Wednesday 25 October 1995

The Three Lives of Lucy Cabrol, 25 October 1995 *****

By Theatre de Complicite

At The Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre until Nov 4, 1995

Melbourne Arts Festival

Reviewer: Kate Herbert 25 October 1995 for The Melbourne Times

Stars: *****

Lilo Baur as Lucy

By the final spectacular image of The Three Lives of Lucy Cabrol, I was spellbound. The sheer beauty and magnitude of both the visuals and the message left me gasping, open-mouthed.


The delicacy and finesse of this production, developed by the multi-lingual Theatre de Complicite, is counterpoised against its rough-as-gutsiness. It is gloriously wild, seamlessly weaving together the twin comic and tragic.


The ensemble pulsates with energy, skill and vision. Its delicacy and finesse is counterpoised against a contrary rough-as-gutsiness. It is gloriously wild, seamlessly weaving together those tetchy twins, the comic and the tragic.


These actors are clowns and tragedians, employing elaborate and exciting physicality with some profoundly moving self-narrated text.


It is a poignant and epic love story. It is Mother Courage or Bertollucci's 1900. It is a fable of the life-death-life cycle. It follows the life, other life and after-life of Lucy Cabrol, a tiny bird-like peasant child-adult. She is cruelly dubbed "The Cocadrille" (witch) and abused by her brothers until they hound her off their family land.

 Lucy is played by Lilo Baur who is ,herself, a miniature human dynamo, an unstoppable spinning top on stage. Even in the darkest moments the whole company sparkles with energy and playfulness, driven by muscle, adrenalin and their arresting vision.


The style has the lyrical, mythic quality of a tale told around the village fire by an elder. It reeks of history, passion, commitment and metaphorical imagery. The actors create with only their bodies and odd bits of wood and furniture, every part of the village, the forest, chooks, pigs, cows and even both world wars.


The design is deceptively simple and the lighting is dramatic and at times we peer into the light, the half-life to catch a glimpse of the lives of Lucy, the Cocadrille.




Saturday 21 October 1995

Tiger Country by Sarah Cathcart, 21 October, 1995

 At Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, until October 28, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert around 21 Oct, for The Melbourne Times


It is magical to watch an actor transform before your eyes and Sarah Cathcart, in her new work Tiger Country, is a veritable chameleon.


On stage, Cathcart is mesmerising as she embodies four women from different eras but the same landscape, moving effortlessly between the roles by a shift in her frame, attitude and accent, without a costume. With Andrea Lemon's seamless direction, she has filled the space with an abstract physicality combined with a continual self-narration.


Trina Parker's stage design has a glorious cream and dusty azure floor pattern of a sundial backed by a geometric hill. Slides of the landscape are projected on a skewed backdrop totally transforming the space with every step in each character's journey.


The design captures the misty heat of the Marilinga, Woomera, Coober Pedy region which is the base of the research for the play. It is matched perfectly by a soundscape which shifts from Doris Day in the 60's to an eerie clicking evoking alien landscapes and capturing the weird isolation of the desert hinterland.


Cathcart portrays with wry humour, the rustic, laconic wit of Iris the roadhouse keeper who confides in a Japanese tourist (she dubs him "Martin") that she was taken by aliens. Barb, the city bird dragged out of her urban environment, suffers the rural life. The most poignant character is Louisa, fresh off the boat from England in 1830, facing a decline into poverty in the desert.


It is, however, the whimsical philosophical observations of the child, Stella, upon the nature of humanity and the universe which are at the heart of the piece: our displacement and existential uncertainty. As the old aboriginal woman says, "I know why the trees are here. I know why I'm here. I just don't know why you're here."


We are all visitors here.


By Kate Herbert


Wednesday 18 October 1995

In the Belly of the Whale, 18 Oct 1995


Devised by Luke Elliot and Damien Richardson

La Mama until Oct 29, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert for The Melbourne Times around 18 Oct 1995


I had to block my ears and hum at any mention of baiting hooks, during In the Belly of the Whale, being childishly phobic about the innocuous earth worm. The rest of the time I was charmed by this neatly crafted, warm and funny piece about fishing, devised by Luke Elliot and Damien Richardson.


Fishing is perfect for Buddhists or the somnolent. To fill time while waiting - and waiting for a bite, the two spin fishing yarns garnered from anglers, fishmongers and their personal experience. They brandish fishing facts like swords and engage in home spun philosophy about father/ son relationships and contemplation while attending the rod.


This is very smart physical storytelling with a base in well-observed characters and research. There are tall fish tales and the painful irony of the rank amateur (who wouldn't know a trevally from his grandmother) catching every fish within coo-ee.


The piece is alive with inspired comic timing and sharp pacing. It is episodic, intercutting scenes with full-frontal fact lists and a final fishy version of "That's Amore" (A moray?). The format becomes a little tired towards the end, but the energy of the performers sustains interest.


There are scenes of the warm, the matey and the cosy as well as the unpleasantness of the rain, the cold and that old shark terror. We see the ritual of the baiting, casting, securing rods, settling into fold-up stools, opening beers, or the more cultured anglers savouring wine.


When one says suddenly," I love you," the ensuing silence is filled with discomfort and astonishment. Men do stuff together. If these were two women they would be swapping nightmare relationship stories before the first hook was baited.


But the very blokiness of this work is its charm.


By Kate Herbert


Wednesday 11 October 1995

Ashes , La Mama 11 Oct 1995


Written by Ella Filar

At La Mama, Carlton until Oct 29, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on (or about) 11 Oct 1995 for The Melbourne Times


In Ashes, a woman starves and withers away with grief for her murdered lover. She craves comfort, warmth and sex but the angel of suffering offers her only his soul.


Ashes takes its form from Berlin cabaret with its dark political and poetic style. The black and blood red of the design and the live jazz ensemble reek of smoky basement clubs in the 30's. Songs by Ella Filar are very Kurt Weill and are sung by an odd non-blend of discordant voices including a soprano and Filar's own rusty Marlene Dietrich strains.


This production is at its best when not taking itself too seriously. The writing contains some darkly sensuous language in dialogue, lyrics and narrative although there are moments when it slips into some indulgent old hippy-speak.


There were some delightful elements. The song, Angel Love (...How will you find me?) was one. Scenes between the woman-child and her fascist father were well-written realistic dialogue with stylised staging.


The performances were patchy, but this very roughness was half the charm of "Ashes". I loved Iris Walshe-Howling's powerful eye contact and Mick Trembeth's representation of father and other characters.


This piece seemed to tire and lose its way about twenty minutes from the end.  It would benefit from some ruthless editing and possibly an outside eye to clarify its through-line.


Filar writes some memorable lines. "If believers can slaughter, Unbelievers can pray." And, speaking for all women who feel insubstantial in this violent world, Lisa says as she breaks her fast, "I need a big body to get a handle on this hate".



280 wds


Thursday 5 October 1995

Slingshot by Nikolai Kolyada, 5 Oct 1995

 At Napier Street Theatre, South Melbourne

Wed to Sat 8pm Sun 6pm until October 22, 1995

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on (or about) 5 October 1995 for The Melboune Times


The message is simple in Slingshot: people are careless with each other's affections. They fly into other lives like a stone from a slingshot, shattering them like glass. We should be more careful.


Directed by expatriate Russian director, Leonid Verzub, Slingshot is an exciting and well-observed contemporary Russian play by Nikolai Kolyada about three crippled lives.


Ilya (Greg Ulfan) is a drunken, disabled beggar who is legless in both senses of the word. His new relationship with the young sedate student, Anton (Grisha Dolgopolov) reveals both men's need for love and friendship. The outcome of their confusing sexual encounter is tragic.


Kolyada inverts the status of the two men. Ilya discovers his humanity, love and purity, Anton his animality, fear and degradation. Their shared loneliness brings them closer but Anton's paranoia about being "normal" in the eyes of society tears them apart. Love and hate are confused. Sexuality is confusing. Ilya's tattered street wisdom is riddled with paradoxes: "The main thing is not to make them suffer," but "Cruelty must be punished."


Ulfan as Ilya has a strong presence and quick, witty delivery. Elly Varrenti, appearing briefly as his slatternly neighbour, provides a vital and dynamic cameo.


Although this is Verzub's directorial debut in Australia he has twenty years of experience in Russia. His style is based in Stanislavski's method. which provides some compelling moments and the colloquial translation gives the text a fluid, flexible feel.


The naturalism, however, slows the pace, particularly in the opening leaving the quality uneven. The production screams for tightening and could easily lose twenty minutes of pauses and business.


Linley Kensit's design effectively captures the decaying Moscow apartment. The lighting by Daniel Zika provides interesting but at times overstated effects.