Sunday, January 10, 2010


No sooner had thoughts of Barry Humphries' recent performance begun to slip away than I stumbled on this remarkable 1965 doco film about antipodeans in London, The Australian Londoners. It's an eclectic bunch with a not surprising strong skew towards the arty farty - most of all, they saw the need to leave.

There's the great, but not-as-yet Dame, Joan Sutherland, looking a little startled and self-conscious, with Richard Bonynge in a pose that was to become almost a trademark - behind and slightly above her, protective, corrective, directive, like a steersman, guiding the great vessel, the mighty SS Sutherland always seeming at any moment about to plow on regardless leaving all else in her wake. It rarely if ever happened, except perhaps her studio Turandot where she unleashed unequalled fire and ice, and pushed herself to some outer limit.

Margreta Elkins, who died last year, is gorgeous and natural and assurred At 26, Brett Whiteley looks so young but leaves no doubt his comet is already ablaze. And Barry Humphries is outrageous, pointed, cutting, and yet somewhere there is a love for his country, a wry smile and a twinkle giving the game away. Bobby Helpmann looks, as ever, as if he's just left some plastic surgery clinic, he didn't ever seem to change, and his emphasis on the umbilical is as insightful as it gets. Don't miss him.

You have to ask - how much has changed?

Anyway, while we're on the subject, her she is, another recent find, the mighty SS Sutherland (with steersman, and a peep at Margreta) dispensing with Donizetti in an almost matter of fact but brilliant hair curling display of her incredible vocal powers. Love, love, love that smile Joan. (She's got a cold, lesser mortals would have stayed in bed - Turn it up, go full screen, let it all load if your speed is slow - time will stand still)

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