How to Win at Feminism is a book that needs to be taken along with a large grain of salt as it is supposed to be a funny and subversive – if misguided – look at feminism for millennials. The writers even include acknowledge this, with, “At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of cute klutzes who wrote an effing book” but is this admission at the end of the book one that is too little too late? If How to Win at Feminism achieves anything it is to prove that for some people feminism isn’t and will never be a laughing matter.

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Michael Gow’s Away is one of Australia’s most popular plays and this latest production makes it easy to see why. The current Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre Production sees the play return to its second home at the Sydney Opera House (the show played here one year after it debuted at the Stables Theatre in 1986.) It’s a story that is in some ways deceptively simple and in others is quite layered and complex in its symbolism, imagery and references to different texts. This is a portrayal of three different Australian families going away on holiday in 1967 and one that remains an important and vital slice of home-grown theatre.

Away is directed by Matthew Lutton (Edward II) and stars Liam Nunan (The Golden Age) as a young, aspiring actor named Tom. He falls in love with a strong and independent young woman named Meg (Naomi Rukavina in her STC debut.) The pair met when they were performing together in their school’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young love is a beautiful thing but this romance comes under fire thanks to Meg’s snobbish, ball-breaking mother Gwen (a terrifying, Heather Mitchell). Gwen believes her daughter is too good for this young boy — he’s the son of English immigrants (Julia Davis and Wadih Dona). Gwen also refuses to let up on her stronghold over the family, including her husband (Marco Chiappi), as well as the apron strings, much to Meg’s chagrin.

The other family out on holiday are the school principal (Glenn Hazeldine) and his shell of a wife, Coral (Natasha Herbert). This older couple is grappling with grief because their only son died in the Vietnam War. This is not the only allusion to death in this play, Tom has leukaemia and he learns that his diagnosis is bleak despite his parents’ best efforts to try and shield this dire news from him. This notion of children passing before their parents meant that Away was also described as being a meditation on the AIDS epidemic because this was happening in real life as Gow was writing it.

The lines in this play are very clever and sharp and Gow’s writing in superb. There are also some great little jokes peppering the script. Gow successfully traverses the lines between poignant and meaningful moments and themes like death, loss and conflict and other points that are quite joyous and fun (young love and the idealism of English immigrants in their new-found home, etc.)

The set itself is quite a minimalist one and this makes the audience focus on the actors and their different conflicts. There is a major change in the play where a storm erupts (thanks to some imaginary fairies) and thereafter the actors are bathed in a stark, white light. It’s interesting that in these moments where the tangible things are stripped away that the play’s most narcissistic and wealth-obsessed character can stop, take stock and learn about more important things in life than mere objects.

The actors prove a formidable ensemble cast. They are also extremely adept at realising this highly-versatile script and the many moods and themes that are often referenced in it. The actors should also be commended for their portrayal of Shakespeare’s finest characters and these complex and uniquely-Australian ones.

There is also some different musical interludes by composer J. David Franzke. The music during the scene changes is quite evocative and atmospheric, at once bringing to mind the carefree sixties and at other moments supporting the play’s darker themes.

Away is one entertaining and absorbing show about three different Australian families tackling with important, everyday issues in a tense and difficult atmosphere — the family Christmas holiday. There are moments that will make you laugh and other times where you will despair and cry. Away is ultimately a theatrical beast in every sense, because it plays with the notion of art in such a clever and skilful way and it appeals to our emotions in the most base, visceral and human sense. Amazing.

Photo credit: James Green

Originally published on 26 February 2017 at the following website:

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Love is a wonderful thing. We all want to experience it. Many musicians, artists and writers have used it as inspiration, but it was perhaps Darren Hanlon who put it best when he sang, “Love is just a lazy generalisation that we use for a hundred different feelings and as many situations.” Journalist and author, Nadia Marks knows a lot about this kind of love, as she proves in her debut novel for adults, Among the Lemon Trees. She says that the Greeks have no fewer than four different types of love: Agápe is the big love, storgé the tender other love, philia friendship, and éros sexual love.

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Here’s Johnny! For years Johnny Marr has created great music and influenced multiple generations of guitarists by wearing various musical hats. Set The Boy Free is the first time the former guitarist of The Smiths has committed the story of his life to paper. This book is a cracking read and it proves that Marr is one charming man, indeed.

Johnny Marr was born John Martin Maher to two young, Irish immigrants in Manchester in 1963. At the age of five he got his first guitar and he grew up to be a lad that was obsessed with music and clothes. As a teenager he would work at a few different clothing shops while he toyed with the idea of forming a band.

In 1982 Marr tracked down Steven Morrissey, whom he’d met through a mutual friend some years earlier. This meeting marked the beginning of a chaotic and important few years where The Smiths would release four studio albums and numerous hit singles. The group helped revitalise interest in guitar rock and independent music in England and their songs are anthems that continue to get played to this day. This period makes up a significant portion of Marr’s book, although he does tend to gloss over the band’s rather acrimonious break-up.

Marr sounds like the quintessential English gentleman in this book. He also sounds like a wonderful and affable chap that you’d love to have a beer with (or an orange juice, as he is now a marathon-running teetotaller and vegan). Unlike Morrissey’s more bitter and cynical, Autobiography, Marr’s story is instead one that is filled with a kind of romantic and misty-eyed optimism. When Marr does tackle a difficult subject like the lawsuit brought against himself and Morrissey by his former Smiths-bandmate, Mike Joyce, he gives the story short shrift, instead choosing to focus his words on sunnier things like music and songwriting. (Although in a curious twist, Marr does say that he met up with Morrissey in 2008 and that they discussed the possibility of a Smiths reunion but that this did not eventuate into anything).

This autobiography may take a positive stance towards things but this could be due to the fact that Marr realises that he has a lot to be thankful for. He met his wife, Angie when he was 15 and the pair remain happily married and together to this day. He’s the father to a grown-up son and daughter, Nile and Sonny, and there was a period where Marr and Morrissey’s friendship was a close and happy one. These elements of Marr’s memoir do not prevent him from being frank and honest at other points. Marr admits that he told a journalist he didn’t like Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller album and he describes the Twitter storm that erupted after he forbade David Cameron, the then Prime Minister of Britain from being (or claiming to be) a Smiths fan.

This book is not the most polished one in a literary sense but it is all of Marr’s own work and it is a fun and easy read. Marr is friends with and has collaborated with lots of people. There are stories involving no less than: Hans Zimmer, Paul McCartney, Neil Finn, The The, Talking Heads, The Cribs, Modest Mouse and Electronic, to name a few. Marr has a great anecdote about the time he discussed some important things with the former Beatle that’s worth the price of admission alone. Marr’s stories are interesting to read and are often filled with great advice and wisdom. For example, Marr received some advice from a teacher when he was a school boy and that was: to find something he liked, be good at it and be an artist rather than getting bored or in trouble. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it with the benefit of hindsight.

Set The Boy Free is a must-read for any self-respecting fan of The Smiths. It is Johnny Marr’s direct and grounded account of a wonderful life in music and his forays into the world of fashion. This rock autobiography is a romantic story from an energetic and enigmatic Englishman who isn’t content to just sit back on his laurels. Johnny Marr wants to continue making great music and he’s revved up by fans who know that in Messer Marr there is most certainly a light that never goes out.

Originally published on 23 January 2017 at the following website:

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Grandmothers – or Nonnas in Italian – are often the glue in a family. They feed us, treat us and look after us. Sandhurst Fine Foods know all about this and are celebrating our beloved family matriarchs with a Festival of Nonna at 107 Projects in Redfern. It’s a series of Italian lunches, dinners and cooking workshops where you can learn techniques that have been perfected over multiple generations and enjoy great food and the company of some leading Italian-Australian chefs and their “nonnas.” It’s a fun and heart-warming occasion that is just like being embraced in a big, kind hug by your grandma.




The chefs heading up this festival are Andrew Cibej (Vini, Berta & 121BC) fame as well as his mother Valerie (who is also the mother of Bluejuice bass player, Jamie Cibej.) The other chefs include: Luca Ciano of the two-Michelin stared restaurant Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan, Massimo Mele (who has recently partnered with the First Datesrestaurant, Verandah in Sydney) and former MasterChef contestant, Sara Oteri. The workshops enable you to learn how to make Italian dishes like meatballs as well as making pastas and gnocchi from scratch.




Ciano has some wonderful tips for making the perfect gnocchi. Good high-starch potatoes that are similar sizes are the most important ingredient. The recipe itself is quite basic and includes flour, potato, eggs, parmesan cheese and seasoning like: salt, pepper and nutmeg. The potatoes are cooked with their skins on and then are subsequently removed. If they are overcooked they tend to absorb more water so this means that the quantities of the ingredients may need to change.




The potatoes are cooked until they are still a little firm. They are then pressed or mashed (but don’t use a stick blender to do this.) The other ingredients are then combined to form a dough. You roll out the dough and then cut the pasta into small squares. You then press each of these squares with a fork taking care not to apply too much pressure because you are still trying to make gnocchi that will retain its fluffiness after boiling. When you make these shapes in the pasta this ensures that the gnocchi lap up more of the sauce when you are eating it. It’s also a good idea to test-drive one of the gnocchi before you start cooking all of them because you may need to go back and add more flour to the dough if the gnocchi falls apart in the boiling water.




Andrew Cibej’s five course dinner was a showcase of beautiful Italian foods (including the Sandhurst product range) that were simple and well-seasoned. The ingredients also had excellent techniques applied to them and these helped create the perfect Italian spread that was fit for an emperor. Cibej’s family are originally from North-Eastern Italy, not far from the Veneto region and the menu reflected this. The antipasti included grissini (bread sticks) and some moreish San Daniele prosciutto. The smoked, wild river trout was delicious and the grilled asparagus and pecorino cheese was a great display of seasonal produce and the asparagus had a delightful char. The artichokes also had a nice chargrilled flavour and were topped with a divine salsa verde.




There were also some mixed-marinated olives with chilli. The darker olives are the ones that were the most ripe at the time of harvest.




The pieces of bread were also fluffy and salty and included some rosemary on top.




The primi or first courses (which in Italian food is traditionally a pasta dish) were a gnocchi with a pork ragù. This saw some sweet pork neck braised for over two hours and formed part of a rich and unctuous sauce that included peas and various herbs.




A main/secondo or carne (meat) is an understated, melt-in-your-mouth roast veal that has been twice-cooked in chicken stock and white wine. This was served with contorni or sides of roasted kipfler potatoes, green beans and olive salsa and a salad of radicchio and egg and kipflers. The salad was pretty to look at and had a nice, savoury tartness.




For dessert or dolce there was a stracciatella (vanilla and chocolate) semifreddo with frutti del bosco (fruits of the forest.) This was like a luxurious Vienetta ice-cream topped with tart summer berries: strawberry, blueberry, cherry and raspberry.




Sandhurst Foods’ Festival of Nonna is a celebration of all things family. Their food business was founded in 1988 by Vince and Geraldine Lubrano and their hard work continues with the couple’s sons, Mimmo and Ray. This pop-up at the rooftop garden at 107 Projects in Redfern is a relaxed and superb way to celebrate and count your blessings in life, whether it be good food, great cooking or a family that plays and stays together while embracing all of the best things from the old country.


The Festival of Nonna, which is on until 27th November, has sold-out all of its current sessions. For more information and stay up to date click HERE.

Originally published on 21 November 2016 at the following website:

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Poh & Co. is a cooking and reality TV show starring Poh Ling Yeow, the former runner up of MasterChef Australia and the presenter of Poh’s Kitchen. This program has a homely, old school feel. In it Yeow spends time cooking and laughing while in the company of her family, friends and Scottish terrier dogs in suburban Adelaide. The result is a helpful and unpretentious series that is not dissimilar to River Cottage Australia.

The second season has nine separate parts and it tracks Yeow and her friends as they realise their dreams of opening a café in Adelaide’s Central Markets as well as their taking over a commercial kitchen. This space allows Yeow to come up with new ice-cream flavours and to expand their market stall with the help of her best friend, Sarah Rich. The latter is now married to Yeow’s ex-husband and manager, Matt Phipps, but this is not mentioned at all in the program.

Yeow seems incredibly happy and busy with her new husband, Jono Bennett and all of the things they have going on. The two have a large garden in their backyard and this series includes some home renovations like designing a feature wall inside and a glasshouse in the yard, as well as an urban beehive to top things off. Another guest on this series is a fellow MasterChef alumnus, Andre Ursini as well as Yeow’s mother and Aunty Kim plus a bunch of eccentrics from the markets.

Poh’s recipes seem like a good mix of different flavours. She likes combining different ingredients and techniques in an uncomplicated way. A real highlight is the rainbow cake she makes for a children’s party because it looks like it belongs at a mad-hatters tea party. Other recipes include her mother’s laksa, tea-smoked duck, crème caramel, kimchi and American-style smoked ribs, to name a few. The food is mouth-watering and a pure feast for the eyes. It was disappointing however, that this DVD contained no special features.

Poh & Co. is all about having fun with gorgeous food in the presence of friends and family. This vivacious artist and chef is an absolute joy to watch. She makes things fun and her outlook is rosy, even when her life seems quite busy and chaotic. In all, this program is a low-key one full of great advice and food and it’s one where dreams become reality and new ideas are hatched and can run free. Wow!

Originally published on 24 July 2016 at the following website:

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The Dancer Steps From The Dark is the debut novel from Irish author, Seán de Gallai. It’s also a fictional book about the little-known world of Irish dancing. de Gallai certainly knows a thing or two about this area because his brother was a former member of Riverdance. This novel is ultimately a refreshing one about a strong-willed teenager named Alex and proves that de Gallai is an author that is worth keeping an eye on.

This book could have been renamed, “She’s A Rebel.” Alex is a feisty 15-year-old who is sometimes quick to anger and voice her opinion but she also has a heart of gold. She is forced away from her house and has to live with her aunt, uncle and their family. She has never met these relatives before and at times she has difficulty adjusting to her new home and school life.

Alex’s saving grace is her nine year old cousin, Kate. These two girls often speak with a wisdom that is far beyond their years. Sometimes this means they sound precocious and at other points it verges on being unbelievable. An edit and a polish would have helped tighten up these minor flaws with dialogue and structure. Kate is enthusiastic about Irish dancing and is preparing for the state championships. Alex is a former ballet dancer and the two bond over their senses of humour, jibes at one another and a love of the dance.

The prose by de Gallai is light, witty and fun and he often mixes this with quite serious themes about families and teenage girls. This book is an engaging little tale about relationships, love and domestic bliss. It’s an amusing book with a strong lead character and shows just how much fun you can have “D.A.N.C.I.N.G in the U.S.A!”


***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




Cam Barber knows how to walk the talk. A professional public speaker and speaking coach, he has written a very engaging and useful book titled, What’s Your Message? It promises that it can allow readers to make twice the impact using half the effort. On this count it delivers thanks to its practical and logical approach that can be adapted for different audiences and situations.

In this book Barber dispels a number of myths about public speaking. Barber traces the original instructions about public speaking back to actors where there was an emphasis on rules regarding body language and performance. Barber claims that this often confused people and made them even more anxious. He also says that a natural delivery can make a speaker seem more relaxed and credible. This guide uses rich, real-life case studies about people like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Anita Roddick and more in order to prove that good public speakers are not necessarily born but they can be made with good practice and instruction.

In addition to the examples, anecdotes and case studies, Barber also describes “The Vivid Method.” It’s one he has devised himself with respect to offering guidelines and ways to prepare for public speaking. There are handy hints, tips and suggestions as well as some easy-to-follow examples and templates that can be used every day. The key point Barber makes is that the message needs to be clear, consistent and concise.

What’s Your Message has summarised a lot of complex information and elaborated on some key concepts. It also demystifies a lot of myths and offers practical insights that can be used in almost any situation. In short, What’s Your Message is a handy guide that is engaging, rational and fun and will allow readers to speak in public in a rather simple, effortless manner, which should be commended.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer thanks to a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




Since winning MasterChef Australia in 2010, chef Adam Liaw has gone from strength-to-strength. The host of Destination Flavour, the show is a series that has seen interviews with famous chefs, cooks, providores and producers from Japan and Australia. The latest instalment sees Liaw visit Scandinavia or specifically the countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway to learn about the history and culture of the region and see why the restaurants in these countries have more stars than a Hollywood A-list party.

This seven-part series is a beautifully shot one where Liaw learns new things and cooks some of his own dishes (while keeping with Nordic tradition and culture.) The first three episodes see Liaw in Denmark meeting Noma’s Claus Meyer, drinking Danish filtered coffee, interviewing Meik Wiking (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute) and talking to the only Michelin Starred chef with organic certification, Relae’s Christian Puglisi. Liaw also learns Viking survival and cooking skills before making his very own salmon on a plank in a replica of a ninth century Viking house.

Liaw is one enthusiastic and passionate presenter. He clearly relishes the visit and his warm personality is obvious. In Sweden Niklas Ekstedt demonstrates old Nordic cooking techniques (i.e. ones using no gas, electricity or coal) and Liaw samples different kinds of Swedish meatballs (including wild boar) and smoked reindeer. In Malmö, Titti Qvarnström – the first female chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Sweden – takes us through her restaurant, Bloom In The Park. It’s an establishment that has almost zero food waste thanks to its lack of menu and wine list.

In Norway Liaw eats a 200 year old clam, cooks brown crabs in beer with a brown butter mayonnaise and also gets to know the local indigenous people known as Sami. The series concludes with visits to the Global Seed Vault and Huset, a fine dining restaurant that is at the end of the earth (1000km from the North Pole.) The special features include extended interviews with Meyer, Wiking and Qvarnström as well as a tour of a Stockholm market and more in-depth footage about the Samis and Vikings.

Destination Flavour- Scandinavia is a fun romp through some refined, artistic and traditional Scandinavian cuisine. Liaw presents an informative cooking program and his natural charm and charisma really shine through. This series is an absolute pleasure to watch and will make you realise that there’s more to Scandinavia than Vikings, Abba and Princess Mary’s relatives.

Originally published on 20 June 2016 at the following website:

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If you’re old enough to recognise Hey, Hey It’s Saturday’s Plucka Duck in the current KFC ads than chances are you’ll also remember David Strassman. The ventriloquist and comedian was often a guest on the show with his two much-loved characters, the naive but sweet Ted E Bare and the foul-mouthed, Chuck Wood. Strassman now has a number of new characters that he throws into the mix, but his show at the Enmore Theatre proved that the two old ones are by far his best.

The first half of the gig was a tad long and focused on Strassman introducing the characters and likening them to extensions of his own personality. There was his inner child (Ted E Bare), the father figure (Grandpa Fred), the feminine side (Sid Beaverman), the voice of reason and logic (Kevin the Alien), the alcoholic (Buttons the Clown) and Chuck Wood whose traits I didn’t quite catch but could have something to do with being a cheeky menace. It was good to get context with respect to the different characters as this helped pave the way for the rest of the show. Like Strassman’s other live work, a lot of it did focus on a series of arguments between Ted, Chuck and Strassman himself.

The show had a loose and ramshackle feel. There were some things that didn’t always go to plan- a prop was dropped, an incorrect voice was thrown by Strassman at one point and there was at least one rogue sound effect, but when these things happened Strassman just laughed it off and didn’t take it too seriously. Strassman was by his own admission, “A true professional” even if this meant that Chuck would interject and ask, “Like a hooker?” Things weren’t continuously perfect but they didn’t always need to be.

The second part of the performance really gave Strassman’s technique an opportunity to shine. He had five puppets (every one of the aforementioned except Buttons) seated on-stage for a make-shift “Ted Talk”. The puppets were also hooked up with robotics (it seemed like Strassman was controlling the mouth movements but the other stuff was likely left up to people off-stage). This really brought the characters to life because rather than using the old-fashioned method of having the ventriloquist’s arm control everything, here the characters looked sentient. Strassman did a tremendous job of keeping the conversations flowing with all of the appropriate voices. But he was done a disservice by the venue’s acoustics, because some of the jokes were lost or muffled on a couple of occasions.

These days Strassman isn’t the only ventriloquist on the scene. Jeff Dunham also does some excellent work with his characters. But while Strassman has the more superior technique, it is Dunham that has the funnier jokes. That said, Strassman’s characters did have their moments and were topical at times but Dunham’s are definitely more laugh-out-loud funny. Strassman’s show was ultimately quite self-deprecating and humble. At one point he said he had something to make the show “funny” and Chuck replied, “Better be Carl Barron” while Sid frequently mispronounced his name. But Chuck perhaps said it best, “If I’m just a voice in your head, you’re just a pain in my ass”.

Strassman’s show was a little rough-around-the-edges but that just added to its overall charm. The ventriloquist and his band of merry men entertained us and the final act intrigued our inner child thanks to some marvellous, visual trickery. In all, this was one fun and off-beat night.

Originally published on 15 March 2016 at the following website:

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