Musical set for regal performance

ALBANY school teacher and poet Giles Watson’s original libretto will come to life this week at Perth’s Regal Theatre.

Mimma, Watson’s first musical, was co-created with Orana Cinemas owner Ron Siemiginowski after a chance meeting between the two.

With Watson’s words and Siemiginowski’s music, Mimma was born and so with it Watson’s first encounter with theatre writing.

He sat down with The Weekender a few days before the musical’s premiere to give an insight into what it takes to pen a theatre show.

“I write a lot of poetry,” Watson said.

“And I’ve written two short novellas.

“Doing a musical is something I’ve always wanted to do and some-

thing that Ron wanted to do.

“My housemate Simone Keane was recording a song for Ron and she suggested that he and I get together, and we connected.”

Watson has a passion for the Second World War, being a university history major, and hoped his knowledge could help shape a musical one day.

It was timely that at their chance meeting, Siemiginowski was playing Italian-inspired music, which immediately triggered Watson to build a war-themed story.

“I sat and wrote the plot while Ron played,” Watson said.

“It focuses on Mimma, who’s an Italian journalist in 1938 and is sent to England in exile.

“It’s at her uncle’s bar – where she’s staying – that she meets Sarah, who’s English, and they develop a friendship.

“So the main plot is on their friendship and the threats that face it, with the sub-plot of the Italian Resistance.”

Watson said drama is at every turn during the musical.

“The first crisis they face is when the London police are removing Italians from businesses, cafes…” he revealed.

“There’s the drama of separation and loyalty.”

Starring as Mimma is Mirusia Louwerse, who has spent the past decade as the star soprano for internationally-renowned violinist and conductor Andre Rieu.

Opera Australia peformer Holly Meegan will play Sarah Parker and Canadian-American soprano Suzanne Kompass will star as Ada Marini.

Watson is still taking in the fact that so many big names in the opera world are performing his musical.

“It’s really huge,” he grinned.

“And quite overwhelming; I’m fulfilling a dream.

“From it being just Ron and I to people who are calling themselves the Mimma family, it’s fantastic.”

Watson said Mimma “breaks the mould” of modern musicals and is keen to see how people react.

“It’s about events that have happened in our time and looks at a friendship between two women, which isn’t always seen,” he said.

“It approaches the issue of humanity and I hope people feel…one person described it as ‘validated in goodness’ and I really like that.

“I hope people enjoy seeing a really crucial time in our history.”

Watson’s ultimate goal is to see Mimma tour Australia and one day, perform on the stages of New York City’s Broadway and London’s West End.

“I do think it has that potential,” he said.

“And I already have two sequels in my head!”

Mimma is on now at Perth’s Regal Theatre and will play until April 21.

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Ireland acts out

LIFE as an actor isn’t always glitz and glamour and red carpets.

Sometimes actors find themselves learning new languages, battling extreme climates of locations and working around the clock to get the perfect shot.

Luckily for ABC’s children television series Itch actor Samuel Ireland, his time spent in front of the camera in Albany was relatively cruisy.

The 21-year-old sat down with The Weekender to give an inside look at what it takes to be a star.

Mr Ireland began life as a “socially inept, very introverted” young man who found passion in drama.

His older sister pursued it in high school and suggested he give it a go.

Always “terrible” at sport, drama gave Mr Ireland a way to embrace his love of stories by “living” inside of them.

“We did Twelfth Night in year 11,” he said.

“At the end, when everyone came out to bow…seeing everyone cheering and knowing it made them happy… that was it for me.

“I wanted to be an actor.”

Mr Ireland attended Curtin University in Perth and pursued theatre studies where he penned his own play about fear and magical realism.

He also nabbed a role in indie film The Light and got a placement at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Last year was when he got his “first big gig”.

“When I saw the Itch auditions, I thought, ‘this is my childhood,” Mr Ireland said.

Blue Water High, Parallax…kids’ dramas are what Aussies do best.

“So getting that first call back was a wonderful feeling.”

Mr Ireland scored the lead in Itch as Itchingham Lofte, a science-minded teen who discovers a new element and must keep it out of harm’s way.

“To land it was pretty crazy,” he said.

“I got the news just before Christmas and I told my mum and girlfriend first.

“It gave me such a head spin.”

Mr Ireland arrived in Albany a couple of months ago for filming and is leaving today.

He said his days have varied but that he has loved every minute of it.

“I generally get up at about 5.30am or 6am,” Mr Ireland said.

“I have to shave everyday, which sucks, and I go over my lines.

“I’m on set at about 7.30am and have breakfast and then get into costume and hair.

“Then it’s go, go, go.”

Naturally brown-haired, Mr Ireland had to have his hair cut and coloured a particular shade of red for his role as Itch.

It took a couple of tries to get it the perfect shade but fortunately, it didn’t have to be re-coloured too often and therefore didn’t lengthen Mr Ireland’s time in the chair.

“A basic day for me is 10 hours but the longest I’ve done was 13 hours,” he said.

“I felt pretty beat after that.”

In his brief few days off work, Mr Ireland visited The Gap, Emu Point, Middleton Beach, Boston Brewery and Greens Pool.

He’d visited Albany was he was younger and enjoyed reminiscing again.

“We went to Bluff Knoll when I was 12,” Mr Ireland said.

“There was a lot of stairs!

“I don’t think anybody told me just how many there were. ”

Itch is set to air on ABC ME early in 2020.

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Fantasy realm delivers

Christopher Paolini
The Fork, the Witch and the Worm
Penguin Books
$24.99
4/5

THERE is always a moment in the life of a budding literary fiend that can be traced back to where their passion to read comes from.

For me it was the Inheritance Cycle series written by Christopher Paolini.

From the moment I picked up the first book, Eragon, I was sucked into the fantasy realm of Alagaesia that house elves, dwarves, urgals, dragons, werecats and other mysterious creatures ruled over by the evil king Galbatorix.

One of the most vivid memories I can recall is finally meeting Paolini at a signing in Perth for the final book Inheritance in 2011.

With my book clutched in my hands like a lifeline, I timidly walked up to my idol author and as he was signing my book (which I still have proudly sitting on my overstuffed shelves at home), I asked if he would ever write another book about Alagaesia.

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” he said while handing the book back to me with a smile and a wink.

And near on seven years later, the announcement was made that The Fork, the Witch and the Worm would be published.

Of course every giddy feeling a teenager can feel when ‘fangirling’ over their favourite author resurfaced in one simple social media post.

After finally picking up a copy nearly four months after it hit bookshelves, I managed to spend a few days to sit down and immerse myself back into the world of Dragon Riders.

As with the other Paolini books I have devoured in the past, TFTWTW was just as lyrical and vivid in its descriptions of landscapes, the use of inner monologues to develop depth in character and traces of humour were all nostalgically present.

On second glance at the first short story in the book, the layers of Paolini’s story started to fall into place.

With each chapter Paolini paints the picture of a young hero struggling with the weight of responsibility.

And to give advice on what path Eragon should take or to bring him back to earth, a variety of characters present short stories or snippets of the outside world that impart kernels of wisdom reminiscent of Aesop’s Fables.

The issues presented in TFTWTW are much more complex than the average 13-year-old reader may comprehend, with connotations of acceptance of death and love over the madness of revenge and hatred, and the age old David and Goliath-esque battle of dominance between foes.

Younger readers may be enchanted by the tales weaved by Paolini and just read the surface narrative while a more advanced reader may be able to pick away with strands of colour and texture to come away with a more enlightened reading.

My personal favourite part of the novel was straight after an event that rocked Eragon’s confidence as a leader and described the story of Ilgra, who seeks to avenge her father and her people after a dragon ravages her village for years.

The simplicity in language that represents the urgal language and culture is offset by the depth of pain, anguish and pure anger at her situation that leaves you breathless after every page.

The one minuscule complaint I could make about the book, and it really is small, is that it finishes too abruptly.

The last book in the Inheritance series sat at 860 pages, which was the fattest out of the four, while TFTWTW was a total of 288 pages.

As every good fantasy writer does, there was one hell of a cliffhanger and in the spirit of being spoiler-free, I won’t mention it.

However, the abruptness in which Paolini finishes the book is like your mum ripping the doona off you in the middle of winter to get ready for school.

Cold, disorientating and a bit annoying.

The transition of tale to afterword is not as seamless as he has written in the past and makes me wonder if there was more story to tell that didn’t make the editor’s cut.

Regardless of that small complaint, as ever, I loved the book.

As the elves say during the series, atra du evarinya ono varda.

May the stars watch over you.

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Artist breezes in

HARNESSING the wind’s strength and direction is how Melbourne artist Cameron Robbins creates his work.

He’s aimed to inspire school students to also follow abstract creative techniques whilst he’s been in Albany for the past week.

Robbins has spent several days working with Great Southern Grammar art students and teaching them different ways of drawing.

The main inspiration has been his installing of a wind-powered drawing instrument that transcribes the weather onto paper.

The instrument connects a wind turbine and weathervane to a pencil via intricate engineering that Robbins has been perfecting for more than 20 years.

The end result is a translation of wind direction and speed via a series of lines, shading and shapes.

“It’s about being non-objective,” Robbins said.

“I got the students to use fishing rods and golf clubs, to create lines of energy.

“It’s something completely different.”

Robbins built his first wind-powered drawing instrument in Melbourne in 1992.

The idea stemmed from wanting to draw different parts of the south coast of Australia and work with nature.

“It’s got a lot more finesse now,” Robbins said about the instrument.

“The engineering has gone up several levels and I use A-grade marine materials.

“I think the strongest wind it has catered for is about 90kph.

“That was pretty intense.”

The end result of this machine’s efforts – a series of artworks – is now on display at the Albany Entertainment Centre and will be until March 9.

Robbins will be onsite around lunchtime everyday during the exhibition to showcase the work and explain the wind instrument to visitors from the centre’s exterior deck.

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Neill stands up

ALBANY is more than a holiday destination for Fremantle photographer Dale Neill.

The shutterbug turned to the south coast town for refuge after being struck by serious illness 34 years ago.

He told The Weekender that visiting Albany on a regular basis was a “turning point” in his health, so he looked forward to returning in March to lead a series of workshops and to exhibit pieces from the Fremantle International Portrait Prize – a competition he created after regaining his passion for photography with visits to Albany.

“Because I’d been sick, I hadn’t worked for a year,” Neill said.

“I was really down in the dumps…I hadn’t taken a single photo in all that time.

“So, I decided Albany was going to be my recovery place, where I’d start taking photos again.”

Neill drove down to Albany once a month for 12 months and stayed to take photos for three or four days.

He said “the stars aligned” in 1986 while he was hosting his Contre Jour exhibition in Albany’s Lesser Hall.

“One of the local TV people came in to interview a pianist, but he was a no-show,” Neill recalled.

“So, I asked the crew if they would like to interview me instead, because I had an exhibition going.

“That became my most successful exhibition; I sold every photo.”

Neill said he focused on rural scenes around Albany, making sure “Albany was the base, and everything radiated from that”.

One particular shot sold beyond his expectations and is still in demand today.

“My two favourite photos would have to be one from the side of Mount Clarence looking towards the islands, and the other I took in the Stirlings in 1985 or 1986,” he said.

“I had this Pentax 6×7 and it was really clunky.

“I took one shot… clunk…and all of these sheep in front of me turned around.

“So I took another… clunk…and that photo sold and sold and sold.”

Neill said this photo, and 23 others he took around Albany, were a metaphor for his battle with illness.

“I was shooting directly into light,” he said.

“It was like a metaphor; I was so sick, but I still got up at 3am to get those sunrises at Mt Clarence.”

After regaining his mojo in Albany, Neill returned to Fremantle and later created the Fremantle International Portrait Prize in 2009.

He plans to bring the best pieces from the 2017 prize for a month-long exhibition at the Museum of the Great Southern from March 5.

Neill will also host a series of workshops at Vancouver Arts Centre across the March long weekend.

“On the Friday, I’ll be teaching Practical Photography, which is an intermediate course,” he said.

“On Saturday, it will be Travel and Street Photography and Shadows and Silhouettes.

“Then, we’ll look at Angles and Angels – Exploring Low Light Photography, Introduction to Fine Art Photography, and Critique of Images on Sunday.”

Bookings for the workshop can be made via Eventbrite and more information can be obtained by contacting Vancouver Arts Centre.

 

Photo: Johannes Reinhart

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Anzac butterfly story emerges

ANZAC-inspired arts installations keep rolling out in Albany, with a new exhibition now planned to tell the story of how two Australian generals and their troops saved the world’s best butterfly collection from almost certain destruction.

The Weekender can reveal that the Butterflies of Corbie exhibition is planned to emerge from its chrysalis at Mount Adelaide on November 1.

The exhibition, subject to a $20,000 funding application to the Federal Government, is slated to tell how at the French village of Corbie Eugene Boullet amassed the finest known butterfly collection in the world.

In April 1918, the collection faced devastation during some of the most pivotal battles of World War One.

But Australian commander Brigadier General Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott – passionate and headstrong but facing his own personal battles – became the collection’s unlikely saviour.

A City of Albany document seen by The Weekender explains that Lieutenant General Sir J.J. Talbot Hobbs and his division also helped save the collection.

The planned exhibition consists of letters and diaries, watercolours of the butterflies, and a selection of the butterflies themselves.

“These small objects – the butterflies and the letters – have a large story to tell about the strong and enduring relationship between the people of Australia and France and our collective history,” the City document promises.

The exhibition, planned to run until Anzac Day 2020, is expected to feature a short film documenting the story of Monsieur Boullet’s butterflies.

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More filming

A VACANT building on Albany’s Stead Road has been transformed into a production office for London film production company Komixx Entertainment.

On Tuesday, cast and crew were at the building for a read-through of the 10-part live-action children series Itch.

They have occupied the building since early this month.

Itch, written for print by UK author and radio presenter Simon Mayo, follows the story of science-obsessed Itchingham Lofte who discovers a new element in the periodic table and is forced to go on the run to protect it.

The project was awarded a share of $7.5 million from Screen Australia last Monday.

Itch will air in 10 24-minute episodes.

On the crew list is producers Amanda Morrison and Tania Chambers, and writers Ron Elliot, Heather Wilson, Roger Monk, Jessica Brookman and Craig Irvin.

The announcement of Itch being filmed in the South Coast follows Komixx Entertainment opening an office in Perth in June 2017.

Komixx Entertainment is responsible for films such as The Kissing Booth, which premiered on Netflix last year.

The Stead Road building occupied by the film production company is the same that was used by Cyan Films for the production of H is for Happiness, which was shot around Albany late last year.

The production of Itch follows a run of screen productions that have set up in the Great Southern including the film adaptation of author Tim Winton’s book Breath and Rams, which was based in Mount Barker and starred Michael Caton and Sam Neill.

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Blues breaker

DENMARK singer Willow Sukys, 15, lives and breathes music.

Her family jokingly says she started singing the second she was born and was writing songs before she could talk.

And it’s not an unbelievable claim.

Sukys has been surrounded by music from day dot, with her father and uncle current-day musicians (Denmark outfit Evergone), her mother an enthusiast of music, and her younger brother a secret singer.

She’s escalated through Perth singing schools and choirs, performed at multiple Albany and Denmark venues, and last year recorded a song for the Sounds of the Great Southern album.

Most recently, Sukys landed herself a new type of gig – being one of four Great Southern singers selected to perform at the inaugural Tasty Tapas and Tunes on Stirling Terrace in Albany in April.

‘Moody pop’ is how she describes the sound people will hear from her.

“When I was told I got it, I was crying,” Sukys laughs, reflecting on learning that she had landed the Stirling Terrace gig.

“It was so crazy! “I was like, ‘they want me? Oh, my gosh!’”

Although her set list for the show is still on the drawing board, Sukys says some of her original work is on the cards.

She’ll have plenty of opportunities to fine tune the list over the next few weeks, with performances lined up for this weekend at the Denmark Arts Markets and at Six Degrees on January 20.

“My music isn’t all up and down like some pop,” Sukys says.

“Some of it’s emotional…my inspirations are Twenty One Pilots and Billie Eilish and Lorde.”

Sukys says that, so far, her songs have been about romance and love – some of it unrequited– and they’ve gained her a bit of local fame.

“The kids at school often sing my lyrics to me,” she chuckles.

“The boys at school say I’m a meme, which is totally a life goal.”

But for Sukys, meme status is not her only dream.

“It might be a bit far- fetched, but I’d love to play at big arenas to lots of people,” she says.

“I really want to build on my live performances…I definitely want to work on my guitar and I want to learn piano.”

Sukys will be joined by Albany musician Blake Grobbler at Tasty Tapas and Tunes on April 13.

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Dancing full time

LAWYER-turned-dance teacher Antonia Grasso has accomplished her dream of having a bricks and mortar dance studio to call her own in Albany.

Entering the realm of ballroom dance at a later stage in her life, Grasso said dance provided a much-needed outlet from her strict work regime in family and general law.

She decided after nearly a decade as a full-time lawyer that she wanted to embrace her dancing hobby permanently.

“I always wanted to dance but I never had the guts to go on my own,” Grasso said.

“One day I just decided to go…but I had no partner.

“So, I got partnered with the teacher and they asked me how long I’d been dancing for, and they didn’t believe me when I said I’d just started.”

Two years later in 1995, Grasso trained as a dance teacher and worked at the Perth studio where she had commenced dancing.

She moved to Albany in 1999 and dabbled in other creative pursuits.

“I always wanted to do theatre so I joined the Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company and I did some chorus work and choreography,” Grasso said.

“I was in Les Miserables, 70, Girls, and The Gypsy Baron.

“But I missed dancing, so I started my own studio in 2016.”

Grasso said her weekly classes consisted of private and group lessons, and involved about 30 people.

However, having no permanent studio to herself, she regularly battled against clashing schedules and hall restrictions in venues across the city.

Last year she decided enough was enough and in December took a lease on her own building on Lockyer Avenue.

She and her husband, woodcarver Len Radcliffe, have been at the new studio “all day, every day” for the past month getting it up to scratch before the official opening in February.

“Len’s made the stage,” Grasso said.

“We’ve got two tonnes of fl or to put in a sprung floor – a sprung floor is important in dancing.

“We’re installing fans and benches and curtains and two chandeliers…it’s so exciting.”

Grasso said she wanted her studio to be a place for ballroom lessons, and a “hub” for other types of dance and fitness and social events.

She said yoga instructors keen on hiring the hall have already come forward, and that interest has grown over her “musical soiree” idea.

“It will be a chance for people to come together on a Saturday night and listen to some singers, bring their own nibbles and sit and relax, and if they want to dance, there’s a 130sqm dance floor,” Grasso explained.

“I’m aiming to hold them once a month…I already have one act booked and that’s Big Ted and The Humbuckers.”

Grasso will add a four-week beginner’s ballroom course to her list of regular classes, commencing February 12.

Her new studio at 129 Lockyer Avenue, behind Lovett Muay Thai, will be unveiled on February 8 at 7pm.

She said Evan Ayres and The Swing Kings would perform and there will be champagne and light refreshments.

The $25 entry tickets can be bought by calling Grasso on 0417 948 155, messaging the studio’s Facebook page or at the door on the night.

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It’s a wrap for Happiness

RECENT York Street addition Little Italy Restaurant and Pizzeria, French café Gourmandise and Co and Little Beach all copped a mention from Hollywood superstars Joel Jackson, Emma Booth and Richard Roxburgh as their favourite spots to visit in Albany in-between filming H is for Happiness.

The Weekender sat down with the trio while they were filming in Albert Hall, adjacent to Wesley Uniting Church on Duke Street, on their second last day in town.

Film crew and actors began filming in and around Albany on November 12 and wrapped up on December 21.

They spent their last day in Albany shooting scenes in a house on Festing Street and had their wrap up party at the Stirling Club.

Jackson, born in Albany, said he was proud to come home after so many years and reminisced on his childhood with The Weekender.

“We lived on Queen Street in Little Grove in this sunken, white house,” he said.

“I went to Little Grove Primary and Mr Bolt was one of my teachers.

“I just remember the oceans, lots of kids everywhere, and being outdoors…and vivid boat memories; I love Muttonbird [Beach].

“I remember the ocean being so big and so scary!”

Jackson said when he had been spotted around town, there were still a few people who remembered him from when he was a little tacker.

Booth, born in Denmark but raised in Perth, said her old family farm had become a vineyard.

She had planned to visit it but ran out of time.

“I think it’s Southern Star now,” she said.

Booth managed to get out to Two Peoples Bay and Little Beach and couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the scenery.

She popped over to a few eateries in town too and discovered her new favourite foods.

“I just don’t understand how the water is that turquoise!” Booth said.

“Oh, and we’ve been slamming pizzas from Little Italy and that French place? Gourmandise and Co…where has that been all my life?!”

The interview was momentarily disrupted by a quick hug between Booth and fellow cast member, Deborah Mailman.

Roxburgh agreed with Booth that the Great Southern’s coastline was one of a kind.

“Denmark was just glorious,” he said, reflecting on his shoot for Breath.

“And Albany is pretty spectacular.

“I’m staying at Middleton and the boardwalk there is pretty special.

“I love the easy pace here.”

H is for Happiness will now go into post production and premiere during the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.

A crew spokesperson advised people to stay tuned about an Albany premiere and the film release date.

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