Shirley Valentine

Friday 5 May 2017, 8pm in Frankston Arts Centre main theatre
130 min duration including 20 min interval

What makes for a satisfying life? This is one of the most sought-after questions of the human journey. It is a question that the HIT Productions play Shirley Valentine explores.


Shirley Valentine tells the story of a woman who, disillusioned by her “unused life”, takes a holiday to Greece to discover the person she wants to be. Highly acclaimed, British-born actress and singer Mandi Lodge stars as Shirley Valentine in this funny and thought-provoking one-woman show. The play was written by Willy Russell in 1986 and made into film in 1989, thematically drawing upon the bittersweet realities of marriage and the human desire to find a place to express the essential self.


The character of Shirley is portrayed as a suburban wife to a husband who wants “everything to be as it’s always been” and a mother to adult children who take her for granted. After a brief but moving encounter with an old school friend, it dawns on Shirley that her life has made her into a shadow of her former self. This is not necessarily because she is a wife and mother but because of the belittling ways that she has been treated and the restrictions that this has placed upon her personal development. Shirley has devoted her whole life to caring for her family’s needs, only to be taken for granted and treated as though her efforts are insubstantial, as if her life has amounted to nothing.


When her friend offers her a trip to Greece, Shirley leaves her family life behind for two weeks despite the protests of her husband and daughter who think it is “not right”. Shirley goes anyway, knowing that the trip will free her from the “terrible weight” of her “unused life”. Reflecting on the hopes and dreams she had a young woman, Shirley breaks out of her cocoon and the expectations of her family and community when she is swept off her feet by Costa, a seaside barman. As Shirley discovers, “When you’re with someone who likes you, it makes you feel alive.” She later admits that she has “fallen in love with the idea of living”. Greece gives Shirley an open space to reflect on what is inside herself, who she wants to be, and what is important to her – to enjoy the pleasures of realising her deepest desires.


Shirley Valentine is touching, bittersweet and funny. Mandi Lodge’s brilliant performance as Shirley keeps the energy going and the laughs coming for the full two hour duration of the show. Lodge cleverly weaves elements of conversation into the solo delivery of her story to give the impression that a range of different characters are part of the play. She does this by using different voices to introduce new characters and uses an interesting variety of vocal inflections. Time flies as warm, inclusive physical gestures and fluent monologue draws the audience into the story she is telling. Lodge’s friendly, familiar and upbeat tone makes her funny anecdotes and jokes seem effortless, allowing the audience to make light of the questions that are embedded deeply within us all – How did I get here? Am I living a fulfilled life? What is important to me?


Like a person who goes on retreat seeking inner reflection, so too Mandi Lodge in Shirley Valentine takes the audience on a journey within themselves and out again – all with a touch of sexuality, abandon and plenty of fun!

Shirley Valentine is currently touring Australia. See HIT Productions Facebook page for more information.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

The art of nature

The Autumn trees are turning beautiful shades of gold and red and the air is beginning to get cold and crisp. The end of daylight saving means that the long, warm evenings of Summer are over. It gets dark at 6pm now, and earlier each night until solstice. As the quality of the light becomes softer, the last of the clear sunny days of Autumn become precious and treasured with the approaching darkness and cold of Winter. Easter has just passed, giving a reminder that death and rebirth is a theme that must be confronted in human lives. These feelings draw the mind inward and the senses outward. The only thing to do, it seems, is to seek quiet joy  in the final days of sunshine by being out in the garden or walking outside. These pursuits allow the mind to rest, take stock and be inspired by God’s creations through slowing down and noticing the details of the garden. Birth, death and rebirth can be seen all around – it seems that nature can help the mind process the dramatic themes of Easter as well.

autumn trees

Nature is as intrinsic to art as it is for humans to breathe air. Even a contemporary sculpture may give the impression of a crystalline form, water, a seed or a living thing, or be crafted from the earth’s wood, rock or metal. Infinite numbers of artworks have taken their forms, sounds, colours and rhythms from nature. Famous examples include French painter, Claude Monet (1883 – 1926), and composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 – 1827).

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Monet’s garden at Giverny

Monet’s garden in Giverny provided peace, inspiration and immersion amongst natural colour and light that made his impressionist paintings such masterpieces. Beethoven is reputed to have spent a great deal of time walking in the country areas outside of Vienna. The first movement of his Pastorale Symphony, which premiered in 1808, is notated with text that translates as ‘awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside’, which gives an indication of his love for nature. Closer to home, William Ricketts’ (1898 – 1993) appreciation of the Australian bush and the connection that Aboriginal people have with the land, inspired the creation of a large number of ceramic sculptures depicting Australian aboriginal people, animals and plants. Many of his sculptures are now in a bushland setting in Mt Dandenong, called William Rickett’s Sanctuary, which is open to the public.

Sculpture of the artist at William Ricketts Sanctuary

In more recent times, Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Radio National began the Trees I’ve loved project in 2013, inviting audiences to contribute their stories about their relationships with trees. The ABC received hundreds of heartfelt responses. Forty are available online to enjoy. These stories were edited by Gretchen Miller and compiled into a book entitled In their branches.In their branches CD.jpg

Following that, ABC Classics
label released a delightful CD in 2015 with the same title, featuring 18 pieces about trees. Among the Australian-composed pieces are Jane Rutter’s Kodama tree spirit, Percy Grainger’s My robin is to the greenwood gone, David Jones’ Forest walk, Richard Mills’ The nocturnal power of trees and Peter Sculthorpe’s The rain-forest.


This example from only a few years ago shows how the human experiences of nature are still forming a strong basis for the art of story, literature and music. What about contemporary sculpture and visual art?

McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is a feast for the artistic senses. The bushland setting of the many large and unexpected sculptures, draws the visitor into un-earthly realms that stir the imagination. The indoor café and gallery provide an intriguing nook for exciting Australian visual art. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was a significant contributor to the establishment since its beginning in 1971. Dame Elisabeth understood that there is a link between gardens and art, and that people need these two things to nourish their souls.

McClelland Website

Dame Elisabeth was also the founder of the Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens as well as creating her own garden at Cruden Farm in Langwarrin. A variety of rose has even been cultivated with her name and is widely available at rose nurseries. Additionally, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute commissions an Australian artist each year to create floral images for gift cards to promote the Elisabeth Murdoch Mother’s Day Appeal.

Dame Elisabeth spent her life patronising establishments to make art and beautiful gardens accessible to all. At McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, anyone can enjoy world-class art in a natural Australian garden.

murdoch and rose

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch holding a bloom of her own rose cultivar

As Autumn and Winter take hold in the coming months, future articles will be posted here on the art that can be enjoyed at McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens. Visiting gardens in the cooler seasons, rugged up with woollies, releases the confines of the indoors and flushes away the Winter blues with fresh air, visual delights and artistic inspiration.

Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

Mr Stink live on stage

Mr Stink 1

Friday 17th March at 6pm, Frankston Arts Centre main theatre

Those who love British comedy will probably be familiar with David Walliams, the writer of, and lead actor in the popular BBC television series, Little Britain. Less commonly known, is the array of children’s books that Walliams has written, including a book called Mr Stink (2009). Maryam Master, Australian writer of children’s productions, who has also written 80 episodes for Home and Away, adapted the book into a play that premiered at the Sydney Opera House in April last year. A team of this calibre, including award-winning Australian director, Jonathan Biggins, indicates that there is more to Mr Stink than pure children’s entertainment.

David Walliams Book Signing - London
David Walliams Promotes His Book “Mr Stink” At Bluewater Shopping Centre In Kent. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)


Like any good comedic art, Mr Stink engages people of all ages in fun and laughter, but also raises and addresses moral challenges that our society faces today.

Twelve-year old Chloe (played by Romy Watson) faces bullying and cyberbullying by her school peers and is downtrodden by her overbearing, career-driven mother Mrs Crumb (Anna Cheney), who fails to listen to or recognise her daughter’s talents. Chloe is a wonderful story-writer with a vivid imagination and has a talent for listening and engaging compassionately with others. Instead of praising Chloe, Mrs Crumb favours her other daughter Annabelle (Amanda Laing) for going along with her wishes in engaging in an exhausting regimen of extra-curricular activities such as ballet, panpipe lessons, basketball and yoga. Even Chloe’s father (Darren Sabadina) is too scared of Mrs Crumb to admit that he has lost his job, resorting to locking himself in the cupboard under the stairs, but “only during business hours”.

Mr Stink 3

Things start to change for Chloe when she meets Mr Stink (John O’Hare), a homeless man living in a nearby park. Although Mr Stink is very stinky and behaves oddly and amusingly at times, he has an innate gift of being real, honest and a good listener. Mr Stink tears down all pretences and in doing so, creates the avenues needed for Chloe’s family to talk to one another and remember the things that are truly important.

This delightful play is hilariously brought to life by skilful actors. Anna Cheney fabulously portrays Chloe’s highly-driven mother falling apart at the seams. Darren Sabadina cleverly switches between three very different but engaging characters: Raj the shopkeeper, Mr Crumb and the Prime Minister. John O’Hare, Amanda Laing and Romy Watson create convincing characters that the audience can relate to. Skilful acting aside, Mr Stink is also thought-provoking. The play encourages the audience to consider a range of issues that contemporary children and young people are grappling with, and provides insight on how to help young people deal with those issues. Mr Stink may be at the bottom of society’s hierarchy, but his kindness, humility and ability to stand up for the justice of others, heals a family and a community.

FAC logo

See FAC website for details on exciting upcoming shows for families, including Seussical, We’re Going On a Bearhunt, Diary of a Wombat, Saltbush and Horrible Harriet.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

Birds take flight at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’ – Visual art exhibition at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Sponsors: Mornington Peninsula Shire; Creative Victoria; Beleura House and Garden; Friends of MPRG; Mornington Peninsula Vignerons


If you have never been to Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery before, here is a gem of info: It is a cultural treasure run by some of the most highly-skilled gallery specialists and curators in Australia. In addition to volunteers, the team consists of eight core staff members: Danny Lacy, Narelle Russo, Ainsley Gowing, Elizabeth Jones, Rowena Wiseman, Jane German, Jill Anderson and director, Jane Alexander.

MPRG always packs a punch for the size of the gallery, consistently providing sumptuous exhibitions with a variety of artworks to induce wonder, excitement and delight. The team at MPRG cleverly designs exhibitions to appeal not only appeal to young people, but to inspire people of all ages. Interwoven with every exhibition, is a wealth of events, public outreach programs, artist talks, tours and interactive artworks to delight and engage all members of the community. The cost is minimal so that everyone can access MPRG: entry fee is $4 for adults and $2 concession (cost varies for other activities). These attributes make the gallery a hub of activity and enjoyment. The current exhibition, ‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’, greets visitors with a large flock of brightly coloured bird sculptures created by local school children, and encourages visitors to place black bird stickers on the walls to create a spectacular interactive artwork in the foyer.

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The current exhibition is based on four bird themes: collecting, identity, symbolism and the environment. The artwork, ‘Prattle, scoop and trembling: a flutter of Australian birds’ 2016 by Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, puts a delightful spin on a naturalist journal that might have been created by a 19th Century colonial bird collector. Each of the 15 sections contains a text page describing the qualities of birds depicted in the adjacent black and white graphite images, as well as providing a collage of the birds over an original black and white portrait. Not without a touch of tongue-in-cheek humour, the birds appear to be interacting with the person in the portrait and demonstrating their own importance in spite of European colonial attitudes of the time.

Collage images from ‘Prattle, scoop and trembling’ by Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison

Unlike the sense of foreignness that 19th Century Europeans may have felt towards birds on the ‘new’ Australian continent, birds such as the ngak ngak (white-breasted sea eagle) were an intrinsic part of the stories and rich culture that formed the identity and lives of the Indigenous Australian people. Ginger Riley Munduwalawala’s painting ‘Limmen Bight River Country’ 1992 depicts the ngak ngak as a guardian who looks over Riley’s mother country around Limmen Bight River in South East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. A large painting approx. 2.5m by 2.5m, Riley uses vivid, unmixed colours to divide the canvas into three horizontal sections. The top section shows two large birds facing each other, high atop mountains. The middle section depicts small black images of humans hunting kangaroos, and the lowest section, a peaceful campsite and undisturbed wildlife.


For Arthur Boyd, however, birds do not necessarily represent peace and security. In his oil on Perspex painting, ‘Lovers in a boat at Hastings’ c. 1955, the black swan hovering above the lovers symbolises the lovers as victims. Dark greens, browns and blues, mixed and smeared on the Perspex in flowing strokes gives the image a heavy, foreboding mood. This heaviness surrounds the boat, which is the central feature, glowing red and white with only a few strokes to delineate the tangle of lover’s legs, hair and arms. The swan flying large and flat over the lovers, completes the fluid, passionate image.

Boyd is not the only artist in the exhibition to depict images from the Mornington Peninsula. James Smeaton’s four photographic portraits of birds are taken from the Devil Bend Natural Features Reserve, a 1000 hectare environmental reserve that supports a spectacular array of shorebirds and waterbirds, including threatened species. The four images are part of a larger series of 133 bird portraits created in 2007 called ‘The birds of Devilbend’.


With artists Arthur Boyd and James Smeaton deriving their inspiration from the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, it is enough to fill anyone with gratitude at the natural and artistic treasures of the area, whether they be the parks, sea and wildlife or the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. If you have not yet seen ‘Birds: Flight paths in Australian art’, it is open until Sunday 12th February. Inspire yourself and your friends with a trip to Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Click here for more information about this exhibition and future exhibitions at MPRG


Treasures of the High Baroque

Peninsula Summer Music Festival concert seriesarts-review-by-jade-logo-black-background_001

12 January 2017 at 7:30pm

Music of the High Baroque by German composers J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann

Performed by Genevieve Lacey, Jane Gower and Lars Ulrik Mortensen


For the past two weeks, the Mornington Peninsula has been bustling with internationally-based musical masters performing concerts as part of the annual Peninsula Summer Music Festival. Among them, are Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Jane Gower, artistic director and bassoonist of Concerto Copenhagen respectively. Ulrik Mortensen and Gower have travelled all the way from Denmark to perform a concert with Australian recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey at the Morning Star Estate in Mount Eliza.

On arrival at Morning Star Estate, I was not quite sure what to expect. What is so ‘treasured’ about music of the High Baroque, and what does that term really mean? Is the concert going to be inside or outside in the gardens?

Morning Star Estate – Vista of Port Phillip Bay

The concert was held in the Ballroom at the Estate, a large and pretty room, ideal for functions and entertaining, but somewhat dry acoustically, especially for a small group of Baroque style instruments. The harpsichord, Baroque bassoon and recorder are relatively quiet instruments that are inherently limited in how loudly they can project their sound. Thankfully, this was offset by the full experience of the broader venue and the skills of the musical performers.

Morning Star Estate ballroom

The Estate’s breathtaking sea vistas and large sweeping gardens, which I enjoyed before and after the concert, allowed me to ‘breathe in’ the many joys of summer, creating a unique sensory experience to complement the concert. There was also historic buildings to admire and local wines to try.

This is part of the delight and intention of the Festival. That is, holding concerts at venues that have a broader artistic and sensual appeal than simply the music alone. Furthermore, it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages attending the concert, as we are very fortunate to have such musical masters brought to our doorstep each year, especially the aforementioned Baroque artists.

If you peruse the net, you will find that Baroque is an artistic culture and style that emerged in Europe from the 1600s to the mid 1700s. The Italian word barocco, meaning bizarre or exuberant, as well as the Portugese term barroco, meaning ‘misshapen pearl’, provide us with some understanding. In any case, the style is about opulence, decoration and adornment of highly organised and ordered patterns in music and art. There is an intention of sensual appeal, as opposed to intellectual, flourishing in the period known as ‘High Baroque’.

Vierzehnheiligen Basilica – 18th Century German Baroque

During this period, it was common for musicians and composers to travel around Europe to hear ‘new’ styles and gather ideas from each other. Though our featured concert composers, J.S Bach, G.F Handel and G.P Telemann were all German, they too flitted about Europe to work amongst foreign musicians, like our modern performers.

The Baroque style crossed over from religious music to secular (non-religious) music, examples of which are performed in the Treasures of the High Baroque concert. It is thought that after the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church, the major patron of the arts, began favouring art that could be understood and felt by all people, regardless of their level of education. Embellished music and ornate imagery and architecture moved people emotionally, allowing them to further explore aspects of their spirituality and self. Embodying these ideals, performers Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen, showed a great deal of virtuosity and passion, but the gentle timbre (sound quality) of their instruments and the undulating continuity of the long, highly rhythmic phrases, gave the music a delightful hypnotic quality. Continual and unexpected key changes were effortlessly woven together by the composers in each piece. These changes, expertly and precisely executed by the musicians, who were clearly enjoying every nuance, made the music unendingly interesting and entertaining in subtle and gentle ways.

Delicate, short articulation was used to create exquisite lightness of individual notes, dissolving into long, transporting phrases. The precision with which the performers synchronised their musical parts exactly together was aided by expressive body language. The musicians were as beautiful to watch as they were to listen to.

Even if Baroque music is completely foreign to you, such musical masters as Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have devoted their entire lives to crafting their musical performance into beauty that moves people and communicates the unspeakable. These are the kinds of musicians that the Festival features annually in the first two weeks of January. Why not come and see for yourself? You might be surprised at how a master musician can inspire you. No doubt you will be delighted at how the broader experience of a Peninsula concert venue, with a beautiful garden, panorama or historic building, will enable you to soak up the feeling of summer and wonder about music and life in new, deeper and more joyful ways.



Lacey, Gower and Ulrik Mortensen have produced a recording of Telemann Sonatas, Sonatinas and Fantasias on the ABC Classics label in 2016


Click here to buy

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker

White mural delights Hastings residents


In the Mornington Peninsula seaside town of Hastings, artist Simon White has charmed community residents with his beautiful new mural depicting scenes from the town’s history. The mural is the latest in a series of public art pieces created in this location since April 2014 as part of the ‘Adopt-A-Hotspot’ project, aiming to “prevent and reduce the incidents of graffiti and property damage in the Hastings community”.

This ‘Hotspot’, turned public art space, is a walkway between the Woolworths carpark and Main Street, beautifying the external wall of Terry White Chemist.


The mural is made up of seven maritime scenes, separated by angular lines. Each one focuses on people, places, animals and boats that are key icons of Hastings’ heritage.


These include the Mirabella family who arrived in Hastings in 1880; the Lothian family from c. 1890; Hastings Fish Shed built in 1866 and restored by John Wooley in 1988, accompanied by resident pelicans; a family in a fishing boat with dolphins swimming beneath the water; Jack Sheehan and his fishing boats; young people in swimming attire at Hastings foreshore c. 1907; and a scene of a fishing family building a wooden boat with one man proudly holding up the catch of the day.

This wonderful project was initiated by Councillor David Garnock in 2014 and continues to be supported by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC), Westernport Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Headspeath, Brett Cardwell and Hastings Police.


This project not only prevents property damage but enriches the cultural landscape of the area, contributes to wellbeing and gives all members of the community free access to the joy of art. As I was taking photos of the mural, several residents stopped to tell me how much pleasure the mural gives them as they walk through their town. Supporting the ‘Hotspot’ project indefinitely, as part of the Shire’s Cultural Strategy, will not only delight the community, but build a legacy of public art and historical acknowledgement in Hastings both present and future.

Copyright © 2017 Jade Barker