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.
By Oscar Wilde By Little
Ones Theatre, Malthouse Helium Tower
Theatre, Malthouse, until Sept 14, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 30, 2013 Stars:** Review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Tues Sept 3, 2013 KH
Paul Blenheim & Genevieve Giuffre
parody of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé dilutes the
controversial 1892 play with gender-bending gags and pop songs until it becomes
silly rather than menacing or grotesque.
Wilde’s script is a
confronting version of the biblical story about Salomé
(Paul Blenheim), stepdaughter of King Herod (Alexandra Aldrich),
demanding the head of the prophet, John the Baptist (Genevieve Giuffre) on a
plate when he refuses her seductions.
It is impossible not to
draw comparisons with Steven Berkoff’s inspired and grotesque production of Salomé that so elegantly accentuated the sexually transgressive
nature of the story.
production tries too hard to be provocative by making Salomé a pouting, bratty boy in a matador suit, and the
prophet a trashy, show girl look-alike in silver lame shorts and bra.
The production lacks a balanced
or cohesive directorial vision and it relies so heavily on gags, that it fails
in its attempt to shift the atmosphere from broad comedy to dramatic horror in
the final scene when Salomé kisses the beheaded
Baptist’s dead mouth.
Arts Centre Melbourne, Aug 28 to Sept 28,
Kate Herbert on Aug 29, 2013
This review is published only on this blog. KH
David Williamson’s new
play, Rupert, uses an old-fashioned, comic revue style to trace the rise and
rise of the controversial Rupert Murdoch and his gargantuan media empire.
Directed by Lee Lewis,
Rupert bears a startling resemblance to 1970s satirical, political theatre including
productions at the Pram Factory in Carlton where Williamson began his career.
The sketch comedy style,
with its deliriously nutty caricatures, is entertaining in the first half, but
the production crams in so much information and so many years of Murdoch’s life,
that it begins to sound like Wiki-theatre.
This leaves the script
shallow and didactic, the dialogue expository and the characters mere sketches,
and the play fails to illuminate the character of Murdoch or to provide any
searing, satirical observations or new insight into the machinations of his empire.
Because a life, with its
ups and downs, does not fall naturally into a dramatic form, Murdoch’s biography
needs to be edited and massaged to give it the dramatic arc and tension
required for a play.
The numerous, short
scenes about Murdoch’s early, multiple newspaper takeovers all follow the same
trajectory and become indistinguishable.
By William Shakespeare Bell Shakespeare Fairfax
Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, Aug 21 to 31, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 24 Stars: **** This review was NOT written for Herald Sun. KH
Imara Savage’s production
of The Comedy of Errors is a boisterous and uproarious interpretation of
Shakespeare’s early comedy about mistaken identities.
Shakespeare’s text and language but updates the characters and context to a
seamy, inner urban, 21st century nightclub scene (looks like Kings’
Cross) that is rife with dodgy dealings, hookers and corruption.
Two sets of identical
twins were separated as babes; the two masters called Antipholus survive in
different locations – Syracuse and Ephesus – each with one of the servant twins
When all four appear in
the same town, the slapstick chaos of confusion reigns.
Of course, Shakespeare,
even in this early play, could not write a comic romp without inserting a
dramatic component that, in this case, is a poignant, introductory lament by Egeon
(Eugene Gilfedder), the aged father of the Antipholuses.
arises from the twins being mistaken for each other by family, business
associates and servants.
Music by Astor Piazzolla; Poetry by Horacio Ferrer By Victorian Opera Elizabeth Murdoch Hall, Recital Centre, Melbourne Aug 21 to 24, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 21, 2013 Stars: ***
also published in Herald Sun online on Thur Aug 22, 2013 and later in print. KH
If you relish the pulsing
rhythms of Astor Piazzolla’s Nuevo
Tango, then Maria de Buenos Aires may tickle your fancy.
This is not conventional opera, but a merging of
Piazzolla’s jazz and classically influenced tango with Horacio Ferrer’s haunting libretto, metaphorical language and grim
imagery that conjures this mythical Maria (Cherie Boogaart).
The Maria of Ferrer’s poetry is whore, saint,
virgin, child, martyr, sinner and Madonna; the epitome of Italo-Argentinian,
male fantasies and prejudices about women.
The great strength of this Victorian Opera
production, directed by Leigh Warren, is the impressive Tango Nuevo Ensemble with
James Crabb’s remarkable classical accordion that expresses the passionate
heart of Piazolla’s tango.
Warren’s production, set in a sleazy bar, captures the decadence of the
seamy underbelly of Buenos Aires, but the stage feels too cluttered with
dancers, singers, prostitutes and drunks, so that we cannot the focus on the
music, poetry and Maria.
preparing a list of those mature, experienced but largely ignored directors
that I want to see doing major productions for major companies in Melbourne.
talking about capable directors – those over about 45 years of age – who get no
work with major theatre companies but have a proven record of excellence in
independent theatre projects or small companies.
This is by no means a final or definitive list and I may have omitted great directors simply because I haven't thought of them yet.
asking others to submit their nominees too.Some
people are sending names while many are simply saying "Yes" to the
entire list. The list is growing daily as I receive messages.
As this is not a voting system with a broad reach, I've decided not to include initials of those who suggested directors.
The following are in no particular order:
Tanya Gerstle Susie Dee Jenny Kemp Richard Murphet Brian Lipson Stewart Morritt Greg Carroll Fiona Blair Kate Sulan Bruce Myles Laurence Strangio Kirsten Von Bibra Glenda Linscott Robert Reid Chris Bendall Ariette Taylor Bruce Gladwin Sarah Cathcart Nadia Kostich Geraldine Cook Megan Jones Robin Laurie Nico Lathouris Lyn Ellis Melanie Beddie David Myles
Suzanne Chaundy Jane Woollard Chris Thompson Russell Fletcher Andrew
Grey Bagryana Popov Kate
Herbert I swear I didn’t just add myself!) Robert Draffin Mary Siteranos John Bolton
send it as a comment to this blog if you choose, with your reasons for choosing
been astonished at the unwillingness of main stage companies to employ capable,
older directors (unless they are part of their 'stable') and also at the
growing habit of companies to promote inexperienced directors to major
productions before they are ready.
directors are talented, broadly experienced, qualified and often humble, the last of
which means that they don’t trumpet their own skills so remain in the shadows.
getting tired of seeing emerging directors getting all the major gigs and
funding being directed toward them by major companies and finding bodies. Yes, we need development, but we need to value those who have worked for decades to develop their talent.
only noise and self-aggrandisement that gets people directing jobs?
this will cause ructions all over the place, but it's time to voice the
opinions of those artists and audience members who've express their concerns to
I'll eventually work up a list of those under 45ish too. (Apologies if I've put some people into over 45 when they are under.)
By Kit Brookman, Stuck Pigs Squealing Theatre
Works, 17 Aug until 1 Sept 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
17 Aug Stars: **1/2 Review also published inHerald Sun
online on Monday 19 Aug, 2013, and later in print. KH
Sarah Ogden, pic Sarah Walker
Kit Brookman’s stylised,
non-narrative play, night maybe (sic),
is written in such a circuitous and abstract form that it becomes a cryptogram
that is virtually unbreakable.
This enigmatic play,
directed imaginatively by Luke Mullins, opens with a beautifully lit scene
(Richard Vabre) in which the timid, socially inept Sasha (Sarah Ogden) follows
her gay, younger brother, Tom (Tom Conroy), as he escapes the family home.
The courageous, volatile
Tom flees, leaving frightened Sarah alone to await his return.
As if in a smoky dream
world or the afterlife, Sasha drifts through misty parklands, grim laneways, a
riverbank – she even ends up in Siberia – meeting ghostly characters that
sometimes resemble her brother and his friends or are just eccentric strangers.
Are you confused yet? The
piece becomes more and more disconnected, obscure and dislocated until the
final scenes that reveal no more than we knew at the beginning – despite the
cryptic explanation in the program notes.
By Patricia Cornelius fortyfivedownstairs, 16 Aug to 8 Sep, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 16 Aug Stars:**** Review also published inHerald Sun
online on Monday 19 Aug, 2013, and later in print. KH
In her confronting and
poetic play, Savages, Patricia Cornelius unveils the machismo and misogyny of a
group of mates celebrating their “trip of a lifetime”.
Four men, all forty-ish
and all with troubled histories with women, embark on a cruise, vowing to leave
behind their ordinary lives, dull jobs, bad divorces and unfulfilling
relationships so they can enjoy their freedom to the full.
Very quickly, the pack
mentality emerges when tough guy, Craze (Mark Tregonning), asserts his position
as top dog and the others (James O’Connell, Luke Elliot, Lyall Brooks) fall
into place behind him.
Cornelius’ thoughtful and
skilfully wrought script deals sensitively with the difficult subjects of
escalating male violence and the dangerous side of mateship and peer pressure.
On their first day on
board, the men investigate their surroundings like animals sniffing out
territory, all the time discussing – but not dwelling on – their disappointing
lives, dreams and failures, women, work and fitness.
Theatre Company Southbank
Theatre, The Sumner, 10 Aug to 25 Sept 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 15 Aug Stars: **1/2
also published in Herald Sun online on Fri 16 Aug and later in print. KH
Robert Menzies (Gayev), Pamela Rabe (Ranevskaya), David Paterson (Yasha), Gareth Davies (Yepikhodov), Steve Mouzakis (Lopakhin
Stone’s 21st century version of The Cherry Orchard fails to equal
the lyrical beauty and poignant observations of Russian country life that Anton
Chekhov captured in his original, 1904 play.
In this reductive
and rather pedestrian script by Stone, bratty socialites and greedy, upwardly
mobile land developers replace the fading aristocracy and rising peasant class
of pre-revolutionary Russia.
decadent years in Paris, Lyubov Ranevskaya (Pamela Rabe) returns to her
formerly affluent family’s estate, but is unwilling to accept that their cherry
orchard must be sold for development in order to avoid bankruptcy.
boasts some fine actors and Rabe is a commanding presence as the pivotal Ranevskaya,
capturing the confusion and resistance to change of a proud woman who is a
remnant of the former gentry.
Menzies is sympathetic and poignant as her bumbling brother, Gayev, the
verbose, needy man-child, while Ronald Falk is delightfully befuddled but wise
as the old servant, Firs.
Written & performed by Lally Katz, Malthouse
Theatre, Malthouse, Aug 13 to 25, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 13, 2013
also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Aug 14, 2013 and later in print. KH
You may think Lally
Katz’s solo performance, Stories I Want to Tell You in Person, is
self-indulgent claptrap, or self-referential confessional theatre, or even
stand-up comedy in the wrong venue.
Katz is not only the
writer of this performance, but also the performer and the subject, and she
regales the audience with tales of her life, playwriting, love and her
obsessive visits to psychics.
In almost all Katz’s
plays (apart from The Golem Story), she is on stage as a voice, or narrator, or
just referred to by name.
She admits on stage that
she is not an actor, and her limited acting skill shows in her awkward delivery
and the lack of dynamic range in her narration, her damaged voice and some
clumsy segues between stories.
awful karaoke singing of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is truly frightening –albeit funny – but leaving an audience to
“talk among yourselves” while she changes costumes is just lazy and annoying.
The performance, directed
by Anne-Louise Sarks, is 30 minutes too long, but Katz channels three very
funny people during her stories about plundering her personal life for
characters for her plays.
Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, Arts Centre Melbourne
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Aug 18, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 8, 2013 Stars: ****
also published in Herald Sun online on Friday, Aug 9, 2013 andin print on Monday Aug 12, 2013 KH
Penny Plain, Canadian master puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett, creates an
idiosyncratic performance using the traditional technique of marionettes,
gloriously old-fashioned storytelling and a parade of eccentric characters.
this grim, mysterious tale about the end of the world, blind, old Penny Plain’s
boarding house becomes a refuge for those escaping the natural and man-made
his creatures from a high gantry, Burkett populates the stage with dozens of
impeccably crafted characters, instilling life into each and inhabiting them
with love and commitment.
story has an underlying dark, satirical, and audacious social commentary, but
it is Burkett’s impeccably observed characters – his villains and saints – that
the heart of the tale is Penny Plain who is sympathetic, warm, fearless and
gentle, but we fear for her when her blindness and frailty make her vulnerable
to the self-centredness of others.
surrounds Penny with characters including her doggie-companion, Geoffrey, who
leaves her to become a gentleman but is replaced by Tuppence, a pale, nervous
orphan who pretends to be a dog to please Penny.