Fiona Gruber

Arbus & West (Melbourne Theatre Company) ★★★★

Fiona Gruber
Monday, 04 March 2019

'Mary Pickford may have been America’s sweetheart,’ Mae West is recorded to have said, ‘but I’m their wet dream.’ At the start of Stephen’s Sewell’s new play, Arbus & West, West, in her late seventies, wisecracks sexcily with audiences around the United States and jibes with her long-suffering dresser and personal assistant ...

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Floating in the dawn skies above the Yarra Valley on November 22, Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale had her first outing in Victoria. It allowed early risers in the vicinity a brief glimpse of the gas-filled aerial sculpture, a work of art that is rarely seen and that, due to its pendulous appendages and $350,00 price-tag ...

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Fiona Gruber reviews 'The Arsonist' by Chloe Hooper

Fiona Gruber
Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The language we use to describe fire, Chloe Hooper points out, gives it a creaturely shape: it has flanks, tongues, fingers, a tail. It licks, it devours. Fascinated by its mythic force, we talk about taming a fire as we talk about taming a beast, but when it comes to vast tracts of bush ...

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American Song (Red Stitch Actors' Theatre) ★★★★

Fiona Gruber
Monday, 09 October 2017

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s humanistic, wheeling manifesto of the American destiny underpins Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s one-man play, American Song, and the collection of poems form the credo and frame the questioning of its central character, Andy. The poems’ exploration of a world of natural ...

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Fiona Gruber reviews 'Wedding Bush Road' by David Francis

Fiona Gruber
Friday, 24 February 2017

Wedding Bush Road is a novel about contrasts and conflicts: new-age America versus an old-fashioned Australia; messy rural versus shipshape urban; high status versus low; the past versus the present.

Expat Daniel Rawson is a successful lawyer in Los Angeles. He has been tempered by seven years of ‘California dreaming’; life is good. His graceful ...

When you join the Church of Scientology, you sign a contract for a billion years. You are then audited with the help of a machine called an ‘E Meter’, which helps uncover areas of conflict and blockages in your current life and previous ones. The goal, after undergoing an intensive and expensive course of study into the theories and practice of the Church’s fo ...

Fiona Gruber reviews 'The Little Red Chairs' by Edna O’Brien

Fiona Gruber
Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Edna O'Brien, in a recent interview, recalled being stuck for a plot. It was a filmmaker's remark about Tolstoy that sparked her latest novel, The Little Red Chairs: '[Charlie McCarthy] said, "Tolstoy said there are only two great stories in the world. A Man on a Journey, or A Stranger Comes to Town." And at that moment I thought, I've got it. I'm going to ...

Arts Highlights of the Year

Robyn Archer et al.
Monday, 26 October 2015

To highlight Australian Book Review's arts coverage and to celebrate some of the year's memorable concerts, operas, films, ballets, plays, and exhibitions, we invited a group of critics and arts professionals to nominate their favourites – and to nominate one production they are looking forward to in 2016. (We indicate which works were reviewed in Arts Up ...

Fiona Gruber reviews 'Banksia Lady' by Carolyn Landon

Fiona Gruber
Wednesday, 30 September 2015

In March 2006, botanical illustrator Celia Rosser travelled to a remote station in Western Australia to witness and draw the first-ever recorded flowering of Banksia Rosserae. The spiky yellow spheres appear only after rain, which, in this arid part of the continent, can be years in the coming. The Australian plant had only been discovered four years earlier, ...

Fiona Gruber reviews 'The Self-Portrait' by James Hall

Fiona Gruber
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

We live in a world obsessed with self-images. Thanks to digital photography and the Internet, we can all star in and manipulate the drama of our lives. But, as James Hall reminds us, artists have been experimenting with self-representation for centuries. From a quartzite stela of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s court sculptor Bak standing with his wife Taheri (c.1350 < ...

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