Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Remember the two guys who kayaked 3318 kilometres unassisted across the Tasman Sea from Australia all the way to New Zealand? For years they have been promising their next big adventure, and now they've finally announced their plans. James Castrission and Justin Jones will next attempt to walk from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again….unassisted. 

Walking alone and carrying their own provisions (weighing about 200kgs each), these two Australians will attempt this ominous world-first from November 2011. Not only will this be the first ever unsupported return journey, they will also be the youngest team to reach the Pole. Previously, Jon Muir, Peter Hillary and Eric Phillips attempted the return journey in 1998. They reached the South Pole after 84 days on the ice and didn’t complete the return. Kiwi adventurers Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald also attempted the return journey in 2007. Their attempt was also unsuccessful.

The entire route will traverse 2200km return, being 1100km from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. So tough is this expedition, history records just 58 people having man-hauled to the South Pole, compared with the 4800 who have stood on the summit of Mt Everest.

These two guys have incredible tenacity and a love of adventure.  Their crossing of the Tasman is testament to that. They are meticulous planners and fully understand the concept of ‘risk minimisation’ when it comes to adventuring.  They are also 2 of the most level headed blokes you could hope to meet.

Adventure is their business. Follow their latest here:

Good luck guys.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Even as a teenager, a highlight for me when visiting Sydney Botanic Gardens was seeing the thousands of bats that roost high in the trees. As night falls, the bats (grey-headed flying foxes) would fly back and forth, their impressive wingspan silhouetted against the dusk. Often, closer to the ground, conflict in the bushes could be heard as possums and bats vie for the optimum position on a tree branch. During concerts in the adjacent Domain, I remember lying on the picnic blanket, and when looking to the sky as night descended, the bats would fly across my field of view, often accompanied by the strains of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Now, it's all about to change. The Royal Botanic Gardens Trust needs to put an end to the 2 decades of damage these bats have done to the flora that is their home. I'm disappointed yes, given today as I walk around the gardens with my 4 year old son, we visit the bats, trying to count them as they hang upside down from the trees (apparently there are around 22,000 bats in-situ today) and wondering at the screeching that emanates from the colony.

Moving them will be no easy task. A golf buggy fitted with a mighty sound system will blast the bats with industrial noise (at 10-minute intervals from about noon to 4pm each day for 2 weeks in May), powerful enough to make anyone move house. Hopefully this will cause the bats to move on, preferably beyond Hyde Park, with little distress and without injury. If the bats return, another round of cacophony will follow the next year. And failing that, again the year after. 

The prospect is not without controversy. A group called Bat Advocacy has challenged the intended eviction, but to no avail. The federal court ruled against them. My son is distressed too, a mini tantrum followed my explanation of why the bats must go. 

The Sydney Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place. A beautiful space on our amazing harbour, loved by dendrologists and chiropterologists alike. A walk through the gardens at dusk reveals an amazing collection wildlife, especially unique in the middle of a highrise city. I know the trees must be saved...but I'm saddened by the pending departure. 

Part of me hopes that a few of the evictees make their way back sometime, for a little while anyway. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Not as prestigious as the Oscars, and it’s definitely not the Tonys, but for a committed group of Sydney theatre goers, their yearly awards recognising the best in live drama is as noteworthy as any other award (full list of nominees and winners below). Calling themselves the Glugs (named after the characters in a CJ Dennis poem), the group of about 80 or so meet every month, and while enjoying good food and wine, discuss the virtues of the latest show, and generally hear from a luminary of the industry.

And so it is that this year the members praised the work of those who entertained us in 2010, with many of the winners taking the time to attend. This is not an awards project determined by committee, but rather by those who love the art and support it by attending shows as often as one each week…sometimes more. There’s neither pomp nor circumstance at the awards function. No 60 piece orchestra in the pit, no elaborate staging, no burlesque opening number. Rather, seventy guests squeeze into a small conference room on Sydney’s Castlereagh St, with ceiling fans for climate control, and plastic chairs to ease weary legs. Winners bustle their way forward through ‘standing room only’ to accept their award at the front of the room. Photos are taken by mini-digital cameras, or on an iPhone. This is recognition of the craft at its most pure, and for that reason, the awards really do represent recognition by those best positioned to present them: The Audience.

Such is the night, surprises are not few and far between. Topped with fedora, blue jeans and t-shirt, The Jersey Boys’ Bobby Fox (Frankie Valli) accepted his award (Best Actor in a musical), and insisted on breaking into iOTA's Come Back for Me, inspired after hearing it performed only just the night before. Without backing, without a sound system and lit only by typical fluorescent lights, he held the room and paced the number accompanied by only the clicking of his fingers. Rapturous applause followed.

So too was recognition given to Amanda Bishop. This incredible performer, children’s TV star and political satirist was delighted to be named Best Actress in a Musical or Cabaret (the Glugs refrain from naming female performers as ‘actors’), especially when pitted against the other nominees. We await to see what more this versatile performer can deliver over the coming years.

After the presentation, guests then retired downstairs, and sans-media, consumed freshly cut sandwiches, a cheese and fruit platter along with a cash bar. Performers mixed with their judges and peers and enjoyed an early night, wrapping around 9.30pm.

There are plenty of more noteworthy awards presentations to experience in the entertainment industry, but few reflect a performer’s connection with the audience as well as these. Without prejudice or pretence, without lobbyists or publicists, the Glugs’ Awards for Excellence in the Performing Arts represent what theatre enthusiasts really think and what they really feel. And it’s a feeling of which all nominees and winners should be proud.

Results (winner in bold): 

Norman Kessell Memorial Award for best performance by an Actress/Actor:

  • Zoe Carides - Murderes (Ensemble)
  • Essie Davis - Tot Mom (STC)
  • Judi Farr - August: Osage County - Steppenwolf Theatre Company in association STC   
  • Julie Forsyth - Book of Everything (Belvoir)
  • Susie Porter - That Face (Belvoir)
  • Wayne Blair - True West  (STC)
  • Richard Roxborough - Uncle Vanya (STC)
  • Daniel Mitchell - Rain Man (Ensemble)
  • Hugo Weaving - Uncle Vanya (STC)
Jeffry Joynton-Smith Memorial Award for Best Supporting Actress/Actor:
  • Pamela Jikiemi  - The God Committee (Ensemble)
  • Alinta Chidzer - West Side Story
  • Lenore Smith - The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman
  • Mitchell Butel  -  The Grenade (STC) 
  • Peter Carroll - Book of Everything (Belvoir)
  • Danny Mitchell (Brooklyn Boy)
  • Edwin Hodgman (Codgers)
  • Derek Lynch - Albert Namajerah (Belvoir)
Colleen Clifford Memorial Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Cabaret -
  • Amanda Bishop - The Wharf Revue
  • Alinta Chidzer - West Side Story
  • Marika Aubrey - Red Head
  • Bobby Fox - Jersey Boys
  • Drew Forsythe - The Wharf Revue
  • Josh Piterman -   West Side Story
Most Outstanding Production:
  • Uncle Vanya - STC
  • Jersey Boys - Theatre Royal
  • Book of Everything - Belvoir
  • Rain Man - Ensemble
Hayes Gordon Memorial Award for Important Contribution to Theatre (Sponsored by Carolyn and Peter Lowry):
  • Wayne Harrison
Award for Young People's Theatre (sponsored by Rose Peterson):
  • Fox - A Monkey Baa production in association with Siren Theatre Co.
Taffy Davies Memorial Award for best new Australian Production (Sponsored by Beverley Davies):
  • Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis & Julian Meyrick
 The Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Life Achievement Award:
  • Jacqueline Kott
 Chief Glug's Award (Lee Young) for Excellence Behind the Scenes:
  • Graham Maclean  (Designer)