Wednesday 30 April 2003

Frozen by Bryony Lavery, MTC, April 30, 2003y

 Frozen by Bryony Lavery  Melbourne Theatre Company
 Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, April 30 to June 7, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Julian Meyrick's  production of Frozen is compelling for myriad reasons. It features three of our best actors: Helen Morse,  Frank Gallacher  and Belinda McClory.  

English playwright, Bryony Lavery's, script is impeccably researched, intricately crafted and profoundly moving. The content about a serial child killer is frightening but important and Lavery explores the humanity in an issue that is so inhuman. It challenges views on forgiveness, revenge and humanity.

Direction by Meyrick is stylish, intelligent and often witty. He focuses on characters' emotional landscape and create an evocative theatrical space. Meyrick uses changing two silent prison guards (Dan Quigley, Kevin Maxwell) in a satisfying and novel mode of scene changing.

The creative team provides a beautiful and unusual environment for the play. Ralph Myers'  set design is stark and almost institutional, accentuating the claustrophobic lives of the three characters. Paul Jackson's lighting design accents the architectural elements of Myers' set. The lighting manages to be both sculptural as well as poetic. Music composed by Tim Dargaville  is a resonant and complex sound landscape of vocal and instrumental music.

The story travels twenty years in time but it is the internal lives of the three protagonists that are focal. All are frozen in their own emotional world. Initially, we witness each speaking in monologue as if confiding only in the audience. As the horrific story unfolds, they draw closer to their inevitable meetings.

 Ralph  (Frank Gallacher) is a seriously disturbed loner, driven by his need for order and his warped desire for little girls. When Nancy's  (Helen Morse) ten-year-old daughter, Rona  disappears, we know Ralph is responsible but twenty years pass before Nancy knows the truth.

Agnetha, (Belinda McClory) an American forensic psychiatrist, presents a credible case for serial killers being the product of brain damage and abuse.

The play is thrilling and inspired, each character driven by obsession. Morse is luminous, passionate and often funny as Nancy, the grieving mother. Gallacher is terrifying as the irrational, the personification of our fears. He captures the dysfunction of Ralph without dehumanising him. 

As Agnetha, McClory balances the fine intellect of the psychiatrist with her unpredictable and profound inner turmoil and despair.

My only quibble is that the show slows down toward the end. Scene changes need to be slicker as the story escalates to its inevitable tragic ending.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 24 April 2003

Breath by Breath, by Peta Tait & Matra Robinson, April 24, 2003

Breath by Breath by Peta Tait & Matra Robinson  
La Mama at The Courthouse,  April 24 to May 10, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is something haunting about Breath by Breath written by Peta Tait and Matra Robinson. The play fabricates a collision of two periods of time and two events during the later life of Anton Chekhov,  the Russian playwright.

In 1900, Chekhov lives in the Russian provincial town of Yalta.  A company of actors rehearse a play and Chekhov falls in love with actress, Olga Knipper.  The second more ethereal story is set six years earlier. The past bleeds into the present as the actors prepare their play.

In 1894,  in Yalta, there is unrest. The men of the town council want to evict all Jews from the town. Their violent expulsion from the region is based in fact.

Malak  (Robert Jordan) is both a member of the Jewish tribe and Chekhov's mus in the play. He drifts like a wraith into Chekhov' vision during 1900 and compels the playwright to see the horrors of 1894.

The play draws on the style of Chekhov's writing and the revolutionary acting style of Constantin Stanislavski's   Moscow Art Theatre. Chekhov wrote plays about ordinary lives and people of his era. But ordinariness can also produce heightened emotion, real pain and horror.

The ensemble gives fine performances. As Chekhov, Neil Pigot  finds a balance between the vulnerability of the consumptive playwright and his passionate nature. Anastasia Malinoff  plays Olga, his lover, as delightfully erratic and loving, a modern woman who wants both love and a career in the theatre.

Adrian Mulraney  is compelling as the unpleasant mayor who seeks racial cleansing for his town. Bruce Kerr  plays the oppressed Jewish workman with warmth and bob Pavlich creates a frightening truth in the mercenary who murders the Jewish men in the local quarry.

The production is designed and directed with simplicity and sensitivity by Meredith Rogers.  The stage is almost empty but for a few chairs and an abstract metal and stone water well.
A scrim of sheer white and lacework provides not only a sense of the period but a vehicle fro projections of Chekhov's home in Yalta.

Evocative live music ( Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey) echoes gypsy tunes and classical music.

This is a mysterious and interesting play that deserves seeing.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 16 April 2003

Birthrights by David Williamson , April 16, 2003


 Birthrights by David Williamson  
Playhouse, Arts Centre, April 16 to May 17, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 16

David Williamson's new play, Birthrights, is pregnant with issues of contemporary life. It is stuffed so full of issues that characters become mouthpieces rather than individuals.

Their dialogue too often sounds like speeches on social topics. The play becomes didactic. We are lectured on surrogacy, IVF, feminism, aboriginal issues, capitalism, refugees and migration policy, the political Left and the Right, Australian-American relations and even euthanasia. When characters speak so unnaturally, it is almost impossible to empathise with them.

The story deals with two sisters, Helen (Doris Younane) and Claudia (Maria Theodorakis).  Helen, the conservative, suburban wife of Mark,  (Kevin Harrington) a shonky businessman, is infertile and desperately wants a baby.

 Claudia offers to bear a baby fathered by Mark out of love for her older sister. She does so despite the interruption to her career as a lefty lawyer, potential damage to her relationship with Martin  (Peter Houghton) and her own lack of interest in children. 

What transpires is years of competing for the love of Kelly,  (Asher Keddie), the child we do not see until she is eighteen. Their radical lawyer mother, Margaret.  (Deidre Rubenstein) mediates the sibling rivalry for years.

The play is topical, often funny and argues many points relevant to our modern society. The entire cast works very hard to invest these characters with life and emotion. The problem is that the script lacks any true emotional engagement with characters or issues. These sisters do not communicate like women.

It is difficult to engage partly because this family is so relentlessly dislikeable and also because the story stretches over decades which disallows our knowing them fully. Scenes and dialogue are repetitious. In real time these reiterations are years apart but in stage time we hear them within two hours. Family members may obsess over things for a lifetime, but on stage it is simply unnecessary repetition.

Tom Gutteridge's direction is swift and slick. There are too many scenes but Gutteridge keeps changes moving quickly.

David Franzke's  soundscape is unobtrusive but evocative. Lighting by David Walters  creates atmosphere and the passing of time.  Louise McCarthy's spare stage design echoes the emptiness of the lives on stage and allows the space to be transformed easily.

This is a disappointing script that could be cut by half without losing anything.

By Kate Herbert

Slide Night by Simon Hughes, April 16, 2003

Slide Night by Simon Hughes  
La Mama, April 16 to May 4, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Slide Night is only Simon Hughes second play but it is written with intelligence, wit and sympathy.

Hughes may not have written other plays since his first nineteen years ago, but he had an eclectic life as an actor in Shakespeare in the Botanical Gardens, the face of Bendigo Bank and as television critic for The Age.

Michael Carman  plays Edward, a pompous, patronising psychotherapist, with exceptional colour and detail. .Edward's masks his mounting despair at his hollow life with wild intellectual, cynical wit and heavy drinking. Carman inhabits Edward fully and is compelling and believable at every turn.

Edward's cynicism reflects his deeper dark thoughts. Christine Mahoney  plays his shrill and generally tolerant wife with a desperation suited to such a complex and fraught relationship. The fissures in Edward's psyche widen when he meets a new patient, Nick.  (Damian Howling-Walshe)

Howling-Walshe finds more in the performance of this character than is even written by Hughes. He builds a complex inner world that we see flitting across the face of Nick, an attractive young man who admits being a sex addict. Edward's dreams, both waking and sleeping, seem to escalate after encountering Nick. He succumbs to his lethal charm like myriad other before him.

This is an unusual story with anticipated surprises and twists. However, there are some elements that need tweaking in the script. The multiple off-stage characters can become awkward in the playing, particularly in a small venue like La Mama.

The climax of the story is unclear. Nick's appearance at an election night party and the events that lead to Edward's complete disintegration, are confusing. Director, Denis Moore,  sets a cracking pace and allows the actors to truly penetrate the characters.

This play may have a few chinks but it is intelligently written, characters are well observed and it is genuinely entertaining and challenging.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday 15 April 2003

Defending the Caveman, with Russell Gilbert, April 15, 2003

Russell Gilbert
Defending the Caveman by Rob Becker  
 Forum Theatre, April April 27, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Russell Gilbert has taken a leap from his role as a stand-up comic to a more theatrical form of comedy. It is a courageous move as the show calls for significant acting skills that differ from those of a comedian.

 Gilbert is, for the most part, successful in his new role although he seems uncomfortable in the opening monologue and with the more 'actorly' elements. He comes into his own when he relaxes and integrates stories of his own. He becomes more animated when he gets on a roll defending male behaviour.

Defending the Caveman was created and performed on Broadway  by Rob Becker. It is a solo show about the differences between male and female behaviour. It is a show perfect for couples so you can nudge each other in the ribs or whisper, " See? Other people do that. It’s not just me!"

Gilbert begins the performance with a home video of his fiancee and himself at home. He lies on the couch watching television as she parades her new clothes. He wipes the bathroom floor with her towel, mows over her newly planted flowers.

However, the intention of Becker's script is not to belittle men. He wants to explain the differences in communication and thought processes between men and women.

It is recognition theatre in the form of potted relationship therapy. It smacks of the psycho-babble book, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus.

Director, Wayne Harrison  keeps the show simple. There are a few lighting changes that heighten the drama when the mythical Caveman appears to Russell in his circle of sacred underwear in his bedroom. The pace flags at some moments and could be stepped up. The dynamic range is too narrow.

Gilbert seems to enjoy himself by the middle of the show when he is able to demonstrate male behaviour. He wants us to understand his message. He takes us back to the theory of men being hunters and women gatherers. From this, he says, stem all modern gender differences and confusions.

Men have narrow vision based in the need to hunt the prey. Women have a broader focus because of their gathering past. Men like action rather than words. Women are cooperative - they work on group decision-making. Men are negotiators. They bargain in order to win.

The show is fun and, from the groans of recognition, the audience identifies with most of it.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 10 April 2003

This is a True Story, April 10, 2003

This is a True Story  
 by Tom Wright and Nicholas Harrington  
Courthouse Theatre, April 9 to 19, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 10, 2003

It is a very peculiar feeling to be drawn inside the heart and mind of a man whose understanding of himself and the world is dim and confused. This is a true story, as the title of this play declares. It is also one of my most extraordinary theatre experiences this year.

Tom Wright is mesmerising in this monologue told by a hapless man on Death Row in Mississippi. As Wright trails between pools of pallid light in the cavernous, empty space, he tells his desperate tale.

It is the story of Howard Neal,  a child-like, ignorant and uneducated man from the Deep South -  Deliverance territory. His history is tragic, littered with episodes of abuse, abandonment, homelessness, imprisonment and finally conviction for multiple murder.

Over Wright's face flicker myriad sensations: confusion, incomprehension, despair and pain. Intermingled amongst the horrors of which he speaks, is a mild warm smile. He smiles incongruously as he tells us his Daddy beat him.

In this theatricalised version of Neal's scribbled, nearly illiterate diaries, we believe he is innocent. Whether this is true in the real world we cannot know. Neal's last appeal was denied in January, 2003. Our intimacy with this child-man compels us to care about his fate.

The stage adaptation of the diaries is by Wright with director, Nicholas Harrington who is also a Melbourne barrister. The text is intelligently edited and the direction is simple, allowing the performer and the words to do the work.

Wright looks vulnerable in only a shaggy pair of underpants. He shuffles, as if chained at the ankles, from place to place on the stage and in Neal's life.

We lean forward in an effort to understand his broad and totally credible deep Southern accent and his peculiar syntax. Wright is compelling. Words cannot describe this experience. You need to be there.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 9 April 2003

The Fat Boy by Tony Ayres, April 9, 2003

 The Fat Boy by Tony Ayres, by Playbox Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, April 9 to 26, 2003 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 9

There is a precarious balancing act going on in Tony Ayres new play, The Fat Boy. The script teeters awkwardly between moments of tragedy and high camp comedy. The mix is not quite successful.

The opening scenes in this production directed by Tom Healey  were exceptional but the rest was a disappointment. The Fat Boy is uncertain of its genre. It is not really a black comedy although it makes light of dark moments in people's lives. The rather obvious gags come after the tragic events rather than arising out of them.

The comedy in these instances merely undercuts the tragedy, pulls the rug out form under them so that we are not permitted to feel anything.   It is disappointing. A woman's (Carolyn Bock) baby dies of cot death, another woman (Melia Naughton) loses her pregnancy after a car accident, a gay lad (Tim Richards) is beaten, a woman (Kate Fitzpatrick) goes blind from diabetes.

The opening night audience laughed - a lot.  It is difficult, though, to gauge how satisfying the theatrical experience was for them. The play lacks substance. It shifts genres like a far shifting gears but never settles into a style.

Three stories are tenuously and artificially linked through Trevor, (Richards) the fat boy of the title. Although he is the titular character, the story is not necessarily about him. His tragedy is far less dominant than the other characters'.

Trevor  is a 24 year old gay man who cannot find love because his surrounding shallow gay scene is prejudiced against fat and demands thinness and beauty. Richards is lively and charming but the limited dialogue forces him to play one note most of the time.

Kate Fitzpatrick is very funny as his trashy, palm-reading harridan of a mother. Joseph Manning  makes the young country lad and his coming out story credible.

One great asset on stage is the design. Paul Jackson's  lighting design is superb filling the stage with colour or steeping Leon Salom's  startlingly stark set in a cool, ominous blue glow. Soundscape by David Franzke  is evocative and challenging.

The problem in this production is not the acting or direction but the stereotypical, two-dimensional characters and predictable gags.

By Kate Herbert

Friday 4 April 2003

Sideways, Aaron Smith & Hamilton Moore , April 4, 2003

By Aaron Smith  & Hamilton Moore 
Demolition Theatre  
Melbourne Comedy Festival
 La Mama, to April 13, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 4

Sideways is about two low life drug dealers, Shane (Hamilton Moore) and Madog  (Aaron Smith  who want to move up the ladder of drug dealing.

 The play suffers from too many words. The characters rarely stop talking so there is little space for visual comedy or much silent stage action. Shane and Madog try to set up a relationship with drug dealing real estate agent and part-time house breaker, Eddie, (Paul Farrell) but it all goes awry.

Meanwhile Eddie's na├»ve real estate colleague, Michael  (Jim Koutsoukos) is having a crisis of faith in real estate and seeks self-knowledge. This journey is evidently triggered by his unwitting consumption of drugs.

There is a great deal of 'suit' bashing. That is, a man in a suit can get away with anything because we trust him - probably true. The story lacks coherence although the writing is clever at times. However, the dialogue becomes convoluted when it attempts to make sociological or philosophical points.

The voice of the writers (Moore and Smith) overrides the voices of the characters. They all seem to speak the same language with little differentiation between characters. There is too much explication. In some scenes characters speak in speeches making the play didactic and preachy. We hear attacks on the establishment and issues such as the deadening quality of the acquisition of wealth.

This not only interrupts the narrative but it becomes tiring and patronising eventually. The humour is adolescent in the scene about a doctor treating a patient for haemorrhoids.  The performers work hard and are committed to their task but their handling of dialogue, relationship and character is weak.

The characters have no journey. The story is predictable and the handling of senseless violence is clumsy. The jokes are laboured and wordy. This is a valiant attempt for the Comedy Festival but it lacks originality and style.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 3 April 2003

Tan Jose by Josephine O'Reilly & Tanya Bulmer , April 3, 2003

Tan Jose by Josephine O'Reilly  & Tanya Bulmer  
Melbourne Comedy Festival 
Melbourne Town Hall, to April 20, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 3

Tan Jose  is a combination of improvisational comedy and set comic routines. This creates risky comedy and makes every performance a different animal.

The duo, from Sydney, is Josephine O'Reilly and Tanya Bulmer. Both are seasoned improvisers and comics.  Bulmer is seen regularly on BackBerner  and O'Reilly toured for eight years with naughty Irish comedy trio, The Nualas.

The beauty of improvisation is that you can see wonderful and hilarious work interspersed with the not so successful. We are present in the moment of creation.

It is always a treat to see the mind of a good improviser in a whirl - and these two are good improvisers. They open with a rehearsed piece. It combines some patter about their names, their families, their education and their suburbs in Sydney. What follows is a goofy song and dance routine.

The running theme is their mock competitive relationship. O'Reilly comes from money and private school and Bulmer from a poor family.  O'Reilly plays the woman who craves a relationship. Bulmer is the one ho always gets the man.

They find ways to interject this battle for status into the scenes. They break improvisational rules (if there are any) by dropping out of character or narrative to snipe at each other. They use suggestions from the audience. In fact, the first improvised scene has Wayne, an I.T. guy, on stage with them as a prospective flat mate.

Early in the show they may need to inform the audience that they want suggestions from the audience to begin scenes. The first people asked were unwilling to share their lives. O'Reilly's Irish newsreader with accompanying sign language by Bulmer is a treat. Bulmer's translation of simple words is hilarious visual comedy.

The audience suggestion of engineer as an occupation led into three scenes about engineers in three different styles. First was a Southern USA story in the style of Gone with the Wind.  then followed a Sam Spade detective story and finally a song. All three were a hoot. They told stories from the grave based on suggestions of swing and pavlova.

The finale is a wonderful song based on lyrics provided by Wayne. O'Reilly's voice is smashing and Bulmer provides a charming and silly ribbon dance. The next show will be different again. That's what we like in comedy. Diversity..

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday 2 April 2003

Comedy Is Still Not Pretty by Lynda Gibson, Judith Lucy, Denise Scott , April 2, 2003

 Comedy Is Still Not Pretty  
by Lynda Gibson,  Judith Lucy,  Denise Scott 
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Lower Melbourne Town Hall, April 2 to 20, 2003 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 2

How is it possible to get laughs out of the death, cancer and menopause? This trio manages to make us belly laugh at all three.

All hree of these women, Lynda Gibson, Denise Scott and Judith Lucy are known for tipping their personal lives onto the stage. They do it in triplicate in Comedy Is Still Not Pretty. Lucy gets personal again about  her parents. Years ago she talked about discovering on Christmas Day as an adult, that she was adopted.

Now she jests about the death of both her parents and grief being the best way to lose weight. It has to be seen to be believed. Gibson has been fending off her ovarian cancer for some years and her last solo show was all about it. Joan River's face-lift jokes have nothing on Gibson's chemotherapy gags.

Scott used to do material about birthing and motherhood. Now it is the dark shadow of middle age and pending menopause. "I woke up one day and I looked like Nanna," she quips.

This is not a stand up comedy show. The three do song and dance numbers. They open with a Ziegfeld Follies girls' feather and fan dance. The only difference is that they are in weird little flesh-coloured leotards with nipples and pubic hair drawn on with texta. It is grotesque and absolutely hilarious particularly as they spend the entire show in the nude outfits.

Their movie and television parodies are delightful. They do a slick and funny version of The Women, the 40s film featuring every Hollywood female star. It is riddled with nasty upper class mums, maids and husband stealers who all look like women playing men in drag.

Their satire of the McLeod Sisters highlights the TV shows inanity. Three women with neat hairdos managing a farm? I ask you. There is a girl band song, a rap song and dance and lots of Esther Williams style leggy choreography.

The entire hour is a jibe at the youth and beauty myth. These women don't want to be sex symbols. They want to be funny - and they are.

By Kate Herbert

Open For Inspection by Andrea Tatman, April 3, 2003

Open For Inspection  by Andrea Tatman
La Mama, April 2 to 13, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Open for Inspection is a short comedy about two incompetent out of work actors (Andrea Tatman, Tom Bradley OK) who want to be TV show hosts.

Not just any TV show but one of those Do It Yourself home renovation type shows. Why, we ask. Therein lies the comic premise of this play.

There are two problems in Open for Inspection. The acting style is hysterical and speedy leaving little space for characterisation or physical comedy.  The other problem is that the dialogue is wordy and the jokes often laboured.

There are a couple of genuinely funny gags in this script. One is about Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. Another is about Desiree potatoes. Much of the remaining dialogue is overwritten. Gags take too long to reach their tag or the joke is reiterated so that it loses its punch.

There is no real characterisation. The characters are not clearly distinguished from each other. They speak the same language with a few variations. Jenny and Geoff seem to be complete idiots with few redeeming features which makes them hard to like. The frenetic pace of their speech and action leaves little space for any jokes to reach the audience.

The story begins with the moment they are informed that their rental flat is to be sold. Real estate agent, Peter,  (Brett Sleigh) announces that there will be three inspections per week. The pair attempt to sabotage the sale of the flat by childishly messing up the house each visit.

They devise a laughable plan to buy the place. Jenny bluffs her way into a nanny job to make money while Geoff messes up the house. Only when they discover that Jenny's employer (Penelope Bartlau) is part of the family that is producing a new DIY TV show, do they think they have a future.

The story is awkward and a bit silly. This play needs some overhauling. The final monologues are funny. The pair finally succumb to an actor's nightmare. Doing bad ads on television.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday 1 April 2003

Boothby Graffo, Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 1, 2003

Boothby Graffo

Melbourne Comedy Festival
 Melbourne Town Hal, March 28 to 20, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Boothby Graffo is funny in a way unlike any of the other comics in the Comedy Festival. This makes him a refreshing change from regular stand-ups. He is like a one man Goons show. He does really goofy absurd material and plays plenty of silly characters.

One of Boothby's greatest skills is destroying his own illusions. He plays two characters talking to each other y turning his head side to side to speak as each character in turn. Once established, he then proceeds to annihilate the illusion for us. "You don't exist," he tells his cute child character or his sweetie pie kitten.

He points out his performance flaws constantly. Mistakes become gifts in his hands. When his Arabic accent becomes French, he gets plenty of mileage out of it. In fact, almost every accent he does degenerates hilariously into French.

His jokes are like enormous mazes. We wander around inside them twisting our perception to keep up with his racing patter and the innumerable detours he takes on the way. He uses random collisions of ideas and bizarre word associations as he stares at us goggle eyed, pulling faces.

 His gentle political and cultural references are well informed. He tells us he does not do observational comedy and then attempts to prove it by trying it. His timing is impeccable, his face mobile and h plays a mean guitar. I mean, he can really play the guitar.

The original songs are filled with eliptical references and absurd diversions. The one about Granny on a life support system plus cocaine is a beauty. The Golf Song highlights the sheer idiocy of the game and Bungie Girl is inspired. The song I'm always trying to do things I haven't quite learned to do, has terrific lyrics ut some simple gags with guitar chords.

He engages us immediately, surprises us constantly and astonishes us with his twists and turns. When he talks about traffic and trams in Melbourne or the weather it does not feel like any other comic talking about the banal.

The audience is on a wild roller coaster ride with Boothby Graffo and it is worth the ticket price.

By Kate Herbert

Rod Quantock-The Axis of Stupidity , April 1, 2003

Rod Quantock  - The Axis of Stupidity  

Melbourne Comedy Festival
 Victoria Hotel,  March 28 to 20, 2003 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

As far as this reviewer is concerned, attendance is compulsory at Rod Quantock shows. Of course, this smacks of conscription and Quantock is not in favour of conscription of any kind.

Nor is he in favour of the War. He makes no bones about it. The Coalition of the Willing is the Axis of Stupidity in his book. There are no sacred cows for Quantock - particularly on the political Right of our world stage.  He derides George Bush and Tony Blair but saves his vitriol for John Howard.

Quantock is well versed in all the information of war that pours out of our televisions and radios. He sacrifices sleep for us in order to be informed. All the interesting stuff happens at 3am, he quips.

This show has huge belly laughs but it is often so close to the truth of the mad events in our world at present that we laugh with an ache in our bellies. Quantock's target used to be Jeff Kennett and his jobs for the boys in Victoria. His attitude to Bush and Howard makes Kennett look like a pussy cat.

The Left does not get off unscathed. Simon Crean gets a pasting too. Other punching bags are our own Herald-Sun.  he surrounds the Stage with banner headlines from all the newspapers.

He highlights the fact that the Herald-Sun had the Flower Show and the Fashion and Food shows on the front page a week or so into the invasion. Andrew Bolt, political writer, Quantock says, is sent to give him ulcers. He is his own weapon of Rod's mass destruction.

His style is still conversational and always shambolic. He blames George Bush for any confusion. He just wouldn't call Rod back in time for the Comedy Festival to tell him whether the war was going ahead.

What is always fascinating and compelling in a Quantock show is how much he knows about world politics and how he draws together disconnected threads to form an absurd picture of the chaos we face.

He keeps his praise for some lesser known public figures: Hans Blick  that cuddly UN weapons inspector and the French Defence Minister who is smart and chic.

By Kate Herbert