17 Oct 2015
in Theatre Review
Tags: 25eight, a flower of the lips, assassinated, Australia, australian premiere, beautiful, burno aloi, calabrese, calabrese italians, calabria, celebration, committed family man, community theatre, dark, dark play, first world war, great-grandfather, immortalise, informant, intimate, ira seidenstein, italian, Jamila Hall, Kiki Skountzos, king st theatre, king street theatre, legacy, love letter, Marcella Franco, Meat Pies & Mortadella, Michelle De Rosa, morality, morals, murdered, newtown, passionate, play, private, review, reviews, right and wrong, Sydney, sydney playwright, symbolism, theatre, un fior di labbra, valentino musico, Vince Vozzo, wordy, world war 1, ww1, yiss mill
A Flower of the Lips (Un Fior di Labbra) may be a new play by Sydneysider Valentino Musico, but it’s also a love letter. It’s a biographical story about his great-grandfather, Bruno Aloi and is a love letter to this legendary man as well as Musico’s relatives, Calabria and Italy as a whole. This stark and bold play, which has its Australian premiere at the King Street Theatre raises many questions about divided loyalties and offers no easy answers.
This production is the fourth collaboration between Musico and director Ira Seidenstein, and the pair previously worked together on Meat Pies & Mortadella and 25Eight at Tap Gallery. The art direction is by Vince Vozzo, an eight-time finalist of the Wynne Prize. His main contribution is a large charcoal drawing that is the backdrop. This is particularly important as the show’s main character owned a charcoal works and the picture evokes the setting in the early 20th century and shows Italy’s then king, Victor Emmanuel III as well as Aloi’s ghost.
Musico was inspired to write the play after learning of the family legends and mystery surrounding his great-grandfather, Bruno Aloi. The latter’s life was cut short at age 34 and his death was never properly investigated. Aloi had been an informant to the Italian police, revealing the names of deserters from the army during the First World War, even if they were his own family members (and all this despite being a committed family man). This contributed to his being gunned down in his prime and leaving behind a wife and five children.
The show is quite simple. It’s a series of vignettes that reconstruct Aloi’s life and death, or at least what Musico learnt from his family’s memories as well as some archived papers from Italy. Four actors appear on the stage for the duration of the show with Yiss Mill as the actor/author, Musico narrating and signposting each event while Marcella Franco does a good job as the enigmatic Aloi. Michelle De Rosa is excellent, alternating between young male characters, Agostino and the Shepherd Boy as well as Aloi’s feisty wife, Rosaria. Jamila Hall and Kiki Skountzos round out the cast.
The play is full of symbolism but this may be lost on some audiences. The dialogue is peppered with some Italian words, which could make things difficult for individuals that don’t understand the language. The events all transpire in a kind of reverential semi-circle (to represent the church that Aloi built in Calabria) and the actors who are not actively taking part in the scene sit and watch the darkness unfolding. It’s an interesting idea but there are moments where things feel a bit too personal or private so the audience fails to understand the true meaning of the dialogue or feel part of the action.
Burno Aloi was an interesting man and A Flower of the Lips attempts to immortalise him and pay tribute to his legacy. It’s a dark play that poses many moral questions about the boundaries between what’s right and wrong. It’s also a passionate, beautiful and wordy epitaph and celebration of Calabrese Italians from the past, present and future.
Originally published on 9 October 2015 at the following website: http://www.stagewhispers.com.au/reviews/flower-lips
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08 Jun 2015
in Book Review
Tags: 30th nsw premier's award winner, beautifully-written, book, books, change, detailed, dr. pamela freeman, drama, emotional, engaging, grief, griefing, heroine, historic novel, hope, independent woman, longing, love, naive country girl, novel, novels, pamela hart, review, reviews, romance, ruby hawkins, strong, the soldier's wife, tragedy, true cost of war, war, whirlwind romance, world war 1, ww1, wwI
The Soldier’s Wife is an intimate tale about World War I. The book is the 30thone to be written by NSW Premier’s Award-winner, Pamela Hart (who has also published children’s and adult fantasy novels under the name, Dr. Pamela Freeman). This is ultimately an emotional story about love, change, hope, grief and longing.
The narrative is mostly told from the perspective of Ruby Hawkins. She is a naïve girl who used to work in her parent’s shop in Bourke. After a whirlwind romance to the dreamy Jimmy she decides to relocate to Sydney so they can get married and she can see him off before he goes over to fight at Gallipoli.
In Sydney, Ruby undergoes a massive transformation after she takes a job in a timber merchant’s yard. It’s a man’s world but Ruby is determined and she learns a lot of lessons along the way. Eventually she blossoms into a smart and strong, independent woman who seems before her time.
The war wages on and Ruby is comforted by Jimmy’s letters that are mostly filled with love and yearning. There is some grief and tragedy along the way and it is interesting to see how the characters deal with this. Hart does an excellent job with the characterisation here, as she really gets at the underlying emotions felt by all of the individuals. She also excels in providing historical context to the setting because it makes us understand what women could and couldn’t do and Ruby’s journey and internal struggle is very much framed by all of this.
The ending to The Soldier’s Wife is a little too swift. But that said, the rest of the book is very detailed and engaging as it really gets at the true cost of war. The Soldier’s Wife is full of characters that feel real and are easy to relate to. It’s a beautifully-written romance and historical fiction book that is entertaining and hits more high notes than low.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/the-soldier-s-wife/9262889
12 Apr 2015
in Film Review
Tags: a royal affair, activist, alicia vikander, beautiful, british, colin morgan, coming-of-age, complex, determined, devestation, drama, extraordinary spirit, feminist, film, films, frontline, gritty, haunt, headstrong, human suffering, independent woman, james kent, kit harington, misfortune, oxford, pacifist, period drama, raw, rebellious, resonate, respectful, restrained, review, reviews, role model, shines, sumptuous, taron egerton, testament of youth, trailblazer, upper middle class, vera britain, vera brittain, volunteer nurse, war, warm, well-crafted, western front, world war 1, world war I, world war one, ww1, wwI
Vera Brittain was a feminist trailblazer, pacifist and activist. Her memoir about World War I, Testament Of Youth, was a detailed account of her coming of age and experience as a volunteer nurse on the frontline.
Her story has recently received its second adaptation (the first was as a TV series decades ago), and while it’s not a seamless transition to the silver screen for director James Kent, it is still a good and worthy story.
This period drama stars Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) as the rebellious, headstrong and determined Brittain. Vikander absolutely shines in this role and encapsulates the heroine’s extraordinary spirit with a classy but respectful air as well as showcasing the full extent of her emotional struggles. Brittain is no saint but thanks to Vikander she is portrayed as an amazing, independent woman and role model.
The costumes in this film are quite sumptuous at times and the cinematography is warm and beautiful during the periods of peace, and raw and gritty during the war. Brittain had had a promising career awaiting her after she passed the Oxford entrance exam but she puts this all on hold after her brother Edward (Taron Egerton); his friend, Victor (Colin Morgan); and Brittain’s fiancé Roland (Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington) enlist and are sent to the Western front.
Testament Of Youth offers a unique, complex and female perspective on the devastation of war. It shows the life of an upper-middle-class British family and lovers struck by tragedy (and the Swedish-born Vikander does a great job with the accent). The film is well-crafted and mostly true to the memoir, and elegant and restrained in its telling. In short, this film is something that will continue to haunt and resonate; a touching reflection on the human suffering and misfortune that is typical of war.
Originally published on 8 April 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/testament-youth
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