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.
Friday, 12 June 2015
Birdland, MTC, June 11, 2015 **1/2
Simon Stephens, by Melbourne Theatre Company MTC Southbank Theatre, The Sumner,
until July 11, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **1/2
Review also online in Herald Sun today, Fri June 12, 2015. Later in print. KH
production of Simon Stephens’ play, Birdland, echoes the chaos of its lead
character’s rock star lifestyle but the stylistic chaos of the production causes
a simultaneous loss of dramatic control of the play.
(Mark Leonard Winter) is on the final week of his band’s 15-month, sold-out
world tour, but fame, wealth and his perpetual life on the road and living in
hotel suites leave him arrogant, deluded and emotionally disconnected.
treats his friends, family, colleagues and strangers with utter contempt and his
self-indulgence and heartlessness lead indirectly to the suicide of Marnie
(Anna Samson), girlfriend of his long-time pal and fellow band-member, Johnny
is a thoroughly repellant, irredeemable narcissist, a bully, a liar, a
substance abuser and also a people abuser.
writing has a harsh, brittle quality and it shines an unflattering light on not
only Paul but also on the flawed characters that flutter around him.
chickens eventually come home to roost in an unexpected, final turn of events that
make an unsatisfying and glib ending to the play.
script cries out for a firm directorial hand but Leticia Cáceres’ production
favours style over content so any deeper meaning or character development are
swamped by shambolic staging, scattered set design, poor sightlines, food
fights and general messiness and lack of focus.
plays Paul with a dissolute, disdainful attitude that highlights Paul’s cruelty
and self-absorption, but he struggles with the formidable task of making a
boorish egotist interesting.
Paul’s own boredom becomes boring and Winter’s performance lacks the charisma
that might explain Paul’s success on stage or disc.
supporting actors play multiple roles, working hard to make this production
entertaining and to overcome the scrappy nature of the staging.
a sensitive and well-written scene, Bert LaBonté is a highlight as Paul’s
beleaguered, undemanding and abandoned dad, and his version of Paul’s Scottish
fan is deliciously gauche and funny.
Sergeant brings warmth and truth to the role of Jenny, the Russian room-service
maid who has the intellect and moral compass that are absent in Paul.
Banas is dignified as Annalisa the journalist, Otto is cheerfully puppy-like as
Johnny, while Anna Samson’s Marnie is sassy but often shrill.
production of Birdland is confused and lacks the control and dynamic range that
could bring to life Paul’s inner and outer world as he spirals out of control.