Theatre Review: Black is the New White


Black is the New White returns for 2018, after a successful season last year at Sydney Theatre Company, with all the characters we love. The only main cast change is Miranda Tapsell as the quirky fashion designer, Rose. Tapsell adds a youthful, vibrance to this season. The play is cleverly written by Nakkiah Lui who uses comedy to address serious issues affecting the Indigenous.

A comical love story about a hotshot lawyer, Charlotte Gibson, and her broke cellist, Francis Smith, who fall in love defying their parents. She is the daughter of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal politician and he is the son of a conservative rival. The two are engaged and invite their families to meet, not knowing that their fathers are having a argument on Twitter. When they unite at a Christmas dinner, all hell breaks loose as the fathers’ long standing feud comes to a head. Secrets come pouring out and hypocrisies regarding race, gender, social class status and religion is exposed in a sharp-witted, humorous way.


I particularly enjoyed and was entertained by Stokes’ stage entrance, Tapsell’s quirkiness and youthful energy she brought to Rose’s character and Vanessa’s final revelations, all thanks to Paige Rattray’s direction and Lui’s clever writing.

The play’s message is about class expectations, race and most of all – being true to yourself, not living according to society or family expectations.

Starring Shari Sebbens (Charlotte Gibson), Tom Stokes (Francis Smith), Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra (Ray and Joan) Geoff Morrell and Vanessa Downing (Marie and Dennison Smith), Miranda Tapsell (Rose) and Anthony Taufa (Rose’s husband).


Black is the new White is at Roslyn Packer Theatre from March 2nd, 2018.







Single Asian Female & interview with Courtney Stewart

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Single Asian Female opened at Belvoir St Theatre on the weekend to an excited (sold out) audience and it’s the first Australian mainstage play to feature three Asian leads! This play is stylish and entertaining. It’s about an Asian-Australian family that owns a Chinese restaurant (The Golden Phoenix) in Nambour. The head of the family is Pearl, the quintessential matriarch – balancing family, business, and her love of karaoke, who runs the restaurant. She has two daughters, Zoe, the eldest, a classical musician, who’s in the throes of online dating, making big life decisions and Mei, the youngest, a teenager, struggling with her identity in modern Australia.  Pearl is constantly questioning her Westernised daughters, as they see the world differently to their mother. In the first act she reveals a secret that threatens to tear their family apart.

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Playwright, Michelle Law’s frustration with the current theatre scene motivated her to write her debut play.

‘It shines a spotlight on labels; those we assign ourselves and others, and how we struggle against the limitations imposed by those labels in order to lead authentic lives…’

Last year, Single Asian Female was staged as a 60-minute reading of an untested playwright with support from La Boite and its partners, (Contemporary Asian Australian Performance & Playwriting Australia). Law has been given room to grow the story, and workshop it extensively. She has successfully helped change the landscape of Australian theatre which, over the years has been quintessentially white, by portraying this modern play representing multicultural Australia.

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This production is exceptionally cast, with underlying tones of racial discrimination presented in a comedic way through its characters. In the first act we see Pearl in a cheongsam belting out I Will Survive, on top of a table in her family restaurant. We then learn about her hardships, how she survived through her marriage breakup and her resilience in bringing up her two daughters. Zoe being the peacemaker, and Mei who constantly wishing she was white like her school friends, Lana and Katie.

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I had the honour of interviewing Courtney Stewart who plays Mei. Her performance was strong and truthful in playing a teenager growing up Asian in Australia.


Joy: What made you want to do Single Asian Female?

Courtney: After being involved in a reading of Single Asian Female, I ruthlessly pursued the development of this work. The dialogue is hilarious, the characters are unique and I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of this story. As a result of our season in Brisbane, there was a horde of new audience members finally seeing their faces and hearing their voices on stage. The power of representation is immense ~ and I really wanted to be a part of that.
Joy: What did the audition process involve?
Courtney: The audition process involved me reading a couple of scenes with Claire Christian (the director) and Michelle Law (the writer). We ended up in hysterics over the larger than life characters, but also dove into the heart wrenching reality of their personal dilemmas. Right from the start it was a collaborative process, which is by far my favourite way of making work.

Joy: What is your view on diversity in the arts (theatre, film. T.V)?

Do you see changes since the Diversity committee was formed?
Courtney: I say this to as many people who will listen: I believe it is the most exciting time to be an artist from a diverse background. There are opportunities that exist now that weren’t around when I started out in this industry and I can see how the Diversity Committee has been a valuable player in changing our monocultural Theatrical landscape. The Committee opens up channels of communication with major players in theatre, film and television so conversations around how to engage new artists can be had.
Joy: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Courtney: In 10 Years time I hope to be an artistic director of a major theatre company so I can be at the helm of making decisions that push towards a more cohesive and evenly represented industry.

I enjoyed watching this play because I feel it’s important to reflect diversity of our modern society on stage, so as a result -people feel that they belong.

Single Asian Female is currently showing at Belvoir St Theatre until March 25th, 2018.

18 & 25 Belvoir St Surry Hills
NSW 2010 Australia

Cast: Emily Burton
Lucy Heffernan

Patrick Jhanur
Alex Lee
Courtney Stewart
Hsiao-Ling Tang

By Michelle Law
Director Claire Christian
Set & Costume Designer Moe Assaad
Composer & Sound Designer Wil Hughes
Lighting Designer Keith Clark
Stage Manager Peter Sutherland
Assistant Stage Managers Katie Hurst & Keiren Smith

Photos courtesy of Belvoir & Michelle Law.

Theatre Review: According to Otto

World premiere of new Australian play – According to Otto
It’s Otto Brooks’ 16th birthday and he’s about to reveal his big secret to his family – he’s gay! 
Otto has the usual family – parents who love and embarrass him, a Uni student sister, a loving Nana who’s disabled and loves to blurt out hilarious pop culture statements, and a best friend, Max, who he’s secretly in love with. Plus there’s a school bully out to get him, Otto has a lot to go through before he’s out and truly happy. Hence, “time to delve into the world according to Otto!” 
This play is directed by Wayne Tunks and is well cast, particularly the lead role, Otto, played by Jasper Musgrave. Musgrave gives a strong, truthful performance as sixteen year old Otto coming out. He is supported by a wonderful ensemble cast. Tunks plays his father who is very caring and understanding towards him coming out and gives a powerful performance particularly in the scene when he’s confronting the principal.
Another favourite scene of mine is where Otto’s mother is at work with a gay colleague, Simon who’s very camp, played by Andrew Wang. Together they have hilarious conversations about life and his cat. I love the staging and choreography of this play as it’s often stylised to give emphasis to the dialogue. Also diversity plays an important role in the storyline, which is a positive, as this reflects our modern society as it stands today.
According to Otto is playing at Depot Theatre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville.
14th – 24th February 2018.
Wayne Tunks is one the leading lights in the independent theatre world. His plays have been performed worldwide. His most popular plays include, “The Subtle Art of Flirting, The Bridesmaid Must Die, We’ll Always Have Wagga, The Girlie Show, Fag Boy & the Married Guy, Silvertop Ash, Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna and this year’s hit plays, Bitch and Diva Wars. Wayne is a former storyliner on TV’s Neighbours, and in 2018 releases his web series, After Nightfall.
Running time: 105 minutes including interval
Producer: Wayne Tunks
Director: Wayne Tunks
Assistant Director: Daniel Pollock
Lighting Designer: Louise Mason
Cast: Felicity Burke, Alice Furze, Cooper Mortlock, Jacinta Moses, Jasper Musgrave, Tasha O’Brien, Brendan Paul, Wayne Tunks and Andrew Wang

Remembering actor John Mahoney


When I heard that actor John Mahoney died last week, it felt like a relative had passed away in the family. Mahoney’s warmth and endearing presence on the hit TV show, Frasier, had touched and moved me in the late nineties. I felt a part of me had died when I heard this news. He played Frasier’s father, Martin (Marty) Crane, a retired cop whose character was honest, a down to earth family man, with a big heart and a wonderful captivating laugh.



Along with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, who played his sons, Mahoney had driven the Emmy-laden sitcom to its position as one of the highest-rated shows on television at the end of its fifth season. He was remembered alongside Eddie, his beloved dog, who used to constantly stare at Frasier.

My favourite Marty Crane episodes included the one where Frasier tried to replace his old, duct taped chair with a new one and Marty gave a heart felt speech stating that his old chair meant the world to him because of the memories it brought to him of his late wife and when Frasier was born. Another favourite episode was when he mimicked Daphne whining, as she desperately wanted to change her hair style like Princess Di but didn’t. And finally an earlier episode when he had just dyed his hair to look younger for a date and the hair dye was dripping at the back and had left marks on the head rest of a chair and he didn’t want to move because he didn’t want his date to discover he had dyed his hair.



What I didn’t know about Mahoney was that he had a daily mantra. This was revealed in an interview with Francis Guinan, when he talked about his play Rembrandt (in Chicago Tonight). Every day he used to say, “Dear God let me treat everybody, including myself. with love, respect and dignity.” He has said that he wasn’t a religious person but a spiritual one and believed in being “kind and nice as you can be.” It was important for him to be liked, because then he knew that he was fulfilling his mantra.

In the mid 1980’s he suffered from colon cancer (and later lung and throat cancer) and wasn’t able to have sex following a colostomy, so he didn’t want to be involved with anyone because he didn’t want to be a burden, so he chose to be single for the rest of his life. (What a kind, selfless man he was.)

And for the past 20 years, Mahoney spent Christmas at the home of Chicago theatre producers Jane and Bernie Sahlins: “It’s Christmas dinner for Jews and atheists and other alienated people,” says Patinkin, who also attended. “We drink, we sing Christmas carols, we put on silly hats, and we have a really nice time.”




John Mahoney was born Charles John Mahoney in Bispham, Blackpool, England (June 20, 1940 – February 4, 2018). He moved to the U.S. in 1959 when his sister Vera agreed to sponsor him and he studied at Quincy University, Illinois. He taught English at Western Illinois University and then served as an editor for a medical journal. Mahoney wasn’t satisfied with his career and so it wasn’t until he was 37 that he started acting. He took acting classes at St. Nicholas Theatre, which inspired him to resign from his day job and pursue acting full-time. It was after a stage production in Chicago in 1977,  when John Malkovich encouraged him to join Steppenwolf Theatre. Mahoney won the Clarence Derwent Award as Most Promising Male Newcomer, then later Broadway‘s Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in John Guare‘s The House of Blue Leaves. His first major film role was in the 1987 for Barry Levinson film Tin Men. He went on to have roles in films in the 1980s and 1990s, including Moonstruck, Eight Men Out, Say Anything…, In the Line of Fire, Reality Bites, and The American President appeared in two Coen brothers films, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy. He then appeared on Cheers (in a guest role) from which Frasier was a spin off series. Here he made a huge impression on the producers and Kelsey Grammer and was then asked to play Martin Crane on Frasier from 1993 to 2004.


“I don’t want to be someone people feel they have to take care of and look after and entertain and make sure I’m happy. I can’t stand the thought of that.”

When he was asked about settling down with someone, he said that time has passed. “I just don’t have time for it, to tell you the truth,” Mahoney said. “And I’m of an age now where I think that, closing in on 60, I’m resigned to the fact that a good book and a CD and a glass of Jameson’s is probably going to be my companionship for the rest of my life.”

“The theatre is my brothers, my sisters, my father, my mother, my wife,” Mahoney has said. “It is everything to me.”


THANK YOU JOHN MAHONEY for the laughs and for the inspiration. You’ll be greatly missed. I’ve learnt a lot from you and may your legacy live on.


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It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 30, or 40, finding the value of being curious about everything you don’t know and following a passion or a hobby (as long as it gives you joy) and taking calculated risks in your life can pay off. As long as you’re happy and true to yourself and show respect to others – that’s the answer to good mental health and longevity.

Also self check – keep a healthy ego by respecting other people and yourself and don’t sweat over the small things in life because life’s too short. We’re all equal after all and part of the human race.



Photos courtesy of NBC, Frasier, Kelsey Grammer, Michael Brosilow / Steppenwolf Theatre), Dailyovation, Brandon Ramos & Jamie Divecchio Ramsay.



Film Review – I, Tonya



I, Tonya is based on the true story of controversial 1990’s figure skater Tonya Harding played by Margot Robbie. This is a dark comedy with lots of mature content as Harding was seriously abused by both her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney) and boyfriend/husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). There are some heavy, dramatic, jaw dropping scenes where the audience screamed and squirmed with anguish as the scenes of abuse were depicted realistically, with intense emotional impact.

The movie presents a pretty bleak view of Tonya’s upbringing and the intense scrutiny she was under by the media and the public when she rose to compete at her highest level- the 1994 Winter Olympics, and the attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

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The real-life Harding has given I, Tonya, her approval, as the film portrays her as a person shaped by abandonment, abuse and is empathetic to her fighting spirit, as she was often looked down upon, being a girl brought up by a single mother with very little money. All she wanted was to be loved as her life was often plagued with abuse, rejection and disappointment. Harding has said that in the film version she didn’t go up and confront the judges about her skating scores, she did that privately in real life, and that she doesn’t swear as much as the film portrayed her to be, that was obviously for dramatic effect.

The film was made with a $11 million budget, and Margot Robbie is impressive with her skating ability and her dedicated, heart felt, gutsy portrayal of Harding. Robbie even herniated a disc in her neck while skating and was so overwrought filming a violent scene with her on screen husband (Sebastian Stan) that she stormed off the set screaming. The film is enhanced with special effects in a few key places – the triple axels and adding more people in the audience.

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Overall the film is impressive with Australian director Craig Gillespie at the helm as the whole cast is outstanding, performance-wise, and they all resemble the actual real-life people they portray. Snippets of them are showed at the end of the movie and during the closing credits. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney deserve to be nominated for the SAG and the Oscars – fingers crossed they’ll win. I rate this movie 8.5/10.

Photos courtesy of I, Tonya, the movie, LuckyChap Entertainment.





Film Review – The Greatest Showman

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Hugh Jackman plays PT Barnum, the 19th-Century huckster and circus impresario. A slick musical with upbeat songs by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, script written by Jenny Bicks & Bill Condon and directed by Michael Gracey. The Greatest Showman is a rags-to-riches fairytale, starting with a glimpse of his childhood as a poor tailor’s son in Connecticut and in the space of one song, Barnum has grown up, married his sweetheart, played by Michelle Williams, and settled into an office job.

His wife and two daughters are content with what they have and are too virtuous to care about money. Barnum dreams of making the world a more magical place and spreading joy, so he opens the American Museum in New York. First he fills it with waxworks and stuffed animals, and then, on the advice of his daughters, he rounds up a roster of “unique people”: a bearded lady (Keala Settle), a dog-faced boy, a tattooed man, giant man and various other hipsters who are given the opportunity to be proud of their unique attributes.

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Ticket sales are soon soaring and he has to put up with snobs looking down at him, shouting their disapproval, calling it a freak show. What he desperately wants is to be accepted into high society and that’s when he employs a moneyed playwright, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), to class up his act, but Carlyle gets tongues wagging when he holds hands with a black trapeze artiste (Zendaya). Barnum then arranges for a classical soprano, Jenny Lind, (Rebecca Ferguson) to tour America’s grandest concert halls. He risks everything and tours with Lind which takes him away from his family. Barnum soon gets carried away with success and himself as there are rumours that their relationship is more than professional. One night when celebrating with Lind, Barnum realises the importance of family and leaves her on her own. This causes great drama on tour and back at home where all hell breaks loose. Can he save himself, his family and his business?

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My favourite lines in the film are “Every one of us is special” and “nobody is like anyone else.” It takes great nobleness to spread joy.

Its messages are all positive: don’t judge people by their backgrounds; follow your dreams; family and friendship are more important than money and success.

Hugh Jackman is outstanding and is supported by a wonderful ensemble cast. A great start to 2018 -“Feel good movie of the year!” Congratulations to the writers – Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon.


The Greatest Showman Trailer

Film Review – Three Summers

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Over three years, the same people attend a music festival Westival, staged in rural outback Western Australia and during this time relationships change and evolve.

The main storyline concentrates on the love story between Keevy (Rebecca Breeds), a down to earth pub band fiddler, and theremin player Roland (Robert Sheehan), together they meet at the festival. Roland encourages Keevy to apply to a music conservatorium which causes great drama, especially with Keevy’s father played by John Waters. There are great supporting characters in the film, such as Michael Caton, who plays a racist and Magda Szubanski who is the community radio announcer and Deborah Mailman who plays a therapist who runs the festival’s Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. As a secondary storyline, the film concentrates on some aspects of contemporary Australian society such as the plight of refugees left in unlimited detention and the problems some Aboriginals experience in their communities.

The film was beautifully shot, capturing the beautiful Aussie outback in rural Western Australia. It also ticked all the boxes which is a good step forward in terms of diversity, portraying Multicultural Australia in film. My only question is, “Did the filmmaker concentrate on ticking all the boxes more so than creating a more organic storyline?”

Ben Elton says, “The idea for Three Summers came about during one of my family trips to the Fairbridge Folk Festival in WA. I was sitting in the bar tent doing some people watching, there’s such a rich tapestry of humanity at these sorts of family music events and so much comedy. People from different walks of life suddenly living in a field together with only sheets of canvas and polyester between them. Everybody’s equal in the queue for the portaloos!”

Three Summers’ Aussie soundtrack includes tracks by Little Birdy, Dan Sultan, the John Butler Trio, Xavier Rudd, Gotye, Sarah Blasko , Dr. G. Yunupingu and many more.

The Run time 102 minutes