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:

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Iced Beer & Other Tantalising Tips for Life is a short book that is billed as a sort of advice manual by the self-proclaimed “Prime Chinster of Australia”, or Gold Logie nominee, newsreader, and inimitable fashionista known as Lee Lin Chin. This book is a confident look at the important things in Chin’s life and one in which she squarely puts the majority of people down (although to be fair, most of them were morons anyway). Chin is assisted here by The Feed’s Chris Leben, a man that Chin jokes cannot string a sentence together but who manages her social media accounts (because Chin hates technology).

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The characters in Meredith Jaffé’s debut novel The Fence may live in the pleasant-sounding, Green Valley, but the neighbourhood is far from idyllic. It’s actually the setting for two feuding next door neighbours. At times some parts of this story would not be out of place on A Current Affair or Today Tonight with the title, “Shocking neighbours.” This novel ultimately shares a few things in common with Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap in that it is a well-written family drama set in suburban Australia.

Jaffé is a writer and former book critic for The Hoopla. When you consider these experiences and her writing in The Fence, it is obvious that Jaffé knows how to tell a good story. This novel starts off a little slowly and it does contain some unlikeable characters but it does hit its stride as the tension mounts between the two households.

Gwen Hill is an elderly lady who has lived in the same street in Green Valley for decades. She and her husband were the first residents in this cul-de-sac and it is here that she raised her children and made a life for her family. Hill also created an immaculate garden that she is immensely proud of and she also forged a close relationship with her next door neighbour, Babs.

Michael is Babs’s son and after both of his parents pass away he and his wife decide to sell the family home. Gwen is shocked and she takes an immediate disliking to her new, young neighbours. At first it is hard to warm to Gwen and her stubborn and opinionated ways.

The neighbours are the Boyd-Desmarchelliers family. Francesca Desmarchelliers is the mother of four rowdy young children and the family bread-winner in a highflying, corporate role. Her husband, Brandon Boyd stays at home and looks after the children and the house. It is immediately obvious that Gwen and Francesca are quite different in terms of their opinions but they also share a determined doggedness. When Desmarchelliers decides to build a large fence for privacy and to keep her children and the family pets safe, this sets off a series of chain reactions that soon escalate out of control.

The story is told in the third person but the focus shifts between Gwen and Francesca’s perspectives in monthly increments. As a result of this the reader becomes absorbed in this tale of two women and will often find themselves choosing an allegiance with one of these neighbours. For some it will be a case of oscillating between both sides while others may be left sitting on the fence.

Meredith Jaffé’s debut novel is a clever and witty one where she captures what could have been quite a dark and territorial part of Australian society but injects this with a lightness and humour. The story seems quite simple but it’s actually quite a complex social comedy and layered family drama. This is one very promising debut that shows that even the simple idea of a home among the gum trees with a husband, kids and a white picket fence can actually be more than what it seems.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




David Bowie may have sung about modern love but it is author, Toni Jordan that has written a book about it. Her fourth novel, Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is set over the course of a single weekend in suburban Melbourne and it shows how three different relationships implode. This well-written and witty book is a fun and light read that is set in a kind of domestic chaos.

This novel is what you would get if you crossed Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina with the works of Marian Keyes or P. G. Wodehouse. The story begins with the end of Caroline and Henry’s marriage. It’s an ugly event where a night-long screaming match ends with Caroline cutting out the crotches of her husband’s fine suits. She then follows him to Noosa where he has planned a holiday with his new flame, a schoolteacher named Martha.

Caroline and Henry are the parents of two precocious young girls (one of whom is taught by Martha). Their Aunty Janice is called in to babysit because she is the “sensible one,” or so it would seem. Janice is the story’s narrator and is a clever and witty scientist but she has also made some silly mistakes involving her own love life. She divorced the man she loves- the sweet and kind-hearted Alec and she did not divulge the true reasons for her change of heart. This is just one of the many secrets that are revealed in this novel. The other main characters are Caroline and Henry’s neighbours, the attractive but dumb, Craig and his self-absorbed artist wife, Lesley.

The characters in this novel are very flawed but for this reason the also seem very real and believable. Jordan has done an excellent job by providing rich characterisation, as the adults provide many moments of real humour as well as emotion and thoughtfulness. The whole experience is like being a fly-on-the-wall to the shenanigans that take place. Jordan expertly reveals each secret and lie from the past and tells these alongside the light of the present day, while also offering up some social observations about fertility, fidelity, parenting, sex and more.

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a warm and pithy take on modern romance. This Australian, domestic dramedy is an easy and enjoyable read. It’s ultimately a good satire based on love and marriage and a jaunty take on an institute you can’t disparage, lest you wind up being the star of a novel and the butt of a joke.

***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:


enchanted island


Ellie O’Neill’s sophomore novel, The Enchanted Island shares a few things in common with Marian Keyes’ work. The two writers are both Irish and they pen engaging chick literature that is easy to read and fun to immerse yourself in. The Enchanted Island also manages to combine some quirky Irish magic and humour into its oddball, verdant mix.

The book is a first person narrative starring Maeve O’Brien. She’s a modern woman and trainee lawyer who can often be found posting on social media, getting Botox and posing for selfies. She’s a little vapid and self-obsessed but she’s also very real. I think there’s a little bit of Maeve in all of us.

O’Brien’s workplace is a battleground and the threat of redundancy is looming. She’s also committed a terrible act, she’s stolen her friend’s credit card in order to pay for her beauty treatments. So when the opportunity arises to go to the remote and mysterious island of Hy Brasil (a real place found to the West of Ireland), Maeve jumps at the chance because all she really needs to do is get a certain man’s signature.

But all is not as it seems on this particular island. The inhabitants are resistant to change and Sean Fitzpatrick (the man Maeve needs to meet in order to sign a contract) is proving elusive. This novel is like Hy Brasil itself, there is more to it than meets the eye. It will remind readers of what it’s like to get back to basics and to appreciate the simpler things in life. The lead character goes through a huge transformation and certainly becomes more likeable as one gets deeper into the story.

In all, The Enchanted Island is an engaging and beautiful tale with a dark undercurrent. It’s also a humble story that will resonate with readers because the island is resplendent and cloaked in an infectious and seductive mystery. In short, this is one whimsical, modern romance and love letter to Ireland. Recommended.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:




The truth is often stranger than fiction and a program like Would I Lie To You? gets at the very heart of that. This British panel program is nothing short of fun, hilarious and excellent. It’s a clever concept that is delivered in a simple, matter-of-fact way and it all works perfectly thanks to a revolving and exemplary cast of eccentrics.

A total of nine series of the program have been made since it first broadcast in the U.K. in 2007 (when it was hosted by Angus Deayton). In Australia we have just seen the release of Volume 2 on DVD which is in fact series five. The show is now hosted by Rob Brydon, a likeable character who seems very similar to the persona he played in The Trip in that he enjoys throwing in the odd impersonation or impression where he can. He also enjoys poking fun at his short stature and Welsh heritage.

The two team characters are the logical, upper-class and occasionally up-tight, David Mitchell (of Mitchell and Webb fame) and comedian, Lee Mack. The latter likes to be cheeky and play the fool. Each week they run through lots of bizarre premises and anecdotes in a bid to try and bluff their opponents in the show’s three different segments. There are “Home truths” where the guest has to try and make an occasionally rather implausible and personal tale appear true (even if it isn’t), “This is my…” where the members of the opposing team each claim to know a guest and “Quick fire lies” which is similar to the first part, only shorter and can include a personal possession.

The second volume includes comedians: Jack Whitehall, Miranda Hart, Robert Webb, Kevin Bridges, Bill Oddie, Dara O’Briain, Sarah Millican and David O’Doherty. There are actors like Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd), Mackenzie Crook (The Office) and Greg Davies (The Inbetweeners) plus TV broadcaster, Terry Wogan. There are also a lot of local television presenters and stars from the U.K. This series works well because the guests engage and are often very chatty and self-deprecating. The only minor quibble is that the show would benefit from having a few more female guests.

A particular highlight from this series was a segment where Rob Brydon claimed to own a “cuddle jumper” i.e. a huge sweater that was big enough for two people. This was such a classic example of the series, as the guests tried to one-up each another with great one-liners and jokes. There was a funny “demonstration” and lots of tangents and it was so worth it. The only other scene that would beat this one in the comedy stakes was when Kevin Bridges once appeared on the show and told his “home truth” about hiring a horse in Bulgaria (it’s fabulous, you should Google it).

This set doesn’t really have any special features which is a tad disappointing. There is a final episode where some of the unseen bits shot during the previous episodes are edited together to make a show. It’s not bad but it’s obvious why these parts played second fiddle to the ones that made it to the broadcast proper.

Would I Lie To You is a well-edited and well-shot panel program. It’s clever, funny and engaging. It’s also great fun to try and play along. This is a testament to how good a program it is that it will make an audience member feel like they’re included and can actually play along from the comfort of their lounge chair. In short, it’s British comedy gold.

Originally published on 31 August 2015 at the following website:

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From 1971 to 1987 two English comedians called The Two Ronnies were adored by fans. They would produce 12 TV series as well as various specials. Two of the latter include tributes that the comedians made to silent films. The Picnic and By the Sea have not been available as a stand-alone DVD release until now and it proves to be a double bill brimming with funny, farcical comedy.

The Picnic is a short and was the first of the two films to be produced. It stars the late Ronnie Barker (who also doubles as the writer of these two features) as a crusty, old general who takes his family to the Devon countryside. They are a ragtag bunch of eccentrics that include a cheeky, practical joke-playing schoolboy, an old stuffy lady, a busty blonde and Barker’s loveable and short sidekick named, Ronnie Corbett. Things seem fine and dandy although there are moments where the General must be questioning whether this seems like more trouble than what it was originally worth.

By The Sea was made some six years later and is more of a feature-length film. It includes many of the same cast members as previously and this time the oddball group are vacationing in Dorset on England’s south coast. Neither of these films include any dialogue (unlike the pair’s sketch comedy shows) but there are some muffled exchanges at different points to keep the story flowing. The two films often have recurring jokes, like in By the Sea where there is an errant beach ball and some broken chairs.

This comedy is very slapstick, visual and farcical and in some ways is like Benny Hill. It relies heavily on stereotypes and extremes and there is a lot of mistaken situations and overall shenanigans. These sketches are rather clever in this particular context (although there will be some people who may be left wanting something a little meatier and observational). The films both have good editing and the soundtracks are very upbeat and jovial and help celebrate this irreverent and saucy style of humour. The video quality is disappointing and looks like a VHS to DVD transfer but you can still enjoy the proceedings.

The Two Ronnies’ By The Sea and The Picnic offer up some great fun with two English funny men and a good support cast’s adventures in the great outdoors. The result is something rather quaint and silly that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a pleasant, British comedy double-bill that sees some naughty farce and quirky tomfoolery.

Originally published on 6 July 2015 at the following website:

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Before the National Lampoon lent their name to some terrible straight-to-video films they were ground-breaking. This comedy institution started as a spin-off magazine; graduated to books, radio and stage revues; and eventually yielded cult comedy films worthy of inclusion in Hollywood. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a funny and energetic documentary that celebrates the riotous history of this brand.

The film is directed by Douglas Tirola and is very well put together. It expertly goes through the background history and chronologically tells the group’s story. There is some swift-pacing, modern-day talking head interviews and lots of actual content from the National Lampoon- like fun photographs taken from the magazine, animations of some of these jokes and snippets from their live revues and radio programmes. Some of this footage is rare or has never been seen before and it shows how fearless, creative and funny the group were in their heyday.

The National Lampoon started after three Harvard graduates named Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman decided to do a spin-off of the Harvard Lampoon, the world’s oldest humour magazine. The founders were all very different characters and a lot of the magazine’s look and feel is attributed here to the late Kenney, a renowned workaholic with an intuitive sense for comedy. Many of the surviving writers, editors, comics and animators associated with the National Lampoon are interviewed for this film and they prove to be candid and naturally hilarious.

The alumni of the National Lampoon reads like a who’s who of comedy with: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and John Belushi just three actors to have appeared in their works. The writers meanwhile, boast no less than P.J. O’Rourke, Saturday Night Live’s Michael O’Donoghue, and Simpsons’ producers, Mike Reiss and Al Jean. The group’s biggest fans include: Meatloaf, Kevin Bacon, Judd Apatow, John Goodman and Billy Bob Thornton and they appear here and offer their praises.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon may not be the most comprehensive documentary but it is still an excellent look at the phenomenon that was the National Lampoon. It threads together lots of disparate elements and does this very well. It mostly revels in the glory days of the brand but it is also a cautionary tale of the destructiveness of fame and fortune. This film is ultimately a fun ride through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It is also a colourful and funny as it tracks the group’s subversive beginnings through to its shocking irreverence to eventually show the influential institution it became. In all, it’s a smart film that fits its creative and clever subject matter.


Originally published on 8 June 2015 at the following website:

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It’s lonely at the top and much-loved Australian comedian, Carl Barron is all too aware of this. In his feature film debut he takes a leaf out of his book of life spent on the road for the past two decades. The film is brave and has an interesting enough premise, but it is let down at times by some tired clichés and its plodding execution.

In Manny Lewis, Barron stars as a successful but disenfranchised comedian. The eponymous funny man can make thousands of people laugh at shows each night but fails to connect with a single girl and have a meaningful relationship. The story was conceived by Barron and co-written by him along with the film’s director, Anthony Mir. There is a very real sense of the isolation and loneliness that stems from a life spent perpetually on the road. It also means that it is hard to know where Lewis’ life ends and where Barron’s begins.

The film starts off in quite a melancholy way but it does lighten once the star meets a female love interest, the complex and beautiful, Maria (Leeanna Walsman of Looking For Alibrandi fame). But this lady is also harbouring a secret. At night she works for a sex hotline and uses the name Caroline. Lewis had previously called the number and pretended to be “Thomas” and the pair clicked so he continues ringing. Eventually, Maria discovers Thomas’ true identity and in subsequent phone calls she listens intently as Lewis describes his dates with “Maria” and takes on board and changes in response to the criticisms he makes.

The film boasts beautiful shots around Sydney including The Rocks, Kings Cross, Sydney Harbour and State Theatre. The latter is the scene for Lewis’ big stand-up show and this is what much of the film is structured around. Fans of Barron’s will appreciate these snippets of stand-up as this is essentially the wry and observational material Barron normally says and it is what audiences love and are most familiar with.

Manny Lewis throws up various questions and ideas. It sees its main character having to choose between pursuing a successful career and love as well as having to tackle his demons (including an abusive relationship with his father (Roy Billing of Rabbit Proof Fence fame). The key is that for Lewis to find love he must first come to like and appreciate himself.

Manny Lewis is a personal and intimate offering by Barron that is bittersweet. The film has some good jokes and lots of dramatic and melancholy moments. It feels real in its portrayal of a shy and reclusive comedian. Ultimately, this all combines for a film that is full of conflicting emotions and a modest look at an awkward funny man and his quiet life. And it doesn’t have anywhere near as much funny business as one would think.


Originally published on 11 March 2015 at the following website:

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David Williamson’s 1987 play and subsequent film, Emerald City is as relevant today as it was back then. The story is a satire based on two creative industries: filmmaking and book publishing. It looks at the dichotomy between producing something because it has creative or cultural significance or because it is a money-making machine that will do well commercially. It is an intriguing idea, even if the play itself is quite prolix.

The Griffin Theatre Company’s version, directed by Lee Lewis had previously played at the SBW Stables Theatre in Kings Cross and on Wednesday night it made its debut at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre. The story is told through a series of scenes/events as well as monologues where the characters reveal intimate details about their thoughts, motivations and mindsets. These parts are also broken up by eighties sound bites (including snatches of Yello’s “Oh Yeah” and Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”). These are complimented by two different rainbow-coloured backdrops of Sydney Harbour that are designed by the artist, Ken Done.

Emerald City is about Colin (Mitchell Butel), a rising script-writer and his wife Kate (Lucy Bell), a publisher with a strong moral conscience (or so it seems). The two leave their Melbourne home with their children in order to live in Sydney. The play begins with comparisons between the two towns and never has the following phrase about Sydney been so true: “It never rains, it buckets here”. This was one of Williamson’s many brilliant lines, which boasted equal amounts of wit, intelligence and interesting observation.

The couple were originally drawn to the “Emerald City of Oz” but they do face some difficulties in adjusting. Colin isn’t particularly keen on writing about a certain subject even though his long-time collaborator and producer, Elaine (Jennifer Hagan) is sure it will be a hit. Colin also attends his first industry party where he encounters the big-talking shyster and hack writer named Mike (Ben Winspear). The two work together on a project but it is Mike that ultimately reaps the biggest benefits. Ben Winspear is absolutely electric as the Bogan Mike. He steals scenes with his quick-talking, animated delivery. The other actors also put in good performances and they are supported by Kelly Paterniti and Gareth Yuen, playing Mike’s girlfriend and an investment banker, respectively.

Emerald City contains some very clever dialogue but it could have benefited from a little bit more action. The story is very much driven by the words delivered by the six different characters, which show these people at their nastiest and most difficult and vulnerable moments. The play is a comedy centred on human folly and shows how greed and money can exacerbate this. It is set in a period that promoted this idea – the eighties were the height of excess – and it is still an enjoyable and relatable slice of various home truths to this very day.


Originally published on 12 December 2014 at the following website:

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