Sydney Film Festival: Super/Man The Christopher Reeve Story

Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story

Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story Rating

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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

The Ballad of Maria Marten Rating

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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

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Limbo The Return – A Transcendental Glimpse into Another World

Limbo The Return

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The cast of Limbo The Return, was extraordinary! Playing to a packed sell-out house at The Grand Electric, their opening Sydney performance transported the audience to a place of colour, music, and sensory loading. The award-winning creatives from Strut and Fret and director Scott Maidment will no doubt equal if not surpass the success of their previous show Blanc de Blanc last year and their encore in March, with this high energy vaudeville show.

There is no one particular category of entertainment that Limbo The Return can fit into. It has different elements of expertise in the acts. Limbo takes the music of the cool underground party club scene with a New Orleans feel, tosses it with a bit of French cabaret, modern dance, comedy, adding an aerial acrobatics circus spectacle to create a distinctly unique show.

The live music which continuously played throughout the show delved into the essence of each individual stage act, playing even when the crew were setting up the next performance. From the first introduction, I could tell that this was not going to be an ordinary soundtrack. We were introduced to the cast walking on stage, silently like models on a runway, to an encompassing and eclectic mix of music and sound. It was certainly a catwalk for the curious.

Composer and sound artist Sxip Shirey developed what he calls “jank” – sexy, crunchy, underground music – when he was travelling around the world.

The soundtrack not only featured traditional instruments such as synthesizers, keyboards, drums and guitar, but mostly unusual instruments such as the Polymba, designed and built by musical artist Mick Stuart, and the sousaphone – a big marching tuba, played by multi-instrumentalist Grant Arthur. Shirey, a sonic pioneer, is onstage with the band, creating sound stories using his voice with effects, a bullhorn, several harmonicas, whistles, marbles and even a glass bowl!

The cast of six took turns individually and at times together to perform gravity defying and jaw dropping acts. Each artist was a master of their trade. Choreographer Hilton Denis’ acts were comical and interactive, and at one time he even conducted the audience, involving them to be part of the music. His dancing was precise and interpretive.

David Marco Pintado held the audience spellbound with many of his acts, most notably his skill and acrobatic balance on the slackrope, even using a chair as his prop. Clara Fable’s vocals were beautiful during one of her acts, and at another time, she brought the stage literally alight with her synergetic relationship with fire. Her fire breathing and fire swallowing, amongst other things she did was incredible! Mikael Bres held us in awe with his prowess on the Chinese pole. He was so smooth with his movement gliding up the pole, he made himself appear weightless, especially when he stuck himself out at angles from the pole.

It was clear from her aerial circus skills that Maria Moncheva came from a background of ballet and contemporary dance. Her chain hanging act was a visual spectacle. Ben Loader completed this outstanding cast, most notably with his precise acrobatic skills on aerial rope. He captivated the audience with his strength and skill, seemingly playful with the rope, bending it to his will and defying gravity.

Whilst the artists were working their magic, the lighting (and set designer) by Philip Gladwell was mesmerising. He created a world in which these beautiful creatures were captured on stage, highlighting and shadowing as needed. One standout moment was the use of handheld mirrors and light, combined with the music to create an otherworldly perception.

The sexy and sometimes flamboyant, sometimes less-is-more costume design worn by the cast and musicians by Lucy Scott created the strong theme throughout this production.

Limbo is the place believed to be between heaven and hell, the setting for this show. The creators have told their story perfectly, amongst these unearthly, talented artists, floating white feathers and fire.

Limbo The Return is 100 minutes including interval. It is running from 30 May – 18 August 2024 at The Grand Electric, Sydney. Tickets from $60

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A Workout Disguised The Disco Loco Way

Disco Loco

Disco Loco Rating

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I found my musical inner dancing child on this Vivid Sydney Silent Disco Night Tour! A Silent Disco isn’t a new concept. It’s been popular since the 1990’s at outdoor parties and festivals, where partygoers wear headphones and continue to dance into the wee hours of the night without disturbing people in the neighbouring areas (and the wildlife!) Silent Discoers would have three channels on their headphones, each with different music playing so they could choose what they want to groove to.

Disco Loco have adapted this concept. Beginning outside the Chinese Garden of Friendship at Darling Harbour, we were given comfortable headphones and told how to adjust the volume on them. After a brief explanation of how the night was going to run, our host John started the music, our headphones glowed blue, and a burst of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk began our evening tour. Everyone had the same channel on, so the group of around thirty people immediately started moving in sync with each other. John was at the head of our tour, and we moved through the crowds of people like dancing pied piper followers. At some points it was tricky amongst the crowds of people to see John, but he always waited and made sure we all caught up and Sophie was at the back, so we didn’t feel like we would get lost. Perhaps John could carry a tall stick with a flashing disco ball on the top so we can spot him in a crowd!

This was the first time I had experienced a concurrent walk / dance and the pace was fairly brisk, but I soon found my own way, which was the point. Looking around, everyone appeared to have their individual dance moves going and more importantly, a smile on their faces.

John and the other Disco Loco host Sophie stopped us at certain points during the walk, pointing out some Sydney landmarks and tourist destinations around Darling Harbour. This would have been useful information for tourists. There were a couple of Vivid Sydney installations that we passed, a highlight being the Australian floral holographic light and laser display over Cockle Bay, by Hika Rakuyo. I expected to see more Vivid installations, but the overall vibrancy of Darling Harbour and the bustle of the King Street Wharf was enjoyable. There were fiery installations in Tumberlong Park near the beginning of the tour, and the Vivid Fire Kitchen along The Goods Line for those who wish to explore more of Vivid Sydney.

We played some fun trivia games throughout the night. John was an enthusiastic host, talking to us through our headphones and encouraging us to dance and sing aloud. (“Don’t stop me now!”) His outgoing manner put the group at ease, and I imagine that not too many people have seen a group of thirty in a public space sporadically belting out N Sync’s “Bye bye bye” into the night without hearing the song’s musical accompaniment or performing frenetic air guitar into the silence.

Being in a large group lessened the self-conscious aspect and allowed people to be free to let their inhibitions down. We even had another passer-by man join in and dance at the back of the group to “Greased Lightnin’” with us, flash mob style! This tour group was having fun, and I could see how a Silent Disco walking tour by Disco Loco would be an effective team bonding experience for a work social, or Christmas activity, a celebration such as a Hen’s Night or simply a unique date night.

The playlist was varied, from upbeat songs to classic slower songs such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and catered for people of all ages. With the addition of one more song, Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”, this playlist would have been perfect! In our group, I saw a few kids singing along with their parents. The 90-minute walk flew by and included one stop along the way for anyone who needed to use the amenities or buy a drink.

The Vivid Sydney Night Tour was an unexpected workout—a sneaky workout—for people of average plus fitness. There were ramps on the tour, so people in wheelchairs could join this entertaining evening. Disco Loco also runs a Michael Jackson Theme Tour and The Craziest Silent Disco Tour. The Sydney Vivid Night Tour is on multiple nights until June 15th, 2024. Tickets are $37 or $32 for a group of four +

This is the place to be, where you will dance like no one’s watching…even though they are.

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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