Friday 15 July 1994

Blood Brothers, Melbourne, 17 July 1994

At Comedy Theatre, Melbourne from July 15, 1994

Reviewer: Kate Herbert around 15 July 1994

This review was published in the Melbourne Times after 15 July 1994


Twins are known to have an uncanny bond, and those separated at birth experience a pervasive and perpetual sense of loss. Willy Russell's Tony award-winning musical, Blood Brothers, has two such boys at its heart.


One twin, Eddie (Ross Girven) is illegally adopted by an infertile but wealthy woman, while Mickey (Stefan Dennis) remains with his Liverpool mother who pops a babe a year. In spite of their mothers' attempts keep them apart, the boys become intimate friends, blood brothers for life - and to the death.


David Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame, has a potent stage presence and rich voice as the doomsaying bogeyman, the portentous Narrator who speaks their fates. Delia Hannah is exceptional as the boys' superstitious mother, with a powerful voice and warm, unaffected style.


Stefan Dennis meets her level as the tragic working-class boy. He has perfected every detail and mannerism of a boy at 8 and 14 and is totally credible. His performance is warm, funny, accurate and, by the final scenes, his character is truly heart-breaking. Ross Girven and Tina Regtien are charming as his twin, and his girlfriend.


The first act of Blood Brothers is light, entertaining, but a little slow. After interval though, all stops are out. The songs are more singable, the narrative weightier, the plot shifting away from melodrama to genuine drama and, finally, to tragedy. Russell, writer of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, has injected a rare depth into this musical.


The chorus is strong, but John Wraight stands out in several hilarious, broad comic cameos. The invisible live band was terrific. The music and lyrics also by Russell, range from the pedestrian to the hummable to the invigorating.  Dennis's yearning song "Long Sunday Afternoon" is charming and "Bright New Day" was a fine joyful ending to Act One.


"Tell Me It's Not True", sung movingly by Hannah and company, capped off this tear-jerker. Take a box of tissues for the finale. This is a real weeper.



Wednesday 13 July 1994

Underwear, Perfume and Crash Helmet by Michael Gurr, 13 July 1994


By Playbox Theatre

At Beckett Theatre, Southbank until August ( No definite close)

 Reviewer: Kate Herbert around 13 July 1994

This review was published in the Melbourne Times after 13 July 1994


Underwear, Perfume and Crash Helmet deals with numerous issues, none of which is in the title. Directed stylishly by Bruce Myles, Michael Gurr's latest play for Playbox has a profusion of ideas, a litany of pithy social observations and myriad peculiar characters, but it never lights on any one topic. The writing is often witty and riddled with glib and cynical one-liners about politics, grief, loss, madness, but the content remains insubstantial and the narrative unaffecting.


Director, Bruce Myles, creates a strong, portentous atmosphere and uses a powerful theatrical device, scattering the stage with actors who remain on stage like voyeurs or critics, even if they are not in the action, observing, responding or ignoring it. Stuart Greenbaum's music supports the mood and Glen Hughes lighting is grim and stark against a fine expressionist backdrop by Judith Cobb. This extremely talented team creates an atmosphere which gives some weight to a rather emotionless text.


The play is a collage of scenes hanging like coats on a rack, but it is not an abstract, non-narrative script. An Australian Liberal member dies near an election, so Blair, a party worker-bee (Penelope Stewart) promotes the MP's hapless and politically incompetent wife Caroline (Janet Andrewartha) as a candidate. Lionel, (John Gregg), a globe-trotting Canadian speaker on conservative politics, assists Caroline to parliament. He is accompanied by an obnoxious valet-come- psychopath (Simon Wilton) who befriends Nick, Caroline's taciturn, saxaphone-playing brother (David Tredinnick).


An eccentric and seemingly irrelevant sub-plot revolves around Michelle, a loopy, homeless girl (Tammy Mc Carthy) and "True Believer" in aliens who will come to take her "Home". She is the key to the violent and peculiar climax and provides tenuous parrallels for a couple of themes: Caroline's craving for "Home", and the blind faith of the "True Believers" in politics both of which remain largely unexplored.


With such a plethora of narrative threads and characters, many issues are left dangling like Lionel's ties. Before interval, it was a novelty piecing together the jigsaw of scenes, but the second half is less successful. It feels laboured and ponderous, having too many threads and a multiplicity of endings. The six, very skilful actors, began to look uncomfortable and uncertain.





Wednesday 6 July 1994

Me and My Girl, Revised by Stephen Fry, REVIEW, 6 July 1994=

 Music by Noel Gay, Book & Lyrics by L.A. Rose & D. Furber revised by Stephen Fry

 Produced by Adelaide Festival Theatre Trust & John Nicholls Productions.

At Princess Theatre, Melbourne, from early July 1994 (no end date)

Reviewer: Kate Herbert around 5 July 1994.  

This review published in The Melbourne Times after 6 July 1994


Some confusion over our seats for Me and My Girl meant I was sitting on an eight-year-old, but this vulgar, old-fashioned vaudeville-style musical was worth the discomfort. It is uplifting, with fine chorus work, dreadful jokes and fabulous costumes.


Derek Metzger plays Bill Snibson, a dodgy cockney who is the new Earl of Harewood. Where has this exceptionally talented and stylish Kiwi been hiding? He is a fine tenor, an effortless dancer and is charming, warm, magnetic and relaxed. Metzger has that illusive "It" "Star" tattooed on his forehead.


Rachael Beck, as Sally, is engaging with a very pretty voice and other strong performances come from Sheila Bradley and Peter Whitford as the stuffy old Duchess and her ageing acolyte.


The story is simple; poor boy gets rich, loses poor girl, gets poor girl back again as rich girl. (intentional echoes of My Fair Lady) The script is light and funny: a pun-fest. "Aperitif?" asks the butler. "No thanks," says Bill, tapping his teeth. "I've got me own." Many contemporary quips are probably courtesy of Stephen Fry (of “Fry and Laurie") who has modernised what remained of the original 30's stage script.


Nigel West's direction of the comedy has some smart clowning and good slapstick interspersed with an overdose of tacky sexual innuendo. The tiger-skin rug coming to life in the hands of Metzger, was a treat.


If the words "sexual politics" make you foam at the mouth, skip this. This is the most jaw-droppingly sexist script ever. There were some nasty verbal references to women, but an early seduction scene between the lusty Lady Jacqueline and Bill, borders on offensive, making Benny Hill look like political satire.


The elaborate sets by Martin Johns changed so seamlessly that I missed them, and the transparent ancestors' portrait gallery was a feast. Kathy Norcross has done some lively choreography, but Lambeth Walk takes the cake. Along with Leaning on a Lamp post, it is one of the few memorable songs and is the


But if you are expecting, as was I, that "The bells are ringing/ For me and my girl" was the title song, you are wrong. Another show evidently. 

By Kate Herber