ABR Arts

Hearts and Bones 

Jordan Prosser
Monday, 11 May 2020

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a slippery condition to pin down and portray. Cinema in general struggles to convey the depth and nuance of mental illness, especially when it stems from trauma. We’re often left with frenzied flashbacks, bombastic sound design, and overripe performances that skirt dangerously close to parody. A mental illness is like a haunting, which may be why genre cinema – especially the horror genre – has recently found such success exploring the topic.

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The Plot Against America 

Ben Brooker
Wednesday, 29 April 2020

With theatres, cinemas, and concert halls shuttered worldwide due to Covid-19, the so-called ‘golden age of television’ may have just entered its platinum phase. Television production, like everything else, has been forced into hibernation or hurried workarounds, but the plethora of content on the various streaming services grows apace.

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Late into Take Me to the World, the live-streamed isolation concert to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s ninetieth birthday, Nathan Lane quips that the composer has ‘been so under-appreciated all these years. I can’t believe there’s never been a tribute to this unsung musical genius.’ It’s a delicious routine, because every fan of the indisputable master of the American musical knows just how many Sondheim tributes are extant, and how unlikely it is that this will be the last. For a while it seemed as though this one might just slot in with the others, a standard – if, given the format, unorthodox – collection of musical performances showcasing Sondheim’s particular talents.

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Rayne Allinson
Friday, 24 April 2020

‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,’ wrote the seventeenth-century writer Blaise Pascal. As many of us are discovering, doing nothing alone in a room is a surprisingly difficult and demanding task. Even in these unusual times, when we are being asked – or in some cases, legally required – to stay home and do as little as possible, we are bombarded with suggestions as to how we might fill this sudden excess of time. We can stream a classical concert, watch sea otters floating in distant pools, binge-watch the latest drama series on Netflix, try out ballet fitness routines in our lounge room, or (my chosen method) try to learn the ukulele. And then what? As Pascal knew (even without the benefit of YouTube or TikTok), the easier it is to distract ourselves, the more restless we seem to end up feeling.

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Michael Halliwell
Friday, 13 March 2020

The fearsome figure of Attila the Hun (406–53 CE) has always had a bad press, yet in Verdi’s opera of 1846 he emerges as the most sympathetic and nuanced character of a group of three other rather unlikeable, two-dimensional principals, all of whom plot his final demise. During the course of the opera, Attila emerges as a somewhat naïve, trusting character, and shows great respect for his avowed enemy, the Roman general Ezio. Yet it does not end happily for Attila, ultimately done in by the three of them; almost certainly not a historically accurate depiction.

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Emerald City 

Diane Stubbings
Friday, 13 March 2020

In the last decade there has been a welcome shift in our theatre ecology, with more main-stage companies keen to revisit classic Australian plays. Where once a new work by a local writer would have its run and then, no matter how acclaimed, disappear, rarely to be seen again outside of school and amateur productions, we are now being given another chance to experience some of these seminal plays, discovering not merely where we have come from as a country and as a culture but also, importantly, how we’ve changed.

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Assembled: The Art of Robert Klippel

Patrick McCaughey
Tuesday, 10 March 2020

TarraWarra Museum of Art’s (TWMA) summer exhibition Assembled: The Art of Robert Klippel can only reinforce his reputation as Australia’s foremost modern sculptor. Yet he lacks the public reputation of his contemporary painters – John Olsen, Fred Williams, John Brack, and so on. Klippel (1920–2001) is known largely, if not exclusively, to the world of art. This exhibition may right that historic injustice. Thoughtfully curated by Kirsty Grant, it brought the three basic streams of his art – the drawings, the metal sculpture, and the monumental wood works of his final phase – into a crisp and clear narrative.

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The Sound of History: Beethoven, Napoleon and Revolution 

Peter Tregear
Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Towards the end of last year, in advance of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, a US-based musicologist caused a stir by suggesting that we should mark the occasion by following Chuck Berry’s advice and let Beethoven roll over, at least for a year. The declining social capital afforded to such ‘classical’ music across the West has not, it seems, stopped some music academics from continuing to be embarrassed by the prominence we give to this particular dead white guy. If nothing else, however, the ‘excuse’ of an anniversary gives an artistic planner an opportunity to promote canonical composers and works without controversy and indeed, as was the case for this concert at the Adelaide Festival, to explore why such music might still hold significance for us. 

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Michael Morley
Friday, 06 March 2020

It may be that some members of the audience at Romeo Castellucci’s highly individual take on, and response to, Mozart’s Requiem, experience something similar. I certainly am aware from conversation (and observation) that some audience members did indeed respond to the stage images with closed eyes. But in doing so they denied themselves the opportunity to see and respond to some of the most evocative, poetic, and, yes, musical images seen on the Festival Theatre stage since Bo Holten’s Operation Orfeo back in the 1990s.

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Cock, Cock … Who’s There?

Tali Lavi
Wednesday, 04 March 2020

In 2000, Mary Beard, the English scholar and classicist, published an autobiographical essay entitled ‘On Rape’ in the London Review of Books. It blazes, not in intensity of tone, but as writing that refuses to tame itself to one palatable or containable narrative. The essay allows for a space wherein questions are asked and there aren’t always answers, at least not ones that make us complacent. Beard professes to not being ‘particularly traumatised by what happened’ to her younger self, admitting that this might be a result of the experience itself having morphed into different iterations as she retold it to both herself and others. These tellings subsequently become ‘interpretations of what went on, which coexist  ̶  and compete  ̶  with the account’ that she writes in the opening of the piece.

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