Friday, 27 March 2020


 2pm Australian EST (Melbourrne, Sydney, Brisbane east coast)
You can log onto the Link at 1.30pm to get one of the 500 places. Should be plenty of spots.

Sat 28 March at 2pm   Murder Mystery! 

or Sun 29 
March at 2pm   Impro Games

You need ZOOM.
It is FREE!
Go to website and click on date/link beside the show.

Friday, 20 March 2020

3 charitable organisations supporting ARTSITS

Arts Centre Melbourne emailed this:

 If you would like to help arts industry workers during these unprecedented times, there are three charitable organisations that support the physical and/or mental wellbeing of the arts. We strongly encourage you to donate the value of your refunded tickets, or another amount you choose, to one of these three tax-deductible charities:
  • Victorian Actors’ Benevolent Fund –  The VABT provides emergency financial assistance to those in the entertainment industry who, in times of crisis or hardship, find themselves with nowhere else to turn.

  • Support Act – Support Act deliver crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers who are unable to work in the music industry, as well as partnering with Arts Centre Melbourne and the Arts Wellbeing Collective to deliver the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline. 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

The Show Must Go ONLINE!!!

I just found this link to online readings of all of Shakespeare plays, performed weekly in the order in which they were written.

It's called The Show Must Go ONLINE!

To watch the YouTube live readings, visit -

Ways to teach Improvisation remotely

Hi all,

All my Improvisation colleagues in Oz and Nth America are working out ways to teach Improvisation remotely.

For example, verbal games, verbal impro exercises, storytelling and status exercises can be played online. You could do this as an online meeting, FaceTime or Skype.

You don't need to have an entire class/group to do it. It probably works better if everyone works in pairs then reports in a Forum or Facebook group.

More when I have some more specifics.

For now, there are pletnty of online lists of Games and Impro exercises. If you have a Theatresports games list, that will work for you.

My Handbook of Impro Basics: Offer to Accept, Status to Story, certainly has lots of exercises that could be used remotely.

All reviews cancelled until further notice.

Dear readers,

All reviews are cancelled until further notice.

If you are there isolated at home, I'm sorry that I won't be posting reviews for an indefinite period.

Perhaps I'll think of something else to post about theatre to entertain myself and readers. I've found some links to live streaming of performances.

Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 is livestreaming on the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's (MSO) YouTube channel at 7.30pm on Thursday 19 March 2020. It is conducted by Benjamin Northey.

MSO Youtube Channel is:

Monday night’s MSO performance of Scheherazade can be viewed on Youtube still:

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Social Distancing Festival -Companies live streaming productions!!!

I wondered when theatre companies would start streaming their productions during this time.
The Social Distancing Festival in Toronto! k

Shows are cancelling!

Well, the show cancellations are now coming thick and fast.

I will not be reviewing WellBless at Theatre Works in St. Kilda this week (19 March) because the season is now cancelled as a safety precaution.

Even theatres under 200 seats need to protect their audiences from COVID19.

Comedy Festival 2020 is cancelled, although some small venues may still run their shows.

Staying away from crowds is good advice – so far.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Feb 23 2019 ****1/2 (Re-posting)

Story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, script by Jack Thorne
At Princess Theatre, Melbourne, reviewed on Feb 23, 2019
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2

NB: This review was from the opening, Feb 23, 2019, in Melbourne. I am re-posting it as the show continues. I believe there are some new children in the cast this 2020 season. This was NOT published in Herald Sun in 2019. KH
Sean Rees-Wemyss & William McKenna 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a sparkling, visual feast filled with tasty, Hogwarts  treats for the Potter aficionado.
The excitable and very vocal crowd cheers and gasps at the remarkable, jaw-dropping special effects of John Tiffany’s production that combines magical illusion, black theatre puppetry, startling appearances and disappearances, and whirling choreographic scenes - oh, and familiar characters as well as new ones.
Tiffany keeps the action swift and vivacious in Parts One and Two that are an endurance test of over five hours for the audience - but nobody seems to mind.
Based on an original new story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, this new play, written by Jack Thorne, which hurls us back into the world of Hogwarts when Harry (Gareth Reeves) and Ginny’s (Lucy Goleby) son Albus (Sean Rees-Wemyss) begins his less than stellar school years at Hogwarts Academy. 
A cunning twist is that Albus's best friend is the goofy and incompetent Scorpius Malfoy (William McKenna), son of Draco, Harry’s childhood nemesis.
The signs at the theatre say, ‘Keep the secrets’, so this we will do. You will not hear anything of the cursed child, the changing fate of young Albus, Scorpius, Harry and his cronies, Ron Weasley (Gyrton Grantley) and Hermione (Paula Arundell) or the current headmistress Professor McGonagall (Debra Lawrance).
If you loved the Potter books and movies, this is a must-see for you. There are working magic wands, magical creatures, moving staircases, terrifying dementors, villains and heroes, battles for life and death, broken familial relationships and all your favourite characters.
The heroes of this production are the invisible people who manipulate human bodies, puppets, staircases, wands and other paraphernalia to create this fantastic world before our eyes.
As Scorpius, McKenna delights the crowd from start to finish, and Rees-Wemyss, as Albus, is a suitably disenchanted, rebellious teenager.
Appearances by  Severus Snape (David Ross Patterson), Professor Dumbledore (George Henare), Lily and James Potter, Dolores Umbridge (Hannah Waterman), and a delicious bathroom cameo from Moaning Myrtle (Gillian Cosgriff) send the crowd into paroxysms of delight.
Occasionally, some dialogue feels a bit cheesy and uncomfortable, a few characters are a bit shouty and lacking vocal control, and the story is extremely convoluted.
But, ultimately, there is plenty of spectacle to keep the audience cheering and clapping as we witness the continuation of the fight between good and evil that is at the heart of the Harry Potter series. Everyone goes home tired and happy.
by Kate Herbert

Friday, 28 February 2020

The Great Australian Play, Feb 20, 2020

Written by Kim Ho 
At Theatre Works, until Feb 29, 2020
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
 Review published in Herald Sun in print only on Fri 28 Feb, 2020. KH
Jessica Koncic, Sarah Fitzgerald, Tamara Lee Bailey, Sermsah Bin Saad, and Daniel Fischer.-pic Jack Dixon-Gunn

Kim Ho naming his production The Great Australian Play is asking for trouble and almost begging for criticism – so here it comes!

To deconstruct narrative, a playwright must learn to construct narrative. However, what we see is five wannabe filmmakers rambling about the rules of cinema narrative structure, including the ‘Hero’s Journey’, a well-worn, Hollywood model.

Their movie, set in 1930, deals with Lasseter’s purported reef of gold in Australia’s desert centre. The second half, When the Eucalyptus Weeps, includes episodes about a dysfunctional family – perhaps Lasseter’s?

At no point in the deconstructed format does a narrative of any substance emerge. It is a series of parodic sketches aiming to illuminate the Australian condition, history, environment and indigenous culture.

The story of The Fidgeter, introduced at the end of the play, might be developed as the second thread interwoven with Lasseter, but it is bolted on and merely narrated.
Although described as an epic, the only thing epic is the 150-minute duration – about 90 minutes too long.

Actors (Jessica Koncic, Sarah Fitzgerald, Tamara Lee Bailey, Sermsah Bin Saad, Daniel Fischer) are committed and energetic, but their efforts are eclipsed by the production’s failings.

Some scenes appropriate, rather than celebrate, indigenous culture, the depiction of a German is racist, the juvenile introduction of a dildo gets cheap laughs and references to burnt koalas are offensive.

Ho’s script is overwritten, impenetrable, informational, with little action. It is riddled with cinematic references, satirical film titles and idiotic script pitches, while Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s direction is static, and his production resembles a university revue.

The play tries to be artful, inventive and satirical but loses coherence and cohesion, so any message is lost in multiple styles and tangled narratives threads.

Anyone unfamiliar with screenwriting processes, modern cinema references or the compelling but dense work of lauded Australian writer, the late Patrick White, will probably feel alienating. Rule 1: never make your audience feel stupid! (That should be Rules 2 and 3 as well!)
Ho inserts himself in the play at the beginning and then the end when he argues with Patrick White about the merit of Ho’s work, a discussion which reveals Ho’s vision to be confused, self-indulgent and incoherent.

This is no longer a joke when such confusion makes a mockery of the theatre it purports to value. How this play won the Patrick White award is as mysterious as Lasseter’s reef.

by Kate Herbert

Friday, 21 February 2020

Twelfth Night, ASC, Feb 17, 2020

By William Shakespeare, by Australian Shakespeare Company 
at Botanical Gardens, until Feb 29, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ****
Review published in print (not online) in Herald Sun on Friday 21 Feb 2020. KH 

Antony Rive, Kevin Hopkins
 Under the stars on a late summer evening, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a joyful entertainment riddled with plot intrigues, mistaken identity, cross-dressing, comical twists and jolly japes.

Glenn Elston’s rollicking, laugh-out-loud production incorporates oodles of physical comedy, eccentric characterisations, original music (Paul Norton), vivid costumes (Karla Erenbots), clownish make-up (Lou McLaren) and modern references.

After a shipwreck which Viola (Elizabeth Brennan) believes killed her twin brother, Sebastian (Mitchell Wills), Viola dresses as a boy, gets a job as a manservant then falls in love with her employer, Duke Orsino (Hugh Sexton). Orsino pines for Olivia (Anna Burgess) who rebuffs him because she is in love with the cross-dressing Viola. 

Meanwhile, the servants and house guests engage in drunken carousing and other tomfoolery, including playing cruel tricks upon Olivia’s pompous and dour servant, Malvolio, played by Dion Mills.

The production is playful, fast-paced, animated and littered with bawdy, broad humour, singalongs and actors scampering amongst the audience. There is never a dull moment.

As the grief-stricken Olivia and lovelorn Orsino – characters generally not played for laughs ­– in this interpretation, Burgess and Sexton are almost as funny as the obvious comic characters.

The outrageously silly slapstick scenes are a highlight. Kevin Hopkins is loud and oafish as the scruffy, boozy Sir Toby Belch, while Tony Rive is deliciously comical as the foppish, foolish nincompoop, Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Claire Nicholls is suitably saucy and sharp-tongued as naughty Maria, Madeleine Somers brings new life to the minor role of Fabian, while Patrick Schnur leads the music – both mournful and spirited – as truth-telling jester, Feste.

Pick a warm evening, pack a picnic, a blanket and wine and enjoy these Twelfth Night revels. It’s a hoot!

by Kate Herbert

Orsino - Hugh Sexton
Viola - Elizabeth Brennan
Sebastian - Mitchell Wills
Olivia - Anna Burgess
Malvolio/Captain - Dion Mills
Maria - Claire Nicholls
Sir Toby Belch- Kevin Hopkins
Feste - Patrick Schnur
Sir Andrew Aguecheek- Tony Rive
Fabian - Maddy Somers
Antonia - Madeleine Mason
Officer Charlie Mycroft
Olivia McLeod

Music by Paul Norton
Costumes Karla Erenbots
Choreography Sue-Ellen Shook
Make-up Lou McLaren

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Cats (Youth Production), Jan 18, 2020 ****

Book by T.S. Eliot; Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; additional material by Trevor Nunn & Richard Stilgoe; by Young Australian Broadway Chorus (YABC) 
at National Theatre, St. Kilda, until Jan 25, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

 Review also published in Herald Sun in print only on Wed 22 Jan 2020.  Pics: Kit Haselden Photography
YABC_CATS_Left Mungojerrie-Matthew Casamento_Right Rumpleteazer-Adeline Hunter

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enormously successful musical, Cats, is the ideal vehicle for these youthful, talented performers who hurl themselves heart and soul into Robert Coates’ production for the Young Australian Broadway Chorus (YABC).

Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe based their rather flimsy narrative on T.S. Eliot’s collection of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but added plenty of lively music, songs, and quirky, feline characters.

The tribe of Jellicle cats lives and frolics away from prying human eyes. On this night in the Jellicle world, Old Deuteronomy (Harrison Dart) will choose one cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.

The clever design (Dann Barber) sets this production in a dilapidated theatre, and the cats wear extravagant, vivid costumes (Sean Rentero), with tattered Edwardian gowns and top hats mixed with 1920s flapper frocks and kitty make-up.

With 80+ in cast and orchestra, all aged 8 to 18 years, Coates’ direction is imaginative and deft, and the vivacious energy of this youthful chorus is undeniable. Like their animal counterparts, these felines are alert and nimble, with Jacqui Green’s effervescent choreography being a highlight.

Occasionally, the stage seems overcrowded, which is to be expected when you are - well - herding cats.
Cast of Cats YABC
Suzannah Bourke is compelling as Grizabella, the former Glamour Cat who is now shabby, stooped and grizzled, and her powerful soprano does justice to the moving song, Memory.

Praise goes to other leads, including: Kristen Robertson as Jennyanydots; Patrick Rogers as Skimbleshanks; Matthew Casamento and Adeline Hunter as acrobatic duo, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer; Tim Bland as Gus the Theatre Cat; Declan Ahern as magical Mr. Mistoffelees; and Nathan Derix-Brown as villainous, elusive Macavity.

Cats has adoring fans worldwide, although its critics believe the flaws outweigh its successes. People love or hate Cats, but die-hard fans of the stage show should be delighted with this energetic production.

by Kate Herbert 

Grizabella-Suzannah Bourke

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Alice in Wonderland, Jan 10, 2020 ****

by Lewis Carroll, adapted by Glenn Elston
at Rippon Lea House & Garden, until Jan 26, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ****

Darcy Dann &Ayesha Gibson_Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is nifty nonsense and Glenn Elston’s theatre adaptation is a nutty, chaotic and nonsensical blend of rhymes, characters and songs for little kids and their parents.

Alice (Ayesha Gibson) goes on an adventure that is all terribly, terribly English as she encounters the White Rabbit (Darcy Dann) who is always late, visits the Mad Hatter’s (Dennis Manahan) Tea Party, meets the Duchess (Claire Nicholls), and plays Croquet with the oversized Queen of Hearts (Madeleine Somers).

Directed by Otis Elston, this playful, vividly colourful, outdoor (but under cover) performance provides participation at every opportunity, with the children singing along, shouting ‘He’s behind you!’ and calling out the time on the clock.

The wacky characters keep coming, and the children giggle and shout at Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Caterpillar and the grinning Cheshire Cat.

Even the adults join in, dressing up as playing cards for the Queen’s Croquet match while the tiny tots crawl through their legs like croquet hoops.

As Alice, Gibson is suitably na├»ve, pert and clever in her blue and white frock, while Dann’s White Rabbit is a posh, smartly dressed bunny that snaffles picnic food while people are watching the croquet.

Manahan is delightful as the Mad Hatter, engaging the audience and leading songs, and his signature tune, I’m Mad!, is a highlight for young and old.

Nicholls has fun as the Duchess, revelling in her frightening song, ‘Speak roughly to your baby’, as she tosses her tiny baby doll in the air and feeds it pepper.

The eccentric costumes (Karla Erenbots) and cartoon-like set (Sarah Tulloch) are vibrant, candy-coloured and almost edible.

This vivacious, participatory performance is perfect for littlies and their parents who can enjoy the entertainment and the idyllic garden surroundings of Rippon Lea.

by Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Hamlet, Jan 4, 2020 ***1/2

By William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company 
At Botanical Gardens, Southern Cross Lawn, until Jan 31, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun in print (not online) on Wed Jan 8, 2020. KH
Hamlet - Andre de Vanny-Photo by Nicole Cleary
While Hamlet is not the usual cheery, Shakespearean comedy-romance in the Gardens, here’s your opportunity to catch one of Shakespeare’s most famous and much-quoted tragedies – all while sipping wine and snacking under the stars.

Hamlet has all the human drama of a high-end soap opera: beloved father dies; traumatised son grieves; mother marries uncle much too quickly; son suspects foul play, feigns madness and alienates loved ones; chaos and tragedy ensue.

There is a ghost, a fool, an acting troop, a spurned lover, a suicide, sword fighting, poisonings and a final scene littered with bodies.

The moonlit, natural environment heightens the thrilling, relentless path to tragedy and intensifies Shakespeare’s superb poetic language.

Although the acting is uneven across the cast, Glenn Elston’s production is dynamic and deftly directed, with several standout performances.

Andre de Vanny’s Hamlet is a boyish, mercurial, energetic and brooding prince, and he makes sense of Hamlet’s many long, philosophical monologues as the character negotiates his rocky path from bereaved son to avenger of his father’s murder.

Brian Lipson’s old Polonius is daffy but believable, and his performance is delicately nuanced and a delight to behold, with his every verbose speech being delivered with clarity and intense joy. It is a lesson in performing Shakespeare.

As Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, Alison Whyte shifts effortlessly and credibly from stately matriarch to grief-stricken queen, while Dion Mills plays the Ghost of Hamlet’s father with quiet dignity, and Matthew Connell’s Horatio is composed and understated.
Hamlet - ASC - Alison Whyte and Dion Mills, Photo by Nicole Cleary
Emily Goddard’s Ophelia is feisty but lacking subtlety, Andrew Coshan looks uncomfortable as Laertes, while Mark Wilson understudies the role of Claudius until further notice (Greg Stone in unable to perform the role due to illness).

Despite some shortcomings, Elston’s production brings clarity to Shakespeare’s language and characters, providing a rare opportunity for those unfamiliar with the Bard to immerse themselves in the world of Hamlet without the strictures of a traditional theatre.

by Kate Herbert

Friday, 3 January 2020

The Choir of Man, Dec 30, 2019 ****1/2

Presented by Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson
At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Jan 12, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ****1/2
Review also published in print ( not online) in Herald Sun on Friday Jan 3, 2020. KH
Front_George Bray, Ben Langridge_image credit David and Chris Cann
The Choir of Man is just the ticket if you’re after a rollicking, musical night of singin’, talkin’, dancin’ and drinkin’ in the New Year.

Nic Doodson’s vivacious, uplifting and celebratory 80-minute production is set in an old-fashioned, English pub called The Jungle in which nine multi-talented blokes – AKA The Choir of Man – dance, spin yarns and sing a repertoire of pop songs, rock anthems, pub and folk tunes.

The show is filled with thrilling harmonies and a cappella singing that will raise the hairs on your arms, inspired musical arrangements (Jack Blume) of instruments including guitar, piano, banjo, trumpet, clarinet and violin, as well as the foot-stomping, percussive rhythms of a tap dancer (Guy Salim).

The audience is encouraged to participate, not only by singing along, but also some lucky bodies are invited on stage to drink beer, be serenaded one-on-one, or included in a raucous rendition of The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.

Doodson’s direction is inventive, assured, complex and seamless, while the poetic, social commentary (Ben Norris) spoken by Narrator, George Bray, laments the loss of pubs to luxury apartments – ‘the easy casualties of time’ – and encourages us to value community and communication.

This joyous show has many highlights: a soaring and moving rendition of Adele’s anthemic song, Hello (Johnny Sheehy); a raunchy version of Queen’s Somebody to Love (Tom Gadie); a rousing You’re the Voice (Mikey Shearer) with singalong; and Sia’s Chandelier, sung a cappella.

The nine men display their musical versatility in an instrumental number, three men sing a goofy trio standing at a urinal, and Bray delivers the poignant melody, Dance With My Father.

This vibrant production not only entertains but also urges us to preserve the spirit of those close-knit communities that used to meet at their local for a few brews and some yarn-spinning – until developers bought the block!

By Kate Herbert
Front-George Bray_image credit David and Chris Cann

The Wind in the Willows, Dec 27, 2019 ****

by Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Glenn Elston
at Botanical Gardens, Gate F, until Jan 26, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun in print ((ot online) on Friday Jan 3, 2020. KH
 The most treacherous creatures for outdoor children’s performers are the kids themselves, and actors in The Wind in the Willows in the Botanical Gardens sometimes contend with little ones mobbing the stage.

Their participation is encouraged, albeit controlled, in Otis Elston’s production of Kenneth Grahame’s beloved story of Toad of Toad Hall (Ryan Hawke) and his creature cronies.

The enthusiastic children sing ‘Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose,’ and ‘Quack quack quackady-quack’, roar laughing at the antics of Weasel (Paul Morris) and Head Chief Rabbit (Callum O’Malley) , then go on a dangerous mission with Ratty (Isaac Broadbent) and Badger (Chris Asimos) to rescue little Portly the Otter (Cierra Shook/Kempton Maloney) from the Wild Wood.

This 2020 production includes some recasting, new comic bits and some more updated pop songs with witty lyrics for the adults.

Morris is the hilariously sly and sleazy Weasel who invades Toad Hall with his weasel mates, wielding giant water pistols filled with ‘weasel wee’, to the children’s delight.

O’Malley hosts the show as a youthful and charming Head Chief Rabbit, leading songs, playing guitar and, with Morris as Weasel on mandolin, entertains the parents with witty new lyrics to pop tunes.

Wearing a suitably gaudy green and pink outfit, Hawke is gleefully flamboyant as the vain and manipulative twit, Mr. Toad, who is obsessed with every sporty fad from canoeing to motorcars and gets himself arrested and sentenced to 40 years for car theft.

Broadbent is playful as the down-to-earth, river-dwelling Ratty who loves ‘messing about in boats’, while Alex Cooper plays Otter as well as a smug Policeman and a doddery Judge.

Asimos is suitably pompous and long-winded as the black and white Badger who – according to Weasel – looks like a renegade from Kiss or, worse, a Collingwood supporter, while Chloe Bruer-Jones is sprightly as the timid Mole.

Willows is ideal summer family entertainment so, pack a picnic, but guard your snacks and wine with your life, because Rabbit and Weasel will raid your hamper.

by Kate Herbert