrey Rush as Lear! Almost impossible to get tickets but I was lucky. I also bumped into Stephen Fry!

Another great Sydney Theatre Company exploration this time in a minimal white landscape, cold & austere. Deaths – a black smear on a white palm, were more symbolic than graphic and were a brave, abstract touch.

The play whose sonorous couplings resound with some of the greatest passages in English literature left me exhausted. Rush was excellent, of course, as was the whole company, and the tableau nature of the deaths became arresting and contemplative.

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King Edward II

Sport for Jove continues to make a brilliant contribution to the cultural life of Sydney with their Edward II this October ’15. The surge of human emotion proves ultimately uncontrollable for King Edward when news arrives that the barons and nobles, despising and resentful, have murdered his beloved Gaveston and a blood bath looms…

I will have heads and lives for him as many As I have manors, castles, towns, and towers!

Many commentators opine that this is Christopher Marlow’s most complete play. Kings and palaces, power and influence, intrigues and allegiances… are all the stuff of plays from this period, but both Gaveston and King Edward prove rather weak, vacillating characters who are at times self serving or indulgent.  There’s an absence of noble qualities including among their opponents and the play falls short of becoming a classic.

The performances were strident and passionate, bristling in places, the fights were energetic, but the staging felt a little stilted – restricted by the conventional layout of the auditorium, I suspect. The violence at the King’s end left little to the imagination!

And get me a spit, and let it be red-hot!


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La Bayadère

Heroism, undying love, jealousy, rage, betrayal, revenge – big themes that resonate profoundly in the human condition and La Bayadère has them all. There was virtuosic athleticism from the male dancers, spell-binding synchronism and a narcoleptic presence in the corps of Shades (24 beautiful ballerinas) and the exotica of the Ganges, woven coloured silks and a Bengal tiger in this very strident and powerful production by the Australian Ballet.

My sister took me to see La Bayadère at the Sydney Opera House not long before the curtain ran down on 2014. For more on that exquisite production see the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Simon Tedeschi

Well, last night was a real delight! Simon Tedeschi regaled a large audience & me at the Lane Cove Music club with his carefully collated recital Gershwin & Me. Phew! – what awesome talent. What consummate musicianship! From the first ripple over the keys to the final reverberation I sat spellbound by his technique, his fingers freeing a rapport of rich jazz harmonies and familiar melodic skips in a dazzling assortment of colours from a very streetwise-looking grand.

Highlights would have to include Percy Grainger’s arrangement of “Love Walked In” and a gob-smacking rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue.” A perfect interpretation of Debussy’s “Clare de Lune” briefly filled the room with the whimsical dissonance of the French impressionist and he gave a lively piece by Fats Waller a sound tuning.

A gracious japester with a big smile, he capped the night’s piano fun with an encore: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee” in a boogie-woogie style. I’m still smiling! Another favourite of mine was his opening sortie, “Rialto Ripples Rag,” but I’ve always been a sucker for ragtime.

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The Crucible

Last night I saw Sport For Jove’s production of The Crucible at Bella Vista farm.

Opening the play Ezekiel Cheever leads us the audience through the homestead grounds past the hangman’s noose in a tree. Treading across the hard rustic yard into the austere farm house we slip into total immersion. Confrontingly real. A severe, loveless couple read the bible. In another room we hear a young woman being beaten. While from upstairs we hear Mr Parris preaching against the terrors of the devil and the damnation of the wicked.

Then over by the far fence under the most generous fig tree we see a group of teenage girls with Tituba, dancing to primal Barbados rhythms, shedding their clothes as they throw off the kneck-high strictures of an oppressive religion. A near full moon rises in the twilight of the eastern sky!

Then they are discovered by Mr Parris.

The central tension of the play now brilliantly set up, we’re guided to the spacious old barn-cum-theatre in the round and we witness the community we’ve just observed tear itself apart over the next two hours.

The set was sparse – mainly chains and floorboards. The performances – visceral, faultless, coloured by rural Puritan accents. Rarely has theatre moved me this much. I woke this morning thinking about it. Yes, Arthur Miller wrote this following McCarthy’s communist witch hunts in 1950s America, but the themes and textures of the play resonate with too many issues today! Miller’s genius was well matched by Damien Ryan’s dazzlingly brilliant use of space at the old Bella Vista homestead. Insuperable!

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Parrot Talk

Not so long ago, before CATALYST reinvented itself, I animated quite a few 1 minute spots for the ABC’s must see science programme. Here’s a frame grab…

The whole film can be seen at:

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Science Literacy

Dreaming around the cosmos treading the dawn of a new year one thought demands freedom in the interweb. Science has brought us to our current state of affluence and security, applied through a kaleidoscope of disciplines that weave the fabric of our cultural present. Science, too, holds the promise of alleviating and possibly resolving the yawning issues of climate change, pollution, land degradation and species extinction – devils that have been our close companion since the industrial revolution.
We live in a complicated and rapidly changing world, but if we’re all more scientifically literate then we can choose the kind of earth we ultimately bequeath to our descendants.
Science literacy is as important as reading, writing, eating and drinking, music and the arts. With some understanding of science we can dare to hope for a brighter future for ourselves and for our great great grandchildren.

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Tchaikovsky’s “QUEEN OF SPADES”

Concert performances of operatic works are really for the enthusiasts.  This was delightful music with some soaring passages, liquid melodies and arresting dynamics.  Often doleful and serious, absent were the sonorities of Tchaikovsky’s heart-tearing compositions and the playful invention of some of his ballet music.  This was a truly splendid performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra that showcased what a phenomenal depth of musical talent we have.  The soloists were dazzling, visiting concert master Daniel Dodds was commanding and all under the baton of maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy! I hadn’t heard this work before and I was enthralled.  By the end, though, the thespian in me wanted to see the drama played out on stage too.

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Pixar: Behind the Screens

Of all the wonderful events at GRAPHIC in November this year the one I got to was Lee Unkrich’s lively and very informative presentation of the development art and production methods of Pixar. He said he wanted to show things never presented before and he delivered on his promise! Two things stick in my memory: the meticulous splicing of the voice recordings to arrive at a single, very expressive delivery of a line of dialogue, and the breath-taking polish of some examples of Pixar’s leica reels.

By splicing words or parts of words together from 3 or more takes they imbue a line of dialogue with a painted emphasis and a rich subtleness of emotion that none of the original takes contain on their own. Brad Bird’s insistence that the camera tells the story was in awe-inspiring evidence in a clip from The Incredibles where Dash is pursued by the razor-copters through the jungle and over the water. A visual tour de force springing from a clear vision, it was composited in After Effects using its 3D space and showed what a powerful and versatile tool AE is in skilled hands.

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Tim Winton’s “SIGNS OF LIFE”

A bold, fairly minimal setting – almost 2-dimensional, made me concentrate on the performances in this play which were intense and engaging. We might have been watching figures move about on a tapestry revealing the true depth of their inner world – exploring memories, fears, life and landscape. Moments of humour leavened and revitalised the drama. I particularly liked that the set featured a dimensional fracture that ran down the line of a gum tree – this allowed the ghost of Lu to pass into the here and now as Georgie reflected on their relationship and their connection with the land. They wore very similar flannelette shirts, Lu’s was a lighter, faded hue which was a great touch that helped underline the deep emotional bond between these two characters.

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