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Theatre, Art, Exhibitions etc

Theatre, Art, Exhibitions etc (78)

Death of a Salesman @ Belvoir

altBelvoir have a real winner in this new production of the classic play Death of a Salesmen, the season has been extended and currently plays to 19 August. If you can still grab a ticket I can only recommend you don’t think twice – it’s just simply extraordinary. 

Death of a Salesman is one of the finest plays of the modern American theatre. Written by Arthur Miller in 1949 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It is widely seen as Miller’s indictment of capitalism and the American Dream. Yet at its heart, Death of a Salesman is the story of a man past his prime, struggling with his failings and the dashed hopes that his sons would achieve more than he has.

Willy Loman is feeling his age. He and his wife Linda are struggling to make their mortgage repayments. The company he works for is branching out in new directions and it looks like he’s about to be left behind. When his university drop-out son, Biff, moves back home after years of drifting, old tensions rise to the surface. 

Sure it’s written about post war America but this story is more than likely playing out across the world right now where communities, families are feeling the pressure and challenges of poor economies. But also at the heart of this play is the relationship between a father and son, of expectations never met and disappointment of choices – very close to the bone for myself and many others in our community. 

Director Simon Stone has ditched the American ascents which tend to give this show a closer to home feel. The set designed by Ralph Myers consists of a white Ford Falcon in which and around the action is played out. It’s very effective in assisting the audience to use their imagination in visualising the many scene changes, and a very effective use of costume aids the move from the present to flashback. 

The cast here are all excellent, but it’s the performance of Colin Friels as Willy Loman the central character that you won’t ever forget. Over the duration as he slowly falls apart it’s heartbreaking, believable and sad. Some of the last scenes with his son Bif, beautifully played by Patrick Brammall are some of the most poignant I’ve seen on stage for a while and Genevieve Lemon as Willy’s wife Linda is haunting trying to hold her family together. 

Mr Friels isn’t seen on stage that much and he only seems to touch great memorable roles, such as that he played in Copenhagen back in 2003 and for which he won the Helpman.  It seems to me, at this time in his career, Willy Loman and he sit well.  I understand that Mr Friels said recently when asked about his decision to play Willy that “Acting gives me sleepless nights, pimples, rashes, anxiety. But also a deep satisfaction somehow. It makes you feel more...human. It's a way of making a connection, I guess.” 

What a connection he makes with this role, it will stay in your mind and soul always – bravo!


Vivid Sydney – hitting winter with colour and movement


If you are in Sydney at the moment let me persuade you to take a walk along Circular Quay and experience the very colourful and surprising adventure that is Vivid lights.  

Vivid lights are one of the Vivid Festival components and it’s delivered free and easy to access. The hugely popular Vivid lights are switched on every night of the festival from 6.00pm to midnight until June 11 in a free lighting display around The Rocks and Circular Quay, featuring 50 interactive and immersive light art sculptures, illuminated skyscrapers and large scale 3D mapping projections on the Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and Customs House. 

It’s estimated that 400,000 people will take a look, which is incredible given its only in its fourth year. I remember the first year when it lit up the short walk from St Mary’s Cathedral to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the technology delivered single slide like screens over the buildings. Now it’s all 3D projections and interactive experiences. A very Sydney kind of evening out! 

I met friends at the outside bar on Customs House forecourt and over a glass of champers we planned our walk and took in the first of the major exhibits. The front of Customs House tells the story of a day in the life of a local Joe Average. These projections have come a long way and are now designed to use the features of the building to enhance the show and not just be its screen. It’s full of humour and very very cute. 

We dragged ourselves away and headed towards First Fleet Park which is a kid’s delight. Artists, selected from all over the world, have created a giant digital game of Tic Tac Toe, and a modern spin on Hopscotch. There are golden flocking birds and head turning digital puppies. Follow your dreams with the luminous wings or just have a good old fashioned shout at the installation Screaming Rapture. 

At the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) you experience almost more colour than is safe for one’s eyes.  As you wave your hands in the air they can rearrange’s of the Black Eyed Peas fame, loops and samples, controlling the tone and appreciation. Justene Williams’ created objects also ‘shape’ the music; the music in turn shapes the art, creating a completely unique and ever evolving interactive work. You might have to queue for a while to take a turn but it’s so worth it. 

Great hot dogs can be bought outside of Cargo Bar and is the perfect spot to take in the projection on the Sydney Opera House. Cutting edge German projection artists, URBANSCREEN, have been invited to weave their creative magic in this festival masterpiece ‘Lighting the Sails’. A young dancer stretches and turns as if warming up to hit the stage inside. It becomes so melded its tricky to tell the real tiles to those of the 3D projection. It’s kind of tasteful and befitting for this famous performing space. 

Make sure you walk down to see the smaller but intimate light sculptures around Campbells Cove where we discovered a projection of a guy trying to escape the harbour’s cold dark water – it’s very cool indeed. 

Making our way back it was evident the crowds had swollen and grown – well its little wonder as word of mouth spreads on how brilliant an outing this is – but still worth you taking a look for yourselves.


Paul Capsis – a living national treasure

altThis week I’ve been doing one of the things I love most, that is sitting in a theatre and taken on an emotional and enriching journey, and this time struck gold as I also leant something new about myself as a result of the experience. 

I’ve been to see the much talked about and critical acclaimed Angela’s Kitchen Paul Capsis’ evocative and beautifully staged piece of autobiographical theatre at the intimate Stables in Kings Cross. 

But first can I take you back to about the late eighties or the turn of the decade and to DCM nightclub in Oxford Street which was really at the centre of drag performance and performance artist’s of the day. This is when I first made the acquaintance of Paul Capsis. He was a young man I suspect in his early 20’s who would occasionally perform what was to later become his stable of female singers. The look was early nineties androgynous, the voice something unique and in all - a package we hadn’t really seen before. 

I recall that the first show of Paul’s was for the Mardi Gras festival of 1992 when he unleashed his talent on the greater Sydney GLTB scene in The Lady is a Camp at Belvoir Street Theatre where he performed channeling divas from decades past Marlene Dietrich, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland and Billie Holiday. The rest as they say is history and over the years he has given us some very memorable queer slanted shows such as Burning Sequins, Burlesque Tour and Boulevard Delirium. He is one of my all-time favourite cabaret performers – god can he sing. 

But he can also act and tell stories and it’s the whole talented and gifted package that I say makes Paul Capsis a living national treasure. This show Angela’s Kitchen is story telling at its most excellent, entertaining and educational.  

In 1948 Angela, Paul’s grandmother, left Malta as one of the first ten pound migrants. Gathered up her five children and sailed out on the Strathnavar, leaving poverty and the war behind. She settled in Surry Hills and we are invited to learn how that life was, and how it developed. Paul plays most of the family players of the story and we are invited to laugh with him and almost despair at the challenges they face - but fundamental to it all we are invited to meditate on the joy and strength of close family. 

We learn of Paul’s journey back to Malta, and through some very fine writing we are with him on the harbourside of Kalkara as he experiences the essence of his family background and in turn himself. 

I first saw Paul in a play called Playgrounds at the Sydney Theatre Company in 1996 directed by Wayne Harrison and written by Nick Enright where Paul played a very emotionally charged gay Turkish schoolboy affected by feelings of isolation and sense of self. It’s a performance that has never left me and here in the Stables I saw glimpses of this young guy, albeit not hidden behind a character other than him. I felt Paul, through this piece, was showing his audience his heart, his values and his core. It seems to me this show must be very liberating and empowering for him as an artist and individual.    

Angela’s Kitchen will head off on a national tour to Parramatta, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane following this Stables season – can I persuade you to visit for all the info.

Last year Paul won the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards individual award - $50,000. This, he says, will allow him to work out what comes next.

''I want to do something new and different as a singer and a performer,'' he says. ''I don't know if it's an album or a show. I just want the time to think. While I'm running around, I can't do more than one thing at a time. I'm not good at multitasking.''

As a huge fan I for one can’t wait for the next chapter…


On Parade – Portraits from Sydney Mardi Gras

alt Sydney’s love affair with portraits just got turned to full-on with the launch of the Head On Photo Festival, the world's second largest photography festival. Now in its third year, it features a wide range of photography across all genres with over 200 events at 100 venues. 

At the heart of the festival is Head On Portrait Prize which is the nation’s major innovative showcase for Australian portrait photography, reflecting a diverse cross-section of new and traditional photographic practices. It is the most critically acclaimed photographic portrait competition in Australia. 

One of the exhibitions in the festival is On Parade – Portraits from Sydney Mardi Gras by Sydney based freelance photographer Jamie Williams who draws inspiration from people and stories that don’t receive mainstream coverage. It’s showing in a wonderful gallery space called Global Gallery in Comber Street, Paddington just off Oxford Street in the part us locals call Paddinghurst. Showing now and running till 13 May. 

Often the Mardi Gras Parade is regarded as only for the trim, taught and terrific, these images, made over a number of years in the marshalling area immediately prior to the Parade’s start, reveal a variety of ages and faces, shapes and sizes, not to mention senses of style, highlighting the truly diverse nature of Mardi Gras. 

It’s a good size show and certainly colourful but be warned, it really looks at the familiar in a different and possibly confronting way for some. As I moved through the show I found myself becoming a bit anxious by being asked to view a ‘celebration’ through these eyes. I think a welcome board describing the artistic intent and context would really help this show, otherwise I think many people will get the wrong end of the stick. Without the context I don’t think it’s an exhibition that one could say you enjoyed. 

The subjects are very diverse, in a good way of covering our broad community, and were asked to pose in a considered or natural way. This style certainly makes you look deeper into the subject that you normally might and my emotional response surprised me - I was moved in a not altogether comfortable way. 

I know the marshalling period before the Parade is electric and joyous – you won’t see that.  It left me concluding that when you take the joy out of pride in celebration you’re just left with attitude in colour.    


Tony Awards to Honor Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters & Actors’ Equity Association

The Tony Awards® Administration Committee has announced that Bernadette Peters will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award.  Additionally, the Administration Committee will bestow Special Tony Awards to Actors’ Equity Association and to Hugh Jackman. These awards will be presented at the 2012 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 10th.  The 2012 Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award will be Tony Award-winning actress Bernadette Peters.  The Isabelle Stevenson Award recognizes an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.   Ms Peters founded Broadway Barks!, along with Mary Tyler Moore, as a program to promote the adoption of shelter animals. Broadway Barks! has evolved into an event that has not only focuses on the plight of homeless animals but had opened the door of communication and fostered a spirit of community among the numerous shelters and rescue groups working throughout New York.  Ms. Peters has also written two children’s books to benefit the charity – Broadway Barks and Stella is A Star. Additionally, Ms. Peters works with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Standing Tall, and Actors Fund of America.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee will present a Special Tony Award to Actors’ Equity Association, who starting in the month of June will be celebrating it’s 100th anniversary.

Additionally, The Tony Awards Administration Committee will present a Special Tony Award to Tony winning-actor and three-time Tony Awards host, Hugh Jackman. Mr. Jackman is being honored for his contributions to the Broadway community, both as a performer and humanitarian; his tireless dedication to charitable works of many types; and his personal generosity of spirit.

The Tony Award Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 1st.


The Archibald Prize 2012 at the Art Gallery of NSW

alt Sydney’s annual embrace of portraiture is in full steam at the Art Gallery of NSW until June 3. It’s just not as exciting, engaging or entertaining as it has been over the last several years. In fact I did it in thirty minutes which I think is a new record for a major exhibition. 

The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art prizes. It’s awarded to the best portrait painting, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics. This show has 40 finalist works, including portraits of Australian identities such as David Gulpilil, John Wood, Father Bob Maguire, Kimbra and Missy Higgins. But many people I didn’t know – which kind of takes the fun out of it.

The Archibald Prize is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery who it seems like two kinds of work these days the huge, over oiled type or the totally photogenic, so it’s hard to feel any emotion other than indifference. 

The winning portrait titled The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch) by Tim Storrier is a self-portrait without a face which includes a drawing of himself scribbled on a piece of paper being blown away by the wind. It certainly seemed to cause a bit of a stir the day I was there with the general census tending to disappointment.  It seemed easy to understand people’s reaction given the winners of the last few years had been easily recognisable and popular figures such as Margaret Olley and Tim Minchin.

Contrast this with the annual Packing Room Prize which is adjudicated by the Gallery’s storeman, Steve Peters and which was won this year by Raelene Sharp with an easily recognised portrait of John Wood titled A strength of character. Being a very popular Logie winning actor the crowds seemed to lap it up. This Packers Prize winner joins a long list grounded in what might be considered the more traditional form of portraiture and has included in past years those of Matt Moran, Glenn A. Baker and Paul Livingston as Flacco.

The highlight of my visit was when I came across the self portrait of Jenny Sages titled After Jack which I found compelling and the only work that evoked an emotion. Her husband had recently died and this picture was fall of a woman in mourning for this love she has lost. It was wonderful to feel surrounded by other people taking in the picture with the collective silence adding to the engagement of the work almost as if we were intruding on her. I noticed as I left the exhibition and voted for her in the People’s Choice Prize I wasn’t alone.

Jules François Archibald’s primary aim, through his bequest of 1919, was to foster portraiture, as well as support artists, and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. This years exhibition continues to provoke controversies, and whilst its not one of its better years, the Archibald Prize still does more than any other single event to stimulate and sustain public interest in the art of portrait painting in Australia – and worth a visit.


Unforgettable - Opera on Sydney Harbour

alt Last week I was lucky enough to see one of the last performances of HANDA Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata and it was one of those ‘I’ll never ever forget nights’ that you could only have in Sydney.  Opera Australia’s grand experiment to take opera beyond the theatre and weave it into the very fabric of the harbour city has been declared a great success. 

As I sat in a 3,000 seat grandstand erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens this wonderful opera unfolded before me in the most thrilling and quite unexpected spectacular for an outdoor show. 

Australia’s most accomplished and daring Set Designer Brian Thomson designed a minimal but striking stage which was dominated by a giant chandelier measuring 9-metres x 9-metres, that sparkled with 10,000 Swarovski crystals symbolizing the world of Verdi’s much-loved opera with its glittering Parisian salons. All set off by Sydney Harbour - one of the most beautiful views in the world. 

Tess Schofield designed the 1950’s inspired costumes, which included dazzling Mardi-Gras themed outfits for the masked ball in Act II, with the cast arriving to the stage by LED lit motorboats. The set was complemented by a sophisticated lighting design by John Rayment which created the atmosphere of changing scenes through colour, dazzling light displays and fireworks. 

The evening I went Rachelle Durkin sang the role of Violetta and international tenor Ji-Min Park sang Alfredo. They were both excellent and the crowd adored them. The sound was super impressive given we were sitting in a park with the evening breeze floating over us from the water. All in all it was the kind of evening that you never forget and worth every cent of the somewhat expensive tickets. 

The good news is that Opera on Sydney Harbour will be staged again in 2013 and feature Bizet’s great opera Carmen. It will be directed by Gale Edwards, who directed last years highly successful production of ‘La boheme’ and Brian Thomson will return to again design the staging. So come next April, if you possibly can, please don’t miss out on this experience of a lifetime. 

In the mean time this spectacular event was filmed for TV and will screen on SBS Studio on Monday 30 April at 8.40pm.


Deborah Cox to star in Jekyl And Hyde on Broadway

(NEW YORK, NY) Nederlander Presentations, Inc. has announced that Grammy® Nominee and R&B superstar Deborah Cox will star as Lucy in the international musical sensation JEKYLL & HYDE that returns to Broadway in April 2013 following a 25-week National Tour.

The tour will launch at San Diego’s Civic Theatre in San Diego, California on October 2, 2012.  Cox will star alongside the previously announced Tony Award Nominee Constantine Maroulis in the title dual role of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

After four thrilling, chilling years on Broadway and multiple world-wide tours, this dark and dangerous love story from Oscar and Grammy winner Leslie bricusse and Tony and Grammy Award nominee Frank Wildhorn returns in a stunning new production that includes all the classic songs (This is the Moment, A New Life, Someone Like You) that first grabbed audiences by the throat and transformed JEKYLL & HYDE into a theatrical phenomenon.

The musical is based on the acclaimed novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, about a London doctor who accidentally unleashes his evil alternate personality in his quest to cure his father’s mental illness.

JEKYLL & HYDE was first introduced as a concept album in 1990 featuring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder, and shortly thereafter had its world premiere at the Alley Theatre in Houston starring Chuck Wagner as Jekyll/ Hyde and Linda Eder as Lucy.  Following a 30-city National Tour, the Broadway production opened at The Plymouth Theatre on April 28, 1997 and earned four Tony Award nominations.  Directed by Robin Phillips and choreographed by Joey Pizzi, the production starred Robert Cuccioli, who earned a Tony Nomination as well as Joseph Jefferson, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for his portrayal of Jekyll/ Hyde, Linda Eder, who won the Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut, as Lucy and Christianne Noll as Emma Carew.  After 1543 performances, and featuring such replacements as Sebastian Bach and David Hasselhoff in the title role, the production played its final performance on January 7, 2001.    The show’s popularity catapulted well beyond the Great White Way and, within the subsequent decade of its world premiere, JEKYLL & HYDE became an international sensation with multiple tours in the UK and North America, and over a dozen recordings from Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Japan and South Korea, among others.

A pre-tour preview engagement of JEKYLL & HYDE will be presented at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in La Mirada, California from September 7-30, 2012.

Additional cast and creative team, as well as tour cities, will be announced shortly.


Love Never Dies – Capital Theatre 10 March 12

altThe last two months have been chocker with some of the best festival fare we’ve had for some time, constant and generally all good stuff. With all that behind me I’ve popped back into the theatre just in the nick of time to persuade my keen musical theatre friends – do not miss Love Never Dies which is in its last weeks so please be quick.

This newly imagined Australian version of the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber creation is a heartbreaking love story set in the colour and excitement of Coney Island, New York. It’s a truly spectacular night in the theatre! 

Love Never Dies continues the story of The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. OK, you may have read the story is not without problems and yes that’s true in as much as its ten years since we last saw the Phantom and his angel of the music Christine Daae and yet they are both younger. Look just do as I did – give yourself over to the magic of the theatre and you will be rewarded with an evening that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time after.

Directed by Simon Phillips, with spectacular set and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova and choreography by Graeme Murphy, Love Never Dies was the winner of 3 prestigious 2010 Helpmann Awards for Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design and Best Lighting Design.

You will literally be on the edge of your seat for the first 20 mins that just never let up in drawing you into the world of Coney Island and the people who inhabit it; its “my god look at this” on top of “wow have you ever seen anything like it” on top of “holy shit how fab” – you will be amazed.

This then breaks away to the first meeting of the Phantom and Christine after she has arrived in New York for a concert engagement. Here the lovely melodies of the piece and some of the finest singing I’ve heard for some time send shivers down your back as the emotion and heartfelt sadness of their love engulf the audience. Both Ben Lewis as the Phantom and Anna O'Byrne as Christine are sensational, it’s little wonder Lord Webber wanted their performance captured for ever on DVD. 

It’s fair to say that all of the principle players are excellent and very well cast, but I have to mention the wonderful Sharon Millerchip who has one of the best roles an actress could wish for in musical theatre and at times she comes close to stealing the show.

We are left at the end exhausted from the entire spectacle and drained from all the emotion, it’s a very satisfying experience and we cheered like hell!

Only playing until April 1 means you should get to it here and now.


The House of Loose Ends is an exhibition of Sydney ‘Queer Together’

altA terrace house gallery down the bottom end of Bourke Street in Woolloomooloo is currently the first stop to take your out of town guests if you’re trying to describe to them the heart of our Mardi Gars for the last thirty years. The House of Loose Ends is a photographic exhibition by Richard Hedger inspired by the Loose Ends club night but captures a whole lot more of queer Sydney heart! 

For the greater part of my long community association many OS friends have told me how lucky we are here in Sydney that all queer tribes come together as one, sometimes we use the family word, and not just in February. Certainly through the 80’s and 90’s that aspect of our community was more evident, and whilst we seem to have more specific tribe choices now, thankfully I still find enough pockets of ‘queer together’ to maintain that notion. 

One of these pockets is the Loose Ends dance floor, home to a whole lot of fun in the underground of Sydney's queer scene for the last 5 years. Bringing together a truly mixed crowd and a fiercely eclectic mix of sounds, Sunday nights at Phoenix shaken and stirred by DJ Matt Vaughan – another must do experience for everyone who shares this ‘queer together’ inclination. 

At the exhibition opening Richard told me his motivation to create this exhibition tribute to Loose Ends was born of an idea that he wanted to document party people that he’d met at the club night that he says saved his Sydney social life. “I have lived in Sydney now for 6 years (originally from UK) and was becoming a little disillusioned by the gay scene until Loose Ends which has that perfect mix of underground, retro, family, sexy, escapism appeal”. 

Remarkably Richard has captured all that through his lens and managed in these dozen or so spectacular prints on display to hold this ‘queer together’ mirror up for us to enjoy. Pretty much every print is fabulous and I can imagine in a few weeks many people having these limited print run photos hanging in their homes as a colourful and fun way to celebrate their type of queer. 

DJ Matt Vaughan was at the opening so I asked him for his take on the images and what he hopes visitors to the exhibition might feel. “I think it's great to show that diversity and to have people see the creativity that is so abundant amongst the crowd of Loose Ends regulars. There is a lot of imagination at work and I think it's important because so much of the gay scene just looks more or less the same. There's more to life and being gay than muscles and chinos. But also, I hope people might see the diversity that exists within the Loose Ends crowd in terms of the mix of ages, genders, backgrounds, shapes and sizes.” 

The House of Loose Ends exhibition continues until 21 February 11am-6pm at Monstrosity Gallery, 93 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo. Loose Ends will continue to run weekly every Sunday until the night after Mardi Gras - which will be a big party - and then it will change back to being a monthly party heading into Autumn/Winter.