Friday 29 March 2013

Asher Treleaven: Bad Dandy, March 29, 2013 ***

Bad Dandy
Victoria Hotel, Vic’s Bar, March 28 until April 21, 2013 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Stars: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 29
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Sat March 30. KH 

"Slightly weird, shambolic, impeccably dressed praying mantis" 

Asher Treleaven is like a leggy, impeccably dressed praying mantis on hot coals as he paces and prances across the stage, almost nutting himself on the incredibly low ceiling.

His show is shambolic, probably intentionally so, and Treleaven grins and smirks at his own errors, treating mistakes as gifts and even turning into comedy gold the potentially disastrous missed cue of the opening song.

There’s no getting around it: Treleaven’s got ‘peculiar’ written all over him, with his spaghetti legs, eccentric physicality, his constant diversions and non-sequiturs that send him down rabbit holes.

He looks like a guy from a 1940’s Film Noir – but he’s not; he looks like a Hitler Youth – we hope he’s not.

Xavier Toby: White Trash, March 29, 2013 ***

White Trash
Imperial Hotel, March 29 April 9, 2013 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Stars: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 29

Review also published online in Herald Sun on Sat March 30. KH

"Makes ya laugh then makes ya think– about racism."

If you’ve ever engaged in a bit of “casual racism”, intentionally or thoughtlessly (Yeah, I’m talking to you!), then Xavier Toby will make you laugh, then make you reconsider your position.

Toby is a charming, slightly gauche, Aussie bloke, sporting a plaid shirt and jeans, slightly spiky, blonde haircut and a whiter-than-white grin to beat Shane Warne’s bleached choppers – but Toby’s pearly whites look natural.

His social circles shift between his “white trash bogan” mates and his “trendy trash”, hipster-cool pals, but both groups have their own issues surrounding racism, Toby says.

Straddling such diverse cultures can be a political minefield and Toby embarks on a comedy analysis of racism to challenge even the most politically incorrect bogan – and those annoying bleeding hearts who consider even the word “racism” to be racist.

He’s done his research on his mates, his family, current affairs TV, Asian launderettes (Is that racist?) and even referred to books: “It’s like the internet … only it’s true.”

Jeff Green: Leaping Off The Bell Curve, March 29, 2013 ***

Leaping Off the Bell Curve
Swiss House, 89 Flinders Lane, March 28 until April 21, 2013
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Star rating: ***1/2
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri March 29. KH 
"Green garners giggles and guffaws."

Jeff Green did well to escape his mind-numbing life as a chemical engineer in the UK in the 1980s because, let’s face it, blowing stuff up may be fun, but have you ever met a funny engineer?

As he paces the tiny stage like a caged cat, Green relives the social disadvantages of being a Chem. Eng. student and the pressure to achieve greatness in the gas industry to placate his doting mother and hypercritical dad.

He has the crowd hooting at the pitfalls of job interviews, the liberating decision to be a comic and ditch the boredom of selling acetylene to welders, the parade of uncomfortable gigs, difficult audiences and the dearth of decent food in country towns in England.

Little Dances, March 27, 2013 ***1/2

By Nicky Marr, presented by La Mama
La Mama Courthouse, March 27 until April 14, 2013
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Star rating: *** ½
Reviewer:  Kate Herbert on March 27

Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs March 28. KH 

"A clever parody of modern dance."
If you recognize the flick, slash and punch of contemporary dance, you’ll giggle and applaud Nicky Marr’s Little Dances, a witty, clownish parody of modern choreography and its indulgent justification of pointless content.

Marr is warm and engaging as she self-narrates her life in dance, using physical, visual and verbal comedy with dance technique.

In an empty space, she begins as her five-year old self – “The best dancer in the world” – then, in a cunning feat of dancer-meets-clown, she twirls her way out of a dozen petticoats until she is left in a black slip.

Her depiction of the pretentious language of contemporary dancers validating their meaningless, repetitive wriggling is hilarious, particularly if you’ve seen any minimalist dance or performance art in which nothing much happens.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Penelope, Red Stitch, March 22, 2013 **1/2

By Enda Walsh
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Theatre Works March 22 to April 12, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 22
Stars: **1/2
 Review published in Herald Sun, online on Mon Mar 25. Will appear in print some time after this date. KH

In this uneven production of Irish playwright, Enda Walsh’s black comedy, Penelope, a capable cast is thwarted by Alister Smith’s overwrought, often unwieldy direction that does not effectively balance the comical and dramatic elements in the script.
L-R: Dion Mills, Matthew Whitty, Lyall Brooks & James Wardlaw. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson 
Walsh’s play is an absurd, modern depiction of the predicament of the suitors of Penelope (Rosie Lockhart), who wait for her to choose a lover to replace her absent husband, Ulysses, who left for the Trojan Wars 20 years earlier.

Walsh’s four, hapless wooers, dressed in Speedos, spend dull, interminable, futile days languishing and arguing in the drained swimming pool below Penelope’s window, hoping to avoid the cruel fate of her previous 96 suitors, and to win her love.

These motley clowns – caricatures rather than fully-formed characters – epitomise the worst traits of male behaviour in their jealous, competitive interactions, their unwillingness to trust each other or to reveal their true and sensitive natures.

The play starts slowly with a long scene punctuated with weighty, ineffectual pauses while the actors wander aimlessly around the cluttered, junkyard space of the swimming pool designed by Peter Mumford.

After a messy beginning, the suitors’ dark, introspective and impassioned monologues about love provide the most compelling and successful dramatic moments.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Henry 4, Bell Shakespeare March 15, 2013 ***1/2

Henry 4, by William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne, March 15 to 30, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 15 
Stars: ***1/2

Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed March 20 and in print after that date. KH  

In Henry 4, John Bell merges Shakespeare’s history plays, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, depicting the rise and fall of Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV), and the accession to the throne of his wayward son, Prince Hal, the future Henry V.
Bell merges Shakespeare’s histories, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, depicting the rise and fall of Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV), and the accession to the throne of his wayward son, Prince Hal, the future Henry V.

Bell’s concept and staging are often inspired, his adaptation of Shakespeare’s text adroit, and his co-direction with Damien Ryan, imaginative.

The first half is the more successful, with its compelling updating of Prince Hal (Matthew Moore) and his dissolute pals – old reprobate Falstaff (John Bell) and other compatriots – who carouse in bars and brothels, their riotous behaviour echoed in the jarring tones of electric guitar and drums.

Hal’s revelry contrasts with the reign of King Henry IV – played with dignified indignation by David Whitney ­– who battles the rebellious, northern army raised by the Percys and led by feisty, young Hotspur, played with belligerent, garrulous bravado by Jason Klarwein.

Friday 8 March 2013

Other Desert Cities, MTC, March 7, 2013 ****

By Jon Robin Baitz, Melbourne Theatre Company
Sumner Theatre, MTC, opens March 7 to April 17, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 7
Review also published in Herald Sun in print and online. KH 
In Sam Strong’s compelling production of Jon Robin Baitz’s Pulitzer-nominated play, Other Desert Cities, the Wyeth family is encased, like museum specimens, behind the glass walls of their Palm Springs home, while the audience peers in at their predicament.

Or perhaps they are more like caged creatures of prey as they squabble and tear at each other’s fragile skins, peeling away the carefully constructed, outer layers that protect them from attack and preserve their fiercely guarded family secrets.

Callum Morton’s minimalist, architectural design contrasts starkly with the emotional chaos that unfolds within its glazed walls.

John Gaden is composed and dignified as Lyman Wyeth, arch-Republican and former ambassador in the Reagan administration, while Robyn Nevin is cool, abrasive and controlling as his wife, Polly, a brusque, former Hollywood screenwriter.

They had successful careers and mixed with the Republican elite, but they now live in self-imposed exile to escape the blowback from their eldest son, Henry’s involvement with a terrorist group and his subsequent suicide.