Monthly Archives: May 2015

Medea (Benda)


Geoffrey Lancaster (fortepiano) and friends

WAAPA Music Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn


For many, if not most, the word ‘melodrama’ evokes movies of the silent era in which, say, the heroine is tied to railway tracks as a steam train bears down inexorably  towards the terrified victim while the villain of the piece watches with an evil smile. (This was a staple episode in many an early movie made in the USA.)


Back in the 18th-century, through, melodrama was thought of in the ancient Greek sense, as a work which combined music and on-stage action. One of the finest instances of the genre is Georg Benda’s Medea, a re-working of the ancient Greek tragedy in which the eponymous murderess kills her own children, a hideous story that has been a source of horrified fascination for centuries. (Mozart, incidentally, was greatly taken by Benda’s skill in melodramas of which he spoke in glowing terms.)


It was an inspiration to feature Geoffrey Lancaster at the fortepiano. As if to the manner born, he gave point and meaning to an often cruelly demanding score with expected flair and an ineffably fine grasp of style, mood and pace.


Against this immaculate sonic background, Belinda Cox, garbed in funereal black as Medea and evoking an aura of inescapable tragedy, gave an account of this demanding and lengthy role at a level which augurs well for a career on stage. Certainly, her ability to remain in character throughout says much for this young actor’s potential.


Smaller roles, too, were clearly taken seriously and presented with care. Ry Charlson was convincing in a very brief role as Jason as was Monica Brierley-Hay as the governess. Gretel and David Smith did well, too, as Medea’s children


Not the least of the pleasures afforded by this presentation was the quite exceptional quality of the program notes. They are a model of their kind and ought to be read with care by anyone with aspirations to writing program notes of any kind. Factual and fascinating, they don’t come much better than this.

Incense and Arabie


Duncan Gardiner (guitar) and friends

TPT: 54’ 00”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Excellent diction and a plaintive melody line from Lucinda Rae with steady guitar chords and Louise McKay’s gentle  cello musings make Gardiner’s Incense and Arabie a splendid opening track.


053An arrangement of Greensleeves, that timeless Tudor evergreen, is given most sensitive treatment, too, in a performance blissfully free of the extraneous noises – squeaks, clanks, creaks – that so often bedevil the playing of lesser musicians. And in My Song (for you), composer/guitarist Gardiner gives us a gently melancholy, restful utterance.


Gardiner’s Peridot Suite for piano is played, beautifully, by FaithDuncanGardiner2 Maydwell in a performance which comes across in turn wistful, yearning and melancholy as if heard, rather delightfully, on a fine quality musical box.


Gardiner also plays his Tears All Around, music that’s informed by a gentle sadness.


Cradled in Time and Space places violinist Lena Bennett firmly in the spotlight. She  plays most expressively in synchronisation with Gardiner’s perfectly pitched, arpeggionated accompaniment.


In And so the Peacock Cried, we listen to the versatile Gardiner playing on recorder; it has a haunting quality.


There is much else in a delightfully laidback presentation. Bravo



2nd & 3rd-year WAAPA dance students

reviewed by Helga Sand

For followers of the dance, it was an evening of fascination revealing, as it did, not only the creative gifts of the choreographers but the focus and commitment of the students of WAAPA’s dance department.


I particularly admired Xianrong Xiao’s Flowing Stone which, like some aesthetic magnet, drew the viewer ineluctably into the remarkable world of an astonishingly imaginative choreographer – and students clearly able to give point and meaning to its fascinating ideas.


Emilia Blanco’s lighting design was visual magic, an impression enhanced by the skill of the dancers. Its opening moments in which dancers appear to be lying on their backs on the surface of a pond were the first of many memorable visual pleasures.


Music is drawn from a variety of sources, each episode as fascinating to watch as to listen to, a true marriage of mood and movement.


Aaron Carey-Burrows was particularly effective, moving about the stage more often than not burdened with the stones that are so significant in this choreography.


Earlier, Nils Christe’s SYNC made for intriguing dance-theatre. The female contingent danced en pointe  – beautifully – and, throughout, with impressive discipline. A single prop, a stage-length scaffolding structure, was the backdrop for a finely unfolding visual treat with Blanco’s lighting doing much to enhance the presentation.


In both these offerings, time flew. But Michael Whaites’ Life Cycle, for all its many virtues, might to advantage have been more concise. A major, intriguing feature of the work was a rather curious sale of goods  in which a number of very ordinary items (some of which could fairly be described as junk)  –  a reconditioned watering can, a cycle helmet, a tatty copy of Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree – were auctioned off. There was a good deal of repetitiveness here. Perhaps some condensation of material might have held the attention more successfully.


Strange Affliction was memorable, not least for port de bras of  finesse which added significantly to the overall lyricism of the presentation. It was beautifully lit.


Choreographer Kynan Hughes has dedicated the ballet to three remarkable spirits: Dot Butler, Rae Ogle and the unforgettable and much loved Maggi Philips.




All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


All My Sons

‘All My Sons’ 3rd Year Acting / WAAPA Production (2015) / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons comes across with implacable, near-overwhelming intensity, a tour de force with young actors giving proof of significant potential.


Tom Healey’s direction holds – indeed rivets – the attention throughout and despite the actors’ youth, they give characterisations that more often than not are close to the emotional epicentre of each part. Miller spares neither players nor audience in a play that brings us face to face with families in self-destructive mode. Its intense reality does not so much attract the attention as rivet it.


All My Sons

‘All My Sons’ 3rd Year Acting / WAAPA Production (2015) / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Healey’s guiding hand ensures there isn’t a weak moment in this production by 3rd- year acting students at WAAPA.


In essence, the play, set in the early aftermath of World War II, is about the corrosive, devastating after-effects on two families of faulty warplane parts causing the deaths of 21 pilots in training exercises over Australia.


Guilt, subterfuge, regret, emotional devastation, self-delusion and self-destruction are the currency of Miller’s masterpiece – and invariably, the actors rise to the challenge.


Bevan Pfeiffer is particularly effective as Chris Keller who has survived the war –  and Brittany Morell, entirely persuasive as Chris’ hysteria-prone mother who insists, against all the odds, that her elder son, a war pilot, is still alive. He isn’t but it would be unfair to intending theatre-goers to reveal what is one of the gut-wrenching climaxes of the play.


Arthur Miller provides an inspired dissection of ordinary Americans who find themselves in a devastating emotional maelstrom.


In a convincing characterisation as the ethically challenged Joe Keller, Chris’ father, Andrew Creer comes up trumps – but in visual terms he looks too young. Skilled makeup could well have resolved this issue.


Stephanie Panozzo gives a touching performance as Anne Deever  – and  Hoa Xuande is impressive as George.


Cameron Routley’s lighting design is consistently effective; so, too, is Sallyanne Facer’s set design of a typical US backyard. Music, however, was far too loud and overwhelming in a negative sense.