Tag Archives: Melbourne

The Lion King

As a story, the Lion King is one of the all-time greats. It has all the elements of a truly satisfying plot – a bright beginning, an unjust reversal, exile, vindication and happily ever after. It has unforgettable characters – the wise old Mufasa, the reckless young Simba, the sadder and wiser older Simba, the feisty Nala, the evil Scar and his retinue of sly hyenas, the flapping loudmouth Zazu and the wisecracking comics Timon and Pumbaa. It has a spectacular African jungle setting. Then, there are the unforgettable Elton John/Tim Rice music and lyrics.

The Lion King at London's Lyceum Theatre
The Lion King at London’s Lyceum Theatre

As I headed off to the stage version of the lion King, I was having difficulty clearing my mind of dominating Disney images of cuddly lion cubs and dark canyons with hordes of buffalo stampeding through clouds of dust. I couldn’t imagine how African dawns, elephants and giraffes would translate convincingly to the stage.

It is carried off, and brilliantly, by sets, props, costumes, masks and puppets and by a cast of wonderful actors, singers and dancers. The opening scene is a parade of colour, sound and movement that are almost overwhelming. From the back of the theatre comes a train of giant elephants worked from within by actors. There are giraffes, formed from stilt walkers. Hyenas are half actor-half puppet. The lions are robed in rich, African cloth in kingly reds and gold. Their leonine character is portrayed through masks and head-dresses. A huge feathered head and beak represents Zazu. Dancers dance out fleet footed gazelles, others in coolie hats whirl a background of birds, butterflies and insects across the stage on poles. Wildebeasts are formed from bicycles. Stampedes play out as shadows on a dramatic jungle backdrop. The music, live, is amazing.

The great story works, without all the technical wizardry of film, just with that subtle magic of suggestion and imagination that is the theatre. The proof? – the group of kids across the aisle, hardened and critical veterans of You Tube TV and DVD. They were on the edge of their seats, spellbound, open-mouthed and shiny-eyed from beginning to end.

The Lion king is in its last days in Melbourne. Catch it if you can!

Untamed Australia in Melbourne’s Studley Park

Trapped in Melbourne, longing for the wilderness? Stuck in the burbs, dreaming of billabongs? Confined to your office, pining for the bush?  Shackled to your laptop, grappling with your inner Clancy? Don’t despair; the outback is closer than you think.

The Yarra River, Studley Park, Melbourne
The Yarra River, Studley Park, Melbourne

Just ten kilometres from the CBD, lies Melbourne’s own slice of untamed Australia – Studley Park. It rambles through stands of ancient gums and scrubby bush, over hills of unruly grass, along steep, rocky bluffs, all the way down from Kew to Collingwood and across from Abbotsford to the Eastern Freeway. The Yarra River winds through it, slow and lazy for the most part, but breaking into rapids, tumbling down Dights Falls and spreading into a billabong. From the flat, grassy banks, there is no trace of the modern world. The view is from ancient times, when the Wurrundgeri people fished from the banks while their children swam in the shallows. The only sign of the nearby city is the hum of traffic on the freeway. It is punctuated by the calls of the native birds which refuge in the bush. Here, and in many other parts of the park, you are alone, in the remote and timeless bush.

But Studley Park isn’t just a wilderness – a retreat for the solitary refugee from the big smoke. For the sportsperson, a picturesque, if somewhat rugged golf course spills across the hills through the trees; there’s a cricket ground; bike and walking tracks snake along beside the river where kayakers and canoeists ride the currents. For the gourmet, the extremely popular Studley Park Boathouse restaurant and café offers fabulous food with wide-angled views of the river and the bush. At the historic Abbotsford Convent, a grand gothic building set in tranquil gardens, the Bakery Café, Lentil as Anything restaurant and the Boiler Room bar, please a range of palates and pockets. There are barbeques and picnic spots for those who like to do it themselves. For those with a bucolic bent and most particularly for the kids, there’s the Collingwood Children’s Farm, where you can fill your nostrils with the pungent smell of manure, watch pigs, chooks and peacocks potter and strut, feed the goats, see the cow being milked, cuddle some very accommodating cats, wander among the vege patches and fruit trees and even ride a pony.  There is something here, in this beautiful bush setting, for everyone.