Thursday, November 29, 2012

Critics Circle hosts the 22nd ACT Arts Awards Night at CMAG




Artist of the Year Caroline Stacey, photo Silas Brown
 On Tuesday, November 27, the Canberra Critics Circle hosted the 22nd ACT Arts Awards Night at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

The 2012 Canberra Critics’ Circle consists of Meredith Hinchliffe, Kerry-Anne Cousins, Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak, Bill Stephens, Samara Purnell, Michelle Potter, Len Power, Alanna Maclean, Frank McKone, Joe Woodward, Simone Penkethman, Glenn Burns, Malcolm Miller, Peter Wilkins, Clinton White, Ian McLean, Helen Musa, Kelli-Anne Moore, Cris Kennedy, Simon Weaving and Stella Wilkie

As the convener, I reminded those present that the Circle, which expands and contracts according to whoever the practising critics in print and broadcast media at that time. I also spoke of the spirit in which the awards are made—not by fixed category, though unlike other critics’ circles, which focus on performing arts, we award artists in literature, film, musicals, dance, visual art, music and theatre.

The principle is that the critics of the day will “spot” something outstanding in the previous year, always 30 September to 30 September—something original, creative, inspiration or technically brilliant.

During the ceremony, organised by the circle with the generous support of hosts The Canberra Museum and Gallery, MC Peter Robinson spoke with tongue in cheek admiration about the acuity of our critical judgements, putting the large crowd of key artists and arts community members at ease.

Evidence of that acuity can be seen in the following complete list of awards and citations.

The 2012 Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards were as follows:

Film

For Blue World Order, a futuristic action film largely shot at Yarralumla Woolshed, where a quintessentially Australian location was invested with sinister tension.

Presented to

Dallas Bland

Film

For Always the Son, a seven-minute short film made with an iPhone camera and an additional lens. For their creative use of Canberra Institute of Technology media staff and students, Canberra actors Ian Croker and Dallas Bland and Canberra musician Aaron Peacey.

Presented to

Christian Doran and John Frohlich

Film

For Dancing Auschwitz, a short documentary film made in Australia and on location in Auschwitz. For his sensitive blend of scenes from ordinary suburban life with the grim imagery of the death camp to create a picture of a survivor's triumph over persecution.

Presented to

Kris Kerehona

Writing

For Coda for Shirley, a novella in verse which, as the sequel to his verse novel, Lawrie & Shirley: The Final Cadenza, achieves a sardonic yet moving tone through the demanding medium of elegantly turned rhyming verse.

Presented to

Geoff Page

Writing

For The Biggest Estate on Earth, an extraordinary, radical new look at the history of Australia that has the capacity to reorient our perception of pre-invasion Aboriginal society.

Presented to

Bill Gammage

Writing

For One False Move, a riveting, bestselling military history yarn, the story of a small team of Australians who specialised in defusing mines in and around Britain in World War II, based on previously secret RAN files in Canberra.

Writing

Presented to

Robert Macklin

Writing

For founding and editing Verity La, an online creative arts journal that publishes short fiction and poetry, cultural comment, photomedia, reviews, and interviews.

Presented to

Nigel Featherstone

Writing

For Through Splintered Walls, stories inspired by the beauty, danger, cruelty, emptiness and perfection of the Australian landscape.

Presented to

Kaaron Warren

Writing

For The Sea Glass Spiral, a story of two families brought together by the accidents of history and love, based on Gould's memories, on letters and diaries, and on information from the public record.

Presented to

Alan Gould

Dance

For her initiative in facilitating the development and performance of contemporary dance in Canberra, in particular for her work as director of the Short + Sweet Dance Festival, and in collaborating with independent artists from across Australia to bring a broad spectrum of contemporary dance to Canberra.

Presented to

Adelina Larsson

Dance

For his body of work as an outstanding dancer and consistent achievements as a talented choreographer, evidenced in a number of musicals throughout 2012.

Presented to

Jordan Kelly

Musicals

For her exceptional performance as Tracy Turnblad in the Canberra Philharmonic Society Production of Hairspray. Singing, dancing and acting with exhilarating confidence, she gave a star performance which lit up the stage, and provided the heart-beat of the show.

Presented to

Krystle Innes

Musicals

For his confident and imaginative direction of the Queanbeyan City Council’s production of Hair. His clear-sighted concept and ability to martial disparate resources including a large committed cast, impressive orchestra, excellent sound, lighting and costume design , resulted in a memorable production which successfully captured the life-affirming essence of the show.

Presented to

Stephen Pike

Musicals

For her inspiring musical direction of the musicals Titanic for Supa Productions, and Hairspray for the Canberra Philharmonic Society. Both musicals had difficult, demanding scores requiring completely different interpretations. Her authoritative interpretations of both the richly dramatic Titanic score, and the jaunty, tuneful Hairspray score added significantly to the success of these two productions.

Presented to

Rose Shorney

Musicals

For his superbly controlled and observed comic performance as the servant Arlecchino, in Canberra Repertory’s production of the Nick Enright and Terence Clarke musical, The Venetian Twins.

Presented to

Dick Goldberg



Music

For the opportunity this event, produced by The Street Theatre and the ANU School of Music, provided for Canberra jazz students, musicians and enthusiasts to engage in concerts, workshops, artistic residencies and discussions, presented over 10 days by an extraordinary line-up of top-line local, national and international contemporary jazz musicians.

Presented to

The Capital Jazz Project

Music

For the ongoing provision of opportunities for talented Canberra artists, particularly musicians, to gain substantial financial assistance to study in France; for raising funds to generate scholarships and travel fellowships by both providing public concert opportunities for young artists and developing a generous sponsorship arrangement with the Wig and Pen; and for allowing successful music fellows to advance their performance standards through master classes with world renowned teachers resident in France.

Presented to

Canberra Versailles Association

Music

For its outstanding contribution to vocal music in Canberra through high standard appearances at many community and charity fund raising events, a wide array of Australian War Memorial ceremonial activities and all home games featuring the Brumbies rugby team; and for positively promoting Canberra nationally and internationally by performing with distinction at the Male Choir Association of Australia Congress in Melbourne and appearing with Bryn Terfel in the Wales Choir of the World concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London as a major attraction during festivities leading into the 2012 Olympic Games.

Presented to

The Australian Rugby Choir

Music

For their outstanding contribution to music in Canberra in the writing and performance of documentary-cabaret, a particularly entertaining example of which was their enlightening production of Waxing Lyrical, which wittily explored the work of lyricists in song writing.

Presented to

John Shortis and Moya Simpson

Music

For his work in extending the Canberra International Music Festival to become a nationally and internationally recognised event on Canberra’s music calendar; for his imaginative development of Canberra themes for the festival; and for his championship of the Ainslie Arts Centre as a new hub for music in the ACT.

Presented to

Christopher Latham



Music

For his innovative guidance of the Griffyn Ensemble, especially the autumn concert at Mount Stromlo for which he re-arranged Southern Sky by composer-astronomer Urmas Sisask for the full ensemble; for his leadership as conductor of the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra and the Youth Music Society Boys’ Choir; for his new compositions and for his advocacy of music and through it Canberra, as chairman of the Australian Youth Music Council and the International Music Council for Youth.

Presented to

Michael Sollis

Music

For his inspirational work with Guitar Trek over 25 years, culminating in their anniversary concert on 15 September 2012; for his inspirational guidance of young guitarists; and for his work in building the popularity of classical guitar, both in education and in public performance.

Presented to

Timothy Kain

Visual Arts

For her exhibition in June 2012 at ANCA, Sum of Parts, which continued her investigation of transference and transformation - a collection of objects and the relationships between them exploring the trace of an event or the marking of time. Using simple materials she expressed profound concepts and welcomed her audience to participate.

Presented to

Trish Roan

Visual Arts

For his exhibition Transition- A Captured Moment at the Canberra Glassworks in March 2012. His work exemplifies the brilliance of glass and explores the boundaries of its making.

Presented to

Masahiro Asaka

Visual Arts

For her exhibition Urban Forest at Craft ACT in September 2012, that successfully brought together her two areas of interest, her textile practice and her profession as a landscape architect, in a well crafted, thoughtful body of work that engaged with the Canberra urban landscape.

Presented to

Dianne Firth

Visual Arts

For his original and thought-provoking public art project in September 2012, Xtreme stuff that dropped 20,000 satirically humorous catalogues into Canberra letterboxes, highlighting the links between advertising, desire and anxiety.

Presented to

Bernie Slater

Visual Arts

For his eponymously-titled exhibition at Beaver Galleries in August 2012, in particular the exceptional, found-object multi-component sculptural work 76 J.C.s continue the big charade.

Presented to

Alex Asch

Visual Arts

For her exhibition Reside, at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in May 2012 that blended exquisite workmanship with life-sized sculptured wall works to stunning effect; a witty and startling re-visioning of domestic objects.

Presented to

Rachel Bowak

Visual Arts

For his ambitious and wildly successful exhibition/event at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in March 2012, Concluding Art-is-an Bread Art Auction, and its pertinent reminder that art is indivisibly tied to life.

Presented to

Robert Guth

Theatre

For displaying genuine boldness and a solid grasp of theatrical potential as a company, particularly in pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill, directed by Duncan Ley.

Presented to

Everyman Theatre

Theatre

For their convincing and powerful performances in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, directed by Cate Clelland for Free Rain Theatre.

Presented to

Hannah McCann, Jarrad West, Ronnie Flor and Naone Carrel

Theatre

For its beautifully realised production of Lost in Yonkers. Direction, design and performances combined to reveal the emotional heart of Neil Simon’s evocative and sensitive play.

Presented to

Canberra Repertory Society

Theatre

For her artistic directorship of The Street Theatre. For making The Street ‘hum’ through programs like the Hive, Made in Canberra, First Seen, and “Solo at the Street”, which focus on encouraging, developing and bringing work by local theatre artists to performance level. For commissioning significant new works that create opportunities for local practitioners. And for her imaginative and eclectic programming of productions and concerts that are drawing in new audiences in Canberra.

Presented to

Caroline Stacey

Theatre

For her performance in Geoff Page’s Lawrie and Shirley, directed by PJ Williams at The Street Theatre, playing an insightful mature role and revelling in it.

Presented to

Chrissie Shaw

Theatre

For the conception and execution of serious theatre’s Void without Void at The Street Theatre, a whimsical, sensual outer space adventure, fusing stunning light, sound and set design with physical theatre and puppetry to explore the universal human experience of isolation.

Presented to

barb barnett and Gillian Schwab.

After the Critics’ Circle certificates had been presented, Robinson handed over to Andrea Close from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the MEAA, who announced two awards.

The 2012 MEAA Green Room Award went to Raoul Craemer for his strong theatrical work this year, especially for his role in “Kabir” and for his consistent dedication to the craft of theatre practice

The 2012 Peer Recognition Award went to Stella Wilkie for her total dedication to theatre in Canberra; its performers, its productions and its companies

Composer Professor Larry Sitsky then took the podium, commenting on the total dedication that drives artists, who create because they cannot do otherwise, before announcing that theatre director Caroline Stacey was the Citynews Artist of the Year and handing over a cheque for $1,000 and certificate.

Stacey’s response covered her own trajectory as an “outsider” coming into Canberra and the much creative collaboration that the crowd around her called to mind.

Martin and Susie Beaver, representing the Beaver Galleries, presented her with a glass paperweight sculpted by glass artist Hilary Crawford as an accompanying gift to the Artist of the Year.

Robinson wound up the evening by thanking CMAG and Cultural Facilities Corporation for their hospitality, Artist of the Year award sponsor Ian Meikle from Citynews, Beaver Galleries and graphic artist Brett Wiencke and printer Rick Cochran from Geon Print for the beautiful Critics Circle certificates.

Helen Musa



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Glory Box by Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith

Glory Box by Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith at The Street Theatre, Canberra, November 28 – December 8, 2012.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 28

Glory Box is the latest version of The Burlesque Hour which I reviewed in February 2009 in the Canberra Times.  Some items, like strawberries and blood-red soup, are still part of the show, but this show generally did not have the same bite as before.  Only the last major scene – “Miss Finucane’s collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria (Get Wet for Art!)” – reached something like the satire of the Hour

Even so it was Yumi Umiumare, with her expertise in Butoh, who had been the standout in 2009.  She was missing in this action, and there was no-one to match her this time.

Of course, age may be wearying me, but Glory Box was more like a ritualised karaoke, broken by minimum (but well done) items on the trapeze and hula hoops.  And, though I had warned people back in 2009, I still forgot to take my earplugs.  The sound volume and oomph, oomph was perhaps even more penetrating this time around.

There was more nudity, too, but more nudity is less titillating, unless that’s just my age showing again.  Lots of other men in the audience cheered the swinging bits, though the women had no comparable male bits to cheer, since Paul Cordeiro was nude only for a brief discreet backside-to-the-audience exit.

The show is still funny and enjoyable, but in my view just not as engaging or thought-provoking as the original Burlesque Hour.  There were still plenty in the audience standing, stomping, clapping and dancing in what would have been a mosh pit in a larger venue – and buying Burlesque Underpants from the Glory Box on their way out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CULTURAL FACILITIES CORPORATION.

  

On the 8th November 2012 The Cultural Facilities Corporation celebrated the 15th years of its establishment, with a function at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. At that function Ms Harriet Elvin, who has been C.E.O. of the Corporation since its formation, gave a speech in which she recalled some of her personal highlights of those fifteen years. Her speech is reprinted here, with her kind permission, for the interest of members and readers of the CCC blog.



We were created almost exactly 15 years ago, on 1 November 1997, when the Cultural Facilities Corporation Act came into operation. Very few ACT agencies have remained in existence for this length of time.
 
Our first year was a very busy one, with the completion and opening of two major new cultural assets: the Canberra Museum and Gallery – or CMAG, as we call it - in February 1998, followed by The Playhouse, which had its Gala Opening in May that year.
 
By the following year, 1999, both new facilities were achieving their role of proving high quality cultural experiences to the community, with programming highlights including The Judas Kiss and Salome at The Playhouse. CMAG’s program included an exhibition celebrating a decade of ACT self government; an exhibition featuring the work of major Canberra artist Jorg Schmeisser who sadly died earlier this year; and a display of snow domes as part of CMAG’s popular Open Collection series, which features the collections of individuals.
 
As we approached the Year 2000, we were told our computers might crash and planes might fall out of the sky.  Well, I recall we had to have “Year 2000 contingency plans” for each of our sites.  Our rather tongue in cheek plan for Lanyon said “If the electricity fails, we will revert to candles”.
 
The year 2000 was, of course, the year of the Sydney Olympics.  The CFC was involved in the celebrations in a number of ways, including through an exhibition at CMAG about the history of sport in the ACT region – the exhibition opened to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic torch in Civic Square. Another highlight of the year was Lanyon celebrating its 20th anniversary as a house museum.  The birthday celebrations included a garden party for Lanyon volunteers.
 
The year 2000 also saw the CFC attract its largest ever sponsorship, with Westpac Bank.  The Chief Minister of the day, Kate Carnell, launched the new partnership in the “Westpac” foyer of The Playhouse.
 
The Olympic year was followed by the Centenary of Federation in 2001.  The CFC joined in the celebrations with four major exhibitions at CMAG, and with events at Lanyon that looked back to its own history a century earlier, in 1901, including an Edwardian Garden Party.
 
Also in 2001 a new children’s theatre season, Playtime Theatre Treats, was launched at the Canberra Theatre Centre, and Canberra Ticketing relocated to the North Building in preparation for the Civic Library and Link Project.
 
In the following year, 2002, Calthorpes'  House celebrated its 75th birthday with a range of birthday events that include the launch of a book by Dawn Waterhouse about her childhood at Calthorpes'  House, called  Chortles, Chores and Chilblains.
 
This year also saw the start of a long-term donation program whereby ACTTAB funded a major acquisition each year for eight years, for the CMAG Collection.  The first work of art acquired, in 2002, was a Keith Looby work called The Quality Controller.
 
2003 started with the terrible Canberra bushfires that destroyed so much of the western edge of our city.  Lanyon and the Nolan Gallery were evacuated on the 13th of January 2003. I remember seeing a photo of a table set up for a wedding celebration at Lanyon that day: the table abandoned and chairs cast aside as the guests quickly departed the scene. I always hoped that married life improved from that point for the couple who were celebrating their wedding!
 
The CFC responded to the bushfire crisis in a number of ways, including by helping to mount a bushfire relief concert; recording objects, images and personal accounts of the bushfire; providing free emergency care programs for children; and accepting into the CMAG Collection a range of objects associated with the bushfire.  One of these, a burned-out dishwasher, has become an emblem of the loss suffered by the Canberra community in the 2003 firestorm, and is on display in Gallery 1 as we approach the 10th anniversary of that terrible day in Canberra’s history.
 
But there were many brighter aspects of 2003.  For the CFC these included the launch of a new series of cutting edge productions at the Canberra Theatre Centre called Director’s Cut; and the inaugural Great Lanyon Easter Egg Hunt, now a popular event each Easter Sunday.
 
At Mugga Mugga, the first Sylvia Curley Oration was held in 2003, in honour of the remarkable woman who donated this, her former family home, to the people of Canberra.  Our first “orator” was former Senior Curator of House Museums Lainie Lawson, who did so much to establish Mugga Mugga as a house museum and indeed Lanyon and Calthorpes’ House as well.  With the support of a dedicated group of volunteers, the opening hours at Mugga Mugga were extended from once a month to every weekend from March 2003.
 
In launching the 2004 Subscription Season, the Canberra Theatre Centre also launched a series of access initiatives. These new programs led a major award and continue to be a strong demonstration of the Centre’s commitment to extending live theatre to all members of the community, including those with vision or hearing impairments. 
 
2004 also saw the ACT Government agree to a major extension of the area of land and buildings managed by the CFC at Lanyon, thereby keeping this expanded heritage precinct in public ownership into the future.
 
By this time, the CFC was publicising, through its Annual Report, the number of hours worked by its volunteers, including members of its advisory committees, who all contribute their services on a voluntary basis.  The CFC’s Annual Report for 2003-4 recorded those volunteers contributed an impressive 3,340 hours to the organisation.
 
 2005 saw a series of anniversaries across the organisation.  The Canberra Theatre Centre held its 40th anniversary - an event celebrated with special performances, open days and an exhibition at CMAG.  Lanyon and the Nolan Gallery celebrated their 25th anniversaries that year.
 
In 2006, after a long time in planning and construction, the new Link and the new Civic Library were each completed and launched, together with a major new public artwork in Civic Square, Fractal Weave by David Jensz. Highlights of this year also included CMAG sending a travelling exhibition of prints to Canberra’s sister city, Nara, as a key event in the Australia Japan Year of Exchange.  I was privileged to open this exhibition, together with the Mayor of Nara.
 
For the first time in many years, Opera Australia came to Canberra in November 2006 with a full mainstage production, The Pirates of Penzance, presented in a shared risk arrangement with the Canberra Theatre Centre. 
 
In February 2007, a severe hailstorm hit the Civic area, with major damage to many buildings, including the Canberra Theatre Centre and CMAG.  Storm damage and high humidity at Lanyon led to the Nolan Gallery being closed from the start of the year, with all works being relocated to CMAG.
 
Despite the challenges of the year there were many highlights, including a large donation of works of art to CMAG by senior ACT artist Jan Brown, leading to a major exhibition in the following year.
 
2008 saw another large-scale Opera Australia production come to Canberra, My Fair Lady.  Eight semi-trailers brought the set and costumes, including one semi trailer that was needed just to transport the wonderful hats worn for the Ascot scene!
 
Other highlights of that year included CMAG’s children’s programs being recognised in an award in Children's Week; and the acquisition of the Dawn Waterhouse Collection, an extensive array of Canberra souvenirs and memorabilia that is now a very popular part of CMAG’s permanent collection exhibition.
 
In May 2009, funding of nearly $4 million was announced in the ACT Budget for a major package of conservation works across all three historic sites managed by the CFC.  This is the largest investment ever made in these sites since they came under public ownership.  The four-year package of works is just reaching completion and will be celebrated with a champagne reception at Lanyon, on Saturday 17 November.
 
2010 saw the launch of the Nolan Collection Gallery @ CMAG – a new galley space dedicated to the permanent display of the Nolan Foundation Collection. 
 
Other highlights of the year included the launch of new websites and a new ticketing system at the Canberra Theatre Centre; the first Canberra Gold exhibition at CMAG; a Canberra Critics Circle Award for CMAG’s exhibition Something in the Air; and the Wharf Revue coming to Canberra for the first time – this first season in Canberra, Pennies From Kevin, was so popular that it sold out and came back for a return season.
 
Probably my worst day as CEO was in March 2011, when a major arson attack caused severe damage to the convict barn at Lanyon – now, thankfully, restored after painstaking work by specialised craftsmen.
 
On a more positive note, in 2011 CMAG’s King O’Malley exhibition attracted critical acclaim and generous sponsorship support from King O’Malley’s Irish Pub and CMAG’s award-winning series of children’s programs was extended by the introduction of a special program for the very young, T is for Toddler. 
 
So here we are, finally in 2012.  The early part of the year saw a focus on Lanyon, with a major community consultation project, a very successful Plant Fair with Open Gardens Australia, and a 2012-13 Budget announcement for new funding for community programs there.  The same Budget introduced a package of works valued at $3 million for the Canberra Theatre Centre, which will be rolled out over the new three years. 
 
The highlights I’ve mentioned are just a very small selection of all that we as an organisation have achieved over the past 15 years.
 
Along the way, we’ve welcomed around 300,000 visitors and patrons a year to our various sites – around 4.5 million in total - and held 132 Board meetings. I say this with feeling, as I’ve attended every single one of those!
 
Our record shows that we are a vibrant, resilient and successful organisation that provides a very high standard of cultural services to the community, which is sought after as an employer of choice, and which enjoys active volunteer involvement and philanthropic support.
 
As we celebrate the past, we can be proud of all that we have achieved, and can look ahead with confidence and ambition.  In particular, we look forward to Canberra’s Centenary year in 2013 with celebrations and events across each one of our sites.
 
Posted by Bill Stephens: member of CFC Performing Arts Advisory Committee and Canberra Critics Circle.







 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Improbable Fiction

Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Corille Fraser
Canberra Repertory Society, Theatre 3
23 November to 8 December 2012

Reviewed by Len Power 23 November 2012





Written by Alan Ayckbourn, this prolific British playwright’s 2005 play, Improbable Fiction’, focuses on a dysfunctional writers’ group where none of the members seem to have much talent for writing – in fact a couple of them don’t seem able to knuckle down and write anything at all.  Well-meaning and mild-mannered Arnold convenes the meetings in his home, spending much of the time refereeing for the members of the group who don’t much like each other.  And that’s just the beginning…strap yourself in for a surreal and hilarious roller coaster ride, Ayckbourn-style.

Director, Corille Fraser, has produced a fine production with an excellent ensemble cast, ably led by Jerry Hearn as Arnold.  The enormous Tudor-style living room set, nicely designed by Wayne Shepherd, takes on a life of its own with ingenious changes as the plot thickens.  The set is complemented by Miriam Miley Read’s fun costumes, moody lighting by Chris Ellyard and atmospheric sound effects by Michael Moloney.  As well as designing the set, the versatile Wayne Shepherd also found time to compose the original music for the show.

At first, the play seems more detailed than necessary.  Stay with it and listen carefully as it’s a setup for what comes later.  Having said that, I did have some difficulty hearing clearly what some members of the writing group were saying early in the play, particularly those seated in the meeting circle and facing away from the audience.

While every cast member gave an excellent performance, a special mention must be made of Andrew Kay, who took over the role of the irascible retired school teacher, Brevis, at very short notice from ailing cast member, Jasan Savage.  Playing a role in a fast-moving farce is a challenge for actors at the best of times, but doing it superbly with script, book or Kindle in hand as Andrew Kay did on opening night, was a feat to be applauded.

It’s a joy to watch this nimble and expert cast play out this jumble of deliberately bad writing – clich├ęd Victorian melodrama, appallingly juvenile science fiction, incomprehensible Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, complete with inappropriate poetry and cheesy musical with an occasional instruction manual thrown in.  It’s a delight from start to finish.

The strength of Alan Ayckbourn’s writing is displayed both in his finely drawn, only too human characters and his ability to bend the rules of farce without breaking them.  If you like a good laugh with recognizable characters, ‘Improbable Fiction’ is just the play for you.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 25 November 2012
Edited copy also published in Canberra City News

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

4:48 Psychosis



Canberra Youth Theatre

Directed by Karla Conway

The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre

Reviewed by Len Power 19 November 2012



Should ‘youth theatre’ be a protective learning environment for our young actors?  If so, Canberra Youth Theatre’s production of ‘4:48 Psychosis’ might leave you wondering.

Written by Sarah Kane, who committed suicide shortly after finishing the play, it was produced posthumously at the famous Royal Court Theatre in London in 2000.  According to the director’s program notes, ‘Kane’s writing reflects the In-Yer-Face Movement of the 1990s – a new form designed to shake the audience, to snap them out of passivity and apathy, to be tortured (if necessary) into action’.

The play takes us deep into the mind of a young woman hospitalised with severe depression.  Played by a group of women to show different facets of the illness, we witness a number of gut-wrenching sessions with her psychiatrist leading up to her inevitable suicide.

The director, Karla Conway, has achieved performances of great depth from the entire cast of young women.  The violence and anger played out before us is frightening and confronting.  The seemingly cold and clinical psychiatrist is also clearly affected emotionally by the anguish of the patients she deals with daily.

The cleverly designed set of hanging plastic sheeting gives an impression of a sterile hospital environment.  It was designed by Hanna Sandgren and is complemented by the lighting of Samantha Pickering and sound design by Michael Foley and composer, Rose Ottley.  It’s quite a shock moment when the lighting changes on what we thought was clear plastic to find it is actually covered in graffiti saying over and over, ‘RSVP ASAP’.

The night I saw the show, it seemed to have a wobbly start, or was it supposed to be that way?  This is a play that doesn’t follow any audience expectations.  I had some difficulty at times hearing the dialogue clearly and I thought it would have had more dramatic effect if it had finished with the powerful image of the girl’s suicide, rather than trailing off with an unnecessary epilogue.

This was a very brave and worthwhile play for a youth theatre to stage.  It deals unflinchingly with issues confronted and experienced by young people.  Too often, theatre practitioners talk about their plays being ‘relevant’, but this play certainly is.

Monday, November 19, 2012

THE LLEWELLYN CHOIR: CHORAL GOLD - A TREASURY OF CHORAL MUSIC

Llewellyn Choir
Canberra Youth Orchestra
Canberra Children's Choir

Conducted by Rowan Harvey-Martin

Llewellyn Hall Saturday 17 November 2012

Reviewed by Len Power



The Llewellyn Choir’s concert program on Saturday night provided such a diverse range of music that there must have been something for everybody.


Musical director of the choir and the concert’s conductor, Rowan Harvey-Martin, brought together not only the choir, but also the Canberra Youth orchestra and the Canberra Children’s Choir.

Commencing with Purcell’s ‘The Music For The Funeral of Queen Mary’, the brass players were placed strategically in the aisles of the Llewellyn Hall.  As they moved towards the stage, you could imagine this glorious music accompanying a funeral procession.  The combination of voices and instruments in this sombre work was quite moving.

Short works by de Victoria, Palestrina and Monteverdi followed.  All were played and sung with feeling and precision.  The haunting Monteverdi work, ‘Beatus Vir’, sung by the dozen voices that made up the Semi-Choir, was particularly appealing and very well sung.

The Canberra Children’s Choir followed with five delightful works, of which ’The Moon’ by Andy Beck and ‘Chantez Alleluia’ were standouts.

Alexander Borodin’s ‘Polovetsian Dances’ from ‘Prince Igor’ demonstrated the full power of the orchestra and singers together, as did Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’.  The concert concluded with selections from Carl Orff’s ever-popular ‘Carmina Burana’.  The finale, ‘O Fortuna’, almost lifted the roof off the hall.

As an encore, we were given Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Suite From “West Side Story”’, concluding with a rousing excerpt from the song, ‘America’, which we were invited to join in and sing with the choir.

The concert was a delight from start to finish.  There was a good mix of familiar and unfamiliar works.  The conductor, Rowan Harvey-Martin, obtained excellent results from the musicians and singers and even provided a joke or two at her own expense.  Everyone involved should be congratulated on providing a memorable evening of sublime music.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 18 November 2012