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Wednesday, 07 December 2011 12:39

Disko Diva

Sweat and Taxes

The only thing the distinctly separate worlds of DJing and tax have in common is they can both make you sweat.

While the DJ can make you sweat in a good way, a visit from the taxman can also cause beads to form on the brow for a whole other reason. So it’s a good thing New Zealand-born, now Brisbane-based Melissa Robinson — aka Disko Diva — threw in her day job as an accountant to launch headfirst into DJing. “I am actually a chartered accountant – but when I was sitting at the desk I just knew this was not what I wanted to do,” the bubbly Kiwi says. “I (also) used to work at a student bar and managed the bar … and we’d talk about the music to play and things like that, but really, I always wanted to play the music!”

Her enthusiasm is paying off, with Robinson now carving a niche for herself on the local scene with her funky electro hardhouse playlists. She’s headlining the new Femme Fatale Thursdays at The Exchange alongside other up-and-coming female DJs, and on this Friday morning, she was paying for a particularly successful evening. “Last night was a big night; it was the third of the nights. It’s getting a bit of momentum. We keep a pretty similar line-up each week, but may have a few new guests from interstate from time to time. We have three DJs in the main room and one on the rooftop bar.”

Like a lot of other industries, DJing is still a field where women are outnumbered by their male counterparts – but Robinson thinks this is slowing starting to change, especially with the advent of similarly-themed ‘ladies nights’, where female DJs can show off their chops. “I think about any ‘movement’ – there are always people who are just doing what they love doing – then there are those women who see that and think to themselves ‘that looks good, that looks like something I want to do’ and go from there,” she says.

“But it is very much a man’s world, although I think maybe some promoters have thought there is a bit of a niche there, and it’s nice to have some ladies playing their shows.”

Disko Diva plays The Femme Fatale Thursdays at The Exchange. She will also perform at Summafieldayze, Future Music Festival and at The Met NYE show.

Wednesday, 07 December 2011 12:00

Bankrupt Billionaires

Money For Nothing

While they may be known as the Bankrupt Billionaires, the new Brisbane-based soul/ hip hop group have a wealth of experience to draw from.

The trio of Sammsonite and DATS (both from The Optimen) and vocalist Kel on Earth (from The Kelly Gang) have been together for four years – but only played their first live show together a few weeks ago. “It is so exciting, it is really amazing that we are here playing (together),” Kel says of the act’s development. “We had our debut live performance only a few weeks ago, but it went really well … it was received really well and we had a full house, it was a really amazing reception.

In another first for the band, they’re aiming to release their debut EP early next year. Seen more as a sampler, Kel says they’re thinking of giving it away at their live shows. However, the EP is set to be followed quickly with a full-length album, the band having produced a healthy collection of songs in their time together. “We have been writing together for four years and we have a repertoire of around 25 original songs,” Kel says. “But we are all crazy perfectionists ... We wanted to create something quality.”

This is the same attitude the group have taken to performing, with a number of support slots coming up to fine tune their live show. They’re slated to support Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na next week, and for this performance, they will have the whole crew together, presenting a seven-piece live beast, including the vocal services of local Laneous Macklin.

Not backward in coming forward, the group used their experience in the Brisbane music scene to their advantage, with Kel admitting they pushed that fact in snaring the Chali slot. “We definitely used the fact we are cast from all different groups, and let them know we’ve paid our dues,” she laughs. “But we also promoted ourselves as a hot new act whose sound is really good!”

Bankrupt Billionaires support Chali 2na at the Hi-Fi December 10.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 15:23

A Christmas Carol

Theatre in Preview

Thesun is blazing all the more fiercely and shopfront windows are starting to break out the tinsel - Christmas must be just around the corner. And that means it's also time for another staging of 'A Christmas Carol'.

“Well, I am not quite feeling festive just yet,” laughs Richard Murphy, who plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the upcoming Brisbane Arts Theatre production of the traditional story. 

“We have been in rehearsals for about two months, but it is all coming soon. We are just over a week out now from our first performance and we will be spending all of next week fine tuning,” 


Murphy says. “It is probably my favourite time of production because you get to see things come together at the right time - it's very exciting.”
This production of 'A Christmas Carol' retells the classic and much loved tale of a miser turned humanitarian, which was first penned by the great novelist Charles Dickens in 1843. The story has stood the test of time and is set on Christmas Eve with the unpleasant and money-loving Scrooge receiving a visit, one by one, from four ghosts.
The first is from his late business partner Jacob Marley who warns him to change his ways. That visit is then followed by the three Ghosts of Christmas - Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
After being taken on a journey through time, he experiences an awakening of his heart and realises that people are more important than profits, and that it is only through relationships that one can be truly rich.
Since it was originally published, it has undergone countless revisions, both on the stage and on the screen, but despite this almost ubiquitous presence, Murphy thinks the power of its message has not diminished. “It is part of our psyche … most of us are exposed to the story in our early life,” Murphy says. “Classics are classics for a reason - it is a moral tale and … Dickens knew his onions.
“Hopefully, people can still learn from the tale …  even though it is a well-known story and it has been adapted so many different ways, I still feel like the message is one that can be shared. It's one of redemption and no man is an island. You can't lock yourself away; we have to look out for each other.”
“Basically, it is a story for the ages, and even though Christmas is the template, the message should apply to all times.”
Murphy's role of Ebenezer Scrooge - a character so famous and defining that the name has made it's way into everyday language - is one he is overjoyed to play. “It is fun - he goes on a journey - maybe one of the most famous journeys of them all - from grouch to philanthropist really,” Murphy says.
“So as an actor, it's a great role because you go through the whole gamut of emotions.”
This current production was adapted for the stage by Tony Millett and Sally Daly and endeavours to be a faithful reworking of the story.
It also tries to keep true to the language of Dickens, with some dialogue taken directly from passages in the novella.
“We do use some of the (traditional) language, but we keep it accessible,” Murphy says. “It’s beautiful language and we tried to remain true and it is staged with the original text and there are some passages that are lifted directly from the book.”
However, like all good adaptations it has a twist.
“There are so many different renditions of 'A Christmas Carol' and they are all so readily available, from the Muppets to Black Adder,” Murphy says. “But we stick to the traditional story, and in that there is a lot of drama and pathos and a lot of comedy as well.”
“But one change is that it is a musical, there are about 16 or 17 new songs that have been written for this production, so there is a lot of singing. It covers a range of musical styles … but I don't think it swamps the story, it works to enhance the story.”
“And it is played to live music. We have a pianist at the front of the stage during the performance.”
Given the eternal appeal of the story, it is a show that will engage the whole family. “It is a family show and even though it is a main house production it is definitely for kids,” Murphy enthuses. “It will satisfy all audience members from six to 60 and beyond!”

'A Christmas Carol' plays at the Brisbane Arts Theatre from November 26 until December 18.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 14:11

Tony Mott

Photographer Interview

Those who lived the moment might tell you there’s nothing quite like being there – and there’s no way to fully capture the emotion, the energy and the scale of what took place on the stage. But when you have someone with the eye and the skill of Tony Mott on hand with his camera pointed and ready for action, you can come pretty close.

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 14:56

Lunch With Vincent River Interview

Theatre in Preview

If you bring together two very different plays and then stage them both on the same night - surely you are bound to get one very stressed director?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 11:31

Shamelessly Glitzy Work

Theatre In Preview
It sounds like the set up of a joke - a raver, a politician and a magician walk into a theatre - but in the hands of contemporary Sydney performance trio Post, it is a fun examination of the sometimes confusing world of lies.

In 'Shamelessly Glitzy Work', performers and collaborators - Zoe Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose - take on the three roles and explore how lies shape their identity and experience.

“We thought it was an interesting topic, in theatre you lie all the time and manipulate the audience, so lying is not always in a bad way,” Coombs Marr says of the genesis of the play. “But we are tricking the audience to believe something. We were just interested in the idea of lying and how an audience receives a lie and we came up with the realm of politics, magic and strangely, rave culture and dance culture. And we were interested in where the lie lies. In magic, you are expecting to be lied to but in politics, you have a platform and the whole set up is you are a voice for truth and so the lies become so high stakes.”

They began writing the play last year, with universal themes in the production - “the show is constantly evolving, so it is not really about any specific incident or topic,” - but comings and goings in the US certainly helped shape the story.
According to Coombs Marr, during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the person hired to design the media centre to feed back information from the front line was magician and illusionist David Blaine.

And while 'Shamelessly Glitzy Work' was already in the works before the most recent US presidential campaign, Coombs Marr says they were surprised with how closely events there mirrored their story. “We could not help noticing all those things and how many people involved in the campaign were actually magicians. These people worked as designers on the campaigns and there was one Republican guy who was a pollster, but he was also a trained mentalist, so he could manipulate people, which affected the polls,” she says.

But while one of the main characters is a politician; Coombs Marr says it was not really their intention to create a political satire. “It doesn't have a political point, but it does have a political colour,” she reflects. “It is a reminder of the things we know are happening but it is more about the experience of the lying. So the images are political, but the story isn't necessarily political.”

And to counteract the heavy and thought-provoking concepts, Post make sure they have fun with the material as well. In development they spent a long time learning the tricks of the illusionist trade to include in the performance. “We did learn some magic tricks, some are very impressive and some are not impressive at all,” Coombs Marr says. “But there is lots of glitter and puffs of smoke and I levitate in the show!”
The concept of lying and how people react to it is something that has interested the Post team for a while now, with 'Shamelessly Glitzy Work' the latest work to explore the issue.
Previous performance piece 'Swimming Home In Heels' also touched on the topic, but this is the first 'feature-length' production to tackle the issue.

Post have been on the Sydney scene for a few years and have inevitably been described as 'quirky', as no audience is too big or too small for the trio. “We have been together for about five years now. We met on a theatre course and we were randomly assigned as a group on the first day of rehearsal and told to come up with something … so it's like we have never left the room,” Coombs Marr says. “We formed a company and we have toured some short-works. We did a show with six audience members at a time in a shipping container and we have done one (audience member) shows at houses. So we have worked together in extreme situations.”

‘Shamelessly Glitzy Work’ will play at the Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse from Wednesday, June 24 to Saturday, June 27.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 12:43

Review: Lucky Country

Film In Review

Set in Australia in 1902, the irony of the title of this film will not be lost on anyone as we follow a family on the path of a dream-turned-nightmare.

Aden Young stars as Nat, the father of idealist Tom (Toby Wallace) and the pragmatic Sarah (Hanna Mangan Lawrence). He is a pious and moral man on the brink of despair following the death of his wife and is having great difficulty making ends meet on his family's small holding.

The family are settlers from England who came to build a new life, but blinded somewhat by desperation when it all fails, the family sees the unexpected arrival of three strangers to the farm as a sign of changes to come.

The strangers, ex-soldiers in the Boer War who have returned to try their luck in the gold rushes, bring with them the promise of wealth, which Nat takes to be a sign from God that his family's struggles will soon be over.

In many ways, this thriller is a fable on the dangers of greed, whatever the reason behind it.

Young is touching as the father; a man who is slowly breaking under the pressure and losing his mind. Pip Miller plays the part of the menacing stranger Henry well and Mangan Lawrence is also impressive as Sarah, a girl becoming a woman who hates her life as it is, but is compelled to stay to shelter her younger brother.

Speaking of his film, director Kriv Stenders ('The Illustrated Family Doctor'/'Boxing Day') has said the film portrays the first time you see your parents fail and what follows.

Beautifully shot on location in South Australia, ‘Lucky Country’ follows a long line of films that feed our fascination with the outback and projects Australia, in all her beauty and her terror, for all to see.

But Stenders was also interested in what he called “the landscape of the face” and the film as at times almost claustrophobic as the horror of the events unfolding is played out on the actor faces.

Also worthy of praise is the striking musical score that punctuates the film, featuring a glorious strings arrangement that somehow symbolises the loneliness of that kind of life in those times.

Being termed an 'Australian western' will inevitably draw comparisons with Nick Cave's 'The Proposition' and while the bleak reality of life in olde Australia is brought into stark relief, this is a more controlled unravelling of a society, of a family and of a man's mind.

‘Lucky Country’ screens at Dendy Portside from July 16.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:13

Lawrence Leung


Many of us have dreamed about going back to our childhood, starting again and doing the things we have always wanted to do. Only some of us are lucky enough to actually do it, and get paid in the process.

“It was kind of an honour that the ABC would want to fund my childhood dreams,” Lawrence Leung laughs. The Melbourne comedian/ writer/ filmmaker is touring the country to promote the release of his TV series, 'Choose Your Own Adventure' on DVD.

Aired on ABC 1 last month, each of the episodes features Leung as he explores the different avenues to live out his childhood dreams: to be in love, to be a rock star, to be a man, to be the best, to be cool and to be himself.

“I have had heaps of emails every day from people who have seen the show and they are all glowing reports of the show,” Leung says of the response to the series. “They have all been very nice. We finished editing in October/November last year and I have been sitting on this 'egg' incubating it for months, so it was a bit tense waiting for it to get out there.”

As well as sharing his adventures on the small screen, Leung also used the show to share his love of the Rubik's Cube. “I think the cube is coming back in a big way, but I don't think it is coming just from me,” he laughs. “We have a section on the website where kids can post their times and their personal records and there are a lot of people posting there.

“And if you are having trouble with it, the DVD also has a 'How to Solve the Rubik's Cube' tutorial on the second disc where I show you step-by-step how to solve it.”

While some have compared his show to something John Safran might have done, Leung has won fans for his sweet nature and the fact he turns the joke on to himself.

This approach helped Leung get his special guests to appear on camera, including 'MacGyver' creator Lee David Zlotoff and 80s dance icon Shabba Doo.
“It wasn't hard at all, because once they knew I was making fun of myself and not of anyone else they were happy to go along for the ride,” Leung explains. “Getting to meet Shabba Doo of 'Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo' was a real highlight. He inspired me as a little kid to run up walls and try to dance. To be able to meet him and get lessons from him considering I was a totally unqualified dancer was wonderful.”

Currently in Sydney performing ‘Time Ninjas’ with his occasional partner in crime Andrew McLelland, Leung is expecting to be busy for the foreseeable future, although he is unerringly polite when deflecting questions. “I have a whole bunch of things coming up, but they are all 'hush hush' at the moment,” Leung says coyly. “We are waiting to see which one takes hold. But I have lots of ideas for projects.”

One project in the works is a feature film based on his first solo show, 'Sucker', dealing with the tricks of the trade of a con artist, but he is also interested in more live shows and no doubt another television project.

Right now though, his attention is on promoting his DVD on his 'national tour', although he has not yet mastered the art of a rock and roll lifestyle.
“ABC shops are not really rock and roll!” Leung laughed. “The only thing I would be demanding in my rider would be lubricant for my Rubik's Cube!”

Unfortunately  he won't be wearing his 'Cubinator' wrestling costume to his in-store appearance at Indooroopilly, though he has promised a fun time out for people who come down to say hello. They can also challenge him to a Rubik's duel.  “For the tour we have set up a Fight Cube Challenge and I think they have to improve their times to take me down,” Leung laughs. “No, I am pretty confident, but I might be surprised by the public.”

Lawrence Leung's 'Choose Your Own Adventure' is out now on ABC DVD. Leung will be appearing in store at Indooroopilly's ABC Shop on Saturday, May 30 from noon.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 15:43



The first rule in cinema is never work with children or animals, and if you do have to, never, ever do it at the same time. For his first feature film, 'Tulpan', director Sergey Dvortsevoy decided to throw away the rule book and work with sheep, camels and a scene-stealing toddler.

“With animals and children, you cannot 'train' them, but you can create some life situations and then you can just observe,” Dvortsevoy explains. “Because they will never do what you ask them to do, they are completely unpredictable; you cannot force them to do something.

“It is hard, but in Russia we have some rules if we work with animals, they will give you some more film stock and some more time to work. But sometimes it is hard to convince producers and I fought for every additional day of shooting.”

'Tulpan' is the story of Asa, who after completing his naval service goes to live with his sister and shepherd husband on the Kazakh steppe. His dream is to start his own life as a shepherd, but in order to get a herd, he must get married. Unfortunately for him, the only girl within radius is Tulpan and she doesn't like him because “he has got big ears”. 

In many ways, 'Tulpan' is not really a love story, but rather an idyll to the lives of Kazakhstani nomad families who live as shepherds on the Betpak Dala or Hunger Steppe.
The landscape is as much a character as the humans and assortment of animals, with its stark and sparse beauty punctuated by sporadic sandstorms.

During the shoot, cast and crew made the isolated area of southern Kazakhstan their home and the actors also lived as a shepherd family. “Before shooting, I asked the actors to live together with the children for one month in the yurt (tent house) and also during the shoot they lived together and they worked as a family,” Dvortsevoy says. “They worked as shepherds and a shepherd’s wife and looked after the children She cooked as a shepherd's wife and he looked after the sheep and the camels and the dogs. It is not easy of course. Doing this casting I tried to find certain people who could stand to be there and I was looking for not only actors but strong people who could live in this very isolated place … I knew the shooting would be very difficult.”

All throughout the film it is evident that Dvortsevoy started life as a documentary maker - two lamb birthing scenes were shot unrehearsed, paying testament to his ability to just focus on the situation as it is unfolding - but his desire to further explore his characters made him turn to “fiction films”. “I encountered a moral barrier to continue to make documentaries because making documentaries, you deal with private lives, and real people,” he says. “The contradiction with documentary making is what is worse for the people, is better for the director. I could not go deeper into those private relationships. So I thought I should start to make fiction films.”

It has been a successful move and it seems this story of a dreamer in a faraway land has struck a chord with audiences, with the film receiving awards at major festivals across the globe, including the Prize Un Certain Regard at last year's Cannes Film Festival. “Of course I am surprised, very much. First of all I wanted to make a very Kazakh story, because it's really about a Kazakh guy who is in such a strange place, in the Hunger Steppe, a very Kazakh landscape, and the relationships are Kazakh people, I didn't expect people to react so warmly,” Dvortsevoy says. “The only thing I wanted to do was I wanted to make him like a regular guy … I didn't want people to look at him like he was a guy from another planet; I wanted people to identify with him. I wanted to make his dreams and motivations understandable.

“It was not easy to build universals (themes), but we tried. But at the same time, I think the most important thing is to try and build the story you want to tell. In this case, if you manage to tell this story, then people understand and people feel the same, they feel like the main character is like an ordinary guy.”

'Tulpan' will be showing in Palace Cinemas.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 14:53

Chocolate Strings : Interview

Feeling Good
Calling in from Cairns, a world away from the relative winter chill of Brisbane, Chocolate Strings vocalist/ guitarist Ofa Fanaika has settled into a bright patch of sun - a great way to spend a morning.

“We've come up to Cairns to play Kuranda Roots and it's lovely up here,” Ofa says. The Brisbane collective - Ofa, Alex Skinner (guitar/vocals), Kasper Skou (drums), Dave Gofton (bass), Matty C (percussion), Nikkie McJungles (backing vocals), Nia Falekakale (backing vocals) and Josh Appleby (saxophone) - will be heading back to Brisbane soon, just in time to headline a gig at the Globe Theatre.

Along for the ride on the night will be friends of the band, hip hoppers Omni Anti, Melbourne's Sol Nation and trip-hop stylists The Ark Room.

“There will be a lot of different music on show,” Ofa says. “We decided to have the show and ask our friends to get on and have a show that was different - a real variety show with music for all tastes.”

The group released their debut album, 'Carnival', late last year, and while it has only been a few months since it came out into the world, writing and recording has begun on a follow-up.

One track that is already getting a spin on radio is 'Blood On The Drum', featuring fellow Brisbane artist Sunny Dread on vocals, with production by Paulie B, of The Beautiful Girls fame.

While not all of the new tracks have been completed in the studio, Ofa says people who go to the show can expect quite a few new songs on the bill.

“For this set we will play a lot of songs from 'Carnival', but we have written a lot of new songs,” she says. “We have an EP coming out in a few months. We have a lot of new songs in the pipeline, so we will be playing a few new tracks as well as the old favourites.”

While they are similar to many bands in that playing live is the highlight, Ofa reveals that they are quite unique for the simple fact that there is usually no set list taken on to the stage.   

“We love playing; we are better live - different to the records. We get there to the show and then decide what we are going to play. We go off the crowd and what's feeling good.”

Chocolate Strings play the Globe Theatre on July 25 with Omni Anti, Sol Nation and the Ark Room. Their album 'Carnival' is available through MusicPlug.

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