REVIEWS

Two

OzAsia, Space Theatre

5 November

***1/2

A performance based simply on a dancer responding to the rhythms emulating from a tabla player would test most audiences. But long-time associates dancer Raghav Handa and tabla master Maharshi Raval don’t fall into that trap, there is much to love here, from playful banter, brilliant dancing and musicianship with a dash of variety.

The opening of Raghav warming up onstage and the tabla set up whilst the audience filed in, was followed by the duo performing in a number of different settings; firstly the anticipated call from the tabla and the dancers response through to Raghav performing disco within a mobile light filled rectangle to the strains of a modernised Elvis soundtrack. Very effective.

Along the way Maharshi displayed supreme skills on the tablas, culminating in a brilliant solo demonstration towards the end of the performance, even using his tuning hammer to coax very different sounds, while Raghev pushed Maharshi’s platform all around the stage.

But it was not song and dance, they injected some humour, for example with the unveiling of an “old” painting of them in earlier years although not all of this was successful.

This is a successful fusion of Indian classical, modern dance and culture presented in a casual but still respectful manner. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Michael Prescott

Perahu-Perahu

OzAsia, Space Theatre

27 October

***1/2

This Indonesian / Australian production features the ancient art of wayang kulit, or shadow play. For the current era some technology is employed, the hundreds of individually cut images from paper, cardboard and coloured transparencies utilise projectors to transfer the cut-outs to large screens, the focal point of the performance.

There are two screens each manned by a projectionist, assisted by Jumaadi, the artist behind this enthralling performance. The skill of the shadow makers, Maki Ogawa and Julia Westwood cannot be overstated. There is no doubt that it is a major exercise to manage the hundreds of images, sometimes two or three at a time, in sync with both the music and more importantly, each other. Just as important is the live band, featuring traditional instruments and some decidedly not so, electric guitar and modern drum kit, but the music is completely in sympathy with the story telling, probably due to the input of musical director Michael Toisuta.

Perahu-perahu is Indonesian for boats and they form the central theme of the many stories displayed on the screens. From the opening sequence, which clearly referenced the people smugglers of recent times to the Banda massacre of 1621, the range of topics and events covered was broad to say the least. It is also fair to say that several stories were difficult to follow with no context for the audience they remained a bit of a mystery.

However, the show demonstrated the ancient art of wayang kulit and with some modern touches managed to make it relevant to the current age, telling stories old and new with a smattering of new fables.

Michael Prescott

 

REVIEW
Perahu Perahu          Space Theatre 27-30 October
C.A.A.P.

The shadow play of Indonesia, or Wayang kulit tells stories through images made from cut-outs, moved against a strong light, which then reflect on a screen. The shadow puppets  are fascinating in the way they suggest so much through simple lines and images.

In Perahu-Perahu this technique is used to explore the relationship between the sea and people, and, giving it a more multicultural connection, the sea between Indonesia and Australia. Thus ancient stories are interspersed with references to the boat people, leaving Indonesia to seek asylum in Australia, and the controversy, some years ago, of the problems with the live cattle industry. More immediate to Indonesian history, there is violence, destruction of the environment, modernisation and a pineapple wedding.

The narrative is the work of Jumaadi, visual artist and co-director. The shadow puppets, manipulated with great skill, make an impact, enhanced rather than diminished by their seeming simplicity. There is a steadily moving procession of birds and boats, cattle being loaded on ships, one-legged sailors, trees and flowers. These thread an intricate imagery linking the underlying themes.

The music played by a gamelan ensemble together with other instruments was fabulous, following the action in the stories, rather than being background. The composer  Michael Toisula (also co-director) is to be congratulated.

The production is described as being a ‘captivating fusion of old and new’…’inspired by the history of travel across the waters separating Indonesia and Australia’ This could have been clearer with more explanation in English of the stories as they unfolded. Without some knowledge of Indonesian history such references as ‘Batavia’ are meaningless. 

Having said that, an audience must be ready to leave its comfort zone, to appreciate an art developed in another age and another culture, created so skilfully as it was in Perahu-Perahu.
Emily Sutherland

 

 

Somewhere, Everywhere, Nowhere

***1/2

Ozasia, Space Theatre

22 October

This modern dance is the creation of the two performers, Adelaide based Alison Currie and Japanese, but Berlin based, Yui Kawaguchi and is intended to reflect the connect and disconnect, similarities and differences that the modern world creates.

With just two mobile steep ramps and a mass of light tubes that appeared like a mess of wires for props the two dancers / choreographers moved separately but together, manipulating the props to meet the needs of the work. In doing so they convey the notion that in this digital world, whilst we are able communicate over vast distances, we are not really together.

In many ways this is a true reflection of the artists themselves as the pandemic meant that the work was all the more difficult to create due to the distance and time tyranny imposed upon them.

The dance opened with Yui largely immobile on the ramp, slowly becoming freer and showing much skill and physical strength in being able to move with ease on a very steep slope, something both dancers displayed during the performance. Alison appeared inside the other ramp and moved with grace within the confines of this small space before emerging.

The minimalist industrial soundtrack gave context to the movement onstage, making the message that much clearer. This included a multitude of sound effects, for example traffic noise and ultimately chatter, which seemed to be concerned with mental health as they both become enmeshed in the tangle of optic cables.

Given the circumstances in which this work was created and developed the end result is a testament to both of them and a thoroughly enjoyable dance.

Michael Prescott

Belle Chen

Destinations  ****

Ozasia, Her Majesty’s Theatre

21 October

Just how to describe or categorise Chen’s music is difficult. Is it classical, ambient, or electronic? Really labelling and genre defining this music is really a pointless exercise, her’s is a style all of its own and should be heard and seen in with an open mind.

Taiwanese-Australian, trained in London, Chen has forged a unique musical language that embraces classical piano, electronics, synthesizers, prepared piano, exotic instruments, for example, the kalimba and utilises all of these components to produce something original and rather special.

In the opening work, part of the keys are prepared to sound like gongs and other sounds, creating the strange sensation of seeing Chen play a piano key, but the sound produced was anything but. From there she utilised the complete piano, delving into the body of the instrument with percussive mallets and creating zither like sounds across the strings.

Elsewhere in the programme she played a synthesizer to great effect, from rumbling bass lines to a sound the evoked a Theremin. She also employed loops, where she played a motif on the kalimba and a toy piano from the prepared piano, put them both on a loop before adding the melody.

Despite all this musical dexterity, the prepared piano and forays into the body of the piano had nothing to do with the avant-garde, as they so often are, nor did the use of electronica and loops make it ambient. There are flourishes of dramatic powerful runs, very classical in nature, elsewhere distinct Asian influences were evident.

But this is not just a musical performance, the visual aspect is also crucial to the whole performance. Mario Radev is the man behind the very evocative images displayed on three screens, on either side of the stage and one above Chen. The images added context to the music, from deserts to underwater reefs with a rather disturbing sun like object hovering above the pianist.

Chen has managed to develop a musical language all her own and on the basis of this performance it is one that may lead to an important and fertile genre all its own.

Michael Prescott

 

REVIEW

THE LARAMIE PROJECT
Red Phoenix Theatre and Holden Street Theatre
Holden Street Theatres October 21-30
Director: Brant Eustice

Even within small communities a violent event can have consequences that reach out to a wider world. Such an event in Laramie, Wyoming, inspired The Laramie Project, the result of two years work by the Tectonic Theatre. The result is an unusual play, a script based on interviews of the people in the town, the family of the young man who’d been tortured and killed for the crime of being gay, and the fate of the young men who had perpetrated this crime, reports and sentencing remarks. 

The large cast of skilled actors  playing multiple characters, morph seamlessly into each identity so that it is clear whose point of view they are providing.

You could think of this play as a patchwork quilt, created piece by piece, so that the audience is taken on the journey of, at first, first shock and horror at what had happened, tempered by the knowledge that for some in the town the crime of being gay is more heinous than violence. During the three acts there was a time for reflection, of re-assessment in the light of what had happened, as well as or entrenchment in rigidity and prejudice. 

You could also think of it as a perceptive examination of a community, and wonder if our world is so different today. Hate crimes are still perpetrated; people still interpret religious belief as justification to reject others; we still hide behind indifference, calling it tolerance. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

This production certainly follows in the strong tradition of Red Phoenix Theatre presenting plays which challenge. The Laramie Project, using social commentary as a foundation for a thought provoking exploration of a small community, achieves excellent theatre.

Emily Sutherland
22 October 2021

 

REVIEW

White Pearl

Ozasia

Dunstan Playhouse 20 October

****

A group of young female entrepreneurs in the cosmetic industry flogging a product designed to whiten the faces of Asian females approve an ad for “White Pearl” that is just a tad racist, actually quite a lot racist. Without their knowledge an ex-boyfriend gets hold of the unreleased ad and posts it on social media.

What could possibly go wrong?

All hell breaks loose. The question is how is the group going to deal with the impending disaster? The answer is quite simple, badly! With the group comprised of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and Singaporean heritage plus one very Americanised Asian, things are bound to get heated as they watch the number of views go into scary figures and the orders plummet.

Tensions predictably boil over and rather than deal with than actual crisis they descend into blackmail, racist abuse towards each other and all the while plotting to save their own jobs.

Writer Anchuli Felicia King has developed a clever plot within which she deals with a number of issues in a humorous way, although the dialogue is not for the fainthearted. Issues such as ethics, animal testing, personal and corporate loyalty, brand integrity, social media and most obviously, racism.

First class script tackling some very difficult and complex issues all brought together by a fine cast who brought this sordid mess to life, making it appear all too real.

Michael Prescott

WHITE PEARL Dunstan Theatre   20 October- 23 October
Oz Asia Festival
Writer Anchui Felicia King

A PEARL OF A PLAY

The writer of White Pearl once described it as both a black comedy and a corporate play. It is both of these things but I would add, more than a slice of satire, and as the story unravels, themes and threads which stay with the audience long after the lights have faded.

Like so many dramatic presentations it does not start at the beginning but at the point where the thriving cosmetic skin whitening business has crashed ignominiously, due to an advertisement  which was thought to be funny until it clearly was not.

With this disaster comes the desperate unraveling of the ‘we are all one family here’ atmosphere which had prevailed while the business was developing into a successful enterprise. 

All the cast, apart from the sleazy ex-boyfriend who is French, are from Asia with English as a second language. Obviously they are fluent but with the odd confusion which lends to the humour. The concept of Asian  as a single  entity is clearly inadequate when you have a group whose members come from China, Japan, Philippines, South Korea and India, and the differences between them become more and more apparent as their sales plummet, and blame is to be attached, but to whom?  The ‘all one family’ becomes a fight for individual pride and survival. In moments of extreme stress one or another will retire to the ‘loo’ which becomes a kind of confessional. This allows a different side to the characters to be revealed.

 The cast (Kristy Best, Cheryl Ho, Mayu Wasaki, Nicole Milikov, Lin Yun and Mathew Pearce) are uniformly excellent in this slick, modern, fast moving modern morality play, aided by the lightning and music. They play to their ethnic characters, to just the right side of stereotype.

Underlying the action is a sense of unease; why is white skin better? can you ever be too white? does the Australian colonial past blind us to the fact that we are not only geographically in Asia, but have strong ties with the region through contact, migration, trade and travel?  Is all fair in business, if it leads to profit? These thoughts  follow the laughs, of which there are plenty.
It’s a play that stays with you long after the lights come up and the audience heads for home, or the nearest watering hole. That, to my mind, is a play worth seeing.

Emily Sutherland
21/10/21

 

by the bridge of San Luis Rey
Brink Production t9-24 July       Space Theatre
Director Chris Drummond
Playwright Phillip Kavanagh
Music Directors Slava & Leonard Grigoryan

BRAVI TUTTI

Thornton Wilder’s novel in which a bridge collapses, sending five people to their deaths, has made an impact far greater than the slim volume might seem to warrant. From the beginning of the story the question is asked: ‘why them, why not me?’ leading to the greater question, ‘what is our life really worth?’  The playwright Phillip Kavanagh has taken this novel and provided the performers with a script as subtle and savage, as humorous and tragic as anyone could wish. 

As the curtain opens we see a formidable woman, bathed in a blue light, poised as though a Madonna in a convent garden grotto, two figures on either side, subsidiary saints.  However La Perichole, portrayed with flawless virtuosity by Paul Capsis is not the virgin mother. Nor are the twins, Manuel and Esteban, saints, but acolytes to  the singer and actress La Perichole as she begins to weave her story and create the characters, in harmony with their music.

As with all successful tragedies there is humour, enough to initially lull the audience into complacency, until the final realisation that the five characters, Marquesa de Montemayor, her maid Pepita,  Uncle Pio, La Perichole’s son Don Jaime, and her lover Esteban, had fallen from the broken bridge and now rest, in five coffins, in the cathedral. awaiting burial

That so much could be conveyed in such a simple stage setting with three performers can be attributed to the excellence of every aspect of this production. Paul Capsis as La Perichole is magnificent, Slava Grigoryan and Manus Noble, as the twins who play their guitars in accompanying songs, or underscoring the drama of the text, are not just musicians, but an integral part of the play. 

Chosen, arranged or composed by Slava and Leonard Grigoryan the music reflects the flavour of South America The stage setting, sparse and effective, and the lighting are exactly right. St Rose of Lima’s rose petals descending from heaven, surreal, and a foil to the Marquesa who is sometimes hungover and ‘not herself, you must understand’ in the mornings. Her desperate letters to an unloving daughter in Spain coming to be regarded as literary gems; Pepita longing for the love and acceptance by the Abbess who had raised her as an orphan, yet too proud to respond to the Abbess’ greeting. Uncle Pio spurned, then accepted as an educator to Don Jaime; all redolent of the complexities of lives and relationships.

And the answer to those questions?  It is all in the final lines. of the script, Go and hear them for yourself.
* image by Chris Herzfelt

Emily Sutherland

Max Savage, Ross McHenry & Josh Baldwin

Ern-Australia’s Greatest Hoax

****

Space

25 June

The story of the Ern Malley hoax played on Max Harris here in Adelaide by disgruntled Army poets is one I grew up with, not that I was around at the time! Thus the fact that a much younger bunch of musicians plus master drummer and artist Josh Baldwin were presenting a new take on the saga made this a must see.

The programme notes state that Max Savage, composer of all the music, was “inspired” by the story, leading to the question as to whether it really had anything to do with Ern Malley at all. This is a question that, now having seen the show, remains unanswered! Perhaps this is a hoax within a hoax, we may never know.

But that aside, it was a great show. The fact that Josh Baldwin got out from behind the drums to show off his other right of stage confronted by a very large canvass that over the course of the show he filled with rather fine painting. This sparse landscape evoked the paintings of Sidney Nolan’s take on the affair, rather than Arthur Boyd’s. In the setting of the Ern Malley affair, this juxtaposition of art and loud music made real sense. More than that it added depth and is, of course, a first.

Co presenter, bassist Ross McHenry, cobbled together a rather fine bunch of local jazz musicians including the ever brilliant Adam Page on soprano sax, guitarist Django Rowe, violinist Julian Ferraretto, Brenton Foster on pianos and Steve Neville on drums. With Max at the helm, limbs flailing in every direction, prancing menacingly about the stage and sometimes in the face of some poor musician, it was a powerful tour de force. The only downside was the sound mix which meant that most of Max’s vocals were largely  indecipherable. Maybe if the audience could have heard all the lyrics the dilemma referred to above could have been resolved.

That said this Frank Ford commission was well worth the investment.

 

The Art Of Protest with Vince Jones

Dunstan Playhouse

20 June

***

This show, written and partially narrated by RocKwiz’s Brian Nankervis (and looking very much like Don Dunstan), features vocalist, flugelhornist Vince Jones covering a range of protest songs.

The opener was certainly appropriate, the classic “Strange Fruit” made famous by Billie Holiday in the 1940’s and suited Jones jazz background to a tee. But from that point the show was a mixed success. The basic problem flows from the fact that Jones is a jazz singer of a particular style and in his field he can be brilliant, but this was not his field. Songs like John Lennon’s idealist “Imagine” have nothing to jazz and thus Jones rendering didn’t really gel. The same applies to other songs including John Schumann’s “I Was Only 19”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, Pink’s “Dear Mr President” and in particular Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing”. This was amplified by the tempo of all the songs, it varied little, although it suited Jones delivery. His rendition of Horace Silver’s rather obscure 1971 album track “Old Mother Nature Calls” fares better, although I suspect on one in attendance had heard this before. Also successful and full of meaning was Kev Carmody’s “Thou Shall Not Steal” and Archie Roach’s “Took The Children Away”

Nankervis’s narration was as one would expect, very professional and all showbiz. Thus confusion when Jones introduced several songs in his own quiet way, nothing wrong with that in itself, but it meant the show felt disjointed. This was amplified when in the middle portion of the show Jones introduced a few of his own tunes, which few would know and the impact of the songs was therefore lacking. There are many other songs that could have been included and would have enhanced the show’s power.

Behind all this was the backing band, a very classy bunch of jazzers, led by musical director Matt McMahon on piano and very ably supported by the Hauptmann brothers, Ben and James on guitar and drums and John Mackie on sax. Sadly they were not given much room to stretch out and the programme would have benefitted from hearing far more from them. In particular, Mackie’s solos, although brief, were a highlight.

The show concluded with Pete Seeger’s 1949 song “If I Had A Hammer”. Fine, if Jones had stuck to Seeger’s original lyrics. He didn’t. Seeger wrote about warning of danger, love and that’s about it, no mention, for example of nuclear disarmament, among the many topics that Jones added and which did not exist in 1949.

There’s a good show in here, it just needs some fine tuning. Perhaps two vocalists, the second being better suited to different tempos and non-jazz based songs.

Michael Prescott

 

REVIEW

We’ll Always Have PARIS Arts Theatre 17-26 June
Adelaide Repertory Theatre
Director   Norm Caddick

C’est Magnifique

Place three English women of ‘a certain age’ in Paris, and, with the help of a French actor/plumber, pit them against a formidable French landlady. Anything could happen.

The three women, Anna (Linda LeCornu), Nancy (Deb Walsh) and Raquel (Sue Wylie) are in the city of romance and culture, looking to change their humdrum English lives and to reinvent themselves. Charlot (Peter Davies) who seems to be constantly in demand to fix something in the bathroom, aids and abets them, at the same time dealing with his own disappointments in life. Madame Boussiron (Vicky Horwood) seems to have no agenda apart from expressing her total disdain for these foreigners who are ruining her city, while aiding the economy. 

It is a recipe that could have descended into cliches and stereotypes, but given a script by Jill Hymen, that sparkles and tears at the heartstrings in turn, and a team of  accomplished actors, the play zings along, drawing laughs from the audience. The scene where the three English women play French monopoly is hilarious. With the understanding of the women’s earlier lives the audience is drawn, to empathy and awareness that each is slaying a dragon or two, as they look to Paris for redemption. Paris, as exemplified in the music, does not let them down, and the ending is satisfactory, even if a little too neat. But c’est la vie. The director, Norm Caddick and all the production crew are to be congratulated. The set worked well, costumes were great, and Charlot was given the opportunity through music by Lindsay Dunn to show there was more to him than plumbing.

I tend to judge the success of a play by the sound of the audience as they leave. Last night the sounds were of laughter, a happy buzz and general good will. It was an evening that took us away from the worries of everyday life, Covid, vaccination blues and life’s vicissitudes. Highly recommended!

Emily Sutherland

Robyn Archer

Mother Archer’s Cabaret for Dark Times Adelaide Cabaret Festival

14 June 2021 Playhouse

Robyn Archer declared during this great show, “next Friday I will be 73!” However, it was very apparent that the years have in no way dimmed her capacity to produce a brilliant performance of a very cleverly themed programme. None of her abilities have been lessened and she possesses a voice that suits her very varied choice of material.

Archer was backed by the piano of Gareth Chin, who was meant to be the accordionist if her regular couldn’t escape Victoria in time, until musical director pianist, Michael Morley came down with the flu. Luckily regular accordionist George Butrumlis, did manage to escape Melbourne to get here, and was thus able to fulfil his regular role on the accordion.

Dark times indeed. Over the course of the programme, she managed to tackle a number of themes including; whiskey, love, lost love, murder, the depression, pandemic, financial crash, politics and even the need to eat, all held together with by an equally eclectic bunch of songs, poetry from Bertolt Brecht and, of course, some humour.

There were many musical highlights, WC Fields’ “The Fatal Glass Of Whisky”, her own satirical county song and brilliantly titled “An Insect On The Windscreen Of My Heart”, the very dark “Monsieur William”, a couple of depression songs, “Buddy Can Spare Me A Dime” and “One Meat Ball” with the penultimate song being Noel Coward’s jaunty little ditty, “There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner”

Less successful, but marginally, were the classical songs from the likes of Handel and Gibbons in the slower middle portion of the programme, falling a little flat. Despite this, the show was brilliantly put together, and made it clear that Archer has lost none of the skills and class that make her such a highly regarded performer and one of the best.

 

CONCERT – ROMANTIC TREASURES

Kegelstatt Ensemble: Rachel Beesley, Ben Dollman, Anna Webb & Kim Worley

6th June 2021

The Burnside Ballroom is a good venue for Chamber Music, a clear acoustic, enough space to ensure unhindered visibility and not too big for spoken introductions. The Ensemble chose to sit at floor level to increase the intimacy and their informative remarks made the audience feel part of the performance.

The playing was thoughtful, too, the shape of the phrasing, the interplay of voices and their consciousness of each part made for very compelling listening. One has the feeling that the Kegelstatt Ensemble, in whatever formation, is a group of friends. The ideal set up for a genre that started out as just this. On this occasion all instruments were fitted with gut strings to more faithfully reproduce the sound of the era; and it was a very mellow sound.

It was a demanding program! The lengthy, very romantic String Quartet no 1 in G minor by Emilie Mayer opened the concert and we were immediately plunged into the German Romantic era of the 19th century. This composer was well known in her day and had Symphonies and Chamber Music pieces performed during her lifetime, then she was forgotten and has only recently been rediscovered. She must have been familiar with contemporary composers and there were shades of Schumann in the 1st movement and Mendelssohn in the last. The cello had a prominent part and revelled in the mellow sound of the gut strings! The two violins had beautiful duets, especially in the last movement and blended perfectly. The viola was rather hidden but a necessary part of the harmonies. The music was intense and driven with only a few sections of relaxation, it was quite overwhelming. Maybe for the composer, too; it was written as a dedication to her father who had committed suicide – an outpouring of feelings.

In the more light-hearted Dvorak Trio, the viola played a pivotal part. The singing, sustained bassline in the first and third movements, organ-like chordal passages with the 2nd violin in the 4th and partaking in the very Dvorak-like melody and harmony of the 2nd. The two violins played the melodies together, their nuances and tone blending beautifully. Dvorak wrote this piece for his housemates – true “Kammermusik”. He called it “Drobnosti” Miniatures for two violins & viola; Dvorak played the viola part and I am sure his friends were delighted to play it with him!

After the interval, we were treated to Schubert’s famous “Rosamunde” Quartet. The writing is very transparent, a real contrast to the thick harmonies of the Mayer Quartet. One could hear Schubert’s song writing techniques with the 2nd violin embroidering the melodies like the right hand of the piano accompaniments! And the singing themes and insistent bass figures. One sensed the detailed rehearsal work of the quartet, the weaving of the voices, continuing one another’s themes, subtle changes of tempo and mood and always bringing forth the important voice. The key of A minor sets the melancholic mood of the first movement which is brightened a little by the 2nd violin’s introduction of the 2nd subject. The reflective theme of the 2nd movement is from Schubert’s incidental music to Rosamunde written five years earlier; the two reflective pauses imbue the sadness with some hope. The graceful Minuet & Trio lift the mood and the energetic final movement is reminiscent of Hungarian folk music. All these aspects were captured well by this quartet and the audience was left with the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

Gabrielle Scherrer

BLUE STOCKINGS      Red Phoenix Theatre

Holden Street Theatres 20-29 May
Written by Jessica Swale
Directed by Libby Drake

     Education or Domestic Bliss? You cant have both!

The message comes through loudly and clearly. ‘Men don’t want to marry educated women, they want quiet wives who will be obedient and good mothers.’

In 1897 entry to a university was almost impossible for women; nor could a woman hope to actually graduate even if her results exceeded that of her fellow male students. So, no professional recognition and no husband. Yet some persisted in following their dream. Blue Stockings is their story.

Shocking as this seems to us today, the scenes, set out as vignettes, portraying the challenges and obstacles placed before any woman who had the temerity to aspire to higher intellectual activities and achievements, brought to light the misogyny, ignorance, class snobbery, felt by many people. Nor was it just men who feared that an educated woman would bring the country to ruin. Some women saw it as a betrayal of their sex.

Red Phoenix Theatre has called on a large cast to recreate this period in our history.  It begins with Dr Henry Maudsley (Brant Eustice) explaining that a woman’s vital organs could not accommodate both learning and reproduction, the latter being her main function in life. ‘It must be allowed that women do not and cannot stand on the same level as men’. The four young women, and the few academics who champion their cause, do not spend time worrying about their vital organs, but set to their study with enthusiasm, and courage.

There are moments of drama and humour, altruism and vitriolic hate speech. And it is fascinating that this play is being performed at a time when the treatment of women in the work place and professions has been found wanting. There have been changes since that time, but obviously not enough. Within the story there is romance, heartbreak, the need to balance family duty against the desire for an education, all played out by four wonderful young woman. I am reluctant to single out performances from this large cast, as it was uniformly excellent.

The cast manage the scene changes, and each scene is given a title written on a blackboard (remember those?) with chalk, in old-fashioned cursive writing. This allows the audience to follow the stages during the first year at Girton College, and together with the costumes, recreates this earlier time. I did wonder if the male Cambridge students had spoken with a refined English accent, would this have had a stronger effect? But judging from comments from the first night audience, Blue Stockings lived up to the high standard that we have come to expect from Red Phoenix Theatre. Well worth seeing.

Emily Sutherland

 

 

ADELAIDE WIND ORCHESTRA

Leunig’s Prayer Book

St. Peter’s Girls School Arts Centre

Friday April 16

A new year in a new location and a programme of new music. Thus the Adelaide Wind Orchestra ( AWO ) came out of hiding after the obligatory banishment of the last twelve months, with a decided bang. Jodie Blackshaw’s Symphony No 1 was inspired by four prayers written by Australian poet Michel Leunig celebrating the four seasons, beginning with Summer (bushfires, scorching heat). The explosive opening movement certainly conveyed the atmosphere, however without recourse to the text of the prayers it was not always easy throughout the work to identify the composer’s actual intent. Of course, the auditorium being plunged into darkness as the concert began was unfortunate, as reference to the programme during a concert is useful to keep track of proceedings, especially when new music is involved.   

     The four movements each displayed a unique character, faithfully interpreted by AWO and conductor David John Lang ranging from the opening fire and brimstone to more reflective and introspective resonance before the final celebration dance displaying echos of Malcolm Arnold. However without the words, I feel that the full impact of the work was some what diminished. 

  As is to be expected with a work of this nature considerable demands were made on  many members of the band as solos sprang up all over the place and all were handled with surety and accuracy. Trombone, Soprano Sax. and Flute were of particular note!  It’s been said before  but the overall quality of playing within AWO is consistently outstanding.

    The sorbet of the concert came from Anne Cawrse who provided an arrangement of a section of her Requiem at the request of D J L especially for this concert now entitled Love is Born. A gentle work with reduced forces, the playing was more exposed, but lacked nothing in confidence. Sustained chords between horns and trombones were beautifully blended producing a warmth of sound not easily achieved.

      The major work, in every sense of the word(s), came after interval with the World Premiere of Martin Cheney’s Symphony for Wind Orchestra –TANGENT. An abstract of five movements providing a clearly defined interpretation of the word as we were taken hither and yon from one idea to another. Martin clearly has a well established sense of humour eloquently displayed in the third movement where the same melodic fragment was tossed about and caught with reckless abandon by this very talented band. Similarly, the staccato “shot chords” that came  in the fourth movement were so very tight and together that  they sounded as one player. While there were hints of Walton’s Facade and Graeme Koehne’s influence, that was no bad thing, as one would need to be deaf and emotionally insensitive not to be aware of one’s predecessors but to take and mould and personalise is the achievement and M C  has done this.TANGENT deserves a wider audience.

It was a pleasure to once again hear the quality of playing for which AWO is renowned. Their sense of ensemble and intonation of the highest order at all times and with the very clear and incisive conducting from DJ L, there is more to come this year  both at Elder Hall and in this their new and very agreeable  home ( apart from the air-con !) at St. Peter’s Girls School.
Dennis Johnston

A JAZZ CONCERT
with Julian Ferraretto, Elizabeth McCall, Shireen Khemlani and Tom Kneebone

Elder Hall April 18 6.00pm

Who would have thought that a respectable violin could behave like that?

Jazz violinist, supported by guitarist Ton Kneebone, double bass player Shireen Khemlani and vocalist Elizabeth McCall, had the audience all hyped up and loud in its applause by the end of the first number, Raggin’ the Scale, which Julian introduced as a number to help the musicians steady their nerves. The excitement and applause just got louder as the evening progressed, and if there had been nerves (not that we believed that for a moment) there was no sign of them at any stage.  

The first set concluded with Elizabeth McCall singing some favourites, including Can’t help loving that Man, which was sung with great feeling, possibly because her man was playing the violin right next to her.

The second set got off to a fine start with Skip it and Centro Habana by the three instrumentalists, and concluded with three numbers by Elizabeth McCall beginning with the Bossa Nova Dindi and then flowed into a duet with Julian,  Let’s call the whole thing off’ (what happened to loving that man?) and an encore Moon River.

One of the best parts of the concert was Julian’s introduction to each number as he explained something of the history of Jazz violin playing, even before Grapelli. It was a revelation to see just what Julian could do with his violin. At times it almost talked! Then there was the party trick, playing all the strings of the violin at once.

All four musicians performed to a very high standard, while at the same time they  seemed to be having as much fun as the audience –  surely is the mark of a great jazz concert. If you weren’t there you missed a great evening.

This concert was  in support of 5mbs and proved to be a fitting affirmation that 5mbs stands for Fine Music be it classical or Jazz.

Emily Sutherland