Once Upon a Grimm Night: Interactive Theatre

Once Upon a Grimm Night

Once Upon a Grimm Night Rating

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An interactive theatre experience is not a seated and static theatre show. Nor is it one where you are pulled onto stage to become a part of the show, like in a stage hypnotist’s performance.

The ‘theatre’ setting for Once Upon a Grimm Night was a beautiful heritage house, Lindesay House, with lush green landscaped gardens that overlooked Sydney Harbour. Odyssey Theatre has chosen the perfect setting in Lindesay House for their Otherworld meets Ourworld theatre experience.

When we arrived for our 5:30 p.m. session, we were greeted by the impressively large house, with warm lights emanating from the windows, giving it a welcoming glow. Dusky twilight oranges and pinks painted the background of the house and the huge tree in front of it, where we waited for the show to begin.

Our group was soon welcomed by The Narrator (Jared Gerschwitz) with his infectious enthusiasm. It is a credit to Jared, who outlined the storyline, clarified our quest for the night, and made our adventure into the house enjoyable while maintaining a wicked sense of humour. Other characters we met initially as we were swept into the story included Cly (Phoebe Lumley Tow), the earnest maiden, and Grimm Volkov (Harlee Timms).

Along with the heritage house, the details put into the costume design and hair styling stood out for me. The Maiden Cly’s hair was fairytale perfect, complete with the flowers in her half-up/down wavy hair. I noted the jewellery worn by The Narrator, Grimm and the Witch, who we soon met, all added to the idea of what a fairytale character would feel comfortable wearing. Look closely, to peek at some cleverly hidden clues in their costume and jewellery design!

The fourth character, the Witch (Emily McKendry), had her own back storyline, as did all the characters. One fun part of this interactive theatre involved the audience helping her brew a magic potion to help further their quest. The way that Emily guided this particular scene down in the basement of the house in the deep, cold, stone kitchen was highly entertaining.

Throughout the play, the audience was given several puzzles to solve that immersed them deeper into the storyline. Everyone had to work together to come up with the answer. The group I went through with were all good sports, and we had an opportunity to discuss what certain clues meant to try and figure out the answers. If you were someone who would rather observe than participate, I am sure that the cast wouldn’t have made you do anything.

All four characters appeared to be able to read the room, with their mannerisms tailored to the audience. Odyssey Theatre’s director and writer, Emily McKendry, creatively handmade the clue props, which stood out as original and made for interesting puzzles to solve.

The storyline would suit all ages, as a fairytale does not need to be just for children. I recommend Once Upon A Grimm Night for anyone who would like an hour of doing something different.

It was an interactive theatrical experience that was quite original and uncommon. We became part of the story, and there was something satisfying about it. I could see this experience fitting into a family night out, a unique first date, and everything in between.

All characters presented the story with humour, and their quick-witted quips felt spontaneous and fresh. Once Upon a Grimm Night plays three sessions every Thursday and Friday night throughout July.

Tickets: $49
Venue: Lindesay House
1 Carthona Ave, Darling Point NSW 2027
Season run: Thursday 4 July – Friday 26 July 2024

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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Good Food and Wine at the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

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I have three recommendations for attending the Good Food and Wine Show. One is to bring a trolley. Not a shopping cart trolley, but a stand-up two-wheeled trolley will do just fine. There is a general conception that only the older generation shops with trolleys.

However, when you go around the Good Food & Wine Show (GFWS) buying bottle/s of wine, cheese, gourmet drinks, such as jars of Honey Yuzu Tea (The Han Kitchen), a 750ml bottle of Elixir of Ceylon Tea (Dilmah), and other such foodie items, your arms will get a good workout with many shopping bags hanging off! (The GFW Show have trolleys for sale, for this very reason.)

The second recommendation is to come hungry. Don’t eat breakfast beforehand if you plan to arrive at the 10 am opening. There are 350 exhibitors, and most exhibitors will offer you a sample of their goods. As you are wandering the aisles, there are many temptations to try! For those with a penchant for savoury items, you can taste salami, and not just the usual pork salami; there was also some duck salami on offer.

Wander through the Cheese Corner, with not one but nineteen dairy and cheese exhibitors – I was in cheese heaven! For a cheese lover, this would have to be one of the show’s highlights. If you don’t eat dairy cheeses or are vegan, Noshing dairy-free cheese has a variety of tasty vegan cheese flavours. (Just be aware that they are made with almond milk, so they are unsuitable for people with nut allergies). Other savoury tastes offered were delicious kimchi, chilli oils, olives, gourmet macadamias, miso pastes and ready-made recipe bases.

One of the most interesting exhibitors I came across was Circle Harvest, founded in Western Sydney, which has Australia’s largest insect protein farm and food manufacturing facility. They specialise in using cricket protein in their food products, looking forward to a sustainable future. I tried their cricket corn chips, and they were slightly salty and crunchy, with no ‘crickety’ taste!

For people with a sweet tooth, there were certainly many exhibitors offering their desserts and cookies. (I tried the THICC cookies, which were lovely!) There were chocolatiers with gorgeous-looking handcrafted chocolates (Studio Cocoa), cannoli, and decorated donuts to purchase, all looking quite tempting.

With just under one hundred Australian vineyards offering wine tastings, as well as many flavoured gins from Australian distillers, premium liqueurs to sample, alcoholic ciders and such, my third recommendation would be to catch public transport to the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show. It would be wise to limit your tastings to a sip!

The overall layout of the show inside the International Convention Centre (ICC) was structured well. Most of the dairy and cheese sections were together, and there was a concentration of boutique wine makers (although some were still scattered around). There were maps we could download to navigate around the show.

If you were still peckish between the tastings, there was more substantial food to buy. Pop-up restaurants served pies, fried chicken, empanadas, burek, pasta, bakery items, and Vietnamese pho.

There were free-to-watch demonstration areas and various masterclasses with wine, cheese, spirit, and tea experiences that incurred a fee and were recommended to be pre-booked (I could see that most classes were already booked out for the day).

I attended the Fizz and Fromage masterclass at the Wine Selectors Wine and Food Tasting Rooms. This was a fun, small 14-person class, during which we were served a tasting of 4 Australian wines and matching cheeses. Thanks to Nicole, who led our 30-minute session, I picked up some interesting facts about pairing wine and cheese.

During the cheese tastings, I delighted in discovering the joy of the triple brie from the Cole River Farm, an award-winning artisan cheese manufacturer in Tasmania, the Tarago Cheese Farmhouse’s creamy and tasty Shadows of Blue from Victoria, and the bold, earthy Tasmanian cheddar from Pyengana Dairy.

At the entrance was a cloakroom and the welcome station for the GFWS patrons, where they could buy a show bag or a single wine-tasting glass.

The aisles were packed with people, and sometimes, it was difficult to move around. If you are not comfortable in a crowd or with constant loud noise, this may not be an event you’d enjoy. Perhaps a timed entrance to the show could ease the people traffic during the first few hours.

This is a vibrant event where foodies and wine and spirits lovers can sample the best Australia has to offer in one place.

The Sydney Good Food and Wine Show was held at the ICC from Friday, 21 June, to Sunday, 23 June. Tickets started at $39 for a day pass or $59 for a multi-day pass, plus an extra charge for any masterclass experience.

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Sydney Film Festival: Super/Man The Christopher Reeve Story

Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story

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The directors Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui present the documentary Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story to the world and by doing so, they bring him to a whole new generation of people who may not know who he is, seeing that Superman was released to box office success in 1978. Perhaps some people know him for being the man in the blue and red lycra suit, but Christopher Reeve was so much more than these four movies, and we are introduced to the man behind the Superman suit.

Through exclusive archival video footage, and interviews with his three children Will Reeve, Alexandra Reeve Givens and Matthew Reeve, we are given a glimpse into Christopher’s life.
The film explores his early years, as a student at The Julliard School, where he met one of his closet friends Robin Williams. He loved acting, treading the boards on stage in theatres. There is an interview with his then partner Gae Exton, the mother of his two children.

We see him as the family man, now in a relationship with singer and actress Dana, playing piano with Matthew sitting on his lap, bantering with his two eldest children Will and Alexandra and leading an extremely active and outdoor life. Christopher Reeve also narrates part of his biography, and various home movie footage scenes show his interactions with many sports and hobbies. He tells us that he loved horse riding, sailing, gliding amongst the clouds and tennis.

“I’ve always loved flying. It’s my passion in life.” he says. Christopher flew solo twice across The Atlantic. This was a man who lived life to the fullest.

Until an accident in 1995 which changed his life in a split second. Whilst at an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia, Christopher was thrown forward from his horse and suffered injuries which would leave him paralysed with spinal cord injury. He was 42 years old at the time of his accident and would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and on ventilation needing 24-hour nursing care until his passing on 10th October 2004.

There are scenes which separate the archival footage which show a sculpted likeness to Christopher floating in space. When the accident happens, it was a clever artistic touch to see kryptonite crystals forming on his body.

We witness Christopher’s journey and his loving support from his wife Dana. It becomes a very human story from this point in the film. The family and directors have carefully pieced together the footage to show how Christopher Reeve was a man who, in his opinion after the accident, had lost everything. The documentary shows how scared he was. He went from being a participant to an observer and the audience could feel his loss, especially in one scene where he came home after the hospital.

However, Christopher Reeve was no ordinary man. He was intelligent and he was courageous. He began to want to live, and he credits this to his wife a couple of times. Christopher’s narration of how he became determined to walk again, with painful physical therapy sessions, and his journey to being an advocate for people with spinal cord injury is truly inspiring.

The documentary features interviews with his friends, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Daniels, Susan Sarandon and by way of archival footage, the late Robin Williams and Brooke Ellison, a friend Christopher made who also had a spinal cord injury. Brooke speaks of how Christopher spoke out, to educate people on the hardships people with disabilities face, and to lobby the government to pledge money to be used toward research. Just ten months after his accident, in an industry which was not inclusive of people with disability, he attended The Oscars sitting in his wheelchair on stage and was greeted with a standing ovation.

Together with Dana Reeve, they started the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, dedicated to researching a cure for spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for those affected and for their families. The three children are actively involved in this foundation.

It is clear from this documentary that both Christopher and Dana Reeve were people who believed they could make a difference and help others, despite their challenges. This is a beautiful and bittersweet dedication to them both, and to love and courage. We are left with the wise words of Christopher Reeve, that the essence of life “is your relationship”.

I saw Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story on Saturday 8 June 2024 at The Hayden Orpheum as it was showing as part of The Sydney Film Festival.

Film running time: 104 minutes

SESSIONS: Monday 10 June 6PM
Ritz Randwick, Sydney

Sunday 16 June 2PM
Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney

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The Ballad of Maria Marten – Giving Voice to the Victim

The Ballad of Maria Marten

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“It’s been a year since I died, and still nobody has found me.”

A shadow emerges from a barn. It’s a figure in britches, and so begins a tale which captured the mass attention of people in 1827 – the murder of young mum Maria Marten. This true crime occurred in the village Polstead, Essex in England and newspapers sensationalized the case and the subsequent trial, dubbing it The Red Barn Murder. The Ballad of Maria Marten, written by Beth Flintoff, focuses on Maria’s life and of those who loved her, rather than the gruesome details of her death.

In the powerful opening scene, Maria (Laura Stead), her face lit effectively from underneath, giving her a haunting appearance, introduces us to her untimely death. Set and lighting designer Wayne Chee achieved dramatic visual effects such as this throughout the play, and notably when lighting the barn, where Maria is cruelly hidden for a year after her murder.

Maria is the narrator of her own story, and throughout the play, Laura seamlessly switches from telling the story to melting into a scene. By Maria narrating the play, I felt as though the author was honouring her and giving her the power to take charge of her own story, whereas, in real life, the real Maria didn’t have a voice in the newspaper articles.

We are introduced to Maria’s close friends, Phoebe (Chiara Helena Arata), Lucy (Kimberlea Smith), Theresa (Genevieve Sky) and Sarah (Jacqui Wilson), as they circle close to Maria for an effective costume change. When they move away, Maria is transformed into modest clothing as the 10-year-old daughter of a mole catcher, wearing a cotton skirt, apron, and shirt commonly worn at the time. It is here that we see the carefree, playful, and kind side to Maria, and the bonds of her friendship she has with her girlfriends. (She’s the ringleader for the Hazard Club, a secret club where they get up to numerous adventures together.) It is these strong bonds that remain a constant theme.

Music connects the audience to the 1800’s time period. The group of girls happily sing chants and dance, showing undisguised notes of joy in their own type of freedom. Violinist Chris Porteous adds depth to the story onstage. Costumes by JAS Enterprises were effective in portraying the characters believably.

Maria meets her new stepmum Ann (Madeleine Lawson) when she bounds back into her home one day. Ann is nervous and genuinely cares about making a good impression on Maria, otherwise Maria’s dad may send her away to a workhouse. This highlights how dependant women were on men for their happiness and wellbeing during this period. As time goes on, Madeleine successfully portrays the character development of Ann from a self-deprecating young stepmum to a strong protector who loves Maria.

Director Jennifer Willison put together a solid all-female cast and an intriguing story. Of course, the play has male characters, including the slimy Thomas Corder (Cee Egan) and Maria’s first love Peter Mathews (Niamh McKervey). Peter and his sister Lady Cooke (Jade Rodrigues) are from a well-to-do family, and it is through these characters where we see the strong divide between the working class and the wealthy upper class. The prejudice was clear from Lady Cooke, who initially showed kindness towards Maria and then cooled as she realised her brother was interested in Maria. This divide has echoes of truth, even now.

After the 20-minute interval, the second act takes a darker turn as we witness the disintegration of Maria’s mind after she comes under the influence of William Corder. She slowly becomes dependant on him as the audience bear witness to hearing the terrible deeds of this faceless character.

“Am I being tested for lunacy?” a dishevelled, distressed Maria with messed up hair cries. I noted that her beautifully styled hair in previous scenes had been an underlying focus, reflecting her own beauty and perhaps confidence.

It was powerful storytelling to see Maria relate her unravelling as she becomes the target of coercive control and domestic violence, yet she cannot see it, and in parallel, we also cannot see this character on stage. He remains a perceived threat to all. Sadly, the examples Maria uses are strikingly similar to the stories women who have been through this experience tell, almost two hundred years later. This is a story which spans time and must be told with the hope that change comes.

Rising amongst the darker themes in this story is the power of love and strength between friends. This is a moving tale which captured my interest for the whole play. Congratulations to The Hunters Hill Theatre on a strong opening night performance.

The Hunters Hill Theatre present The Ballad of Maria Marten, performing at Club Ryde.
Running time: 130 minutes (including interval)
June 7 – June 24, 2024
Tickets: $32 concession and groups of 10, $35 adults

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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