Saturday 24 February 1996

Happy as Laundry, Clown show, 24 Feb 1996


 by Penny Baron and Brenda Waite

At  La Mama at Courthouse until March 1996

 Reviewer: Kate Herbert, around 24 Feb 1996

There is something that cheers the heart in a simple, honest, lovable clown duo. Penny Baron and Brenda Waite are such a pair in the very sweet show, Happy as Laundry which wins awards for a wonderful title.


The two, directed by Kate Kantor, are warm and engaging with an intense complicity between them on stage. They develop a pair of dithering, ingenuous, characters who are bound together in their routine existence. Each day they recite their "cup of tea" liturgy, sit in the same chairs, dance the same dance, play the same games, open the same dresser drawer and cupboard door.


They are a dual personality until one attempt to alter the pattern, tip the balance, escape the routine, leave the fold. It smacks of those symbiotic relationships which allow neither party breathing space.


They set up a normal world then proceed to knock it down. The piece begins lightly then gathers momentum as the relationship intensifies and their problems arise.


They are akin to Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon in their simple existential dilemma. The performances are delightful with a bold physicality and classic French clown exaggeration, repetition and quirky child-like characters.


The performances are delightful with a bold physicality and classic French clown exaggeration, repetition and quirky child-like characters. It is a simple narrative with ripples of meaning rolling out into the big pond.



Wednesday 21 February 1996

Emma: Celebrazione , Playbox, 21 Feb 1996

By Graham Pitts

At Playbox until March 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, reviewed around 21 Feb 1996


Emma: Celebrazione, the word "celebrazione" tells all. There is singing, dancing, a wedding, cooking, eating and pure unadulterated joy on stage. When, at the finale, the real Emma Ciccotosto came on stage she was greeted not merely by a cast but by "family".


Laura Lattuada plays Emma with an unbeatable charm and warmth engaging an entire audience with wry glances, quips, adages and reminiscences. We become her guests, her confidantes in this lively, almost edible script by Graham Pitts.


Pitts' stage adaptation of Emma's life story employs a format popular over the years in community/political theatre. Characters talk directly to us in brief monologues. Pitts intercuts memories, characters from Emma's past who interrupt her cooking for her daughter's wedding and her thoughts, interject and Emma replays scenes from her past with us as her intimate companions. Emma, through her daughter's marriage, is re-framing her own hasty, shameful marriage.


In addition to Lattuada's tour de force as Emma, three other skilful actors help create the story. Chantal Contouri as Emma's terrifying, hyper-critical mother-in-law is riveting. Kate Jason-Ormondei embodies the generous spirit of everybody's Italian mamma and Robert Forza people's the stage with an array of rich characters but is most adorable as Emma's gambling, philandering husband.

Emma is an event, not a play. The choir, La Voce della Luna, comprising more than 40 Italian women (lead by the inimitable musical force of Kavisha Mazzella and musician John Norton) adds volume, pride and joy and a sense of community.


"Courage is the price life desires before you have peace." Emma's home-cooked wisdom. These women struggled in Italy then here, on isolated farms, during the war when Italians were interned, separated from families, stranded in a strange culture.


Emma is a celebrazione of their survival.


Corraggio! Fight on! As one of the songs says, "Although we are women we are not afraid. We have one big beautiful tongue with which to defend ourselves."



Monday 19 February 1996

Minties for the Tin, La Mama, 19 FEb 1996


 by Alex Nicholl

La Mama at Courthouse until March, 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, reviewed around 19 Feb 1996


Re-visiting our earthy, Anglo-Celt, inner-urban roots is a popular practice for local writers. Minties for the Tin by Alex Nicholl is an example of such nostalgia. Ex-jockey and bookie, Mick (Jim Daly) updates a betting scam to teach his grabby investment adviser son, Peter

( Adam May) a lesson in greed.


Mick is played with intelligence, warmth and humour by Jim Daly, an actor who should have been grabbed by mainstage companies long ago. It is the scenes between spivvy, seductive Mick and his loyal, slow-moving mate, Dadda (played laconically by John Flaus) which are the centre of the piece.


The matiness and sheer boldness of the old geezers is delightful as Mick schemes to win enough for "fruit for the sideboard" and "Minties for the tin". "There's never been a time when greed was out of fashion," says Mick.


The script fails in the writing of the two younger characters and the problems are exacerbated by some uncomfortable over-acting by the two actors. One quickly tires of the boorish Peter's relentless, sneering swagger and of the over-stated seductiveness of Gai (Catherine Purling), his partner in greed. The two shout and snipe at each other non-stop.


The play runs 100 minutes but really only began an hour in when the betting scam took off. The direction was pedestrian with too many, too slow scene changes. It is, however, worth having a gander at the old blokes if you have a dad or grandad of this generation.



Wednesday 14 February 1996

Kidstakes by Ray Lawler, 14 Feb 1996


Kidstakes by Ray Lawler

By Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC)

 Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until March 16, 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert, (reviewed around 14 Feb 1996)


If you are familiar with the story of The Summer of the 17th Doll, you'll know that it all ends unhappily ever after seventeen summers of blissful romance. In Kidstakes, the joyful start to the affairs is all the more poignant knowing they are doomed.


In 1937 the seventeenth year, summer-only relationships (perhaps a good idea??) between Olive and Roo, Nance and Barney began. Nance (Rosalind Hammond) is smart and ever the pragmatist. She knows the score and finally "marries out" after seventeen seasons. 


Neither Barney (Travis McMahon), a perky, unscrupulous and blindingly stupid canecutter, nor his faithful and honest mate, Roo (Andrew Blackman) are "prepared to chew the chain" of matrimony. Olive (Frances O'Connor) takes a chance on romance.


She just wants what they've had this summer. "Marriage is not the only thing". Her solution is to " stand back and let 'em go", like the bee which five-year old Bubba traps in the hollyhock. They were out of their time knowing, even then, there are a thousand ways to have a relationship. They were fringe-dwellers on the moral constraints of their society - and perhaps too idealistic. They did not count on ageing and fear and change.


This is a beautifully realised production directed by Robin Nevin with sensitivity, subtlety and intense detail.  This whole talented ensemble expresses a rare warmth and generosity.  They look after the story, they look after each other and the show looks after itself.


Dickie Pouncett, (Aaron Blabey) Olive's dorky and insidiously ordinary love-lorn suitor, represents all that is suburban, domestic and repellent to all four lovers (and us?). Olive's mum, Emma (Sue Jones) is trapped in the post-depression fear of poverty and lost reputation. She is "never pleased by anything".


Tony Tripp's evocative period set from The Doll has a reprise in this production and Max Lambert's delicate piano over-scored with blues and swing numbers, emphasises the fragility of the emotional score.


This is a story of hope, love and passion not left to perish through fear or conservatism. It is deeply sad knowing its fate.



Wednesday 7 February 1996

In A Nutshell, La Mama Theatre, 7 Feb 1996

By Four Four on the Floor

At La Mama, Carlton until Feb 18, 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert.  Reviewed around 7 Feb 1996


Watching In A Nutshell is like crawling inside four heads and hearing their most peculiar, wicked, innermost thoughts.


We are observing that mind-demon who tells us to do the exciting, outrageous and dangerous things. It is the voice that says, "Kiss that person walking by " or "Jump off this cliff. Kill yourself. You know you want to."


It can be a lifesaver (the 20's swimwear is gorgeous) reviving us from coma, collapse, boredom, depression.  Or it can be a killer.


This piece has a subtle dynamic and a simple, clear message. It is hilarious with lovely chorus clown work, energetic physicality and a warmth which makes you want to obey the "kiss a stranger" voice in your head.


Each actor is allowed to obsess a while in this piece devised by the four actors (Charlie Laidlaw, Rosina Ganon, Georgia Power, Kim Wilson) with director Greg Dyson.


 Charlie Laidlaw's musings on a new mother's depression were made even more poignant by her own blossoming pregnancy. Kim Wilson's rambling obsession with ants and the universe was an eccentric moment.


Several a cappella songs were highlights and there were few loose spots in this charming show. It has joy, warmth, honesty and skill. It is really a good show!


By Kate Herbert

Shades of Blue by Andrew Bovell , 7 Feb 1996


Shades of Blue by Andrew Bovell

At La Mama until Feb 18, 1996

Reviewer: Kate Herbert.  Reviewed around 7 Feb 1996


Stare too long at human interaction and you will feel a profound sense of its strangeness and absurdity. This is Andrew Bovell's obsession in Shades of Blue at La Mama.


Conversations occur in parallel lines, dialogues overlap, characters interrupt, ignore and obsess. They rarely actually listen or pay attention to real meaning or heart-felt expressions of anguish.


Bovell's script has biting cynicism, charmingly wry juxtaposition of dialogue and thought, witty word plays and slips of tongue and acute, icy observations of behaviour and language. Characters are quirky, brittle and vulnerable. We see the confusing intersections of diverse, lonely existences, of those left on the scrap heap.

Director, Tom Gutteridge, has heightened the sense of alienation, making characters stroll physically through others' lives, unconscious of repercussions, unconscious even of people in their orbit.


The ensemble of eight is strong. Heather Bolton is warm and despairing as Nancy, the tacky club singer whose self-esteem is built precariously on having been on Ray Martin. David Pidd as her transvestite fan is a fragile character. The two have sweet, warm singing voices.


There is a fake Salvo (Angela Campbell), A disfigured landlord (Bob Pavlich), an abandoned husband (Humphrey Bower), an unemployed country boy (Peter Houghton)and a  loveless policewoman (Maria Theodorakis). The thread which pulls them together is a gold crucifix.


Shades of Blue is a hope-free and joyless world of misfits who know life never deals you what you want. The play sings The Blues, but it also cries out, "Try a Little Tenderness" (music by Wade Beed). There was pathos in these fringe dwellers in the land of domestic bliss but when the single ray of hope was snatched from the characters' grasp it became irrevocably, tragedy.


By Kate Herbert 290wds

Sunday 4 February 1996

Poles Apart: 5 short plays, La Mama, 4 Feb 1996

Poles Apart: 5 short plays

At La Mama until March 3, 1996

Reviewer: Kate Hebert on around 4 Feb 1996


Of the five short plays in Poles Apart the first, Trapped, is the best.


is the best by a long stretch. Not the least of its assets is a crisp, smart script by Trudy Hellier, known from Frontline TV comedy, with a terrific central idea.


Two women live in a house next to Pentridge. two cell mates fall in love with one each of the women and take turns to lit each other to girl-viewing level to peer through the bars.


Matt Cameron's direction is rapid and earthy. The two men particularly are realised beautifully in the pithy, realistic writing and in exceptional performances by Patrick Moffatt and Marcus Eyre. The women are a little less clearly drawn in character and action but Hellier, who performs in this and several other plays, and Anita Cerdic, do a sound job. The twist at the end does not quite come off but it is a terrific first play.


Familiarity Breeds, the final piece, is an absurdist trip into existential crisis. Shane Luther's writing has its moments.


The other three pieces are unremarkable.


Acqua Lupus (James Benedick) is a wordy sea-faring tale in a pseudo-Victorian ballad form.  The Skipping Girl, a first play for Charles Lane leaves its intention and relationship unclear and Petronella's Mark (Johann McIntyre) is relatively unsuccessful poetic grunge.


But I must tell you, it is really worth the visit to see Trapped.