Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Adapted from the novel by William Golding by Nigel Williams
By US-A-UM and Malthouse Theatre Malthouse, Tower Theatre, June 29 to July 14, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 29
Stars:***1/3 Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon July 1, 2013 and later in print. KH
Photo by Sarah Walker
stranded on an isolated island with little hope of rescue, would humans
degenerate into a horde of savages with no defined power structure or
institutional law and order?
answer, according to William Golding’s startling 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies,
is a resounding Yes; well, at least it is for the prepubescent schoolboys marooned
on an island after a plane crash.
Williams’ 1995 theatrical adaptation condenses Golding’s narrative and combines
characters, recreating the intensity, danger and horror of the novel.
the intimate space of the theatre, Kip Williams’ production is confronting and
sometimes frightening as 9 young boys – played by young women – descend into
social chaos typified by barbaric rituals, warring factions, irrationality and,
of the Flies raises social, political and philosophical issues that have
stymied civilisations for millennia: good and evil, right and wrong, morality
and ethics, law and order, hierarchy and power.
the end of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, you may feel overwhelmed by despair,
frustration and horror at the astonishing success of false accusations and mob
hysteria to condemn the innocent to death.
21st audience will draw parallels with the dangerous consequences of
viral rumour mongering on social media.
used the 1692 Salem witch-hunts as a vivid landscape for the personal story of
a farmer, John Proctor (David Wenham), whose upright wife, Elizabeth (Anita
Hegh), is accused of witchcraft by young Abigail Williams (Elizabeth Nabben),
their former servant and John’s ex-lover.
vengeful Abigail has no qualms about sending Elizabeth and others to their
deaths in order to fulfil her desire to have Proctor.
actual 1692 witch-hunts of Salem, Massachusetts provided Miller with an analogy
for the 1950s McCarthy trials that persecuted artists who had even the
flimsiest association with Communism.
Miller knew that a powerful drama needs human passion at its core to drive the
narrative and illuminate social and moral issues.
Crucible boasts an impeccably crafted script, challenging themes, bold dialogue
and sensitively drawn characters that all make this heightened narrative
Cabaret Festival Opening Gala. Festival runs June 26 to July 7, 2013 Wed June 26, 2013, Palais Theatre, St. Kilda
Kate Herbert Stars:****
Review also published in Herald Sun online on July 27, 2013 and possibly later in print. KH
Mary Wilson (R)
you’re delirious about cabaret, the 4th Melbourne Cabaret Festival will
tempt you with delights including a queen of Motown, a transvestite Annie, a
New York cabaret icon, a Tony award winner, burlesque artistes, and assorted other
risquè, provocative or melodic acts.
The Festival Gala
provided a titillating taster that culminated with the regal Mary Wilson from
The Supremes who, clad elegantly in red lame and white fur, sang tunes from her
Weather: The Lena Horne Project.
with her versatile jazz-blues tones, easy charm and skilful storytelling, sang
a poignant rendition of Stormy Weather and an impassioned version of The Man I
Love, followed by the moving Yesterday When I Was Young.
One of my faves was American composer/performer, David Pomeranz, performing a
sweet, cheeky song from his solo musical, Chaplin:
A Life – in Concert, in which he plays all 40 characters; he left the audience
Another of my picks was Melbourne’s
hilariously sassy, voluptuous Yana Alana, who took singing the blues literally,
wearing only a coat of blue paint as she sang I’m Blue then, in her inimitable,
bold and provocative burlesque, Life Is A One Woman Show.
Music, Lyrics and book by Eddie Perfect Hamer Hall, June 20 & 21, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert Stars: ****
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday June 21, 2013 and later in print. KH
Photo by Meredith O'Shea
wouldn’t know a googly from a leg-break, but Eddie Perfect’s updated version of
Shane Warne The Musical entertainingly depicts the King of Spin with
admiration, wry humour and a fair dose of cynicism.
Warne is the cricketer-turned-white-toothed-celebrity who triggers love or
loathing, depending on your willingness to ignore a great sportsman’s bad
behaviour and moral failings.
may have magic on the pitch, but Perfect has the charisma on stage when
performing Warne’s life, from his first foray into cricket up to his revamped
image and current relationship with Liz Hurley.
this smartly directed production by Simon Phillips, Perfect’s 23 original songs
have witty, complex lyrics and eclectic musical styles that are played by a
very tight orchestra led by Iain Grandage.
the new opening scene is a bit slow, the pace picks up with rousing, rowdy
songs about Warne’s scrappy, unprofessional attitude to cricket training (AIS)
and his love of beer (We’re Going There).
his distinctive voice, with its velvety baritone and cunning vibrato, Perfect
is magnetic singing Hollywood, a power ballad about heroes, that compares Warne
with the Anzacs and Ned Kelly.
The Hayloft Project, MTC NEON Festival of Independent
Theatre MTC Lawler Studio, June 13 to 23, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 16 Stars:** This review is not written for, or published in the Herald Sun or any other publication. KH
Their Own Hands takes a dive off the high board, leaving Sophocles’ tragic play
and the Ancient Greek Oedipus myth behind.
result is the trivialisation of a classic story and a poor deconstruction that
results in a shallow piece of theatre that does not challenge the audience or
illuminate the narrative and characters.
piece, devised and performed by Benedict Hardie and Anne-Louise Sarks, is
divided into three sections, each of which approaches the myth from a different
part one, the performers invite the entire audience onto the stage to participate,
as the people of Thebes, in their gentle, casual but engaging storytelling,
with odd people allocated characters but required to do nothing in the roles.
part is quietly amusing as the actors directly address the audience and relate,
without embellishment or emotion, the tale of Oedipus, the abandoned child of
King Laius and Queen Jocasta, who returns to Thebes to unwittingly kill his
father and marry his mother.
this mild beginning in full light, in part two the theatricality kicks in with
stark and dramatic lighting and an enormous sheet of plastic covering the
floor. What follows is predictably grotesque and bloody – literally.
pair enact mimetic, excruciatingly laboured, graphic and risible depictions of
crucial moments in the story: Laius and Jocasta’s marriage, Jocasta washing her
bloody baby, Jocasta’s hanging, Oedipus’s rage and self-blinding.
hope that the piece would illuminate the tragedy any further was lost in part
three when, standing at microphones, the pair chat aimlessly as Jocasta and
improvise purile dialogue as if the characters were a contemporary couple
– cynical older woman and annoyingly puppyish, younger man – discussing
their seduction, relationship, unborn babe and discovered incest.
piece becomes laughable and is alienating for an audience unfamiliar with the
Oedipus myth – people around me were confused saying, “Are they going for
show is irritatingly thin, and does not serve the ancient tragedy or the
audience, who deserve better. Deconstruction can be so much better.
Yes, it made me angry, and I was not alone in
Book by Craig Lucas; Original music by Marius De Vries
Other songs: 3D
from Massive Attack, Guy Garvey, Sarah McLachlan, Justice, The Avalanches;
additional lyrics by Michael Mitnick, Richard Thomas; presented by Global
Creatures Regent Theatre, Melbourne, no closing date Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 15 Stars: ****
Review of opening night June 15 also published online in Herald Sun June 15 and on Sunday June 16 in print. KH
Photo by Joe Calleri
King Kong first emerges from the dim mists of SkulI Island, roaring and beating
his chest, he has the audience gaping in awe.
six-metre Kong is the runaway star of this new musical and the most fully
developed character on stage because of his expressive, almost human face, imposing
physicality, majesty and grace.
is heartbreaking to witness such a magnificent – albeit mechanical – creature
chained, tranquillised then exhibited as a freak show.
to his creators (designer, Sonny Tilders) and operators (puppetry director,
Peter Wilson), Kong lives, breathes and communicates; he roars with unfettered
rage, complains, grieves, is jealous, wretched, combative, childish or
his on-stage and off-stage operators get rousing applause for their feats of
athletic puppetry and animatronic operation.
big-budget, global premiere is an eye-popping spectacle designed to appeal to
21st century audiences that demand relentless action, colour and movement
in their entertainment.
cast is superlative and Esther Hannaford is perfectly beguiling and quirky as Ann
Darrow, the reluctant heroine, evolving from a gauche, country gal into an
assertive woman risking her life to save Kong.
and Kong’s rapport is central to this show’s success and director, Daniel
Kramer, effectively shapes their connection into a genuinely poignant,
heartfelt and credible relationship.
versatile voice is pretty and warm singing the mellow, memorable Full Moon
Lullaby to soothe the injured Kong, and the sweet, striking ballad, What’s It
Gonna Take, but she is hilariously feisty leading the sassy chorus of Hollywood
babes in Special FX.
Ryan is an ideal foil for Hannaford as Jack Driscoll, the dashing sailor who romances
her in the nostalgic, Fred and Ginger-style Fox Trot, and his pure tenor has
passion and trepidation singing In the Face of Forever, about Jack’s fear of falling.
Photo by Joe Calleri
Lyon is bold and funny as rapacious Hollywood director, Carl Denham, and his
voice is impressive in the rock anthem, Colossus.
Van De Zandt is thrilling singing Rise, a soaring tune that charts Kong’s climb
up the Empire State.
many elaborate chorus numbers (choreography, John O’Connell; acrobatics, Gavin
Robins) including Hunting Season, a Busby Berkeley routine, are vibrant and
songs must advance story and illuminate characters and, although Marius De
Vries’ compositions are rousing and diverse, and individual songs by
contemporary artists have a distinctive flavour, the repertoire lacks a
consistent voice and unified vision.
story (Craig Lucas) gallops at a giddy pace for 45 minutes until Kong appears, with
one huge chorus scene chasing another, and lacklustre dialogue does not enhance
characters and relationships.
bold, modern design (Peter England), complex laser lighting (Peter Mumford) and
projections (Frieder Weiss) create an intricate landscape but, with so much stage
action and overwhelming visual stimulus, some scenes are overwrought, busy and
the production is a triumph of state-of-the-art technology, only time and
public reaction will determine whether King Kong the musical can achieve the
cult status of the classic 1933 movie upon which it is based.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Arena Spectacular, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice Rod Laver
Arena, Melbourne, June 14, 15, 16, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
June 14 Stars: ***** Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Saturday June 15 and in print in Arts section on Sunday June 16. KH
Laurence Connor's inspired UK Arena production of
Jesus Christ Superstar catapults the story of Jesus into the 21st
century with the momentum and urgency of a youthful, political revolution.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ground-breaking, 1970s rock
opera now includes tweets, graffiti, live video, and an exuberant chorus of
dread-locked ferals as Jesus' followers.
Ben Forster's Jesus is an unsophisticated, intensely
human idealist who fights a losing battle amongst corrupt politicians,
religious leaders, manic cult followers, despairing youth and a ravenous media
Forster's versatile voice is thrilling and impassioned
singing the rock anthem, Gethsemane, but he is equally compelling singing ballads
with warmth and subtlety.
The final Crucifixion is remarkable and moving with
Forster stripped, beaten and bleeding, then hoisted high on a metal grid while
Judas leads a frenzied chorus celebrating Jesus’ death.
Tim Minchin’s voice and performance are impeccable and
his Judas is charismatic, sympathetic and strangely alluring, considering the
much-maligned Judas betrays Jesus to the Pharisees.
His rendition of Superstar is bold and fervent, and the
scene of Judas’s Death is the most poignant moment in the production.
Ex-Spice Girl, Melanie Chisholm (Mel C), is affecting
as the hapless Mary Magdalene singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him.
Jon Stevens is a seductive Pontius Pilate, and the exceptional
power of his gravelly, rock voice singing Trial Before Pilate exposes Pilate as
a weak, political animal easily swayed by public opinion.
Leon Craig (Replacing the injured Andrew O’Keefe) is
a riot playing King Herod as a grinning, glitzy TV host who whips the crowd
into a frenzy then declares Jesus a fraud after a TV poll.
Playing the manipulative Caiaphas and his obsequious
sidekick, Annas, Cavin Cornwell and Gerard Bentall sing Bloody Money with
On a stage design that includes imposing stone steps and
projections of government and derelict buildings, songs such as What’s The
Buzz, Hosanna, The Temple and Superstar assume contemporary significance and
have resonances of the 2009 London riots and other rebellions.
Lloyd Webber’s music is dynamic, vibrant and eclectic
in style and, with Time Rice’s cunning lyrics, the songs advance the narrative
and illuminate the characters as only great music theatre can do. Kudos to the
Connor’s production is cohesive and coherent, miraculously
translating Superstar into a dangerous, passionate world of social upheaval,
corruption, personal betrayal and potent rage.
By Lara Foot, Melbourne Theatre Company Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, June 12 to July 20, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 12 Stars: ****
Review published in Herald Sun online on June 13, 2013 and possibly after that in print. KH
Gillian Jones (Marion) and Pacharo Mzembe (Solomon)
Although Lara Foot’s play, Solomon and
Marion, deals with grief, fear and violence in post-Apartheid South Africa, the
unlikely relationship between its two characters from contrasting worlds feels
surprisingly gentle and intimate.
Jones is beautifully restrained and credible as the brusque Marion, an ageing,
ailing, white, Anglo-South African who is crippled by the loss of her son and,
despite the escalating violence around her, refuses to leave her home in a
Solomon (Pacharo Mzembe), a shy, young, black man arrives unannounced in her
home, she fears that his motive is racial violence, but he insists that his
grandmother sent him to care for Marion.
genuinely compelling as Solomon, shifting from nervous, watchful youthfulness
on his arrival, to a growing confidence and certainty that his vocation is to
care for Marion.
Jones cleverly imbues Marion with a
brittleness and fragility that belies her feisty, combative nature in her
exchanges with Solomon.
Foot’s script evolves from fear and
alienation between the pair, into warmth, honesty and forgiveness, and it does
so with wit as well as painful exchanges and revelations.
Foot uses Marion’s letter writing to her
daughter in Australia to elaborate on Marion’s emotional and psychological
state, her growing attachment to Solomon’s presence and the details of her
But it is Solomon who reveals the real
horror of the story of her son’s death, and it is at this point that the play
collides with the real story of two young men who were murdered in South Africa
Director, Pamela Rabe, subtly builds the
tension between the pair, keeping them separated and contained but also
connected as if by an elastic cord at their core, until these two lonely people
relax, finding ease, comfort and support in each other and, finally,
The fractured world of contemporary South
Africa outside their walls is reflected in Richard Roberts’ imaginative, pale,
sand-filled design that tilts the floor and the scruffy furniture at odd
Solomon and Marion is an intensely human
play that focuses on one relationship that challenges our view of tolerance,
compassion and surviving violence and grief.
By Kate Herbert
Gillian Jones (Marion) and Pacharo Mzembe (Solomon) Director
Pamela Rabe; Set and Costume Designer Richard Roberts; Lighting
Designer Rachel Burke; Composer/Sound Designer David Bridie
Three monologues:My Pyramids; Harrowdown Hill; Instruments of Yearning By
Judith Thompson Production by Daniel Clarke in association with Theatre Works Theatre Works, June 6 to 16, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 6 Stars: ****
This review is published in Herald Sun on line on Fri June 7.
Thompson’s play, Palace of the End, is emotionally confronting and, in the claustrophobic,
dimly lit space, surrounded by gossamer thin, black drapes, we experience a
hint of the entrapment of torture victims and witness the tragic impact of the
inhumanity of war and its moral ambiguities.
powerful and convincing monologues present three diverse experiences and views
of the various conflicts visited upon the Iraqi people, and the abuses and
devastation caused by both Saddam’s regime and the US and UK forces.
actors address the audience directly and Daniel Clarke’s production does not
embellish the monologues, but allows Thompson’s vivid language, sometimes brutal
imagery and grim stories – each with fleeting glimpses of humour – to speak for
first monologue, My Pyramids, delivered by a genuinely dislikeable character
known only as A Soldier (Hannah Norris), depicts Lynndie England, the US
soldier convicted of the abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib,
justifying her reprehensible actions.
portraying a frenetic, dim-witted, redneck ranting about her mistreatment by
media and a battery of online hate messages, shows her to be deluded (she
compares herself to Joan of Arc), conceited and cruel, with a frightening moral
certainty based on twisted patriotism.
more sympathetic character is David Kelly (Robert Meldrum), the British weapons
expert who died after he was exposed as the unnamed source of a journalist’s
revelation that dossiers on the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction were
fabricated to justify the Iraq invasion.
this monologue called Harrowdown Hill, Meldrum’s performance is measured,
restrained and intimate, evolving from reportage into emotional declarations as
Kelly reveals his guilt, self-loathing and rage at the horrors and injustices
visited upon his friends in Baghdad.
of Yearning, the final piece, is a compelling depiction, by Eugenia Fragos, of
Nehrjas Al Saffarh, an Iraqi dissident who survived torture by Saddam’s
B’athists in the Palace of the End four decades ago, but died in a US bombing
raid in 1991.
is impassioned and dignified as Al Saffarh, peeling back layers of horror as
she tells her tale of torture, loss and defiance.
of the End will challenge you with its poignant, horrific or visceral details
of abusers and abused in wartime, leaving you feeling both provoked and moved
by its characters and themes.
Translated and Adapted from Marguerite Duras' novel by Colin Duckworth Trades Hall, New Ballroom, May 30 to June 16, 2013 (opening May 31) Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 1 Stars:
Review published on line on Tues June 4 in Herald Sun and probably later in print. KH
Kate Kendall in The Lover
on stage in The Lover, the charismatic Kate Kendall seems to be surrounded by a faint glow, a pale
luminescence that gives her the magical aura of a glamorous, 1930s movie star.
adaptation of Marguerite
Duras’ erotic novel, Kendall self-narrates the tale of a poor, 14 year-old French
girl who is seduced by, and falls in love with, a wealthy, young, Chinese man in French colonial Saigon
Carroll’s production is intimate, claustrophobic and atmospheric, with Kendall
confined within the rich, red, velvet-lined wallsof a small, French salon (design by Peter
Corrigan) that conjures images of an opulent brothel gone to seed.
Perched on an oriental chaise and dressed in cool,
cream slacks and shirt, a broad, striped bandanna and a rope of pearls, Kendall
looks the epitome of mid-20th century, Parisian success... continues
Full review will appear here after publication on line or in print in Herald Sun. KH
Starring Kate Kendall Directed by Greg Carroll Set and Costume Design by Peter Corrigan Underscore by Greg Carroll with Music by Carl Vine, Brian Eno, Piazziolla and Toru Takemitsu