• 11 Jul 2013 /  News, Reviews, THEATRE

    Solange (Isabelle Huppert) on screen & sister Claire (Cate Blanchett) with back to audience.


    Hello friends. I was asked if I would write a review of The Maids for the Australian Book Review. I may have the chance contribute an occasional few over the year to this a nicely respectable and somewhat upmarket site. It was not easy to come to an apt response to this latest imaginative and edgy production by Benedict Andrews, given the limited word count (800 words) – a discipline from which I had been liberated (for better or worse) since I launched this mostly theatre review blog. Here I am, for ABR, responding to a readership possibly quite different to my blog-reader regulars. No mucking around, I played my evaluative role very straight – ie: no wandering off topic. NO slacker style. I over-ran my word limit so there were a few cuts made - judicious I thought. A couple of bloopers (my fault for not properly checking the proof) have made their way through to the print version, but corrected here for this online version:  so please go to this link to read my

    The Maids review for ABR.

    I put quite a bit of thinking into it and finding the right words. Please note -just as Claire and Solange alternate identities as well roles. so do I . I have fixed the add-on pars here (and photos) .There are a couple of occasions in the ABR when I confuse Blanchett’s Claire with Huppert’s Solange. Just mentioned are the roles each plays. While we are at it, I want to post a link to Lloyd Bradford Syke’s review  at Crikey online. Not only does he get the casting right and agrees with me on several points. But he adds something missing from my review which has been weighing on my conscience since I posted it. For all our reservations about the production (and Syke is tougher than me on director Benedict Andrews), he gives over some paragraphs to the acting  - the excellent, verging on brilliant performances by all three actors: Cate Blanchett, Isobel Huppert and Elizabeth Debicki. To come in so hard on some aspects of the production and not acknowledge its areas of achievement is both insulting to such high-calibre actors and poor criticism (if that’s how writing about this work online can fairly be described). So I encourage you to go to Syke’s review – not just for the ‘negative’ points we agree on, but also take a look at his paragraphs on acting – which with, in hindsight I whole-heartedly concur. When a friend in the profession kindly pointed out my mixing  up of names, he reminded that my blog has one eye on the historical record. That’s true, so a good reason to get the casting right. But also fill in the yawning gap: regarding references to the performances. In whatever circumstances wee were lucky to have three such fine actors all on stage in Sydney together.

    Huppert & Blanchett – conspiring sisters deep in role play

    One paragraph I cut from the ABR review before I presented it to them, for want of space had to do with  the casting. Say if you are stuck with the inevitability of Cate Blanchett, Isabelle  Huppert and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki. We have a situation here on stage that many have commented on: the ‘maids’ did not look anything like sisters (Blanchett and Huppert), and further credibility is diminished in the fact that we have one sister (Blanchett) speaking Australian. And the other (Huppert) not only in English with a heavy french accent, but also so fast, many of her lines were lost – on the opening night audience at least. We also have a beautiful blonde (Blanchett) and Huppert with dark hair and rather plain looking (I don’t quite know how that is achieved given Huppert is one of France’s more visually spell-binding screen actresses?)

    That we have a problem  - and a suitable solution – arrives when young Elizabeth Debicki flaunts in midway through the action. For a newcomer, up against two superstars it’s dazzling to watch her maintain total power. Blonde and beautiful and with  an Aussie accent I think ‘Debicki could easily be Blanchett’s sister’. If six inches taller.

    Debbicki (as Madame) makes her entrance.

    Debicki (as Madame) makes her ‘classy’ entrance

    So here was my thought. Why wouldn’t you cast Debicki and Blanchett as the sisters. And Huppert as Madame. She’s on stage for less time, but you could hardly say the role of Madame is less significant. More importantly, her different’ look’ would make more sense. More so her French accent, which could be genuine or ‘fake’ (put-on to delineate superiority), would transform itself into a very big positive.

    Debicki (Madame) & Blanchett (Claire) could easily be sisters.

    That’s all for now. I hope you do go read my review for ABR link above. And can I say in passing. Just as this posting is way over due, so is my review of Angels In America – which in a single word is ‘fabulous’. Want more? ‘Perfectly cast’ and ‘very well directed’ by Eamon Flack.

    “Drowning’ in work!

    Why the delays? My National Library work at the moment – the typing part – is taking up pretty much all my time. As my source of income (and fascinating work it is) I am way overdue with a pile of stuff. Some good news (I hope), quite soon my website is going to be redesigned with more options for me as post host and for you as reader. More stuff, a wider range of subject areas,  more often, in various categories and formats. So don’t give up on me just now. Keep an eye out – this site will probably flip over to its new look in about a month. That’s the plan – will report in on progress here and on FBook.




  • 18 Apr 2013 /  News

    Hi kids,

    this is a note to say I will be off this site for a little while as I have to catch up with some National Library work (and earn some money).

    But there is good news. I am pretty sure I haven’t said anything about this before. A different unit (I work in Oral History) at the National Library called Pandora holds a collection of cyber works (writings on the internet). They have requested if they can include my website in their cyber collection. They sweep the internet annually to pick up new work and the first time for me will be June 2013.

    The National Library of Australia

    That’s all very nice and good. But it also offers me another opportunity. It will be complicated initially and arduous – and I will need to find the right tech savvy people to help me do this. But what Pandora offers is a chance to transform the best of my clippings into a form that can be posted on my website in a new folder called something like Archives.  In time, what survives barely now as a pile of oddly shaped bits of rotting paper can be turned into a body of work online. This is a big deal for me. Not only is my current work kept foRever in a safe and respected institution, I can now also  do something with my earlier scribbles.

    Despite the hard work this involves (and not sure how it will be done), this transforms posting on my website from a chore to a great opportunity: a whole lot of my work from over the years into one place. While Pandora will only collect annually, once I get the technology sorted and find the right geek/s to help me, I will be able to post some of my early work in those quiet weeks where I have nothing new to post. A blog is a hungry animal – people expect more and fast and short. I haven’t succumbed to that formula. I don’t gives marks out of ten and I rarely help sell tickets, I don’t rush and I use as mant=y words as I feel like. What I am trying to do with this site as well asthee odd interesting read, is give inspiration to the emerging generation – connecting them where I can with the past, and second leave a record that will be of use to readers in decades down the track. Once this new project is up and running, you will get more posts to read more often. Furthermore I can comment on  these old pieces  - what I  think of them now. Any context I might be able to add. Did I get something wrong, place the post in some contcxt.

    That’s it for now. A review will get posted if something important comes up. But meanwhile for a few weeks I better get on with typing up my Oral History Unit Timed Summaries. The hard part of the job.











  • 12 Mar 2013 /  News, Other Art Forms



    6:00PM-9:00PM. Licensed Bar

    To be opened by

    Jon Lewis, Artist & Professor Ross Steele AM, Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.

    Master of Ceremonies: Edwina Blush


    I have been promising Roger Foley (Ellis D Fogg) and my readers to expand in my one-page notice of this event for more than a couple of weeks. I have a bunch of support material which says a lot. So I think I will put all that up first and then see what else is needed. As I mentioned last time (perhaps on Facebook) the late 1960s and the 1970s were an extraordinary era for Sydney. And hugely influential to me. So much grass roots creativity, so many old rules broken and very wild ideas about art and living flying in every direction. Roger Foley loved lights and he’s made an international career out of playing with them. He was there at the beginning which lets say is the closing era of the Push (grog) and the birth of the hippy aesthetic (marijuana and LSD), perhaps most significantly marked in time with the opening of The Yellow House in Macleay St Potts Point – a living museum merging communal art and life creation. Original participants including Fogg, Martin Sharp, Richard Neville and filmmaker Albie Thoms. Thoms died last year – a very important figure in the creative story of Sydney. A book - My Generation - by Thoms  has been posthumously released and I think this festival of memories is in part in honour to Thoms’ contribution and legacy.


    My Life and Loves

     Roger Foley-Fogg aka Ellis D Fogg

    psychedelic exhibition – free admission


     art, posters, odd objects, books, costumes, films and a bizarre-bazaar

    everything is for sale

     Friday March 15th to Easter Monday April 1st

    12PM Noon to 5:00PM Thurs Fri Sat Sun and Monday, April Fools Day

    107 Redfern Street, Redfern, 107 Projects Lounge Room Gallery,

    good cheap food nearby – bring a takeaway and have it in our Lounge Room. 

    An early work by Ellis D Fogg


    The exhibition will be accompanied by live events and films from the 60s – bookings below 

    hear what it was like and talk to people who were there.

    Fri 15 – 6:30PM – The Ides of March, meet JIM ANDERSON of the London Oz Obscenity Trial with the sly wit and smooth sexy songs of EDWINA BLUSH

    Sat 16 – 6:30PM, WORLD PREMIER OATS – Once Around The Sun, with Co-Director David Huggett. The long awaited film of the Ourimbah Pop Festival.

    Sun 17 – 6:30PM GRETEL/MADAM LASH Sylvia & The Synthetics DANNY ABOOD, ADULTS ONLY.

    Fri 22, – 6:30PM meet JOHNNY ALLENNimbin Aquarius Festival + special guestJEANNIE LEWIS

    Sat 23 – 6:30PM – meet JIM ANDERSON with EDWINA BLUSH

    Sun 24 – 6:30PM – UBU Films – tribute to Albie Thoms “MARINETTI” EXPANDED with David Perry.

    Easter Fri 29 – 6:30PM meet  JOHNNY ALLEN “Nimbin ,Cabaret Conspiracy, Paris  Theatre”

    Easter Sat 30 – 6:30PM – meet JIM ANDERSON  with EDWINA BLUSH

    Easter Sun 31 – To Be Arranged

    Easter Mon 1st April 6:30PM April fools Day, A tribute to BLACK and WHITEFREEDOM on the 50th anniversary of OZ Magazine, Australia. SLAVERY TO STAR TREK introduced by HERE (CORRECTION REQUIRED) Francesca Emerson-Foley, closing party with licensed Bar and supper.

     TICKETS for evening shows, $20 and Cons with cards $15  Season Ticket all shows and grand opening $110, email request to fogg@fogg.com.au  –  Ticket price includes “meet the artists informal party”, exhibition viewing and a light supper.BOOKINGShttp://www.trybooking.com and search for foggENQUIRIES: 0409 229 282 and e: fogg@fogg.com.au

    Here is some other info for you to peruse and perhaps get  a better idea of who and what we are talking about.

    Roger Foley (Ellis D Fogg0 

    Ellis D Fogg is the pseudonym of Roger Foley (born 24 January 1942) who the National Film and Sound Archive have described as Australia’s “most innovative lighting designer and lumino kinetic sculptor.” The term Lumino Kinetic Art was first used in 1966 by Frank Popper, Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Paris.[1]

    Early life
    Foley was born in Cairns, Queensland and attended Newington College (1957–1959).[2] In the late 1960s he started designing rock concerts and psychedelic light shows. His experimental light shows through to the 1970s were precursors to present multi-media installation.

    Yellow House
    He was one of a group of artists who worked and exhibited at the Yellow House Artist Collective in Potts Point. The Yellow House was founded by artist Martin Sharp and between 1970 and 1973 was a piece of living art and a mecca to pop art. The canvas was the house itself and almost every wall, floor and ceiling became part of the gallery. Many well-known artists, including George Gittoes, Brett Whiteley, Peter Kingston, Albie Thoms and Greg Weight, helped to create the multi-media performance art space that may have been Australia’s first 24 hour-a-day happening.[3] Current work While continuing as an artist Foley is a producer of light shows and architectural theming for festivals and events. He was part of the Yellow House Retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1992 and was a finalist in the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 2003 and 2007.



    The house at 59 Macleay St is a “Queen Anne” terrace, one of ten designed and built in the late 1890′s by architect Maurice Halligan. Its design was in many ways a wide departure from the ordinary style of terrace adopted across Sydney in that era, differentiated by distinctive gables and balconies set back behind roman arches. (Theatre lovers – note the reference below to Hair)

    Yellow House some years later. The building is still there with a cafe on the street.

    During the 1950s, No. 59 Macleay Street was a haven for many of Australia’s best-known artists. It was the scene for the emergence and acceptance of an important phase of contemporary art within Sydney. The property’s resident owner, writer Frank Clune, author of dozens of popular books on history and travel, started this artistic link. In 1959 the Terry Clune Galleries opened on the premises, exhibiting Sydney’s emerging abstract and modernist artists — John Olsen, Robert Hughes (now New York based art critic for ‘Time’ magazine), the late Robert Klippel, Stan Rapotec and others. During this period the Clune family house was also home to a number of artists, including Russell Drysdale who lived there for a short time.

    The building’s most colourful and famous period began in late 1969. Martin Sharp was frustrated by the traditional gallery scene, so he approached the owners to make use of the disused Clune Galleries space. Sharp had returned to Australia in early 1969 after spending several years in London. During his period in the UK he created posters and illustrations for the infamous Oz magazine (working with his friend Richard Neville) as well as designing the famous covers for Cream’s albums Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire. Sharp took up residency in the old Clune Galleries. Thelma Clune, the gallery director, had decided to sell the building, but was in no hurry to do so, so Martin was able to use the space to present his first exhibition after his return home. This was followed by ”The Incredible Shrinking Exhibition”, which comprised photographs of the first show re-exhibited in small gem-like mirror frames.

    These two exhibitions laid the foundations for The Yellow House. The project was inspired by an unrealised dream of Vincent Van Gogh, who had mentioned the idea in a letter to his brother Theo. Van Gogh envisaged setting up his house in Arles as a centre for artists to live, work and exhibit. During the late 1960s Conceptual Art had emerged as a major new movement, and novel combinations of music, theatre, film, slides, lightshows and live performances of music and/or dance — “total environment installations” or “happenings” — had. Public awareness of conceptual art in Australia was given a major boost by the French artist Christo, who came to Australia in late 1969 and created his famous “Wrapped Coast” at Little Bay.

    Vincent van Gogh – The Yellow House

    Sharp produced a catalogue and coordinated the setting up of artists’ spaces to be prepared for the Spring show of 1970. In many repsects, the creation of The Yellow House was the culmination of much of the activity on the Sydney “Underground” scene of the late ’60s. Sharp’s contact with the UBU film/lightshow collective led to several UBU members — Albie Thoms, Aggy Read, Phil Noyce — becoming closely involved in the Yellow House. The opening attracted considerable media attention. Sydney’s Sunday Mirror called it ..”the wildest, most way out happening of the week..”, and commented that “…the guests wore really wild gear, and many looked as though they had come from a performance of Hair … ” — which had opened a few weeks earlier at the nearby Metro Theatre in Kings Cross.

    The Yellow House was an innovative ‘multimedia’ space, perhaps the first permanent “happening” in Australia. It included artworks by Sharp, Brett Whiteley and others, a special sound system created by Aggy Read, films by Read and Philip Noyce, “Lumino Kinetic” lighting presentations by Ellis D. Fogg, tapdancing by Little Nell (aka Laura Campbell, who later played Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and photography by Greg Weight. Other well-known names associated with the Yellow House included painters Tim Lewis, George Gittoesand Bruce Goold (now one of the group of artists who contribute designs to the famous Mambo clothing company), and film-makers Albie ThomsPeter Weir and Jim Sharman.

    The rooms were transformed into a range of environments, many reflecting the influence of the Surrealists. One was an homage to Magritte, another a bonsai room created by Brett Whiteley. The Stone Room contained everyday objects made to look like stone. The exterior was painted yellow and the building became known as “The Yellow House” as a tribute to Van Gogh. The House took on roles which extended beyond a simple exhibition space and it increasingly became known for its music and performances by people such as Little Nell, Bruce Goold and George Gittoes; films were screened and classes in film-making and folk music were organised by Albie Thoms. As well as exhibiting there, Greg Weight photographed the interiors of the House extensively, documenting this exciting moment in Australia’s art history. Weight’s photographs record the wondrous environments of the Yellow House, such as The Stone Room, but are also artworks in themselves, tributes to what Sharp claimed to be “probably one of the greatest pieces of conceptual art ever achieved”.

    The Yellow House continued in operation for most of 1971, but during the latter part of the year financial problems and artistic tensions led to the departure of Sharp, Gittoes and Thoms. The House continued as a performance space for some time after, presenting acts like The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band and Lindsay Bourke, but without a clear artistic direction it became little different from other performance venues and it closed towards the end of the year.

    The Yellow House was a milestone in the history of contemporary art in Australia and its importance was recognised by a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1990, coinciding with the centenary of Van Gogh’s death in Auvers, France on the 29th July 1890. Today The property is a private boarding house.

    References / Links




    Real Wild Child CD-ROM (Mushroom Pictures – Pacific Advanced Media – Powerhouse Museum – ABC, 1998)



    TALES FROM THE FOGG - by Roger Foley-Fogg

    MARCH 14, 15, 16, 17,  22, 23, 24, Easter Weekend March 29, 30, 31 and  April 1

    at 107 Projects 107 Redfern Street, REDFERN. 

    Noon to 5:00PM each day

    AND different performances each night see :  http://www.talesfromthefogg.net

     A personal psychedelic exhibition and opportunity to purchase:

    Costumes and fetish wear clothes by Madam Lash. Clothes by Linda Jackson

    My collection of fantasy shoes include some with 8 inch heels, 

    Paintings and posters by Martin Sharp, Jim Anderson, Maggie Walsh and many others. 

    Rock and Roll and psychedelic posters from the 60s

    funky 60s theatre lights

    My photographs from The Spirit of the Gija series taken while working with indigenous desert Aborigines in the Kimberley.

    photo montages from The Spirit of India series by me

    Lumino Kinetic Artworks inspired by Indian culture by me.

    Same as above with more dertail nsd some groovy photos

    GRAND OPENING – with licensed bar

    Thursday March 14th

    the Psychedelic Exhibition 6:00PM to 9:00PM. 

    Opened by Jon Lewis and Prof. Ross Steele.

    With MC Edwina Blush.

    and then the following performances on the weekend which include a relaxed time after each show for supper and a drink with the artists.

    Friday March 15, 6:30PM live performance with JIM ANDERSON – An Artists Journey – illustrated,and EDWINA BLUSH see flyer below.

    Saturday March 16, OATS 6:30PM – the long lost film of the first pop festival in Australia at Ourimbah 1969 - WORLD PREMIERE – Once around the Sun and a celebration with Director David Huggett, licensed bar and light supper provided for ‘after party’.

    Sunday March 17, 6:30PM - live performance with MADAM LASH and DANNY ABOOD - a personal story with Sylvia and The Synthetics Danny Abood – a highly entertaining interaction. Followed by:

    8:30PM following Gretel’s live performance a free screening of ‘Thats Showbiz”, one of PHILLIP NOYCE’s first films. Starring Madam Lash and her ‘whip act’

    Exhibition continues the following two weekends: 

    Noon to 5:00PM thu fri sat sun with Mr FOGG – free admission.

    Live shows continue the following weekend with JOHNNY ALLEN’s illustrated talk about The Aquarius Festival-Nimbin, Cabaret Conspiracy, The Arts factory and Paris Theatre accompanied by the great JEANNIE LEWIS – Then an expanded screening of Albie Thoms ‘Marinetti’ introduced by David Perry followed by our tribute to BLACK and WHITE FREEDOM on the 50th anniversary of OZ Magazine with Francesca Emerson with HERE  -CORRECTION REQUIRED) Andreea Kindryd’s FROM SLAVERY TO STAR TREK.

    DETAILS and links to all the artists here www.talesfromthefogg.net

    BOOKINGS: http://www.trybooking.com/Event/EventSearch.aspx?keyword=fogg

    More information and pictures follow.


    Some of the costumes on display and for sale at the exhibition which including the’ Gown-less Evening Strap’ by Madam Lash.



    Oz boys in London: admiring/pissing on? their own magazine promotion!


    advertisement in GO-SET for the Ourimbah Pilgrimage for Pop.



     OATS or ‘Once Around the Sun’, The film about this festival, the first Rock/Pop Festival in Australia, has just been found and its world Premiere will be on Saturday March 16

    Once Around The Sun was inspired by the Pilgrimage For Pop Festival at Ourimbah near Sydney on a hot and sunny Australia/Invasion Day Weekend in 1970 – so the film is now 43 years old – and has finally made it to the screen, thanks to Exec Producers David Hannay and Jeff Harrison at Umbrella Entertainment. OATS was originally conceived and filmed by the late Gordon Mutch and the late Eddie Van der Madden in 1970. It has now been digitally restored on video by the original editor and co-director David Huggett, who worked on the project until it crashed in 1973


    Once Around The Sun is an evocative psychedelic joyride back to the heady culmination of the flower-power era and, assisted by the consciousness-expanding effects of psychotropic drugs, is a celebration of the dawning of the Space Age, The Nuclear Age and Aboriginal and Gay Liberation in The Cultural Revolution at The Dawning of The Age of Aquarius. Once Around The Sun contains unique performances in 35mm colour by some of the first Australian Rock and Blues icons: Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Jeff St John and The Copperwine, Chain, Leo de Castro, Tully, Wendy Saddington and Company Caine, Hans Poulsen and Max Merritt and The Meteors.The orchestral music score accompanying the flights of fantasy into the origins of life, the universe and everything, was written and conducted by Australian jazz/rock legend John Sangster.

    Madam Lash meets and wisely ignores Fred Nile

     A tasty enuf final image to tempt any of you? Remember exhibition during afternoons is free. And shows at night are very low cost. I am going to everything – to remind myself where I came from.

  • 12 Jan 2013 /  News, OPERA, THEATRE

    Nicole Car as Mimi & Gianluca Terranove as Rodolfo – in the closing scene

    So my NYE 2012/3 offered me another new experience. Opera Australia’s gala evening. It was a presentation of their new La Boheme which I saw last year and (being well received) has quite a number of performances through the next couple of months in Sydney and then presumably back down to Melbourne. This version has new leads. The performance I saw last year featured Ji Min Park as Rodolfo and Takesha Meshe Kizart: colour-blind casting as it were – an Asian and an African American. From last year’s Melbourne audiences, cast and crew comes this feedback. The praise is laid on thick with comments from the singer playing Mimi (Kizart) and the conductor probably the most interesting.

    For New Year’s Eve we had new singers in the lead roles: Nicole Car (Mimi) and Gianluca Terranova (Rodolfo). But before we get to this performance – being a galah  event – you will want to know who my date was and what we wore. Here we standing – Augusta Supple and myself – in front of what might be mistaken as an A-lister’s hat. No, just your normal bunch of roses Opera Australia New Year’s Eve style. I suggested Augusta take one home as a memento (clearly I missed a moment in not delivering it to her with the stem between my teeth). We had stuck together through 2012 – every year  has its bumpy bits. And as great friends we were very happy seeing in 2013 together, both looking very showered and ironed if you ask me.

    Augusta Supple and the humble scribe

    The story of the making of Pucchini’s La Boheme, like many works put to music, is long and complicated.The opera premiered in Turin on 1 February  1896. But its origins lie in a group of stories - Scenes de la view de boheme – set in the Quartier Latin of Paris published by Henri Murger roughly 40 years earlier. There were many changes made – subtractions and additions – in turning these loosely connected stories into the coherent plot-line for a good libretto. That said, the Italian librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, were horrified to find on completion of  the work, that  the content of the whole third act (of five) of their  libretto has been completely put aside by Puccini.

    Last year – Ji-Min Park on his knees (left) as Rodolfo – photo by Branco Gaica

    For what is regarded by many as the world’s most popular opera, and so highly regarded artistically, it is odd to discover that the work, in terms of story-telling craft, should be so potentially flawed. Suddenly it’s two years later and a lot has changed for several of the main characters. Or is it? Like Shakespeare, Pucchini understood what works for a crowd. Who has ever noticed there are two times schemes in Antony and Cleopatra intercut – one of over days, the other over months. It may defy logic in a day-to-day sense – but it works artistically.

    The figures speak for themselves. La Boheme opened in Turin on 1 Feruary 1896, with more than half a dozen new productions across Italy’s biggest cities in the next  two years. By which time it had already been performed in Buenos Aires, Alexandria, Lisbon, Moscow and London. It travelled quickly around the world: Monte Carlo in February 1902 starring Nellie Melba as Mimi and Caruso as Rodolfo. And had already played Melbourne in the Australian winter of 1901.

    Here are some  design drawings I found of props for the 1897 Berlin production. Cute…


    The story begins with a young woman, Mimi, seaching her building for a way to light her candle (metaphor), when she comes across Rodolfo, a poet, working away by himself  in what is effectively a roof-top squat. Mimi is a poor seamstress and clearly not in the best of health. The story is as you expect: Mimi and Rodolfo fall in love, suffer and share, until a couple of years later Mimi dies, in Rudolfo’s arms, of something like consumption. For more on the origins of the opera and its history go here.

    In Rodolfo’s flatmates – Marcello (painter), Schaunard (musician) and Colline (philosopher) –  all the main arts are covered. Stirred into the story is the landlord to whom they owe money; and Musetta, in counterpoint  to Mimi, a successful and glamorous star at the local night-club they sometimes attend. Here’s a picture of the nightclub in the New Year’s Eve version.

    Act 11 –  (front right) Nicole Car as Mimi & Gianluca Terranova as Rodolfo

    I couldn’t say the location (in time and space) to Weimar Berlin is a perfect fit. But it is still a production of great invention and effect. Thomson and Lynch both leaped at the visual opportunities this historical setting offered them. I have posted images of Thomson’s set before, here are a couple to jog your memory. The wall panels reverse in a matter of seconds to take us from the dingy apartment (Act I) to the glistening nightclub (Act II).

    The lead  performances on New Year’s Eve were impressive and Terranova got a stamping applause for his big Act I aria. Car rose to the occasion as the action unfolded, especially in the duets with Terranove, and in other vocal combinations. At odds with logic outside the realm of make-believe theatre , Car was vocally at the most potent in her dying scenes. What I loved about the production best of all was its convincing theatricality. Gale Edwards is well groomed in bringing music theatre alive and her La Boheme overflows with imaginative bloom. She has a good cast and she also knows how to get the best from them. The story-telling was clear and the characterisations (by opera standards) multi-dimensional. At the curtain call you could see the conductor was more than happy with their co-creation (not always the case). Music and theatre well-combined.

    Edwards is greatly assisted by her production team. Not only set designer Brian Thomson, but also her costume designer Julie Lynch. As if Musetta is not going to strut her stuff in the night-club in a frock that looks like this (below).

    Lorina Gore as Mussetta in the NYE production.

    Julie Lynch’s landlord bartering over rent with the artists in Act I.

    Some of the lovely ladies at work and play in the night-club.

    At the height of their romance: Mimi’s simple little dress really caught my eye.

    I was going to show you some of Julie Lynch’s costume drawings but I have run out of puff  (you likely have too) and we have to stop somewhere. This post is not meant to be an advertisement for Opera Australia. But the pictures in this story suggest the company has come a long way since I first started attending in the early 1980s when more often than not, as the curtain rose, I would shut my eyes and slump down into my seat. And watch most of the show with my ears.

  • 31 Dec 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    Apologies all – I was planning to get down and write about  bunch of rather good shows I had seen over past few weeks. To have a clean slate by tonight, after which I am planning to cover more shows  and better – yes I’ve said it a number of times. Got towalk the walk. Some of the responses are half done – I have put quite a few hours in but noting good enough yet to post. I still hope to put some comments up about these shows. Let me just run through them. 2012 STC Wharf  Revue Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire (which I was going to call – taken from repertoire of Barry Humphries – The Cusp of Uranus. In a sentence, absolutely brilliant – so much so – while everybody laughed along jollily, it would have been easy to miss just how much combined creativtiy and craft had gone into this show. I will definitely get back to this because I have written a lot already and it merits being remembered.

    The other shows were: Sex With Strangers at the STC Wharf 1 – a very accomplished piece of directing from Jocelyn Moorhouse. Also good script, acting, design – everything in order and high order at that. Between Two Waves , written by Ian Meadows (also in lead role) – a lovely piece and if not perfect, certainly an impressive effort from a writer (and actor) with a significant future. The Greening of Grace by another actor/writer (and director) this time William Zappa was less formally bold but achieved its goals easily. And from a personal perspective great to see my dear friend Maggie Blinco  so skillfully embrace such a huge lead role. Both these plays, by the way, were in various ways connected to the issue of climate change. And IO must say I identified closely with the predicament of Meadow’s lead character – who in seeing what was likely to happen was rendered somewhat paralysed – unsure of which way to turn. Katie Pollock’s Blue Angel Hotel also had,many virtues and she, like Meadows has a big future. The three last cited plays – all new Australian works – were struggling to either fit within the confines of conventional  realism  (Ibsenesque) or not quite successfully trying to escape those strict Pythagorian rules. of craft. The one work that did succeed in throwing  Ibsen out the window and with great success was Psycho Beach Party by New York loft comedian Charles Busch. It was a bit odd for the production to have access to so much room because my experience of Busch’s work in New York in the early 1980s was squeezed – the show and the audience – into his tiny down-town loft.  But is was a nice change to see something that didn’t so obviously take itself seriously and also escape the assumed (and rarely discussed)  prison of post-latte-realism.

    I gotta get off here and have a rest before tonight. I had hoped to do more on this piece and add some colour and movement to the Kosky/Tartuffe post (thanks to Russsell Cheek). But that will all have to wait. I am on there job tonight and I need a short kip to be up for it.

    Love yous all – see you next year!

  • 22 Dec 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    This is part of a letter I sent out to some leading lights in the industry the other day after hearing Alison Croggon was closing her website Theatre Notes after giving 9 years to it for not a single dollar. It may not make sense entirely as I have cut bits out but I said I would put something up so here it is.


    Alison Croggon

    As we all know theatre reviewing/criticism is in its death throes. For print media it’s all over bar the counting – where I used to get up between 800 and 1200 words when I was at the Sydney Morning Herald, Jason Blake gets a couple of hundred. And he has no control over what ends up in the paper the next day. So he must always err on the side of caution. Nothing appeared in print in my time without my advance knowledge – apart from a one-off occasion where a stand-in weekend editor trashed my Les Mis review which, as a result of the botch reult, in great part led me to be sacked. Now it is established practice that the advertiser gets preferred treatment over the reviewer. The reviewer in print media no matter how highly or lowly we respect their work is not safe to truly speak their mind.

    The announcement last week that Alison Croggon is retiring her Melbourne-based blog should sent a bleak and urgent warning to the industry. Alison is super-women – not only were her reviews of the highest order, nothing in the country anywhere near like it. She also managed a creative writing career to which is now intending to commit full time. As she should. She has left behind a 9-year legacy – an intimate and informed and impassioned legacy – with a huge local and international profile. Thanks to the help of no-one (officially). Actors complain about co-op rates – reviewing nowadays is one step down to the zero dollars in return.  Even successful print outlets like Time Out don’t pay any more. And it shows.

    Free tickets to the serious critic come with a burden of responsibilities. They’re not lollies as editors seem to think as they keep their main eye on the financial bottom line.

    I have talked about these problems to Alison in the past. The relationship between theatre companies and critics has always had its ups and downs. It is to entirely misunderstand the job if publicists think our purpose is to put bums on seats. That can happen – hopefully many many times. But that is the publicists job not ours. On any given show the reviewer is there to represent the interests of the company (at least keeping in mind its goals), but also offer  feedback to the artists involved, feedback to the audience who has seen the show, readers who are thinking of seeing the show, and readers who just want at least a little info in hand for that next dinner party. Plus the reviewer keeps a kind of record book – in my view the most important responsibility. To assist with the collation of a history.

    The biggest problem about the current situation is this. Theatre lives and dies on the night – apart from the mark it strikes on our souls. The good critic is not the person sitting in row G who sees ‘more and better’ (though the best of us do accrue a certain discernment over time). Our gift is to DESCRIBE in WORDS what was carved through direct experience onto our souls while seeing the show. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and there’s nothing there – nothing has lasted even a few hours. On other occasions the etching is permanent – unforgettable. I can still see Judy Davis walk out onto the stage on the opening night of her Hedda Gabler and, without saying a word for some time, just moving around the room, make it very clear that this character was in very deep trouble.

    We are entering a time when the theatre industry is relying on the good will and huge efforts of the likes of Alison and myself for its endeavours to be remembered. When will I get to the point at which, like Alison, I say ‘enough is enough’. What will be left to remember of your efforts? Your life’s work as artists – achievements, setbacks and recoveries. There will be no history – not even written in sand.

    Theatre is not cinema or a novel. We can’t go back to the opening night of Baz Lurhmann’s La Boheme or Armfield’s Cloudstreet. Imagine someone in 20 years saying: “I never new Cate Blanchett acted on stage – nothing here on Google’. .

    Parts of the industry has been co-conspiritors in this likely tragic slow death (unless something is done!) Marketing departments from some of the biggest companies have successfully rendered criticism irrelevant. I point to the Opera House. Companies that hire halls there invite me – Opera Australia, STC – thank you. But since the Opera House has started to organise, produce and promote its own events – nothing. Not a single invite to me. I care not for myself – but what this might mean? Not only do they not need me  (either sales are good or it doesn’t matter to their overall budget if not), they also don’t want me. Yes we had a clash over something irrelevant to criticism a few years back. But that aside, their marketing department is so wiz-bang it believes it no longer needs critics. In particular anyone unpredictable. They have the clout to keep me away. So okay no bad words in the paper two days later – a marketing triumph. But what of the future. No history?

    People in twenty/fifty years time will find no meaningful (extensive and reliable) record of what ever happened at Australia’s most renowned venue over these recent years. Very clearly marketing departments sit above publicists nowadays in the hierarchy. And their view would be: who needs feedback after a show – esp if it’s sold out in advance – end of story – job done. Oh except for the 36-hour website SOH have just produced – to which I contribute a few comments. But only to questions the SOH was prepared to let me answer. Total control – nothing less was acceptable.

    And meanwhile the rest of the performing arts gets a few ill-informed grabs from freebie happy wannabes.

    These thoughts have been brewing in me for a long time. And I offer them now in acknowledgement – to mark the day – the week – that Australian theatre culture has lost its finest (unequalled) critic in Alison Croggon. In part, if not directly, certainly underpinning Alison’s decision to quit theatre criticism are some of the points I raise here.

    My Cassandra-like warning ends with this. If the Australian theatre industry wants to look beyond the petty squabbles of this or that review or reviewer – if it looks to the future and asks: why is there nothing to remember all that work to which we devoted our lives? Then the industry itself will have to find within its imagination/resources for some form of solution. I began this conversation with the acknowledgement that theatre companies and reviewers make strange bedfellows. We ARE bedfellows. We always have been. But for how much longer? Sleeping alone is okay – but not a lot of fun over a long time.

    I just don’t think enough people in the right jobs have had the time to think about what’s happening. I can do no more than alert a few of you to what I see as a looming crisis. In fact it has effectively arrived. The future history of Australian theatre – an empty page? Nought? Nothing? Is that what we want?


  • 26 Nov 2012 /  News, THEATRE


    Opera Australia is presenting its new ‘Weimar’ La Boheme (Director Gale Edwards & designer Brian Thomson) – a special performance on New Year’s Eve.

    Hi all, just a note to let you know what’s happening. I have taken some time out to earn some survival money. And get stuck into ways and means of liberating  myself from what has been three-year wasteland of chronic pain – and all that such a condition steals from your normal life. At last I found a door that opened and then another. Thank you health magician Brendan Lo and Coogee Beach. Good progress is at last kicking in. I will start back on this site hell or high-water on I January (or the day later – lol) with a report from Opera Australia’s New Year’s Eve special event. And so you know, my self-defined brief from now on is to cover only the big companies: STC, Belvoir, Griffin, Opera Australia and international big gigs. I can’t cover everything because this is an income-free zone and Sydney is expensive. These big companies are my territory: I have grown up with them and, given the brief space now allowed in print media, I feel this is where I can best contribute. I will not put my time into an overall negative review unless  I think there are positives for the company or industry to be gained. others can be paid to do that.

    ‘Creative Collaborations’: Young People and the Arts Australia

    That said, you can invite me to indie shows. of course I am interested.  If I’ve got time I will come – and on the very odd occasion that the show shouts for acclaim I will do my best to give it some space. I love that sector personally and have made many new friends who I know will one day be running the mainstream companies that now exist – or possibly better still, their own new, bold, defiant, smart creative troupes. I am here for you and I consider you my most important readers. I want to help you get up. But after much thought, I think the best way is to focus on what I am best at doing – engaging in the work from the top end of town.


    Some newsy bits. The TV doco I was working on late last year – Raising the Curtain – has screened first two episodes on pay TV and the result is good. Third Ep screens this Wed night, there is a possibility this episode might crash under the demands of what we tried to fit in – and couldn’t fit in. I have seen none of  the work I was involved in (most of the on-camera interviews) put together, so each screening brings many a pleasant surprise. The series is very well edited with fantastic image research. Ideally a fourth episode covering what I would call the ‘After-Armfield’ era would have helped a lot, but TV means time and money and it was a miracle that this project ever got up. And ended up being so good – so far. of course none of us has Foxtel – never fear it is expected to run on SBS next year.


    Other news: The ABC has launched a massive, brilliant website about the Sydney Opera House which takes you to just about everything you ever wanted to know about the place: from its beginnings as an idea to comment on key works presented there over the years linked to interviews with artists and footage of the shows. If you are a fan of my occasionally pungent insights take a look at the beginning on the STC and also parts of the Opera Australia story. I am a minor player – many of the country’s most significant artists and others much more closely involved in the Opera House story are featured. The design of the site is fabulous and full of great moments. All in around a diverse and lively six-hours package all tidily linked – go to: www.theoperahouseproject.com

    That’s it for now. See you in a theatre foyer near you soon.


  • 15 May 2012 /  News, THEATRE


    something extraordinary

    is happening



    A story that has traveled across the country of Australia, and shared

    with thousands, is finally coming home.

    The story is that of Albert Namatjira. Internationally renowned

    watercolour artist and proud Western Aranda man.

    Join his grandchildren, under the stars, amongst the ghost

    gums,on the very site of the old Hermannsburg Mission,

    in Ntaria, NT,

    as they remember with their community this great man.

    With the Namatjira family, Big hART is proud present this

    critically acclaimed performance of Namatjira in

    Hermannsburg (Ntaria).

    This is a historic moment.

    If you can’t be there, don’t miss it LIVE online:


    Log on at 7.20pm EST

    WEDNESDAY 16th May 2012.


    Top: The site of tomorrow night’s show at the Hermannsburg

    Heritage Precinct. Image: Oliver Eclipse.

    Bottom: Derik Lynch and

    Trevor Jamieson bring the Namatjira show back

    to Ntaria on May 16.

    Image: Grant McIntyre.

  • 12 Jan 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    A pile of new home-grown works are premiering at this 2012 Sydney Festival – and I’ve seen three in 24 hours.Well, over a cycle of two evenings. What’s great about seeing them so close together is the chance to observe just how innovative much of our theatre practice is nowadays. What would have caused a great fuss a few years ago is is simply the accepted way of making work now. New means it leads to unexpected outputs – and hence fresh ways of looking at our ever-changing world.

    Russell Kiefel in Buried City - photo by Heidrun Lohr

    First off the rank was Urban Theatre Project’s (UTP) Buried City at Upstairs Belvoir. UTP have made regular appearances at Sydney Festivals over recent years. Based in Bankstown, often creating site-specific work, Festival regulars have previously had to trek beyond their cultural comfort zone Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 11 Jan 2012 /  News, THEATRE

    Okay so the Sydney Festival people have got back to me – and they have been doing what I was hoping they might have. It’s just not in the mainstream blurbs why would it be? Local community knows about the gig, lots of participation at all sorts of levels, and have the offer of cheap tIx and more

    Brook Andrew's Caravans

    “Yep, we’ve been working with huge numbers of the community for months. You’re right – Black Capital is a hugely ambitious project, so we were incredibly proactive in getting as many people on board,

    Read the rest of this entry »

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