I mentioned artist Nicholas Harding’s Waiting For Godot-themed exhibit a few posts ago, following this intriguing interview/preview posted by his gallery (Olsen Irwin). The exhibit was inspired by sketches Harding drew at the behest of longtime friend Hugo Weaving to complement Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting For Godot last November. The Godot pieces are now supplemented by limited-edition etchings (some of which are for sale of you have an extra $550 AUS lying around) and watercolor portraits of Hugo, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins and Philip Quast from both rehearsals and performance of the play. Since many of us won’t be able to make it to the show, which runs 7-25 May at Olsen Irwin Galleries in Sydney, Olsen Irwin has generously posted a “virtual exhibition catalog” featuring all the art at their website.
In addition, the Sydney Morning Herald posted a preview of the exhibit, featuring an interview with Harding and Richard Roxburgh, which supplements the artwork with shots of the artist and his sketchbooks. (It also confirms that Hugo Weaving has indeed gone on vacation this month– with Harding s it turns out– hence his secondary role in Healing promotion.)
In the SMH piece, Harding describes the exhibit’s genesis after Hugo Weaving saw some of his sketches of a ramshackle Parisian production of Romeo and Juliet posted on Instagram, and the article delves into their collaborative friendship:
“Harding and Weaving got to know each other through their children, who went to school together. They bonded over a shared love of food, cinema, theatre and art. So it was only natural that Weaving would invite his artist friend into the rehearsal room to sketch the cast, which also included Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins and Philip Quast, as they grappled with Beckett’s play in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait in vain for the arrival of Godot.
Harding says the actors, three of whom are over the age of 50, also had to come to terms with the physical aspects of their performances. ”When they’re falling over and jumping around, they have to bear in mind they’re doing that for eight performances a week for six weeks,” he says….”
“[Richard] Roxburgh wholeheartedly concurs with Harding’s assessment of the physical demands of Waiting for Godot, and says the rehearsals were probably the hardest he has experienced. ‘As a troupe we would practically crawl off stage every night, longing for beer and a debrief.
I’ll embed a selection of the show’s artwork here, but there’s far more on view at the Olsen Irwin website, along with details on how to visit the exhibition if you’re in the area, and how to purchase some of the art if you have the finances.
As Don Hany continues to promote the film and charm fans via radio interviews and early screening Q&As (sometimes with help from his avian costars) the reviews for Healing continue to be almost entirely positive, apart from one or two grouches who apparently need their prison movies punctuated with cynicism and violence. 😉 (Even those who quibble with the film’s contemplative tone and lack of shock tactics give it leaning-positive marks; no one has graded it below 3 out of 5 stars.) Remarkably, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, who tend to disagree with one another on principal, both lauded the film.
Here are Don Hany’s two most recent audio interviews:
Interview with Dave G from Subculture Media
Interview with Phil K of ABC Radio Australia. (Both of these interviews note Hugo Weaving’s contribution to the film more than others.)
Here are excerpts from the four most recent reviews of the film:
Evan Williams, The Australian: “IT is 16 years since Craig Monahan made his Australian debut feature The Interview, a mysterious police drama that somehow managed to combine Franz Kafka with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. Its star, Hugo Weaving, can be seen again in Healing , Monahan’s enchanting new film, due for release this week. There aren’t many actors who can upstage Weaving on his home ground. He gets top billing in Healing and turns in his usual accomplished performance. But he’s by no means the dominant personality. His co-stars are Don Hany, whom many will know from his work in television, and Yasmine, a beautiful dark creature with a funny nose and a most appealing personality. Yasmine doesn’t speak a word and is played by three stand-ins. But she pretty well steals the show….
Monahan’s film makes much of the parallels between caged birds and caged prisoners: between birds with injuries and men such as Viktor, crippled in mind and spirit. The idea that each species would help the other return to normal life may seem trite and improbable, but the Won Wron experiment seemed to work. Healing is a beautiful film, exploring notions of freedom and captivity, forgiveness and redemption, and the enduring bonds between humanity and the animal world…
It’s the great strength of Monahan’s film that the emotions of the men, their personal dramas, are never relegated to secondary status, despite strong competition from the avian cast. It’s a film rich in ideas and vivid characters. Watching it is an exhilarating experience.”
Sandra Hall, The Sydney Morning Herald: “A prison story with a twist, it’s set in the Victorian countryside and graced with moments of pastoral beauty, thanks to Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie…
The ensemble cast has a close rapport. As the tight little team of prison workers, Weaving, Tony Martin, Robert Taylor and Justine Clarke display the easy familiarity of people who have been colleagues for long enough to respect one another’s idiosyncrasies. And as the ranger from the bird sanctuary, Jane Menelaus behaves as if born to the job…
(Four and a half stars out of five)
Craig Monahan, Don Hany (back row) with Healesville’s raptor-wrangler and Cameo Cinema’s staff at yesterday’s Q&A event in Belgrave, VIC
Photo: Cameo Cinemas Facebook Page
AAP: “Prison films usually are served up with a side of violence and jail-breaks, but new Australian film Healing, starring Hugo Weaving and Don Hany, is very much the opposite..While Hany and Weaving are excellent in the lead roles, it’s the birds who really steal the show… Bird handler and raptor specialist Andrew Payne, as well as writer/director Craig Monahan, have done a fantastic job with these amazing creatures, both in their performance and the stunning visuals. One of the barn owls wins your heart almost immediately, while watching a Wedge-tailed Eagle hunt in the opening is quite spectacular…
The film also boasts some excellent support turns. Xavier Samuel and Mark Winter as Viktor’s fellow inmates have their own emotional story to tell, while Jane Menelaus is wonderful as the dry-humoured Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary worker Glynis, and Tony Martin gets laughs as another officer…It is a thoughtful film, but it would have benefited from being much tighter, which would have also made its messages feel a little less obvious…
As the title suggests, the film is about healing and works on various levels – with the birds, the prisoners, and even the officers. There’s a strong father-son storyline and while Healing touches on religion and culture, it doesn’t ever resort to stereotypes, instead just adding depth to Viktor and why he relates so well to the birds.”
Megan Graham, Crosslight : “Healing brings the issue of prison rehabilitation and restorative justice to the fore in a way that is both realistic and hopeful…
The viewer sympathises with broken men and raptors alike, although the film does not seek to justify the criminal actions of the inmates. Rather it gives substance to the inmates’ stories, detailing complicated past lives and the consequences of their crimes…
Weaving strikes the balance between the hardness of heart that comes from working in a prison, and the transforming power of empathy. The film largely revolves around his friendship with Viktor. Both are forced to confront the past and move on with their lives – clichéd, perhaps, but satisfying nonetheless…
Prisoner rehabilitation is an important issue. Monahan’s Healing successfully humanises those in the system and demonstrates practical restorative justice. With approximately 30,000 people currently in prison in Australia, our capacity to rehabilitate prisoners is a topic we can’t afford to ignore. Healing not only enlightens but offers hope.”
There’s also a fascinating behind-the-scenes account featured on Kathy Mexted’s blog The Outer Barcoo about a scene featuring Hugo Weaving’s character. I won’t quote it here because it does reveal a major plot point (though nothing that will be shocking to anyone who’s seen the trailers and read the reviews.) Apparently scenes concerning Weaving’s character’s home life were filmed on Mexted’s property, and she also finds some poignant parallels between some of the film’s characters and her own past.
“Cameo staff take a selfie with some very special guests courtesy of Healesville Sanctury at [May 3, VIC] Healing q&a event. So special…”
Photo: Cameo Cinemas’ Facebook page
Hugo Weaving Trifecta At Seattle International Film Festival
Turns out I was short one film in my previous mention of SIFF: they;ll be screening THREE (not two) Hugo Weaving films later this month. Click links for specifics and ticket sales”
Hugo Weaving with young fan Jack, specifics unknown Photo: Jessie Beemore, Instagram