Friday, 28 October 2011

The Rock, Oct 27, 2011 **1/2

The Rock by Andrea Jenkins
By Kurunpa Live Arts with Black Duck Theatre Collective, Selected Works Season, Theatreworks
At Theatreworks, 14a Acland St., St. Kilda, Oct 27 until Nov 5, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on October 27, 2011
Stars: ** 1/2
Published in Herald Sun on Oct 31, 2011 and on line at

THE ROCK is a new, Australian mythical story, a moral fable loosely based around the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain 30 years ago at Uluru.

It incorporates elements of indigenous dreamtime, Jungian archetypes, children’s stories, physicalised characters and movement-based theatre.

Uluru, The Rock, is an iconic image in the Australian landscape that resonates with both indigenous and white culture.

Under the gaze of The Rock (Uraine Mastrosavas) that is depicted as an aboriginal earth mother, The Mother (Maurial Spearim), an indigenous woman wearing rich, black, mourning clothes, prepares The Child (Emily Thomas), for her baptism, making her a pure white frock.

The Child (Emily Thomas), fair-skinned, blond and dressed in white, disappears one night when searching for her playmate, The Dingo (Gabrielle New).

Parts of this production are lyrical, imaginative and moving, particularly Thomas’s performance as the lost, fearful Child and grim scenes when Spearim is caged, accused of her daughter’s murder.

However, the dialogue is often florid and wordy, the animal-based character movement not fully incorporated and the style and direction (Andrea Jenkins) are better suited to a children’s show – although the language and concepts would be over their heads.

The production is performed in the round with audience looking into a space that captures the soft ochres, scattered stones and eerie quality of Uluru.

 Stars **1/2

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Sin and Tonic, Dracula's, Oct 26, 2011 ***1/2

Sin and Tonic, Dracula’s
Dracula’s, 100 Victoria St. Carlton, no closing date
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Wed October 26, 2011
Published in Herald Sun on Nov 18, 2011and on line
Phillipa Harrison, Ash Flanders, Josh Celata (Guitar) Chris Buchanan, Gillan Perry

Dracula’s is celebrating its 30th birthday and, despite sexy movie vampires being in vogue, its new show, Sin and Tonic, is a flashback to vaudeville, burlesque and 1980s theatre restaurants.

We are greeted by blood stained, black-eyed, fanged, sexy waiters who look like escapees from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

The decor is a mix of grim beauty and kitsch, with dimly lit skulls, monsters, severed body parts and other horror-movie paraphernalia.

After champagne and canapes in the Bela Lugosi Bar, we are herded into a full-scale, working Ghost Train for a scary ride to the theatre that is worth the price of admission.

The dinner service diversions are a cheesy assortment of songs, old-hat, bawdy comedy and repetitive images of audience screaming on the Ghost Train.

The main entertainment, Sin and Tonic, takes off after dinner with its throbbing cocktail of hard rock songs, grotesquery, comedy and burlesque, although the first half lacks some cohesion.

Written and directed by Marc Newman, it boasts a versatile cast (Ash Flanders, Gillan Perry, Chris Buchanan, Phillipa Harrison), slick music by Darren Hulcombe (drums and vocals), Josh Celata (guitar and vocals) and startling, digital projections (Paul Newman).

Perry’s stand-up is chock-full of raunchy sin-uendo but she makes it charming and hilarious. Perry and Harrison present some sassy, burlesque dance with plenty of tantalising skin on view.

Multi-skilled singers, Flanders and Buchanan, do a fine Michael Jackson medley, a cunning version of Get It On with doppelganger video–heads, an hilarious song with lightning fast character and accent changes.

The show hurtles to a rowdy, impressive finale with Whitesnake’s 1880s rock anthem, Here I Go Again, Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil and a Lady Gaga number.

If your taste in theatre runs to funny, flashy, noisy and kitschy, then sink your fangs into Sin and Tonic. It runs for a year.

 Stars: *** 1/2

Sin and Tonic runs for 12 months and opened early October 2011. It will then transfer to Dracula's on Gold Coast.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Hedda Gabler, Schaubuhne, Oct 19, 2011 *****

Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen
By Schaubühne Berlin, Melbourne Festival
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre,  Melbourne, Oct 19-22, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Oct 19, 2011
Published in Herald Sun on Oct 21, 2011 and on line at

 Hedda Gabler, Schaubühne Berlin. Melbourne Festival Oct 2011

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, written in conservative 1890 Norway, is a compelling and surprisingly modern, story of a privileged young woman’s thwarted ambition and existential angst.

Thomas Ostermeier’s production hurls it into the 21st century where it looks completely at home. It is exceptional Realism with impeccable, nuanced acting and complex, seamless direction that conjure a claustrophobic, fraught world of human drama.

The characters collide in a stark, cold contemporary design (Jan Pappelbaum) – like a human specimen case –with walls of glass, glossy black tiles and fractured overhead mirrors that reflect and refract their warped lives.

This production is Realism at its best. The impeccable, nuanced acting and complex, seamless direction draw us into the characters’ claustrophobic, fraught world that has elements of both high drama and soap opera.

The controversial, Hedda Gabler, played with a delicious balance of toughness, cruelty, sexuality and vulnerability by Katharina Schüttler, is a manipulative, ambitious and egocentric anti-heroine who feels powerless in a male-dominated world where women have no property, work or control over their lives.

Hedda seeks power by marrying a man she believes will become successful and wealthy then chooses to abandon him emotionally as she uses her sensuality to draw in two other men like a black widow.

Lars Eidinger is delightfully nerdy but charming as her husband, Tesman, the mediaeval art historian whose greatest passion is his dusty research.

Wolfgang Maria Bauer is a strong, potent presence as Judge Brack, a lawyer and Hedda’s secret admirer, giving Brack warmth and depth to counter his deviousness.

Kay Batholomäus Schulze balances arrogance and playfulness in Hedda’s former lover, Eilert Lovborg, creating his complex, troubled inner world.

As Thea Elvsted, Annedore Bauer is timid and fragile and Lore Stefanek gives Aunt Juliane Tesman a vibrating nervousness.

We witness Hedda hurtling towards the catastrophic, grand gesture that she craves to make her feel alive. She may be a victim of her society, but our sympathies tilt against her emotional brutality and selfishness.


The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane, Pan Pan Theatre, OCt 18, 2011 ****

The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane

By Pan Pan Theatre, Dublin, Ireland
Melbourne Festival, Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse,  Oct 18 - 22, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Oct 18, 2011

Published in Herald Sun on Oct 21, 2011 and on line at
Hamlet may be mad but The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane, is bonkers. It takes Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet Prince of Denmark, by the neck, shakes it roughly then dumps it into a rubbish bin.

The production by Irish company Pan Pan Theatre is both remarkable and frustrating, alternately engaging then alienating the audience with its cheerful parody of an actors’ audition for the role of Hamlet and its dark interpretation of monologues and scenes from the play.

It is an absurd collision of styles and content, a deconstruction that is both hilarious and puzzling, particularly to an audience that does not know Hamlet well.

It begins with an academic (Sue Tweg), accompanied by a glossy, well-behaved Great Dane (Yes, the dog), reading literary criticism about Hamlet, its language and various versions.

A dour director (Gavin Quinn, the actual director of the production) sitting grimly behind a large table with his team, punishingly auditions three actors.

After performing various scenes and Hamlet’s monologues, the audience then votes for the Hamlet they want to see in the role after interval.

The acting is impeccable from the cast of seven from this Irish company. Derrick Devine plays a scruffy auditionee, Conor Madden a manic actor with an eye patch and Bashir Moukarzel a tentative, likeable actor who seems to be the on-stage director’s favourite Hamlet.

In the second half, we see a dislocated version of Hamlet and, although one actor is cast as Hamlet, the other two auditionees echo his dialogue and reflect his movements.

The Players scene merges comically and tragically with Ophelia’s funeral and the gravedigger’s antics – performed by local school students – and Ophelia’s mad scene follows, performed heart-breakingly by Judith Roddy.

Andrew Bennett is a powerful Claudius and gives a compelling and innovative rendition of Old Hamlet’s ghost. He walks in darkness, lit only by a hand-held lamp and reflected in a mirror, his voice fading as he disappears behind the audience and out the theatre doors.

Daniel Reardon’s Polonius, is frail and dithering and Gina Moxley as Gertrude is feisty and sassy.

A quirky design by Aedin Cosgrove and the audacious vision of director, Gavin Quinn, incorporating contemporary theatrical techniques with classical text and make this a startling, if somewhat bewildering production that is both hilarious and poignant.


Bashir Moukarzel– Hamlet
Derrick Devine - Hamlet
Conor Madden – Hamlet – Chosen Hamlet on Opening nIght
Gina Moxley           Gertrude
Daniel Reardon Polonius
Judith Roddy  Ophelia
Andrew Bennett - Claudius

Creative Team
Directed by Gavin Quinn
Text Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Designer Aedín Cosgrove
Costume & Prop Design Sarah Bacon
Dramaturg Simon Doyle

Local Players and special thanks to
The Casting Director Kylie McCormack
The Academic Sue Tweg

The Great Dane
Absolute Dane My Gentleman (Santi) and Owner The Ven. Eden-Elizabeth Nicholls
The Great Dane 2 Monteral Full Circle (Gertie) and Owner Frances Hammer

Trinity Grammar School, Kew –Drama Students
Player 1 / Queen Tim Dennett
Player 2 / Understudy Fred Hiskens
Player 3 / Gravedigger 2 William Lodge
Gravedigger 1 Alex Hatzikostas
Hamlet Thomas Little
Horatio Andrew Kondopoulos
Laertes Liam McCoppin
Priest Atticus Lyon
King Nick Wood


Monday, 17 October 2011

Grease 2 - Live in Concert, Chapel off Chapel, Oct 13, 2011 **1/2

Grease 2
Produce by Stage Art
Chapel off Chapel,  Oct 11- 22, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert
Stars: ** 1/2
Published in Herald Sun on Oct 19, 2011 and on line at
GREASE 2, the 1982 movie sequel starring Michelle Pfeiffer, was a disastrous critical and financial flop but it now attracts a cult following of those who think B Grade is funny.

Grease 2–Live in Concert is a parody of, as well as a tribute to the failed, high school musical movie and it combines songs from the movie with others from the period and with original choreography (Joel Anderson, Nadia Gianinotti).

The music is the feature of this show with a tight, five-piece band led by Drew Downing, and powerful voices including Josh Piterman and Melanie Ott in lead roles.

As Michael the daggy English boy who turns into a cool biker, Piterman is comical and sexy in Who’s That Guy? and Ott belts out a fine version of Cool Rider and other songs.

Gemma Purdy is a sassy Paulette, Tara Kabalan and Lauren Edwards are cute and perky Sorority Twins and Daniel Mottau is a slick and dangerous Johnny the leather-clad, T-Bird biker.

Director, Karl McNamara, creates an entertaining, playful series of vignettes with plenty of colour and movement in a show that will appeal to aficionados of the original film for whom there are plenty of in-gags.

Being a concert version there is no dialogue and this stops the narrative and characters developing effectively through the cycle of songs.

The giant, glitter-laden letters G.R.E.A.S.2, are a simple design feature. However they occupy the back half of the stage and such cramped staging forces performers to the front and leaves no space to define scenes.

The choreography is often busy and the lead characters are not highlighted until almost interval.

The parody of bad acting works in part only and the actors are often pulling faces in caricatures rather than playing characters, but the show has some clever dance scenes and several strong, vocal and comical performances.

Produce by Stage Art, at Chapel off Chapel,  Oct 11- 22, 2011
Stars: **1/2

Friday, 14 October 2011

Whiteley's Incredible Blue, by Barry Dickins, Oct 13, 2011 ***1/2

Whiteley’s Incredible Blue…an hallucination
Written by Barry Dickins
Performed by Neil Pigot
Directed by Julian Meyrick
Designed by Meredith Rogers
At  fortyfivedownstairs – 13 to 23 October, 2011
Reviewed by:
Kate Herbert, Oct 13, 2011

Published in Herald Sun on Oct 17, 2011 and on line at

 Pictured: Neil Pigot. Photo by Jeff Busby. Whiteley's Incredible Blue
Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most important painters, was a tortured artist, a self-indulgent, free spirit and heroin addict. In Barry Dickins’s play, Whiteley’s Incredible Blue … an hallucination, we join a shambolic Whiteley in purgatory – or is it limbo?

A charismatic Neil Pigot, poignantly channelling Whiteley’s body and spirit, bears an uncanny resemblance to the artist, right down to his mop of unruly hair.

Dickins’ distinctive, complex, poetic, often moving script, is rendered truly memorable by Pigot’s remarkable, nuanced, chameleon-like performance of Whiteley’s rambling, sometimes barely intelligible rants about his paintings, drugs, women and his favourite artists.

Although we witness the crazed, creative genius of Whiteley, the highlights are his tender moments as a sensitive, lost, pitiful, misunderstood soul, starved for love and disconnected from his wife and daughter.

Julian Meyrick’s deft direction places Pigot on a beautifully lit (Kerry Saxby) and designed stage (Meredith Rogers) with an atmospheric, live, jazz soundscape played by three musicians (Pietro Fine, Robert George, Robert Calvert) that all combine to create a magical trip into Whiteley’s mind.

Stars: ***1/2

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Journeys of Love and More Love, Oct 12, 2011 ***

Journeys of Love and More Love ***
Created and performed by Ali Zaidi, by motiroti, Melbourne Festival
Arts House, Meat Market, Oct 11- 16, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Oct 12, 2011
Published in Herald Sun on Oct 14, 2011 and on line at

JOURNEYS OF LOVE AND MORE LOVE, a gentle evening of oral and visual storytelling about immigration, displacement, difference and love, is accompanied by an extraordinary, culinary collection of spiced treats.

We are seated at large round tables, served wine and treated like guests at a family occasion hosted by Ali Zaidi.

He strolls like a roving minstrel amongst tables, spinning tales of his childhood in Bombay, his family’s move to Pakistan and his eventual immigration to London.

Zaidi’s personal stories of displacement and difference are illustrated with elaborate, vivid and evocative digital imagery incorporating Zaidi’s travels, family, friends and lovers, and interviews with people telling their stories of immigration.

During several interludes, we are served Zaidi’s own menu of gaspingly exotic, flavoursome morsels, each a vividly coloured, perfectly designed, individual artwork.

Zaidi’s stories are interesting but the narrative craves dramatic structure, a clearer narrative thread that links the concepts of displacement and love or explores them in greater depth.

Feeding people is a sign of love so we leave Journeys with a sense of wellbeing and pleasure.

  Melbourne Festival
Arts House, Meat Market, Oct 11- 16, 2011

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Aftermath, Melbourne Festival, Oct 11, 2011 *****

 Review: Aftermath *****
The New York Theatre Workshop Production
Malthouse Theatre, Tues Oct 11 until Friday Oct 14, 2011
Star rating: *****

  • Reviewed by: Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • October 12, 2011 11:16AM  

    Reviewed on Oct 11, 2011

     AFTERMATH, by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, is delicate, beautiful, painful theatre based on revealing interviews with Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan after 2003.

    They touch our hearts with their resilience, grief and simple joys. Their gentler, happier stories give way to personal tales of grief and the loss of loved ones, oppression by Saddam, abuse by Iraqi militia and police, and distrust of - and further abuse by - invading US troops.

    The performances are subtle and rich, the dramatic structure and characterisations unembellished. Simple staging heightens the intensity.

    Characters sit in a row of mismatched chairs across the front of the stage, chatting to us as if through an interpreter and - in the Arabic tradition - they welcome us into their homes for tea and food.

    We meet eight characters: the generous pharmacist from Fallugia; the arrogant, conceited dermatologist; the scarred and now single Christian woman; a simple married couple; a sad, angry Imam who was tortured in Abu Graib; and a theatre director and his wife, a designer.

    The war stories we heard in news media are now up close and personal. Aftermath leaves us reeling but enlivened by its bare humanity and honesty and grateful that our lives are not lived in a war zone.

    The New York Theatre Workshop Production
    Malthouse Theatre, Tues Oct 11 until Friday Oct 14, 2011
    Star rating: *****

    Orphans, Red Stitch, Oct 9, 2011 ***

    Review: Orphans, Red Stitch ****
    • by: Kate Herbert
    • From: Herald Sun
    • October 12, 2011 11:28AM (reviewed Oct 9)

    DENNIS Kelly's Orphans, directed by Imara Savage, is harrowing and leaves one feeling violated, tense and fearful. 

    In a London flat, Helen (Erin Dewar) and Danny's (Philip Hayden) quiet dinner is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Helen's brother, Liam (Paul Ashcroft), drenched in another man's blood.

    Over one relentless night, a disturbing tragedy unfolds, raising a challenging, ethical argument about loyalty to family, community and the law.

    Kelly's characters are confused and out of control, which is evident in their rapid, fractured dialogue and muddled thoughts.

    Like a jury in a courtroom, we struggle to isolate truth from fiction as Liam frantically justifies his blood-soaked T-shirt with a story about helping an injured boy - a story that quickly unravels to implicate him.

    Ashcroft is remarkable as the distraught Liam –the deprived child who is now a dysfunctional man – raving in disjointed phrases and teetering on the brink of violence, rage and resentment.

    As Danny, Hayden captures our own powerlessness and voices the moral argument about calling the police when a crime is committed.

    Dewar’s Helen is a feisty, wolf-mother protecting her brother but sending her entire family hurtling into a perilous, ultimately bloody, Greek tragedy.

    If you like light entertainment, this is not for you. This play is like a runaway train.

    Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Oct 7 until November 5
    Star rating: ****

    Saturday, 8 October 2011

    Rhinoceros in Love, Oct 6, 2011 ***1/2

    Rhinoceros in Love ***1/2
    Written by Liao Yimei, by National Theatre of China, Melbourne Festival
    Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, Oct 6- 9, 2011
    Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 6, 2011
    Also published: 

    Contemporary Chinese play, Rhinoceros in Love written by Liao Yimei in 1998, snubs traditional Chinese theatre and utilises modern, experimental theatrical conventions common in Western theatre.

    Performed in Mandarin and directed by Meng Jinghui, China’s leading avant-garde director, it veers from funny, entertaining and visually compelling to frustrating and over-written.

    Ma Lu (Zhang Nianhua), a rhinoceros keeper, falls desperately, irrationally in love with his neighbour, Mingming (Qi Xi), who rejects Ma but is obsessed with another man.

    Ma Lu’s obsession drives him to distraction and he abducts Mingming, vowing, ‘I won’t leave you and I won’t let you leave me.”

    In this episodic structure, the playful, chorus scenes of songs, games and social satire by the energetic, young actors are more successful than the central love tale.

    Ma Lu and Mingming’s heightened, poetic dialogue is often cloying, over-wrought and repetitive, their impassioned, adolescent outpourings often irritating, and their characters mean-spirited and dislikeable.

    The illuminated, geometric design (Zhang Wu) provides an evocative, abstract environment but this fanciful, youthful tale of unrequited love needs ruthless editing.

     Stars: ***1/2

    Friday, 7 October 2011

    Site UnSeen, Melbourne Festival, Oct 6, 2011 ***

    Site UnSeen ***
    By Graham Pitts & Robin Szechtman
    Lower Esplanade Carpark St. Kilda & Theatreworks, Oct 6 to 22, 2011
    Melbourne International Arts Festival 

    IN Site UnSeen, homelessness in our community is the elephant in the room that we - the privileged - cannot see.

    In this community theatre event, that elephant literally follows us as we promenade through the streets of St. Kilda, peering like voyeurs into the lives of the homeless and marginalised, witnessing those sights that are often unseen.

    This collaboration, developed by Graham Pitts and Robin Szechtman with those who experienced homelessness, has a social conscience and aims for social change and community education about issues surrounding social exclusion.

    The first scenes in a fairground tent beside the Palais are awkward and unpolished, and the promenade through nearby streets and parks is a little slow and uneventful.

    However, what follows at Theatreworks are intimate, challenging encounters that force us into the role of the homeless, coupled with an intense, effective multi-media installation based on verbatim interviews with formerly homeless persons.

    We sit waiting for assistance, receive food vouchers, listen to frustrated people complain about lack of accommodation, then we prepare ourselves for a night sleeping outdoors under newspapers.

    The performers, both artists and community members, play multiple characters and guide us through this grim, soulful, sometimes comical world.

     By its end we know more about homelessness and a little of how to help. Maybe we can share. 

    Star rating: ***

    Tuesday, 4 October 2011

    Fully Committed, by Becky Mode, Oct 4, 2007

    Fully Committed 
    by Becky Mode
    Athenaeum Comedy Club, Oct 4 to  Oct 13, 2007
    Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 4, 2007

    In Fully Committed by Becky Mode, Spencer McLaren peoples the stage with a parade of provocative, demanding and desperate New York glitterati. Fully committed describes McLaren’s impressive acting. Soon-to-be-committed might describe his central character, Sam.

    While Sam is jammed into the claustrophobic and grimy little office of a pretentious and fatally popular five-star Manhattan restaurant that is fully committed for two months, he fields phone reservations from obnoxious patrons. McLaren’s skill as a character actor is formidable and his versatility allows him to portray forty personages each with a different age, gender, class and accent.

    Mode’s script is exceptionally funny and cleverly wrought. Her dialogue is credible, conjuring countless voices and riddled with smart gags and character observations. But without McLaren’s dexterity and the slick and intelligent direction of Gary Young, the play could not succeed. Without faltering, he switches between characters as Sam juggles the shrilling switchboard and two internal phones. Each line is another voice and physicality and McLaren leaves us breathless and astonished at his technique.

    Most of the time he is Sam, an out of work actor awaiting a call back. In a nanosecond McLaren metamorphoses into the belligerent Chef, the drama queen Maitre d’ Jean-Claude, or the more temperate waitress Stephanie. All are on the phone to Sam but become a palpable presence as he transforms then transports us momentarily to each character’s location.

    He becomes the demanding and ugly Mrs. Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn, Naomi Campbell’s assistant Bryce who is gay as Mardi Gras, Curtis the passive-aggressive acting agent and the hysterical Mrs. Sebag. He mutates into Hector the Hispanic homeboy, polite little Japanese Mrs. Watanabe or his supercilious acting pal, Jerry.

    There are some tender moments between Sam and his lonely, widowed dad, but the pace is relentless and the stress is nerve jangling as Sam suffers the humiliation that is the lot of the restaurant booking clerk. We feel his pain vicariously so are excited and elated when Sam gets his call back, starts to rebel and, finally, just walks out.

    Fully Committed is a jaw-dropping performance by a gob-smacking talent. Take some oxygen because it is exhausting to behold.

    By Kate Herbert