Monday, December 23, 2013

The Call of Aurora

By Kylie Eastley

When it seems that the whole of Hobart is at the beach, I am amongst a small audience in the Peacock Theatre to experience an intriguing show inspired by Douglas Mawson's expedition to Antarctica.

Let's just get it out there from the beginning; opera can be hard to both stage and watch. While The Call of Aurora had some definite highlights I found it difficult to enjoy.
Sir Douglas Mawson (photo courtesy of

My foray into opera includes a strange and painful experience watching and reviewing Beijing opera a few years ago, a more recent trip to MONA cinema to watch Maria Stuarda by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the many years listening to Maria Callas, Pavarotti and other popular opera performers.

That's my experience of opera; aside to say...that I really like it. Even in my brief encounters I have felt the human voice hit my heart, wrap itself around me and make me feel extraordinary.

The Call of Aurora is the story of Sir Douglas Mawson; his fellow explorers, his fiance and the extreme conditions the men endured in Antarctica. December 2013 is the 100 year anniversary of Mawson boarding the Aurora and returning to Hobart after 2 years stranded.

The show is made up of 4 parts; a prologue and three scenes, with an interval after Act One. On a relatively bare stage the quintet is positioned front of stage with conductor and music director, Gary Wain. Joining the musicians are Philip Joughin playing Mawson, Jamie Scott as Sydney Jeffryes, Jennifer O'Halloran playing Paquita Delprat and Auror (the spirit of the south) and Nick Monk is cast as Mertz, Madigan and the ghost of Robert Falcon Scott.

The champion of this production is the musical composition and the performance by the quintet. It is exquisite. Many times I closed my eyes just to listen to the music. Written by Joe Bugden, the music and libretto is superb; cleverly incorporating the whimsical with the more intense arrangements. It encapsulates the sense of insanity that must swim through the minds of those explorers who find themselves in such an alien and unforgiving environment.

This show would have benefited enormously from improved design. Still and moving images were projected onto screens at the rear of the stage, however, I found the positioning of these as well as the selection and quality of the moving images a distraction from the performers, rather than adding to it. At other times, particularly later in the production, the images worked to create atmosphere and narrative, but it was inconsistent and needed more direction. Similarly the lighting design did not give justice to the performers or story. Perhaps this was due to limitations at the Peacock Theatre, but whatever reason, it was disappointing, especially as the subject matter would lend itself to some fantastic imagery.

Nick Monk was the stand out in this production. His voice was rich, full of expression and he characterised his 3 roles extremely well. He engaged with the audience and provided variation and movement in his performance.

Alternatively, I found Philip Joughin's depiction of Mawson very static and passionless. As the lead character, this was disappointing and I was confused as to whether the standoffish and unemotional portrayal was intentional. Jennifer O'Halloran's voice was beautiful. I feel that her performance would have benefited from improved design and direction of movement on stage to better represent her roles.

Jamie Scott was at his best in the final scene. Portraying the wireless operator, Sydney Jeffryes, Scott brought reality to this role. It was earthy, gritty and slightly uncomfortable. All vital ingredients for the portrayal of a man slowly going mad.

There were lots of moments in this production that I enjoyed. It was beautiful when Joe Bugden, as one of the explorers in the hut, was gathered with the other men. They were playing cards, writing, listening to the wireless and he picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing. It was simple, emotive, and just right. After a few minutes, the quintet joined in and it made for one of the more successful scenes.

It is a priority for opera performers to keep time with the orchestra. However, there were times throughout the last scene particularly where the constant glancing towards to the conductor, for timing cues, was very noticeable and distracting and broke the required tension in the narrative.

The conductor, Gary Wain did an amazing job and he and his musicians; Jill Norton, Derek Grice, Nara Denis, Magnus Turner and Calvin McClay should all be congratulated.

Mawson's story deserves to be told and opera could be the medium, but The Call of Aurora requires more refinement as a production to do this successfully.

The Call of Aurora was performed for a brief season at The Peacock Theatre, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Green Room

By Thomas Connelly

In my utopia, art would be intimate. Art would compel people to think. Art would take place in interesting venues. The Green Room gave me a taste of my utopian dreams.

In this work, The Green Room, Jane Longhurst and Dylan Sheridan were able to create something challenging and invigorating. They have made the overture to an endless and communal symphony, that each of us can carry and add to daily. 

On a sunny first day of summer I drove to a much ignored historical part of Hobart, the Victoria Gunpowder Magazine on the Queens Domain.

I arrive early, and entertain myself with a stroll along Soldiers Memorial Avenue. A bleak and silently beautiful memorial to those sacrificed in the Great War . Alone but for the wind on my face and the song of the birds, this quiet futility of war moment places me in the right frame of mind for the Green Room

The audience is led to an intimate dance floor . A woman is dressed in black:. is she a servant or a mourner? As she endlessly sweeps the floor with her old fashioned broom, Dylan Sheridan's modulated rumblings signal a dreamy twilight entrance and a beginning. A theatre of gesture and sound follows, filling the abandoned space and transmuting the audience. Minimal lighting adds a thrilling unity. 

Years ago punks prided themselves on breaking the distance between performer and audience. The Green Room extends this idea. The audience becomes the performance. The rustling of clothing - the string section, shifting feet - percussion, breathing - woodwind. Peristaltic motion forms the brass section, breaks down barriers, and at the same time raises questions and the audience becomes part of the performance. What is meant to be heard? What is performance? What is real?

Jane Longhurst performs a silent dance; her movements layering questions and her very being becomes ambiguous. A ghost of the long empty gunpowder magazine? An echo of the forgotten Crimean War? The fear of Tsarist expansion? The endless domestic labour of women? Or is her sweeping structure for the soundscape?

The performance doesn't end, rather it fades and changes location. Walking away from the keyboard, doors open and the audience slowly melts away, a simulated ending. Once everyone has left the room Jane finishes her sweeping and her dance. And we are outside in the light and the real world. Off in the distance a band plays, birds sing, conversation flows. The performance continues without end. 

In all this was a fabulous production; a subtle and revolutionary work. Simple and complex, artless and polished, all at once. Equal parts theatre, dance, installation and composition. All bundled up with questioning strings, in a appropriate and interesting venue. A venue that not only allows intimacy, but forces intimacy upon the audience and performers alike. 

Congratulations to the Salamanca Arts Centre's HyPe (Hybrid Performance) Program for nurturing innovation and allowing this and many other vigorous performances to be created in and around the local area. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

She’s Not Performing

Tasmanian Theatre Company
Backspace Theatre , Hobart
Written by Alison Mann
Directed by Belinda Bradley

Gai Anderson

Based on research done in the lead up to the National Apology for Forced Adoptions She’s not Performing follows the story of Margarite, one ordinary woman, who 25 years on, is still unable to reconcile her experience of forced adoption. Onstage we watch the consequences of this as her life and sanity unravel before us.

Starting slowly with vignettes alternating from dream sequences to reality, this very tightly written story gives nothing away. Gradually revealing the inner torment of this otherwise seemingly very ordinary women, tension builds palpably as the dark desperation of her hidden trauma begins to seep out, and we wonder how it will all end as her behaviour spirals out of control.

This may sound all too heavy, but its not, as this woman is very real, and the slow revelation of her twisted psycho - sexuality are revelatory rather than clichéd. It certainly gave me some food for thought, whilst for the  most part keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Directed by Belinda Bradley, the pacing is exquisite. The surreal scenes of the protagonist’s inner world in particular are very cleverly realised, with support of striking atmospheric sound and lighting designs of Matt Warren and Jason James. With strong performances from all the caste, in the challenging role as Margarite, Sara Pensalfino managed to walk the fine line between her characters traumatic disconnection from life and her sometimes necessary seeming lack of energy on stage in a very perceptive performance.

I had to push past the crowds that were pouring in the front door of the Theatre Royal for its latest panto-spectacular, to get to the BackSpace on Friday Night. So it was somewhat of a shock to be amongst less than 20 audience members for this riveting show. I could not help but wonder at the future and importance of such locally created theatre reflecting our own stories back to us. Not that I have anything against pantomimes  but it was a stark contrast, and She’s Not Performing is an impressive and powerful show.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

She's Not Performing

By Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

Alison Mann’s first full-length play, She’s Not Performing, weaves a handful of lives around its central issue: the long-term impacts and aftermaths of forced adoption. The play broils with the anger and loss which is a daily part of life for Margarite (Sara Pensalfini), decades after giving up her daughter for adoption. Her unresolved pain ricochets and reverberates violently into her relationships with both her current boyfriend Ian (Campbell McKenzie), and also Hamish (Joe Clements), a connection from her past. Bryony Geeves completes the quartet as Annie, a young stripper Margarite becomes preoccupied with (thinking perhaps Annie could be her daughter).
Image courtesy Theatre Royal website

Director Belinda Bradley has handled some of the most sensitive scenes gently, allowing the story to bleed from its characters at just the right pace, and integrating a sometimes addictively claustrophobic and suitably nightmarish soundscape by Matt Warren. In other places, however, the actors don’t yet seem to feel comfortable in their roles, and a certain hesitance and lack of connection to the text occasionally forms a barrier to audience empathy. The minimalist design and moody yet unpretentious lighting serve effectively as each of the different settings, but also leave the actors quite naked (sometimes literally) in the moments where they are not yet at ease.

The production is at its strongest during the scenes that depart from reality in one way or other: in dreams, memories, flashbacks, fantasies. During these sections the cast seem more willing to take risks, the dialogue – perhaps ironically – sounds more real, and all the production elements come together powerfully.

The season should bring more cohesion to the relationships and allow the actors to fully embody their roles, as well as develop the moments of humour in the script which cautiously poked their way through the fury in this opening-night performance.

She’s Not Performing is presented by Tasmanian Theatre Company and will continue at the Theatre Royal Backspace until November 29, 2013. 

A Cloud in Sawtooth

A cloud can never die: Ice, water, mist
Phoebe McDonald (QLD)
Sawtooth ARI, @Sawtooth Pop-up #Exhibition
by Patrick Sutczak

I move around the walls of the @Sawtooth space. The gallery is closed. The fluorescents are off but there is ample morning light washing in from skylights above. I have come to meet someone but I am purposefully early so that I can revisit the work by Phoebe McDonald for a second time in silence.

 I pause at each photograph and peer in, perhaps trying to let the frame and the wall behind it dissolve in an attempt to transport myself into the isolation. It doesn’t work of course. I am not going anywhere. These images in the first instance (or even the second) are of familiar things - beautiful things to be sure, but familiar all the same. Distant and precious, the Arctic ice is the very epitome of global conservationist imagery. Lose that and we lose everything. From National Geographic to Instagram, the ice is never far away. It is certainly easy (forgivable even) to see the images for what they appear to be.

With A cloud can never die however, I look more closely and see something else entirely. I continue to visit each photograph and the next, and then I go back to each one again. I know that I am not simply looking at the ice, but rather the light upon the ice at play with a complex series of natural convergences. McDonald has an impressive eye, and an enviable patience. Nature rarely behaves the way we want it to, yet McDonald has recorded images that portfolio her artistic research interests.

The works on exhibition on the walls of the @Sawtooth space are not only stunning for their subject matter, but for their compositional integrity through vision and decision. Landscapes are so often passed through and never lived in, and this is why I think the artist pulls the breaks for us, places a hand upon our chin, turns our head from forward and says ‘Look’.

This is what I am seeing as I move around the walls – the unpredictability of natural forces and the fleetingness of light. Set within the frame is the moment that McDonald placed her finger on the button and captured the instant her heart beat the loudest. Amidst the inevitable change and conditional circumstances witnessed by being there, was a moment that sang to her, or so I believe. With the ever-changing ice, the turbulence of a shifting landscape, the hovering mist and the seductiveness of water, these elements seem to appeal to McDonald’s ongoing fascination with shadow, sunlight, and the subtle transformation of natural landscapes.

This review was first published on the Sawtooth Ari website

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The unSUITable CASE of me

By Thomas Connelly

I went to the historic Sorell Memorial Hall on Friday night to see The unSUITable CASE of me, a touring production supported by Tasmania Performs. The music was by Dean Stevenson, an accomplished singer and songwriter who is also a tutor at the Hobart Conservatorium of Music. The story was by Finegan Kruckemeyer a playwright who has had 65 plays produced. So it was with high expectations of a distinguished parentage that I saw this work.

The stage was simple, yet effective. As this is a show that is touring around our Apple Isle it is important to have a clean, simple, easily moved set. An uncomfortable chair, a lamp, a few cases here and there; bits and bobs made up the set. Designed by Selena de Carvalho the set succeeded in creating the atmosphere of someone on the edge of a leave-taking.

Everything in the play combined to create the idea of a journey. This was the focus of the work. A young man, recently separated from his lover goes out into the world to get back into himself. This allows the hero to move across space and time thinking about his life and the choices he made, or had been made for him. Searching for that impossible moment that can be played again, but differently this time making everything better.

The music was performed by a string quartet; Yeun Yum violin, Jeremy Williams viola, Timmothy Osborne cello and Hamish Houston double bass. This was for me the highlight. There is very little I enjoy more than listening to, and watching, a string quartet. The flowing sounds of the strings mesmerise, while it is a feast for the eye to see the various techniques the musicians use to create the range of sound. Striking, bowing, plucking all add to a soundscape that is as much a conversation between the instruments as it is the background for singing.

The story itself is a simple one of loss and reconciliation; the hero reconciling with himself and, at the end, meeting her and reconciling the broken relationship. No final conclusion is made as to their reunion and in the best tradition this point is left hanging, allowing the audience to make that determination themselves.

As the broken hearted man, Dean Stevenson used his voice and his movements on stage, to show the pain of heart break that most know only too well. In all it reminded me of the album Dark Side of the Moon or Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom.

This work understands that period of life, usually in the late twenties or early thirties, when one realises that the dreams of childhood will never come to pass. That one will never be an astronaut, nor will one ride off into the sunset with a woman with long red hair. None of us will live happily ever after.

The unSUITable CASE of me is currently touring regional Tasmania as part of Tasmania Performs. More information at

Monday, November 18, 2013


Theatre Royal
15 November 2013

Lucy Wilson

Award-winning Bubble Wrap & Boxes, by Melbourne physical theatre company Asking For Trouble, is a delightful show with the best gruesome faces I’ve ever seen.

Artfully crafted for children, the work by performers and devisors Christy Flaws and Luke O’Connor had the kids enthralled and laughing for nearly an hour. The comic timing and element of surprise was spot on in this daringly simple and powerfully evocative show.

The set is made of brown cardboard boxes, seemingly in a haphazard arrangement. A theme of reading random letters and postcards creates intersections of instant cultural travel, enhanced by suggestive musical transitions and a warm colourful lighting design.

The show is a playful flow of fooling around with a wind-up toy, a feather duster and nifty sequences of throw and catch with boxes of varying sizes. The characters perform circus-esque acrobalance, and their sweet and quirky contrasting styles grow on the audience throughout the show. Christy Flaws contorts and sculpts her deliciously gruesome monster expressions out of her otherwise very pretty face at skilful intervals, keeping the joke alive and very amusing.

“This is a funny show,” my four-year-old frequently repeated, while my two-year-old was intrigued by an Australia Post box which mysteriously descends and ascends a couple of times from the ceiling. There was a fleeting moment of “I’m scared” which evaporated with the ongoing playfulness.

Bubble Wrap & Boxes was refreshingly untechnical and didn’t try to cater for or please adult intellects. The joy for parents, grandparents and carers was to hear the laughter of so many children as the whole audience experienced beautiful and hilarious theatre. I almost forgot about the bubble wrap… but go see the show and compare the different ways it pops.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Grand-Final Eve at the Ballet

"I'm surprised there are so many men here." remarked the dumpy little Englishman on my right. "You'd think they'd be home watching the football". Then the curtain went up on a stage full of ballerinas in classical white, convincing us they really were snowflakes dancing to the music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

The Imperial Russian Ballet Company was formed in 1994. It includes dancers from ballet companies from all over the world and its repertoire consists of well-known classics. This year's tour features highlights from some of their full-length productions.

Reading the programme I was reminded a little of a Gala Concert I once attended in Prague – it was a performance for tourists, and they managed to cram the familiar bits of about thirty five major pieces into forty minutes, with pause for applause in between. My fears were soon allayed, however.

The first part of the programme consisted of various pieces from Nutcracker, with plenty of colour and movement. The Chinese Dance in particular was very bouncy and verging on quite silly. I even managed not to think (well, not very much) about Disney's mushrooms in Fantasia.
This was a slight problem. Music that is thoroughly familiar carries with it many memories and associations, and all that cultural baggage can be distracting. Still, ballet is absolutely about the dance, isn't it? So I set aside all former experiences with Ravel's Bolero, which was a good idea as after this evening I'm never going to hear it the same way again.

According to the programme notes, Ravel was inspired by a visit to a factory where he picked up the monotonous rhythms of the production line and the thuds and bangs of heavy machinery.
The composer did great things with it, weaving a strange, oriental melody over the mechanical rhythm. The choreographer N. Androsov exploited this dissonance, blending angular, repetitive movements with sudden leaps and whirls which become more and more frenetic as the music crescendoes to its crashing climax.
This has to be the most blatantly sexual piece of music ever written. Add to it a stage full of incredibly beautiful, athletic young people in sinister, flowing, gold-lined black robes performing an arcane pagan ritual dance . . . Miley Cyrus may as well give up and go home.

"Torville and Dean performed to that." the helpful little Englishman informed me. I suppose somebody had to say it.

After the second interval we watched a "trailer" for Don Quixote, which the Company will be presenting in its entirety in their tour next year, and I, for one, will be saving up for a ticket! This was followed by a series of short pieces where individual dancers or couples were able to show off some of their most spectacular artistry.

I seldom attend the ballet and am far from being an afficionado. If there was a false step or a hiccup in the timing, I remain blissfully unaware, being totally swept up in the spectacle. Dancer after dancer sprang high in the air, spun on point, twisted their body into elegantly impossible positions. High-energy performances to The Corsair and Gopak, the Ukranian dance from Soloviev-Sedoi's Taras Bulba with plenty of incredible high leaps, left me – let alone the dancers – gasping for breath.

Ne Me Quittes Pas
For the William Tell Overture everyone dressed as fashionable ladies or jockeys, bounding around the stage on imaginary horses (don't think of the Lone Ranger OR Gangnam Style, please). Other excerpts included the romantic and poignant Giselle, San Saens' Dying Swan, a lovely solo to Ne Me Quittes Pas and as finale Offenbach's Can Can, with the tallest male dancer camping it up hilariously in drag among the Can Can dancers and roués. Everybody in the audience clapped along with great enthusiasm.

The Imperial Russian Ballet Company treated us to an evening of lavish costumes and the beauty and precision that only comes from dedication, discipline and extreme physical development. If you are excited by magnificent muscular bodies, excitement and energy combined with awesome physical prowess, forget the footy grand-final. You can get all that, plus grace, artistry, colourful outfits and stirring music in much more comfort at the ballet.
My English neighbour agrees. Ballet beats football on all counts.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013



The word “immigration” is displayed in lights above each pair of a row of double frosted-glass doors. A dispirited elderly man in charity-bin clothing – too-large trousers, shabby old-fashioned brown sports jacket - listens to a disembodied voice from a loudspeaker informing him that he has entered the country illegally and must suffer the mandatory penalty – death. 

Fortunately, although some members may secretly applaud the idea, not even our new Government's Asylum Seeker policy goes quite as far as the opening scene of A Comedy of Errors.

It's always fun to see a fresh take on a well-known classic, and this time Shakespeare's ridiculously over-the-top story of separated twins, mistaken identities, outraged women and eventual family re-union is set, ostensibly, in Kings Cross. The Bell Shakespeare Company has created a surreal and sleazy world of suspicion, double-dealing, physical violence, sex, superstition and religion where employees are beaten with impunity, police officers obligingly arrest people on request, and time is manipulated to suit the plot.

Dromio of Ephesus (Hazem Shammas),  Antipholus of
Ephesus (
Septimus Caton),  Angelo (Demitrios Sirilas)
and  Balthasar (
Anthony Taufa) discuss business
The frosted glass doors become in turn entrances to pawnshops, brothels, nightclubs, an apartment block and finally an abbey. Shadows moving behind the glass suggest lewd and suspicious characters lurking in the background. 

There are ladies of the night of questionable gender, “merchants” who surely deal in substances other than gold, a gangster Duke whose command must be obeyed and various other dubious figures – the ten-person cast make a lot of very quick costume changes!

Doors also provide plenty of opportunity for standard slapstick situations: pratfalls as people run into them, other people hiding behind them, almost the entire company at times chasing each other in and out of them. 
The comedy is fast-paced and beautifully timed, in particular the chase scene. Everybody, getting completely off their faces at a disco, huddles together for a drunken group "selfie". Only when inspecting the result do the women realise the two men they have been pursuing are right there - in their photograph! The chase resumes . . . 

Antipholus of Syracuse (Nathan O'Keefe) and Luciana
(Jude Henshall) share an intimate moment
with a washing machine
Nathan O'Keefe and Septimus Caton play the Antipholus twins, becoming progressively more confused, angry and alarmed as strangers hail them as old friends and friends attribute to them conversations they can't recall.

 Renato Musolino and Hazem Shammas, in Bogan uniform of beanie, flannie shirt, runners and trackie dacks, are the Dromio twins and play the Shakespearean ill-treated clown with the appropriate mix of enthusiasm, indignation, resentment and bad puns.

As Adriana, Elena Carapetis is splendid in skin-tight leopard-print top with matching car-to-bar heels, and Jude Henshall as Luciana makes her entrance reclining on a tanning bed wearing a very skimpy bikini and a large set of headphones. They both succeed in being delightfully dreadful.

Suzannah McDonald is very funny as both the Courtesan and Emelia; I particularly enjoyed her lisping Abbess.

The Courtesan (Suzannah McDonald), makes up her
mind to visit Adriana
Combined with the formal language of Shakespeare, the incongruity of exaggeratedly showy and tasteless costumes and twenty-first century sun bed, washing machine, exercise bike, ping-pong tables, digital cameras and mobile phones transports us to a dystopian alternative reality where the ludicrous series of misunderstandings and coincidences becomes feasible and believable. What a wonderful romp!

Bell Shakespeare Company

Comedy of Errors; Theatre Royal, Hobart. 20 September, 2013
Nathan O'Keefe
Septimus Caton
Renato Musolino
Hazem Shammas
Elena Carapetis
Jude Henshall
Eugene Gilfedder
Anthony Taufa
Demitrios Sirilas
Suzannah McDonald

Director: Imara Savage
Designer: Pip Runciman

Monday, September 23, 2013


It seems practically every artist I meet these days lives on Bruny Island or at least has a holiday house, and there is even a flourishing private gallery at Dennes Point providing encouragement and incentive for those wishing to exhibit.

Rediscover Bruny is a three-part event organised by Bruny Island Arts to raise awareness of the quality and diversity of art being produced on the Island and has almost a hundred participants – not bad, when you consider there are only seven hundred people living on the island, and there are many more artists there who are not included.

40 Artists from the Island opened on Saturday afternoon (21 September 2013) in the Long Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart. The quality of work in this exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, textiles, assemblages and more by forty visual artists from Bruny Island is very high, with some particularly striking sculptures and mixed media works. I believe at least two artists have been approached to exhibit in a commercial gallery in Hobart.
 40 Artists from the Island opens at the Long Gallery

Bruny Island Arts was formed early in 2000 and the first exhibition was Artists from the Island, held at Adventure Bay. This was followed by a Kids' Art Zone which proved immensely popular. The first Rediscover Bruny event was an Art Trail on Bruny Island three years ago, and another is proposed for 2015.

Of course, not all members of Bruny Island Arts are visual artists. Besides exhibitions they stage performance pieces, cabaret, plays and musicals. A film society, formed after some old projectors were found at the tip, organises film nights with a local musician accompanying the occasional silent films. The aim is to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming artists from both North and South Bruny! It's nice to see good old Tasmanian tribalism is still alive and well.

In keeping with the policy of inclusion, the Sidespace Gallery holds a charming exhibition of Childhood Treasures, precious objects people have treasured for most of their lives: teddy bears, dolls, puppets, building blocks, favourite books, each with an explanation by its owner telling us just what makes this particular item so special.

The third part of the Bruny Island spectacular is As Time Goes By, a theatre piece created “by Bruny Island people about Bruny Island people for Bruny Island people”, which played in the Peacock Theatre on 20th and 21st September. Cast and crew are all Bruny Islanders; written by Barry Weston and directed by Megan Weston.

The Hobart event brings Bruny Island to the city; this city dweller, for one, will be heading down to the Island for the Art Trail in 2015. However, I might have to make a few trips down there well before that to visit the gallery, the cheese and chocolate factories on the way to the Pioneer Museum at Adventure Bay and the isolated Cape Bruny lighthouse. Not to mention taking some of my favourite bush walks. Perhaps I should move down there . . .

For more information:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alyce and Allana - or What does it mean to be Human?

 What does it mean to be human? Allana Blizzard-Jones at Nolan Art Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre and Alyce Bailey, next door at Handmark Gallery, utilise relationships between man and beast to raise quite different questions about what it means to be human. Both artists create meticulous, hard-edged figures with minimal suggestion of solid form. There are no distracting backgrounds and the flattened picture space forces the viewer to engage with the image.
Bellicose by Alyce Bailey;  pen, ink, watercolour
and shot gun holes on canvas; 92cm x 61cm

Alyce Bailey builds up intricate textures with her pen, creating exquisite anthropomorphic beasts isolated on pristine white canvases. Watercolour washes add a restrained touch of colour.

Having empathised with her vaguely bewildered animals with their odd, awkward, human hands, I admire the precise and delicate drawing set off by not-at-all-accidental dribbles and runs of paint, and the way occasional random patterns of holes in the canvas introduce a third dimension.

These are such gentle, sensitive works it comes as a shock to discover Bailey blazes away at her pictures with a shotgun!

There is nothing subtle or understated about the violence in Allana Blizzard-Jones' paintings – it's all there in raw, bleeding detail.
Scream by Allana Blizzard-Jones;
acrylic and latex on canvas
51cm x 40.5cm
A regular participant in "zombie walks", Blizzard-Jones is experienced in using make-up to simulate suppurating, rotting flesh. Now she has employed various three-dimensional materials to create realistic-looking lesions on portraits of herself and friends, and the result is startling, to say the least.
There is a serious message beyond the initial shock; she is asking us to imagine what would happen if the Facial Tumour Disease threatening the Tasmanian Devil skipped species and infected humans. What if it created a population of hideous un-dead victims to attack the rest of us, passing on the infection?
Following the conventions of horror movies and comic books, Blizzard-Jones' agonised, afflicted figures are calculated to repel – and they do. These are supposedly real people losing their humanity, reverting to something beyond bestial, but we react with alarm and disgust rather than sorrow. The artist is obviously having fun, and the only sympathetic "portrait" in the show is of a placid, healthy Tasmanian Devil.

Bailey's animals, on the other hand, are her "responses to various experiences", reflecting her emotions and engaging ours. Her sad lion , uncertain cat , ambitious mouse  and tentative bison  are fragile animals trying so hard to become human, despite small daily disasters – and the odd shotgun blast.

Gauche by Alyce Bailey; pen, ink and watercolour on canvas;
110.0 x 152.0cm


The Others – drawings by Alyce Bailey; Handmark Gallery, Hobart. 2 – 20 August 2013

Infection – paintings by Allana Blizzard-Jones; Nolan Art Gallery and School, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart. 2 – 31 August 2013