Saturday, December 31, 2011


Short and Sweet, Playhouse - Saturday 3 December

Short and Sweet was our final Inspirations for 2011. Basically it was 10 X 10 minute plays! What a fantastic night out. Mostly young performers, writers and directors with high energy and interesting subject matter. I like the two about young, nervy males trying to ask their more confidant co-workers out, they were funny and well acted. Another about what you thought was a nursing home, but ended up being a morgue used black humour and pathos enjoyably.

This is the second year for Short and Sweet, although my first viewing, I hope they do more next year. It is the perfect introduction to live theatre and engaging...if you didn't like something, it would not be long until something else came on stage...great premise. Although some were not as great as others, I thought they were all worth watching.


Stevie Nicks (with Dave Stewart), Newcastle Entertainment Centre - Wednesday 30 November

I adore Stevie, my father being a huge Fleetwood Mac fan, I grew up with their music and was fixated with her, from a very young age, 6 or so I suppose. When you love someone and their music so much, they become almost untouchable and seeing them live is almost impossible as they will never live up to the's easier to just listen to their music from the comfort of your home. This is how I feel about Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, I have never bothered to see them and also am not a fan of Newcastle Entertainment Centre (The Shed!). And let's face it, Stevie has shoved so much Coke up her nose, she should not be able to sing. So I am unsure what possessed me to go to this, but luckily I am beside myself with excitement about it...still...

Dave Stewart was the support act, he had collaborated with her and produced her new album, which I have and love. We arrived as he started, and he was good. Better than I thought, not a great singer, but he had that rock n roll presence which made up for his voice. He also had a cracking band and amazing back up singers. One divine sister gave us some stunning renditions of some Eurythmics' songs.

Then after a short break it began... her entrance was pure rock arrival! Lights shining, band playing, audience pulsating with anticipation. Stand Back was playing and she rose in the centre of the stage, backlit beautifully, and began to sing. At that moment I breathed a sigh of relief, not only did she sound good, she was pure entertainment in the best possible way.

The set was amazing, although she did tell us it would be. What I loved more than the music, was she liked to talk in between songs, and talk the right kind of talk. I have been to lots of concerts and some performers just don't get the banter right, in fact not many can do it at all. And that's ok, you are there for the music, however, when someone gets it right is adds a something altogether different to the show and pushes it into a whole other dimension...this is what Stevie Nicks did!

So, after Stand Back, she spoke, she was thrilled to be here and singing her songs, especially those on her new album. She explained it would not be a greatest hits tour, almost a warning, for those only wanting hits (eg not real fans...yeah I know, I get snobby about this kinda stuff!) I took this to mean she would do a lot from her new album and was happy with that, it's a great album. She then said she had mixed together a good set, that she was good at that making songs fit and first I thought it was a little cocky, but she was bloody was a perfect set. There were a lot of songs I would have loved to hear, but I think she picked what works best for her and her voice at this time in her life...which by the way is 64!!!!! That also is fine by me, nothing worse than hearing a favourite butcher their own songs!

So the set list is as follows:

Stand back
Secret love
Gold dust woman
Soldier's angel
Annabel Lee
For what its worth
Ghosts are gone
Leather and lace
Encore: Edge of 17
Love is

Basically a hit and then a new song and so on. She explained each song as if a mother releasing one of her children out to strangers, why she wrote it, what it meant to her and so on...touching, stunning, loving stories...a true performer. She is rather eccentric and witchy of course, and that is part of the charm.

She looked good and had 3 costume changes, the lighting was perfect and the set/back videos amazing. It all just worked so well. And then there was the band, and what a band, they were tight and fabulous! They had all performed with her for years. Her guitarist since she was 17!!! The back up singers the same two girls I used to admire on her record covers as a teen - wishing I was one of them. The 'newer' members had performed with her since the early 90s. To me this is a sign of a decent person, you just do not hang around with someone for that long if they are awful, especially in the music industry. She had this charm and honesty that struck a chord with me, and I imagine the audience. She loved what she was doing, she loved those doing it with her, loved those who helped her along the way, and loved us for coming to listen to her.

She said she thought she would never release another album, and that she would live out her existence doing the odd tour with Fleetwood Mac whenever Mick called her up and invited her. She also said felt she was irrelevant today in the music industry and would never write again, but she did and with the help of Dave Stewart - if you have not heard her new album and love her mid 80s solo stuff give it a listen it is excellent. I am so glad she did and that I went.

I know I am writing more about her and what she said than the music...I will get to that. But it was what struck me the most - her performance and that does not just include the singing. Not all musicians are great performers - well they might perform their music well, but something personal is often missing, some only let it out every so often. But Stevie had this duel role going - She sung and performed her music professionally and beautifully, as if she was at the top of her game, not a dud note, not a missed step...perfection AND she gave us her soul, she was do one or the other is great, but to combine the two seamlessly as she did was utter brilliance. And she meant every thing she said, every note she sung...I guessed this was not a one night thing either.

About 2 weeks after the show I caught an interview she did for Art Nation and she talked about performing and who she was influenced by. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin! She said Janis was the perfect performer, big attitude, sure of herself, really went for it on stage. Yet Jimi had no attitude, was totally humble and surrounded by humility. She tried to have a combination of the two, but it had to come from within her - that is exactly what I have been clumsily trying to explain!

Stevie sung more Fleetwood Mac songs than her solo stuff, and that is ok. She sung ballads perfectly and rocked out the big ones. She was at one with her band, and they took over from her for the 2 short periods she left the stage to change costumes. An amazing pianist and funky percussionist each took turns and they were entertaining as well. Landslide (possibly covered to death of late!) and Love is were simple, haunting and beautiful. Edge of 17 rocked, even though it is probably my least favourite song - again been done to death in recent years. She spoke about writing with Lindsay and I got the feeling she has never gotten over him, it sounded bittersweet. She also spoke with love about her 'sister' Christine, that made me smile - you want to know they are still friends after all this time.

My highlights were Gold Dust Woman and Leather and Lace. After a lengthy introduction, with amazing gold leaf styled dust falling on the screen at the back of her set, she arrived back on stage dressed in Red. Gold Dust Woman is a favourite and it was gobsmackingly good, gave me goosbumps. Later she talked about a duet she had not sung that much, cause she cannot drag Don Henley around with her, but her vocal coach had a great voice and he had been doing Don's part...I think I actually squealed (and I know I shed a tear), as she sung Leather and Lace - my vinyl copy had to be replaced I played it so much as a kid...yeah a bit sappy, but I dunno, there was something fabulous about hearing her sing it that night, many (many!!) years later.

We left on a high that night, a month later I still cannot believe how lucky I was...lucky to go and lucky that she was that good...although that would appear not to be luck at all...just lots of hard work and a good heart from an amazing woman.

I did take some pictures, we had great seats, but they are from my phone, so not so great...but still a reminder of this gorgeous Bella Donna.

Dave Stewart

Stevie in red - great backdrop

Gold Dust Woman

Stevie in white 


Spicks and Speck-tacular, Newcastle Entertainment Centre - Friday 25 November

This was my second Spicks and Speck-tacular and was far better than the first. I do love the show, but will admit I will always pick RockWiz over it, maybe because I do so much better on the questions there! I adore Adam, Allan and Myf - they make the show and feel like they are part of your family. The first time the show lacked the comedy and skills of the guests, and they pulled people out of the audience instead and it simply did not work. This time they did the same thing, but upped the ante by making the questions to retrieve audience members hard (I only got the Billie Holiday one!), this made for better audience participation, as they got genuine music lovers, not idiots!

They started with a mash up of Single Ladies (Myf), You're the Voice (Adam) and Top Hat (Allan), and it worked in a weird comedic way. I was more than impressed by Allan's tap dancing moves! Adam did a bit of a stand up bit, pulling some poor sod out the audience and got them to do a James Brown routine...the dude had no idea who James Brown was - what the hell was he doing there? They then moved into getting audience members for guests on stage, this worked well and was funny and clever. They used many of the segments from the show and a few extras. The backing band was tight and showed their excellence when they played songs in an unrecognisable style. I still cannot believe how long it took for The Ship Song to be realised, I got that one immediately (but that would have been my RockWiz training!).

We had a great time and felt sad when it all finished, an end of an era, but as they say it will live on due to repeats on ABC2. Many thanks to Mary and Peter for taking me as a belated birthday present, I had a ball!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Picasso: masterpieces from The Musee National Picasso Paris, Art Gallery NSW
Thursday 24 November 2011

I cannot say I am a huge fan of Picasso's Art, however I adore the Weeping Woman in the NGV in Melbourne, and appreciate his body of work. I love the main period he worked in, and the movement in Paris in the 20s, and the other artists he surrounded himself with. One of my favourite perfumes is by his daughter Paloma, and there is something about his mystique (despite his misogynous ways!). And how could anyone how loves Art not go and see this exhibition, even if you do not normally see Art, I suggest you make the trip to the outstanding Art Gallery of NSW and see this!

The exhibition was set out into 10 rooms, each featuring a different period or style of work, and this is what impressed me the most. I knew he was prolific and knew he painted in many different styles, but until I saw them room after room after room, I had not realised how impressive his output really was. By the time I got halfway through, I was overwhelmed and had to sit down. I admit this is not the first time I have been moved by the enormity of art, it is hard to explain, but I do get a little overwrought...

I loved the simplicity of examples from his blue and rose periods, simple drawings, dusty tones and lots of pale hues of blue and pink (of course), then there were paintings that were obviously inspired by Gauguin and African Art, and included some wood carvings...very unexpected. Cubism and a lot of collages followed, but he was still in the early stages. I could see some impressionism within some of these paintings, possibly more post impressionism, that surprised me. Apparently he was influenced by Cezanne, and it was obvious when you look at examples from this section of his life. The next period (early 20s) produced classic style painting, and again I was surprised to see art that reflected Renoir. There were a lot of portraits during this period and also Oceanic style sculptures.

The main section was his surrealist paintings, still bearing Cubism within their form, but with bright colours, these paintings (and some sculptures in bronze) were where I became overwhelmed. I particularly loved his bronze sculptures and had no idea he had done such work, they were clean and beautiful and sexual and soft. The price of entry was worth it for this room alone! The next few rooms had paintings and some sculptures that seemed to combine all of his previous styles in one, with themes of love and war, the period covered the mid 30s until 1951. After that the final rooms were from later in life, reflective and mostly duller (in colour) versions of Cubism. My favourite pieces in this section were a set of Sculptures of "bathers" from The Mediterranean, made from found objects - I was very drawn to them.

I encourage everyone to go and see this amazing exhibit and am grateful for The Art Gallery of NSW for being able to let us look at such wonderful pieces of Art by an amazing Artist.


Eddie Izzard: Stripped, State Theatre
Monday 21 November

I have always enjoyed Eddie Izzard on television and in film (he has a part in Shadow of Vampire by coincidence!), and knew a little of his standup, but this was my first proper experience of it and I was not disappointed. I also love The State Theatre as a venue, it's opulence and mix of gothic and deco (both my favourite styles of architecture) always leave me breathless. But back to Eddie...

The theme of the night was the History of Civilisation in just over 2 hours...well, Eddie's take on it. It was very clever and very funny, and I know I can do absolutely no justice by trying to describe it. However, he would go off on tangents, that at the time did not make sense, until he did full circle and tied it all up - always a sign of a great comedian. A few bits fell short, he knew it immediately and tried to make amends, which made it a bit more noticeable, he needn't have done that and it was only now and then, nothing to ruin proceedings. His lovely English articulation and pronunciation of some words left me very amused and his take on religion and God left me in tears from laughter. How he remember half of the things he said is beyond me, I was impressed.


Newcastle Silent Film Festival, Tower Cinemas
Sunday 13 November

I love silent film and particularly love Chaplin, there was some Chaplin on the previous day with Keaton's The General (which I have seen on numerous occasions), but had plans, so Sunday had to do!

The first session of the day was dedicated to Harold Lloyd, I had seen clips over the years and read a little about this classic silent film star, but had never seen anything by him. There were 2 films on the session, the first being a short called Grandma's Boy. The premise was Lloyd wanting to woo the girl of his dreams, but is constantly thwarted by his nemesis. He is ready to give up when his Grandma gives him a magical charm that had belonged to his grandpa, and the charm gives Lloyd the courage to fight for and win his girl. Very simple and very sweet, but lovely to see.

The second film was longer and called Haunted Spooks, and was a comedy of errors about a group pretending to haunt a house that a young girl had inherited, with the hope of ousting the girl from the house. Some lovely slapstick moments, but lagged a little in parts. The production, direction and editing of both stand up after all this time, it was a genuine pleasure to view such brilliance.

The second session was the classic German film, Nosferatu, by FW Murnau. I have seen Nosferatu before, but never on the big screen. Nosfertu, whilst not the first vampire film, is the first based (albeit loosely) on Stoker's Dracula. It is a creepy, haunting film, that set the standard for all vampire films that came after, including the classic sleeping in the coffin scenes. There were moment of humour, possibly not intentional when originally filmed in 1922, but still made you smile. Max Schreck is particularly creepy in the lead role. This was indeed an honour to see. I read afterwards that Stoker's widow actually sued the production company that made this (their only film) and they went bankrupt because of it, and courts ordered every copy to be destroyed! Luckily, they had already been distributed overseas and copies were saved.

There was a film made in 2000 called Shadow of a Vampire that is worth checking out, John Malkovich stars as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Schreck. The movie is about the making of Nosferatu, and the fictional (or is it true!?!) premise is that Schreck is either an actual vampire or takes method acting to new heights and becomes one during the filming! Murnau becomes aware of this and encourages him as it adds additional gravitas to the film. Equally as creepy, with additional black humour, this is a great film and an interesting companion piece.

Finally, I must add that both sessions were wonderfully accompanied by Greg Smith, who kept up brilliantly with pace and plot. An additional creepiness was added to Nosferatu, by looking over to his spot on the left hand side of the stage and seeing his shadow loom large on the left wall as he accompanied the film!


Jersey Boys, Theatre Royal
3 August 2011

I took Mum to the matinee session of Jersey Boys on a Kings Bus Trip - been years since I did a bus trip, but being a rainy overcast day was glad we did.

Brought up on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I was eager to see the show I first heard about in The Sopranos...almost a decade earlier!

The show was well put together and the music outstanding. I thought the story was well done, but dragged in parts. Maybe the music was so good, those in between story bits didn't stand much of a chance. I was surprised to find out that Joe Pesci had been instrumental in the groups formation and was the producer of the original Broadway show.

But, really it was the music that made this great - all those songs you knew and some you had forgotten. Highlights included the trio of back to back hits, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like a Man; the melancholy My Eyes Adored You and Dawn; the doubling of Stay and Let's Hang On; and the fabulous Bye Bye Baby (which I knew they recorded but loved the Bay City Rollers version as a kid!).

However my personal highlights were Who Loves You (which ends the show) and in my opinion, their masterpiece, Can't Take My Eyes Off You. The build up to the later was stunning and the highlight of the show, to think it was almost never released! Both were arranged perfectly with a fantastic brass section - gave you shivers down your spine and possibly a tear in your eye! And most importantly, Mum had a blast.

Rainbows End, Civic Theatre
4 August 2011

This was a brilliant play featuring Aboriginal actresses of three generations, all were outstanding. Christine Anu played the main character, living with her mother and daughter in a shanty in northern Victoria in the 1950s. The film dealt with serious issues such as literacy, housing, equality, racism and sexism, yet it was never heavy handed, you understood the situation without feeling forced. The story was infused with humour and humility, which gave greater resonance to the situation suffered by these strong, heroic women. The play was uplifting and a delight with a stand out performance by the grandmother.

Don Quixote, Civic Theatre
9 August 2011

This stunning production of Don Quixote was by The Dancers Company from The Australian Ballet. Immediately you knew this was going to be special, the dancing was simply the most impressive I have seen in a traditional ballet. The story and music were simple and haunting, they let the dancing take full centre and impress.

There was fluidity in the movement that brought a chill up my spine, I had great seats, close enough to the stage to see detail, but back enough to take in it's scope. There was a beautiful section, where the ballerinas in traditional tutus exquisitely adorned with pearls and other 'gems', and as they danced in precision, the pearls 'popped' with their movement, you could hear them softly pop, pop, pop... This was a thrilling highlight to the Inspirations subscription.

Grease, Civic Theatre
27 August 2011

As always The Metropolitan Players tackled their subject with great spirit and strong will. I found this production hit and miss. I was concerned about their choice of leads, Sandy never quite cut it and her voice was too strong for a part that required fragility and insecurity. Danny appeared weak, although he did look the part, but when he began to sing Summer Nights, he embodied the cheekiness and strength of Travolta, however he did not seem able to be consistent as the night continued, some songs were great, others weak.

The supporting case were great, with the exception of Kenickie, who gave a rather lackluster performance of Greased Lightning. The set was good and the back up great, but he was missing something, there was no spirit. In the bigger numbers I felt there needed to be a better utilisation of space, the stage seemed almost empty and whilst the set was great, again it seemed to lack something.

I sound highly critical, but I performed in this production at school, and whilst I am sure our production was nowhere near as good as this, I felt some of the things that stuck out could have been overcome. Filling the stage, some costumes, placement of dancing and chorus - these are all simple things a sharp eye should be able to resolve. Poor choices in leads and the bigger numbers lacking charisma are a shame, however smaller moments worked very well, Patti Simcox, the overachieving cheerleader was outstanding, as were Marty and Rizzo. We still had fun watching this old favourite.

Mozart and Brahms, City Hall
2 September 2011

I had never been to City Hall for an event, so I was excited to be in that beautiful old building. Sydney Symphony were superb, they began with Italian Serenade by Hugo Wolf. I had not heard of him, but he was a contemporary of Brahms, the short piece fitted in well and was a lovely start to the evening. The orchestra went into Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16 by Johannes Brahms. It was lovely to watch and even better to listen to, such a calming way to end the week. I closed my eyes and was transported into tranquility.

After a short intermission, we were introduced to pianist, Geoffrey Lancaster, who led Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503. He played rather flamboyantly with over the top flourishes that suited the piece and amused me greatly. At the end of the first movement, no one clapped, and he turned and gestured to us to clap, he spoke and said it was ok to do so!!! This I had never encountered at any recital, and everyone laughed, he was hilarious! At the end of the second movement, we were not so slow to clap, and he turned and clapped us for clapping! He was on a roll now and we were in for a treat indeed. The orchestra, seemed amused, if not a little shocked. He was stupendous in his playing, the orchestra rose to his brilliance and a standing ovation went on until he finally left the stage.

When he returned, he practically ran out shaking an orange music book, like a little child who found the last cookie in the cookie jar! He said he felt like playing more, I cannot remember what the piece was, but it was a jaunty, cheeky piece and the orchestra sat and enjoyed his playing with the audience. He was loving every minute of it...the audience was a range of ages, but there were many children and all I could think was what a great introduction to classical music...for anyone really, but especially the children. I was transfixed and practically danced back to my car.