Land inspires collaboration

OCHRE Contemporary Dance Company’s new performance Kwongkan will debut at the Albany Entertainment Centre next week and showcase a collaboration of indigenous Australian and Indian dancers conveying their feelings towards climate change through dance, physical theatre and aerial acrobatics.

Artistic director Mark Howett said upon learning that by 2050 there would be no more banksia and peppermint trees left in WA, he considered the long-term effects of climate change.

He said Kwongkan developed as a result of that and described it as a journey of self-discovery and of people fighting to protect their ancient cultures and lands from “the tsunami of change”.

“Peppermint trees were such a big part of my childhood and have great cultural significance,” Howett said.

“It made me think… there’s so much to talk about, about how perilous climate change is.”

Kwongkan will take centre stage at the AEC on October 13 and tickets can be purchased via the AEC Box Office or online.

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Magical homecoming

ALBANY product Alannah Woods will make her debut hometown performance with national Irish dance-magic act Celtic Illusion next month after spending 10 years away studying and singing across the country.

Woods graduated from Great Southern Grammar in 2008 and was accepted into the WA Academy of Performing Arts in 2010.

After completing her Bachelor of Music in Classical Performance (Voice), she pursued further musical theatre and dance studies in Melbourne.

It was there that the chance of a lifetime fell into her lap.

“I’ve been in an amateur production of Anything Goes and Strictly Ballroom,” Woods said.

“When I was finishing Strictly Ballroom, I saw an ad on Facebook for a singer with Celtic Illusion.

“I messaged them and they sent me a song to learn, and within 24 hours I got the job.

“So, a week after finishing Strictly Ballroom, I was on the road again!

“It’s my first professional contract, which is pretty exciting.”

The 26-year-old said she performs four songs in Celtic Illusion, two in the first act and two in the second act.

Her early songs embrace a storytelling format and her later songs act as an introduction to an illusion.

“They are fantastic people,” Woods said of the Celtic Illusion cast.

“They’re all really lovely.

“We’re like a little family.”

Celtic Illusion director, principal male dancer and lead illusionist Anthony Street said Woods replaced a singer who was retiring from the show.

He said the company was working on developing Woods’ role to become more than just a singing one.

Street is the mastermind behind Celtic Illusion, premiering his show in 2011 after wanting to make his dream of creating a magic show and a dance show simultaneously come true.

“I was intrigued by a magician at a local fair when I was eight years old, and I’ve loved magic ever since,” Street said.

“Then when I was 14, I found a video of Irish dance and I watched it every day.

“I thought I might not have time to live both dreams of magic and dance, so I combined the two.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes… it’s such a one-of-a-kind show.”

Street said his ultimate goal is to see Celtic Illusion become comparable to the likes of Cirque du Soleil.

Woods aspires to move to London in the next couple of years and make it on London’s West End, and one day, Broadway.

Celtic Illusion will perform at the Albany Entertainment Centre on November 8 and tickets can be purchased via the AEC Box Office.

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Music from Manus

DENMARK songstress and human rights activist Dawn Barrington continues to blend two of her passions as she take her message to the masses.

Barrington was first properly introduced to music seven years ago when she attended a local TAFE music program.

“I went to go and do something for a bit or fun and then I guess I got a bit carried away,” she said.

“I was working with a guy called Tony King who is a brilliant teacher.

“He just continues to plant seeds around Denmark, which is great for growing local talents.”

Barrington’s music developed into a sound she was already very familiar with as part of the local bar and café music scene.

“I usually describe it as contemporary folk, folk-rock maybe,” she said.

“It’s along the lines of what I think a lot of solo acoustic acts do these days.

“If you’re not blues, you’re simply folk. I guess it’s that kind of thing.”

Barrington explained how her music and activism became more strongly connected over the years.

“I’ve always been a writer, so that’s probably the thread that got me into it,” she said.

“A lot of my stuff is activist-based; it’s about social and environmental issues.”

This was the spark for her latest collaborative project Music From Manus.

Music From Manus is a 40-minute documentary by filmmaker Tim Maisey.

It centres around Barrington’s journey to Manus Island to meet the refugees and to connect with them on a musical level.

“I guess my main goal is to let the world know that they’re just innocent people; they’re real humans like me and you.”

When asked why she chose to do this through music, Barrington told The Weekender that it was the only way she could.

“I’m not a social worker and I’m not a support worker, but I was connected with the guys working on Manus Island through music,” she said.

“When I started to learn about how bad it was and how lovely the guys there were, I knew I wanted to go there and play for them.”

She got in contact with Maisey and travelled to the island in March.

After they had arrived back in Australia and Maisey had completed the film, Dawn took to showcasing their work to as many people as possible.

“I took it all over East,” she said.

“I did screenings over there and here in WA, met loads of people through it, and got an amazing response.”

Through doing something like this on such a big scale, Barrington began to realise that she was becoming a better musician.

“It’s brought a new life to my music and songwriting,” she said.

“I guess you could say it’s my purpose.”

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Casting the net

GREAT Southerners have the chance to be in Albany film H is for Happiness if they can make it to casting sessions tomorrow and Saturday.

H is for Happiness follows the story of 12-year-old Candice Phee, who is on a mission to find happiness for her family following a tragedy.

The family movie will be filmed in Albany during November and December this year.

Extras, stand-ins and doubles are being sought of all ages, shapes, sizes and cultural backgrounds and will be chosen from the people who attend the casting sessions at Albany Entertainment Centre tomorrow, October 12 from 1.30pm to 5pm and Saturday, October 13 from 9am to 3pm.

One role to be filled is for a 12 or 13-year-old female student with red hair, Caucasian skin with freckles and who is approximately 154cm tall.

Another is for a 32 to 42-year-old male with brown hair, Caucasian skin and who is approximately 188cm tall.

Other roles include an elderly ladies walking group, couples, paramedics, nurses, orderlies, bands, a six-month-old red-haired female, six to 13-year-old children, teenagers, dog owners and dogs, families and a six-year-old red-haired female.

To register your interest and have your photo taken, email Rachael Karotkin at happinessfilm.casting@

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Searching for soul

ANCIENT Irish archaeological sites and the Baltics are on the list of places to visit for Albany sculptor Kevin Draper following his win of a $30,000 art scholarship.

Draper is one of three artists to receive the Helen Lempriere Scholarship, an award designed to enable artists to further their artistic development through travel, study and the purchase of new equipment.

The money is also to be used to support the artists’ inclusion in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi which begins on October 14.

Draper won the scholarship as a mid-career artist, alongside emerging artist Britt Mikkelsen and senior artist Hossein Valamanesh.

Draper began the year with his black-and-white 16-branch tree sculpture Configuration featuring in the Cottesloe Sculpture by the Sea, so being part of the Bondi exhibition for the sixth time and winning the scholarship has added more excitement to his year.

“It’s a very artist-friendly scholarship,” Draper said of the grant.

“My first thought was, well, I could buy new art materials, but it should be used for something special and a bit different.

“Travel is always a good option.”

Draper said he is normally only able to stay for the installation period at Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, so has decided part of the scholarship will go towards a longer stay in Sydney.

He plans to stay for the entire period of the sculpture show with his partner, Indra before travelling up and down the east coast visiting regional art centres.

“We’ve never had time to do that before,” Draper said.

But the travelling art research won’t stop there.

Come June next year, Draper plans to whisk himself and Indra away to Ireland, the Baltic states, the top of Scotland and potentially Berlin.

He also hopes to travel through Sweden and Norway to explore a few outdoor sculpture parks.

“I’m of Irish descent on my mum’s side, and her family’s original farm is still in Northern Ireland,” Draper said.

“There’s some ancient archaeological sites on the edge of Ireland too, and it all influences my work – how farmers use the landscape and my heritage.

“So, that will be a starting point…I’m not sure what I’ll find.”

Draper said he finds the symbology and language of Northern Europe interesting and is keen to visit a number of European art galleries.

“I’ve always been influenced by where I live and have travelled to,” he said.

“There’s just something about ancestry and the thousands of years of history that I don’t have over here [in Australia].”

Draper’s sculpture installation Configuration can be viewed at Bondi Beach from October 18 until November 4.

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Tale of happiness

HOT on the heels of Albany-bred author Tim Winton’s book-to-film adaption of Breath being filmed in Denmark and the announcement of new movie Rams to be filmed in Mount Barker until December, Albany will have its time to shine with a new feature film commencing shooting in town next month.

H is for Happiness will tell the story of Candice Phee, a 12-year-old girl determined to bring happiness and joy back to her family following a tragedy.

The tale will follow Candice and a new friend she meets on their joint quest to find happiness, and has been described as a “very sweet, family drama comedy” by director John Sheedy.

Mr Sheedy remained tight-lipped on the final cast list when talking to The Weekender, but revealed the movie will be filmed entirely in Albany from the second week of November and feature many iconic Albany locations.

He said Albany will keep its name in the film and feature in the opening line of the movie – “A is for Albany”.

“I love the bottom part of Albany; it has this old-world sense,” Mr Sheedy said.

“It’s very charming and quirky, and the coastal landscapes are beautiful.”

Mr Sheedy said the windfarm, the old yacht club, the “Lady Gaga mansion” – Maitraya Private Retreat – York Street and Albany Senior High School are among the locations to be used for the film.

He’s excited to see what the Albany landscape can offer, explore its uniqueness and work alongside locals.

“There’s something very special about WA,” Mr Sheedy said.

“There’s a lot of character and charm, great views, it’s not flat and there are so many talented artists here.

“There must be something in the water.”

Head of production and development for ScreenWest Matt Horrocks said he is excited to get WA back into the spotlight with H is for Happiness.

He revealed the new movie will be one of many programs to be filmed in and around the Great Southern in the coming months.

ScreenWest is one of the companies involved in H is for Happiness’ production investment.

“WA is the busiest state in the country at the moment,” Mr Horrocks said.

“There’s been projects in the Kimberley, Busselton and Denmark, and now Albany will be the star of the show.

“We are really thrilled that a series of TV shows and films for around the South West and down your way [Albany] will be announced in the next few weeks.

“The Great Southern has some of the most extraordinary locations, of which some can be hard to get to for shooting, so we are trying to activate those extraordinary locations.”

Mr Horrocks said he is “very keen” on H is for Happiness and believes people from all over Australia will love it.

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Open to inspiration

IMPROVISATION violinist Rupert Guenther will star in the annual Albany Festival of Strings next month and he promises to deliver a program of music reflective of the Great Southern.

Guenther will host a public lecture at UWA Albany Centre on October 18, star in a concert for the Albany Fine Music Series at Albany Uniting Church on October 19, be part of the Albany String Festival at Albany Senior High School on October 20 and host two workshops at ASHS on October 21.

The works presented will showcase the evolution of Guenther’s music from classical to original, and prove to audiences how he went from being the “sideman to the stars” to the main act.

“I started getting into music when I was eight years old,” he said.

“I had a keen interest in violin during school and had a few interesting experiences with musicians along the way.”

Guenther said his parents were patrons of the arts in his hometown of Melbourne and often had visiting artists come by for dinner.

He said this set him on a “wonderful pathway” and encouraged him to pursue a musical university degree and work alongside orchestras and operas in Austria and Vienna.

Guenther has even rubbed shoulders with the likes of Olivia Newton-John, John Farnham and The Beatles record producer Sir George Martin during his career.

But it all changed 15 years ago.

“I was always the side-man to the stars and terribly dissatisfied with my performances,” Guenther said.

“My stage fright had been endemic since I first started performing…

“But in 2003, I realised I’d had a year without stage fright.

“Twenty years of unnecessary fear had come to an end.

“And I had a breakthrough; I could improvise my own classical music with my own inspirations.”

Guenther’s solo career took off from there and saw him gain international recognition for his creativity.

He held masterclasses at international music conferences and European conservatoriums, including the European String Teachers Association in Austria and Sweden, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and the WA Academy of Performing Arts in Perth.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Guenther reflected on his solo career.

“And it’s so much more than just the music; it’s about how people inspire me and how we as artists can affect people’s lives.”

The Albany Festival of Strings concert will mark Guenther’s first visit to Albany, and he is excited to explore the town and gain inspiration for the music he will perform during the festival.

“The concert will be a representation of my experiences while I’m here,” Guenther said.

“All my concerts are inspired by the landscape, history and energy of the land, like an exhibition of paintings, so these concerts will be all about the Great Southern.”

To find out more information about the Albany Festival of Strings or to purchase tickets, visit

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Long time in the making

CENTENARY commemorations for the end of World War I will extend into the theatre this November with Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company’s production It’s Been a Long, Long Time.

Director Susie McIntosh said the musical tribute review will showcase the songs that “boosted morale” during the first and second world wars, as well as bookend a previous production the company produced.

ALOTCo performed Sing As We Go in 2015 as part of the initial centenary commemorations in memory of the Anzacs, and McIntosh said It’s Been a Long, Long Time had been in the pipeline since then.

“We always spoke about a follow-up production,” she said.

“But it has evolved since we first started talking about it.”

It’s Been a Long, Long Time will feature songs, visual presentations, poetry, dance and audience participation to celebrate the end of war time, but also reflect on the circumstances people found themselves in once guns were laid down.

Artistic director Findlay MacNish reflected on how it wasn’t all smiles come Armistice Day.

“After the initial ‘hooray, the war is over’, people realised that things weren’t fantastic,” he said.

“The end of the war didn’t mean the end of pain.

“Everyone still needed jollity to keep them going, so this show is about the music that boosted morale in that time.”

McIntosh said the production had been specifically worked on for the past five to six months and has included the efforts of a cast of 30 people, ranging from ages 16 to 91.

“This is our third week of rehearsals,” he said.

“We are rehearsing songs at the moment and it’s sounding really lovely.”

Other than rehearsals, the cast and crew are busy organising country flags and poppies, of which a sea of them will be strewn across the theatre.

And of course, making sure there will be enough tea and Anzac biscuits to go around.

It’s Been A Long, Long Time will play on November 3, 4, 9and 10and tickets are available now from Paperbark Merchants.

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Dance invokes reflection

THE second instalment of Denmark choreographer Annette Carmichael’s The Beauty Index will be performed next month following part one’s finalist listing in the 2018 Australian Dance Awards.

A Light Shade of Red will take centre stage at the Albany Entertainment Centre on October 19 and 20 and feature dancers aged 16 to 26 from the Great Southern.

It will explore a palette of emotions evoked by Armistice Day to tie in with the centenary celebrations which will commence in Albany in November.

Carmichael said the production took two years to develop and is similar to being in a dream, where “layers upon layers of images wash over you”.

“There is no single story, but the intent and commitment of the performers is to lead you through the experience,” she said.

“My War? [the previous production] was for the centenary of Anzac Day and it felt right that we created another performance for the centenary of Armistice Day.”

A Light Shade of Red was selected as the title name by Carmichael to evoke the dawning of the sun, which she said is an important time of day for reflection.

“The colour red means so much, from anger and violence to hope and joy,” she said.

“That moment between night and day when we are filled with the potential of what is to come… that seemed a good fit for the feeling of Armistice.

“What is the potential of humanity when we lay down our guns?”

The Beauty Index saga will continue with Carmichael’s third instalment, Chorus now underway.

Chorus is currently in production and will be a dance project for 200 women to perform in 2020.

Carmichael said a number of women of all ages and experiences have already joined in the project, but if anyone is interested, they can subscribe to her e-news via

Tickets for A Light Shade of Red can be purchased via the AEC Box Office or online via

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White knuckle ride through Shakespeare

WILLIAM Shakespeare’s 37 plays will be performed in 97 minutes in Spectrum Theatre’s latest production, and director Katie Gunning can’t wait to get the show on the road.

The Compleat Wrks of Willm Shkspr (Abridged) will play on November 23, 24, 25 and 30 and on December 1, 2, 7 and 8 for a range of evening and matinee shows.

It will feature three main characters embodying a plethora of Shakespearean characters from across the playwright’s works.

Gunning said one performer will play up to 16 characters in each show.

“It’s a very fun play; it’s very unusual,” she said.

“I’ve done it three times before for my A-levels, uni and for a professional version, and it just makes Shakespeare so much more accessible to people.”

Gunning said this play is different to others performed by Spectrum in the past, as there is a lot of direct audience interaction and actors present as themselves.

“The person will come on and say, “I’m so and so, and I will be performing Shakespeare’s work,” she said.

“There’s a lot of audience participation; there’s characters for pure audience entertainment and there is a lot of knowing looks to the audience as if to say, ‘can you see what I have to work with?’

“It’s really high energy and fast paced.”

Gunning said regardless of whether people like Shakespeare or not, they will enjoy the show.

“There’s a lot of pop cultural references as well as Shakespearean jokes,” she said.

“So, while some jokes will go over 90 per cent of people’s heads because it’s very Shakespeare-specific, there will be a silly joke afterward that everyone will laugh at.”

Gunning said the play is notable for holding the world record for the shortest ever performance of Hamlet, traditionally a three-hour play.

It is performed forwards in 43 seconds, and performed backwards in 42 seconds.

Tickets for The Compleat Wrks of Willm Shkspr (Abridged) will be selling through Paperbark Merchants, so keep an eye on the Spectrum Theatre Facebook page and for the ticket release date.

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