Thursday, 21 June 2018

Opening Gala, Melbourne Cabaret Festival, June 19, 2018 ****

At Chapel off Chapel, Tues June 19 only (Festival runs to July 1) 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts /Entertainment online on Wed June 20 2018 & later in in print. KH
For information about these and other festival shows:
Dolly Diamond - Gala - pic Sanjeev Sing

The Melbourne Cabaret Festival caters to diverse tastes, with its program of saucy sirens, sultry divas, classical strains, original songs and pop tunes, and the opening gala, hosted by wicked Dolly Diamondprovides a taster.

The smoky-voiced Alyce Platt, former 80s game show star, sings diverse songs – a sultry, country-influenced ballad, Someone's Daughter, and The Motels’ hit, Total Control – and she links her tunes with teasing tales of her early life in the fast lane.

A startling detour from the usual cabaret fare is Max Riebl's remarkable countertenor, and he applies his thrilling voice to an Elvis tune then stuns the crowd with a soaring rendition of Handel's classical Con rauco mormorio.

Accompanied by Jamie Burgess on piano, Justin Clausen delivers a mean version of Celine Dion’s The Power of Love followed by a sassy, hip-wiggling River Deep, Mountain High.

Drew Downing is charming and engaging at the piano, accompanied by backing singers and musicians, performing Brian Wilson’s songs, including God Only Knows, Surfer Girl and Help Me Rhonda.

 Erin Hutchinson and Tyler Jacob Jones do quirky, original material about Things That People Do To Survive, and the evening finishes with platinum-wigged, vivacious and bold-voiced Danielle O'Malley channelling Nancy Sinatra singing her classics, Bang Bang and These Boots Are Made For Walking.

Alyce Platt – Someone's Daughter
Max Riebl – Hard to Handel
Justin Clausen and Jamie Burgess – He's Every Woman
Drew Downing – God Only Knows: The Songs of Brian Wilson
 Erin Hutchinson, Tyler Jacob Jones and Joshua Haines – What Doesn't Kill You [blah blah] Stronger
 Danielle O'Malley – Nancy Sinatra: You Only Live Twice

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Brothers Wreck, June 14, 2018 ***

Written & directed by Jada Alberts, by Malthouse Theatre 
At Malthouse Theatre, until July 23, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print (date TBC). KH
Brothers Wreck_Leonie Whyman, Lisa Flanagan, Dion Williams_pic by Tim Grey
 Brothers Wreck, written and directed by Jada Alberts, follows the tradition of the confronting family drama, peering like a voyeur through the rain-streaked windows of the Kelly family home in hot, stormy Darwin as this indigenous family struggles with the suicide of a loved one.

After Adele (Leonie Whyman) and her boyfriend, Jared (Nelson Baker), find Adele's brother's body, Adele's cousin, Ruben (Dion Williams), spirals into a combative and self-destructive phase of boozing, anger and despair that no one, including his Aunty (Lisa Flanagan) and his counsellor (Trevor Jamieson), can stop.

Alberts' linear narrative explores the intensity of familial relationships and the vastly differing manifestations of grief, ranging from rage to silent brooding or even survivor guilt. This family wrestles with internal and external strife, and each member contends with it in a different way.

The dialogue effectively represents a slice of life with its petty squabbles, raging arguments, banal domestic chatter and chores, or playful time-filling diversions.

Although the relationships have an innate truthfulness, most of the characters' interactions are driven by conflict and argument, which leads to too much dialogue being shouted, and many of the scenes feeling repetitive.

Some dialogue is inaudible and the acting is uneven and lacking nuance, however, the raw, unembellished nature of the performances somehow lends honesty and integrity to the characters.

The claustrophobic quality of this family home is emphasised by Dale Ferguson's enclosed, opaque, plastic walls and aluminium screen doors, while the internal chaos that drives Ruben to distraction is exaggerated by the grating, industrial soundscape (Kelly Ryall).

The resolution to Ruben's crisis may be too easily achieved in the final scene, corresponding with the stopping of the incessant, torrential rain, but, with the end of the inclement weather, this family comes to a sort of peace.

by Kate Herbert

Trevor Jamieson 
Nelson Baker
Lisa Flanagan 
Leonie Whyman 
Dion Williams
Malthouse Theatre

Set costume Dale Ferguson
Lighting Chris Petridis
Composition Kelly Ryall

Monday, 4 June 2018

my sister feather, June 1, 2018 ***1/2

Written by Olivia Satchell
At La Mama Courthouse, until June 10, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon 4 June 2018 & in print on Tues 5 June 2018. K

L-R_Belinda McClory, Emily Tomlins_pic Sarah Walker
Siblings can be the kindest or the cruellest to each other, and sometimes are both in a matter of minutes – and so it is with sisters, Tilly and Egg, in my sister feather by Olivia Satchell.

When, after decades of separation, Tilly (Belinda McClory) visits younger sister, Egg (Emily Tomlins), in prison to inform her of their mother’s death, the pair must find a way to communicate as adults and address their shared past, lost years and why their mother abandoned them as children.

Satchell’s intense, brooding production explores the intimacy and alienation of Egg and Tilly's relationship as they negotiate the dangerous terrain of rebuilding their relationship and reliving their past.

The play shifts between the grim, present day in a sterile prison room, and the sisters' childhood when Tilly protected little Egg, entertained her with fairy stories, or bullied her as only an older sister can do.

McClory is persuasive as Tilly, her nuanced performance shifting from nervous blathering to caring professional to critical, controlling big sister.

Tomlins captures the vulnerability lurking beneath prison inmate Egg’s brittle exterior, revealing Egg's true self as she opens up to her long-lost sister, expressing her guilt, blame and shame.

The play balances poignant scenes with the sisters’ playful interactions, past and present, and their repeated reference to The Owl and the Pussycat nonsense poem that amused them as children epitomises their need to bond and rediscover intimacy.

The stark design (James Lew), furnished with only an immovable table, benches and vending machine, encapsulates the bleak emptiness of Egg’s world, and the sisters’ every move is watched through CCTV, while their minor transgressions trigger a jarring siren.

Some childhood scenes feel awkward, and some unresolved issues warrant answers to render the play more coherent: what was Egg’s crime, why did Tilly abandon Egg, and what’s in mum’s letters to her daughters?

Perhaps not all these questions need answering, but some, at least, would fill the gaps in this otherwise compelling production.

by Kate Herbert

 Cast:  Emily Tomlins, Belinda McClory

Directed by Olivia Satchell
Sound by Tom Backhaus
Lighting by Jason Crick
Design by James Le

The House of Bernarda Alba, May 31, 2018 ***1/2

Adapted by Patricia Cornelius from play by Federico García Lorca
By Melbourne Theatre Company
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 7, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri June 1, 2018, and later in print. KH
Melita Jurisic
Federico García Lorca’s 1936 play, The House of Bernarda Alba, is famous for the repressive and suffocating atmosphere in his depiction of a Spanish village home inhabited only by women.

Playwright, Patricia Cornelius, transposes this pre-war Spanish scenario to the present-day in an isolated house in hot, arid, rural Western Australia, and effectively blends Australianisms and modern references with poetic language.

Bernadette (Melita Jurisic), the widow of a mining tycoon, forces her four daughters (Peta Brady, Candy Bowers, Bessie Holland, Emily Milledge), her demented mother (Sue Jones), and housekeeper (Julie Forsyth) to mourn for eight weeks without access to the outside world.

Lorca’s themes of repression, isolation, brutality and sexual frustration are evident in Cornelius’s grim adaptation directed by Leticia Cáceres, but this production lacks the menace and claustrophobic quality of Lorca’s original play.

The motivation for them to remain incarcerated in their mother’s house is not as clear as it is for Lorca’s Alba family, so we must suspend disbelief to accept that 21st century women would not simply walk out and keep walking – even if mum demands they stay, hides the keys, and controls their internet and phone access.

Eldest daughter, Angela, played with humour and pathos by Brady as a spiky, sickly, sheltered ‘spinster’, is surprised and empowered when she inherits a fortune from her natural father who died before her mother married the recently deceased stepfather.

This leaves Bernadette and her other daughters penniless and dependent, so, when a local lad, a miner, proposes to Angela, Bernadette sees a way to control Angela’s fortune and secure her own future.

Although the acting is uneven, Jurisic is a potent presence as matriarch, Bernadette, playing her with faded, stately elegance and cruelty; the inimitable Forsyth is her perfect foil, playing destitute housekeeper, Penelope, as a mischievous, often hilarious observer, while Jones is suitably wild as grandmother, Maria.

While Cáceres’s direction heightens the agonising slowness of time passing at the rate of a ceiling fan in this unhappy house, this deprives the production of dynamic range in pace and tone, leaving it lacking the repressed passion and danger of Lorca’s play.

by Kate Herbert 

Cast: Melita Jurisic, Candy Bowers, Peta Brady, Julie Forsyth, Bessie Holland, Sue Jones, Emily Milledge

Set and Costume Designer Marg Horwell
Lighting Designer Rachel Burke

Composer Irine Vela
Sound Designer Jethro Woodward

Friday, 1 June 2018

Puffs, May 30, 2018 ***

Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic
Written by Matt Cox     
At The Alex, St. Kilda, now running until Aug 12, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***
Ryan-Hawke_Eva-Seymour_Keith-Brockett_Pic by Ben Fon
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online and in print on Friday June 1, 2018. KH

If you’ve ever felt like a secondary character in someone else’s exciting life, you’ll identify with the Puffs’ relationship to a certain young, bespectacled wizard who has all the interesting and dangerous adventures.

However, unless you are thoroughly versed in the Harry Potter books and films, much of this parody by American playwright, Matt Cox, will be impenetrable silliness.

For seven years at this famous wizard school, that lightning-scarred kid is the focus of attention, while the Puffs – the least prestigious of four student Houses – carry on being ordinary, and hoping against hope they’ll come third in the House Cup.

Puffs features a hapless trio of geeks: Wayne, a cuddly, untalented Australian kid played goofily by Ryan Hawke; Megan, the rebellious ‘emo’ played by Eva Seymour; and Keith Brockett’s Oliver, the Maths genius who is embarrassingly remedial at wizardry.

Rob Mills
Cedric Diggory, played with oodles of charming niceness by Rob Mills, is the only successful Puff – and he dies before he can teach Wayne all about magic. (If you don’t already know Cedric or his fate, don’t see this play.)

A spirited ensemble plays the remaining, misfit Puffs, as well as other, familiar cameos, including Mills’ very funny parody of evil Lord Voldemort.

Kristin McCarthy Parker’s production, is a fast-moving, 115-minute (plus interval) pastiche that gallops through a zany synopsis of all seven Potter books, with story transitions being wrangled by an oily Narrator (Gareth Isaac).

For the Puffs, all the real Hogwarts action occurs off-stage, out of view, just before or after they arrive, although Harry makes fleeting, albeit heroic, appearances with inanimate versions of Ron and Hermione.

It’s like watching Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet play games off-stage to fill the time.

Puffs look a lot like a university revue, but it will be ridiculous and familiar fun for those who immersed themselves in J.K. Rowling’s books from an early age.

by Kate Herbert
_Eva-Seymour_Keith-Brockett_Tammy-Weller_Matt-Whitty_Annabelle-Tudor_Rob-Mills_Daniel-Cosgrove_Zenya-Carmellotti_Ryan-Hawke_Olivia-Charalambous_Pic by Ben Fon

Wayne- Ryan Hawke
Oliver - Keith Brockett
Megan – Eva Seymour
Sally- Zenya Carmelloti
Susie - Olivia Charalambous
Narrator – Gareth Isaac
Cedric – Rob Mills
J. Finch -Daniel Cosgrove
Hannah _ Annabel Tudor
Leanne- Tammy Weller
Ernie – Matt Whitty
Lauren McKenna
David Todman

Produced by TEG [LIVE] with Tilted Windmills Theatricals, John Arthur Pinckard & David Carpenter
Written by Matt Cox,
Directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker
Production and costume design by Madeleine Bundy
Original lighting design by Herrick Goldman
Sound design by Matt Cox 
Original music by Brian Hoes