Posts Tagged ‘david page


Country Song


Country Song

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

July 4 – August 8 2015


Reviewed by Chanel Lucas




QTC’s musical play Country Song juxtaposes the career of Australian singer Jimmy Little against key events in our political and human rights history to create an interesting and entertaining story.


Jimmy Little can be described as one of Australia’s first and greatest country music stars. He toured around Australia during the 60s and 70s but his career extended to acting and in the late 90s and 2000s he recorded and released songs by contemporary artists such as Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning, Nick Cave and Dave Graney.


As Jimmy Little, Michael Tuahine spent most of the show under a single spotlight, in front of a microphone, with his guitar, as the tumultuous events of Australian Aboriginal history occurred around him. We were invited into his world backstage and as an audience for his live shows with a simple stage design and spotlights on the main action. Events such as the 1965 Freedom Ride and race riot in Moree; or the rise of boxer Lionel Rose placed Jimmy Little’s life story into a larger context. The show seemed to be almost apologetic that this famous singer did not engage with the protests and social justice issues of his time and yet celebrated this gentle man who ‘just wanted to sing’.


The ensemble does a great job, each performer playing multiple characters with sensitivity and humour, and making up the competent on-stage band for the show. Megan Sarmardin and Elaine Crombie both bring strong singing voices, producing endearing characterisations of singer Auriel Andrew, and of Little’s mother Frances. Tuahine is very natural and has a similar vocal style to Jimmy Little. He is a confident guitarist, and leads the band through the songs with ease. The crowd around me were tapping and singing along the whole way through. Musical Director, Jamie Clarke, produces a capable on-stage live band from the actors involved.




The music is a real highlight of the show, featuring songs such as the classic Little hits Royal Telephone, Oh Danny Boy, and I Want To Thank You, were presented alongside his more contemporary 1999 cover Under the Milky Way Tonight, which seemed to be an anthem for this gentle man constantly wondering, “I wish I knew what you were looking for”.


There are some truly beautiful moments during the show.


I think some in the audience came expecting a Jimmy Little tribute show in the vein of Elvis or Fleetwood Mac RSL shows. This show did not meet those expectations, although we did hear excellent versions of many of Little’s hits. The ‘live show’ scenes in the play really did lend themselves to a bit of ‘whoo-hooing’ and clapping along from the crowd.




I felt that the show could have benefited from amplification in all of the scenes. There were some scenes ‘backstage’ or in Little’s family house that lost some momentum because they were so much quieter than the ‘on-stage’ scenes. This may have been a deliberate choice by the production team however, to make the ‘on-stage’ scenes have more impact on the audience.
The show runs at the Cremorne Theatre at QPAC until 8 August and then tours to regional venues. If you love country music – go see this. If you are interested in Australian history and music – go see this. If you enjoy musicals and local stories – go see this. Country Song is heartwarming and entertaining, and you’ll jump up for a dance at the end!







QPAC & Bangarra Dance Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

August 15–23 2014


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway




“The more time I spent contemplating Patyegarang, her courageousness and generosity of spirit, the deeper the importance I felt for Bangarra to awaken her spirit at this time and share this distinctive story from her perspective as an Eora woman.”

Stephen Page


In Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest work, Patyegarang, choreographer and Artistic Director Stephen Page honours the Eora people of the Sydney area, and commemorates their experience of early contact with European settlers. Bangarra’s headquarters is on Eora land.


Patyegarang explores the story of the relationship between a young Eora woman of that name, and Lieutenant William Dawes, an English officer who arrived in Australia in 1788.




While the story and its context are presented in an impressionistic style in 14 short sections, the threads and themes are clear — a tribute to the significant contribution by dramaturg Alana Valentine, acknowledged by Stephen Page.


We see the special status that Patyegarang has among her people, the Eora women’s daily tasks of fishing and food gathering, the people’s use of boats, and the preparation for the hunt.


Patyegarang meets Dawes, who is trying to understand his unfamiliar surroundings, and she explains and names different elements, including constellations in the night sky. This is subtly done: Patyegarang focuses her attention and movement on the different elements and Dawes observes, follows and joins her.



In other sections of the work, we see the despairing Eora people in drab European clothing, suffering from illness, and men being shot by European soldiers. In one scene, Dawes wipes white ochre dust off a young man, and Patyegarang cleans black body paint off a young woman — both revealing the same colour skin underneath in a message affirming a common humanity.


The interactions between Patyegarang (Jasmin Sheppard) and Dawes (guest dancer Thomas Greenfield) are tender and full of goodwill, except at the end where they confront the fact that they belong to opposing worlds. They part with sadness, but the work finishes with an affirmation of the Eora people’s connection with the land, and a re-honouring of Patyegarang.


Sheppard is a gentle Patyegarang, while also conveying the character’s power and courage as a “chosen messenger” of her people. Her movements are rounded, and she skims her feet over the floor as she walks, as if feeling the earth. Greenfield, too, while a tall and commanding presence, has a gentle quality as well as great strength.


Waangenga Blanco and Elma Kris as Eora leaders or elders added another dimension of spiritual power and authority to the cast. Blanco, leading the men in dance, was very strong and intense, in perfect command of the grounded traditional movement, with body upright, knees bent and legs swivelling.


Kris’s trance-like entrance near the beginning and end of the work, bent over with a smoking wooden coolamon on her back, brings spiritual support and guidance. She leads the women as they gather around Patyegarang, carrying leafy branches and coolamons issuing resin-scented smoke.


Smoke, ochre, dust, and body paint are just some elements of the immersive sensory experience of this work. Composer David Page, and the designers — Jacob Nash (set), Jennifer Irwin (costumes) and Nick Schlieper (lighting) — have created another world.


The set recreates a towering sandstone cliff, with the lighting changing its colour and the depth of its shadows as it moves from the rose of dawn to daylight, and to night. In the depiction of their traditional lives, the women wear beautiful costumes: ruched and tucked earth-coloured dresses with string backs; skirts like woven string nets in various colours, inverted over the head to resemble woven fish traps; and pleated shimmery black and silver skirts and scarf tops in a night scene.



Singing, chanting, and instrumental music are mixed with bird calls and other sounds of the natural world in the musical soundtrack. We also hear Darug, the traditional language of the Eora people, as if spoken by Patyegarang. This is a poignant connection: as pointed out in the program notes, the rediscovered record of her language in Dawes’s notebooks was a gift of cultural knowledge back to her people 200 years later.


Stephen Page’s intention of honouring the Eora people is more than realised in this beautiful, absorbing and inspiring work that invokes the spirit of Patyegarang. What ultimately happened to her is unknown, but part of her story has been brought back to life.



“May the resonance of her potent story open our hearts and inspire our minds to imagine a collaborative, future Australia.”

Stephen Page





Mother Courage & Her Children

Mother Courage

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

25th May – 16th June 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


Don’t worry, we will get to Meredith’s review, but first, it goes without saying that Dr. M Yunupingu, frontman of Yothu Yindi will be missed.


It has been requested that the first name and image of the deceased not be used by media and where possible refer to him as “Dr. M Yunupingu” or “lead singer of Yothu Yindi”, during Sorry Business and time of mourning for his people. Not mentioning the name of a recently deceased person is a cultural practice of Dr. M Yunupingu’s family and community and they have asked we all respect this protocol accordingly. Thanks to our friend Katie Noonan for this reminder.


There are only a few moments in time that aren’t synonymous with music. 

I remember being on a dance floor in 1993 and feeling the pride that everyone was dancing together to TREATY. It felt like the times were changing and hope was the currency with which we were purchasing this new world.

I reckon we should never trade that hope for fear or anger.

Thank you for the amazing music and the sense of civic and cultural growth we all felt.

Love and farewell.


Wesley Enoch


  • Dr. M Yunupingu was the first Indigenous Australian from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree
  • He co-founded Yothu Yindi in 1986
  • He became Australia’s first Aboriginal principal in 1990
  • He was named Australian of the Year in 1992 for his role in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
  • He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2012
  • Yothu Yindi won eight ARIA music awards, including Song of the Year for Treaty
  • The band released six major albums, from 1988 to 2000
  • Dr. M Yunupingu died aged 56 at his home in Yirrkala, NT, after fighting kidney disease for several years


Indigenous Australians are 4 times more likely to die of kidney disease than non-Indigenous Australians.




Remember QTC’s Head Full of Love

(You’ll see Roxanne McDonald in Mother Courage). During the 2010 season of Alana Valentine’s Head Full of Love QTC saw $14 000 donated by patrons, post-show to The Purple House (Western Desert Dialysis). In 2012 at QPAC’s Cremorne, in line with the heart-warming production, the company put out the call out for winter warmers to fill their Beanie Bin. 

Why not contribute this winter, your good quality, second hand knits, beanies, scarves and any other woolly-warmers to go towards St Vincent de Paul’s Winter Appeal and make someone else’s winter a tad more toasty?

For more information on the Alice Springs Beanie Festival visit

Beanies from the heart… Friendship has been at the heart of the Alice Springs Beanie Festival for seventeen years. We want to honour the values of friendship, including trust, loyalty, honesty, compassion and fun.

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present Bertolt Brecht’s epic morality tale about the ravages of war, given a unique twist by Queensland Theatre Company Artistic Director Wesley Enoch and Paula Nazarski in a dazzling new translation.

Instead of the Thirty Years’ War of 1600s Europe, this near-future incarnation of the age-old story is set against the bleak backdrop of a post-apocalyptic desert where Mad Max might be at home – an Australia ravaged by devastating conflict, where life is cheap but business is still business.

Ursula Yovich is the titular canteen-wagon mistress, shrewdly driving hard bargains as she shepherds her brood of three through this unforgiving, harsh wilderness.

With an all-Indigenous cast, this fresh spin on Brecht’s play delicately folds in themes of land ownership, the impact of mining and the Stolen Generation.



Mother Courage & Her Children is not so much an adaption as it is a vehicle; a vehicle that represents the state of theatre in Queensland, and the Indigenous culture that resides in Brisbane. Originally a Bertolt Brecht piece transformed to this post-apocalyptic Australian setting, all the classic Brechtian tips and tricks are evident. The minimalist set, the breaking of the fourth wall and the socio-political messages; it sounds like a dull drama class but the imagery on stage is impressive.


I did find however, Mother Courage & Her Children to be one of those strange anomalies in theatre. The cast, besides Ursula Yovich as Mother Courage and David Page as the Chaplain, failed to live up to expectations. The backing tracks also fell short of the musical masterpiece I’d been looking forward to. Despite all of this, Mother Courage & Her Children carries some significance.


I think the significance of this production is that despite its shortcomings it’s clear to see the hard work that has gone into it. Bertolt Brecht is such an old school playwright and to translate his voice into a modern setting is hard enough. Paula Nazarski and Wesley Enoch were responsible for this translation. Mother Courage and Her Children was originally written as a warning to 1930s Germany and the quickly rising Nazi party. However, to translate it to an Australian Outback motif with a primarily Indigenous cast is not only innovative in concept but also impressive in realisation.


If the importance of this production felt like it was weighing me down, the after-party certainly brought me back! It was wonderful to see the cast, crew and higher-ups involved, enjoying a glass of champagne, laughing and smiling. But we weren’t just there to have a chat. Sue Donnelly, executive Director of QTC, took the stand and voiced her appreciation not only to the cast but also to QTC and everyone involved. Other than acknowledging those who deserved a well-earned applause she spoke about the progress of QTC and the season in store… 2013 is definitely packed with great theatre.


Despite its hit and miss nature, the beautiful and poignant moments of Mother Courage & Her Children truly are worth witnessing. This play represents so much more than a show about a mother in a war zone. It is a sign of good things to come at QPAC and well worth your attention.






Bangarra Dance Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

3rd – 7th October 2012

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

The Aboriginal inhabitants of this continent practised sustainable natural resource management for thousands of generations. Their culture, beliefs and natural resource management practices were inextricably interwoven to ensure sustainability and to provide a lasting legacy.

Contemporary Australians are only beginning to understand this strange, un-European land their forebears came to. The management practices brought to this antipodean land have in many cases proven less than ideal and in some cases, simply disastrous.



This is not a show that everyone will immediately understand in a cerebral manner.

The understanding goes deeper. It must.


At each Bangarra opening night I sense a fierce pride permeating the foyer. I love it. Nowhere else in Brisbane is there such determined, joyful purpose in going to the theatre.

Internationally acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre continues to forge ahead in contemporary dance, effortlessly raising the bar and begging the question, “What next?” This is the Bangarra I love. Some of our country’s best dancers doing what they do best; superb, sensorial work of a consistently high standard and extraordinarily Australian in all its elements.

Terrain, which is Choreographer Francis Rings’ first full-length piece, commissioned by Bangarra Artistic Director, Stephen Page, lets us watch in wonder, the changing landscapes of one of the world’s largest internally draining systems, Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre Basin). Covering an area of 1.2 million square kilometres – that’s almost one sixth of the continent – Kati Thanda is the fifth largest terminal lake in the world. Recently, the Arabunna people were granted native title rights and sole custody of the lake and its surrounding lands but their origins have made them the custodians of the area for centuries. Terrain is a 65-minute story of individual and collective strength; it’s about identity, sustainability, power, pride, life, death and rebirth. Phew!

In nine fragments, we see moments of change and years of survival. Shields reminds us that the struggle for land rights and recognition ain’t over yet. Salt and Scar juxtapose sharp, jarring movement against deliciously fluid (oily evil) man-made moves. The seduction of commerce. The promise of wealth from those who would exploit our natural resources. The unwillingness of the people to let go of place. Or pride. Or identity. Or story.

Jacob Nash draws on the “subconscious of the country”; life below the surface of the lake, its lines, colours, textures and patterns. His multiple painted backdrops, revealed one after another in perfectly construed succession within an immense, stark space remind me of the basic lessons in line and pattern brought to vibrant life in primary school classrooms, inspired by Wendy Allen’s classic Running On Rainbows, a teacher’s gift from the visual art gods. There is a sense of Peter Elfe’s imagery in these backdrops too (though, in the Teachers Resources, the work of Murray Frederiks is referenced for good reason); the ever-changing, evolving environment at odds with our modern, urban, seemingly unstoppable need to acquire and develop. The sheer size and dramatic beauty of these pieces mean that Nash could quite reasonably put a price on each and check in with collectors of Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work. The same can be said of Jennifer Irwin’s textural, functional, wearable art. Her structural, earthen cum outer space mineral and creature costumes are runway worthy and perfectly imagined to suit the individual and collaborative shapes of this piece; living, breathing, intertwined organisms created by the company of dancers moving across the stage as one in unmistakable Bangarra style. After twenty years designing for Bangarra, Irwin’s specialty is clearly her ability to create second skins. Karen Norris, in a bid to create lighting that sculpts “the bodies like the land, with subtle light in little to no colours” has achieved a special outback ambience that is continuously quietly changing, “enhancing, sculpting and helping the audience to follow the story.”

David Page has composed a score to evoke the “heritage, mystery, threat and natural beauty” of the lake. It’s simultaneously classical and contemporary and a little bit magical, as if there were water sprites and desert fairies peeking over Page’s shoulder at the time in a bid to keep him honest. The use of spoken voice in Shields perfectly unsettles us.

As we live through the transition of the lake, from scorching, wind-swept desert to a vast inland sea thriving with life and renewed, inspired strength, we see the connection the Arabunna people have with their land. We see the connection the Aboriginal people have with this great southern land. Some of us might even feel that strongly, a similar sense of place and belonging. For those who do not, the collective skill and the organic, sensual beauty of these dancers, caught within the work of art that is Bangarra’s newest production, might stir something in you yet. Be quick, Terrain closes on Sunday.



From Bangarra to Ballet – we farewell Ella Havelka with her last performance on

Sunday October 7, QPAC Brisbane.

Having performed in 2012 at Lincoln Centre, New York, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, across 6 major Australian cities, and in remote towns such as Maree, South Australia, leading young Indigenous dancer Ella Havelka will perform for the final time with Bangarra in the closing night of the Brisbane season of TERRAIN following her acceptance of an invitation from The Australian Ballet to join the company.

The invitation is a homecoming of sorts for Ella, who trained with the Australian Ballet School, graduating in 2007 after touring with the dancers company. Now after 4 years with Bangarra Ella continues her journey of fulfilling her long held dream of being a ballerina.

Ella commences her contract with The Australian Ballet immediately becoming the first ever Aboriginal dancer in the company’s history. Bangarra’s long association with The Australian Ballet began in 1999 with Stephen Pages’ acclaimed Rites. During 2012, as part of the Australian Ballet’s 50th Anniversary celebrations Stephen Page created Waramuk-in the dark night bringing both companies’ dancers together to perform at Lincoln Centre, New York.

Ella, a descendant of the Wiradjuri people, has had a remarkable journey with Bangarra growing as an artist, connecting to her culture, and performing across Australia and the world. Receiving a Dance scholarship

as a part of the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund Professional and Educational Development Program, Ella made her first appearance in Fire – A Retrospective in 2009 and was nominated as ‘Dancer to Watch’ in the Dance

Australia Critics Survey 2 years running. Since then she has performed in Stephen Page’s Mathinna nationally and regionally, in Bangarra’s of earth & sky, toured Europe with Spirit, performed nationally in the acclaimed

Belong and through teaching Bangarra’s workshops across regional and remote locations has helped many Aboriginal children to connect with their culture.

Bangarra’s Artistic Director Stephen Page said “Ella is one of this country’s greatest young talents and as she continues her journey as an Aboriginal woman and an Australian dance artist we wish her every success.

With her exceptional technique, strength and agility, her natural warmth and ability to connect with the audience we know she will thrive with the Australian Ballet when she trades knee-pads for pointe shoes!”

Ella’s final performance with Bangarra will be in TERRAIN this Sunday 7 October at QPAC in Brisbane. Described as a hymn to country, TERRAIN transports us to Lake Eyre the place of Australia’s inland sea: one of the few untouched natural waterways in the world. Bangarra explores the relationship of Indigenous people to country and how landscape becomes a second skin.

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