Monday, 27 October 2014

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little takes on this year's Sculpture by the Sea

Ian Swift, The Boot Pool

Sculpture by the Sea: 24 October – 9 November.

It’s no secret that Sculpture by the Sea is one of my favourite events of the annual cycle of art exhibitions in Sydney. There’s always something there to love, to puzzle over, to challenge and to enjoy. This year there are 109 exhibiting artists, some local, some international. Some who have created very site specific works and some whose sculptures would work in a variety of environments. Many of them play with size and proportions in order to create an impression in the seaside setting. In no particular order these are eleven works that appealed to me on a humid Friday evening.

Harrie Fasher’s oversized double headed rocking horse, Which Way Forwards?  is another of her three dimensional line drawings. Created from welded steel rods, this rocking Push Me Pull You moves between attacking life at full gallop and taking a more measured approach.
Harrie Fasher, Which Way Forwards?
Geoffrey Drake Brockman’s giant arch, Counter (2009) includes a people counter. Everyone who walks through it can be counted – or possibly become just one of the crowd. I walked past in twice, and in the space of two hours the tally had risen by over 1000. A group of kids were having great fun running underneath it and being counted multiple times. On this occasion I chose not to be counted – or at least not in this way.
Geoffrey Drake Brockman, Counter (2009)
Sisyphus by South Australian artist George Andric is a large continuous stainless steel coil, that I heard a child standing near me say reminded her of a slinky. Deceptively simple, this piece is both calming in its continuity, and yet also comments on the futility of repetition, where nothing ever changes.  
George Andric, Sisyphus
Naidee Changmoh from Thailand has contributed an oversized figure of a child in The Ascetic. Made of painted bronze, the unified colour of the work gives the appearance of plain clay. The figure’s head is proportionally larger than the body, focusing attention on the its serene countenance. Changmoh says that the work is related to the Buddhist philosophy which keeps the mind close to peace.
Naidee Changmoh, The Ascetic 
This a third consecutive showing for recent graduate Elyssa Sykes-Smith, and her constructed wooden figures. Last year they were seen helping support the overhanging cliff ledges near the Bondi end of the exhibition. This time in The Chase (2013) two of them are playing tag, chasing each other around a large rock.
Elyssa Sykes-Smith, The Chase (2013)
Julie Donnelly uses what I think must be ‘found objects’ – the type cut glass bowls that I recall from my grandmother’s dressing table. Her Sentinels are a group of tall glass towers clustered in the grass. Geoff Harvey also uses found materials and odd pieces wood to create animal inspired sculptures that radiate character and humour. In Early Bird, he has contributed a flock of birds, including 2 very regal black swans. The figurative animal element continues in Janaki Lee’s work, Look Who’s Here… an army of giant paper mache ants who are marching across the sandstone cliffs, and in Michael Greve’s breaching (2004), a life sized wooden carving of a breaching whale, who emerges out of the grass at the edge of Mark’s Park.
Julie Donnelly,Sentinels 
Geoff Harvey, Early Bird
Janaki Lee, Look Who’s Here…
Michael Greve, breaching (2004)
Swedish artist Hannah Streefkerk has shown at SxS’s sister exhibition in Denmark. For Bondi she has created a multi piece site specific installation of stones wrapped in bandages titled To Take Care Of. Placed on the rock platform, from a distance, they look like an usual outcrop of barnacles or oversized closed sea anemones. Kerrie Argent has also created what at first glance appear to be giant sea creatures. However Overconsumption has been made from plastic lids, bottles and cable ties – and draws our attention to the health of the coastal and oceanic environments, and the ongoing issue of pollution.
Hannah Streefkerk,To Take Care Of
Kerrie Argent, Overconsumption
Ian Swift’s The Boot Pool draws attention to a less serious, yet also specifically coastal object, the  ocean swimming pool.  Like many of the originals, Swift’s pool is located on the cliff edge, just metres away from the open ocean (and not far from the iconic Bondi Icebergs). His metal figures swim imaginary laps safe in their blue Perspex pool.

As always, the number of works in the exhibition means that almost every visitor is guaranteed to find something to like. And while not all works will appeal to everyone, there is no doubting the quality of the exhibition or the skill and imagination of the artists who have been chosen to exhibit.

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer.
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Monday, 6 October 2014

Pride & Prejudice at The Pavilion Theatre

Pride & Prejudiceleft to right: Madelyn Spencer (Kitty Bennett), Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett), Margaret Olive (Mrs Bennett) and Sandy Smith (Mrs Gardiner).

I feel I should confess straight up that I am a devoted Pride & Prejudice fan. I studied the Jane Austen classic at school, spent hours watching the BBC miniseries and despite my best efforts to hate it, rather enjoyed the 2005 remake with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Attempting to recreate this most beloved story on stage is no small feat. First there is the difficulties in condensing the book into a 2 hour performance (there is a reason the BBC made a 6 part series that combined, was over 5 hours in duration) ultimately scenes are cut while still attempting to maintain the flow of the story, secondly, attempting to convey the wit of Jane Austen's novel does not always translate to the stage and thirdly (and perhaps the most important) as soon as Colin Firth stepped out of that lake he ruined any poor man's hopes of ever playing Mr Darcy to a level that would satisfy the female population - that includes you Matthew Macfadyen - or so I thought.

Pride & Prejudice, Cameron Hutt (Mr Darcy) and Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett)
Cameron Hutt as Mr Darcy is arguably the most authentic character on the stage with his cocked brow and arrogant demeanor. He struts and preens to perfection and is endearingly awkward during the second half of the play. The dynamic between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (played beautifully by Tiffany Hoy) is entirely believable which is great given how essential it is to the story. While the other characters have their own importance and are integral to the plot, it is this core relationship that either makes or breaks the play.

Hoy exudes the independence of spirit and casual disdain for stupidity that is essential in the character of the second eldest Bennett daughter. So much of Elizabeth's true feelings are portrayed, not through what she says, but her facial expressions and demeanor - a trait which Hoy manages to convey quite convincingly.

Other stand out performances include Annette Emerton as the overbearing Lady Catherine De Bourgh, although perhaps considered a smaller role, Emerton makes sure it's a memorable one, Ben Freeman as Mr Wickham is suave enough so that you can't help but like him and rogue enough to ensure that you really don't and Margaret Olive as Mrs Bennett, perhaps an even more difficult role to master than Mr Darcy, is humourous and loveable, if a little over the top at times. I am personally not a fan of put-on accents, whether they be American or British, I would rather hear an Australian accent than suffer through a bad one.

Pride & Prejudice, Luke Hale (Mr Bingley) and Madeleine Stanford (Jane Bennett)
Praise needs to be given to the set design and the way in which the scenes were effortlessly changed. Having the backstage team dressed as servants as they moved about changing over furniture was a brilliant choice. As with all conversions from books, there will always be elements that are overlooked. The important scene where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy's sister Georgiana and is surprised to learn the high regard with which Darcy has spoken of her to his sister is payed little attention, where in the book it forms an important step in Elizabeth and Darcy's growing affection for one another, as does the moment when Elizabeth saves Georgiana from public scorn at the mention of Mr Wickham. However, I am being pedantic, like I said, I am an Austen fan from way back and this can often taint ones view of an adaptation. Despite my prejudice (pun completely intended) I enjoyed The Pavilion Theatre's rendition of this Austen classic and was impressed by the casts dynamic and skill.                
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

5 Questions With... Peter & Susan O'Doherty

Susan O'Doherty, Earlwood Kitchen, mixed media assemblage, 120 x 130 x 20cm. Courtesy of the artists.

You worked in the same studio for more than 20 years and yet this is your first show exhibiting together, why do you think it's taken so long?

Susan: We have been involved in group shows together in the past but have never thought about having a dual exhibition. It's always seemed better for us to be as autonomous as possible. Our work is very different in style and medium, but with Peter's figurative paintings of houses, interiors, landscapes etc and with my assemblages dealing with domestic themes, female identity and gender issues, we saw there was a common thread in that we were dealing with the two sides of the domestic coin personified in the house, depicted in our respective work with the male 'external' and female 'internal'.

You were both moved around a lot as children, do you feel that Moving House is a chance to rebuild an identity and a sense of place that perhaps wasn't there growing up? 

Moving continually as a child can be difficult in respect to forming long term relationships with people and places. You learn to adjust quickly to fit in in a superficial way but if you are on the move again you don't tend to invest in long term friendships. The constant upheaval of changing schools, settling into new neighbourhoods and towns can be exhausting and daunting to a child. I don't know if we're trying to rebuild an identity with our work in Moving House but you could say we're engaging with childhood memories, positive and negative.

On first glance there is something quite idealistic about both of your works. A very '1950s suburbia' feel but with a sinister edge. In particular Susan your work has an almost clinical feel - like a persons life is being put under the microscope. Why did you choose to portray the domestic space in this way?

Susan: My assemblages are set out with a deliberate sense of composition, colour and structure. I've tried to convey the sense of order, discipline and routine in the houses I lived in. When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's the family home for so many mothers was a full time domestic job. The showcasing of a shiny, clean, ordered facade often masked a dissatisfied, depressed and frustrated woman. 
Peter O'Doherty, Corner House Curl Curl, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 136cm.

Peter, a lot of your images are muted and unclear, almost like a memory of home more than the reality. The exteriors are devoid of life and fairly uninviting - what influenced you to portray 'the home' in this way?

Peter: Even though my paintings are representational, with the blurred edges and reduction of detail I've tried to distill the images to an almost abstract rendition of reality. You're right in saying they are something like a memory though they are not meant to be purely nostalgic or sentimental in any way. These houses may have been built in the 40's, 50's and 60's but are still contemporary in that people live in them today. Whilst the houses are built by and for humans, I'm trying to convey a feeling, a sense that these dwellings exist apart from the transitory movements in and out of their guardian occupants.

While collaboratively you present the internal and external there is still a degree of anonymity with the work. There is no human element and while steeped in nostalgia, there is something eerie in the compositions. What message are you trying to convey to an audience? What do you want them to see?

In both of our works, though they may appear to have a sense of distance conveyed by their stillness and order, there is a very human component to them - from the well used kitchen utensils or the toilet roll holder in the bathroom to the cotton thread and lace in the sewing room and to the familiar external facades of the houses. What is interesting is that while so many of the objects in the assemblages are familiar and beautifully designed, many of these items are now obsolete so there is a sadness in response to the ephemeral nature of things.

Moving House is on until the 24 August at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.
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Monday, 11 August 2014

The Magic Flute at Riverside Theatres

The Magic Flute, Anna Dowsley as Papagena and Christopher Hillier as Papageno. Photo credit Albert Comper.
Opera Australia are really rather clever. They are embarking on a substantial tour of Australia with Mozart's The Magic Flute, 'bringing opera to all Australians regardless of where they live'. Enhancing this sense of community they are joining forces with the children's choir through their regional schools touring program. Each performance will include singers from the children's choir in that town or city, simultaneously supporting the potential opera singers of tomorrow and guaranteeing them an audience of mum, dad, extended family etc. Like I said, clever.

I saw the performance at Parramatta's Riverside Theatre, a venue that arguably is not built for opera - and here is their first hurdle. While the sound was great (from my position near the front) the stage itself never changed. While the set that was erected was clever and well utilised, with it's hidden doors, the fact that every dramatic scene occurred in the same room felt a bit stale. The scene was set in 1930s Egypt and our heroic lead Tamino (Sam Roberts-Smith) finds himself charged with a mission to rescue the Queen of the Night's daughter who has been kidnapped. With the help of his comical sidekick Papageno (Christopher Hillier)they are guided by child spirits (enter the children's choir) and go in search of Pamina (Emma Castelli).

When they do find her it transpires that the man who has kidnapped her is in fact her father Sarastro (Steven Gallop) who is a philosopher who encourages the two explorers to seek enlightenment and join his group (felt like a cult), only then will he allow Pamina to marry Tamino. So they do. The Queen of the Night (Regina Daniel) gets quite annoyed, tries to manipulate her daughter but strangely in the end appears to reconcile with Sarastro. It feels as if The Magic Flute is a battle for custody between two divorced parents. 

The singing is faultless. Each performer is exceptional at what they do, however it is Christopher Hillier as the loveable 'anti-hero' Papageno that really steals the show. He, more than the others manages to sing beautifully and act. Hillier walks the fine line between acting and over acting and manages to nail it. The children's choir, naturally, cannot act, so that was a little painful to watch - however their singing is stunning. There was one scene in which each child brought a stuffed toy animal and placed it on the stage in front of Tamino as he waved the magic flute around. Anyone familiar with the story would recognise this as the moment all the animals become entranced by the flutes music but it didn't really translate well and the children's awkwardness only added to the confusion.         
The Magic Flute, Hannah Dahlenburg as Queen of the Night. Photo credit Albert Comper.
Entertaining and humorous, The Magic Flute is not the best thing I've ever seen Opera Australia produce, however that does not mean it wasn't worth seeing. With one night only performances happening across Australia until September, dates and locations can be found on the website
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Friday, 8 August 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier enjoys some nudity in France as he comes to the end of his Parisian adventures

Nudity on stage makes me a little uncomfortable. While far from being a nation of nudists, the French have a certain ease with the naked body that results in a more open artistic exploration of the human form. To my eye accustomed to a more commoditised attitude towards the naked body, this can be a little jarring.

My first foray into artistic nudity for this trip came in the form of Olivier Dubois’ Tragédie (Tragedy), which I attended as part of the World Dance Alliance Global Summit events in Angers.  The work explores the concept of humanity; the individual versus the collective. The dancers are completely naked and commence the work pacing up and down the stage, appearing and disappearing through a fringed back curtain. The lack of clothing drew the eye into the physique and physicality of each performer: one holding tension in an elbow, another flicking a hand slightly whenever they changed direction. Deceptive in its initial simplicity, pauses and sudden changes of direction resulted in intricate patterning and a complex ebb and flow of performers. As the work progressed, the hypnotic group dynamic branched into individual, sculptural moments, gendered groupings and occasionally sexually suggestive dynamics. The result was a sea of humanity – initially as waves that lap at the shore, then as an aggressive crashing and fragmentation that eventually recedes.

One train trip later, I watched a very different work: the cabaret show Désirs (Desires) at Le Crazy Horse Paris. While there is a lot of flesh on show, the performers are hidden behind their alter egos. The website cast list is filled with names like ‘Dekka Dance’ and ‘Lava Strastosphere’, both adding to the performers’ mystique and protecting them from fans less focused on their dance technique and facility. Considering that management has felt the need for a plaque next to the stage announcing that binoculars are forbidden in the first row, this is probably a wise move.

The show is broken down into vignettes that run the gamut of sexual fantasy in more or less subtle ways. For me, there were two pieces that were particularly beautiful. The first was a group piece to Yael Naim’s other worldly cover of the song Toxic. Limbs unfolded over the top of a tilted mirror, producing a kaleidoscope of bodies bathed in an orange glow. The other is a solo performed under a changing light that appears to be controlled by the performer, to the song Man is the Baby by Antony and the Johnsons. Executed on a modified chaise lounge, the piece felt like a final, passionate kiss to an already departed lover. Both works are sexually charged, but tease the eye away to focus on lights, shapes and unexpected forms. 

The performance drew to a close and I ended the evening standing under the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, which popped and fizzed like a fresh glass of champagne. Watching the lights dance, I considered the French temperament: their passion for art and learning that infuses everything they create. Through the artistic, romantic French heart, the body becomes art and sexuality becomes sensuality. It softens the edges and eases the mind. The two performances have left indelible images that, in capable French hands, are more to do with art than the presence of nudity.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Superdry and other panoramas by Penelope Cain

Penelope Cain, Panorama at the base of the Cherry Blossom mountain, 2014. Courtesy of MOP.
Penelope Cain
Superdry and other panoramas 
MOP: 23 July - 17 August, 2014

Have you ever had a meal and you just can't seem to put your finger on a certain flavour. It's right there, on the tip of your tongue - you know you know it but you just can't seem to verbalise it. In a sense, that is what Penelope Cain's exhibition Superdry and other panoramas was for me. I irrefutably loved it and yet I have sat here for two days trying to find the words to explain why. Still not sure I've got it but here goes, bare with me. 
Penelope Cain, Superdry, 2014. Courtesy of MOP.
Navigating that age-old rocky terrain between the beauty of the landscape and the structure of the constructed, built environment, Cain delivers delicate works that incorporate drawing and incredibly fine cuttings. These two elements appear to present different sides of the spectrum - on the one hand are the prominent and stark drawings, on the other, the delicately cut paper depicting modern, consumer landscapes. This juxtaposition is perfectly played with the result being a quite homogenised balance between the two extremes.    
Penelope Cain, Sale Topshop, 2014. Courtesy of MOP.
In particular Sale Topshop is especially powerful. The cut out makes it appear like the London tube while the intricate drawing is a stunning panorama that oddly does not appear out of place against such a seemingly urbane setting. Perhaps Cain has mapped out the perfect balance between the sublime and the city scape. The sheer detail and simplicity of these works is what makes them truly stand out. They're not contrived or cliched views of the subject which so many fall into. It is evident Cain understands her subject and there is an honesty about the work - it doesn't need to hide behind convoluted justifications - it just is.    
Penelope Cain, Free Quotes! Taxi Training, 2014. Courtesy of MOP.

Penelope Cain, Surface Tension, 2012. Courtesy of MOP.

MOP installation shot.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on the Montpellier Dance Festival – Part 2

My remaining days at Montpellier Dance Festival included more pastis, an excellent curried chicken concoction wrapped in naan bread, street art discoveries and more dance.
Grégoire Korganow’s exhibition, Sortie de Scène (Exit Stage) breaks from dance conventions, capturing the performers as they leave the stage. The exhibition evolved over the course of the festival, depicting in beautiful detail the glow and strain left on the bodies of the performers by the various works. Israel Galván’s Solo of improvised contemporary Flamenco Dance, in the Cours d’Agora was a mix of technical and rhythmic complexity with touches of comedy. While an engaging performer, I would have like to have been closer to the action. The intricate posturing and footwork combined with the performance space would make for a beautiful dance on film work. Belgian choreographer Jan Fabre’s attends, attends, attends… (pour mon père) (wait, wait, wait…[for my father]) is dark. A dance theatre work heavy in French text, it explores the complex relationship between father and son and their perceptions of time. The son (performed with chilling effect by Cedric Charron) represents the ferryman, offering his father coins and guiding him along the river Styx. The monologue swings between nostalgic and aggressive while an inner animal lurks, sometimes beneath the surface, sometimes unleashed.
The festival highlight for me however was Boris Charmatz. His Grandes Leçons at Place du Nombre d'Or - part of a series of outdoor, free morning classes presented by different festival artists – covered material from Nijinsky to Balanchine. Amateur participants followed along as they were guided to pose, walk, stamp and jump and encouraged to interpret a variety of images from 20th century dance works.
The same evening, I attended a performance of his full-length work, Enfant. This work evolved through manipulations between machine, professional performers and children. It was thoroughly engaging, deeply fascinating and explored the relationships between child and adult. Who is ultimately the manipulator? See the show and draw your own conclusion.
This work marked the end of my travel to Montpellier. Next stop: the World Dance Alliance Global Summit, where I attended multiple scholarly presentations, showcases…and a work involving more nudity than the internet.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.

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Saturday, 26 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on the Montpellier Dance Festival – Part 1

Fuelled by pastis and a desire to experience as much dance as possible over 4 days, my time at the 34th Montpellier Dance Festival was a blur of rich images. I rushed down cobbled stone streets in picturesque Montpellier, bright in the summer sun, to various dance performances and activities. Despite strikes which caused cancellations of some performances, I was still about to attend the three performances I was scheduled to see on my first day.
The first show on my list was de marfim e carne – as estátuas também sofrem (of ivory and flesh – statues also suffer) by Portuguese choreographer Marlene Montiero Freitas. Described in the program as ‘a grotesque ball’, it was like the recreation of a madman’s house party. Performers danced with an eccentric physicality, sometimes alone, sometimes like an orchestra composed of found instruments. A bearded man recited an explicit story of a sex encounter on a beach with two boys, revealing over the course of the story that the monologue in fact belongs to a woman. Another performer lip-synced a melancholic song through her fingers, fashioned into a mask covering her face. Two performers observed with frozen, contorted expressions: highly activated and totally passive living gargoyles.
Next was a new work by British choreographer Wayne McGregor, Atomos. I was a little confused to be handed 3D glasses on arrival; isn’t live performance already in 3D? In typical McGregor style, the work explores the extreme physicality of the performers, which is unrelenting to the point of becoming predictable. The eventual appearance on screens displaying 3D images – suspended on stage did little to break the monotony.
African choreographer Salia Sanou’s Clameur des Arènes (Clamour of the Arenas) was performed by five fighters, three dancers and four musician/singers in the beautiful outdoor theatre at Theatre Agora. Bold colours complimented an impassioned mix of West African wrestling traditions and dance. Impressively chiseled bodies made best use of their strength and prowess to demonstrate a ritual that was both explosively athletic and surprisingly tender. A crowd favourite, the auditorium buzzed with excitement.
I rode this wave of energy as I made my way back to my hotel and prepared for the slower rhythm of my remaining days in Montpellier. More performances, an outdoor dance lesson and an exhibition were still to come. But first: sleep.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sport for Jove presents A Doll's House

A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
A Doll's House
Seymour Centre: 17 July - 2 August, 2014
Sport for Jove

Causing immense controversy when it was first performed in 1879, Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House centres around the relationship between Nora Helmer (Matilda Ridgway) and her husband Torvald (Douglas Hansell). Along with their two sons Jon (Thom Blake) and Ivar (Bill Blake), their maid Helen (Annie Byron) and good friend Dr. Rank (Barry French), the Helmer's appear to live a normal, if mundane existence. We see Nora, the doting, loyal, excitable, obedient and slightly insipid wife preparing for her family Christmas. She is spoilt, indulged, mollycoddled and generally patronised by her husband who refers to her repeatedly as his little dove, his little squirrel, his little skylark. Despite all this Nora appears genuinely happy and it is only with the arrival of two strangers that the family's seemingly perfect existence is thrown into turmoil. 

Kristine Linde (Francesca Savige) is a childhood friend of Nora's who has fallen into financial difficulty after the death of her husband whom she did not love. While Nora is kind to her friend, securing her a position at her husbands bank, she is also boastful of Torvald's recent promotion and their elevation into wealth. The second visitor is Nils Krogstad (Anthony Gooley), a recently dismissed employee of the bank. While it becomes clear that there is a connection between Nora and this stranger, it is not until later that the nature of the connection is revealed.   
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
To save Torvald from a nervous breakdown Nora borrowed money to take her family to Italy but she told him that it was lent to her from her dying father. As women could not take out bank loans, Nora orchestrated a deal with Nils and now that his own job is in jeopardy he decides to blackmail her. 

When Torvald does find out the truth he is horrified, his first thought is of his reputation and the safety of his children. He forbids Nora from seeing the children and appears completely repulsed by her. Nora had genuinely thought that when confronted with the situation her husband would come out in her defense, his complete rejection of her prompts her to realise that she does not love him, neither does she know herself. She describes herself as being a doll in her father's house and now a doll in her husbands. These men played with her as she now plays with her children, with no depth of feeling or substance.    
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
Matilda Ridgway is exceptional as Nora, her emotional range and physical presence make her perfect as the neurotic and lost wife. Swiftly moving from happy and indulged to desperate and resolved, her overwhelming sense of calm as she explains why she must leave is powerfully moving. Her strong resolve is perfectly contrast against Torvald's growing hysteria and confusion. He simply cannot see where she is coming from and cannot understand why things must change. But change they must and as the final act comes to a close we hear the slam of the front door reverberate around the theatre as Nora leaves her husband and children to establish a relationship with the one person she has never considered - herself. 

Once again Sport for Jove have thrown together a wonderful cast that, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, manage some laughs from the audience. The two young boys, Bill Blake and Thom Blake (brothers perhaps?) are surprisingly good as the young sons, their interaction with Nora and the maid Helen entirely believable despite Thom shooting cheeky glances at the audience every time he scored a laugh. In typical Sport for Jove style, the set was minimal but effective with the acting taking centre stage, as it should.

A Doll's House is a lesson in the importance of independence and a testament to the original work of Ibsen, a man who believed that "a woman cannot be herself in modern society," since it is "an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint." [Ibsen, "Notes for a Modern Tragedy"; quoted by Meyer (1967, 466)]  
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi

A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Keiko Goto

Photographer Keiko Goto uses a 1938 Leica camera that her father bought when she was born to create her striking black and white images. Using traditional dark room techniques, Goto captured the inhabitants of Sakhalin Island where her husband worked for four years, and the extreme climate in which they lived.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Omar Chowdhury

Omar Chowdhury, Locus II (still), 2014, single-channel, 1.33:1, 1080p ProRes 422 (delivery H.264 MOV), colour, stereo, 1:25:45. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art with the assistance of the Keir Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts, Dhaka.

Artist Omar Chowdhury doesn't just film events, he experiences them. This is evident in every shot, every frame, every angle, so carefully orchestrated yet surprisingly devoid of any cliches. The first floor of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art houses a three channel video installation, Vastness in Eclipse (2014), is the result of two years observing the workings of a plantation in India. The artist himself has childhood memories of such plantations and this familiarity is accurately portrayed through the narrative of the farmer. 

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Sport for Jove present All's Well that Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well, Sport for Jove, photo: Seiya Taguchi.

All's Well that Ends Well is not the most cheerful or well known of Shakespeare's plays. Set in France, Helena (Francesca Savige) is in love with Bertram (Edmund Lembke-Hogan) but Bertram doesn't love her. He heads off to serve in the crippled King's court, Helena follows and using the powers her late father bestowed on her, heals the King. As payment she asks he approve of her marriage to Bertram, which he does. Bertram is furious and flees to war swearing he won't return to France until he has no wife. He tells Helena that until his family ring is off his finger and a baby of his making is in her belly he won't be her husband. Challenge accepted.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on France in the name of dance part deux

Paris Opera Ballet: Notre Dame de Paris on until 16 July 2014.

Paris Opera Ballet’s current season of Notre Dame de Paris is a smart choice for the first-time ballet goer: high energy, a touch of comedy and a clear narrative ending, all set within one of Paris’ most popular tourist attractions.

Created by Roland Petit in 1965, based on the book by French author Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris follows the story of Quasimodo (Stéphane Bullion), the hunchbacked bellringer of Notre Dame; Frollo (Audric Bezard) the Archdeacon; the gypsy Esmeralda (Alice Renavand) and Phoebus (Florian Magnenet). The narrative unfolds to music by Maurice Jarre and strikingly graphic costumes by Yves Saint Laurent: when Esmeralda enters the lives of Quasimodo and Frollo, she inspires a passion and obsession that challenges Frollo’s commitment to the church and Quasimodo’s position in the shadows. As Phoebus and Esmeralda find love, they unwittingly draw all four closer to tragedy.

At the performance I attended, it appeared that tourists had discovered the appeal of this quintessentially French experience: languages other than French created an excited buzz in the foyer. This same energy resulted in rapturous applause during the curtain call, with one audience member stating that the show alone made the trip to Paris worthwhile. For anyone other than the regular ballet or dance attendee, I recommend that you take his endorsement and stop reading here.

Notre Dame de Paris requires performers to be technically strong and able to inject highly stylised choreography with dramatic truth. Paris Opera Ballet is home to arguably some of the strongest ballet technicians in the world; however for whatever reason pirouettes and tours en l’air were frequently off balance. Alice Renavand (Esmeralda) was the rare exception, although she suffered from slightly inconsistent partnering.

While the corps de ballet performed energetically, they appeared to struggle with the required characterisation, resulting in the work appearing well constructed and rehearsed but ultimately dated. Stéphane Bullion as Quasimodo did an admirable job of emulating a hunchback; however there was no real love felt between he and Esmeralda. Unfortunately for Florian Magnenet, Roland Petit’s Phoebus is a crudely drawn character. It was difficult to sympathise with a character whose most striking feature was their hair.

Both technically strong and dramatically committed, Audric Bezard was the only performer to transcend the choreography; to find breath and meaning within each gesture. Through his efforts alone, I was able to connect to the performance and feel an emotional attachment to the final climax. Choreographically, Notre de Dame de Paris appeared both stylistically and choreographically a little dated on this outing. I would be curious to see the performance again with a cast that were as dramatically adept.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.
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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on France in the name of dance part un

Over the next few weeks, I will be travelling around France and the UK – partially in the name of dance and partially for pleasure. I wasn’t expecting to have the energy to see very much on my first day in the City of Lights. On the train from Charles de Gaulle into the city however, the violinist playing from car to car made for a romantic one-man welcoming committee and an early reminder of the ever-present beauty of this city.

For this portion of my visit, I’m staying near Metro Barbès - Rochechouart, where a large immigrant community colour the streets with beautiful pastry shops and seedy street selling: a heady mix of high and low. Arriving at my hostel, my first impression was that I had walked into a cramped brothel-cum-hairdresser. The lovely receptionist and a fabulously coiffed, surgically enhanced lady warmly welcomed me to the building, which sports a kitsch courtyard decorated by brightly coloured chairs and Italianesque statues, framed by street art portraits of Salvador Dali and The Pink Panther. A message is spray-painted onto the wall: ‘Enjoy Paris!’.

Dropping off my bags, I acquainted myself with the nearby area, walking along Boulevard de Rochechouart. Starting with the low brow, I stumbled across The Sexodrome, which offers sex paraphernalia of every description across multiple levels, including a dildo in the shape of the Eiffel tower called ‘La Tour est Folle’ (literally; the Tower is Crazy). This is not what I had in mind when I read the spray-painted sign. Further down the road, the Moulin Rouge doles out generous portions of sequins and high kicks to busloads of tourists. As much as I was enjoying the brief jaunt into the seedy, I moved off the main strip, fully aware of the more discreet and charming allure of nearby sights and sounds.

The entrance to the nearby metro station designed by Hector Guimard is a stunning example of Art Nouveau. Off the main boulevard, a myriad of cobblestone streets offer the smell of chestnuts and tantalising strains of accordion music. At the Visual Arts Biennial run by the Republic of Montmartre, a cross section of artists from the area are on display: beautiful paintings and sculptures, each an explosion of life and colour. A woman inside tried valiantly to coax her dog away from its new, plaster canine friend. Outside at the Paris Flea Market, an accordionist played Padam Padam, a classic chanson made famous by Edith Piaf. I could actually feel my heart simultaneously swelling and melting.

The afternoon continued with walks along tree lined pathways and gardens and ended with some people-watching at a tiny boulangerie, where I seemed to be the only foreign customer. I revelled in the opportunity to unashamedly people-watch, in the way that only seems possible while travelling. The first espresso and a handful of experiences under the belt, the next few weeks will be an exploration of the French dance scene: shows, the Montpellier Dance Festival and a talk at the World Dance Alliance Global Summit in Angers. Stay tuned.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.
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Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Female of the Species at The Pavilion Theatre

 L to R: Sandy Velini, Soran Khoshnow, Paul Houchin, Laren Pank, Larry Murphy and Melanie Robinson in Female of the Species.
The Female of the Species
Cast: Sandy Valini, Lauren Pank, Melanie Robinson, Larry Murphy, Soran Khoshnow, Paul Houchin
Director: Valerie Miller
The Pavilion Theatre: May 2 - 24, 2014

A scrumptiously wicked comedy that proves the female of the species is not only deadlier but wittier than the male.

With a tag line like that I knew this comedy would appeal to every one of my inner feminist sensibilities. The play centres around writer Margot Mason (Sandy Velini) who has made a long and successful career being a trail-blazer for women's rights and the feminist cause. But Margot has writers block and as the play opens with her on the phone to her agent Theo Hanover (Paul Houchin) where she eloquently tells him to 'fuck off', we sense she not too pleased about it.

Enter Molly Rivers (Lauren Pank), a slightly awkward university student who has read everything Margot has written. But what at first appears to be a devoted fan suddenly turns ugly when we discover that Molly's mother gave her up and threw herself under a train clutching a copy of Margot's book. Having conformed to all Margot's advise, Molly blames the ageing author for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including her mother's death. She is there to kill her. Brandishing a gun she chains her to the table. Things get slightly hairy once Margot's daughter Tess Thornton (Melanie Robinson) arrives, followed later by her husband Bryan (Larry Murphy). Each has an opinion on how Margot has ruined their lives which she must endure as she remains chained to the table. 

The appearance of taxi driver Frank (Soran Khoshnow) and Margot's agent Theo increases the hilarity as Frank manages to get the gun off Molly, who keeps insisting 'but this is my hostage situation,' and proceeds to rant about how women have no idea what they want, but he knows - 'women want two things from a man: foreplay and to do their tax.'

Sandy Valini is exceptional as Margot, her stage presence and comic timing was the glue that held the rest of the cast together. At one point, when a piece of plastic fell off the gun Molly was holding, Margot commented 'God, we're falling apart' and once Molly had replaced the piece she asked ever-so politely 'Does it still work?' This unscripted and hilarious moment reflects Valini's experience on the stage.

Soran Khoshnow as Frank, the disgruntled taxi driver, was perfectly cast. He walked a fine line between being a chauvinist and making a fair point, all with comic flare. The play concludes with a few surprises - Tess and Bryan split up and Tess starts making moves on Frank, Theo offers Molly a contract to write a book, we discover that in fact homosexual Theo is actually Tess's father and just as the curtains begin to close Margot drops a book on top of the carelessly discarded gun and accidentally shoots herself.  

The Female of the Species was not the ode to feminism I was expecting. It did debate many feminist ideals and principles such as career and family but it also had an underlying message about making your own choices. Molly's character demonstrated what happens when the ideals of someone else are taken to the extreme and while ultimately Margot was not responsible for her mother's suicide, it's a valuable lesson to remember that words are powerful.    
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