Sunday, January 14, 2018


Adelaide Fringe 2018. 

 Fringe in Rundle Mall. Fringe at Adelaide Airport. Port Fringe. Fringe on World Tour. Fringe at Westfield. Fringe on Kangaroo Island. Desert Fringe in Port Augusta. Unearth Festival in Whyalla. Fringe in Mount Gambier. February 16 – March 18. 2018.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Heather Croall. Director and Chief Executive. Photo Trentino Priori
Ask anyone in Adelaide when the best time is to visit their city and they will unanimously answer “During the Adelaide Fringe!” Over four weekends from February 16th to March 18th, the self proclaimed Festival State and its capital will burst into life from Adelaide to Whyalla, from Port Augusta to Mount Gambier and from the suburbs to Kangaroo Island. Thousands of artists from Australia and around the world will flood the hundreds of Fringe venues and streets with over one thousand amazing performances and unrivalled events.
“Our job is to help people navigate the Fringe and find what they’re looking for.” Fringe Director and Chief Executive, Heather Croall tells me. “It’s not about putting on shows. We don’t run venues. Our job is to help everybody who registers in the Fringe to get as many people to see their shows as they possibly can. Some years ago we started to find that audiences couldn’t navigate the programme. We’ve really risen to the challenge to make the programme as easy to read as possible.”

Four easy to follow steps and signposts How to Fringe appear on Page 9 of the comprehensive guide. Colour coding divides the various genres of Cabaret (blue). Children’s (orange), Circus and Physical Theatre (green), Comedy (red), Dance (mauve), Events (yellow), Interactive (lime green), Magic (pink), Music (deep purple), Theatre (maroon) and Visual Art and Design (dark green). Add to this  the Index (black) and various apps and social media, and visitors to Adelaide can’t go wrong. The Fringe press team is also there to help. “We have a fabulous press team in the Fringe office.” Croall says.
People can contact them and let them know how many days they will be in Adelaide and what kind of shows they want to see. “Don’t just wait until you get here” she says. “We can actually help you to make the most of the experience, and once here the Fringe Club is really the best place for people to come to find out what’s going on. It’s the one place where everybody comes together. “

“We are here to matchmake people to discover the art in the best way possible. We exist to make sure the artists sell the tickets, get seen by lots of people and get picked up by future bookings.” Croall helped to set up the Honey Pot which was introduced by then Frnge director, Christie Anthoney. Directors, programmers and producers from around Australia and overseas apply to come to the Fringe. They find their own way and the registration fee is waived and in some instances a small bursary is made available to assist people from afar to attend to see the shows and in many instances book performances for other Fringe festivals. When it began, forty people took advantage of the scheme. This year one hundred and eighty five have so far registered.

Coall sees it as her aim to make the Fringe utterly irresistible. Up until about ten years ago there were fifteen to twenty Fringe festivals around the world. Now there are more than three hundred. It helps that, unlike many other places, Adelaide has amazing weather. “We get the big starry skies and the balmy nights” Croall says. “We are so lucky that we have parklands everywhere and that we can enjoy both the indoor and the outdoor experience. Not many cities have that canvas to convert their cities as we do. We transform into this festival playground across the entire city for a whole month. Most other cities don’t have that transformational impact across the whole city. Adelaide is the perfect city for a Fringe”

Garden of Unearthly Delights. Photo: Tony Virgo
Adelaide Fringe remains an open access festival. Anyone can register, and Croall’s mission is to ensure that artists are given as much assistance as possible to sell their shows and audiences to be able to access events easily and economically. The venues consist of major hubs like the Garden of Unearthly Delights in the Parklands alongside Gluttony and across the road from Tandanya, the centre for indigenous arts, the Royal Croquet Club on the River Torrens,  and Holden Street Theatres in suburban Hindmarsh. Hundreds of smaller venues are dotted around the city, like the quirky, out there Tuxedo Cat, the Bakehouse Theatre, the Rhino Room, where comedians like Will Anderson and Dave Hughes will still do late night performances in homage to the start that the Fringe gave them in their comedy careers. Many artists and companies will acknowledge the start they had, performing in small venues at the Adelaide Fringe. Companies like the Doug Anthony Allstars, Briefs, Hot Brown Honey, Stomp and Velvet became international sensations after cutting their teeth at the Fringe. Theatre performances, picked up by Honey Pot attendees, secured bookings to perform at Fringe festivals around the world.
North Terrace Projections: Photo Bill Doyle
Although the Fringe is not a curated festival, it has become an important training ground for emerging, young producers, who, with venue proprietors become defacto curators. Marnie Lott at Holden Street Theatres has been attending festivals, such as the world’s largest Fringe festival in Edinburgh to see shows and book mainly solo performers during the Adelaide Fringe.  However, other venues, such as the Bakehouse work on a first come first served basis. In navigating the festival, audiences can be assured of quality and variety at many of the Fringe hubs.

Unlike the Fringe, the Adelaide Festival, WOMAdelaide and the unticketed Writer’s Week, all of which occur during March, are all curated events. I ask whether this has any effect on the Adelaide Fringe. ”The clustering  of the festivals has been a key to me why the Fringe is so successful” Croall replies. “It’s that clustering that brings the critical mass to Adelaide. It’s a reason why the tourism numbers have exploded. Eighteen percent of our audience are tourists.” This is a potential growth area that does not go unnoticed. Croall worked the Fringe in the Nineties and she has seen ticket sales grow exponentially. Ticket sales in the Theatre category have surged, as have the number of shows that come to Adelaide. Making the Fringe easier to navigate has also boosted ticket sales and now audiences are discovering that there is also Fringe in their neighbourhood. Fringe events are occurring at the Adelaide Showgrounds, RSL clubs. Lawn Bowls clubs, pubs and the Salisbury Secret Garden. Because of her experience, introducing interactive and digital aspects to the Sheffield Film Festival that she directed prior to returning to Adelaide, Croall has a keen eye for alternative initiatives. Under her leadership Circus has grown, Magic has been given its own category, Children’s events have exploded and the Youth Education Programme for schools has been revived. “We need more women in the Magic performances” Croall concedes.
Tindo Utpurndee Sunset Ceremony. Photo: Claude Raschella
One has a sense speaking to the daughter of a gynaecologist from Whyalla that Croall is passionately dedicated to giving birth to an exciting Fringe festival that will accommodate all sectors of the community, provide support for artists, encourage attendance by leaders of other world Fringe Festivals and constantly seek the creation of new initiatives. She has persuaded the state government to provide an additional eight hundred thousand dollars so that the Fringe can provide tickets to disadvantaged groups. She has continued the bursary scheme for artists who would otherwise not be able to attend and for disadvantaged audience members who would not be able to afford the modestly priced and generally affordable tickets. She is the only Fringe director in the world, with government assistance, to have successfully abolished the inside fee for artists, so that more money that they receive in box office will be returned to the artists. She wants the artists to return to future Fringes. Fringe box office last year amounted to sixteen million dollars, which is money that goes back to artists. She has also introduced the Friends of the Fringe Donors Circle, which raises money that goes to charities and various organizations to encourage wider participation in the Fringe by people who would not be able to otherwise afford to attend.
Croall has lost none of her passion after twenty five years of directing festivals. “I really love it,” she says, ”because I am trying to get into the minds of everyone who is a part of the festival and leave thinking ‘Wow, we have had the best festival experience.’. “There’s no limit to the brilliant shows and I trust the open access nature of the Fringe. I believe that gens come through. I have seen things that have gone on and killed the world.”
Fringe in Rundle Mall
I hesitate to ask for any recommendations. The guide is now so much easier to navigate, and Croall’s suggestion to contact the press team is perhaps a good way to go. It is left to the father of the modern Fringe, Frank Ford A.M. to list his five top picks. Theatre recommendations include: 19 Weeks which returns after winning the 2017 Best Theatre Award. (Page 114); Borders by Henry Naylor at Holden Street (Page 115); Fleabag (Page 117); ,Flesh and Bone (Page 118); Intoxication (Page 118); It’s Only Life (Page 118); Séance (Page 120);  One Long Night in the Land of Nod (Page 120), That Daring Australian Girl (Page 121); Orpheus (Page 120); The Cocoon (Page 122); The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family (Page 122);Your Bard ((Page 123) and Anthem For a Doomed Youth (Page 114) Both Ford and Croall urge audiences to be adventurous. “After all it is the Fringe!”
In the end it is up to audiemces to immerse themselves in the wonderland that is the Adelaide Fringe, and search out for themselves with the aid of the wonderful team at the Fringe  experiences that suit their tastes and their pockets. Croall’s main mission is to grow the audience and make sure that artists feel fulfilled when they leave and that they had doors open for them at the Adelaide Fringe.
“Adelaide is the place where they will have an experience like no other!”

Adelaide Fringe
February 16 – March 18
Bookings: or FringeTix on 1300 621 255

Alice in Wonderland - No 1

Alice in Wonderland, adapted by Penny Farrow from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with additional material from Alice Through the Looking-Glass and Rhyme? And Reason? by Lewis Carroll.

Produced by Rapidfire International Inc (USA) in association with Boyd Productions Pty Ltd (Melbourne)  on tour at Canberra Theatre Centre, January 14, 2018.

Director – Penny Farrow; Production Designer – Zachary Lieberman; Lighting Designer – Sam Gibb; Costume Designer – Zachary Lieberman; Puppets by Deiter Barry Creations.

Alice – Georgina Walker; White Rabbit – Jacqui McLaren; Queen of Hearts – Simon Burvill-Holmes; Mad Hatter – Karen Crone; March Hare – Liam Nunan; Dormouse/Caterpillar – Jackson McGovern; Tweedle Dum – Merlyn Tong; Tweedle Dee – Tamara Meade; Cheshire Cat – Simon Burvill-Holmes / Jackson McGovern.
Narrators – Ensemble

Reviewed by Frank McKone

This version of Alice in Wonderland is essentially straight theatre.  It has a Prologue, including parts of The Hunting of the Snark, as Alice falls asleep and begins to dream of tulgey woods and a white rabbit with a stop-watch; and ends with an Epilogue as she re-awakes – and yet still seems to see the same white rabbit hurrying away off-stage.

In Scene 1, miming very effectively creates Alice’s falling down the rabbit-hole, and her shrinking enough to use the tiny key in the tiny door into Wonderland, where characters are created in a combination of extraordinary costumes and puppet figures in

Scene 2 – Advice from a Caterpillar about who she thinks she really is.  (His hookah doesn’t produce smoke, and was probably a complete mystery to modern very much non-smoking Canberra children);
Scene 3 – Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, where Alice learns about language and logic;
Scene 4 – A Mad Tea Party, where logic simply doesn’t apply;
Scene 5 – A Rattle Battle, where Alice shows the Tweedles that fighting over inconsequential issues is unnecessary;
Scene 6 – A Game of Croquet, where the Queen of Hearts always wins and continually orders executions for losers and questioners, extending into
Scene 7 – Who Stole the Tarts?, where the rule of law means whatever the Queen thinks is ‘evidence’, even though Alice can see that no evidence is ever presented.

It’s just as well Alice wakes up at this point, considering where her logic might take her – presumably about Queen Victoria in the days of the author, who was really the mathematician and logician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (d.1898); while we have plenty of weird interpretations of ‘rule of law’ in modern times, even among elected prima donnas.

The characterisation of Alice by Georgina Walker was a key (not so tiny) to the success of this production.  She is a very skilful mover, not only literally as a dancer but as an upfront thinking Alice who won’t take nonsense for an answer – including making it perfectly clear that she is not afraid of the bully Queen, and tells it to her face.  Definitely a role model for the modern woman, but in fact for any of the children in the audience.  Not all of the nearly full theatre were old enough to follow all the intellectual argument (two in fact were made afraid by the hunting of the snark), but even the very young could not but be impressed by Alice’s determination.

The rest of the cast, of course, provided the platform and surroundings for Walker to perform on and bounce off, in costumes and a set design that made it all work.  The only quibble I have was with the use of microphones, though I recognise the difficult choice in a 1244 seat theatre.  Miking inevitably takes away the sense of direct communication with the actors, making it harder to feel empathy with the characters.

Walker and Simon Burvill-Holmes as the Queen were the most effective in making their voices rounded and more personal (and perhaps they had the best-scripted parts for doing this).  For children’s education in theatre – and after all that’s surely an important motivation in presenting Alice in Wonderland – their human connection with the people (and their characters) on stage needs to be enhanced.  I’m not sure that even modern technology can quite do the trick.

However I’m pleased to have seen this ‘straight’ approach to Lewis Carroll and the originality of incorporating the poems.  It will be interesting to see the other two productions showing this week, one in Canberra and one in Sydney, in comparison.

Georgina Walker, Liam Nuna, Jackson McGovern and Karen Crone as
L to R: Alice, March Hare, Dormouse and Mad Hatter in
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, adapted by Penny Farrow

Friday, January 12, 2018


Review by @ Jane Freebury

When a grieving mother in rural Missouri tries shock tactics to get results from police investigating the rape and murder of her daughter, she takes things into her own hands. It’s understandable. She has been waiting for months for the police to trace the person responsible and they haven’t come up with anything and don’t seem motivated to solve the case.

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) tries to stir them out of their inaction by hiring a set of billboards on a remote stretch of road near her home. In big bold letters on red background, they read: ‘Raped while dying.’, ‘Still no arrests’ and ‘How come, Chief Willoughby?’ It’s a brilliant move, and the film begins in outstanding fashion as the billboards are revealed one by one.

In bandanna and blue denim, Mildred combines the image of battle-scarred vigilante and embattled working class, and she owns the role. While Mildred doesn’t set out to take the law into her own hands to begin with, she will eventually, in the tradition of American cinema whereby things are sorted out single-handedly, often with a gun.

Except that here, the tale of an individual going it alone is delivered here through the medium of Irish playwright and screenwriter, Martin McDonagh, who had us holding our sides with his hilarious black farce, In Bruges.

 Naming and shaming Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) makes for a promising setup, a contest between a righteous, angry mother and a law enforcement officer at death’s door. Essentially good people they have each been pushed to the brink.

I don’t know why McDonagh had to end things so abruptly for Willoughby when these two sparring partners could easily have carried the movie.

When Willoughby leaves the sceme, his passing strikes a sudden sentimental note in a game that has been played fast and hard, strictly for laughs and probably at everyone’s expense.

During In Bruges, two hit men hide out in Belgium’s perfect medieval jewel, creating pure amoral mayhem. In Three Billboards, there is a strange impulse towards a kind of redemption.

Does McDonagh want to say something serious about the American condition? We are pushed up then down as the gears shift, anticipating but never quite comfortable in the humour, the laughs dwindling as the plot advances and morphs into a story of redemption.

Our attention turns to police Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a dim-witted racist bigot who lives with his awful mom. The joke is that for all the swagger, he is actually quite ineffectual and possibly harmless.

Either way, he is no match for Mildred who seems to get on everyone's wrong side, including those who are sympathetic - her son (Lucas Hedges) and the young man who rents her the billboards (Caleb Landry Jones).

Just about everyone is taken down here. From the lackadaisical, loopy police to the excessively dim-witted zoo attendant that Mildred’s ex has taken up with (Samara Weaving), to Rockwell’s reformed racist goon, to Mildred herself. She doesn’t think twice about kneeing a couple of teenagers in the groin to teach them a lesson.

The self-inflicted humour in scenes with Peter Dinklage (everyone’s favourite Lannister) is somewhat toe-curling. Yet another instance of how Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has a high percentage of terrific actors, but the characters writer-director McDonagh has created for them are close to cartoon.

If Three Billboards were anything like as funny as In Bruges, all might be forgiven. But it ain’t, and veers closer to McDonagh’s heavy-handed Seven Psychopaths from 2012 that I was unlucky enough to review on release.

Although he shows the same cinematic tendencies, McDonagh is no match yet for the brilliant Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan - and their incomparable oeuvre that includes Fargo, Burn After Reading, and The Big Lebowski. They are still the masters of neo-noir black comedy set in middle America.

Rated MA15+, 1 hour 55 minutes

3 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog and broadcast on ArtSound FM 92.7

THE MERRY WIDOW - Sydney Opera House

Danielle de Niese in "The Merry Widow" 
Photo: Jeff Busby

Director and Choreographer: Graeme Murphy – Associate Director/Choreographer: Janet Vernon – Conductor: Vanessa Scammell -English translation by Justin Fleming - Set Designer:  Michael Scott-Mitchell - Costumes designer: Jennifer Irwin - Lighting designer:  Damien Cooper - Sound designer: Tony David Gray.
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 3rd February 2018

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

There are many reasons to celebrate this magnificent production of a wonderful old warhorse which still manages to enchant more than 100 years after its first performance. Not the least is the opportunity it affords to experience the performances of Danielle de Niese and Alexander Lewis, two Australian singers who are rapidly establishing themselves as rising stars on International operatic stages.  Together they are a bewitching pair and provide the production with a stunning central focus.

Alexander Lewis (Danilo) and Daneille de Niese (Hanna Glavari)

Photo: Jeff Busby

Ideally cast as the wealthy young widow, Hanna Glavari, eager to re-fan the flames of a former love affair, Danielle de Niese exudes star power. A convincing actress with a dazzling smile, and lustrous, creamy soprano, she commands attention from the moment she hits the stage. Jennifer Irwin has created a series of sumptuous costumes for her, which she wears with flair, while Graeme Murphy’s staging takes advantage of her dance skills to great effect.

Her Danilo, Alexander Lewis, also is an excellent dancer, as well as a fine actor and singer, and their superbly staged scenes together generate a captivating sexual frisson and chemistry rarely seen on operatic stages.

Stacey Alleaume (Valencienne) and John Longmuir (Camille)

Photo: Jeff Busby

Stacey Alleaume and John Longmuir are also beautifully paired, singing superbly and playing the roles of “The Respectable Wife”, Valencienne, and her ardent paramour, Camille, with complete conviction.

Richard Anderson (Kromov), Tom Hamilton (Pritschich), David Whitney (Mirko Zeta), Bradley Cooper (de St Brioche),
Alexander Lewis (Danilo), Christopher Hillier (Bogdanovich), Luke Gabbedy (Cascada)

PhotoL Jeff Busby

The first rate supporting cast includes Benjamin Rasheed (Njegus), Richard Anderson (Kromov), Luke Gabbedy (Cascada), Tom Hamilton (Pritschich) Brad Cooper (de St.Brioche) and Stuart Haycock, seamlessly replacing an indisposed Christopher Hiller on opening night, as Bogdanovich, together with Agnes Sarkis (Olga Kromov) and Celeste Lazarenko (Sylviane). All were obviously revelling in the opportunities provided by Justin Fleming’s witty new libretto to create some delightfully silly, blustering characterisations.

Danielle de Niese in "Vilja" 

Photo: Jeff Busby

Graeme Murphy’s carefully nuanced direction bristles with imaginative ideas, and his staging of the various duets is masterly, as is his breathtaking treatment of the second-act story-song, “Vilja” which climaxes with de Niese being held aloft on a giant water-lily frond in a Monet-inspired setting.

His typically idiosyncratic choreography for his twelve excellent dancers provides the champagne sparkle for each scene, but he has also devised some inspired work for his principals including an entertaining staging of “Women, Women, and Women” and the dreamy “Merry Widow” waltz for Hanna and Danilo which climaxes the show.

Danielle de Niese and company - Act 3 "The Merry Widow" 

Photo:Keith Saunders

Then there’s Michael Scott-Mitchell’s beautiful, soaring  art-deco settings, imaginatively lit by Damien Cooper, Jennifer Irwin’s gorgeous costumes, and the impeccable performance of the Opera Australia orchestra conducted by Vanessa Scammell which  nails the authentic Viennese lilt of Franz Lehar’s irresistible score. What more could you ask?  This production is such a feast for the eyes, the ears and the heart that it’s destined to become a treasured memory for anyone lucky enough to experience it.

Danielle de Niese and dancers 
Photo: Jeff Busby

This review also published in Australian Arts Review.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Joint Artistic Directors of the Adelaide Festival
Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield

Adelaide Festival 2018.

Joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy. Adelaide Festival Centre. March 2 – 18. 2018.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Joint Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival
Rachel Healy
I had already written a preview feature on the 2018 Adelaide Festival , searching through the Festival brochure and the detailed media release that outlined the fabulous array of events and exhibitions that Joint Artistic Directors  Neil Armfield AO and Rachel Healy had assembled for their second festival. Their first festival in 2017, with offerings such as Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne production of Handel’s SAUL, and Armfiled’s production of SECRET RIVER in a quarry on the outskirts of Adelaide, has been hailed as a phenomenal success. As the city prepares for the opening of this year’s festival with Armfield’s Glyndebourne production of Brett Dean’s opera, Hamlet, expectations are high and confident that this year’s event will again affirm Adelaide’s annual festival as a leading world festival of the arts.
I was curious however to discover the reasoning that went into programming a festival of such stature, and especially what planning and thought went into creating Armfield and Healy’s second festival. How does one equal or even top such stunning success as their first festival? “Our approach has not been to recreate the model in our second year.” Healy tells me when I phone her prior to her trip to Europe to embark on the rigorous planning for their third annual festival. “What I’m hoping actually is that across the five years of our tenure you will see the evidence in the programming of our broader strategy rather than that we’ve been jumping trains every year.”

The broader philosophical strategy behind the planning of this year’s festival is clearly articulated in the festival brochure. ”We hope your world, your hearts and your minds will be illuminated next March at the 2018 Adelaide Festival.” Behind this raison d’etre lies a more strategic and practical understanding of what is required to bring such a major arts festival to life.

“There are festivals everywhere in Australia now. In the last fifteen years or so we’ve seen state governments in NSW, Victoria and Queensland for example create Government Events Departments which demonstrate how state governments have understood that there is a real spike in the central economy when there are high profile events that galvanize the community and get people excited.   There’s lots of examples of how governments see the financial value of  high profile set cultural events.

This poses real challenges for the traditional international arts festival.  It does mean that you have to reflect on what does this festival mean for this city. How is it different to what is happening in this city year round? Every city has to answer that question differently. The Adelaide Festival can look to its history and I think take many lessons from its history. The kind of things that were being done back in the day that made Adelaide one of the top three festivals in the Globe were I think things that are still worth keeping in mind today. For example, if you’ve got a Sydney Opera House that is performing international events year round what does that mean for Sydney Festival? In our case what does it mean when you’ve got a very active Adelaide Festival Centre with the OzAsia Festival, the Guitar Festival, the Cabaret Festival. There are interesting central challenges about what does the Adelaide Festival do that nobody else can do. We are interested in doing things that just can’t happen or won’t happen in any other context without the Adelaide Festival.”
Rundfunkchor's Human Requiem
Rundfunkchor’s HUMAN REQUIEM from Berlin is an example of Healy’s intent. Audiences will experience chamber music in a way that they have never done before.  “The entire performance is conducted with no divide between  performer and the people there to see the performance. The entire experience happens in and around you. You move around the space as an audience as do the singers. They soar through the air on swings.  Audiences who have seen the show talk about it as a completely transforming experience - as a choral event like no other they have had before. That way of thinking, not just about the performance but about that way of thinking is something that you will see across all of our five festivals.”
Akram Khan in Xenos Photo by Jean Louis Fernandez

Another difference in this year’s festival will be the number of new commissions that the festival is involved in. Commissions are a risky business. One can never guarantee success when one initiates the commission. All festivals have a proud tradition of being a part of the creation of original new work. This year, the festival has commissioned three new works. Legendary dancer Akram Khan’s final performance in Australia of his work XENOS is an international commission. Hailed as arguably the world’s greatest dancer, XENOS is an unmissable experience. 

Alice Oswald's Memorial. Photo by Sand in Your Eye
Brink Theatre’s MEMORIAL by Alice Oswald and with leading Australian actress Helen Morse is a co- commission with the Queensland Festival and the Barbican in London Oswald uses Homer’s Iliad  to inspire an investigation of the deaths of the 215 soldiers featured in the epic poem. For the first time, the festival has commissioned local   Patch Theatre with a children’s theatre piece, CAN YOU HEAR THE COLOUR? under the direction of Naomi Edwards. It is a work for very small children. “Getting involved with projects and the risk that they involve is probably something that is more prevalent this year.” Healy says.
Stomp's Lost and Found Orchestra Photo by Steve McNichols.

THE LOST AND FOUND ORCHESTRA. Is an existing work that was commissioned when Healy was at the Sydney Opera House. “I’ve seen how extraordinary they are and I have seen the audience response that it generates first hand.” Healy says. “Their stuff’s electric. When you see them perform – the musicianship, the music, the incredible energy that’s coming off the stage…  It’s both a visual spectacle and an aural joy. By the end of the concert, you just want to punch the air.”  Unlike previous productions, staged in venues with about thirty performers, this performance will be staged on the banks of the River Torrens in Elder Park and will involve as many as 500 community artists and participants.  “This is the first time that it has been staged as an open air event in Australia. – challenging experiences and perceptions of art forms.”
Cecile McLorin Salvant. Photo by Mark Fitton
When I ask Healy why the legendary sixty nine year old Grace Jones has been invited to give a single performance at the Adelaide Festival, Healy responds with her customary visionary reasoning. “I am cautious about including musicians for their own sake.” This year, Healy and Armfield have included four remarkable divas in the festival programme. Jones opens the festival after a thirty-six year absence from Adelaide. Cecile McLoren Salvant will close the festival. The New York Times has called her “the finest jazz singer to emerge in the last decade.”. Healey adds “She is the person you’ll be telling your grandchildren about.” Critics have raved about Kate Miller-Heidke fresh from her success as the co composer of the Sydney Theatre Company stage production of Muriel’s Wedding and Anne Sofie von Otter from Sweden whose repertoire ranges from Sibelius to Brahms to Bernstein to the heart-breaking compositions of composers at Theresienstadt.

 Finally, I apologize to Healy for asking an impossible question. Many visitors to Adelaide may not be able to immerse themselves in the entire programme over almost three weeks of the 2018 Adelaide Festival. I ask Healy if she could venture to suggest her five top picks. Always generous and articulate, Healy hesitates and then agrees to suggest experiences that will offer diversity and excellence.
Nick Steur's Freeze Photo by Alastair Bett.
Without hesitation Healy lists Nick Steur’s rock-balancing show from the Netherlands, FREEZE. “It is utterly incredible – astonishing”

Canadian theatre auteur extraordinaire Robert LePage’s THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON  tells the story of two very different brothers who become involved in the Soviet-US space race. “I think it is his masterpiece.” Healy says. “It is utterly unmissable!”
Simon Stone's Thyestes.  Photo by Jeff Busby

Simon Stone’s reimagining of Seneca’s Greek drama THYESTES  is a bold and brave collaboration between Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre. 
“I’ve got to get some dance in there. I’d have to say Akram Khan’s XENOS”
Healey hesitates as she tries to select a final top pick. It really is an impossible request!
“It’s a  toss-up between Cecile McLorin Salvant and Toneelgroep’s KINGS OF WAR."
 I thank Healey for taking part in what is an unrealistic exercise. People will make their own choices from the vast Festival programme. Interest and risk will determine their selection from the diversity and quality of the programme of events, exhibitions, forums and free events.
“It’s incredibly difficult.” Healy concludes. “It comes down to taste really. The final weekend you’ve got incredible dance, incredible music. -  That final weekend you could do CECILE. You could do HUMAN REQUIEM. You could see Akram and there’s other things I’m forgetting – really good things.”
Brett Dean's Hamlet. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

The opening weekend you could do HAMLET, FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. Lucy Guerin’s dance work SPLIT and THYESTES - all in three days.  And then there’s WRITER’S WEEK. What a weekend!
‘In the middle weekend there’s WOMAD. Plus you could see the Chamber Music programme, COMPASSION: CHAMBER LANDSCAPES. And then throw in KINGS OF WAR - what an incredible weekend. So (laughs) you’ve really got these three most amazing , very exciting offers. It’s not something we can  say this is the most obvious weekend to be there. Each weekend is so full of riches you can’t really go wrong.”
Whatever your taste, there is certainly something for everyone. With the Adelaide Festival, WOMAD world music festival and the Adelaide Writers Week, the month of March is an incredible lure to Australia’s first and foremost festival city. This is not a random program. Though chosen on its merits, Healy and Armfield can see patterns emerging that reinforce the reasoning behind their selection. Many of our artists are responding to a world of fear, rising tension, the flight of people to safety; a world where the truth can be a slippery concept, controlled by those with power and wealth” they state in the introduction to the festival brochure. However, as they say, “the desire for meaning and reconciliation, for justice and for love, beauty and joy is burning stronger than ever. That is the light that great art creates” And that is reason enough to bring that art to the world at the 2018 Adelaide Festival.
Adelaide Festival 2018
Book at or BASS 131 246
Adelaide Festival Trailer:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Music by Harold Arlen – Lyrics by E.Y.Harburg – Additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Additional Lyrics by Tim Rice - Adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams - Directed by Jeremy Sams - Choreographed by Arlene Philips - Musical Direction by Laura Tipoki – Scenery and Costumes designed by Robert Jones – Lighting designed by Hugh Vanstone – Video designed by Jon Driscoll – Sound designed by Mick Potter.

Capitol Theatre, Sydney, 4th January to 4th February 2018. -  Festival Centre, Adelaide 3rd – 29th April, 2018 -  Regent Theatre, Melbourne 15th May to 17th June 2018.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Samantha Dodemaide (Dorothy) with the company of "The Wizard of Oz"

Photo: Jeff Busby

No matter how many times you’ve watched the 1939 film, but particularly if your only knowledge of the story is through the Stephen Schwartz musical, “Wicked”,  you’ll find it hard to resist being enchanted by this lavish new stage version of L. Frank Baum’s timeless tale of the little girl who finds herself “somewhere over the rainbow”.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and director, Jeremy Sams, originally reworked the film for a production staged in The London Palladium in 2011, adding new songs composed by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and additional scenes. This production is closely based on that production, with a top- notch Australian cast headed by Anthony Warlow, Lucy Durack and Jemma Rix.

Samantha Dodemaide (Dorothy) with Toto 
Photo: Brian Geach
Thankfully, we weren’t subjected to a television series to find an actress to play Dorothy, as English audiences were in this production Dorothy is played by Samantha Dodemaide, who may not yet be a household name, but she’s notched up quite a lot of experience as an understudy in major productions, and this may well prove to be her break-out role.  Her Dorothy is sweet and plucky, and while her vocal inflections in “Over the Rainbow” were a tad unsettling at first, the sincerity of her phrasing and delivery drew enthusiastic applause from the first-night audience.

Anthony Warlow as The Wizard 

Photo Jeff Busby

In this production, the role of The Wizard has been combined with another character, Professor Marvel, who meets up with Dorothy just before the cyclone hits. Professor Marvel has a magical caravan, and a fine new song, “Wonders of the World”, which in Anthony Warlow’s hands becomes a show-stopper. Warlow’s Wizard is also a delightfully mannered and nerdy creation who gets to sing two more excellent new songs, “Bring Me the Broomstick” and “Farewell to Oz”.

Lucy Durack (Glinda the Good) - Samantha Dodemaide (Dorothy) - Alex Rathgeber (Tinman) -  John Xintavelonis  - (Lion)
Eli Cooper (Scarecrow) in "The Wizard of Oz"

Photo: Jeff Busby

Drawing on her considerable comedic skills, Lucy Durack is delightfully ditzy as Glinda the Good, referencing “Wicked” with her eye-popping entrance from the flys and working her glittering costume for all its worth. Clad head to toe in shiny black feathers, Jemma Rix throws restraint to the wind to sing up a storm in her spectacular production number, “Red Shoes Blues”. 

Though Alex Rathgeber, Eli Cooper and John Xintavelonis as Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are an endearing trio, it’s the little Australian terrier playing Toto who steals the show, endearing itself to every member of the audience with its well-trained antics.

The hardworking ensemble revels in Arlene Philips inventive choreography, whether being delightfully exuberant as the vertically-challenged Munchkins, wicked-reminiscent as the citizens of Oz, or somewhat threatening as the Winkies.

Jemma Rix (Wicked Witch of the West) and Samanda Dodemaide (Dorothy)

Photo: Jeff Busby

Throughout, Jeremy Sams has kept the storytelling crystal clear, enhanced by spectacular settings, costumes and visual effects, among which the dramatic cyclone is particularly memorable. The beautiful score includes all the familiar songs associated with this show, seamlessly interwoven with lovely new songs superbly played by an excellent 12 piece band conducted by Laura Tipoki.

This is a magical production which lives up to its hype. It may have taken six years to get to Australia, but it was worth the wait. You’ll enjoy it even more if you see it with a child. If you don’t have one of your own, borrow someone else’s.

Samantha Dodemaide (Dorothy) and the company of "The Wizard of Oz" 
Photo: Jeff Busby

This review first published in Australian Arts Review. 

Friday, January 5, 2018


Echoing Peter Wilkins' sentiments...

Canberra Times Thursday Jan 4 2018.

Alanna Maclean

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Peter Wilkins' top five Canberra theatre picks for 2017
Published in the Canberra Times on Tuesday January 2nd.
Happy Theatrical New Year to all of you who create theatre on stage and behind the scenes in Canberra and at The Q, and to those of you who help our theatre to thrive as members of the audience.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Review by © Jane Freebury

It’s summer holidays in Orlando, Florida. Disney World is just over the road, and out of reach. What is there to do when there’s no money to spend? It does not present any problem for three young children who are living at the Magic Castle motel, because they make their own fun.

There’s a holiday ambience in the backdrop of cheery, candy-coloured structures that dot the neighbourhood outside the Disney precinct. An orange juice dome, a gift shop in the shape of a witches’ hat and a soft-serve kiosk supposed to make you think of a dollop of ice cream. The names of places like Futureland and Enchanted Inn help impart a bit of holiday zing too, confected as they are. The images are especially apt with jaunty angles and fish-eye frames to accentuate a child’s point-of-view. Director Sean Baker (Tangerine) is superbly sensitive to the innocence and magic of childhood.

One of the buildings is a long, low three-storey motel that looks like a slice of layered lilac cake with cream trim - Magic Castle is home to six-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince). Her young mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) is struggling to make ends meet but at the same time determined that her daughter should never want for anything or feel she is missing out.

 Halley’s one great skill is shielding her young daughter from their seriously disadvantaged predicament, teaching her how to turn a dismal situation on its head and find joy in things. Whether it's celebrating a birthday with cupcake and candle on a picnic in a field while watching Disney fireworks, or cheering a helicopter as it takes off on a joy ride, something they could never afford.

They are far from the minority at Magic Castle, which appears to be home to low-income and no-income individuals and families, many single-parent units. Some of them bond by helping each other out, minding each others’ children, pilfering food at work or turning a blind eye. Motel manager Bobby, a principled, patient and caring man, becomes surrogate parent to the children. It is a wonderful role for Willem Dafoe, who shows the other side of his chiselled-jaw persona.

The centre of her mother’s world, Moonee has confidence in spades. She is never short of a good idea either as she and her little gang roam around unsupervised all-day long. Miraculously, and unlikely as it seems, they stay safe and never get into serious trouble beyond a telling off from Bobby when he catches them on CCTV entering the amenities room before the power goes out. He doesn’t take kindly to ice cream spills in motel reception either, or to staking out an observation point when a guest sunbakes topless at the pool.

While inventive, cheeky Moonee is a rascal, and we enjoy hanging out with her, the film is of course underlining its point with this delicate material. That childhood is a special time, and each child has a right to experience the magic, to be free-spirited and give flight to the imagination.

Unfortunately, there are limits. Halley is a product of a system but she also has responsibilities as a mother. The idyll cannot last. Baker’s film offers a tranche of life, a last stand at the inn, as it steps back from making any judgement.

However, it is Bobby who takes action when enough is enough. Halley turns on a friend, a fellow struggling mother, violently and then turns to desperate measures that put Moonee in moral danger.

A young mother, barely an adult herself, without life skills or life options, or much sense of responsibility, Halley is certainly trapped. Her daughter runs around without supervision but Halley is the first to lash out and blame others.

In the end, her sense of entitlement and sense of grievance leave Halley isolated, stuck in a cul-de-sac where fantasy is the only sanctuary and the only way to escape.

Rated MA 15+, 1 hour 51 minutes

4.5 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog and broadcast on ArtSound FM 92.7