Free things to do in Sydney today
Budding horticulturalists who like plants with attitude should head to the Royal Botanical Gardens from October 1 for a free exhibition of carnivorous greenery. The Calyx will be filled with 25,000 of the world’s hungriest, most clever plants. Watch as the venus fly trap lures unsuspecting insects with nectar and snaps them up in its jaws, where they’ll spend their final days being slowly digested. Or meet the drosera, who use their sticky tentacles to attract and snatch their prey before devouring them. Then marvel at the simplicity of the pitcher plant’s hunting technique, which is to lure hapless bugs with honey and let them fall into the pool of digestive enzymes in their pitfall trap. The Plants with Bite display does sound a little like a horror film, but it’s really all bark and no bite (for humans, anyway) and families can expect a very kid-friendly experience. Plus, there will be a range of themed education programs, workshops and a regular feeding display that will intrigue little greenthumbs and their grown-ups.
Whether it be issues surrounding homelessness, domestic violence, sustainable development or nomadic lifestyles, The Ideal Home finds a way to analyse the subject. The exhibition features watercolours, textile artwork, found objects and video installations which all provide commentary on the last century of evolution within Australian families and the concept of home. The Penrith Regional Gallery has partnered with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to produce this series of visual displays, and will house 70 objects from the MAAS collection along with newly commissioned pieces inside the historic gallery. The Western Sydney structure was originally the homestead of two artists prominent in Australian modernism, Margo and Gerald Lewers. When visiting, you’ll find detailed work by eX De Medici that explores domestic violence using tiles made of bullet casings and a wall of flowers that wilt over the course of the exhibition; Blake Griffiths will consider material possessions and home in the age of excess by weaving a blanket with waste products; and Richard Goodwin’s micro-home built out of found objects will examine homelessness and the global refugee crisis. The Penrith Regional Gallery will host this portion of the exhibition concurrently with MAAS until March 24.
This long running, fascinating investigation into museum curation gives visitors insight into how and why historically and culturally significant objects are moved around the globe. It’s sure to tackle some controversial topics related to ownership and heritage of artefacts, but also the value of having access to items which contribute to our understanding of different cultures, social groups and histories. Some particularly intriguing questions may also come up, like how the torso of an Egyptian statue came to reside in Sydney, while its head still calls Cairo home. But what really unveils the truth behind these stories of diaspora and reveals more about the objects, is the connections between museums themselves. The Connections exhibition, divided into connections between identities, structures, assemblages and meanings, will be the last to feature at the Nicholson Museum, before it, the Macleay and Art Gallery collections are moved to the Chau Chak Wing Museum in 2020.
The MCA's collection hang is where you go to get an overview of Australian contemporary art – and it's less daunting than it sounds. The last time they curated the hang was in 2012 (MCA Collection: Volume One), for the launch of the re-designed building, so there are a whola lotta new eye-candies to wrap your brain around. Although several works in the first room of the exhibition do take 'time' as their theme (including Stuart Ringholt's giant clock) curator Natasha Bullock, who masterminded the new hang, says the theme is more broadly connected to the ways in which the works in the show connected to histories of different kinds. Bullock deliberately messed with the Western linear notion of time in the exhibition's title, and explains that the indigenous concept of time would be better visualised in a circular pattern, in which present, future and past are connected. Artists in Today Tomorrow Yesterday include: Vernon Ah Kee, James Angus, Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council), John Barbour, Gordon Bennett, Daniel Boyd, Pat Brassington, Bob Burruwal, A.D.S Donaldson, Mikala Dwyer, Dale Frank, Marco Fusinato, Matthys Gerber, Kevin Gilbert, Julia Gorman, Fiona Hall, Robert Hunter, Robert MacPherson, Sanné Mestrom, Frank Malkorda, Linda Marrinon, Elizabeth Mipilanggurr, Callum Morton, Barayuwa Munungur, John Nixon, Kerrie Poliness, Stuart Ringholt, Joan Ross, Super Critical Mass, Gareth Sansom, Sally Smart, Ricky Swallow, Kathy Temin, Imants Tillers, Tjanpi D
American artist Nick Cave – not to be confused with the Australian singer-songwriter – is bringing 16,000 wind spinners, 24 chandeliers, 10 miles of crystals, thousands of ceramic birds and one crocodile to Sydney. Cave’s Until is a mammoth new installation work coming to Carriageworks from November 23 2018. It will be open until March 2019, so you’ve got plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny of this extraordinarily detailed, opulent, kitschy world. Cave is best known for his ‘soundsuits’: brightly colourful, full-body costumes covered in noise-making materials made of everything from dyed human hair to plastic buttons. He made his first soundsuit in 1992, as a response to the Rodney King bashing, and in late 2016 brought a herd of horse-shaped soundsuits to Carriageworks for a memorable performance parade. While the soundsuits aren’t the focus of Until (although one has crept in), a visit to the installation is a little like stepping inside the belly of Cave’s creations. Thousands of small found objects have been pulled together to create three major spaces full of surprising colours and textures. At the centre of this all is a huge hanging crystal cloud, topped with a beautiful “private garden”. You can climb one of four ladders for a peek into this secret world, complete with its own crocodile, golden gilded pigs and blackface lawn jockeys. If those jockeys seem like an unusual addition, there’s a strong political slant to all of the work by Cave, who has
It was more than four decades ago that journalist and anti-development activist Juanita Nielsen disappeared from the streets of Sydney. Nobody knows exactly what happened to her, but it’s believed she met a violent end due to her opposition to the development of Victoria Street, where tenants were being evicted to make way for more apartment blocks. And the possible theories about her fate are wild; one is that she’s buried under the runway at Sydney Airport. So it only makes sense to approach this unusual story in an unusual fashion, which is exactly what Sydney artist Zanny Begg does in this documentary film having its local premiere for Sydney Festival. The Beehive stitches together documentary footage, recreations and other film shot by Begg (Pamela Rabe plays a narrator), but the fabric of this stitching together is determined by a randomised computer algorithm. Each screening lasts somewhere between 20 and 33 minutes, and there are 1,344 possible ways it could turn out.
If you reckon you’re a trivia wizard, a scattergories queen and gernal knowledge mastermind, you’ll probably have heard of of the television series Pointless. This game show asks contestants to find the most unusual, least-referenced answer to general knowledge questions. The more uncommon the response, the fewer points it’s worth. But rather than competing to earn the most points, it’s the team with the lowest score, that is closest to being ‘pointless’, who will come out on top. This Australian program is based off its UK counterpart which first went to air in 2009. Now onto its second Aussie season, the mind boggling trivia session will once again be hosted by Network Ten’s former Breakfast co-host Andrew Rochford and Mark Humphries, who recently departed from SBS program The Feed. Tickets to be part of the studio audience are free but only open to telly fans over 12, and they are limited, meaning you may not be selected if you apply. You’ll want a clear social plan for the day of viewing, as filming can run anywhere from two to four hours.
Just one day before it was due to premiere in Melbourne in 2018, Sydney duo Soda_Jerk's latest film lost the support of the philanthropic trust that contributed $100,000 to its development. Soda_Jerk (aka Dan and Dominique Angelero) didn't lose the money they used to produce Terror Nullius, but the Ian Potter Cultural Trust no longer wanted to be associated with the promotion or publicity of a film that they deemed too controversial. So what exactly sent the trust running for cover? The film splices together classic pieces of Australian cinema into a political revenge fable that challenges Australian mythology. Expect to see Pauline Hanson alongside the characters of Mad Max while the voice of John Howard rings out across the desert. Characters from Muriel's Wedding meet Josh Thomas in Please Like Me, Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper, and even the Babadook. Terror Nullius is the centrepiece of this exhibition, which features work from 20 living Australian artists working with satire and alternative narratives, and questioning what it is to be Australian. There's also work from Vincent Namitjira, Tony Albert, Abdul Abdullah, Cigdem Aydemir, Karla Dickens, Joan Ross and more.
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Much is made of theatre’s cathartic quality. It’s an art form beloved for its ability to give audiences safe passage as they experience and exorcise the knotty parts of the human condition by bearing witness to stories. But Sydney Theatre Company’s Mary Stuart, in a new adaptation by Kate Mulvany and directed by Lee Lewis, offers a different kind of catharsis: the act of reclaiming women’s stories with empathy, insight and, crucially, by allowing women of the past to finally have a voice. Much like in STC’s 2018 production of Saint Joan, this is a play written by a man that has been terraformed into a play about women, by women. In both Shaw’s original work about Joan of Arc and Schiller’s 1800 play about Queens Mary and Elizabeth, much of the action was driven by the men around them – their jailers, operatives and informants – rather than giving voice and heft to the women at the centre. In this new, freshly 21st century Mary Stuart, Kate Mulvany re-shapes the drama to give the women their own points of view. Mulvany writes with witty specificity and finely honed anger to tell the story of two queens imprisoned in very different ways. Mary Stuart’s confinement is of course literal: she has spent 19 years locked away by cousin Elizabeth under charges of treason. Elizabeth I, reigning queen of England, is a prisoner of circumstance: a self-titled Virgin Queen, hemmed in and reduced to sometimes ineffectual figurehead by her responsibilities and her court. Her crown is her on
When American writer Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer-nominated play The Wolves had its Sydney premiere at the Old Fitz Theatre, two things were clear: Firstly, DeLappe has crafted an extraordinary, dramatically gripping piece of writing that gives voice to a group of teenage girls in ways that we rarely hear on stage. Secondly, there was a hell of a lot of talent among the cast of nine young women who put their hearts and bodies on the line as a team of indoor soccer players over the course of a season. But independent theatre is a difficult beast, and ensembles aren’t usually blessed with the sort of rehearsal period that mainstage companies have. That’s a huge challenge in a piece where the dialogue moves quickly and overlaps frequently as the excited teens try to wrap their heads and mouths around both their own problems and the problems of the world; in one scene there’s a simultaneous conversation happening about tampons and the Khmer Rouge. Despite director Jessica Arthur’s obvious skill and fine touches, it didn’t quite have the necessary flow to keep an audience totally immersed in the girls’ worlds. What a difference a bit of time and the resources of a mainstage theatre company can make. Belvoir decided to take this production from the Old Fitz – with eight of the original nine cast members (Chika Ikogwe replaces Zoe Terakes) – and bring it to their 300-seat Upstairs Theatre. While some performances were a little bumpy at the Old Fitz, this company now moves with absolut
British writer Jim Cartwright was inspired to pen his 1992 play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice as a star vehicle for a young Jane Horrocks when she was appearing in his play Road. She’s an electrifying actor, but it was the vocal impersonations of Judy Garland and Ethel Merman she did as a warm-up that really caught Cartwright’s attention. The resulting play – packed with obligatory songs – tells the story of Little Voice, or LV (Geraldine Hakewill), a young girl living in a Northern British town with her drunk cyclone of a mother, Mari Hoff (Caroline O’Connor). LV is painfully shy, to say the least, and spends her days locked away in her upstairs room singing along to the records of famous divas that were her father’s pride and joy. Downstairs, Mari is looking for love, and she thinks she’s found it when thrifter and down-on-his-luck talent agent Ray Say (Joseph Del Re) starts showing interest. But it soon turns out he’s more interested in what LV can do for him than in anything Mari has to offer. It’s a story about a young woman finding her own voice, but it’s not really complex or nuanced enough to stand up as a genuinely great play in 2019. Significantly better plays about this very subject – and the way that ageing, downtrodden women like Mari are passed over – have been written in the years since. Although LV and Mari might be great roles for actors, they’re not really fully fleshed women; they’re more like the two sides of a coin that Cartwright needed to make an
Australia’s only film festival dedicated to film lovers aged 60 and up, Young at Heart, is returning in February. The festival program includes acclaimed features, special guests, Q&As and cinema classics brought back to their rightful home on the big screen. Screenings are at Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona and Palace Central, and if you're a senior you're looking at just $8.50 a ticket plus booking fee (sorry, full price is $20). The festival opens with Swimming with Men, which stars Welsh comedic star Rob Brydon as a mature man who joins an all-male synchronised swimming team; there'll be afternoon tea and a glass of sparkling wine before the screening. Nonna on the Run is an Italian comedy concerning two woman who flee their retirement home in Rome for a trip to Venice – screen icon Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon a Time in the West) is one of the stars. An Australian screen great, Elizabeth Debicki, plays Virginia Woolf in Vita and Virginia, portraying the writer's romance with Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton). The Heiresses was named Best Film at the Sydney Film Festival last year, and Young at Heart presents another opportunity to see this emotionally compelling Paraguayan movie. Screen favourite Bill Nighy plays a Scrabble obesessive searching for his lost son in Sometimes, Always, Never, and Judi Dench appears in Red Joan, based on the life of British KGB agent Melita Norwood. On the documentary fron there's Older than Ireland, centring on Ir
Sydney's theatres don't get much cosier than the Old Fitz. It's situated in the basement of an old pub and holds just 60 people for each performance. But the ambitions of the companies that create theatre in that basement are significantly bigger than its tiny space might suggest. Dino Dimitriadis, who just won the Sydney Theatre Award for best director of an independent production, is taking on one of the giants of theatre in the last century: Tony Kushner's two-part magnum opus, Angels in America. At the Old Fitz, you can either decide to see it across two nights or in one full day-night session. (There's pretty decent pub food at the Old Fitz, so that's what we'd recommend.) The play is set in New York in the middle of the 1980s, at the height of the AIDS crisis, following a disparate group of individuals as they try to find meaning in the midst of a hugely difficult time. It's also come back into public consciousness because one of the characters is Roy Cohn, the ruthless American lawyer who was Donald Trump's mentor. Dimitriadis's production stars Joseph Althouse, Catherine Davies, Maggie Dence, Ben Gerrard, Judith Gibson, Ashley Lyons, Gus Murray and Timothy Wardell.