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Film  |  Theatre  |  Art  |  Opera  |  Music  |  Television  |  Festivals

Welcome to ABR Arts, home to some of Australia's best arts journalism. We review film, theatre, opera, music, television, art exhibitions – and more. Reviews remain open for one week before being paywalled.

Sign up to ABR Arts and receive longform arts criticism to your inbox every fortnight on Tuesdays. And if you are interested in writing for ABR Arts, tell us about your passions and your expertise.


Recent reviews

The Rooster 

Bonsai Films
20 February 2024
While it is set in the remote bushland of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, The Rooster is hardly a quiet or peaceful film. The cacophonic soundtrack opens with a chorus of crickets accompanying the title credits and a haunting first image. We soon hear recurring, ironic snippets of Verdi, Bach, Vivaldi, and Puccini on a car radio, jazz interludes from Miles Davis and Pharaoh Sanders blasting from a secluded shack, and the cathartic yells of the film’s two principals as they crow cock-like into the tree-lined void. ... (read more)


Australian Broadcasting Corporation
15 February 2024
Each episode of Nemesis, the ABC’s morbidly fascinating three-part retrospective series on the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments of 2013-22, begins with a word association game. The ensemble of parliamentarians and former ministers is asked to describe the three featured prime ministers in a single word. Tony Abbott is called, among other things, ‘strong’, ‘negative’, ‘clever’, ‘dishonest’, ‘aggressive’, and ‘disciplined’, and, in the words of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, ‘pugilistic and [someone who is] also willing to] give you a hug’. ... (read more)


Victorian Opera
09 February 2024
What fortuitous programming it was by Victorian Opera to have a new production of Candide (1956) open just as interest in the composer of its delicious score peaks in the wake of Bradley Cooper’s biopic Maestro. Just as fortuitously, the production is a triumph; an auspicious start for incoming artistic director, Stuart Maunder. It makes as strong a case as one might for the value of opera companies taking on such repertoire. ... (read more)

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 

Roadshow Entertainment
08 February 2024
There is something amiss in Force of Nature: The Dry 2, the sequel to the 2020 mystery crime thriller The Dry – and it’s not just the title. The adaptation of British-Australian author Jane Harper’s follow-up novel replaces the drought-ridden outback with the tropical rainforests of the Victorian mountain regions – dripping ferns, fruit bats overhead, mud sticking to boots. But even a change of setting is not enough to turn it into a tale worth revisiting. ... (read more)

Schubert Piano Sonatas 

Melbourne Recital Centre
07 February 2024

Given the unalloyed delight of hearing the English pianist Paul Lewis’s magnificent traversal of the late sonatas of Schubert, it is hard to believe that these pieces, now so central to the piano repertoire, were once so peripheral, so neglected, as to be considered at worst non-existent or, at best, gemütlich items of curiosity. The latter view was neatly encapsulated by the great Schubert virtuoso, Alfred Brendel. In the early 1960s, he was on a recital tour of South America when Pope John XXIII died. In Buenos Aires, Brendel was politely asked if he could change his program to rid it of the Schubert Sonata in A. The reason: ‘It could arouse frivolous associations because of Lilac Time.’ Brendel explained that the sonata was ‘a profoundly tragic piece’, and played it as planned.

... (read more)

The Magic Flute 

Opera Australia
02 February 2024
The heyday of the opera film – a film made of an opera to be shown in cinemas, and not necessarily filmed in a theatre – occurred in the final three decades of the twentieth century. Films emerged with regularity, often from well-known opera directors such as Franco Zeffirelli, Jean-Pierre Ponelle, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, and others. However, the advent of live opera HD broadcasts early in the twenty-first century, pioneered and still dominated by the New York Metropolitan Opera, in many ways put paid to this genre, and as the technology of live and recorded performances improved exponentially, a film of an opera became increasingly rare. ... (read more)

May December 

Transmission Films
29 January 2024
Public scandals are like modern-day myths that change shape and lose fidelity the more often they are repeated. They become copies of copies, grainier yet somehow grander, wholly untethered from their time and place of origin. They are also the lifeblood of much of our current entertainment landscape, in an age when lived experience counts as valuable IP, and the truth is merely content waiting to be packaged and sold. ... (read more)

The Inheritance 

23 January 2024
We can look at the literary canon as our cultural inheritance: flawed and incomplete, maybe, but also a balm and a provocation stretching across the centuries. Part of its value lies in the connections we form between great works, the layers of meaning that build up over time like sediment in rock. American playwright Matthew López engages directly with this notion in his monumental seven-hour play The Inheritance, which is divided into two parts of comparable length. ... (read more)

Anatomy of a Fall 

Madman Entertainment
22 January 2024
Since her first feature, French writer-director Justine Triet has probed the fraught boundary between fact and fiction. Age of Panic (2013) melded documentary footage of France’s presidential 2012 election with a chaotic domestic drama about visitation rights. In In Bed with Victoria (2016) and Sibyl (2019), she featured various artistic types crafting stories about themselves and others in deceitful, self-destructive ways. ... (read more)


Melbourne Theatre Company
22 January 2024
In his program notes for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Seventeen, playwright Matthew Whittet describes the play as ‘a conversation between generations. A conversation that acknowledges how hard it is to be on the brink of adulthood, but also how ridiculous and filled with utter joyful stupidity it is too.’ ... (read more)