Friday, 8 February 2019

The Lady in the Van, Feb 7, 2019

By Alan Bennett, Melbourne Theatre Company
At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until March 9, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
This review is NOT published in Herald Sun. KH

 Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes bustles about the stage like a demented doll in The Lady in the Van, bossing and bellowing at her reluctant and conflicted 'neighbour', Alan Bennett - or is he her ‘host’?

 In his play, directed here by Dean Bryant, Bennett depicts himself as two separate aspects of his character: Alan Bennett 1 (Daniel Frederikson) who reluctantly allows this recalcitrant, old lady to park her equally scruffy van in his garden indefinitely and assists her with letter writing and numerous complaints against the society on the fringes of which she dwells.

Alan Bennett 2 (James Millar), dressed identically to his doppelganger, scribbles in his notebook, journalising every eccentric activity of his malodorous subject whose name, she says, is Miss Mary Shepherd.

Margolyes' performance is bold, vigorous and comical, and intermittently reveals a vulnerability that allows us to see the inner turmoil and fractured mind of this peculiar, former nun who lives in her squalid van but still clings to a thread of dignity.

 Miriam Margolyes
Bennett's characters and narrative gently raise issues of tolerance, community spirit and the failures of the social welfare system, while the middle class characters, Pauline (Fiona Choi) and Rufus (Dalip Sondhi) pretend to be liberal and spout sympathetic, lefty rhetoric while shunning the lady in the van.
The cast is strong, however the episodic structure and lack of depth of most characters, apart from Miss Shepherd, make the play feel like it skims across the surface of the story.

The staging cunningly creates a sense of location by sliding chairs, fences and even vans on and off stage on invisible tracks, but this device becomes distracting.

The Lady in the Van is a gentle, funny and sometimes moving story about a woman whose life should have gone along another track and it reminds us that we are becoming a less caring community that needs to assist and provide for its more vulnerable members.

by Kate Herbert

 Miriam Margolyes, Daniel Frederiksen, James Millar

Miriam Margolyes – Miss Mary Shepherd (Margaret Fairchild)
Daniel Frederikson -Alan Bennett
James Millar -Alan Bennett 2 The Writer
Fiona Choi -Pauline
Dalip Sondhi Rufus
Jillian Murray- Mam
Ricahrd Piper -Doctor/ Garden Workman
Claire Healey - Social Worker/

Set & Costume- Alicia Clements
Lighting -Matt Scott
Composer /Sound Designer- Matthew Frank

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Les Misérables, Jan 19, 2019 ***1/2

Music & book by Claude-Michel Schönberg, book by Alain Boublil, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
By Young Australian Broadway Chorus
At National Theatre, St. Kilda, until Jan 27, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 This review also published in Herald Sun on Tues 22 Jan 2019. By the way, I'm back on deck after a hiatus. KH 
This production of Les Misérables by Young Australian Broadway Chorus may have a youthful cast, but their enthusiasm is contagious and the show entertaining, vivacious and often moving.

Robert Coates’ direction takes advantage of the enormous ensemble of young singers, filling the stage with milling crowd scenes and rousing choruses of the soaring tunes from this renowned musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music & book), Alain Boublil (book) and Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics).

Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel, is set in the early decades of 19th century France, ending in Paris after the tragedy of the failed1832 Paris Uprising.

The lead performers are capable actor-singers, but several give standout performances. Bryce Gibson plays the key role of Jean Valjean, the former convict, now gentleman, pursued relentlessly for decades by his nemesis, the policeman, Javert, played by Nicholas Sheppard.

Gibson and Sheppard may lack the years and gravitas usually required for these ageing rivals, but their commitment is unquestionable. Gibson’s renditions of Who Am I? and Bring Him Home are powerful and heartfelt while Sheppard makes a noble tragedy of the song and scene of Javert’s suicide.

Jordie Race-Coldrey is charismatic as Enjolras, leader of the student revolt, and, with his fine vocal tone, he effectively leads the ensemble in the stirring chorus of the anthemic song, Do You Hear the People Sing?

The rich-voiced Rhea Brendish makes a fine Eponine, Jasmine Arthur’s bright soprano is suited to Cosette who falls in love with Ben Gonsalvez’s rather goofy Marius, while Emily Svarnias breaks hearts as Fantine, singing the heart-wrenching I Dreamed A Dream.

The talented, youthful orchestra skilfully delivers the thrilling music that underscores the spirited, massed choruses and makes this production of Les Miz a musical treat that may be the starting point for a few professional musical theatre careers.

by Kate Herbert

Jasmine Arthur - Cosette
Rhea Brendish - Eponine
Bryce Gibson - Jean Valjean
Nicholas Sheppard - Javert
Emily Svarnias - Fantine
Ben Gosalvez - Marius
Madeleine Horsey - Mme Thenardier
Jackson Hurwood - M Thenardier
Jordie Race-Caldrey - Enjolras

Director - Robert Coates
Musical Director  -Justin Jacobs
Choreography -Jacqui Greene
Set -Dann Barber
Costume -Jennifer McKenzie
Lighting -Linda Hum