Kaboom! A Cracking Science Show for Kids

Kaboom! A Cracking Science Show for Kids

Kaboom! Do you like ice cream? What about your air conditioning? I’ll bet you especially enjoy not having Polio, don’t you?

If you think science is a boring subject best left to school kids, you might be surprised to know that all the things named above were created by, you guessed it, science! Just ask Magnus Danger Magnus (yes, it’s his real name!).

Magnus is a supercharged, multi-award-winning, high-energy entertainer with, as he tells you himself, absolutely no qualifications whatsoever. We spent a delightful Saturday afternoon in his company as he shared his gleefully explosive science with happy, lively crowds of kids and parents at the Comedy Festival.

With his ‘safety third’ approach to experimentation (first comes flammability, second, wow factor), Magnus rampages across the stage excitedly, armed with the curiosity and energy of a toddler and some seriously dangerous chemicals. He fascinates, educates, and draws you in with his absolute love of science and his absolute disregard for his own safety.

The audience revelled in Vortex Cannon smoke rings and liquid nitrogen experiments that delighted and wowed as they exploded (safely), boiled and turned into foaming colourful messes all over the auditorium. He drew young helpers from a very eager crowd. Everyone, parents included, joined in all the yelling, whooping, and clapping throughout, especially when he sang the periodic table as he turned water into fire all over his hands. Don’t try this at home, kids!

Magnus’s infectious enthusiasm for science makes him the perfect example of someone who believes in teaching things in a curiosity-led, hands-on, fun way that will create a whole new generation of science-loving people.

Kaboom is a show that is not to be missed, especially if you have curious kids.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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French Film Festival – The Book Of Solutions

French Film Festival - The Book Of Solutions

The Book of Solutions is a quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes confusing comedy-drama from writer-director Michel Gondry, who is best known outside of France for directing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The story centres on Marc, a paranoid filmmaker with a narcissistic personality and an incredibly creative but highly distractible mind, which borders on the pathological. To prevent the studio from shutting his film down, he and his crew steal the footage and retreat to Marc’s aunt’s house in the country to finish it.

Marc spends most of his time there, avoiding watching his film whilst restlessly pursuing whatever idea takes hold of his mind at the moment. These pursuits range from being elected mayor of the rural town to filming an ant for three days to creating a soundtrack for his film by gracelessly conducting the orchestra himself with a series of bizarre body and hand gestures. The orchestra scene was a particular favourite, and I enjoyed the idea that someone clueless could make something special happen through their unwavering belief in themselves.

Marc’s pompous narration throughout is also very funny, with a favourite line coming after his triumphant booking of Sting (who works on his soundtrack): ‘Some victories are so spectacular they don’t need a voiceover’.

Over the course of the movie, his increasingly erratic mood and behaviour begin to alienate his crew, worry his elderly aunt, and lead to him being unable to tell facts from fiction in real life. His strangely obsessive thoughts result in him writing ‘The Book of Solutions’, which is supposed to provide the answers to any conflict from the local to the global. All of the ideas in the book are based on his own highly skewed (and often contradictory) perception of the world as he tries to finish his film while his mind simultaneously unravels.

Although Marc’s childlike ability to lose himself in whatever captures his attention at the moment is a beautiful illustration of the power of being totally present, I personally found the film lacked a satisfying story. Like Marc, the film jumps from one thing to the next without any real connectivity or explanation, although it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless.

Perhaps this lack of a traditional storyline can be chalked up to the fact that it is, after all, a French film and the French have a far more existential relationship with story and filmmaking than Hollywood does. Or perhaps it’s because the film represents a confusing window into the internal struggle of an unsound but sometimes brilliant mind.

Regardless, it’s as darkly humorous and provocative as one might expect a French film to be and is certainly worth watching, even if you’re new to French cinema.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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The Wharf Review – Pride in Prejudice

The Wharf Review - Pride in Prejudice

Being a Pom, if I had seen this production advertised, I would honestly have said, “No, not for me.” I’m not interested in politics beyond the important issues, and Australian political satire is definitely not my usual wheelhouse. That said, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see this show. I was surprised and genuinely entertained by The Wharf Revue’s pith and wonderful wit in their latest production, ‘Pride in Prejudice’.

The company romped energetically through two hours packed with songs and skits, all ripe with intelligent social commentary and a keen eye for the ridiculous. Despite the occasional slip into some Benny Hill-esque style humour, they provoked and delighted in equal measure, calling out both the hypocrisy and the difficulties of our current political landscape.

The Wharf Review - Pride in Prejudice

They deftly illuminated the prejudices we still unconsciously carry, many of which are a hangover from our colonial days. Poking gleefully at the beasts that are Australian ‘bloke’ culture, climate change, racism, the ‘Yes’ vote, sexism, inequality and many well-known government representatives in all of their ever-changing and inconsistent glory, the show was blunt, pithy and very funny. Not even Biden, Putin or the Royal Family were safe.

The cast shone, seamlessly shifting from one political player to the next, with an uncanny ability to truly bring their subjects to life. A confused elderly Joe Biden was a gem in this respect, but I would like to give a real shout out to Mandy Bishop, whose diverse vocals and comedic talent were a delight throughout but especially in the Jazzy ‘Toughen Up & Fly Right’ where she sings about the vagaries of life as Peter Dutton’s deputy, Sussan Ley.

The whole show was brilliant, but highlights would have to be Trump (played by the fabulous Jonathon Biggs) and Giuliani on the run from a chain gang, during which Trump whips out a ukulele and sings a gem of a song, ‘In the Land of Mar-a-Lago’, about Trump’s magical resort created for important people like them, in all of their misogynistic, narcissistic and ruthless beauty, which was a big hit with the crowd and made me laugh out loud.

I also cannot go past the tender song about the outcome of the recent Indigenous ‘Yes’ vote, which was lyrically poignant and movingly delivered to a slowed-down reworking of ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ and which proved that the Revue has an enormous heart as well as biting wit.

In the olden days, the role of the court jester was to highlight the folly of those in power, and every member of the Wharf Revue skilfully did this with punchy, no-holds-barred humour.

So, even if you are politically more slacktivist than an activist, go see it! Unlike Albanese, whose election promises have now been downgraded to ‘more of a values statement’, I promise you you’ll get great value from this show.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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Blurred Lines – A Review of the Film May December

May December

May December is the new comedy-drama (leaning heavily into the drama) from acclaimed director Todd Haynes of Carol and Far From Heaven fame. Haynes has a penchant for stories about complex, often taboo relationships and this film, written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, certainly fits that narrative.

Powerhouse actresses Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman are beautifully supported by a surprisingly nuanced performance from Charles Melton, who is better known as the hunky Reggie Mantle from the teen TV series Riverdale. The film is inspired by the true story of American teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, who had a sexual relationship with (and eventually married) one of her 13-year-old students. It centres on the arrival of Elizabeth (Portman), a well-known actress who is researching for her role in a film being made about the scandal and the unconventional relationship between Gracie (Moore) and her much younger husband, Joe (Melton).

May December

In truth, while I genuinely enjoyed this movie, it’s difficult to know how to feel about it, and that is absolutely intentional on the filmmakers’ part. The controversial subject matter is cleverly handled with everything from the diffuse, shadowed lighting and overly dramatic music to the awkward character interactions, designed to make you feel uncomfortable from the very outset. Even the darkly comedic elements add to a general sense of awkwardness and an increasing sense of unease even before the story unfolds to show its moral grey areas.

This growing discomfort is beautifully carried throughout the film with powerful yet understated performances from the three leads, whose personalities and hidden motives gently bump up against each other like boats in a harbour, scratching away at their facades. Portman brings out the big acting guns in her portrayal of the outwardly gracious but increasingly unstable actress, Elizabeth, whose arrival unravels Gracie and Joe’s relationship.

Gracie, a complex character with both dangerous steel and embarrassing, child-like vulnerability, is played to great effect by Moore, who easily and startlingly shifts between the roles of a loving (yet controlling and sometimes critical) wife and mother, into an increasingly fragile infantile state which is deeply unsettling.

With its whitewashing of a very scandalous and divisive relationship, the inappropriateness of the coupling is never really confronted directly. Everybody in Gracie and Joe’s world skirts around the very natural questions of morality and responsibility within their relationship and the shocking nature of how it began. Elizabeth’s polite intrusion into the couple’s lives slowly unravels the accepted story that theirs is somehow a relationship of such deep and abiding love and passion that it has to live outside societal norms.

As the mother of a 13-year-old son, I found the subject matter uncomfortably provocative, especially around the blurred lines between real and palatable fiction. Ultimately, this movie explores societal expectations and the roles we are expected to play, both those forced upon us and those we take on. It gently investigates the taboo nature of some love stories and the lies we tell ourselves in order to normalise the things we cannot face, leaving us to ponder the age-old question of whether love truly does conquer all.

This movie is due for release in early February 2024, so please check your local Palace Cinema for upcoming film and session times.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews to see what else is on in your town.