ARTS REVIEW: ADMAN: WARHOL BEFORE POP

warhol

 

For most people the iconic artist, Andy Warhol is synonymous with the colourful pop art of Campbell’s soup cans, portraits of Marilyn Monroe and the record sleeves from The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. What some people may not realise is that Andy Warhol was an accomplished commercial illustrator and draftsman who worked in advertising during the same period as shown in the TV series Mad Men. The Art Gallery of NSW’s Adman: Warhol before pop will educate and enlighten patrons about Warhol’s advertising work by drawing together over 300 objects, including some that have never been on public display before.

This exhibition includes drawings, photographs, artist’s books, shop-front window displays, vintage advertisements and personal items on loan from The Andy Warhol Museum in the late artist’s hometown of Pittsburgh. It is fascinating to walk through and track Warhol’s career in this exhibit. It begins in 1949 when the then Andrew Warhola was a new graduate from the Pittsburgh Carnegie Institute of Technology. Warhol would then shorten his name and move to New York where he was buoyed by the possibilities available in this big city and some early advertising assignments. Warhol showed an early knack for this work; he won several awards and his clients noticed that Warhol had a knack for communicating and persuading people with his eye-catching works and the different techniques he employed.

There is no doubt that Warhol was a true creative. He developed his own blot-line drawing technique and some of these pictures are on display here. These works allowed Warhol to make multiple copies of the same picture but no two were exactly the same. This along with his early work with hand-carved rubber stamps could also be seen as early precursors to his iconic silkscreen prints of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Deborah Harry, among others. At the time, Warhol was quizzed about his new method and technique and he said, “The reason I am painting this way is that I want to be a machine.”

Warhol has a great ability to experiment with different media and methods. In this exhibition, you can view very sensitive, intimate and homoerotic drawings and studies that he completed for his “Studies of a Boy” book and then view some collaborations he did with his mother (namely, her own distinctive typography) that became advertisements at a time where illustrations were used rather than photographs. You can also see some of his souvenirs from a world trip and then view his first forays into the pop world where he appropriated images from newspapers and magazines and when he first drew a woman’s shoes alongside a Coca-Cola bottle.

There is no question that Messer Warhol liked playing with and even thumbing his nose at convention. He signed his works at a time when fine artists used pseudonyms when they were employed to do commercial pieces. He was also influenced by many different people, places and things. A trip to Thailand saw Warhol spotting lots of gold leaf in traditional art and architecture so he used this in his own volume called A Gold Book, which he gave away to friends and prospective clients as well as in some of his subsequent silk screens.

Adman is an excellent coup for the Art Gallery of NSW as it shows a different side to one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. In this presentation, the colour is used sparingly but it is obvious that the techniques are first-class and that the creativity, humour and sensitivity really get a chance to shine through. Adman: Warhol before pop allows us to witness Warhol’s personal growth and journey as he negotiated the advertising world before becoming a successful artist in his own right. This exhibition should make you stop and consider Warhol’s work in a completely different light and that’s surely a sign of great art and an awesome exhibition if there ever was one.

Originally published on 26 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/arts-review-adman-warhol-before-pop-shows-a-different-side-to-the-influential-artist/

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ARTS REVIEW: HAKAWATI AT SYDNEY FESTIVAL

hakawati-olivia-rose-photo-by-by-eric-berry

 

The term “Hakawati” may not mean a lot to people today. In fact, you’d probably be forgiven for thinking it was something Japanese. Hakawati actually means the art of storytelling in the Arabic tradition where story time is combined with the breaking of bread or sharing of food. It’s a wonderful concept and has now inspired a stage show, brought to us by the National Theatre of Parramatta, having its world premiere as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival.

This show is being staged in the private dining room of the El-Phoenician restaurant on Church Street in Parramatta. It is here that the audience sits down at a very long table, as if they were at a wedding. They then share a delicious four-course Lebanese meal of breads and dips, falafel, sambousek and chicken skewers with potato coriander before finishing off the proceedings with a strong, Lebanese coffee and a sweet baklava with fresh fruit.

The table had large wooden chairs elevated at the two heads. This is where the four storytellers of the night would come to deliver their complex tales of heroism, tragedy and familial clashes between generations and stories boasting complex emotions and layers. The Hakawati are traditionally rather cheeky so expect a few segues, jokes and some smoke and mirrors. This show also has lot of Australian references (to local suburbs like Kellyville, Granville and Auburn), local lingo (like “bro”) and stories that straddle the lines between being faithful to tradition while also navigating the waters of contemporary Australia.

Veteran Australian actress, Sandy Gore begins the narratives with a tale about a third son named Kareem and sometimes Kevin. This is a boy who is a pop tragic and someone who considers Kylie Minogue his fairy godmother. This story also uses stills from Moulin Rouge! and other pictures as well as the Minogue and Nick Cave duet “Wild Roses” to look at the topic of sexuality. It was an interesting way of tackling subject matter that could have been quite serious.

The second story was delivered by the effervescent and confident, Olivia Rose. She delivered a story about a cursed woman who had a bakery in Auburn. It also included some irreverent references to the Kardashians and a swipe at priests. The third tale was about a kid named Ali (whose surname may have been “Baba” and was told by Dorje Michael Swallow). Ali starts his own motorcycle gang called “The Thieves.” It’s basically a group of old bikers from North Parramatta who look like members of ZZ Top. The story also managed to link together the characters from the previous stories.

The final narrative of the night was delivered by Sal Sharah along with his fellow cast mates. This was a cautionary tale where the audience were warned to careful about what you wished for. By the time this rolled around the food and drinks had all been consumed and we’d had a pleasant evening getting to know the neighbours sitting around us. It also ended with a lovely surprise that was really the cherry on top for the evening and courtesy of Michael Stone and Emma Macpherson. To say anything more would ruin it.

The world needs more examples like the show, Hakawati. This night proved that it’s important for people to take a step away from being busy and distracted by technology and to sit and listen and get to know your neighbours. It is great to engage in some age-old customs that also felt relevant to Western Sydney and a fresh concept in terms of where theatre is concerned. The night offered some genuine opportunities to eat, drink, be merry and engage in ideas that were ultimately intriguing little bundles of food for thought.

Originally published on 15 January 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney-festival-review-hakawati-proves-its-important-to-switch-off-technology-engage-with-people-through-food-stories/

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ARTS REVIEW: MATTHYS GERBER @ MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, SYDNEY

GERBER

 

To seek out the failings of an image seems like a curious choice of action for an artist. But Matthys Gerber is no ordinary painter. The Sydneysider (who has born in the Netherlands and has lived in Denmark) is the subject of a comprehensive exhibition that is currently being staged at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. The show is his most extensive Australian one to date and it is something that will challenge and tantalise your visual cortex.

Gerber is very much a post-modern artist who succeeds at appropriating and drawing the best elements out of other individual’s art and music as well as adding his own unique twist to things. The exhibition features 34 of his paintings and one sculpture and these are laid out around a square room with another small interior alcove. It is probably easiest to describe the things that set these artworks apart rather than what draws them together, because Gerber is a dynamic and creative individual who is very experimental with his techniques and approach.

The works can only be described as featuring a vast array of contrasting styles. On the one hand you might have a bog-standard textual art piece like “Let It Be Me”, an acrylic on canvas that references a lyric by the Everly Brothers. On the other hand we have works that feature geometric shapes, hard lines and abstraction. There is also his take on indigenous art with “Schoon #2” a tip to Maori art styles while “Bush Flower” looks like an indigenous, Australian dot painting until you release that Gerber has hidden the Frank Zappa quote “We’re only in it for the money” rather cheekily in the background.

Numerous things influence Gerber, from popular music to commercial design through to avant-garde works and traditional and indigenous paintings. A frequently recurring theme in Gerber’s work is that of the Rorschach blots (inspired by the inkblot, psychological test) and the doubling up or mirroring of things on the canvas. It is really apparent that this artist is quite happy to take a back-seat and allow the person viewing his work to make their own assumptions and inferences rather than being painfully obvious.

The MCA’s Matthys Gerber exhibition is a heady mix of structure and chaos from an artist that can only be described as the ultimate shape-shifter. He challenges you to view things in a different way by offering up works that are full of variances; from the speed of his brushstrokes to colour, structure, shape, etc. Matthys Gerber is a talented artist and his MCA exhibition celebrates his unique and creative brand of experimentalism.

Originally published on 28 September 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/matthys-gerber-museum-of-contemporary-art-sydney-exhibition

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ARTS/EXHIBITION REVIEW: GINGER MEGGS: AUSTRALIA’S FAVOURITE BOY @ MUSEUM OF SYDNEY (UNTIL NOVEMBER 8 2015)

Sunbeams Book Series 27: More Adventures of Ginger Meggs. Cover, 1950. *** Local Caption *** Original file name: IMG_8328.TIF / Project code and ID: GIN ECL 38 / Lender: Barry Gomm / Photographer: Jamie North / Date 5/5/15 /  Project use: Exhibition graphic and media pack.

Sunbeams Book Series 27: More Adventures of Ginger Meggs. Cover, 1950. *** Local Caption *** Original file name: IMG_8328.TIF / Project code and ID: GIN ECL 38 / Lender: Barry Gomm / Photographer: Jamie North / Date 5/5/15 / Project use: Exhibition graphic and media pack.

Ginger Meggs has taken over the Museum of Sydney. Australia’s longest running comic about a jolly larrikin and red-haired boy with boundless enthusiasm continues to entertain us to this day. This temporary exhibition is lots of fun and something that the whole family can enjoy.

Meggs first appeared as Ginger Smith in 1921 in Sydney’s Sun newspaper. He was created by James “Jimmy” Bancks and eventually this character got his own cartoon where he had adventures with his girlfriend, Minnie Peters, romantic rival, Eddie Coogan, enemy, Tiger Kelly and more. This exhibition looks at how Bancks always had a fondness for drawing and how this little character has evolved and remained relevant after almost 100 years.

There are plenty of comics on display including 34 Ginger Meggs annuals and Sunbeam books as well as lots of “final artworks” for the strip. The comic was originally hand-drawn and transferred to bromide (a photograph) and sent to the newspaper printers with a colour guide. In the 1990s this process changed when the then animator of the strip – James Kemsley – adopted digital technology into the production process.

All five of Ginger Meggs’ “fathers” – i.e. the cartoonists drawing him – are acknowledged here from Bancks the creator to Rob Vivian who was uncredited for his work with Ginger. Lloyd Piper would draw the comic for ten years but it was James Kemsley who made significant improvements to it and saved the comic. Jason Chatfield was the youngest person to hold the post (at age 26) and he has brought Meggs into the 21st century (the character now has Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as a phone app).

The memorabilia on display includes postage stamps, a redheads matchbox, crockery, statues, chairs and dolls. There are two rare things in particular, including the unfinished final comic strip by Bancks himself and a letter from Patricia Bancks to Ron Vivian to express her gratitude at his work in taking on the role from her late husband. It is a real treasure-trove of stuff.

The individuals attending this exhibition are also treated to some rare videos including a road safety message from 1951 where Bancks and Ginger Meggs teach young children how to safely board a bus, cross the road and ride on the street. They can also hear the “Ginger Meggs” song by John Francis “Jack” O’Hagan who also wrote the tune, “Along The Road To Gundagai”. Parents and kids can also watch a video by Chatfield who explains how to draw Ginger Meggs from scratch and then they can have a go at it themselves as well as practicing colouring in their own comic strip.

The Ginger Meggs exhibition is a fun and informative look at a comic that has received a personal congratulations from a prime minister, been immortalised in artworks by Martin Sharp, had poet Mary Gilmore dedicate something especially to him and met Sir Donald Bradman. The lovely little red-haired larrikin holds a special place in the hearts of all Australians and this exhibition establishes why he is such a well-loved character. In all, this is an exuberant and spirited tribute to someone who’s nearly 100 years old but is really just a boy at heart.

Originally published on 27 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/ginger-meggs-australias-favourite-boy-museum-of-sydney-exhibition-open-until-8-november-2015

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LIVE REVIEW: AN EVENING WITH JAMES RANDI @ METRO THEATRE (07.12.2014)

randi

 

Randall James Hamilton Zwinge (James Randi) didn’t earn the name, The Amazing Randi for nothing. The 86-year-old Canadian-American has built a career on great things, first as a magician modelling his stunts on Harry Houdini’s work before graduating to become an author, skeptic and all-round investigator who lifts the lid on people making falsehoods. This typically involves faith healers, water diviners, psychics and anyone else claiming to be involved in the paranormal or dark arts. An Evening With James Randi was an interesting and insightful session where we walked away having learnt an awful lot.

The night was opened by Richard Saunders, the President of the Australian Skeptics organisation. He introduced a documentary that was three years in the making about Randi titled, An Honest Liar. The film drew together archive footage of Randi’s stunts (including one where he was suspended upside down over Niagara Falls in a straightjacket) as well as interviews with MythBusters’ Adam Savage; collaborator and musician, Alice Cooper; author Jamy Ian Swiss;science guru, Bill Nye; magician and psychologist, Michael Edwards; and mentalist, Steve Shaw (Banachek).

An Honest Liar doesn’t just devote air-time to Randi’s supporters. An interview was conducted with Uri Geller (Randi has previously exposed him as a fraud after Geller had bent spoons and made other paranormal claims). The film also covered Randi’s exposé of “faith healer”, Peter Popoff who – at the time – was learning information about the audience he was “helping” through an earpiece where his wife fed information from some questionnaires the crowd had completed earlier that day.

There was also the “Carlos Hoax” where Randi and his partner, José Alvarez (Deyvi Orangel Peña Arteaga) duped the Australian public and media into believing that the latter was a famous healer (even though the press pack was riddled with lies and fabrications). The film is a must-see for any skeptic, intelligent person or fan of James Randi (and these things are not mutually exclusive).

After the screening there was a question and answer session hosted by Lawrence Leung (Unbelievable). In this section, Randi also did two stunts. One involved having his hands escape from a rope that had been double-knotted behind his back and another involving a levitating matchbox. The subjects touched on Randi’s childhood where he was a child prodigy who was allowed to skip school and the life-altering event when he saw Harry Blackstone, Sr. perform.

Randi was also joined by Australian Skeptics founder and businessman, Dick Smith and the two responded to questions from the audience. They both described how they tested would-be water diviners. Randi was very funny and interesting to listen to. He ultimately pushed the message that we should all apply critical thinking and a common sense approach to every claim. He also said that skeptics should be kind and understanding to their loved ones who may not share their own personal views.

An Evening With James Randi was a fascinating one. His no-nonsense answers and logical and analytical responses provided real food for thought for the assembled crowd. It also ended on a rather emotional note as he said that this could be goodbye, as it might be his final visit. Randi may be looking a little like a frail Sigmund Freud and he may have retired from his more outrageous stunts, but his mind is as nimble as a youngsters and he proves to be a witty and clever man that everyone should take a moment to learn from and listen to.

 

Originally published on 9 December 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/an-evening-with-james-randi-metro-theatre-sydney-07-12-14

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THEATRE REVIEW: BRAZOUKA @ ENMORE THEATRE

brazouka

 

Brazouka made it feel like the Rio Carnival had come to the Enmore. It saw comedian, Billy Connolly acting as the voice of authority and it had the promise of dusky temptresses plus colour and candour from the get-go. It was also a setting where gyrating uncontrollably wasn’t frowned upon but in fact actively encouraged. Brazouka is also the story of Braz Dos Santos, a name that may not mean much to people outside of the world of dance until you play some zouk music and the “Lambada”, yes that eighties song by Kaoma!

The show is produced by Connolly’s wife, Pamela Stephenson-Connolly who is a relatively new fan to this style of Brazilian dance. This show tells the story of Santos from his underprivileged beginnings in Porto Seguro in Brazil where he was forced at the age of 10 to be a fisherman with his brother, Didi to help feed the family. That was until a bad storm set the two brothers on a path towards the Lambada where they’d eventually be asked to go to Paris and the rest is all history. This is an interesting and inspirational rags-to-riches tale but it did seem like this incredible story was secondary to the amazing dance sequences and costumes this evening (even though the dialogue was mostly Dos Santos’ own words).

Brazouka featured 18 different dancers. There were 10 men (including Dos Santos) and eight women. This group form part of a new Brazilian dance troupe. They are all complete professionals who approach every dance with a kind of seamless grace and beauty that makes it all look so fun and effortless. They give the impression – with their artful precision – that they’d been performing these moves for decades, except that they share a youth’s exuberance, passion and enthusiasm for it all.

The costumes were amazing. They ranged from the tiny little skirts and G-strings that featured in Kaoma’s music video through to long floating skirts plus outfits worthy of cheerleaders, tourists and goddesses. There were even costumes that looked like they’d come straight off a belly dancer or two. The showstoppers, however, were when the gorgeous dancers performed their final number, as the men were buff and bare-chested and wearing black pants and heels. The ladies wore huge headdresses and skin tight suits with Brazouka written in glittery writing and tiny G-strings on top, giving the impression of being completely naked as they sashayed about.

The music included the more traditional Latino pop and Afrobeats but there were also some mainstream songs thrown into the mix including Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and “Diamonds”. A highlight of the evening was hearing the actual “Lambada” not once but twice. These two renditions had everyone clapping along joyfully, there wasn’t a face in the house that wasn’t beaming in wonder.

The dances were varied to suit the music. Some dances could even be thought of as influencing Zumba because while Dos Santos wasn’t involved in creating this particular style, there is some cross over between the two genres. So one minute you could enjoy a sexy Lambada or a spicy rumba that looked like it was straight out of Dirty Dancing. Another number might see some cheery swing or even a goddess delivering a slower, more interpretive dance routine with fast ballet moves before another moment was pulsating with Afrobeats and bongos. The most outstanding parts of the evening were the high octane aerials, flips, jumps and dips. These steps were nothing short of amazing and quite often had people applauding or gasping from their seats.

Brazouka was a hypnotic, visceral and dazzling shock to the senses in much the same way as Cirque du Soleil’s shows often are. The beats were infectious, the colours were as bright as a hot rainbow and the dancers were all so passionate, emotive and energetic. The whole thing is a grand spectacle for anyone who enjoys witnessing the power of the dance and especially when it unfolds before you in such resplendent glory.

 

Originally published on 14 November 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/theatre-review-brazouka-enmore-theatre-sydney

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ARTS REVIEW: INTERFACE: PEOPLE, MACHINES, DESIGN @ THE POWERHOUSE MUSEUM SYDNEY

sydney-design-interface1

 

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum are no strangers to exhibiting information technology (IT) items and computers, as their permanent exhibition, Cyberworld proves. This collection has been joined by a temporary exhibition, Interface: People, Machines, Design. The latter looks at how computers and other IT products have been designed. It’s interesting to see how a handful of companies made complicated technology both easy-to-use and appealing to everyone.

The exhibition is a small one that shows part of the Museum’s collection (including newly acquired pieces) as well as other priceless things that are on loan from various sources. It is divided into three parts: enthusiast, professional and consumer. These are the three phases of technology adoption- from a niche group of experts who are interested in new things to the adoption of products within industries as a standard and finally to everyday products embraced by everyone. The exhibition looks at how the visionaries from companies like Apple, Braun, Olivetti and others were influenced by early design pioneers and artists in creating their own inventions/works of art.

After World War II, Dieter Rams wanted to make his designs at Braun mobile, accessible, simple and affordable. Quite a few examples of his work are shown here, including: a radio receiver and radio. The next important group of people were the ones working at Olivetti, a family-owned company who saw design as a question of substance, not just form. Apple designer, Ken Campbell once said that the late Steve Jobs not only strove to be the best in the computer industry, but that he also wanted Apple to be in the eighties what Olivetti had been in the seventies, the undisputed leader in industrial design.

Olivetti’s designers would be involved in futurism (part of the avant-garde movement) and they embraced new materials and celebrated modernity. Their typewriter design prevails to this day because the standard is the QWERTY keyboard (designed so that the typebars wouldn’t jam). The company also designed early desktop computers like the Programma 101, which is part of the exhibition. This computer was modelled on a desk-top calculator and sold well thanks to its ease-of-use and robust construction.

The seeds of modern technology were sewn once the mouse was designed by Doug Engelbart in the late sixties and graphical user interfaces were designed by Xerox PARC in the early seventies. When Steve Jobs saw these inventions he imagined that this could make non-computer users interact with a computer. His first invention with Steve Wozniak, the Blue Box (which allows the user to make free telephone calls) is exhibited here, as well as an Apple 1 (this is one of less than 50 surviving models) and a video about Jobs and Apple.

The Apple iPod is also shown and described in detail. Its designer, Sir Jonathan Ive was influenced by Dieter Rams’design of the T3 transistor radio for Braun. Rams was the Chief Designer at Braun from 1965-1995. Both of these objects are well-ordered and show both a harmony and economy of form. It’s a similar principle that was offered in Jobs’ final invention, the iPad.

Interface: People, Machines, Design is a short but fascinating look at how information technology has evolved from a world where computers were used by specialised people in certain areas to become an essential, everyday commodity. This exhibition shows that while computers may be a modern phenomenon, the brilliant ideas behind it were all influenced by the great designs that had preceded them. It is also through this intelligent design that the rates of adoption increased meaning computers are used by everyone, not just specialists and enthusiasts. This exhibition is a good one and essential viewing for anyone interested in computers, design and how these two disciplines have influenced contemporary life.

 

Originally published on 19 August 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/sydney/interface-people-machines-design-exhibition-powerhouse-museum-october-11

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THEATRE REVIEW: BEAUTY & THE BEAST @ RIVERSIDE THEATRE, PARRAMATTA (18.07.2014)

Beast

 

The world of Disney is magical and the story of Beauty & The Beast is enchanted. It was originally a book written by Linda Woolverton and has since enjoyed success as a Broadway musical and animated film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The Riverside Theatre in Parramatta is currently hosting a new adaptation of the show, which is produced and directed by Neil Gooding. The show is ultimately a visual feast sprinkled with an extra handful of pixie dust.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the plot revolves around the Beast- a man who was once a very spoilt prince. He encounters an old, haggard woman and refuses to help her. So she casts a spell on him to make him ugly and curses his house by turning the other occupants into inanimate objects (like clocks, teapots, wardrobes, etc). The only way the Beast can reverse this spell is to make a woman fall in love with him before the final petal falls from a rose.

The Beauty in this play is Belle, a strong-willed and determined, provincial girl. She is pursued by and rejects a handsome but dim-witted suitor, Gaston. She also finds herself trapped in the Beast’s palace after she goes to rescue her father from the evil creature’s clutches. Despite being imprisoned, Belle holds her own and refuses to listen to the master of the palace. She proves a great role model and the story itself has some excellent take-home messages for younger people.

This production of Beauty & The Beast boasts a large and strong cast with relative newcomer, Kelsi Boyden shining as Belle. Scott Irwin is excellent and he wins us all over as the Beast. Irwin has previously performed in Les Miserables alongside Donna Lee and Adam Scicluna who play Mrs Potts and Cogsworth, respectively. Other special mentions should go out to David Tucker who plays a camp and over-the-top Lumiere (the excess acting adds some real comedic value to his character) as well as Danny Folpp who is cheeky as the pretty boy, Gaston. The actors also did well on opening night in overcoming some minor sound issues.

The set in this production is not overly complicated with only minor changes to distinguish between the town and the Beast’s castle. The lighting perfectly complements the scenes- from the bright, full-blown frivolity in big, dance numbers like “Be Our Guest” to the gorgeous ballroom-like atmosphere of the title song. It is during this scene where the two leads really fall in love and the audience’s collective heartstrings are tugged for full effect. In short, it’s truly magical.

Beauty & The Beast is full of acrobatics and colourful theatrics as the ensemble members cartwheel and dance their way through numbers like: “Be Our Guest” and “Human Again”. They are backed by a full, 22-piece orchestra and when this is combined with stellar performances and costumes that pop with glitter and tint- it makes for one dazzling display.

Beauty & The Beast is ultimately a sweet and spine-tingling musical which will appeal to young and old thanks to its heady mix of engaging drama, high comedy, thoughtful morality and full technicolour. There’s nothing left to say but be our guest, be enchanted by the spectacle and I defy you to leave the theatre without a smile on your face as you hum along to the catchy tunes. It’s all such fabulous fun as you laugh and jest with the best.

 

Originally published on 21 July 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/beauty-the-beast-riverside-theatre-parramatta

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LIVE REVIEW: VIVID IDEAS – ADAM ZWAR & JULIAN MORROW IN CONVERSATION @ MCA (05.06.2014)

zwar and morrow

 

The Vivid Ideas session which brought together Adam Zwar (Wilfred, Lowdown) and The Chaser’s Julian Morrow was officially opened by organiser, Jess Scully. She described the talk as being about drawing two people together whose work she admired and asked them about how you create great content and the process of getting it out there. The one hour in conversation was similar to a number of sessions at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and saw the two comedy writers, producers and actors trading jokes and sharing some good pearls of wisdom in a relaxed and interesting manner.

The talk began with each creative describing how they’d come to join the industry. Morrow said he had worked as a lawyer for a few years and he’d also helped start a 24-page satirical newspaper that nobody read. The Chaser group then waited. The medium would prove a great outlet for the collective to write fortnightly jokes and material and hone their crafts. Eventually they would boast Andrew Denton as a subscriber. He championed them and suggested that they work in TV although Morrow admits that even if Denton had offered the guys part-time work in his abattoir they’d have probably said, ‘Yes’.

Adam Zwar’s journey was rather different. He studied and worked as a journalist whilst also being involved in lots of plays whilst at university. Once he reached age 26 he started making short films with his friend, Jason Gann (who had originally pursued a career in music). The two won Tropfest and came to the attention of Steve Vizard, who acted as champion. Zwar would then go on to produce shows like Wilfred, Lowdown and the factual series and spin-offs, Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles.

Both Zwar and Morrow have both enjoyed stepping out from in front of the camera and taking on roles as producers and consultants in the editing suite. Zwar said that as an actor you leave a lot in the hands of other people because you don’t get to see the entire scene or call the shots when it comes to editing. Morrow shared a great line: ‘If you say something stupid, it’s on TV. If I say something stupid, it’s edited out’.

The Chaser and Adam Zwar have enjoyed their fair share of international success. The War On Everything by the former had two series feature on Dutch TV and the Australian version was sold for $150 an episode to the Mongolian State Broadcaster. Zwar meanwhile, was offered the opportunity to work on the British version of Wilfred, but he turned it down. He said that having things remade for international audiences was like getting married, having a child and then getting divorced. He added that then your wife decides to take your kid to the United States, she remarries and decides to bring up your offspring with somebody else.

Julian Morrow and Adam Zwar’s ‘In Conversation’ for Vivid Ideas featured some light-hearted banter about Australian TV. It was a colourful discussion that saw a great anecdote involving Geoffrey Rush and a possum coupled with some great advice, lessons and take-home messages for people aspiring to work in television. In short, it was fun, inspiring and clever, just as the pair’s respective programs often prove.

 

Originally published on 9 June 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/adam-zwar-julian-morrow-in-conversation-the-forum-05-06-14

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THEATRE REVIEW: PINOCCHIO @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (13.04.2014)

pinocchio

The story of Pinocchio is a well-known one. The little puppet who had to prove himself to become a “real” boy and the owner of the nose that grew whenever he told lies was first written as a serial and released as a book in 1883. It has been translated into hundreds of languages and had countless adaptations. The stage version currently playing at the Sydney Opera House is unique in that it is rooted in a very dark and modern setting.

Some of the characters in this adaption, created by Rosemary Myers and written by Julieanne O’Brien (Blue Heelers, Backberner) are similar to Carlo Collodi’s (Carlo Lorenzini’s) book and even Walt Disney’s famous film version. But the similarities to the latter end there as this show stars no Blue Fairy per se (but there are similarities to the character, Blue Girl). This play is also much more sinister at times with some young children possibly finding things a little scary, especially when the villains are involved. There is also a lot of music in this version of Pinocchio but the song, “When You Wish Upon A Star” (another Disney-invention) is noticeably absent, but the audience are still treated to lots of jokes and puns in the dialogue, which are a good contrast against the overall blackness and gloom.

The proceedings open with Blue Girl (Danielle Catanzariti) riding a motorbike in the air just like a scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She crashes and remains largely unseen until the second act and this is a rather strange opening. It then feels like the story begins proper, as the sad, forlorn and poor toymaker, Geppetto (Alirio Zavarce) pines for his own son. He eventually builds a marionette he christens, Pinocchio (Nathan O’Keefe (All Saints)). Initially, Pinocchio is an obnoxious and cheeky child and O’Keefe does an excellent job of playing up all of the aspects of physical comedy associated with the character. At times this means he resembles Frank Woodley and he does manage to convey this naughtiness with a sense of real heart.

Along the way the rich but infinitely unhappy Stromboli (Paul Capsis (Angela’s Kitchen)) offers Geppetto $5 million for the boy but the toymaker declines. Capsis is a real revelation here, he is so camp and funny and at many points he steals the show as the treacherous villain luring Pinocchio away along with the animals he befriends, Kitty Poo (Jude Henshall) and Foxy (Luke Joslin). But Geppetto never loses sight of his son, even after the boy is a troublemaker and bully at school. The lowly toymaker tries to save him from Playland but Pinocchio is then seduced by the bright lights of Stromboliwood.

The show boasts a bombastic, modern soundtrack written by Jethro Woodward (The Turning, Van Diemen’s Land) who doubles as the musical director. The cast sing superbly and the music keeps the energy high, even as darker moments are explored during the story like when Geppetto desires his own son, the child rejects him and the villain, Stromboli wreaks havoc by pulling strings. The set is excellent and contains various levels, peepholes, doors and passageways and is excellent as Geppetto’s house, a deserted island, a school, Stromboliwood and Playland.

The costumes are colourful and fit in well with the choreography and overall feel of the show. At times the acting was a little overdone but this was in keeping with the children’s story and for the most part added to the silly, fun and humorous nature of things. There were also some very modern and local references in the dialogue with “Fitness First Fox”, Logie awards and actors hitting paparazzi, to name a few. This all added extra colour and flavour and lifted the show from being mere child’s play. Pinocchio was also a rather exciting piece that had multiple layers including some bright, animated sequences by Chris More. Jonathon Oxlade meanwhile, had to perform the cricket character with a puppet (and this creature also interacted with the audience and made the children laugh during the interval).

Pinocchio is a funny and cheeky series of episodes starring the puppet boy we all know and love. When you strip away at the layers this is a true morality tale where people can learn about the importance of hard work, honesty and integrity from some characters that are larger than life. Pinocchio is a colourful and energetic adaptation of a story that hones in on the tale’s darker elements and marries this with local and modern references, meaning you won’t have to get in touch with your inner child to appreciate this mischievous marionette-turned-real-boy.

Originally published on 14 April 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/pinocchio-sydney-opera-house

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

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