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.
is a joy to witness such entertaining, nuanced and credible performances as those
of the three women playing the mismatched trio in Di and Viv and Rose by UK
writer and actor, Amelia Bullmore.
play depicts the evolution of a quirky but enduring friendship that begins in
the 1980s when three seemingly incompatible first year university students, Di
(Nadine Garner), Viv (Belinda McClory) and Rose (Mandy McElhinney), share a
flat, negotiate their many differences,
support each other in crises and form a lasting bond.
portrayal of their early years is the most successful part of Bullmore’s play
and Marion Potts’ production, with its witty dialogue, playful performances and
dramatic action that focuses exclusively on the characters’ relationships.
later snapshots of this odd trio’s meetings are less satisfying, lacking the
detailed character and relationship development and energy of the earlier
Rose, the sweet natured and promiscuous art history student, McElhinney
portrays a spirited bounciness in her early years that transforms into resilience
when Rose faces disappointment in later life.
brings vivacity and vulnerability to Di, the sporty lesbian who studies Business
and still hides her sexuality from her parents.
gives sensitivity and emotional complexity to Viv, the bolshy, pompous academic
who shakes off her working class roots, studies the sociology of women’s fashion
and achieves her career ambitions.
trio’s comfortable intimacy is hilariously evident in an unforgettable scene when
they dance with drunken abandon to 99 Luftballons by German artist, Nena.
exuberant energy excuses some script and production problems, such as two
sudden and arbitrary plot turning points and some rather clunky scene changes
that involve opening and closing of enormous sliding panels.
This play will resonate
with audiences, particularly women, and it boasts three of Australia’s best
actors so perhaps we can forgive its flaws and the frustratingly unsatisfying
Written by Tom Wright Produced by Malthouse Theatre At Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until Aug
27, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts on Friday Aug 10, 2017, and later in print. KH
Daniel Monks & Julia Forsyth - photo Pia Johnson
During his short life in the late 19th century, Joseph Merrick
suffered an unnamed and profoundly disfiguring condition that led to him suffering the indignity of being dubbed the Elephant Man in a
London freak show.
This haunting production of The Real and
Imagined History of the Elephant Man, written by Tom Wright and directed by
Matthew Lutton, re-imagines Merrick’s life in a series of atmospheric snapshots.
Monks’ impressive depiction of Merrick
is key in this production and his sympathetic, feisty and, at times, deeply
moving portrayal is made more compelling because Monks, in addition to being a
fine actor, has a physical disability that affects the right side of his body.
poetic dialogue lends the play an other-worldliness that Lutton amplifies by
evoking the smoggy, mysterious and dangerous
streets of Leicester and London where Monks’ Merrick faces abuse, assault,
pursuit, ridicule and fear – both his own and that of others.
sparse stage design (Marg Horwell), jarring soundscape (Jethro Woodward), and forbidding
Jackson), the stage looks and sounds like
an industrial tornado until Merrick
reaches the safety of London Hospital where he spent his last days.
The first half of the production is the stronger, with poignant vignettes
of the child Merrick with his mother (Julie Forsyth), followed by alarming scenes of a world redolent with the stench of
London streets that are populated by a parade of eccentrics, scruffy thugs and
gentlefolk played by a versatile cast (Forsyth, Sophie Ross, Paula Arundell,
Emma J Hawkins).
When the relative peace of the hospital replaces the horrors of the
streets, the production loses some power, although the scene in which doctors catalogue
Merrick’s deformities isdisturbingly
and the scenes between Monks’ Merrick and
Forsyth’s cheeky nurse, Agnes, are witty and charming.
Despite the loss of momentum in the second half, Wright and Lutton’s
evocative interpretation and Monks’ distinctive performance focus the play on
Merrick’s desire to be treated as a man, not a monster, and highlight the
melancholy half-life that he lives, lurking on the murky boundary between
normal life and the world of the ‘other’.
Monks, Julie Forsyth, Sophie Ross, Paula Arundell, Emma J Hawkins
Lutton - director
Horwell - stage design
Woodward – sound /composition
Daniel Monks - photo Pia Johnson
Sophie Ross, Daniel Monks, Julia Forsyth, Paula Arundell & Emma j Hawkins - photo Pia Johnson
Written by Rajendra Moodley, Presented by Australian Bollywood Productions with What’s On Production
Company, Ignite Bollywood & Victorian State Ballet
off Chapel, until Aug 13, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 3, 2017 Stars: **1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Aug 4, 2017, and later in print. KH
Bollywood movies are a
hoot when characters burst spontaneously and hilariously into elaborate song
and dance and, in this revival of The Perfume Garden, colourful, live Bollywood
numbers pepper Rajendra Moodley’s narrative about an Indian-Australian family.
Anand (Moodley) is a disenchanted,
40-ish, Indian-Australian who still lives with his struggling but ambitious parents
(Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada) who run a failing spice shop and care for
Ayah (Khema de Silva), an elderly, wheelchair-bound stroke victim and distant
Meanwhile, Anand, an
aspiring romantic fiction novelist with writer’s block, half-heartedly courts
Devi (Sacha Joseph), a traditional India girl who wants Australian residency.
Paul Watson’s production
suddenly comes to life when, 45 minutes into act one, Anand stumbles upon a
mysterious Hindu spell that temporarily resurrects Ayah who leaps from her
wheelchair to make suggestive comments and join the dancers.
Unfortunately, despite de
Silva’s entertaining antics as Ayah, the production is lacklustre with its slow
cueing, awkward scenes changes, cluttered staging, and Bollywood segments that
are not effectively integrated with the narrative.
Khema de Silva, Rajendra Moodley
Moodley’s script has
elements of ‘magical realism’ when Ayah wakes from her comatose state, and the
play does make some funny observations about traditional Indian family
attitudes and unrealistic expectations about employment and marriage.
However, the dialogue overall
is flabby, repetitive and in desperate need of editing.
De Silva is mischievous as
the revitalised Ayah and her scenes are certainly the most engaging, while
Lattuada provides a riotously saucy Bollywood routine as Chitra when she is
affected by Ayah’s sexy charm.
Moodley obviously draws
on personal experience for this play, but his performance is unconvincing.
With their vivid costumes
and eccentric choreographic blend of sassy, contemporary gestures with
classical Indian dance, the Bollywood routines are diverting and several
dancers are exceptional, although some of the men forget their moves.
The Perfume Garden is a
cheerfully playful show but, ultimately, it does not make a cohesive,
Anand - Rajendra Moodley
Satya Vishwajeet Pradhan Chitra - Laura Lattuada
Ayah - Khema de Silva
Devi - Sacha Joseph
Khema de Silva, Sacha Joseph, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada, Rajendra Moodley
L-R Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada, Rajendra Moodley
THEATRE Written & performed by Kim Noble, by In Between
Time (UK) in association with Soho Theatre At
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until Aug 13, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 2, 2017 Stars:**** This review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs Aug 3, 2017, and later in print. I'm still thinking and talking about this show, disturbing as it may be! KH
Kim Noble in You're Not Alone
You’re Not Alone by Kim
Noble is a thought-provoking theatre documentary about loneliness and disconnection
in the modern world cunningly disguised as an offensive show about risqué
behaviour and anonymous, online, sexual liaisons.
Be warned! If you are
offended by lurid imagery, explicit sexual behaviours, crude language or bodily
functions, this show is your worst nightmare.
This is a visceral,
provocative, audacious and profoundly unsettling work that straddles the
boundaries between performance art, exhibitionism, social documentary and
Noble is alarming, repellent,
confusing and grotesque while simultaneously being compelling, charming,
generous, creative and challenging.
He is also a creepy
stalker and a ‘catfish’ – catfishing involves falsely representing oneself
online to seduce and dupe respondents into sexual liaisons – although a few of
his online targets are horribly and hilariously shocked when they meet Noble in
his weirdly unattractive, transvestite persona.
Noble presents his video material
in a deadpan style resembling that of a newsreader and, although there is no
overt parody, the entire piece is strangely parodic.
I spent the first half
gaping open-mouthed at the outrageousness of Noble’s cheek (or is that ‘cheeks’?)
and bold mischief-making, but the final 15 minutes poignantly clarify the true
intent of You’re Not Alone. He made me cry.
Noble portrays a 21st
century world in which people crave connection with another human but,, despite
valiant efforts (e.g. resorting to online lunacy to connect), they remain
isolated and desperately lonely.
He gently and politely
invites an audience member to join him on stage – on opening night it was Geoff
– then whispers instructions to the guest who obediently responds.
Through his complex
videography, we meet Nobles’ neighbours, Keith the supermarket checkout guy, Noble’s
ailing father, John the lorry driver, and a bevy of others, many of whom may
never know that they are in this show.
You’re Not Alone may
offend you, but it will certainly keep you talking about how we communicate –
or do not communicate – in our soulless world. It’s a wild ride!
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs Aug 3, 2017 and in print on Fri 4 Aug 2017. KH
Geoff Paine, Kayla Hamill. Pic Rachel Edward
Credentials marks the
momentous return of renowned playwright, David Williamson, to La Mama to
celebrate La Mama’s 50th birthday just 47 years after his first
play, The Coming of Stork, premiered at the tiny Carlton theatre in 1970.
Williamson’s new play,
directed with a light hand by Tom Gutteridge, relates the story of Chrissie
(Kayla Hamill), a young woman who has a chequered past but now works successfully
as a paramedic – although, in the first scene, her boss, Mr. Shore (Geoff
Paine), discovers that all Chrissie’s qualifications are falsified. Yeah,
With Williamson’s usual
combination of drama with social satire, Credentials challenges our views on
social issues including drug addiction, violence and prostitution, while entertaining
us with depictions of absurd but familiar missteps related to parenting, spoilt
adult offspring, work and relationships.
The structure is episodic
and shifts between the present, when Shore confronts Chrissie about her fake
credentials, and Chrissie’s past when, as a 15-year old tearaway living in a
dull, country town with her dominating father (Paine), she takes off to Sydney with
her drug-dealing boyfriend, Rick (Zak Giles-Pidd), where she ends up in poverty
Williamson peppers the
compelling ethical issues with uncomfortable, dark comedy that often elicits
laughs but sometimes falls flat.
Gutteridge focuses on
character and story while keeping the staging uncomplicated, with actors
watching the action from the edges of the space when they are not in scenes,
and moving props during transitions.
Although the acting is uneven
in the minor roles, Paine is a highlight playing the two contrasting, but
equally confused fathers: Shore, the successful, middle-class, well-meaning parent,
and Chrissie’s rough-edged, working class dad who can’t understand his
entertaining and credible as Rick, playing him with a gritty, vibrating
physicality and vulnerability, while Hamill gives feisty Chrissie an edgy and
indomitable spirit that helps her overcome adversity.
Audiences will be split
over whether they believe Chrissie should be allowed to continue to work as a
paramedic despite her sham credentials, but Williamson certainly leaves us
arguing about the ethical issues.
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice The Production
Company in association with The Really Useful Group At State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Aug 13, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert in July 29, 2017 Stars:***1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun art online on Mon July 31, 2017, and later in print. KH
Michael Cormick, Rob Mills
1971, Jesus Christ Superstar broke all the rules and outraged plenty of people
when it turned the last days of Jesus into a rock opera and portrayed the
Messiah hooking up with Mary Magdalene.
a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this ground-breaking musical
is now an old standard and director, Gale Edwards, must make it connect with a modern
its dynamic, eclectic music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s ingenious
lyrics that advance the narrative and illuminate characters, this ground-breaking
musical is now an old standard and director, Gale Edwards, must make it connect
with a new audience.
Edwards’ production cannot compete with Laurence Connor's inspired UK Arena
production that catapulted Jesus’ story into the 21st century, hers is
a contemporary and, in the final scenes, gritty and gruesome vision of the last
days of Jesus, the celebrity-social-warrior who was ‘just a man’.
addresses issues including love, loyalty, ethics, betrayal, leadership, politics
and self-sacrifice, and Rob Mills portrays Jesus in a loving relationship with Mary
Magdalene (Alinta Chidzey), in a fraught, fraying friendship with Judas (Zoy
Frangos) and in conflict with Jewish leaders and Roman occupiers.
Alinta Chidzey, Rob Mills
Jesus is a vulnerable, naive idealist out of his depth battling politicians,
high priests, a ravenous media and his own adoring followers.
the lower-key ballads of the first act and some vocal issues, particularly with his falsetto, Mills delivers the impassioned rock
anthem, Gethsemane, and his final, moving scenes of Jesus’ bloody scourging and
crucifixion are tragic, particularly in contrast to the stirring anthem, Superstar.
Judas, the purist and realist who warns Jesus that his actions are dangerous, Zoy
Frangos has a powerful but unpredictable voice that captures Judas’ rage and
frustration, but his Judas needs greater depth and nuance to balance his
warm voice and intimate style make Magdalene a sensual presence and her
rendition of I Don’t Know How to Love Him is affecting.
scaffolding design (Dan Potra) creates an industrial environment with multiple performance
levels that might be used more effectively.
fine supporting cast includes Michael Cormick as the political animal, Pilate, Trevor
Ashley as the trashy cabaret version of Herod, and Andrew Cook with his rich voice
as Peter, and, accompanied by music played by tight onstage band, the talented ensemble
delivers What’s The Buzz, Hosanna and Superstar with enthusiasm.
music of Superstar still soars while the social and personal issues are still
relevant for audiences 40 years later.
MUSIC THEATRE Created by Warren
Wills At Chapel
off Chapel, until July 30, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 27, 2017 Stars: **1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs July 27, 2017 & later in print. KH
Thando Sikwila, Jess Mortlock, Warren Wills
Warren Wills’ piano playing and inventive musical arrangements are the great
strength and focus of Bowie & Mercury Rising, Wills’ tribute to his musical
heroes, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
accomplished musician and musical director, is the sole instrumentalist in this
show and his arrangements for piano and electronic keyboard have an expansive,
almost orchestral quality.
vocalist, Thando Sikwila, joins Wills on stage to sing an eclectic selection of
Bowie and Queen hits, ranging from Bowie’s Life on Mars, Suffragette City, Heroes and Space
Oddity to Queen’s We Will Rock You and
We are the Champions.
Sikwila’s performance is refreshingly unembellished and her rich,
controlled voice can be thrilling and moving; the show would improve if she
were let off the leash throughout, as she was in the bold, jazz-style finale of
Despite the musical successes, the component parts of this production do
not form a cohesive whole and the problems start with the repetitive
choreography (Jess Mortlock) and Sikwila’s awkward dialogue delivered at
irregular intervals between songs.
Mortlock is a capable dancer, but her choreographic interludes are
overwrought, do not illuminate the songs and are not effectively integrated
with the singer and musician.
Thando Sikwila, Warren Wills
Wills’ concept for the show is unclear and the dialogue, although
sometimes quirky and diverting, is often confusing, providing no through-line
The projected images are sometimes enlightening but more often distracting,
and the lighting (Jason Bovaird) needs simplifying to maintain the focus on
music and lyrics.
This production is crying out for a writer and, more urgently, a
theatrical director, to find a narrative and conceptual thread to link the
components and give greater insight into Bowie and Mercury.
This show would be far more successful if it limited its scope to being a
short concert cabaret with a tight focus on Wills, the pianist, and Sikwila,
the singer. I’d happily watch that show.
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 30, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herberton July 20, 2017
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri July 21, 2017 & later in print. KH
Jo Turner, Mitchell Butel, photo Prudence Upton
In the past, as in this modern world, seemingly good, generous or
religious people can be cruel, vindictive and tribal in their treatment of
those who they consider different – and so it goes in Shakespeare’s The
Merchant of Venice.
spirited production for Bell Shakespeare views the play through a 21st
century lens, with the young Venetians dressed in contemporary garb and
revelling like modern, privileged, narcissistic night-clubbers.
The difference is that
these young people identify as Christians and, as such, they condemn the
Venetian Jews’ practice of lending money at exorbitant interest rates.
The successful, popular
but disconsolate merchant, Antonio (Jo Turner), borrows a large sum from Shylock (Mitchell Butel), a
Jewish moneylender, to assist his friend, Bassanio (Damien Strouthos), to woo the lady, Portia (Jessica
Although Antonio has
abused and spat upon him, Shylock agrees to an interest-free loan but his
contract demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh if he cannot repay the loan within
The beginning of this production
is vivacious and mischievous, with characters delivering good-humoured laughs –
until Shylock’s daughter, Jessica (Felicity McKay), abandons, betrays and steals from her doting father to
elope with Bassanio to Belmont.
Butel is exceptional as
Shylock, giving a sensitive, nuanced performance that balances Shylock’s piety
and moral code with his humour, his vengefulness and, finally, his despair when
he loses his worldly goods, his daughter, his religion and his dignity.
Even when not in scenes,
Butel lingers at the perimeter as a reminder of Shylock’s vendetta and his
cruel suffering, his head lowered, and, at the end, stripped of his religious
The court scene is
compelling (although not as riveting as it could be) when Shylock demands his
pound of flesh until Portia annihilates his argument, but the second half of
the production flags after Shylock’s courtroom failure.
It is hard not to wonder whether Shakespeare condemned or condoned the
Venetians’ abusive treatment of Shylock.These Venetian Christians speak about love but demand money; they prate
about mercy but show none.
Mitchell Butel, photo Prudence Upton
Eugene Gilfedder provides two marvellous cameos as Arragon,
Portia’s supercilious suitor, and as Tubal, Shylock’s temperate, Jewish friend.
Jacob Warner’s Launcelot is a charmingly boyish clown while Damien Strouthos (Bassanio), Fayssal Bazzi (Gratiano) and Shiv Palekar (Lorenzo) make a robust band of playfellows,
although Turner’s Antonio lacks the charisma needed to make Antonio the beloved
centre of this merry gang.
Tovey’s Portia is feisty and Catherine Davies is ebullient as her
The final scenes of the
young Venetians’ merriment, although lively and playful, feel laboured and
overly long, undercutting the dynamic range of earlier scenes.
This production is
diverting and challenging, and it is impossible not to compare the bigotry in
this play with current socio-political situations.
By Kate Herbert
Mitchell Butel (Shylock), Fayssal Bazzi (Gratiano), Catherine
Davies (Nerissa), Eugene Gilfedder (Arragon / Tubal / Duke), Shiv Palekar
(Lorenzo / Morocco), Damien Strouthos (Bassanio), Jessica Tovey (Portia), Jo
Turner (Antonio) and Jacob Warner (Launcelot), Felicity McKay (Jessica).