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.
THEATRE Written by Marguerite Duras At fortyfivedownstairs until July 3, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun Arts on Tues June 28, 2016, KH
Marguerite Duras’ compelling duologue, L’amante anglaise, is both haunting
and haunted as it slowly and quietly unravels the grim story of the gruesome
and mystifying murder of a deaf-mute by her peculiar, but formerly non-violent
Laurence Strangio’s skilful direction is deceptively
simple and his production is simultaneously intimate and alienating as the two accomplished
and inspiring actors (Robert Meldrum, Jillian Murray) sit opposite each other for
The bleak tale
unfolds in two interviews: the first with Pierre Lannes (Meldrum) and the
second with his wife, Claire Lannes (Murray), the confessed murderess of her
the objective interrogators, both Murray and Meldrum function almost as
disembodied voices that pose obvious or unexpected questions, but, in contrast,
their portrayals of Claire and Pierre are complex, nuanced and spiced with
humour, impeccable timing and consummate skill.
seems cold, self-absorbed, smug, inflexible and insensitive as he responds to Murray’s
gently probing questions about his wife, his marriage and the victim’s role as
cook in his household.
abrasiveness is peppered with sadness and perplexity, and he gains our sympathy
when he reveals his past, deep love for his wife and the emotional injury she
caused him with her incomprehensible indifference to him over 22 years.
Meldrum is contained
and compelling as Pierre and his rich, dark, velvety voice is almost hypnotic
in both of his roles.
Murray is remarkable
and disconcerting as the eccentric, mercurial Claire, depicting her as a woman
teetering on the brink of psychosis but hauling herself back to some version of
reality in which she is a bewildered, light-voiced and child-like creature.
her interrogator, gently and persistently penetrates her psyche until Claire
reveals that, during her marriage, she lived in a world of gardens, interesting
and ‘intelligent thoughts’, memories of her first, passionate love and diligent
avoidance of her husband and the ‘fat calf’ who was her deaf-mute cousin.
shift with Claire’s changing moods and, through the questioning, we come closer
to an understanding of her incomprehensible motivation to kill her cousin, although
Claire still refuses to reveal her last secret, the final crucial piece of
nature of the woman and her crime leaves the audience confounded and desperate
to understand why this unfathomable woman would commit such a horrific crime.
L’amante anglaise is an engrossing theatrical
experience with assured acting and direction. Duras should be delighted.
THEATRE By David Hare, Melbourne Theatre
Theatre, Sumner, until July 23, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also in Herald Sun in print on Mon June 27, 2016. KH
Anna Samson, Colin Friels, photo Jeff Busby
Hare’s play, Skylight, the personal collides with the political and the value
of public service conflicts with that of business achievement and its resultant
set in London in 1995, but its social commentary is still relevant twenty-one
years on, in our 21st century world that is rife with social
characters’ opposing attitudes to wealth, work, public duty and personal
ambition could be a dinner conversation in 2016.
Hollis (Anna Samson) fled her comfortable, privileged life as employee and
secret lover of Tom Sergeant (Colin Friels), a wealthy, ambitious and married restaurateur.
three years later, Tom arrives at the door of Kyra’s icy, rundown flat in the
down-market suburb of Kensal Rise, from which she commutes to her job as a
dedicated teacher of difficult kids in a tough school in East Ham.
death of his long-suffering wife a year earlier, Tom has been crippled by grief
and guilt, and he seeks solace with his former lover, Kyra, whose life and
views are now polar opposites of Tom’s own.
intense dialogue is a passionate argument that balances the characters’
opposing attitudes, shifting our allegiances and sympathies in each exchange.
arrogance, vanity and self-absorption counter Kyra’s self-righteousness and
adamant disapproval of the world of business and finance.
Bryant’s production, Friels gives a compelling, well-judged and nuanced
performance as Tom, plumbing the depths of his needy vulnerability and highlighting
Tom’s acerbic, rapid-fire wit as he assassinates the character of his management
Kyra with a nervous energy that is barely masked by her frosty reception of
Tom, and Samson is at her best in the rare moments she is still and focused and
when Kyra’s tirades about education garner the audience’s sympathy.
characterisation is not always credible, her jerky and unnatural physicality is
often distracting, while the cool reserve with which she plays Kyra belies the
intimacy that Tom and Kyra shared in the past and present.
over a single night, Hare’s masterly play cunningly dissects social and
political inequity through Tom and Kyra’s passionate but disintegrating
relationship, while their vehement argument about politics reveal the yawning
gap that now exists between them.
this production, Tom and Kyra’s relationship lacks that palpable, barely
contained passion that should match the political fervour that underlies their
communication and drives Hare’s story.
Wallace, as Tom’s 18 year-old son, Edward, provides some genuine warmth, human
concern and a strangely objective view of both characters in his two short
visits to Kyra’s flat that act as bookends to the conflict between his father
is an impassioned commentary that highlights social inequities through personal
pain and political outrage and it is a tribute to his capacity to write drama
that challenges an audience to think.
THEATRE By David Greig, Malthouse Theatre
co-production with Belvoir and State Theatre Company of South Australia (STCSA)
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse,
until July 10, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun Arts. (May not be online in Herald Sun) KH
Johnny Carr & Catherine McClements & choir- photo by Pia Johnson
The horrors experienced
by a small community when a demented killer invades its normally safe space to
murder its members are all too topical, given the spate of mass shootings
The Events, by English playwright, David Greig, depicts
Claire (Catherine McClements), an Anglican minister who struggles with despair
and incomprehension after her church choir suffers a mass shooting at the hands
of a young man, known in the play only as The Boy (Johnny Carr).
is the highlight
of this production and she portrays with nuance and sensitivity Claire’s
bewilderment, anxiety and disorientation as she wrestles with her own demons
while trying to understand the inconceivable violence that drove The Boy to
murder her congregation.
Carr depicts not only The Boy but
also a range of other characters – a journalist, a right-wing politician, a
counsellor, The Boy’s father and Claire’s partner, Katrina – that serve the dramatic
role of assisting Claire in her quest for truth.
Greig’s script requires an on-stage
choir, so Clare Watson’s production introduces a different, Melbourne choir each
night to join the actors, perform several choral songs and play a variety of
On opening night, THECHO!R,
with musical director Jonathon Welch, features as the on stage choir that gives
some sense of community and fills the stage with humanity.
With their live piano
accompaniment, the choir’s hymns and other tunes provide warmth to this story
that, otherwise, chills to the bone.
The intention of the play is
admirable, but it lacks dramatic tension and fails to adequately penetrate or
illuminate Claire’s predicament or The Boy’s story.
The dislocated, episodic
structure may be intended to mirror Claire’s own inner chaos, but it ends up
merely being fragmented and lacking coherence, depth and genuine emotional
connection with the characters.
The production is patchy, the
script is flabby and the dialogue awkward, particularly when the choir members
are required to communicate with Claire and The Boy or speak in unison.
The role of the choir is confused
and lacking clarity when they are not singing, at which times they sound
under-rehearsed rather than authentically fresh, the latter probably being the
director’s original intention.
Strangely, the script includes
plenty of talk about emotions, empathy, healing, forgiveness and even revenge,
but little genuine sympathy is generated for the characters, except in the
final scene when Claire meets the killer.
Claire’s angst, despair and mania
are resolved rather too quickly and conveniently in the last scene after her
compulsive quest for the truth.
The dramatic investigation of
mass shootings is an admirable aim for a new play but The Events misses its
mark in too many ways.
& book by Clark Gesner Based on Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz Produced by Aleksander Vass & Vass Productions Alex
Theatre, Fitzroy St., St. Kilda, until July 2, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun. (May not appear online in Arts Herald Sun.) KH
Clockwise from L-Courtney Glass, Joshua Robson, Luigi Lucente, Cameron MacDonald, Adam Porter, Sarah Morrison
M. Schultz’s whimsical and enduring comic strip, Peanuts, is lovingly recreated
by live actors in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Clark Gesner’s charming and
entertaining American musical for the entire family.
Abrahams’ production is swiftly paced and gleefully silly, with snappy
choreography by Dana Jolly, slick musical direction by Ben Kiley, vivid
costumes (Chloe Greeves) and it is performed on a cartoonish stage design (Jacob Battista).
Gesner’s episodic narrative echoes the
structure of Schultz’s comic strips and the dialogue incorporates such
timeless, Schultzian gems as the characters’ exasperated exclamations, “Aaaargh!”
and “Good grief!”
The live songs, accompanied by a backing
track, are perky, cheerful and eminently singable musical theatre tunes with
witty lyrics that also pay tribute to Schultz.
is perfectly cast as the hapless, Charlie Brown, playing him as perpetually
bewildered with a downward-tilted mouth and
drooping shoulders that embody Charlie’s melancholic attitude, heightened
childhood anxiety and desperate need to be liked.
MacDonald’s voice has a
bright timbre and warm tone and he expresses Charlie’s simple need to succeed in
the kite-flying song, The Kite.
The title song provides a jaunty and animated
opening chorus that introduces Charlie and all of his childhood pals, while the
finale, Happiness, ends the show on a positive note after so much childhood
angst, with Charlie and his friends celebrating things that make them happy.
A highlight is The Book Report, an ensemble
number that depicts the children’s various struggles, joys and distractions as
they each complete a book report on Peter Rabbit.
Lucente capers and sings as Snoopy, playfully giving this much-loved, doggy
character a human personality as he does his funky dude dancing and dreams of
being a World War One Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron from the comfort of the
roof of his kennel.
Courtney Glass captures Lucy’s
infamous crabby bossiness, vanity and bullying of Charlie Brown when singing
The Doctor Is In, and Adam Porter is
suitably philosophical, sensitive and
intellectually superior as her little brother, Linus, who
rejoices in his baby blanket in My Blanket and Me.
Joshua Robson revels in Schroeder’s Beethoven
obsession while Sarah Morrison portrays Charlie’s
sister, Sally’s childish imagination and her resentment about getting a D for her schoolwork.
This production is a diverting and authentic
homage to Schultz’s genius and it elicits shrieks of laughter from the kids and
is a hoot for those adults who are nostalgic about Peanuts.
At Red Stitch, St Kilda, from June 17 to July 16, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 17, 2016
Review also online at Herald Sun Arts on Mon June 20 and in print after that. KH
Marta Kaczmarek & Christopher Brown - Photo Jodie Hutchinson
an isolated, Western Australian apiary – let’s call it a honey farm – a dysfunctional
family confronts the possibility of bee ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ that mirrors
the disintegration of their family unit in Caleb Lewis’s play, The Honey Bees.
The dramatic potential of the play and its
premise are not fully realised in Ella Caldwell’s uneven production for Red Stitch Actors Theatre.
Since her husband’s death, Joan (Marta
Kaczmarek) struggles to run the honey business with her daughter, Clover
(Rebecca Bower), and Clover’s partner, Kerrie (Katerina Kotsonis), but son, Daryl
(Christopher Brown) returns to rescue the farm with his plan to sell 600 healthy,
Australian hives to the US.
The sale is in jeopardy after the arrival of
Melissa (Eva Seymour), a funky, young stranger who crashes her car, destroying over
Kaczmarek is compelling and wry as Joan, the
matriarch whose iron grip and dogged determination to maintain the farm
strangles the life out of her adult children.
Bower imbues Clover with a hapless naiveté as
she blithely carries on tending her dead father’s bees, foolishly believing
that her colourful, organic hives will avert any impending disaster.
Brown plays the returning prodigal son, Daryl,
with a hint of desperation and recklessness, while Kotsonis’s Kerrie represents
the sad inevitability of the family’s failure and Seymour’s Eva reminds them
all of their isolation and unrealistic hopes.
of Lewis’s brisk, clipped dialogue sounds unnatural out of the mouths of the
cast and it becomes more awkward when delivered with languid pace, loose cueing
and limited emotional connection between characters.
a strong and emotional final scene led by Kaczmarek, the production lacks
dynamic range and it is difficult to sympathise with Lewis’s characters who are
all rather pallid or disagreeable.
its gritty, red sand and piles of greying, wooden boxes, Sophie Woodward’s
design expresses the grim and tough environment, although it provides little
sense of the various locations on the farm.
mysterious disorder that has decimated the honey industry in every continent
other than Australia could provide a strong framework for a family drama but
this production and script of The Honey Bees is, ultimately, less than
Ella Caldwell - Director
Christopher Brown Rebecca Bower
Katerina Kotsonis Eva Seymour
Eva Seymour, Marta Kaczmarek & Christopher Brown - Photo Jodie Hutchinson
Machine, 228A Malvern Rd., Prahran, Festival runs until June 26, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 14 Stars:**** Review also online at Herald Sun on Wed June 5, 2016 and later in print. K
Amy G. pic Olivia Rutherford
OK, it’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival time so
you need to go to your computer and book a ticket to any or all shows in the
program. I mean now!
from eight productions featured in the Opening Gala and the absolute must-see
is New Yorker Amy G, in
Entershamement, an audacious, blindingly skillful and achingly funny show that
incorporates slapstick, roller-skating, impressive vocals and a titillating
blend of glamour and wickedness.
Amy G has an easy charm and a big, belting voice and
she does a Buster Keaton-style fall-down routine on skates then plays the Stars
and Stripes with kazoos that she secretes in all the wrong places.
next remarkable and accomplished act is Geraldine
Quinn whose original, hilarious, satirical songs parody both those childlike
pop singers who think they are cool but are just pretentious, and also ridicules
desperate musical theatre tragics.
Quinn is an accomplished talent and her show, Bang On The Strillers
Live, will highlight her musical skills and those of her guests.
Geraldine Quinn_Fox Poncing_pic by Theresa Harrison
the credit card handy so you can book big-voiced, big-haired Yana Alana, our very
own transgressive, camp cabaret artist who usually performs wearing nothing but
blue paint but is clad in a red, sequined lycra jumpsuit this year.
her show, Covered, she sings none of her own material, but messes with other
people’s songs including the bizarre Dinosaur Egg by Scout Niblett, as well as
tunes by Alanis Morissette, Jim Morrison and Jennifer Lopez.
Yana Alana, pic Peter Leslie
Ash Flanders is best known as an award-winning
theatre performer but in his solo show, Playing to Win, he teases out issues of
being a winner or a loser in this fickle performance industry and he does so
while being perky and adorable.
The snapshot of Sam Hooper’s show, Death Suits You, is a
dark and compelling monologue in which he portrays Death as a mild-mannered but
determined forward planner.
has a fine singing voice and Death’s song, Embrace Your Child, is a sweet
ballad that confronts suicide.
Otto and Astrid are the faux-German brother and
sister act, Die Roten Punkte, although their usual brand of outrageous punk/cabaret/rock
did not feature in their Oompah-Oompah, German drinking song at the Gala.
Mike McLeish, the newly minted Festival
Artistic Director, was as excited as the crowd about his Festival program and,
given the caliber of the acts at the Gala, this will be a bumper season for
music, comedy and off-the-wall cabaret acts.
Melbourne Cabaret Festival runs until Sunday June 26 and you can find the
program at www.melbournecabaret.com.au.
Go book a show now.
THEATRE By Gail Louw, by Strange Duck Productions The Lawler,
Southbank Theatre, to June 11, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 2, 2016 Stars: ***1/2
Review also published online at Herald Sun Arts and in print later. KH
Belinda Giblin in Blonde Poison
Seated in our comfortable lounge chairs, we may
believe that we would make the moral choice if faced with the decision to
collaborate with brutal tyrants to save our families and ourselves from torture
or death, but would we?
Blonde Poison, by Gail Louw, is a monodrama based on
the life of Stella Kübler (née Goldschlag), a beautiful, blond and indulged German
Jewess who collaborated with the Gestapo in Berlin in World War II by informing
on Jews who subsequently went to death camps.
in a stylish, black frock, Belinda Giblin is elegant and handsome as the 71-year
old Kübler as she shifts the character from ecstatic, self-congratulatory
reminiscences about her younger self to anxious defensiveness and defiant
justification of her reprehensible, past actions.
Shuttered in an
old-fashioned living room (designer Derrick Cox) with only stuffed toys and photos
of her doting parents for company, Giblin’s Kübler intermittently garners
sympathy for the torture she suffered, her decade in prison, the loss of her
baby daughter who now hates her and her current loneliness.
However, any sympathy vaporises
when she gloats over her betrayal of Jews, revels in their desperate plight,
aligns herself with the Nazis and reveals her seething anti-semitism.
She fondly recalls her first husband, another unusually
blonde Jew, talks nostalgically of her Art School days and nude modelling, her
numerous lovers and her irresistible beauty.
She jubilantly lists the advantages she gained from
her Nazi collaboration that left her unwilling to abandon her role as snitch
even when she could no longer save her parents from the camps.
In Jennifer Hagan’s production, Giblin as Kübler
becomes more unstable and fearful as the clock ticks away the hours leading up
to her unwelcome interview with an old journalist, a Jew Kübler knew as a child
and who escaped Berlin before the war.
Giblin plays the character with a persistent, nervy
edginess that captures Kübler’s instability, but this keeps her voice in a
heightened upper register that limits the dynamic range of the performance.
Gail Louw’s script reveals Kübler’s intense,
treacherous life through memories and stories that she tells to her parents,
her husbands and to the soon-to-arrive journalist, or in flashes from the past
when she faces a Gestapo torturer, begs for her life or betrays a Jew in the
Louw’s text is dense and Hagan’s production craves
periods of silence and stillness to provide a dramatic balance to the wordiness.
This is a conventional monodrama that explores a
tragic historical period through the eyes of a woman who is guilty of
atrocities against her own people and this creates an intense piece of theatre.
By Tom Holloway, adapted from
book by James M Cain, Melbourne Theatre Company
Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 2, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 3, 2016
This review also published in print in Herald Sun Arts on Mon June 6 and online at H-Sun Arts. KH
If you like
your crime writing hardboiled, your films noir, your characters fatally flawed
and their dialogue witty and acerbic, this stage adaptation of Double Indemnity, James M Cain’s 1936 novella, will
tick all your boxes.
this entertaining and atmospheric production, Sam Strong’s direction is assured,
Tom Holloway’s script is intelligent, the acting accomplished and the design,
costume and lighting are stylish (Andrew Bailey, Esther Marie Hayes, Paul
Cain’s story was also the inspiration for Billy
Wilder’s 1944 movie, but Holloway’s play adheres more faithfully to Cain’s book
about disgruntled insurance salesman, Walter Huff (Leon Ford), who plans with
femme fatale, Phyllis Nirdlinger (Claire van der Boom), to murder Phyllis’s
wealthy husband (Richard Piper) to claim his hefty, double indemnity accident
Strong’s production is dynamic, shifting gears
frequently between brisk exchanges of abrasive, clipped dialogue, suspenseful
silences, meaningful gazes and Walter’s wry, step-out narration that he
delivers directly to the audience and which drives the action just as film noir
Performing on a revolving stage, the characters
stroll languidly through dimly lit doorways or appear behind mesh screens,
travelling between locations including well-appointed rooms in the Nirdlingers’
mansion, Walter’s seedy office and apartment, a moving train or an isolated
Ford is suave and brittle as Walter whose whip-smart,
caustic dialogue comes to life with Ford’s elegant and impeccably timed
Van der Boom is glamorous and sophisticated as Phyllis,
the manipulative, greedy, blonde dame with a dark past. and these two self-absorbed
and murderous lovers pace and prowl like animals circling each other before
going in for the kill.
Kowitz is convincingly crusty and gruff as Keyes, Walter’s shrewd and streetwise
insurance boss, while Piper embodies the over-confident, rude and smug
corporate bigwig, Nirdlinger.
Tovey is suitably naive as Lola while Lachlan Woods shifts with ease from the
inarticulate Sachetti to the eloquent insurance manager, Norton.
To commit the
perfect murder you need help, a plan and audacity, says Walter, but he does not
account for the unpredictable human factor that interferes with his scheme nor is
he aware of the secrets and lies of his seductive partner in crime.
production is a reminder of all that was great in 1940s film noir and it is
also reminds us that crime never pays – and neither does insurance.