16 Jan 2017
in Arts Review
Tags: 2017, ali, arabian night, arabic tradition, arts, baklava, chicken skewers, church street parramatta, dips, dorje michael swallow, drink, eat, el-phoenician, emma macpherson, falafel, familial clashes between generations, food for thought, hakawati, heroism, ideas, lebanese food, lebanese meal, live, michael stone, multimedia, national theatre of parramatta, olivia rose, parramatta, review, reviews, riverside theatre, sal sharah, sambousek, sandy gore, stories, storytelling, storytelling while sharing food, sydney festival, tales, the thieves
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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29 Sep 2015
in Arts Review
Tags: abstraction, art, arts, artworks, avant-garde, chaos, colour, contemporary art, contrast, contrasting, doubling up, exhibition, experimental, experimentalism, geometric shapes, hard lines, indigenous art, inklots, let it be me, matthys gerber, mca, mca sydney, mirroring, modern art, museum of contemporary art, painting, post-modern, post-modernism, rorschach blots, schoon #2, sculpture, shape, shape-shifter, structure, Sydney, sydney artist, textual art, variances
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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20 Aug 2014
in Arts Review
Tags: acessible, affordable, apple, arts, avant-garde, blue box, braun, computers, computing, consumer, contempoary life, creativity, cyberworld, design, designer, designing, dieter rams, doug engelbart, enthusiast, evolution, evolved, exhibition, experts, fascinatig, ideas, imagination, industrial design, information technology, interface: people machines design, ipad, ipod, ken campbell, mobile, modern, modernity, mouse, museum, olivetti, power house museum, powerhouse museum, products, professional, programma 101, qwerty, review, reviews, simple, sir jonathon ive, steve jobs, steve wozniak, Sydney, technology, xerox parc
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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10 Jun 2014
in Arts Review, Live Review
Tags: actor, actors, adam zwar, adam zwar & julian morrow in conversation, adam zwar and julian morrow in conversation, agony aunts, agony uncles, andrew denton, australian, comedy, discussion, editing, editors, in conversation, industry, jason gann, jess scully, julian morrow, lowdown, mca, museum of contemporary art, producer, producers, review, reviews, steve vizard, Sydney, talk, television, the agony of life, the chaser, the war on everything, tropfest winner, tv, vivid, vivid ideas, wilfred, writer, writers
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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15 Apr 2014
in Arts Review, Theatre Review
Tags: adaptation, alirio zavarce, arts, carlo collodi, carlo lorenzini, chris more, colourful, comedy, contemporary, danielle catanzariti, dark, energetic, funny, geppetto, jethro woodward, jonathon oxlade, jude henshall, julieanne o'brien, lies, luke joslin, modern, morality tale, musical, nathan o'keefe, paul capsis, pinocchio, play, puppet, real boy, review, reviews, rosemary myers, show, stage, stromboli, Sydney, sydney opera house, sydney theatre, theatre, walt disney, when you wish upon a star
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/