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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Hakawati is a Sydney Festival show that allows you to be swept away to an Arabian night in Western Sydney. The show is a celebration of food and stories and is inspired by an Arabic tradition where storytelling is combined with breaking bread. This event will have its world premiere at the El- Phoenician restaurant in Parramatta. We at the AU Review talked to the show’s director and organiser, Wayne Harrison AM to learn more about Hakawati, the National Theatre of Parramatta and an event where a meal can offer much food for thought.


Can you briefly describe what your role is and how long you’ve been working in the theatre?

I had my first job in the theatre when I was seven, performing in a J C Williamson’s musical. I led a double life as a student and a thespian until I ran away from Melbourne University to join a circus. I thereafter became a journalist, a dramaturg, and a theatre director – I’m combining all three to create Hakawati, although the circus may be in there somewhere.

Can you briefly describe the premise behind the show Hakawati?

It’s ‘food and food for thought’.

Why do you think people should come and see the show Hakawati?

I hope it will be entertaining, maybe enlightening – and the El-Phoenician (Restaurant) food is exceptional. The format is: first course / followed by story / second course / story / third course / story / fourth course / story.

Hakawati is inspired by the tradition of story-telling and breaking bread as well as celebrating food, music and the telling of tales. What sorts of stories can people come to expect at this show? Will participants be encouraged to share some stories of their very own?

The stories will be contemporary with a ‘1001 nights twist’ – a bit of magic realism and generational conflict, with a cameo from the odd celebrity (appearing in words only). I’m sure the concept will generate a lot of audience stories, but at this stage the format only allows for the four official story-tellers to tell their tales.

Hakawati is all about food and stories. If you could invite any three guests to dinner (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Rogan Poulier, who was my best friend at school – he was of Sri Lankan descent, taught me a lot about telling stories in a different way, and never had a problem with my double life; Jacki Weaver, who’s always good value at a dinner party; and my mother, who never really forgave me for swapping uni for the circus – this might make up for it, a bit.

Is the Hakawati Sydney Festival live event related to the novel of the same name by Rabih Alameddine? Or do the two just use similar approaches to their art?
No, the Sydney Festival event is not related to the excellent novel. It has a crossover, in that it also concerns itself with parents and children – but we are grounded firmly in Granville south with a quick visit to Kellyville (where there’s a magic lamp).

You directed the Hakawati show at Sydney Festival. What is involved in directing a show like this one? Does this show actually have a script or is it improvised?

There are four scripts – one for each Hakawati, though the fourth story is a bit of a group effort. The direction for this sort of show is all in the casting, i.e. finding four actors who can sustain complex story-telling, create all the characters, set the various moods, find the humour and the other emotional moments, take us all on the journey, invite the audience to help tell the story. I can help in this, too, but it’s mainly the actors.

Can you briefly tell us about the National Theatre of Parramatta (NTofP)? Is there anything else relating to this theatre company that you’d like to plug?

NTofP is “putting the nation on stage”, helping tell a few stories that might not necessarily get a guernsey (or look-in) elsewhere. It’s also like a door, one that new talent, or individuals new to the theatre, can knock on and enter.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of The AU Review about Hakawati or any other upcoming events?

Well, the stage version of Felicity Castagna’s award-winning The Incredible Here and Now is coming – life and death on the streets of Parramatta and beyond – and David Williams’ Smurf in Wanderland – a take on what happens when a Sydney FC supporter frequents Western Sydney Wanderers’ footy matches. Both are NTofP productions.

Photo credit: Luke Stambouliah

Hakawati has its world premiere at the El-Phoenician Restaurant in Parramatta from January 11 – 21 as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival. For more information and tickets please visit:

Originally published on 21 December 2016 at the following website:

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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:




Henry Lawson and Mary Gilmore are two famous, Australian writers. But what people may not realise is that the pair were also lovers and secretly betrothed. This information has only come to light in the couple’s surviving letters and in Gilmore’s memoirs and forms the basis of a new play titled, All My Love. It’s a show adapted for the stage by Anne Brooksbank and promises to be an intense and tragic love story.

The AU Review sat down with All My Love’s director, Denny Lawrence to talk about the play, Australian history and famous couples from yesteryear.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? How long have you been working in the arts industry?

I started as a child actor in theatre and did some television in early adolescence. Then I applied to NIDA out of high school and after my time there worked as an actor in theatre and television before starting to direct in theatre. After a few years, I decided to move into directing film and television, so I applied to AFTRS and was accepted. Since graduating I have worked in all three media as writer, producer and director.

Can you briefly describe All My Love?

This is a poignant story of two of Australia’s iconic literary figures: Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson and their little-known secret betrothal.

All My Love tells the untold love story of two famous Australian writers, Henry Lawson and Mary Gilmore. Does the show feature many quotes from their actual, individual works? Are there any famous ones in particular that you’d like to discuss for us?

They were both so prolific it was hard to include very many of their poems (let alone Henry’s short stories) but writer Anne Brooksbank has cleverly used some of Mary’s poems as a kind of ‘sub-text’ in the narrative and it is especially evocative to hear the passion Mary expressed in her work.

Why do you think audiences should come and see All My Love?

The story is historically significant yet quite relevant to a contemporary Australian audience. It is great getting to know more about these highly regarded cultural figures – and most of all to experience their relationship, which continued throughout their lives until Henry’s premature death.

Do you have a favourite scene in the production? What’s it about and why did you choose this one?

There are so many but perhaps one favourite is the scene where Mary and Henry meet after he has been away at the West Australian goldfields and she believes (wrongly) that he has not written to her. It reveals the key turning point in their relationship – and the tragedy of their never getting together. Anne has written it with tremendous insight, as well as humour. Henry’s weaknesses come out, so he is seen as more than just the great artist: he was also a flawed man.

Do you have a favourite piece of text or a favourite quote from either Lawson or Gilmore? Why did you pick this particular one?

Again, there are so many – but possibly this piece of Mary’s that so well sums up her strength of character, her stoicism:
Never admit the pain
Bury it deep,
Only the weak complain,
Complaint is cheap.
Cover thy wound, fold down
Its curtained place,
Silence is still a crown,
Courage a grace.

The show stars Kim Denman (Neighbours) and Dion Mills (It’s A Date). How did the actors prepare for their roles?

They both did a massive amount of research. I think they each read everything their characters ever wrote! They also read historical accounts of the time, and Kim was able to listen to some extensive radio interviews that Mary did late in her life, which were a great help to her.

All My Love sounds like a sad romance tale. If you could invite any couple from history to dinner who would it be and why?

What an interesting question! And another one about which it is hard to be selective. I have actually co-written a play about the weekend that Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier had Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller to stay. That would be a great dinner!

The play is taking place at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres. The suburb itself was in the news fairly recently because they had found some historic relics buried there. Does the location of the play have any sort of impact on the show? Does it produce better performances in the actors?

Parramatta is one of the few places in Sydney that still has some sense of history. I know that both Kim and Dion are keen historians and will react to that find with interest. As to affecting their performance, I think it is all about responding to the live audience as they enter the imagined world we have all created together. That is the great thing about theatre.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about “All My Love” or any of your other upcoming projects?

My next two projects are both for HIT Productions: Educating Rita, starring Colin Moody. Great play, great actor. And then I direct Always Patsy Cline – about another real person, the wonderful Country singer of the title. I believe that show will be playing at Riverside.

Originally published on 12 February 2016 at the following website:

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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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