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Graduate Dramatic Society



The Man from Mukinupin

New Fortune Theatre, UWA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


For those who look forward to GRADS’ Shakespearean offerings on UWA campus, there are only the leanest pickings from the Bard for 2013 – a few moments from Othello presented as a play within a play in Dorothy Hewett’s The Man from Mukinupin. Jack and Polly


Peopled by a range of often-odd citizens who live in Hewett’s imaginary town in the back blocks of W.A., the play makes for an absorbing theatre experience. And it says a great deal for director Aarne Neeme and his large cast, that momentum was so efficiently maintained in a play that, unless carefully managed, can all too easily die of inertia. Not so here. It unfolded beautifully. It hadn’t a dull moment.


Above the Mukinupin council chambers at stage rear were positioned a number of musicians who did sterling work in both mood evocation and backing of vocals, although overly repetitive keyboard figurations in music prior to the play proper were an essay in dullness.


Small country towns, just as big cities, invariably have their share of inhabitants who’ve experienced disappointment and deprivation. And who more so than Clemmy (played by Yvette Wall), a former circus tightrope walker – a small star but a star nonetheless – who survives a fall that has crippled her. She gets about with a crutch and limps badly.   Her manner cleverly evoked an aura of past glory, regret tinged by despair.

                                                         Jack, Mercy and Polly

Cameron Taylor was altogether impressive as Jack, the young grocery shop assistant clearly deeply enamoured of his boss’ daughter. When World War I breaks out, he joins up with all the enthusiasm of a young patriot doing his duty without, perhaps, the realisation of what really lies before him and so many of his generation.


As Jack’s love interest, Polly, Bonnie Coyle was entirely convincing. With the fresh-faced innocence of youth, she made of Polly a delightful personality.


Hewett calls for a large cast and some not only double up but triple up as does Kenneth Gasmier who delighted as a fussy cum pompous travelling salesman on the lookout for domestic bliss. He has an eye on Polly. He’s also an orange-robed Othello in a tiny travelling theatre troop as well as – quel horreur! – a flasher in trade-mark raincoat and very little else.


No less convincing was Rosemary Longhurst who seemed positively to relish her twin roles as Clarry and black-garbed widow Tuesday. Peter Fry, too, was beyond reproach as shopkeeper Eek – and his alter ego Zeek. And Liz Hoffmann came up trumps as Eek’s wife Edie, ear-trumpet and all.


As is often the case in remote places, gossip is a currency sometimes valued greater than gold and there’s a good deal of it, spoken in low voices, in Mukinupin – and Hewett’s touch here is faultless, her lines again and again having the stamp of sometimes uncomfortable truth.


If this production of The Man from Mukinupin is anything to go by, GRADS are likely to have a very good year.

Photos by Merri Ford and Maddy Connellan

Canning World Arts Exchange



Shelley Beach Foreshore

reviewed by Phoebe Schuman






It was an evening to remember: a dance and music extravaganza that drew thousands from near and far to Shelley beach foreshore on a moonless night with the mildest of cooling breezes. On offer were dance companies from home and abroad, a large choir and the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christopher van Tuinen.












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After a traditional Welcome to Country, Aboriginal dancers, Danza Viva Spanish Dance Company, Chung Wa dancers and a company from the People’s Republic of China provided a feast for both eye and ear.


This splendid offering was largely due to the indefatigable efforts of John McLaughlin, arts and cultural events officer of the City of Canning, whose people-skills did much to bring this major initiative to fruition. It would have had to be a considerable logistical challenge mustering a small army of dancers, instrumentalists and choristers, a challenge which McLaughlin met to impressive effect.








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Chung Wa dancers brought us traditional lion dancing, the performers for the most part invisible under splendid, pristine white and crimson lion costumes and the Wadumbah Aboriginal Dance Group would doubtless have been a source of fascination to visiting dancers from the orient, their idiosyncratic dance sequences as ancient as the land their ancestors have called home for eons.




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Traditional Aboriginal paintings were wrapped around tall cylinders lit from within. Some were positioned on stage, others floated on the waters off Shelley beach. They were a fascinating sight. Prior to this van Tuinen presided over the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra in music from L’Arlesienne by Bizet.


Jimenez’s La Boda de Luis Alonso and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espanol are works which have been choreographed for innumerable Spanish dance presentations. La Boda was danced to the version of the late, great Juanjo Linares, prefaced by a virtuosic zapateado cadenza by Jose Torres, guest dancer from Chicago-based Ensemble Espanol. And in Rimsky-Korsakov’s much loved music, Torres was striking in a bullfighter’s cape, its black and crimson satin sides employed to splendid visual effect.  As ever, the ladies of Danza Viva Spanish Dance, beautifully gowned, were at their sinuous best, graceful in reflective episodes and dramatic in castanet-enhanced sequences.

 There was more delight after interval when Beijing Dance LTDX performed to a recording of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, as moving to watch as to hear, There was a significant obeisance to Martha Graham in a choreography which focussed unerringly on expressions of grief and loss. This was a profound, deeply moving essay in music and movement by a dance company which was wonderfully disciplined.


A bumper evening included excerpts from Carmina Burana sung by the UWA Choral Society with a number of extra singers from regional choirs. Here, too, van Tuinen did wonders in maintaining momentum and ensuring an admirable level of ensemble from his considerable forces.


A dramatic close to the evening was provided by archers aiming arrows with flaming heads at Dagneris Alonso’s sculpture of a dragon floating in the Canning River. As the arrows (not all) found their mark, the dragon quite literally exploded in flames. In decades of concert going, I can’t recall a more unexpected end to a concert. 

All Photos:  Paul Kelly

Complexions Contemporary Ballet


His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth

reviewed by Deanna Blacher

 Complexions - group shot lr





Complexions Contemporary Ballet would have been a largely unknown quantity in this part of the world before its opening night on Tuesday. But anyone coming away from its first performance at His Majesty’s Theatre is unlikely ever to forget it – and for all the best reasons.


Led by co-founder and principal dancer,  Desmond Richardson, (who will surely join the ranks of the great American modern dancers of the 21st century) astounded, astonished  and inspired this reviewer. Complexions reveals a strikingly different world of dance, in which hitherto unknown levels of technical accomplishment become the norm.


These extraordinary bodies are poetry in motion. What distinguishes them from so many other good dancers is that their technique, all encompassing as it is, remains the servant of their musicality, passion and artistry.


Dwight Rhoden, the company’s founder and resident choreographer, could hardly be better served by these very special dancers. Their training allows them to convey the illusion of honey in their limbs, rather than bones, especially the hips. They meet every technical and interpretative challenge head on, sailing through the most complex of  dance vocabulary with the nonchalance of mastery.


Highlight of the evening was Desmond Richardson’s unprogrammed solo, Moonlight, which comes across as a distillation, a summing up, as it were,,of everything the company stands for and is.


Superhuman control, phrasing, timing, passion, originality and an ability to draw and hold the attention of the viewer add up to memorable dance theatre  in which the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.


The opening ballet – Moon Over Jupiter  – to music by Rachmaninoff was for me the most intriguing and satisfying of the works performed on opening night.


Athleticism and sheer virtuosity, especially in some very innovative solos and pas de deux , gave this work an edge that was highlighted by the exposed lighting rig in a  design by Michael Korsch.


Notwithstanding a view that a bigger stage was needed for the playing out – and appreciation of – the complexities of these splendid choreographies, this production succeeded at every level, especially in the manifold ways in which the music was interpreted, to highlight the various strengths and differences of the dancers. They are made to work as a tightly knit unit, but retain their individuality.


An exposed lighting rig featured in all the presentations and seemed to surmount the technical limitations of the theatre’s stage without difficulty, thus adding immeasurably  to the worth of each choreography .


In so many-splendoured an offering, it would be invidious to single out individuals for special mention – but it would be ungracious not to mention Patricia Hachey who shone in everything from Rachmaninoff to Billie Holiday and U2, displaying a versatility that was  breathtaking.


I noted with interest that the company has in its repertoire the works of other choreographers apart from those of its founder, Dwight Rhoden.


Apart from occasional lapses in timing and a sometimes too-loud and distorted sound track, this will be an evening that will be remembered long after the applause dies away.


Can we hope for a return visit of this very special company to give us an even broader view of their artistry?


Vladimir Rebikov

russian piano          Russian Piano Music Series (volume 2)


Anthony Goldstone (piano)

divine art dda 25081


TTP: 70’05”


reviewed by Neville Cohn


This is a most welcome addition to the discography of Russian music for the piano.


Most of the pieces here are short, ranging from durations as brief as 23 seconds to  two or three minutes. There’s one larger scale offering: Esclavage et liberte which runs for just under twenty minutes..


As a schoolboy growing up many years ago in Cape Town and an enthusiastic competitor in local eisteddfodau, I often played set pieces by Ladoukhin, Maykapar, Karganov, Goedicke, Rebikov – and numbers of so-called Fairy Tales by Medtner. Nearly all of these, as I recall, were published by Chester. Their level of difficulty approximated some of the trickier pieces in Schumann’s Album for the Young. They were handy to play at piano teachers’ end-of-term concerts and at school prize giving ceremonies.


Very few of these miniatures are available on CD which is a shame as these morceaux deserve an occasional airing – and this recording of music of Rebikov is a welcome addition to the recorded repertoire, not least because, according to the liner notes, of the 43 tracks, one – and one only – has previously been recorded. The soloist in this miniature was Shura Cherkassky who would offer it as an encore from time to time: the charming, lilting little Valse from The Christmas Tree suite.


Rebikov, born in Siberia in 1866, died in warmer climes (Yalta in the Crimea)  in  1920, leaving a great deal of music, much of it now being recorded by enterprising and adventurous pianists such as Anthony Goldstone.


Rebikov wrote in a bewildering variety of styles; many are on offer here.


Listen to The Devils Amuse Themselves and The Giant Dance. Both call for emphatic, foot-stamping heaviness. Goldstone presents these noisy little pieces with gusto. Bittersweet melancholy informs almost every moment of the six brief utterances that are collectively called Autumn Leaves. This is hardly great music but certainly worth an occasional airing.


A liner note suggests that the very short items that together make up A Festival anticipate the ultra-brief pieces of Webern. As well, the opening Vivo eerily calls   Stravinsky’s Petrouchka to mind in its rhythmic treatment – and there’s a gritty gaiety to the following miniature which Goldstone despatches with nimble, accurate fingers.


Of the suite – Pictures for Children – it is The Music Lesson, in particular, that delights with its deliberate pedal blurring depicting a piano pupil very much under par And The Promenade of the Gnomes makes a graceful obeisance to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

An Eloquent Story





by Neville Cohn



Not quite 80 years ago, a young employee – Walter Legge –  of His Master’s Voice records came up with an idea to boost sales: a limited edition of HMV recordings of German lieder, all by Hugo Wolf, and these would be made available only to those who became members of the Hugo Wolf Society. Top liners such as Elena Gerhardt, John McCormack and Alexander Kipnis made these recordings. Most of the piano accompaniments were by Coenraad Bos. It was a revolutionary idea at the time. Those sets are now collectors’ items.













Cyrus Meher-Homji in Monte Carlo



Years later, there was another good idea at the dawn of the LP era: advertisements arrived by post offering an LP with accompanying booklet at a knockdown price. The writer, as a schoolboy growing up in provincial Cape Town, recalls the enthusiasm with which thousands ordered their first long playing records. But the recordings were of third rate musicians and the recorded sound was terrible. So, what ought to have been a clever and effective entree to the LP world was a fizzer.




The thought and care lavished on the first initiative and the slapdash nature of the LP venture exemplify the best and worst of the recording world.


A very much more recent development is the Eloquence series of compact disc recordings that are reaching an ever-growing number of listeners.


The brainchild of Cyrus Meher-Homji, these recordings are not only invariably of high standard but the product of the most careful consideration in relation to what works share the same disc.


Meher-Homji, whose energy and enthusiasm are bywords in the industry, works tirelessly to find, and present to best advantage, the cream of recorded music. Most, but not all, the material, would originally have been recorded on LP – but there are also tracks from as far back as the 78rpm shellac era. Unsurprisingly, the care lavished on Eloquence CDs has drawn favourable comment from leading figures in music journalism.





Tully Potter, author of the newly published book on Alfred Busch and contributor to several leading classical music publications, points out that “before I ever had anything to do with Cyrus Meher-Homji, I used to bring back copies of Eloquence CDs from my trips to Australia. The label seemed to be very well directed, with elegant, attractive packaging and good engineering, and it restored useful recordings to the catalogue”. As well, Potter makes the point that it is “difficult to explain to the modern record executive constantly talking about ‘product’, that many of us really love records.


“We loved 78rpm discs, we loved LPs and we have grown to love CDs. When we speak to Cyrus, we know instinctively that he is one of those rare people in the record industry who shares our enthusiasm.


“The CD explosion has been extraordinary, providing us with an unheard-of wealth of available music. Although I constantly hear irritating technocrats foretelling the death of the CD, I think it will see most of us out; and Eloquence will continue to please those of us who prefer something tangible to a mere download.”


With the unquenchable enthusiasm and optimism that he brings to his constant search for ever more material for the Eloquence range, Meher-Homji reminds one, in a sense, of Heinrich Schliemann. That famed archaeologist tracked down the golden treasure of ancient Troy and sent the naysayers, those who said it was a pipe dream, a wild goose chase, packing. Certainly, there’s musical gold in the LP and 78rpm treasures that Meher-Homji, a latter day musical Schliemann, has rescued from virtual oblivion.




Rob Cowan, Gramophone critic and BBC Radio 3 broadcaster, says:”There’s a common gripe amongst collectors in the UK about CD manufacturers and their planning staff: why do they keep re-issuing that same old material and, even more perplexing, why do they insist on coupling what they do reissue so badly?


“Then along comes Cyrus Meher-Homji and suddenly it seems that all our prayers are being answered at once………well, not all maybe, because his influence can’t extend beyond the Universal stable!


“Here is someone who is willing to cast a careful and knowing eye across back catalogues not merely in search of ‘big names’ (though they often feature on his schedules) but in the interests of the longer-term collectors whose vinyl days are over and who yearn to revisit a favourite recording that has long been deleted.”


Cowan points out that Ernest Ansermet’s 50-year-tenure as head of the Suisse Romande Orchestra yielded an avalanche of recordings, performances “notable for their logic, clarity, musical intuition, authentic feeling and, not infrequently, a sense of excited involvement.“  Now, Meher-Homji is doing sterling work in getting this  musical treasure trove to a new audience.


Eloquence CDs are competitively priced. Meher-Homji says the low cost “attracts students especially, as well as the casual buyer. People shopping for Eloquence anecdotally seldom buy just a single CD. They feel courageous enough to flick through the range and purchase a handful.




“Retail price is $10 for a single, $15 for 2-CD sets up to $30 for  5-CD sets. By way of comparison, a single “full price” CD ranges anywhere from $24 to $38”, says Meher-Homji.


Getting Eloquence CDs from an idea to a place on the retail shelf is hugely time consuming – “sourcing the material from the archives, ordering the masters, often checking LP copies for timings where they don’t exist for older masters, commissioning the liner notes (and sometimes using the original LP notes), proofing the booklet, checking the masters with very keen ears”.


Meher-Homji points out, too, that almost 90% of his work on the Eloquence range is done after hours and at home. “There’s simply not the time to do it at work. In a sense, it’s my contribution to the record industry – sometimes at the expense of a life!”


Sales statistics speak for themselves. Over the last decade, an average of over 200,000 Eloquence CDs have marched off the shelves each year.


Meher-Homji is that rarity, an ideas man who has the capacity to bring those ideas to fruition.


Consider this: For some time now, those who attend opera productions at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth have had good reason to think well of the Eloquence series as Meher-Homji has ensured that an Eloquence CD featuring highlights of whatever opera is on, is available, as well as programmes, in the theatre foyers. For growing numbers of opera lovers, the CD is as much about the opera experience as anything.




Extolling Meher-Homji’s skill in compiling CDs – in relation, say, to Ansermet’s vast recorded output, Cowan writes: “Now there have been other Ansermet series around but only Cyrus has the imagination to – for example – produce a Prokofiev double-pack that includes both the mono and stereo versions of the ‘Classical Symphony’, interpretations that are chalk and cheese. All you need to do is play the first minute or so on both recordings to realise that. Most secondary exploitation’ managers would have chosen one or the other version, leaving you to follow your own curiosity, often at great expense.


“That’s the big difference”, writes Rob Cowan. “Cyrus’ CDs are well-planned, well filled, invariably well annotated and full of little unexpected extras, such as the (hitherto) unissued tracks on his Kirsten Flagstad CDs.


“But more than anything, they are the work of a man who cares, who has the collector’s interests at heart and for that reason has earned himself many well-deserved accolades. Long may he thrive.”