Saturday 27 January 1996

The Sun Also Sizzles, 27 Jan 1996


Written by Sarah Vincent

At The Continental Cafe for Midsumma Festival, Jan 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert - reviewed around 26 Jan 1996

"It costs a lot to look this cheap!" - most quotable comment on the hot new all-gay soap opera, The Sun Also Sizzles, on at The Continental Cafe for Midsumma Festival.

Sizzle, as it is fondly called, is Dynasty meets Julian Clary. It is set in a town where everybody is gay, everybody loves somebody who loves somebody else, they all have a dark secret and talk in platitudes spiced with meaningful gazes.

They posture, hunt for the spotlight, make fabulous entrances, melodramatic exits and speak monologues direct to "camera".

Writer, Sarah Vincent, writes a great gag and director, Sioban Tuke, knows how to stage them.

In Sun Valley there's a drag queen, her sister the leather-clad cop, an ex-nun she loves, the rich bitch she loves, a hunky orphan who never does his shirt up, a scientist who's an alien, a nice-as-pie doctor with a broken heart and a dirt-diggin', scum-bag journo. Oh, and an unknown poisoner. They're dropping like flies. Just like Neighbours really!

The crowd (standing room only on opening) roared, cheered and hooted at lines like "You're a rough diamond Trix – or should I say 'diamante'?" Or at Dr. Ken whose lover left him for a woman. "I like women but... it's just (gasp)...not natural (splutter).

Go see it. You get a re-cap of the story each week. It's a scream - and it's Pure Trash.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 25 January 1996

Leonardo's Last Supper, 25 Jan 1996


Written by Peter Barnes

By Millstone Theatre Company at Budinski's Fitzroy in Jan-Feb 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, reviewed around 25 Jan 1996


Remember Peter O'Toole draped comico-tragically on a crucifix? That was written by Peter Barnes who also wrote Leonardo's Last Supper.


The black comic elements are also in Leonardo, a short farce written in 1969 about the resurrection of Da Vinci in the workshop of a poor French family of Renaissance undertakers: the stuff of good slapstick.


Although this is not Barnes' best work, he has written some evocative text about 15th century Europe: the plague, the art, the poverty, the merchants. The resurrection of Leonardo could be surprising and hilarious, his recollections of his unfinished works comic-tragic. The relationships between the grotesque and avaricious members of the family have the potential for great slapstick.


Millstone Theatre is a group of Ballarat Uni graduates starting a new company. I wish them luck, but this production has not hit the mark. These actors are so tense it made me anxious, their comedy is forced, they labour the language, over-state the English accents and leave gaping holes and the pace was erratic.


Commedia dell’Arte requires impeccable clowning and comic timing which is not evident in the show. The English accents were distracting and, in one case, incomprehensible.


This company needs a strong director.


By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 17 January 1996

Private Lives , MTC, 17 Jan 1996

by Noel Coward

Melbourne theatre Company

At Fairfax Studio until 17 Feb 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, reviewed around 17 Jan 1996


Aah, how terribly, terribly gay, how simply darling, how arch and sublimely droll is Private Lives, Noel Coward's wicked play from the naughty 30's just after the decadent 20's in which he was so - well, so wicked.


Coward was not merely a playwright. He was a personality, and he is written all over the role of the caddish rake, Elyot (NB pretentious "y") Chase played with tongue firmly in cheek by Louis Fiander.


Chase, with his pretty silly young bride are on honeymoon when he almost falls over his also honey-mooning ex-wife, Amanda (Pamela Rabe) who is still evidently the most "thrilling, exciting woman" he has ever met. Needless to say, they run away together. Appalling behaviour but a great recipe for farce.


Coward would be writing for Denton if alive now. His plays may be museum pieces, but he writes a mean gag and, in the hands of Fiander and the provocative and hilarious Rabe, he comes alive.


Rabe as the emotional ping-pong Amanda, shifts effortlessly between lusty hilarity, poignant love and shrewishness.


 Tammy McCarthy and William McInnes, as the abandoned spouses, are superb supports. McCarthy does a charming line in brisk and dippy while McInnes is adorable as the proper but goofy, stiff-upper-lipped Brit.


It wouldn't be Coward without some gloriously decadent Deco Paris apartment nor a few luxurious gowns and Shaun Gurton's design and Vanessa Leyonhjelm's frocks are "incredible" (with a French accent).


Director, Roger Hodgman, has produced perfect Summer fluff. It moves at a brisk pace except for a slow patch in Act Two but the final battle royal is worth the waiting. There are touches of post-20s sexual politics. The two may be "liberated" but Chase whacks Amanda on the odd occasion. How did they get away with a line like, "Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs."


The show is perfect Summer fluff. It moves at a brisk pace except for a slow patch in Act Two but their final battle royal is worth the wait. There are touches of post-20s sexual politics. The two may be "liberated" but Chase whacks Amanda on the odd occasion. How did they get away with a line like, "Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs."

Splendid's, Genet, 17 Jan 1996

Bby Jean Genet 

By Roof Top Productions

At Mietta's Landing Jan-Feb 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, reviewed around 17 Jan 1996


The production of Jean Genet's lost play, Splendid’s, has been promoted as confronting theatre. Unfortunately, it is just a lot of boys in suits shouting. I thought I was inside Killing Zoe.


This version of Splendid’s, Roof Top Productions fourth show, is cleverly located on the littered landing at Mietta's. The location is saddened by the detritus not only of the set but of the Mietta's memorabilia price tagged below.


Seven gangsters have taken and killed a female hostage in the Grand Hotel, Splendid's. The group haggles for power, struggles for recognition and finally implodes. With all the posturing, yelling and face-pulling poorly derivative of Scorsese, it is difficult to discern the quality of the text but this is definitely B-grade Genet.


There is no dynamic range in this production. They start shouting and have nowhere to go but louder. Genet's characteristic violence intercut with lyricism is muddied. The poetic becomes leaden. Characters have "solos" much in the way of a Jazz score but all the characters, apart from the drag queen, become a melange of De Niro, Liotta and Tommy Lee Jones.


"Let's save the deaths for the ending," quips a character early on. This Genet irony is lost in a production which takes itself rather too seriously. I thought it interesting to note that the program listed every actor's agent but not the character he played.




230 wd