Thursday, 27 May 2004

Sideshow by Rawcus, May 27, 2004

Sideshow by Rawcus
North Melbourne Town Hall, May 27 to until June 4, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 27

Sideshow is a visual and physical performance based on Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.

A half-woman, half-bird, (Valerie Hawkes) becomes a celebrated circus trapeze artist, adored by fans, loved by one man and treated as a freak.

Rawcus is a company comprising actors with and without disabilities. The different abilities of the cast become an integral part of Kate Sulan's production. Two wheelchairs (Ray Drew, Stephen Ajzenberg) dance or are pulled and twirled by a thick rope.

The pace is deliberately slow and Hawkes is a charming bird woman.  The rest of the cast plays various character roles. Sulan finds ingenious ways to create circus images in this dreamlike world. The artists check their images in mirrors attached to the backs of others. The erection of an enormous circus tent becomes a charming clown routine and mock fistfight between two actors. (John Tonso, Nick Papas)

Inside the tent, as shadow images, we see an exotic dancer, (Kerryn Poke) a strong man, a woman on a tight wire, a man taming a tiny lion with a chair and a man dances (Clem Baade). In the dressing room, artists apply make up and there erupts a wild diva dance battle between the exotic dancer and bird woman. Four wooden chairs double as a tightrope as two people (Louise Riisik, Kellyann Bentley) walk tentatively across them and other move them (Rachel Edward, Nilgun Guven).

They all scratch and wriggle until the bird woman appears with freshly sprouted feathered wings on her back. The wing contraption (Mark Postlethwaite, Hamish Bartle) opens and shuts perfectly on the woman's back. She appears to fly as she is lifted on the back of another actor. A man (Ray Drew) falls in love with her. He calls faintly, "Are you real? Do you have a soul? Can you love?"

The design (Emily Barrie) is a huge open space with theatrical trunks scattered and dragged around it and used as stages, seats or props. Video images are projected onto the tent with lines of text. "I can hear the clouds. I can smell the wings". Sound design by Jethro Woodward captures the eeriness and circus quality while Richard Vabre's lighting complete the mood.

Sideshow is a sweet and poignant entertainment.

LOOK FOR: The tight rope walk on four chairs.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 26 May 2004

Memory of Water, by Shelagh Stephenson, MTC, may 26, 2004

Memory of Water, by Shelagh Stephenson 
Melbourne Theatre Company

Space 28, Victorian College of the Arts, May 26 to June 10, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Grief triggers unpredictable, often inappropriate reactions. Whatever the particular reaction - laughter, shouting, weeping, silence - it is extreme.

The three sisters in Shelagh Stephenson's play, Memory of Water, gather around their mother's coffin telling stories about the deceased. Their memories may be garbled or crystal clear but, as Stephenson suggests, memories are unreliable. Each family member recalls her childhood and mother through her own prismatic memory.

Her play is painful and hilarious. Stephenson's black humour is carefully poised against poignant and agonising responses to death.

The production, directed by Julian Meyrick, has an icy winter design by Dale Ferguson and evocative lighting by Efterpi Soporos. Director, Julian Meyrick, keeps the pace rapid but allows the moving moments their space.

Mary, (Nicki Wendt Teresa (Louise Siverson) and Catherine (Sibylla Budd) arrive in their mother's house to prepare for her funeral the following day. Stephenson portrays their dysfunctional relationships in what might outwardly be a normal family.

Teresa, the family bossy boots, takes over funeral arrangements, forces others to take her homeopathic remedies and resorts to uncharacteristic drunkenness when she cannot cope. Mary, a neurologist, seems to be the most stable of the sisters. However, we discover she has a married lover, (Paul English) an obsession with her amnesiac patient and a touching secret.

The wild card in this family is the neurotic and annoying youngest sister, Catherine. She is loud, demanding, selfish, needy, a relentless love addict and dope smoker. Their old patterns of behaviour provide a perfect base for Stephenson's wicked humour.

Nicki Wendt plays Mary with subtle humour and a delicate sense of her inner landscape. As Teresa, Louise Siverson captures her vulnerability, overbearing nature and hidden wildness. Catherine is perhaps the most difficult role. Budd makes her uncontrollable nature credible but could allow some shift in her emotional level.

As their dead mother, Violet, Debra Lawrance  is cheeky and provides another view of the family's dysfunction. Nicholas Bell is engaging as Teresa's downtrodden husband and Paul English plays Mary's lover with a delightfully bemused air.

The play is not an analysis of grief but a snapshot of one family as it rides the roller coaster of this life changing experience.

LOOK FOR: The outrageous gallows humour around the coffin

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday, 25 May 2004

Ariadne's Thread, May 25, 2004

Ariadne's Thread, An Island Odyssey
by Talya Rubin
Where and When: Theatreworks, 25 May to 6 June, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

In the ancient Greek myth of Ariadne's Thread, a young woman, Ariadne helps her lover, Theseus, to find and kill the monstrous Minotaur inside the labyrinth.

Immediately after he marries her, Theseus abandons her on the island of Naxos. The connection is unclear between Ariadne of the myth and Talya Rubins's autobiographical character, Sally's experience on the isle of Santorini.

The successful elements of this production, directed by Vanessa Chapple,  are Rubin's engaging presence and her well-observed embodiment of her Greek neighbours. She peoples the stage with characters. She capturing two Greek widows who gossip kindly about her as they sweep and hang washing.

She portrays old Spiros, the respected storyteller of the town who tells the tale of Ariadne at an evening feast. There is a young Greek stud and a group of boys diving to retrieve a cross. Strangely, there are no young Greek women.

Two of her most satisfying characters are a chewing, balletic goat that steps delicately over rocky paths and Spiros's pack donkey with his bell around his neck. She creates an hilarious and massive bull who is seduced by a woman and fathers the Minotaur.

He characters are more effective than Rubin's self narration which is often poetic but does not advance our understanding of Sally's inner journey. We know that Sally left her home in Canada to spend a year alone in a cave house on Santorini. We know she had a boyfriend she met in choir at sixteen and that he took advantage of her sexually or perhaps raped her. She tells us she loved too much.

What remains cryptic is which particular grief she suffers that needs healing. Was it rape or abandonment, love or abuse? If the metaphor of Ariadne is central, then she grieves for her abandonment by the one she loved. This reference is never elucidated.

Sally gathers meaning amongst the rocks of this beautiful island and becomes part of its community but we do not know at the end, what lesson Sally has learned. Without her specific loss and how Santorini changed her, we have little sense of the allegory of Ariadne.

Rubin has charm and skill in the depiction of characters. This is an enjoyable solo work

LOOK FOR: Rubin's rendition of the goat when Sally arrives on the island.

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 21 May 2004

Beehive, May 21, 2004

 Beehives and Brylcreem by Aubergine Theatre 
Next Wave Festival
 Hairroom 55 Hardware Lane, 21 to 29 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Hairroom Salon in Hardware Lane is decked with 60's memorabilia for Beehives and Brylcreem

After the last blow-dry and colour, Aubergine Theatre transforms the salon into a small, unconventional performance space. Audience members perch on salon chairs surrounded by salon mirrors. Two volunteers take pride of place in the hairdresser's chairs.

They endure seventy-five minutes of combing and brylcreeming for the man, or teasing and spraying for the woman. The results are comical.

Maria (Robin McMicking) is a very fussy and bigoted Greek migrant who owns the salon and confuses English song lyrics.
Gail, (Juanita Pope) her apprentice, is a young Australian woman with dreams of being a glamorous television weather girl.

Maria's cousin, Tony, (Nick Verginis) does the men's hair and preens in front of the mirror, dreaming of his expensive new jacket from Myers. mDean Martin plays on the old wireless and images of a 60's self-help book are projected onto the wall.

Occasionally the characters break into rather awkward song routines. The play purports to deal with difference, migration and bigotry in both the 60's and the present. The simple story of Maria's mistrust of Gail and Gail's naïve misunderstanding of Maria could be effective by itself.

The problem is that director, Sarah Austin, slows the show at points to a snail's pace, with inappropriate freezes and unnecessary silences. The attempts to link current political issues such as the War on Terror with Australia under Menzies in the 60's are clumsy.

Verginis plays with relish the vain, Greek stallion, Tony. McMicking has a compelling presence as Maria and Pope makes the most of Gail's childlikeness.

The design concept (E­leni Gogos) and choice of location are the most successful element of the production. On one wall is a poster of Rock Hudson, Opposite are magazine pictures of Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. Lamps, plastic flowers and lace table runners and even an old cash register make the picture complete. Costumes are not suite so accurate or well fitting in Gail's case.

The show may be slow but it is entertaining despite not quite achieving its aim of social commentary.

LOOK FOR: The merciless teasing of the female volunteer's hair.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 20 May 2004

The Servant of Two Masters, Bell Shakespeare, May 20, 2004 *****

The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni 
Adapted by Nick Enright & Ron Blair
By Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, 20 May until 5 June, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 20, 2004

John Bell's rollicking production of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, is the finest broad comedy we have seen in a long time and Darren Gilshenan is undoubtedly the star.

Gilshenan, an Associate Artist with Bell Shakespeare for many years, is a comic genius.

He is a naughty imp with superb physical and visual comic skills, impeccable timing, deadpan delivery and a masterly understanding of the Commedia dell-Arte.

In this play by Carlo Goldoni, Gilshenan features as the starving, enterprising servant, Truffaldino

The character is based on Harlequin and earlier servants of the Commedia known as Zanni.

Goldoni renovated comedies in Italy during the 18th century while Moliere did the same in France.

He revamped the Commedia dell-Arte, removing masks from actors, placing plays in theatres, not on travelling stages.

Commedia plays, until Goldoni, had scenarios and stock characters, but no formal written script.

However, he did not eliminate the improvisational elements and this is evident in Bell's production. The comic business, or Lazzi, is improvised each night.

Truffaldino arrives in Venice and takes on two masters. Like most servants in Commedia, he wants food, sex and rest.

The problem is that both masters reside in the same inn.

One is a woman, Beatrice, (Blazey Best) dressed as her dead brother, Federigo. The other, Florindo, (Matthew Moore) is her lover and the killer of her brother. Get it?

Gilshenan is accompanied on stage by a consummate ensemble of comic actors.

Robert Alexander is the wily, old miser, Pantalone. David James plays the blustering, overblown Dottore spouting faux Latin platitudes at will.

The two pairs of lovers are far more colourful than the usual Commedia romantic figures. Moore is wonderfully conceited and histrionic as noble Florindo. Best is feisty as Beatrice.

Justin Smith plays Silvio, the jilted lover of Clarice, as a dopey cowardly Elvis look-alike and Emily Russell is a charming, bouncing, petulant brat as  Clarice

As the seamy innkeeper, Brighella, Arky Michael is hilariously camp in his pink rubber gloves and Jody Kennedy is cheeky and sexy as Smeraldina.

John Bell's production is spontaneous, energetic, delightfully choreographed and perfectly timed.

Stephen Curtis's enormous cyclamen and gold curtain is a vivid and simple backdrop for the cast's antics.

LOOK FOR: Gilshenan's Lazzo with the clothing trunks.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Short Circuit, May 19-30, 2004

Short Circuit 
Crying Shame by Kamarra Bell-Wykes; Looking Back by Janaya Charles; Soil by Earl Rosas
Next Wave Festival
fortyfivedownstairs, 19 to 30 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on MAy 19

At fortyfivedownstairs, during the two weeks of the Next Wave Festival, nine short works will run in a mixed program of three pieces per evening.

The Short Black Program comprises three aboriginal artists in three solo works written or choreographed by the performers.

Crying Shame features Kamarra Bell-Wykes, a Jagera and Dulingbara woman from South East Queensland.

The half-hour monologue explores the hapless and helpless life of a young single mother.

Susan is trapped in her room with her crying newborn baby.  In almost poetic language, she describes in the third person her hollow life, as if narrating her own pain.

She then shifts into first person when her emotional predicament escalates and the stakes are raised.

Single mothers will recognise with compassion Susan's social isolation, frustration, emotional deprivation and the damage a baby does to a young body and young life.

The metaphoric language is often compelling. Bell-Wykes describes the baby's face as "graffitied with your thoughts".

The piece is interesting but too long. Some repetitions and elaborate language could be edited.

Looking Back is a swift piece written and performed by Janaya Charles and directed by Tammy Anderson.

This ten-minute monologue sees a young woman packing up her recently deceased mother's kitchen.

Charles' character talks to her dead mother as she angrily tosses mum's plates in the rubbish bin.

She flashes back to the dinner table with mum telling her she is marrying the recycling man.

This piece leaves us wanting more of the story of this angry young woman, her sense of abandonment and her fraught relationship with her drug-addicted mother.

The final piece on this program is Soil, a short dance work by Earl Rosas, a Gugu Yimitherr and Yidinji man from North Queensland

His well-trained physique is in constant motion in this fluid choreographic work in three parts: Father, Sun and Autumn.

Rosas seems to spiral from his feet to the floor with much of the action in the upper body.

As he dances, he runs red sand through his fingers or over his body. The title, Soil, refers to the relationship to earth and also to soiling or dirtying.

Each night there is an alternative program in Short Circuit.

LOOK FOR: Variety.

By Kate Herbert

DiaTribe by Angus Cerini, May 19, 2004

DiaTribe by Angus Cerini
Melbourne Workers Theatre

Next Wave Festival
  Croft Institute 21-25 Croft Alley, 19 to 29 May; The Laundry, 3 June; Revolver; The First Floor, 4 & 5 June
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 19, 2004

Melbourne Workers Theatre makes a leap into the world of hip hop artists in this play by Angus Cerini.

This is not a conventional theatre work. The main venue for two weeks is The Croft Institute, a seedy, cramped upstairs bar in a lane off Little Bourke Street. The play has sections of dialogue but is in great part is sung in hip hop style with the performers on radio microphones.

This convention works in part. The three characters are played by real local hip hop artists who clearly have a handle on the style and form. However, they are less comfortable as actors and this leaves the characters and relationships a little hollow.

The story revolves around Shannon, (Borce Markovski AKA Vulk Makedonski) a typical messed up young guy with an absent father, promiscuous mother and no prospects of any kind.

What is charming is that Shannon stays positive most of the time even as he is being condemned to death for his petty crimes and misdemeanours. Shannon represents the underdogs, workless class, indeed any underprivileged of our society. He has no control over anything that happens to him and all he wants is to find his real dad and be loved.

Enter Ace (Gina Chrisanthopolous  AKA Litle G) his upwardly mobile community lawyer who seems to be on his side but is as much of a sheister as we expect. She battles with Death, (Marlon Porter AkA Elf Tranzporter) a sleezy, Las Vegas type, is determined to take Shannon to his doom down below.

The trio travel downward in an elevator. At each level another of Shannon's lifelong screw-ups is highlighted.

We see his hopeless attempts at friendship as a child, his fantasies about his real father being a Nazi scientist, his failure in the Youth Traineeship program. Shannon is just a statistic in our social framework and no one can solve his problems.

The hip hop poetic song are a collage of urban poetic imagery and political diatribe. The language is fast, percussive, alliterative and rhyming. Hip hop's rhythmic style incorporates a stream of consciousness spoken word form that is reminiscent of scat singing and jazz jamming. It has a relentlessness that requires constant attention.

DiaTribe may not be conventional theatre but it uses language in a contemporary way and challenges theatre to assimilate a contemporary art form.

LOOK FOR: The references to current political issues.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Spacemunki by Jean-Paul Hussey , MAy 18, 2004

Spacemunki by Jean-Paul Hussey 
by The Amazing Business
 The Store Room 18 to 30 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Jean-Paul Hussey sails very close to the edge of the sea of lunacy in his second monkey play, Spacemunki.

Hussey is a compelling performer who manages to balance impeccably a torrent of poetic language, a bevy of eccentric characters and physical story telling.

He peoples the stage with a parade of personages. Throughout, he is the narrator, our guide through the maze that is Hussey's whirlpool of astro-science.

He shifts effortlessly between the German inventor of the Spacemunki, the astronaut's pregnant wife, her peculiar doctor and Albert, the American space program director.

And there are more.

An impressive visual media design (Dean McInerney) projected onto white screens accompanies the marvellous antics of Hussey on the empty white stage.

Kelly Ryall's soundscape and Shane Grant's vivid lighting complete the cosmic atmospherics.

Spacemunki is a futuristic and satirical vision of what may come in the field of space exploration.

The Inventor creates the Gestalt Breast Plate that is worn by the poor, ordinary little man know as the Spacemunki as he rides the sun's path above the earth's atmosphere.

The vision is this: the Plate and even the very cells of the Spacemunki should absorb all possible information from the sun.

This will then allow humans to control information, space and the world in some undefined manner.

It feels like ramblings of a lunatic scientist and of science gone mad but is somehow not unbelievable given the advances in science we see today.

Hussey's energy and enthusiasm are phenomenal. He is like a dynamo with volts of electricity flashing through him.

 He is, indeed, the Spacemunki, generating sparks and currents as he flies between characters and spouts theories of the future.

His presence is clown-like and his comic timing is a delight.

This is not merely a rant or a joke fest. Hussey finds a poignant tone by the end of his solo performance.

 The program goes awry and he discovers the Harvest Fields of Potential Personalities in the heavens somewhere.

Spacemunki's wife goes into labour,a sonis born and, concurrently, two souls are swapped. Spacemunki is now the eternal child.

 Science has no answers for any of this but we lap it up. Spacemunki is a treat.

LOOK FOR: The interplay of visual and physical imagery.

By Kate Herbert

Monday, 17 May 2004

Gilgamesh by Uncle Semolina & Friends, May 17. 2004

by Uncle Semolina and Friends
Next Wave Festival
Federation Square car park, in a shipping container, 17 to 29 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Put a superhero action movie in a blender with grunge music, a bunch of toys and eight-year old boys' games in a muddy playground and you have Gilgamesh.

Christian Leavesley's production digs up the ancient Sumerian myth of the tyrannical ruler, Gilgamesh, (Richard Pyros) and gives it a thoroughly modern treatment.

It takes place inside a 40 foot shipping container nestled on the top floor of the Federation Square carpark.

The performance end of the container is filled with real dirt and the three actors are smeared in sweat and mud after the hour is over.

The Gods seek to balance Gilgamesh's brutal domination of his world.

They model from clay, Enkidu, (Mark Tregonning) a man who becomes Gligamesh's rival and eventually, his comrade in a litany of reckless and dangerous adventures.

Their antics are violent, macho and blasphemous. They even kill the Bull of Heaven sent by Ishtar (Katherine Tonkin) which action leads to Enkidu's demise.

What makes the show such good entertainment is the interplay of childhood rough-house games and toys with the physical live action of the actors.

Action hero dolls about ten centimetres high represent both Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

The battle between the two superheroes is fought both in the flesh and between the dolls.

At times, it is like two eight-year old boys scrapping in the schoolyard unaware of the filth they wear home for mum to wash.

The eclectic mix uses matchbox cars, plastic chain saw,  even a barbie doll as a goddess.

It uses hip hop, a gospel tune and references World Championship Wrestling, Sci-Fi movies, Marvel comics and contemporary theatrical conventions.

The three actors are skilful and work beautifully as a team.

The show is mostly a hoot and very entertaining but it also has some moments of strange beauty such as when Gilgamesh's mother's lament  (Tonkin).

By the last fifteen minutes the pace gets a little tired and the story wears thin as we watch Gilgamesh seeking immortality. The ending scenes need work.

This is a great opening show for the Next Wave Festival of Unpopular Culture. Funny how young people love doing things about dirt and perversity.

LOOK FOR: The dolls superheroes.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Last of The Red Hot Lovers, Neil Simon, HIT Productions May 11, 2004

Last of The Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon 
HIT Productions

Beckett Theatre to May 11, Karralyka, Ringwood May 12 & 13,  Clocktower Moonee Ponds May 14 & 15, South Morang May 24, Nunawading, July 12. until July 12, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert Beckett Theatre on May 1, 2004

There is probably nothing more excruciating to watch than a middle-aged man looking for an affair. This is the topic of Neil Simon's play, Last of The Red Hot Lovers.

Max Gillies plays Barney Cashman, an awkward, conservative, sexually dissatisfied and hungry New Yorker, desperately seeking his Aphrodite.

The title is, of course, ironic. There is nothing hot about these fumbled attempts at extra-marital infidelity. Nor is there anything remotely romantic about his fingers smelling of the clams he shucks daily for his seafood restaurant. He makes three vain attempts at secret liaisons in his mother's rosy pink bedsitter.- nothing sexy there either.

Gillies is engaging as Barney, playing him as a gauche, clumsy but keen seducer. Each liaison sees him more confident, if not more skilful, as the clandestine lover. Having been married and faithful to Thelma for twenty-nine years, Barney is astonished by each of the three women he invites for a two hour tryst before his Mom arrives home from charity work.

Jackie Weaver plays all three love interests with gusto. Her choices are bold which suits the characters. Number one, Elaine, is a brassy, experienced deceiver who has cravings for food, cigarettes and secret, anonymous sexual encounters.

Elaine is just too forward and risque for Barney's romantic notions - and there's also the matter of her repulsive, hacking smoker's cough. Bobby is number two. She is a ditzy, Californian wannabe actress to whom Barney lends money to help her pay an accompanist for an audition.

Weaver makes Bobby cute and endearing as well as a manic dope head with paranoid tendencies. She hilariously and sporadically breaks into old songs or hysterical laughter. The final woman is Jeanette, a depressive, guilt-ridden friend of Barney and Thelma who suffers, she says, from melancholia.

Judith Cobb's lollypop pink set highlights the cheesy suburban nature of these three encounters. Jennifer Hagan directs the play with an eye for the gag and a focus on the recognition factor for the audience.

The outcome of the story makes it a modern morality tale. Barney is a good man who sought some excitement in his humdrum life but finally turns back to his wife. C'est la vie.

LOOK FOR:  The transformations of Jackie Weaver.

By Kate Herbert

Saturday, 8 May 2004

The Art 'n Death Trilogy, May 8. 2004

The Art 'n Death Trilogy
Fainting 33 Times by Adam Cass
Trades Hall Ballroom, May 8 to  23, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 8

Fainting 33 Times is the first play in an evening called The Art 'n Death Trilogy. It is based loosely on Meyerhold, the post-revolution Russian theatre director.

The strongest component of this collaborative piece is the cunning direction by Bob Pavlich.

Cass's script is unmemorable, apart from those parts plagiarised from Chekhov and Shakespeare.

What links these scenes is a series of vignettes about Meyerhold, his actress wife, Zinaida Raikh  (OK) and his acting company.

Meyerhold prepares a performance for Stalin's upcoming visit. He is afraid to present his version of Hamlet as he feels he is not ready.

He rehearses instead, Chekhov's The Bear and another play, A List of Benefits, by Yury Olesha. (OK)

After Stalin's long awaited visit, Zinaida is murdered, and Meyerhold is imprisoned and tortured as a traitor to the Revolution.

Stuart Crawford and Sarah Wright are both capable as Meyerhold and Zinaida.

Hey are supported by Joshua Ryan playing Dappertutto, (OK) the pseudonym Meyerhold used for controversial projects.

An ensemble of nine allows Pavlich to play with the staging and interpretation of the text. This is where the show gets interesting.

In the first section, The Bear, the combative lovers become multi-voiced as the ensemble speaks with them and for them. The characters' thoughts and feelings become more complex and compelling.

Pavlich creates moving human sculptures as the ensemble forms tableaux of moments in the story. 

The actors move and freeze in sync or fall to the floor in canon.

The title, Fainting 33 Times, cites an observation by Meyerhold that characters in Chekhov's plays faint or swoon frequently.

Picturesque lighting by John Ford enhances the atmosphere. He fills the empty space with colour and highlights the clownish quality of the actors. The eclectic and evocative music ranges from circus tunes to clattering Eastern European brass. There is virtually no set but the costumes (Paula Levis) are vivid and clown-like creating a burlesque feel to the production.

There are two additional plays each night. After Fainting comes Have Dreamed of Time at 8pm. At 10pm is The Anniversary of the Death of Sarah Kane, which deals with the young playwright who suicided as her play writing career succeeded.

LOOK FOR: The multi-vocal declaration of love in the opening section.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 6 May 2004

Much Ado About Nothing, Chambers Theatre, May 6, 2004

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare 
by Chambers Theatre 
Theatreworks, St. Kilda, 6 May to 22 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 6, 2004

Much Ado About Nothing is a study in confused love, mischief, wit and rumour. All the fuss is finally overcome and it ends happily for all but the villains.

Alex Pinder's production for Chambers Theatre focuses on the verbal and physical comedy some times more effectively than others.

There are two couples central to this comic romance.

Beatrice (Patti Stiles) and Benedick (Geoff Wallis) are verbal sparring partners both committed to singledom in a world obsessed withmarriage.

Stiles and Wallis revel in their battle of wit. Each exchange is a rapid thrust and parry of witty repartee.

Both play their characters with a layer of genuine warmth and truth below the veneer of acerbic banter. This allows us to believe their swift turn to love from confirmed bachelorhood.

Stiles is a playful and feisty Beatrice with a tender heart. Wallis's Benedick is a soldier, a man of principle, wit and cool dignity.

Simon Wood is a fine Don Pedro, giving him a noble authority, cheerfulness and rich, commanding voice.

The second couple, are Claudio, (Andrew Gillard) soldier and friend to Benedick, and Hero, (Bridgette Burton) sweet and shy cousin to Beatrice.

Gillard finds a balance between Claudio's tongue-tied lovelorn scenes and his reckless over-reaction to Hero's supposed infidelity.

Burton is most successful when Hero is lamenting her false accusations.

Joe Clements plays three roles, Don John he portrays delightfully as a camp melancholic villain wearing rather overstated make up.

The scenes between the enthusiastic and incompetent policeman, Dogberry and his goofy subordinates (Anthea David, Burton) are funny but could be neater.

Randall Berger is rather melodramatic as Hero's father, Leonato, and Paul Bugeja sings charmingly as Balthasar.

Shane Thompson's design is interesting but far too busy for the stage. Its multiple floral patterns distract the eye from the action.

This production has some charming performances and comical moments. Its weakness is a lack of cohesive style and some awkward staging.

There are clumsy scene changes with actors changing on stage when this convention has not been established earlier.

Much Ado makes sense of Shakespeare's dense and witty dialogue and is a diverting night in the theatre.

LOOK FOR: The rapid word play battle between Beatrice and Benedick.

By Kate Herbert

I'm Me…and I'm OK! by Sarah Mainwaring, May 6, 2004

I'm Me… and I'm OK!  
by Sarah Mainwaring and Lloyd Jones.
Where and When: La Mama) 6 to 23 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

"My Inner Anger," reads the slogan in Sarah Mainwaring's painting.

On the canvas, a large ghostly figure looms menacingly over shattered fragments of blood red. This was  Sarah's VCE painting.

It captures the essence of her frustration and rage at being the victim of a brain injury acquired in a car accident when she was six.

She performs her monologue, I'm Me… and I'm OK, pacing like a caged tiger in front of the painting.

The phantom, anger, is ever present on the backdrop behind her.

The content of the play, directed by Lloyd Jones, is snatches of Sarah's life as she contended with her injury, therapy, her parents' grief and wanting to be "normal".

She writes in poetic form so it is no surprise that Sarah published four anthologies of poetry.  She also studies Performance Studies at V.U.T.

Sarah struggles to speak the words and to control her body's movements.

Her tale may be slow and may lack some of the usual theatrical conventions, but it is compelling and moving.

We hear her agonise over guilt and blame. She battles with notions that her parents' separation was her fault.

She says of her past, "I was humiliated frustrated, burning inside with anger."

Now, years later, what she sees is a courageous, talented and much loved young woman. She shows us someone who has overcome terrible adversity.

She waxes lyrical over her love of her horse on which she won equestrian events.

She tells of the darkness of her survival and describes her therapists as 'helpers and hurters'.

She mourns the loss of her childhood to years of hospitalisation and painful treatments.

She rages at the unfriendliness of hospitals and at being disadvantaged in her education, being pulled from classes for treatments.

This is a long show for one actor but an assistant supports Sarah on stage each night.

A woman sits at a table flipping through a women's magazine - a thinly disguised script - and is prompted when she loses her lines.

This is not conventional theatre. The story could be told in many ways. Sarah is determined to be heard and this is her way of telling her story.

LOOK FOR: Sarah's marvellously evocative painting

By Kate Herbert