written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson

I was expecting a comedy. Clearly I misread the publicity. I was so excited to see a film set in Iceland and support the Icelandic film industry – which seems to be the entire population of Iceland based on the final credits – that I assumed it would be a dark comedy because, well, aren’t all vaguely Nordic films zany and out-of-left-field and quirky, etc, etc, etc? ramsWell, there are a couple of comic moments – one involving a bulldozer – but Rams certainly won’t send you out of the cinema chortling with merriment. It will leave you feeling: Oh. Or perhaps: Oh? It’s bleak. Intense. Sad. Poignant. And structurally very clever: the gradual disentanglement, the mirrored actions, the rescues, the journey, the salvation.

Lots of close-ups of the craggy Gummi, (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), one of two bearded Icelandic-jumper-wearing brothers, who lives in an isolated valley in the north of the country and whose whole life is wrapped up in his sheep. Crisis arrives when it’s found that one of the prize rams has a deadly and contagious disease and drastic action must be taken…

On the way to Hotel Sel for hot chocolate

Not a still from the movie. Not northern Iceland. Not a valley. And no sheep. But still, it’s Iceland so it’s vaguely relevant (c) WJL 2013

Lots to love. The simple cream-coloured buildings. The tough, all-encompassing rural life. The grumpy brother next door, Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), who’s a bit of a bother. Sheep running upstairs. Sheep running up hills. Love those sheep. Like curly rectangles on sticks. Dramatic sweeping shots of the farms, the roads, snowscapes, yes, but snow is not the focus until those sheep take off pursued by the two brothers and a dog into the white… The changing seasons. The Christmas candles. The bath tubs. The beautiful restrained acting to capture the bond between Gummi and his beloved sheep. And an ending that must be said is a tad ABRUPT.

A tender film.


We all love Malcolm Turnbull
And then we all hate Malcolm Turnbull
Just like
We all loved Kevin Rudd
Then we all hated Kevin Rudd
A man hijacks a plane to get a letter to his ex-wife
And 219 Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing
The only thing that makes sense
Is a cow up a tree.




Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors
Hayes Theatre, Potts Point

Squeezed into Thursday’s matinee. An astonishing production full of energy, yearnings and fabulous 50’s frocks (not cheap and tasteless outfits, of course). Hats off to Tim Chappel, costumer designer extraordinaire and set designer Owen Phillips who has created a skew, eerie and pulsating world from which crazy green evil can emerge. Brilliant.

And I haven’t even started on the performances…

Esther Hannaford is sublime as the empty-headed big-hearted Audrey.  She sings with such depth of passion that it brings tears to the eyes. littleshopofhorrorsEvery gesture is exquisite, graceful and brimming with neurotic self-control. Her portrayal reaches a state of near perfection. Then there’s Brent Hill as the stumbling, bumbling Seymour who brings a little more evil to his character than I expected (how does he do it?). He makes it all seem so damn easy and that schizophrenic demonic connection between Seymour and Audrey II is a sight to behold. Or rather a sound to hear. Wow.

Tyler Coppin is suitably world-weary and opportunistic as the moaning Mr Mushnik, and, boy, can he kick up his heels and do a Happy Hasidic Hubba-hubba when he has to. castScott Johnson is Orin, the semi-sadist (not total sadist, let’s make that clear) dentist, playing it a little kooky rather than as a complete bastard; while Dash Kruck has lots of fun in various pot-plant inspired suits trying to convince Seymour to sign his life away. And of course full credit to the sassy Doo-wop girls, Angelique Cassimatis, Josie Lane and Chloe Zuel for their soul-singing and sashaying as they glide through the chaos unfolding with absolute conviction and a glint in their eyes. Not to mention the geniuses at Erth Visual and Physical Inc. and the magnificent & malevolent Audrey II,  a miracle of modern science, technology and, er, I think helium.

Suddenly, Seymour is a stand-out followed not far behind by Somewhere that’s Green. Two songs that rise above their schmaltz-i-ness and absolutely soar. The pathos, oh, the pathos…what a show!


One gripe: I expected at least a dentist’s chair for Orin’s song. Disappointed. And then a few scenes later,  the dentist chair appears. Waste of a prop, I fear.

One question: Why is this show called Little Shop of Horrors? Not blaming anyone, just asking. It’s not the greatest title in the world. Shouldn’t the title have something to do with flowers? Or a florist? Or plants? Or something green from outer space? Maybe it’s a clever cultural reference (or a clever lack of a cultural reference) that I don’t get. Not even that catchy. Hmmm. One of the great mysteries of musical theatre. At least to me.

One comment: As you may or may not know, Little Shop of Horrorswas written by Alan Menken (score) and Howard Ashman (lyrics). Most people mention Beauty and the Beast (erk) or Little Mermaid (triple erk)  when talking about the Menken/Ashman partnership. But for me, Menken’s greatest score is Hercules
(1997). Hercules has the same musical ingredients as Little Shop of Horrors: the 3 sassy ladies chorus,  the gutsy Motown sound, and even a hint of the same kind of poignancy in the song ‘(I won’t say) I’m in love’. Yes, it’s a children’s animation but it’s one of the best. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

And, finally, did you know?
Alan Menken’s father was a dentist.