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.
Written by William Shakespeare,
Bell Shakespeare Company
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until May
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon April 30, 2018 & later in print. KH
Catherine McClements & Johnny Carr
Antony and Cleopatra are like a middle-aged Romeo and Juliet, but with an
overwhelming lust for power that accompanies their long-standing love.
The play occurs between
40BC and 30BC when the powerful triumvirate of Antony (Johnny Carr), Octavius (Gareth
Reeves) and Pompey (Lucy Goleby) form an alliance to rule the Roman Empire, but
this unity eventually dissolves into war.
Performed on a pastel design
(Anna Cordingley) that merges corporate lounge with plush hotel room, Peter
Evans’ production omits any visible signs of military action or violent warfare,
focusing instead on the backroom machinations and boozy revelry of Antony,
Cleopatra, Pompey, Octavius and their retinues.
This modern perspective
provides insight into the corporatised decision-making of war, but it leaves
the production lacking a sense of danger, with the only bloodiness occurring at
the death of Antony.
Dressed in a modern pants
suit, Catherine McClements is engagingly mischievous and manipulative as the
vain, powerful Queen Cleopatra, capturing her insecurity in love and her capricious
rage when crossed.
Evans eliminates any
sense of Cleopatra’s exoticism and beauty, and he also diminishes Cleopatra’s
role as the sole powerful woman in this story by transforming the male Pompey into
a woman far more powerful and glamorous than Cleopatra.
Johnny Carr effectively
depicts Antony's dissolute behaviour and his later disillusionment, but his
portrayal emphasises Antony's weakness, with no sense that he was ever powerful
in the past. Carr seems miscast as Antony, looking more like a hipster barista
rather than a powerful, ageing Roman General.
Ray Chong Nee is
commanding as Enobarbus and the richness of his voice and his magnetic presence
may well have suited the role of Antony.
There is little romantic
chemistry between McClements and Carr, so the passion that is essential between
this ardent couple is sadly missing.
Strangely, the most
passionate scene in the production is the dying farewell between Cleopatra and
her serving women, Charmian (Zindzi Okenyo) and Alexas (Janine Watson), capturing
as it does their love and grief.
interpretation of Antony and Cleopatra successfully depicts the backroom power
plays but its modern interpretation lacks passion and coherence.
By Kate Herbert
Catherine McClements, Johnny Carr, Ray
Chong Nee, Joseph Del Re, Lucy Goleby., Ursula
Reeves, Steve Rodgers, Jo Turner,Janine Watson
Lighting Designer Ben Cisterne
Composer & Sound Designer Max Lyandvert
Movement & Fight Director Nigel Poulton
Written by Catherine-Anne Toupin, translated by Chris Campbell, by Red Stitch
At Red Stitch, until May 20, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert (on Sunday April 22, 2018)
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Mon April 23, 2018 and in print later. KH
Christina O’Neill, Joe Petruzzi
Reality can be slippery and elusive, and so it is in the world of Right
Now, a play by Canadian writer, Catherine-Anne
From the beginning
of the play, it seems that all is not right between Alice (Christina O’Neill)
and her husband, Ben (Dushan Phillips), but their apparently shaky relationship is
tested to its limits when their peculiar neighbours start to intrude on their
The three neighbours’ family name is ‘Gauche’,
and their interfering, critical and rude behaviour soon proves them to be
gauche not only by name but also by nature.
The production, directed by Katy
Maudlin, has a creeping, portentous, horror movie feel that is sometimes too
heavily underscored by its ominous soundscape.
The strange abstraction and unreality of this story sometimes seems
overblown and the performances a little too clownish, but there is a pay off at
the end when all becomes clear.
Juliette, played with relentless, intrusive
cheerfulness by Olga Makeeva, is the first interloper to get her foot inside
Alice and Ben’s apartment, then she hauls in her idiotic son, Francois, played
by Mark Wilson as a gawky, grinning man-child.
Joe Petruzzi effectively plays Gilles, the
last but most forbidding member of the Gauche family, as an older man who
exerts a quietly menacing, seductive power over O’Neill’s timid, anxious Alice.
Ben and Alice seem to be rats in a laboratory
experiment, being studied, analysed and tested by this weird and obnoxious
family that seems to accept its own dysfunction and thrive on the discomfort of
Toupin’s short, episodic scenes are like snapshots
of Alice and Ben’s life as it spirals out of their control, and it is difficult
not to shout, ‘Get rid of them!’ to the couple to make them evict these
neighbours who have inveigled their way into Ben and Alice’s lives.
Right Now is an unsettling play that succeeds in making its audience
uncomfortable and blurring the lines between reality and – well, you’ll have to
go and see it.
Coopers Inn, 282 Exhibition St, Melbourne, until April
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri April 13, 2018. KH
Fanny Bouffante believes totally, completely and
modestly in the superiority of the French woman's innate and unquestionable
ability to do everything better than, well, everyone else, particularly
Fanny, the alter ego of Kate Hanley Corley, is the
mistress of style when she arrives prancing jauntily through the audience,
wearing a chic mini dress under an elegant, little Chanel jacket.
On stage, she poses and pouts, wiggles saucily and
dances provocatively, all the while instructing the Aussies in Fashion, Food
and Sex. Fanny identifies as a style icon, and her style Bible is her own book,
French Women Do Everything Better, with each chapter providing more bizarre
advice to the hapless Aussie.
It is refreshing to see some character-based comedy
instead of stand-up, and there are some very funny moments, and some sassy and
outrageous advice in Fanny’s routine.
Fanny sings several goofy, original songs (composer
Emma Hart) from her album, My Fanny Sings, each with the flavour of La Belle
France, including accordions, lilting tunes and silly lyrics about – you
guessed it – food, fashion and sex.
She accompanies her smart and sassy lecture with large
screen projections of – you guessed it again – food, fashion and sex!
Evidently, Australian women fail on all counts of
style and beauty, while our men need flirting lessons, which Fanny is only too
willing to provide.
A few jokes get lost when the tag lines rush by too
quickly, while others seem like filler that could be trimmed, but Fanny is at
her liveliest and funniest when responding to the audience, and, when she
loosens up and lets her material relax, the character comes to life.
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St Melbourne until April 22, 2018
7, 8, 14, 20, 21, 22 only)
Star Review: ****1/2
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online April 9, 2018. KH
Never fear, die-hard but ageing and slightly weary fans
of this wickedly funny comedy duo, you’ll be home in time for your favourite
telly programs after these late arvo, weekend-only shows by Judith Lucy and
Disappointments is laugh-out-loud funny, even for
younger members of the mostly over-fortyish crowd who laugh their noggins off
at every age-related ailment or life-related complaint that Lucy and Scott have
experienced over their decades-long comedy careers.
They start as 'lie-down' comedians, propped up in
beds, but graduate from flannelette nighties to sparkly, green and black dinner
jackets when they transition to 'stand-up'. Later, they appear in something far
more revealing, but no spoilers here.
Both are inclined to over-share, and there are gasps
and roars of laughter as they trade routines about menopause and dry bits,
bowel screening and IBS, and other bodily functions of the over 50s and 60s. It's
identification comedy for the middle-ageing.
Scott's stories of her debilitating arthritis get
howls of laughter from fellow sufferers in the crowd, and tales of successes
and failures in their respective careers and relationships ring bells (or
alarms, in the case of Lucy) for many.
Scott and Lucy trade gags and insults, playing off
each other with ease, and shifting the focus from one to the other when they
are not engaged in riotous dialogues.
They are wry and laconic, and their material is
audacious and rude, but, strangely, never offensive, perhaps because of its
outright, heart-on-sleeve honesty.
These two masterly comics spill their guts with no
holds barred in this mischievous and outrageous testimony to being bloody
resilient as we age. Testify sisters!
Melbourne Town Hall, Supper Room, until April 22, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday April 6, 2018. KH
Matt Okine looks comfortably casual in his jeans,
sneakers, black t-shirt and cap, and his attitude and physicality is just as
casual and loose throughout his show, The Hat Game.
He strolls across the stage, riffing on iPhones, bus
tickets, peanuts, and how you can use credit cards to buy just about anything,
anywhere. He rants about social media, idiots that populate that online world, Facebook
ads, and Big Data.
Okine identifies himself as 'brown' then sticks the
boot into racism in general, and, specifically, Australian political racism
exhibited by One Nation.
His running story about seeking dual citizenship with
Ghana (his father’s Ghanaian) has a comic pay-off by the end. Another running
story dates from 10 years ago when he was barely scraping a living as a novice
comedian, and his visits to the casino at that time provide material about
winning and losing – and losing again.
His routine includes some tightly structured gags with
clever tag lines and pay-offs, but he also wanders into some long, slow and
relatively unformed lead-ups to jokes that don't always generate laughs, and its all riddled with expletives.
One gag makes the entire audience simultaneously laugh
and groan with disapproval (or disgust?), because it is essentially a bit
offensive. He admits he loves this gag, then spends the next 5 minutes
analysing its comedic value.
Okine often delivers his material to the ceiling, which
disengages him from his audience, and he wastes his final minutes unnecessarily
listing his performance resumé, from his past as a struggling stand-up to his
recent TV success.
While Okine’s blokey casualness obviously appeals to his audience and he
has comedic skill, his material and delivery can be uneven.
Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne, until
April 22, 2018
International act (UK)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs April 5, 2018. KH
Each generation finds ways to distract itself from the
politics and other horrors of its era, and, in Bread and Circuses, Stephen K
Amos gets comedy mileage by contrasting his childhood distractions with those
of the tech-savvy millennials.
The Ancient Romans distracted disgruntled citizens
with food (bread) and gladiatorial fight clubs (circuses), and Amos's own
childhood diversions included board games such as Cluedo, whereas young people
today immerse themselves in iPhones, Facebook, Instagram and Reality TV.
To prove his point, a young woman seated in front of
this reviewer kept scanning her Facebook feed then played a video of another
idiot cooking muffins! Really! Bring back the gladiators, I say!
Amos lounges casually, leaning on his microphone stand
and mercilessly teasing audience members who call out inanities, or take four
seconds too long to get at a joke. He gets laughs out of hassling the crowd for
messing up his ‘rhythm’.
He has a mischievous grin as he rambles comfortably
from topic to topic: Donald Trump, traffic jams, redheads, guinea pigs, Bob
Katter, Barnaby Joyce, and Amos’s own dad's inability to wrangle technology.
Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein get a big serve of
criticism, and Amos also provides an interesting take on the superhero movie,
Black Panther, and on other race-related issues.
Amos's comedy is intelligent but sometimes scathing
and, even when the audience response is not what he expects or desires, he
laughs at himself and the crowd, then gets back into the rhythm again.
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until April 22 (later, Hamer
Hall, Aug 10 & 11). Star Review: ****1/2 Australian act Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online, Wed April 4, 2018 and in print on Thurs April 5, 2018. KH
Lano and Woodley
Get ready to hold onto your aching sides, because Lano and Woodley are
still ridiculously funny and idiotic in Fly, their much-anticipated reunion
show after 12 years apart.
Colin (Lano) is determined to stage a serious bit of theatre, a play
about the flying Wright brothers, but Frank (Woodley) keeps tilting the show
into the 'stupid, silly nonsense' for which Lano and Woodley are renowned, and which
the crowd is slavering to see.
In front of a gloriously complex wall of geometric
design (Charles Davis), eclectic projections (Neil Sanderson) and exploding
lights (Verity Hampson), this beloved comic duo frolics from one madcap idea to
another, creating their signature style of comedy mayhem.
Wearing a smoking jacket and tasseled hat, Colin narrates his play like
an earnest BBC host, but repeatedly interrupting his artsy plan are bursts of
electrocution, silly songs about the Wright brothers’ dead boring lives, or
spontaneously erupting tunes from The Lion King.
Meanwhile, Frank keeps hilariously, and possibly unintentionally,
sabotaging Colin’s arty ambitions, by deviating from the script with references
to the duo’s ‘break up’, the Jeff Goldblum film, The Fly, and other horror
movies that he recreates with spooky sound effects from the audience.
Lano and Woodley’s slapstick comedy is almost vaudevillian in style, and
they are masters of cunning reincorporation, hilarious put-downs, and the
endless postponement of gags and payoffs, all of which have the audience
cheering and howling with laughter.
There’ll be no more spoilers here, but it is hard to spoil such an
eccentric, screwball performance by two of our greatest virtuosos of comedy.
Welcome back, lads!
PS: Colin, you have created a ‘beautiful’ piece of theatre!
Powder Room, Melbourne Town Hall, until April 15, 2018
Star Review: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Comedy Festival online, Tues April 3, 2018. KH
Nikki Britton's Grandma gleefully recreates the childhood
dreams and ambitions of young and old alike, in her 'Realisation Station'.
Grandma, who is of a type not seen since early Edna
Everage days, sports a silvery wig, glasses, pearls and a polyester frock, and she
has a significant problem with gaseous eruptions that cause hysterics in the
She also has a hearing issue, which creates a running
gag when she can't hear the names of her child volunteers, who she calls such
loony names as 'Mushroom' and 'Batteries Not Included'.
Britton's Grandma is goofy and disinhibited, engaging
easily with audience members, drawing them onto the stage to join her as backup
rap dancers for Grandma's unforgettable Soup Rap, a number to which she could
easily add another verse.
The kids share with her their dreams: being a Popstar,
a Rockstar, a YouTuber, and even a kid who wants a proper job – as a Vet.
Grandma's shiny, red, shopping jeep holds all her
dreams of being a magician, a rap artist, a scientist and, most bizarre of all,
she wanted to be a frankfurt sausage – with her very own human rotisserie made
out of dads from the audience. Beware dads!
Using her ‘Realisation Station’, Grandma conjures the
children’s dreams as cute, little drawings on a screen immediately the children
describe them to her. It's a clever and magical element to the show.
The kids obviously got Grandma's message, as was made
loud and clear by a child calling out at the end, 'Never stop dreaming!' So,
dream on people, and don't grow up.
At Trades Hall, Music Room, Victoria St Carlton, until April 22, 2018
Star Review: **1/2
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Tues April 3, 2018. KH
A good musical requires a talented musician, cleverly
constructed and tunefully sung songs, and a really sharp narrative with good
dialogue and characters.
In its Completely Improvised Musical, Impromptunes
manages to do the first two items very well, but, on this night, their musical
called Hot Chocolate comes unstuck because of a shabby narrative, awkward
dialogue and inconsistent characters.
After an overture by their versatile and
inventive musician, the show’s title, provided by an
audience member, is the cue for a classic, peppy, musical theatre opening song, ‘Hot
Chocolate, Yahoo!’, sung by the cast of five.
The story is bumpy, but deals with the staff of Hot
Hot Hot Industries that makes hot chocolate, but is also a hotbed of envy,
ambition and lust.
Peter, the brown-nosing executive, sings about hot
chocolate being a metaphor for his life, and the finale is the rousing chorus, 'Life
is like hot chocolate. It's best shared with those you love.'
The songs sound like musical theatre tunes,
complete with harmonies and cheesy dance routines and, on this night, there
were plenty of love songs: a duet called ‘You and I, Me and You Together’; 'Maybe
This Is The Moment', a quartet by two couples; and 'Sometimes Love Makes You
‘Trapped’ is a clever tune sung by all cast members,
and the rapid-fire, uptempo ‘Sugar Song’ is a hoot.
exciting to witness singer-improvisers scrambling to create songs, story and
characters, and you'll certainly get a different show every night, with good
music and capable singers – and the narrative might be amazing on another
By Kate Herbert
Cast of Hot Chocolate: