Thursday 28 September 1995

Baby, Honey- Thirteen Studies in Exile, REVIEW, 28Sept 1995


Baby, Honey- Thirteen Studies in Exile by Deborah Levy

At  La Mama Wed - Sun pm until Sunday October 8, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert (end Sept 1995)


Baby, Honey is 45 minutes of quirky, poetic absurdity. Deborah Levy's script is crisp, witty and fractured and is skilfully handled by director, Suzanne Chaundy and a delightfully playful ensemble of five.


The piece is subtitled Thirteen Studies in Exile. These cheeky actors tease us, holding up numbers to indicate parts one to thirteen. They taunt us with direct comments, glances and their very proximity at the infamously in-your-face La Mama space.


The work scuttles about amongst themes of abandonment, modern romantic love, alienation in relationships and loss and yet the writing remains intense and dense without becoming heavy.


Yes, there are characters. The obsessive and intuitive customs officer (Ian Scott) checks passengers' emotional baggage and asks, "Are you my mummy?" The alienated housewife (Victoria Eagger) wants to be like Marilyn Monroe: "Take sleeping pills and die."  Her husband (Carlos Sanchez) is a manic Spanish-speaking monarchist.


An inner-urban, groovy couple (Susannah Gregan, Grant Mouldey) ask interminable, esoteric questions, call each other "Honey" and "Baby" and fantasise their partner is someone else.


This production is both stylish and stylised.  It is beautifully paced and it's rhythms and mood are accented by a cunning musical selection and the ideas are elaborated in accompanying footage.


The twin TV sets read "Arrivals" and "Departures". We may choose either, we may travel from one to the other, but nothing ever stays the same.


Deborah Levy is visiting from the UK. She writes fiction and writes and directs her own theatre work, often collaborating with visual artists dancers and composers. There is also a reading of a second piece of hers at La Mama.


Wednesday 20 September 1995

Hamlet, REVIEW, 20 Sept 1995 *****

Hamlet by William Shakespeare, by STC and MTC 

At Playhouse Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre until October, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on around 20 Sep 1995

Stars: 5

NB: With hindsight from 2021, I know this was an exceptional 1995 production with an extraordinarily talented cast. Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Richard Roxburgh, Peter Carroll, and directed by Neil Armfield. This was a treat! KH


Nothing shatters the spirit like grief and Shakespeare's Hamlet is saturated with souls grieving for death, abandonment or betrayal. Richard Roxborough's Hamlet is a copybook study of grief: shock, sadness, disconnection from his body and environment, fear, disbelief, self-doubt followed by unbridled rage.


Roxborough has earned his Sydney Critic's Award for his idiosyncratic, compelling and prismatic characterisation which glints in the light as he turns it. His prince has a subtlety and dynamic range which resonates, shifting easily from underplayed youthful carping and melancholia, through physical incapacitation to cynicism, physical comedy then full-blown anguish. 


How easily we forget the effect of grief on we frail humans. Hamlet loses a father, a lover then a mother. Ophelia her lover then father and Laertes father and sister. Their grief is palpable, almost unbearable to behold. The men turn their aching anguish outward to revenge a wronged loved one. Ophelia turns her pain inward.


There is a delicacy and reality in Neil Armfield's finely tuned, rhythmic production which plays the actors like instruments which weep and wail with torrents of emotion. He gives them their heads, never overstating either comedy or pathos. It is an ensemble piece with many of this exceptional cast playing multiple roles.


Peter Carroll as the donnish "prating old fool", Polonius, almost steals the first half of the play. Geoffrey Rush commendably underplays Horatio, the loyal, ever-watchful eye of objectivity.


 Jacek Koman has a still and regal composure which makes Claudius all the more insidious. Cate Blanchett's mad scene as Ophelia was profoundly distressing yet lyrical. Her pale muddied skin and clothing heightened the fragility of her physical and spiritual self.


The whole piece is served perfectly by the soundscape (Paul Charlier) and the design (Dan Potra) with distressed warehouse walls and cold tiling create a chill, grey, discomfiting palace for this greatest of all tragedies. The tiny shrine lights and flowers on the wall remind us constantly of the dead who will be remembered.