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.
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
The Fiery Maze, Aug 23, 2016 **1/2
THEATRE/MUSIC Music by Tim Finn, lyrics by
Dorothy Porter, Malthouse Theatre Beckett
Theatre, Malthouse, until Sept 4, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 23, 2016 Stars: **1/2
Review also published online in Herald Sun Arts on Wed Aug 24, 2016, and later in print. KH
Tim Finn, Abi Tucker, Brett Adams, pic Pia Johnson
In 1994, one
of our rock music stalwarts, Tim Finn, met
one of Australia’s most successful poets, Dorothy Porter, and their
collaboration spawned the music and lyrics for a series of impassioned songs.
Porter died in 2008 but Finn persevered, developing 16
songs into The Fiery Maze, a stage show with Abi Tucker, the singer who first
interpreted the songs in 1995, and guitarist, Brett Adams.
With the songs structured into a loose narrative,
Porter’s lyrics conjure a story of the emergence of love, its poignant
struggles, blazing passions and bitter recriminations.
Finn’s eclectic musical styles range from 90s ballads
and dreamy love songs, to emotional blues and blistering rock tunes reminiscent
of Porter’s rock hero, Janis Joplin.
The Fiery Maze is not a piece of theatre, nor is it a
rock musical or even a cabaret show; it is a pub gig with a powerful singer
backed by two capable musicians, and this is the essential problem with the
This rock gig is crying out for an intimate, dimly
lit bar with sticky carpet and beer-tainted air but, in its present incarnation,
50 minutes is too long in a darkened theatre even when the three artists are
working this hard to entertain.
The restrictive, cage-like, circular stage (designed
by Nick Schlieper), static and awkward direction (Anne-Louise Sarks), restrained
lighting, limited communication between the performers, an unclear narrative and
total lack of theatricality leave the audience without a point of focus.
songs tease the audience such as in Porter’s wry lyrics, “I want to drink like
Janis”, and a tune that celebrates Ballarat as a sultry love-nest, a first for
that unglamorous town.
Making You Happy resonates
with the pulsating bass rhythms that epitomise Finn’s early musical style in
Split Enz while Black Water is a grim, down-and-dirty, bluesy number.
voice is bold with the rusted tones of a seasoned rock singer and she makes the
most of her louche physicality, interspersing an uber-relaxed style with rabid
passion or hints of decadence.
Maze needs to decide what type of beast it wants to be and what type of venue
and audience it needs to make it come to life.