Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Critics honour Canberra artists

THE 24th  ACT Awards ceremony was hosted by the Canberra Critics’ Circle  on Tuesday (November 25) at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.
The evening featured the Circle’s own arts awards and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s Peer Recognition Award.  
L. Helen Musa, convener CCC, 2014 ‘CityNews’ Artist of the Year, sculptor Kensuke Todo, r.  2011 ‘CityNews’ Artist of the Year, Michael Le Grand, back Matthew Curtis, glass artist. Phot by Shane Breynard.
The 2013 Citynews Artist of the Year award, it was announced by 2011 Artist of the Year Michael Le Grand,  went to  Canberra sculptor Kensuke Todo, who was presented with a cheque to the value of $1,000.  Glass artist and 2013 CAPO Fellow Matthew Curtis joined with the CCC and Citynews in  presenting him with a glass sculpture. 
Born in Kyoto, Todo originally came to Canberra as an exchange student speaking hardly any English, later returning to complete his MA and settling in the ACT, where he is an keen participant in the arts scene. He is presently busy creating a new work for a show in Cowra, his work “Rest” was recently acquired by the ACT Legislative Assembly, and a large abstract work by Todo can be outside the Commonwealth Club.

Michael White maintains his rage
The 2014 MEAA Peer Recognition Award went to recently retired  ACT Branch Secretary Michael White for his many years of work supporting the theatre profession. White showed that retirement  has not lessened his resolve in a speech that lamented that sot the ABC and urged those present to protest.
The  2014 members of the Canberra Critics’ Circle are Cris Kennedy, Jane Freebury, Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak, Kerry-Anne Cousins, Meredith Hinchliffe, Johnny Milner, Claire Capel-Stanley, Irma Gold, John Lombard, Alanna Maclean, Frank McKone, Malcolm Miller, Helen Musa, Simone Penkethman, Len Power, Michelle Potter, Samara Purnell, Bill Stephens, Peter Wilkins, Joe Woodward, Clinton White, Ian McLean, Judith Crispin and  Jennifer Gall.
Canberra Critics’ Circle awards went to visual artists Nicci Haynes, Kensuke Todo, Janet DeBoos, Denise Higgins and Gary Smith, Helen Aitken Kuhnen, Katy Mutton, Annika Harding, and artists Caroline Huf, Ellis Hutch, Blaide Lallemand & Genevieve Swifte of ‘Relative Constructions’; filmmakers; Sotiris Dounoukos, the creators of the feature film Galore; dance artist James Batchelor,  theatre artists Domenic Mico, The Street Theatre, Alison Plevey, Karla Conway & Emma Gibson;  musical theatre artists Jenna Roberts, Jim McMullen, Steve Walsh and Hanna Ley;  musicians Tate Sheridan, Beth Monzo & Ben Drysdale, Alan Hicks, Rowan Harvey Martin, Christopher Latham, Marcela Fiorillo, Larry Sitsky and Tobias Cole; writers Nigel Featherstone, John Clanchy[correct], Omar Musa and  ‘Biff’ Ward.
The full citations for the 2014 CCC awards  follow:
Jazz and pop pianist, Tate Sheridan
For his considerable achievements so early in his career after graduating from the ANU School of Music, including his appearance at the 2014 Canberra International Music Festival Fringe as ANU artist in profile, his recording of his debut album (yet to be released) and the demand for him as a concert artist.
Beth Monzo and Ben Drysdale
For their debut live album "Baggage Claim" and film clip and as the singer-songwriter duo Beth 'n' Ben, with their tongue-in-cheek brand of popular music, ranging from folk, reggae and rock to blues, pop and jazz.
Pianist and conductor Alan Hicks.
For his transformational work with the University of Canberra Chorale, notably its performance of “Songs of Peace and War” and for his considerable reputation and busy work as an accompanist of consummate skill, never putting his own performance ahead of others.
Rowan Harvey Martin
For her versatile musicianship and tireless work as musical director and conductor of the Canberra Youth Orchestra, the Canberra Children’s Choir and the Llewellyn Choir and for her performance as conductor of JS Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” in April 2014.
Christopher Latham
For producing and directing the performances of “The Christmas Truce” and “Triumph of the Heart”, poignant and deeply moving accounts of the music and human condition of World Wars I and II in the 2014 Canberra International Music Festival.
Pianist and composer Marcela Fiorillo
For her composition and world premiere performance of "Suite Weereewa, Op 3" and for her showcasing and promotion of piano works by Australian and Argentine composers.

Pianist and composer Larry Sitsky
For his work in new music as a performer, composer and mentor, including five new commissions and publishing three major works in the past year, including national broadcasts of his piano concerto and his opera The Golem.

Tobias Cole
For his outstanding contribution as a performer and choral director and his passionate advocacy for the music of Handel, including the Australian premiere of Handel’s Alexander Balus and for his performance in the title role of Akhnaten in the Philip Glass Trilogy for South Australian Opera.
Omar Musa
For his gritty, lyrical and explosive debut verse novel, Here Come the Dogs, about hip hop, graffiti, drugs, race, identity and bushfires.
Short fiction
John Clanchy [note spelling of surname which is often spelled incorrectly]
For his accomplished and sharply observed collection of short fiction, Six.
Nigel Featherstone
For his impressive third novella, The Beach Volcano, a compelling story about a family and their dark secrets.
Elizabeth ‘Biff’ Ward
For In My Mother’s Hands, a complex and powerful memoir that conjures up the 1950s while telling a disturbing, true story that touches on mental illness.
Visual Arts
Kensuke Todo
For the impressive and expansive exhibition Kensuke Todo: A Survey at the Drill Hall Gallery, which showcased a series of steel sculptures and charcoal drawings.
Visual Arts
Nicci Haynes
For her solo exhibition Body Language at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery which showcased the artist's investigations into the body, movement and language, as well as her exploratory focus on text through printmedia and performance.
Visual Arts
The artist collective, Relative Constructions—Caroline Huf, Ellis Hutch, Blaide Lallemand and Genevieve Swifte
For their exhibition and accompanying publication The Poetic Lens at M16 Artspace, presenting an innovative alternative perspective on lens¬based media as an emotive, embodied and poetic form.
Visual Arts
Janet DeBoos
For her dramatic, innovative and accomplished ceramic exhibition Articulate Objects in September this year that brought together both Eastern and Western imagery in a sympathetic and convincing narrative that also questioned our perceived notions of cultural identity and appropriation.
Visual Arts
Helen Aitken Kuhnen
For her exhibition From Land to Sea in November 2013 that demonstrated the artist’s mastery of the skilled and subtle art of enamelling resulting in a series of beautiful works of wearable art that have an understated but nevertheless a very tangible poetic sensibility to the Australian landscape.
Visual Arts
Weaving together sound, lighting and object the immersive installation Vox Nautica at ANCA Gallery in November 2013 transformed the gallery into a richly nuanced, other worldly environment. Denise Higgins and Gary Smith
Visual Arts
Katy Mutton
For her original, haunting and complex stylisation of contemporary warplanes privileging childhood innocence and observation in the exhibition Rise of the Machines in March this year at CCAS Manuka.
Visual Arts
Annika Harding
For curating the group exhibition Wanderlust at M16 in July this year comprising eleven emerging and early career artists that evidenced a diversity and excellence of practice within a tightly conceived and managed theme.
The creative team for the feature film Galore
Scripted and directed by Rhys Graham, this teenage love film set in the days leading up to the 2003 bushfires, makes excellent use of Canberra talent and locations. While intensely focused on the teens and their world, it also tries to include a bigger story, about a city.
Sotiris Dounoukos
For Un Seul Corps (A Single Body), an exploration of friendship and loyalty that is surprisingly located in an abattoir among animal carcasses. The film works subtly overturning the claustrophobia and brutality of the images so that a story of human friendship emerges.
James Batchelor
For his outstanding achievement in producing, choreographing and performing in his original dance work, Island. This imaginative and well-staged work had excellent production values and demonstrated his skill in executing complex ideas through movement.
To Domenic Mico
For offering through Smith's Alternative Bookshop the opportunity for emerging and established theatre practitioners to create new and original work in an intimate, accessible and genuine alternative theatre space.
The Street Theatre
For the production of Helen Machalias’ powerful play In Loco Parentis, directed by Andrew Holmes.
Performer Alison Plevey, director Karla Conway and writer Emma Gibson
For the excellence and originality of Johnny Castellano is Mine, a co-production of The Street Theatre and Canberra Youth Theatre.
Jenna Roberts
For her outstanding comedic performance as the hairdresser in Free Rain Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical.
Jim McMullen
For his outstanding production of Cabaret for the Canberra Philharmonic Society. His direction and concept captured the essence of this difficult musical in a well-prepared production that was superbly executed by the cast and production crew on opening night.
Steve Walsh
For his colourful and witty setting for Free Rain Theatre’s production of Forbidden Broadway.
Hanna Ley
For her stylish performance in a variety of roles in Everyman Theatre’s production of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)

Monday, November 24, 2014


CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Edmond Rostand.

Original Translation by Marion Potts. Adapted and directed by Andrew Upton

STC Theatre. Sydney Theatre Company. November 11 - December 20 2014

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano de Bergerac. Photos by Brett Boardmann

Julia Zemiro as Duenna. Eryn Jean Norvill as Roxanne
Andrew Upton directs his own adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic, Cyrano de Bergerac with sheer panache. Using Marion Potts’s original translation and his previous adaptation, Upton has catapulted Rostand’s story of the seventeenth century soldier/poet into the twenty first century with a narrative that is riveting, alive with imagination and powerful in its impact on heart and mind.

From the very start, Upton breaks the fourth wall with the entry of characters through the audience and Richard Roxburgh’s first appearance as Cyrano in a box at the side of the Sydney Theatre Company stage. Before us on stage the Paris of the time of Henry of Navarre bursts into life with a performance upon the opulent fa├žade of a Comedie Francais stage. It is a visually striking commencement to the tragi-comic story of the witty, effusive, brave and cavalier Cyrano, who must conceal his adoration of the exquisite Roxanne (Eryn Jean Norvill) while using his powers of poetry and prose to woo the beautiful heroine for the young and inarticulate Christian (Chris Ryan). It is the tangled web of altruistic deceit that will lead eventually to despair and desolation and ultimately death in the autumn leaf-bestrewn yard of the cloisters where Roxanne has sought comfort after Christian’s death at the siege of Arras.
Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano. Dale March as Valvert.

Eryn Jean Norvill as Roxanne. Josh McConville as De Guiche
Chris Ryan as Christain. Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano.
Upton’s masterly art of adaptation is imbued with theatrical elan in every aspect of this production. The flavor of the period flows from designer Alice Babage’s creative inspiration. The spirit of commedia is exalted in the setting for the opening act and the hilarious appearance of Montfleury (Alan Dukes), ballooned aloft from the trapdoor, to the derision of the critical Cyrano. The theatre’s gangways become the parapet for a thrilling sword fight between Cyrano and Valvert (Dale March) and each act excels in atmosphere. A simple reversal of the plush curtained facade reveals the bakery of Raguenau (David Whitney). At Arras, a smoke filled stage summons the essence of war’s pervading ominous air and fear. As though premonition announces the inevitable consequence of Cyrano’s fate, autumn leaves cascade upon the stage at the nunnery in the final stages of this sad tale of purposefully unrequited love. Visually and aurally, Babage’s designs, so authentic and evocative, and Paul Charlier’s accompanying composition and sound design summon the spirit of Rostand’s brilliant play and the Sydney Theatre Company’s exciting adaptation and performance. There is not a moment in this production that does not captivate and transport the audience into Cyrano’s world of adventure, romance and fateful destiny.

Eryn Jean Norvill as Roxanne. Chris Ryan as ChristianRoxanne and Christian
Bewitched by design, it is then time to admit players to this history. In every aspect, Upton’s production appears faultless, an ensemble triumph that luxuriates the senses and proves that at the heart of true experience is the power of the narrative. In this production it is pruned, precise and dynamic, rocketing through events and yet with a clarity and contrast that heightens comedy, mystery, suspense, surprise and empathy. An interval almost appears an intrusion in this two hours fifty minute traffic across the stage.

Eryn Jean Norvill as Roxanne. Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano
Although Roxburgh’s Cyrano may reign supreme in this realm of finest actors, it would be unjust to gloss over those who so worthily share the stage. Eryn Jean Norvill follows her enchanting and love-stricken Juliet in Kip Williams’ production of Romeo and Juliet last year with a Roxanne that is not only a joy to behold, but evokes such waves of empathy for her deep love and her heart-stricken loss. It is Cyrano’s eloquence and Christian’s looks that have stolen her heart, and yet this does not express fatuousness in Norvill’s interpretation but rather a true expression of a good and intelligent woman, who values the soul above the flesh. Norvill’s Roxanne rises to take its place amongst the great Roxannes that have gone before.

To single out actors in this ensemble of excellence would appear perfunctory. However, there are those whose role in Cyrano’s affairs warrants greater attention perhaps. Bruce Spence’s lugubrious and drink-affected swagger lends a gravitas to Cyrano’s impulsive nature. Josh McConville’s De Guiche is superbly crafted from flamboyant fop in elaborate apparel to the sombre Marshall in the darker garb of official dress. McConville’s Il Capitano is a highlight of Commedia lampoonery. David Whitney’s Ragenau swells with the bon homie bravura of the effusive host and Chris Ryan’s Christian strikes a chord of compassionate pity at his inarticulate inability to engage his heart with words to win his lady.  
Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxanne. Photo by Brett Boardmann

Chris Ryan as Christian. Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano
Rostand’s Cyrano demands the boldest of actors, the wisest, the cleverest, the weaver of magic, the actor with the courage of a soldier, the soul of a poet, the heart of a lover, the quicksilver wit of the cynic and the skill of the athlete of his craft. He must hold an audience in the palm of his hand; hear them laugh, feel them cry and leave them with a deeper understanding of the human spirit and the universal truths of the world they inhabit.

Richard Roxburgh does all this and more. When he claims that he has fought one hundred assailants and emerged victorious, we believe him wholeheartedly. We have witnessed his swordmanship and are filled with awe. When he conceals himself and lets his poetry waft through the night air to Roxanne, we believe he is in adoration of the muse he cannot claim. When he rails against the curse of his protuberant nose, we search our own imperfections and feel for his. Roxburgh achieves all this and more and we are enthralled. His is a Cyrano that cannot be missed.

As is the Sydney Theatre Company’s production. It is its faithful adherence to period combined with its regard for its time and its allegiance to Rostand’s wonderfully eternal tale, told by a superb team upon the STC mainstage and behind the scenes that has again affirmed the company’s stature on Australia’s professional theatre landscape. 
Alan Dukes as Montfleury. Richard Roxburgh as Cyrano. Photos by Brett Boardmann