22 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 3 Wildcards

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 3 Wildcards
22 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

Short and Sweet 2007 finished with an afternoon of Wildcards that surpassed Week Three’s Top 10.
Mr and Mrs Metcalf Enjoy the Music of Elton John
Frank Legget’s work moved perfectly from excellent character portraits to well written action and poignant conclusion. It could have been much blacker with a couple of different choices, but still worked well as a relatively straight drama.
Break Up
Too often directors make a choice that distracts from the story. Nicola Fearn’s choice to perform the script in the audience gave the performers, and the audience, a much broader scope to explore. Steve Wheat’s script about a break up sex contract would have been just as funny and original on the stage, but no where near as fun.
Sorry, but we’ve heard it before. This story is regularly told on the 6.30 current affairs shows and in grade seven essays. Yes, women have issues with their body image. Yes, it’s hard to be fat and, yes, thin people also have trouble buying clothes. Issues need stories to make good and engaging theatre. The costumes were fun, but I didn’t know what they were trying to mean. Finally Dew Chaiyanara’s work came alive and interesting in the last moments. This is where it should have started.
The Knitting Circle
Another piece based on a well explored issue. This time it’s abortion. However, Susan Pellegrino’s piece approached it with originality and Brenda Addie directed it with a theatricality that made it fascinating, beautiful and strong. The choir like presentation of the dialogue, the costumes and tight staging showed that issue based scripts can make excellent theatre.
In the Closet with Pamela Anderson
Natalie Faulkner’s piece had the most original concept of the season. It opens in the dark and stays that way, as we discover our characters are shut in a closet. Fairy lights and shadows let the characters communicate and let the audience listen.
Of Art and Artifice
Christian Price and Megan Price write witty work. But wit alone doesn’t sustain. This was about a meeting between Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Florence. Google told me she eventually became Florence Stoker. I think I understood most of the jokes (You’re such a blood sucker Bram), but so much of the humour relied upon the audience’s knowledge of these characters are and their future life story. If they were called Fred, Barney and Wilma – it wouldn’t have worked. And, I have to wonder why any author would try and pit themselves against the wit of Wilde. It’s setting up a comparison that is never going to work in your favour.
668: The Neighbour of the Beast
I love the 668 joke. So does Andy Piper. So much that the whole work is just a variation on one joke. At times it’s very funny, but why give away the joke in the title and opening of the play? Once we know the punch line, re-telling and re-telling the joke just gets tedious.
Andy Keegan’s took a confronting sexual encounter into the world of the ordinary. This is what made it so very interesting. It took us where we didn’t expect to go. To make the change and truth of the work more powerful, I would have liked to see the first half more confronting and more dangerous.
The Gravediggers
I don’t know what Angus Grant’s play was about. There was no action and two pretty standard characters who were gravediggers. There were some nicely written rants – but that’s all they were.
Wayne Tunks has written a delightfully satirical and nostalgic work that opens the snap tight Tupperware lid on its (still fresh) characters. Filled with the unexpected and the expected, Daniel Lammin’s direction sustained a perfect final play for the 2007 competition.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

19 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 3 Top 10

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 3 Top 10
19 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

I wasn’t blown away by Short and Sweet’s Week Three Top 10. There was a lot of issue writing and point making this week and content seemed more important than story. Theatre can tell us about issues so powerfully, but when it becomes preachy it so often falls flat.

Brocade Sonata
The complex staging of Machination Theatre’s piece overwhelmed the writing and the story. What was the narrator’s story? She could have been reciting the alphabet. The direction was more interested in showing off the contorting and twisting bodies of its cast than telling a story. It was meant to be erotic and seductive. It came across as naughty (not even funny) innuendo. And “He is erect. She is moist.” Dull writing or was it describing that he was standing and she was a bit sweaty under the lights, because they certainly didn’t seem interested in each other.

Bomb Disposal
Kate Toon knows how to write a short play. She deftly combined past tense description with present action, balanced the authentic characters well, gave an original plot that surprised and maintained interest and actually gave her characters problems that resulted in definitive action. Supported by engaging performances and well paced direction, this was my favourite of the night.

Uncontrollable Performance Art Moments
Nothing like a few funny costumes and wacky dance moves to get an audience laughing. Simon Brook has written a cute story about the absurdity and passion of the performance artist. As everyone was caricatures, I would have liked to see them more absurd and outrageous.

The Gentleman Had an Axe
David Astle’s ambitious script about football, fatherhood and the white settlement of Melbourne suffered with its direction. The complex structure and multi-time plot became confusing and the decision to have black playing white and white playing black sometimes seemed contrived, rather than powerful. It’s of those pieces where the structure and writing were so good that they overtook the story telling. Show more, tell less and work on gaining audience empathy for the characters.

Word Space
I liked the kerning joke. I don’t know if it did anything for the characters or the story, but it was a nice joke for anyone who deals with printed text. Elizabeth Bennett really seemed to want to write about the “No War” protest painted on the Sydney Opera House. Shame, because somewhere in the story is a very funny character and situation that didn’t get the chance to be appear. A graffiti artist who corrects the grammar of other street artists. That’s a brilliant start to a piece. The two kids on the opera house wondering if they were going to get shot and debating the value of protest was a bit dull. Please write something else about the grammar corrector.

You Me and Desiree Potato
Lovely, gentle performances sustained Lachlan Philpott’s piece. The writing was poetic and would be beautiful to read, but it didn’t work as a play. This would be a stunning short story.

Blindingly Obvious Facts
It’s great to see a Ben Ellis piece again. The writing was complex, but clear, yet it suffered, like many others tonight, by having the content dominate the story. I liked hearing the different opinions as I am interested in the content. However I needed to see the play give the audience a reason to watch these people and listen. They were directed as disjointed voices and opinions, not as people who we were interested in and wanted to listen to. The final moment with the silent Rachel was nonetheless stunning.

No it wasn’t. It was OK. It was nicely written and structured by Aaron Scully and well performed. The direction was based on one idea and a bit stilted. There wasn’t a moment when we didn’t know every single thing that was going to happen to these two people. Please do something nasty or funny or absurd or surprising to these soap worthy characters. Cute, romantic, happy ending stories are perfect dinner table conversations – this is theatre, you can do so much more.

I almost really loved Krista Dalby’s piece, until the conclusion. It deftly explored the different perspectives of the same relationship. The office romance story can so easily be boring, but this was told with a freshness that overcame any issues of predictability. We cared about these people and understood why they acted liked they did. Then their skyscraper building exploded (or perhaps a plane flew into it……) I’m guessing it was meant to be sobering and poignant. Sometimes the brilliant idea you have when you start writing becomes the thing that should get cut.

A Dish Best Served Cold
Frank Otis wrote some very, very, very angry hurt women. This play went in hard and tried to shock. It's an angry, rape revenge piece. The content was far more important than the characters who become stereotyped revenge filled anger demons. Each woman needed to be much broader to become real on that stage. Some of what they said was superb – but got lost in the anger. Maybe it would have worked as a series of monologues without the actual presence of the rapist. Then we could hear their stories, rather than waiting for them to sodomise him with the large stick.

15 December 2007

iOTA and The Beauty Queens

iOTA and The Beauty Queens
15 December 2007
The Famous Spiegeltent

What do you do when you have a full Spiegeltent full of devoted fans, a show dependant upon the sound you’ve spent weeks perfecting on the computer and the gods of technology decide to curse you? You do the show anyway – of course.
iOTA and the Beauty Queens (Sharpy & Timmy) didn’t expect to be doing a semi-acoustic show with lots of bass and drum. They did describe the sound they created and it sounded like it would have been amazing. But I didn’t really care and neither did anyone else there.
I wanted to see iOTA perform. I’m still chastising myself for missing the Melbourne season of Hedwig and now know that I will need a trip to Sydney to see him as Frank.
iOTA is a rare genuine mix of rock, punk, gender bending and pure charisma. You don’t want to take your eyes off him. Combine that with a well trained, honeyesque voice that lovingly embraces the harshness of rock without losing any tone or control. It must be scary to be called enigmatic, but IOTA lives up to his reputation.
I don’t know his original music enough to comment on the effect of the technical problem, but I was mesmerised and would have bought a CD if they’d been selling them. I’ll go and find myself one this week.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Short and Sweet 07 Week 2 Wildcards

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 2 Wildcards
15 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

Short and Sweet Week Two Wildcards exposed a lot of lovely writing, but not enough stories. And there was a general imbalance between direction and writing.

Keeping Annabelle
Rachel Welch’s script is a very satisfying dark grey. The plot twists and heads in unexpected directions and she never reveals all the information. Keeping Annabel and the reason for her kidnap a secret, ensures that the story is always about the people actually on the stage.

All The Way To The Top
There were some terrific comic performances in this offering from Pregnant Goldfish productions. It was tightly directed and a lot of fun, but there was no story. It was a great sketch though. Some work on the individual stories of the characters would take it a step further.

4 Seconds
Leon Foo’s protagonist is scared of clichés, but Foo has written a short play full of clichés. The lover’s story was told in a very interesting, original and potentially engaging fashion, but every moment of their courtship and relationship was as predictable as a Home and Away episode. Too much focus on agenda, rather than character and story.

The Anniversary
No where is safe. Two Brooklyn women have found themselves in Siberia. We assume because New York isn’t the safe place it used to be. Drew Larimore’s script combines good characters with mystery, tension and comedy. Nicely paced direction and performances.

Just Another Tuesday Night
Natalie Lopes’ script is one of the best written pieces I’ve seen this festival. It gently unfolds a complex and authentic story without ever letting any one character dominate or distract. Unfortunately the direction of this piece dominated. The choice to double cast may have been fun, but I never saw a reason for it. It didn’t add to the story. It did distract from the story. Uneven performances from the large cast added to the distraction. We were watching how it was told, not what was being told. The best direction goes unnoticed.

Sally’s Choice
Cerise de Gelder’s created authentic characters and gave them a funny, original story and a divine dilemma. This should have been a laugh ‘til it hurts farce. The ingredients were perfect. It became a bit of a girls “why doesn’t me love me” ho-hum whine. Then it got good again. A much faster pace, a couple more twists and getting rid of the relationship speeches would turn this into a total winner.

The Pursuit of Happiness
Who knew life as a suffix could be so complicated? Michael McManus loves his metaphors and his complex nouns. It all works pretty well on the stage. The direction needed to be tighter and a few bits can easily be cut, but the concept was original. Nice to see language literally playing on the stage.

…I AM…
Julianne Donavan’s performance was stunning. Without doubt the most engaging and emotionally real performance of the afternoon. Mary Ann Butler’s script would have been so much more powerful with more work on story. Give this woman something to motivate her thoughts and actions. Give her a problem that leads to this exploration of herself. I kept expecting her to reveal that she’d had sex with her son’s friend or something along those lines. The sentiment was superb and let’s see more writing for women who do have grey pubes.

Notes of State
I wonder how much of the staging and direction came from Felcity Decker’s script. This was another play where the direction was so distracting that the story became secondary. What was the point of the upstage action when the character was narrating it anyway? The drunk/sober personalities didn’t even resemble each other and there were no consequences for his actions. Give him a tragic or a funny consequence to motivate his change. I’m not sure how the standard getting a bit pissed at work drinks scenario led to his actions.

Let’s hope that the sentiment of Darinka Kralj’s script becomes more and more historical everyday. Very funny and perfect snapshot of the unAustralian Howard years, complete with sorry jokes, clever country jokes and the inevitable map of tassie reference. My pick of the afternoon.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

12 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 2 Top 10

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 2 Top 10
12 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

Short and Sweet’s Week Two Top 10 were a mixed bag. There were the expected mix of enjoyable, but tasteless jubes, overly sweet clinkers and rubber band textured snakes - but every now and then a delicious hand crafted dark chocolate appeared, filled with a bitter marzipan or creamy ganache.

The Replacement Son
The program blurb gave away the plot. Actually the title gave away the one sustaining joke. Steven Hounsome structures well and the joke was a good one, but he gave limited, almost stereotyped characters. There’s dumb Aussie sheila, dumb country farmer and angry young art student with red hair - with offstage good boy geek thrown in for balance. The characters need to be fleshed out and made real if we are to care about them and their fate. It was never clear why the parents rejected their son. And why do poor struggling artists write about poor struggling, talentless artists? Why not give Shaun an original and interesting reason to go to the big smoke.

The Critics
Another serve of bland “seen it all before” character. This time – it’s a critic. Do you really take what we say seriously? Ian Grody has actually written a bloody funny piece about actors and their egos, but hidden it behind a buffoonish critic. It plays with form and is full of in jokes. The staging needs some tightening and it would have been nice to see the direction explore the works inherent theatricality. But, of course, I’m one of that breed of semi-evil, talentless wanna bes - who “obviously don’t know one thing about who does what in the theatre.”

Lobster Tales
This was physical, fun, theatrical and took us into the expected and the totally unexpected. It’s about belief and faith and short memories and what blokes talk about when they’re alone. Michael A Strang knows his lobsters (and his blokes).

It’s hard to cut your writing. But sometimes you have to lose good stuff to give a piece strength and impact. The metaphors in Mark Andrews piece got in the way of the story – like a cat (who got out of the fridge) and a dog (with bared teeth) running in front of the television. There were some powerful and incredibly moving images in this work, but one would have had more impact than the many. The direction and ultimate performance started too intensely, giving it no where to go emotionally and I did not believe that this person was suffering from post traumatic stress. Perhaps a little bit more research would have helped.

Cable Car of Death
This is the kind of fabulous original writing that appears in this festival. Nathan Curnow had me from the opening moment. Development at Crash Test Drama has obviously tightened and perfected the humour, the drama and the characters in this piece. Who would have thought some facts about Houdini’s death would lead to a work set high above the Alps? Each character has their own problems to face and resolve, there are great one liners hidden in the dialogue and no one is predictable.

49 Stories about Brian MacKenzie
I loved this play. It was sweet, emotionally real and poignant. The actor never said a word. We watched slides and listened to a perfect soundtrack. James Henderson’s music reminded me of Hal Hartley’s first films. Alix Stirling gently directed Gregory Hardigan’s unique script to its moving climax. Nicholas Bendall’s non-performance was the most generous and moving performance of the night.

And we’re back to our list of well known characters. This time it’s angry young woman at protest and young cop rethinking his career. Tom Taylor wrote a great ending, but his characters spent too much time mouthing statements rather than telling us about themselves. The dialogue never sounded authentic and I didn’t care what happened to either of them.

On the Cards
Scott McAteer always surprises with his plots. He never lets the audience get ahead of him. What do you do if your drunk psychic has predicted the love of your life will break your heart? Do you still meet them? Good characters, original plot and a damn good laugh. The direction could be a bit tighter and the author could research tarot and divination a bit more to create greater authenticity.

The Neils
Meet Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil and Patrick. Miles Blackford’s script is bizarre, surprising and one of the night’s favourites. Shiralee Hood’s direction used movement superbly and let the work build to its inevitable violence. The performers may need to step away from their characters for a bit though. It was coming across a bit too much like a competition to see who could be the funniest Neil.

The Lobotomist
If this doesn’t win the People’s Choice award, I’ll be surprised. When theatre in decay get it right – they get it right. Robert Reid writes damn fine satirical musical theatre. The music is spot on, the content perfect (lobotomy is usually treated far too seriously) and there’s a mad doctor to balance out the straight love interests. Robert Lloyd has found the character he has was meant to play and Ben MacKenzie lets him revel in the madness. Unfortunately Madeline Asbry gets lost amongst these two. Her character may need to be strengthened to perfect the work. Just remember that “a dream can only hurt you if you let it get away.”
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

08 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 1 Wildcards

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 1 Wildcards 8 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

The first of the Short and Sweet 07 Wildcard sessions offered a diverse group of plays in terms of content and quality. The focus was on works developing from different processes; including group devised, group written, the winner of the Short and Sweet schools’ program and a selection from the Monday night Crash Test season at Dantes.

Patricia Corneulis’ play was all about being good, whether it was playing football or simply being a good fuck. The direction was uneven and stilted and the cross between narrative and action wasn’t clean or clear. I have no idea why characters were left on the stage “watching” action that didn’t relate to their story. By standing around like shag on a rock, they drew attention away from the action. Sylvie was the only character who really came to life and was interesting. I really think this would have worked better if it was a monologue by Doug. His story is great, but the telling may be better in a different form.

Sage and Maximillian
Brooke Fairly’s piece combined narrative and action very well. The complex plot was sometimes dense and difficult to follow, but the telling was poetic and Terri Brabon directed it with a gentle and beautiful theatricality. Nonetheless I was left wondering how she leant her curse was a gift.

The Empty Space
Chris Dickens directed his own work. The writing itself is poetic and beautiful, but the telling was confusing and the plot didn’t come together until the last moments. It may have benefited from the impartial eye of another director. Penelope Jade Philippiadis’ performance was one of the best of the afternoon.

The Jumping Play
Every time I see Angus Cerini on stage, he’s in underwear. This time he jumps. Even if it’s more a sketch that a play, it was still very funny, original and engaging. It played with form and performance and was of my favourites.

Sweet’n’Sour Circus presented a sweet ‘n’ cute shadow puppet story, but I was waiting for something to happen. I kept thinking that the puppet story was an introduction to the real play – but it wasn’t. The final joke when the real pirates appear ended with them bowing, not carrying on with the story. Turns out this is the opening scene of a longer work. This explains a lot. I suspect the full work will be very good. But if it isn’t a stand alone short piece, why was it in this festival?

Good characters, good performances and lots and lots SMS jokes. Sometimes the jokes got in the way of the story, but it was still engaging and fun. Having three writers helped to create very different voices for the characters, which was tightly directed to create a smooth final piece.

The Salsa Slur
This was a group devised piece created to deal with the fact that there STILL aren’t enough good roles being written for women. This process also allowed authentic and real characters to be created by the actors (I am of the school that calls male and female performers actors. We don’t have directresses, playwrightesses, designeresses and journalistesses). My mini-rant aside, this process developed an engaging and funny work. I would have really liked to see some use of the Salsa though. As it stood, it could just have easily have been set in a pilates or a pottery class.

Double Dana
Christina Costigan’s script focussed too much on the writing. We were listening to the very clever writing, rather than being immersed into the lives of the characters. Serial monogamy is a common theme. Perhaps Dana needed to come across something unexpected?

This was the winner of the Fast and Fresh program run in high schools. Melbourne Girls College deservedly won with this satirical and fun piece, which stood equally with all the other Wildcards. The imagery was sometimes obvious and the characters fell into stereotypes, but it presented a very clear voice and message about the teen view of technology and resources.

Death by 1000 cuts
In a program of this quality I don’t expect to use the word overacted. I don’t know if it was the direction or the excitement of the performance, but neither character seem authentic or believable. I didn’t believe for a minute that Josh wanted to kill himself and the change in Ang was too sudden and not consistent with her earlier character. Mika Tsio’s script is well written and well structured, but needs a bit of work on the characters and would have benefited from clearer and firmer direction.

This review appeared on AussieThearte.com.

05 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 1 Top 10

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 1 Top 10
5 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

‘Tis the season to watch many short plays. Short and Sweet 07 had 1141 script entries this year. 60 were chosen and the absolute best of this group will win a share of the $30 000 prize pool. Short and Sweet is addictive. One you’ve seen one night, you just can’t stop yourself coming back for more.

There are three weeks to the competition. Each week sees 10 of the Top 30 and 10 Wildcard performances. Scripts were entered from all over Australia and playwrights from 12 other countries also wanted to be involved in this fabulous program. The selected scripts are presented by some of Melbourne’s best independent directors and performers.

Week One’s Top 30 group willingly experimented with form and structure. Some succeeded in breaking new ground, while others could benefit from less focus on the brilliance of the writing and more on the telling of the story. Even in such a short format, a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sleeping Leeches
Liza Dezfouli explores love and dating when your nearly 40. Is it any different or do we start making choices that we would have rejected in our earlier years? There is some very beautiful, funny and emotionally honest writing in this work, but it needs something more to happen in the telling. A bit more action or a twist in the plot would help these excellent characters to tell a great story.

It’s an old story that can, and should, be told and retold. Why don’t we act when our friends are attacked and disappear? Sarah Giles directs Steven Hopley’s script with a highly effective theatricality. The characters are dressed in blueprints and pattens, but can’t see the obvious pattern appearing before them. The heightened performances support the comedy and keep us interested, even though we know what will happen.

Thrilling Hostage Melodrama at High Speeds With Pineapple
The title says it all. Reservoir Dogs with chicks. Adam Hadley’s script is a great contrast of characters and energy that is supported by good direction and good performances. It’s well paced, very funny and throws in a good mix of surprises.

The Gap
OK, I have to admit that I may really have been the most stupid person in the audience that night. I didn’t immediately realise that the people stuck in a glass round room, dressed in orange and called Nemo and Fishie were fish. I look so hard for the subtle, that I miss the bloody obvious! However, I thought it was a great piece of writing no matter what. Phoebe Harley directed her own script. At times it focused too much on the writing, but the repetition and the structure create good tension, good pace and lead to a suspenseful and perfect ending.

Hope Fades But The Duck Never Dies
Jane Miller’s script is emotionally real and engaging. She presents two very different perspectives of the same relationship and questions why we want to keep a relationship that we know is already destroyed. Her metaphors are sometimes a bit forced, but original and totally in accord with her style. This work may struggle against the funnier pieces and needs some more focussed direction, but I think it was the best written piece of the night.

Bury Your Goldfish
I knew that this one really had fish in it. Michelle Wallace has written a very original and engaging piece that compares a mother’s perspective of her teenage daughter to the perspective of the same daughter though the eyes of her goldfish. Using puppets and a delightful cardboard set, this work uses the visual as a vital part of the story telling. It should have worked better than it did. Form was distracting from story and the decision to have the mother reading from a lectern never made sense.

a ramble through the wooded glen
Neighbours meets Deliverance. Thomas Henning already knows that his piece will be remembered for a very, very long time by anyone who sees it. I’m still not 100% sure what it was about, but it was dark and absurd and combined violence with slapstick and was prepared to go places that many would dare not venture.

Michael Goes Home
Bridgette Burton has written a very clever and well structured piece. It tells its story well and reveals information gently and powerfully. It was directed in a way that focussed a bit too much on the form and structure, which lessened the impact of the characters and their story. A better balance is needed between the four characters to lift its emotional impact.

Love Story 2007
I’m afraid that too many people sniggered simply because a young man fancied an older woman. Why is this still the case? I’m pretty sure the giggles would never have surfaced if the gender of the characters was reversed. Anna Lall’s premise and plot are very good. Her dialogue needs some work and the characters need some fleshing out. As an audience we needed to see a genuine and sexual connection between these two to make us really want them to be together.

Carnal Pseudo-Skewered Pig
Jane E Thomson is one of the few writers who really let her characters change and created the action for changes and surprises. Director Yvonne Virsik keeps the action lively, funny and paces it perfectly to an excellent ending

This review appeared on AussieThearte.com.

01 December 2007

The Choir of Hard Knocks

The Choir of Hard Knocks
1 December 2007
Vodaphone Arena

The Choir of Hard Knocks recently performed to 2700 people at the Sydney Opera House. Over 5000 Melbournians lined up to see them last weekend at the less posh, but just as welcoming Vodaphone Arena. Jonathon Welch ended the evening with the hope that the night left us all “with a bucket load of hope and inspiration”. There’s no denying that seeing this choir perform is one of the most inspiring and humbling ways to spend an evening, but should the concert be reviewed on its musical merits?
It definitely should. The choir was formed in 2006 by Rec Link and consists of 50 homeless and disadvantaged men and women. There are some rough voices in the choir, but they sound amazing.

Under the very firm guidance of Welch, this choir produces a sound that is so emotionally real that an occasional flat tone is irrelevant. Welch’s arrangements allow for every voice to join in and be heard. It’s not about proving who sounds the best; it’s about making a diverse group of voices sound spectacular.

The first standing ovation and wiping away of tears came when a group of young women sang “Beautiful”. How many young women today are able to have their beauty and worth affirmed by a cheering crowd? Holly told the audience that she couldn’t believe she was standing there with her family watching. She has been in recovery for four years and told us,”I’m clean and sober today”.

If you watched the ABC television series - Hank and Allan were both 118 days sober. Simon’s going to spend Christmas with his father and brothers and Belinda was eight weeks clean. Belinda isn’t in the choir right now due to her recovery, but she came and sang “The Special Two”. She said it was the first time she had sung without anything mind altering in her system. She sang like an angel – a confident, strong angel who I hope we will be listening to for many years to come.

We also met some new members. Teenage Nettie is a pianist and recovering from a severe eating disorder and compulsions that left her hands so cracked from constant washing that she couldn’t play. She said she had to find something to work towards to begin to take control. The huge audience were thrilled that she is playing again. Gina Marie is also a new choir member. Her presence is immediately noticeable as she almost shines. 12 months ago she began to go blind, then she discovered she had a brain tumour. She sings with a joy that affirms her hope that she has many tomorrows ahead of her.

The choir were joined by a notable series of special guests including Karen Knowles, Judith Durham and the phenomenal Tim McCallum (who sang the best “Love Changes Everything” with the choir that I’ve heard). It is a joy to see these singers, but this choir doesn’t need the crutch of celebrities. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t want to hear Judith Durham sing “Georgie Girl”, because I wanted to hear more and more of The Choir of Hard Knocks.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.