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By Glenn Loney, March 21, 2003

Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
[01] Perth Festival
[02] Rabbit-Proof Fence & More
[03] Perth Fest Shows
[04] International Festival?
[05] Nixon & Errol Flynn
[06] Wagner in Concert
[07] Great Salt Lake Sculptures
[08] Rottnest & Fremantle
[09] Ayers Rock & Alice Springs
[10] Great Barrier Reef
[11] Nixon in Adelaide
[12] Australian Ballet & More
[13] Lion Witch & Wardrobe Premiere
[14] More Melbourne Monuments
[15] Opera in Sydney Opera House
[16] Sydney Theatre on the Wharf

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How to purchase rights to photos by Glenn Loney: For editorial and commercial uses of the Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY/ArtsArchive of international photo-images, contact THE EVERETT COLLECTION, 104 West 27th Street, NYC 10010. Phone: 212-255-8610/FAX: 212-255-8612.


To The Antipodes-
On the Track of Kangaroos & Festivals!

In case Constant Readers missed a February report on theatre in New York, there's a very good reason. Your scribe escaped the dreadful Manhattan Winter for the sunny summer skies of Australia: 110° in the shade!

A Western Festival on the Indian Ocean!

WELCOME TO THE PERTH FESTIVAL! Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2003.
Last Spring-at the Australian Consulate General on East 42nd Street-the City of Perth made its pitch for the 50th Anniversary of the Perth Festival. This news was a big surprise to me, for I have been to the Perth Festival several times, but it is not in Australia.

The best-known Perth Festival is, in fact, in Scotland. And it makes an excellent cultural pendant to the riches of the annual August Edinburgh International Festival.

Australia's Perth takes its name from its Scots sister-city, so it was only natural that it would also adopt the festival-idea. What was most surprising to me, however, was that way out in Western Australia they have been celebrating their own festival for half a century!

It has certainly been a well-kept secret. But then the Australia/New Zealand Antipodes are a very long way off from both Europe and the Americas. Many interesting things happen there of which Americans and Europeans know almost nothing.

For instance, thousands upon thousands turned out in all the major cities to protest the threat of War Against Iraq. That didn't get nearly as much coverage abroad as did the enthusiastic support of the War-Effort by Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard.

Under the brilliant stars of the Southern Cross, Perth is closer to Singapore and Hong Kong than it is even to its sister-cities of Sydney and Melbourne. So it is no surprise that plane-loads of Asian tourists descend on Perth during its hot summer months.

But it is unfortunate that more Americans don't take advantage of Perth's eclectic festival, summer weather, lovely location, and wonderful mix of Historic and Post-Modernist Architecture. As the seasons are reversed below the Equator, there is no reason in February to freeze in New York or flee to boring old Florida.

Having met theatre-colleagues from the University of Western Australia-the actual sponsor/organizer of the Perth Festival-at conferences in the United States, I decided it was high time I visited not only Perth, but also Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Alice Springs!

So I asked my old friend Ellen Zeisler-who was providing Public Relations for the Festival, as she also does for the Australian Ballet-to arrange some performances for me in Perth.

Beyond Festivals-
Also Australian Flora & Fauna!

So, at last, after 75 years, I finally got to see Australia. But not a single live Kangaroo! I did see some dead ones beside the railroad tracks, burned to a crisp in the terrifying brush-fires.

As for Rabbit-Proof Fences-not having seen the film before I left Manhattan-I had no idea that title referred to actual animal-barriers. In fact, I had no idea that such fences existed.

Well, they do. Perth and other coastal cities in Western Australia have been protected from an on-going Plague of Rabbits by over 3,000 kilometers of Rabbit-Proof Fence. This is the Longest Fence in the World!

When it was constructed in the first decade of the 20th century, it stretched from the South Coast to the North Coast of Western Australia, almost dividing the state from north to south.

Rabbits were introduced into Australia in 1854-only 24 of them-to provide sport for hunters. By 1887, they had multiplied so enormously that some 10 million of them were slaughtered in just eight months!

Over the years, dogs, foxes, goats, emus, & kangaroos have been added to the list of Western Australian "vermin," which the fences may discourage. The vermin designation is used by the Museum of Western Australia, in case dog-lovers take exception to this term.

So Peter Rabbit & Uncle Wiggley are still persona non grata in this part of the world. But I didn't see even a coney on my journey. Nor an emu.

But I did see a lot of wild camels loping across the landscape.

Originally-before railroads and highways were built across the vast expanses of the arid, barren Outback-Afghan camel-drivers brought their "Ships of the Desert" to the driest continent on earth.

When trains and trucks replaced the camels, many were turned loose. And they have kept reproducing. Some experts estimate there are now as many as 700,000 feral camels wandering the desert terrains.

Considering the size, power, and meanness of camels, a Camel-Proof Fence wouldn't work. Only the Great Wall of China could deter them.

Aside from the Camels,
How Did You Like the Shows?

Stopping along the way to Perth for Opera in Sydney and Drama in Melbourne, I didn't reach that West Coast capital until the final week of the festival. So I missed some challenging productions shown in the weeks previous.

The stunning design of the very handsome Festival Program succeeded in making some productions look more impressive than they in fact were.

As in Edinburgh, Perth styles itself an International Festival, complete with a Fringe Festival, a Jazz Festival, a Film Festival, a Chamber Music Festival, an Art Festival, and a Writers Festival. One of the highlights of the latter was the appearance of Frieda Hughes, daughter of the famously doomed Sylvia Plath and Laureate Ted Hughes.

Oddly enough, some of the shows I missed I had already seen in Edinburgh. Or in Brooklyn, at BAM. Dan Gordon, in Marie Jones' A Night in November, is a performer worth seeing again and again.

To savor Steve Reich's Three Tales, I would have had to rent a car, drive on the wrong side of unfamiliar highways at night, and try to find the performance venue in someplace called Mandurah. Much simpler to catch it at BAM.

Athol Fugard's The Island-soon also on view at BAM-was similarly not in Downtown Perth. Instead, it was staged on the suburban campus of the University.

Truth to tell-aside from the immense city-center Concert Hall and the historic His Majesty's Theatre-there aren't enough midtown venues suitable for major festival attractions.

Unfortunately, I had arrived too soon to see the Royal Shakespeare's touring production of The Hollow Crown, so I didn't even get to see the interior of the historic His Majesty's. Crown must have been around now for four decades or more. This mounting features Derek Jacobi, Ian Richardson, Donald Sinden, & Janet Suzman. That's an all-star cast worthy of Broadway!

Even with the lack of a major modern midtown theatre, it is part of Festival Director Seán Doran's programming strategy to spread the various attractions around the area. The Jazz Festival is in the port city of Fremantle. Stalker Theatre's Incognita-which I'd previously had the chance to glimpse in Sydney-was staged in Midland.

There is a good reason for this geographic spread. Perth-like the other major Australian cities-has a Historic & Post-Modernist High-Rise Core.

But its suburbs seem to go on endlessly, so it's an interesting idea to spread the cultural riches around. For the locals, at least, if not for tourists.

International-for Whom?

Forty years ago, the Holland Festival used to do this as well, but fest managers eventually discovered that international audiences preferred to stay in Amsterdam. Rather than chase off to Utrecht, Dordrecht, Delft, Haarlem, Rotterdam, Gouda, or Leyden to catch the Paul Taylor Dance Troupe.

A major reason for spreading festival attractions around Holland-or having them play in several cities-was not to attract tourists to see more of the country. It was to placate tax-payers who couldn't rush off to Amsterdam to see the shows.

But this contradicted the idea of an International Festival. International for whom? To give the locals a sampling of World Culture in Performance? Or to attract foreign tourists with great performances they could not see at home?

Over the years, this has also been a bone of contention at the Edinburgh Festival. Some very vocal locals have insisted productions should be chosen with their own preferences and prejudices in mind. Rather than to attract audiences from abroad.

The Bottom Line, of course, is not about raising the cultural level of metropolitan rate-payers. Instead, it is about filling the luxury hotels-as well as the backpacker-hostels-and the restaurants and the museums and the souvenir-shops with travelers in a Spending Mood.

That is why Perth made such a Big Pitch in Manhattan and elsewhere last Spring. The City and the Festival Direction wanted at last to attract a truly International Audience.

Well, they still have a distance to travel before this festival can be compared to Edinburgh's fest. But it has certainly long since outdistanced the Scottish Perth Festival, so that's a plus…

No Noh!

Speaking of dance ensembles like Paul Taylor's, a major Perth Festival attraction, the Mark Morris Dance Group, had to cancel. As did a Noh drama, which programming loss was reported as "No Noh."

The Noh production was to have been a gift of Japan's International Foundation for Arts & Culture. But it was a no-show.

As Robert Taylor-no relation to Paul-noted in his "InsideCover" column in the West Australian:

"This year's Festival is shaping as the most-canceled in its 50-year history. Since the program was printed, several top-billed acts have pulled out. The Jazz Festival lost its number-one attraction, pianist Chucho Valdes, and pianist-vocalist Patricia Barber, while the light opera Rita was canceled after baritone Mark Alderson damaged his throat in cycling accident, which is pretty hard to do…
PERTH'S MAJOR CONCERT VENUE--Site of Wagner's Götterdämmerung, complete with film-sequences of Western Australia.

"Still, the show must go on, what's left of it, and tonight freeloaders can enjoy the Festival highlight, Wagner's Götterdämmerung, relayed live from the Concert Hall to picnickers on the Esplanade."

Alderson was especially unfortunate, for this promising young West Australian singer was to have appeared in what would have been a charming showcase for his talents.

But-out for a spin on his mountain-bike-he collided with another cyclist, whose helmet hit his throat. With a swollen larynx, blood clots on the vocal cords, and tissue damage to his neck, he was in no condition to vocalise. And there was no cover for his role.

One critic noted the number of cancellations as something approaching a scandal, which Director Doran dismissed when we met.

In any case, Seán Doran is moving on. He's off to London to take over the direction of ENO-the embattled English National Opera.

On the brink of bankruptcy for the second time in six years, ENO is facing an accumulated deficit of some $11.5 million by 2004. Those are Australian dollars, not US$, however.

Whether Doran is the fiscal genius to save ENO remains to be seen. Several Perth critics did not lose the opportunity-summing up the acknowledged successes of the current Festival, despite cancellations-to note the $2.6 million deficit Doran incurred in his first season in Perth, in 2000.

They did agree, however, that subsequent festivals have been distinguished by wiser choices of programming and more prudent budgeting.

Nixon & Errol Flynn, Anyone?

I had already seen the Australian touring production of Nixon's Nixon in Adelaide, so that was a show I didn't regret missing in Perth. I was, however, sorry I didn't get to see Black Chicks Talking, by Leah Purcell & Sean Mee.

The World Premiere-in suburban Subiaco-of an Errol Flynn-inspired One-Woman Multi-Media show should have made up for this missed opportunity. Titled Beasty Grrrl, the production was supposed to "explode the myths built up around the Flynn legend."

The festival program described it as: "Tasmanian exotica meets Hollywood Babylon." Errol Flynn was born in Tasmania, which, though an offshore island-a very big island-makes him an even earlier American Film Import than Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe.

This would-be avant-garde astonishment opened with fuzzy black-and-white film-loop-footage of old Flynn films. Pulled out of shape by a wide lens, the loop soon became tiresome.

As I took my seat in Subiaco's shabby Art Deco Regal Theatre, my arm-rest fell onto the floor. This seemed a portent of what was to come.

Programs cost $7.50-with no complimentary copies for the press. This I could not believe, but then, in Sydney, opera-programs were priced at $15!

The pretentiousness of author-director Scott Rankin's script-in which a supposed illegitimate daughter of that Tasmanian Devil, Errol Flynn, imagines his life-was only exceeded by its witlessness.

But Paula Arundell, as Flynn's spawn, was lovely, charming, and resourceful in performance. She had to be, to compete with a computer-programmer and a musician nested in the center of the raised ring on which she largely performed.

At stage-right were three blocks of ice on an easel. A stage-hand came out from time to time to pour warm water on them to melt them.

If I had not already read an opening-night [negative] review, I would not have guessed that the ice contained tiny yacht-models, symbolizing Flynn's passion for sailing. Or for fucking out at sea…

Actually, Errol Flynn's sensational rape-trials-which occurred about the time that Charlie Chaplin also found himself in serious trouble with the Law for alleged liaisons with underage girls-would have made more interesting material for such a show.

One of Flynn's conquests, the slatternly teenager, Peggy Larue Satterlee, came from Weimar, very near my hometown of Grass Valley in the High Sierras. So I would have found a rerun of that steamy story far more interesting. Forget about Tasmania!

At the Celestial City-actually the culture-complex behind the railroad station-I heard some screen-writers and film-makers rehearse the usual complaints about the abuse of their genius during actual production. This was almost a high point of the Writers Festival.

Michael Palin's lecture was sold-out, with no seats left for critics who had flown all the way from New York City. That is a Very Long Journey…

Nearby, in the Johnnie Walker Watershed, my ears got a workout with the music of Ross Daly.

Laurie Anderson, Marianne Faithfull, and Varla Jean Merman were also programmed for the Watershed. Something for every taste, with special emphasis on the younger audiences.

Wagner in Concert-
With Film-Footage!

On my way to Perth, I learned that Adelaide has its own production of Richard Wagner's RING. So it was a bit of a letdown to discover that Perth was offering its festival audiences only a quarter of that magisterial work of Music-Theatre.

 OUTDOOR OPERA--Wagner's Götterdämmerung videoed live-on central screen-from Perth Concert Hall, plus blue supertitles & three screens of scenes of the city. Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2003.

And Perth's Götterdämmerung was only a concert-performance at that. Nonetheless, it was a concert with a video-dividend.

Film-maker Gordon Inglis had shot some hundred hours of film, recording images of Nature and Mankind in Western Australia. In the great Concert Hall, these were projected on four large screens.

Two of these were behind and above the soloists and orchestra, with a central supertitle screen between them. The remaining two screens were flanking the musicians, adding to the visual confusion, and not enhancing the musical experience.

The five busy screens constantly distracted audience-attention: You did not know where to look next.

If you were unfamiliar with the German text-not to mention the opera's narrative-line-you needed to concentrate on the flickering English words on the central screen.

Occasionally, this provoked mild laughter, as John Kinsella's new poetic version of the libretto bristled with Politically Correctness and Aussie references quite alien to Nordic Mythology and the Wagner Ethos.

Many of the filmed images from Nature were visually effective, notably those which involved changing patterns such as waves, smoke, and clouds. But no real effort had been made to link the rhythms of the images-or their qualities-to similar effects in the music or in the dramatic confrontations.

What was really needed was One Giant Cinerama Cyclorama-Screen behind the performers. Not four separate projections…

But this is a new multi-media opera-idea which could do much for future Ring productions by opera ensembles which cannot afford major production costs of actual staging. Of course, to achieve the necessary emotional and visual power, the moving images cannot be pitched at the level of Disney's Fantasia.

Some of Inglis's reversed-negative footage of Perth citizens strolling about the streets seemed bizarre and absolutely out-of-place and key.

The actual performance of orchestra and soloists was also being video-taped and projected on some of the screens from time to time. Focusing on a horn-player, for instance, could prove more arresting than looking at drifting clouds.

In fact, some of these orchestral close-ups were among the most effective I've ever seen in TV broadcasts of musicians in performance!

Although the vocal soloists-being in concert-formation-did not physically interact or overtly gesture, their facial expressions and body-language, coupled with the perceived emotion of what they were singing, approached the power of an acted performance.

Philip Kang, a spookily cold and impassive Hagen, was especially impressive. He almost overshadowed the Brünnhilde of Susan Bullock and the Siegfried of Alan Woodrow.

Both Bullock and Woodrow were vocally and emotionally excellent and should be seen and heard much more widely in those roles. But Woodrow-short, compact, and bald-needs some cosmetic and costume enhancement to embody Wagner's Heroic Aryan on stage.

When the video-camera suddenly zoomed in on one of the principals, the visual effect was so powerful that it immediately took the viewer's eye away from the actual performer.

The camera-lens loved most the Gutrune of Margaret Medlyn: it magnified her emotions and responses. Unfortunately, she was wearing a fussy gown-with annoying shaggy swag fringes-which detracted from the dramatic effect.

Someone should really talk to some misguided soprano soloists about the cut, color, and silhouette of concert gowns which will be most flattering but understated! Audiences have not paid big bucks to look at couture extravaganzas.

Casually but smartly attired in black, gray-haired Sir Donald McIntyre proved an effective Alberich. Harry Peeters was properly pompous and craven as Gunther.

Lionel Friend conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with energy and nuance.

Understandably, tickets for Götterdämmerung in the Concert Hall were in demand and not inexpensive.

But Seán Doran and his production-team conceived the generous idea of video-casting the indoor performances on Thursday and Saturday absolutely free to massed outdoor audiences on the broad lawns of Langley Park, beside Perth's wide Swan River.

The sound was excellent: it could be heard blocks away, even outside the actual Concert Hall! So were the video-images of the soloists and orchestra. But Gordon Inglis' film-footage was washed out on the outdoor screens until nightfall.

The free performances were accompanied by food-tents and other amenities, so entire families could enjoy the impressive performances. Many young people were sprawled out on the lawn, enjoying both the music and the moving-images.

Quite a success! Obviously Aussie Baz Luhrman-Bohème on Broadway-is not the only Antipodean producer intent on winning young audiences for opera in performance!

Now, it remains to be seen what Seán Doran can do restore the innovative inspirations of the English National Opera in its finest hours under the leadership of Sir Peter Jonas and Lord Harewood-and with stage-directors such as Jonathan Miller and David Pountney, the new chief of the Bregenz Festival.

Western Australia's Great Salt Lake-
With Antony Gormley's Strange Sculptures!

Of course all the arts were saluted at the Perth Festival, not only those of performance. Outstanding Aboriginal and Contemporary Artworks were on view in the Celestial City and elsewhere.

STANDING TALL IN SALT LAKE-BED--One of 100 Antony Gormley Perth Festival sculptures sited in Lake Ballard, 120 miles from the nearerst goldmine ghost-town.

But to see INSIDE AUSTRALIA, the specially-commissioned sculptures of Antony Gormley-100 abstracted black steel figures set in seven square-kilometers of a great salt lake Outback-three of us journalists had to fly out from Perth to the 19th century gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie.

From there-driving past vast modern open-pit gold-mines, which still produce millions of dollars per day-our journey to Lake Ballard took us almost 120 miles over dusty tracks.

Gormley's aesthetic pronouncements about his multi-piece artwork are almost more creative than the actual metal figures, some of which have breasts or penises shaped like bananas.

He says the work brings together two notions of the Interior: "That which lies within the human being and that which lies at the interior of the continent."

The press-release notes that many Western Australians helped out by having their bodies scanned. Gormley used the results "as the basis for making accurate concentrated forms which allow attitudes and emotions embedded in posture to be revealed."

Just think what Michaelangelo could have sculpted, had he had access to a body-scanner! Not to mention to a gaggle of Western Australians!

But Gormley's strange stick-like statues do show well against the stark white of the salt of Lake Ballard. They are installed both at the margins and in the heart of the lake.

To photograph some of them, I had to slosh through several inches of water covering a squishy, slippery bed of salt and mud. Looking back, I saw that my muddy red footprints in the salt looked almost as interesting as an artwork-pattern as did Gormley's scanned body-shells.

There was something so unreal, so other-worldly about Lake Ballard and these haunting figures that I wished we could have stayed longer.

The same may be said of the wonderful Victorian and Wild West buildings of Kalgoorlie. It looks like a movie-set, but it's the real thing, and gold is still being mined!

Paul Rogers was our genial and well-informed host. He provides tours of the gold country and also operates the best restaurant in Kalgoorlie. He drove us out to Lake Ballard and Menzies, another almost vestigial gold-town.

Clearly, if you are able to visit Australia, you'll find it well worth while to visit various historic spots beyond the bright lights of the big cities.

Short Sorties Outward from Perth-

A trip to Fremantle-the port city on the Indian Ocean-costs no more than a subway ride in Manhattan. From Perth's modern rail-center-in the shell of the old Victorian station-sleek modern coaches whisk you there in minutes. Enroute, you may notice way-stations with FREE buses to Indian Ocean beaches!

Subiaco-home of the Regal Theatre and the Errol Flynn debacle, as well as Perth's huge soccer stadium-is one of these intermediate stations.

In fact, there are three free bus-routes in Perth itself. These are the Red Cat, Blue Cat, & Yellow Cat lines which cover the most interesting areas of the city-center, intersecting at the main train & bus station.

As a port, Fremantle has obviously been a prosperous center for a long time. It boasts many handsome Victorian buildings, all well worth the trip.

QUOKKA ON ROTTNEST--17th Century Dutch sailors mistook this rodent's ancestor for a rat, giving Rottnest Island its name.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2003.
But its most striking attraction is the new Post-Modernist Maritime Museum. Viewed from the water-on a cruise to Rottnest Island-it looks like a miniature of the Sydney Opera House. But its shell-like design is intended to suggest the hull of a ship, instead of the segments of a sphere.

A huge World War II submarine, the Oven, is on permanent display across a dry-dock from the Museum. Along the harbor are giant cranes, for this is also a working port, with great merchant and cruise ships docking frequently.

A boat-trip to Rottnest Island is also a must, with an added treat of a glass-bottomed boat from Rottnest, to study coral, tropical fish, and several ancient ship-wrecks.

Rottnest-a wonderfully wild and romantic nature preserve-takes its name from the reactions of hysterical 17th century Dutch sailors. They thought the charming little Quokkas, who inhabit the undergrowths, were in fact giant rats. So they rushed away from what they thought was a Rat's Nest!

Outback at Ayers Rock &
In Town at Alice Springs-

Soon after I placed my hundred-volume INFOTOGRAPHY photo-image archive with the Everett Collection-which still represents me-the Director called me:

"Where's Ayers Rock?"

THE ROCK ONCE KNOWN AS AYERS--Now called ULURU, its traditional Aboriginal name.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2003

Puzzled, I told him it was in Australia. But that wasn't what he wanted to know. He needed a shot of it for a client, and he assumed I had been there and photographed it.

That was ten years ago, and I had never been to Australia, so there was no image. Now, however, I have scores of Ayers Rock photos: prints, slides, digitals.

Actually, this immense red outcropping is now correctly known by its ancient Aboriginal name, ULURU. And-although there is a spidery chain-banister leading to its steep slopes to its top-it is sacred, and tourists are asked not to climb it.

The two days I was there-after two years of Drought-it finally rained, so no one could safely climb Ayers.

I did walk entirely around it, however, but many of its caves and creases and stone folds were marked with signs forbidding photos, for they are also considered sacred and are even used for ancient ceremonies, including rites of passage.

Having paid extra for a special trip out to the Rock from our five-star Outback accommodation to photograph Ayers in the last minutes of sunset, I was foiled by leaden gray clouds and raindrops. The same thing happened the following morning with the special outing for Sunrise Photography.

A TOWN CALLED ALICE--Tourist haven for The Aboriginal Experience.
Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2003.
The contrast of Australia's coastal metropolises with A Town Called Alice could not be more instructive.

Unlike the bustling big-city Aborigines, rushing off to schools, office-jobs, or government ministries, here you will find a family group sitting under a weathered tree in a vast dry lake-bed, just passing the time visiting. You can also buy some very impressive and original works of Aboriginal Art.

You will also find Col. Sanders & KFC-silhouetted against a blood-red sky-along with an old windmill and the castellated turrets of the Guth Panorama.

This is a remarkable 360° painted vision of the Outback Landscape. But it's now endangered, for Guth is retiring, and developers are eyeing its site for more modern uses. Parking or a Mall, perhaps?

It is such a unique tourist attraction-very few historic Panoramas have survived; there's one of Versailles at the Met Museum-that you'd think Alice's City Fathers would be fighting to protect the Guth Panorama.

Tropical Cairns, Its Rainforest,
& The Great Barrier Reef-

"You must see the Great Barrier Reef!" I was told by my friends at Mercator Travel in Manhattan.

Initially, I'd thought flying halfway round the world to see the Perth Festival would be enough of a mid-winter adventure.

But then-as I had never been to Australia, and at my age and as an Endangered American White Male, would probably never have another opportunity-I had asked Mercator to work out an itinerary including the other Great Cities of that far-off continent.

The Time-Frame prohibited a visit to the national capital at Canberra, Brisbane in Queensland, and tropical Darwin in the Aboriginal North. But Mercator was insistent about the Barrier Reef, which is easily observed from a glass-bottomed boat off sub-tropical Cairns.

Cairns, in its suburbs, looks a bit like any Southern California community. But its downtown teems with handsome new tourist hotels. And an attractive and constantly developing waterfront/harbor-area.

Aside from many restaurants and night-spots, the major evening entertainment seems to be in the Casino. Not quite Las Vegas, but trying…

The amazing varieties of coral, the rare & colorful tropical fish, the giant clams: all were fascinating. But there was not time for a cable-car ride high above the city into the Tropical Rain Forest-which tourists at Ayers Rock had raved about to me.

Next Time!

Nixon in Adelaide-

NIXON IN ADELAIDE--Big show at Adelaide Festival Centre.
One of the biggest frustrations of trying to See Everything-whether on a commercial tour, or on one's own, as this Aussie trip was for me-is flying in over what appears to be a fascinating city, checking into a five-star hotel, checking out the most famous local wonders, and then flying out the next day.

With no real opportunity to enjoy the comforts of the fine hotels, the splendors of the historic & modern architecture, the pleasures of the local restaurants, the ethnic collections of the various museums & galleries, or even the bargains of the souvenir shops…

I arrived by train in Adelaide-the capital of South Australia-at mid-day and left even earlier the next day for Perth and its Festival. So I was only able to photograph the major monuments, buildings, and parks of this beautiful and very clean city.

Oddly enough-unlike other Aussie cities, where major overland trains depart from and arrive at central stations-The Gold Kangaroo, from Melbourne, ended in a handsome suburban station. It was rather like arriving at an airport on the metropolitan outskirts.

Local trains are still centered downtown at the Central Station, but its magnificent public spaces have been converted to yet another Casino!

It wasn't Festival Season, although Adelaide indeed has its own Festival. And a Festival Centre as well. So I thought I might spend my sole night in one of its two great modern theatres.

Unfortunately, the Festival Theater was dark, awaiting the Australian Ballet season, whose principals I'd just seen rehearsing in Melbourne. But its neighboring Dunstan Playhouse-only slightly smaller and magnificent-was offering Nixon's Nixon.

This two-handed satire on the Dark Night of the Soul of Richard Milhouse Nixon-spent with a ridiculous Henry Kissinger-I have now seen in many venues. Including the Edinburgh Festival. It started its apparently unkillable career in Seattle, like Starbucks Coffee.

In its Australian Incarnation-it was also shown at the Perth Festival and in other major cities-it has become altogether too strident. But this only seemed to make it more energized for the Aussie Audiences. Indeed, on my way out, I heard some of the spectators making comparisons of George W. Bush with Nixon…

The Festival Centre Theatres are sited along a wonderful new Post-Modernist Riverfront development. This includes a great Conference Center, the excellent Museum, a huge Hyatt Hotel, and of course a Casino.

Adelaide's two important historic theatres-the Queen's Theatre & Her Majesty's Theatre-date, respectively, from 1840 and 1913. Both have been both restored and modernized. They now provide additional live-performance venues.

As do the Odeon Theatre, Thebarton Theatre, the Arts Theatre, and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, the Town Hall, Elder Hall, and Norwood Concert Hall.

Adelaide is also home-base for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Dance Theatre, the Australian String Quartet, Leigh Warren & Dancers, Vitalstatistix, the National Women's Theatre, the State Opera, and the State Theatre Company of South Australia.

The 2003 Season of the State Theatre-led by Rosalba Clemente-looks both modern-classic and futurist-challenging: Molière's Scapin, Miller's The Crucible, Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep, Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , David Auburn's Proof, Stephen Sewall's Myth, Propaganda, and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America, Fiona Sprott's Drowning in My Ocean of You, and Flying Blind-Legs on the Wall.

Next time I'm in Adelaide I must see this ensemble in action. And also spend an evening at Night Train, famed for its three-course dinners and its Horror Show comedy zanies.

While Perth was busy congratulating itself on mounting only one of Wagner's four Ring operas-and a glorified concert-version at that-Adelaide was preparing for a complete new Ring 2004. This will be the first "truly Australian Ring and an entirely new production."

Produced by the State Opera of South Australia, three cycles will be performed: 16-22 November, 26 November-2 December, and 6-12 December 2004.

Aware of the great interest all Wagnerites have in new stagings of this Masterwork, the Opera is taking bookings even now. And assisting with travel-arrangements.

You can book by phone: +61-800-6974-6404. Or check out THE RING WEBSITE: www.saopera.sa.gov.au/thering

Australian Ballet in Melbourne.
Plus War Monuments & Live Theatre-

As an admirer of the Australian Ballet-which I have only seen on tour-I knew in advance I wouldn't be able to see them perform in their splendid theatre in the adventurously Post-Modernist Victorian Arts Centre.

Fortunately, I had been invited to tour their adjoining headquarters and rehearsal-studios, as well as the Australian Ballet School. Artistic Director David McAllister generously invited me to sit in on a rehearsal of the principals of the Ballet's new Swan Lake, being fine-tuned for Adelaide. It was most interesting to observe how they were improving on a pas de deux which had already won superlatives from critics.

THIS IS NOT DANIEL LIBESKIND'S BERLIN JEWISH MUSEUM--Looks like it, but this amazing complex-by his disciples-is in Melbourne!
As Australia's premiere ballet-company-but not its only ensemble-this excellent troupe sets a very high standard, even internationally. Centered in Melbourne, it also has a major season at the Sydney Opera House, while Sydney's Opera Australia is in Melbourne.

Of course, it shows its handsome productions in other cities as well. Adelaide hosts the re-rehearsed Graeme Murphy Swan Lake in March, followed by its American Masters, premiered in Melbourne. This is a trio of choreographies by Glen Tetley, Jerome Robbins, and George Balanchine.

Other productions this season in Melbourne include Meryl Tankard's Wild Swans-based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale, Jirí Kylián's Bella Figura, John Cranko's Romeo & Juliet, and Andre Prokovsky's The Three Musketeers.

This last production has special interest for me, as I long ago wrote a feature for Dance Magazine on Peter Farmer's brilliantly lavish designs for the ballet. I do wish I could see it again. Perhaps on a new American Tour?

The Victorian Arts Centre is anything but Victorian. The name refers to the Aussie State of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. Vic Arts is a multi-leveled complex of splendid modern theatres, restaurants, exhibition-spaces, and other amenities which makes Lincoln Center seem a bit retro.

While in Melbourne, I was able to see three excellent productions in three quite different theatres of the Vic Arts Centre. And each theatre has its own spacious and handsome foyers.

Aboriginal Dreamtime paintings are much in evidence, as well as intriguing paintings by contemporary Australian artists who are not from the Outback. In fact, the Centre is almost as much of an art-gallery as it is a theatre-complex.

MELBOURNE'S "BLUE ROOM"--Not Nicole Kidman, but Sigrid Thornton with Marcus Graham.
Photo: ©Jeff Busby/2003.
The Melbourne Theatre Company's striking staging of David Hare's The Blue Room was, I thought, superior to that shown on Broadway. Sigrid Thornton and Marcus Graham were wonderfully amusing and sexy in their Schnitzlerian Round-Dance of sexual intrigues.

On Broadway, one could barely see Nicole Kidman's backside in the dim light. In Melbourne, the stars weren't shy at all. In fact, Marcus Graham has a fine physique and endowment, which he showed the audience to great dramatic advantage. It was like watching a very sophisticated Adult Film in 3-D! Why hasn't Hollywood discovered Graham?

Most of the sex-partners in Hare's lust-carousel verge on caricature anyway, so the duo's exaggerations took the edge off what could have been closed by the Vice Squad in the United States. Outside New York City, that is…

But I'm sure there will be no problems when the show travels to His Majesty's in Perth. They seem starved for excitement there. The Adult Bookshops have only the shabbiest of videos on offer.

VICTORIAN "CLOUD NINE" AT VICTORIAN ARTS CENTRE--Caryl Churchill's colonial-imperialist satire revived by Melbourne Theatre Company.
Photo: ©Jeff Busby/2003
The MTC also was playing Caryl Churchill's provocative Cloud Nine at the Vic Arts, but on a corner-stage, facing amphitheatre-seating. The wild fantasy of Churchill's vision of sexually repressed Victorian Britons in Colonial Africa-followed by the adventures of their descendants in Swinging 1970s London-was both satirically and sensitively evoked.

Kate Cherry directed an attractive and multi-talented cast, including Matthew Dyktynski, Christopher Gabardi, Gillian Jones, Luke Mullins, Clare Powell, Greg Stone, and Katherine Tonkin.

The MTC's Artistic Director, Simon Phillips, has programmed an outstanding 2003 season for the ensemble. In addition to the two productions above, he will offer Edward Albee's The Goat, Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit, Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses.

These plays most American theatre-fans will already know. But how about seeing new productions of such works as Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Justin Fleming's Coup d'Etat, David Williamson's Birthrights, Bryony Lavery's Frozen, Hannie Rayson's Inheritance, and Ron Blair's The Christian Brothers?

Australian films have won a wide public in the United States, but Australian plays haven't yet made much of a mark. Even if you ask theatre experts for an Aussie play-title, you are apt to have cited only Ray Lawler's The Summer of the 17th Doll. We need to do better on this score…

Singing C. S. Lewis in Melbourne-

MELBOURNE'S WORLD PREMIERE MUSICAL--C. S. Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" comes to life!
Broadway has yet to import London's fantastically inventive musical, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. So it surely will be even longer before Manhattan audiences can see the new musical version of C. S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Fortunately, I saw the World Premiere at the Vic Arts Centre. In the Victoria State Theatre, which is immense, with two vast balconies. The stage was almost too big for the production, which has obviously been designed to fit into smaller theatres on the Aussie Road.

Like Chitty-Chitty, this show is also a remarkable fantasy-playing to children's longing for mysterious adventures and playing Kings and Queens.

Devised by the producers of The Hobbit, the production employs an amazing range of theatrical techniques to tell its enchanting story. Its puppetry almost eclipses some of the live acting, as rod-puppets, string-puppets, and shadow-puppets-some of them on a giant-scale-are used to develop the plot.

Lewis's animals are either costumed actors or impressive constructions, manipulated by black-clad Bunraku-puppet handlers. And there are even aerialists swooping down and across the vast stage.

The fable involves some London children, escaping the Nazi Blitz for the safety of an old manor-house. The boring routine of this exile is soon overcome by the discovery of an old wardrobe in the attic. It proves a magical portal to another world of mystery and menace.

There are some striking scenic-pictures, especially a Monster Gathering at a mythic stone-table which could be right out of Goya. Spiky-winged giant horrors compete with grossly grumbling inhumanities.

But there are also some very cute beavers, who help the children to battle the monsters and the wicked White Witch-played with icy delight by Amanda Muggleton.

As it now plays, this show has strong potential. Despite the less-than-innovative-or clever-nature of some of the songs, which now seem more obligatory than dramatically necessary.

In fact, for a few of them, the show seems to grind to a halt while a character stands and sings. Director Nadia Tass may well want to rethink such staging.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is very like a London Holiday Pantomime. As the Palladium seems set for a long run with Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, this Aussie production might set its sights on the New London Theatre.

It is too big, however, for New York's New Victory Theatre, which seems otherwise a natural home for an initial Manhattan debut. Perhaps the Winter Garden, when it has been improved on the International Road?

Melbourne: City with Past, Present, & Future!

Melbourne also has saved some of its historic theatres which now serve as venues for touring productions. Among them are Her Majesty's Theatre, the Comedy Theatre, and the Regent Theatre. The Town Hall, the Malthouse, the Concert Hall, the Cricket Ground, the immense Post-Modernist Telstra Dome are also performance-venues.

Melbourne has a free tram-ring, circling the city-center, running in both directions. This takes tourists past-or very near-major venues, museums, monuments, galleries, and astonishing Post-Modernist High-Rises. The Victorian World's Fair-style Melbourne Exhibition Hall is now a World Heritage Site.

At the other end of the architectural spectrum-and just across a small plaza is the Melbourne Museum, an amazing Post-Modernist construction.

But downtown, in the heart of the city, on the great river and across from the monumental Victorian Railroad Station, is the new Federation Square. This unusual and totally astonishing complex looks like another Daniel Libeskind architecture, similar to the Berlin Jewish Museum, with its slanting, slashing windows and rooflines. In fact, it was designed by one of Libeskind's disciples.

Among its impressive offerings-including the treasures of the Victoria Museum, now undergoing major renovations-are the exhibitions, installations, and theatres of ACMI.

This acronym signifies the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. In all its forms: including Film, TV, Video, Games, & Digital Media. I could happily have spent days here, but there wasn't time. Manhattan has nothing like it. Bill Paley, eat your heart out!

A current ACMI film-series offers movie-classics centered on Sex & Death. This was a big attraction when I was in Melbourne. But there were also a number of walk-by or walk-in mini-movie-displays on video. This is a fascinating center-in a fantastic building…

I was too early in the Melbourne Season to see the astonishing Chinese Spectacular, Wild Zebra-direct from Shanghai. But, from the production-photos, it is clear that this show will surely also astonish New Yorkers.

Nor was I able to stay for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and her Special Evening in the Sidney Meyer Music Bowl. Dame Kiri's blonde hairdo makes her now look a bit like Senator Hillary Clinton-another kind of dame.

Next time I'm in Melbourne, I must make the pilgrimage to Sovereign Hill, the outdoor museum which is the setting for a night-time Sound & Light Show. The production is called Blood on the Southern Cross.

It is a reliving of the 1854 Battle of the Eureka Stockade. It's Australia's Outdoor Historical Drama, equivalent of such American summer-staples as Trail of Tears, Unto These Hills, and The Lost Colony. Covering the 25-hectare panorama of Sovereign Hill, it is a major presentation.

At Last: Professionally Produced Opera-
In the Shell-Shaped Sydney Opera House!

Ayers Rock may be Australia's most famous Natural Landmark. But the unusual shapes of the roofs of the Sydney Opera House by now are perhaps the defining Australian Image. They are certainly Sydney's Skyline Signature.

But anyone who thinks the interior of the Opera House's actual opera-theatre and concert hall must relate-even in inverted contours-to the great sweeping white-tiled exterior shells of the building will be very surprised by the actuality.

The prize-winning design of Joern Utzon-though breath-taking even today-was a problem from the beginning. No-one, the designer least of all, knew how to construct the shells. It took a lot of additional engineering and experiment to find the structural solution.

There are, as a result, no less than 350 kilometers of tension-cable in the concrete sections of the shells.

INSIDE SYDNEY'S OPERA THEATRE! Photo: ©Tracey Schramm/2003.
For the record: Construction-time was estimated at four years. It actually took fourteen years to complete. Initially costed-out at $7 million, it finally cost $102 million.

There are some 1,056,000 tiles on the roof-shells. And the combined weight of the shells is 27,230 tons. The highest roof-shell rises 67 meters above sea-level in the Sydney Harbor.

The Grand Organ of the Concert Hall has 10,500 pipes. 15,500 light-bulbs are changed in the complex annually. And so on and on…

Even with the problem solved, the interior concavities of the outer shells did not conform to the shape & space requirements of auditoria and stages. The larger of the two major spaces-which was to have been the actual opera-house-was pre-empted by the Sydney Symphony, which at that time had the prestige and the subscribers. And, hence, the Clout.

The opera-theatre is due for a complete reworking. Unfortunately, there is no way that the space can be made larger, although opera audiences are increasing, and tourists of course do not want to miss a production in this famous house.

The Opera and the Concert Hall are not the only performance-venues in the complex. There are also the Drama Theatre, the Studio Theatre, and the Playhouse. To these may be added the immense Forecourt and the grand tier of steps leading down to a great plaza between the harbor and the promontory on which Government House stands.

In fact, the corner of that stony hill was used as a venue for Incognita, a Western Australian concoction, by Stalker Theatre, later shown at the Perth Festival.

Well over 2,000 events or productions are offered in the complex each season. It is open 263 days of the year, so there is almost always something to see for both locals and tourists.

Even those traverlers who insist they hate opera can take opera-tours and enjoy an opera lunch or supper in one of the restaurants or cafes. With no damage to their self-esteem and determination not to patronise Elitist Entertainments…

My good fortune was to arrive in the closing days of the annual January Sydney Festival-to which I hope to return in 2004. Thus, I was able to see three handsomely mounted Opera Australia productions in the opera-theatre.

Their Don Giovanni is the first staging of this Mozart Masterpiece in which the Don literally "brought down the house." As the Statue of the Commendatore approached, behind a great upstage window, the two massive columns framing it suddenly pitched forward onto the stage

As the Don, Teddy Tahu Rhodes is also probably the first to really look and act the role of the sexy seducer, rather than a tired roué. When he leapt from Doña Anna's window, he was scantily attired in a black bikini, tall black boots, black Matrix coat, and very little else.

Not only does he look like sexual attraction incarnate, he's also an exciting actor and a dynamic singer. This Don Giovanni ought soon to enjoy a worldwide career.

The same should be in store for his Leporello, New Zealand's Jonathan Lemalu. Dame Kiri will soon not be the only native New Zealander to make an international career. As with Rhodes, he is not only a splendid singer, but also an outstanding actor.

Also admirable were the Anna of Rosamund Illing, the Elvira of Anke Höppner, the Zerlina of Ali McGregor, as well as Donald Shanks, Jaewoo Kim, and Richard Alexander, as the Commendatore, Don Ottavio, and Masetto.

The admirable Simone Young conducted the Australian Opera & Ballet Orchestra.

This production-originally staged by Sweden's Göran Järvefelt-is distinguished by designer Carl Friedrich Oberle's evocation of Stockholm's 18th century Drottningholm Court Theatre as its frame.

Just as impressive-but in a different vein and style-was Opera Australia's revival of Lucia di Lamermoor. For John Copley's staging, designer Henry Bardon has provided a series of haunting Gothic arches and pillars which can be moved about to suggest the required locales.

Although South Korean soprano Sumi Jo is no Joan Sutherland, her lighter voice is of such a purity, and her diction of such clarity, that she seems even more fragile and pathetic as the badly abused Lucia.

Lucia's Edgardo was passionately sung by Jorge Lopez-Yanez. Jeffrey Black was her viciously bullying brother, Enrico. Vladimir Kamirsky conducted.

After the performance, Sumi Jo was in the foyer to sign copies of her CD recordings! This might well be a promotional idea for the Met and the City Opera, now that Muslim Terrorism prevents fans from coming backstage. It also might help stimulate flagging sales of opera recordings…

There was a disappointing sequel to this professional generosity, however. Just before she was to sing her final Lucia in Sydney, Sumi Jo checked out of her hotel. Without notifying Opera Australia that she would not be on hand for the final performance.

OA's CEO, Adrian Collette, told the press he was shocked she had not notified him, but said he could understand a cancellation owing to illness. Even her manager was not alerted.

Fortunately for those who had paid a $20 premium to hear Jo on the evening after Valentine's Day, she was replaced by Joanna Cole, a young Australian soprano who enjoyed a big success in the role!

The third Opera Australia offering was the production premiere of a new Aussie version of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. Obviously a lot of money had been spent on this staging, directed by Ignatius Jones and designed by Mark Thompson.

The results might have been more effective had the budget been smaller. Much smaller. Thompson's fantastic costumes would be seen to better advantage in an art-gallery, each in an individual case.

They were indeed imaginative in the extreme. Each was an innovative show-in-itself.

But the problem on stage-with even the extras sporting outfits worthy of the most ingenious Mardi Gras costumières-was that the principals and the plot got somewhat lost in the Visual Carnival. There was simply too much to look at during the crowd-scenes.

This staging aspired to be even more sexy and suggestive than the Don Giovanni. But what it suggested was more like Adult Entertainment or Suburban Wife-Swapping.

Some scenic-references to Sydney Landmarks were amusing-with the historic Town Hall dividing to disclose a giant statue of Public Opinion.

Unfortunately, some of the visual and textual jokes were so local-even sophomoric-that this production would probably baffle an international audience. It will tour Australia, but do not look for it this summer at the Met.

The cast was able and attractive. Amelia Farrugia was an interesting Eurydice, and Sally McHugh's Venus was sexy indeed.

Conductor Emmanuel Plasson entered entirely into the spirit of the proceedings. But the entire production seemed to be trying too hard…

While the Orpheus program did not seem to justify the $15 price, it was almost as handsome as the visual production. Fortunately, I got a press copy.

Other operas in this winter's season: Rossini's Cinderella, Verdi's Rigoletto, and Grabowsky & Smith's Love in the Age of Therapy.

Overseas tourists should be aware that summer in Europe and America is winter in Sydney. So there will be a very full opera program available this coming summer/winter.

Among the productions scheduled: Verdi's Otello, Bizet's The Pearlfishers, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Berg's Lulu, Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, Strauss' Salome, Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Wagner's Die Meistersinger, and Rossini's Scala di Seta/Signor Brushcino.

To keep those many thousands of pipes in the great Concert Hall Organ from gathering dust, two classic horror-films were programmed this winter/summer, complete with organ-accompaniment: Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera and F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu.

Onstage on the Wharf with the Sydney Theatre:

"THE SHAPE OF THINGS" IN SYDNEY--Neil LaBute's satire staged by the Sydney Theatre Company, with Brendan Cowell & Leeanna Walsman.
Photo: ©Tracey Schramm/2003.
Right up there in artistic excellence-alongside the Sydney Symphony and Opera Australia-is the Sydney Theatre Company. My first experience of their work was at their Wharf Theatre, in a long and disused harbor warehouse.

There are actually two theatre-spaces in this old structure, as well as a restaurant and other amenities. I opted for Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, instead of Sam Beckett's Endgame.

I admit I didn't much like LaBute's satiric indictment of a scheming woman-in her systematic makeover of a nerd, as her MFA thesis-project-when it was shown in New York. The overly ingenious-even mechanistic-design of that production certainly had something to do with my adverse reaction.

But at least I was not bored by, nor indifferent to, LaBute's monstrous Evelyn. Unfortunately, I missed Igor Bauersma's Young Directors Project staging at last summer's Salzburg Festival. He seems a director to watch…

In the Sydney Theatre Company staging-by Jeremy Sims-Leeana Walsma made Evelyn even more manipulative and conscienceless than in New York. And the transformation of the already somewhat lumpish actor Brendan Cowell into the energized and attractive thesis-project Adam was certainly more convincing than in Manhattan.

But what also helped define the play in Sydney was Fiona Crombie's set-design, with a series of variously elevated & numbered platforms. The plot developed in stages on these mini-stages-literally, By The Numbers!

This also helped reinforce-and finally impress on me as a viewer-how very cleverly constructed LaBute's play really is. But Damien Cooper's frenetic rock-lighting-cued to some overly deafening music-detracted & distracted.

But I still do not like the play and don't care to see it again. Even with, say, Madonna as the Art Major.

On my return from the Great Barrier Reef, I was able to see the Sydney ensemble-this time in the Opera House's Drama Theatre-revive and rework Congreve's Restoration Comedy, The Way of the World.

The stunning and ingenious centerpiece of this lavish production was a gaudy baroque carousel, which revolved, counter to an outer-ring revolve. This permitted ongoing changes of scenic-props, without breaks in the action. A ring of hilarious topiary figures circled on, to replace such visions as a solid gold billiard-table.

The costumes and wigs were as outrageously stylized as the set. Echoes of Restoration fashions remained, but again with an almost Mardi Gras Carnival quality.

Fresh from her triumphs as one of Harry Potter's professors at Hogwarts, Miriam Margoyles was a total delight as the desperately lustful but impossibly aged Lady Wishfort. As Congreve phrased it: "She is an absolute antidote to desire!"

In her finest gown-with huge cloth roses over her more than ample bosom-she looked like an upholstered dumpling with a bustle.

As the dueling lovers Mirabell and Millament, Damian de Montemas and Genevieve O'Reilly were attractive, knowing, even hard-edged, among the social-climbers and intriguers of their circle.

Nonetheless-as staged and acted-it was by no means certain that the lovers would be united at the close. At intermission, some of the audience were wondering which of the various ladies he would finally end with.

Gale Edwards adapted and directed. But-in trying to make the satire more comprehensible for moderns-the play may have been pushed over into semi-farce. Certainly the acting-style was more farcical than Comedy of Manners. More Saturday Night Live than Olivier and Gielgud.

Edwards seemed to have forgotten that this quintessential Restoration Comedy is set in London, not in Pratt Falls.

The Sydney Theatre Company also tours its productions, just as it hosts the Melbourne company-Inheritance being scheduled this spring. Opening in March in its own program is Shaw's Major Barbara.

Other pending productions include David Auburn's Proof, Alan Seymour's The One Day of the Year, David Hare's The Breath of Life, Patrick Marber's Howard Katz, Andrew Bovell's Holy Day, David Williamson's The Club, and Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.

Sydney, just as her sister-cities, has managed to save some of her historic theatres. One of them, the "Palace of Dreams" State Theatre, is one of those magnificent 1920s revue & movie-palace extravaganzas. You can tour it-or see Joan Rivers onstage-but you cannot photograph it.

I was told this is because it is a National Heritage Site, or some such designation. This seemed odd to me, as I was encouraged to photograph the wonderful Victorian Town Hall, which is certainly a Heritage Site, and then some!

It not only has a handsome pipe-organed Concert Hall, worthy of the Mozarteum or the Concert-Gebouw, but also some splendid stained-glass windows evoking Aussie History.

Not to overlook sculpted reliefs honoring Australia's two great opera-stars: Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Sutherland. This latter sculpture prominently features Dame Joan's Ear!

This already overlong report would be twice as long if I outlined the other attractions of Sydney.

How about its AMP Tower, complete with two revolving restaurants in its nine-level turret? This cable-secured 1,000-foot-tall structure has the highest observation deck in the entire Southern Hemisphere!

How about climbing over the arch of the Harbor Bridge? Or taking one of many harbor-tours?

Then there are Museums, Monuments, Public Buildings, Parks-even a Monorail with an overview of the heart of it all! And, of course, SHOPPING…[Loney]

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Copyright © Glenn Loney 2003. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: jslaff@nytheatre-wire.com.

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