Writing, concerts, theatre and a little bit of travel


The Lepidopters: A Space Opera, Sunday 13th April, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall


A space opera? I had been going to query whether ‘opera’ is the right description for this amazingly engrossing conjugation of art forms. I checked the Macquarie Dictionary and indeed, ‘opera’ is an extended dramatic composition in which music is an essential and predominant factor. The Lepidopters certainly fits this description. Music is central – music from the Astra Choir, from a specially constructed Sedulur Gamelan and music from the rock group Punkasila and Slave Pianos (including well-known local piano virtuoso Michael Kieran Harvey).

We sit, confronted by the huge Sedulur Gamelan housed in two wooden structures – it was displayed in the recent Melbourne Now exhibition.

I think the original story was inspired by work of science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick – this text is written by Mark von Schlegell. Lepidoters are alien minds that occupy and breed moths on earth-like planets. The lepidopters have fallen in love with Cheryl in Indonesia and they want to breed with her – interspecies reproduction.

This is where spectacular video art comes in. There are screens at each end of the hall – at first one is unsure where to look. The images on both screens are the same. We see threatening spirals spinning across the sea to the shores of Indonesia like a swarm of hurricanes. We see a 1970s style motel on the coast – and I assume the young woman there is Cheryl. The video images pervade the whole experience.

Oratorio style, there is a kind of narrator who stands on high and keeps us in touch with the story-line.

Within a matter of hours (I was far too taken up with the whole experience to have any idea of how long it actually took) different cultures are blended together – east and west, and historical times – Christian texts, Goethe, Schutz and Schumann.

I walked out of the Town Hall rather dazed, pleasantly confused and exhausted. The story itself can hardly be described as uplifting. It reminded me of On the Beach, with which I renewed acquaintance over Christmas. But I did feel exhilarated from having been swept up in such an affirming creation that dissipated the barriers of different art forms and cultures.


Don Winslow: The Kings of Cool

Don Winslow: The Kings of Cool

This is described as a prequel to Savages, a book I haven’t read. I won’t go rushing to it but I was intrigued by and admiring of Winslow’s writing. It’s a kind of family saga set in a world of drugs, crime and crooked cops. In other words, we meet a trio of mates looking for a house in which to cultivate pot and then gradually we meet the 1960s surfy/ hippies who were most likely their parents – there is much activity around a 1960s cave commune. The book ends with the crooked cop expressing envy for the young drug ‘kings’. There is so much pointing barrels of guns at people’s heads that at one point I thought that everyone was going to be dead by the end of the story. What carried the book for me was the extraordinary writing. Mainly sharp prose, using a new paragraph for emphasis:

And now she sees that she’s ready to go looking – hunting, really

for a better life.

Kim has a plan. (p. 111)

Sometimes the narrative is written as a play, with a courier font, which  reminded me that Scott Fitzgerald does this.

Sometimes it is like poetry. A complete ‘chapter’ reads:

Who knows


faith cracks or


the river of time eating away at its banks until it just


Looks sudden.

Isn’t. (pp106-7)

Winslow’s style of writing interested me more than the ‘high-octane’ world he creates.

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