Friday, 31 March 2017

Grab your coat and get your hat....

....leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street.*

I'm not going to bore you here with the seemingly endless saga of my friend's move from a house to an apartment. After literally years of 'will she do it' or 'won't she'; today 'she did it'. She moved from her house of thirty-five years to a very smart nearby apartment. We three friends were on hand to assist. In her mind I think we were moral support at a time of stress.

It was not a copybook move. Far from it. Cartons were packed but none was labelled. Which cartons contained her clothing and which contained the bed linen? Your guess is as good as mine. What was going and what was being discarded? We didn't know and nor it seemed, at times, did she.

The removalists filled their van and delivered the goods to the new address all by lunchtime today. Did they capture everything? Well, no. A microwave and a vacuum cleaner were left behind. Oh, and when we checked again, so were three large garden pots and at least three trays full of domestic cleaning material. And then there was the huge print of the harbour on the wall. How had that been missed?

But wait, there was more. Two cupboards full of pots and pans and saucers. And a step ladder; actually two of them. And what about that decorative container with the ashes of a dead pet? Yes, that was missed as well.

No. It wasn't a copybook move but its done now. Well, the delivery part is done. Now for the unpacking.

(* 'On The Sunny Side of the Street' by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ghost in the Shell

Set some time in the future when robotics and humanity have become merged someone or something is threatening the ubiquitous technology Corporation of their time.

'Ghost in the Shell' has the look of a 'Blade Runner' with its dark laneways, dense populations and seedy futuristic images. There is plenty of action and a plot of sorts but really this is mostly an entertainment of image and action which is unsurprising given the work's origins in popular Japanese comics and cartooning.

I found it enjoyable at viewing but pretty forgettable soon after.


Sunday, 26 March 2017


The International Space Mission is returning to Earth following an exploratory visit to Mars. Whilst en route Mission members test samples taken from the red plant and are thrilled when they revive an intriguing life form. Their joy soon turns to horror when this life form starts to grow and threaten them.

'Life' has visually pleasing aspects. The actors float about in zero gravity delivering their lines vertically, horizontally and even at times while upside down. The general mood of interstellar flight is well captured. But I did start to avert my eyes when the horror began to intrude. The climax comes as an unexplained surprise.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

'What's new?'

Now that is a question to strike minor terror in my heart. It is a common, seemingly inoffensive way to open a conversation. One of my friends will begin every telephone conversation with that question even if our previous conversation was only a day or two earlier. So why does my heart sink when I'm asked it?

I put my reaction down to my upbringing. Mine was a solitary upbringing. I was an only child. No siblings. My only two cousins arrived on this planet years after I did and so there was no childhood connection there. My parents, struggling to establish themselves financially, both worked full time in part to finance the very expensive private school in which they had placed me. They could not afford to repay the invitations that other parents made for me to spend time with their children. As a result those invitations, few in number anyway, dried up after a while.

Apart from school time, mostly spent regimented and disciplined in the classroom, I spent very little social time with anyone remotely similar in age to me. I never really learnt the skill of playful, casual chit chat.

So, nowadays when someone asks me, 'what's new?' I am in a dilemma. OK, if it happens that I have just purchased a new apartment or I have just returned from an overseas holiday or I have just been diagnosed with a terminal condition then I do have something new to report. But what about those long strings of weeks, week after week after week, when none of those things nor nothing remotely similar has occurred? What do I say then?

Perhaps I could model myself on another friend whose every telephone conversation includes a detailed run down of what he has done that day. He doesn't even require me to ask the question. In that event, my every (weekday) response to the question would be as follows. I got up and I shaved and showered and dressed. I ate two Weet-bix and some prunes for breakfast, drank orange juice and took my daily medication and then I drove to work etc, etc, etc.

In effect; everything old, is new again.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Camp Cove

My parents and I spent many a summer weekend on this inner harbour beach more than fifty years ago. The distant CBD skyline would have been vastly different in those years. Indeed it is vastly different from this photo nowadays too. This photograph was taken on 28 December 2009 whilst showing visitors the sights of Sydney.

Camp Cove

Monday, 20 March 2017

City under glass

Under the glass floor of Sydney's Old Customs House is a miniature model of central business district. An attraction for young and old.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Repulse Bay (Hong Kong)

A photograph of Repulse Bay Beach taken from my apartment in Hong Kong sometime between 1977 and 1980.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


We can enjoy splendid weather in Sydney but each year we can be guaranteed one or two wet spells that run for days. When that happens you wonder wether the sun will ever shine again. We're in one of those wet spells at the moment. Four days of rain so far with occasional very brief sunny moments and more rain forecast for the next four or so.

It is pelting down at the moment.

Raindrops keep falling.....

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A night at the festival

Some moments from Briefs: The Second Coming which we attended at the Sydney Festival earlier in the year.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Calamity Jane

(One Eyed Productions in association with Neglected Musicals and Hayes Theatre Company)
In the mining town of Deadwood City the tomboyish 'Calamity Jane' promises to persuade a famous star to travel from Chicago to perform for the miners at the local saloon. What ensues is a calamity of mistaken identities (deliberate and accidental) leading to the inevitable happy ending for three couples.

This musical derives from the 1953 Warner Brothers film of the same name which starred Doris Day as Calamity Jane and Howard Keel as her nemesis Wild Bill Hickok.

This Hayes Theatre presentation is brilliantly directed and performed. Cleverly involving the audience effectively as saloon patrons the musical is staged with great verve, humour and surprising freshness. A terrific example of how to bring new life to an old clunker.


Monday, 13 March 2017

The Bleeding Tree

(Sydney Theatre Company)

In Angus Cerini's 'The Bleeding Tree' a mother and her daughters have just killed the violent abusive patriarch of the family. The location is remote and isolated and what community they have as neighbours is small and knowing.

The impact of the murder on the three women and on their neighbours is poetically narrated by the cast of three. Beautifully performed and, despite some gruesome subject matter, humorous at times.


Sunday, 12 March 2017


I'm going to be out of step with many people on this one. Despite what some close friends have described as my eccentrically eclectic taste in movies I haven't seen any of the previous Wolverine films.

Faced with the option of seeing 'Logan' or 'Kong: Skull Island' - having already seen all the other screenings at our favourite multiplex - we elected to see the former. 'Logan' had received the better reviews.

Perhaps the third option - see neither - would have been the best choice.

Logan (Hugh Jackman) is ageing and in declining health. He encounters a young 'she-wolverine'(?) and takes her into his care as he battles to reunite her with fellow 'junior wolverines'(?). Well, that is sort of the plot anyway. Technically it is all skilfully portrayed. Too skilful for my liking. The slick editing and sound design had me averting my eyes from the frequent decapitations and body guttering fights.

It was at least an hour too long for me. I don't know which hour, take your pick.

My relief at the film's eventual conclusion was tempered by the banality and complete irrelevance of the lyrics of the song performed over the end titles.

A thrill for the devotees apparently but count me out.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mark Colvin's Kidney

(Belvoir Street Theatre)

Based on actual events, 'Mark Colvin's Kidney' tells what happens when Intellectual Property Manager Mary-Ellen Field is an unwitting victim of the News of the World phone hacking affair in Britain. Interviewed about her experience by Australian journalist Mark Colvin, Mrs Field subsequently engages in pen pal friendship with an ailing Mr Colvin leading eventually to her surprising decision to become his kidney donor.

The play relies in part on actual interview and social media transcripts and recordings. Surprisingly humorous and uplifting at times, the play also records a scandalous aspect of media practice.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Alone in Berlin

A couple in Berlin receive news that their son has been killed in action. Grieving over their loss and angered by the lies they believe that the Nazi regime is inflicting on an unaware nation they take action in their own small way to combat the regime's propaganda by anonymously placing postcards with critical commentary in public places. A policeman is tasked with tracking down the perpetrators.

'Alone in Berlin' is a fictional work although it memorialises a German couple who was executed by the Nazi regime for activity portrayed in the film. Whilst the bulk of the cast, apart from the two leads is either German or European in origin, the dialogue is almost entirely in English.

Well acted. A rather sad film.


Monday, 6 March 2017


The opening scene of 'Chimerica' is set in Beijing in June 1989. An American photographer is observing events from his hotel room when he sees a man, shopping bags in hand, standing in the way of Army tanks proceeding to Tiananmen Square in response to demonstrations which have been embarrassing to the Chinese regime. Photographs of this actual event by an unknown, brave man made headlines around the world the time.

From this opening scene, 'Chimerica' time hops back and forwards between 1989 and 2012 when in the United States President Obama is standing for re-election. In this later time frame the photographer is attempting to determine what happened to that lone demonstrator and to track him down.

A cast of twelve actors, most playing multiple characters, combine with an ensemble of twenty theatre students from NIDA to deliver a memorable night of theatre. The staging, at once both simple and yet complex in its choreography, provides brilliant visual impact.


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Melbourne towers

Eureka Tower

The spire on the Arts Centre overlooking the National Gallery of Victoria

Assorted towers in Melbourne's CBD

St Pauls Anglican Cathedral

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Homosexuals, or Faggots

(Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre)

'The Homosexuals, or Faggots' opens with a gay couple, stereotypically effeminate in body language and behaviour, speaking to unseen guests at their dinner party about a dining experience that traumatised them. The trauma arose from a menu item, 'faggots', which generates a play on words. The couple, obviously unaware of the traditional British meal of 'faggots' (a ball or roll of seasoned chopped liver, baked or fried), are furious at being confronted by what they only know to be a derogatory term for homosexuals.

The play then opens up to issues of identity and tolerance. There are mistaken identities galore and gender identities are brought to the fore. The latter half of the play is performed as a farce with characters slamming doors, hiding in cavities and generally racing around at breakneck speed. Genevieve Lemon seems to have the best lines or at least makes the best of her lines and she makes the best impression. The others try hard and have their moments.


Friday, 3 March 2017

The Play That Goes Wrong

(Melbourne's Comedy Theatre)

'The Play That Goes Wrong' makes fun of itself even before you enter the auditorium. The advertising poster (above) states 'Save Money (Don't Come)' and the cast list in the foyer announces that Tom Cruise will not be appearing at this performance.

The play is a supposed amateur production of The Murder at Haversham Hall. All manner of mayhem ensues as cast and technical support make a hash of every moment until eventually the set literally falls apart.

It is pure slapstick. A little twee at times. The work might be a little predictable and the occasional lull might suggest they have run out of steam but the play is mostly a funny experience from start to finish.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Miss Sloane

Jessica Chastain plays 'Miss Sloane', a lobbyist seeking to influence United States' Senators to support a bill to strengthen gun ownership laws. Unsurprisingly she faces strong opposition from supporters of the National Rifle Association (although I'm not certain that the NRA is ever referred to by name in the film).

Miss Sloane is ruthless in pursuit of her objectives playing off both supporters and opponents to achieve an advantage.

A thoroughly absorbing political thriller with a stand out performance from Chastain.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017


The much loved and studied Australian play 'Away' is in revival in a co-production between the Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre. It tells the story of two families and a third couple who enjoy Christmas time beach holidays in the 1960/70s. Each group is trying to make the best of the holidays against a background of personal tragedy.

First performed in 1986, the play has had a permanent place in school curricula pretty well ever since. I have to admit I had never seen it and given that my schooling ended more than twenty years before its premiere it certainly never figured in my mostly Shakespeare based education.

This production is very entertaining. The staging is striking in its simplicity.