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Antidote to hard times

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					                                                            Australian
                                                            09/03/2009
                                                            Page: 30                                                    Page 1 of 3
                                                            Section: Arts & Entertainment
                                                            Region: Australia Circulation: 137000
                                                            Type: National
                                                            Size: 402.00 sq.cms
                                                            Frequency: MTWTF




                             Antidote to hard times
                             West Australians have                              last year. Paying patrons will top 187,000
                                                                                up 16 per cent      by the time the festival's
                                                                                longer film season ends in April. "Given the
                             ignored the global threats                         difficult economic climate, we are thrilled
                                                                                with the box office result," says Donaldson.
                             of recession and embraced                            Not all is rosy: the bills have not yet come
                                                                                in, and they are likely to be higher than
                             the currency of art                                anticipated. Distant Perth suffers more than
                                                                                other festivals whenever foreign exchange
                                                                                rates rise, forcing up the cost of flying in
                                                                                foreign companies, or hauling them across
                               VICTORIA                                         the Nullarbor with attendant freight costs.
                                LAURIE                                            It could be argued that PIAF's artistic
                                                                                director Shelagh Magadza, with her festival
                                                                                colleagues in other states, is already intelli-
                                                                                gently conserving costs by sharing produc-
                                           MERICAN composer John                tions. The War of the Roses, Sydney Theatre
                                           Adams exhorts young people to        Company's marathon Shakespeare history
                              A            go out and constantly expose
                                           themselves to truly great art in
                                                                                cycle, was co-commissioned by Sydney and
                                                                                Perth festivals.
                                           order to be sensitised to it. They      A major hit in Perth, the four plays struck
                             won't find it on US airwaves, he told an           this viewer as true Shakespeare for grown-
                             interviewer recently from his Californian          ups. Director Benedict Andrews rejects the
                             home. "I've got 120 channels on cable TV           sugar-coated-pill approach of some Shake-
                             and I assure you there's almost never any          speare exponents that seeks to make his
                             discussion of serious art on any of them."         work "palatable" by resorting to diversion-
                               Adams would have been gratified to see so        ary stage gimmicks or radical updating to a
                             many young faces in the Perth audience of A        modern age. Instead, there's bodies and gore
                             Flowering Tree, his Indian folktale opera.         in abundance, a visceral picture of a time
                             The applause was warm for this elegant             when power was lethal and people were
                             concert staging, the closing event of the 2009     butchered on the battlefield. Ewen Leslie as
                             Perth International Arts Festival, for which       Henry V and the two King Richards Cate
                             the festival, WA Opera and the West                Blanchett and Pamela Rabe       gave unfor-
                             Australian Symphony Orchestra combined             gettable performances.
                             to stage the opera's Australian premiere.
                                Adams would surely have approved of                The Japanese theatre troupe Ishinha
                             soprano Rachelle Durkin's glorious voice and       delivered their loving, if over-amplified,
                             spirited portrayal of his central character, the   account of Japanese migration to a new land
                             poor village girl Kumudha. Durkin is a             in Nostalgia. In an amusing later encounter,
                             former Perth schoolgirl who went in search         director Yukichi Matsumoto and cast tried to
                             of great art, won a place at the New York          teach their idiosyncratic dance style to
                             Metropolitan Opera and is now sought after         bemused students of the WA Academy of
                             by opera houses around the world.                  Performing Arts (STC actors and visiting
                                Adams said his spirits soared recently          Irish dance company Fabulous Beasties also
                             when four classical musicians got star billing     gave classes, in a program of access work-
                             at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration,       shops for which PIAF should be applauded.)
                             in a sign that     global recession notwith-          Both The War of the Roses and Nostalgia
                             standing      the new administration may           provoked strong love-hate reactions, but the
                             support serious artists in new ways.               two smaller-scale offerings by Perth's theatre
                                Had he been able to attend PIAF, Adams          companies were almost uniformly applauded.
                             might have come away reassured that                   Black Swan State Theatre Company and
                             appetites for high-quality artistry can survive,   actor Helen Morse delivered an exquisite
                             even thrive, in a recession. A little history is   version of The Year of Magical Thinking,
                             required on this point. At precisely this time     Joan Didion's chronicle of the grief-stricken
                             last year, I ended my wrap of the 2008 PIAF        year in which she lost her husband and
                             with the view that "like Topsy, boom-time          daughter.
                             Perth and its festival just keep growing
                             and growing".                                        In Antigone, a blistering Thinlce rework-
                                A year later, the boom has bust and             ing of the ancient tragedy, Sophocles Greek
                             thousands of West Australians (albeit fewer        chorus was imaginatively represented on
                             than in eastern states) are contemplating lost     stage by lyricist-singer Rachel Dease (from
                             jobs, downsized businesses and an unnerving        Schvendes). The assured tone of these two
                             dip in Chinese demand for minerals and gas.        productions contrasted starkly with the
                                Yet the festival has just notched up the        under-developed, big-scale local offerings of
                             highest box office in its history and record       last year, The Turning and Jandamarra.
                             attendances. General manager Julian Do-               Other small-is-beautiful moments were
                             naldson says this year's festival has pulled in    Samuel Beckett's five-skit Fragments; three
Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licenced copythe box office, up 7 per cent on
                            $4.3 million at                                     performers were simply flawless in their              Ref: 00048305702
                                                           Australian
                                                           09/03/2009
                                                           Page: 30                                                        Page 2 of 3
                                                           Section: Arts & Entertainment
                                                           Region: Australia Circulation: 137000
                                                           Type: National
                                                           Size: 402.00 sq.cms
                                                           Frequency: MTWTF


                             acting out of these wry existential tragi-         accounting for the increase in patronage by
                             comedies. And you could have heard a pin           5000 to 20,000.
                             drop in The Little thatch Girl Passion, an           Magadza has ended the festival's hectic
                             emotion-charged choral piece by Pulitzer-             -week seacr'n with a heavy Cold but quiet
                             prize winning David Lang, sung by Den-                  ism th,i her remaining two festivals
                             mark's Th iI , = of Voices.                             find a         ;around bucdHH't cuts and
                               This         musical offerings were rich         gloomy iorec:i',ls. She admits the future is
                             across mair% genres and often sold out, from       tinged with gr, % if cash 'ralln d cr>mpanies
                             Chick Corca and John McLaughlin's                  pull out of arts sponsorship in i town where
                             consummate jazz session to the warm vocals         major arts bodies rely heavily on the mining
                             of Jose Gonzalez, from the gospel send up          and resource giants, they and the festival may
                             band   I louse of the Holy        Afro to    an    find themselves cutting back on performing
                             affectionate tribute by the five remaining         or touring.
                             members of the Triffids to their singer-             WASO, for example, has boosted its
                             songwriter David McComb.                           corporate sponsorship from $500,000 to
                               The visual arts program still needs work,        $3 million in the past five years. That's all
                             something curator M;rr, ir(I Moore (a late-        good, but government funding went up by
                             comer to this yea's Irrt gall) will no doubt       less than $500,000 to a mere $1.9 million. If
                             remedy. A number of installations lacked           corporate ,ponsors pull out or reduce their
                             impact, especially Daniel von Sturmer's            sponcnrclhili. thr orchestra will be alleeted.
                             disappointing test pattern panel on a new            Evr n i, l1, lrts Minister John Dav admits
                             building that obscured its visibility.             he is worrird that corporate arts support will
                                Even Gina Czarnecki's gorgeous Spine,           come under pressure in the forthcoming
                             her mesmerising footage ofdancers from the         financial year. Yet he warns that the Barnett
                             Australian Dance Theatre swirling into a           Government          which has mandated 3 per
                             spine-like continuum, was ignored by many          cent cuts across all portfolios      will not be
                             city Boers who didn't bother to look up at the     able to step in and fill the fiscal gap.
                             illuminated city wall.                                It fell to I,lanchctt to gently prick Perth's
                                And tighter economic times may force the        corporate conscience when she addressed it
                             festival to cull labour-intensive projects that    hand-picked group of executives at a private
                             don't deliver an eye stopping impact.              boardroom luncheon last week. The War of
                                French street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe      the Roses star and Sydney Theatre Company
                             is working on a big spectacle for the 2011         co director echoed Magadza's passion for
                             festival, but this year's smaller, static Revolt   child-focused arts events. She plugged the
                             of the Mannequins made little public impact.       importance of` supporting arts education, the
                             The rebellious mannequins, dummies in shop         teaching of creativity and active participation
                             windows whose appearance was subtly                in arts, not just selling tickets to shows.
                             changed overnight, were stuck in shop                 Blanchett also uttered the r.,,rd "risk". -o
                             windows that only intermittently drew big          terrifying to many busine ccs hi rt the drip iup
                             crowds.                                            force of theatre companii,,. f 1,,\\, lie      1,

                                Yet overall, Magadza has produced a dense       were they to bring risky artistic enterprises to
                             and diverse program in her second festival.        people if their supporters become risk-averse
                             She's made pro,2r, s on certain personal           in spending money? And isn't this the very
                             goals, such a, ins I ,I'ing children's attend-     time when we need a lively artistic life, either
                             ances at the lc,li ,i1 with stand-up kids          to articulate new ideas or simply banish
                             comedian James Campbell and The Nargun             peoples worries for a while?
                             and the Stars, a magical adventure story with        One suspects that Adams, had he heard
                             high production values that Perth co-              Blanchett's words on the other side of the
                             commissioned with the Sydney Festival.             globe, would have been vigorously nodding
                             Thousands of children attended Perth               his head in agreement.
                             Writers Festival's Family Day, perhaps




Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licenced copy                                                                                             Ref: 00048305702
                                                                            Australian
                                                                            09/03/2009
                                                                            Page: 30                                                                     Page 3 of 3
                                                                            Section: Arts & Entertainment
                                                                            Region: Australia Circulation: 137000
                                                                            Type: National
                                                                            Size: 402.00 sq.cms
                                                                            Frequency: MTWTF




                                                                                                                                                    Blistering: Kate Mulvany in Antigone




                      L. -;       lik     I
       Art for dummies: lean-Luc Courcoult, of Royal de Luxe, i n front of a shop window hosting Revolt of the Mannequins   Picture: Andy Tyndall


                                                                                                           The festival has just
                                                                                                           notched up the highest
                                                                                                           box office in its history
                                                                                                           and record attendances




       Big number: A scene from John Adams's The Flowering Tree                    Picture: Andy Tyndall




Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licenced copy                                                                                                                                 Ref: 00048305702

				
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