The Legend of Shangri La

Yang Liping's Spirit of the Peacock
The mythical lost kingdom of Shangri La has become synonymous with a peaceful earthly paradise.  Chinese star Yang Liping believes that it is a fitting reference to the ancient land in South Western China where 42 minority groups live in harmony, where “dancing is like speaking with the gods”.

As the official opening of the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia, The Legend of Shangri La presents a delightfully engaging showcase of traditional folk dance from the remote Yunnan province.  The powerful rhythm, precise movement and elated, joyful dancing creates a dance spectacular that both surprises and captivates the audience.

An announcer tells us that the performances are a series of segments representing the essential elements of nature; the sun, the moon, fire, the homeland and the earth.  All draw on dance and music that has been performed for centuries across the Yunnan province.  The audience is taken on a powerful journey representing all faces of China – from the fierce, determined and acrobatic Earth dance, to the mesmerisingly graceful solo of Yang Liping to the spirited, exuberance of the ‘Stomping Dance’ courtship rituals.

The Legend of Shangri La was the vision of Yang Liping, who plays the role of choreographer, artistic director and lead dancer.  Fearing the loss of indigenous music cultures to the influence of modern lifestyle, she spent over a year visiting every village and rural region in the Yunnan Province to discover and understand the ethnic rituals and traditions practiced in each area.  She recruited natives from the villages to dance, and says that all she had to do was “brush the dust off these precious gems of performers and allow their natural brilliance to shine through”.  Their genuine enthusiasm shines during the performances, and allows the audience to connect with the dancers on a personal level, as well as admiring their considerable talent.

The show also features a range of intricate costumes, many handcrafted by the performers themselves, and 120 unique masks decorated in the styles of the Yunnan minorities.

Strong, exuberant and skillful, The Legend of Shangri La is both original and entertaining.  With the rapid influence of globalisation reaching even the remote corners of the globe, the production is a timely reminder of the importance of embracing and preserving ancient cultures before they fade into ancient history.

The Legend of Shangri La was showing at the State Theatre, Market St, Sydney between 22-26 June 2011.

It was presented by Ausfeng as the official opening of The Year of Chinese Culture in Australia.


A visit to the dark side - Schweppes Elixir launch

Schweppes invites you to the unveiling of Elixir… come as you please, but prepare to be transported to another era in time. ..

Sandstone corridors lit with candles, bartenders in top-hats creating steamy concoctions and a distinguished grandfather clock keeping watch over the crowd. Twirling our parasols and adjusting our corsets, we saunter into the cellar of Elizabeth Bay House to discover 1900s chemists and scientists performing wild culinary experiments in every available cranny. 
Keeping watch over the crowd...
A stormy night set the tone for the mysterious Schweppes event taking place in the grand heritage-listed house. Guests (of the 2011 era) were advised to redress upon arrival and presented with a mirror-laden room full of 1900s gowns, feather boas and umbrellas. It was a Lion-Witch-Wardrobe style leap into a make believe world, a dream for anyone holding on to childhood fantasies of dress-up boxes and fairy tales. Attire, atmosphere and fabulous hats prepared us for the journey underground - unintentionally thrown into character, we found ourselves channeling Jane Austen accents and mannerisms as the night progressed.

Ladies... Mandy Barbera, Sal Giblin &
Daniella Alhadeff (Lifeafterfive*)
 Elixir was the star of the night, with new-fangled potions (aka cocktails) designed in the apothecary with the mixer in mind. Created specifically as a mixer, Elixir is a sharp blend of caramel, coffee and cocoa flavours – with a hint of vanilla. The Elixir Batango cocktail was an ideal antidote to the wintery winds howling outside, combining Elixir with tequila, fresh orange, a dash of orange bitters and a salt and pepper rim. A strong rum-based compound known as the Stormy was popular with the gents.
Mixologist creating Batangos
The magicians behind Boon chocolatiers were whipping up a batch of mouthwatering Roasted Macadamia Caramel on the spot for guests to sample the freshly concocted “chocolate experience”.

The Chocolate Experience worth having... Roasted Macadamia Caramel
Said to grant the drinker eternal youth, the dark and mythical elixir of life has been pursued by alchemists for centuries. While the Schweppes apothecary may be yet to unravel the full mystery, it is worth a visit to the dark side of Batangos and Stormies. Who knows where you might end up?

Hugh the Baron Von Paton Smithson performing aromic magic with dry ice
Fabulous pics of the event by Dan Grey of Gray Noise can be found here

Event created by Karina Munoz of Behind Bars and costumes provided by The Wardrobe Costumiers

Article also appeared on Eat Drink Play


Rope by Tamarama Rock Surfers

Culture’ in Bondi conjures images of spectacular surf photography (aka Aquabumps), debate over the best soy flat white (Harry’s gets my current vote), and soft sand running comps, Bondi Rescue and Bondi Vet.

Catering for culture buffs looking for entertainment slightly more edgy than the Miss Bondi Pageant at the Beach Rd Hotel, the Tamarama Rock Surfers (TRS) has delivered the Sydney theatre scene to Bondi. Showcasing the best of Australian artists at the iconic Bondi Pavilion Theatre, discerning art-starved residents no longer have to venture out of the ‘bubble’ for a thespian fix.

The opening night of Patrick Hamilton’s Rope was held on Tuesday 7 May. A brilliantly performed psychological thriller, main actors Anthony Gee and Anthony Gooley managed to keep the audience swinging on an tense emotional pendulum ranging from laughter to mesmerised horror as execution and discussion of ‘the perfect murder’ unfolded.

“Patrick Hamilton is the master of the thriller form and Rope is a genre masterpiece. This production is an exercise in cold stylish terror with lethally perverse sexual undertones" says Iain Sinclair, critically acclaimed director of Our Town, Killer Joe, and Lord of the Flies. Stylish, charming and with the audacious beauty of youth, the pervading evil that lurks beneath the surface of the main protagonists is emphasised with sharp contrast by the innocence of dinner guests Leila Arden (Sarah Snook) and Sir Johnstone Kentley (Bob Baines).

Rope was written in 1929 and later adapted for cinema by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The first show to be performed at the revamped 230 seat Bondi Pavilion Theatre, the intimate setting leads the audience feel that they are almost in the Mayfair dining room as the macabre dinner party progresses. Josh Quong Tart delivers an honest portrayal of the cynical, courageous and slightly twisted Rupert Cadell, the crippled war veteran who drives the play to its conclusion.

The Tamarama Rock Surfers is Australia’s leading independent theatre company whose aim is to give emerging talent a leg up while showcasing the best of Australian work. They promise that the line up that you see on a TRS season will be the names that fill the main stages of the best theatres in Sydney, Australia and beyond in years to come.

Experience winter chills of the terror variety, wrap yourself in vintage noir gear and see Rope for some deliciously gripping drama.

Presented by Chester Productions in association with Tamarama Rock Surfers at The Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Rope is showing until 25 June 2011.
Prices: Adult $33, Concession $25, Cheap Tuesday: Adult $21


The Divine Miss Bette

“Layyyyy-dees and germs! We are falling into a vat of vulgarity!” announces the sequin clad femme fatale on stage to an appreciative crowd.  Channeling a sexy version of Bette Midler (think Midler in her younger heyday), Catherine Alcorn delivers the hilarious so-called “vulgarity” between songs that range from bluesy ballads to comedic rock.

At the Sydney opening of The Divine Miss Bette (having sold out to crowds in Melbourne), we rediscover the art of cabaret at Slide Bar in Darlinghurst.  Charismatic performer Catherine Alcorn has created a winning combination with a spectacular voice, addictive stage presence and bawdy banter with the crowd.  Reminiscent of the Palace Theatre in 1970s New York, we sip campari while enjoying a dimly lit two course dinner as a prelude to the show.

Larger than life - Miss Bette

The Divine Miss Bette was created by Peter Cox, with musical direction from the talented, long-haired Isaac Hayward.  Inspiring the creation of the show was the majestic voice and Midler-esque personality of Catherine, who was trained by Steve Ostrow.  Ostrow is the man who discovered Bette Midler while she was singing for tips at his Continental Baths, creating musical history by pairing her with Barry Manilow – who happened to be filling in for an AWOL pianist.

Playful backup singers, The Harlettes (Lauren Cook and Christina Paterno) are a delight to watch.  Cute as buttons, coy and flirty, Miss Bette advises the crowd that she found them selling their cherries down at the farmers markets – “but don’t worry, I’ve still got the box they came in!”. 

Tagging itself as Sydney’s most surprising venue, Slide Bar is a hidden gem that has evolved through multiple identities.  Originally a Commonwealth Bank, it has transformed from a wild gay nightclub to a classy underground cabaret joint complete with chandeliers (albeit dangling with cherubs), a French chef and a large number of mirrors.  Hosting everything from corporate events to mardi gras after parties, hints of all three identities merge to create the sense that anything could happen next.

The vegie lasagna

The vegetarian lasagna recommended for dinner demands its own special mention.  It is a regular staple of an evolving menu that is far more sophisticated than your standard bar/restaurant fare.
Whether you’re planning a hens party, looking to impress a date or kicking off a girls’ night on the town, The Divine Miss Bette is a sensual, fun vat of vulgarity into which all ladies and germs should fall.

The Divine Miss Bette starring Catherine Alcorn returns to Slide for 3 shows only – Thursday 21 July, Friday 12 August and Friday 16 September.  Pre-purchase your tix here before they sell out.

Dinner & Show – $65 7pm (incl entrĂ©e & main)
Show Only – $25 9pm

This article first appeared on Eat Drink Play.

Slide Lounge on Urbanspoon


Cancer: Meet it, treat it, beat it

Ben Peacock, author of Lessons from My Left Testicle, was at a buck’s weekend three days before surgeons were slicing open his stomach, “placing his guts on a tray” to remove his lymph nodes, and then squishing them back in. 

Experiencing sharp pains in his back, he told the audience at the Garvan Institute that he “did what he was supposed to do” – kept drinking alcohol to (unsuccessfully) ignore it.

25 year old stockbroker Tim Cussell put off visiting a doctor when strange symptoms (of what turned out to be Stage 3 bowel cancer) arose because of the unpleasant prospect of a stranger poking around his nether regions.  Finally finding time to visit a doctor, he was immediately booked into surgery and warned that he could die on the operating table.

Cancer; Meet it. Treat it. Beat it was the topic of the Young Garvan Forum’s most recent event on the 26 May.  Young Garvan was set up to educate and inform the seemingly bulletproof younger generation about health issues and the importance of medical research. 

Hearing the magic words “You. Have. Cancer” slams the door shut on one's previous life only to send them whirling through a vortex of hospitals, chemotherapy and radiation.  Ben told the forum how “everything in life is suddenly put on hold” – career, travel plans, plans to start a family - with all energy focussed on the daily rollercoastal of survival, specialists and treatments.

Medical oncologist Dr Catriona McNeil and Dr Darren Saunders, a senior lecturer in Medicine at UNSW provided tangible examples of recent medical research breakthroughs, stating that while cancer is the number one disease killer in the 18-40 year age group, survival rates have never been better.  Dr Andrew Penman, CEO of the Cancer Council NSW, emphasised cancer as a social issue with a heavy impact on both patients and the wider community.

With a newfound appreciation of how precarious life can be, Tim focused on enjoying what was great and letting go of the bad - bought an apartment, proposed to his girlfriend and changed careers.   He is organising a fundraising dinner for 2012 to raise funds for Lifehouse at RPA and the Bowel Cancer Institute.  As Ben Peacock soberly reminded us– “it’s not a given that everything will go according to plan”.

Lessons for the invincible Gen Y?
  • Visit a GP when something doesn’t feel right
  • You’re never too young to get your affairs in order
  • It can happen to you – so keep an eye on the important things in life

Join the Young Garvan Events & Fiestas facebook group to be informed of future events.