Top five: critics' picks


It's only in a handful of cinemas but the Australian documentary Once My Mother is well worth seeking out. Director Sophia Turkiewicz tells a story about her mother's remarkable past - as a teenage Polish orphan dispatched by the Russians to a Siberian gulag who then had to make her way on foot across central Asia, on two epic treks during World War II, before immigrating to Australia. It's a heartfelt and very touching story of resilience, survival and the bond between a mother and her daughter. GARRY MADDOX


Much as some love a trip to Byron Bay for Splendour in the Grass, for others the weekend away is too expensive/hard to get to/hard to get through (delete as applicable) – not to mention that the festival sold out eons ago. Instead, then, we recommend you cherry-pick its premier acts when they pass through Sydney: from pop wit Lily Allen (Friday, July 25, 7pm, Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park, playbillvenues.com, $95.30) to indie princess Sky Ferreira (Friday, July 25, 7.30pm, Metro Theatre, city, metrotheatre.com.au, $54.70) via suave electronic-pop adventurers Metronomy (Monday, July 28, 7pm, Metro Theatre, $69.50). And let’s face it, half the acts who aren’t doing sideshows (OutKast, Interpol) are so 10 years ago anyway. GEORGE PALATHINGAL


The new Sydney Theatre Company production of "the Scottish play" stars Hugo Weaving and turns the Sydney Theatre back to front. Instead of sitting in the usual seat, a much smaller audience of 360 will watch from the stage as the play unfolds in the darkened auditorium. “You have at once a sense of the structure of a society before you and you have the ghosts of all those audiences past,” director Kip Williams says. “It creates a kind of haunting pressure.” Opens Friday, July 25, until September 27. Sydney Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay Tickets $50-$119.

Raconteur and playwright Phil Spencer teams up with musician Richard Cuthbert for a one-night-only performance of Spencer’s autobiographical adventure story You and Whose Army? before the show is packed into a couple of economy class seats for dates in Britain. Find out what it’s like to be a man who has never thrown a punch. Ever. Wednesday, July 30, 8pm, Giant Dwarf, 199 Cleveland Street, Redfern. Tickets $15, giantdwarf.com.  ELISSA BLAKE


Over a series of solo exhibitions since 2007 at Liverpool Street Gallery painter Anwen Keeling has developed an extraordinarily refined photorealistic style. Best known for her paintings of horses, Keeling is also master of mood and ambience and her latest show The Blue Room (until July 31, Liverpool Street Gallery, 243a Liverpool Street, East Sydney, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm) returns to the noir vibe of her earlier work. Focusing on a nude figure in various poses, Keeling offers a contemporary take on classic images of quiet observation. Given that these works are also most likely the result of photographic studies, there’s a sense of voyeurism that shifts the work into something decidedly modern and uneasy. ANDREW FROST


Wake up and literally smell this coffee on Sunday, with the annual Aroma Festival taking over The Rocks. The day-long celebration of the coffee bean runs 10am-5pm and will have 60 stalls featuring the best from producers, various events including the Latte Art Smackdown. Ouch! See therocks.com. Elsewhere Sunday is also a great day for markets, with  the Manning Bar’s rockabilly fest, the Rock N Roll Markets, happening from  10.30am with tunes from the OzSkas and Papa Pilko and the Binrats (rocknrollmarket.com.au). Up the coast, the hugely popular monthly Avoca Beachside Markets are on, too, spreading the eco-love with local produce, arts and crafts and music, from 9am (fixxevents.com.au).  SARAH THOMAS