Monday, 30 June 2014

The Renaissance Players present the 36th Annual Runnymede Pop Festival - review

Reviewed by Regi Su
On the 28th and 29th of June, the Renaissance Players present the 36th Annual Runnymede Pop Festival in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney. This is a wonderful concert that takes you back to times as far back as the thirteenth century, in an accessible, humourous setting, with some modern twists.

I've previously seen The Renaissance Players perform, yet they never cease to amaze me. If you've ever considered listening to Medieval music, in fact even if you haven't, I recommend these players. They are so on point, so talented at what they do, in can't help but be impressed at their skills and finesse. Not only do they present a professional performance, but they also work in sync, so much so that I feel completely at ease in their hands. If you aren't accustomed to period pieces, it's interesting to know that most of the music is a little bit tedious and monotonous, and there little to no hummable beat or tune for the mind to latch onto for novices (like me). Yet what the Renaissance Players do is create an entertaining space with a dynamic atmosphere and personality, which in turn manages to keep your attention, if not impress you, (not to mention their incredible mastery of some period instruments I haven't come across before).

Winsome Evans is totally engaging with her harp and Jessica O'Donoghue is an intoxicatIng soprano. Her voice echoed through the Great Hall in an ethereal a capella performance of Sa sibilla, which was followed by mesmerising organ work in Beata viscera virginis. Special mentions of Unter der linden and [Rubin] Salterello showcased how such music can be both complex and tranquil, and so perfectly balanced. The atmosphere fluctuated between Lord of the Dance-esque, to Robin Hood soundtrack, and even dreamlike. We navigated our way through the middle ages with the help of God's Fool- a mime providing comic relief, as well as Geoff Sirmai's theatrical poetry readings, exploring Frederick May's linguistic emporium.

What an excellent night out. Rug up- the Great Hall can be a little chilly when sitting still for a lengthy period of time.

Richard III - review

                       credit: TimeOut
Reviewed by Ben Oxley
Richard III
Ensemble Theatre
from JUNE 24

"Fitting memorial"

I read with interest this week of the real Richard III's monument being built near Leicester Cathedral. Festivities mark the occasion, and timely coincidence has enabled us to have a fresh look at "this son of York" here in Sydney.

From Mark's Kilmurry's blog:

9 August 2013

Starts work on play

"As I stand, sit or wait lurking at the back of the room to enter the world we have created (none of us actually ever leave the acting space but are dotted around the upstage area) I marvel and congratulate myself (just once) at having such a great and dedicated cast. It has been a joy in a job that could have been so hard to make work till now, fun and exciting."

"The cast are great. Patrick Dickson smooth as Buckingham, Amy Mathews fiery as Lady Anne, Danielle Carter guarded and knowing as Queen Elizabeth, Toni Scanlan earthy Duchess and dead right as Tyrell, and Matt Edgerton playing so many roles and yet giving them all their own truth and humanity... I am thrilled. As director."

Kilmurry's portrayal has elements of Gollum, especially in the conversation with himself. He physically negotiates the tables and chair seats to create the dimension of a conventional theatre. Twitchy, restless, conniving - all traits we expect from this usurper are there.

Buckingham and Assistant Director was Patrick Dickson, who gave us a wan political figure who backs the wrong horse. Pun intended.

The trio of ladies cover the female and male roles, other than Matt Edgerton's nimble work with Clarence/Rivers/King Edward/Ratcliff/Catesby. Danielle Carter is superb as Queen Elizabeth, most vitriolic in her encounter with Richard.

Amy Mathews gave Lady Anne tremendous vocal and physical presence, and turned up with a resolute Richmond at the finale. In between she paired with Carter as the Prince of York, and gave a halting vignette as the Second Murderer.

The experience of Toni Scanlan as Richard's mother, the Duchess of York, fearlessly pegging him for what he really is, which contrasted with a watchful Tyrell and a very amusing First Murderer.

Bondi Winter Magic - review

Reviewed by Regi Su
Bondi Winter Magic begins this weekend as part of an initiative to spice up Bondi during the colder months. The Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with Waverly Council are celebrating their 5th Bondi Winter Magic, which brings Bondi's beach strip, shopping district and nightlife a jazzed up vibe, encouraging Sydneysiders and tourists alike to unleash their inner child. From 9am until 10pm daily, artists and musicians light up the streets, while skaters young and old carve up Sydney's only ice rink by the sea. The local businesses have deals for Winter Magic, in an attempt to give Bondi a winter presence, when it is so often regarded as a summer destination.

The launch of Bondi Winter Magic was a real party. Colourful lights set the Bondi Pavillion ablaze and The Bucket List was the perfect venue to host the launch. Business owners from the local area and dignitries from the Waverly Council mixed with media and beach lifeguards. Mulled Wine and warm spiced cider accompanied by Ham and Cheese croquets and haloumi on polenta, to name a few canapes. We were warmly greeted and introduced to the Winter Magic social media promotion, which allowed us a direct stream of photos from the night onto our facebook profiles- something which is nothing less than an excellent marketing technique used to filter the party atmosphere into the cyber regions.

The Ice Rink by the sea was celebrated by none other than the stars of Sochi. When we were allowed on the rink, we had a wonderful time! The skates were sharp and comfortable and there were penguins for kids who felt uneasy on the ice. The initiative is super family friendly and attracts people from all walks of life to just have a go and get involved in the buzz that is Bondi in winter.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

HARVEST @ New Hampton Review

Ben Palmer is the head chef at HARVEST restaurant. Since moving his career to Australia just 7 years ago, HARVEST @ New Hampton is Ben’s latest venture as he builds a strong reputation within a competitive food industry. As a food lover and traveler himself, Ben’s quirky character is reflected in his flavoursome dishes, giving the restaurant its vibrant competitive edge.
Using cuts that other restaurants don’t often use means the unusual menu can range from lambs’ brains to Duck Liver Parfait. “None of our food is wasted, we use all parts of the animal so our menu is constantly changing,” says Ben. With a different menu for lunch and dinner, each meal is served up with an element of surprise and sophistication using only the finest ingredients.

On Monday 23 June we went along to try out this amazing sounding menu.


Medley tomato, beetroot, salted walnuts, quinoa & goats cheese $16
Pan-fried quail, parsnips, bacon & black pudding $18 Potato gnocchi, cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts & parmesan $17/26
Seared scallops, chorizo jam, olives, tomato and cucumber salsa $20
Citrus cured ocean trout, picked fennel, cucumber and radish salad $17
Duck liver parfait, pear and fig chutney, crostinis $17


Confit pork belly $31
Served with crispy ear, sweet potato and chorizo croquette.

Sirloin on the bone $32
Chargrilled 300g sirloin on the bone served with onion puree and harvest butter.

Junee lamb backstrap $32
Served with dried olives, pistachio, butternut squash and crumbed brains.

Palmers island mulloway $30
Served with pea puree, zucchini & buerre blanc.

Aumoniere $26
Merrideth goats cheese, spinach aumoniere, parsnip and broccolini.

Roasted duck breast $31
Served with duck sausage, kale and lentil sauce.


Handcut triple cooked chips and saffron aioli $8
Broccolini and kale, lemon and almond butter $9
Roasted chat potatoes and garlic $8
Medley tomato, olive and labne $7
Pea, feta and charred zucchini $8

The New Hampton as a venue is amazing, just my kind of place, dark, candle lit and cosy. There was a good use of mirrors and the bathrooms, well it is not often that I walk into a bathroom and go wow in a good way!
We were extremely privileged that they opening the kitchens and dinning room just for us, so I don't think we say it at it's best and Ben wasn't the chef.
First arrived some freshly baked bread and sundried tomato butter.  I only just remembered to take a photo before we wolfed it down, it was really yummy, probably the best bread and butter I have every had.
To start we had the Quail and Trout. The trout was delicious with subtle  flavours apart from the sauce which really overpowered the whole dish. The Quail was good and perfectly cooked.
Next up was the Pork belly and Goats cheese. The Pork belly dish was perfect except the crackling on top of the belly was not crispy but more gelatinous. The flavour was there but his was very disappointing.  The Goats cheese dish I thought was going to be packed with flavour, however the filo pastry wasn't cooked through and the whole dish was rather bland. The broccolini was just how I like it however, wonderfully crunchy.
For desert we had panacotta and creme bulee, a bit like the main course these dishes were ok but nothing to really write home about.
So, on the whole the meal was ok but as I said at the start I don't think we saw it at it's best.
I would give the venue 5 out of 5.
The staff also 5 out of 5.
And the food 3 out of 5.


Friday, 27 June 2014

The Mercy Seat - Review

Reviewed by Ben Oxley

The quality is strained

The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute

Gentle Banana People in conjunction with Sydney Independent Theatre Company
Old Fitzroy Theatre
Credit: Sydney Independent Theatre Company

Rebecca Martin
Credits include – The Shape of Things, autobahn, Punk Rock, Dogs Barking (pantsguys productions), Havana Harlem (Sydney Fringe), After the End (Tap Gallery), Cock (NIDA).
As a director: autobahn, The Knowledge (pantsguys productions). As Assistant Director - Lord of the Flies (New Theatre)

Rebecca graduated from Actors Centre Australia in 2010 and has a BA from UNSW and an ATCL in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. Rebecca teaches for NIDA and is currently studying a Masters of Teaching at Melbourne Uni

Patrick Magee
Patrick is a comedian, author and actor. His credits include Tempest/Lear (Verge Theatre), Richard III (Genesian Theatre), Brideshead Revisited (RGP Productions) and MOJO (Belvoir). 

On one hand there's a disaster, on the other the possibility of a new life. Or is there? 

In reality, it is a sexual battle played out in confinement. We know the lovers are going to split, as there is little to keep the relationship alive. Competing for the same position at work, Abby becomes Ben's boss, and so the illicit relationship begins on a conference trip. 

Two postmodern people struggling with overwhelming guilt and self-loathing tear strips off each other's fragile egos. The moral recognition of their sins is very brave, but could they go as far as turning from this affair?

We don't empathise with Ben at first, as his shallow self interest is pale against Abby's overbearing angst and tempestuous bitching. It's possible he has had a sudden windfall due to the events of 9/11. But no, there is a personal reason for his plan to escape, or 'run' as Abby says. 

It has been his wife trying to reach him on his mobile phone, despite his knowledge of what he has done. But the play ratchets up to the climax. 

Abby lays her cards on the table to say she will sacrifice her position and life for Ben. Will he do this one thing for her: call his wife and children and explain he is not coming back?

Ben picks up the phone, and calls. What happens next is a bombshell more devastating than the World Trade buildings crashing down. 

Rebecca Martin is a powerful presence, using her voice and body skillfully to portray the dysfunctional 40 something career climber. Patrick Magee makes Ben a credible loser, particularly in the growing tension of being forced to decide between his family and his mistress. 

Not easy watching, but worth the fine performances from these two actors.

Oleanna - Review

Reviewed by Nathan Finger and Sydney Abba
David Mamet’s Oleanna (1992) has a reputation for dividing audiences. ‘It’s my job to provoke you’, says John at one point, and it seems that this is Mamet’s objective as well.

The play is set in John’s university office. A power dynamic is straight away suggested by the presence of two chairs. John’s is large and imposing; the student’s, tiny by comparison. Indeed, this is a play about power. Carol, a student of John’s, is finding his course, Psychology of Education, impossibly difficult. At first John is uninterested, though he eventually becomes sympathetic to her plight (remembering his own from years ago). John rambles on and becomes increasingly familiar with Carol, which she finds intimidating. In the second act we learn she has complained of sexual harassment against him. His hopes of achieving tenure and buying a new home are subsequently threatened. The pair tries to resolve their issues, though further conflict, prompting Carol to up the charge.

Here audiences will divide. Is this rape or political correctness gone crazy? The kicker, of course, is that both characters are wrong, whilst also being ‘right’. But then, the play isn’t about that at all. Mamet’s point is actually about the privilege of power. John, a college professor, is in a position of privilege: he designs a course, he proscribes the texts, and he decides whether students will pass or fail. The power that comes with this privilege he exercises over Carol: he demands her attention, talks down to her and makes her feel inadequate.

Of course, as the play progresses the power shifts. Carol finds ways to assert control over John’s life: threatening his job, his home, even his family. This is also an abuse of power and one must ask - is it justified? The play becomes an examination of the conventional systems that exist within society and how they exert control over us in ways that are accepted and, at times, not even fully recognized for the damage they may cause.

This was obviously a pet project for Jerome Pride; nevertheless, the play appeared somewhat too big for the actors’ boots. Both Act I performances felt self-contained and it was only during the second half that the audience was invited in. Our student, Carol, played by Grace O’Connell (a second year student at the Sydney Theatre School) is a mousy, confused cipher. Though her failure to comprehend her professor’s classes is never really explained O’Connell does her best to fill in the gaps. O’Connell has an interesting, rather mysterious presence on stage, yet the character’s final transformation led to stock-standard acting choices that detracted from the power O’Connell wished to convey. 

Our Professor, John, played by director Jerome Pride, is best described as intellectually self-indulgent. Pride layers a subtle blend of unconscious abuse of power with a seemingly contradictory cognizance of how smug he is. This works well. Whilst he plays this insufferable middle-ager with gusto and understanding, it is evident that the choice to either direct or act should have been made. This is because the chemistry between the two performers, whilst good, lacks the lustre or shine that one would expect from a two-hander. This could have been avoided by a full time director.

Oleanna is playing at the Sydney Theatre School until the 6th of July. For more information see