30 May 2013
in Arts Review
Tags: alisa piper, caroline baum, cheryl strayed, courage, destiny, dignity, exercise, exorcise demons, granada to galicja, inspiring, journey, journeys, life-altering, live, lost & found, lost and found, new york times best seller, pacific crest trail, redemption, review, reviews, sins, soul-searching, spain, stamina, sydney writers' festival, trek, walk, wild
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But if you’re anything like writers Alisa Piper and Cheryl Strayed then it’s also a good idea to have a pen and some paper in your pocket. These two strong and fearless women appeared in conversation with Caroline Baum for the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival. What ensued was a frank discussion and description of their unique, life-altering journeys.
Strayed set off on her walk after her mother – and her self-confessed “only parent” – had died. At the time Cheryl was only 22. After some navel-gazing and soul-searching four years would pass and in 1995 she embarked on a 1770 kilometre trek along the Pacific Crest trail through California and Oregon. It was a different world back then but it would ultimately spawn the New York Times best seller, Wild.
Piper’s journey was a thoroughly different one, which she had initially intended to be the subject of a theatre monologue. She walked from Granada to Galicja in Spain chasing an idea not seen since the Middle Ages. She had read that slaves were once paid to carry the burden of people’s sins to the holy land. So she decided to do the same thing for her nearest and dearest. Only problem was that the road was a long one – even for a self-confessed walker – and she came perilously close to committing a misdemeanour or two of her very own.
Neither woman’s tales were designed to be a how-to or survival guide. In the case of Strayed it was almost the opposite, as she would set out with “an impossible to lift pack” that weighed over 35 kilos. Her boots were also the wrong size resulting in her loosing six toenails and both women carried large libraries of books with them. These included ones that they had already read in what was a most impressive form of sadistic punishment.
Although the masses have caught Eat, Pray, Love fever, it’s fair to say that these two women have embarked on their own individual, thought-provoking journeys that ultimately lead towards redemption because they took charge of their own destinies. And as this particular day’s session proved, they completed their mighty tasks with dignity, courage and unreal levels of stamina.
The pair would eventually exorcise some demons and experience some intense feelings and emotions but above all, the exercise was an important one in the getting of wisdom. Having shared their experiences with such forthright honesty there is no doubt in my mind that they had inspired at least a few audience members to go forth and take a walk.
Originally published on 26 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/writers-festival-lost-found-feat-alisa-piper-cheryl-strayed-sydney-theatre-23-05-13
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29 May 2013
in Arts Review
Tags: anecdotes, cabaret, comedy, depression, funny, humour, insitutions, jude kelly, laughs, live, mental disorder, mental illness, mentally ill, one woman show, one-liners, raceonteur, review, reviews, ruby wax, sane new world, soh, swf, sydney opera house, sydney writers' festival, wit, women of the world
Few people can do comedy well. Lesser people still can be seriously funny. And for some, the idea of taking a serious topic and finding the comedic element is completely absurd. But thankfully, Ruby Wax managed to achieve all this and more during her show at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival.
It had been 12 years since Wax had last been in town but it was worth the wait. The comedian known for working with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders certainly proved to be one flamboyant character. For starters, you get the sense that she thumbs her nose at any kind of authority. So there was never a chance that this was going to be your run of the mill festival piece. Instead it was more like a one-woman show that was one part cabaret, mostly comedy and with a twist of dancing thrown in for good measure. Her hour-long set was filled with anecdotes, facts and her trademark, witty one-liners.
The statistic goes that one in four people are or will be mentally ill. Wax knows exactly what this is like first-hand because she became the quote “Poster Girl for mental illness” a few years ago. She says that she had trouble switching from being the clown to getting back to normal life. It wasn’t like the audience member sitting there smiling for no apparent reason. This was serious stuff because Wax in effect shut down and it would take her some time and work to recover.
For the first part Wax was her typical, vibrant self, at times the brash raconteur filling the room with her larger than life personality plus plenty of laughs and fun just like our very own, Kathy Lette. At other moments she was rather thought provoking because she’d ask the audience questions like “Does anyone here know how to act like an adult? A married couple? A mummy?”
It’s difficult to imagine someone as ebullient as Wax getting depression. But one thing we did learn is that the disorder doesn’t discriminate when it comes to victims. Wax’s own mother had fought her own demons over the years but was often told she was just experiencing the “change of life” (never mind that her menopause lasted 87 years). And then there was Wax’s “helpful” friend who told her that all she needed to do was “Perk up!”
If nothing else this show helped to dispel two common myths in society. One- that women cannot be funny. And two- that all mentally ill people need is a back rub and a good lie down. Wax had been funny (irrespective of her gender) and did pose the interesting point- why is it that you illicit sympathy when you have illnesses in other parts/organs of the body but not when it’s the brain?
Wax ultimately struck a fabulous balance between sarcastic asides, her acerbic wit, personal anecdotes and physical comedy (lots of stuff you just can’t do justice with in print). Her salsa dancing re-enactment of when she was institutionalised was priceless. Imagine a class run by an ex-Marine and former Chippendale (I’m not making this up) wearing a canary yellow crop-top and matching pants. Sure, we got a half hour Q&A between this funny lady and Women Of The World Founder, Jude Kelly afterwards, but it was this scene that stayed with people as they left the venue. Because THAT was seriously funny!
Originally published on 24 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/writers-festival-ruby-wax-in-sane-new-world-sydney-opera-house-22-05-13
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23 May 2013
in Book Review
Tags: Australia, autobiography, biography, blogging, book, books, comedy, cook, cooking, culinary, degustation, domestic goddess, food, food blogger, food bloggers, food obsessive, foodie, humor, humour, humourous, hungry girl, inspirational, interesting, loraine elliot, lorraine elliot, lorraine elliott, memoir, mr nqn, my path to happiness through baking and blogging, nigella lawson, not quite nigella, recipes, restaurant, restaurants, review, travel, uplifting, wonton, writer
Lorraine Elliott is so obsessed with food that she’s named after a quiche. She also started her own food and travel-themed blog because she considered herself, “Not quite Nigella”. What was a hobby and passion in September 2007 soon became a full-time career. By early 2009 she was able to give up her “corporate job” in advertising and this enabled her to become one of Australia’s most popular food bloggers. Not Quite Nigella is the blog’s name and the eponymous title of her autobiography.
The memoir is a fascinating and engaging read. Elliott uses a direct, conversational and self-deprecating style to document her journey from being a weary cook who was afraid to venture into the kitchen after her mum told her she was burning something to a talented “chef”. The tipping point came when Elliott read Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Because Elliott soon took a shine to what proved to be her newfound cooking mother’s sumptuous culinary delights and kitsch recipes in particular.
Elliott’s writing style is very similar to Kathy Lette’s in that it’s humorous and easy-to-read. Although it’s not as funny as the latter author, the book isn’t trying to be strictly comedy. The main subject is food, glorious food and the recipes, reviews and degustation descriptions make for something as tantalising as a close-up from the film, Julie & Julia. The book is also as easy to consume as a succulent steak cooked to perfection or a melt-in-your-mouth piece of chocolate.
Not Quite Nigella started off as “One hungry girl’s ramblings” and a document of Elliott’s meals for her family living abroad. She’d go on to record her own cooking and experiments with different recipes (some successful, others not). The proceedings are like one joyous adventure and series of fun, food capers with particular highlights including scouring the city for the best Peking duck dish; hosting dinner parties based on a specific theme or ingredient; and the pièce de résistance, a guide to gatecrashing a party with nothing more than a wine glass.
This memoir also includes a practical but short chapter with blogging tips and about 16 recipes – some of which are completely new – and range from the nostalgic party favourite of fairy bread to family specialties like wontons and Singaporean Chilli prawns. Elliott’s major love – aside from her husband, Mr NQN – is also desserts (red velvet cake and vanilla macaron options are also offered). The only criticism is that the recipes are buried in the book to support the chapters but they are not indexed at the back. They also fail to include a summary of their total preparation times and the amazing photography we associate with Elliott’s blogging. Hopefully this can be fixed in subsequent editions.
Not Quite Nigella looks poised to become as popular as Lorraine Elliott’s blog and indeed, the domestic mother and goddess herself who proved the inspiration. This uplifting autobiography would make an excellent choice for a book club discussion or ten and would be a great gift for a foodie, traveller or writer alike. In short, this is one interesting and informative read that’s as easy to enjoy in one sitting as a packet of Tim Tams.
Originally published on 20 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/reading-with-the-au-lorraine-elliott-not-quite-nigella-my-path-to-happiness-through-baking-blogging
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16 May 2013
in DVD Review
Tags: 2011 locarno film festival, abir puertias y ventanas, ailin salas, back to stay, beautiful, best film, bickering, coming-of-age, debut film, drama, dvd, dvds, dysfunctional family, film, films, first time director, forgettable drama, locarno film festival, maria canale, marina, martina juncadella, milagros mumenthaler, movie, puertas y ventanas, review, reviews, sibling bonding, slow, sofia, three sisters, violetta
Back To Stay (Abrir puertas y ventanas) is the debut film from Milagros Mumenthaler. The winner of numerous international awards (including best film at the 2011 Locarno Film Festival); it is ultimately a low-key family drama. It’s also a semi-autobiographical tale from this first-time director.
The movie is actually a concentrated character study that is based on the domestic lives of three sisters Marina (María Canale), Sofia (Martina Juncadella) and Violetta (Ailín Salas). The trio have recently lost their grandmother who had doubled as their guardian. The trio range in age from eighteen to their early twenties, but they are rather aimless and require adult intervention as they flounder in the aftermath of her death.
The three are still growing up and finding their individual places in the world. The eldest, Marina acts with maturity and takes on some of the extra burden and added responsibility. Her two sisters however are just lazy, directionless and self-absorbed.
The film itself is beautifully shot and the three female leads are attractive young women but it all feels like there is too much style and no substance. The protagonists are also dysfunctional and not particularly engaging or likeable.
The pacing itself is tediously slow. There is little dialogue save for the occasionally bout of bickering, sibling bonding and platitudes. It’s also quite sparse in providing any detailed background information about the family, meaning it can lack real depth in the present. It also means that a lot of this story feels contrived and artificial at times.
In short, Back To Stay is a forgettable drama. While it attempts to be intense and nuanced, it fails to show little more than a family of pretty young things in their house and garden. This coming-of-age tale feels like there’s a whole lot that’s missing or left out as the true emotions of loss, growth and identity are not properly actualised or explored.
Originally published on 16 May 2013 at the following website: http://lipmag.com/arts/film-arts/dvd-review-back-to-stay-abrir-puertias-y-ventanas/
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09 May 2013
in Album Review
Tags: adult contemporary, album, albums, all india radio, all the world, ambitious, atmospheric, beat-driven, east side west side, epic, final installment, folk, glistening, indi-folk, intergalactic, kilbey & kennedy, layered, martin kennedy, mid-tempo, motorik percussion, music, musical triology, orchestras, record, review, reviews, silken, Steve Kilbey, synthesisers, The Church
Steve Kilbey admitted this the record he would be making if The Church were still producing albums and also believes it’s the best one he’s ever made. But that high praise is not always lived up to on his latest collaboration with All India Radio’s Martin Kennedy.
The 11 tracks on the final part of their musical trilogy are a series of epics that sound like postcards from a futuristic space vacuum.
There are also additional nods towards the atmospheric music synonymous with Brian Eno’s work and David Bowie’s Low, but the mood is generally stuck in the slow to mid-tempo range.
“East Side West Side” is the only exception to this rule. This one sees some New Order-inspired synthesisers fluttering between a beat-driven wonderland and absolute stillness. It’s a stark contrast to “All The World” where Kilbey sounds like a choirboy delivering a pure folk hymn.
You Are Everything is a slow-burning album layered to the nines like Van Dyke Parks’ work. These mini, indie-folk orchestras can be overbearing and boast motorik percussion, glistening synths and Kilbey’s silken croon. It’s an abstract work where lightness and shadows collide to make something rather mysterious.
This is ultimately one ambitious undertaking that won’t register in the minds of the masses. But for the fans that enjoy their adult contemporary music with more than just three chords and the truth, there is a whole lot wrapped up in the history, spirituality, melody and classic prose here.
Originally published on 9 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/303047/you-are-everything.htm
Visit Tone Deaf’s homepage at: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/
05 May 2013
in Comedy Review, Live Review
Tags: anecdotes, cabaret, comedy, concert, daas capital, doug anthony all stars, entertainment, flacco, gala, gnw, good news week, gud, jokes, light comedy, mosh!, music, paul mc dermott, paul mcdermott, paul sings, pop rock music, rants, review, reviews, singing, stand-up, Sydney, sydney comedy festival, ted robinson, THE ENMORE THEATRE
Paul Sings wasn’t strictly a comedy show. Or a concert. It may have been considered a cabaret. But what we did see was Paul McDermott, the former Doug Anthony All Star, GNW Host and star of The Sideshow singing songs from the different guises he’s adopted over the course of his career.
McDermott was joined by a four piece band with musicians on the guitar, bass, keys and drums playing what was essentially, some mid-tempo pop rock music. The group had played the Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne International Comedy Festivals and were now playing their final show in Sydney. McDermott was in a jovial mood as front man and star, spinning madness into his songs and anecdotes (some of which verged on angry old man rants).
Some of the jokes hit the mark more than others. But there were also moments where it felt like the show was a grand-old exercise in name-dropping. There was an anecdote about Paul Stanley here, a tale about Flacco (AKA Paul Livingston) there. There was a “story” about GNW producer, Ted Robinson and McDermott also took the mickey out of Marina Prior.
The show and its format didn’t always work. Having a full-band set-up meant the audience mind-set had shifted so that if the jokes and asides were too long, it felt like those times when boring banter is stretched out at a concert. Plus, the songs themselves weren’t particularly funny (unlike say, David O’Doherty, Tim Minchin and Tripod who have all managed to successfully marry the concepts of music and comedy together so well).
Paul Sings was ultimately a light comedy show. It had a quite silly feel but it’s also possible that most people left the venue feeling that Paul McDermott is funniest when he has another person with a mic as a comedic foil. The show was rather hit-and-miss but you couldn’t go past how fun it was to have the encore in The Enmore’s foyer. And next stop, the local watering hole.
01 May 2013
in Live Review
Tags: alligator, back in your head, canada, canadian, canadians, closer, concert, dance, feel it in my bones, gig, glitter pop, goodbye goodbye, hearthrob, i couldn't be your friend, i was a fool, i'm not your hero, john spence, live, music, now i'm all messed up, opera house, pair, quinn sisters, review, reviews, Sydney, tegan & sara, tegan and sara, the con, tiesto, twins
Diminutive Canadian twins Tegan & Sara have been regular visitors to Australian shores since 2005, but it was their 2013 show that saw the girls make their debut at the Sydney Opera House. The night proved to be a special one, not least because the pair had taken many an awkward tourist photo outside the landmark over the years, and had made good on a dream to play there. This time, they were energetic, enthusiastic and victorious with their new album in tow.
With Heartthrob, the pair have moved away from the indie folk tunes that originally won us over. They’ve started to write more upbeat party anthems and they work. Tegan and Sara have added to their fan base without alienating the oldies.
The set list was comprised of all ten songs from the new record, plus some old reworked favourites. ‘I’m Not Your Hero’ symbolised the aforementioned seismic shift early on with ample glittery pop. The stage lights bathed the band in day-glo pink – fitting considering Heartthrob’s toe dip in the 80s. ‘I Was A Fool’ continued on within that buoyant mould in a musical sense, while the lyrics took a darker turn. But Tegan & Sara never let the mood become too melancholic, instead they lifted us once again with some soaring sing-song vocals during ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’.
The classic ‘Back In Your Head’ received a riotous round of applause and the girls seemed to feed off the positive response from the audience. They waved and continually thanked us for being there and exclaimed how happy they were to play at the special venue. A group chuckle was had when Tegan Quinn said, “We made a poppy dance record and have made all you guys sit down”. Quite true, but no so much of an issue in our book.
At times the lovely ladies reminded me of the late Chrissy Amphlett. On the one hand they could sing so sweetly and sound so pure, but you also knew there was a bark to their bite. Their tales of broken relationships and being fed up with love also nodded towards Sarah Blasko. The girls wanted to make honorary Canadians out of us and the feeling is most certainly mutual.
During ‘Alligator’, Sara Quinn had keyboardist John Spence play the tune’s opening all over again. It was a slight, but the band hit no further setbacks. ‘Closer’ was delivered as another of our highlights of the night and their take on Tiësto’s ‘Feel It In My Bones’ during the encore was equally awesome.
Tegan and Sara’s set list:
1. I’m Not Your Hero
2. I Was A Fool
3. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
4. Goodbye, Goodbye
5. Back In Your Head
6. The Con
7. Walking With A Ghost
9. Shock To Your System
10. Love They Say
11. How Come You Don’t Want Me
12. Living Room
13. Where Does The Good Go?
15. Drove Me Wild
16. Now I’m All Messed Up
18. Call It Off
20. Feel It In My Bones
Originally published on 1 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.pagesdigital.com/gallery-and-review-tegan-sara-at-the-opera-house/
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