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USING dust, smoke, ash, ochre, the vibration of piano strings and the odd milk crate, director Neil Armfield, designer Stephen Curtis and composer Iain Grandage translate the rich detail and drama of Kate Grenville's novel into a moving and substantial work for the stage. Thornhill's backstory - his formative years as a Thames lighterman, his marriage to childhood sweetheart Sal (Anita Hegh) and the crime that led to him being transported - is related in fragments salted into later dialogue. Act I has a Swiss Family Robinson feel at times, as the Thornhill family pitch camp to occupy a spur of land overlooking the Hawkesbury River. They take some time to germinate, however, and there is domestic drama and flashes of comedy as the Thornhills adapt to their new environment and ornery neighbours. By contrast, Mrs Herring (a droll Judith McGrath) and Thomas Blackwood (a scowling Colin Moody) have come to a shaky rapprochement with the Dharug. The Sydney Theatre's proscenium is forced wide and high into a towering Academy frame, and with no large set elements needing to be shoved around, Armfield's staging remains light on its feet.
Tess Schofield's costuming sensibly dispenses with Old Sydney Town duds in favour of a distressed, more contemporary look. Mark Howett's lighting, filtered through the smoke of a constantly burning campfire, illuminates the earth and canvas tones of Curtis's set beautifully. The children - black and white - are delightful and their sequences of play offer both breathing space and glimpse of relationships unencumbered by venality or suspicion. I understand that submission of this content is covered by the Conditions of Use by which I am bound and Commenting Guidelines are available for my reference.
Occasionally a play comes along and everyone says, ‘thrilling, epic, majestic, towering bigger than Ben-Hur’.
That gets them a Guernsey in the marketing machine, puts them on the marquee, and puts them on side with the promotional world. Sometimes – more often than not – on opening night audiences stand up at the end of the show and cheer along ‘Bravo Bravo’ and that suggests an instant hit.
Much of the time that’s a pointer to nowhere, but this time around both those things happened and they were entirely appropriate. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River is indeed a masterpiece – albeit a modern one – and while I felt ho-hum about the TV miniseries version of the book, I believe the stage version as good as the original if not better. It is certainly the best and finest QTC production in recent times and will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable productions the company has ever produced. Of course it has the credentials, Neil Armfield directs, and Stephen Page has a supporting directing role, among others, but overall it is a genuine altogether creative achievement. For those who never read Grenville’s original book, or saw the TV mini-series, The Secret River tells the simple almost obvious – but often overlooked – story of white settlement coming to New South Wales. Convict William Thornhill (Nathaniel Dean) and his free wife, Sal (Georgia Admanson), come to NSW at the beginning at the 19th century.
He gets a ticket of pardon and looks to land along the Hawkesbury as a salvation, but she hankers for London despite its coldness toward the workers and poor.
That’s just part of the division as the land is also home to the indigenous people who, under white settlement, where not only robbed of their land, but had no say in their rights. The ensemble performers – features nearly two dozen actors, including whites, indigenous performers and children – make up a magnificent ensemble cast. However, writer Bovell and director Armfield make it all work as a play rather than a book or a TV show.
The Secret River (the play) doesn’t only show us a great piece of work but demonstrates why the immediacy of the theatre is so human and so important. In film and TV – great mediums – we are always one step away from our connection with other humans, but the stage brings it into full focus. The last 20 minutes of The Secret River – when the high drama of the piece has unfolded – is a stake revelation of the disconnect between the relationship of the white settler and the indigenous people of Australia. If you genuinely want to understand the whole of our culture – the whole of our relationship with the people and Australia – see the Secret River. The asteroid that is thought to have killed the dinosaurs was the size of Manhattan and smashed into the earth just off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico 65 million years ago.
Rio Secreto, however, can be experienced on foot in a few hours -- with no swimming experience required -- and enjoyed by all ages.Located about 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen on Cancun-Tulum Federal Highway 307, the entrance to Rio Secreto is a dropoff area for buses and hotel shuttles. Neil Armfield’s new stage adaptation of Kate Grenville’s 2005 novel, The Secret River invites us to think about the complex relationships between personal and national histories, and the past and the present. Where historian Inga Clendinnen criticised Grenville for framing fiction as history, actress and director Rachael Maza has recently challenged playwright Andrew Bovell’s representation of Aboriginal experience. Armfield wrote in a Sydney Theatre Company teacher resource, “The Secret River is a difficult story to tell” because “it leads relentlessly into dark places”.
Until we go back and retell our stories and put the shadows in we won’t grow up as a society.
Unpacking family histories can be a way to confront the past and understand our ancestor’s choices. When Grenville was a child, her mother, a keen keeper of the family’s tales, told stories about their ancestor Solomon Wiseman. Now, for the first time, I wondered what had happened when Wiseman had arrived there and started the business of ‘settling’. Grenville wanted to understand Thornhill’s actions, and by proxy, the actions of many settlers. Though it confronts hidden stories, The Secret River has been criticised for having its own blind spots. But upon returning to Sydney, Grenville decided to “get rid of all the Aboriginal dialogue”. The play tries to remedy The Secret River’s limited perspective, and moves towards telling a more inclusive national story.
Similarly, in the novel the Indigenous characters are known only by the nicknames that the Thornhills give them: Whisker Harry, Polly, and Meg.
Armfield has also spoken about the difficulty of telling a story that both “respectfully mourns the genocide that occurred across this land” and “celebrates the survival of Aboriginal culture against all forces”.
As the actors bowed on the stage of Art Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse it was clear they were unsteadied by the racism, violence, and suffering they had just performed. The audience was reminded that the repercussions of the frontier violence acted out in The Secret River are not just historical. Fresco of Approving of bylaw of Society of Jesus depicting Ignatius of Loyola receiving papal bull Regimini militantis Ecclesiae from Pope Paul 3. This group bound themselves by a vow of poverty and chastity, to "enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct". They called themselves the Company of Jesus, and also Amigos En El Senor or "Friends in the Lord," because they felt "they were placed together by Christ." The name had echoes of the military (as in an infantry "company"), as well as of discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). Working in marketing has allowed me to gain a unique perspective on the decisions companies make and I’ve come to learn to respect brands that are willing to take big risks. Elves is another brave step – building on the success of LEGO Friends and taking the (now iconic) Minidolls and brilliant pastel colour palette into fantasy settings has earned major points in my book. To be honest, the LEGO fan in me couldn’t care less about the music videos, animations and carefully fleshed out plot of Elves but I can see that these elements will (hopefully) resonate with the younger demographic. The picture above highlights some of the parts that stood out to me in this set, with the most interesting being the lavender, purple and magenta (I totally left out the magenta variants) tree leaves.

Elves’ fantasy setting allowed LEGO to introduce a wealth of new mystical elements that would probably look out of place in Friends but fit perfectly in a universe where magic and talking animals are the status quo. Naida has an otherworldly charm that is manifested through gorgeous printed details on her face and a beautifully designed halter neck top and skirt. Pointed Elven ears are built into the hairpiece, which has an amazing colour gradient that just looks immaculate.
I was really surprised by Naida’s tattoo on her left arm, and equally impressed by the printing on her legs where she has pair of thongs (flip flops, for you non-Australians) with scallop shells on them. Delphia has some Elvish printing on her brow, which makes her look pretty mystical and stuff. Despite being a small build, I like that all the accessories and spa supplies are kept here as it means that the main spa area is a lot less cluttered.
Naida’s Spa is a compact yet busy scene which contains a wealth of details and of course, a juicy secret. Naida’s Spa Secret embodies all the great pastel-coloured elements which contain many mystical and magical flourishes such as the abundance of crystals, jewels and otherworldly pieces of foliage. The Spa is a simple ring of purple bricks which has space for a board game (stickered tile), a bottle of bath gel and even an Elven glass of umm, bubbly. The waterfall looks really good and you can see that its flanked by jewels protruding from the rock face which helps with breaking up all drab grey bricks. As a set, Naida’s Spa Secret is a veritable treasure trove of parts that will delight any serious builder.
Above all, Naida’s Spa Secret is fun, simple and is quite a great introduction to the magic of the Elves theme. Despite being simple, the set also manages to include some very subtle designs such as using curved slopes to create a dynamic running water effect as well as the generous use of the new purple, lavender and magenta leaves that bear crystal fruit. I couldn’t really find anything that I really disliked about this set, and I hope that you will be brave enough to embrace and enter the wonderful world of LEGO Elves. Enter your email address here to receive updates about new posts from Jay's Brick Blog - straight to your inbox!
Jay is passionate about LEGO and the endless creative adventures made possibly by this complex interlocking brick system. Smasher Sullivan (a rascally Jeremy Sims), lime burner and dog breeder, is an entirely hostile presence. Misunderstanding escalates to simmering tension in Act II as Thornhill is drawn into a bungled and bloody act of genocide.
This is not a world of solid walls and boundaries, no matter how much Thornhill would like it to be.
Ursula Yovich stuns the room to silence with her sorrowful singing in a final scene amplifying tragedy into a plea for remembrance and understanding. The resulting unleashed energy killed 90 percent of life on the planet.Things are a little calmer now in this part of Mexico -- the days, the region is more threatened by overdevelopment, tourists, and renegade oil slicks. The play reopens these contentious questions about who can tell the story of our shared history.
She wanted to fill in the blanks of inherited stories about her ancestor, a pardoned convict who may have killed Aboriginal people during Australia’s settlement. Wiseman, the inspiration for The Secret River’s protagonist Will Thornhill, came to Sydney as a convict and eventually settled on the Hawkesbury River where he established a ferry-run and an inn. But walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge for Reconciliation in the year 2000, she exchanges a glance with an Aboriginal woman and imagines their ancestors meeting 200 years before.
Until this moment it had never occurred to me to wonder who might have been living on that land, and how he’d persuaded them to leave it. What events were masked by terms like “settled” or “took up land”, which had, until now, seemed so innocent, repeated in family stories countless times?
When the novel was first published, historians – most fervently Clendinnen, writing in Quarterly Essay – charged Grenville with conflating fiction and history, and excluding the voices of her Aboriginal characters. But they also draw attention to ongoing anxieties about how non-Indigenous storytellers represent Aboriginal experiences. In her memoir Searching for The Secret River, Grenville says she wanted the Aboriginal characters to be as “fully alive, complex, and individual as the settlers”.
Brought to life by a cast of both white and Aboriginal actors, the story was no longer just about the settlers’ vision.
The script still affords the Thornhills more dimension and dialogue, but the introduction of an Aboriginal narrator, the prophetic Dhirrumbin, unsettles the balance. For Armfield’s production, actor and Dharug man Richard Green has given the characters Dharug names, language, and songs. She argues it perpetuates the myth that “the real Aboriginals died out”, rather than celebrating the “resilience and adaptation” of Indigenous groups. It works to “find a way forward” in what is “going to be [an] awkward and … uncomfortable” effort to get the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians right. Describing the play as a work in progress, he says “and so we keep searching to make it right”. To see Nathaniel Dean (Thornhill) and Trevor Jamieson (Ngalamalum) hold to each other in recognition of their emotional sacrifice brought home the living politics of the story. As Armfield writes in his program note for the play: “Nine generations later, we are all living with its consequences”. But as an audience we are also left with the question: can understanding the past from different perspectives help us confront the inequalities that linger in our present? Ignatius of Loyola, who after being wounded in a battle, experienced a religious conversion and composed the Spiritual Exercises to closely follow Christ. The fresco was created by Johann Christoph Handke in the Church of Our Lady Of the Snow in Olomouc after 1743. The fresh and frankly, brave new LEGO theme which sends fans on an adventure exploring a new world filled with fantasy, elves and mystical energies is a great move from LEGO.
Friends was an incredibly bold move by LEGO and one that has paid dividends many times over. Despite the awkward name (my mind keeps reading it as Naida’s Secret Spa, because that makes so much more sense to me), it was a great introduction to the Elves theme. Just like LEGO Friends, my intrigue for LEGO Elves lie in the wonderful array of new colours and elements that you simply cannot find in other LEGO sets and themes.
I’m super excited about these new parts and I hope you share my enthusiasm for them too! Just like Friends, LEGO have gone to great lengths to develop interesting personas to allow kids to better relate and role play with the sets. Her hair is made out of the same substance as LEGO Friends hairpieces – soft, squishy and slightly rubbery plastic.
It’s immediately apparent that LEGO put it a lot of care and thought when designing the  Elves minidolls and boy did it pay off. Since this is the magical world of Elves, I’m pretty sure the Dolphin is capable of speech. I guess the white 2 x 1 cheese slop gives some sort of indication that it’s pillow, but I thought that this was more like an area where Naida prepared all sorts of nice smelling bath soaps or where she kept her supplies.

The tiny accessories and small tree with those gorgeous new purple and lavender leaves are a nice bonus too.
The Spa is built into a cave which sports a waterfall that supplies the bath area with water and another watery area for Delphia to frolic. It’s bright, colourful and has an air of mystery and magic which you simply cannot find in any other LEGO theme on the market.
Seems like the perfect place to put your feet up and enjoy the magical waters – they can be controlled by hot and cold knobs, which I think is a very clever and sensible inclusion!
The colours go pretty well together and there’s a fascinating mix of greys, browns and the pastel colours which makes this set very eye-catching. The set does an awesome job capturing the mystical nature of the new Elves universe in brick form thanks to a wonderful blend of pastel coloured elements which have very convincing organic and mystical designs. The grey slopes are always useful for rockfaces, the brown arches are always in need for trees and all the foliage and uncommon colours are great additions to my LEGO inventory.
It was a really easy build and most of all, I enjoyed just admiring and playing around with all the new coloured parts. Don’t let the girly tones fool you, this set is a great starting point to set you on a journey to discover the colourful characters (and parts) that are the hallmark of Elves.
I’m on a temporary LEGO spending hiatus for a while, but I will definitely be picking that up and maybe the Treetop Hideaway one too!
In here, you'll find independent LEGO set reviews, commentary on LEGO trends & news, bargain hunting tips and an inside look into the life of an average LEGO fan.
Those who know the book will immediately note that Andrew Bovell's entry point is some 100 pages in, with the newly pardoned William Thornhill (vividly played by Nathaniel Dean) now a free man in the still makeshift colony of NSW.
But this land is already sacred to the Dharug people, and so the seeds for future conflict are sown. However, the geological changes wrought by the killer asteroid remains in the form of sinkholes, or cenotes, that formed around the impact crater.Rio Secreto is a new tourist attraction in the Riviera Maya that thrills visitors with a visit to a natural underground river and the limestone cavern system it winds through. Here, you are greeted by your guide (ours was named Moses), fitted for safety equipment, and asked to shower before entering the caves. Do writers like Grenville have the right to speak on behalf of Indigenous peoples, or to tell their stories? To learn about Indigenous experience she travelled to the Kimberley and listened to elders. Commenting on an earlier version, she said that the inclusion of Dharug language meant the Aboriginal characters had a voice but one she couldn’t access, which left her feeling closer to the Thornhills.
Elves represents LEGO’s next step to conquer the female market and builds upon the success of LEGO Friends which I am also a huge fan of. As her name suggests, Naida Riverheart is attuned to the Water element, which is reflected in her aqua-coloured attire and hair.
I like that the stickers are transparent decal stickers, which make them look a lot better than the paper type ones. I think this play feature is exceptionally designed – I had a lot of fun playing with it over and over again. The map supposedly leads the Elves to find some sort of key that will help return the human protagonist Emily Jones back to her world.
It asks provocative questions about the silences in one family, but also in our nation’s history. Lockers are provided for your valuables.The caves and cenotes of the Yucatan have figured in Mayan religious ceremonies for centuries, and Moses shared an extensive knowledge and passion for the history, spiritual significance and environmental importance of this unique underworld environment. Stanner’s 1968 Boyer Lectures about the suppressed memory of colonial violence – “there is a secret river of blood in Australian history”.
Along the way you will see and learn about stalagmites and stalactites, natural limestone columns, cathedral-like ceilings, and the small wildlife that inhabits the caves, such as bats and small fish. Some natural agility and sure-footedness comes in handy as you are wading in and out of pools of water along slippery rocks, and dodging low ceilings and stalactites that could ring your bell (hence the helmets).
There is a short portion of the tour where you are floating and treading water in a deeper pool -- some swimming ability is helpful, although not strictly required, in this segment.One of the more interesting parts of the Rio Secreto experience came when we were resting on some rocks after the deep-water portion of the tour. Moses asked us to turn out our helmet lights, and and we immediately found outselves in total darkness for a few minutes.
The sound of water dripping from the ceiling and your own heartbeat in the pitch blackness and stillness of the cave makes you really appreciate the invention of the flashlight and a guide who can find his way out of the cave!There are strategic points along the route that are set up for individual photo shots.
Since this is a cave with no natural lighting, the folks at Rio Secreto have set up a system of lights for flash photography that yields excellent results. At the end of the tour, you are given a chance to view and select photos of your excursion, served a light meal from the snack bar, and given a chance to unwind before the bumpy trip back.It’s not often you get to experience a place where so few have gone, and so few have seen. The life he makes for himself and his family on the Hawkesbury River after his subsequent pardon is an example of clumsy and ultimately brutal 'settling' of Aboriginal land. Andrew Bovell's adaptation for the stage matches Grenville's novel with full force, and Neil Armfield's direction delivers a powerful blow to the gut.The story has been given its proper weight and significance in all elements of the production. Set designer Stephen Curtis has transformed the main stage at Sydney Theatre Company into a bush setting ? a majestic, dusty-white swathe of canvas tumbles from the ceiling, evoking paperbarks or cliff faces. Eucalyptus foliage frames the space and a live fire crackles away throughout.Iain Grandage's music is a faithful support to the narrative such that it's an emotionally charged production. Music that follows storyline like a film score in theatre can be emotionally manipulative, but in this case the music is owned by all members of the cast, with Trevor Jamieson regularly picking up the guitar to accompany Grandage on the piano and others assisting with percussion. Grandage's arrangement of an English folk song overlapping a traditional Aboriginal tune, sung by the entire cast, is superb.The importance of this story cannot be overemphasised. On the one hand, it is a historical account of a tragic event, but on the other it's a crucial conversation with a persistently painful present. Similarly, Daniel Henshall playing convict Dan and Matthew Sunderland as Sagitty both portray a confronting level of unthinking callousness.
In contrast to this trio is the young Thornhill family, who for the most part try to live by some sort of morals.
Thornhill’s characterisation by Nathaniel Dean is one of a decent man who can't quite command his own mind. Anita Hegh as his wife, Sal, is rough and warm, a smart woman counting down the days till her return to England.
Their initially cordial but confused relationship with "those that are there" in the end gives way to violence.Roy Gordon as the elder, Yalamundi, is a dignified, gentle presence, as is Ethel-Anne Gundy playing Buryia.
Bruce Spence as a kangaroo is magnificent.The couple embodying reason and sense in this story are Thomas Blackwood (Colin Moody) and Dulla Djin (Ursula Yovich). She is a gentle and steadfast witness, observing scenes at a knowing distance.STC has put a lot into this production, and it shows.

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