Capturing life on film in Antarctica

AFTER just one year of setting up her own filmmaking company, former Wheatbelt resident Briege Whitehead did what most filmmakers will never have the chance to do in their entire careers – she visited Antarctica.

Armed with camera equipment she tested in sub-zero temperatures within commercial freezers and only two crew, Whitehead embarked on a mission to create a ground-breaking virtual reality (VR) experience of Antarctica to share with the world.

She spoke with the Weekender ahead of the Albany launch of The Antarctica Experience on December 14.

“This sort of thing hasn’t been filmed in Antarctica before,” Whitehead said.

“We spent about a year consulting with the Australian Antarctic Division because only one media company is allowed there each year…we were there for two weeks in February last year.”

Whitehead said she was lucky the weather turned out well, otherwise her allotted time in the coldest place on Earth would have been wasted.

But that didn’t mean there wasn’t a vigorous process of evolving the script to cater for every encounter and situation that occurred.

“It was just amazing,” she said.

“We visited East Antarctica and we filmed around the Davis Station to capture what life is like there, we saw penguin colonies 10,000-strong, our helicopter landed on a glacier, and we spoke to krill researchers, ice core scientists and glaciologists.”

Whitehead expected Albany audiences to be blown away by the footage they would see.

“Watching it [VR experience] is the next best thing to actually being there,” she said.

“People will experience the place for themselves, a real immersion.

“This is by far the best thing I’ve done in my career; I don’t think I’ll do anything that will beat this.”

Whitehead wanted to make sure an environmental message was also woven into the main storyline to highlight the work being completed in Antarctica.

“We have scientists explaining how carbon dioxide and temperature work together, and talking about their climate change research,” she said.

“It was important for me to have that message because the people down there are there solely for research.”

The Antarctica Experience will screen at the Museum of the Great Southern from December 14 to February 9 during a variety of daily time slots.

Museum Manager Catherine Salmaggi said it was a must-see for everyone.

“Even though it’s almost on our doorstep, Antarctica still feels so mysterious and far away,” she said.

“This VR adventure really opens your eyes to a truly spectacular place and allows you to experience it in a real, exciting and educational way.

“It’s hard to put into words just how special this experience is; no matter your age, background or education, you’re sure to be blown away.”

Tickets for The Antarctica Experience can be purchased online at museum.wa.gov.au/museums/museum-of-the-great-southern/antarctica-experience

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Final performance for kings of swing

THE curtain will fall on beloved Albany rock-and-roll and swing fixture Evan Ayres and The Swing Kings for the final time this weekend at a special farewell performance at Antonia’s Dance Studio.

The band has decided to call it quits as their tertiary commitments will soon take them away from Albany and each other.

But frontman Evan Ayres will keep the spirit of the band alive when he attends the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) next year.

He reminisced on the band’s early days with the Weekender before revealing his big plans for the future.

“Originally it was me, Oliver and Bryce,” Ayres said.

“We were in the same year 9 music class and we liked rock and roll…there was a bit of John Paul Young in there…then when we were 16, we formed the eight-piece [band].”

The band proceeded to perform at six sold-out shows at Albany Port Theatre and released a full album.

Despite there being such high demand for them and consequential stress relating to performing so much, Ayres said there was no in-fighting.

“I think it’s because in the Swing Kings, it’s not a democracy, everyone just has to listen to me,” he laughed.

But forming the band has been one of Ayres’ proudest achievements, along with the relationships he has created along the way.

“The best bit is the connection you get as a group,” he said.

“It’s like nothing else.

“People say you become like a family and you wouldn’t think so, but you really do become a family.”

However, this family is heading in separate ways.

Some members are going to university, others to work, and some are travelling.

“No one was really keen on swing for a long-term career, except me,” Ayres said.

“Everyone’s going to do what they want to do.

“I’m going to WAAPA next year and I want to form a new Swing Kings there.”

Ayres’ plans go further than just recreating the band.

“I want to make another album and we’ll tour,” he said.

“We had people at the recent caravan show ask us to come over east to perform so we’ll head there first and then hopefully, America.

“I’d like to be the new Sinatra, maybe, so watch out Sinatra and Buble.”

The band’s final performance is booked for tomorrow at 7.30pm at Antonia’s Dance Studio.

Tickets are available from the Studio on Lockyer Avenue or by calling 0417 948 155.

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Cinema comes to life

AN ALBANY media company has designed and filmed an audiovisual display that will act as a cinematic backdrop to a theatre performance set to tour the state.

A Fortunate Life is a theatre show that will be performed live at cinemas in Albany, Midland, Busselton and Geraldton.

A filmic aspect of the show will play on the cinema screen behind the actors.

Albany-based Green Man Media was selected to be the audiovisual designer of the project and creative director Josephine Hayes said the innovative nature of the production was both a highlight and a challenge.

“Our involvement with this production is a landmark in the development of our new entertainment platform Cinemastage, which is a joint venture with Albany businessman and composer, Ronald Siemiginowski of Orana Cinemas,” she said.

“Cinemastage links audiences with live entertainment in cinemas throughout regional and metro WA, pushing the boundaries of the cinema environment and welcoming musicians, public speakers and theatre companies to integrate live footage and big screen backdrops into their performances.”

A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey, published in 1981, nine months before his death.

It chronicles his life in WA, experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I and his return to civilian life.

It was adapted for the stage by Theatre 180’s Jenny Davis and Stuart Lalusz and the footage captured by Green Man Media will re-create significant landscape scenes in the narrative.

“We are working to immerse the audience in this rich story – to deliver authentic visualisations of the environments that are key to Facey’s story and working closely with Stuart Halusz to form a visual style that compliments the live performance,” Hayes said.

“It’s a thrill to see our small team sink their teeth into this production, and to work with a passionate team of creatives in Perth who share our vision for storytelling.”

Halusz said A Fortunate Life was a perfect project for the evolution of Theatre 180, addressing their vision of bringing their work of an entirely WA project to a potentially greater audience in WA.

“Theatre also lives outside of theatre venues and I’ve always been passionate about site-specific works which extend the possibilities of audio-visual creativity as well as the talent of WA writers, actors, set and costume, lighting and sound designers,” he said.

“This exciting, new project marries the immediacy of theatre with the visual impact of cinema.”

The show will arrive in Albany in March next year and tickets are available from afortunatelife.com.au

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Nature inspires artists

BUNBURY and Busselton artists Anastasija Komarnyckyj and Ty Stedman launched their latest exhibition at Albany’s Blush Retail Gallery yesterday.

Near and Far will be on display until January 11 and reflects the pair’s connections with nature.

While Komarnyckyj wields a brush and Stedman a Nikon D850, the synergy between the mediums creates a colourful representation of water, land and water-based fauna.

Komarnyckyj drew inspiration from the Leschenault Inlet for her paintings, as she walks past it every day.

“I was a clinical nurse before, but this was always gnawing away at me,” she said, of her ever-present desire to paint.

“I work with the natural environment and looking at identity and culture, and I tend to look at things fairly intimately… I don’t do panoramic paintings.”

Stedman dangles himself out of planes to get his unique shots.

“I want to differentiate from drone shots … establish a better connection with the landscape,” he said.

“I really enjoy the abstract side of things and one of the challenges I like is getting something different from places lots of people have been before.”

Blush Retail Gallery is located on York Street.

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Performance to showcase dance

TICKETS are now on sale for Albany Academy of Dance’s annual end-of-year spectacular.

5, 6, 7… Dance will be performed at the Albany Entertainment Centre on November 30 and December 1 and feature the talents of the academy’s tap, ballet, jazz and contemporary students.

Owner and teacher Simone Newton said the family-friendly event had something for everyone.

“We’ve got everything from Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole to Billie Eilish,” she said.

“There’s a lot of 80s in there and Queen, bit of classical ballet … a real mix of things.”

Some routines included in the concert are the choreographic creations of resident dancer and former academy student Rita Bush, who was recently awarded a grant from Regional Arts WA to perform at Adelaide Fringe 2020.

Ms Newton said the concert was popular for friends and families of students as well as potential academy students.

“If you are interested in putting your kids into dance next year, now’s a great time to come and see what we are all about,” she said.

Tickets to the November 30 and December 1 shows at 2pm can be purchased online at albanyentertainment.com.au or at the AEC box office.

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Awarded play on way

A TONY award-winning play will be performed in Albany next year and auditions are coming up in less than a month.

Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company’s Airell Hodgkinson will direct Urinetown, a broadway musical that mocks bureaucracy, multinational corporations, social media and musicals.

Hodgkinson explained that despite its name, Urinetown in fact had very little toilet humour.

“It’s a political satire,” he said.

“It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where the city has been in drought for 20 years and there’s mass water restrictions – you have to pay to pee.

“It’s a very vibrant show and all the characters are a bit wacky.”

Hodgkinson said there were lots of speaking and solo roles in the play appropriate for all ages and genders.

The music is “fun and funky” and the overall vibe of the show is “something a bit different”.

“I like shows that are a little left of centre,” Hodgkinson said.

“The arts should challenge people, in my opinion, and this show gets people thinking and talking.

“And there’s a beautiful love story in the middle of all the loonies.”

An information night for Urinetown will be held at the Albany Port Theatre on December 11 at 7pm followed by auditions on December 14 and 15.

The cast and crew will break over Christmas and return for rehearsals in late January, ahead of a show season in April and May.

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Talent shines through

LIFE-SIZE puppets, campfire singing and original scores will all be part of next weekend’s Let’s Shine Brightly theatre performance.

The Let’s Shine series began two decades ago when Albany Light Opera and Theatre (ALOTCo) member Janet McArtney decided to put on a production specifically showcasing the talents of people living with a disability.

This year’s Let’s Shine show will be the fifth in the series and feature many returning and new faces to the cast.

This year, McArtney is co-directing alongside fellow ALOTCo member Jill Larsen and the pair are excited for audiences to see the lineup.

“We have now completed our sixth rehearsal and it’s been hectic,” McArtney said.

“The Greatest Showman, YMCA, Sister Act and Queen tribute are looking fabulous as well as the 20 or so single acts in-between.”

Cast members Bayden Redshaw and Owen Cahill have produced a song in honour of the show – Let Your Light Shine Through.

They will perform it during the show.

McArtney and Larsen agreed that the most rewarding aspect of creating the show was seeing the “absolute joy” on the faces of the cast as they performed, as some have never been up on stage before.

“Each of us shines in a different way but this doesn’t make us less bright,” Larsen said.

“We all have different abilities and skills and Janet and I have done our best to allow for individual guest stars to shine.”

Let’s Shine Brightly will play at the Albany Port Theatre on November 30 and December 1.

Tickets are on sale now online and in-store via Paperbark Merchants.

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Keane launches third album

AFTER teetering on the edge of giving up her musical dream and career altogether, Albany singer-songwriter Simone Keane has found her mojo and released her third album.

Wild Thingz has been a collaborative effort, including local instrumentalists and talents Ellie Honeybone, Marie Limondin, Kiersten Fage, Mick Crannage, Giles Watson, Gemma Kiiveri, Andre Maujean, Brody Manson, Lauchlan Gillett and Alan McLean.

She described the album as completely different to her first one nine years ago, which she called “light and easy listening”.

“This is about the experiences that kick us in the guts, and about making something creative out of that,” Keane said.

“Rising up to express the things I find hard to put into words … it’s a bit more honest, heavy.”

Keane said she nearly pulled the plug on the entire album when it all became too hard.

She had withdrawn from the gigging scene to refocus herself but feels this new album was the exact way to lift the weight off her shoulders.

“It was something I had to do,” Keane said.

“I just had these songs coming out of me.”

Keane said Wild Thingz features “raw, haunting ballads, full productions of jazzed-up blues and a low-fi dance track”.

The launch is at the Albany Club this Saturday, November 23 at 7.30pm.

Entry is free and Keane hopes the family-friendly event will be both an album launch and a party.

Under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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Mediums merge in The Index

THE work of five Great Southern artists from different mediums will converge next week in an exhibition at Denmark Community Resource Centre.

Photographer Nic Duncan, choreographer Annette Carmichael, textile artist Janine McCrum, sound designer James Gentle and sculptor Kevin Draper will feature in multimedia installation, The Index from Thursday, November 21 until December 1.

The Index will include photographs taken by Duncan of Carmichael in a variety of environments, to highlight sites of regeneration and industry.

McCrum’s textile art and Gentle’s “haunting” musical soundscape will provide the backdrop of the exhibition – a backdrop of hundreds of egg shells – while a variety of Draper’s sculptures will be seen in some of Duncan’s photos.

Carmichael described the exhibition as “a study on harmony and disruption created in response to escalating global levels of fear and terror”.

The Index has previously toured the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries and Esperance’s Cannery Arts Centre.

During the exhibition’s Denmark launch next Thursday, Carmichael will launch her company’s 2020 program and speak about the progress of one of her current projects, Chorus.

Ticket sales for the 2020 program’s performances will also launch on the night.

The exhibition opening commences at 5.30pm on November 21 and entry is free.

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REVIEW: Theatre group filled with passion

THE thing I love about the Plantagenet Players amateur theatre group is their energy.

No matter what the topic of the show is and no matter if someone keeps stumbling on their lines, everyone up on stage wants to be there.

You can see their passion for theatre blazing in their eyes and as an audience member, it is really enjoyable to watch people do what they love.

Sure, there’s a few fourth-wall breaks, prompt-prompting and cheeky winks to family members, but that’s what makes a Plantagenet Players performance special.

It’s their trademark.

Don’t get me wrong – I love theatre shows with all the bells and whistles, but there’s something about a group of people from all corners of the community, getting together to have a laugh, dress-up and just have fun.

That was exactly the case on Friday night when I jumped in the car for an evening trip to Mt Barker to watch Hatches, Matches, Dispatches (and other life snatches!).

Now, I wasn’t too sure what to expect with this production.

I’m pretty hard to impress but the Players had done so before, so I had my fingers crossed that I was in for a good night.

Well, I think the laughter flowing through the crowd around me answered that question.

In traditional Players fashion, the show was comprised of multiple skits, some short and some long.

Each joke was well thought-out with some punchlines weaving through an entire segment before cleverly tying up.

What I love most about shows like this is that, no matter what’s going on in your life, you can rely on the Players to keep you entertained and laughing for a couple of hours.

The theatre itself has a warm and welcoming atmosphere about it, and, of course, you can’t miss the light supper at half-time.

I don’t know what it is about country folk, but they always put on a scrumptious spread of homemade tucker.

It’s the country touch.

If you want to get in on the action, the Players have two more performances this weekend, November 8 and 9, at 8pm.

Get in quick to secure the last few seats by calling 0447 656 105 or by popping into Bub 2 Mum on Lowood Road.

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