Australia has a longstanding affair with the steamy Indonesian island of Bali, but things are about to got a whole lot steamier with the world premiere of the musical Rhonda and Ketut.
Rhonda and Ketut is a triumph. Director James Cameron of Avatar and Titanic fame has cast aside his renowned array of special effects in his stage debut, delivering a show with a surprisingly light touch which is heartwarming, melodramatic and several other theatre adjectives.
Originally intended as a sequel to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, the Rhonda and Ketut script lay idle in a dusty bottom drawer of the Bali Repertory Theatre Company, only to be uncovered by an employee of an ad agency working for a car insurance company who needed to use the bathroom.
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Not since that vibrant community festival involving Cronulla locals and middle eastern visitors in December 2005 has Sydney’s Sutherland Shire been portrayed as such a happy, forward-looking kind of place.
The Shire debuted on Channel Ten last night, showcasing under bright tanning salon lights the talented, hard-working and incredibly plucky youth of the infamous southern Sydney beachside municipality.
Not before time too. For too long we’ve been swamped by quality American shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore. Now, at last, we have our own. The Shire is about our young people, and about the pursuit of their dreams, their hopes, their ex-boyfriends.
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He hasn’t exactly reached for his pipe and slippers but some of the background to Saul “Slash” Hudson’s first solo album is decidedly befitting a man in his mid-40s. The stories behind the collaborations with a laundry list of rock ‘n’ roll legends aren’t littered with trashed penthouse suites, but as another ageing genre pioneer - Billy Joel - might say, it’s still rock and roll to me.
According to Music Radar Slash had sent a tape to Iggy Pop, hoping he would sing on it. Iggy rang Slash and, when he got the answering machine, proceeded to leave a message of him singing the track down the phone with the tape playing on the stereo in the background. “We’re all gonna die,” rings the chorus, “So let’s get high.” Old school, right?
Until you get to the next line. “We’re all gonna die, so let’s be nice.” All together: Naawww. (Note: not all the lyrics are this mainstream. Parental advisory applies, as in do not play in front of parents, especially the mother-in-law.)
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One of the more accurate musical predictions of the past eighteen months was that the sparkly retro glamour of recent years would give way to a more introverted breed of shoe gazing hipsters.
What no one saw coming, however, was that the new kids would take a far more confident and far less faddish approach than the recent crop of faux popsters.
A perfect example is the arrival of The XX, a morose looking bunch of 20 year olds from South West London who have created what must surely be the finest debut of 2009.
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It’s only when you have finished a job like programming the Sydney Festival that you fully appreciate what a lucky bugger you were. You get paid to listen to albums, go to shows and exhibitions and then work with those artists you most admire. And you get paid for it.
Obviously it’s not without its strains – a friend of mine often cites the excruciating five-hour incomprehensible nonsense we sometimes have to work our way through and claims “I get paid to watch this crap so you don’t have to!”.
The truth is of course, somebody has to do it. We all want and need someone to trawl through the blizzard of choice and come up with combinations of plays and concerts that have been selected with us in mind. During my time in Sydney this was particularly apparent when it came to popular music.
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