Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
GEOFFREY RUSH IS AN INSPIRED COMIC ACTOR and consummate clown who commands the stage as Pseudolus,
clown-slave, king of slapstick and innuendo, and narrator in Simon Phillips’riotous production of A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Rush’s louche Pseudolus –
all skinny arms and legs, sloping strides and impeccable comic delivery – tosses
impertinent grimaces and glances at the audience as he conducts the comic
action like a musical maestro.
Giving him a run for his
comic money is Hugh Sheridan, a delicious surprise and triple threat
(singer-dancer-actor) as Hero, the wide-eyed, bumbling, romantic youth, and his
bright and warm vocal tone in his ballad, Love I Hear, is thrilling.
As the virginal
courtesan, Hero’s dim-witted, doll-like, love interest, Philia, Christie Whelan
is the perfect foil for Sheridan, and their duet, Lovely, is delightfully naïve
The book, written by
comedy heroes, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart in 1964, is inspired by
Plautus’s Ancient Roman farces, draws mercilessly on the Italian clowns of
Commedia Del’Arte, and is riddled with bawdy slapstick, puns, mistaken
identity, disguises, social satire and chase scenes.
Pseudolus, the slave,
attempts to win his freedom by procuring for his young master, the pretty new
courtesan living in the bawdy house next door.
Arts Centre Melbourne, October 21 to 27, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Published in Herald Sun online Tues Oct 23, 2012 and in print on Wed Oct 24.
Stefan Stern in An Enemy of the People
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH SETS OFF A SOCIAL AND POLITICAL
TIME-BOMB in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, and Thomas
Ostermeier’s production fires it directly into our contemporary world where it
sits ticking ominously as we wait for it to explode.
Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Stefan Stern) is
a whistleblower with none of the protections of the Whistleblowers’ Act and he
faces ruination when he suspects, then proves, that the water supply to his
town’s new Health Spa is contaminated by upstream pollution and is making
Naively, Thomas thinks that the Town
Council and his brother, Peter (Ingo Hülsmann), the Mayor, will be grateful and
act immediately to repair the damage. Wrong!
Reparation, Thomas is told, is
prohibitively expensive and will ruin the town’s economy, so his proof is
discredited or ignored, Thomas is ridiculed and abused, supporters threatened
or bribed, and Peter will not tolerate his reputation being tarnished by his
foolhardy, ‘irresponsible’ brother.
Ostermeier argues Ibsen’s case with
vigour and courage so effectively that one wants to boo and cheer – and he
provides an opportunity in a participatory town meeting where audience members
vehemently argue the case on microphones from the auditorium.
This is an inspired interpretation of
Ibsen’s explosive play with committed, credible performances from a masterly
cast, acerbic and satirical humour and accessible, relevant political
Tell a lie and build an entire
campaign on it – that’s what Peter does. Sound familiar?
But do we, and Thomas, only want
transparency and maintain the high moral ground when we have no financial,
vested interest? Thomas is finally confronted with an unexpected choice – and
we are left wondering what he will choose.
Ostermeier’s production is
riveting and lucid, illuminating the issues in Ibsen’s 19th century
Scandinavian play and catapulting them forward in time to address modern themes
including the environmental sustainability, global financial crisis and social
Ostermeier balances comedy with
drama, the personal with the political, comfortable domestic scenes with
prickly arguments then risky audience participation.
He incorporate delicious moments
of invention as lines of dialogue and moments between characters delight and
surprise us with their subtext or unexpected interpretations that resonate with
our modern context.
Stern is a sympathetic everyman
as Thomas, playing him with naïvete and awkward charm that evolves into
impotent rage as he is ostracised for attacking not simply the spa, but also
social norms and power structures.
As Peter, Hülsmann is cool,
dapper, articulate and maddeningly manipulative, generating heat as he massages
the truth into something that resembles policy.
Review also published online for Herald Sun on Oct 18, 2012. KH.
Gary Trainor & Jesse Briton
POTTED POTTER IS A TOTALLY IRREVERENT AND STUPIDLY
FUNNY PARODY of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter
books – all seven of them in 70 minutes.
There is no flashy set or
lighting design, spectacular animatronics, elaborate costumes or massive cast
because Rowling’s 300+ characters are whittled down to about twenty and are all
played by two genuinely goofy, adorable actors, Jesse Briton and Gary Trainor.
Don’t expect stylishly
accurate characterisations or lightning-fast physical transformations because
this is cheesy, school play style acting that mercilessly ridicules the
earnestness and complexity and sheer length and breadth of the Potter series.
NEW ZEALAND ACTOR, TE KOHE TUHAKA, with his formidable muscularity, blazing, dark eyes and sensitive
portrayal of a man on the edge of violence and despair, is a powerful presence
as Michael James Manaia in John Broughton’s 1991 play.
With bold and unsentimental
self-narration, Tuhaka imbues the story with an ominous undercurrent of mania
and rage as he leads us through Michael’s early life with his war veteran,
Maori father and English mother and extended Maori family.
After a gentle beginning,
the production, directed by Nathaniel Lees, escalates into compelling,
passionate, physical storytelling when Tuhaka navigates into the horrors of jungle
warfare in 1960s Vietnam, then back to New Zealand where life throws him a
different, confronting predicament.
Broughton’s script could
possibly benefit from contracting and editing Michael’s life before the war, in
order to jettison us sooner into his more dramatic, personal conflicts in
Vietnam and his inability to deal with a colourless life back home, without an enemy
Written as a love missive
to poet, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf’s silky, romantic novel, Orlando, tells
the fantastical tale of a young courtier to Queen Elizabeth I who decides to
stop ageing, and then lives through three centuries, firstly as a man then as a
Co-creators, Emma Valente
and Kate Davis, deconstruct Woolf’s narrative, paring it down to a few, essential
moments in Orlando’s (Dana Miltins) numerous incarnations, and delivering them
as a series of distilled, abstract, imagistic scenes, some of which have a simple
are excerpts from Woolf’s Orlando, her novel, The Waves, and other literary quotes
from Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson and Sappho.
The pace of Valente’s
direction is slow and deliberate, which works for a time, but scenes are too
often unnecessarily and frustratingly elongated.
The movement is stylised
and the characters painted with broad brushstrokes, allowing an audience to write
its own story over the play’s background tones.
Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company, by Melbourne Festival
Theatre, Oct 9 to 13, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 11, 2012
Stars:**** Version of this review published in Herald Sun on Sun, Oct 14, 2012
NEVER DID ME ANY HARM is a
peculiar melding of contemporary dance with word-based theatre, is based on
real interviews with parents about their attitudes to parenting and to their
Director, Kate Champion,
weaves personal stories and observations together with abstract physicalisation
in an episodic structure that is often charming and warm, with a high
recognition factor for parents in the audience.
The stage, an Australian
backyard, is intermittently transformed by Ben Cobham’s complex and
mind-bending lighting, into a surreal, non-literal place that reflects and
exaggerates a parent’s rage or confusion, love or desperation.
One early scene is an
inspired collision of abstract movement and voice when two dancers physicalise
a recorded dialogue between two parents.
Libretto and Composition by Michel van de Aa after Hirkazu
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Thurs Oct 11 to Sat Oct 13, 2012
AFTER LIFE CHALLENGES OUR VIEW OF LIFE AFTER DEATH, just as Sartre did with his play, No Exit (Hell is other
composer, writer and filmmaker, Michel van de Aa, creates an eccentric blend of
opera and documentary film in this production.
is set in a way station on their way from death to the after life, where people
must choose one precious memory only from their lives to cherish for eternity.
stage are three after-life bureaucrats who process the newly dead that arrive
bemused and addled by their sudden departure from the living world, helping
them to decide upon their dearest memory then recreate it using scrappy, found
objects in the way station and finally, film it for the souls to take.
sung with passion by Roderick Williams, died young and, like his colleagues
Chief (Yannick-Muriel Noah) and Sarah (Marijje van Stralen) was unable to
choose his single memory so is doomed to stay in the limbo of this processing
station until he chooses.
Presented by Theatre Works, Melbourne Festival & Brisbane Festival
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 9 to 14, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 9
Stars:***** (I'd give it more if I could)
THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE LEAPT
TO ITS FEET AS ONE at the end of No Child... by Nilaja Sun. This is one of
those rare, theatrical jewels that is so perfectly wrought in every way that it
is impossible to fault.
Sun may be alone on
stage, but she transforms herself, and transports us into another world,
populating the empty space with a parade of eccentric, vividly painted
characters, all students and staff at a dysfunctional, uptown New York High
award-winning performance, directed by Hal Brooks, is a testament to Sun’s
theatrical skills as both a writer and a performer, and it balances hilarious,
observational character comedy with poignant commentary on the failure of the
US public education system to cater for these needy teenagers from Brooklyn.
Miss Sun (a version of
the actor herself) is a teaching artist who ambitiously enters Malcolm X High
to work with challenging Year 10s to stage a theatrical production of Our
Country’s Good, an Australian play about convicts and freedom that is strangely
relevant to the kids.
by Neil Simon, Lyrics by Hal David, Music by Burt Bacharach
Based on the
screenplay The Apartment by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, by The Production
Where and When: State
Theatre Oct 3 to 7, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Wed Oct 3,2012
Stars: **** ½
It’s hard to find a
better recipe for a musical comedy than Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s songs with
a Neil Simon script, and Promises Promises combines the musical format with
formidable 1960s pop song style to fulfil all its promises.
Add Australian musical
theatre stars, Matt Hetherington and Marina Prior, and Nadia Tass as director,
and we have a relentlessly funny, deliciously romantic, mischievous show.
In this playful,
impertinent story, based on Billy Wilder’s movie, The Apartment, Hetherington
is adorable and cheeky as Chuck Baxter, the naïve, young accounts manager who
is manipulated by his company’s executives to provide his apartment to
accommodate their secret, sexual dalliances.
Chuck’s heart is broken
when he discovers that his love interest, Fran (Marina Prior), visits his
apartment for secret seductions with his boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Tony Cogin).
Hetherington charms the
audience from start to finish, making us complicit in Chuck’s dilemma as he
addresses us directly with a wry tone and twinkle in the eye.
He delivers Simon’s gags
with impeccable comic timing and channels Dick Van Dyke, Jack Lemmon and a bit
of Jerry Lewis in outrageous slapstick and verbal gags.
Fringe Hub, Nth Melbourne, Sep 28 to Oct 13, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 30 Stars: **
Emily Tomlins, Naomi Rukavina, Tim Wotherspoon
THE ACTORS WORK VERY HARD ON STAGE IN As We Mean To Go On, a play devised by
Elbow Room as part one of a trilogy, but the script is so cumbersome, wordy and
obscure that the actors’ efforts seems wasted.
theatre is often inventive, physical and imagistic rather than verbal, but a
word-based text, even when a playwright or dramaturg (Marcel Dorney) refines
it, can end up cluttered with unnecessary verbiage.
The first few
minutes look promising, with a simple, silent, physical image of a naked couple
that we presume to be Adam and Eve, locked in a dramatic embrace, with the
woman gripping then biting into an apple..
After that initial, visual impact, the scenes that
follow are dense, expository and overwritten, the characters and story unclear,
and the theme of origins obscure.
Some visual drama is created by the off stage actors
being visible and evocatively lit (Kris Chainey) as they lurk behind the