Friday, 8 February 2019

The Lady in the Van, Feb 7, 2019

By Alan Bennett, Melbourne Theatre Company
At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until March 9, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
This review is NOT published in Herald Sun. KH

 Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes bustles about the stage like a demented doll in The Lady in the Van, bossing and bellowing at her reluctant and conflicted 'neighbour', Alan Bennett - or is he her ‘host’?

 In his play, directed here by Dean Bryant, Bennett depicts himself as two separate aspects of his character: Alan Bennett 1 (Daniel Frederikson) who reluctantly allows this recalcitrant, old lady to park her equally scruffy van in his garden indefinitely and assists her with letter writing and numerous complaints against the society on the fringes of which she dwells.

Alan Bennett 2 (James Millar), dressed identically to his doppelganger, scribbles in his notebook, journalising every eccentric activity of his malodorous subject whose name, she says, is Miss Mary Shepherd.

Margolyes' performance is bold, vigorous and comical, and intermittently reveals a vulnerability that allows us to see the inner turmoil and fractured mind of this peculiar, former nun who lives in her squalid van but still clings to a thread of dignity.

 Miriam Margolyes
Bennett's characters and narrative gently raise issues of tolerance, community spirit and the failures of the social welfare system, while the middle class characters, Pauline (Fiona Choi) and Rufus (Dalip Sondhi) pretend to be liberal and spout sympathetic, lefty rhetoric while shunning the lady in the van.
The cast is strong, however the episodic structure and lack of depth of most characters, apart from Miss Shepherd, make the play feel like it skims across the surface of the story.

The staging cunningly creates a sense of location by sliding chairs, fences and even vans on and off stage on invisible tracks, but this device becomes distracting.

The Lady in the Van is a gentle, funny and sometimes moving story about a woman whose life should have gone along another track and it reminds us that we are becoming a less caring community that needs to assist and provide for its more vulnerable members.

by Kate Herbert

 Miriam Margolyes, Daniel Frederiksen, James Millar

Miriam Margolyes – Miss Mary Shepherd (Margaret Fairchild)
Daniel Frederikson -Alan Bennett
James Millar -Alan Bennett 2 The Writer
Fiona Choi -Pauline
Dalip Sondhi Rufus
Jillian Murray- Mam
Ricahrd Piper -Doctor/ Garden Workman
Claire Healey - Social Worker/

Set & Costume- Alicia Clements
Lighting -Matt Scott
Composer /Sound Designer- Matthew Frank

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Les Misérables, Jan 19, 2019 ***1/2

Music & book by Claude-Michel Schönberg, book by Alain Boublil, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
By Young Australian Broadway Chorus
At National Theatre, St. Kilda, until Jan 27, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 This review also published in Herald Sun on Tues 22 Jan 2019. By the way, I'm back on deck after a hiatus. KH 
This production of Les Misérables by Young Australian Broadway Chorus may have a youthful cast, but their enthusiasm is contagious and the show entertaining, vivacious and often moving.

Robert Coates’ direction takes advantage of the enormous ensemble of young singers, filling the stage with milling crowd scenes and rousing choruses of the soaring tunes from this renowned musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music & book), Alain Boublil (book) and Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics).

Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel, is set in the early decades of 19th century France, ending in Paris after the tragedy of the failed1832 Paris Uprising.

The lead performers are capable actor-singers, but several give standout performances. Bryce Gibson plays the key role of Jean Valjean, the former convict, now gentleman, pursued relentlessly for decades by his nemesis, the policeman, Javert, played by Nicholas Sheppard.

Gibson and Sheppard may lack the years and gravitas usually required for these ageing rivals, but their commitment is unquestionable. Gibson’s renditions of Who Am I? and Bring Him Home are powerful and heartfelt while Sheppard makes a noble tragedy of the song and scene of Javert’s suicide.

Jordie Race-Coldrey is charismatic as Enjolras, leader of the student revolt, and, with his fine vocal tone, he effectively leads the ensemble in the stirring chorus of the anthemic song, Do You Hear the People Sing?

The rich-voiced Rhea Brendish makes a fine Eponine, Jasmine Arthur’s bright soprano is suited to Cosette who falls in love with Ben Gonsalvez’s rather goofy Marius, while Emily Svarnias breaks hearts as Fantine, singing the heart-wrenching I Dreamed A Dream.

The talented, youthful orchestra skilfully delivers the thrilling music that underscores the spirited, massed choruses and makes this production of Les Miz a musical treat that may be the starting point for a few professional musical theatre careers.

by Kate Herbert

Jasmine Arthur - Cosette
Rhea Brendish - Eponine
Bryce Gibson - Jean Valjean
Nicholas Sheppard - Javert
Emily Svarnias - Fantine
Ben Gosalvez - Marius
Madeleine Horsey - Mme Thenardier
Jackson Hurwood - M Thenardier
Jordie Race-Caldrey - Enjolras

Director - Robert Coates
Musical Director  -Justin Jacobs
Choreography -Jacqui Greene
Set -Dann Barber
Costume -Jennifer McKenzie
Lighting -Linda Hum

Monday, 29 October 2018

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Oct 28, 2018

NB: This short review will appear only on this blog. It is not written for, or published in Herald Sun. I've been having a break from reviewing. KH
Music & Lyrics by Steven Lutvak;  Book & Lyrics by Robert L Freedman; Based on novel by Roy Horniman; by The Production Company
At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until November 18, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert; reviewed on Sun Oct 28, 2018

Alec Guinness’s inimitable virtuoso portrayal of multiple characters in the British comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets, inspired me as child to choose a career in character comedy (Yes, I was doing that long before reviewing!).

This daffy, Tony award-winning musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, is the same story with a different title and, in a nod to Guinness’s performance, Mitchell Butel plays all eight, toffy members of the D’Ysquith family.

With consummate comic timing and versatile characterisation, Butel plays pompous aristocrats, a camp dandy, a blousy dame, an execrable actress, a lisping vicar and the refined head of the D’Ysquith family. 

Chris Ryan is in fine voice playing Monty Navarro, the penniless clerk who discovers he is ninth in line to be Lord D’Ysquith. But the D’Ysquiths dismiss Monty’s claim so he starts knocking off all eight heirs to the Earldom. Monty narrates his story from a jail cell. 

The show is a diverting night in the theatre, with plenty of laughs at the expense of these upper class Twits and lots of quirky character performances by Butel. 

The orchestra is tight and finely tuned, but the songs (music & lyrics, Steven Lutvak; book & lyrics, Robert L Freedman), despite their witty lyrics and smart rhymes, all start to sound the same in the end. 

This show is like Gilbert and Sullivan colliding with Oscar Wilde and an old fashioned Ealing comedy. It's fun and frivolous but it breaks no new ground in musical theatre.
by Kate Herbert

Mitchell Butel -all eight members D’Ysquith family
Chris Ryan -Monty Navarro
Nancye Hayes- Miss Shingle 
Alinta Chidzey – Sibella Hallward
Genevieve Kingsford – Phoebe D’Ysquith

Roger Hodgman director
Kellie Dickerson Musical Director
Isaac Lummis Costumes
Christine Smith Set
Matt Scott Lighting
Production Company Orchestra
Dana Jolly choreography

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Julius Caesar, Bell Shakespeare, July 21, 2018 ***

By William Shakespeare, by Bell Shakespeare Company
At Fairfax Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 28, 2018, then touring 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Wed July 25, 2018 and in print on Thurs July 26, 2018. KH
Kenneth Ransom, pic Prudence Upton
Citizens and politicians love powerful, popular leaders – until they don’t – and so it goes when opposing forces wrestle for power in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, set in Ancient Rome.

When Caesar (Kenneth Ransom) becomes too ambitious, former supporters, incited by conniving Cassius (Nick Simpson-Deeks), convince Caesar’s friend, Brutus (Ivan Donato), to conspire with them to assassinate Caesar on the Ides of March, a date about which a soothsayer warned Caesar.

Shakespeare’s play is an epic political thriller with slaughter, battles, treasonous plots and a political coup.

James Evans’ scaled-down, touring production is a novel interpretation of a power grab, but its severely edited script and grungy style cannot deliver Rome’s grandeur or the devastatingly vicious in-fighting of its formidable antagonists.

Wearing modern, casual clothes, the actors look more like competing street gangs or rebel tribes than noble Romans, and the masked rabble look absurd.

Had this edgy interpretation gone further – tougher street attitude, grittier violence – the production may have been more successful, with greater dramatic tension and danger. Evans’ stylistic choices often jar with Shakespeare’s soaring language.

Donato brings strength and truthfulness to Brutus’s struggle with his decision to murder Caesar, delivering Brutus’s monologues with clarity and conviction, while Ransom’s Caesar is vain, insecure and easily swayed by flattery.

Simpson-Deeks’ Cassius is suitably manipulative while convincing Brutus that their treachery is reasonable.

Mark Antony (Sara Zwangobani) is played here as a woman, and Antony’s renowned speech, ‘Friends, Romans and countrymen,’ is uncomfortably split before and after interval, although Antony’s rhetoric to rile citizens to mutiny against Caesar’s assassins is effective, despite Zwangobani’s mild delivery.

Caesar’s gruesome assassination is stylised but awkwardly choreographed and his bloodied corpse is never seen, while the deaths of Cassius and Brutus are so casual as to be dismissive and lacking tragedy or drama.

This production will not appeal to Shakespeare purists but may engage those unfamiliar with his plays with its stripped back, industrial grunginess.

by Kate Herbert

Director James Evans
Designer Anna Tregloan
Lighting Designer Verity Hampson
Composer & Sound Designer Nate Edmondson
Movement & Fight Director Scott Witt
Voice Coach Jess Chambers
Assistant Director Nasim Khosravi

Kenneth Ransom
Jemwel Danao
Ivan Donato
Maryanne Fonceca
Ghenoa Gela
Neveen Hanna
Emily Havea
Nick Simpson-Deeks
Russell Smith
Sara Zwangobani

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

An Ideal Husband, (No review) opened July 20, 2018

By Oscar Wilde, by Melbourne Theatre Company
At Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until August 18, 2018.

I didn't review this show but here is some info & a pic. KH

Director - Dean Bryant  
Dale Ferguson - Designer

Cast includes:
Gina Riley - Lady Markby
William McInnes - Earl of Caversham.
Brent Hill - Lord Goring
Simon Gleeson and - Sir Robert Chiltern
Zindzi Okenyo - Lady Chiltern

Friday, 20 July 2018

Rocky Horror Show (no review)

Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
Produced by Howard Panter, John Frost and GWB Entertainment
At Her Majesty’s Theatre, until August 26, 2018

I couldn't review this show, but here's a couple of pics. KH


Melancholia, (no review)

Melancholia, from the film by Lars von Trier
Adapted for the stage by Declan Greene
By Malthouse Theatre.
At Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until August 12, 2018.

 I didn't review this show but here is a pic and some info. KH
Pic by Pia Johnson

DIRECTOR- Matthew Lutton
CAST / Alexander Artemov, Maude Davey, Steve Mouzakis, Eryn Jean Norvill, Liam Smith, Leeanna Walsman, Gareth Yuen