Pollie want a crack-up?

First published by The Hoopla, 2 March 2015

The endless Liberal leadership speculation was punctuated last week when Julie Bishop responded to a Today show interview question with an emoji face. And Mike Baird looked like he was auditioning for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, not for another stint as NSW premier, when he released a youtube video of himself reading mean tweets.

Bishop and Baird provided rare moments of light relief in an otherwise heavy week of wars on terrorism, human rights commissioners and raspberries. But it’s impossible to imagine their antics will be remembered years from now – at least not in the same way that Gough Whitlam’s sense of humour was endlessly celebrated last year.

The tributes that followed Whitlam’s death invariably mentioned his famous wit: if he ever met god, he “would treat him as an equal”, he once said. Many women would have appreciated the winning, if possibly old-fashioned, sentiment behind his observation about his marriage to Margaret Dovey: she was his “best appointment.”

Paul Keating, too, was renowned for his clever lines – he described debating John Hewson as “like being flogged with a warm lettuce”.

Amanda Vanstone

The Labor side can’t claim a monopoly on the gags though. Who could forget Amanda Vanstone’s 1991 retort to senator Bob Collins, when he commented on her not-insubstantial backside.

“It’s better to be big in the backside than to have bulldust for brains,” she shot back.

Trying to think of contemporary political wits to match the likes of Whitlam, Keating or Vanstone isn’t easy. And while blatant misogyny might still be running free – recall Bill Heffernan describing Julia Gillard as deliberately barren – genuinely funny political witticism that skirts the edge of nicety and beyond seems to be a thing of the past.

James Carleton, the editor of a new compilation of Whitlam bon mots – titled, of course, The Wit of Whitlam – singles out Labor icon, ex-shearer and Hawke government special minister of state, Mick Young, for a particularly crude remark.

“Young said upon meeting the daughter of former Prime Minister John Gorton, a man who was facially disfigured as a result of an RAAF accident during WWII: ‘I didn’t know plane crashes were hereditary!’”

Young’s caustic joke – which hit its mark by saying something everyone else perhaps thought, but which was until then unspeakable – would struggle to get past today’s politically correct checkpoints. But Carleton wonders if something’s been lost in the process.

“Some might say that the absence of such boorishness from modern politics is a good thing. Others may venture that politics in the 60s, 70s and even 80s enabled an authentic truth to be displayed – for good or ill – and that politics today, with its confected pre-conceived focus-grouped sound bites, is the worse for its absence.”

In an era of 24/7 media scrutiny, where every comment and policy is minutely audience tested, jokes must pass the good taste test. It’s hard to imagine anyone in parliament today getting away with Whitlam’s retort when Sir Winton Turnbull called out in parliament “I am a country member”. Gough interjected “I remember”.

The gags are still with us, but they mostly come without a bite, and minus the bitter, but unforgettable, aftertaste. Some just aren’t funny. When the then opposition leader Kevin Rudd appeared on Rove McManus’ show just before the 2007 election, he was rumoured to have endlessly workshopped with his advisors an answer to McManus’ standing question to guests: “Who would you turn gay for?”

“There is only one person for me, my wife Therese,” Rudd replied. Disappointment ricocheted around the nation.

“Is she a man?” McManus inquired, attempting to squeeze a laugh out of the moment.

Things don’t always go well when comedians enter political territory either. When Russell Brand released his book Revolution, his effort was met with groans and mirthful derision not seen since one-hit-wonder Craig Emerson released his No Whyalla wipe-out video.

There are many good arguments for comedians to leave the politics to the politicians, just as there are many good arguments for politicians to leave the comedy to the professional comedians – and not to a team of tired advisors looking desperately for another way to make the headlines.

But I’m prepared to make an exception for Julie Bishop. She’s one of the few politicians who comes across as a natural comic. Fans of physical comedy across the country must be secretly hoping Bishop manages to wrest the Liberal leadership from the blokes this week. Just imagine the endlessly hilarious possibilities that a nation led by a human emoji presents.


Annastacia Palaszczuk: Smashing glass ceilings

First published by The Hoopla, 1 February 2015

If, as looks almost certain, Labor forms government in Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk will become Australia’s first female state opposition leader to take her party to victory.

Another glass ceiling will be smashed, another milestone notched up. Carmen Lawrence, Joan Kirner, Anna Bligh, Kristina Keneally and Lara Giddings all became premier when their parties were already in office, taking over from male leaders.

There’s a school of thought in politics that women only get tapped to become party leaders when things are so bad no man would want the job. A woman is brought in to do the dirty housekeeping work of cleaning up the mess the men have left behind.

And in the case of a number of Australia’s past five female premiers, this pattern seems to be true.

When Joan Kirner took over from John Cain in Victoria the state was a financial basket case. Both Carmen Lawrence and Kristina Keneally became premiers when their parties were reeking from the stench of corruption and riven by factional fighting.

While women are brought in to clean up the mess, there’s a related argument from political watchers that says men don’t want to waste political capital by leading governments seen to be in terminal decline. Lawrence was in office for the last three years of a decade of Labor rule in WA before losing the 1993 election. After 16 years of Labor government in NSW, Kristina Keneally had the unenviable task of seeing out Labor’s last 16 months in office, losing to Barry O’Farrell at the 2011 election. Giddings was in power for just over three years at the end of an almost 16 year stretch of Labor government in Tasmania.

Interestingly, it was also in Queensland – a state many of us like to believe lags a decade or so behind the rest of the country – which broke this pattern of female premiers seeing out the dying days of their party’s stint in power when, in 2009, Anna Bligh became Australia’s first female premier to lead her party to an election victory.

No other female premier has been able to match Bligh’s feat since.

Palaszczuk’s feat of simply bringing her party back from a “Tarago” team into a winning position is worth noting in itself. If there was any lingering belief that women can’t be trusted to lead parties to victory in Australian elections, it will be a hard position to maintain now.

Is it possible we’ll finally see a female premier at the start of a party’s long stint in office, not the end? Could it be that Palaszczuk only became leader because no-one seriously thought Labor could win, and the men didn’t want the job? And, though it seems almost ridiculously early to speculate, will the men in her party start pitching for the leadership now that she’s laid the groundwork and put her party in a winning position?

These questions will no doubt be answered in time. In the meantime, it’s the “optics” of the battle, as they say in politics, that’s almost as important as the outcome. And this time the optics showed a woman in a seemingly impossible position looking like she’s about to pull off the impossible.

On election night my normally politically switched on 10-year-old boy (he was live tweeting the last federal election result) wanted to turn the election coverage off to watch the soccer. But my four-year-old daughter was glued to the screen.

I like to think that in years to come she will remember the night she watched Annastacia Palaszczuk coming from way, way behind to seize power.

The Breakfast Club Turns 30

First published by The Hoopla, 16 February 2015

The classic brat pack movie The Breakfast Club is now officially middle aged: on February 15 it turned 30. Does it stand the test of time? Does Judd Nelson?

breakfast_clubA brain. An athlete. A basketcase. A princess. A criminal. It’s Saturday at Chicago’s Shermer High School, and director John Hughes has summoned all the cliches to weekend detention. But like the glass doors and panels smashing throughout the film, every stereotype will be in tiny little pieces by the movie’s end.

As always, it’s the adults who manage to unite the bickering kids – in this case, shouty teacher Vernon, who stands in for all the hated authority figures in their lives.

But not before they go at each other: “You’re a gutless turd!”. “You don’t have the balls to stand up to your friends! To say to them you’re going to like who you’re going to like!”

And my favourite: “Just bury your head in the sand and wait for your fuckin’ prom.”

It’s surprising to remember how potty the dialogue is – and how few gags there are in Hughes’ script (he was a National Lampoon alumnus). But he’s too busy taking on the big issues: neglectful parents, violent families, the brain who tried to shoot himself for getting an ‘F’.

That’s not to say he doesn’t give us some memorable scenes: Ally Sheedy’s oddball shaking her head to drop a dandruff snow storm on her sketch; Molly Ringwald’s

Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club

popular girl flipping the bird to bad boy Judd Nelson; and the obligatory corridor chase.

At the beginning of the film the characters’ first instincts are to cling to the stereotypes that answer Vernon’s “Who am I?” essay question. By then end, they’re just desperately seeking whatever makes them all fundamentally the same: scared, angry and unsure. Scared of growing up, because: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

“We’re all pretty bizarre, some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all,” observes the athlete (Emilio Estevez) proving that the group’s smarts don’t all reside with the brain, Anthony Michael Hall. 

The usual teen movies tropes are mostly avoided until the film’s closing minutes (spoiler alert). The rebel pashes the princess. The jock finally notices the mousy girl after she has a makeover. And the nerd we now know will grow up to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg writes everyone’s essay.

I watched it to see if it stands up today (it does). But to be honest I really watched it for Nelson. As a teenager I remember being enthralled seeing his bad boy Bender character eat up the screen (and it says something about Hughes’ directing genius that this feminist was rooting for that kiss by the end).

The movie’s closing song – Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me) – can still give me goose bumps. Within a couple of years of the film’s release, my friends and I were idiotic enough to think we could bodgey up fake ids and plaster on make-up to get inside the Melbourne clubs playing the English new wave music we loved. And someone was idiot enough to open the doors and let us in. “Tell me your troubles and doubts/Giving me everything inside and out… Hey, hey, hey, hey…”


Defying the odds on female genital mutilation

First published by The Hoopla, 4 February 2015

Khadija Gbla, who suffered female genital mutilation as a little girl, has given birth to a baby boy in Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

It was the child she thought would never be born.

Speaking exclusively to The Hoopla from her maternity ward, Khadija said of her new baby: “He is my own victory against FGM. It’s a miracle that he is here, it’s surreal.”

Samuel Williams Jr (named after his father), was born during an emergency cesarean at 11.14pm on Monday night after Khadija started having “really bad” contractions and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance on Monday evening.

Khadija was circumcised when she was just nine years old.

Her mother took her to the bush in Gambia and pinned her down while an old lady cut away at her genitals with a rusty knife. The coming-of-age practice is commonplace in Khadija’s homeland. Why is such mutilation practised and condoned? Read more here.

It left Khadija with internal scarring that could have caused her baby’s head to become stuck if she had tried to deliver him without intervention. Khadija’s doctors told her it would be unsafe for her or the baby to attempt a natural delivery. She was booked in for a c-section. It was her only option.

“The emotional toll, and the physical toll, and the psychological toll…” Khadija said, recalling the impending birth. “A couple of times I thought I was going to have a vaginal birth, and I thought ‘I can’t have this baby through my vagina. No way, are you kidding me’?”

The reproductive problems that have plagued Khadija’s life led her to believe she would never give birth. But Samuel Williams Jnr arrived at 38 weeks, and, at almost three kilos and 51cm long – is a triumph.

“Everyone is doing fine. We’re both OK,” a relieved  Khadija told The Hoopla.

Before arriving in Australia, Khadija, 26, lived through a civil war in Sierra Leone, and for three years she lived with her mother and younger sister in a Gambian refugee camp. In June 2001, Khadija and her family resettled in Adelaide after attaining refugee status via the United Nation’s Refugee Program.

Khadija was a South Australian Young Australian of the Year finalist for her outspoken campaigns against racism and FGM.

Looking at her baby boy, she says: “Every time I look at him it is a win against FGM. I kept on checking that he was really here, he is mine, and he’s not going anywhere. I still can’t believe it. It’s like I’m in a dream, there are no words to describe it.”

“I kept on waking him up when he was very quiet, I kept looking over looking at him and rubbing his cheeks just to make sure he was there.”


To celebrate Samuel’s birth The Hoopla is donating to No FGM Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns to abolish Female Genital Mutilation.

Khadija is a spokesperson for the group, which has set up a petition asking the government to take action to protect girls against FGM.

“It would be such a nice legacy”, Khadija says. “He’s come into this world, and that’s his contribution to a cause that has almost made him not come into the world: he has defied the odds of FGM. He’s giving the finger to FGM.”

Help stop the cruel disfiguration of little girls everywhere. Help to ensure that the practice of FGM is eradicated, forever, and that women’s human rights are not violated in this way. More than 130 million women, world-wide have been mutilated, just like Khadija.

For further information on the practice of female genital mutilation… go here.

All money will go to the No FGM Australia campaign, which lobbies federal and state politicians, raises young girls’ awareness of their rights and trains frontline professionals in the issues around FGM, including prevention.


The Hoopla says a special thanks to Christopher Sprod, who took all of the beautiful photographs you see here.


The Lindt siege wouldn’t have happened if they had been armed?

First published by The Hoopla, 18 

This wouldn’t have happened in Texas. That’s what pro-guns Senator David Leyonhjelm has said today, calling Australia “a nation of victims” because they are not able to defend themselves with guns.

The Liberal Democrats senator told ABC radio today that “one or two” of the hostages probably would have had a concealed weapon, and that Man Haron Monis wouldn’t have known they were armed: “bad guys don’t like to be shot back at” he said.

While Leyonhjelm’s sentiment has been widely rejected as nonsense today, it was one that was canvassed in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre nearly two decades ago – “if only someone in the cafe had a gun, so many people might not have died” according to gun violence expert Associate Professor Philip Alpers.

Earlier this week calls to arm Australian citizens came mainly from the USA, and mainly on the Fox News Network.

Conservative pundit Charles Hurt told Fox News:

“Most Americans, when they see this stuff play out … they think about guns and it is why they think about personal gun ownership and being able to protect yourself, protect your family and protect your neighbours,” Hunt said.

“I absolutely expect that to come from America,” Alpers told The Hoopla. “It’s the society that believes the correct response to Sandy Hook [the 2012 massacre that cost 20 children and six adults their lives] is to arm the teachers.

“But accepting the US pro-guns position is akin to taking seriously something that ISIS says,” Alpers says.

Fairfax quoted the newly-elected Victorian upper house MP, The Shooters and Fishers Party’s Jeffrey Bourman, who argued yesterday that Australia’s gun laws and registration are ineffectual.

“Registration, as far as I can tell, is actually completely ineffectual. A known criminal got hold of a gun, it’s as simple as that,” Bourman told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Registration did not prevent that.”

In contrast, The Australian Women’s Weekly associate editor Caroline Overington tweeted on Tuesday: “He [Monis] did not have a more lethal gun – and this is surely John Howard’s most precious legacy. Thank you.”

Overington’s handful of characters spoke a truth that seems borne out by Alpers’ years of research.

Alpers found that after 700,000 guns were destroyed in Howard’s gun amnesty and buy back scheme, the risk of an Australian dying by gunshot fell by more than half.

And in contrast to the 112 deaths in 11 mass shootings in the decade leading up to the Port Arthur massacre, we’ve seen no such mass shootings in the years since, Alpers remarked last year.

“In its scope and size, Australia’s public health effort to reduce the risk of gun violence led the world,” he said.

After Port Arthur Howard co-ordinated law reforms in all states and territories in Australia banning the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading and pump-action shotguns (with some very narrow exemptions), and heavily tightened controls on their legal use.

Anyone applying for a gun owner’s licence in Australia must now establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm – for example hunting, target shooting, pest control, and some narrow occupational uses.

And anyone applying for a firearm licence in Australia is also subject to a 28-day waiting period, and must pass a background check that considers factors such as criminal and domestic violence records and mental and physical fitness. 

While the facts about the moments that led to the tragic deaths in Martin Place are still unclear, and while speculation remains about how Monis could be in possession of a gun and whether he had a licence, there seems little doubt that the mood for more guns has shifted in the years since Port Arthur.

“It just occurred to me this morning, is this where Australia is now?” Alpers said. “We see things like the #illridewithyou campaign: maybe something has changed?”

Meanwhile Tim Fisher, the former National Party leader and deputy PM who worked with John Howard to toughen gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre this morning hit back at Leyonhjelm’s stance.

“It is absolute NRA-type seductive nonsense, and I would make the point you are ten times more safe, by any reckoning, per capita here in Australia that in the USA.

“Debate will always go on in a good democracy, but where it is built on a pack of lies from the NRA it should be dealt with swiftly. It is seductive nonsense.”

Gen X in Power: Spot the Difference

First published by The Hoopla, 6 January 2015

Just before Luke Foley was elected Leader of the Opposition in NSW this week he described himself as an “unlikely leader”.

Foley, you see, is a member of the left faction in a state where the right of the ALP has traditionally had the numbers to anoint the party’s leader.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported his installment as: “Foley’s rise shows meritocracy, not faceless men.” It was as if the ALP was making a really bold and out-of-the-ordinary choice with Foley, and his candidacy was all about merit.

For anyone not intimately involved in politics, hearing a former union leader and past assistant general secretary of the NSW Labor Party describe himself as an “unlikely leader” is hysterically funny.

It’s like hearing, say, former soapie star Kylie Minogue describe herself as an “unlikely pop star”.

Foley, a 44-year-old bloke, is about as likely a leader as you can be right now in Australian politics.

Here’s a shapshot of the nation’s leaders:

  • The Premier of NSW is Mike Baird (46). In Victoria it’s Daniel Andrews (42) and Matthew Guy (40) became Leader of the Opposition after the last state election.
  • In the ACT, Andrew Barr (41) is Chief Minister, facing off against Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson (47). In Tasmania, the Premier is Will Hodgman (45) and in the NT the Chief Minister is Adam Giles (41).
  • The Leader of the Federal Opposition is Bill Shorten (47). The opposition leaders in South Australia and Western Australia are (respectively) Steven Marshall (46) and Mark McGowan (47).

In short, 11 of the 18 key leadership positions in the Australia’s federal, state and territory governments are held by forty-something men.

Add in the two women to the group – the opposition leaders of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk (45), and the NT, Delia Lawrie (48) – and the older Gen Xers Jay Weatherill (50) and Campbell Newman (51), SA and Queensland leaders respectively, and it’s clear that with 15 of the 18 leaders representing Gen X, there’s a generational change happening in politics. Even the Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt (42), fits the Gen X male mould.

And Julie Bishop says 60 is the new 40? At 59 she’s a senior. There are just three men at the top representing the Baby Boomer generation: PM Tony Abbott (57), WA’s Colin Barnett (64) and Tassie’s Opposition Leader, Bryan Green (57).

As a Gen Xer, I’m torn between wanting to cheer – Yay! My team is finally getting a turn to run the show! – and wanting to tear my hair out. Now my generation is in power, it seems that despite all their factional and party differences, they all just look so … so… similar.

We are still talking about mostly men, and not a particularly mixed bunch at that. Granted, Andrew Barr is often referred to as Australia’s “first openly gay leader” and Adam Giles is Australia’s first Indigenous head of a government.

But otherwise? It’s pretty much business as usual.

My generation didn’t invent the idea of celebrating difference or equal opportunity. But we were the first generation where women started to equal (and then outnumber) men at university. We mainstreamed the word “queer”. We were the generation that really believed we might actually start to run the world in ways that challenged the “dominant paradigm” (a phrase many of today’s Gen X leaders would have tossed around with abandon – or at least heard with great regularity – when they were at university).

While we’ve made great progress on the diversity front, our political leaders seem to be falling behind on the same measure.

In truth it’s always been the roaring forties when men make their mark in Aussie politics.

Paul Keating was 47 when he became Prime Minister. Malcolm Fraser, 45. Many premiers of recent history were in their 40s when they took office: Bob Carr (47) Peter Beattie (45) and Jeff Kennett (44).

Does age and gender really matter? I say it does matter – quite a lot.

Because while we often hear politicians talking about giving everyone “a fair go”, it’s worth remembering that before any of us even get a chance to drop the voting paper in the ballot box, only a few of us are destined to lead.

Let’s look more closely at some stats (trust me, they’re interesting).

  • In June last year, according to ABS figures, there were 1,901,331 men in Australia aged 40-51 (Australia’s total population was 23,490,700). With 13 of our 18 government leaders and opposition leaders in the “blokes 40 to 51-year-old” category, this means we are choosing 72% of our leaders from just 8% of the population. And remember this 8% represents all men in this age group – men from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, the vast majority of which aren’t reflected in our leaders’ upbringing.
  • If we look at all of the 16 men in this group of 18 leaders, then we are choosing close to 90% of our leaders from just 15.7% of the population (the proportion of the population who are males aged 40 to 64).
  • Let’s try, for argument’s sake, adding in the women again. An extraordinary 50% of the group (9 leaders) are men and women aged between 42 and 47. Yet men and women in this age group in Australia make up just 8.3% of the population.

Whilst many of the leaders in this group have young families – Foley is constantly being referred to as a father of three – it’s clear that being a parent and a leader is a harder thing for women to achieve. For every Joan Kirner, Anna Bligh, Carmen Lawrence or Kristina Keneally with kids, there’s a Julia Gillard, Lara Giddings or a Julie Bishop who have none.

Motherhood clearly doesn’t disqualify women from leadership. But the obvious point (made with clever good humour by Annabel Crabb recently in The Wife Drought) still needs to be repeated: ambitious men still find it easier than ambitious women to land partners who look after the children as part of the power equation.

One way many of our 40-something male leaders are like the rest of us is that they are increasingly likely to be the parents of young children.

But as delayed parenting becomes the norm, perhaps the resulting clash between the peak “leading” years and the peak “small children” years may mean we might have to wait until the Millennials are in charge before we see a 44-year-old woman with three children under eight (like Foley) in line to become premier.

We need to do better.

Perhaps the millions of dollars the major parties are spending on focus groups trying to figure what interests voters, and on media monitoring to figure out how they’re perceived, isn’t actually necessary.

It’s quite possible the rest of us would be a little more engaged with politics if the people elected to represent us actually… well…represented us.


Have we reached peak entertainment?

First published by The Hoopla, 20 January 2015

On the weekend I saw a hip hop artist, a contortionist, some jaw-dropping acrobatics, some nifty tap dancing, a pretty funny striptease and some spectacular fire breathing.

No, I wasn’t flitting from show to show reviewing the entire Sydney Festival for The Hoopla: it was ALL IN THE ONE SHOW, the Limbo circus at the Aurora Spielgeltent.

The show is pretty fabulous. But it was also a little like gorging yourself silly at an all-you-can-eat buffet: in theory, the idea of so much bounty sounds brilliant, but afterwards you realise that one meal, done really well, might have done quite nicely.

We’re reaching the point of peak entertainment. One good idea doesn’t seem to be enough any more. Maybe it’s because we’re all supposedly time poor: when we do book a show, buy a book or see a movie, we want it to give us a little bit of everything.

I blame the marketers. Remember when those classic novels started coming out rebooted with zombies or a little light bondage? You can imagine the publishing house meetings.

Publishing director: “How’s that classics list going?”

Marketer: “I don’t know if Austen really cuts it anymore, she’s a bit one dimensional really – all that stuff about human relationships. She needs something more. I know – Zombies! Let’s add some Zombies!”

Its the same grab-bag, hyperkinetic approach elsewhere. At Sculpture by the Sea or in the Bush, art fans flit from one sculpture to the next at ever-expanding shows, barely stopping to snap a photo and upload it to Instagram before they’re off to the next exhibit.

At public talks, thinkers who’ve spent years pondering life’s difficult problems and penned hefty books are given five minutes to speak before they are interrupted mid epiphany so the discussion can move on to the panel’s next speaker. It’s an age where the TED talk rules.

At art exhibitions, we race through the art works with headphones so someone can chatter factoids into our ears, all while we juggle pens and bits of paper so the kids can answer the quizzes gallery staff have supplied them with. Just in case they might get bored spending more than a few minutes doing nothing but pondering art.

You see it in music videos too. If your household includes a certain demographic, you too may watch copious Taylor Swift videos. And you too may wonder if she has a clause in her contract that says the number of outfit changes in her videos must equal the current number of famous ex boyfriend’s she’s clocked up, plus one.

It’s the cultural equivalent of fireworks shows: just as one set of giant sparkles goes off over here, another set is launched over there.


Next weekend I’m going to see The Kitchen at the Sydney Festival. The sales pitch seductively described the show as “a sumptuous, multi-sensory spectacle of arresting sights, smells and sounds, culminating in something for your taste buds too”.

It goes on: “The couple prepares payasam, a traditional Indian dessert, letting the fragrant aromas waft over you. 12 drummers provide a vigorous soundtrack on copper mizhavu drums.” The copywriters must have come straight from writing the Demtel knife ads.

I’m sure it will be great. But I’m wondering if I wouldn’t have much preferred the Xylouris White show. Described as “an unlikely marriage of post-punk drumming and traditional Greek lute”, it too sounds like another piece of slashy entertainment. But it’s comparatively pared back. Two men, two instruments. Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White. Friends tell me it was incredible.

My most memorable night of entertainment in recent years was hearing Neil Finn at the Sydney Opera House signing Paul Kelly’s You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed. A man. A dinner suit. A piano. Kelly’s poetic lyrics, Finn’s sublime musicality. Perfect.

So strip it back. Metaphorically, I mean.

And if you want to strip literally, by all means, knock yourself out. But maybe think about leaving the fire breathing and trapeze stunts for another night. The marketers won’t like it. But sometimes less really is more.

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