We’ll need cake… and spooky cocktails… and cake… and spooky decorations… and cake…
We’ll have a vampire party!
These cakes are perfect for Halloween! Mmm…
Aurelien Scanellla’s obsession with Bram Stoker’ tale of insatiable desire has led him to direct WA Ballet’s most ambitious production and a return to the stage.
To realise his vision of Dracula as soaring romantic hero and not simply the bloodsucking monster of dozens of B-grade movies (and Mel Brooks-inspired parodies), Aurelien Scanella orchestrated the biggest, most ambitious production in the ballet company’s history and put together a “Drac Pack” team to pull it off.
The team was headed by celebrated Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor. Scanella wanted Pastor because he knows how to use dancers, design and music to tell a grand story.
What attracted Pastor to the production was Scanella’s inspired idea of using the music of the great Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, whose film credits include Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady, and most significantly, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 cult classic Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The film score has the heartbreaking, haunting quality perfect for the story of a man trapped in the memory of his dead wife. As there was no written score for several of the pieces selected by Pastor (Kilar was not a great archivist), Michael Brett, WA Ballet’s music co-ordinator, had to piece together the music and transcribe by ear from several films the score for the WA Symphony Orchestra. Twenty six pieces of music composed by Kilar, many from the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, were adapted for Dracula.
Scanella’s next choice for his “Drac Pack” was the ace design duo of Charles Cusick Smith and Phil R Daniels, whose work on WA Ballet’s 2016 blockbuster The Nutcracker had reviewers reaching for superlatives.
One reason Scannella and Pastor wanted to work with Charles Cusick Smith and Phil R Daniels, apart from their international reputations, is that they’re British. While Bram Stoker’s night-crawling antihero is from Transylvania, most of the story is set in late-Victorian London. Pastor wanted to capture the sense of London around the time of Jack the Ripper, the sense of darkness and danger, of fear and paranoia. The sets that sweep you away to London’s high society, Transylvanian doom and Dr Seward’s mental asylum with a clever use of straightjacket straps were constructed in collaboration with Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production department.
So under Pastor’s watchful eye, the “Drac Pack” set about building a ballet from the ground up – writing a libretto, creating a score, crafting and constructing sets, designing lighting, conjuring an exquisite array of costumes (with an occasional hint of nudity) and inventing the physical movements that would tell the story of Count Dracula and his compulsion.
Little Puffles and Honey are beyond excited with anticipation!
Scannella wanted the audience to see the character of Dracula in a more romantic light and Pastor ensured the dancers delivered emotion as well as skill. Scannella has not only delivered a new level of creative energy but, by dancing the leading role, has demonstrated new and effortless moves with those he partnered. After 10 years away from dance, a remarkable feat. His presence inspired the troupe as the precision demonstrated by the company was at its best.
One of the highlights was Mathew Lehmann’s young Dracula and Oscar Valdes’ Frederick dancing a ‘man’ tango together in the first act.
The Argentinian-style tango duet between Mathew Lehmann, as young Dracula, and Oscar Valdes, as Jonathan Harker, the solicitor, was synchronised poetry in motion to Wojciech Kilar’s powerful music from the film Jealousy & Medicine.
Krzysztof Pastor’s modern choreography made for a visual feast. Pastor blended neoclassical movement with some unpredictable distortions and nonconformity, creating an unceasing undercurrent of unease, with many lyrical romantic moments retaining an off-kilter heart, and elegant group waltzes a glittering edginess. Two dancers share the role of Dracula in order to reveal how the tragic suicide of Dracula’s wife Elizabeth led to his degeneration. Old Count Dracula (Aurelien Scannella) is the monstrous, murdering vampire he became, and Young Count Dracula (Matthew Lehmann), shows his more sensitive former self, with the transitions between the two cleverly, seamlessly achieved.
The way the two men seamlessly interchange has great dramatic effect, each being a powerful counterpart for one another to communicate the character’s raw nature.
In contrast, Carina Roberts as sweetheart Mina and Melissa Boniface as the ill-fated Lucy are the epitome of feminine beauty, bringing softness and strength to their respective roles.
The spellbinding sets and costumes designed by Phil R. Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith are works of art, with meticulous attention to detail and historical accuracy. They transform the stage with stunning, distinctive, all-encompassing imagery, which is well lit by John Buswell, creating atmosphere and mystery in every scene.
The whole company performed admirably and undoubtedly repaid Krzysztof Pastor’s faith in them all. Carina Roberts (Elizabeth/Mina) rose to new heights in a beautifully danced, eloquent, breathtaking performance; Matthew Lehmann danced with flair and power, partnered flawlessly, and was entirely convincing as Young Count Dracula, revealing his inner turmoil, conflict and attempts to resist his dark urges.
A highlight of the show was the performance from Jesse Homes who played the mentally disturbed Renfied. The sequence which introduces Renfield and the asylum at the start of the show’s second act was a perfect mix of comedy and presence. Jesse Homes gets to the guts of Renfield’s adoration of Dracula with the energy and athleticism of his performance.
Identical twins Oliver Edwardson and Matthew Edwardson (Phantoms) were scene-stealingly superb.
The three vampire brides, Alexa Tuzil, Sarah Hepburn, and Kymberleigh Cowley, ghoulish in their spikey flowing white dresses and wigs, were all in top form.
WA Ballet’s Dracula was an artistic triumph. Every element of the production was truly magnificent.
To borrow a quote from Ron Weasley, that was bloody brilliant!
The music was surprisingly expressive and, at times, melancholy. We’ll have to watch the movie now!
Scene 1. Dracula’s despair
In the 15th Century, Count Vlad Dracula set off to war against the Turks, to defend his native Transylvania. Rumours of his death soon spread, and his beautiful grief-stricken wife Elizabeth threw herself from the castle tower. But the courageous count hadn’t perished after all. He returned to his castle and became sick with despair over the loss of his beloved wife. When the clergy refused burial to the suicide victim, Dracula renounced God and humankind, transforming into a cruel vampire.
Scene 2. Jonathan’s farewell
London, 1897. Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, is going to Transylvania to finalise the mysterious Count Dracula’s purchase of an estate in England. Before he leaves, he and his fiancée Mina visit the hospitable home of Mrs Westenra to say goodbye to their friends. The hostess, who has a heart condition, is being courted by the eccentric Professor Van Helsing. Her vivacious daughter Lucy is being wooed by two friends: aristocrat Arthur Holmwood and psychiatrist Doctor Jack Seward. Lucy is more favourably inclined towards Arthur. Meanwhile, her friend Mina is filled with serious misgivings about Jonathan’s departure for a distant country. Bidding him farewell, she offers her beloved a decorative likeness of herself, and then confesses her sadness to Lucy.
ACT I. TRANSYLVANIA
Scene 1. In front of Dracula’s castle
A coach carrying Jonathan arrives at the Count’s castle. The passengers include a Mother with her baby and child. When Jonathan leaves his companions outside the castle, he sees they become inexplicably anxious.
Scene 2. The party at the Count’s
There is a party in progress at Dracula’s. Jonathan has no suspicion yet that this is a meeting of vampires. He feels uncomfortable when some of the women harass him. Finally the old count dismisses the whole company so the solicitor can conclude the property transaction. His host, however, doesn’t seem very interested in the deal. When the inebriated Jonathan cuts his finger, Dracula becomes excited and tries to suck the blood from his guest’s hand. He then notices that Jonathan is holding Mina’s portrait. He is fascinated by her likeness, as she reminds him of his beloved wife Elizabeth.
Jonathan is finally alone and, being tired from his journey, nods off. In his half-dreaming state he is accosted by the obtrusive women he met earlier, but Dracula unexpectedly rescues him by offering the female vampires the body of a baby. At that moment Jonathan regains consciousness, but Dracula leaves again. Intrigued by his strange dreams and his host’s behaviour, Jonathan follows.
Meanwhile, the mother Jonathan met on his journey is in front of the Count’s castle, distraught and seeking her lost children. Nuns have found just one of her children, and she realises her infant has been lost forever.
Scene 3. The vampires’ lair
Vampires gather in the gloomy vault of the Count’s castle, where they do their ghastly dance. Dracula also arrives. He performs the ritual of shutting his semiconscious companions in boxes and then takes his own place. Creeping in after him, Jonathan only sees the lid of the box closing. He is terrified. When he raises the lid of Dracula’s bed, the count tries to pull him inside. Suddenly, the grief-stricken mother appears in the vault, holding a cross. Dracula slams the lid shut and the brave woman leads the shocked Jonathan away.
ACT II. LONDON
Scene 1. Renfield
The inmates at Doctor Seward’s mental asylum include the exceptionally peculiar Renfield. He is obsessed with insects and birds, which he maniacally devours when he catches them. His growing frenzy gives the doctor concern and scares the other inmates. He gets especially tense when those familiar boxes from the vault of the Transylvanian castle are carried past the asylum windows by porters. When the concerned doctor leads the other inmates out of the room they share with Renfield, Dracula appears at the hospital window. Renfield humbly invites him inside and, believing that Dracula may offer the gift of eternal life, he declares his complete submission.
Scene 2. Lucy’s engagement
Mrs Westenra is having an engagement party for her daughter Lucy and Arthur. The partygoers have no idea they are being observed. When the guests move to the garden, Lucy – weary from dancing – falls asleep. Suddenly Dracula appears next to her, displaying supernatural powers. A dose of fresh blood restores him to the form of young Count Vlad Dracula, who blends in unnoticed with the company returning indoors.
Seeing how weak Lucy is, Mrs Westenra seeks the help of Doctor Seward and Professor Van Helsing, who is considered an expert on supernatural phenomena. He discovers a bite mark on the neck of the fainting Lucy and leads her from the room with Arthur’s help. As the blissfully unaware guests continue having fun, Mina notices the handsome stranger, and the Count recognises her as the girl from Jonathan’s portrait of his fiancé. Their relationship grows into fascination. Mrs Westenra is worried about her daughter’s health and bids the guests goodbye. Only Mina stays, still shocked by her uncontrolled weakness for a strange man. The next moment, however, she notices Lucy sleepwalking into the sinister arms of Count Dracula. Disconcerted by Mina’s presence, the vampire leaves Lucy alone in her fainted state. Mina rouses her friend from sleep and realises that the seducer was the same handsome man who had also charmed her that evening.
Mrs Westenra approaches with Doctor Seward and Van Helsing. The professor suspects a vampire is involved, so he tries to safeguard Lucy from future danger. Garlic and crosses placed around the girl are meant to protect her from another attack of the evil force. Mrs Westenra stays to watch over her daughter, but soon falls asleep from fatigue. When Dracula reappears, the woman awakens and is so terrified that she suffers a heart attack. Unfortunately, as she dies, she destroys all of Professor Van Helsing’s safeguards. Now there is nothing to stop the vampire, who sucks out the rest of helpless Lucy’s blood. When the friends rush in, it is already too late; both women are dead.
Scene 3. Renfield’s transformation
Mina meets Jonathan as he returns from his journey, but her joy is overshadowed by the death of her friends and her meeting with the mysterious stranger. Mina and Jonathan go to Doctor Seward’s asylum, where they encounter Arthur and Professor Van Helsing. The doctor wants to consult the professor about Renfield’s case. They notice that the patient gets excited by the sight of Mina, but his behaviour is more suggestive of concern. He seems to want to warn and protect her. As the professor pacifies Renfield, they are watched through the window by a furious Dracula and a blood-thirsty vampire, Lucy.
Scene 4. Lucy the vampire
In the cemetery, vampires hunt for fresh blood with Lucy among them. Trying to protect her from a vampire’s fate, Lucy’s friends arrive at the cemetery and open her grave, but her body is missing. Meanwhile, she circles around them, desperately trying to get close to her beloved Arthur and give him a sinister kiss. The vigilant Professor Van Helsing saves him and Doctor Seward drives an aspen stake through her heart. The devastated Arthur cuts off her head and frees his beloved Lucy from eternal damnation.
Scene 5. Dracula’s death
Mina wants to protect Renfield from the vampire’s vengeance, but she arrives too late and witnesses his death. Her confrontation with Dracula is dramatic and the intensity of their connection can no longer be denied. He shows her the portrait of his beloved wife Elizabeth, and Mina finally understands the Count’s heart, and his pain. She surrenders to his power.
Jonathan and her friends return from the cemetery and are shocked by the disturbing scene. Taken by surprise, the Count tries to hide. When everyone rushes after him, Jonathan stays to guard Mina.
Now returned to his ancient form, Dracula reappears and is drawn towards Mina. A struggle ensues and he is wounded but Mina defends him from further harm. Filled with emotion for the Count, she kisses the aged vampire. Moved by her gesture and wanting to protect her from his own fate, he convinces Mina to drive a stake through his heart, freeing him from his eternal suffering.
Dying, he is the young Count Dracula once more.
Little bears went to Aidan’s workshop at the Perth International Classical Guitar Festival to learn a few things about historical musical instruments.
It’s a theorbo. It has three roses!
Jan Miense Molenaer shows a chitarrone in his painting, The Duet. The painting shows two well-dressed young people in a somewhat sparsely but, nonetheless, expensively furnished interior. The young man plays a chitarrone and the woman a cittern – an instrument like the lute, dating from the Renaissance, but with brass rather than gut strings, giving it a brighter, louder sound. The figures have been identified as Molenaer himself, and Judith Leyster, a fellow painter from Haarlem, whom he married in June 1636.
Caccini (1602) said that “the chitarrone is better suited to accompany the voice, especially the tenor, than any other instrument”. More than 60 books of songs printed 1600-41 name it for accompaniment.
Inigo Jones first brought the theorbo to England circa 1605. The théorbe was probably introduced in France around 1650 by Nicholas Hautman. It is likely that the théorbe was taken to Germany and Prague from France, along with the French lute.
Decisions, decisions… Shall we see the movie or have elevenses?
We’ll have both!
Little bears are watching Christopher Robin.
It turns out Christopher Robin is all grown up and a giant stick in the mud. He has become The Absentee Parent Who Puts Work Ahead of Family. While Christopher is still a young boy in school, he’s forced to deal with some of life’s harder lessons. And as an adult, he’s clearly upset by the fact that his daughter and wife are slowly slipping away from him. He just can’t seem to understand why, and his inability to appreciate whimsy and play turn him into a tragic figure.
In The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne’s last book about Christopher Robin, the mop-haired boy bids farewell to Winnie-the-Pooh, the endearingly befuddled and honey-besotted bear. It is a bittersweet encounter. As they reflect on life and more, Christopher Robin muses that what he likes doing best is nothing. “It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering,” he tells Pooh. But he adds, wistfully, that he can’t do nothing anymore. The time has come. The boy makes the bear promise never, ever to forget him, even when they grow old. Pooh promises. This marks the end of Christopher Robin’s enchanted childhood.
The film features a fantastical story line in which the Christopher Robin of the books goes off to boarding school, serves in the Second World War, gets married, and has a child. Now an adult, he faces real-world challenges as a frazzled efficiency expert at a struggling company in postwar London. In the clamor of work, he has lost a sense of connection to his wife, Evelyn; to his young daughter, Madeline; and to life itself. “Nothing comes from nothing” is his philosophy now. Shock, horror, Christopher has even forgotten Pooh!
Pooh (voiced by the veteran Pooh vocalist Jim Cummings) passes through the hollow of a tree and appears in London to rekindle Christopher’s playful instincts.
Pooh’s appearance in London kicks off a round of fish-out-of-water comedy as Pooh reacts to the business of Christopher’s life in London when all the bear really cares about is lounging about and eating honey. Christopher wants to return Pooh quickly to the Hundred Acre Wood, in Sussex, so that he can get back to crunching numbers for his company. Instead, Christopher and Pooh share new adventures — getting lost in the fog of a forest, confronting the feared Heffalumps and Woozles, finding a way to salvage Christopher’s company — that each symbolize life’s bigger challenges. The movie is whimsical but subtly value-laden, pro-labor and anti-bullying. It carries a message about mindfulness and the strength of the human spirit. And, along the way, Christopher and Pooh rekindle their connection. “I’m not who I used to be. I’m lost,” the man confesses to his childhood chum. “You need to remember who you are,” Pooh replies. He invokes the theory of nothingness. “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day,” Pooh says. “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
The story’s twists and subplots incorporate Christopher’s other old friends — Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger (also voiced by Jim Cummings), Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and baby Roo.
Being a Disney movie, everything works out in the end and everyone is primed to live happily ever after. Anything else would be blasphemy. Everyone from the writers to the actors dial up the wackiness and whimsy in order to deliver the feel-good ending a film like this demands.
The voice actors give the strongest performances in the film. Brad Garrett is perfect as the ever grumbling Eeyore. “Headed for the waterfall. I’ll be gone soon,” Eeyore says, gloomily, at one point, as he floats helplessly down a stream. “Not that anyone will notice. Just have to go with the flow.”
The film offers a lot of nostalgia and a bit of humor. Pooh and his friends are stunningly impressive computer-generated creations, looking every inch like the worn and well-loved stuffed animals that inspired Milne’s original characters. Pooh and his friends are true to E.H. Shepard’s early illustrations and to the original stuffed animals, which Christopher Robin Milne bequeathed to the New York Public Library.
Mmmm… the Pink Everlasting is nice and soft… 🙂
Kings Park Wildflower Festival wouldn’t be complete without the Adorable Florables — mischievous larger-than-life wildflower characters each with a personality to match their bloom — who rove around the park on Sundays.
The Adorable Florables are the brainchild of Kings Park Festival Director Jacqui Kennedy. In a move to educate and entertain the public, the team at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority has devised a series of characters representing the state’s native wildflowers. The golden wattle, Queen of Sheba orchid, pink everlasting, banksia and kangaroo paw are some of the native plant species portrayed by performers who don flamboyant costumes and make-up, transforming themselves into real-life representations of the species.
The costumes for the Adorable Florables are designed by Isaac Lummis, a Melbourne based costume designer and maker, whose body of work extends across a diverse range of performers and performance genres. He has designed costumes for dance, circus, theatre and festivals.
The Adorable Florables first appeared in 2007, and every year since. Between 2007 and 2009 they were known as the Wandering Wildflowers and in 2010 they became the Adorable Florables. In 2011 two new characters, Silver Princess and Western Spinebill Bird, were added to the group. In total, there are ten members of the Adorable Florables: Granny Bonnet, Queen of Sheba Orchid, Kangoroo Paw, Silver Princess, Zamia Cycad Warrior, Pink Everlasting, Banksia and Golden Wattle plus Thinnid Wasp and Western Spinebill Bird. All ten made a guest appearance at the Government House Garden Party, the official state reception for the royal visit to Perth on 28 October 2011 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The Adorable Florables are stunningly creative works of art.