Curtains up on 2014 theatre season

Sunday, 15. September 2019

THEATRE companies find it frustrating when the rights for a play are withdrawn after they have announced a planned season. But sometimes, as Newcastle’s Theatre on Brunker found this year, that can be all for the best.

Theatre on Brunker had scheduled a season of Patrick Barlow’s comedy-thriller The 39 Steps for March but was advised in November last year that the rights were no longer available as a professional touring production was planned.

Director Isobel Denholm substituted in the timeslot Secret Bridesmaids’ Business, a marital comedy by Melbourne writer Elizabeth Coleman, who began her theatre work as a child at Newcastle Young People’s Theatre.

The production was such a hit with audiences that Theatre on Brunker’s 2014 program will begin in March with another of Elizabeth Coleman’s plays, It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To, about a man who arranges a family get-together so that he can break the news that a doctor has told him he has just three months to live. The reactions aren’t what he expected.

The coming theatre year generally promises to be as exciting and entertaining as 2013 has been.

The National Theatre Company will get things going with the Australian premiere of the musical Dr Dolittle Jr at the Civic Playhouse from January 15 to 25. It is the story of a reticent doctor who is taught by his parrot how to talk to animals so that he can diagnose and treat their ailments. The Newcastle season, with a cast aged 10 to 18, will be followed in February by a season at Singleton that will have an Upper Hunter junior cast.

The young actors in another musical, the Hunter Region Drama School production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, at the Civic Theatre in October, will also get to show their skills at a youth theatre festival in the United States in January 2015. The musical has been accepted as an Australian entry into what has previously been a mainly United States event.

Another Disney musical, The Aristocats Kids, will be staged by Opera Hunter at Warners Bay’s Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre in the April school holidays.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will have productions by the University of Newcastle Musical Society at the university’s Griffith Duncan Theatre in March-April, marking the welcome return of the theatre, long closed for renovations, and by Young People’s Theatre in July-August.

Metropolitan Players will follow this year’s acclaimed The Phantom of the Opera with another recent Broadway hit, Hairspray, about a teenage girl seeking to become a television dancer, at the Civic in August.

Maitland Gilbert and Sullivan Musical Society celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014 and has a good mix of shows planned. Annie, about an orphan in the United States in the 1930s, opens at Wests, New Lambton, on January 25, then tours to Maitland, Cessnock and Dungog. The company’s other shows will be The Pirates of Penzance in May and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in October.

Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company, about New York married couples trying to find a bride for a bachelor friend who likes playing the field, has been on Newcastle groups’ wishlists for years, and will finally hit the stage in a Newcastle Theatre Company production in June.

Works by Newcastle writers will include: Carl Caulfield’s The Anatomy of Buzz (Stray Dogs Theatre Company, at the Civic Playhouse, in February), a comedy about an American marketing guru’s impact on a struggling Newcastle company’s managers and their families; Emma Wood’s Mr Bennet’s Bride (Newcastle Theatre Company, March), a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, showing how the Bennet sisters’ parents came together; and Vanessa Bates’s Checklist for an Armed Robber (Stooged Theatre, Civic Playhouse, October), which was partly inspired by an employee’s handling of an attempted robbery at a Junction bookshop.

The 25th anniversary of the destructive 1989 Newcastle earthquake will be marked by a staging of the acclaimed and moving Aftershocks, a work that uses the words of people who were caught up in the quake (DAPA Theatre, March-April).

Shakespeare fans will be well catered for, with productions of Macbeth (Young People’s Theatre, February), Romeo and Juliet (UpStage Youth Theatre, May), The Merchant of Venice (Stooged Theatre, Gloucester Shakespeare Festival, May, Civic Playhouse, June), and The Tempest (Maitland Repertory’s Reamus Youth Theatre, August).

Hamilton’s DAPA Theatre will offer follow-ups to three of this year’s hits, starting in February with The Amorous Ambassador, a sequel to the laugh-filled The Sensuous Senator. There will be another work by A Streetcar Named Desire author, Tennessee Williams, the tender The Glass Menagerie (May), and a further look at Oscar-nominated songs in Winners and Losers: The 50s.

The year will offer a good mix of old and new plays, with the former including Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit (Maitland Repertory, September) and the latter Rabbit Hole, a moving American drama about a family’s loss of a child (Newcastle Theatre Company, July).

Newcastle Gilbert and Sullivan Players will move into dinner theatre, with a production of the Ray Cooney farce Out of Order at St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Georgetown, in March-April, and Footlice Theatre, which made a welcome return in September with the children’s show Dragon Tails after a two-year absence, has several productions planned, including a topical revue and a kids’ production at Fort Scratchley.

Tantrum Youth Arts (the new name for Tantrum Theatre) has several interesting projects planned throughout the Hunter, including a February production at Newcastle Ocean Baths called Diving Off the Edge of the World, and the NSW premiere of a new play, The Chosen, by former Tantrum artistic director Lachlan Philpott, at Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, in September, followed by a Sydney season at the Australian Theatre for Young People.

The Herald’s 2014 Theatre Calendar on January 23 will include more details on these and other planned productions.

TWO UP: The Sensuous Senator, pictured, has a sequel coming up, The Amorous Ambassador. Picture: Simone De Peak

Learner driver caught drink-driving on Christmas Eve

Sunday, 15. September 2019

A learner driver meant to be driving with no alcohol in his system was stopped in Batemans Bay on Christmas Eve allegedly with a blood alcohol level of 0.162.

He was also allegedly driving alone.

Police said the 23-year-old Batemans Bay man was driving a sedan along Golf Links Drive about 11.30pm Tuesday when he was stopped for a roadside breath test.

He was arrested and taken to Batemans Bay Police Station where he allegedly returned a reading of 0.162. His licence was suspended and he was charged with high-range drink-driving, being an unaccompanied learner, driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle and failing to display his L-plates.

He will appear at Batemans Bay Local Court on February 3.

Operation Safe Arrival, the annual Christmas/New Year traffic enforcement campaign, was launched in NSW on Friday and will finish on Thursday, January 2.

Double demerits are being enforced during the operation and will remain in place until Wednesday, January 1, for speeding, seatbelt and helmet offences.

NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, said ‘‘driving with minimal experience and under the influence of alcohol could have easily led to a fatal crash’’.

He said the ongoing infringement notices issued for drink-driving, driving unrestrained and speeding were disappointing.

“Drivers should be especially vigilant during the festive season, given the increased road traffic statistics at this time of year,” he said.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] we had 613 speed traffic infringement notices issued around the state, almost 435 more than the same time last year. Speeding to your destination is not worth the risk of not arriving at all.

“Another disappointing result during Operation Safe Arrival so far this year is motorists failing to use seatbelts, when they are proven to prevent serious injuries and death in crashes.

“We are one fatal crash more than at the same time last year.’’

Key statistics up to day 5 of Operation Safe Arrival are:

Road toll: Four

Speeding infringements: 4554

Breath tests: 200,250

Drink-driving charges: 231

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Jebediah’s songs still connect

Sunday, 15. September 2019

IT might be close to two decades since Perth indie rockers Jebediah burst on to the scene, but their bond – and thirst for playing music – remains as strong as ever.

The four-piece group, who took out the Australian National Campus Band Competition in 1995, were among the much-hyped emergence of the Perth indie music scene in the ’90s. Over the years, the WA capital has produced the likes of The Hoodoo Gurus, The Panics, Little Birdy, The Waifs, The Sleepy Jackson, End of Fashion and Eskimo Joe.

Affectionately dubbed the Jebs by fans, the band released their debut album Slightly Odway in 1997, spawning singles such as Leaving Home, Jerks of Attention and Harpoon.

The release launched the band into notable support stints for The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Everclear, The Presidents of the United States of America, Silverchair and You Am I.

They released three more albums, 1999’s Of Someday Shambles, 2002’s self-titled effort and 2004’s Branxton Hicks before a five-year hiatus from 2006. Frontman Kevin Mitchell’s solo project, Bob Evans, took flight before the band returned to the studio for their 2011 effort Kosciuszko.

A few more years down the track, Jebediah are hoping to release more music next year, with a brief run of shows next month including at The Small Ballroom.

LIVE caught up with guitarist Chris Daymond ahead of the January 2 show. Taking a break from his day job at iconic Perth record store 78 Records, Daymond reflected on the two decades since the four-piece played their first gig at a high school formal.

‘‘Honestly, no it doesn’t feel like two decades, but when you reflect on it, you know how long it is. You can’t discount the years, it has been a long time in relative terms but it is the same beast it ever was, I think. We’ve changed a lot as a band and as people, probably more so,’’ Daymond said. ‘‘Our music is a common denominator and because we are a band which will quite willingly play songs we put out 20 years or so ago, that music in some ways makes gigs we play together a little bit timeless because it’s not rooted in now. But we have all certainly changed as people and that relationship is the bond that makes us want to get together and have a little bit of fun now and again. It seems a bit far apart these days for my liking, though.’’

It’s clear the bond between the friends is as strong as ever, despite the stretches between gigs getting longer and the ‘‘tyranny of distance’’ (singer and frontman Kevin Mitchell is based in Victoria). So much so, that Daymond is at a loss to explain why the band are back on the road next month, beyond it being another chance for the mates to hang out.

‘‘I don’t know, maybe we need to make some more friends or something,’’ he laughed. ‘‘It starts with the people. It’s hard to say, a lot of it is us wanting to spend more time together as a band.’’

Jebediah will have just a few days together before hitting the road, but with so many hits up their sleeves and a couple of decades of gigging under their belts, Daymond is confident muscle memory will kick in when they take to the stage.

‘‘It is [there], no matter how much you try to kill off those memories,’’ he laughed. ‘‘We always end up jumping around to something. I think we do try and think more about the music [than in the early days of the band]. One of the ways we’ve changed as people is we try and focus a little bit more on what we do as a headlining act that people have paid to see us. In the earlier days with the shows, because we were playing so many we were a bit selfish and would have our own fun and just get caught up in it.’’

These days the Jebs’ set list calls on songs from all their albums, with the popular singalongs making an appearance along with the more obscure Slightly Odway, and non-singles Invaders and La Di Da Da.

‘‘We’ve played a lot of [our songs] a lot and anything different that comes into the set is kind of exciting. Some work and some don’t work nearly as well as you’d imagine,’’ Daymond said. ‘‘I’ve been getting into playing a lot more vinyl lately and for the first time in years I put the Odway vinyl on and I thought it was remarkable how different it sounds. I think the one which stands on its own two feet the best production-wise is La Di Da Da and I think we’ll revisit that.’’

The guitarist is also hoping the band will have some new material to show off on the next tour, with a writing stint planned for the new year.

‘‘I’m looking forward to doing some writing during the summer. We’ll try and bunker down for a week once we get to Victoria, around Kev’s home, and just start jamming some ideas and things like that. We’ve spoken about that and everyone is keen. It’ll be a bit of summer holidays band camp.’’

Jebediah play at The Small Ballroom on January 2. Tickets are available at Oztix. See Freebies on page 41 for your chance to win a double pass.


Mia Wasikowska and Jesse Eisenberg spotted at Bermagui, on South Coast

Sunday, 15. September 2019

Hollywood actress Mia Wasikowska during a previous visit back to Canberra. Photo: Andrew SheargoldTwo of Hollywood’s hot young actors have been spotted having gelato on the South Coast.

Canberra’s Mia Wasikowska was seen on Tuesday at the Bermagui Gelati Clinic with rumoured boyfriend Jesse Eisenberg, who starred in The Social Network.

They have reportedly been seeing each other since the middle of the year and have been photographed getting affectionate in locations from Toronto to Venice.

The ‘‘quirky couple’’ also appear together in the comedy thriller The Double.

Wasikowska, 24, was obviously showing New York-born-and-raised Eisenberg, 30, the hidden delights of Canberra’s summer playground, the beautiful South Coast. She is a confirmed major talent in Hollywood, with a string of films to her name and most recently filming the starring role in Madam Bovary, in France.

And despite one keen-eyed fan posting on Facebook about seeing the couple in Bermagui, they have managed to kick back without too many people recognising them. They seem to like to dress down and do their best not to attract attention.

The Bermagui Gelati Clinic owner Alberto Cementon said that if the two stars had been in his shop, he wasn’t aware.

‘‘I was pretty busy yesterday,’’ he said.

‘‘I probably wouldn’t recognise them anyway. I’ve got little kids and haven’t been to the cinema in about nine years.’’

But if you’d like a taste of what the stars were after, we are told the Gelati Clinic will be open on Boxing Day and chocolate and mango are the two most popular flavours. Gelato is also obviously a bonding agent for Wasikowska and Eisenberg, also photographed enjoying some on the streets of Toronto in July.

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UN boosts peacekeepers for South Sudan after mass graves found

Sunday, 15. September 2019

Volatile situation … United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) personnel guard South Sudanese people displaced by recent fighting in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba. Volatile situation … United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) personnel guard South Sudanese people displaced by recent fighting in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba.

Volatile situation … United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) personnel guard South Sudanese people displaced by recent fighting in Jabel, on the outskirts of capital Juba.

Cairo: The UN Security Council approved plans on Tuesday to almost double the number of peacekeepers in South Sudan in a bid to protect civilians from violence as the discovery of a mass grave fuelled fears of ethnic bloodletting in the world’s newest state.

The 15-member council unanimously authorised a plan by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s to boost the strength of the force in South Sudan to 12,500 troops and 1323 police, as some 45,000 civilians seek protection at UN bases.

The decision follows the discovery of mass graves in a rebel-held city: one grave with 14 bodies and a site nearby with 20 bodies, said UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

International mediation efforts have so far failed to halt the clashes, which broke out in the capital Juba on December 15 and have now reached the oil fields in Benitu in Unity State, the cornerstone of the fledgling country’s economy.

The official death toll remains at 500, although observers say at least thousands if not more have died.

“Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days,” the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement on Tuesday.

“There are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba,” she said, believed to be in the areas of Jebel-Kujur and Newside.

Tensions in South Sudan’s governing party emerged in July when President Salva Kiir, who is from the majority Dinka group, sacked his deputy Riek Machar, who is from the second largest group, the Nuer.

Those tensions spilled over into fighting in the capital on December 15.

Now, Ms Pillay says, “there is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity”.

“There needs to be clear statements and clear steps from all those in positions of political and military control that human rights violations will not be tolerated and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

At least 80,000 people have been internally displaced by the crisis, with many seeking refuge in UN compounds around the country.

However the total number of those forced to flee the fighting is believed to be much, much higher, as people take shelter in churches and other locations, the UN reported.

Several hundred civilians were reportedly arrested in house-to-house searches in Juba, while hundreds of members of the South Sudan National Police Service are also believed to have been arrested in police stations around the capital, the UN says.

Last week United Nations officials said 2000 armed youths had attacked one of its bases in the town of Akobo, killing at least 11 civilians who were sheltering there and three of the peacekeepers trying to protect them.

Both President Kiir and the deposed deputy president Machar, who is now essentially leading the rebel movement against the government, have indicated a willingness to negotiate, but a government official told Reuters it would not meet Mr Machar’s demands that detained opposition leaders be released.

The United States special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, met President Kiir in the capital and was granted access to 11 senior opposition politicians who “remain detained in Juba”.

“I can report that they are secure and well taken care of. These individuals communicated to me their desire – and their readiness – to play a constructive role in ending the crisis through peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation.”

South Sudan only became a nation on July 9, 2011, after a decades-long civil war with the north left more than a million dead. It has experienced internal conflict ever since.

withReuters, AP

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