Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Hatpin, Magnormos, Theatreworks, May 17, 2011

The Hatpin **1/2
Music by Peter Rutherford, Book & Lyrics by James Millar, by Magnormos
Theatreworks, St. Kilda, May 17 to 28, 2011

Reviewed by: Kate Herbert, May 17, 2011
Published: Herald Sun

In our country and in this generation we take for granted safe childcare, single parent’s benefit and child protection laws. However, in 1892, circumstances were different for young, single mother, Amber Murray.

Amber advertised for a carer for her baby, Horace, so she could work to support him. The respondents, Agatha and Charles Makin, proved to be a parent’s worst nightmare. What followed was a landmark court case.

Although it is an unlikely topic for music theatre, The Hatpin is a new, Australian musical based on Amber’s tragic story. The tale certainly has dramatic potential and some of this is realised in this production. The singing voices are the strongest element with some powerful vocal performances. Gemma-Ashley Kaplan as Amber has a pretty voice and Samantha Morley as her supporter and friend, Harriet, has great passion and expressiveness in her singing.

However, the acting style and the direction by Shaun Kingma tilt too far into the melodramatic and histrionic. The scenes show an awkward balance between tragedy and comedy, the characters are thin and the dialogue often clumsy.

There are some rousing songs by Peter Rutherford and James Millar with strong chorus work by the support cast. Rutherford’s score has some successful moments but the arrangements at times have an imbalance between percussion, string and wind instruments.

 We are crying out for Australian musicals so give this a look if you are keen to see new developments in local talent.

Stars: **1/2

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