Tuesday, 29 October 2002

Emily of Emerald Hill, Oct 29 2002

Emily of Emerald Hill  by Stella Kon 
At Fairfax Studio  October 29 to November 2, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is not the play so much as the performance by Ivan Heng  that makes Emily of Emerald Hill an extraordinary theatrical experience.

Heng plays Emily, a Chinese Singapori woman born early last century who marries into a wealthy Anglophile family.

He may play a woman but there is no parody or predictable drag acting in Heng. His transformation into a believable woman, in the tradition of the Wayang Peranakan  theatre, is total.

Every gesture is accurate and economical. The detail of his portrayal is phenomenal and his timing is impeccable.

Heng shifts effortlessly between Emily as innocent girl, young wife discovering her power and  middle-aged harridan manipulating her family.

There is joy and finesse in Heng's performance. He represents Emily warts and all as the loving, controlling and demanding mother.

Emily slips through time in this episodic play by Stella Kon.  Scenes are not chronological although, by the end, she is an old woman still fantasising about her dead son, Richard.

Kon's script is colourful and smartly written. It captures an entire cultural group that is unfamiliar to us.

What it needs is a rigorous edit. At over two hours it is unwieldy. Heng makes it work with his magical touch.

The pace of the script is a little slow. Heng and director Krishen Jit  keep the rhythm snappy and find some range of pace in it.

There is little dramatic tension as we know all Emily's losses quite early. However, Heng makes us weep with his sensitive rendering of Emily's traumatic moments.

One delightful element is Heng's mercilessly playing to the audience. He makes us his quilt-making students, guests at a birthday party.  He even follows us into the foyer to treat us as a market crowd.

The imposing design by Raja Malik  comprises simple white screens with appliqued geometric designs. It is lit with vivid and wonderful colour by Mac Chan.

Heng's virtuosity is evident as Emily playing her male and female relatives. She is acerbic, competitive, unscrupulous and betrayed.

In spite of her flaws, we love Emily and weep with her over her grief and laugh with her over her quilt making..

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 25 October 2002

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack, Federico León, Oct 25, 2002

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack by Federico León  

Teatro San Martin  at Black Box

October 25 to November , 2002
Melbourne international Arts Festival

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The emotional force is like an ocean - or in the case of this play - a bathtub. In Argentinian playwright, Federico León's play allows the metaphorical grief and rage to flood out of an overflowing bathtub on stage.

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack (1,500 metres Above the Level of Jack) is an intimate, almost voyeuristic black comic investigation of grief. It is indeed set in a bathroom and much of the surreal action takes place in the tub.

In darkness, we hear the sound of running water then splashing. A mother (Beatriz Tibaudin) and her aging son, Gaston ,  (Diego Jose Ferrando) tumble into a full tub. She wears a bathing suit. He wears a wet suit. She weeps. He laughs.

 She is mourning the loss of her deep-sea diver husband, Jack,  who never surfaced from his last dive.

They struggle to catch both their emotional and physical breath. Eventually, Gaston's maudlin girlfriend, Lisa  (Carla Crespo) appears with her gangling, confused teenager son, Enso  (Ignacio Augustin Rogers).

The younger mother and son grieve over their abandonment by Lisa's husband. They, in turn, join Gaston and his mother in the bath.

This is an interesting although never masterly play written and directed by young Argentinian rising star, León. The script is flawed. It lacks resonance and depth and is clearly an early play.

 Its black comic elements override any possibility of a study in grief. It relies too heavily on the absurd and the surreal to the detriment of the poignant.

But the production is effective and entertaining. All four performances are compelling. The ravaged but beautiful face of Tibaudin as the older mother is a constant reminder of her loss.

As Gaston, finds an interesting balance between the childishness of the man and his desire to be a father.

Crespo is wonderfully underplayed as the almost silent, chain-smoking Lisa. As her son, Enso, Rogers is appropriately awkward and addled.

The set designed is absolutely realistic. We are so close to this hyper-real bathroom and the overflowing tub, it is like stepping into their bath with this mad family. The intimacy is what makes this work.

What fails the play is its lack of genuine connection to the emotion it seeks to explore - grief.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 24 October 2002

Genesi - from the Museum of Sleep, Societas Raffaello Sanzio, Oct 24, 2002

Genesi - from the Museum of Sleep  by Societas Raffaello Sanzio  
at State Theatre   October 24 to October 27, 2002
Melbourne International Arts Festival
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Genesis, the genetic, the genital: all are elements of Genesi - from the Museum of Sleep. Director, Romeo Castellucci,  takes the first book of The old Testament  as the seed for this strange product of Italian experimental theatre company, Societas Raffaello Sanzio.

The play is in three parts: the creation of Adam and Eve,  Auschwitz  and Cain   and Abel.

This is not conventional linear narrative theatre. It is more a collage of images, moments, inflections and reflections upon the notion of genesis, humanity and man's foibles and horrors.

Threaded through these loose narrative points are images of and references to Auschwitz, race, science and invention and human vulnerability.

The cavernous State Theatre is draped in curtaining, littered with sand, bodies and anachronistic gadgets. In the Garden of Eden, the contemporary scientific object collides with primitive, naked mankind.

When Cain murders Abel, two live dogs amble aimlessly around them, sniffing the dirt ignoring the violence of the men.

In the background of part one, sheep mate, a primordial crocodile lowers over the scene, a contortionist cracks his bones horribly and a Hebrew ritual establishes the Biblical intent..

Part two has the atmosphere of a child's nursery. Children, some of whom are Castellucci's own, play voicelessly, moving in totally abstract choreography (Claudia Castellucci).  Finally, one is slaughtered and the others are gassed in this metaphorical Auschwitz showers.

The lighting is dim and evocative with much back-lighting through scrims, shadow work, stark spotlights.

The soundscape (Chiara Guidi) is at times percussive body thumping rhythm and at others lyrical and haunting.

Says Castellucci, "Divine creation unleashes the problem of possibilities. It creates an open sea of possibilities.  That is terrifying."

It is the near chaos of the montage of images and the cacophony of sound that we see and hear that is so compelling and disturbing.
The floor has no solidity as it rolls like waves. Children are murdered. Brother kills brother. Time is non-specific. Meaning is like dust in our hands. We cannot make it solid.

There is little speech. The phys ical and palpable is foremost. Actors appear with different deformities: a withered arm, a breast missing. All are totally rivetting.

To see Genesi is to witness n epic that leaves one with a flood of sensations and despair in many ways. It is also very beautiful.

By Kate Herbert

Sunday, 20 October 2002

Medea adapted Tom Wright, Oct 20, 2002

By Euripides adapted by Tom Wright  at Horti Hall  
Oct 20 until  November 2, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned Shakespeare said. Medea is the ultimate in vengeful women. Her husband Jason, dumps her for a younger, richer, more influential woman. The King banishes her with her sons under threat of death.

She is a sorceress, which is handy, because the real world is none too kind to women of her ilk. So Medea proceeds to wreak vengeance on Jason  by poisoning the bride's wedding dress and murdering her own little sons to punish Jason.

Daniel Schlusser's  direction focuses on the text. Tom Wright's translation of Euripides play is also influenced by Seneca's Medea.

As Medea, Evelyn Krape  is compelling. Although known for her comic roles, Krape is powerful in this potent and dramatic role.

She restrains Medea's passion until the death of the sons at which time she becomes a snarling harpie.

Amanda Douge  plays the Chorus  with great sympathy and warmth. Tom Wright  plays all three male roles: Jason, Creon and the Tutor. He is strongest as Jason, playing him as a smug,  rich boy.

The set design by Paul Jackson  is simple and effective. Four levels like steps to a Greek temple are framed at rear with cage like wire. 

Dramatic and stark lighting (Paul Jackson, John Ford)  is enhanced by the opaque, smoky air and myriad red candles placed at intervals on the cage.

An interesting element is the emphasis on Euripides statement that Medea 'infects the air'. The gasping, grating breath and references to air and breath are constant.

The play is ancient and passionate. Euripides represents Medea as a wild, black hearted madwoman who is prepared to murder her babies to hurt her faithless husband.

Jason whines that she is wronging him. He is marrying the princess for money to give their boys a better life. What woman could hear this and not go mad?

The problems with the production are with the choreography which is out of sync with the ret of the show.

The abstract movement of the three dancers (Vanessa Rowell, Suzannah Edwards, Victoria Huf) seems intended as metaphor for the emotional inner world of Medea.

 However, it is so obtuse and obtrusive that it interferes with, rather than enhances, the meaning of the text.

Apart from the movement, Medea is a compact and interesting version of the original.

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 18 October 2002

Tinka's New Dress, Ronnie Burkett, Oct 18, 2002

 Ronnie Burkett  at Fairfax Studio  
until October 18- 27, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Puppets are not for kids. Never have marionettes been so wicked, moving and overtly political as in Ronnie Burkett's, Tinka's New Dress. In Burkett's adroit hands they are bawdy and achingly funny.

He is overwhelmingly talented. In this virtuoso solo performance he manipulates thirty-seven puppets and plays every character. He also designed set, costumes and marionettes and wrote this extraordinary piece of theatre.

Many elements make this an exceptional night in the theatre. It is the meeting of fine artistry and challenging content.

The plot revolves around Carl, a disenchanted left-wing puppeteer in a world ruled by a totalitarian government called The Common Good. It smacks of Orwell's 1984 or the Nazis.

Carl is a mouthpiece for Burkett's own socio-political views. Although Tinka's New Dress is set in non-specific time and place, the story is based on the Czech puppeteers of the Resistance.

It is a world of repression, censorship, fear of difference and of free speech. The play is a commentary on artists, activism and resistance.

Carl, with his costume-designer sister Tinka,  leaves his mentor and friend, Stephan, the elderly puppeteer, to perform his own show at an underground cabaret. His controversial critique of The Common Good leads to his arrest and demise.

It is unnerving to find oneself so moved and engaged by tiny wooden figures.

Burkett is visible throughout. He is charismatic, looming over his miniature creatures, manipulating strings, animating their uncannily human behaviour.

 Character appears in divers costumes. He blithely swings each from a horse on the central merry-go-round and magically breathes life into it.

He is totally absorbed in this world. His timing, like his craftsmanship, is impeccable.

He peoples the stage with credible, adorable and villainous characters: Morag, the gaspingly accurate drag queen, Mrs. Van Craig, Tinka,  Stephan,  Franz   and Schnitzel  and Madame Rodrigue,  the fat diva.

His ability to sustain a parade of diverse accents, genders and complex dialogues is awe-inspiring.

The puppet play within the play, The Franz and Schnitzel Show,  is bawdy outrageous and camp comedy. Burkett improvises on each night. Like a camp stand-up comic. He is hilarious.

He taunts the audience, makes us participate. He manipulates us as well as his little people.

He peppers the script with jibes at local identities. Kerryn Phelps copped a mention. Who knows who might get it next from this master manipulator.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Fire, Fire Burning Bright , Oct 17, 2002

Melbourne Festival  
 by Neminuwarlin Performance Group and Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts

At State Theatre   October 17 - 2, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Any performance of aboriginal stories on a conventional stage has political echoes. This story, about a white station owner's murder of aboriginal workers, is a minefield.

Fire, Fire Burning Bright  is presented by Neminuwarlin Performance Group and Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts.

It is an elaborate adaptation of a traditional corroboree or Joonba.  

What makes this show vastly different from the original is the incorporation of aboriginal dance, song and performers into a Western narrative form with advanced technology.

In part, this is successful. Of course the production cannot be assessed on any conventional theatre criteria. It is another creature altogether perhaps more closely related to Community Theatre.

Placing traditional aboriginal performance inside a conventional building is strange and often uncomfortable but it may be the only way an urban audience can access these stories.

The sometimes too literal contemporary telling of the story is enhanced by film footage, (Chris Knowles) evocative lighting (Philip Lethlean), and a beautiful realistic set of red rocks, dust and gum trees. (Tony Oliver)

The aboriginal men kill and eat a bullock. They have no understanding of private property nor of white man's 'justice'.

They were shackled by the neck, incarcerated then returned to their station wearing signs around their necks saying "to be killed". The men did not believe helpful travellers who warned them of their fate.

The men were poisoned with strychnine by the stationowner then burned on a funeral pyre fuelled by the wood they had cut. The story is horrifying, brutal and profoundly moving. 

The spirits of the men travel to the sea. We see the relationship between the real and spirit world clearly.

Peggy Patrick  is Creative Director of the show and a Senior Law Woman for her people. The creative collaboration with Andrish Sain-Clare,  Hungarian born actor and musician, culminated in this production which is now touring the country.

After the performance, Peggy told us that this horrific story was performed secretly in a form unrecognisable to the white population because the aboriginal people feared for their lives.

What strikes one is the warmth and charm of the performers, all of whom members of the families from the Kimberley whose ancestors were murdered. This casualness cannot be rehearsed and is not a part of Western theatre.

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 11 October 2002

Interior Sites Project, IRAA, Oct 10, 2002

 IRAA Theatre  until November 2m 2002
 Live webcast: www.melbournefestival.com.au 
tickets $150
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

We are all voyeurs in some way. We peer into through windows into cosy, well-lit rooms. Real dramas and real life television fascinate us.

The Interior Sites Project  by IRAA Theatre, is theatre veritè. Director, Renato Cuocolo  and actor Roberta Bosetti  provide us with a twelve hour experience that challenges our concepts of theatre on a fundamental level.

There is no conventional theatre. The relationship between actor and audience is completely altered. The fourth wall, that artificial separation of audience from the stage, is broken down.

Seven guests are invited to a secret address. We are instructed to bring a towel and jim-jams. Renato collects us in a van.

The event begins as he drives us through the virtual streets of an Italian village: Vercelli.

He gives us a key to a house. We enter and roam freely, reading letters, books, peeping at photos and feeling naughty.

Suddenly, an amazed woman in a bathrobe appears. "What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

This personal, intrusive and intimate relationship develops over an entire evening, night and morning. We become her confidantes, her friends her dinner guests.

The natural flow of conversation is interfolded amongst the theatrical text. At moments we do not know what is script and what is conversation.

In addition, the entire night is filmed and sent out on the internet. Even our lives are not private any.

After dinner, we witness her gruelling and intimate performance in a tiny downstairs room. We sit at her knees, enthralled.

Bosetti is captivating as person and performer. We are charmed. We want her to be happy, want to ease her pain. We are part of her world now and cannot escape.

Is it art or life? The boundaries bleed. This is innovative theatre that question what constitutes theatre and narrative.

The sleepover in a room full of single beds is like a slumber party except we have Roberta on our earphones and her bedroom on the monitor all night.

She wakes us like mummy at 7am. We breakfast, expectant, awaiting something momentous. She farewells us at the door and we are ferried to our cars at 8.30am.

We feel the need to debrief. If you see this, have coffee together before you go home. It is a marvellous, cheering, warming, wrenching experience.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 10 October 2002

Still, A Piece of Pie & Gangland, Oct 10, 2002

Still by Jane Bodie, A Piece of Pie by Rik Brown,  Gangland  by Mirra Todd.
At The Store Room  until  October 20, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Store Room in Fitzroy is maintaining its reputation for interesting programming. Its second season of plays for the Fringe Festival is a clever mix.

Still, by Jane Bodie, is a fine series of eight monologues dealing with craving, desire, sex and human foibles.

Four actors ( Shaun Worrell,  Natalie Carr, Mike McLeish  and Julie Eckersley) each perform two characters. The performances are consistently strong.

Eckersley is particularly magnetic as a woman who spies her ex-partner with his new lover in the produce section of the supermarket. Her performance as a woman breaking up with the love of her life is moving.

In Come, Worrell plays the desperation, passion and frustration of first sexual encounters. His other character is an oily, silver-tongued cad in Not Currently.

Carr's woman over-preparing for a date is very funny in Order. In Want Me, she is sympathetic and moving as a woman confessing to an affair.

In Seeing Somebody, McLeish is a harmless voyeur warmly attached to a woman he watches through her window. As the stylish young gay guy at party in Faking It, he is entertaining.

Bodie's writing is well observed, complex and witty. Each monologue captures a moment, a personality a common problem in life and love.

A Piece of Pie  by Rik Brown  is a lighter piece. Although it is about a mad couple who play a game of murderous Trivial Pursuit with a kidnap victim, it is a comedy with some black humour.

The third play of the program Gangland, by Mirra Todd, is a frightening investigation of male violence and misogyny. He writing and themes are tough and relentless. Although the action escalates too quickly, it serves the story well.

Three young professional men meet for a catch up night on the booze. Taylor,  (Simon Roborgh) is a married lawyer trying to get pregnant with his wife.

 Aaron  (Eddy Segal)  is a confused and insecure single male. Their friend Sam  (Sean Barker) is an emotional thug who taunts them both about proving their manhood. The outcome is a violent off stage attack on a woman that changes all of them for life.

The final piece, that I did not see, is Direct From Broadway, an Australian production of a US musical show that won five Tony Awards.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 9 October 2002

Hello Dolly!, Prod Co. Oct 2002

Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman  Book by Michael Stewart   
by The Production Company   
at State Theatre October 9,10,11,12, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Amanda Muggleton  plays Dolly Levi , the bossy, scheming matchmaker, with a touch of Mae West.  Muggleton, with her broad New York Jewish accent, is brassy, bold, sexy and provocative as Dolly.

This is a concert version rather than the full musical. This means it has no set, some dancing but concentrates on the songs and characters and Hello Dolly! is jam-packed with singable tunes  by Jerry Herman.

The production, directed by Rodney Fisher  in a frighteningly short ten day, is slick and stylish. Tony Bartuccio's  choreography is witty and smooth. Under John Foreman's musical direction, Orchestra Victoria  is excellent.

Muggleton shines as Dolly. Her presence is magnetic, particularly in the second half when she boots the energy. Her entrance for the title song is a show-stopper. She is sassy, sexy and vampish as she parades down a staircase in a scarlet sequined gown.

Hello Dolly! is a story about finding love and the great adventure that follows.

Dolly wants to give up her lowly position as a marriage broker and marry her richest client, Horace Vandengelder,  (John Stanton) the feed store merchant from Yonkers.  Her naughty, comic and mostly harmless manipulations to carry out her plan are the heart of the story.

Meanwhile, Horace's disgruntled shop clerks, Cornelius Hackl  (Anthony Weigh) and Barnaby Tucker) (Lindsay Farris) embark on a journey to New York to meet girls.

The musical, based on Thornton Wilder's  play, The Matchmaker, . opened in 1964 with Carol Channing  as Dolly.

Stanton, as the grumpy Vandegelder, is suitably gruff and unbending.  The stand-out performance is Anthony Weigh  as Cornelius. Weigh is a real talent both as an actor and singer.

 There are fine cameos from Christen O'Leary as the whining Ermengarde,  Melissa Madden Grey as perky Minnie, Katie Wilkins  as the trashy Ernestine, and Grant Pir  as a German waiter.

Vanessa Downing  as Irene Molloy, is dignified but lacks vocal strength.

The songs include: Before the Parade Passes By,  It Takes A Woman and Put On Your Sunday Clothes. The highlight is the lyrical love ballad, It Only Takes a Moment,   sung by Weigh with the company.

This production is charming and genuinely entertaining. Let's hope to see it with all the moving parts next time.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 2 October 2002

Week, Platform Youth, Oct 2, 2002

Week  by Platform Youth Theatre  
 251 High St Northcote  until June 30
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is something totally charming and delightful about Week by Platform Youth Theatre. A cast of twenty-three aged 16 to 25, write perform, a show based on one week in their lives.

The result is a series of vignettes ranging from one to five minutes. Each has a different voice but all reflect the ordinary, the surprising, the intimate or tragic moments that may occur in anyone's week.

Dramaturg, Patricia Cornelius  developed script material from journals kept for the project by each participant. Director, Susie Dee,  creates an evocative space on stage using virtually only the bodies and voices of the young cast.

The entire 80 minutes is staged on a set resembling a train platform, (Adrienne Chisholm. OK). In this promenade stage, the audience sits on one side only of the long space while the actors face us, seated in a uniform line of chairs on the platform.

Dee brings an imaginative vision to the work. Individuals or small groups peel off from the seated line and perform scenes. Another layer is added to the vignettes by the choreographed movements and vocal interjections of the seated ensemble.

They sit still as if a backdrop to the action. Then they shift positions subtly, pose, echo the dialogue or simply react to the scene.

A trio drives to the country for a camping trip. A young woman tries to find the woman who adopted her dog. A man decides to start a quiet, 'nice guy' revolution in society. On a train, various people suffer, chat, eat or pretend to be what they are not.

Two sisters from Sarajevo  argue about forgetting their previous lives. Four teenage girls go clubbing, talk about fatness and look for love. Two girls diarise their boring Sunday at home or working in a supermarket.

These snapshots of lives are variously moving, funny or insightful. What makes this show work, is the unaffected quality of these young community actors. The professionals who worked on this show - Dee, Cornelius, and others - create a safe environment for the young people to develop and refine their ideas and present them to an audience.

The strange and accidental juxtaposition of images and stories adds another dimension. Chris Lewis's  sound design and Gina Gascoigne's  lighting enhance the atmosphere created by Susie Dee.

This is effective and affecting community theatre.

By Kate Herbert

Shakespeare Improvised: Bard-Prov , Oct 2, 2002

Improvised Shakespeare by Melbourne Impro
 directed by Kate Herbert

La Mama at the Courthouse Theatre

 349 Drummond St Carlton

Sundays October 6 and 13

"Out damned spot," says a woman to her stained laundry. This was not Shakespeare's intention for Lady Macbeth's words but it could be part of the upcoming improvised Shakespeares by Impro Melbourne.

Allow me to declare my hand here: I am the foolish director of these plays.

Having spent three months in San Francisco on an Australia Council grant studying the full length improvised play, it is time to mercilessly bastardise The Bard in Melbourne.

Obsessed academics argue about who wrote Shakespeare's plays four hundred years ago. The will have an apoplexy over these as yet unwritten plays.

Here is how it goes. The audience suggests a titles for a Shakespeare play that has never been written. In San Francisco we had Midnight's Desire  as our title.

The play was a romantic comedy but it might have been a tragedy  - except for the fact that it started with a royal lady in bed with her loyal Nurse.

Now you must believe that we really do begin with nothing prepared.  Nix, nil, nada. We have no idea what the story will be or who it will be about. We have no content, only form and a deep understanding of how a Shakespeare play is constructed and performed.

For the novice this would be terrifying. For the experienced improviser it is- well - terrifying and exhilarating.

In a Shakespeare improvised we are both performers and playwrights. We really make it up as we go along.

In a recent improvised play, a tragedy called A Tale of Joy and Damnation, a king divides his kingdom between a son and disloyal daughter. The son fears for his father's safety and takes an army of loyal and lusty whores (yes whores) to save him.

There is a lot of 'verily' and 'mayhap' and 'What ho!' bandied about. Characters are named Bassacio, Filander and even Plutonium in one recently.

The creative mind in a whirl is a wonderful thing to witness. This is part of the attraction for an audience of an improvised play. They watch not only the product, but the moment of creation.

They are fascinated by the story and also by the incredible feat of imagination that created it in an instant before their eyes. An improviser could spontaneously combust at any moment.

The tricky thing in improvisation is to go not only to the comic but also to the dramatic level of the characters and the narrative.

The most successful improvised plays are those that balance the light and airy with the moving and personal elements of the story.

Of course, the form can apply to any other playwright or film genre you may choose.

In San Francisco (Yes, three months of fog and Californian sun) we performed plays in the style of Film Noir, Sci-Fi, David Lynch and Horror movies.

Some companies are doing weekly serials that last for months or even a whole year.

After Shakespeare, I tackle Chekhov, the Ancient Greeks, Film Noir. What the hey! Maybe even David Williamson. Hmm. What style is that? Middle class Australian whining and dining I suppose.

By Kate Herbert

The Angina Monologues, Oct 2, 2002

By Simon Kennedy  at Trades Hall October 2 to 19, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Angina Monologues begins with the promise of being a challenging, dark comic walk through death. The title of Simon Kennedy's one-man show is attention grabbing. The opening story, about his dad dying from angina when Simon was nine, is interesting and risky.

There is definitely promise but not all is fulfilled. The Angina Monologues is more a stand-up comedy show than a series of theatrical monologues.

Kennedy has charm and his ideas are good. But some of his material and the loose structure of his show let him down.

His gags and stories range from smoking through serial killers, Adelaide, McDonald's,  Work Safety,  paternity and men's obsession with lingerie.

He draws much humour from he unlikely collision of images or ideas. Why is giving up smoking like masturbation? Toddlers as vigilantes

One clever twist of facts deals with actor Robert Wagner's  relationship to Adelaide serial killers.

He uses old slides of road accidents with police and ambulance in attendance. These are funny partly because of their 1960s period and goofy characters. Kennedy has not yet worked out exactly how to make them work as parody.

The show is too loose. It feels as if it needs a director and a script editor to tighten up both the comic material and Kennedy's performance.

He employs some recurring gags such as the slide that reads in huge letters after each problem is raised, What do you do?

The shifts between topics need to be smoother and Kennedy feels just a little uncomfortable on stage. With a stand up comic, we need to feel secure and safe.
Which brings me to the one part of the show that needs to be overhauled.

Kennedy coaxes onto stage a reluctant audience member and makes him responsible for making the resuscitation gag work. One rule of audience participation is Look after the audience member. Make him feel safe.

The poor man was most obliging but was embarrassed and profoundly uncomfortable with the heavy responsibility and focus put upon him.

He show is entertaining but the variable quality of material makes it too long at a full hour.

By Kate Herbert