BOOK REVIEW: PETER POLITES – DOWN THE HUME

 

When we think of an “Australian story” the ones that typically spring to mind are predominantly about the country, bush or the past. So what is a reader to do when they want something that reflects their own modern life in the Western suburbs of Sydney? Thankfully, Peter Polites has answered this in his debut novel, Down The Hume, one that seems like a likely successor to Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded.

Polites is the associate director of SWEATSHOP, a literary movement based in Western Sydney which is devoted to empowering marginalised communities. Polites was also a co-writer of the Sydney Festival show, Home Country, an epic story about culture and identity that was performed in a Blacktown carpark. When we consider Polites’ previous work it is unsurprising that he also brings his experiences as a young, homosexual man of Greek descent to his debut novel. The book’s main character Bux also has these same character traits, but Bux also loves a violent, abusive drug-enabler and gym-obsessed man named Nice Arms Pete.

Down The Hume is a little like a car speeding at full force along our nation’s famous highway from Sydney to Melbourne. The book is a complex one that negotiates important topics like machismo, hedonism and a deep sense of existential yearning. The text itself is also quite raw and confrontational. The story is told in the first person and you very much get the sense that you are along in the passenger seat for the ride with Bux, come what may.

We follow Bux through addiction to prescription medication, as well as some tender moments where he bonds with his mother (another person who had a “vanishing” and abusive man in her life) and a friendship with an elderly gentleman who he cares for at his nursing home job. Bux is a paranoid and jealous lover who takes to stalking his boyfriend Pete, whom he suspects of cheating.

Each of the chapters of the book are named after places in Sydney and sometimes these moments read like little vignettes or discrete episodes; Bux grapples with the implications and ideas of culture and identity as a man of Greek descent wearing an outfit typically worn by Middle Eastern men. In another moment he has to reconcile his position as a homosexual man with the weight of familial expectations on his head (in one flashback his family had assumed that he’d want to settle down with a nice girl and have a family.)

Down The Hume is a dark noir story. It uses sharp, street-wise language to create a multifaceted tale that reads like urban poetry. Peter Polites is ultimately a refreshing new voice in contemporary literature and his dynamic prose proves that there is so much more to Australian stories than the expected bush gangs, convicts and farms of yore.

Originally published on 13 March 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-peter-polites-down-the-hume-shakes-our-expectations-about-australian-stories/

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BOOK REVIEW: MARTIN SIXSMITH – AYESHA’S GIFT

ayesha

 

Ayesha’s Gift is a book that could also be called “Ayesha’s Curse” because it is brimming with sorrow. It’s the fictionalised account of the real-life events that saw Philomena author and former BBC foreign correspondent, Martin Sixsmith assist in investigating the death of a British-Pakistani man. The book is ultimately a rather multi-faceted detective tale where a murder is solved, cultures collide and a kind of quiet respect, empathy and trust is forged between two unlikely main characters.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201702/224417

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DVD REVIEW: PHOENIX

August .2013 Dreharbeiten zum CHRISTIAN PETOLD Film PHÖNIX mit Nina Hoss , Ronald Zehrfeld und Nina Kunzendorf Verwendung der Fotos nur in Zusammenhang mit dem Film PHÖNIX von Christian Petzold ( Model release No ) © Christian Schulz Mobil 01723917694

There’s more to the film, Phoenix than meets the eye. The story is an adaptation of the novel, Return from the Ashes and is set in Berlin after the Second World War. It’s is also a dark and disturbing tale about one Jewish woman’s journey home to Germany after she survived horrific injuries at Auschwitz.

 

The film is directed by Christian Petzold who adapted the story along with Harun Farocki. Phoenix is actually another collaboration between Petzold and lead actress, Nina Hoss (the pair worked together on Barbara and several other films). The latter is absolute captivating as Nelly Lenz, a singer who survived the Concentration Camps with disfiguring injuries. She has returned home a shell of a woman, mentally broken by the experience and bearing the physical scars of a gunshot wound to the face. Fortunately Lenz can have plastic surgery and while this can restore her looks, she will never look like she previously did (this premise does require a large suspension of disbelief).

Lenz is initially taken in by her friend Lene Winter (Nina Kunzendorf). Winter is well-meaning but she is also finding it difficult to live in Germany after everything that happened during the war. She tries to convince her friend to move to Palestine. But Nelly has other ideas, she’s still hopelessly devoted to her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) and she hopes to find him. The questions is, “Will Johnny be able to recognise Nelly?”

This film is a slow-burning one that is highly-charged and emotional, especially in the final scenes. It has a recurring jazz theme of Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash’s atmospheric song, “Speak Low”. It confronts the audience and forces them to ask some difficult questions about love, identity and betrayal. And while things can seem a tad implausible at times, the film does manage to hold its own thanks to some important performances (especially in the case of Hoss who manages to convey so much suffering and emotion in a simple, pained look or expression).

Phoenix is a raw and subtle film that has some things in common with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The ending is a little unsatisfying after such a tense and dramatic build-up but it is still a rich, detailed and original look at life immediately after World War II. In all, this is a nuanced film where knowledge is power and people may not be what they initially seem, which means it is set to keep the viewer on their toes.

Originally published on 7 May2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/phoenix-dvd-review/

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INTERVIEW: DIRECTOR, ADAM COOK ON A DOLL’S HOUSE

dollshouse

 

Former Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Adam Cook, will be adapting and directing Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House as part of the Seymour’s Reginald 2014 season and in collaboration with the independent theatre company, Sport for Jove. Natalie Salvo spoke to Adam about the production, which opens July 17th…

How would you sum up A Doll’s House in a few sentences?

The Helmers are all set to enjoy a prosperous new life together in their new home. Torvald has been promoted to a senior position at the bank and his wife Nora is thrilled. At last, they can put their financial troubles behind them. But their fragile happiness is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As the lies that Nora has told, and the risks that she has taken to protect her husband are exposed, they’re forced to question just how perfect their marriage really is. Now, it seems, only a miracle will set them free.

Playwright, Henrik Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. Do you have a favourite work of his?

I’ve always really loved his intensely focused chamber plays, like The Master Builder, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, and of course A Doll’s House. These are plays about big themes explored through boldly drawn characters.

What prompted you to adapt/work on A Doll’s House?

Damien Ryan, Artistic Director of Sport for Jove, the company for whom I am directing this production, invited me to choose a play that I would like to do at the Seymour Centre. We looked through the secondary school drama syllabus, wanting to choose a play that students were studying. We wanted to offer them an exciting production of the play, performed as it’s written. So it won’t be a re-write of the original play.

How will your production at the Seymour Centre differ from earlier adaptations of the show? Are you consciously trying to put a modern spin on this play?

I couldn’t yet predict how it will differ. I’ve seen some wonderful productions of the play. But I do know that our audiences will witness some brilliant acting and a riveting storyline. You don’t need to put a modern spin on a play whose concerns are timeless. The themes haven’t dated at all. We’re still facing the same problems, and I think we always will.

Do you have a favourite film or stage adaptation of A Doll’s House? If so, which one and why did you pick this particular one?

I don’t, actually, which is why I have written my own adaptation of the script. Each new production of a foreign-language classic needs a new translation of the text. The production will be set in its original period of the late 1800s, but the language will sound fresh and contemporary.

Journalist Michael Meyer once said that the play is not about women’s rights but rather, “The need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.” Do you agree?

I do. It’s not just the story of a woman, it’s the story of a marriage, of flawed characters in a flawed relationship. Ibsen said that “self-realisation is our greatest task and highest happiness.” He’s right. He’d been accused of being a pessimist, and he was, in that he didn’t believe in the absoluteness of human ideals. But at the same time he was an optimist, believing totally in the ability of humanity’s ideals to grow and to develop.

The Seymour Centre website asks audiences whether Nora Helmer is a heroic feminist, rabid neurotic, or just a selfish runaway? What do you think, is she any of these or something completely different?

I don’t think there’s anything heroic about Nora, and she’s not meant to represent the emancipation for all womanhood. It’s a play about one woman’s awakening to the life-lie she’s been leading. She finds that she is somebody else, and that she wants something else. She’s full of doubts about her relationship with her husband and about her own identity. She doesn’t know what’s right or wrong. She is completely confused, and in order to find clarity, she makes a bold and shocking decision.

Why do you think audiences should come and see A Doll’s House?

It’s such an exciting and suspenseful story, full of ambiguity of character, secrets and surprises. Nora Helmer is a woman of such fascinating contradictions and I think audiences will find her very intriguing indeed.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the AU review’s readers about A Doll’s House?

Please book tickets and support a wonderful independent theatre company, Sport for Jove!

 

Originally published on 19 June 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/adam-cook-a-dolls-house-at-the-reginald-theatre

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