Saturday, 30 September 2017

South Africa bound

If flights are on time, at the moment of this posting my flight to Johannesburg should be taking off from Sydney Airport. This will be my first visit to the African continent.

At Johannesburg I transfer to a flight to Cape Town. Brief visits to Botswana, Zambia and Namibia will follow over the next fifteen days.

Photos will be posted during this short holiday subject to internet connections.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

To my surprise they all said no!

To my surprise they all said 'no'.

The current marriage equality survey has huge swathes of the country thinking about 'yes' or 'no'. I'm firmly in the 'yes' camp for fairly obvious reasons and to my relief most people I know appear to be of like mind. That is to be expected, I suppose.

So who surprised me by saying 'no'? Well, it was nothing to with marriage equality. I'm about to depart for a holiday in South Africa and neighbouring countries. In preparation for the trip I visited my usual foreign exchange outlet to purchase some South African Rand. I wasn't expecting any problem. After all, the Eastern suburbs of Sydney has a very large South African expat community.

To my surprise the outlet said it doesn't sell the Rand. I tried a nearby outlet and they were the same. 'No' we don't sell Rand. A third and fourth outlet were the same. It took the fifth outlet to find one who could sell me some Rand. Even they do not usually sell Rand, the cashier told me, but a customer had ordered some Rand from them but then cancelled the order. Basically they were keen to offload their holding on me. 'Would I take it all?' the cashier enquired. She offered various inducements but I simply did not need that amount.

So, it is a bit like marriage equality. In the currency world, love is love but there is nothing so unloved as the unloved.

Monday, 25 September 2017

In Real Life

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Some date in the near future the CEO of a top global technology company is engaged in an extensive search for her daughter who disappeared following an argument between the two.

'In Real Life' takes the 21st Century setting of the pervasive effects of modern technology into every aspect of personal affairs and applies it to the world of women. These are women comfortable in the world of business and technology.

The play is an interesting look into the future. It dispenses with gender stereotypes and ignores any temptation to depict whizzbang techno effects.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

The HIV Monologues

(Sydney Fringe Festival)
Four monologues linked by characters is the structure for 'The HIV Monologues'. Limited performances have been staged as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival an independent arts festival staged around Sydney each September.

The four characters are HIV sufferers and their carers and they discuss life with the illness. This is a more entertaining 75 minutes than that synopsis might suggest.

The four performers - Les Asmussen, Daniel Ross, Edward Skaines and Bishanyia Vincent - are to be commended.


Thursday, 21 September 2017


(Sydney Theatre Company)
'Dinner' is a play and a different work from the film 'The Dinner' which I saw and commented on a few days ago.

In 'Dinner', Paige (Caroline Brazier) is hosting a dinner to celebrate her husband's newly published philosophical book. But Paige has other intentions beyond celebration and it isn't long before the dinner and her guests enter hellish territory.

There are some very funny moments in this play. I like Brazier's acting style and she is in good form here. Aleks Mikic, a newcomer to me, is very impressive as an uninvited guest and is an actor to watch out for.

My main problem with this play is the number of problematic staging decisions. There are unexplained pauses, a strange stage intrusion, odd sound placements and sightline shortcomings.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Project

It has been decades since I visited a television studio and I can't recall the last time I saw a program being filmed nor even remember what that program was. I suspect the last time was way back in the 1950s when my parents took me to see Captain Fortune; a children's show that was broadcast live on Saturday mornings.

Last weekend a friend arranged for three of us to be in the audience of 'The Project'. This is a popular news, current affairs and comedy program which has been screened every weeknight for years out of Melbourne which has now added a Sunday edition which is screened out of Sydney.

Although the show is presented 'live' it is interesting to see how they seamlessly blend pre-recorded material with live conversation. I was particularly impressed by the extent to which the panel members spent time chatting with the audience directly during the plentiful advertisement breaks and again at show's end. It was an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Victoria & Abdul

Queen Victoria takes an unexpected interest in an Indian prison ledger keeper much to the concern and distaste of members of the Royal family, the Royal household and her own advisors.

'Victoria & Abdul' makes no pretence to be an accurate representation of the meeting and connection between the Monarch and the very much 'alien' commoner. Judi Dench is her usual appealing self as she expertly balances a playful and sympathetic underside to the unhappy, unapproachable Queen.

The film occasionally drifts into predictable over the top moments but it remained entertaining to me throughout.


Monday, 18 September 2017

Sydney's Harbour Bridge

This Government produced video about the construction of Sydney's Harbour Bridge has some fascinating images from 1920/30s Sydney.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Dinner

'The Dinner' opens with a voiceover. A man is speaking about which parts of history interest him. Voiceovers turn out to be a feature of this film either as streams of consciousness or indications of mental health.

The setting is a faddish dinner in an expensive and pretentious restaurant. A setting of 21st century Western civilisation that contrasts with the moral dilemmas including racism, violence, human disregard and health which preoccupy the two couples that have met at the restaurant for dinner. The events that concern the individuals are revealed slowly and at times obliquely. In that respect the film is hard work and be warned that the ending is left completely open.

Although Richard Gere is given top billing it is Steve Coogan's character that is central to the film. The performances are excellent. I always love watching Laura Linney and she does not disappoint here.

This will be one dinner that is not to everyone's taste. A knowledge of the American Civil War; in particular the Battle of Gettysburg, would be an advantage.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

That sinking feeling

Two weeks tomorrow I will be in Cape Town, South Africa and on the eve of visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades.

I woke this morning to the news that 68 people have been rescued overnight from a sinking ferry whilst en route to the Island.

(National Sea Rescue Institute photo)
Could be an interesting trip!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Talk, talk, talk

A friend once told me that I am a great - maybe he said, 'good' - conversationalist. It was a generous comment but I don't see myself that way. I'm often stuck for words in social situations. Conversely when I think I have something to say I can barely hold my tongue and often end up speaking over the top of someone else. It is not an attractive quality.

To compound that shortcoming I have tendency to speak without thinking of the consequences. I must learn to bide my time and consider my words.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Hot and cold

Yesterday Sydney's temperature reached 34ºc (93ºf). The hottest day the city has experienced at this time of year (Spring) in 158 years.

Today the forecast top is 18ºc (64ºf). A short time ago the temperature had reached 15ºc (59ºf) but the apparent temperature was 6ºc (43ºf).

An effective variation of 28ºc. Crazy.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Weekend break

A weekend break at Ballina in the north-east of the state.

Lighthouse Beach, East Ballina
Lighthouse Beach, East Ballina

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Fasten your seat belts

Returning to Sydney this afternoon we were treated to particularly scenic views of Sydney as the flight was positioned from its northern flight path to a southerly approach into Sydney Airport. It was a little bumpy during the descent and the plane's windows weren't the clearest but I managed a few reasonable photos of my gorgeous looking home city.

The airport runways intruding into Botany Bay at top, Sydney Harbour across the middle with the Harbour Bridge centre, just below Sydney's central business district. The Botanic Gardens left of the CBD with the Opera House at water's edge
Botany Bay & the Airport at top. Randwick Racecourse middle left. The four bays on the harbour from left; Double Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Woolloomooloo & Farm Cove.
Royal Sydney Golf Club at left, Rose Bay centre, Double Bay upper right. My apartment building is just above Double Bay
Airport is upper right, Randwick Racecourse in the centre, the sand of Coogee Beach (left) and (right) the narrow Clovelly Beach. The parklands at right are Centennial Park (above) and Queen's Park (below)
About to turn sharp 90º to descend onto the lower of the two north/south runways. The sand of Maroubra Beach.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Brisbane inception

I'm in Brisbane over the weekend for a quasi family get together. They are not technically my family - sadly my only immediate blood relative remaining alive is an ageing aunt with severe dementia amongst a cocktail of mental and health conditions - but they are such good friends that they have 'adopted' me as family, a relationship I contentedly reciprocate.

I attempted a panoramic photograph of Brisbane city. It didn't work but the product is reminiscent of a scene from the science fiction flick 'Inception' famous in part for its computer generated images of crumbling cities.

I might have a future in Hollywood?

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Father

(Sydney Theatre Company)

Andre (John Bell) is confused. His daughter and her husband - or is it her boyfriend - seem intent on moving him out of his apartment. They also seem intent on organising care arrangements that he believes he does not require. To add to his confusion he is sure they are giving him conflicting information.

Is Andre being 'gaslighted'?

'The Father' is a terrific and moving study of a man faced with the destructive impact of ageing on his mental state. Bell's performance is superb with powerful support from the other five cast members.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Logan Lucky

Two brothers attempt a heist from a major car racing venue.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh who made the Oceans 11, 12, 13 series 'Logan Lucky' follows a similar template. An implausible robbery attempt against a highly fortified and defended target presented with a logic which more or less - or almost? - counterbalances the implausibility of the project.

Whereas in the Oceans series the viewer seemed shut out from a sense of in-joking between the star performers, what I prefer in Logan Lucky is that it comes across as being inclusive of the audience. Daniel Craig plays well against type and the entire cast contributes to the fun.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Light rail musing

I saw a comment from Andrew on James' blog expressing the view that Sydney's new CBD and South East light rail construction appears over engineered. I don't really know what that means but given how knowledgeable Andrew is about light rail I'm sure he must have a valid point.

Driving through Kensington today I was struck by how the trail of light rail track already installed and yet to come meanders all over the place. I would have assumed the track would run more or less down the middle of the street but what is visible wriggles like a snake. Sometimes on the western side of the road then suddenly on the eastern side. In parts the twin tracks are side by side down the centre but then, whilst still somewhat centred, at the UNSW they part as though to allow for a platform to be constructed between them.

At the moment traffic is horrendous wherever the construction is taking place. You would like to think that will change once the system is operational but the meandering appearance of the line makes me wonder.

Thursday, 24 August 2017


Anne (Toni Collette) the younger second wife of Bob (Harvey Keitel) is preparing a glamorous dinner party in their Parisian apartment with the Mayor of London and his husband amongst the society guests. The unexpected arrival of her step-son prompts Anne to enlist her maid Mary (Rossy de Palma) to even the numbers and participate in the party disguised as a guest. Anne is aghast when the society guests take a shine to Mary and more so that one of them enters into a romance with her.

'Madame' is a very European comedy of manners and relationships with Paris and surrounds providing delightful background images. All the characters have their frailties but the magnificent and exotic looking de Palma alone retains her dignity throughout.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Sunday, 20 August 2017


An American widow (Diane Keaton) living in London's 'Hampstead' befriends the world's cleanest 'hermit' (Brendan Gleeson) who has been squatting in a neighbouring park for years and enlists help to fight a developer's attempts to have him evicted.

Based on actual events 'Hampstead' is a very pleasant and utterly predictable film suitable for family viewing and pace maker safe for seniors seeking violence free and vulgarity free entertainment.


Saturday, 19 August 2017


Belvoir Street Theatre

A marine (Isaac), dishonourably discharged, returns to his family home to find his sister transitioning to a male (Max), his mother (Paige) engaged in a life of free thought and his father (Arnold) in an apparent catatonic state following a stroke.

Hir is Max's personal pronoun of choice, happily embraced by Paige who is steering the family chaotically into new directions much to Isaac's dismay.

Taylor Mac's play contains an hilarious first act followed by a short and increasingly dark second act which is revelatory about the family's history and personal relationships.

The cast of four brilliantly captures the chaos and the turmoil of the personalities.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Archie got it wrong.....again

It is that time of year. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is displaying the Archibald Prize; the annual prize for portraiture painting. Most years the Prize raises a degree of controversy which is probably just as well for maintaining interest.

As usual I wasn't all that fussed by most of the finalists on display. Even more usual, this year (yet again) I favoured the pick of the Packers - the men and women who unpack the arriving works for display - over the official winner - chosen by the Trustees of the Gallery.

A few snaps to share the atmosphere, or lack of, at this year's display.

This portrait of media personality Lisa Wilkinson by Peter Smeeth won the Packers' Prize.

(Art Gallery of NSW)

And for the record, this portrait of Agatha Gothe-Snape by Mitch Cairns won the Archibald Prize.

(Art Gallery of NSW)
As the saying goes; I don't know much about art but I know what I like.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Where is winter?

Sydney has not really had a winter this year. Yes, there have been a couple of cold days and some cold mornings but mostly the temperatures have been very mild indeed. One day in July the maximum reached 26º which is the warmest July day recorded at Sydney's weather bureau in 158 years of record keeping. We've enjoyed multiple maximums around the 24º mark.

Sunsets have been colourful and so peaceful looking. This was one of our sunsets this week.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Wind River

An FBI agent enlists a game tracker to assist her to investigate a murder in a remote, snow bound, Indian reservation in Wyoming.

Whilst the setting is almost literally a polar opposite to 'The Wall', which I commented about in yesterday's post, 'Wind River' shares that film's themes of hostile environment and enemy forces. The snowy mountains in Wyoming provide spectacular scenery. The plot unfolds slowly and most of the action is confined to the final scenes. I didn't mind the slow nature of the film but C was annoyed by it.

The sound design is poor with quite a bit of the dialogue inaudible at times.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Wall

In 2007 the US President, George W Bush, has declared that the Iraq war has been won. The task of rebuilding the country has begun under the watchful eyes of US troops. In this environment two US soldiers find themselves pinned down by an unseen sniper in a hot and dusty hostile location with only a flimsy, decaying stone wall providing any protection.

'The Wall' has only three characters, one of whom is never seen.

This oppressive situation won't appeal to everyone but I think this film gives a terrific sense of remote desert warfare against a determined and unrelenting enemy who seems to hold all the aces. It certainly does not romanticise war.


Monday, 7 August 2017

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

(Sport for Jove Theatre Company)

The arrival of a new and argumentative inmate at a US mental institution in 1963 stirs the settled existing community and staff eliciting changes in attitudes and power bases.

The play 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is adapted from a novel by Ken Kesey. A hugely successful film version was released in 1975. The play is at once disturbing in it's representation of cruel health and welfare treatment and also entertaining as its dominated characters draw on hitherto unrealised strengths.

This may be an amateur production but it is professional in quality.


Sunday, 6 August 2017


(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

In 1939 as war appears inevitable a Jewish mother in Germany prepares her young daughter for evacuation to hopeful safety in Britain. In the 1980s in London a mother helps her daughter pack in preparation for her move away from home.

These twin stories and the links between them that become disclosed form the basis of this play. 'Kindertransport' is an interesting play about mother/daughter relationships and issues of identity.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Jesus Christ Superstar

The Production Company

The current presentation from The Production Company, in limited season, at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne.

If you need a precis of the plot then you haven't been paying attention.

It has been probably been 40 years since I last saw this musical on stage. Revisiting the work properly after such a long break really had me thinking about it. For a Superstar, the Jesus character gets a pretty raw deal.

Judas has most of the best songs and moments. He opens the musical with a big number, closes the musical with a big number and has the last big moment to close Act 1. By comparison Jesus has one big solo musical moment only when mid stream in Act 2 he questions God; 'why must I die?'. Rob Mills (Jesus) handles that moment well earning strong applause. But Zoy Frangos (Judas), an unknown (to me), has the best gig and he makes the most of it. Should the musical be called 'Judas Isacariot, Super-villain'?

Jesus doesn't even have the second best of it. Arguably, Mary Magadelene, Pontius Pilate and King Herod all have better scenes. All three are strongly represented in this staging.

I wonder if Lloyd Webber and Rice had created this musical later in their careers rather than earlier, might Jesus have a got a better deal musically?

As usual, The Production Company has delivered a strong, ensemble performance. The future of Australian musical theatre remains strong with young artists like those we see in their productions.

✮✮✮ ½

Friday, 4 August 2017

A day in Melbourne

A quick theatre day trip to Melbourne. A sunny winter's day. The sun surprisingly warm on my back when the chilly breeze drops away.

Framework on the Arts Centre Melbourne with banner advertising current show
Different angle of the framework with the roof top spire visible
Even with the bare trees of winter Melbourne looks so much more stylish than Sydney. People dress more stylishly and unlike we Sydneysiders wear real winter clothing. No thongs or stubbies worn to the theatre in this town. Also the football religion is so evident. Not in this photo but in actuality countless passersby proudly wearing their team's colours. Essendon Bombers supporters clearly out numbering Carlton Blues supporters.
I tried to capture this spectacular moment ahead of sunset as viewed from atop the Skybus bouncing along the highway to the airport. I failed.
A section of the Qantas domestic terminal at Melbourne Airport on a Saturday night. Only four more flights were listed for departure, including my flight to Sydney, so this must be where some Qantas planes come to sleep overnight. I hope they are well rested for their next flights.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Health and welfare day

8am - Dental appointment. Bonding to fill gaps between three teeth and the gum line.

10.30am - Annual skin check. All clear, no new melanomas detected.

12 noon - Haircut. Number 2 cut on top; Number 1½ cut on sides.

12.30pm - Striding out in the world with confidence.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Big Sick

'The Big Sick' is a drama/comedy about generation gaps and culture gaps. In Chicago USA, Pakistani born Kumail Nanjiani resists his parents' attempts at organising an arranged marriage for him all the time keeping secret from them his love for a local non-Pakistani woman.

This bitter sweet tale will be familiar to first generation emigrants across the planet and as the end credits indicate it is drawn from the Nanjiani's real life experiences. The trailer for the movie promotes it as a comedy but it is comedy with a hard edge and a dramatic soul.

✮✮✮ ½

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Paris Can Wait

Anne (Diane Lane) is prevented by an earache from accompanying her husband on his flight to Budapest. Instead arrangements are made for her to be driven by his associate Jaques (Arnaud Viard) to Paris, their following destination. It is Anne's expectation they will drive directly to the French capital but Jaques finds every excuse to meander via interesting villages, townships and restaurant stops. 'Paris Can Wait' is Jaques' mantra.

This is a very slight film verging on dullness. Highlights are occasional bursts of scenery and glimpses of interesting meals but there is not really enough of either to keep this movie afloat. Lane is always watchable in my opinion but even she struggles to make an impact and it doesn't help that the Jaques character presents as irritating, even a little sleazy at times.


Saturday, 29 July 2017


Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is an imaginative telling of the World War 2 evacuation of hundreds of thousands of trapped allied forces from the Belgian port.

Comparatively short for a war movie and mostly without dialogue 'Dunkirk' comprises three separate but linked stories. The main story is of the week long efforts to evacuate forces from the beach. A second story focuses on a single day when one family owned leisure craft sets out to participate in the rescue efforts. A third story represents just one hour of activity by three British Spitfire pilots to knock enemy aircraft out of the action. What is particularly clever is how these stories are not told sequentially but are presented simultaneously even though they are of different lengths.

Nolan's film portrays war action so realistically I flinched and jumped in my seat numerous times as though I was there with the characters. And these characters are not all heroes either. Arguably some behave disgracefully, even cowardly, at times.

The musical soundtrack is quite unusual. Some might not regard it as musical at all, rather hearing annoying noise but I thought it supported action and impending action splendidly.

It is very telling that a movie has had an effect when the audience does not immediately rush to the exits the second the end credits appear.

A brilliant film.