Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 21 December 2017
Highly Flammable Love, Dec 14, 2017 *1/2
THEATRE By Marcus Doherty & Zara Sengstock At Irene
Mitchell Theatre, St Martins, until Dec 16, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Dec 13 Stars: 1.5
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Tues Dec 19, 2017. KH
Marcus Doherty & Ayesha Gibson-Photo by Clay Waddell
The comedy in Highly
Flammable Love is as out of control as the bush fire that ignites in the second
Dennis (Doherty), a law graduate, moves from Melbourne to Shilangatta, a remote
country town, to be with girlfriend, Kelly (Sengstock), a local copper, but
Kelly dumps Dennis unceremoniously, leaving him sulking, boozing and stalking
Kelly for months after their break-up.
Marcus Doherty and Zara Sengstock, are
filmmakers who have shifted focus from screen to stage by producing an
Australian romantic-comedy for the theatre.
Even experienced theatre-makers avoid writing, directing and acting in
their own work, and, although we appreciate the efforts of this creative duo,
this overly long production lacks basic dramatic techniques.
The theatrical problems are evident immediately after the opening medley
of folksy Australian tunes (Dylan Knur, violin; Imogen
From the first awkward scene on a bench at Shilangatta Train Station, the
characters and relationships are one-dimensional, the jokes puerile and the
performances amateurish and overacted.
Although some audience members laugh aloud, the story is muddled and the
dialogue jumps from infantile arguments to preachy exchanges about
relationships, gender roles and personal freedom.
The production cries out for a dramaturg to shape the script, and a
director to focus the style, balance the pace, inject dramatic energy, stage
scenes imaginatively and tighten scene changes.
The style leaps from sketch comedy and messy slapstick, to weird musical/choreographic
routines, then to oddly serious dialogue about life, love and arson.
After a patchy first act, the second promises more substance, but soon
deteriorates into silliness when characters in cardboard-box cars skitter
around the stage in a cartoonish car chase.
Ayesha Gibson, as Zoe the attractive arsonist, provides
some credible acting, but Doherty’suncomfortable
grimacing and awkward physicality as the hapless Dennis, is distracting.
Even with the best of intentions and a decent premise, a show can collapse,
and Highly Flammable
Love needs a skilful theatre doctor to revive it.