Friday, November 29, 2013

Advent Cafe Experience

If you're looking for something different this Advent season, you won't do better than the pop up cafe at Ringwood Uniting Church in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

The cafe is providing training for home-grown baristas, using fair trade coffee from Wild Timor Coffee and, wherever possible, sourcing food from within a 100km radius. As a not-for-profit venture you pay for your food and beverage by donation.

What does your Advent smell like? Sensory table (26th Nov)
What's more you can choose to get a new insight into Advent by attending a different input session each week until Christmas.

From sensory experiences and theological reflections to hip hop artist Dylan Joel on offer, this event has something for pretty much everyone.

Find out more about the cafe, the input and operating times here.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'Wagner Roos' Welcome 'Ring Nuts' to Melbourne

It's big, it's showy, it's long and it's here.

In the Northern Hemisphere they’re called “Ring Nuts”, but the Australian cohort have been dubbed “Wagner Roos”. Whatever you call them, they are unique breed, travelling whenever and wherever Wagner’s Ring Cycle is being performed. “Wagner Roos” are in heaven as The Ring comes to Melbourne, courtesy of Opera Australia, The City of Melbourne and patron Maureen Wheeler. But what is all the fuss about? And are these Wagnerian enthusiasts, with apparently more money than sense, more than a little loopy? Continue reading

You may also enjoy reading

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review : The Mountaintop (MTC)

Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr
On a long stormy night in 1968, Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr (Bert LaBonte) is holed up in his Memphis hotel room, weary, alone and downhearted. After years of preaching, ‘testifying’ and advocating for an end to racial inequality what does he have to show for it? Camae, a maid (Zahra Newman), arrives with coffee and the evening plunges into a series of revelations, confessions and surprises.

What was King like when he wasn’t preaching to the thousands? Egotistical? A philanderer? Driven?  Neurotic? A sell-out on West End and Broadway, Katori Hall’s entertaining script hones in on King’s personal despair in the hotel room, opening to a bigger picture perspective towards the close. Historical footage alongside the recitation of names of leaders and achievers is captivating. Continue reading

Thursday, October 31, 2013

VCA Theatre Students Strut the Boards at Year's End

This past week I have reviewed two quite astonishing plays by third year theatre students, and production students in all three year levels at Melbourne University's VCA.  Both reviews are now published by Stage Whispers.

It’s An Earthquake in my Heart
It's an Earthquake in my Heart

Its all about responding to calamity, to events beyond one's control that impact negatively on our life. It's about regret and grief and trying to make a fresh start. Directed by Robert Walton, and staged in Studio 28, this is a boots-and-all kind read more

Eddie Goes To Poetry CityEddie Goes to Poetry City

A pleasing randomness pervades this production as everyman Eddie (Alistair Frearson) visits a city of poetry and is swept along in its frustrating labyrinth of dreams, nightmare, displacement, intrigue and desire. It is as though we too have read more 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Children of Eden (Stephen Schwartz and Magnormos)

Children of Eden, is all about the beginning, but it played last in the triptych of Stephen Schwatz’s musicals, preceded by Godspell and Pippin, all presented by Magnormos at Elizabeth Murdoch Hall in the Melbourne's Recital Centre this September. 

Read the full review here

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Luna Park: 100 Years Old and still laughing

There's a new thrill ride at Luna Park, and with extended opening hours until 11pm some evenings, the days really are longer.

Find out about what's happening at Melbourne's most iconic family attraction this school holidays here.

You may also be interested in
Spring into ANZAC this School Holidays
10 Fun Study Break Ideas

Friday, September 20, 2013

10 Fun Study Break Ideas

Fun Study Breaks can make exam season bearable.
If you're a VCE or University student you'll know about study pressure. Swotting for exams is a particularly difficult time for many, as connections with your support base of friends and family are reduced just when you need them most.

While a great deal of talk and energy is invested into maximising study time, far less has been written about how to do study breaks really well.

Of course your study practices are important, but consider this. If the science is to be believed some of these breaks may have added cognitive, physical and mental health benefits. After all, what you do in your break can determine how well you approach your next study block.

Relax and have some fun with these 10 Fun Study-Break Ideas. Oh, and good luck with the exams. Continue reading

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spring into ANZAC at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance

Spring into ANZAC, a free program designed with families in mind, is worth a look these school holidays.

Held at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, families are encouraged to begin at the Visitor Centre where maps for the School Holiday Trail are available and staff will be on hand to answer questions. 

Be brave and let the kids take the lead, using the map to pick their way away around the displays, in no particular order.

Think on the “Spirit of Anzac”, learn about Australian military history, visit the Shrine’s building, gardens and memorials, find out about wartime jobs for men and women, and learn how animals played a part in wartime. A short commemorative ceremony featuring the Ray of Light will be a highlight for many. The whole program is expected to run for 45-60 minutes. Continue reading

Other ideas for the school holidays

Friday, September 13, 2013

MTC-HQ: Behind the Scenes At Melbourne Theatre Company

Four pianos are backed up against the astonishing red walls in the corridor. The atmosphere is close and slightly confronting. Turning a corner, we pass rehearsal rooms. Rehearsals for Solomon and Marion are underway.

The corridor opens into a huge warehouse space. Alcoves on two levels accommodate props, a wet area, workspaces and offices. The air is cool, and it feels a little urgent. On the floor, huge boards lie flat, waiting to be of service. Over yonder tall blue scaffolding and a roller-door lead to the loading dock.

This is MTC-HQ.

Australia’s oldest professional theatre company, and one of the English world’s largest theatre companies, is celebrating its 60th birthday. Some employees have been here for decades, representing in excess of 300 years of collective knowledge and theatre experience.

Each year Melbourne Theatre Company produces twelve major productions, an education program and season of new or independent works. For each shows, sets are designed and constructed, props found, renovated and crafted, costumes sourced and sewn, and sometimes hats, wigs, and art finishing are required. Continue reading

The Crucible (review)
Ray Lawler: The Summer of our 90th Year
Glenn Elston on the Perils of Outdoor Theatre
More reviews, previews and feature articles

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany


Carrie Tiffany’s second novel, Mateship with Birds is widely described as a book about family. My reading, however, casts the principle theme as loneliness, with the family, or lack of it as the setting. 

Central to the novel is the family group of single mother Betty and her children Michael and ‘Little Hazel’ and their neighbour Harry, a divorced dairy farmer. Living in the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, the family operates with Harry as unofficial surrogate father, and their joint existence tetters on the potential of greater intimacy. This unspoken connection is a lonely one:

Harry looks out of the window at the jasmine curling around the verandah posts. It is his cutting. He brought it over in a kerosene tin when they first arrived. Over the years he’s trained it up the posts, steering it away from the gutters and towards the front door. Sometimes Sip will come back from visiting Little Hazel with a garland of jasmine around her neck and sneezing at the sweet juice of it. Sometimes he’ll notice Betty with a few squashed flowers in her hair. It is worse to be here with them, in the house but separate, than to be alone. (p.89)

Betty works at the local aged care home where the male clients read like a litany of disappointment. On her lunchbreak she leaves by the back door, dresses up and returns as the lunchtime wife of the men. Whether these lunchtime encounters include sex is unstated. However, the tone of the book certainly deems this possible, particularly when one old man leaves his wife’s wedding dress ‘For Betty’ upon his death.

Laced through the novel are Harry’s diarised observations of a family of kookaburras that inhabit his property.  Reputedly the relaying of their rituals and altercations was an attempt to engage the reader in their fascinating lives, and possibly to drawn comparisons between them and the human characters. Not for me. As the book neared its close, I found myself skimming through these seemingly endless entries. Perhaps I’m not keen enough on birds.

In truth, I was more interested in Harry’s cows than the birds, despite the credence given to the later by the novel’s title.

On these wet mornings the word seems close around them – Harry and the herd. It is the same greasy rain that hits them both, that sticks to hide and skin, that gushes down their legs and gathers in their eyelashes. Harry opens the gate and pushes in among them. Their blood is hot. Each cow gives off her own great heat and takes in the heat of her sisters. They are urgent with milk and hunger, stamping and bellowing and thrusting out their necks…. They don’t fear Harry. They don’t fear any man or dog, even a proper farm dog. What they fear is being alone. Being left behind. (p.4-5) 

The manner in which Harry regards Betty seems akin to the way he views his herd of cows:

When she stands he notices the roundness of her belly, her dinner not yet digested. (p 89)

Obsessive and frequent sexual references are such that one never knows what assault will be wrought on the reader as page follows page. And here comes the spoiler. Towards the close the novel’s most unattractive character Mues, abuser of birds and guilty of indecent exposure, is found to have had a long-term sexual relationship with one of his sheep. It is a moment that is shocking and yet unsurprising given the novel’s trajectory.

As transfixed as this novel is on sex, on primal need, and on its centrality to our humanity and sense of worth, the sexual act is not ultimately posited as the solution to loneliness. Even in the final scene where, (thank heaven for that), Harry and Betty consummate their desire, the scene is strangely empty and almost sterile.

There is beautiful writing here certainly, and one imagines that is what won Carrie Tiffany the (inaugural) Stella Prize and the Christina Stead Prize, and had it short-listed for the Encore Award, Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, Prime Ministers Literary Award for fiction, Miles Franklin Award, Victorian Premier's Literary Award for fiction and the Melbourne Prize for Literature in 2013.

But my book club were all agreed. This book had such a masculine tone, had we not know otherwise we'd have assumed it had been written by a man. The back-cover blurb promised something quite different to the nature of its contents.

I am sorry to say I did not love it. 
I was happy to put it down. 
I was disappointed.