Steve Dow

is the 2020 Walkley Arts Journalism award recipient.

By this author


Culture September 26, 2020

Anita Hegh

After a quarter of a century as one of Australia’s finest stage actors, Anita Hegh is well placed to channel Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. “Although it is a much kinder world for women than it has been, there’s still a long way to go.”

Culture August 01, 2020

Sydney deputy lord mayor Jess Scully

Since becoming the deputy lord mayor of Sydney, Jess Scully has continued her fight for social equality. As she pushes for affordable housing and investment in the ‘caring economy’, she remains hopeful of instituting long-lasting change. “I think there’s an opportunity for us right now to make sure that participatory democracy and the care economy and affordable housing are some of the things that become practical, real projects.”

Culture July 18, 2020

Essie Davis’s honour roles

Actress Essie Davis made her name inhabiting charismatic women, from detective Phryne Fisher to The Babadook’s Amelia Vanek. She speaks about being born to act, breaking her ribs on set and learning piano for her new film, Babyteeth. “I do love going to the cinema and having a really good cry. It can be a really profound experience to be that moved in the darkness … It’s very hard not to feel sentimental about every scene [in Babyteeth] because they’re quite moving.”

Culture June 27, 2020

Belvoir artistic director Eamon Flack

The coronavirus crisis has left many in the arts struggling. But Belvoir artistic director Eamon Flack is determined to use the shutdown as a catalyst for positive change and to push ahead with bringing new Australian works to the stage. “Really early on in this – when we didn’t know how bad it was going to get – we decided that this was going to be a good time to rethink a whole lot of things. We wanted to come out of this crisis, however long it went on for, having fixed some things, and having made some deep, permanent changes.”

Culture May 23, 2020

Griffin Theatre Company artistic director Declan Greene

Four weeks after becoming the artistic director of Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company, Declan Greene had to cancel two plays because of Covid-19. He speaks about this extraordinary challenge, his childhood flair for drama and his ambitions for the company. “I’m constantly thinking I should do more to change things in the world … I’m interested in reconfiguring the space I work in to make it a more equal place.”

News May 09, 2020

The collapse of Carriageworks

With the Covid-19 lockdown forcing Sydney arts precinct Carriageworks into voluntary administration, the embattled cultural sector is bracing for worse to come.

Culture April 25, 2020

Hearts and Bones director Ben Lawrence

In Hearts and Bones, director Ben Lawrence explores masculinity and trauma through the story of a war photographer befriending a South Sudanese refugee. He speaks here about how his experience of parenthood has influenced his work, and the parallels between himself and his father, director Ray Lawrence. “Through the period of writing Hearts and Bones and being involved in Ghosthunter, the idea of being a father, what it means to raise a young boy in this era, all became fascinating to me.”

Life April 18, 2020

Pet adoption booms in lockdown

As the RSPCA reports a boom in pet adoptions during the coronavirus lockdown, the author and his partner have also welcomed a new addition to their household.

Culture April 11, 2020

Bluey creator Joe Brumm’s dog days

Inspired by the interactions between his young daughters, Joe Brumm created a one-minute pilot that would become the kids’ television juggernaut Bluey. Here, he discusses the challenges of writing the show and reminisces about the blue heelers of his childhood. “Each episode has a number of components to make it good … It’s not just about coming up with a funny game.”

Culture February 22, 2020

Actress Cate Blanchett

As a co-creator of the new ABC series Stateless, Cate Blanchett hopes to challenge Australian attitudes towards asylum seekers, particularly as the climate crisis threatens to displace many more people. “The rhetoric of protection and the language has separated Australians from their humanity, and encouraged the public through a lack of transparency in information to tolerate or ignore human rights abuses that are going on offshore.”

Culture January 25, 2020

Vernon Ah Kee’s The Island

The power of Vernon Ah Kee’s latest show, The Island, lies in its ability to spotlight the experiences of First Nations people and refugees as the antithesis of privileged white Australian culture.

Culture December 07, 2019

Packer & Sons

Tommy Murphy’s Packer & Sons at Belvoir examines the inherited and inherent misbehaviour and barbarism of Australia’s best-known media dynasties.

Culture November 23, 2019

Actor Damon Herriman

A screen actor since he was 10 years old, Damon Herriman is all too aware of the precarities in his line of work. He speaks to Steve Dow about the ups and downs of his career and his new film, Judy and Punch. “It has a dark fairytale vibe. You can watch Judy and Punch as an allegory or a feminist revenge tale, or you could watch it as a really entertaining fairytale fable, or both.”

Culture October 05, 2019

Chinese cultural hero Yang Liping

At age 60, dancer and choreographer Yang Liping is still going strong, determined to keep the cultural traditions of China’s ethnic minorities alive. She speaks about her 50-year career and her striking new version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. “I want to fill the movement with traditional culture and art to make it more solid, more relevant, and more how I think contemporary dance should be.”

Culture September 28, 2019

Actress and director Rachel Griffiths

Throughout her illustrious acting career, Rachel Griffiths has often spoken out against injustice. She discusses power and its abuses, her upcoming ABC series, and how Catholicism informs her feature-length directorial debut, Ride Like a Girl. “I think my faith is aesthetically Catholic, not through any allegiance to Rome. I have no faith in the Catholic structure or any structure that doesn’t include women and is designed to entrench power using secrecy and threat.”

Theatre September 14, 2019

Avalanche: A Love Story

In Avalanche: A Love Story, Maxine Peake’s powerful and personal performance charts the pain and yearning – but also the wry humour – found in writer Julia Leigh’s account  of undergoing IVF.

Culture August 31, 2019

City of Gold

Meyne Wyatt’s powerful first play, City of Gold, joins a growing canon of theatre that asks Australia to confront its treatment of Indigenous people.

Culture August 24, 2019

Film director Jennifer Kent

Five years after her much-lauded The Babadook, director Jennifer Kent has returned with The Nightingale, which tackles Australia’s brutal colonial history. She reveals what drew her to tell this story – and what she thinks of audience reactions to the film’s violence. “The whole point of The Nightingale is what happens when that rage winds down. What are you left with? That to me is the most interesting part of the story: what lies underneath it is a broken heart.”

Theatre August 10, 2019

Oriel Gray’s The Torrents

A long-overdue revival of Oriel Gray’s The Torrents is brilliantly cast and beautifully produced, highlighting the work of a talented Australian playwright who was never given the recognition she deserved.

Sport June 08, 2019

Skateboarder Aimee Massie’s Olympic dreams

While her sights are firmly set on a spot in the Australian Olympic team for Tokyo 2020, skateboarder Aimee Massie is also using her sporting talents to assist local community projects.

Culture May 25, 2019

The many facets of Zindzi Okenyo’s world

Zindzi Okenyo is asserting herself through her art – on stage, on screen and in the recording studio. Here, the singer-songwriter and actor talks about growing up in different parts of Australia, travelling to her father’s birth country, and being comfortable in her own skin. “The older that I’ve gotten, the more it seems to me the way to be better is to know yourself as much as possible and then relax into it.”

Culture April 13, 2019

Rosslynd Piggott’s sense of self

As Rosslynd Piggott prepares for I Sense You But I Cannot See You – the second retrospective of her career at the National Gallery of Victoria – she reflects on her childhood in Frankston, her ambition as a young artist and her life’s work. “I did a year of teaching in 1981 in the remote Victorian country at Werrimull. I’d just come out of post-punk Melbourne, thrust up there in the middle of nowhere. I was never going to do three years up there. After that, I just ran away, basically, to St Kilda, doing dishwashing and waitressing. I knew I wanted to be an artist.”

Culture February 09, 2019

Metal singer Karina Utomo’s roar history

Whether singing about the bloody past of the country of her birth in metal band High Tension, or in the wordless growls and screams of Speechless, a new opera about the Forgotten Children, Karina Utomo finds catharsis in unleashing her powerful voice. Etched into her memory is the burning down of a music store, which sold cassettes because CDs remained a luxury item. The shop, she says, was targeted because it was owned by Chinese Indonesians, the long-time targets of racist scapegoating. “Buying music with my father was a treat. That was somewhere we had gone every week and it symbolised access to music, to engage in a culture with which I connected.”

Culture January 26, 2019

Wiradjuri dancer Joel Bray’s platypus identity

As a gay Aboriginal Australian who grew up in a largely white world, Joel Bray found purpose and identity through dance. His latest work – the intimate solo performance Biladurang – blends choreography and theatre in a raw exploration of his own very personal journey. “I’ve had people hug me, I’ve had people crying, I’ve had people share their stories of discovering their Aboriginality late in life.”

Theatre November 17, 2018

STC’s A Cheery Soul

STC’s production of Patrick White’s darkly comic A Cheery Soul shows that the story of ‘monstrous’ nursing home resident Miss Docker is a still-relevant examination of the loss of agency in old age.

Theatre September 15, 2018

The Harp in the South

Kate Mulvany’s adaptation of Ruth Park’s still-resonant The Harp in the South trilogy for the STC boasts perfect casting for its darkly comic tale of gentrification and community.

Culture September 15, 2018

Zoë Coombs Marr and her stand-in stand-up Dave

Comedian Zoë Coombs Marr created her male alter-ego Dave in order to critique the sexist culture of the stand-up scene, and it has taken years for her to feel ready to take the stage as herself again. “I never made Dave with the intention of being cruel or laughing at people, or going, ‘That guy sucks.’ ”

Culture September 01, 2018

Bangarra’s Stephen Page on the language of dance

Stephen Page has known acclaim and accolades as head of Bangarra Dance Theatre. Off stage he’s had more than his fair share of personal tragedy. Here, he talks to about family, his latest show, Dark Emu, and the power of language to change Australia. “Through this symbolism of visual art and story, under that came this kinship idea of connection to land, people and story. That’s why lore and customs exist.”

Culture April 28, 2018

Nick Mitzevich’s vision for the NGA

As he prepares to take the reins as artistic director of the National Gallery of Australia, Nick Mitzevich talks about a fresh and controversial approach to the nation’s largest art collection. “As a national institution that has a responsibility in leading debate and a cultural agenda, it’s important there is a strong point of view. I don’t mean bias, I mean passion for putting artists at the centre of things.”

News April 14, 2018

Sydney’s late-night economy waning

Sydney’s lockout laws have ruined the economic viability of the city’s live entertainment culture, a state parliament inquiry has been told, with venue closures and poker machines replacing band rooms.

Culture April 07, 2018

Director Garth Davis finds religion

His first feature film, Lion, took movie-goers on an emotional journey across the world. Now director Garth Davis lends his visual poetry to the tale of one of history’s most famous women. “If you look into it, Mary Magdalene was a very significant apostle, and was present in all of the key elements, and sometimes mentioned more than other apostles. So she must have been a very significant person, and not the one that we’re learning about in Catholic school growing up. I thought it was amazing that it hadn’t been told.”

Culture March 10, 2018

Gail Jones and the art of words

Author Gail Jones’s latest novel, The Death of Noah Glass, reflects the cross-cultural interests of an enthusiastic traveller who finds inspiration in getting lost. It also revisits her original passions of art and art history.

Culture January 27, 2018

Lisa Reihana’s historic reckoning

Artist Lisa Reihana, creator of the acclaimed video tableau In Pursuit of Venus (Infected), talks about growing up in bicultural New Zealand and her queering of Captain Cook. “The way that I feel things, I feel like sometimes I get messages from other places. I might be thinking about an idea, or in a conflict, and then I might come to a conclusion. It’s to do with intuition. For me, I’m thinking it’s from my people.”

Culture December 09, 2017

Choreographer Lucy Guerin

Choreographer Lucy Guerin says ballet’s physical perfectionism may see off young girls from their passion for dance, leaving headstrong boys to take the reins in later life. “Women have really defined dance through the ages, especially in America, with a lot of female choreographers, and in Europe. Yet it feels like it’s going backwards a little bit.”

Culture October 14, 2017

‘Samson & Delilah’ creator Warwick Thornton

Filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s latest offering, Sweet Country – a dark, outback, period western – brings the truth of Indigenous history to life through fiction. Says Thornton: “I was ready and really hungry, and a nice, big-arse western, a massive epic full of horses and guns, men scratching their balls, felt really, really good to me.”

Culture September 16, 2017

Artist Mikala Dwyer on ‘befriending’ chemotherapy

Recovering from chemotherapy, Mikala Dwyer is using her highly personal installations to reflect her own chemical journey towards healing. “It’s really weird stuff that pulls apart your DNA, and arranges things and puts it back together again. It did definitely creep into the work.”

Culture August 19, 2017

Actor Aaron Pedersen

As a proud Arrernte–Arabana man, actor Aaron Pedersen believes that through his work and profile he can make inroads into uniting Australia. “We’re the only country in the Commonwealth that doesn’t have a treaty. It’s ridiculous. What are they scared of?”

Culture June 24, 2017

Una’s Ben Mendelsohn on his American roots

Ben Mendelsohn, currently seen in the harrowing drama Una, has adapted to life in the US, where he has become an in-demand film actor. But his teen years spent living there were more tumultuous. “The cultural shift was profound and deeply weird to me. I couldn’t make any sense of who those strange beings were.”

Culture May 13, 2017

Pinchgut Opera’s Erin Helyard’s emotional engagement with Baroque music

Erin Helyard’s fortepiano performances referencing Schubert’s sexuality and syphilis reveal the harpsichord virtuoso and leader of Pinchgut Opera’s strong belief in historical context and personal experience informing musical expression.

Culture April 22, 2017

Berlin Syndrome director Cate Shortand on the dark within us

Somersault director Cate Shortland’s latest film Berlin Syndrome, a disturbing kidnap thriller, is her second examination of Germany’s postwar psyche. For her next work she returns to the Snowy Mountains for a postcolonial true crime series.

News April 15, 2017

Restoring the National Film and Sound Archive

Budget cuts to the National Film and Sound Archive have left it struggling to complete critical restoration work and in need of new purpose.

Culture April 01, 2017

Artist Jacobus Capone and his fado project

Jacobus Capone’s performance art often finds him undertaking feats of endurance, such as his trans-Australia walk carrying a jar of water from one coast to the other. For his latest work, he found inspiration in the melancholy of Portuguese fado music.

Culture March 04, 2017

Sarah Snook talks Noël Coward and HBO

From stage to television to film, Adelaide-born Sarah Snook is an actress in high demand. Her choices are proving as shrewd as they are diverse.

Culture January 28, 2017

Rachel Perkins on Jasper Jones and Indigenous activism

Filmmaker Rachel Perkins stays true to her activist upbringing in Jasper Jones, even as she avoids overt political messages.

Culture November 12, 2016

Rose Byrne in David Mamet’s ‘Speed-the-Plow’

After conquering Hollywood, Rose Byrne returns to Australia to take on Mamet for the STC.

Culture October 29, 2016

Playwright Nakkiah Lui on radicalism and family

Playwright and Black Comedy star Nakkiah Lui has turned her politically aware upbringing into award-winning writing about Indigenous experience.

Culture August 27, 2016

Crownies’ Marta Dusseldorp on stage and screen

Marta Dusseldorp, one of the best-known faces on Australian television, talks about history, loss and her highly successful family.

Culture August 06, 2016

Barrie Kosky’s ’Saul’ heads to Adelaide Festival

Komische Oper Berlin director Barrie Kosky is unlikely to return to Australia, where arts funding is suffering successive cuts. In contrast, he says, ‘the arts are in the DNA of western Europe’.

Culture July 02, 2016

Bell Shakespeare’s Ray Chong Nee set to tour Othello

Samoan actor Ray Chong Nee on his heritage, his desire to give back, and his dream for a King Lear of colour.

News May 21, 2016

Arts companies hit hard by Australia Council funding cuts

The Australia Council’s latest funding cuts have further devastated arts companies.

Culture May 14, 2016

Rake actor Richard Roxburgh’s adult themes

While there might once have been similarities between Rake's Richard Roxburgh and his dissolute character Cleaver Greene, family has grounded the actor.

Culture April 30, 2016

Playwright Young Jean Lee on Straight White Men

Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee has the world’s most privileged social class firmly in her sights.

Culture February 20, 2016

New Malthouse artistic director Matthew Lutton

Malthouse's new artistic director Matthew Lutton again embraces his dark side, bringing Picnic at Hanging Rock to the stage.

Culture January 23, 2016

Arcadia actor Ryan Corr puts personal drama behind him

Holding the Man star Ryan Corr is following his success on the big screen with a turn on the stage.

Culture November 07, 2015

Human Nietzsche: Sarah Blasko on her new album, ’Eternal Return’

Musician Sarah Blasko is back with a new album – sunnier than before and focused on love.

Culture October 31, 2015

Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska in sharp focus

Actress Mia Wasikowska, star of Crimson Peak, grew up in the gaze of a camera lens, in a family of photographers.

Culture October 24, 2015

Kate Mulvany plays on

Actress and playwright Kate Mulvany survived a rare childhood cancer resulting from her conscripted father’s exposure to Agent Orange.

Culture October 10, 2015

Jocelyn Moorhouse and ’The Dressmaker’

Acclaimed director Jocelyn Moorhouse returned from the US because family was more important than the Hollywood machine.

News August 01, 2015

Senate inquiry into George Brandis’s arts funding plans

An inquiry into arts funding is waiting in the wings, but most of the major players are ducking the spotlight.

Culture July 04, 2015

History beckons for Banished actor David Wenham

David Wenham's acting roles have taken him from Middle-earth to a leper colony to, most recently, Botany Bay.

News June 13, 2015

Creative Victoria taskforce vows to consult widely

In the wake of deep cuts to the Australia Council’s federal funding, the Victorian government has strengthened its peer-review system to ensure innovation and diversity in a broad range of artistic endeavours.

Culture June 13, 2015

Bangarra’s Frances Rings branches out with Sheoak

For Bangarra choreographer Frances Rings, a lifelong love of dance helped her reconcile her family truth.

Culture March 28, 2015

David Byrne’s musical take on the life of Imelda Marcos

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s musical about Imelda Marcos shows corruption is the same as it ever was.

Culture February 28, 2015

Tim Minchin turns his talents to stage musical Matilda

From playing a libertine rocker in Californication to writing music and lyrics for Matilda, Tim Minchin is a man of many talents.

Culture January 31, 2015

A peek inside TV’s bleak House of Hancock

Miniseries tackles the story of a Rose between thorny Lang Hancock and Gina Rinehart.

Culture November 15, 2014

Paul Capsis scales the heights with Calpurnia Descending

Cabaret star Paul Capsis teams with Sisters Grimm to bring to the stage an original twist on an age-old tale.

Culture October 04, 2014

Asher Keddie shows off her Party Tricks

Asher Keddie has long been popular. But now that she’s also being recognised for the quality of her acting, will the US come calling?

Culture July 19, 2014

’Charlie’s Country’ director Rolf de Heer shows his Dutch courage

Rolf de Heer’s long-term friendship with actor David Gulpilil once again unearths filmic gold.

Culture May 10, 2014

Queensland Theatre Company artistic director Wesley Enoch on work, faith and family

As the first Indigenous head of a state theatre company, Wesley Enoch is used to breaking new ground. He’s also no stranger to controversy.

Culture February 28, 2014

Australian theatre’s enfant terrible Simon Stone

His father’s death at an early age left playwright and stage director Simon Stone fragile and fearful. But he's all the stronger for it.