Wednesday 29 March 1995

The Rebetes , Antipodes Festival, 29 March 1995

Written by Rhondda Johnson

At Beckett Theatre, Malthouse

March 29 -April 15 1995

Antipodes Festival, Melbourne

This review was published in The Melbourne Times after 29 March 1995. KH


In the Greek cafe featured in The Rebetes there are plenty of drug references, a hookah and lots of joints on stage, enough ouzo and cigarettes to sink a migrant ship.


The Antipodes Festival annually celebrates Greek culture but Rhondda Johnson's play for the festival celebrates specifically the Rebetika blues music and its associated drug, alcohol and liberation culture.


It is a fairly accurate representation of a very ugly side of the Greek migrant culture and its sadness, bitterness, conservatism. In short, it shows us the Blues. The scene is uncannily like peeking through a window of a cafe in Sydney Road but this time we see the men playing cards, drinking, dancing, singing and reminiscing as well as harassing any woman courageous enough to walk within coo-ee.


Kate the Celt (Helen Rollinson) takes a job in the cafe as a "hostess'. She ends up leaving her gambling loser of an Aussie husband (Steve Adams) and becomes immersed in the Greek culture warts and all.


There are some entertaining moments in this production, but they become very lean after three long hours. The script is well-observed with a few good gags but is repetitious and unnecessarily long. The direction is clunky and the style shifts from almost TV-style naturalism to abstract flashbacks with no clear distinctions made.


The Rebetika music was at times an integral part of the piece at others it was a thin cover for yawning gaps and interminable scene changes.


The cast ranged from good amateurs to quite strong performers who eventually, are struggling to keep the audience's attention. Helen Rollinson was energetic as Kate, the ring-in Aussie sheila, and Jason Raftopoulos, as her young second generation lover, gave a very credible performance. Steven Grapsis was terrifyingly believable as the sleazebag, Apostoli.



Wednesday 22 March 1995

Jump! Crying in Public Places, March 1995

At Napier St Theatre, Sth Melbourne

Tues -Sat 9.30 pm until April 2, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert. Reviewed in March 1995.

Watching Crying in Public Places is like observing four women in their living room, playing, arguing, telling stories.


Watching Jump! has the wicked feeling of eavesdropping on four friends playing, arguing, telling stories. Occasionally they catch you at the keyhole.


Crying in Public Places (Anni Davy, Maud Davy, Karen Hadfield and Jane Bayly) have a cheeky, warm, natural style that makes me want to rush up and hug them all. Their melange of original a capella songs, body percussion, movement and yarn-spinning, has a fluid quality. The dynamic of Jump! is almost tidal. It seems to capture the wave motion of a life.


"Am I brave enough to jump?" they sing in their last song. Throughout the piece, they jump both literally and metaphorically. The fear of leaping from a cliff equates with that of hurling oneself into a new experience. Anni wants a dog, Jane is pregnant (really!), Maud celebrates being saved from marriage in the Mid-West.


The passion and guts and ease of this performance resides in the genuine bond between the women and the stories being more fact than fiction. Anni Davy's plaintiff cry as she lies curled on the floor, "Maudie, I can't feel my fingers", echoes her own fall during a circus trick three years ago.


Jump! resonates with the great leap forward which is our life, but it also teases us with tiny details, observations of our strange, self-absorbed and quirky world views. It's comedy is surprising and observational. "Where the fuck is my future?" quips Maud Davy as she peers under our seats.


Jumping is "the tragic imperative". Each little observation adds up to an indefinable and charming representation of the joy and pain of jumping.



Saturday 18 March 1995

La Traviata, By Australian Opera, 18 March 1995


By Giuseppe Verdi

At State Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre

On March 18, 21, 24, 28, 31, April 8, 19, 22 1995


Sex, love, death and fabulous tunes; Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata has the lot and Elijah Moshinsky's production for the Australian Opera is lavish and enthralling. Our excellent State Orchestra is conducted expertly and tastefully by Carlo Felice Cillario.


This tragic-romantic tale is based on Alexandre Dumas' Lady of the Camellias and translates loosely as The Corrupted One.


In case you don't know the plot: beautiful but ailing floosy, Violetta, rages with the fast-set in decadent late-19th century Paris, falls in love with rich boy Alfredo and gives him up at his Papa's request only to be reunited with him on her consumptive deathbed where she has found peace and religion.


Gillian Sullivan sings Violetta impeccably, giving the role, both vocally and in performance, a dynamic range which balances the feisty courtesan with the fading beauty. Her dying aria was heart-wrenchingly beautiful and her duets with both Alfredo and his father were charming and the aria "Fors e' Lui" at the end of Act One was a virtuoso demonstration of her coloratura.


Tenor, Jorge Lopez-Yanez has a fine vocal quality and plays the love-sick Alfredo less as the ardent lover than as a callow and enchanted youth. Barry Anderson velvety baritone has the requisite strength for Alfredo's worldly and patriarchal Papa, although he concentrates on the voice in isolation from the performance and the stage relationships.


La Traviata is spectacle. The set design by Michael Yeargan echoes both the extravagance of the Parisian demi-monde and its high-class poverty. While Violetta's apartment in Act Three is grandly spartan in its simplicity, Flora's salon in the second act is gaspingly beautiful with its rich colours, Moorish style and darkly gypsy overtones. The lavish interiors force the crowd scenes forward so that the impression of a lurid, cramped and clamouring hot-bed of iniquity is palpable.


Kate Herbert


Friday 17 March 1995

Assassins, MTC, 17 March 1995


 Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim & Book by John Weidman

By Melbourne Theatre Company

At Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, until April 1, 1995

This review was published in The Melbourne Times after 17 March 1995. KH


Stephen Sondheim cannot write a bad musical; nor can he compose an ordinary melody nor construct a banal lyric. He deals exclusively in challenging ideas. Look at Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and now, Assassins, which takes a pot shot at the men and women who have tried and / or succeeded in assassinating a U.S. president.


Roger Hodgman's MTC production is hilarious and challenging entertainment. The style is Brechtian, almost vaudeville. Sondheim calls it ‘revue’. The four-piece band was exceptional and Tony Tripp's shooting gallery design extremely evocative.


Presidential assassinations may seem a bizarre choice for a comic musical and, when it opened during the Gulf War, Assassins was criticised for trivialising the subject. In the flesh, it is a passionate piece; passionate about the deaths (everybody remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot) and deeply emotional about the pathetic lives of the killers and their warped motives.


The lyrics by Sondheim and book (by John Weidman) are an indictment of the unrealistic expectations raised by US hegemony that every boy can be President; "You can climb to any height." These assassins represent the outsiders, the losers. "We're the ones who can't get into the ballpark."


The cast was strong in both voice and performance. All were impeccably, some uncannily, cast by Hodgman.  Bruce Myles as Samuel Byck gives a beautifully textured performance with detailed and deeply touching monologues and John O'May as Lincoln 's assassin, with his rich and resonant voice, is a charismatic presence in the intimate space of the Fairfax.


This is a beauty. Seeit!