Posts Tagged ‘Katie Noonan


Katie Noonan & Brodsky Quartet: With Love and Fury


Katie Noonan & Brodsky Quartet: With Love and Fury

QPAC & Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

QPAC Concert Hall

April 28 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

There is not a voice in the world more evocative or more exquisite than Katie Noonan’s. Her latest collaborative magic trick, with the world class Brodsky Quartet, is testament to Noonan’s vocal mastery, and her endless cycle of creative genius and generousity.

Australia is for us not a country but a state of mind. We do not speak from within but from outside. From a state of mind that describes rather than expresses its surroundings or from a state of mind that imposes itself upon rather than lives through landscape and event.

– Judith Wright, Because I Was Invited (1975)


“I forgot how much I love poetry.”

Analiese Long


The People Who Live in Victoria Street John Olsen 1960

I painted a picture from the attic window named “The People Who Live in Victoria Street” – John Olsen


Elena Kats-Chernin’s Late Spring is the perfect opener, bringing us the sounds of the earliest morning, the light barely appearing, a pale moon barely visible, disappearing yet reluctant to leave its place in the sky. Women believe in the moon. Women believe in the moon. Such sweet sadness, such longing, a lifetime of memories…and of hope. 

The moon drained white by day

lifts from the hill

where the old pear-tree fallen in the storm

springs up in blossom still.

Women believe in the moon:

this branch I hold

is not more white and still than she

whose flower is ages old,

and so I carry home

flowers from the pear

that makes such obstinate tokens still

for fruit it cannot bear.


David Hirschfelder’s To A Child transports us (and it’s not until I re-read the poem later that I wonder about its dark lens). At the time it feels like smiling, tiptoeing towards the child’s room after nine o’clock to see if she is reading or sleeping or struggling with difficult dreams…or not even there, stolen away by gypsies or goblins…it’s sometimes my greatest fear. The violins (and viola dart playfully around the voice while the cello grounds us. There’s such tenderness in this piece; it could be a letter to my ten-year-old self, or to my turning-ten-year-old daughter. It sounds like discovery and wonder, and those moments when we glance up from what we’re doing to take in the smallest detail, to let the sun warm our cheeks and forget the evil of the world.

Paul Dean’s haunting composition for Sonnet for Christmas gives a nod to Michael Nyman, and Andrew Ford’s After the Visitors begins with a bit of the baroque and goes the way of John Bucchino’s gentle manipulation of the emotions in Sepia Life. The house – or the heart – asks, “Is it you again alone?” Judith Wright’s words are so, so emotive, conjuring images of our country’s aching, yearning soul as it prises open my own.

We are old companions, self.

We can go on, sometimes in love, sometimes


With the old pang, the old delight

The living balance between waking, waking and


Katie Noonan’s The Surfer (with arrangement for strings by Steve Newcomb) is one of my favourite original pieces of the evening, evoking the mystery and majesty and security of the ocean. He thrust his joy against the weight of the sea… she lilts and sighs into the end of this delicate piece, just beautiful.

I love Iain Grandage’s work and in Night after Bushfire we are taken to a chilling, desperate place. Did you see The Rabbits? The Secret River? Grandage handles melody with the same mastery Wright had with words. Then there is the deep sweetness, sadness and acceptance of Paul Grabowsky’s Company of Lovers. It’s actually incredible just how personal each piece becomes, and yet Judith Wright was remembered by her daughter, Meredith McKinney, as saying, “the personal is not interesting. It’s what is beyond the personal that is of importance.” Perhaps this is The Slope (Carl Vine). And yet…

We often hear Noonan muse over the awesome power of music…


John Rodgers’ Failure of Communication is an intense attack on the senses, finishing abruptly and leaving us to recognise the silences between us. Richard Tognetti’s deceptively gentle treatment of Metho Drinker is utterly compelling and ultimately heartbreaking; it’s a careful, mournful, soulful ode to inebriation and the peace that death will bring, although there is violence in the col legion – is that the correct term? It’s perhaps the most unforgettable piece of the night because of it’s open, weeping dismay.

His white and burning girl, his woman of fire,

creeps to his heart and sets a candle there

to melt away the flesh that hides from bone,

to eat the nerve that tethers him in time.

He will lie warm until the bone is bare

and on the dead dark moon he wakes alone.

It was for Death he took her; death is but this;

and yet he is uneasy under her kiss

and winces from that acid of her desire.

It’s a sombre end to the first set. After Interval we are treated to three works, collectively titled Australian Triptych: Peter Sculthorpe’s short and sweet From Nourlangie, Ford’s bittersweet Cradle Song…in fact, it’s completely devastating and I realise a tear slides down my cheek as the song disappears, giving way to Robert Davidson’s beautifully lively and evocative Stradbroke.


I love hearing again, Bjork’s Hyperballad (Noonan brings so much more richness and love to it than fear), the magical Possibly Maybe, and the exquisite Love’s My Song For You. Paul Cassidy’s arrangement of Elvis Costello’s I almost had a weakness is a delight. Sting’s Fragile (Noonan’s vocal interpretation and Cassidy’s arrangement for strings) includes a couple of violent, really terrifying moments in case you’d forgotten the extent of the damage we’ve done to the earth already; it’s achingly simple and poignant after that, and the addition of the voices of everyone in the space makes it another favourite, the collective choral sadness and sense of community – the longing – lingering still.

Katie Noonan never ceases to amaze me. To have brought together Brodsky Quartet and some of our country’s greatest composers for this world premiere landmark event is an astonishing accomplishment.

With Love and Fury is a stunning collaboration; an incredibly beautiful, evocative song cycle encapsulating the haunting, shifting beauty and history of Australia.



The Quartet is named after the great Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky, dedicatee of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and a passionate chamber musician. Daniel Rowland plays a violin made by Lorenzo Storioni of Cremona in 1793; Ian Belton’s violin is by Gio. Paolo Maggini c.1615 and Paul Cassidy plays on La Delfina viola, c. 1720, courtesy of Sra. Delfina Entrecanales. Jacqueline Thomas plays a cello made by Thomas Perry in 1785.


Production pics by Darren Thomas



Banquet of Secrets

Banquet of Secrets
Brisbane Powerhouse & Victorian Opera
Brisbane Powerhouse Performance Space
April 7 – 9 2016


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Featuring David Rogers-Smith, Dimity Shepherd, Michael Carman, Kanen Breen and Antoinette Halloran.


I wasn’t going to publish this review because everything I’ve seen about Banquet of Secrets is amazing; it’s been exceptionally well received by everyone in the country except me…and Sam, who has since referred to it as “Banquet of Boredom”.

As a reviewer, I often wonder about the value of putting my opinion out there at all.

When we write for free, we write for ourselves. And yes, while it would be nice to at least cover the cost of fuel, parking and dinner, and while we’re at it, a lovely little Wheels & Dollbaby number every month, I’m also just putting here for later, something that might be useful or interesting one day about Queensland theatre. Live performance disappears once it’s done, but some sort of intelligent or heartfelt response to the work is a worthwhile record of what our creatives are doing, and how they’re doing it, and where we’re heading together, surely.

I don’t know. It probably doesn’t help that I’m terribly inconsistent, and I continue to resist further tertiary study and the sort of academic writing that appears to be the only way to add any sort of gravitas to a body of work, and instead stay stubbornly more or less within my own little world. That’s right. Write for free, but only for yourself…….

In the case of Banquet of Secrets, I’d decided that since this year has been challenging enough already (and it’s only April!) it was hardly worth making a comment about it. Who am I to say it’s anything less than brilliant? I’ve wondered, “HAVE I MISSED THE POINT?” (if you loved it you will answer yes, yes I have) and, “WHAT IF I’M WRONG?” (if you loved it you will answer yes, yes I am) and, “WHO EVEN CARES?” and, “WHO WILL EVEN NOTICE IF I SAY NOTHING, OR IF XS DISAPPEARS FOR A WHILE?”, which is something I’ve been wondering a lot about lately. At the same time, on several different occasions, I’ve been told by industry friends that they always look forward to reading what’s here and I must publish this review because…well, perhaps other (louder) voices have offered accolades with which they also disagree.

So I persist with this blog (and the reviews that are not as favourable as some) because who even am I if I quit responding honestly to what I’m seeing? 

This work is certainly challenging. It’s probably some of Paul Grabowsky’s best work, brilliant by design, comprising complex orchestrations that boast multiple layers (and he conducts from the piano); entire worlds exist beneath discordant harmonies. I don’t mind a bit of discord (life is dishing up plenty of discord!), but it’s not my favourite new work and it might not be yours either… But will you say so? 

The reason musical theatre and opera remain separate is because they are separate entities. Each form has its merits and the two haven’t mixed well here.

Actually, they’re calling it “chamber music theatre” but chamber is more lilting and haunting, opera is slicker and music theatre more entertaining. The dialogue is cliched, uneventful, the banter not witty enough. The only real comedy comes from the waiter, who describes each course of a ridiculously decadent dinner in flowery language and declares triumphantly each time, “You’re welcome, thank you very much!” before exiting. He is clearly relieved not to play a larger part in the evening’s proceedings.

Kaneen Breen’s character, the host Jean Pierre, is the next best established (and next best dressed) character but he can only do so much with what he’s been given. Breen’s first solo, establishing that everything must be perfect, reveals the Last Supper premise and his final piece confirms it; it’s the only musical number to make me feel anything; his love, and admiration and appreciation for the friends is touching.

The opening scene however, a thunderstorm (Sound Design Jim Atkins, Lighting Design Matt Scott & Set Design Christina Smith; we’ll say nothing more of her costumes), does little to establish each of the four characters and doesn’t make us keen to hear more from them. The first ten minutes of the classic comedy Clue, inspired by the board game, should have provided Director, Roger Hodgman with some sense of setting up a similar story. Yes, yes, it’s all there, but we don’t believe a word of it. It’s a shame because they are such beautiful, accomplished vocalists and clearly capable of tackling meatier roles.

Unashamedly contrived, Banquet of Secrets makes a mockery of the quest to discover, develop and disseminate “new” art to intelligent audiences. While other writers struggle to garner support to bring their work to the stage, Steve Vizard and Grabowsky over promise and under deliver in this poor excuse for a musical theatre / opera hybrid. They’ve created an elitist monster, which rears its ugly head in a landscape that consistently offers more interesting and challenging work. It’s simply not audience friendly.

We see each secret coming and feel nothing for any of the four characters; predictably, a lawyer, a writer, a doctor and the collector, our host. We can’t ever be sure whether or not the friends meet in a restaurant, despite the program notes advising that this is the case according to the friends’ tradition. (It might have been a more intriguing night had events taken place in Jean Pierre’s home). Apart from the immediate breathtaking impact of the overhead ornate mirror, which is not used to its full effect, the staging is arbitrary, with musicians to one side and an under-utilised upright piano and bar setting opposite. The singers either stand across the downstage space or sit at the dining table. Quite often there is some aimless wandering around the table and through the space. Characters connect with each other by placing a hand on another’s shoulder as they pass, or holding a gaze for a moment too long… Oh! And one number is staged on the table top. Nuance is lost or never there to begin with.

The music is mostly jarring, largely repetitive (Sam enjoys it much less than I do; clearly the world of commercial radio is beginning to have an effect), and it doesn’t help the performers to embrace their characters in order to give us the guts (or hearts) of the people they claim to be. It’s all rather surface level, like a dinner with strangers might be. We never feel as if we get to know them and because we don’t know them we don’t feel any sympathy for them. As each secret is revealed we feel nothing. Transitions are slow and mostly awkward. There is polite applause at the end of each number,although a substantial number of older audience members give much more generous applause during the curtain call. I’m pleased that they’ve enjoyed it! Do we recall any of the melodies at this point? No. In fact, during the curtain call Sam reminds me: even CATS has a memorable tune…

And why didn’t we see them eat? And why didn’t the food on the plates match the foodie photos projected across the mirror’s tilted surface? Perhaps it’s okay to gloss over these details in “chamber music theatre”???


As an experiment, Banquet of Secrets is an interesting attempt to seek a broader audience but sadly, it’s self-indulgent and reeking of desperation, like the mediocre children we insist – not all of us insist – have what it takes to “make it”. Ugh.


Banquet of Secrets appears to have been written for the elite old-school upper classes; the Racer Cruisers. They spend vast amounts of money on well appointed, comfortable racing yachts, defeating both purposes and impressing those who know no better.



Read Grabowsky’s tribute to Prince.


Hear more of Grabowsky’s work at QPAC this week.



The Rabbits


The Rabbits

An Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company co-production in association with West Australian Opera.

Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival.


QPAC Playhouse

March 16 – 20 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits came many grandparents ago…

What an extraordinary experience, to be offered a taste of The Rabbits during APAM (we saw a delicious 20-minute excerpt), and then be treated to the entire visual and aural feast last week on Opening Night. Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival, Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company assembled some of Australia’s finest talent to create a stage adaptation of John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s picture book (open-hearted Adaptation and Direction by John Sheedy). This is a multi-award winning genre-defying production featuring a detailed score by Kate Miller-Heidke, additional music and arrangements by Iain Grandage, and libretto by Lally Katz. Rachael Maza has been instrumental as Indigenous Consultant. It doesn’t disappoint. However, unlike The Secret River, which also features magnificent music by Grandage, musical direction by Isaac Hayward and a heavy, heavy tale of the displacement and mistreatment of our Indigenous people, The Rabbits feels less optimistic. Poppy, who is nine and so smart, disagrees. She says,

We hear the bird calls in the beginning, and the bird calls at the end sound like we can sort it out. We can have our little piece of nature and they can have theirs. Even better, we can try harder to share the land. And the water. And the sky. In the end everything belongs to no one and everyone. We all live here together now.


Hollie Andrew who plays Coda, the marsupial who sings The Kite Song when the children are taken away, told Elissa Blake, “My mother was adopted so we don’t know where we are from,” she says. “I don’t know who my people are. So I’m singing on behalf of my ancestors in a lot of ways. I imagine my ancestors are calling out to me. I absolutely dig into it. It’s been a gift as an actor. It’s pretty raw but it’s healed me in a lot of ways, too.

“I love that this show says what has happened and then poses the question, ‘where do we go from here?'” Andrew says. “We need to own what has happened and together find a way to move forward. That’s the beauty of this story.” The story unsettles us and The Kite Song breaks our hearts; it’s devastating and we ache… 

I ache, I ache, I ache inside


We ache as Kate Miller-Heidke mourns the loss of the children, wailing and calling to all the people and ancestors and spirits and spirit animals ever, everywhere. Her grief is exquisite, something we can never (should never) un-hear. She’s the all-seeing Bird, witness to events and narrator of our tragic tale. Resplendent in white and delicate feathers, glistening with the sky and the stars and the sea and the bright eyes of the whole world, from her central vantage point high above the land, she looks over its inhabitants without the power to put a stop to the desolation brought by the rabbits. Her voice is pure, ethereal, electrical. It has the power to permeate and affect, deeply, audiences of all ages and political persuasions. The only other performer in this country with the gift to bewitch us with her voice in this way is Katie Noonan, and I’d love to see her sing this role too. (We say hi to Katie on our way out of the Playhouse but we have to cut the conversation short in order to honour our commitment to another opening night around the corner…).

The band is slick, though slightly (and suitably) dishevelled, and quite fun, at times in good spirits and at times more sombre as the story dictates, comprising Isaac Hayward (MD and cello, piano & piano accordion), Rob Mattesi (trumpet), Keir Nuttall (guitar and electronics), Stephanie Zarka (bass and tuba). They’re front and centre when a false fire alarm stops the show at the forty minute mark and we wonder if we’ll see the end of it before having to get up and go. The cast and musicians collect themselves after the curtain fails to drop completely, and they resume the show some minutes later. It’s a live-theatre-thing, a reminder that anything can happen, giving us time to cringe for a bit longer after the bawdy pub song, Hop Hop Hooray! 

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits are bombastic, very British, Gilbert & Sullivan style operatic singers, each with his own quirky personality. (Kaneen Breen as the Scientist is especially memorable). The marsupials on the other hand, are grounded contemporary music theatre/pop vocalists (I’d love to hear more from Marcus Corowa); they remind me stylistically of The Lion King and Disney generally. Friends tell me after the show that this combination isn’t their favourite aspect of the production but I like the stark contrast, and I can appreciate that it’s part of the strategy now, whether or not it was originally intended as such, to draw a more diverse audience.


Visually too, it’s a stark and sumptuous production, beautifully conveying the essence of this great Southern land, its creatures, its colours, its textures, its heat, and all its hope and hopelessness. The production looks enough like the pages of the book to satisfy fans of Tan’s original illustrations, and yet it’s not so immense and grotesque as to frighten..the children. If we’re honest – and we are – I still find the original illustrations quite frightening. (Designer Gabriela Tylesova, Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest, Sound Designer Michael Waters). The final image particularly has me holding my breath, desperate for the marsupial and the rabbit to step across – or around – the reflecting pool to embrace one another, or grasp each other’s hands or something but I know they’ll stay on opposite sides, staring at their own reflections, because it’s the final awful (hopeful?) image from the book.

The Rabbits, in story and style, is truly for all people. If only we can learn from this rich and challenging sixty-minute tale, and from so many more, and move forward together, hand in hand. This feeling, long after the curtain has properly come down, is the power of theatre, of storytelling, and why our stories must be told and treasured, and questioned, and told again and again.

Who will save us from the rabbits?


Comments on (the book) The Rabbits 

The parallels with a real history of colonisation in Australia and around the world are obvious, and based on detailed research, in spite of the overt surrealism of the imagery and the absence of direct references. It was named Picture Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council, which in part generated some controversy due to it’s confronting themes, and was attacked on several occasions for being ‘politically correct propaganda’, but only by right wing conservatives of course. In spite of this (or because of it), the book went on to win numerous awards in Australia, the US and UK, and is studied widely in secondary schools. It would seem that some of my concepts and designs were unacknowledged inspiration for a section of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, although I’ve never been able to find out if this is true.

One reason for the initial controversy is that The Rabbits is a picture book, and therefore thought to be children’s literature, and wrongly assumed to be didactic, whereas it had been originally conceived as a book for older readers, and generally difficult to categorise. Some children may get a lot out of it, but generally it defies most picture book conventions and is not necessarily a good choice for pleasant bedtime reading!


Brisbane Festival is about to kick off! Are you ready?


Brisbane Festival unlocks Arcadia and invites everyone to the opening bash!




Brisbane Festival officially kicks off on Saturday 5 September 2015 – the wacky and wonderful Arcadia at South Bank will come alive with sizzling shows in two massive tents as well as a packed line up of free entertainment, while some meaty shows will play at QPAC and La Boite, all capped off by a big opening night party.




Float between four bars.

Feast at boutique food trucks.

Treat yourself in the Little Creatures Treehouse.

Keep up to date on all the free entertainment happening in Arcadia by joining the Facebook Event.

When: Sat 5 – Sat 26 Sept


Arcadia, the new Festival village, will open from 2pm with South East Queensland’s best hip hop and break dancers battling it out in the popular free event RAPcity, while Australia’s top pavement artist will create amazing 3D chalk art where Festival-goers can snap themselves amongst the trippy work.

From 5pm enjoy free live music by Kahl Wallis (this year’s winner of the Dreaming Award at the National Indigenous Arts Awards), Karl S. Williams and Good Oak at QPAC’s Melbourne Street Green, and at 5.30pm an Indigenous Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, and a contemporary dance performance from ACPA, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, will take place in Arcadia.

At 6.45pm, dance out of time and sing out of tune with abandon to DJ Mikey’s beats streaming to wireless headphones in a free Silent Disco and keep an eye on the William Jolly Bridge as it is lit up with beautiful art projections by Gerwyn Davies and Alice Lang.




Festival-goers will be spoilt for choice in the evening. In The Spiegeltent, Megan Washington will perform the first of two sold-out shows, which will be followed by the mischievous antics of New York nightlife icon Murray Hill and fellow cast in Club Swizzle.



The show everyone is talking about, Fear & Delight, will call on brave folk who are up for anything – from chicken head and syringe canapés to a gin and tonic cloud experience to an ancient Japanese artistic rope bondage act – audiences are asked to dress in black and white and leave their inhibitions at the door.



Rise for the Oceans *LIMITED TICKETS*

For one night only, Tim Winton, Bernard Fanning, Katie Noonan, Jessica Watson, and natural historian Prof Iain McCalman and other special guests will edify, thrill, entertain and enlighten us with their hopes and fears for our oceans and reefs.

When: Sat 5 Sept, 8pm



Coup Fatal

Join in a mad, defiant party that makes you want to live.

When: Sat 5 – Tue 8 Sept, 8pm



Over at QPAC, famed Belgian dance theatre maker Alain Platel’s Coup Fatal, featuring Congolese countertenor Serge Kakudji and 12 musicians from Kinshasa, will make its Australian premiere in the Playhouse, while Bernard Fanning, Tim Winton and William Barton will join other iconic Australians in the Concert Hall for the world premiere of Rise for the Oceans.




Highly anticipated and moving theatre production Prize Fighter will play at La Boite, a contemporary retelling of Anton Chekhov’s classic The Seagull will show at Queensland Theatre Company, and dance, music and animation will collide in Desirelines at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.


Once the curtains have closed everyone is invited back to the heart of Arcadia where an opening night party will kick off at 10pm into the wee hours of the morning, featuring DJ Tyrone and a performance by UK cult artists and stars of Fear & Delight, The Correspondents.


Arcadians can meander between five bars, a cocktail hut and a selection of wickedly tasty food trucks throughout the evening, and soak in the atmosphere from the brand new Little Creatures Treehouse or the Miami-inspired Riverhouse.




Brisbane Festival Artistic Director David Berthold said opening weekend would be huge and a good indicator of what people could expect over the next three weeks.


“With more than 500 shows across 20 venues, including 15 Australian premieres and six world premieres, the 2015 Brisbane Festival will provide abundant opportunities for new experiences and cultural adventures, as well as several new boutique places to meet up with family and friends,” Mr Berthold said.


“We have productions coming to Brisbane from five continents and 12 different countries including Singapore, Democratic Republic of the Congo, USA, UK, Japan and France, while 26 Queensland and 17 interstate companies are involved. This is the time to come out and see some of the best shows on the planet.”


On Sunday 6 September The Little Creatures Treehouse will kick off its free ‘Learn stuff about beers’ 30-minute workshops at 1pm and 2pm, where people can get hands-on with malt, savour some beers and create a mini-brew*.  The quirky new venue will also host a ukulele lesson at 4pm followed by a live performance at 5.30pm.



Club Swizzle

After two sell-out seasons at Brisbane Festival, the creators of La Soirée return with a brand spanking new show.

Loose, glorious and irresistibly fun, Club Swizzle is a night of sassy entertainment where the mayhem is kicked up a notch.

When: Fri 4 – Sat 26 Sept, 8pm



Audi Presents Fear & Delight

Join cult UK artists, The Correspondents, and an elite international cast of contortionists, acrobats, dancers and comedians whose dazzling physical feats will get your heart pounding.

While the daring physical and comedy performances will leave you short of breath –the extra elements of Fear & Delight will truly blow your mind.

When: Fri 4 – Sat 26 Sept, 8pm



Arcadia will continue buzzing with Jazz Japan Award for Album of the Year winner Fox Capture Plan in The Spiegeltent at 7pm followed by Club Swizzle, and audiences can also catch Fear & Delight and Coup Fatal again. Arcadians are also advised to be on the lookout for rogue film directors and impromptu karaoke.





At Palace Centro Cinemas The Diary of a Teenage Girl will be played at 4pm, which is part of The Female Gaze – a showcase of seven iconic indie female-focused films dating back to 1941.



Book online for all Brisbane Festival events.



*Registration for the ‘Learn stuff about beers’ workshops is required one hour prior to commencement as only 20 spots are available for each session. You must be 18+ to participate.



Reality Bites Nonfiction Literary Festival

Reality Bites Nonfiction Literary Festival 2014


Now in its seventh year, Reality Bites brings Australia’s best minds and writers of literary nonfiction to the Noosa Hinterland. Presented by the Sunshine Hinterland Writers’ Centre, this festival is hand-crafted by a dedicated group of writers, readers and lovers of books and ideas.


This year the Festival is delighted to spread the word in Eumundi, taking weekend events to two new venues there. After the most successful ever event last year, it now offers a three day festival pass that includes a program of close-up sessions, panels and conversations with a brilliant lineup of local and interstate authors.


Feed your heart and mind at the Poet’s Speakeasy on Friday night, then on Saturday night celebrate the festival and welcome VIP guests.


Check out a workshop series for developing writers and programmed sessions covering a range of subjects for readers, thinkers and writers alike. And don’t forget the wildly popular pitching clinic where writers pitch their book ideas to a panel of industry experts.


Join writers and lovers of good writing for a feast of ‘food for thought’ in the REAL heart of the Hinterland.



A message from Artistic Director, Melanie Myers


It’s been a year of changes for Reality Bites Festival – the most obvious being our change of dates and location. Having enjoyed great support in Eumundi – from the Eumundi Green magazine and the Eumundi Historical Association, which has sponsored our festival launch since the event began – the time seemed right to spread the word to out to the wider Hinterland. While our workshop program and community events will remain at the Cooroy Library, our home for the last two years, hosting the main program in Eumundi allows us to kick off events Friday afternoon, and continue right through Saturday and Sunday with two streams of panels, conversations and close-up sessions that showcase a diverse range of Australia’s best nonfiction writing and authors.


For a nonfiction writers’ festival, ‘Reality Bites’ is a fitting name, and has held us in good stead for seven years now. When planning the program for 2014, our name got me thinking about the term ‘reality’ and, more particularly, what we mean by ‘real’. Real is considered synonymous with truth. We understand real to be what is actual, rather than imaginary.


For a literary festival that specialises in showcasing Australia’s best nonfiction, concepts of what are actual, real and the truth, are the touchstones of our existence. That might suggest we are in the business of disseminating cold, hard facts, but the truth is, that’s rarely the case. What is real, or even what seems real, may be true only so far we, as individuals, communities and societies, perceive and feel things to be real – whether that be love, loss, deviancy, injustice, the workings of our own mind (as with mental illness), or our shared past. This idea of ‘real’ is the thematic thread that underpins this year’s program.


So often the prerogative of fiction, real love, for example, holds a prominent place in this year’s program. As well as launching Australian Love Stories – a new anthology of short stories and memoir – we’ll be discussing the use and abuse of the ‘L’ word in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in ‘Words of Love’. With proceeds going to the Morcombe foundation, both real love and real crime will be in focus, as author Lindsay Simpson talks about the process of co-writing Looking for Daniel with Bruce and Denise Morcombe, and their 10-year quest to find out what happened to their son. Real crime and real dirt turns on the agents of the law enforcement themselves with ‘Watching the Detectives’ − our police diaries conversation in two parts, while ‘Dirty Secrets’ looks into the ASIO files of well-known Australian activists.


For the ‘big issues’ this year we’re talking about women in politics, or the lack of, in ‘Dis-man-tling the Joint’, and the competing realities of compassion and the law in ‘Seeking Refuge’. In a special 90-minute session, ‘Forgotten War’, Steven Lang will discuss the ‘white washing’ of Australia’s real history with respect to the frontier wars with historian Henry Reynolds, and academics Nicholas Clements and Tony Birch. For our Saturday morning-tea event, Maxine McKew will talk about inequality in our education system, and real solutions to remedy the problem. These are but a sampling of the conversations I hope will generate real discussion, real ideas, and perhaps even, one day, real change.


Ultimately, as readers and writers we have the power to create our own realities, and I hope you find something that’s real to you at Reality Bites ’14. Enjoy!



TODAY – Thursday October 23 2014


Berkelouw Books:

Early Bird Breakfast – free
THURS 23, 7.30 a.m.

AV Presentation by Raoul Slater of the new book Glimpses of Australian Birds
Croissants supplied by Berkelouw Cafe. Buy your own beverages.

Check website for details.


Berkelouw Books Open Bookclub – free
THURS 23, 6 – 8:30pm
Join Eumundi Book Club for its discussion of Thomas Picketty’s Capitalism in the 21st Century.
Check website for details.


(Book club attendees can attend Reality Bites session 24 AmalgaNations for free. Please register with Amanda at Berkeleow.)


School of Arts:

Beyond Fossil Fuels: Alternatives for a Clean Energy Future
THURS 23, 6:30 – 7:30pmIan Lowe, Drew Hutton and Tasmin Kerr
Tickets at door $5/$2
Tomorrow night – Friday October 24 – Katie Noonan presents Song Book at Eumundi School of Arts


Katie Noonan’s Song Book
FRI 24, 6 – 8:30pm


School of Arts

Katie NoonanLocal song-siren Katie Noonan hosts and performs with special guests in this annual community fundraiser. Profits go to Eumundi State School and School of Arts Hall.

Cash- only tickets available from Berkelouw Books Eumundi and Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre.



See you there! (And before that, we’ll be at Words of Love with Anna Campbell, Annah Faulkner, Mandy Sayer & Ashley Hay).



Follow @xsentertainment on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with what’s happening at the Festival!



Download the PDF Program





Les Illuminations


Les Illuminations

Maestro Series 5: Katie Noonan and Sydney Dance Company

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

QPAC Concert Hall

Saturday June 14 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Conductor Johannes Fritzsch
Soprano Katie Noonan
Choreographer Rafael Bonachela for Sydney Dance Company
Costume Designer Toni Maticevski

Stravinsky Song of the Nightingale
Britten Simple Symphony
Britten Les Illuminations
Ravel La Valse


“I alone hold the key to the savage parade” Rimbaud


A clever collaboration between Sydney Dance Company, Katie Noonan and Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO), Les Illuminations is pretty astonishing. This production was originally presented in 2013 for the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, returning recently to QPAC and to the Sydney Opera House for sold-out seasons. Les Illuminations is so much more about the dance than the other elements though; the sublime voice of Katie Noonan and the rich tones of the symphony orchestra seem almost secondary, which is not always ideal. This is not Katie’s first collaboration but it’s attracted a lot more attention than Love-Song-Circus (if you missed the show buy the album; it’s truly stunning work). Being a big fan of Katie I wanted to hear more from her, but the requirement of the vocalist in Britten’s piece, in terms of stage time, is minimal. The degree of difficulty, however, begs appreciation for what we see is a short and tricky, bittersweet performance about love, in all its forms. I appreciate it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t mention it again.


Before we even get a glimpse of Katie, dressed in a structural black Toni Maticevski with her crimson hair elegantly coiffed, we enjoy Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale and Britten’s Simple Symphony. The dance is light, fun and playful, and the strings of the first piece are absolutely breathtaking, with not one but two harps contributing to a magical sound that I just don’t hear unless I’m in Mum’s car, which is tuned to ABC Classic FM. I wish I’d brought eight year old Poppy to this show. She gets to go to so much though and it’s a school night. She’s attended QSO events before. This time the sensible parenting decision prevailed. Poppy is always the youngest audience member at the classical concerts and we both get mixed looks from (much) older enthusiasts. We certainly prefer hearing, “Oh look, isn’t she gorgeous?” to “Oh look, as if you would bring a child to the orchestra!” THAT’S RIGHT. WE CAN HEAR YOU. Insert bemused emoticon here.


Why take kids to the orchestra? Well, for all the same reasons grown-ups enjoy live classical music, kids love it! It’s actually an amazing, exciting experience to see and hear the orchestra live. Also, they get to dress up and go out, learn concert etiquette, and have wonderful conversations with us about the city, their dreams and their friends and all sorts of other things like pre-show sushi v tapas and the different sounds of the grown ups’ shoes on the floor of the Concert Hall. There are so many reasons to share the experience with your child! Sometimes even the fact that it’s a school night is not reason enough to keep a child AWAY from a live show.


I came away from this concert wanting to hear more from Katie, but in appreciating the difficulty of the vocal work, and the nature of this unique performance, I enjoyed hearing from her in Les Illuminations, a much darker piece than the previous, allowing us an extended moment to enjoy Katie’s flawless performance. She has such an extraordinary range and ethereal sound. This production seemed to steer our attention time and time again to the dancers on the floor out front while Katie was placed towards the back of the orchestra – in that spectacular frock, which in itself is criminal! Somebody more willing to share the love with their singer would have placed her out front with the dancers, rather than have her hidden behind them at the back of the band! This is the sort of directorial decision that I’d question Sam about – and be growled at for pointing out before being told, “Oh yes, I can see why you said that. Much better.”*


*in an imaginary ideal collaborative creative married world


Les Illuminations. Image by Steven Siewert.


The dancers, also clad in Maticevski, though in far less of it (what I like to call designer remnants), are absolutely superb; there is no question of their technical skill, style or strength. And the passion, in all senses of the word, and intimacy between them is palpable. In fact, Bonachela’s choreography, paired with Britten’s and Ravel’s compositions, creates an entire ocean of feelings, which we can’t help but be caught up in and swept away with, just like the complex relationships represented in the dance. It’s so incredibly intimate that it becomes painful sometimes – at other times delightful, amusing – because we recognise the cycle of love-hate-love (life-death-life) and we’re familiar with the gut-wrenching feelings that come with each part of a relationship, and which drive each movement. And a side note about taking kids to dance: even when the content or the theme is intense, children get what they get from it (think about the origins of every Disney story; the original fairytales, before the Brothers Grimm made them even slightly palatable. Pretty gruesome, really).


On one level, this choreography is driven by themes of suspicion and violence but on another, it’s quite simply beautifully executed contemporary dance. Had Poppy seen it, we would have talked about the misery people feel when they fight. Assuming that we know vaguely what we want, how can we communicate more clearly, and earlier, without hurting ourselves and the people we love? How can we begin to recognise and accept the good-bad-good cycle of relationships, and live (work) through the ups and downs instead of giving up on them, as so many do? This heart-thinking can be applied to every relationship (it’s been very useful to take this approach with Poppy recently, when talking about friends at school!), and not just to the lovers in this piece. If we don’t expose kids to art of all sorts, including live performances, we limit the opportunities to have conversations with our kids on this level.


“Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship.”

Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype


The elements are well matched, with the exception, as I’ve noted, of the singer. Perhaps this is bound to happen in a production that must favour one discipline over all others. Perhaps the perceived major stakeholder or presumed most popular aspect gets the spotlight and unlike the musical theatre context the balance is thrown. (And then there are those who would argue a hierarchy also exists in a traditional musical theatre production). If I had the resources to bring back Les Illuminations for a return run, I guess I would consider staging this eclectic production in a larger space. Despite the obvious intimacy (Bonachela’s intent was to have a “contained space in an intimate room”), paired with the acoustic advantages of the Concert Hall, it would be wonderful to see the dancers in a more generous space all of their own, with the orchestra set above them and Katie taking her place centre stage. We’ve seen her do so in the QSO’s studio, bringing greater reverence to Britten’s music and greater respect to the vocalist. If it does return to a venue near you, and I feel sure it will, book early for Les Illuminations. It will give you plenty to talk about.


Les Illuminations 30sec TV spot from Peter Greig on Vimeo.



Katie Noonan Songbook


Katie Noonan

With Special Guest Louise King

Flinders Performance Centre

Saturday 27th April 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


You know I saw my friend, Naomi Price, perform her ADELE tribute Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele on Friday night, and all weekend I was thinking about something she says in the show. She elaborated on it for Paul Andrew, in an interview conducted earlier this year for his blog and I’ve included it here.


“…music is so amazing – it can take us to a single breath, a place, a moment,” she explains. “That’s why, I believe, people connect so deeply with music, because we associate so much emotion and memory and experience with the songs we hear. And that’s not necessarily about raw emotion. That can be as a result of impacting lyrics, or a hypnotic musical riff, or shared experience. Music is divine. It transcends natural, rational thinking and transports us to other places or moods in an almost supernatural way.” Naomi Price



Poppy and I were privileged to attend a very special local performance the following night, at Flinders Performance Centre, in Stringybark Road, which is the street I grew up in. The Flinders Performance Centre is the Sunshine Coast’s latest and greatest venue, kitted out with state-of-the-art everything, and designed for perfect acoustics, making it the ideal space in which to host Cellist, Louise King and Singer/Songwriter, Katie Noonan. It will be interesting to see how a major musical production goes into the same space, as it doesn’t seem to be designed for performers who jump around a lot in and around enormous set pieces but rather, pretty sedentary instrumental or vocal performers. Flinders, or more specifically, Director and Drama HOD Melissa White, is known for her savvy use of scaffolding and Nambour Civic Centre’s extensive floor space, where previous productions – Grease and West Side Story – have been staged. I’ll let you know how this year’s Director, Wendy Lyons, has used the space after we’ve seen the College production of Guys and Dolls on May 23rd.


On Saturday night Poppy and I were both so tired! But we knew it would be a special show so there was no way either of us were going to opt for an early night instead! Besides, we knew that Katie’s Eumundi friends and fans were coming, which meant a chance to see my sister, Poppy’s Aunty Ana, and thank her again for being part of The Village that raises my child! Poppy had spent the previous night at my sister’s mother-in-law’s place with the extended family so that Sam and I could get to Nim’s late show. The babysitting and sleepovers are usually shared around a bit, between my parents (Nanny and Bugsy Pa), Ana and Mike, Pip and Randall, Tracey and Richard, Kathy and Bob, Kellie and Paul, and Synda and Mike. We couldn’t possibly get to everything without the help of our family and friends. So here’s a big shout out to THE VILLAGE! THANK YOU!


(I couldn’t find any footage of Louise King playing this piece, or any other for that matter, which is unfortunate because she is a dynamite performer!).



It must be one of the most well known classical pieces in the history of the world – Bach Suite No 1 Prelude in G Major – and it’s one of the only classical pieces that I can actually recognise and immediately put a name to (you know, that BACH PRELUDE). You may have heard it used most recently in Master and Commander. When I heard the first few bars of it on Saturday night I felt a strange ache, and tears pricking my eyes. I’m super sensitive at the best of times but I didn’t want to be seen with tears streaming down my face from the very first moment! I focused on my breath. Became aware of my breath. Observed my breath. Breathe. Breathe In Now. “Oh. Right. That’s later,” I thought.


Louise King is just incredible to watch; she’s entirely animated and speaks to us in between musical numbers to introduce, explain and reflect upon each, in a friendly, humourous manner that makes me feel as if we’re well acquainted. King expertly plays a diverse repertoire; it includes contemporary pieces written by living, local artists (intriguingly, both Louise and Katie have strong connections with Stradbroke Island, which they both mention more than once) and heavy metal, including Metallica, as well as traditional classical music. So much of the music is surprising, intriguing, and incredibly evocative, conjuring images of landscapes, sky, sea, and storms…or memories you think now might have been lost along the way. It is impossible to listen to King without feeling deeply.



Louise King and Katie Noonan are perfectly matched as a double bill, though the show was not promoted as such; it’s Katie’s Sunshine Coast Songbook launch. She gives Louise a lot of love and thanks her several times, inviting her to return to the stage to play again later, which proves to be a real treat! As you will have read in Poppy’s Perspective, there is a major issue with the seating in the venue, and it’s not the first time I’ve witnessed a mishap. I’m sure somebody is onto it so it doesn’t happen again. As well as being incredibly uncomfortable for the audience members, what a distraction it is for the artist! Luckily, Katie is a consummate professional; compassionate, patient and kind, genuinely concerned about those affected, and making certain that everyone is okay before beginning her set.


Songbook includes most of my Favourite Ever Katie Noonan Songs.


Songbook see’s Katie exploring material from throughout her career including songs from George, Katie Noonan and the Captains, Elixir and her solo album. This intimate and beautiful recording see’s Katie predominantly accompanying herself on the piano with some gorgeous string arrangements augmenting the recordings. Songbook features 5 new tracks never before available.


1. Quiet Day
2. Sweet One
3. Breathe In Now
4. Bluebird
5. Special Ones
6. Tip Of Memory
7. Slowly
8. Love’s My Song For You
9. Emperor’s Box
10. Spawn
11. Untitled
12. My Own Time
13. Time
14. Janet
15. Let You In


Katie Noonan Songbook

Katie’s intimate music and her ethereal voice have the power to transport (Bluebird is an exquisite example), perhaps even more so now than in the past, as she effortlessly conveys the deepest of emotions with the purest of sounds, which the rest of us have probably repressed by now (both the emotions and the sounds!). Songs such as Special Ones and Spawn, which were originally, back in the george days, the realm of Katie the fabulously enraged banshee-goddess, sit now in some sacred place, shared with us like secrets from a smiling sage who holds back nothing and invites us to travel the same path. Hearing these songs now is as if Katie is saying to us, “That happened. That hurt. And I’m okay now.” It’s strangely comforting.


I was not the only emotional one. I suddenly heard uninhibited racking sobs behind me during Emperor’s Box, which Katie wrote for her father, and I wanted to turn around and offer to hold a hand because of course I recognised that desperate sadness. We all do and we invariably attach music to it. Or realise with dismay that a particular track has attached itself to the sadness, as our tears well up when we hear it one day in a shopping centre (I stopped still until I stopped crying and nobody noticed, or stopped, or asked if I was okay), or on breakfast radio on the way to work (I let the tears fall behind my sunnies, messing my mascara, and felt self-conscious and silly – silly woman – at the traffic lights). Is it just me? At various stages of my life, some of Katie’s music has reminded me that I’ve felt that desperately sad too. I remember crying and crying the first time I heard Quiet Day, on a limited edition george single- a CD I picked up at K-Mart. This song still resonates with me to such an extent that when I heard Katie sing it on Saturday night I found myself observing my breath again, trying not to long for it so much it might make me crythat elusive quiet day. Breathe In Now.


Hers is one of the most recognisable (and covetable) voices of the Australian Music Industry. Well, look out, world! Katie’s vocals are even more sublime now, at this stage of her life; we’re hearing the quiet, soulful confidence of a unique talent, who has followed a path to suit her, serve her, and nourish her. It pays off for us because these are the most sublime versions of Katie’s songs we’ve heard yet.


Check tour dates


Purchase Songbook