BUILDERS SAY 'WE WANT $30m HOSPITAL JOB NOW'. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA
The head of a major construction firm has denied claims by Health Minister Denis Burke that the Alice Springs building industry could not cope with a $30m project spanning 18 months.Peter Cheel, manager of Universal Constructions, says his firm on its own could cope with such a project, and in fact it would provide a badly needed boost for the local industry.Last week, Chamber of Commerce vice-president Liz Davies and new CATIA manager Mike Gunn called for more government spending in the town.Mr Burke said last week the extensions and upgrading of the Alice hospital will be spread over four years so local industry could "fully participate".Speaking at the opening of a hospital car park and rehabilitation unit, Mr Burke said: "The overall hospital development will happen over the next four years at a projected cost of about $30m."I was talking to a banker from south last night and he was querying the fact that we would stage that over the next four years."When he received his answer he basically said, well, now I know why things are seen differently in the Northern Territory."One of the reasons at this stage is for local industry to fully participate throughout."If you run this sort of project over 18 months you probably get the project done but it wouldn't be to the benefit of [local] tradesmen."Mr Cheel said: "I categorically disagree with that. The government need to open their eyes to the fact that there are several building companies in the town that could handle large construction undertakings."The more work the better it would be at the moment."We've got people knocking on our door for work," says Mr Cheel."Obviously, the $30m includes the upgrading of expensive medical equipment and services, so the total construction component is obviously less.SYSTEMS"Electrical systems, air conditioning and medical plumbing is different to normal commercial work and expensive - an excellent opportunity for local contractors."The work could be released in various tender packages, for example, letting out electrical and mechanical work separately."Phil Danby, of Probuild NT, says four years is "far too long."It should be brought back to a maximum of two years."Mr Danby says there is "a lot of slack" in the industry, with little activity in the residential market, and except for the police cells, no major government work.Mr Cheel says the government should first speak to the large contracting companies within the town before making a statement that a contract should run over four years.Universal last week completed the $1.8m contract for the St Philip's College hall, and has started work on two Aboriginal hostels, a contract valued at about $5m.
TAXI OWNERS CONFRONT TRANSPORT MINISTER
Transport Minister Barry Coulter, in whose Palmerston electorate the current turmoil in the taxi industry has its roots, was confronted by angry drivers in Alice Springs last week.Ken Noye, an owner-driver, says Mr Coulter and Chief Minister Shane Stone had "snubbed" the industry by declining to meet with it while in town last week, together with the rest of the Cabinet, for a round of engagements, including a golfing afternoon.Mr Noye says Mr Coulter was spotted talking on his mobile phone outside the Plaza Hotel on Friday.A call went out on the taxi radio network and within minutes the Minister was surrounded by about 15 angry drivers, including Mr Noye.They demanded answers about what the NT government would do to rectify a dramatic drop in driver's income, taxi revenue and the value of plates in the past 18 months, all caused by the advent of mini buses operating like taxis.Mr Coulter would not agree to a formal meeting, says Mr Noye, and would only state that the government would make a decision soon, without specifying exactly when.Mr Noye, who is also a shareholder in Alice Springs Taxis, says the value of plates in town has probably dropped by half.The last plate was sold some nine months ago for about $140,000, for a taxi fitted for wheelchairs, and the going rate for normal taxis was around $175,000.Drivers now have to work extended hours to make ends meet, and up to 30 per cent of business has been lost to mini buses operating under far less rigorous controls.They could get licences from NT government for just $500 for three years as opposed to 350 times that amount obtained by the government from people tendering for taxi licences (which have no time limit).Mr Noye says the trouble started in Palmerston some three years ago when - assuming taxis wouldn't be serving the growing town - the government permitted mini buses to operate there."The government should have issued taxi plates for that area," says Mr Noye. From Palmerston the mini buses spread to the rest of Darwin and - some 18 months ago - to Alice Springs.Mr Noye says so far as he knows, a situation such as this exists nowhere else in Australia.Mr Noye's wife and business partner, Jan, says she attended a meeting (she was then a director of Alice Springs Taxis) with Mr Coulter some two years ago when he said Palmerston was his electorate, and it would be "political suicide" for him to take the mini buses out of that town.As the matter got out of hand the government froze the issue of new licenses in March last year and issued a discussion paper about how to fix the mess.The industry selected two options: both requiring that all operators acting like taxis - mainly plying for trade rather than operating from a fixed base - should be subjected to the same conditions as are taxis.The first option would maintain the existing permanent licence arrangements for taxis and extend them to hire cars and mini buses - if they want to operate like taxis.Mr Noye says the argument that mini buses are providing a cheaper and more popular service is spurious: taxi licences could be issued depending on the average "response time". If it takes too long to get a cab, new plates could be issued.The second option would, in effect, be starting the industry from scratch: plates are bought back by the government in a way that is "transparent and fair", and then leased to operators still interested in being part of the industry.The buy-back would cost the government about $35m, but it would gain an annual revenue from licence fees to offset that initial outlay.Mr Noye says the industry is rejecting a government proposal for taking back the licences, charging an annual fee, and then paying the operators off by way of "progressive full compensation" over seven to 10 years.Mr Noye says that's tantamount to "confiscating you home, letting you stay but charge rent, and then paying you the price of your home over several years out of your rent payments".For Ken, aged 58, and wife Jan the issue will do no more and no less than decide how their retirement will unfold.He worked for 20 years at a zinc smelting company in Hobart.When he was retrenched seven years ago the couple moved to The Alice, looking for work.Their "super" of $65,000 wasn't enough to live on, so they borrowed $175,000 to get into the taxi business, with just one car.At first, they managed to take a day or two off every week, but since the advent of the mini buses, they've been on the road practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sharing shifts, "to get as big as possible a slice of the shrinking pie".They were planning to pay off their plate by the year 2000, and retire with a weekly income of around $400 from investments."We've always regarded the plate as our property, as our main asset," says Ken.The government's proposals will go before Cabinet in the next few days.Unless Mr Coulter gets it right, Ken and Jan - and dozens of colleagues - will see their dream turn into a nightmare.
POLITICIANS WALL TO WALL, says Columnist JUNE TUZEWSKI
If you wondered why there were so many politicians around the Alice over last weekend, it's because the CLP Party machine was here for one of its Central Council Meetings. These regular meetings, along with Annual Conference - the party's equivalent of an AGM - are important for both politicians and members in keeping the Government on track.Within the organisation, the Country Liberal Party (CLP) prides itself on being the political party created by Territorians for Territorians. In the late ‘sixties there were branches of both conservative parties in the NT - the Country Party in the Centre and the Liberal Party in the Top End.There was little of the philosophical conflict that sometimes occurs interstate today between the Liberal and National Parties. Jock Nelson (Labor Party) had been the Territory's Member in the House of Representatives for quite some time. There was a growing realisation by the respective Country and Liberal Party branch members, at that time, that if they did not take some radical action, they would forever be in the political wilderness. This saw the two parties successfully join forces in 1966, 1969 and 1972 to ensure the election of pastoralist Sam Calder as a Country Party candidate to the House of Representatives.The two parties amalgamated and became the single entity CLP as we know it today in 1974, when the Federal government announced that the Northern Territory would have a fully elected Legislative Assembly before the end of the year.In the run-up to that first Assembly election in October '74, the local Labor Party branches had good reason to feel quite confident. The Federal Labor Government had improved its standing. The redistribution of electoral boundaries and the introduction of optional preferential voting in the NT were not considered difficulties. However, the performance of the Whitlam Labor Government was not viewed favourably by the majority of Territorians, and the newly formed CLP was swept into power with 17 seats. The remaining two seats went to sitting members who were independents, and the Labor Party was out in the cold. Thus began the longest period in office of any political party in Australia.Local personalities who were successful in that election were Bernie Kilgariff and Roger Vale, Jim Robertson and Dave Pollock. Bernie became the Legislative Assembly's first Speaker. When the NT was granted two Senate positions, Bernie was elected, along with Ted Robertson of the Labor Party, in December '75. The ALP have certainly come a long way in Territory elections since those early days, but have always found it difficult to gain an urban seat in the Alice.Delegates to Central Council and Annual Conference, who are elected by the various CLP Branch members, play an important role in bringing public issues of concern to the parliamentary wing. While any resolutions passed by the delegates are not binding on the CLP government, the debate can be quite spirited. The Party membership often confronts the elected politicians with tough scrutiny of their policies and actions to a degree which I believe would surprise outsiders.All of which brings me to the very prominent topic of law and order, and the Chief Minister's recent visit overseas to look at the effects of what has come to be called "zero tolerance policing". In following some media reports, readers could be forgiven for thinking that such a policy is about to be implemented. The fact is that Shane Stone as Chief Minister would like to see real public debate on the issue. He recognises that there are some unique situations in the Alice with respect to youth gangs, and that anti-social behaviour and alcohol related problems are caused by a small number of people. He does not wish the Government to bring in measures which may infringe on people's civil liberties, but at the end of the day we must have a community which is safe and welcoming for locals and visitors alike. The CLP over the years has always sought to protect the lifestyle of Territorians. Currently the Stone Government is giving additional top-up funds to Aged Care and Child Care Services. These are funds which the Chief Minister believes should rightly come from the Federal Government in Canberra. However, he will do as much as possible to keep the Territory as the special place so many of us enjoy, and that includes taking a firm stand on law and order in the community. Shane Stone and his Government are looking for real solutions to the current anti-social behaviour and other problems which are of grave concern to the broader community. Whether it's zero tolerance policing, proper enforcement of the two kilometre law or other measures, now is the time to have your say.What do you think?[ED - Quite a few local journalists would disagree with June's assertion that Mr Stone wants a full and open debate. A good way to encourage it would have been to communicate his views to local media more freely. After the opening of the St Philip's hall reporters asking for an interview were brusquely brushed aside by Mr Stone. He was apparently too much in a hurry to get to his golfing engagement, where he later gave electronic media a few brief "sound bites".]
HOW WELL INFORMED IS HEALTH MINISTER DENIS BURKE? Comment.
What does Health Minister Denis Burke really know about the health crisis in the Alice Springs region?Last week he said a Territory Health commissioned study by two Queensland consultants, reporting an "extreme crisis" in Central Australian allied health services, "will be challenged".Mr Burke took a swipe at media reporting the issue, accusing them of failing to recognise the hard work of people in health services.However, media - especially the Alice News - reported extensively about the consultants' findings that health professionals were doing dedicated and outstanding work, but were being frustrated by poor departmental management and inadequate resources.Mr Burke admitted that he didn't know until late last year about a scathing 120 page study written in 1995, exposing many of the problems which are the subject of the current report, which suggests that nothing or not enough had been done to fix these shortcomings.The recent events:-April 22: The Alice News publishes extracts from a leaked interim report by Dr Rosalie Boyce, of the University of Queensland, and Michael Bishop, of the Toowoomba Health Services, quoting respondents as saying that an "extreme crisis" in Central Australian allied health services is responsible for "preventable" amputations and "deformity and suffering" among disabled children.Dr Boyce and Mr Bishop present claims that allied health services are under resourced, uncoordinated and discriminatory towards some disabled people.April 29: Gerard Waterford, an experienced local health professional, writing in the Alice News, quotes a string of reports - one dating back to 1993 - pointing up similar problems.May 20: The Alice News publishes segments from a leaked 120-page report by Territory Health physiotherapist Alison Cantlay, acknowledged and praised by the secretary of the department at the time, Katherine Henderson.Ms Cantlay points up a string of inadequacies in management and resources, and details the case of a man who had 29 operations, including an amputation, within 18 months - in part because of mismanaged care.May 21: Mr Burke, in a media release, describes Ms Cantlay's study as a "memo".Mr Burke states he "implemented moves late last year when it came to my attention".CRITICISMLast week, when he opened a car park and a rehabilitation unit at the Alice Springs Hospital, Mr Burke said: "I think the hospital is extremely well valued but it is often criticised, and it would certainly please me, and I know it would please the staff, if the community did take a greater interest in the excellent work that happens in this hospital on a day to day basis, and we work together on some of the issues that we all know we could improve upon."There are always spoilers who can only think of denigrating everything this government is involved in."Unfortunately, the hard work of many of you is often ignored in favour of a sensational headline."He singled out the Alice News, saying: "Erwin Chlanda [the paper's editor, who attended the opening], take note."In an interview with the Alice News, interrupted twice by members of his staff, Mr Burke said about the Cantlay report: "Well, that particular report is fairly old hat."It was a report that was done internally, and reacted on by the Chief Executive Officer, and it's one of those things that was for the department - it wasn't for me."It was produced in 1994, as I recall. [In fact, the report was dated October, 1995]."But certainly, the contents of that report were considered in line with the sorts of issues that this current report addresses."Questioned why many of the problems raised by Ms Cantlay in 1995 were found to be still in existence when Dr Boyce and Mr Bishop compiled their highly critical interim report late last year, Mr Burke said: "The new report makes a number of comments, and I've said it before, I haven't seen the final report ..."A short time later Mr Burke said the Boyce-Bishop interim report "will be challenged."He said their final report would be available soon.The Alice News understands the two consultants are facing legal action by a senior Territory Health official.No further comment was available from Mr Burke.
ILLEGAL USE OF A ... CAMEL?
Alice Springs - unfortunately - is well acquainted with illegal uses of motor cars, but it may be a first for the "illegal use of a camel".
Legendary cameleer Denis Wickham, now confined to a wheelchair by motor neurone disease, is investigating whether Alice Springs-born TV star Troy Dann has without consultation, permission or any kind of recompense, and therefore illegally, used his working camels, Saleh and Huchang.
When Denis was first diagnosed he set about finding a home for his chooks, his dog and the camels:"I got a home for the two younger camels but, at that time, I couldn't find anywhere for the three older camels, all over 21.
"In the end the best I thought I could do was out at Rick and Smacker Anderson's."I'd made a couple of camel saddles and trained a couple of young camels for them - at the time Smacker's young fella was interested.
"So we'd broken bread, had a drink together and all the rest of it, and they offered safe retirement for the camels at One Hump Downs, north-west of Alice. "Smacker was prepared to track them up there, and, as they put it to me, they could run free and grow old gracefully.
"Longabout March, I was doing cross word puzzles in "No" Idea, and flipping through the pages, I see a little photo in there, Huchang and Saleh with Simone Dann and Gina Jefferies, the country singer, on board.
"I can recognise my camels anywhere, but that identification may not be totally irrefutable."A couple of days later, a friend of mine brought me a copy of the Northern Territory News, of Saturday, 28th of February, 1998.
"There's he [Troy Dann] in a photo, alongside a camel - in my view my camel Huchang. That photo seems to be irrefutable proof, there is an identifying feature that any camel driver in Australia would know in their camel.
"After I'd seen both things I asked young Jane Mitchell to take me up to see the camels."We went up on Saturday 8th of March.
"After we'd seen them, we were sitting around the dust having a beer, under a mulga, and Rick told me that they'd only been used once to lead other wild camels into the yards, and other than that they hadn't been touched or handled. Well, the NT News pic must be a photo from that occasion.
"Somebody since advised me to send a bill to Troy Dann, which I did last week."Two days later he phoned and said, ‘Well I didn't need your camels to lead mine in, I did it myself with a chopper.'
"I'd made no mention of that in the bill and it doesn't compute with what Rick said to Jane and me, and in any case what are my bloody camels doing there by the yard in the photo?
"Huchang, my old foreman camel, had obviously led the wild camels in and been pushed out the other side. And what's this with the bloody horse's head stall on him!
"I left bloody nosepegs in Huchang and Saleh both. Praline hasn't got one, it tore out when I was coming in from Lindsay's and Joan's last, before diagnosis.
"Troy Dann hasn't got a 21 year old working camel that he could lay his bloody hands on anywhere in Australia. There's proof of age there in the photo.
"Huchang is posing, showing his proof in the nicest possible way, a 21 year old, or at least 20 something years old.
"Troy Dann's not going to use a wild 20 something year old camel for any bloody thing! He could have 1000 wild camels, he's got some who have been worked in the past, little ‘ridey rideys', but haven't been used for years since.
"My camels have worked all their bloody lives, they've travelled with me over 30,000 miles in the past 25 years.
"Troy Dann also said any camel eating grass up there he can do as he pleases with, at the same time as saying he didn't use my camels.
"I didn't even know that One Hump Downs was part of Amburla [the Danns' pastoral lease], until we went up to see them.
"Plus the camels weren't even in the paddock known as One Hump Downs.
"Not long after Troy had been on the blower, Rick Anderson phoned me, and said, ‘Oh, you made a mistake there old fella, they weren't your camels, there are other camels up there.'
"Judging by the condition of the camels the photo wasn't taken this year. They've got winter wool on and camels cast their winter wool in November, December. I put them up there in June last year, so it was before November last year that the picture was taken."I phoned the police yesterday and the girl up there, she cracked up. Well, I said, you have illegal use of a vehicle why not illegal use of a camel? Because those camels were my vehicle, that was my life.
"I billed Troy Dann $4,990 for each camel. I'm not making hourly rates, I don't know how many hours he used them for, it's just a flat fee.
"What I'm annoyed about ... if there had been a phone call, do you mind or something. The lost arts of reticence and good manners, no communication. How can you cooperate if no one communicates?"
The happy news from Denis is that Huchang, Saleh and Praline are back in town, in the care of Jane and reunited with the youngest camels, Schnitzel and Solomon, who once formed his unique outback troupe.
"They're a family again, on natural grazing, taking it in turns of tether, and I'm getting on with the reality of my life, writing my story," says Denis.The Alice News tried to contact Troy Dann but he was apparently not available to comment before we went to press.
TOWN GEARS UP FOR FINKE DESERT RACE
"It's a great race when you win and a heart-breaking race when something goes wrong."Stephen Greenfield ought to know. He had raced in 11 "Finkes" before he finally realised his goal, coming home outright winner last year.He had thought of retiring in 1995, the 20th Finke, even going so far as to sell his bike. Then somebody gave him a bike and a lot of gear, a few sponsorship deals fell into place and "it was affordable again".Greenfield's budget for a Finke is around $10,000."How much money you have determines how seriously you can do it," he says."I don't like going halfheartedly into an event by not having enough money to get all the good gear that I want."But the machine only counts for so much. Then there's the rider and then there's luck.In 1996 the race was between him and visiting American rider Dan Ashcraft, but Greenfield rode home with a broken thumb: "If that hadn't slowed me down, it could have been a closer battle than what it was."That Finke was raced in the shadow of Randall Gregory, five times winner and looking unbeatable until a bike accident shortly before the race put him in a wheelchair.Could Greenfield have beaten him? I guess we'll never know," says Greenfield. "But to be honest, I don't think so. I'd had many years racing against him. I didn't have the budget he had, because he'd won for a couple of years and you're able to get more sponsors, more money and better gear if you're winning. "Suspension and engine set-up on this race is critical. "If you've got the money to get good suspension then you can improve your times by huge amounts."The fact that I didn't have the money to get really good suspension put me on uneven ground. "But even if we had been on the same bikes I think he would probably still have been at my pace if not above me. He was just exceptional down that track."This year Greenfield has got "the best of everything"."There's nothing, if I had more money, that I would want to buy," he says.He's also got the experience: "This is my eighth year on a 500. You have to go through the ranks to be able to ride a 500 at pace, it's an education. "That's where a lot of people come unstuck. They go out and buy a fast bike but they haven't the years of experience on it to be able to go as fast as we do down there."All things going well, can anyone catch him?Darren Griffiths, on a KTM 550, will definitely be "a threat" but Greenfield feels the greatest pressure coming from the buggies. "Paul Simpson in his buggy will be my main competition. "He proved last year, by only running two minutes slower than me into Finke, that those things are very competitive. In the overall times he finished third outright. "He had bad luck coming home but, if he gets a good clear run this year, he's going to be setting up the pace."I'm getting pressure from all the bike riders saying, ‘C'mon Greenie, you've got to beat the cars'." Andy Haydon, if he were on a faster bike, would also be a contender. He finished first in the Australian Safari last year and third in the Paris to Dakar. But Greenfield is confident that Haydon's four-stroke bike can't hold a candle to the two-strokes."If he was on a fast two-stroke, he would be on level terms with us."No American or European riders are expected this year, which is "a little disappointing"Greenfield says the Americans have big events happening on the same weekend, and similarly, the fast Australian motocross riders are tied up with their round of meets prior to the national championships.The car event, however, is bringing a lot of interstate and overseas competitors: "Brocky and those guys are lifting the stakes a bit."Gone are the days of jealously guarded secrets and bikes kept under wraps until the last minute:"Randall used to keep a lot of secrets but I tend to be more open, help other Honda riders to set up suspension and get them the best for their budget. "A lot of the secrets have gone, there's a few little tricks here and there, but most of the good stuff is out."We're all going for the same goal, it comes back to the rider. You can set up a bike the best way that you possibly can but you've still got to ride it."This is what Greenfield has been doing since the beginning of the year: building his physical and cardiac strength at the gym and an aerobics centre, cycling and riding a four-stroke solidly up and down the track for the last four months both for fitness and track knowledge."We ride for over two hours to get to Finke. You have to have a high level of fitness to ride for that long."His mental preparation comes from the years of racing:"It's a very hard race mentally, you have to be able to handle the atmosphere and the hype, to keep ahead and ride at your own ability and not over it, which is what happens with a lot of people. They get to the start line with all the adrenalin pumping and they end up crashing."I've been doing it long enough now to know what I can and can't do, and to be prepared for whatever happens. "ISo much effort goes into it, to have a problem is very demoralising."I spend six months preparing for one race. To be at the level that I'm trying to be at, it's the only way to do it. "Last year by winning I achieved my goal but it doesn't finish there. Once you've done it you think maybe I can do it again."Can he? Next weekend will tell.
STUDENTS IN EUROPEAN PLAYS WITH MESSAGES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA. Review by KIERAN FINNANE
Outside the palace walls is a squalid camp: a humpy surrounded by old food scraps and rubbish offers shelter to two silent crones.At a small distance a young woman in rags cries out in anguished lament.Is anyone listening?The palace doors remain closed.A lone candle burns in front of icons in the deserted church.The young woman's cries are the poetry of Sophocles, spoken by Ngoc Phan in OLSH Year 12's production of Electra, staged last week at Araluen. Electra is the daughter of Argemmenon, King of Mycenae, murdered by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover.Why do her words speak to us so potently, a Central Australian audience in the closing years of the twentieth century?Sophocles' characters are living in times of profound and traumatic upheaval: in the course of war with Troy, Argemennon has slain his youngest daughter Iphegnia in sacrifice. The girl's grief-stricken mother avenges her death by killing her husband, and plans to also murder their son Orestes.Electra hides her brother until he flees.When Orestes returns eight years later, he in turn seeks revenge: he kills his mother and her lover, his servant kills his sister Chrysothemis.When a social and moral order is disrupted, as Sophocles so succinctly points out, it is overwhelmingly difficult to reinstate it.Hate breeds hate, one brutality follows upon another: how does a people emerge from such a cycle?By scattering red sand on the stage, by recreating the familiar squalor of a fringe camp alongside the indifferent opulence of the palace (read government buildings or shopping malls, even suburban homes), and by the presence of a young Aboriginal actor in the chorus, Allawyne Flower, the OLSH production subtly suggested the local pertinence of a drama over two thousand years old, yet tragically contemporary.At our doorstep is an ancient culture in upheaval and from the "palace" (in particular as occupied by the current Territory government under the leadership of Shane Stone), cold indifference, when it is not loud contempt.In a layer over these aspects of the stage set, costuming and the church icons suggested an Eastern European setting, in reference to the fratricidal civil war in Bosnia, and the relative indifference of the world in face of its ever mounting toll of death and trauma.With OLSH's Electra coming in the wake of Centralian College's Year 12 production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht (see Alice News, May 20), young people in Alice Springs for the second time in a fortnight demonstrated their ability to tackle, under the guidance of their teachers and with great subtlety and sensitivity, some of the profound themes of our place and times. Both productions also gave ample evidence of abilities across the range of theatrical tasks. Deserving of particular mention in the case of Electra are Ngoc Phan, for sustaining, at just 17 years of age and with great intensity and grace, such a demanding role; Rachel Hessling as a convincing Clytemnestra; and Marissa Klein for her meaningful, sophisticated and coherent set and costume design.In the case of the very democratically flavoured Caucasian Chalk Circle, which involved close to 30 students, there are almost too many cases of merit to mention. Jacinta Price shone with a natural warmth and stage presence, as well as a lovely singing voice, in the role of the kitchen maid Grusha. Jill Newton-Tabrett was convincing as Natella Abashwilli, but perhaps more striking as the Granny, a minor role but demanding more of a transformation from her. Terry Grieve, Jermaine Hampton and Julia Fry, all holding a number of minor roles, were also notable for their stage presence and adaptability. Jackie Andersen moved well and was fittingly ceremonious as the Singer. However, perhaps because of the biting humour of the role, Gareth Evans as Azdak somewhat stole the limelight in the second half, giving a mature, earthy, yet intelligently ironic performance.Backstage the work of Jamie Balfour, using slides and video footage to amplify the themes and settings of the action, was most successful. Sarah Jefford deserves credit as well for her impressive management of publicity for the play.The St Philip's College Players also staged their PES Drama production of Alan Ayckbourn's Table Manners, coinciding with the opening of their new hall last Friday. Once again we were presented with a high standard of performance from the cast of six, with Sarah Niejalke and Tracey Deegan outstanding in their cross-gender roles. Sarah, in particular, showed great comic talent. However, the play, a British comedy of manners, did not offer as much "food" for the audience or the players as did the choices by their counterparts at OLSH and Centralian College.Perhaps because of its relative lightness, the players and their director did not think through carefully the implications of their transposing the setting to Central Australia, making Hermannsburg the butt of a joke as the very last place you would want to spend a weekend.
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