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AH, WILDERNESS!

AH, WILDERNESS!

By Diana Simmonds Review Posted on May 22 2015

AH, WILDERNESS! Young Vic, 14 April-23 May 2015. Photography by Johan Persson: above: George MacKay and Dominic Rowan; right: David Annen and Janie Dee.

Eugene O’Neill wrote only one play that could (and has been) described as a comedy and after sitting through the very long 110 minutes of Ah, Wilderness!  one can see why he stuck to tragedy and melodrama. Written in 1933, some seven years before Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the play for which it’s apparently a prequel, it’s also set in the summer clapboard cottage on the Connecticut seashore of the playwright’s boyhood memory, on which he wistfully looks back.

How do you we know he’s wistfully looking back? Director Natalie Abrahami has added an O’Neill look-alike (David Annen) who alternates looking wistful with scribbling in a notebook and vaguely taking part at various points. His participation becomes momentarily central in the second half when he is required to carefully sweep the downstage area clear of sand in order that a pond may be filled with water. Watching an actor spend many minutes diligently wielding a broom is one of the less interesting ways of passing time, and this bit of housework acting is no exception.

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THE FATHER

THE FATHER

By Diana Simmonds Review Posted on May 20 2015

THE FATHER, Theatre Royal Bath Productions and the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn; 18 May 2015. Photographs: Claire Skinner and Kenneth Cranham.

Written by Florian Zeller, this 90-minute work won the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play on its debut in Paris. Translated into English by Christopher Hampton and first staged in Bath before transferring to north London, its UK reviews have reflected the prize: four and five stars and much critical ecstasy. 

It was difficult to see why it’s such a hit, however, unless a play described in its blurb as “an intriguing and compelling black comedy” in which the audience rarely laughed is mainly mesmerising because it’s about a topic – dementia – that’s thundering at breakneck speed towards a sizeable proportion of the population.

 
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STORM BOY (2015)

STORM BOY (2015)

By Diana Simmonds Review Posted on May 17 2015

STORM BOY, Sydney Theatre Company and Barking Gekko at Wharf 1 and touring. Photography by Brett Boardman - above: Otis Pavlovic and Anthony Mayor; (right) Jimi Bani and Otis Pavlovic.

BY FELICITY DAYHEW (age 11 and who saw the original production) and her brother JAMES (9) who did not.

Starting out with a bang and flashing lights, you get the impression there is a storm. After it’s over a small door to a hut, or “humpy” as Fingerbone Bill of course calls it, comes into view. A small beaten up boat is near that, as well two old chairs and an upside down barrel as a table. 

Suddenly the door flies open and a boy with what looks like his father comes out. The boy wants to go over to the beach to see if there are any interesting things from the storm. His father doesn’t want him to go but finally gives in and lets him go. When he goes he meets a man named Fingerbone Bill. After that he finds some baby pelicans with no mother and takes them home.

 
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AU CONTRAIRE - A CORRECTION

AU CONTRAIRE - A CORRECTION

By Diana Simmonds Feature Posted on May 15 2015

After the stories about the arts minister and his largesse, the following was received from Leo Schofield

“The one-off grant from Senator Brandis was NOT to facilitate the move of Hobart Baroque to Brisbane. it was specifically to fund the inclusion in the festival of young Australian musicians.

“Hobart Baroque is not my festival. It is a joint initiative of executive producer Jarrod Carland and me. it was funded initially by us with a grant from the former Labor Government of Tasmania and de-funded by the current Liberal government there. The move to Brisbane as at the invitation of a group of Queensland cultural institutions and tourism marketing bodies – QPAC, Tourism and Events Queensland, Brisbane Marketing, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Conservatorium of Music, the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School with additional support from private donors.

“No journalist likes to admit and error but I would be grateful for a correction.”

On the contrary, Leo, happy to know the $100k was for young musicians, and happy to pass on the information and your clarifications. It doesn't alter the overall argument, however.

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WE LOVE IT GEORGE, YES REALLY

WE LOVE IT GEORGE, YES REALLY

By Diana Simmonds Feature Posted on May 14 2015

Sorry to have to bring up a story from the Daily Mail (14 May) but according to it, Arts Minister George Brandis, “believes Australia's art sector is ‘extremely enthusiastic’ about a redirection of $105 million from an independent body to his own program.”

Let’s examine this statement for a minute.

The one-time lawyer is naturally a master of WeaselSpeak and what he makes into an ominous-sounding “independent body” is of course the dear old Australia Council. Not exactly a bunch of crazed anarchists who make off with our hard-earned cash each year and hand it out to Janette Howard-approved ballet schools.

Let’s just get this straight. The Australia Council (forgive me if you know this already but it’s clear from everything he says the Arts Minister does not) is “independent” – yes! It was set up by a long-gone and wise man – Nugget Coombs, look him up children – to be funded from the public purse but, crucially and always, independent of government interference.

 
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BY GEORGE HE'S GOT IT!

BY GEORGE HE'S GOT IT!

By Diana Simmonds Feature Posted on May 14 2015

In Venice (above) Rupert Myer, chair of the Australia Council, Senator George Brandis, Minister for the Arts, Simon Mordant, Commissioner for the Australian exhibition at the Venice Biennale and Cate Blanchett.

Sickening how our politicians are only too eager to have photo ops with the likes of Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness when it’s suits them (viz to wit Tony Abbott and adoption laws); and Cate Blanchett (pictured here with arts minister George Brandis at the opening of the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last week). But god help them – Cate in particular – if she does anything beyond diplomatic window dressing. (Remember the 20-20 Summit – how dare she have an opinion? And more recently, speaking at Gough Whitlam’s memorial – outrageous.)

Give a quid to know what she’s thinking today after turning out for Australia in Venice. And all the while the Senator’s unctuous smile was concealing $104.7 million in funding cuts to the Australia Council that would be announced just days later.

Not just funding cuts but a grab of that money for his own personal purview. This is an astonishing action, even by the standards of this federal government. The purpose is something called the “National Programme [sic] for Excellence in the Arts” and it will be administered by the Arts Ministry, that is, the Minister himself.

 
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