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, 16 November 2016
Seminar: A Comedy, Nov 10, 2016 ***1/2
THEATRE By Theresa Rebeck, by
Artifact Theatre Company Chapel
off Chapel, The Loft, until Nov 26, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: *** ½
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Nov 14, 2016 & later in print. KH
Ra Chapman, Mark
Yeates, Cazz Bainbridge, pic Theresa Harrison
Fiction writers can be a sensitive and jaded bunch,
but emerging writers may still be steeped in hope and blind ambition that can
easily be dismantled by a ‘mentor’ such as the noted literary identity in Theresa
Rebeck’s witty play, Seminar: A Comedy.
evidently gifted but competitive, young fiction writers each pay (or is that
‘squander’?) US$5,000 to glean pearls of wisdom – and some useful contacts – from
their writing guru in ten, weekly sessions.
(Dion Mills) is no warm and fuzzy, modern teacher who proffers constructive
criticism, but rather a pretentious, drug- and alcohol-damaged, resentful veteran
of the literati whose criticism verges on the venomous and soul-destroying and
whose seduction techniques are puzzlingly successful.
want their money back? But how do you learn and improve your work if you won’t
In Kate’s (Cazz Bainbridge) affluent, rent-controlled, New York
apartment, Leonard rants about his thrill-seeking trips to Africa and his views
on writing, then systematically dissects the young hopefuls’ proffered works of
Week one sees his savage dismissal of Kate’s writing,
in week two he suggests Douglas (Darcy Kent) is a writing ‘whore’, in week three he
admires Izzy’s (Ra Chapman) lusty and
provocative writing, and, all the while, he labels Martin (Mark
Yeates), who has avoided revealing any of his work to anyone, a ‘pussy’.
is language and character driven, with the stage ‘action’ being psychological
and emotional rather than physical.
direction focuses effectively on the pace and intelligence of the dialogue, the
detail of characters’ emotional sensitivities and idiosyncrasies, and on their
increasingly volatile relationships.
performances from the entire cast are strong and our alliances shift between
the five characters as each reveals his or her inner self so that we like or
loathe each at some point.
compelling as the mean and sleazy writer, Leonard, playing him as larger-than-life,
with his arrogance, vanity and insensitivity wrapped firmly around a fine,
creative mind and a genuinely skilful critic, and he gains our sympathy with
Leonard’s revealing monologue.
as Kate, effectively grows from shrinking violet, rich girl to confident and
canny young woman, while Kent’s portrayal of Douglas’s smug,
overblown literary dialogue provides plenty of laughs.
Yeates shifts Martin
from smart, secretive, intellectual snob to jubilant then jealous lover, and talented
but resentful young buck, while Chapman’s
Izzy is sultry and confident in her seductiveness but the character is
underwritten compared with others.
The clever wordiness
of Rebeck’s dialogue is initially startling and interesting, but the relentless
negativity of the characters wears thin in the later scenes when, although the
power relationships turn and characters change, the production needs a dynamic
scene change is far too slow and complicated and interrupts the flow of the
If you love
words, reading fiction or have ever been a student of creative writing, the wit
and rhythm of this play will tickle your fancy.