Evita, Erindale Theatre*

6 Mar

* I attended the opening night of Evita as a guest of the Canberra Philharmonic Society

There’s an overwhelming amount of events on in and around Canberra at the moment. In addition to Canberra Day, Enlighten (and the Noodle Markets) and the Balloon Spectacular, we’re spoilt with some pretty charming theatre – Mary Poppins starts next week at the Canberra Theatre, and this week has seen the launch of Tuesdays with Morrie at The Q as well as Evita at Erindale Theatre.

Unlike Tuesdays with Morrie, I know nothing about Evita. Well, almost nothing. I know it’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, that Madonna played the titular role in the movie adaptation in the mid-90s, and that it’s about the wife of a dictator. I also remember as a kid I hated the famous song for which Evita is known and would warble – in that way that screams ‘only child’ – ‘Don’t cry for me I’ve got tinea’. Classy, I know.

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Tuesdays With Morrie, The Q

5 Mar

There is no ‘point’ in loving; loving is the point.

Tuesdays with Morrie is the real-life story of sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, in the final stages of his life as he learns how to die (and what that means to live) and imparts life lessons to an old student of his, Mitch Albom.

I first read Albom’s best-selling book – which became a movie, and then a theatre production – in the Easter school holidays of Year 11. It changed me, and I don’t say that lightly. I read it twice, quickly. I then vividly remember transcribing quotes from the book to a notepad and filling up page after page with inspiration. Whenever I’m asked to name a favourite book, Tuesdays with Morrie invariably makes the list (because, honestly, who can choose just one favourite book?). So, on Wednesday night, I take this longstanding relationship with the book to Queanbeyan’s theatre, The Q, to see it recreated on stage, starring locals Graham Robertson as Morrie and Dave Evans as Mitch.

Mitch’s friendship with Morrie begins at university in the 1970s, with Mitch soaking up Morrie’s wisdom – beginning by taking his lectures, to turning up at his office, to having lunch at the cafeteria (where eating plays second fiddle to animated conversation) – usually on Tuesdays. Morrie is the sort of person who quite literally dances to his own beat. But way leads onto way: Mitch graduates, and while he emphatically promises to keep in touch with Morrie, life steps in: profoundly affected by his young uncle’s death from pancreatic cancer, Mitch abandons ambitions as a jazz pianist and throws himself into the hustling world of sports journalism, living each day to the fullest, not missing a second (or so he thinks). Mitch spreads himself thin, trying to cover as much ground in life as possible, with little thought for his old professor.

Fast forward 16 years, and late one night Mitch is flicking through TV channels and spots Morrie on Ted Koppel’s Nightline. Morrie’s dying of ALS (remember the ice bucket challenge?) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease aka motor neuron disease. He’s agreed to share with a national television audience what dying is all about, in the hopes that people can learn something from it. (Bear in mind this is a true story – you can see these very episodes on YouTube.)

Mitch hops on a plane to pay his respects to Morrie, intending to visit once – a guilty obligation. But as soon as he arrives he’s captivated again like he was 16 years ago, and agrees to drop in every Tuesday. Morrie wants to treat these visits as lessons, and asks Mitch to be a diligent student; to prepare questions for Morrie to answer. In the lessons they cover life, death and love – the latter being the only rational act – as Morrie grows weaker, and Mitch fights off the pressures from his work.

I can appreciate it sounds a bit weird to endorse a play that’s essentially about someone dying – and Robertson portrays this in equal measures of punch and sensitivity – but Morrie’s death is in fact a vehicle for the real story: how to live. Like the book, the lessons are conveyed with fierce warmth, and here Robertson really shines. Despite being wheelchair-, La-Z-Boy- and bed-bound for most of the play, there’s no mistaking the very nature of Morrie – a testament to Robertson’s skill and respect for the role.

The play itself is focused on the relationship between Morrie and Mitch, with only side references to the superficial life Mitch leads which is inconsistent with the teachings of Morrie. While there are occasional references to how much the time with Morrie changes Mitch, a fault of the adaptation is how little it draws on the key conversations, quotes and exchanges conveyed in the book which are instrumental in these changes in Mitch. Overlooking these exchanges means the emotional reaction of Mitch by Morrie’s bedside near the end loses its potency.

Evans and Robertson keep perfect pace with one another, particularly when they’re trading witty remarks. However, at times Evans shows restraint in his role as Mitch, serving more as a platform than a companion to ensure the character of Morrie receives the audience’s focus. This would be smart if Evans was paired with a weaker actor, but Robertson is never going to be outshone as Morrie. Evans evidently has the skill to really embrace Mitch – to make him bigger and more complicated – and should.

Given how immobile his co-star is, Evans does a wonderful job in filling the space, and making the stage feel like a working home. Some lighting to reflect the changing seasons, and many – many – more books would perfect the setting.

No matter the format, Tuesdays with Morrie is a remarkable story which needs to be told, and told again. This stage production does justice to the story’s warmth, spirit and heart. Bring tissues.

Date: 8pm-9.30pm, Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Where: The Q, Queanbeyan

Cost: $47 for non-subscribers (as a subscriber I paid $37)

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Buy tickets here. Read some of the beautiful quotes here.

Night Noodle Markets, Enlighten

1 Mar

AKA here is a not very good poem! The photos do the talking a little better!

 

Bloggers gather on a Friday arvo
At Canberra’s Reconciliation Place
Where our host Natasha Rudra
Will guide us ’round the space

Welcome to Night Noodle Markets!
Their first year in our town
I’m happy to say I leave the tour, convinced
It’s the jewel in Enlighten’s crown

We stopped first at Thirst
Canberra’s very own casual Thai
Who served us bright yellow chicken curry
But it’s their glass noodles which are must-try

At Daniel San are GIANT skewers
But then it’s time for boat noodles at Morks:
a family recipe served in broth or dry
(Tip: it’s more enjoyable eaten with forks!)

But then – then! – we have THE dish
Glazed Pork belly from Hoy Pinoy
I can’t begin to tell you how good this is
Take my advice: get it, enjoy

Liquid nitrogen is key at N2 Extreme gelato
Serving ice cream creations with hard chocolate tops
Syringes help you inject even more flavour
To accompany textures of crunch and pop

As the darkness grows longer
So too do the lines and the crowds –
But Canberra’s support of events like this
Is something of which we all can be proud

Come back next year,  Night Noodle Markets!

Date: Friday, 27 February 2014

Where: Reconciliation Place, Parkes

Cost: I attended as a guest of Fairfax’s Good Food Month; food is about $8-15 a serve

Want more? Check out the posts from other bloggers for their views and (excellent) tips: Her Canberra, Rachi, Shari, Liz, Kristy, Food Porn Journal, Eileen

First look at Enlighten 2015

26 Feb

There’s no mistaking it: Enlighten is one of the best events in the Canberra calendar. I love the fast moving pictures on Questacon, the reflections of our history on the National Library, and Old Parliament House is always exquisite. Here’s a little of what you can expect to see what it kicks off on Friday night (27 February):

Yes, they are on water!

Gotta get the rain out of the way…

Enlighten is on from 27 February to 8 March, and has a range of events associated with it.

Here’s a little look at what it looked like last year.

54 Benjamin, Belconnen

16 Feb

Five years ago people would have laughed if I’d said Belconnen would soon be home to some of the trendiest bars and cafes in Canberra – or that the service in these places would be among the best. But it’s happened. It’s come to Belconnen. In fact, it’s a close tie between La De Da, Chatterbox and newcomer 54 Benjamin on which has the best synergies with Cheers: everybody (at least the staff!) knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

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Little Oink night menu, Cook

13 Feb

It’s no secret that I love – LOVE – Little Oink.  (Example here.) I love the food. I love that it’s just this unassuming little cafe in Cook doing big things. I love the friendly atmosphere and that there’s a focus on comfort and a design that’s familiar and homely, but it’s not at the expense of the food quality.

Excitingly, earlier this year Little Oink got a liquor licence! Now it’s open later on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and has a new tapas menu to go with it.

We arrive on a Saturday evening before 6pm and the outside tables are already booked up. We sit in the cool inside and inspect the menu. Between 5 and 6 is 3-for-2 tapas. Beers include the Stone & Wood Pacific Ale and the Feral Hop Hog (both $8 for a bottle, served with a glass). Cocktail jugs of thick, slurpy sangria are $20.

The tapas menu is ambitious and exciting; it’s hard to choose just three (so we don’t).

Cheesy risotto balls

Baked brie with pomegranate and wine sauce

Salt & pepper baby squid with mango and lime sauce

The baked brie with pomegranate ($13) is superb and extremely good value – decent portion size, tasty and plenty of lightly toasted bread. It comes out deliciously melted but a little cool – a touch warmer and we would have been blown away. The $12 bourbon-glazed chicken wings with blue cheese sauce are exactly as they’re described – as well as juicy – but I miss a bit more of a crust on the wings. The salt and pepper squid ($14) is moreish, and the risotto balls ($10) are cheesy and buttery (and feel very, very naughty).

The atmosphere and setting as usual is relaxed but it’s still a thrill to have such unique, interesting and – most importantly good quality food and service at reasonable prices – and on a Saturday evening to boot! Little Oink has produced a hidden gem within a hidden gem – but it won’t be hidden for long!

Date: Saturday, 7 February 2015

Where: Cook Shops, Cook

Cost: $107 for numerous beers, 3-for-2 tapas, cocktail jug, and baked brie.

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Try their Facebook page. And this previous review. And this one.

Eighty/Twenty, Braddon

12 Feb

I’m late to the party with Eighty/Twenty – named so because of the (appealing) concept of being 80 per cent healthy and 20 per cent naughty. Or, as I like to interpret it: don’t deny yourself the very indulgent, but try to be good most of the time.

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