Saturday 18 May 2024

KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS SAT18MAY2024

Today I talk briefly with Nick Tolhurst about Norm & Ahmed at La Mama, focussing on the issue of the final line which has an expletive and a racial slur.

 In `968 the show was raided at La Mama for obscenity. Now it would be the racial slur. Then we talk about issues that are controversial in theatre these days.

Saturday 4 May 2024

KATE HERBERT LUNG Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat4May2024

In this week's radio spot, I review:

 Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream by Bell Shakespeare

and

RBG: Of Many, One, by Suzie Miller with Heather Mitchell who gives an exceptional, solo performance.

 

Friday 3 May 2024

Interview- LUNG-David Astle-Evenings ABC 774 THURS 02 MAY 2024

This is the interview about LUNG a radio play performed on the stage at La Mama. David Astle talks to Kate Herbert, writer of LUNG, and Nancy Black, director. It runs 7-19 May 2024.

 

Tuesday 30 April 2024

RBG: Of Many, One REVIEW 26 April 2024 ****1/2

THEATRE

Written by Suzie Miller, by Sydney Theatre Company

At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until 20 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 4 May 2024. KH

Heather Mitchell  STC RBG_ Of Many, One_Image by Prudence Upton

 

Let me start by saying that Heather Mitchell gives a five-star performance as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Suzie Miller’s play RBG: Of Many, One.

 

Mitchell totally transforms both physically and vocally to inhabit the diminutive US Supreme Court judge who became a surprise icon, a meme, and much quoted hero of gender politics. Ginsburg was a judicial advocate of women’s rights who pursued specific cases in her early career as a lawyer to institute change for women. This is an exceptional, versatile and masterly solo performance from a stalwart of Australian theatre.

 

Not only does Mitchell play the pocket rocket, Ginsburg, but she also gleefully embodies every other character, populating the stage with a parade of recognisable or eccentric characters. Her performance is a joy to behold and reminds us what acting can be.

 

Miller‘s play shifts back and forward in time over decades, creating a tapestry of Ginsburg‘s life and work. We witness her anxiously awaiting President Clinton’s phone call confirming her appointment to the Supreme Court; it returns to Ginsburg’s childhood and her unstinting admiration of her mother; we see her college years, meeting and marrying her husband, having children, her early work, her arduous years working on watershed cases, and the many famous people, including the US presidents who she encountered on her journey.

 

Mitchell captures RBG’s world and personality as she shifts from Ginsburg as a child, to her old-age, then back to middle-age or her teenage years. She transforms in an instant, into impeccable impersonations of Clinton, Obama and even Trump who was the target of Ginsburg’s venom and her only unwise public comment that breached the boundary between the judiciary and the executive. For this she was much vilified and, personally, mortified.

Heather Mitchell  STC RBG_ Of Many, One_Image by Prudence Upton

 

Miller’s script is clever and clearly thoroughly researched, incorporating fact, observations and opinions into an episodic, dramatic structure that uses short vignettes, times shifts, and a multitude of characters for Mitchell to play.

 

It is, however, often more informational than it need be. The  play eulogises Ginsburg, presenting her with a virtually uncritical view, despite the myriad people – mainly on the right wing of US politics – who expressed significant criticism of her work, character and public profile. In Miller’s play, Ginsburg is lionised and presented as a gender politics icon, which she was. However, surely there was more to the woman and the public and private view of her.

 

Another minor issue is that a biography has no natural dramatic structure, so Ginsburg’s life evolves in a wave motion, with some higher points such as her appointment to the bench, but no clear climax, turning point, dramatic arc or satisfying ending, apart from her death.

 

These are all quibbles, because Mitchell makes this a compelling and uplifting performance.

 

by Kate Herbert

 

Director Priscilla Jackman
Designer David Fleischer
Lighting Designer Alexander Berlage
Composer & Sound Designer Paul Charlier
Assistant Director Sharon Millerchip
Voice & Accent Coach Jennifer White
Associate Designer (Tour) Emma White
Associate Sound Designer (Tour) Zac Saric

With
Heather Mitchell

Understudy
Lucy Bell

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream REVIEW 25 April 2024 **1/2

THEATRE

Written by William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until 11 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: **1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 4 May 2024. KH

Imogen Sage, Richard Pyros, Matu Ngaropo (front. Photo by Brett Boardman  
 Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a playful romantic and comical romp that is littered with magic, fairies, laughs, unrequited love and eloping lovers.

Usually, the most entertaining and hilarious scenes are those featuring the group of tradesmen known as The Mechanicals, a band of amateur actors who are rehearsing a riotously appalling performance for the Duke. Actors playing this group need to be exceptional clowns working as a cohesive ensemble to pull off these characters and their comic business.

 

Unfortunately, the comedy in this production, directed by Peter Evans, is overwrought and unsuccessful for the most part. The opening physical comedy is laboured and delays the actual start of The Mechanicals’ usually very funny rehearsal far too long.

 

There are some successful performances, particularly Matu Ngaropo as the vain, overconfident and absurd Bottom, and Richard Pyros playing Oberon, the Fairy King, as well as delightfully clownish Flute, while Imogen Sage is stately as Titania.

 

But there are problems: Shakespeare’s text, narrative and characters are not penetrated or given full range, the lyrical dialogue is laboured, there are some harsh vocal tones, and the joy and delight of this play is often lost. The female characters are played as modern women with rather more aggression than positive assertiveness.

 

The character of Puck (Ella Prince) is commonly played as mischievous, playful, enchanting, enchanted and somewhat ethereal. However, Puck in this production is weird, almost alien and uncomprehending of humans, which could be viable. But the character here is humourless, cruel, and most of all, without charm or playfulness. We need to love and enjoy Puck. We don’t!


Meanwhile, in line with this darker, more ominous tone of the production, the black-clad actors playing Titania’s fairy servants look more like looming demons than charming fairies as they mill about their mistress.

 

Actors playing multiple roles is common and often effective in productions of the Dream, but it seems a drawback in this instance, because some of the cast lack the versatility to carry off the multiple character transformations.

 

The effective design is a simple, large, tumbledown wooden frame resembling a dilapidated barn wall that provides a vehicle for entrances, exits and hidden observers including Titania, Oberon and his servant, Puck, who all perch on, and peer from the upper levels.

 

This is a valiant attempt at a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s Dream but, ultimately, it fails to deliver the captivating, magical quality of this romantic comedy.

 

by Kate Herbert

Isabel Burton, Richard Pyros, Matu Ngaropo, Imogen Sage, Ella Prince, Ahunim Abebe and Laurence Young–.Photo- Brett Boardman
 

CAST:

Ella Prince as Puck
Ahunim Abebe as Hermia / Snug
Isabel Burton as Helena/ Starveling
Mike Howlett as Demetrius / Snout
Matu Ngaropo as Bottom / Egeus
Richard Pyros as Theseus / Oberon / Flute

Imogen Sage as Titania / Hippolyta / Quince

Laurence Young as Lysander / Mechanical

CREATIVE TEAM:

Director Peter Evans
Associate Director Julia Billington
Assistant Director Dan Graham
Set and Costume Designer Teresa Negroponte

Lighting Designer Benjamin Cisterne

Composer and Sound Designer Max Lyandvert

Fight and Intimacy Director Nigel Poulton

Voice Coach Jack Starkey-Gill
Dramaturg James Evans

 


 




 

,,,,




Saturday 20 April 2024

KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat20April2024

In this radio spot, I talk about the writing and rehearsal of my new play, LUNG, a radio play performed live on stage at La Mama from 7 to 19 May 2024. 

 

Directed by Nancy Black, performed by Nikki Coghill, Geoff Wallis, Tony Rive, Carmelina Di Guglielmo and Alison Richards, with sound design by Elissa Goodrich.

 

The Almighty Sometimes REVIEW MTC 19 April 2024 ****

 THEATRE

Written by Kendall Feavers, Melbourne Theatre Company

At Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until 18 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: 4

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 20 April 2024. KH

 

Max Mckenna, Nadine Garner and Karl Richmond - image Pia Johnson
 

For some people, the warts-and-all exposure of mental illness in The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver, may hit too close to the bone.

 

The play, directly deftly by Hannah Goodwin, explores the struggle between a mother, Renee (Nadine Garner), and her 18-year-old daughter, Anna (Max McKenna) as Anna wrestles with her mental condition that swings between mania and depression. (It appears to be B polar Disorder.)

 

 Anna has been on powerful anti-psychotics and other mediation since she was 11 years when Renee took her to a child psychiatrist (Louisa Mignone) because of her increasingly disturbed, albeit creative and advanced writing, her erratic behaviour and apparent suicidal thoughts. 18-year-old Anna finds her 8-eyear-old self’s unsettling stories and decides to rediscover her searing creativity.

 

The stage become dangerous for Anna and Renee, as well as Anna’s mild-mannered, unwitting boyfriend, Oliver (Karl Richmond), when Anna decides to assert her newly acquired adulthood and independence by secretly and unsupervised, stopping her medication cold turkey. The result is a catastrophic deterioration in her mental condition.

 

McKenna is compelling as the volatile and mercurial Anna, as she trawls the depths of this character’s disturbing actions and her disturbed mind, finding her strength, imagination and vulnerability. Garner is sympathetic and fragile as the beleaguered, desperate Renee who fiercely protects her daughter while feeling guilty for subjecting her to such potent drugs and therapy at such as early age.

 

Jacob Battista’s set design is a constantly moving jigsaw of panels and cupboards that swivel and swing around the characters when Anna’s psyche is most unhinged.

 

The Almighty Sometimes is a challenging but dramatically satisfying production that deliver a complex mother-daughter relationship as well as a voyeuristic look into the tragic life of a young woman with a serious mental illness.

 

 

by Kate Herbert

 

CAST & CREATIVES

The Almighty Sometimes
By Kendall Feaver
Cast Nadine Garner, Max McKenna, Louisa Mignone, Karl Richmond Director Hannah Goodwin
Set & Costume Designer Jacob Battista
Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson
Composer & Sound Designer Kelly Ryall
Voice & Text Coach Matt Furlani
Fight Choreographer & Movement Consultant Lyndall Grant Intimacy Coordinator Bayley Turner
Assistant Director Jennifer Sarah Dean

TICKETING INFORMATION

 

Saturday 6 April 2024

KATE HERBERT RADIO REVIEWS Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat6APRIL 2024

In this radio spot, I review Chicago, Her Majesty’s Theatre Melbourne and the truly hilarious London Assurance adapted by Richard Bean(2010) by National Theatre at Home. 

I then mention some shows in the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2024.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Chicago REVIEW 26 March 2024 ****

MUSICAL THEATRE

Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fossey

At Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne until Sun 2 June 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars:**** (4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 6 April 2024. KH

CHICAGO-Antony Warlow & cast -2023-photo-Jeff-Busby
Chicago is one of the great, exhilarating musicals, and the more recent production featuring Anne Reinking’s choreography, based on Bob Fossey’s original dance, still catches that energised, sassy and saucy physicality that accompanies the audacious narrative about female murderers.

 

Of course, it does glamorise murder, making it funny, entertaining and strangely understandable when couched in the manipulated narrative spun by characters such as Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly.

 

These bold leading characters are played here by Zoe Ventoura as Velma and Lucy Maunder as Roxy, who are both capable singer/dancer /actors and vamp it up as these two ambitious killers seeking to be catapulted into show biz careers based on their infamy.


This may not be the best Chicago that I’ve seen. It’s a tall order to compete with Carolyn O’Connor, Chelsea Gibb and Sharon Millerchip, all of whom did Chicago over the past 20 + years.

 

However, the choreography, the music and the sassy songs carry this show, making it almost bullet-proof.

Cell Block Tango is a highlight with its sexy, captivating representation of six female prisoners singing their justifications for murdering partners.

 

The opening chorus of All That Jazz is thrilling and intensely physical. The choreography throughout the show is replete with Fossey’s bump-and-grind, hip swivelling and sexualised movement that captures the 30s cabaret and jazzy era. This musical is less about narrative and more about its dance, songs and characters.

 

The vocal highlight is Anthony Warlow as Billy Flynn the expert showman, defence lawyer who Warlow plays as sleek, dignified and cunning, rather than slick, showy and overly conniving. Warlow has a composure and dignity as Billy that is unlike other  actors’ more brash, brassy versions of the role. Billy manipulates facts and the jury to elevate his profile and his profit. He has no interest in the women; he is purely interested in his own success and reputation.

 

Peter Rowsthorn wins the hearts of the audience with his quirky, clown-like Amos Hart and Asabi Goodman as Matron ‘Mama’ Moreton, belts out the song, When You’re Good to Mama.

 

If you’ve not seen Chicago, get out and have a look at it because it’s effervescent and diverting and one of the great 20th century musicals.

 

by Kate Herbert

CHICAGO-Zoe Ventoura, Lucy Maunder 2023-photo-Jeff-Busby

 

CHICAGO-Cell Block Tango 2023-photo-Jeff-Busby

 

Saturday 23 March 2024

KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat23MARCH 2024

 

KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat23MARCH https://youtu.be/yfS3uruHFC8 

 

In this radio spot, I talk about how to watch theatre at home online. 

I discuss National Theatre At Home and its array of recorded NT productions, past and present available to rent or on subscription; MTC Digital which still has some recorded productions; and La Mama on Screen; and Sydney Opera House free recorded shows and talks.

I also mention Andrew Scott in Vanya for NT Live.

Friday 22 March 2024

London Assurance REVIEW NT at Home ****1/2

 THEATRE

London Assurance by Dion Boucicault adapted by Richard Bean, National Theatre at Home

At National Theatre at Home online by subscription https://www.ntathome.com

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****1/2

National Theatre at Home: You can subscribe for $18.95 per month or subscribe for the year. You can rent many shows individually for $14.95 for 3 days.

 

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 23 March 2024. KH

Official London Assurance Trailer | National Theatre Collection - YouTube
Fiona Shaw, Paul Ready, Simon Russelll Beale, Michelle Terry, image supplied online

 

London Assurance is a rollicking, sure-fire comic hit that is running on National Theatre at Home. It’s the 2010 stage production of Richard Bean’s superbly updated and wacky version of Dion Boucicault’s rather ordinary 19th century play which Bean transforms into a comic masterpiece. Most of the best lines are Bean’s or the cast’s own ad libs and Nicholas Hytner’s deft and decorative direction heightens the absurdity.

 

It boasts a magnificent cast, with Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw being the alarming and remarkable highlights in this broad farce that is riddled with disguises, mistaken identities, absurd love affairs, much confusion and running in and out of doors.

 

Beale is hilariously high camp and foppish as Sir Harcourt Courtly as he paces, primps and poses around the stage in a decidedly flamboyant and omnisexual style. My favourite line of his is, “ My wife ran off with my best friend,” followed wistfully by, “and I miss him.”

 

The 57-year-old Sir Harcourt goes to the country home of his friend, Max Harkaway (Mark Addy), whose 20-year-old daughter has arranged to marry. Sir Harcourt’s deceptive and dissolute son, Charles (Paul Ready) arrives with his new dodgy friend, Dazzle (Matt Cross), at the same country house and of course falls madly in love with said daughter. His father recognises him as his son. So of course, Charles, claims mistaken identity and must return as the bookish, timid and chaste-minded version of himself that his deluded father knows and loves.

 

The next highlight is Fiona Shaw, as Lady Gay Spencer, who Shaw plays as a horsey, galloping, goofy country lady who, true to her name, thinks everything is hilariously gay, including pretending to seduce old Sir Harcourt at the behest of his son.

 

This production at two hours, gallops along and it’s just one unbelievable, idiotic episode after another in a farce for the ages.

 

by Kate Herbert

 


 

 

CAST

Cool: Nick Sampson

Martin: Richard Frame

Charles Courtly: Paul Ready

Richard Dazzle: Matt Cross

Sir Harcourt Courtly: Simon Russell Beale

Squire Max Harkaway: Mark Addy

Pert: Maggie Service

James: Simon Markey

Grace Harkaway: Michelle Terry

Mark Meddle: Tony Jayawardena

Lady Gay Spanker: Fiona Shaw

Mr Adolphus Spanker: Richard Briers

Mr Solomon Isaacs: Junix Inocian

Doctor: David Whitworth

Servant: Mark Extance

Servant: Prasanna Puwanarajah

Doctor's daughter: Fiona Drummond

Doctor's daughter: Laura Matthews

 

Music Director /Accordion: Ian Watson

Fiddle: Sophie Solomon

Double Bass / Tuba: David Berr

 

CREATIVES Director: Nicholas Hytner

Designer: Mark Thompson

Music: Rachel Portman

Sound Designer: John Leonard

Lighting Designer: Neil Austin

Textual Revisions: Richard Bean

Choreographer: Scarlett Mackmin

 

Saturday 9 March 2024

RADIO REVIEWS Arts Weekly 3MBS SAT 9MARCH2024

 

  KateArtsWeeklyReviews9Mar2024

In this radio spot, I review The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke with Zahra Newman,  MTC. I  talk about Yentl at Malthouse and Nick Tolhurst tells me about the show I missed, Eat Your Heart Out by Shift Theatre at La Mama Courthouse.


Friday 8 March 2024

Trans Woman Kills Influencer online REVIEW 9 Mar 2014 ***

THEATRE ON SCREEN

Trans Woman Kills Influencer by Dax Carnay

At La Mama Theatre On Screen: Online Season: Feb 13 - Feb 27, 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: *** (3)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 10 March 2024. It is a review of the live production On Screen. KH

Image by Darren Gill supplied. Cast names not provided.

Trans Woman Kills Influencer, by Dax Carnay, tells its story from the perspectives of the four characters, until finally reaching its denouement after 70 minutes.

 

The title of the play is certainly an attention grabber, and the premise has dramatic potential, which is fulfilled to some degree in parts, and most effectively in its final scene.

 

Denise, known as Dee, is a trans woman who manages the advertising campaign for the evidently straight, male influencer, Alejandro, who, for some reason, is promoting a feminine hygiene product.

 

Dee’s colleague and frenemy, Jen, is frustrated and angry that Dee took the senior position in the agency that Jen believes she deserved. The fourth character is Dee’s shrill and high-camp personal assistant.

 

The narrative unfolds in sections, each presented from the perspective of a different character. Each character’s view generates stereotypes of the other characters in their story. 

 

For example, Jen is represented as angry, aggressive and vile from the others’ perspectives. In her own version, she is milder, reasonable and more genuinely distressed when she tries to explain why she believes a man who has become a woman is just another man who is taking a high-level job from a woman.

 

Part of the story is told in video projections of TV interviews or  stylish Vlog and influencer posts. All the characters are American, placing this story firmly on another continent that is notorious for its melodramatic and over-acted soap operas, which are echoed in this production.

 

Some of the potential drama and authenticity of the story is lost because of the hysterical behaviour of characters in particular scenes.

 

However, Trans Woman Kills Influencer is certainly a novel and catchy idea.

 

by Kate Herbert

 

Written By Dax Carnay

Directed by Emmanuelle Mattana

Performed by Dax Carnay, Khema De Silva, Vateresio Tuikaba and Ryan Henry

Stage Direction by Finn McLeish

Set and Costume Design by Filipe Filihia

 

Content Warnings: Violence, Hate Speech, Haze, Strobe, Blood, Use of Replica Weapons