Makaela Rowe-Fox. Photo: Kikei [dot] net.
News, Performing arts, Visual arts

Mobilising artists for climate action

The School Strike for Climate movement, spear-headed by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, has mobilised school students around the world. This Friday – 21 September 2019 – the students are inviting adults to join the movement in a global strike to demand climate action.

Makaela Rowe-Fox (16) is one of the organisers of the School Strike for Climate movement in Perth, and a performer with Co3 Youth and Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company. The young activist/artist has joined forces with her father Sam Fox (a Perth-based director, writer, choreographer and producer, and long time activist) and a committee of WA artists and arts workers, to form Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA). Ahead of Friday’s Global Strike for Climate, Nina Levy caught up with Makaela and Sam to find out more.

Nina Levy: Makaela, tell me about the School Strike for Climate movement, and your involvement in the cause…
Makaela Rowe-Fox: So, the School Strike for Climate Movement began last year when Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, began to strike outside her local parliament every friday. From there, many people were inspired by Greta’s actions and the school strike movement began.

Over the last year, the School Strike movement has exploded. Currently, over one hundred countries have students striking for climate action in over one thousand locations. With students not having the ability to vote we often feel that we have no voice; we strike to tell the world that we are taking action on climate change. Striking is direct action and has been proven throughout history to be one of the most effective ways of making change.

There are key mass mobilisations organised within the School Strike movement, one being March 15 earlier this year. I was an organiser for March 15, which saw 1.5 million students and supporters strike for climate action. I joined the movement through a family friend of mine who thought I might be interested. We organise almost solely online and I joined the national organising database through my family friend.

NL: What do you feel the School Strike movement has achieved to date?
MRF: I believe the School Strike movement has achieved world wide recognition on the reality of the climate emergency. We have created the sense of urgency that is necessary to make change. Our actions have led hundreds of governing bodies to start declaring that we are in a climate emergency, that can be seen in the 990 jurisdictions found in 18 countries across the globe. In the coming weeks, the United Nations will be hosting a climate change summit, which is the direct result of the School Strike movement demanding action.

I think you can also see that we have begun to shift societal understandings of what is possible. My generation realises that we have to take serious action if we want a future on this planet and that is resonating with many older generations. I feel that we will have shifted the mentality from “what can we achievably do about climate change” to “we will do what it takes as we take action on climate change”.

NL: Now the young strikers are calling on adults to join the movement in the Global Climate Strike, Friday 20 September. Tell us more about this strike. 
MRF: On September 20 there will the Global Climate Strike. In Perth it will start at Forrest Place at 11am. From there we’ll march through the city but we’re hoping it’ll be the biggest strike action in the history of this city (and the world) so it’s hard to say what it’ll be like. It’s not just a protest. It needs to be a big stop-work, a moment where the people of Perth take a big step in activating change. We’re working towards a general strike. In history general strikes brought about the 38 hour working week and led to revolutions. This strike won’t be the end point but it’ll be a huge step.

NL: And why is the Global Climate Strike so important?
MRF: Because we can’t address climate change while we’re stuck in a system that is built around destroying the planet. The Global Climate Strike is a way to halt this system and change direction. And if we don’t act immediately, we will face a chain of mass extinction events. It’s about survival and it’s about our responsibility to each other and the land.

Sam Fox addressing the audience at the Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA) sector meeting in August 2019. Photo: Steven Alyian.

NL: Sam, you’ve been an activist for many years. Tell me about this latest chapter, the evolution of Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA)… 
Sam Fox: Yeah, for a long time I’ve tried to find the balance between making art that is politically engaged and directly participating in activist campaigns. And I think this dilemma of doing our jobs versus taking actions as citizens is something we’re all trying to figure out now. My activism has gone up and down over the years but when Makaela got involved in organising the School Strikes I was blown away by how sophisticated and articulate their campaign platform was and, as a parent, I had to try to match my daughter’s commitment.

Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action came about through a small group of us getting together who wanted to answer the call of the Student Strikers for September 20. I think it’s been clear to many people for a long time that governments won’t take action on climate change but we haven’t had a vehicle that’s struck across society and the world until now. The young people can feel that we’re out of time and they’re showing us how to take action.

Our small group — starting with Aimee Smith, Deb Robertson, Petros Vouris, Janet Carter, Sue-Lyn Aldrian-Moyle and Noemie Huttner-Koros — recognised that the call for a Global Climate Strike could be the vehicle that changes our course and shifts power back to everyday working people. For us, that’s artists and cultural workers. So we decided to build an open platform for arts and cultural workers to call their own climate emergency and to get on board with the Global Climate Strike. We got some great help from Paper Mountain and PICA and organised a large sector meeting that was attended by 80 people and we built a platform from there. Janet Carter has initiated a whole lot of strike preparation workshops and we’ve all done a lot of communicating and promotion. As well as social media campaigns, we’ve got a list of public signatories that is growing every day.

Our list of artists is in the hundreds and features people of all creative disciplines. Our organisations now include: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Artsource, Art on the Move, Community Arts Network WA, pvi collective, Cool Change Contemporary, Circus WA, Mundaring Arts Centre, Midland Junction Arts, Propel Youth Arts, the Blue Room, West Australian Music (WAM), the Last Great Hunt, RTR FM and this great space, Seesaw Magazine.

RTR has been a particularly incredible advocate. They have organised community service announcements featuring student strikers and are going to get the students to co-host breakfast in the week of the strike. They’ll also be closing down for part of the day and broadcasting from the strike. We’ve got bands, collectives, indie groups, festivals.

Our sector is drawing a line in the sand for ourselves and as part of the broader movement. We’re mobilising from the grass roots up. We’ve never had such an overwhelming impetus for change and we don’t know what’s possible.

NL: What role can artists and companies play in the fight for action on climate change? 
SF: The great thing about our sector is we really have broad consensus among us that we need to call a climate emergency and that culture is tied to both people and the land. The broad values of our sector align with the climate strike movement and a transfer of power back to everyday working people. We have a big opportunity to lead by example as a sector and take action. However, I think the challenge for our sector is recognising that we can’t just do our jobs and expect change to happen. Essentially, we have to play our role just like any other sectors of society because we’re all in this situation together. The young people are saying that there’s no point to education on a dead planet. The same can be said for art as well as health care or science or any other vital industry. Just doing our jobs is not taking responsibility for change because our jobs don’t challenge the current system of flagrant ecological destruction for profit. It seems pretty clear after 50 years that transnational capitalism can absorb all the science and art we can throw at it.

If we can show out at the Global Climate Strike we’ll make a major impact. We’re already being used by the Student Strikers as an example of how industries can self organise and take political power back from those to whom we’ve delegated it. And we’re getting inquiries from national organisations and festivals on the east coast about what we’re doing.

The Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA). Phot0: Steven Alyian.
The Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA)’s sector meeting last month. Photo: Steven Alyian.

And how can audiences support artists and companies who take action?
That’s an interesting question. There are audience groups independent of our movement that are calling on arts organisations to disassociate from fossil fuel sponsors. This is something we have to negotiate and take seriously. I don’t think arts should have to lead the way when the rest of society is still addicted to petroleum, gas and air travel, but that’s what’s so important about the Global Climate Strike. It is calling for a just transition for workers and communities that are currently tied to unsustainable industries. That’s a good chunk of the arts as well as your miners. Just as it would be totally unfair and unethical to ask a miner just to quit their job with no other means of support, I think it is it unfair to expect a small-to-medium sized performance company to just turn off sponsorship that provides for people’s lives. We need to be part of a whole of society solution and the Global Climate Strike can be a key vehicle. The break from fossil fuel needs to be a negotiation that we all get involved in.

But, personally, I think there’s something about not being so clearly audience and presenter anymore. Maybe the challenge for all of us is to stop playing audience to our political power. I’m doing some research at the moment about the origins of theatre in Greece and the parallel rise of democracy. My very broad and nascent historical thesis is that, prior to professionalised theatre, theatre and dance were rituals that everyone could partake in it. Similarly, prior to elected representatives, power was localised; communal, village orientated, tribal etc. My working concept is that this professionalisation process of politics and culture was actually a terrible thing for society, not the foundation of civilisation that we think it is. In the contemporary world, a lot of people are beginning to question if elected representation like we have today, i.e. one person for every 150,000 in Australia, is anything but a conceit of democracy. Perhaps we’ve never tasted democratic power and the closest thing to a democratic assembly has been participatory theatre, dance and art. And grassroots political movements like strikes. Please note, these thoughts do not represent our group, just me musing in response to your question. We are a broad alliance and so I can’t speak for others beyond our commitment to our declaration of a climate emergency and committing to the Global Climate Strike.

NL: What are the different ways to be involved in the Global Climate Strike on Friday 20 September?
SF: First and foremost is we all need to stop work, turn up and enlist as many people as possible. If you’re an arts or cultural worker, you can use our platform to spread the word by sending on our open letters to peers and organisations, using our social media material (including a pretty fun and fruity profile frame) and being part of our contingent. We’re meeting outside PICA before the strike from 10:15am and we’ll walk over en masse.

Groups are putting out public statements declaring their own climate emergency and they’re asking their respective unions, councils and associations to go on strike. I know people are going to be using auto-responders so that their emails bounce back with a message about the strike. In Sydney there’s a Sound Strike movement for musicians — I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to look/sound like.

A number of arts organisations and groups are hosting placard and banner making workshops and this is a great way to broaden our alliances.

There’s no limit to what can be done. The main thing I suppose is to participate as collectively as possible. We have no power as individuals but this will be the biggest global movement in human history…

NL: What’s next, after the Global Climate Strike?
SF: After the strike, the next big challenge will inevitably be to figure out a way to deal with our reliance on fossil fuel sponsorship as a sector. But as I said before, we can’t do this alone. The call of the Global Climate Strike for a just transition to renewable jobs for workers and communities involved in non-renewable industries is so important. Once we’re done with the strike, I expect that our group will try to find a way to facilitate grass roots discussion about this. Hopefully, we’ll be beginning to transition alongside other industries.

For more information about Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action (WA), head to

Sign the Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action WA’s climate emergency declaration at

Pictured top is Makaela Rowe-Fox at the School Strike for Climate (Boorloo/Perth): 15 March 2019. Photo: KIKET [DOT] NET PHOTOGRAPHY.

Sam Fox
Sam Fox is a director, writer, choreographer and producer working across contemporary performance, literary fiction and community based collaborations.

Sam is currently working as: a creative Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Australia where he is writing a novel that explores unorthodox unions and acts of auto-ideology; artistic director of DADAA’s “Experience Collider” project bringing young people with high support needs together with their peers in a performance project premiering at the State Theatre Centre in October 2019; and as an independent producer with robotic sculpture artists ololo, and with choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle.

As director of interdisciplinary company Hydra Poesis, his performance and media works have been presented in a wide range of national and international contexts. Sam is an alumnus of the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship program, a former artistic director of STEPS Youth Dance Company, a former associate producer of ARTRAGE, and has served as a panellist with the Department of Culture and the Arts, the Australia Council for the Arts, Committee for Perth, and as a board member of Contact Inc (Qld) and Hold Your Horses (WA).

Makaela Rowe-Fox
Makaela is sixteen years old and is one of the organisers for the school strike for climate movement in Perth. She decided to join the movement because she believes we need to take action on the climate crisis and can’t leave it to governments and corporations. As an organiser she has been involved in national calls, outreach to groups, unions and schools, managing social media, and has spoken/chanted/occupied at the major March 15 and May 3 strikes earlier this year. Makaela is also a performer with Co3 dance and Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company.

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Calendar, Food and Drink, Music, Opera, Performing arts, September 19

Macbeth’s Medieval Banquet at Brookfield Place

23 & 24 September @ Brookfield Place ·
Presented by Brookfield Properties and West Australian Opera ·

Brookfield Properties and the West Australian Opera will be teaming up once again to curate another dynamic and unique dining experience – ‘Macbeth’s Medieval Banquet at Brookfield Place’.

Taking creative inspiration from Shakespeare’s gripping classic, and the West Australian Opera’s upcoming season of Macbeth, those passionate about food, music, wine, art and entertainment are invited to enjoy a progressive culinary experience through the award winning-venues of Brookfield Place.

More info

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Calendar, Jazz, Music, November 19, Performing arts

Music: Perth International Jazz Festival 2019

8-10 November @ Various Venues in Perth & Northbridge ·
Presented by Perth International Jazz Festival ·

Get jazzy with the coolest concerts from some of the world’s hottest musical talent at the Perth International Jazz Festival (PIJF) happening for one weekend only from 8 to 10 November.

Featuring free and ticketed concerts, intimate artist talks and workshops, experience new delights and reacquaint yourself with old favourites spanning big band, solo performers, instrumentalists, vocalists, contemporary and avant-garde.

The State Theatre Centre will be the Festival hub incorporating the Courtyard and Heath Ledger Theatre in ways you’ve haven’t experienced before – and all in walking distance to venues The Bird, The Ellington Jazz Club and Downstairs at the Maj, which will also be utilised across the three days.

The free-to-attend parts of the program are also bigger than ever – get set for jazzy sounds spilling out from the Perth Cultural Centre’s Wetlands Stage, The Rechabite and Birdwood Square.

More info:

Pictured: Perth Jazz Festival credit: Corey James

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Music theatre delight

Robert Hofmann and Penny Shaw, ‘Au Naturel!’ ⋅
13 September 2019, Kidogo, Fremantle ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

Perth connoisseurs of sophisticated light entertainment know they are in good hands with baritone Robert Hofmann (“fresh from New York”) and soprano Penny Shaw. The audience was treated to a range of duets and solos from musical theatre as the artists shed their operatic selves (with a couple of exceptions) in favour of a relaxed cabaret show at the popular Fremantle venue Kidogo.

The evening kicked off with the duet from Bernstein’s Candide (which some might argue to be operatic), which illustrates the differences in expectations of the newly betrothed eponymous hero and Cunegonde. The theme of odd/unlikely/unsuitable couples recurred throughout. More irony followed, with Hofmann’s warm and self-deprecating presentation of ‘Wonderful’ from Wicked then Shaw’s appropriately coy ‘I enjoy being a girl’ from Rogers and Hammerstein’s now little remembered (and possibly too non-PC these days?) Flower Drum Song. This opening bracket showed both singers in full voice (were mikes really needed?), Hofmann smoothly resonant and Shaw brightly scintillating. The singers, supported by accompanist Tommaso Pollio, blended well together, both fully engaged in the dramatic moment of each number.

Hofmann and Shaw with Pollio at the piano. Photo Mark Liao

Some less familiar fare varied the emotional trajectory, culminating in Sondheim’s ‘Broadway Baby’ (from Follies) delivered with great razzamatazz by Shaw. Then a treat: Shaw’s celebrated impressions of all the women characters in Downton Abbey, delivered in the context of a prequel to the greatly loved (and timely, given the current release of the movie) TV series. It was bracketed by the Frank Loesser song ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ and the title theme from New York, New York.

After an interval, Shaw stepped back from the mike to deliver a rafter ringing aria ‘Tacea la notte’ from Verdi’s Il Trovatore, lightening the mood afterwards with an anecdote about the super diva Montserrat Caballé. The charming Mozart duet ‘Bei Männern’ (The Magic Flute) sung in English was an excellent bridge back to music theatre. I was delighted with songs from one of my favourite musicals (and especially the Ken Russell movie version) The Boy Friend by Englishman Sandy Wilson, firstly the duet ‘You’re never too old’ (who could forget Max Adrian in soiled spats?), and Shaw’s adaptation of ‘It’s nicer in Nice’ in celebration of Fremantle.  Hofmann strutted his stuff in ‘Everything old is new again’ (by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager) and the show concluded with the duet from Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. The audience could certainly have done with more, but were more than happy with what they had received, a very satisfying good night out.

Pictured top: Penny Shaw sings with Robert Hofmann. Photo Mark Liao.

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Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019) (2). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Sparkling duo leads the way

Review: West Australian Ballet, Giselle ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 14 September ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

When it comes to ballet, Giselle is my guilty pleasure.

First performed in 1841, the ballet’s plot is not one you’ll find in “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”. In a pre-industrial German village, peasant girl Giselle has fallen for Albrecht. He’s actually a duke, but in order to win Giselle, he has disguised himself as a villager. Oh yeah, and he’s also engaged to someone else. When Giselle discovers that she has been two-timed by her so-called fiancé, she “loses her reason” and dies of a broken heart.

And so to Act II, in which Giselle has become one of the Wilis, the ghosts of women who have been betrayed by their lovers. When the vengeful Wilis encounter Albrecht they try to dance him to death – because powerful women must, of course, be evil. But Giselle’s love protects Albrecht until dawn, when the Wilis must return to wherever it is they go during daylight hours.

Of course, this story is risible when read from a feminist perspective but I confess I agree with West Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director Aurélien Scannella when he describes the ballet as “one of the most beautiful Romantic ballets of all time.” The contrast between the sweet innocence of Act I and the chilling spectre that is Act II, with the famous “mad scene” at its temporal and emotional centre, never fails to entice me.

Following in the footsteps of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (to whom the 1841 choreography is attributed), WAB’s 2019 season does not disappoint.

Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019) (3). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
A sparkling chemistry: Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

On Saturday night, Alexa Tuzil, as Giselle, and Juan Carlos Osma, as Albrecht, won the audience over from the outset. With her large eyes and beguiling expression, Tuzil’s Giselle seems heart-breakingly young and innocent in Act I. Osma’s Albrecht approaches Giselle with the awkward enthusiasm of adolescence. His interpretation humanises Albrecht’s deception – he’s not cruel, just young, impulsive… and making a huge mistake. The pair have a sparkling chemistry and technically they’re lovely to watch, whetting our appetite for what’s to come.

Concluding Act I, Giselle’s “mad scene” is renowned as a test of the mettle of any dancer playing the lead role, and Tuzil passes it with aplomb as she oscillates between teary recollection and wild-eyed disbelief.

Keigo Muto and Mayume Noguromi dancing the Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle (2019). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Keigo Muto and Mayume Noguromi dancing the Peasant Pas de Deux. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

Also noteworthy in this act were Candice Adea and Julio Blanes, whose deftly performed Peasant Pas de Deux drew appreciative murmurs in the dress circle on Saturday, in spite of almost being upstaged by a couple of delightful dogs. As the love-lorn Hilarion, Christian Luck kept us wavering between pity and scorn. And the corps de ballet performed with exuberance, the womens’ crisp entrechat series and the men’s exciting tours en lair two highlights.

Though this production is not new to Perth – it was first performed in 2014 – I was struck anew by the almost subterranean gloom of the forest as the curtain rose on Act II. Lit by Jon Buswell, Peter Cazalet’s forest is framed by ragged leaves, its floor awash with mist; otherworldly and gorgeously dark.

Glenda Garcia Gomez as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle (2019) (3). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Glenda Garcia Gomez dances Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis with steely technique. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.
Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
An assured partner: Juan Carlos Osma lifting Alexa Tuzil. Photo by Sergey Pevnev.

Here we encounter the Wilis. Again, the dancers of the corps are to be commended; wild yet strangely formal, they’re a maelstrom of ghostly white. As Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, Glenda Garcia Gomez didn’t quite reach the ice-queen heights of some renditions I’ve seen, but she was appropriately stern with steely technique to match. Lead wilis Mayume Noguromi and Dayana Hardy Acuña followed suit, topped with port de bras so airy it teetered on insouciance.

But the act belonged to Tuzil and Osma. Her sublime developpes, promenades and penches were deftly supported by him, at times with just one hand. Osma may play Albrecht as a youngster but he is a mature and assured partner. Meanwhile Tuzil, still a member of the corps de ballet, gave a performance that belied her youth, emotionally charged and technically assured. Both individually and as a pair, the two are outstanding in their roles.

The season is expertly accompanied by West Australian Symphony Orchestra who capture the piquancy and poignancy of Adolphe Adam’s score under the baton of Jessica Gethin. Though probably unintentional, the introduction of the charismatic Gethin – a passionate advocate for addressing the gender imbalance amongst classical music leaders – as a WAB collaborator offset my feminist concerns somewhat.

Choreographers Aurelien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle are to be congratulated on this production. Whether you’re a Giselle aficionado or a newbie to this ballet, WAB’s latest offering is well worth the ticket price.

Giselle runs until September 28.

Pictured top: Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht, in Act II. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

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Luke Carrol, Tony Briggs, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra.BITNW_STC_2018Brisbane_creditPrudenceUpton_049.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Building bridges with laughter

Review: Black Swan presents Sydney Theatre Company, Black is the New White ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 14 September ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·

Before the start of the opening night performance of Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White, directed by Paige Rattray, actors Tony Briggs and Kylie Bracknell (Kaarlijilba Kaardn) paid a moving tribute to Ningali Lawford-Wolf, a Wangkatjunka woman of the far-north Kimberley and all-round great actor and person.

She passed away in Edinburgh while touring with The Secret River for Sydney Theatre Company – a terrific play she helped develop from Kate Grenville’s powerful novel.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf touched many lives, not least the many thousands who saw her perform but with whom she never met, this reviewer being one of them.

How is this relevant to Lui’s fast, furious and funny discourse on race, class, politics, love and the perils of Christmas?

In the simple injunction of Briggs – to feel free to laugh often and loudly, just like Ningali, and the opening night audience took him at his word.

There is a lot of playful fun watching as young successful lawyer Charlotte Gibson (Miranda Tapsell) tries to clear a path through her family’s (mostly her father, Roy’s) expectations that she become a crusading Aboriginal leader – playing a strong second fiddle to him, of course, and his vision of himself as the Australian Martin Luther King.

Miranda Tapsell as Charlotte and Tom Stokes as Francis. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.
Miranda Tapsell as Charlotte and Tom Stokes as Francis. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

The way is especially fraught because the love of her life, Francis (Tom Stokes), is an unemployed experimental musician, who happens to be white, and not just musician white, but the son of Roy’s sworn political enemy, the arch conservative Dennison Smith (Geoff Morrell). Briggs is masterful in the role.

Chuck in the tensions between and within each set of parents – special mention of Melodie Reynolds-Diarra as Charlotte’s mum, Joan, and Vanessa Downing as Fran’s mother, Marie, who together managed to add such a classy and sassy layer of sharp-witted feminism into the already heady brew – and the audience is working double time to keep pace.

Oh, and did I mention Charlotte’s sister, Rose? Bracknell plays this glorious character – the fashionista WAG of the first Aboriginal captain of the Wallabies, the god-fearing, sweet-natured Sonny (Anthony Taufa).

Rose has a head for business and a nose for the good life but she also has deeply held views about keeping the family black and making a lot of black babies to reclaim Australia. The twist there is she doesn’t want to stop taking the Pill.

Like the ancient classics, Lui adds a touch of the Greek Chorus with narrator Luke Carroll watching over proceedings, offering a missing lighter for the cheeky spliff here and there, and some context to help the audience to keep pace… and busting some pretty neat dance moves.

And like all great comedies there is a solid trail of ideologies on display, ripe for challenging ill-begat stereotypes and cultural tropes.

But perhaps more importantly, certainly felt from this angle, Lui also wants her audience to be free to engage with the painful and complex aftermath of the Stolen Generation, the deeps cracks caused by past and present colonialism and social and political disenfranchisement of not only Aboriginal people but any one who plays differently in the playground of current Australia.

It is a powerful and sturdy bridge she builds.

Black is the New White plays the State Theatre Centre of WA until September 22.

Pictured top: Luke Carrol, Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra. Photo: Prudence Upton.

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Calendar, Musical theatre, November 19, October 19, Performing arts, September 19

Musical Theatre: Book of Mormon

3 Sep – 17 Nov @ Crown Theatre, Perth ·
Presented by Important Musicals & John Frost ·

The Book of Mormon, Broadway’s smash hit musical written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez commenced their Perth season of performances at the Crown Theatre, Perth on 3 September 2019 and will run until 17 November.

Since making its world premiere in March 2011 at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it won nine TonyR Awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon has been performed on three continents and won over thirty international awards. The musical has smashed long-standing box office records in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and cities across the U.S.

The Book of Mormon is produced in Australia by Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and John Frost.

Contains explicit language.

More info:

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Music, Musical theatre, News, Reviews

Spectacular musical but dated stereotypes

Review: Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and John Frost, The Book of Mormon ⋅
Crown Theatre, September 5 ⋅
Review by Erin Hutchinson ⋅

The love that Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone have for traditional musical theatre shines through in The Book of Mormon, with its big numbers and even bigger characters, and the audience lapped it up.

As you’d expect they would – after all, Perth fans of Parker and Stone, the creators of the phenomenal South Park and Lopez, the co-writer of Avenue Q, have been sitting on their hands waiting for The Book of Mormon to arrive here since it busted Broadway apart in 2011.

The story follows two young missionaries to Uganda, ready to spread the word of God as revealed by their ‘All-American’ prophet, Joseph Smith. The clean-cut high achiever Elder Price (Blake Bowden), is determined to achieve ‘awesomeness’, while his sidekick Elder Cunningham (Nyk Bielak), supports him along the way. Hardly surprisingly, their new home doesn’t meet their expectations, and the underdog Cunningham copes better with its pitfalls than his high-falutin’ superior.

The show’s disarming trick – hardly what you might expect from the resumé of its creators – is that it’s essentially a sweet story that romanticises finding your own truth in religion.

Perhaps that’s what makes some of the satire feel a little dated.

That’s not to say this isn’t a spectacular production. It sweeps you up with its glorious opening imagery, the catchy, expertly sung show tunes and the continually impressive choreography by Casey Nicholaw.

A colourful cast of dancers with a man in a tie standing centre stage
Blake Bowden, Nyk Bielak and Tigist Strode lead the company through catchy show tunes in Book of Mormon. Photo by Jeff Busby.

The set, by Scott Pask, is a visual feast, taking us through scene changes simply and with great impact even on the wide, narrow Crown Theatre stage that means the group missionary numbers couldn’t quite fill the space as effectively as they would a more conventional configuration.

Many of the songs are killers – with the comic chops of Parker and Stone, you wouldn’t expect any less. WAAPA graduate Joel Granger is a standout as the district leader Elder McKinley, showing his new missionaries how religion can help dismiss deep and distressing topics by thought suppression in Turn It Off. Bielak came into his own in the Act 1 finale Man Up where he ‘grew a pair’ (just like Jesus), and the pastiche dance moment in Spooky Mormon Hell Dream was cane-work heaven.

The nerdy references and guest appearances were giggleworthy, and the display of Australian and imported talent and tight ensemble work onstage was inspiring.

That said, some of the show’s really clever bits were washed aside by the stereotyped representations of the characters.

While we might take offense at its crass and crude humour (of which there is an abundance), we are a little desensitised to that by now – by South Park and its animated peers as much as anything else.

But where do we stand on broad, white brushstrokes of ‘uncultured’ African people, and is this legitimate satire or a shortcut to hollow laughs and cheap effect?

An African woman looks coyly at a man in a tie
Tigist Strode playing the stereotypical role of Nabulungi with Nyk Bielak. Photo by Jeff Busby

Okay, it’s not all Disney and The Lion King, but does it have to be an extreme depiction that felt lifted straight from Team America? And how must Tigist Strode feel playing Nabulungi, the only female lead, whose solo was beautifully sung but who essentially prostitutes herself to be saved by a white man who can’t even remember her name.

Everything dates. A generation grew up loving Parker and Stone’s South Park. Team America was hilarious and I still love Lopez’s Avenue Q, but our sense of humour and appreciation has changed and grown over the years, especially in the era of Trump, Johnson and others closer to home. It’s got to colour our point of view, even when we’re just out for an evening of fun.

That said, The Book of Mormon is a witty and wonderfully profane musical and worth you going to make up your own mind about.

And then, either way, buy the soundtrack.

The Book of Mormon continues at Crown Theatre until 17 November.

Pictured top L-R: Shauntelle Benjamin, Blake Bowden (Elder Price) and Nyk Bielak (Elder Cunningham. Photo: Jeff Busby.

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Music strings enlarged
Calendar, Music, October 19, Performing arts

Music: Tura Soup Night 3

8 October @ The Sewing Room ·
Presented by Tura New Music ·

Tura’s third servings of sound at The Sewing Room: GreyWing – [ text ]

Arguments, babble, comments, dialogue, expressions: its only talk. Words have often driven music and this concert brings together recent local and international examples of “text in music”.

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Choir dressed in red and green with audience in foreground
Calendar, December 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Art & Soul Christmas Concert

5 December @ Blue Gum Community Centre, Brentwood ·
Presented by Music Book Stories ·

Everyone is welcome to join us for our last concert in 2019, as we host an inclusive, accessible Christmas concert. We’d love you to come and share a cuppa, dance, sing, and have fun! This event is child-friendly and dementia-friendly.

Doors Open 10am, Concert Starts 10.15am.
Entry: $10 each. ($7 for advance bookings) Free for Children & accompanying Companion Card Carers. Light refreshments are included. Proudly supported by the City of Melville, Stockland Care grants & Forgotten Books.

Blue Gum Community Centre is at 33 Moolyeen Rd, Brentwood

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Pictured: Art & Soul Christmas Concert 2018 with Singers from WA Chamber Choir

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