Tag Archives: Perth Australia

Waiting for Godot (Beckett)



His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth(Australia)

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Although the prime focus of pre-season publicity and advertising for Waiting for Godot was Sir Ian McKellen, (quite understandable bearing his huge celebrity in mind) it would be fair to say that on-stage honours were shared equally by the four main players. Indeed, having experienced a number of productions of Beckett’s masterpiece, each with its particular strengths (and weaknesses), I would unhesitatingly place this presentation at the forefront; it riveted the attention – and for all the right reasons.


I cannot too highly praise the skill which each of the players brought to the production; their ensemble was flawless. The four brought priceless skill to their acting.


As Pozzo, Matthew Kelly was superb, a towering figure (in both histrionic and visual terms) who came across as the apotheosis of cruelty, an incarnation of callousness, not least through his indifference to the plight of the unfortunate Lucky. The latter, played by Brendan O’Hea, gave the performance of his life. Literally bowed down by the weight of the heavy bags he carries, his hopelessness and defeat would surely have moved even the most indifferent of theatregoers. His death-like pallor and bedraggled, colourless hair made him wraithlike.


For almost all the time he’s on stage, Lucky utters not a syllable. But, when he does begin to talk, one could sense an almost palpable initial relief on the part of the audience willing him to have his say. But, as ever, when the luckless Lucky finally opens up, there’s a seemingly unstoppable torrent of muddled, incomprehensible verbiage, so much so that – and this invariably happens – one begins heartily to wish he had never opened his mouth.


As Estragon and Vladimir, McKellen and Roger Rees respectively were beyond reproach. A facial gesture here, a flick of the wrist there, a frown, a smile, a snatch of  song and a softshoe shuffle, a chuckle, a sigh: these were the minutiae of a magically matchless offering where the impact of the whole was far greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Have audiences ever before encountered a more engaging couple of hobos than those given us courtesy of McKellen and Rees?


Young Craig Hyde-Smith did well as the messenger of the mysterious, ever-absent  Godot.


During intermission, I overheard a playgoer bitterly complaining that Godot was a play about nothing. Perhaps so – but I’d any day watch this ‘show about nothing’ with its myriad subtleties and veiled meanings than the one George Costanza had in mind in the Seinfeld TV series.


Sean Mathias worked wonders as director. Lavish laurels to set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis for dreaming up an altogether appropriate visual environment for the playing out of Beckett’s masterpiece with what looked like the a dark brick wall of some huge industrial building as a backdrop with, on either side of the stage, a representation of a crumbling, double storied mansion with, stage centre, a tree, bare but for a very few leaves, all, for the most part, bathed in the curious, greyish-silver light design of Paul Pyant.

The Magic Touch by Wallace Tate

The Magic Touch and DVD at AUS$67 – Digital Download

The Piano Magic Touch

reviewed by Neville Cohn

I must declare an interest: I have known the author Wallace Tate for twenty years – and Lionel Bowman has known me since my childhood. As a music critic in Cape Town, I often reviewed associate professor Bowman's recitals and concerto performances. And at the South African Broadcasting Corporation studios in Cape Town, I was music producer for many of Bowman's recitals being recorded for later transmission. This took place a good many years ago. Some time after settling in Perth, Australia in the early 1980s, I learned that Wallace Tate was working on a book about Bowman's idiosyncratic piano-teaching method. My initial reaction was one of scepticism. In many years of listening to, and writing about, music, I had come across many books relating to piano playing, most claiming foolproof solutions to technical problems in prose that ranged from the absurdly superficial to the impenetrable. As well, I had never encountered anyone who claimed a significant improvement in command of the keyboard as a result of resorting to any of these primers. Was Tate's book to be added to this dreary collection? I am happy to report that my reservations were groundless. To my astonishment – and gratification – I discovered as I read slowly and carefully through this remarkable tome, most of it while at the keyboard, that Tate had achieved what I had considered near-impossible: a compendium of useful, practical advice on solving a range of technical problems. Throughout, the language used is straightforward and unambiguous. In fact, the lucidity and cogency of the text puts Tate's work in a special category of excellence. It is the end-product of a years'- long study of Bowman's method. Its clarity and logic are as rare as they are significant. Methods – and books such as this – don't just fall from the sky. For Bowman, the route to keyboard control was no musical equivalent of some instantaneous Pauline conversion, some magical revelation from on high. Hardly. Bowman has been frank about the genesis and development of the teaching method that Tate has so admirably captured in print. Experiencing increasing physical discomfort at the keyboard – and finding nothing in his background that offered meaningful solutions to his dilemma – and needing to externalise his system for the benefit of his many students with their manifold problems, Bowman, through trial and error over years, gradually evolved a way of approaching the piano that resolved many of his own physical difficulties at the keyboard. These solutions brought him acclaim as an artist and gratitude and relief from innumerable students whose playing had been bedevilled by muscle tension and physical and emotional pain. It is Tate's great achievement that he recognised the significance of Bowman's approach to the piano (and that it might disappear with Bowman's retirement from teaching) – and captured its essence in this book. Let it be said clearly, though, that the method is no instant, all-embracing, panacea for success at the piano; such a utopian solution does not exist. Rather, in the most approachable of terms, it enables the serious teacher, student and professional to set about solving a range of otherwise intractable technical problems in a meaningful way. There is, incidentally, a video that comes with the book which provides a handy visual dimension to Tate's text. For copies of The Magic Touch and DVD digital download, head over to The Magic Touch Website.



© October 2003